The Big Not So Easy: The State of Media Buying Today

A street scene in New Orleans
Monday, March 13, 2023

Over 300 people showed up in New Orleans for the Digiday Media Buying Summit last week.

I was fortunate to be one of them. It was a great opportunity to get a pulse on the state of media planning from executives, strategists and planners at a broad range of agencies.

There were a number of gripes that people voiced. Lots of fingers pointed outward.

  • Clients being impatient – algorithms need time to do their thing. Many performance campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, for example, struggle to get out of "learning mode" because clients are reactive and want to demanding changes that actually hurt performance.
  • Procurement conflicts – It is very common for procurement departments to come in at the 11th hour and introduce KPIs that they don't understand that conflict with their own business objectives. For example, demanding lower CPMs. Lower CPMs is a dumb goal. It pressures agencies into just buying crap inventory. Of course, buying lousy placements makes media less effective.
  • Clients not valuing the metrics – media planners are frustrated when clients devalue the KPIs for metrics they are optimizing on. But those metrics are often communicated in terms of marketing-speak (awareness lift, click-through rates, etc.) instead of business outcomes.
  • Clients cutting budgets – because they aren't connecting the dots between media metrics and business impact, their budgets are the first thing to get slashed when times are tight.

However, all of these frustrations point back to one thing. Many agencies are doing a poor job connecting the dots between media and business outcomes.

They are failing to educate their clients. They are failing to manage expectations. They are failing to make sure their clients are successful at their jobs.

During the Q&A session of the "Agency Town Hall," I raised my hand to point out that the CEOs and CFOs marketers do not give a damn about awareness metrics. They do care about things like revenue. If you ever go to the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, you'll see the best CMOs in the world onstage advising their peers over and over again to make sure they learn the language of the business.

But often, clients and agencies are not speaking the same language.

It's our job to help them speak that language. It's our role to connect the dots for them. If agencies want to be perceived as strategic partners, it's not enough to be experts on media—we need to be experts on the success of their business.

About the author
Adam Kleinberg

Adam Kleinberg is CEO and founding partner of Traction. He has written over 75 articles in publications like to AdAge, Adweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Mashable and Digiday.

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