‘Less about media plans, more about marketing orchestration’: MFA Awards committee members on what clients need from media agencies

MFA - Chris Colter and Sophie Langton

“The industry purpose of ‘We Are The Changers’ has permeated agencies, and many of us are trying to think about reaching people in the most cost-efficient and ethical way possible.”

MFA Awards co-chair and Initiative’s chief strategy officer, Chris Colter, thinks the “bias for action” sets the Australian media industry and its work apart from the rest of the world.

“We just want to get on with it. That’s always strengthened our competitive advantage relative to the rest of the world,” he told Mediaweek.

Such world-leading work from across the industry will be acknowledged and celebrated at media’s night of nights, the MFA Awards, which will mark its 25th anniversary later this year.

Colter said the upcoming milestone is a testament to the program and work produced across the industry.

“The MFA Awards have had a consistent role in spotlighting and uniting the best of media thinking across the country; not many things in this industry live to 25 years.”

Sophie Langton, head of planning and connections at Spark Foundry and member of the MFA Awards Steering Committee, said entering the awards is an “opportunity to celebrate” the industry’s craft and the work in market.

“It’s what we do every day. The excitement of being able to share it with people, determine what the best of the industry that we all work in, and celebrate that.”

Media publishers are also being encouraged to enter the MFA Awards ahead of the 3 May deadline.

Colter said that while publishers tend to be “the neglected party in these experiences”, they deserve “as much praise and recognition for the impact of media on business objectives and broader society as agencies and marketers get.”

MFA - Chris Colter

Chris Colter

Industry changes over the years: ‘It’s never been in a healthier place’

For Colter, the most significant change in the industry has been the increased sophistication of agencies, marketers, and publishers in measuring business objectives and impact on people, planet, and profit.

“Media is not just becoming a distribution vehicle or even the message. It’s the solution.

“As an industry, we’re not just creating new tactics, or innovating new formats, we’re building new media channels. It’s quite exciting and I think it’s never been in a healthier place.”

Langton noted that the MFA is also looking to reward the way the dots are connected between different campaign elements. She said: “The guardrails have almost come off. Channels aren’t just buying a billboard or a 15-second spot or using AI. It’s how you connect the dots between all the different elements.

“These awards celebrate people’s ability to take what’s out there and connect those dots, build new things, iterate and innovate to build something bigger and get a great outcome for clients.”

Big-picture plans and making it count for clients

When it comes to what clients need from their media and agencies, Langton believes they want “big-picture plans” and “an overarching holistic strategy”.

“This is what differentiates people from machines: the ability to make everything work together and have a big-picture plan for how it all works.”

Colter shared a similar sentiment: “media is less about media plans and more about marketing orchestration.”

He said agencies and media provide clients with “informed confidence” about where their marketing dollars are going and ensure that it drives growth and competitive advantage.

Part of this is through purposeful planning, a trend Colter has seen an increase of in adland. “The industry purpose of ‘We Are The Changers’ has permeated agencies, and many of us are trying to think about reaching people in the most cost-efficient and ethical way possible,” he said.

Colter said the industry has evolved from “how much you spend matters, to how you spend mattering more,” making it an exciting time to be in media.

He added that “expertise has never been needed more. It’s no longer enough to rely on clout and dollars. You need to think and gain a competitive advantage through smart, creative planning.”

For Langton, media is more than “shouting” a message to people and “nerds putting numbers in boxes.” It is about the value exchange, creative media, and practice that resonates with audiences and makes media and messaging work harder and better.

MFA - Sophie Langton

Sophie Langton

Progressing and evolving the craft

Colter said he is looking forward to being impressed by this year’s MFA Awards entries and seeing work he wished he had thought of first. “As a fan on the sidelines and a media geek, the work coming out from agencies this last year is some of the best media thinking that’s existed in this country for decades, if not ever.”

He noted that he is keen to see entries that “reset” the benchmark and threshold for world-class media planning and channel innovations. “I genuinely believe that Australia punches well above its weight in that space,” Colter said.

He also highlighted the talent across in media, agencies and marketing clients across Australia, calling them “very ambitious, very astute, relative to everywhere else.”

He said they are looking to “leave a legacy,” which unlocks an opportunity for the industry to be a testing ground for creative thinking.

“The more that we see that and think that that’s the norm, the more that we strive to do it, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Langton added: “What I really like seeing is how people have taken best practice in channel, and stretch it to make it work for their clients.”

Colter concluded that the Australian media agencies are “shithouse” at promoting their work because of constantly being on “the hamster wheel” of getting on to the next project.

“There’s so much happening that we often forget to take stock, immortalise a piece of work, and showcase it not just to ourselves and our clients but to the industry for our collective good.”

See also: Martin Brown, Lisa Ronson, and Naysla Edwards among MFA Awards Signature Judges

Top image: Chris Colter and Sophie Langton

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