Experts Weigh in: The Media Landscape in 2020
The past year has been a challenging one, with innovation being a necessary path for lots of media owners and agencies. But as we look forward further into the year, we wondered, what does the future hold for the media industry in 2020?
So we gathered our industry’s top minds from a range of businesses for a discussion about all things media. You can see the full findings and insights in our downloadable deck here.
Simon Bollon, MD and Owner at Boutique [SB]
Alex Kirkley, Regional Sales Director at AudienceStore [AK]
Greg Highton, Senior Agency Partner at MailMetroMedia [GH]
Jason Spencer, Business Development Director at ITV [JS]
Jo Dawson, Agency Sales Manager at News UK [JD]
Jonathan Lodge, Agency Partner Manager at Pinterest [JL]
Justin Oldham, Director at The Leaflet Company [JO]
Katie Kendall, Head of Magazine Brands at Bauer Media [KK]
Lee Woodhead, Account Director at JCDecaux [LW]
Rebecca McIndoe, Investment Lead at Channel 4 [RI]
Steven Lorenzini, Regional Sales Director at DCM [SL]
Tina McCoy, Regional Agency Director at Hearst [TM]
[SB] So go on, give a shout out to your platform and tell us how the last 12 months was for you and yours?
[JD] 2019 saw us remove polybags across The Sun and save tonnes of single-use plastic. We overtook the monthly reach of the Mail Online on thesun.co.uk, and despite great change the decline of the printed newspaper has certainly shown itself in advertising.
[GH] 2019 was a strong year for digital at Mail Metro Media too.
[KK] For us 2019 wasn’t as strong a year as 2018. Nervousness about Brexit affected our business quite a bit.
[JO] Yeah, volumes held up pretty well for leaflets versus the previous year. We have to see it as a good year considering the trading conditions.
[JS] Good but challenging – necessity is the mother of invention as they say.
[TM] We had a tough start to the year in print, but things turned around for H2. Digital was strong and is a big growth area for us as well.
[SL] It was actually the best year ever on record for cinema advertising in the UK. Revenues in the regional market were +45%. DCM overall was up 13%. It was also the second biggest year for attendances in UK cinemas since 1970.
[AK] We saw continued growth in 2019, both in digital as a platform and for AudienceStore. We opened a regional office after we had success with the London office.
[JL] Pinterest grew massively too after opening markets across Europe, and also added a lot of new features and formatting options within the channel.
[SB] Are you approaching 2020 with nervousness or excitement? Why?
[JD] Of course, excitement – because if we weren’t excited, how can we expect our clients to be?
[KK] Now that Brexit has finally happened, it feels like the economy will start to stabilise! Although we are expecting a few bumps along the way…
[GH] We’ve definitely had a strong start to year and see great opportunities ahead.
[TM] Excitement- business is good. We’ve overachieved on Q1 and were having a lot of really strong partnership conversations.
[JD] We have wonderful things which are innovative and refreshing coming up this year, some of which are ‘media firsts’!
[KK] We have started 2020 in a really buoyant position, so we are excited. Revenue is up year on year and our clients are talking about spending more on creative solutions.
[SL] We’ve got great momentum at the moment, plus it’s a Bond year, the first in 5 years. We have the continued belief that cinema’s core USPs- attention, young audiences, brand safety are all very relevant in 2020.
[JL] Very excited, new markets and our shopping objective is proving that we can be a fantastic channel for revenue as well as growing awareness.
[SB] What is the biggest shift you are seeing in the industry and your channel?
[SL] I think that we’ve got increasing confidence in positioning cinema as an effective response channel regionally. This is through our advancements in targeting, we’re seeing a lot of success by offering regional and audience targeting at no extra cost. Sounds very simple but it’s a bit of a shift in cinema. At the top of the market, we’re seeing a shift in more and more creative solutions-based campaigns, often based on bespoke content created for cinema.
[JO] We’ve seen a desire to use doordrops to deliver a local message. It may be a national or regional campaign. However, the message is local.
[TM] For us, partnerships are stronger than ever. Clients want deeper engagements with consumers, and we have really strong brands that can provide that across print and digital.
