Operating models may sound arcane but they are increasingly critical to making sure marketers have the external partners they need, explains Susy Pyzer-Knapp, Design Practice Lead at ID Comms.
The future has felt uncertain for over a year now. This uncertainty has affected all aspects of life but, in our business, we’ve noticed the furrowed brows of advertisers asking how to future proof their media operating models.
Media operating models underpin how advertisers approach the management of their media investment. They link a media vision to the operational execution of the media strategy.
Thanks to the pandemic’s wake-up call that nothing in the future is a given, it has become clear to advertisers that these models are key to future-proofing their businesses. In fact, right now, redesigning the operating model may be one of the smartest investments that media leaders can make to achieve growth.
The operating model acts as a blueprint and represents key decisions on people, processes, partnerships and principles. It not only determines how media operates but also defines the role and value of media in the wider business. A successful media operating model is a sure-fire way to earn media a louder voice and a seat at the corporate table.
Through our work supporting a variety of advertisers to redesign their media operating model in the last 15 months, there are three elements that every advertiser reconsidering their operating model should know.
Having a vision is the first step
The first step in designing an operating model should always be defining the media vision. Articulating the role and value of media in simple, yet specific, terms lays the foundations of what the model must enable to achieve the vision.
If a media vision already exists within your organisation, consider the following questions:
- Is this vision still relevant in 2021?
- How well communicated and understood is this vision across the organisation?
- Does this statement accurately articulate our future goals for media?
- Is this vision actually a marketing strategy?
- Is this vision actionable or conceptual?
As part of our work with a global CPG brand in 2020, we supported the design of a new media vision. The articulation of its future ambitions was critical to aligning internal teams behind a shared vision for the media organisation.
These simple statements drove the entire design of the operating model, acting as a crucial check to keep the team grounded in what they were trying to achieve. At every stage of the process, we used the media vision to make sure the model was purposefully designed to achieve this vision.
Start with the man in the mirror
Advertisers can often be tempted to paint over the cracks in an operating model by launching a media review. In simple terms, however, if you do not get your own house in order, then it is highly unlikely that a new agency partner will actually solve your issues in the mid to long term.
Successful operating models are designed by those willing to get uncomfortably introspective. Understanding the needs of the business requires an analysis of internal organisation, ways of working, critically assessing how partnerships are set up to optimise investment and the wider landscape and ecosystem.
In 2020, ID Comms supported a global technology company in running a full diagnostic of its current media operations. This enabled stakeholders to define where media would go next and ensured smart, powerful decision making. The insights from the diagnostic defined the changes to the overall operating model, including a significant redesign of the way the internal media team interfaced with other parts of the marketing organisation.
Other changes included new global media planning and investment guidelines to be used by brand teams around the world. Clarity on the internal operating model made a better brief for a subsequent global pitch.
Identify gaps and fill them
Trying to fill gaps in internal media capabilities can sometimes feel like a high stakes game of ‘whack a mole’, plugging one gap just as another pops up elsewhere.
When designing a media-operating model, critical consideration should be given to whether to take a build or buy approach, identifying existing strengths versus areas where it is necessary to either build capabilities or buy (i.e. invest in partnerships or tools that fill the gap).
Having this clarity allows the new operating model to optimise strengths in internal media capabilities and define scope for each media partner, be it a media agency, specialist and tools, or a technology provider.
This element is particularly crucial to multi-brand, multi-market and decentralised organisations. As demonstrated in our work with a global alcohol business in 2020, build or buy decisions must take into account the varying maturity and journeys of the respective brands or markets involved. The trick is to find the sweet spot of a build or buy model that is cohesive and consistent across the business, but that also accounts for the nuanced needs of brands and markets.
Overall, advertisers who take the time to articulate their vision and honestly reflect on the opportunities for improvement internally, will reap the rewards of a collaborative operating model that serves their needs and future-proofs their business.
Originally published in WARC, on June 17, 2021