Why the agency of the future looks a lot like a media publisher or broadcaster


For years, the relationship between the chief marketing head and its ad agency was the most important one. The ad agency had something that the client didn’t have and wanted: expert insight into the consumer and the creative magic to build a brand. These were crucial ingredients to winning consumers and market share.

Early on in my career, I was lucky to be the media director at Colenso working on the Toyota account. The agency helped make Toyota the top-selling car brand in the country with its Crumpy and Scottie spots for Hilux, a stream of memorable All New Corolla launches and the iconic Welcome to Our World campaign in the 1990s. Bob Field, Toyota New Zealand’s managing director, and Alistair Davies, then head of marketing (now CEO), leaned on the creative genius and eccentricities of Len Potts and Chris Martin to conjure up the next winning campaign.

Then, something happened.

Advertising became less influential.

Other brands caught up and became just as creative. Mass media fragmented. Pricing and promotion became more prominent. Digital changed shopping dynamics. Data and personalisation became increasingly important. And the ad agency lost ground as the lead marketing partner.

Don’t get me wrong, ad agencies remain an important cog in the marketing machine. But the point is they’ve become a cog. And along with the PR, direct, media, digital, social and events agencies are being challenged to stay as valuable.

Reading through the pages of NZ Marketing these past few years, it very much feels like every player on the agency side is attempting to re-invent themselves as the agency of the future.

So what does the next agency of the future look like?

Look and learn

From where I’m sitting, there’s a tonne we can learn from media companies.

The media have led the way in how they’ve digitised, socialised and personalised their content.

In the US, where I’ve been working this last decade, it’s the media companies that have evolved the furthest when it comes to staying in touch with and talking to consumers.

The media occupy an intersection where entertainment meets popular culture and technology. We seem to be obsessed with The Bachelor, dismayed at the latest Donald Trump episode or humoured by Steven Adams’ memes that fill our newsfeed. And we are accessing this diet of media on 65” LCD panels all the way down to a pocket-sized device.

Another thing media companies have going for them is that they own a rich source of insight into consumers.

One of my most valuable sources in getting in the heads of Millennials and, more recently, those in Generation Z is from the programming director at MTV. He makes it the organisation’s mission to keep a finger on the pulse of young teens. Stephen Friedman, its network president is obsessed with adapting their programming slate by not just capturing those insights but in many cases anticipating the trends.

One of my clients L’Oréal would host editors of the major magazine titles each year to get their take on beauty and fashion trends. Unilever’s CEO and senior management team regularly travel to Silicon Valley and to Hollywood to help them re-think their own approach to digital and entertainment.

Numbers game

What’s more is that media data has never been more precise and actionable.

Media companies are collecting an enormous bank of data on their audiences. Those audiences are your customers. Google right now is using GPS data on people’s phones to determine the effectiveness of its search ads in driving visits to an advertisers store.

What all this data does is allow one-to-one communication at scale.

A clever tactic I saw from Obama’s campaign team during the 2008 elections was the level of personalisation in their messaging and targeting. They contacted Facebook members that had liked his Facebook page, asking them to message friends they identified that were living in key swing states such as Ohio to remind them register to vote, and then, once elections opened up, to vote early.  It helped the sitting president out-flank Republican nominee Mitt Romney in many closely contested States.

Engagement matters

The marketing world is wrestling with how they can develop content that is more entertaining and engaging than pushing out their ads—and this is the exact space where media companies have always operated.

These days, media companies are also opening up to the prospect of greater collaboration with brands.

To stay profitable media companies have had to figure out how to be smarter and more efficient in creating its content. In the US, media companies from the New York Times to Buzzfeed have set up branded content arms to create sponsored content and native advertising solutions. And there are already a host of fantastic examples, showing why it pays to work with those who specialise in developing in engaging content:

Because media is focused on what’s happening, it’s at the centre of what’s trending at any given moment—and this is again something brands can tap into.

