Managing Marketing: The expanding role of the media agency in marketing

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Mat Baxter, Global Chief Strategy and Creative Office at IPG Mediabrands chats with Darren on media, new business and why media agencies struggle with new business along with the increasing role of data in influencing media decisions and the how media agencies and creative agencies are coming back together with media leading the process and why.

Mat Baxter

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and we’re in New York City, a long way from home and I’ve actually run into an old friend from Sydney, Mat Baxter Global Chief Strategy and Creative Officer at IPG Mediabrands, welcome Mat.

Mat:

Hi Darren.

Darren:

Great to see you.

Mat:

Good to see you.

Darren:

You’re looking fabulous by the way.

Mat:

Thank you.

Darren:

Obviously this job really suits you.

Mat:

Well, maybe, I’ve also managed to stay off the American food which is probably half the reason.

Darren:

Yeah look, I think they’ve mistaken quantity for quality.

Mat:

They have, they have. It’s throughout the whole city that exists let me tell you. It’s hard getting a healthy sandwich in this town.

New business

Darren:

Look, one of the reasons that I really wanted to catch up with you is that you have a long track record and a long history of being particularly good at business development and business building.

Right back from the Icon days through Mediacom then UM and now at IPG Mediabrands.

Mat:

Yeah.

Darren:

I’m just wondering, without giving away your secret sauce, because I wouldn’t ask anyone to give away the special 11 herbs and spices.

Mat:

Sure.

Darren:

What do you think it is that you do that a lot of people overlook in new business? Or what is the attitude or philosophy that you bring to the process that makes you so successful at that?

Mat:

Uhh, it’s a tough thing to put your finger on specifically, it’s kind of weird when you have to self-analyse and wonder what it is you’re doing that maybe is successful.

I think probably the simplest way of explaining it is knowing your audience and I know that sounds like a really obvious thing. We talk to our clients the whole time about understanding who it is that you’re targeting and who you’re ultimately going to be communicating with.

I think it’s enormously unusual for agencies to do their history checking with who it is they’re actually presenting to. So we spend a lot of time in the lead up to a pitch actually trying to understand who the clients in the room are going to be, what the things that those people in the room will be looking for, the types of things they might be interested in.

There’s a huge amount of technology that now exists online, I’m not sure whether you’ve heard of a system called Crystal Knows?

Darren:

Yes, I use it. It tells you how to communicate with someone. You know, this person likes short bits of information.

Mat:

Yeah, exactly.

Darren:

This person likes to get to know you first.

Mat:

Absolutely. So I think that understanding your audience and using all the things that are now available out there to be able to prepare for the audience that you’re going to be presenting to is really important. So I think that’s a critical part.

Darren:

Mat, you say that’s obvious but I have to tell you, I’ve sat through hundreds of pitches and I see the same people turning up and doing the same presentation, in the same way, every time and wondering why it doesn’t work every time.

Mat:

Yeah.

Darren:

It’s not that obvious. Is there anything else?

Mat:

Look, the other thing is just packaging. Right, it leads on to knowing your audience which is about packaging then for the audience that you know you’re presenting to.

But some people like things to be really detailed and go into the, kind of the rigor and the analysis and other people are very visual and want to be spoken to in a really visual, image based way and I think one of the things we’ve done successfully over the last 5, 6 years is understand how to blend the detail with the inspirational higher level story telling.

Darren:

The big picture with the…

Mat:

The big picture with the, you know, getting into the grass and…

Darren:

Dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s.

Mat:

Yeah, getting into the grass when you need to get into the grass to explain something but also remembering you’re selling something right? A pitch is just one big sales presentation and when you’re selling, you want to get your buyer excited.

It’s like selling anything right? When you sell a car you don’t go into the detail around the exact horsepower that the engine’s got and how many litres the capacity of the engine is…

Darren:

No, zoom zoom.

Sell with emotion

Mat:

Yeah correct. You sell the emotion of buying the car and buying an agency or really just a bunch of people that represent an agency, that’s an emotional buy for a client. It still is an emotional buy.

No matter what any client says with all the criteria and the metric, there is still an element of that client walking in and making an assessment on the people and saying “could I work with these people?” and “are these people the kinds of people I would enjoy working with?”.

