SYDNEY: As brand owners move more of their spending into owned media, leading Australian media agency executives have questioned the value of existing expenditure data which relates only to paid media.

Mat Baxter, head of the UM media agency, argued that if one relied solely on figures from the Standard Media Index (SMI) – which collates media agency spend data to build a picture of the overall market – the impression left was of a market in decline, "but the truth is that the market in terms of overall spend has never been more buoyant".

"SMI has relevance," he told Ad News, "but it is half the picture, the measure of health of paid media only, not a proxy for industry or marketing health."

Earlier this year a report from PwC and the Australian Marketing Institute highlighted the fact that two thirds of marketers were shifting their spend towards owned media, while one quarter planned to allocate between 20% and 30% of their budget building their own media channels.

"You have to question the long-term viability of these current measures," said Baxter, who claimed that his staff's time was split more or less evenly between paid media and work on "things that don't fall into traditional media".

Fellow media agency boss Ian Perrin of ZenithOptimedia, agreed that SMI was "a blunt measure" but took a more nuanced view of developments. He pointed out that certain categories – banking, insurance, automotive – had close direct relationships with customers and could therefore "afford to spend less on traditional paid advertising by activating these relationships", an option not so readily available to others.

"There are other factors at play as well," he added, "most noticeably business and consumer confidence as a result of the budget."

But no-one has yet come up with a satisfactory solution to assessing the value of owned media and Baxter himself could only offer the idea of a regular survey of CMOs asking whether they were spending more in owned during the most recent quarter.

Whatever the figures one puts on owned media, Robin Bonn, of content agency Seven argued in Marketer Leader that paid and owned media complemented each other. Marketers should be looking to better integrate the two, he said, offering a four-stage approach: tell the brand's story, continually deliver content, optimise distribution, and work with specialist agencies.

Data sourced from Ad News; additional content by Warc staff