Are media agencies keeping pace with change?

Jeff Hyams and Martyn Stokes
Jeff Hyams and Martyn Stokes

Two media agency strategy chiefs reflect on how technology and data will transform the face of their agencies and the way they do business.


What are the biggest challenges facing media agencies today?

The biggest challenge is a tendency to spend too much time talking about the challenges. However, putting that to one side, the challenges tend to fall into three areas, which are all interconnected: how to keep up to speed with the pace of change driven by technology; how to develop the new specialist services while still being brilliant at all of the old ones, and keeping old and new seamlessly integrated; and how to find, keep and develop all of the talent required to achieve this.

How are media agencies structuring themselves to meet the demands of the current communications landscape?

The idea that you can create a one-size-fits-all structure in a way that media agencies used to operate is impossible. The key need is to build an organisation that is flexible, so that it can reflect the changing needs of clients. Our dual focus at MEC is around clients, and also around paid, owned and earned media. This creates a flexible structure and a home for an array of skills and services, including content creation and distribution, technology design and provision and a deeper pool of analytical and data skills.

- How is the role of strategy evolving?

Strategy becomes even more important, while at the same time the definition of strategy is evolving. Traditionally, we've seen strategy as a more long-term fixed driver of communications, usually created and owned by few people. What is happening increasingly is that strategy is becoming democratised across a greater number of stakeholders and, at the same time, it can be more short term and organic. While great ideas remain at the heart of great strategy, an idea can now be defined by technology, a platform, or something that may have previously been seen as a tactic.

- How integral are data and technology to your offering?

Data and technology are essential to our business, and something that we have been investing in for a number of years. Its importance will continue to grow as we move to a world of real-time bidding and real-time planning. We have been using data for many years to drive effectiveness for performance-driven clients, but now we are translating this approach to brand-focused clients to derive insights from many sources, including web analytics and social media buzz monitoring.

- How do you measure return on investment?

For performance-driven advertisers, the measures are straightforward and cost-per-acquisition or cost-per-sale can be measured quickly. For others we will look at engagement, awareness and behaviour metrics. With digital platforms, the ROI metrics can be tightly defined and measured. We are also in econometrics, and partner with specialist suppliers to understand more about the customer journey so we can improve the campaign ROI.

- What will be the biggest trends in media over the next 12 months?

More of the same, only faster. By which I mean: increased digitalisation of consumer behaviour with significant shifts for television platforms; increased influence and breadth of social media platforms; a re-energising of search through multiple new applications; and, finally, the inexorable growth of mobile devices and the role for mobile marketing.


- What are the biggest challenges facing media agencies today?

There are four challenges: business agility, integrating new skill-sets, depth of knowledge and harnessing the power of data.

Media agencies need to be agile enough to invest in the skills to capitalise on the opportunities that technology is offering in areas such as mobile, social, data analytics or web usability.

Integrating new skill-sets brings further challenges, as does how we balance the need for all our people to have knowledge across the expanding media landscape versus the depth of knowledge needed by teams in specialist channels. The final challenge is data. Identifying the best way to draw value from data is important now and will become critical in years to come.

- How are media agencies structuring themselves to meet the demands of the current communications landscape?

We believe that the best work is delivered when no internal barriers exist. These barriers are both structural and philosophical. Two years ago, we restructured MPG and Media Contacts into one integrated agency that blended traditional and digital into one business. We train all our people on all aspects of our business so they can confidently discuss issues with each other, our clients and the industry.

- How is the role of strategy evolving?

Strategy's role is evolving to become the glue that binds campaigns together, from idea origination through to implementation, then actively evolving as consumer interaction and response rates show us how a campaign is delivering. Another big part of our role is to inspire all our teams to continually question their assumptions about consumers and their landscape is evolving. As the volume of insight-rich data sources is increasing, we have also evolved strategy by splitting it into communications strategy and commercial strategy - two teams who work together to deliver measurable business results.

- How integral are data and technology to your offering?

Data and technology have always been a strength of our business.

Over the past 15 years we have invested in proprietary technology platforms from Artemis, our data insight and attribution modelling system, to Adnetik, our demand side platform, to our qualitative consumer panel, Fabric. Havas Media has invested in senior hires with a background of working with big data sets at clients and media owners. We recently launched Web Narrative, our own web design and web analytics business.

- How do you measure return on investment?

We use a suite of tools to measure return on investment. The blend depends on the amount of client data we have access to. In the digital space, Artemis gives us a clear view of performance, including bespoke attribution modelling. For a full-market view, we deploy our in-house econometrics team who currently model 62 per cent of our billings.

- What will be the biggest trends in media over the next 12 months?

We will see further media convergence as the boundaries between channels blur. Digital advertising will be smarter and personalised, data planning will be the hot topic, consumers will move to using mobile devices to access the web and TV will be in rude health helped by the Olympics. And, finally, I hope that more brands will deliver "social ideas" rather than obsess with social media.


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