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Managing Marketing: The Issues Facing Media Agencies

Simon_James_Williams

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.

Simon James-Williams is the Managing Director of Carat ANZ and in this podcast he discusses with Darren the issues and challenges facing media agencies including building trust and delivering transparency, the role of Brand Safety and brand love, and the move from media cost to media value. He also shares the work Carat has produced on the trend of Expanding Connectivity in 2019 available here.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Follow Managing Marketing on Soundcloud or iTunes

Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I’m sitting down to have a chat with Simon James-Williams who’s the Managing Director at Carat, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, only relatively recently appointed. So welcome, Simon.

Simon: 

Thank you very much. Yeah, I’ve been in the role since October so it’s definitely been a whirlwind but it’s been absolutely fantastic, so thanks for having me.

Darren: 

So two big changes then in October because you mentioned that you got married.

Simon: 

Yeah, that’s it.

Darren: 

And you took on this big job.

Simon: 

I did indeed. Yeah, I think it was a six-day difference. I definitely accepted this job and then got married in New York actually six days after. So trying to get sixty-five people over there and kind of steer this ship was definitely a challenge that I don’t think many people will experience ever, but it was great.

Darren: 

Well you clearly like multi-tasking, or at least taking on big projects.

Simon:

Yeah, I definitely do, absolutely.

Darren: 

That’s set you up well for this role, hasn’t it?

Simon: 

I think so, yeah. It’s a very large organisation, lots of momentum, some really great clients, projects, but yeah, definitely I love multi-tasking and getting into the detail and I’m looking forward to what’s next to come.

Darren: 

So media, why, why are you working in media? Is it an accident or did you plan it that way?

Simon: 

I think it’s a bit of both. I don’t think you find anyone that really goes, “Yeah that’s actually where I wanted to be”, but you know, a little bit of an accident. I walked past Steak Media in Covent Garden in London, they had a big ball in their office and I saw it and I sat down in their office and waited for someone to ask me if I was okay and then I just said, “I want to work here”, and a lovely lady who’s now very senior and I won’t give things away invited me to come work over my Summer holidays and paid for my lunch and that was it. I got hooked.

Like it’s just the creativity, the absolute drive for betterment and innovation in particular for me is an absolute catch cry that I just lean right into, has lead me to exactly where I am today which is ironic because seven years ago I joined Carat and now I’m back in the hot seat so it’s definitely pretty exciting to come full circle and see an organisation all the way through and then eventually be back in a position of leadership which is pretty exciting.

Darren: 

Well I know earlier this year Carat published a report on the trends and the year of connectivity.

Simon: 

Yeah.

Darren:

Let’s get to this year later, but let’s go back and look at some of the issues that especially the media industry and media agencies have been dealing with and I guess the first one, because it keeps getting voted as the word of the year by the AMA and various other trade journals or trade media and that’s transparency, and of course you can’t talk about transparency without trust.

Simon: 

Sure.

Darren:

What’s your view on transparency?

Simon: 

Transparency at the moment definitely is one of those words that comes up often and we don’t shy away from it. I think that transparency for me is underpinned by trust but it’s also underpinned by equitable partnerships. When a partnership is equitable, and there is always a fine balance between what does a client really mean by transparency, you know, as we mentioned as we walked in here, disclosure is one of those really interesting words as well that we need to have a look at.

Where transparency for me can extend to everything from user access to certain tools and systems all the way through to the rates in which they’re charged through a legal document or contract. Defining what those parameters are and how far they extend is something we do hand in hand with our clients and make sure that we open up the kimono as much as they need to see and make sure it’s equitable.

Darren:

I guess that’s my problem with the word is that from a very literal interpretation, things are either transparent or not, you use the often referred to metaphor of opening the kimono. It’s sort of like a glimpse could be way too much and you’ve already been transparent, you don’t have to be completely naked to show everything. And that’s the issue here, where’s the degrees of transparency?

I look through a glass window and it’s either clear or it starts getting murky and that’s the danger. As soon as you walk away from being completely transparent, you get into a murkiness which has those overtones and I think it actually does more harm to trust as a term than disclosure does because disclosure is well, what do you need to know? You can actually have a trusted relationship or a partnership as you might refer to where you can have a conversation around disclosure. What do you need to know?

