21 Oct MEDIA AGENCY
Last Updated on 04/20/22 by Amra Beganovich
1.What is a Media Agency?
Media agency is an agency that helps companies communicate their brand to the public through advertising, public or media relations and creative direction. Typically, media agencies are full-service type of agencies that offer advertising (i.e. media buying), social media marketing, public relations, creative agency services, and other types of digital media (marketing) campaigns or activations.
In order to understand better what media agency consists of, we will take a closer look into different components that make up a media agency and what each portion is responsible for. We will also cover tips for what to look for when hiring a media agency, average pricing that media agencies charge, and why businesses continue to spend large amounts of their marketing budgets on media agencies.
1.1 Media Agency – Ad Agency (Media Buying Agency)
One of the primary responsibilities of a media agency is ad buying, including developing, planning, and purchasing of advertising in an effort to help spread the brand message and increase product sales. Ad agencies often specialize in digital ads including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and other social media advertising as well as pay-per-click, or Google ads. Other non-traditional ad agency campaigns focus on media buying on television, radio, out-of-home or outdoor media, and augmented reality advertising.
1.2 Media Agency – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Other Social Media Advertising
Social media marketing has become on the primary ways in which brands connect with the consumers digitally. Media agencies role in social media marketing or social media advertising is to advise brands on which social media is best for their niche target market. For example, Facebook is best suited for baby boomers or generation X, while Instagram works better with generation Y or millennials. For those brands who are looking to reach generation Z, Snapchat and TikTok may prove more optimal.
Media agencies’ job is to gather in-depth information about the company and its target demographic not only to advise them on the best social media platform, but also to offer insight into the type of campaigns trending or appropriate for each type of platform. For example, Facebook audience is more likely to react better to photo posts in form of an article, while Instagram audience prefers a combination of video (Reels), photo post, and a swipe up Instagram stories. On TikTok, media agency may recommend using influencers to demonstrate product in a creative way that may be particularly engaging for the generation Z.
1.3 Media Agency – Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Google Ads
Media agency may advise a brand to do a Pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, or ads that appear when a user preforms a search inquiry on search engines such as Google. This type of ad campaign is usually beneficial when brands are trying to show up in first position for highly competitive keywords and are not able to be efficient with search engine optimization ranking alone. PPC is an excellent way to also test the conversion of certain keywords and before investing more heavily into SEO as the results of the campaign are pretty instantaneous.
Many media agencies like to utilize PPC as one of the primary strategies in attracting new clients, testing the website user compatibility (user interface), or receiving insight into target audience behavior when it comes to particular products, services, or even price points. Media agencies often provide insight into data analytics of PPC campaign as a way for brands to receive invaluable metrics about their niche market and consumer behavior.
1.4 Media Agency – Augmented Reality Advertising (AR Advertising)
Media agencies today are utilizing augmented reality advertising (AR advertising) to enhance emotional connection with the customer by incorporating virtual reality into daily activities. Unlike traditional type of ad placing, i.e. ad banners, AR advertising allows consumers to interact with the brand virtually, and it makes their experience more personal.
For example, a jewelry company may want to provide their potential customers with an ability to try their jewelry from the comfort of their own home without having to ship them different products. They can do this through AR by designing filters that contain different rings so that the consumer is simply able to place their hand in front of their smart phone camera, and the jewelry appears automatically on their finger. They are able to switch from one ring to another simply by swiping the filters until they find the perfect piece that suits them.
This type of advertising has proven very popular on Snapchat as the platform has been known for their filters and ease of use (video recording). Recently, Instagram has also allowed their audience to develop custom filters on Insta stories providing an excellent opportunity for media agencies to design product filters that will entice Instagram users to try on brand’s products virtually and purchase them on spot via “swipe-ups.”
1.5 Media Agency – Social Media Agency
Social media agency is a type of agency that specializes in social media marketing, content production, and influencer campaigns. Typically, social media agencies are more technical than creative, and they specialize in optimizing social media ads as well as brand’s presence on different social platforms. However, some social media agencies also play a role of a creative agency where they create and edit content to be served on brand’s different social accounts.
