MediaPost: Mindshare’s Young Is Focused On Data, Clients, Choices

by , appeared in MediaPost Monday 25 June 2012

YoungBig data, big clients — and someday soon, big mobile. Those are just a few of the items high on the priority list of Antony Young, who joined Mindshare as North American CEO nearly nine months ago.

Young also says the agency needs to do more work in the area of “discovery-based” communications, such as search and social. With a new platform emerging almost daily, he said, clients are hungry for advice on how to use them to best advantage.

“It’s really about choices,” said Young. Because most clients don’t have a need for — nor can they afford to use — all the media channels that are available, media selection is key, and meshing it all together in the most efficient way for individual clients is critical, he adds.

One of the “big bets” that Mindshare is making is that data management technology will help clients find answers quickly about consumer needs, behavior and the kinds of relationships they want to have with marketers. Ultimately, having that knowledge should boost client profits, which is what agencies are being increasingly called upon to do, Young said.

Just last week, Mindshare launched a new tech platform that it believes will advance clients’ ability to aggregate and massage massive amounts of data in ways that will sharply improve strategic planning and integrated communication capabilities.

Called Core, the platform was created with the help of a number of outside data and market research firms, including Acxiom and Nielsen. It’s an open-source, “always on” system that crunches media, pricing, consumer and client data including sales, supply chain and CRM stats.

According to Young, that platform and other data-related capability enhancements the shop is undertaking  are “probably the most important piece of the puzzle for clients.” It contains all of the information required to finding links to improved results. “That’s huge,” he said. “That syncing up and marrying of media, consumer and business data can unlock a lot of business value for clients.”

Agency-client relationships are another key focus at the agency, said Young, who notes that in the time he has been at Mindshare, the CMOs or top-ranking marketing executives at 16 clients have changed. Keeping up with the new strategies and agendas of the shifting players is crucial.

Young made several reorganizational moves recently to ensure that the agency is keenly focused on clients and potential new business.

In May, Lee Doyle, a GroupM veteran and former CEO at sibling agency MEC, was appointed president of client development at Mindshare, a new position at the agency. Doyle will focus on multinational clients and seeing that the agency has the right resources and strategies in place at client teams. Doyle’s appointment, said Young, is a signal that “we really want to be engaged with clients at a more senior level and earlier in the planning stages.”

Staying “constantly fluid is a really important part of that,” added Young. “Especially when you look at the [management] changes at clients and shifting priorities as their own businesses change.”

In a related bid to stengthen client ties, the shop promoted Michael Epstein to president, strategic resources and client services. He is responsible for the management of new business, corporate communications, digital, multicultural and promotions. Epstein previously served as the lead on a number of key client accounts, including Unilever.

The potential of mobile is no longer a subject of debate, says Young. He believes society is headed toward a “mobile-dominated media world,” where tablets will almost supplant PCs. While he says agencies and clients alike probably aren’t moving fast enough to prepare for that eventuality, the agency made a move last week, forming a joint venture with Google, called “Mobile Garage.” It’s designed to educate companies about mobile technology and expedite their use of the medium in their marketing plans.

“Everyone is trying to catch up,” in the mobile sector, said Young, noting that 15% of transactions are now done via mobile, as are 20% of Google searches. “To me, that’s a pretty sharp signal that marketers and agencies are behind the eight ball and we need to get ahead of it.”

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Who should lead communications planning?

By Antony Young, appeared in MediaPost on March 16, 2011.

Media used to be the last five minutes in the meeting.

In an era where creative ruled the roost, selling the big advertising idea was the stuff of legends. “Just Do It,” “Priceless,” “Where’s the Beef” … great slogans and great ads in a time where advertising and brands were more easily able to penetrate the consciousness of the consumer on mass. Today, we live in a more personalized and connected communications landscape that has blurred the lines between analog and digital; content and context; and audience and editor.

There are just so much more media and tactics that marketers have available at their disposal. As a result, agencies and clients have elevated the media agenda. And this is why communications planning is now a hot topic of discussion and was the subject of a panel I chaired at last weeks 4A’s Transformation 2011 conference.

