Media pitches dominated by price yield the wrong conversation

Price is not the core issue, performance is the issue, says the Havas Media Group CEO.

Last week Bafta welcomed the inaugural Effectiveness Genesis Conference. This superb event, focused squarely on marketing effectiveness, was the brainchild of the IPA but the result of purposeful collaboration with all industry bodies.

Many speakers touched on the importance of a shared purpose where marketing is in touch and connected with all aspects of an organisation. This led to a powerful opening session on creating an effectiveness culture, where my Havas colleague Chris Hirst talked of "culture being even more important than talent."

Consistent themes emerging included continued short-termism, the need to move beyond vanity metrics and to overcome silos both brand and agency side.

Several speakers including Sandra Fazackerley from O2 and Jeremy Basset from Unilever touched on how the prioritisation of cross-channel customer experience helps cut across these silos. Supporting this trend, I shared that in Havas’ Meaningful Brands survey, we are seeing the rise of brands that put customer experience at their core, including Amazon, Paypal and Netflix.

I was fortunate enough to join a session around data with Tim Warner from PepsiCo and Emily Henderson from Google. There was fast consensus that data must be the responsibility of everyone in an organisation today. I shared my long-held belief that data leads to better insight, aiding creativity and content creation as much as media decisions. Recognising that artificial intelligence and machine learning can lead to better human understanding and help brands be more human in all aspects of their communications is a complex but essential step.

It was evident that many still fear that data will equal cost cutting and automation will equal job losses. Tom Davenport, author of What Automation Will Do to Marketing, stated that while a digital-first world demands decisions in milliseconds that humans cannot compete with, it simultaneously removes heavy lifting; freeing up marketers and agencies to focus on strategy and ideation.

Media pitches continue to remain dominated by price but the Bafta discussion reiterated for me that this is the wrong conversation.

Price is not the core issue, performance is the issue. Marketers want solutions that perform and that drive growth but they also yearn for confidence in attribution. 

A more data-driven approach, leveraging programmatic and machine learning, promises this but only when coupled with enhanced visibility for marketers. Recently, we have witnessed the launch of Blackwood Seven and Hearts & Science, both promising a fresh data and technology approach. Havas announced the launch of FullSix over the summer to compete in the same space. These propositions are about challenging the rules of the past and reimagining the agency model.

FullSix believes that "offline is the new online"; all media will eventually become addressable but whilst offline evolves, there is a smarter model. Digital behavioural data combined with first party customer data enables improved effectiveness in traditional media bringing greater flexibility and precision. Changing the conversation to performance and not price, changes the focus to whichever variable best improves performance – be that website funnel, CRM, optimising creative, on-site messaging or deploying paid media differently.

Janet Hull opened day two by encouraging the industry to ask itself some difficult questions and look for truth in relation to marketing effectiveness. Last week effectively illustrated that data and technology, could well be that nirvana but only if we establish a culture that engages and inspires all stakeholders behind that vision.

Paul Frampton is the UK chief executive of Havas Media Group

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