Is media outsourcing a good thing?

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When healthcare agencies outsourced media services, media selection became disjointed from the creative process. Now some are rethinking the connection. Is media separation a good thing for agencies?

Rebecca Frederick,
SVP, media director,
Conectics, part of CommonHealth
Healthcare companies and full-service agencies that have outsourced media services are encountering the challenge of integrating emerging media into their marketing mix. These media decisions require more strategic professionals who are connected to the creative process and understand the messaging strategy and creative concept to select the most appropriate communication channel. The medium also in-creasingly dictates creative elements. Web-based programs have much greater targeting capability than print, so creative can be customized. Some consumer agencies are reuniting media person- nel with their creative agencies. In the healthcare arena, an exchange of ideas across disciplines may be best facilitated through shared workspace and experience. More collaborative tactics will need to replace the “media-centric” approach to address the changing media landscape.

Stephen Selinger,
Managing partner,
There are two different parts to the “media selection” process: selection of media tactics for a brand, and then buying the media. Independent media planners expend a lot of effort working with the agency brand team to understand its creative process and strategic positioning for the brand. They provide a large, deep pool of knowledge of the relative effectiveness and synergies associated with various media tactics and can invest in the R&D of planning tools. We have seen no evidence that there is a disconnect between the creative design and tactical decisions relating to a brand's communications efforts. Media buying can also be significantly enhanced with an outside service. Agencies still want to retain inside media expertise, but by working with outside services, they are able to expand considerably their available resources.

Vickie Szombathy,
VP, media director,
StarLink Worldwide
If media has become separated from creative, it is not a location issue—it is a process issue. The creative and media agencies need to work as partners and optimize the client's investment through the most effective marriage of the message and the medium. Part of this perceived problem could be that media agencies are working with a new complex media landscape and taking the creative message into new, sometimes previously unused territory. Creative agencies may have a difficult time adapting to new media opportunities given the legal guidelines that are inherent in medical advertising. The creative and media strategy should develop in tandem with a clear understanding of the client's objectives, target audiences, barriers and opportunities. Down the hall or across the country, creative and media agencies need to be in lockstep from the beginning to prevent a disjointed effort.

Rich Minoff,
Dorland Global Health Comm.
Gone are the days when a PERQ analysis or leasing a standard AMA list for a direct-mail campaign will suffice. An integrated approach to determine the best confluence of marketing/promotional and educational program optimization requires the full agency team, including media planning. “Bulk rate” media buying outsourced to a specialty vendor might yield a level of cost savings, but to rely on that type of service and be fully immersed in a client's critical business issues, challenges and opportunities will rarely occur. Do client-side marketing managers have the time to spend educating and re-educating the buying services from a planning perspective? Hardly, and the result will not be in the client's or brand's best interest. 
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