Media directors can be pigeon-holed into one of two types, pancakes and tent poles. Both types need to take action as the function evolves.
Media directors can find themselves at the centre of everything. Once limited to traditional media buying and agency management, they can now be asked about brand safety, CRM, eCommerce, retail partnerships, verification, ad fraud or content, to name just a few areas that fall under their remit.
As a result, we see media directors in many companies, diverging into one of two models. There are Pancakes, those who are spread too thin and getting involved in too many different areas. The danger is that being too involved in too much means they never achieve anything.
Then there are Tent Poles, isolated at the end of the corridor, sometimes with only the big brand advertising to manage because the performance stuff is handled elsewhere. They risk being isolated in a 'spending money' role, representing a very limited and narrow view of media.
Both types need help to manage their role and their position in the company hierarchy.
The Pancakes need to identify what really makes a difference to their core KPI, company growth, and focus on that. A strategic plan for the evolution of the media function will also help keep their focus, useful to bat away questions that might have previously distracted them.
“This is our goal for the year and this is our roadmap,” is what they should be saying when extraneous queries come in. In essence they need to work out what matters and stop being all things to all people.
The Tent Poles need to seek out adjacent functions where media can make a big difference. Seeking allies across the business and use them to build profile and stature that will help break down the siloes. That might not be easy, given that teams in some companies will not only no be in the same building but could even be based in another country. They should be collaborating in the knowledge that they can contribute to growth.
Bringing the media director down from the Tent Pole or up from the Pancake won’t be simple. Many media directors will find they have to challenge cultural perceptions as well, repositioning media from a spend to an investment, for example.
Those that get it right, however, will make their role not just more exciting but also more effective.