This post is by Matt Green, senior marketing communications manager at the WFA.
The WFA has a wonderful vantage point on what the world's biggest companies are struggling with in media. Our MEDIAFORUM is a think-tank of contemporaries that discuss their struggles and try to leverage their experience to identify possible solutions.
It's a brains trust of people from the companies that help make pretty much every household name in almost every sector that you might care to think of.
One of our most recent meetings was able to access ideas and insights from all over the world with members of our WFA network in New York, joined by video link from London and Singapore to ensure that we had a viewpoint from senior marketers across the globe.
Many of our members' struggles are common and they remain constant – transparency has been on the agenda since the formation of the WFA more than 60 years ago, for example – but the forms and the challenges they take are constantly evolving.
Five issues are top of WFA members' agenda right now:
Today's iteration of the measurement struggle is focused on the need to link all devices together. There's a sense of frustration that some of the established measurement providers have not stepped up to the plate sooner.
What we need is a way to break down the measurement silos so that cross channel efforts can be analysed, monitored and improved. All WFA members want to put media on a much more business-like footing and make sure that what they do demonstrably contributes to the bottom line. Great data that provides a common standard of impression is the key to that.
Within the world of digital, marketers also have to resolve some more specific issues. Technological solutions are starting to deal with the concern around viewability – marketers are happy to pay for ads that people actually see – and attribution, giving them a better understanding of the whole customer journey, not just of the last click.
As global and regional heads, our members also need to invest in both technology and resource (of which more later) to ensure that they have rapid access to the data from around the world and the capability to understand what it is telling them.
Traditionally the marketers' concern about transparency has been the heady and contentious issue of rebates – but more recently, as everyone will be aware, the issue has been focused around what actually goes on in programmatic platforms.
For the WFA global marketers, the key challenge is to understand both the technology costs, as well as how the price they pay for an impression trickles down the stack.
Ultimately, the solution in programmatic may require some to develop a different relationship with media owners to their partners. Our recent report on programmatic suggests the future for some may be a 'Brand Trading Desk' model, through which vendors are appointed directly by the client and direct contractual terms are established.
One of our most widely discussed topics is internal resources. Ensuring that the right resources are in place, in the right places, is a real challenge in a globalised world. This is particularly relevant in emerging markets, where local knowledge is paramount.
As global centres of excellence, WFA marketers need to convince their local colleagues that they are adding value to their work. Razor sharp clarity on what can be best centralised and what common learnings can be shared across markets is an essential process as marketers attempt to create rules and processes for media strategy, planning and implementation at a global, regional and local level.
There is also a further resource challenge in keeping up with the ad technology space; the need to find or develop internal skill-sets more commonly attributed to data scientists. The solution to this problem is simple for one MEDIAFORUM regular: "become a tech geek or get one".
No discussion of media challenges would be complete without mention of the agency partners. While individually marketers value the work of their agencies, that doesn't mean there aren't areas where they can improve as clients and where agencies can improve as trusted advisors.
There are clear challenges in ensuring WFA members have consistent worldwide capabilities in their partners in all key markets, particularly given the large number of agencies that many of them now need to work with.
Most members of our network want their agencies to become more of an integrated part of their teams, putting more 'skin in the game', so to speak. Making this happen often requires introducing more performance-based compensation – in a recent survey, 47% of members said they planned to increase their use of performance-based remuneration, encouraging agencies to focus on outcomes rather than outputs.
As global clients, our members are working hard to introduce more integrated briefings for all their agencies and another piece of research has highlighted that 85% of WFA members are now briefing in person – despite the geographical challenges of being in global roles.
The media that covers our industry is obsessed with innovation and MEDIAFORUM members get a great deal of satisfaction when they can make something really amazing happen. Innovation applies not just to the way marketers buy their media but also to the way they disseminate their content and even work out what kind of content they should be producing.
The fact is that marketers have limited amounts of time to explore options and opportunities, which in turn limits best practice sharing, risking a culture of under-investment and reduced education.
Many marketers are wary of investing in technology for technology's sake and "act more like a business manager than a functional media manager".
As digital evolves from a discipline to being part of marketing in a digital world, there's need for more education to help senior management understand what digital can do. The key to getting buy-in – and a lesson for those pitching solutions to marketers – is to connect digital media to business results. Marketers don't just want shiny new things; they want to create real business transformation.