[JD] The biggest shift in the industry is towards a technology-driven world where we replace speech and emotion with artificial intelligence. Within the print sphere we are seeing a shift in client’s perception of news brands and the role they play in their marketing mix.
[GH] 1st party data, native content, video and programmatic are all key areas that continue to offer new opportunities as they evolve
[KK] We are seeing more of an appetite for creative partnerships that utilise the full channel mix of our print-based brands.
[JL] At Pinterest, brands’ mentality towards attribution is shifting, making them consider a more full funnel approach to social media advertising
[SB] What do you see as being front of mind for agencies and clients?
[JO] Return on investment.
[KK] Yeah, ROI is still a concern and even the most creative ideas need to be assessed on the basis of ‘will this work?’ and ‘is this value for money?’
[JS] Effectiveness not efficiency as a means to drive growth.
[JL] Growth is always front of mind, whether that be growing the brand name or growing online sales or providing growth to a client’s website traffic.
[GH] For us, I think context is key, as 3rd party cookies disappear working with publishers that can offer engaging relevant content will be vital.
[SL] Working with agencies of different sizes, you see different challenges. For the giants, it seems to be making the agency model work and their relationship between client demands and agency profitability. Smaller agencies seem to be focusing on creating a clearly defined USP, most often focused on being free thinkers in contrast to the deal agencies. Also, the ongoing focus on the balance between short term and long-term media planning.
[SB] Digital disruption has been and gone but digital evolution continues. What impact has this transformation had on your channel?
[JD] A positive one. It has created new opportunities for us as a news brand but also for our clients. At a time where print is in decline, we have been able to reach audiences via another platform and create campaigns in multitude of formats not available on the printed page.
[GH] I think it’s vital as a digital publisher that we continue to evolve our proposition to both the user and advertiser.
[KK] The evolution of digital for our print-based brands is happening more slowly than we might have expected. Many advertisers, especially ‘direct response’ companies are still thinking of magazines as just a print-based solution. Having said this, our digital revenues are growing and agencies are becoming more confident in recommending digital solutions to support print campaigns.
[JO] We’ve seen something similar – many direct response clients have switched spend into digital. However, we are seeing some of this business return as clients acknowledge the need for a more multi-channel approach.
[TM] We’ve invested heavily in our content studio to enable us to provide incredibly strong, engaging digital and video content so we offer something different. The print side of our business is more challenging (hence diversification of our revenue streams) but there will always be a place for strong brands.
[JS] ITV has invested in ITV Hub and Planet V, so we are now launching our automated programmatic addressable platform, which enables brands and agencies to engage with our 30m+ database of registered users. It allows us to offer the best of both worlds – mass simultaneous live reach in trusted premium content along with targeted advertising in the same content via ITV Hub.
[SL] The digital mindsets of agency and clients has put more pressure on us for granular reporting- which we have responded to and is a big positive, I think. We’re also seeing more niche briefs/ targeting again through that efficiency mindset- which again is a positive. We will continue our digital evolution in the future as we open up further considerations in the mobile space for cinema and targeting.
[AK] Because digital is so accountable and measurable, it changes and improves all the time. The strength of your data coupled with your technical capabilities to process it and find the right audiences means that any digital providers lacking in these areas have fallen by the wayside.
[SB] How has data changed the game for your platform and channel?
[JO] Massively. We’re able to demonstrate to clients how we can use their customer data to refine their schedules and improve ROI.
[JD] It’s allowed us to reach more advertisers by proving our channel is right for them. It provides a base for us to build trust with the client and help them achieve their KPIs.
[KK] We can now offer more bespoke, targeted digital solutions. However, we haven’t had a huge amount of demand for these services yet.
[GH] Agreed, it’s vital to our business. We’re able to get 1st party data, driven by the content and engagement we produce on site.
[TM] Yeah, similar to you, we have reams of clean data on our deeply engaged audience. It allows us to target relevant content much more accurately.
[SL] We don’t get access to first party data from the cinemas, unfortunately, nothing behavioural. Cinema is not close to being a programmatic operation. An interesting discussion for the future!
[LW] We now use geo-targeting to plan campaigns.
[SB] Is data stifling creativity?
