Media agency model ‘in crisis’

Media agencies have never been in as much trouble as they are right now, with “five or six perfect storms” converging on the industry and threatening its longevity, former Pernod Ricard, Heineken and Nokia marketer Afdhel Aziz has warned.

He said the lack of action from brands and media agencies in response to the Cambridge Analytica debacle essentially tells consumers “We as brands are fine with this abuse”.

Afdhel Aziz (right) on stage with Angus Keene, Twitter’s sales director

“I have never seen a situation where the agency model is in as much crisis as it is right now,” he said. “There’s a series of five or six perfect storms hitting at the same time. Not just ad blocking and all that stuff and movie streaming – ad safety, ad fraud, privacy.”

Aziz said in the face of the erosion of trust – exacerbated by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook’s admissions and ongoing questions around agency integrity and transparency – agencies need to “exert a moral authority” and take a stand against malpractice.

“They need to stand up and go ‘Guys, this is not a good, sustainable, long-term way of doing business,” he said at UnLtd and Twitter’s Good Is The New Cool – Market Like You Give A Damn event. “I think they need to advise their clients to act that way.

“What’s disappointing is seeing all this Cambridge Analytica stuff being greeted by a deafening shrug in the US media industry. Only a couple of brands, like Sonos and Tesla, have pulled their advertising from Facebook, or pulled their advertising from social media.”

With every crisis, comes an opportunity, Aziz said, and now is the time for all agencies to turn the tide.

“I’d love to see agencies step into the breach and go ‘Enough. We’ve got to figure this stuff out before it kills us’,” he said.

“I think it is time for media agencies – and creative agencies in general – to take a stand, think about their own purpose and what their model is there. Think about how you have sustainability and longevity in that model.”

The crisis is likely transferring onto media agency staff as well, Aziz predicted. Citing the Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2017 report which revealed only 15% of people felt fulfilled at work, he said the figure within media agencies was likely as low as 3%.

“You’ve got to find a way to give all of those people in agencies working in crappy, four-second pre-roll YouTube ads a reason to believe that their work matters.”


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