If you can make them buy that, then you tend to do well on the conversion front.

Darren:

That’s fascinating because there’s a book I love called Pitch Anything by, I’ll get his name wrong, it’s Oren Klaff.

Mat:

Right.

Darren:

He was in Silicon Valley pitching start-ups for years and he says you have to appeal to the buyer’s crocodile reptilian brain, that it’s all emotion and it’s all either fear or desire.

You need to get adrenaline and you need to get the endorphins pumping at the same time and he says you need both because if you just make someone feel good, then they just feel good but they won’t make a decision, then you’ve gotta him them with the adrenaline rush which is, “if I don’t buy now, I’m actually gonna lose out” and he says that combination.

But he said as soon as you go to that higher area and start being logical and rational and…

Mat:

Yeah.

Darren:

Swamping them with data and things like that, then they lose all of that emotional connection.

Mat:

Absolutely. I completely buy into that and I think the most successful pitches we’ve ever done are pitches generally where after the first meeting, we kind of know we’ve had the human connection, the client’s gelled with us, we’ve gelled with the client and you instinctively know they’re buying the people.

Darren:

They want you.

Mat:

Then what happens from thereon in is you’re just making sure you don’t make any mistakes.

Darren:

Yeah, don’t screw it up.

Mat:

Don’t screw it up as opposed to having to win it outright.

Darren:

OK so here’s the other thing I’ve seen so many agencies do, is they win it and then they keep trying to sell and they lose it.

Mat:

Oversell, yeah. Well that’s like anything right isn’t it? The art of selling. You have to sell just enough to make someone wanna buy but if you oversell, the reverse starts to happen and they start to say “why are you pushing so hard for me to buy this?” and then they become overly cautious about the decision and then often they step back and potentially walk away from buying you.

So, I think a lot of agencies have a tendency to overplay their hand, so it’s like anything, it’s like dating, you know, you’ve gotta romance…

Darren:

I use this analogy a lot by the way, dating.

Mat:

You’ve got to romance enough to get your partner interested but if you start to become too keen and you start to flood them with way too many SMS messages and way too many gifts they start to get maybe a little bit scared.

Darren:

Yeah, because suddenly you’ve become a bit stalkerish, you know?

Mat:

So, yeah.

Why are marketers more committed to their creative agencies?

Darren:

We may have touched on why, because one of my frustrations is that while marketer’s spend a hell of a lot more money with their media agency, they seem to have a hell of a lot more passion and commitment to their creative agencies.

Is it because it’s more emotional, or there’s a bigger emotional component with creative and content than there is with media and channel, because I don’t see many media agencies creating the same sort of passion as creative agencies have.

Mat:

Yeah I think the creative agencies have always had, perceptually at least, not in my mind because I’m a media guy and I always have been but I think perceptually, creative agencies always have a sexier product.

The product that clients get excited about going into the meeting with a creative agency, “what are they gonna present?” and “what ideas am I gonna see?” It’s all put together beautifully and there’s normally a montage reel with a soundtrack and you know, they put the big screen on and it’s a visceral experience.

That’s exciting and that gets attention not only from the marketing department but it often gets attention from the senior management of the client. Media, despite the fact that there’s a lot of money spent on it, actually quite worryingly often doesn’t get that attention.

The CEO for a big bank will go and watch the pitch for the 45 second or 60 second TVC and will have a point of view about that but they won’t turn up to the presentation of how the media agency is planning on spending the bank’s 120-million-dollar budget for the year.

Darren:

So true.

Mat:

There’s an irony in that on its own. But, the creative agencies have always been at the artistic end of town for the marketers and I think marketers enjoy being part of that process so they get excited about it.

It’s up to media people, and this is a big part of why we’ve constantly been talking about pivoting media to being, not just about rigorous and analytical and doing the things that are expected of media when you’re handling a client’s large budget, but also about media being creatively minded, right?

Media can be as sexy. In my mind in 2016 it can be more sexy, than the creative process and the creative product because media is everything around us. Media is culture. Media is what’s happening with Netflix. Media is what’s happening in the digital space. Media is what’s happening with VR and Facebook’s new social platform initiative.

