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


Second Edition of Brand Media Strategy

brand media strategy

How Data and Micro-Targeting Won the 2012 Election for Obama

If Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 was defined by social media, then surely his successful 2012 re-election bid should be attributed to their use of data and micro-targeting.

Election night seemed to confound many of the pundits. Governor Romney appeared to put together a strong campaign with the polls leading into the final week suggesting a tight race. Romney won 60% of White voters. He in fact even won the independents vote. Yet he lost the key battleground States of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada … handing the sitting President a second term.

How did Obama win?

First, he delivered a well-orchestrated campaign of largely negative advertising targeting Romney, which served the purpose of suppressing voter turnout by traditionally Republican supporters.

Second, he mobilized key voter blocks to register early and vote. 18-24 year olds; African Americans; Latinos and single women in the key swing States. Voter turnout for these four key demographics was about 70% thereby giving him the numbers he needed to push him over the edge.

At the heart of these two strategies, was micro-targeting.

Micro-targeting is the ability to dissect in this case, the voter population in to narrow segments and customize messaging to them, both in on-the-ground activities and in the media.

Micro-targeting isn’t a new idea in politics or marketing for that matter. Karl Rove expertly exploited this in the successful Bush campaign in 2000 and 2004. But it was the sophistication and the scale of how they executed this strategy that in the end, proved the knock-out punch for the Democrats.

The Obama camp in preparing for this election, established a huge Analytics group that comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians. They worked tirelessly to gather and interpret data to inform every part of the campaign. They built up a voter file that included voter history, demographic profiles, but also collected numerous other data points around interests … for example, did they give to charitable organizations or which magazines did they read to help them better understand who they were and better identify the group of‘persuadables‘ to target.

That data was able to be drilled down to zip codes, individual households and in many cases individuals within those households.

However it is how they deployed this data in activating their campaign that translated the insight they garnered into killer tactics for the Obama campaign.

Volunteers canvassing door to door or calling constituents were able to access these profiles via an app accessed on an iPad, iPhone or Android mobile device to provide an instant transcript to help them steer their conversations. They were also able to input new data from their conversation back into the database real time.

The profiles informed their direct and email fundraising efforts. They used issues such Obama’s support for gay marriage or Romney’s missteps in his portrayal of women to directly target more liberal and professional women on their database, with messages that “Obama is for women,” using that opportunity to solicit contributions to his campaign.

Micro-targeting helped them to steer their broadcast buying approach. While both campaigns followed conventional wisdom to buy spots in Local Broadcast news programming, Obama’s team differentiated their schedule by adding networks like TV Land whose viewers they determined “were less political” and therefore more likely to be a persuadable.

Even the selection of celebrity fundraisers were informed by the data. The team identified women 40-49 as the highest contributors to their campaign. Obama’s analytics team in crunching the numbers uncovered that Sara Jessica Parker of Sex in the City fame popped as the most appealing celebrity to this demographic and called her up to ask if she would host a fundraiser dinner for Obama in New York. Web ads and emails from Michelle Obama were sent targeting this group asking them to “chip in whatever they can” with a chance to win an invitation, hotel and flights to New York to attend the event.

As mentioned earlier, encouraging early voting and a higher turnout of key target groups was critical in winning the swing states. They used classic micro-targeting online advertising to reach those groups. Obama’s team’s use of Facebook this time was also very clever, tapping into Facebook’s individual profile data. A million users downloaded the Obama 2012 app on Facebook. The app was able to identify their Facebook friends that fit favorable profiles located in key swing states, encouraging them to contact these friends to remind them to vote. Sources say one in five of those contacted this way were influenced positively by this contact.

Marketers need to take heed of how the Obama campaign transformed their marketing approach centered around data. They demonstrated incredible discipline to capture data across multiple sources and then to inform every element of the marketing – direct to consumer, on the ground efforts, unpaid and paid media. Their ability to dissect potential prospects into narrow segments or even at an individual level and develop specific relevant messaging created highly persuasive communications. And finally their approach to tap their committed fans was hugely powerful. The Obama campaign provides a compelling case for companies to build their marketing expertise around big data and micro-targeting. How ready is your organization to do the same?


Ad Age … Five Questions With Mindshare CEO Antony Young

Not All Agencies Are the Same, According to This Industry Veteran

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After a 15-year career at Publicis Groupe, where his specialty was importing and exporting global insights and new business, Antony Young last fall joined a longtime competitor: WPP’s Mindshare.

Mr. Young served in various roles at Publicis’ ZenithOptimedia, including CEO of the Asia Network, where he helped launch and oversee Zenith China. Before that, he was regional media director forSaatchi & Saatchi, where he led media-planning duties for Procter & Gamble in Asia. Most recently, he was CEO of Publicis’ Optimedia in the U.S.

Antony Young
Susan J. Chen

Antony Young

Mr. Young, who officially succeeded Phil Cowdell as chief of Mindshare in September, talked to Ad Age about the move and the changes he plans to make. Don’t expect any deals, though. Mr. Young says he’s out to build, not buy.