Real-time marketing is a strategy focused on current, relevant trends and immediate feedback from customers. Brands from Oreos to Nike have tapped into live sporting events and newsworthy stories, that in turn get amplified in social media. The Huffington Post/AOL launched its “brand newsrooms” service to help marketers tap into its news editorial expertise to create live content around these events.

And, then when you throw in technology, the ability to engage with audiences only becomes greater.

Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk is someone I have a lot of time for. He made a great presentation telling marketers to “stop story-telling like its 2007.”  It seems to take marketers a long time to catch up with consumers.  15 years ago, marketers were slow to climb into digital.  Five years ago, social finally started being treated seriously by brands. It feels like brands are five years behind your teenage niece. Yet, the media companies are right there. They have to be. They don’t have a choice. Currently ABC News and FOX are early exponents of 360-degree video. There is an abundance of adtech solutions being employed by media firms that give richer and more personalized experiences. Working more closely with media companies could fuel inject a brands marketing.

So that’s my challenge to the marketing community. I’m not advocating that everyone reading this needs to jump on a flight to New York or San Francisco. There’s a tonne of knowledge on your consumer with the media companies right here. Who better to know how to engage Kiwi audiences?  Buy the right one lunch soon.


First published in StopPress NZ … http://stoppress.co.nz/opinion/why-brands-are-snuggling-media-companies

Life’s a Pitch: Six Rules From My New-Business Playbook


In the agency world, there is nothing more equally thrilling and frustrating than working on new-business pitches. Done well, it can bring fame and riches to the agency. No question a pitch can bring out the very best — and sadly, the very worst in an agency.

Agency CEOs rarely share their secret ingredients, but now that I am leaving the agency business after more than 20 years of running pitches, I’d like to share some of the wisdom I’ve learned — from the wins ($2.5 billion in new-business billings), and even more from my numerous losses. Here are six rules out of my pitching playbook:


1. Pitch to what the client really wants, not what you do. Agencies can often be evangelical about their mission and want to convert the world. But my first rule is to really understand what the client is looking for and just give it to them. There’s a delightful story — shared with me by a friend who headed a London agency — about when the agency was at the height of its creative fame and it pitched a retail account. In its first meeting, the head of marketing proceeded to tell the agency how he didn’t see any difference between ad agencies, and was looking to get the work done as cheaply as possible. So instead of painstakingly preparing a presentation loaded with market insights, creative concepts and media plans, the agency presented just one slide. All that was on it was”‘8%.” Guess what? They won the account.


2. Pay attention to casting talent. No matter what rational reasons a client will tell you as motive for its decision, I’ve learned that in the end one of the most important things is that the client wants an agency team that it is going to like working with. At a creds meeting, I sensed that the New York account lead we put forward was just going to be too harsh for this Midwestern client. So I changed out the lead for the final meeting, knowing it would be a little awkward to explain. But the client loved her and we were rewarded with the account win.


3. Know your story. Agencies sometimes fall into the trap of jamming presentations with plenty of reasons why clients should hire them, and often way too many ideas. What’s lost is the bigger-picture reason to appoint you. Presentations need to have a story that links all the tactics and executions into a simple, central theme that is persuasive. When I was at Zenith Media in China, we suffered a devastating loss of the prized P&G media account, which at the time represented over half of our agency’s total billings. Nearly two years later we were invited to repitch the account. Our story was, “How their firing us made us a stronger agency.” They agreed and rehired us.


4. De-risk your sell. When I first came to the U.S. with Optimedia, I recall a pitch we made to Pernod Ricard. We could tell they really liked our team and loved the work we presented. We told them it was brave and new for the category. They agreed, but then hired the other agency, which was able to offer a more robust research database. I learned the hard way that clients hire agencies to take the risk and guesswork out of advertising. Ever since, I’ve made it a point to demonstrate how our recommendations will directly convert against the client’s business goals.