1.5.1 Social Media Marketing Agency
Media agencies offer social media marketing as a part of brand’s ad spend. Social media marketing involves serving ads on different types of social channels. With the constant evolution of major social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok, social media marketing offers a sophisticated analytical ad ability by providing valuable targeting options. For example, Facebook allows its users to be able to re-target the most interested Instagram followers and place ads for them on Facebook. They also provide an ability to “clone” the most enthusiastic (active) brand followers, and find others with the same characteristics so that brands can place their ads in front of highly targeted audience.
1.5.2 Social Media Content Production Agency
Media agencies also work with brands on content production for social media platforms. Content production is one of the most valuable aspects of social media branding and advertising, as highly engaging content is far more likely to convert over generic and poor-quality images/videos. Media agencies typically work with creative directors, story tellers, and other artists to be able to construct highly engaging content that is likely to be shared or even go viral. Virality occurs when content produced is so emotionally enticing that the users re-share it with their own audience to create a multiplier effect and reach many others (sometimes millions of new audiences) without additional cost.
1.5.3 Social Media Influencer Marketing Agency
Media agencies work with influencers as a part of the ad spend to amplify their social media ads and help boost brand’s popularity on different social media channels. Influencer marketing has especially been on the rise in the last couple of years as influencer audience often surpasses that of major media publications.
Furthermore, influencer marketing popularity is amplified through their ability to reach specific type of audience segments. There are beauty, fashion, fitness, travel, gaming, food, and even patient influencers. Patient influencers are a great example of the type of specific targeting that can be done through influencer campaigns. Pharmaceutical companies looking to advertise their treatments to audiences with specific conditions can work with patient influencers who are often health advocates for specific illness.
Influencer marketing encompasses media buying, branding, public relations, as well as content production. Influencers work with brands on direct advertising by composing posts that feature the brand and encouraging their audience to make a purchase. Media agencies can also hire influencers to act as brand ambassadors and improve the branding of a company. Influencer marketing is useful as a part of public relations as media agencies may choose to gift influencers for product reviews rather than compensate them with a fee. Influencers are also utilized to create content for brands that not only allow more product engagement but also offer third party endorsement of the company.
1.6 Media Agency – Public Relations Agency
Public relations agency is an agency specializing in development, execution, and management of un-paid brand stories to the public via media publications, influencers, celebrities, and other public outlets. Media agencies often utilize public relations as a part of branding as well as establishment of brand authority, credibility, and trust. Public relations agency also manages the reputation of the brand through press releases, or responses of the company to a particular issue or other public issues surrounding the company.
Public relations agencies have been proven as a valuable part of media agencies’ integrated marketing plan as they often act in conjunction with the paid ads. For example, a brand that is looking to boost their website clicks via Google advertising or social media marketing may look to also receive endorsement from Forbes or other major media mentions. Major media outlets are often displayed on brand’s home page to enhance brand credibility once the consumer lands on the page.
Public relations agency can also play an immense role with brand partnerships and improve the cost of paid ads. For example, a media agency that focuses on public relations stories with major media before engaging influencers for paid ads may benefit from a reduction in influencer asking price for a dedicated post. In certain instances, brands may even receive reviews in a form of un-paid dedicated post due to brand’s past praise from major media.
1.7 Media Agency – Creative Media Agency
Creative marketing agency refers to an agency specializing in creative direction, conception, production, and editing of visual messaging. Media agencies utilize creative direction to develop brand identity, message consistency, brand recognizability, and produce content that communicates the uniqueness of the product. Creative agency can also help with physical designs such as web, product, store and packaging design. Other creative agency designs include logo, posters, marketing pamphlets, social media branding guidelines, and more.
Media agencies utilize creative direction to conceptualize ad campaigns that will be served as a part of their media buying. For example, media agencies will have their creative department produce compelling videos and photos, and agencies can even hire outside talents such as producers, actors, models, and other artists like stylists, makeup and hair creatives. Outside talent usually works with the creative agency to execute the design aspect of an ad from conceptualization all the way to the final (edited) product.
