Antony Yiu
Jan 04, 2023

Opinion: Media agencies need to change their mindset for survival

It's time for media agencies to integrate fully into client marketing processes and work between holding companies says the CEO of PHD Hong Kong

Opinion: Media agencies need to change their mindset for survival

While I've only been on board for a couple of months as the CEO of PHD Media Hong Kong, I am disappointed in how the media agency world at large still has not changed to tailor its offerings as the entire advertising industry evolves.


It hurts my heart each time I see a vanilla media plan that only includes OOH network buys, Google SEM, programmatic (be it agency’s black box programmatic network or third party DSPs), Meta (Facebook and Instagram formats and third party KOL buys) and YouTube and then is called a plan. 


When media agencies do this, we end up relegating ourselves to be buying agencies, negotiating the best price for clients based on the volume discount that major 4As can get. Media agencies then continue to compete with one another on pricing during pitches. And to make up for the drop in revenue, they will throw in their own proprietary black box programmatic partner or KOL network to ensure that sufficient markup is done through the buying of their own proprietary channels. 


Many clients still consider media agencies as the secondary component of their advertising campaign strategy behind their creative partners. The future seems to be gloomy for media agencies, heading to a slow and painful death created by ourselves.


Media agencies have no time to waste and must evolve now to survive a more complex and changing consumer purchase journey. Gone are the days when media agencies might come in as secondary partners in the whole advertising campaign process. Strategy teams at media agencies have a more important role than ever in generating ideas, piecing the consumer footprint together and deciding the right channels and the right formats to reach the advertisers’ target audience. 


I have personally witnessed multiple times of the success and failures of a one client team model proposed by various holding companies. It only works if we look beyond pricing as the reason for doing it.


The media teams should be involved in the early part of the creative development process, given that many of the innovations with publishers are now done through integrated partnerships with them early-on. The line between media agencies and creative agencies has now blurred and one does not necessarily come before another.


Media agencies also need to have their own research and insights team to understand the latest trends in consumer mindsets and media consumption behavior, which in turn helps build an executable strategy that drives both the marketing and business outcomes of our clients. 


Only with this continuous evolution of media agencies, will we be able to cement our roles in the marketing process of our clients. This is achievable if we look beyond the revenue directly generated by each headcount within each agency and look at it through the lens of our clients to create viable marketing solutions. 


We also have to be flexible enough to work with agencies across different holding companies. Rather than trying to compete with creative agencies to get a bigger pie of clients’ marketing budget, we should work hands in hands to collaborate with one another.  This will help bring a healthier and brighter future of the entire advertising industry.


Antony Yiu is the CEO of PHD Hong Kong. This article first appeared on

Campaign India

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