Media must learn from the rise of the verticals

Media must learn from the rise of the verticals

Specialist expertise in different sectors is vital to navigate the rapidly changing, digital landscape, says Havas Media Group's UK & Ireland chief executive.

Advertisers understandably want their agency partners to have a deep understanding of the market they operate in. But as most agencies are generalists, deep vertical understanding can be a challenge.

That said, in the UK we have a vibrant, independent/specialist agency community, accounting for nearly a third of all media spend.

In today's increasingly digital landscape, specialist talent is necessary and advertisers are crying out for data, programmatic and content strategists.

These roles remain specialist and largely siloed, so I'm fairly confident in saying that the pool of data or programmatic experts skilled in the luxury space, for example, is more of a stream than an ocean.

The agency world is busy investing in the development of more T-shaped talent, which simultaneously has capability to connect horizontally whilst retaining discipline superpowers, but this takes time.

Historically, many media owners have been more specialised in certain verticals, particularly when it comes to publishing.

But digital disruption has unsettled this with brands seeking out polymaths who both understand the sector they operate within, and have a credible view of how to leverage digital and data for growth.

Arguably Google spotted this need first, focusing on vertical expertise, hiring category experts client-side, with Facebook following suit.

A small number of creative agencies also spotted the opportunity. Media agency land was slower off the mark but this has quietly changed over the last few years.

There has been a surge in the growth of agencies that specialise by vertical, including finance, retail, luxury and entertainment.

The stats around this are hard to come by but some quick maths suggest this tranche of agencies has enjoyed double-digit growth within an overall market that is seeing less than 6% growth year-on-year

Sectors such as retail and luxury have genuine idiosyncrasies in the way they approach marketing and thus a tailored approach is attractive.

Havas's own LuxHub business is the fastest growing part of the media group today as a result of pivoting from an insight and trends based consultancy to a 360-degree media and marketing services agency.

The agency has a healthy balance between media, consultancy, brand strategy and research with 55% of revenue from non-media. This feels like a healthy model for the agency of the future.

Likewise, the strength of entertainment specialist agencies like Target Media (which Havas Media has bought this week) and Generation Media is obvious as they live and breathe entertainment and provide 360 services that cut across media, PR, experiential and content creation.

The B2B vertical is also experiencing a renaissance as many brands in this space have quickly embraced digital transformation and the future of CRM. Notably, Dentsu Aegis acquired Gyro, which claims to be the world's largest B2B network, and focused on optimising customer experience.

Most marketers are "re-building the house whilst still living in it", thus they desire and require partners who can genuinely strategise, lobby their execs whilst delivering frictionless cross-channel activation.

The double-digit growth evident in these agencies and the exponential growth witnessed at Facebook and Google, strongly suggests there is a model here that all agencies can learn from.

Paul Frampton is the chief executive of Havas Media Group UK & Ireland



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