Vineet Mehra

Roland Janisse

Roland Janisse

Marketing and Technology


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Trendsetters: Do You Really Need a Media Review? Asks Cortex Media's Roland Janisse

This is just the second month of 2018, and already $5 billion in media budgets are up for agency review, including those of Mars, Shell, and HSBC.  In 2017, major marketers like Anheuser-Busch InBev and Amazon completed multi-country media pitches representing $8.5 billion in spending. Media reviews are still underway at McDonald's, IKEA, Jaguar Land Rover, Adidas, Campbell Soup and Marriott. (And in an unprecedented move, Nike is using a "reverse auction"concept to select digital agencies, so that each competes for business with lower bids until a clear winner emerges.) 

While this activity does not yet compare to the $30 billion placed in review during 2015's "Mediapalooza"when giants like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, L'Oréal and Johnson & Johnson undertook multinational media agency re-appraisals, it does underscore how media pitches are part of the "new normal.”  

According to Roland Janisse, Managing Partner of Cortex Media, an independent media consulting and auditing firm established in 2001, "The agency of record is being replaced with the agency du jour.”

He adds, "There are times when a review is the right thing for the business--especially, when the media landscape itself is changing so fundamentally.”  Janisse believes it is a marketer's responsibility to ensure that the right resources are in place for their brands.  He has also seen clients' angst and mistrust when discussing issues of transparency. "Sadly,"he says, "the notion of the agency as a ‘partner' has become a quaint idea for many.  It's easy to see why agency reviews have become so pervasive."

But do they need to be? More importantly, are they helping?  Interesting questions coming from someone who earns a living as a pitch consultant!

Many believe the pitch process has gotten out of control, especially given how the disruption, human energy expenditure and actual cost often taxes an entire operation.  Janisse emphasizes, "I'm not talking about the cost to the agency-- though that has certainly been well documented and bemoaned; I am referring to the cost to the client and the business."Pitches today can span six to twelve months, which certainly interrupts the flow of business in a world that looks for seamless solutions and immediate response. "That's a tremendous distraction from the business of growing the business."

Roland Janisse believes that changing agencies often discounts the value of continuity at a time when continuous improvement and optimization are key.  "Optimization is the job in today's media agency. All those FTEs at the agency aren't negotiating pricing so much as they're optimizing outcomes.  They are mining data to refine targets and personalize messaging through a process that constantly moves, changes, and tweaks placements to find the higher return. As much as the data itself is prized, the magic lies in how it is interpreted and applied. Surely there is value in that experience.  How does one become a learning organization without valuing what's been learned?"

Interestingly, Janisse mentions that after decades of working with all the agency groups and nearly every agency brand, he is often asked which agencies are best.  "I can only say that all of them are capable of work that is outstanding and of work that is unworthy. So maybe the question shouldn't be: Am I getting the best agency?  But rather: Am I getting my agency's best?"

Clearly an enduring agency relationship benefits of the advertiser, not just the agency.  "An enduring relationship,"Janisse insists, "doesn't mean-- can't mean-- a stagnant relationship. An enduring relationship must be actively managed and optimized to deliver the best outcomes at the lowest cost. You need to have agreement on goals and the KPIs that will be used to measure what is working and what isn't. Both parties need to be able to review the contractual terms regularly and be open to amendments and addendums as required.  Terms that made sense only a year ago may not be optimum today.  Maintaining an enduring relationship at optimum performance – getting the agency's best – requires ongoing attention and discipline, ongoing measurement of performance and ongoing refinement of goals and expectations.”  

There is some encouraging news on this front. After several years of reviews and industry addresses that stress the importance of greater marketer control of the media process by the ANA's CEO Bob Liodice and its Chairman, Marc Pritchard of P&G, more advertisers have a better idea of how their media budgets are allocated. Interestingly, a 2017 WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) study of 35 global brands with $30+ billion in media expenditure reveals that 65% claim to have improved their internal capabilities in the past year.  Advertisers are feeling better about managing the strategy of media and understanding its challenges and nuances.

Taking control of the agency relationship and managing it to optimize outcomes seems to be a more effective and efficient way to get the agency you're looking for.

Roland Janisse, Managing Partner at Cortex, has over 25 years of management experience with leading agencies in the United States, Canada, and internationally.  He has held senior positions at Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi including Managing Director of Leo Burnett Taiwan, Regional Client Service Director at Leo Burnett Latin America, and General Manager of Conill/Saatchi & Saatchi NY and Miami.

Cortex Media helps create a media value advantage for marketers. The company has been providing media consulting and auditing since 2001. Cortex is recognized globally as a resource for balanced and independent support on key advertising media topics in US and worldwide-- including Pitch Management & Contracts, Media Performance & Cost Benchmarking and Financial Compliance & Transparency Audits.