So, there’s all these things going on in media that is super interesting, the thing that media agencies aren’t good at doing is packaging it up and making it interesting.

Darren:

Super interesting.

Mat:

Yeah, they’re kind of benign in the sense that they’re like large accounting firms. That’s the thing I always used to joke about when I first started in media is you’ve got to get clients out of thinking of us being the calculator brigade.

Where we walk around and kind of punch numbers in to our calculator and say, “No, you can’t afford to do that, no, no no”, and media agencies are very good at saying no. No to clients, but also no to creatives.

Why you can’t afford that big ad idea or why you can’t afford to do that double page spread or that big cinema ad because they were constantly trying to control creativity through maths. And my view is actually the role of media is to unleash creativity through supporting creative agencies and clients and making ideas even bigger.

Owned media opportunities

Darren:

Well when we got that distinction and I think it was more than ten years ago, about owned earned and bought media, suddenly media is a much broader opportunity than just, “What have we paid for?”.

The owned space is huge you know, this is where we get into virtual reality but also if you extend that, it’s into the customer database, it’s into the customer experience. It’s into retail, bricks and mortar, you know?

These are all owned media opportunities and then we’ve got the earned which is all the social media and all of the opportunities there.

Mat:

Yep.

Darren:

But still in pitches, I see a lot of media agencies only sticking to the bought part of it. It’s almost like they can’t redefine themselves beyond just planning and buying media when as you pointed out earlier, media in this decade, this century, has become so much more than just buying media.

Mat:

Look, you’re right. I mean, the interesting and exciting part of media, particularly, is in the emerging areas of owned and earned and shared assets and actually, if you ask, there have been a number of studies done globally around the intentions of CMOs in terms of how budgets will be divided and spent into the future.

Almost all CMOs of major organisations are saying they intend to support owned and earned assets at a more aggressive rate year on year into the future than they’re currently supporting paid. So the growth is in owned and earned.

Darren:

Yep.

Mat:

Actually, media agencies need to pivot from being media planning companies to being eco-systems planning companies. Companies that link all these disparate things together and actually make the whole effort of media, and I mean media in that broader sense of the word, work together in a better way than it has historically.

The thing about media agencies and the reason I think they struggle to do that is because you go back to what you’re comfortable with and more importantly, you go back to the things you make money on.

So media agencies are in many respects, victims of their own commercial model in the sense that if you look at the commission structure and you look at the way that media agencies derive their revenue, they derive their revenue most easily, not exclusively, but most easily historically, from just booking media.

It’s where the relationships exist, it’s where legacy commission exists so it’s like, “How do I move this money through my organisation as a media agency, as quickly and as efficiently as possible?” And the answer to that is, “I book media, I buy it from somebody”.

The minute that agency has to manage that media through say project managing and owned asset or generating an earned media momentum through it, suddenly the manpower, the resource required, the brainpower required to transact on that becomes disproportionately inefficient.

Darren:

Large.

Mat:

Yeah, large and inefficient.

Darren:

Well it looks large compared to the total value.

Mat:

Totally, yeah.

We’re not in paid media anymore Toto!

Darren:

This is a constant disagreement I have with a lot of procurement people because they look at a media expenditure and let’s pick the mythical hundred million dollars as a nice round number and they go, “Well look, we’re paying 3% of that as the fee and that’s the addressable part, we know we can squeeze that down”, and I go, “Is that really a smart?”

That’s what they’re looking at. They look at the fee for the agency as a proportion of the total spend so you’re right when you get into owned assets, suddenly that might come up to 40% or 50% or even 80% because you’re doing a lot of the work.

So there’s a big question mark over it and it looks more addressable. But the thing that annoys me is even at 3% they go, “Well we could push it down to 2% and save a million dollars”, and I go, “Yeah but aren’t you putting at risk the 97 million dollars that those people are investing for you?” They don’t even see it.

Mat:

Absolutely, absolutely. Look, you can’t take a methodology of remuneration that’s worked in one area of business and just lift it up and plonk it into another and expect it to hold true as a usable and workable model.

To your point, owned and earned media is high touch. There is a lot of stuff that needs to be done in those areas that don’t necessarily exist in paid areas that mean that this kind of commission equivalency type thing that a lot of clients think about or procurement departments think about, just doesn’t hold true.

