Does a media pitch need a third party?

By Greg Paull, Co-founder and Principal, R3

Years ago, I was asked if it was mandatory for media pitches to be handled by consultants. I said, no. Although we are in the business of managing pitches, I said that I don’t agree that having a third party is the right solution for every company because not every company takes media seriously enough. If you don’t look at more than just media cost and are not concerned with having the systems in place after the pitch to manage and lead the agency, engaging a third party to handle a media review is a waste of money.

Every marketer should take media seriously

Fast-forward a couple of years and attitudes towards media have changed.

In a recent R3 survey in Asia Pacific across multiple categories, media is the number one concern of senior marketers in the region. Media is what influences marketing strategies.

Media is where marketers want to drive greater ROI. Media is where brands are investing time and money getting the mix just right.

Finding the right media agency partner is on the list of “top things to do” as the landscape has become more complex.

The number of media reviews handled by pitch consultants is evidence of this fact. There are more variables to consider, like transparency and safety, and going it alone is just too hard.

Three outliers

R3 has been fortunate to act as a third party in more than a few major pitches over the past twenty years.

As a result, we have learnt a lot about what marketers want, how agencies respond and how agencies can deliver.

The seriousness with which marketers today take media should be commended. It is also understandable. When budgets are big, people pay more attention.

What I have found strange, however, is that even though most attitudes towards media have changed, some behaviors stay the same.

Here are three.

1. Marketers who don’t get ‘motivation’

Firstly, we are strong believers in the importance of a well-paid and motivated media agency. Too many marketers focus on the small percentage of commission or fee they pay the agency and not on the 100% of media. The additional value a good agency can generate in media is usually far more than what they are paid.

Here’s an example.

A leading agency and a large multinational agreed that the agency fee was to be largely based on the agency showing their value through the year in a tangible way. Our role as a third party was to validate it. Suddenly, focus shifted away from inputs of how long it took to do a schedule or book TV, and onto outputs of what was bought and how competitive it was.

The agency also did an excellent job of going beyond the box and looking at content, product placement and enhanced digital deals. 

2. Marketers who can’t see beyond rates

We’ve worked with some marketers who just want the lowest media rates.

If that is your primary interest, don’t hire a consultant to help. Bill Gates and Microsoft Excel can do the job.

Input all the cities and all the rates and work it out for yourself. Save yourself some money.

But I am sure there will be more than a few marketers reading this who will laugh at this ‘old school’ mindset.

Audiences are no longer waiting for your message.

As one agency head put it – “Our goal is to do work that consumers seek out.” In that sense, there is collaboration and quality, not just a low media rate. 

…. media spender who did not even know what a GRP was. They were buying spots and focused only on rates. There’s a lot to learn – and just holding a pitch won’t be the answer…

3. Marketers who haven’t come up to speed

Finally, on occasion, we’ve been shocked at the gap between the top client’s knowledge of media (which is generally excellent) and a lot of the others.

Once we were consulting to a US$150m+ media spender who did not even know what a GRP was.

They were buying spots and focused only on rates. There’s a lot to learn – and just holding a pitch won’t be the answer.

The role of a pitch consultant is to provide professional counsel in the selection process. It is akin to using a recruitment consultant to find a new candidate – or seeking an expert’s opinion on your distribution or pricing.

Having a third party assist in a media review should make briefing better and ease the process, but also give you a better understanding of the realities of working with agencies.

Because we also audit media, we have realistic benchmarks on what can actually be achieved in the marketplace – and being grounded in reality always makes for a more successful outcome.


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