How To Win At Working and Non-Working Media


Here at Flock we’re amazed by the hundreds of you requesting more information about working vs non-working media and marketing definitions and investments. It seems to be the topic on a lot of your minds! 

So we thought we’d provide a definitive outline, on top of our  working/non-working marketing outline and guides right here 

Clarifying it:  

In simple terms, “non-working media” is the portion of the ad budget that is spent on the development of advertising content, media strategy, and plans. This would include costs covering production, studio and agency resources, tech & data, and time costs (typically including agency fees).  The term “non-working” can be confusing and misleading as in terms of labour it’s actually the hardest working part of the budget.  

“Working media” is then the portion of the ad budget that is spent on the deployment of the advertising content across media channels. In a nutshell, it’s the “pass-through” media owner costs, as it enables the deployment of the content to the right audience, at the right time and place.   

Evolving it: 

To avoid confusion around the terms, our suggestion is to simply use terminology that everyone in your organization can easily understand.  Advocates for simplicity we prefer…. 

  • For non-working media:   Media Development or Input costs 
  • For working media:   Media Deployment or Output costs  

Perhaps not the most sophisticated terms, but it avoids anyone thinking that part of your budget isn’t working or worse can just be cut.  

Assessing it:  

Based on our experience, the key to accurately assessing non-working and working media (ie media development & deployment costs), starts with commercial contracts with agency partners, media owners, data and tech providers.  Over the past year we’ve reviewed 30+ contracts for global brands and while the majority have right to audit clauses, they are typically in the context of media costs and don’t include the right to audit data and tech costs or processes.  There are quite a few areas we often see missing in contracts which are summarized here:  Media Agency Contracts, Starting Point for Change

The ability to audit processes is often overlooked but is vital to accurately track costs by having consistent approaches in place for data sharing, data formatting and naming conventions. In our experience, to achieve visibility and accuracy in working and non-working media costs requires collaboration with all partners, well defined contractual terms and detailed processes to ensure clarity and accountability.  

If you need any support in assessing your media investments, reviewing contracts or just an outside in perspective, we can help you with a wide range of Media services so please get in touch.