You’ve got to break free from that model and say, “Let’s just sit down and analyse”. I mean, it’s the old risk kind of…

Darren:

Risk, reward.

Mat:

Risk, reward yeah, or cost benefit analysis. What is the benefit for me and my client or my business by unlocking this owned asset and making it work harder for me?

Now often for a bank or a telco, motoring on an owned asset, getting that asset working for them, can unlock huge value, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars potentially over a four or five-year period.

So an investment of five, ten, fifteen million over that term with an agency to unlock that value with them is a good deal. But if you just compare it as a percentage commission, it could to your point, it could be 20, 30% and the procurement department looks and goes, “Well hold on a second, that’s well above the odds we used to pay”, but the answer is, “Yes, but they’re odds you’re used to paying in paid media and…

Darren:

And we’re not in paid media anymore Toto!

Mat:

So you need to be willing to let yourself leave some of that baggage behind and in the cold harsh light of day with a really basic cost benefit analysis say, “Is unlocking the value of this asset, worth the investment that the agency is asking for or the cost that the agency is asking for?”

Darren:

Well I’ll give you an example that I recently found out about in Australia. Energy companies, they’re pretty boring in that you just sign up and then you get your bill every month, but there’s an energy company and I think it’s Red Energy or something but they’ve launched a phone app that allows you to trade in energy.

You can buy energy units at off peak times for use in peak times and they have specials, “We have excess, you can buy now”, and what they’ve found is time engaged with the brand through the app has gone off the scale because people are actually everyday checking out this trading market to see if they can do a better deal.

I mean, what a brilliant idea and imagine trying to work out media equivalents of getting your customers engagement with you for say, five or ten minutes a day when they weren’t there before. What would you pay in media for that?

Mat:

Well that’s the point isn’t it? I think utility brands are a great example of brands that are largely invisible brands. You don’t ever think of the brand that powers your lights, you just turn the light switch on and they light up and that’s it.

So to the point you’ve just made, buying that engagement actually having an audience lean into your brand, I mean you could argue to some extent if you’re in that sector, that it is invaluable in many respects because it’s actually setting you apart from everybody else that’s playing in that sector.

So again, old world measures, do you want to assess that value through a traditional way of assessing whether the agency fee that would be charged for it is a fair fee or not? My argument would be you have to kind of press the rest button on it and think about it freshly.

Darren:

I think what you have to do is get to value, what’s the value to the company and that’s where to me everything is moving. Data is allowing us to do that.

But I want to back-up a bit because one of the things that you said before, going back into paid media is a comfort zone for media agencies, so do you think the creative agencies are making a play to want to have media as part of the offering purely to be convenient to their clients or do you think it’s also they see it as this nirvana of ready revenue that the media agencies have that they could have.

Creative agency FOMO

Mat:

I think it’s a bit of both. There’s no doubt creative agencies think that media is a profitable enterprise and to some extent, they’re a little wrong on that.

Darren:

I know, I’ve seen the numbers.

Mat:

Because it isn’t as profitable I think as some of the creative agencies think. And once you account for your overhead for getting a media product underway, syndicated systems and research, a lot of the tools and IT requirements, it whittles down those margins very quickly.

What I do think creative agencies are doing though by getting into media is, they’re getting into media because they acknowledge that media is increasingly at the table, leading conversations on topics that they are either not comfortable with or completely unfamiliar with and they feel they’re being intellectually left behind on certain topics.

That scares them.

If you look at where the marketplace is moving with dynamic media through programmatic, the natural evolution of dynamic media will be you place space dynamically but then the next natural progression is, you place messaging dynamically.

Darren:

Of course, yeah.

Mat:

You start to have thousands of iterations of creative material that are being pushed out smartly based on triggers and based on a whole range of things so when it’s sunny, I see an ad for sunscreen, when it’s you know, raining, I see an ad for an umbrella and it’s both by the same parent company and I’m just choosing creative A and creative B dependent on the trigger, in this case, the weather, right?

That is a burgeoning area of media and communications that is hugely exciting but the only real group that can have a conversant, smart and relatively informed conversation about that right now is the media agency.

