Why media isn’t fit for purpose if you’re an SME

The industry should recognise the value of the 99%, not the 1%

The marketing trade press is dominated by news of national and international advertisers. This is understandable. But don’t be fooled into thinking they represent the majority of the market. In fact, 99% of advertisers spend under £3 million (source: Nielsen, based on all advertiser 2022 spend). We have an advertising market where the biggest media owners and the largest media agencies and are now pretty much focused on the top 1% of advertisers.

If you’re in the 99% of advertisers, this is hardly a market that seems fit for purpose. I believe it’s time to stop putting the 99% at the back of the queue. We need to focus on the specific needs of the heartland of UK advertising, and reflect on what good media planning and buying looks like for small and medium sized businesses.

Digital media owners — know where your money is coming from

All the available research shows that the bulk of Meta’s ad revenue comes from SMEs. For some time now, small businesses have used digital and social platforms to drive leads and maximise conversions. But not all the major players have woken up to this potential. It’s only in the last year or so that TikTok and Snapchat have launched dedicated services and products for SMEs.

Digital platforms would be wise to consider the revenue opportunities from SMEs.

Traditional media is still very important for SMEs

The failure of some high-profile DTC brands and the shift to TV and print by others, shows just how important traditional media is for brand building. Many SMEs rely on traditional media and advertising to build their businesses. And working with smaller budgets, their agencies have to cherry pick the best out of home panels and carefully select the right print placements. But national media owners make it very hard for SMEs, with increasingly tough minimum spend requirements.

Smart media agencies can negotiate around this — notably spreading the minimum spend across a campaign or time period – but greater media owner flexibility is required.

Programmatic is not the solution for many advertisers

Nearly three quarters (71%) of digital spending will be transacted programmatically across various platforms in this year, according to Dentsu. This includes channels such as CTV, retail and digital OOH — important for many SMEs — where growing volumes of ad inventory will be made available to purchase using programmatic.

When your budgets are small, programmatic can look attractive in terms of numbers and practicality. But the reality can be very different. With smaller amounts of money to spend, you have to focus very carefully on the platform, environment and audience. If you’re not getting a guarantee your ad will be seen or heard by the right people, you’re wasting your money.

A real understanding of regional media

An expert knowledge of media is critical for the ability of any media agency to execute a successful plan for a client. However, many of the larger media agencies no longer retain specialists in regional media, a staple of many SME plans. In order to plan and buy regional media you must have experts, who have the experience to understand nuances of consumers in different locations, who have nurtured contacts at every level on the media owner side, and enjoy access to inventory, traded at preferential rates. Any SME looking for a media agency should insist on a proven track record of regional success, with the expertise and tools to help plan and buy many different regional campaigns.

Focus on true, dedicated client service

In the age of programmatic, all too often client service can drop down the list of agency priorities — especially when the client’s budget is modest. But smaller clients, with smaller marketing teams, rely heavily on dedicated media partners. They need their media agency to be the experts they don’t have in-house. They need them to have a deep understanding of their business, and to be on hand at all times. It sounds like a cliché, but being flexible, responsive, agile and having the ability to go the extra mile is vital for smaller advertisers.

Luckily for SMEs, there are dedicated, independent agencies out there that are able to ensure that they have brilliantly executed plans with the best possible deals and prices. But it could be so much easier — and offer so much more potential — if the media industry recognised the value and importance of the 99% of advertisers, rather than focussing disproportionately on the 1%.

Featured image: Anastasiya Badun / Unsplash

Suzana Lay, Head of Brand Team & Planning Director at The Grove Media

Suzana heads up the Brand Team at The Grove Media and oversees all the agency’s planning & insight output. A key part of her time is spent keeping abreast of new research and media developments to ensure that fresh thinking can be applied on a strategic and implementational level across all our clients. Suzana began her career in media at as Comms Planning Exec at Carat. She went on to be a planner MediaCom and Manning Gottlieb OMD, before joining Blue 449 as an account director. Suzana started at The Grove Media in 2017 and became Agency Planning Director in 2019. Suzana has worked with a wide variety of clients, including: Beko, HomeAway, Mars Food, VW, Save the Children, mk, Amtico, Daikin, and Animal Friends Insurance.

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