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/

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.

Asian American’s that are Shaping the Media World

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month.  It struck me that Asian American’s have and are playing an increasingly prominent role in shaping our media industry.   What’s even more impressive is they’ve achieved a career in media, despite overcoming their Tiger Parents disappointment in them not becoming doctors or working in the family business!

So here’s my list of Asian American Media Mavens.

connie chung geri wang

Hall of Fame News Broadcaster

Connie Chung broke through the news broadcasting ceiling by co-anchoring CBS Evening News all the way back in 1993.  It’s a rarity these days not see a female presenter on national or local TV news channels, thanks to Ms Chung.


Shrewd-ist Ad Sales Exec

Geri Wang, President of ABC Sales. This Upfront, look for Geri to beat out some CPM increases from Agency Media Buyers.


william hung Reality Media All Stars

This has to be a tie.  American Idol hopeful William Hung was the first reality star that most fellow Asian’s would rather forget.  His “She Bangs” performance helped foster American Idol notoriety and YouTube fame.  But we at least were able to move on and progress, when America saw its first Asian American  reality show winner when Yul Kwon managed to be last Survivor standing on the island.


jerry yangBest of Asian American Media Tech Geeks

… at the top of that tree are Jerry Yang founder of Yahoo!, Steven Chen co-founder of YouTube, not to mention some budding new tech-preneurs such as Brian Wong, the youthful founder of Kiip.  Also, I’m a fan of David Shingy, technically not American, an Aussie who’s definitely a forward thinker for the industry.  Try to if you can, get the chance to hear him speak.


lingmindyActresses that make us laugh most

I met Lucy Liu at last year’s CBS Upfront party, currently starring as Watson in the delightful Elementary.   But it was the Queen’s NY native role in Ally McBeal that to me was a break out for Asian American’s on television.  The producers of that show chose not to type cast the sultry Asian mistress or kung fu kicking villian, but quirky Ling, surely the most interesting character on the show.  I loved Mindy Kaling in the office and the delectable The Mindy Project.  And I really like little known comedy Sullivan and Son, that just starting its second season on TBS this week, whose lead character is Asian.  But the real star is Jodi Long who plays his Korean mom who probably breaks every rule in the PC Asian playbook, but leaves me laughing out loud.


danielBest Asian Hunk

According to my wife, Daniel Dae Kim.


Most powerful Media Owners in the Future

The arguably the most powerful Asian American’s that may inherit the media world might be two teenagers … Grace & Chloe Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng’s two daughters, who potentially could inherit a significant portion of NewsCorp and  21st Century FOX empires.


Most Innovative Media Client (and Hardest Partier)

Babs Rangiah, Vice President, Global Media Innovation & Ventures for Unilever who has helped to bring innovative media campaigns for Axe and Dove.

Cosmopolitan Magazine Innovates with it’s L’Oreal Sponsored Cover


Cosmopolitan magazine is causing a bit of a stir with its upcoming May issue cover. No, it’s not promoting a risque sex survey or planning to scoop Vogue with a Kimye cover of its own. Rather, the publication has the audacity to feature a pasted-on cover for its subscription copies, sponsored by L’Oreal Paris. The extra cover was produced by the edit staff and includes a tease about a L’Oreal contest alongside actual unpaid editorial cover lines. Traditionalists are asking, “Is this a blurring of the lines?”Fashionista raised the question of whether Cosmo had possibly violated The American Society of Magazine Editors’ guidelines.

Are they kidding? Right now, the publishing world should be challenging convention. It needs to. The media industry is being disrupted and the traditional business model isn’t keeping up. Newspapers have been decimated. The magazine business isn’t far behind. According to the Association of Magazine Media, ad pages have fallen a staggering 40% in the past five years. This despite the fact that magazines are showing increased readership when measured across print and digital channels. The magazine publishing industry doesn’t have an audience issue — it has a revenue issue.

For publishers to survive and thrive, they need to find more ways to attract marketing dollars. I applaud this initiative by Cosmo’s publisher Hearst and kudos also to L’Oreal for picking it up. The magazine industry has to find more creative and commercial ways to monetize its assets.

Just providing eyeballs for ads isn’t enough, because in media, there’s no shortage of them.

Total television viewing hours continue to climb. The supply of online display ad impressions appears almost infinite. Time spent with social media is now over three hours a day, up from nothing seven years ago. And the increased access to media via mobile is adding to the daily media diet. As a result, the value of the ad impression is diminishing.