Darren:

Of course, because they have access to the third party publisher data which is the behavioural data of the viewer or the person having the ad served.

Mat:

They know how to do the tagging on the ad serving, they know how to manage and measure all of those units that are being served.

So the creative agencies are sitting in meetings and they’re hearing about the power of programmatic, they’re hearing about the power of dynamic marketing and they’re getting concerned that that new frontier that really is the future frontier for the whole industry, is an area that they just don’t have as much knowledge on as they should and I think that’s why they’re getting into media.

They’re trying to play a little bit of catch up on those things and the smart ones also acknowledge that when you bring media and creative together, then this isn’t rocket science, bring media and creative together, you get a better product.

So the ones that really care about their product, Wieden and Kennedy, it could be Silverstein, that some of the leading brands in the world, Droga 5 here in New York, these are brands that have had media thinking at the heart of their creative product for a number of years because they acknowledge that that’s a huge part of whether a campaign is successful or not.

So I think that they’re the main reasons in my head as to why they’re getting into it.

Putting the toothpaste back in the tube

Darren:

It was famously said that once media and creative were separated we’d never get the toothpaste back into the tube but I actually think that the future is media agencies becoming the tube and creative being put back into it and that’s why you know, with a title of Global Chief Strategy and Creative Officer…

Mat:

There’s a very conscious reason for that being there.

Darren:

Is that the trend? Because RECMA’s non-media income or revenue is certainly growing for all their media groups.

Mat:

You could argue if you wanted to get really philosophical here for a moment, you could argue, is the tube even the best thing for toothpaste to be in nowadays? Right?

You know, is the tube as useful as it once was? Should we find a new thing to carry our toothpaste in that’s better than the tube?

Darren:

The pump.

The distance between a good agency and a bad agency today has gotten bigger.

Mat:

Yeah a pump or something else. Look, I think the notion of putting one back into the other is in many respects a little redundant as well because the two businesses are fundamentally changed so that they’re not even the same things that they once used to be.

Creative agencies aren’t what they were when media unbundled back in the late 90s. They’re now content businesses, PR businesses, event marketing and sports sponsorship businesses and media agencies are the same.

Everyone has kind of morphed and grown. So I don’t think it’s going to be one going back into the other. What I think it will end up being is the strongest, as simple as this, the strongest will survive.

The best creative agencies will continue to survive and they will continue to evolve and morph. The best media agencies will continue to survive and all the other ones, both creative and media that aren’t the best, will all wither and die and we’re starting to see that already.

You see this as a guy who’s close and involved in pitches and I see it looking at my competitors. The distance between a good agency and a bad agency today has gotten bigger.

Darren:

Yep, much bigger.

Mat:

Ten years ago, the difference between the best agency in town and the crappiest agency in town was marginal because everyone just bought television and how badly can you buy a tv spot?

Darren:

Blind Freddy could do it.

Mat:

You could buy maybe a bad combination of programs but you were still buying a television spot that went to air and it did some type of a job for the client. I mean, you could mess it up maybe in the backend with accounting and measurement and whatever but really…

Darren:

They saw their ad.

Mat:

They saw their ad, it was marginal differences between the best and the worst.

Darren:

Yep.

Mat:

Now, if you’re bad, you are so obviously bad compared to the best because there is so much to know and there is so many things that can go wrong.

The complexity that we have in the marketplace is such that you can make errors and you can make oversights and you can make omissions in your planning that previously just weren’t there.

So what’s happening is you’re having a whole bunch of agencies getting relegated to kind of being TBTCTD agencies that are becoming uncompetitive and inevitably, clients will just dry up at that end of town because they’ll just say, “Hold on guys, you’re just not up to the job”.

I think we’ll see a lot of agencies going out of business who haven’t been able to evolve at the rate that they needed and the top guys will just get stronger and stronger and stronger and they’ll just be a heightened concentration of the great agencies and you’ll probably be left with three or four like megalodon agencies.

They’re just the killer agencies. They’ve got the data under control. They’ve got the systems, they’ve got creative and media services combined and they have the big brands and I think that’s what you’ll see and you’re already beginning to see it.