Ad Age: How have your first weeks been? Any culture shock after spending so much time at Publicis? 

Mr. Young: They’ve been great. It’s refreshing after 15 years in Publicis Groupe to come into WPP. Anyone who tells you all agencies are the same is completely wrong. There’s a different kind of feel here. There’s a lot of investment going into the media businesses. WPP definitely feels much more connected in that they see the overall businesses as a whole group of agencies working together in a strategic fashion. For example, WPP has Team Detroit and an IBM team. There are a lot more integrated groups and client solutions here. … What’s impressed me is we’re prepared to make investments to bring broad communications solutions and expertise that span owned- and earned-media channels.

Ad Age: Tell us about some of the changes you are planning. Any acquisitions on the horizon?

Mr. Young: An area I’m particularly passionate about is how we build out communications strategies to play a personal-shopper role at the agency. I’ve been reaching out and talking to as many clients as I can, trying to understand what other kind of big opportunities they’re looking for from a media partner. I consistently hear clients asking, What’s my business strategy, my communications strategy, my digital strategy? What else can I prioritize? How do I differentiate in this market? Companies are more competitive, so there’s more pressure to drive big businesses. We’ve got to evolve our business rather than buy our way into it. It’s not a solution I would even think about. If you look at a media agency model today vs. five years ago, it’s changed dramatically. I think the solution is within us vs. outside. We can evolve and build those skills.

Ad Age: What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?

Mr. Young: Getting there more quickly than our competition and driving innovation. We’re asking a lot more from our people in terms of skills and responsibilities. In the old days, media people only had to do three things: planning, buying and organizing tickets for clients. Now we’re called on to do so much more. Client leads have to manage big and varied team planners, buyers, digital people, etc., and then also have to take on more of a role of account management versus service. The next [challenge] is becoming more converse with digital and learning other skills like social content. We also need to be focused on building better collaboration with the creative agency.

Ad Age: One knock we hear from a lot of media-industry executives is that shops under the Group M banner are indistinguishable. Do you feel that way at Mindshare?

Mr. Young: You’re right. We need to come out more distinctly and define our positioning, but it’s not a Group M issue. It’s a media-agency issue. What’s impressed me about Group M is its go-to-market strategy on trading and implementation. Take it from a guy who ran an agency and has had to compete against Group M over the last five years. The way negotiations are centralized and managed, we’re able to consolidate the scale of media buying across all the agencies.

Ad Age: Are you noticing any trends that might have a significant impact on media?

Mr. Young: We’re seeing things we’d traditionally call stunts and one-off events much more in scalable media. With the power of social, there’s now a legit strategy to create an event. In China, Greenpeace did a promotion with 80,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks. They turned them into trees, filmed the building and put it online. Millions saw that. We’re opening up and broadening media. Now we can drive more global audiences, and new media is making it scalable and more valuable to market.

Why Dealer-Chic is set to explode as a trend.

DEALER-CHIC … Why for consumers deals are becoming a way of life, if not a source of pride.















So, here are just three reasons according to TrendSpotting.com why DEALER-CHIC is set to get bigger and bigger in the coming years:

  1. MORE FOR LESS: While many people in developed economies may have less money to spend right now, consumers everywhere will forever look to experience more.
  2. THE MEDIUM IS THE MOTIVATION: Consumers are now being alerted to, using, reusing and sharing offers and deals via new (and therefore infinitely more exciting and attractive)technologies.
  3. BEST OF THE BEST: With instant mobile or online access to not only deals but reviews as well, consumers can now be confident they’re getting the best price for the best product or service.
Read the full article on TrendSpotting.com, it’s a good description of how consumers are becoming more deal orientated and how brands are dealing with it.

Social Media is not a strategy, its a venue for marketers …

Published in Ad Age, Wed 15 June, 2011

Barely a day goes past when social media doesn’t grab a headline.

Marketers eager to join the social-media surge have been challenging their agencies to rethink how they communicate their brands in this more participative and transparent landscape. A lot of clients often ask, “What should my social-media strategy be?”

I think it’s a mistake to think of social media this way.

Social media is not a strategy.

Social media is a venue for marketers … a set of technologies or tactics that enable us to elevate and amplify brands and their marketing communications.

The question shouldn’t be, “What’s our social-media strategy?” but, “What do I need to do to make my brand more social?” Or specifically for agency planners, “What can we do to make this TV work, print campaign or offer more social?”

Social media may be the channel du jour, but the message and the mechanics of how it’s deployed are the things that really count.

The DellOutlet Twitter feed became a poster child for Twitter’s potential impact, earning accolades by generating $6.5 million in revenue for Dell. But surely that success boils down to the product offers in the feed. Twitter was just the medium that carried those messages.

The fabulous Old Spice work featuring Isaiah Mustafa was built on a foundation established by an exceptional piece of creative, work that Weiden & Kennedy then very skillfully augmented through social-media channels.