[JS] Yes – an over-reliance on efficiency and targeting at the expense of ideas and the art of the possible – a better balance is needed
JD] Perhaps yes, all too often we take the data as gospel but the reality is, we can never replace data with creativity entirely because advertising wouldn’t be authentic. As you say Jason, it is about creating a harmonic balance of creativity and data.
[SL] Hmm, I’d say maybe. Depends how you use it. It doesn’t influence us too much. I do think people over think things in advertising. You don’t need data to know that some things are simple human truths.
[JO] Absolutely not! If anything, it’s encouraging creativity as it helps clients understand their customers. This enables more creativity around the different customer segments.
[GH] We’re seeing some great examples! Working with clients, we’ve harnessed contextual data to produce some of our most engaged and eye-catching campaigns to date.
[AK] In my opinion, data fuels creativity. Highly personalised messaging can be tailored to individual user needs for better cut-through.
[SB] What do you see as the role of media agency?
[KK] They do two things. Firstly, they navigate the vast media landscape and make recommendations to their clients which are most suited to helping them achieve their marketing objectives. Secondly, to secure the best value for their clients when purchasing media space.
[SL] Yeah, a media agency gives clients the best advice on how to devise and deploy their media spend. Helping businesses grow via their marketing.
[JD] They provide a service to the client that they cannot find elsewhere – they are the best in the business and experts at what they do. They provide relief, results and knowledge to the client.
[GH] They are the vital conduit between media partners and clients, translating content and engagement to achieve a client’s business goals.
[SB] How have you seen agencies evolve in recent years?
[GH] We haven’t – at least not significantly!
[JS] I think there seems to be a greater opportunity for creating unique collaborations and the art of the possible… but it’s not always taken unfortunately.
[KK] Smaller agencies are becoming more important to us as clients are seeking a more personalised and bespoke service. We have seen our revenues from smaller agencies increase and as a result of this, have restructured our sales teams accordingly.
[SL] I’ve seen a lot of change in internal logistics. Some agencies have multiple names and businesses under one roof that is confusing. I see a lot of agencies wrestling how to structure themselves- is planning separate to buying, how does that integrate? Communication flows. I’m also seeing a really positive rise in the smaller agencies we work with- exposing the big agency problems.
[AK] Digital has really come to the fore and traditional departments now see it as a must rather than a means-to-an-end.
[TM] From an outsider’s point of view, media agencies have changed enormously over the last 10 years. Instead of just being buyers of media you’re now consultants on every part of a client’s business.
[SB] If you went client side, what would you look for in an agency?
[GH] Transparency, wide ranging media market knowledge and a business that understands my objectives clearly both short and long term.
[JO] Expertise in every channel and how they complement each other, or not. Plus a strong focus on ROI.
[JS] Challenging the norms, exploring collaborations differently, paid on results, open to new ideas…
[TM] Yes, an agency who challenges the status quo, doesn’t just stick to the same thing or do what’s asked of them but questions why we do things a certain way and looks for a better way.
[JL] I’d value creativity and a new fresh set of eyes who could help me find a new form of revenue through creatives and imagination. When I think of an agency, I think of outside of the box thinkers looking to find the same result.
[SL] I would want a straight-talking agency that stands up for their work and their ideas. Stressing the value they offer to the client. Proactive, opinionated and free thinking.
[KK] I would want to see continuity of staff, a dedicated team who understands my business objectives and I’d want to have regular access to my agency.
[AK] The relationship is the most important bit for me, looking after my best interests, evolution of my brand.
[SB] What’s your view on the increasing trend towards in-housing?
[JO] You’d need to ask clients why they want to take something in-house. I imagine the motivations for doing so may differ. I think the danger is that it may encourage a narrow view of what’s out there.
[GH] Vital skills, knowledge and understanding of the cross-media landscape could be lost.
[TM] It’s very easy to get stale and stuck in a rut with an in-house team
[JS] Perhaps an indicator of clients not always believing that an agency is best placed to manage elements, for example search or social?
[JL] It’s understandable, but an outside agency can provide a different outlook and a new voice that can help provide a new angle on how you’re advertising.
