Many of our clients and friends in advertising departments in media companies claim to have had limited success with the innovative solutions they present to clients. The list of potential reasons for this is long, but we can no longer simply blame it on the economy.

The U.S. economy is on the mend. While not out of the woods – there are dangers lurking all around – consumer confidence is up and unemployment is falling. The Canadian economy never suffered the doldrums of its neighbour to the south. The picture is mixed around the world, but there are many places where the economy is solid and improving.

So, if the economy is not the obstacle, what holds us and our advertising partners back? To find the answer, let’s revisit the concerns we have observed over the last couple of years of work with local and national media providers.

1. It’s us. Many media providers have not yet gotten their own houses in order. Too many sales incentives fail to reward:

  • Selling across product lines.
  • Reaching out to fill gaps in offerings.
  • Spending time to design creative solutions.
  • Investing time in the proper execution of these solutions.

Test this yourself. Pull out the sales incentive programme in place and look hard at what it really rewards. If you want to see behaviour change, you must reward team selling and innovation. Instead, what we often see are special drives or one-time spiffs. These may increase the numbers in the short term, but they are not representative of the true level of change needed for innovation to meet the magnitude of structural change.

2. It’s the agency. Over the years serving clients in media, the view of intermediaries has been the quintessential love-hate relationship. We have worked with media clients who have invested in building strong relationships with intermediaries and others who view them as the devil incarnate.

Media providers can no longer blame media buyers entirely for their failure to sell innovative solutions. They need to find those agencies with whom they can partner for the long-term good of the client. When all three work together, beautiful and creative solutions can be created. 

Try this. Identify a marketer with healthy agency relationships, then work with them to solve a particular marketing challenge: entry into a new market, introduction of a new product, revitalisation of an established store, reaching a new segment. Work hard to make it succeed and, when it does, build on the process with other marketers or other clients of that agency.

3. It’s the marketer. The concern that marketers have been taken over by MBAs and CPAs is often seen as a threat. And it is, to the old-fashioned “do-what-you-have-always-done” way of selling.  But for those media players who embrace the desire for metrics and ROI, they will build better innovation solutions for advertisers.

If you want to test this, go to your own marketing department and ask how they evaluate media when they have money to spend.There are many obstacles to building, marketing, and selling innovative advertising solutions. Some are internal, as media companies figure out new business models. Others are in the role of intermediaries, who themselves are under threat. And our marketers are searching for ways to compete and grow in strange new environments.  Nonetheless, let’s all go into 2012 focused on the opportunities and the potential for success.