Balancing global and local will be test of media mettle

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How can networks scale without losing nuance?

The media buying business is going global, although the marathon pitch process required to win these mega-deals is not for the faint-hearted.

Two of the biggest pitches currently taking place — the $2 billion Volkswagen buying deal and the $1 billion account for 21st Century Fox — have involved countless presentations in multiple cities over many months, all in the name of efficiency and savings.

There is a paradox about the trend for global clients wanting global agencies to manage global deals.

Big brands want to have a consistent message across multiple markets; agreeing a single buying deal means greater scale — to drive a better deal from media owners.

Yet drawing up budgets centrally only makes limited sense when the final decisions on spending are often made locally, because every market is different.

A thoughtful panel discussion at last week’s Channel 4 upfronts in the UK illustrated those tensions well. 

Tracey De Groose from Dentsu Aegis Network talked about how a third of the agency group’s revenues in London comes from working on media accounts outside the UK. "The consumer is global," she said. "We’re starting to fuse local and global teams."

By contrast, Josh Krichefski made the point that his agency, MediaCom, may be part of a global network yet close to 90% of its work in the UK is for clients in Britain.

ZenithOptimedia’s Mark Howley had a different take as he said his agency might strike international deals but "very few clients are transacting globally and very few are operating truly globally." The reality is that decisions on spending end up being devolved on a national basis, he said, claiming: "Advertisers don’t look at everything being standardised across the world."

What all this tells us is that the move towards global — or, at least, international — media buying is nuanced. It is clear that London, as the financial and media capital of Europe, is seizing the opportunity to be a global media buying hub. Yet Howley made an interesting point when he doubted how much globalization had affected media agencies in the UK. If that’s the case, it’s because Britain is such a significant media market — fourth or fifth by size globally — so multinational scale has mattered less.

But change is coming. Media owners and, significantly, the owners of the telecom "pipes" are scaling up. Witness the expansion moves made by BT, Liberty Global/Discovery, Sky, Viacom, Vivendi/Havas, Vodafone and others across Europe to compete with global digital media owners such as Google and Netflix.

Balancing the needs of global and local is going to be one of the biggest challenges facing the media business.

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