Will the Ad Business Ever Return to In-Office Norms?

By The Myers Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Will the Ad Business Ever Return to In-Office Norms?

MediaVillage head Jack Myers unpacks a new report on post-COVID and the workplace.

While we all are eager to return to an unknown "new normal," a new study conducted byThe Myers Report among advertisers and agency teams uncovers evidence of permanent COVID-19 related changes that will alter traditional relationships, business models and the work experience.

As media companies increase their online presence through dedicated B2B marketing and educational content, password-protected sites, and automated transactions, there is a clear trend away from personal relationships and toward disconnected, impersonal decision-making. For a business that has been built and heavily dependent on close agency/media partnerships, this transition will result in significant disruption and a need to rethink and rebuild selling systems and processes to match planning and buying systems implemented by a new cohort of Gen Z professionals who do not share the perception of media sales organizations as partners, but rather view them as inanimate aggregators of data defined by algorithms.

In-Person vs. Automation

Two-thirds of advertiser and agency professionals prefer to continue post-pandemic with Online Video Meetings for their relationships with media sellers, rather than return to pre-pandemic in person meetings and events. Just one-third say they would prefer to revert to pre-pandemic in-person meetings and events. The data is consistent across males and females, advertisers and agency teams, and across all age groups and seniority levels. Among Hispanic and Asian industry professionals, 75% prefer to retain a virtual presence for buyer/seller meetings.

Twenty-five percent of the 700 study respondents say they prefer presentations and communications focused on pre-programmed PPT/video presentations and email. In addition:

  • 20% would like to depend primarily on automated/programmatic computer transactions with minimal personal contact
  • 16% say they intend to limit personal buyer/seller contact primarily to industry events, gatherings, Upfront/NewFront presentations
  • 13% prefer to coordinate with sales organizations through Q&A/Support at a Supplier's Dedicated Web Portal.

And, seven percent of professionals in the business 8+ years plan to depend more on media sellers' online B2B portals compared to 17% of both advertiser respondents and those in the business fewer than eight years.

According to The Myers Report data, 57% of advertiser and agency media planners/buyers in the business more than eight years believe the Upfront/NewFront process will remain the dominant focus of advertiser/agency/seller relationships for the next five years, down from more than 80% just a few years ago. Among all 700 agency and advertiser respondents to The Myers Report survey, 33% believe programmatic/automated media buying/selling will be the dominant link between buyers and sellers within five years. A market check of trends suggests the acceleration will be more rapid, most likely restructuring within the next three years. If history is an indicator of the future, some form of Upfront buying will remain in place for many years as premium video inventory becomes increasingly rare and valuable. However, the future definition of "premium" is still to be determined.

In 1993, as Mosaic, the first Internet browser, was introduced, I predicted a 30-year period of radical industry transformation that would disrupt and impact on the full marketing, advertising and media ecosystem. I wrote "Marketers may be facing shifts in consumer and communications patterns for which there are no precedents and for which they are ill prepared. It's time to take a hard look at approaches to marketing." As the Information/Digital Age transformation segues into a new 30-year cycle of advanced technology expansion, it's appropriate to adapt my 1993 comment to "Media companies are facing shifts in consumer and brand marketing patterns for which they are ill-prepared. It's time to take a hard look at approaches to legacy advertising sales models that are devolving toward impressions-based commoditization and computer-based transactions."

For brand marketers and agencies, 21st century reinvention and innovation has been injected into their DNA for the past half-decade. The pandemic has accelerated transformative shifts in their businesses that are leaving advertising sales teams in their wake and at their mercy.

New Opportunities

At MediaVillage, through our Myers Report research, our extensive pool of data on B2B content open rates and site visits, and our AdvancingDiversity.org partnership, we are witnessing growing demand for online education among a new and more diverse agency and advertiser workforce.

As a direct result of the shift to an online-only workforce combined with Black Lives Matter-inspired activism, the percentage of Black employees at advertisers and agency companies in the first two years of their career has dramatically increased from 2% to 17%, and among those in the business three to seven years, the increase has been from four to twenty percent. This data may have been impacted by slight changes in the methodology, but it's consistent with anecdotal data shared by agency leaders. Progress in the upper ranks has been less notable, and the data reinforces increased prioritization by AdvancingDiversity.org on retention, while also expanding talent attraction initiatives. The theme of this year's Advancing Diversity Week, hosted by MediaVillage and AdvancingDiversity.org, is From Inclusion to Belonging, expanding on the organization's emphasis on Advancing Diversity from Advocacy to Activism.

The specific growth rates of Black agency and advertiser teams is a compelling call-to-action to media companies to look inside their own organizations and assess if they are sufficiently moving the needle and responding to a changing marketplace. The question cuts across talent, B2B marketing tools and resources, outsourced automation and B2B managed services, and overall strategic purpose and priorities. MediaVillage and The Myers Report will soon issue results from two major surveys among consumers, advertisers and agencies providing answers to these questions.

Originally published at The Continuum

Photo credit: Windows on Unsplash

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