Take two high profile brands that have been particularly active in social media: Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher. You could argue both essentially have the same strategy when it comes to social media. It goes something like this:

  • Get a following on Twitter.
  • Interact and engage directly with fans.
  • Create buzz and conversation.

But there’s only one brand here that’s #winning. And it isn’t Charlie Sheen! Just adding followers or driving buzz doesn’t qualify as success, however often the brand marketing world uses just those metrics to try gauging effectiveness. Getting the overall brand messaging and communication strategy right, rather than jumping straight to social-media tactics, is what’s going to bring success.

Another lesson we can learn from Ashton Kutcher is that he isn’t just tweeting his brand. He is incredibly active across multiple media channels, whether he is being interviewed on Leno, featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness or making a live appearance at CBS’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall. After Charlie Sheen’s road show ended, in contrast, so did a lot of the talk about Charlie Sheen. For most brands, having a presence in social media alone isn’t sufficient. There are too many one-off social-media marketing campaigns that, although highly creative, fail to connect or drive the broader brand communications platform.

Social media needs to be embedded into all parts of the marketing mix as part of a single, integrated brand effort. Every agency — creative, media, digital, public relations and customer-relationship management — needs to grab this opportunity and take responsibility for socializing the brand. Social shouldn’t sit at one agency or indeed operate as a separate strategy on its own.

What Do the Best Media Strategies and Executions in the World Look Like?

By Antony Young, posted on Adage.com, May 10 2011

Last weekend I sat on the judging panel of the International Festival of Media awards. Some 800 entries from 50 countries were submitted by every global media agency network as well as some first-rate creative and digital shops in a World Cup-style playoff of the best of the best.

The competition was incredibly democratic. It didn’t matter how big the budget had been or whether the work originated from Stockholm or Sydney. The finest ideas and most inventive media implementation won the day.

The media game has changed massively from even three or four years ago. The category with the largest number of entries, for example, was Best Use of Content. Media has transformed from a delivery system for ad creative to a place where the primary content can embody marketing messages.

I loved a campaign for Pampers in the Philippines that sparked a widespread movement behind “Baby Yoga.” The media agency created a daily morning TV program that invited celebrity moms to do exercises with their infant child. The stretching exercises and product integration helped P&G diapers with “stretchy sides” overtake its top competitor in that market, Huggies.

Moving from owned media to earned media, I absolutely loved CoppaFeel!, a U.K. campaign to promote young women’s awareness of breast cancer that cost just $16,000 to promote. The campaign, founded by 23-year-old cancer survivor Kristin Hallenga, engaged volunteers during Breast Cancer Awareness month with the goal to “hijack every pair of boobs in the U.K.” Promotional stickers and images encouraging women to self-check their breasts wound up on students, celebrities, professional athletes, shop mannequins, statues, posters and social media sites. The campaign grabbed the country’s attention, creating a movement that spread like wildfire.

The campaigns that impressed most, however, were sparked with a genuine consumer insight. Whiskas cat food in Australia did exactly that. Its insight was that in a dog-dominated country (50% of Australian households own a dog while less than 25% of households own a cat) most cat owners were embarrassed to talk about their pets in public. The agency planners discovered that cat owners were yearning for a ‘safe haven’ for cat talk where they could share stories, tips and celebrate their feline friends. They created an online community for owners to talk about their cats and connect with other cat lovers. They created Facebook-type profiles on a Whiskas site to show off their cats. They then asked consumers to vote for the cat that should appear on the front of Whiskas packs. Owners developed their own campaigns in social media to promote voting.

My personal award for the most resourceful campaign went to an agency trying to promote car insurance in Poland by helping drivers realize the effects of reckless driving. They partnered up with the local police in Warsaw! When a police officer stopped a driver for a traffic offence, drivers were given a choice: They could either accept the ticket or enter a special car-crash simulator. These simulators were branded by Aviva; drivers received information on Aviva’s services and how they would support them in the claim process. A smashing piece of work!

There were some disappointments. Too many media buzz words used with alarming regularity. Papers that included phrases like “this innovative multi-platform, fully integrated 360-degree program provided a highly engaging holistic campaign that surrounded the consumer whilst delivering amazing ROI” got rightfully marked down by the judges. So too were campaigns that didn’t attempt to connect media to a sales or business outcome. Interestingly, the Best Use of Digital category now almost seems a bit quaint, as I could barely remember a single entry in any category that did not have digital well and truly embedded, if not leading the campaigns.

Fellow judge MillerCoors’ media director Stevie Benjamin made a great summation when she remarked, “media’s role has to advance the message.” The winners all demonstrated this in spades.

I encourage you to check out the Cream Global site that has all the entries here.

Antony Young is the CEO of Optimedia U.S., a Publicis Groupe media-strategy and -buying agency headquartered in New York. He recently published his second book, “Brand Media Strategy: Integrated Communications Planning in a Digital Era,” a Palgrave-MacMillan and Advertising Age publication.