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Know the Value of Media key take-outs

Leading industry figures thrashed out media’s role; how it’s changing; how and whether clients are adapting to this change; and how media agencies can guide them to success, at last week’s (13 November) lively IPA Value of Media debate.


Speakers included Dominique Delport, Global Managing Director of Havas Media; Bob Wootton, Director of Media and Advertising at ISBA; Nick Blunden, Senior Vice President for Digital at the Economist Group; and Mark Howe, Managing Director of Agency Sales at Google.

Watch the video of the event here and read key highlights from Event Chairman and Industry Commentator Dominic Mills below:

“The event, held at Google HQ, formed part of the IPA’s Know the Value of Media project, for which the proposition, in a nutshell, is this: that, in the age of the connected consumer, media – defined in the widest sense of the word – can be the engine of the modern-day business enterprise, driving forward innovation, dynamic pricing, new product development, technology, e-commerce and so on.

In other words, this is media above and beyond its standard use as a messaging channel. To maximise its potential – to understand its true value - the C-suite needs to embrace media, and bring it into the heart of the organisation. But it’s a complex business, and the client needs to partner with a media agency to help bring this about. Tom George, CEO at Mediaedge:cia and chairman of the IPA’s Media Futures Group, makes the compelling case in more detail here.

The event set out to develop this proposition by exploring three areas:

1) In this age of complexity and the connected consumer, what is media, and what is its role?

2) Do clients recognise how their world (and that of their consumers) is changing? And what are they doing about it?

3) Can media agencies help clients tackle this complex world, putting media at the centre of the enterprise? And what do they need to do to be able to fulfil that role?

To succeed in this new role with clients, according to the collective wisdom of the panel, media agencies need to:

a) Hire heavyweight suits (ie old-style account people) who the client will trust to guide them through this complex world;

b) Re-emphasise their craft skills of planning and media creativity (ie not get obsessed by technology);

c) Listen, really listen, to what the client wants. 

But how did we get to that point?

Complexity and connectivity

As Dominique Delport vividly explained, the world clients now live in is one where “turbulence is the new norm.” Consumer media behaviour is changing - 30pc of millennials in the US don’t watch broadcast TV and binge watching is commonplace (Source) - and we media multi-task, fitting 11 hours of media consumption into 8 hours.

At the same time, a little crudely, consumers don’t give a monkey’s about brands. “Only 20pc of brands are perceived of as meaningful. For 73pc of brands – people don’t care if they disappear overnight,” says Delport. (Source)

Against this background, technology change – which will only accelerate, Delport says – leads us to redefine media.  “The audience is now the media. Which means, if brands want to be meaningful, they need to play with people, talk to them, and create emotional bonds.”

They also need to move more to owned and earned media. “Paid media is not enough. You can’t buy engagement,” according to Delport.

But however chilling this may sound for brand owners, there is opportunity. “Algorithms rule the world. They connect individuals, manage and drive millions of interactions, on the same platform and with a personalised approach. It’s data-driven, content-powered. That is the new DNA.”

The question then, is do clients get it?

They do, said Blunden, presenting the results of a joint IPA/Economist Intelligence Unit survey of C-suite executives in the UK: 75pc recognise engagement with the connected consumer is a priority.

But they aren’t necessarily doing much about it (40pc have no strategy specifically for connected consumers), and nor did they feel they knew about their buying habits and preferences.

As for data… about half aren’t sure of their ability to deal with it.

In fact, to paraphrase Blunden, clients are having a crisis of confidence, worried in particular about: how to protect brand reputation (ie loss of control) in an era of participatory media; where they recruit the right staff – especially data scientists and new-generation marketing staff; and how to make their businesses 24/7.

Opportunity beckons

So, then, is this a space where media agencies have a greater role to play? Absolutely, says Wootton. “Clients are nervous, a bit confused, but eager to learn and looking for a guide. This initiative is a great opportunity.”

Blunden also sees the opportunity. “Media agencies can define the roadmap that allows clients to harness the power of digital media to create the connected business.

“But we need to work harder to show clients how the combination of paid, owned and earned – with data at its heart – isn’t just about transforming communications, but about transforming every aspect of the business.”

For Mark Howe, though, agencies need to remember they are in the people business. “Agencies will employ more ‘Maths Men’, but they need to employ more ‘Mad Men’ too. The classic media agency ‘suit’ – the person who can interpret the phenomenal complexity of the eco-system and the craft planning skills, as well as really understanding their business needs – is the person the client can trust to guide them through this.”

Listening skills

Of course, the battle to get into the C-suite is a difficult one. Other types of competitor - such as the McKinseys and Accentures of this world – are also fighting for influence at the top table and, some might say, they’re already there.

Not necessarily though, according to Wootton, who says he has clients relating experiences of consultancies “peddling solutions that are hopelessly glib and simplistic – and at fees beyond imagination.”

So how do agencies convince clients of their credibility?

Delport points out, media agencies have been digital “from day one”, whereas many of the consultancies have been late to embrace digital and lack a holistic understanding of it.

They also suit at the crossroads of data and content, understand creativity and can bring it to the table, even if it is via a sister agency. “Accenture don’t do creativity,” he says. “But we do have to understand the clients’ business better.”

Howe believes media agencies win because they understand the technology, but above all because they do integration. “The media agency has always been like the conductor of the orchestra, bringing everything together harmoniously around thousands of touchpoints.”

However, it’s no good media agencies sitting around thinking this is all going to fall into their laps. As Wootton put it: “We know there’s a gap here. Now media agencies have got to go to clients, establish what their needs are, and start listening.”

All of which leads to the next stage of the Value of Media project. As Matthew Hook, Managing Director of Carat UK and a member of the IPA MFG, put it: “We have a view. Now our job is to listen to agencies and clients.”

Those who want to participate, or suggest a way forward, should contact the IPA’s Consultant Head of Media Nigel Gwilliam at”

Dominic Mills writes the weekly Mills on Monday column for MediaTel’s Newsline. He is a former editor of Campaign and editorial director of its parent company, Haymarket Business Media.

Last updated 21/11/2014

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