1.8 Media Agency – Digital Marketing Agency (Digital Media Agency)
Digital marketing agency is typically a full-service digital agency that encompasses all types of digital marketing, including social media, influencer posts, public relations, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and creative services. Digital marketing agency is a digital portion of the media agency, and it usually excludes non-digital marketing such as television, radio, billboards, and other non-digital components.
Recently, the line between the digital marketing agency and a non-digital agency has been blurred as many traditional marketing agencies have transitioned into the digital sphere. As podcasts raise in popularity, and YouTube-only-streamed series and movies continue to attract millions of viewers, most ad agencies will turn majority of their efforts towards digital marketing services.
2. What to Look for in a Media Agency?
When looking for a media agency it helps to know if the agency traditionally specializes in the type of marketing that a brand may require. For example, a once traditional media agency or an ad agency can turn digital to help improve their marketability, but their overall management and experience can be lacking in the digital spectrum. Other type of media agency attributes include category of clients, size of contracts, and proof of concept (or case studies that prove their capabilities).
2. 1. Type of Agency – Overall Experience
In traditional agencies, leadership is often more specialized in non-digital services, and often has to hire digital experts to help them familiarize themselves with the digital marketing practices. Newly hired digital experts by non-digital agencies may not allow traditional agencies to execute digital campaigns properly; their top leadership often lacks integrated marketing (digital) vision that would tie in the entire campaign together.
For brands looking for media agencies specializing in digital sphere, management should include experts who have originally been practicing digital advertising and are familiar with the latest digital marketing trends. For example, some media agencies may be rooted in digital practices but still lack insight into the latest digital trends; they may engage in ad banners and ignore the ad-block feature that is present (installed) in most browsing systems today.
2. 2 Type of Clients
Media agencies differ in their client portfolio; some specialize in specific niche industries such as healthcare, tech, or fashion, while others sometimes have a generalized portfolio of clients. Media agencies also differ in the size of their clients. For example, some agencies work with smaller brands while others focus almost exclusively on corporate clients. Depending upon brand’s niche and size, companies should consider media agency’s clients when looking to engage their services.
Media agencies that work with smaller brands are sometimes better suited to address the needs of emerging brands. Different stage companies have different needs, and smaller brands typically require more brand building than larger companies. Corporations on the other hand often have a need for a more specialized service; they may choose to spend large portions of their budget just on ads instead of on public relations as they usually have a recognizable image.
2.3 Size of Contracts (Minimum Media Agency Spend)
Media agencies often differ in their size of the contracts, or the minimum spend required to activate their services. Some media agencies who work with corporate clients will require activation of at least six months while others will have a one year minimum as their smallest available contract. Media agencies also have an hourly duration set for each client and dedicate certain minimum number employees, or account managers, for each brand.
Media agencies who work with smaller brands may have more flexibility when it comes to the minimum available spend for activation of services. They may dedicate smaller teams to work on campaigns and sometimes provide more options when it comes to number of hours dedicated to each campaign. For example, they will allow clients to expand campaigns as they go and change their services to better suit the brand strategy. For brands who are starting, changing marketing strategy can prove useful as they explore different venues to find the best campaign ROI.
2.4. Proof of Concept (Niche Experience)
Media agencies will often include their case studies as a proof of concept of their expertise and work. Typically, the case studies include specific numbers achieved as a part of the campaign, and other relevant information describing the approach and the effect of service activations. Case studies should also include the name of their clients and other supporting material such as images, graphs, influencer post examples, content, and more.
Other great proof of concept is analysis of media agencies’ own internal marketing success. For example, for brands who are looking to hire a media agency to manage their social accounts, it helps to analyze media agency’s own Instagram and/or Facebook follower count. If the agency has failed to demonstrate ability to grow their own following, chances are that they may not have ability to do so for their clients.