5. Don’t just check off boxes. There is a temptation to methodically prepare a response to every question in the RFI and then present it all. This creates two challenges. First, in an attempt to cover all the questions asked, the presentation either ends up running over time or being too rushed and not cohesive. And second, because every other agency is following the same instructions, your presentation becomes undifferentiated.

Many of the questions asked are just generic or what a client or consultant thinks they should ask. When Publicis/4D met with execs for the massive Disney pitch, we were asked to share our agency’s credentials, relevant case studies and the agency planning process. Knowing we were an outside chance on this review, I made a call to completely ignore the brief. Instead, we only prepared four slides and we mostly talked about our personal experiences with the Disney brand. It was a slam dunk and we won the account. The client told us it was so refreshing that we did not present agency credentials, case studies or processes.


6. Rehearse the Q&A. In an agency beauty contest, all agencies are going to have well-rehearsed, polished presentations. But the Q&A can provide a more revealing and less varnished view of the agency. Clients can see how you respond if they question your strategy or idea. It becomes obvious if the team truly knows or worked on the case study presented. Is the CEO jumping in to answer all the questions versus trusting the day-to-day team to respond? Too often, the Q&A comes across half-baked. If you take the time to properly rehearse and anticipate questions, it will pay rich dividends.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Behind every pitch you learn something new. But these are six of my must-do’s for any pitch — big or small.


First published in Ad Age … http://adage.com/article/agency-viewpoint/life-s-a-pitch-rules-business-playbook/301676/

Second Edition of Brand Media Strategy

brand media strategy

2014 DPAA Video Everywhere Summit: Managing Growth Effectively [VIDEO]

LINK to 2014 DPAA Video Everywhere panel on managing growth effectively.



“Managing Growth Effectively” panelists; John Muszynski, chief investment officer, Spark SMG; Cat Greenleaf, host, Talk Stoop and USA Daytime; Shelly Zalis, CEO, IPSOS OTX; Wenda Harris Millard, president & COO, MediaLink LLC; Adam Schlacter, chief investment officer, DigitasLBi; and Antony Young, CEO, WaterCoolerGroup

Why Everyone in Marketing Wants to Work in Media

Published in Ad Age September 10, 2014

When I started in the business, media was the least glamorous part of the ad industry. We were the numbers guys. Our offices were crammed behind the accounting department. We were the equivalent of the bespectacled, suited PriceWaterhouseCoopers representatives — the butt of gags at the annual Oscar awards ceremony.
Then something happened.

Media became hip.
Media turned digital.
Media got social.
Media not only is now cool, it’s become relevant.

In the U.K., there has been a marked decrease in traditional academic disciplines such as sciences taught at British universities, while courses in media studies have increased threefold in recent years.
It’s not only students that want in on media. Marketers increasingly want to engage more in media. Tech entrepreneurs are excited about media. Account planners want to join media agencies. Creatives want to join media agencies!

Even Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer and Jeff Bezos transformed their respective companies into media entities.

From celebrities to CEOs to now everyone with a smartphone, we have all become media publishers –posting a comment, a blog, a pic or just throwing a bucket of ice on your head and recording it for Facebook. The shift to a ubiquitous media culture has been one of the defining consumer evolutions of the past decade. So what does this mean for all of us working in marketing communications?

We can learn from the entertainment industry on how to leverage media and events, whether it’s Ariana Grande performing the opening act at the MTV VMAs to coincide with her album release that next day, or Michael Jordan sitting in Roger Federer’s box at last week’s US Open match, which provided an opportune moment to promote his new Nike sneaker with Air Jordan technology.

Brands have always looked to insert themselves into media events — the more organic and integrated across channels the better. I liked what L’Oréal Paris did around the Emmys, particularly how they integrated in social media and mobile. Their Make-Up Genius app — a “magic mirror” on your smart phone or tablet — lets users experiment with different lip colors, eye shadows, blushes, etc., to help recreate the look of leading women characters of Emmy-nominated shows, such as Joan Harris in “Mad Men.” Their use of Vloggers to provide tutorials for recreating red-carpet looks on their own Beauty Channel on YouTube added more depth to the traditional media programs.