Communications planning has become a fertile battleground for the media agencies. It is seen as a critical area to increase their value proposition to clients. Media buying and execution, while important, have become more commoditized, or at the very least, less differentiating.

Comms planning encapsulates the shift in role from delivering the creative message to exploiting media to creating more relevant, memorable and interactive occasions with the brand. It has become a chief ingredient to the integrated marketing communications recipe.

Speaking on the panel, Jacki Kelley, UM’s Worldwide CEO summed up this shift by describing communications planning as a more consumer-centric approach to planning media, describing it as “a holistic approach to understanding key behaviors that a consumer is taking in order to better connect with them and the brand.”

Communications planning isn’t just the domain of the media agencies.

Creative powerhouse, Goodby Silverstein & Partners has embraced the function for many years. Joshua Spanier, the agency’s director of communications strategy, believes that bringing together creative and communications planning strategy offers powerful synergy. He argues that the separation of creative and media was a set back for agencies.

A recent development we’ve seen is the interest in communications planning by the digital agencies, in part, due to them branching out beyond their digital realm. As the general agencies have digitized, many digital agencies are now massaging their positioning as more rounded communication agencies.

What they are able to bring is a heavier leaning on analytics, adding more rigor to the planning process. “The integration of previously disparate data-sets and tools are moving into one common language and currency that can break boundaries,” commented Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Annalect, who was previously CEO of PHD.

Founding partner of Naked Communications, Paul Woolmington argued that any agency that was tied to execution [presumably creative, media or digital agencies] couldn’t truly be media neutral … a critical criteria in developing a communications plan. He added that in his view “everything communicates” and therefore, marketers need to consider all their options rather than lean towards a particular channel.

While the panel couldn’t entirely agree on which agency should lead, they were all in agreement that clients ultimately were responsible for owning the communications strategy.

The panel felt that media owners can play an important role in communications planning. One considerable area is in helping them to better understand the latest consumer trends and how to engage their audiences. For example, what doesn’t MTV know about GenY? The editors at The Wall Street Journal know better than anyone else what’s keeping CEOs up at night.

UM’s Kelley candidly confessed: “One reason I came to the agency side of the business … is that I found – while being a seller – there are very rarely people at the agencies unlocking the insights that I could have provided.”

Spanier added that “content has gone beyond just advertising.” Access to co-branded content by media partners is proving a powerful strategy for some advertisers.

Communications planning is increasingly becoming a requisite discipline in the agency world. There remain contrary views on how it might be executed, and who should lead. But what appears clear is the need to provide a solution for clients to help deploy their budgets and navigate across the plethora of media channels and platforms.

Can Madison Avenue step up to the social plate?

At MediaPost’s Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) Global Conference yesterday, the website’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Mandese led a panel discussion about whether ad agencies are positioned to “tackle the opportunities and challenges” of social media.

At issue was whether the big guys can stave off competition of specialist agencies – something the industry failed to do during the first stages of the digital revolution which witnessed the birth of pure-play digital agencies and the created a major fragmentation in the way that clients’ marketing and advertising needs were managed.

Panel lead: Joe Mandese, Editor MediaPost

Panelists: Bant Breen (CEO, Reprise Media), Marita Scarfi (CEO, Organics), Joshua Spanier (Director of Communcations Strategy, Goodby’s Silverstein & Partners), Antony Young (CEO, Optimedia US)

Play nice!

Antony Young argued that agencies must partner to adequately navigate through the social space – whether that is with their clients or other agencies.

“Social media isn’t just this land grab that one agency ought to own. Everyone should contribute to how to expand social platforms. One important thing to not do is to say ‘this belongs in one agency’s court’. Every agency should bring a social prospective to their discipline.”

In regards to whether it is the agency’s or the brand’s role to manage the presence in social media, Young thinks clients and all their partners all have a role. “Everyone’s got to bring a social lens to their role in communications – it shouldn’t sit with one person or department.”

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