[JD] I can only imagine it is a lot of work to transition to in-housing. On top of that, do we have any real solid proof it will last and create better results? Perhaps we just need more transparency between agencies and clients.
[AK] It all depends on the tools available, platform capabilities, data ingestion and processing as well as the expertise of the people running it – both agency and client-side.
[SB] In which sectors are you seeing the biggest growth?
[GH] Travel, fashion, health & beauty.
[TM] Fashion and beauty.
[LW] Fitness & education.
[JO] We’ve seen businesses wanting to appeal to an older audience. This audience are, in theory, less digitally engaged and ‘traditional’ media works better.
[KK] Yes, similar for us it’s the grey market, in particular DR advertising.
[JS] Digital native brands, especially ambitious start-ups who value a three-way dialogue between agency, media owner and them.
[SL] Universities, outdoor activities like theme parks, retailers have all shown more interest in cinema advertising. At the top end, the top tech brands and leading brands globally, like Apple and Audi, are at an all-time high in their investment in cinema.
[SB] What are the most common challenges you see clients facing?
[TM] Getting budget signed off early enough.
[SL] I think short term-ism is a big problem. AKA clients not sticking to a brand strategy in the long term through churn of people or short-term pressure.
[LW] I was going to say something similar – to be brave and follow a strategy rather than short term gains.
[JS] It’s having the confidence, time and patience to follow-through with the strategy.
[JD] Clients are faced with an abundance of marketing options. The industry is a noisy place which poses the question, which route does the client go down and how much risk are they taking? Similarly, results are big challenge, if it isn’t generating the next sale or the reaching the next consumer, it isn’t working and that’s a problem.
[AK] Exactly – it’s making choices: sifting out the genuinely good opportunities from the bad ones.
[JO] Competition in most sectors, particularly retail, is stronger than ever. Plus keeping up with changes in consumer behaviour.
[KK] Pressure to demonstrate ROI in markets which may be saturated.
[SB] Which campaign from recent time stands out for you?
[KK] Sainsburys January 2020 campaign for healthy foods in magazines.
[JD] As I work in the print industry, the video wrap for M&S on the London Metro was pretty stand out – dramatic, unusual and original.
[AK] BBC Dracula, OOH.
[JO] In our channel, the food-to-go companies are getting it right. It’s a lesson in how to get the best out of the medium whether you are a food-to-go company or not.
[JS] I Saw It First & Love Island.
[TM] Our work with Very, we’ve had an in-depth partnership over the last few years which has reached a point where they completely trust our guidance resulting in some amazingly creative work.
[LW] Trainline, live data feed on digital out of home.
[SL] I’ve enjoyed the On The Beach campaign over the past couple of months. There was a really good one in cinema the other week called “BEABETTERARSEHOLE.COM”. Genuinely, it really stood out and got the audience’s attention- I could hear people talking and commenting about it in the cinema.
[SB] What excites you most about the next 3 years?
[KK] It’s too early to say! I’m very optimistic about this year but haven’t worked out how I feel about the next 2 years yet.
[SL] I think in our channel, UK cinemas nationally will look a lot more splendid in 3 years and this improvement in consumer experience will be great for the channel.
[JO] Ambitious clients who are prepared to be creative and focus on the ROI rather than the cost per ‘000.
[JS] Helping lots of new challenger brands to become market leaders, working collaboratively with an agency and a media owner like us at ITV.
[AK] I’m hoping that cross-channel advertising will mesh together further to become more seamless.
[SB] In 10 words or less, why should a client invest in your platform?
[JD] We are established, renowned & always creating.
[GH] Reach, scale and engagement means we help clients reach target audiences quickly and effectively.
[JO] It’s about selling; proven to drive response and sales.
[JS] Supercharging growth through being part of culture like nothing else.
[TM] We provide deep engagement which strengthens brand connections.
[KK] Magazines are the 3rd best platform for ROI and 2nd best platform for attention.
[SL] Films are better in cinemas. So are adverts!
[AK] Proper brand building via accurate audience connections across the full digital landscape (sorry I think that was 12 words!)
[JL] Pinterest is a channel of inspiration meeting affluent millennials!
[LW] Top of funnel, mass cover, saliency & trustworthy.