No matter your core marketing discipline — account management, creative, brand consultant, account planning, PR, digital, analytics, social — you need to be a media maven. At the very least, you need to be as familiar with technology and media as your consumer. Don’t be a media snob. Keep up with the shows people are watching. Set aside time to read as much as you can online. Do you use Wanelo, Oovo or Giphy? Your fourteen-year-old daughter or nephew is. Understanding what and how people are consuming media is now part of everyone’s job requirement.

As marketing services increasingly specialize and splinter, it is becoming harder to see the bigger picture. Integrated communications has become even more an imperative to a brands success. Communications planning is an important facilitator of that integration.

How to Fix Ad Fraud (and Why Publishers Should Pay) Industry Needs to Make Digital Advertising Accountable

A great piece by Charlie Fiordalis, Managing Director of Digital for Media Storm

Appeared in Ad Age May 30, 2014

The prevalence of digital advertising fraud is a huge threat to our industry and can no longer be ignored. As an industry, we need to take immediate steps to make digital advertising fully transparent and accountable. If not, the future looks bleak for digital advertising professionals, as trust will erode and growth will cease.

Why the current industry perspective isn’t helping:

Most articles about digital fraud focus in on a number. And I understand why — the numbers are huge ($6 billion according to some reports) and stats are easier than solutions. According to another recent report, more than one-third of online ad traffic is fraudulent, and that doesn’t even touch on the two additional issues of viewability and brand safety, which are arguably equally as important.

But statistics aren’t going to solve the problem. We need to stop celebrating the problem and actually do something about it. I admit it, I was in denial. I’d been following the articles hoping it was exaggeration and rationalizing that someone else would clean up the problem. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was true: that the very foundation of digital advertising — the belief that we’re creating a better, more accountable medium — was very, very ill.

So what’s the real solution?

One word — accountability.

About eight months ago, Media Storm started working with the leading third-party advertising fraud prevention agencies and began deploying solutions across campaigns. By creating accountability and complete transparency in all aspects of media and recommended bot-traffic, viewability and brand safety protection, we have been able to proactively prevent non-human, non-viewable traffic and ensure that we’re serving impressions in brand-safe environments.

That’s encouraging, but it isn’t a solution, and I think both the buy side and sell side can agree that it is in everyone’s best interest to actually solve the problem. That leaves two very big questions to be answered:

  • Who can actually solve the problem?
  • How should we pay for it?

Who will have to make the changes?

Making this happen will require action from three major industry factions: the buy side, the sell side and the IAB.

From the buy side, we have to provide full transparency to our clients. This involves working only with partners who provide full transparency and implementing protection to ensure that all traffic comes from humans. And yes, this will mean refusing to work with publishers who don’t sell “real” traffic with implemented protection and who don’t sell based on viewability verification with brand safety measures.

The sell side should work directly with a third party to remove fraudulent impressions and sell with third-party verification guaranteed on bot protection, viewability and brand safety.

Lastly, in order to have a marketplace based on new rules, we’ll need the IAB to update its standard terms & conditions (T&C) that we all utilize as a base in buying and selling online advertising. The T&C update will need to establish fair rules to conduct business only on “real” traffic and to sell on viewability and brand safety.

The cost of accountability and who will have to pay for it:

All along, the buy side has operated with the assumption that we are getting what we have purchased. Ad fraud is a threat to that assumption, and I think the responsibility for direct payment should come from the publishers. There, I said it. Someone had to.

I realize this may not be what the publishers want to hear, but they can look at it as a form of insurance on their side. And though advertisers shouldn’t directly pay for the “insurance” as a separate line item, I think the general industry would understand if some cost has to be passed on as the cost of technology/product development. It is business after all.

