Are Media Agencies Human?

By Chris Jaques, CEO of Transformation:
The Growth Business @

This is weird.

I’ve just sat through a series of media pitches – and I’ve realised something very strange.

Every pitch was basically the same.

The tools were almost identical. So were the analyses, the recommendations, the costs.

But the scariest part was this:

So were the people.

It felt like every agency had been cloned and the industry was staffed by androids.

Each team was made up of the same young, educated elites who were living in urban, privileged bubbles – totally detached from the real world.

Media Agencies live in Bubbles

Here’s some obvious examples:

1. Demographic Bubbles

An IPA analysis found that a massive 87% of staff in UK Media Agencies were younger than 40.

It’s probably similar in Malaysia.

As a result, media agencies obsess over Gen Z and Millennials – because they’re obsessed with themselves.

Yet as Malaysia ages, the most important demographic is increasingly 40+.

2. Big City Bubbles

All the main media agencies are based in KL. All their staff live in Klang Valley. They shop in Klang Valley. They party in Klang Valley.

Yet their audiences don’t.

As you well know, 94%+ of Malaysians live and work outside of KL.

3. Cultural Bubbles

Most of Malaysia’s media staff are Indian or Chinese. Yet in the real world, of course, almost ¾ of Malaysians are Malays and other Bumiputras.


A survey reported in this very publication found that 60% of people working in Malaysia’s media agencies don’t speak the national language.

If you don’t speak the language, how can you understand the people and media that do?

Bubbles like these create bias – and bias clouds judgement.

1. Values Bias

Reach UK measured the personal values of people who work in Media Agencies – and compared them to the values of real consumers in the real world.

Not surprisingly, they found dramatic differences.

Staff in Media Agencies were more motivated by achievement and power; less concerned about tradition and conformity.

But more significant was this: When Media Agencypeople were asked to estimate the personal values of ‘real consumers’ – they were completely wrong.

Because they believed that ‘real people’ would share values similar to their own – which they didn’t. At all.

Such bias leads to bad judgements – like this one:

2. Channel Bias

A study by ThinkTV in Australia compared the attitudes of both ‘Adland People’ and ‘Real People’ to different media channels.

The results?

Digital-obsessed ‘Adland People’ thought that social media was the most impactful medium in the market.

Whereas ‘Real People’ didn’t.

They preferred television. By a lot.

They felt that TV advertising was much more enjoyable, impactful and trusted than any other.

Such basic biases can destroy the value of media agencies.

It’s time to burst your Bubbles

Decades of research into high-performance teams has identified one critical ingredient above all:


Every high-performance team combines diversity of skills, races, personalities, backgrounds and beliefs.

If media agencies are going to deliver real value, they must burst their Bubbles and diversify their teams – fast.

If they don’t – I’m afraid AI awaits.

If you’d like to know how – just get in touch: [email protected]

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