The holding companies are becoming more brand-esque in the way they’re operating. I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen this. You’re starting to see the uber agencies creative where you’re actually buying the media agency in my instance, but you’re also buying the network more than you used to buy the network.

Darren:

Oh, certainly the holding companies or the network within the holding companies, you know, the media, like MediaBrands like IPG MediaBrands is becoming more known than even the agency brands underneath them.

But there’s a difference in my view of the world from what you’ve just described of these uber companies and it’s a conversation that I actually had with Henry Tajer six years ago now.

I made the observation to Henry that Hollywood had undergone a transformation that I could see happening to the advertising media marketing area and that is the number of studios had actually consolidated into smaller numbers.

You had Colombia Tristar Sony because of the consolidation and we’ve seen the same thing with media you know, it consolidated as you said. But what continues to happen is the proliferation of independent content producers and we see that with advertising. In the advertising market, there is always a new hot agency coming up.

The Hollywood model

Mat:

Yep.

Darren:

Now, the reason that the studios have done that is because they’ve become particularly good at knowing the market, knowing the audience, and then knowing the product that needs to be created to go into that.

But they don’t want to take the risk of the product creation so they leave that to independent producers, that’s where we get the Jerry Bruckheimers and so on, and Miramax and the rest right.

The reason is that they get the audience right and the segment right, so this summer we need an action film for the 15-25 year olds and then they go out and commission it or buy existing product.

Do you see that Hollywood model being possibly the way it goes where media or channel becomes the lead, here’s the audience, we can identify them through data, we know where they are, where they want to be, what they’re interested in and then we become the acquisition executives that go out and get the content that’s needed?

Mat:

Look, I think yes but you know what? Largely advertisers work like that anyway. If you look at the way a TVC has been created, most of the time, a lot of those content resources from the agency were being out of housed anyway with directors and actors.

Darren:

The production of it, yeah, but not the script writing.

Mat:

Not the script writing and the creative oversight but certainly the actual production of the execution was something that was brought in house for a temporary period of time to get the job done.

Look, I think that the one thing that differs in the Hollywood model versus the advertising network model is that the advertising network model is increasingly a closed-loop system or is becoming a closed-loop system where from the very beginning all the way through to the completion, the agency or the network is controlling and has a data set that touches the entire process.

Darren:

Yes.

Mat:

I think that’s the one area where maybe we won’t see the same degree of out of housing if you like or outsourcing as we might in Hollywood.

Darren:

Because the responsiveness to the change and constantly optimising and experimenting…

Mat:

Exactly! It’s happening through a closed-loop system where the agency is actually seeing data coming in in realtime, making an adjustment or course correction according to that data in realtime, and then maybe pushing out new content or creative based on those things in realtime.

That requires an in house model to be able to really sustain it. If you’re working with out of houses who are working for other people and have other schedules and other clients that they’re accountable and responsible for, it makes it very difficult to be as realtime as if they’re your assets that you control wholly so I think that’s the one big difference.

Darren:

I get that and the only implication of that for me is I can imagine sitting there at a holding company level, talking to my shareholders, yes, we’ve spent a lot of money acquiring all these creative agencies but in actual fact, we’re either going to fold them into our media agencies or we’re going to write them off as redundant assets.

That is the end play of that because you don’t actually need all these separate creative agencies.

You need the skill sets that may be sitting there but you don’t need the agency itself and most holding companies, when you look at the profile, media’s consolidated into one or two agencies, three agency brands, some go as far as four and five, under one group. But they have lots and lots of content producers out there.

Speed is the key to unlocking value

Mat:

Yeah look I think it all comes down to what the future definition and direction of creative is going to look like. Historically, creative has been very high touch, very labour intensive, you’ve planned your ads out months, sometimes even a year or so in advance and you work to get it completely polished and finessed in the edit suite and ready for the world to see.

That definition and notion of what that creative product looks like is changing. I mean, creative now is fast turnaround or is increasingly fast turnaround, less finessed and polished but speed beats perfection because actually speed is the thing that is unlocking value for clients, being agile and adaptive.

The example that I always give to clients when I have this conversation is, you know what gets the biggest laugh at a stand-up comic event? Generally it’s when there’s an interaction between the audience and the comic.