The time is now: Let’s make digital media truly accountable

Media overall operates under the trust that what you buy is what you get. For example, we can verify the placement in TV, out of home and print. But in digital, especially with programmatic audience buying, the “proof” often sounds something like this: “You won’t see it directly because you aren’t in the target audience, but we assure you that it’s running and here are our reports.”

If we don’t clean this up now, ad fraud will erode the trust in digital and damage the overall industry (even more than it already has). As TV moves more from spots to addressable inventory, this threat is amplified. Digital is an accountable medium, and we need to embrace that accountability. I believe that there is a higher ground and a higher accountability for every dollar that moves to digital from other media.

So join me in this fight to maintain industry credibility, won’t you?

2014/5 Upfronts: Why It’s Time to Move to C7 Ratings

Appeared in Ad Age May 6th, 2014 


Next week, members of the media industry will converge at various New York midtown venues to view program schedule pitches by the major national broadcasters. It signals the seventh anniversary of Nielsen Media Research’s move to C3 ratings — providing standardized ratings for commercials during live broadcasts of programs, plus three days of playback.

The deal was groundbreaking at the time. Advertisers and their agencies wanted to pay for the audience that actually saw their ads. Previously, ratings measured average audiences for live programs, not specific commercials. The quid pro quo for the networks was recognition for later audiences of their programs that they hadn’t been earning credit on. They negotiated with the agencies and settled on C3.

It’s time to now move to C7 ratings, and here’s why.

We need a ratings currency that actually represents how people watch TV in 2014.

Consumer viewing habits have shifted dramatically since C3 ratings arrived back in 2007. DVRs were only in 17% of homes, and they are now in 48%. Seven years ago, Hulu hadn’t even gone live, Netflix was primarily a DVD mailing service, no one owned a tablet, and cord cutting was something that only happened in a hospital maternity delivery room.

Live TV viewing continues to fall. Within the all-important 18-49 demographic, live viewing in the last four years has dropped 36%, while the level of time-shifted viewing of a show the week after the live broadcast has doubled. So why is it that someone watching a catch-up episode of Sunday’s “The Good Wife” on Thursday isn’t as valuable or relevant as someone who watched on Tuesday?

Macy’s one-day sales and film releases.

One reason cited for not making a change is retail and movie advertisers’ time-sensitive advertising. But hey, even retailers advertise across flights. There’s no denying that a spot in the first week of a three-week campaign has value if it’s seen four days after it first ran. Media sellers can easily make an exception for obvious one-day sales. Of course, the studios are always going to insist on buying against same-day ratings. But why let the entire media industry be driven by just a minority of the campaigns that run in the market?

Paying more?

In truth, the main reason agencies really don’t want to have this discussion is because they’re already “getting that extra audience for free.” Now, I’m not necessarily advocating paying more for the same spots this year (I’ve got clients too!). But I am suggesting we take steps to put something in place that makes sense looking ahead.

The reason I’m advocating for C7 ratings is because going forward, I believe this has got to be better for the TV industry, and in turn for its advertisers.

Broadcast and cable TV’s future isn’t going to be about competing for share of broadcast dollars. It’s going to be about share of video views.

We’re not far away from ad budgets moving seamlessly between web, mobile and linear TV. Why tie TV’s future to an outdated currency that doesn’t reflect how people are actually watching TV?

A vibrant TV industry is in marketers’ interest.

Until brands find a more effective marketing medium with the scale of TV advertising, they’ve got a vested interest in its health. As more cable networks invest in original programming, audiences increase and so do the ad impressions that are available to buy. This helps to maintain the efficiency of TV as an advertising medium. A shift to C7 ratings improves the economics and the ability of the networks to monetize that investment. That’s something we should all want to support.

In the coming months, let’s put C7 ratings on the agenda. It’s the right thing for today and tomorrow.