Luke Amasi

Client Director, iProspect

This article has been founded on the back of a frustration I continually have with media agency discourse that is as relevant now as it was when I first presented this piece internally in 2019.

Your opinion doesn’t mean shit to your client.

The irony is that message is still relevant now as it was pre-pandemic and in fact maybe even more so, given we have spent the best part of the last two years living and working in our bedrooms, a perfectly comfortable echo chamber for nobody but our own opinion.

What we’ve also see in the last two years is more and more Gen Zs join the industry, and while I will admit the way they operate differs from my ‘millennial’ nature, I’m still not seeing a difference when it comes to the surety media agency staff will have when making flippant comments regarding channel, strategy, and our media craft.

I am still consistently hearing “TV/print/radio is dead”, “who even clicks on banner ads?”, “you can’t even measure outdoor”.

But as, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted in 2013: “if you want to assert a truth, first make sure it's not just an opinion that you desperately want to be true

My big problem with colleagues saying versions of something is dead, or no one does something is that it’s born out of a sample size of one.

What they really mean, but don’t say is “I don’t listen to radio, therefore radio is dead”, “I don’t click on banner ads, therefore who does” and “I didn’t attend MOVE 1.5 training, therefore I don’t understand the methodology”.

The truth is your opinion doesn’t mean shit to your client.

While I do champion the need for my colleagues, both inside agencies and client-side, to have an opinion on media, an opinion on marketing, and on what value media agencies bring to our client’s business, having a negative opinion or a “sample size of one” opinion does not offer value to your client. In fact, it is likely to be harmful to your client’s business.

It is also forgetting what Mark Ritson describes “as the first rule of marketing”.

Mark wrote in 2018, in Marketing Week, that “you are not the customer”. Where Mark really nails this concept is when he describes market orientation and how this can benefit people who work in agencies. The question he asks though is how well schooled or even aware are media agency people of market orientation?

To summarise, and this may sound obvious, market orientation advocates identifying the needs and desires of a customer to design solutions that fit those needs. Where we from media agencies can make this work for us is designing media plans and strategies that deliver the clients message to the audience. Not because if you spend $X on YouTube this year, you’ll get an invite to the Google party and that’ll be fun for you.

Now this is basically what all media agencies sell to our clients, it is in our execution it goes missing.

A lot of clients I’ve worked on recently prioritise young mums. I’m not a parent nor do I identify as a woman, therefore what media I consume is inconsequential to what needs to be executed on the media plan for my clients. My subjective opinion on what media captures and engages an audience’s attention is irrelevant to the client and we often forget this when receiving a client brief. but I can use tools and research to make a valid assessment based on data to build recommendations.

These subjective opinions are mental blind spots that inhibit our ability to deliver the best possible media plan for the audience. The more aware we are of these blind spots, the less likely they’ll impact the work that we do.

Irrespective of how smart we think we are and the level of ‘smarts’ we apply in our day-to-day job what we need to understand is that the media agency industry is not middle Australia. Remember AdShel’s 2013 survey that revealed more agency staff at the time had been to North Bondi Italian than to Parramatta?  Our industry is still yet to solve this problem, but what we can realise is that our media consumption is so far removed from what a regular Australian is.

What we should be doing and where we should be placing our trust is in the tools that we have that qualify the work that we produce. While I love having an opinion and I encourage my colleagues to also have opinions on media asit adds colour and elevates the work that we do, if you can’t prove that with the data we have access to and marry it back to the clients’ audience and strategy, to quote Darryl Kerrigan from the 1997 film The Castle, “tell them they’re dreaming”.

This article originally appeared in Mumbrella.