Additional proof of concept for media agency is their own press coverage and SEO performance. If the media agency has not managed to secure notable publications for themselves, they may not be able to deliver the promised results for their own clients. This is because the media agency equally benefits from media coverage to establish authority and instill trust.
Similarly, if the media agency has failed to rank themselves on Google and optimize their own SEO, they may also be unable to do so for a brand. The easiest way to test the media agencies ability to rank a brand on Google is to ask them to reveal their own ranked keywords. If they have been unable to rank for top keywords, they may not have the right expertise required to do the same for a client.
3. What do Media Agencies Typically Charge?
Media agencies differ in size and type of clients they work with. Those who work with corporate clients tend to have higher rates of activation while media agencies working with smaller brands may have a smaller minimum spend. Often times, media agencies also differ in the minimum duration of the contracts required for the activation of their services.
Media agencies who work with corporate clients typically have a $250,000+ minimum spend for one-off project or full-service activation. Often, the minimum spend depends on the services that the brand inquiries about. Brands inquiring about advertising will often be faced with a higher minimum spend over those who are looking for branding or creative services. This is because advertising requires two budgets – one for the agency activation, campaign development and execution, and the other for fees required by the advertising medium (Google, social media, influencers, celebrities, etc).
3.1 What is a Integrated Marketing Media Agency?
Media agencies fees may differ from niche marketing agencies even when it comes to the same service. Integrated marketing media agency is a media agency that offers various marketing services in order to execute a full scope of marketing required to meet the needs to the brand. Integrated media agencies typically consist of social media, public relations, SEO, influencer marketing, creative, branding, and event agencies. Although they provide multiple niche services, integrated marketing media agencies are able to tap into any one of those services during the duration of the contract to help optimize the campaign. Integrated marketing media agencies also differ in pricing when compared to the niche agencies specializing in only one aspect of marketing.
For example, a brand who wishes to focus on PR may expect a $60,000 minimum activation fee if working with a PR agency alone. However, for brands looking to execute a PR campaign with a integrated media agency (full-service agency) that minimum activation may be higher due to the resources (access) that full-service agency typically offers. A company working with a full-service agency may receive a more integrated marketing approach for their PR campaign resulting in better overall campaign effect, while PR agency usually can usually only advise within a narrow scope of a digital strategy.
3.2 Media Agency One-Off Projects
One-off projects include a specified budget for a specific campaign. These types of projects and fees are usually reserved for “short-lived” campaigns intended to introduce a new product, organize an event, or perform a type of marketing service not required by the brand for more than 3 months.
When it comes to one-off projects, some media agencies work exclusively on a retainer basis. This means that there is a minimum upfront spend required to activate their services. When it comes to smaller and less-known brands, some media agencies may require a retainer fee for six months or more due to the risk of working with new or un-known brands.
3.3 What is a Media Agency of Record?
Media agency can also act as an agency of record where they are responsible for a full scope of brand’s marketing needs. They may handle brand’s marketing from television, radio and all the way to social media and PR. Other times, media agencies can also act as a contracting company that outsources work to more specialized agencies depending upon the need of their clients.
Usually, media agencies who are brand’s agency of record, work on an annual basis and require that a contract sum is stipulated and agreed up-front. The payment is made each month for the duration of the contract (usually 12 months and over). Other agencies may have a flexibility of six-month contract duration or less; however, less than six-month contracts are usually reserved for one-off projects that are required by companies for a product launch, and production/execution of specific campaign (or marketing material).
4. Why Business Spend on Media Agency is So Large?
Many businesses spend large parts of their marketing budgets on media agencies. This is usually due to brand’s ability to receive more marketing resources for the same amount that it would take to hire internal marketing teams to address the same needs. They are able to tap into a vast pool of marketing services that media agencies typically offer, and they don’t have to worry about the immense expense associated with time required to find and hire marketing talent. Furthermore, they can also be confident in the “proof of concept” that some media agencies offer and reduce the risk of ad spend by analyzing past performance and results of similar campaigns performed by a media agency.