Magazines have assets that brands want. Magazines have insight into what engages readers. They know how to continue to stay relevant and current. They create content that people notice and share. They provide ideas. Finding new ways to tap into and integrate with this content is a whole lot more exciting for brands than interruption.

But will this turn off consumers?

Consumers get that someone has to pay for the content. Most consumers are savvy and pragmatic when it comes to advertising.

They know that advertising subsidizes their magazines. They understand that advertising by and large pays for their favorite TV shows, nearly all the content on the Internet, Google and Facebook, and even public radio.

Of course, if you ask a consumer if they want advertising, they will answer “no.” But the increased time consumers are spending with commercial media suggests that consumers accept the exchange.

Advertising is evolving. Consumers also know that the face of “advertising” is changing. We continue to add dozens of new formats. We now have: native ads, custom commercials on Jimmy Kimmel, Ford music videos on American Idol, sponsored stories, branded entertainment,unbranded content, viral videos, crowd-sourced content, influencer marketing, music/artist collaborations, mobile apps, in-game brand experiences, newsroom generated real-time messaging and value brand exchanges. Not only do consumers accept these newer forms of “advertising,” they are actually talking about them when they’re clever.

In the context of these added media channels, a sponsored cover seems tame.

Smart brands and publishers will always default to the reader’s point of view. I believe that most brands understand the importance of showing care in how they talk to consumers in these newer media formats. Crucial to this is respecting their time and intelligence. L’Oreal could have been more overt. But it appears they let the editors guide them. In today’s social-media driven world, they will quickly hear if things start to wrangle.

We all want a healthy magazine industry. For that to happen, magazines need to be more attractive for brands. Innovating and experimenting with new solutions can only be a good thing.

Chipotle’s Unbranded Entertainment Marketing Coup … Farmed & Dangerous

chipChipotle did something radical last month. The company introduced its very own TV series, airing on Hulu. The first three 22-minute shows in the four-episode comedy series, titled “Farmed and Dangerous,” are now available for viewing.

It’s another example of the Mexican restaurant chain challenging industry convention. In 2012, it picked up the Cannes Grand Prix for its animated “Back to the Start” two-minute music video, which ran to a Willie Nelson cover of Cold Play’s “The Scientist.” That ad promoted the story of Chipotle’s locally farmed ingredients.

“Farmed and Dangerous” takes branded content to another level by not including any branding at all in the show. Social Media Week organizers dubbed it Unbranded Entertainment. Chipotle and other advertisers placedcommercials in the show, but by not including branding in the show itself, the restaurant has taken a risk that few marketers would entertain.

But Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, Mark Crumpacker, said on a panel at Social Media Week, in which I participated, that he didn’t consider it a big risk at all. Citing McDonald’s significant marketing budget, which dwarfs his company’s, he said Chipotle couldn’t afford to rely on traditional advertising. The hope is that PR, buzz and social media will do much of the heavy lifting for the chain’s message.

This is an interesting, albeit untested, new broadcast model for marketing. We’ve already seen Netflix and Hulu create premium original content online to compete again broadcast and cable networks. Chipotle’s concept is to create an own original entertainment show that somehow presents its messge while it shares in the income of ads being placed on the show by other companies.

This model makes sense, of course, only if the right target audience, specifically Millennials, watches the show. What does the show have to do to succeed?

First, it has to be genuinely entertaining. Wisely, I think, “Farmed and Dangerous” is a satire. The lead character,Buck Marshall, played by Ray Wise, is head of the Industrial Food Image Bureau. Wise’s character represents big-business interests that attempt to put a positive spin on genetically engineered foods.

Second, the show must have a message that connects with audiences. The serious message here is about the importance of food safety and sustainable farming. These are issues that Chipotle has championed from the start and are a concern for a growing section of the population. Chipotle reasons that as more people are discussing these issues, more of them will choose its brand.

Third, the show needs to walk a fine line between offering pure entertainment and overtly pushing the brand. Cross that line, and marketing savvy Millennials will turn off. Chipotle has chosen not to make references to the brand in the body of the show.

Twenty-two minutes of content and no burritos in sight. Only a handful of brands would attempt this. But, get the mix of story and message right, and you have content that consumers will want to watch, talk about and share.