Darren:

The ad-lib yeah and the put-down.

Mat:

The ad-lib and the heckler or the put-down. That’s because it’s a real world, realtime interaction between audience and in this instance, brand, let’s call the comic the brand.

That realtime engagement, is the thing that creates the biggest emotional response. That in a creative sense is true for brands. If I can actually engage with you in realtime with my messaging, that is better generally at creating engagement with you Darren than if I wait six weeks, finesse a perfect ad and then put it out there for you to see.

So therefore, the notions of what creative product looks like is changing and so do you need the same architecture in the creative agency or do you need a platform that can do fast turnaround creative with lots of different variants to increase engagement and conversion?

My sense is that’s where creative is going to go. There’ll always be a role for the big beautiful ad, but I think creativity as we know it is going to have its definition slightly adjusted because technology is going to allow creativity to change.

Darren:

Well earlier this week at the ANA Conference in Florida, Michael Farmer from Farmer and Co was talking about advertising creativity as a production process and he and I had a conversation and I said, “Michael I think you’ve got it wrong”.

It’s not just a production process. I think the automotive industry is a good example. You prototype and to me the big idea is not an ad, the big idea is actually a creative concept that could be used in any channel, is the prototype.

You should spend time and resources and money getting that right. But then what you need to do is have a very fast, very efficient, very agile and very flexible process, production line that can actually create that in executions from the big idea because the concern would be if you don’t have that big brand idea that actually informs and is the basis of it, you can, just interacting all the time, you can easily get off-track.”

Mat:

Oh absolutely I completely agree.

Darren:

But this is where artificial intelligence is going to completely revolutionise it because you’re going to be able to respond in realtime in those conversations without necessarily having a creative team sitting there like Mondelez did with the Oreo, remember the Oreo for the Super Bowl?

Mat:

The Super Bowl, yep.

Darren:

Well they tried to do that ongoing and they just found it was not cost or time effective to work in realtime in the traditional model but artificial intelligence and thinking programming is going to be able to do that.

Artificial Intelligence

Mat:

Absolutely. We’ve already used this technology, a company called Message AI, we worked with to do an artificial intelligence campaign on Facebook Messenger for Goosebumps, the movie for Sony Pictures, where we had one of the main characters of the movie interact with people in realtime on Facebook.

Now, through programming that AOI on Facebook Messenger, we were able to simultaneously run, I think our biggest simultaneous conversation for it was 267 conversations at the same time on Facebook Messenger.

Darren:

270 of them!

Mat:

Unless you’ve got a lot of them sitting there, from a resource perspective, it’s just unfeasible to do it but by working with Message AI and building out an AI framework, we were able to hold multiple conversations with consumers at the same time.

Now, that’s in its infancy right. We’ve only just started to touch the AI capabilities. But to your point, as AI scales and you start to really have intelligent messaging and creative capabilities, that then totally changes the types of things you can and can’t do through media. So I think it’s really interesting.

Darren:

That is so exciting because you know, a lot of people go, “Will AI ever be able to create ideas from nothing?” And who knows?

Mat:

Who knows, yeah.

Darren:

And that’s the holding onto creativity has to be human based but you know.

Mat:

But can they take your idea and execute it? Absolutely and that capability will be there.

Darren:

That’s where I see the future is that there’s going to be more and more need for really great creative and strategic thinkers to create that idea, the big idea, but not execute it as a single idea but allow it to be executed into millions of smaller ideas that all are directly related to it.

Mat:

That’s massively exciting. Like for me, that’s where media and message become almost you know, fused in a way that they never have been in the past so to me that’s super exciting.

Darren:

Hopefully we’ll both still be working in the industry when it’s working.

Mat:

I hope I’m still alive.

Darren:

Hey, it could be next week or it could be in twenty years’ time.

Mat:

It could be, who knows?

Darren:

Mat, this has been fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed catching up. Unfortunately, I’m sure we could talk about this for another hour or so.

Mat:

We could. We could go on forever.

Darren:

But it’s great seeing you, thank you very much.

Mat:

Thanks for coming to visit New York.

Darren:

I’m here every so often and I’ll call in when I do.

Mat:

Yeah great to see you. Thanks Darren.

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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