Media agencies offer a tremendous amount of benefits that brands can profit from, but they may also carry potential risks. Furthermore, each brand should assess the resources of their in-house marketing teams before deciding to hire a media agency.
4.1. Benefits of Working with a Media Agency
Benefits of working with a media agency include access to vast amount of marketing resources, management experience, “proof-of-concept” and/or marketing case studies, improved branding, increased brand popularity, major media mentions, and changes in conversions/sales. Media agencies often have the power to transform the marketability of the brand, and they are able to utilize their experience to optimize the marketing spend and help companies achieve positive ROI. They are also able to transform the perception of the brand leading to improved brand partnerships and even boost investments.
Media agencies experience is usually reflected in their client base and their previous work (case studies). By working with clients in a similar niche, media agencies are able to advise brands on marketing strategies that have proven useful in the past and help them avoid those marketing mistakes made by other brands saving tons on wasted marketing dollars. Media agencies are able to pinpoint marketing trends that are best suited for specific demographic and help advise companies on best practices and technology available.
Another tremendous benefit of working with media agencies is speed – it may take a fraction of time for a media agency to achieve the same results that it would take an in-house marketing team or smaller niche agencies. This is because media agencies typically have on-call talent that they can tap into at any time to complete tasks efficiently and affordably.
4.2. Media Agency vs. In-House Marketing Teams
Media agencies differ tremendously from in-house marketing teams. Most often, media agencies have far more resources available to execute marketing campaigns faster and in more cost-effective way. Furthermore, media agencies are able to negotiate better terms when buying ads over in-house marketing teams.
When it comes to resources, media agencies usually far exceed that of an in-house team. They often have creative talent, public relation experts, graphic design, web design, search engine optimization specialists, and other senior experts all under one roof. If they need to hire a specialist contractor, they are also able to tap into extensive pool of talent as they often work with celebrity photographers, videographers, influencers, and other creatives as well as vast number of technical partners. This allows them to produce campaigns at a greater speed and generate results in a far more cost-effective way.
Another immense benefit of media agency over in-house team is ad price negotiations. Media agencies are usually able to negotiate far better ad rates over in-house teams as they work with an large pool of talent and utilize in-depth knowledge of market rates to negotiate better terms. In other cases, they are able to tap into economies of scale when working with advertisers on constant basis and negotiate lower rates for multiple clients.
4.3. Potential Risks and Downside of Working with a Media Agency
There are several potential downsides of working with a media agency, including poor timing, overextension of resources, un-aligned expectations, poor metric tracking, and failure to choose appropriate agency (i.e. size, niche, and contract cost). Choosing the wrong media agency may lead to loss of some brand marketing budget and delay a planned campaign.
4.3.1 Risk of Poor Timing
One of the potential downsides of working with a media agency can include poor timing. Early stage brands may be at risk as they often approach media agencies without adequate preparation. For example, a brand may start working with a media agency without having their distribution ready. They can also have unexpected delays with product development and may have to postpone agency services for months due to the inability to finalize the merchandise or a service. Other examples include brands who don’t have a completed website or are missing point of contact in-house (usually a marketing director) who media agency can reach for campaign approval.
4.3.2 Risk of Overextension
Overextension of resources occurs when a brand dedicates a marketing budget to an agency that they cannot afford or runs out of budget before the end of their contract. Some brands dedicate a marketing budget that far exceeds the suggested percentage of their revenue. They turn to media agency as a resort to help alleviate their business from existing budget crunch, and often feel the pinch of the entire media agency contract. Overextension of resources can become risky for both the brand and the media agency as often media agencies are unable to complete their portion of work due to the disruptions on behalf of the brand.
4.3.3. Risk of Unaligned Expectations
Unaligned expectations occur when the brand does not possess enough understanding behind the role of a media agency or marketing in general. This occurs when brands turns to media agencies for advising on operations or other non-marketing related inquiries that media agencies don’t specialize in. For example, a brand may hire a media agency to help them boost their website visits but fail to optimize their user interface for easy check out from their e-commerce. When this occurs, a brand can experience and influx of interested visitors and potential customers, but receive poor conversions that the company may attribute to the media agency.
4.3.4 Risk of Poor Metric Tracking
Poor metric tracking is the result of lack of optimization of analytics systems that allow a brand to appropriately cross reference traffic from the ongoing campaign with insights provided by the advertisers. Some brands with missing metric tracking can be in dark when it comes to the performance of their media agency and may be unable to pinpoint where the failure has occurred. This is especially true with brands running influencer campaigns that are missing Google analytics tracking for influencer landing pages.
4.3.5 Failure to Choose Appropriate Media Agency
Failure to choose an appropriate agency occurs when a brand contracts an agency specializing in different niche, size of clients, or type of marketing. For example, a brand that hires a media agency that traditionally specializes in television, radio, or billboards may often find themselves disappointed with media agency’s digital marketing efforts. This is because traditional media agency leadership and management may have extensive experience in traditional (non-digital advertising), but they may be in-experienced in executing on digital trends and sales.
5. How to Approach a Media Agency
When approaching a media agency, brands should keep several primary factors in mind, including timeline, budget, and duration of the contract. They should also be ready to provide specific information about their brand, including the size of the company, seniority of the person hiring the media agency, and point of in-house contact. Some media agencies require brands to fill out request for proposal (RFP) and may ask for a stipend to ensure serious brand interest and intention.
5.1 Media Agency Time-Line
Media agencies typically require information on the brand marketing timeline, including the start date of the campaign or agency services. While brands have some flexibility around the starting day of the contract, media agencies typically choose to work with brands that are ready to start the campaigns in the near future. Often times, media agencies will ask brands who do not have an exact month in mind to come back once the dates have been solidified. Companies can also request to start the services through a retainer fee but pause a campaign for several months if there are delays with the product or distributions. Most agencies will accommodate this type of request as long as the brand is an existing client.
5.2 Size of the Budget
When approaching a media agency, brands can be expected to immediately provide the size of their marketing spend or budget available for the agency and campaign. Many media agencies are reluctant to speak with brands who are simply “exploring” and don’t have a specific budget in mind. They may even choose to ignore the request for proposal or other type of consultations if they deem brand unready. Brands who are looking to hire a media agency are advised to conduct research on the types of services available, campaign expectations, as well as budget size before approaching an agency. Budgets that fall significantly short of minimum agency requirements are often ignored or rejected.
5.3 Duration of the Contract
Brands should decide whether they are looking for a project-based assistance or a full-service package when approaching a media agency. Project based services include assistance with a product launch, an event, content production or any other type of “one-off” activity or material. Full-service contracts are longer term contracts that usually last minimum of six month or a year, and they require more agency resources as well as greater detail when it comes to agency proposal and planning.
5.4 Company Size, Seniority of Hiring Brand Employee, and In-House Contact
Many media agencies may also request specific additional information when being approached by a brand. The may inquire about the size of the company, including the number of employees as well as the annual revenue. Media agencies may also require for senior members to be present during initial conversation in order to assess the seriousness and the brand’s ability to meet the minimum agency budgetary requirements. Requests by junior employees are usually seen as “exploratory” and are not taken seriously by most media agencies. Furthermore, media agency can also request to have a specific in-house contact as a point of reference when preparing and presenting the proposal. Usually, media agency proposal presentations are reserved for more senior level brand employees due to the size of the minimum budget involved.
Media agencies will continue to rise in popularity as many businesses switch from traditional businesses marketing strategies to digital efforts that requires specialized knowledge. Digital media agencies are especially useful to assist brands with Google SEO ranking, pay-per-click ads, influencer marketing, public relations, content production and more. Media agencies are often particularly useful when it comes to resources as they can take advantage of “economies of scale” when it comes to ad purchase and creative services. As with other business operations, there are risks involved when hiring a media agency, and they include timing, overextension, unaligned expectations, poor metric tracking, and failure to use an appropriate agency. When approaching a media agency, brands should have all the necessary research and information available as they will be requested to present their timeline, budget, and type of service required