Simon: 

Yes, absolutely.

Darren: 

Whereas how transparent do I need to be for you to be comfortable?

Simon: 

Yes I agree and I think that we abide by the standards set by multiple industry bodies so whether it be the AANA and we’re often asked at the moment to abide by the standard terms of the AANA contract which we’re happy to do in the full disclosure of what the client does require and need. And I think it always comes back to that point of it’s a client by client relationship and it’s done individually by or with those clients and we abide by the standards to make sure that we can be as transparent as possible.

I think one thing that really builds into this is we want to live by the standards of the industry so that we don’t have any reason to come under any scrutiny for not abiding by those standards and I think that’s kind of the key thing is that we are working at pace to ensure that that disclosure is there.

There’s nothing to hide and ultimately if clients feel more comfortable in having a little bit of extra information somewhere or over here or this clause in the contract, it all comes down to the equity in partnership and then negotiation too. But as I said before, things that the industry are asking for at this stage aren’t too transparent at all, we’re okay to provide most of, or actually in fact all of the requirements up to an AANA standard.

Darren: 

That is a collective input from a number of advertisers that have put into that. I wonder though if some of this is not also driven by the fact that the actual legal relationship between for instance your agency and your clients has actually changed because we talk about a media agency and yet I’d imagine there’d be very few of your contracts that are actually principal agent relationships.

They’ve moved heavily towards contractor relationships and in actual fact, a contractor has no responsibility to be transparent unless it’s specifically deemed that way. But an agent does, almost every agent who is working on some sort of commission does have a requirement to be transparent about that commission.

Simon:

I agree and I talked about this with my leadership team the other week when we were talking about how to handle some of these conversations and make sure that the team are upskilled and trained and we’re finding that the media leadership that should really be talking about the innovations on a client account are sometimes burdened with these conversations and need to navigate them.

But we’re also finding that our clients are evolving their contracts into being in some instances contractors which is absolutely fine. If a client wants to go down a transactional route of working with us or has a very specific need, that’s absolutely fine to look at our menu of integrated services and choose and pick where we fit in.

But an agent principal, completely couldn’t agree more and we’re finding that clients are really getting smart about the relationship that they want to have with an agency and that comes down to the brief. We find that the RFP that we’re receiving based on contractor, based on agent and principal are so different.

And we’re actually finding that the industry and our clients are beginning to understand that their mutual equitable respect that goes into those partnership agreements are the only things that are going to keep us thriving. I found that this year alone, we’re only in Feb, the difference in the way in which we’re being briefed and in new business, has drastically evolved.

Darren:

That’s great!

Simon: 

Like drastically evolved. One client in particular who I can’t name has taken a completely fresh, really exciting approach where it’s almost left us to focus much more on how do we drive the results and the bottom-line benefit to them as a business and put the rest , the fee, and our legal side of it, right out of the process and leave it as a separate tactic altogether but not a negotiation point. And I think that’s exciting.

Darren: 

That’s fantastic because it means they’re moving away from a cost model to an investment.

Simon: 

Well it comes back to that value versus cost and I think at the moment, any clients that recognise the value that we drive, we’re a smart business that have very clever people and the quicker that we as an industry orientate back to value, the better. And I think the clients that want to work on that, I will have them coming in the door every day of the week. That’s exactly where we want to be!

Darren: 

And do you think that will extend? You mentioned value and cost. Do you think value and cost will extend beyond the relationship with the agency, with Carat, to also looking for where the value exists within the media owners offering as well? Because there’s been a lot of pressure, not just on agencies to reduce cost but also to look for reducing the cost of media as well. Even though as we know, media is not a commodity, there is high value media properties.

Simon: 

Absolutely.

Darren: 

Then there’s increasingly huge amounts of garbage as well.

Simon: 

I think there’s high value people that we also have at Carat so I think that we’re not a commodity but neither is our industry and we can’t be treating it as this race to the bottom on cost. Have you ever heard of a success story where you race to the bottom on costs?

Darren: 

Cut your way to success, yeah, not really.

Simon: 

It sometimes…

Darren: 

You can cut your way to profit, but not long term.

Simon: 

I agree and I think that sometimes it’s a bit of a symbol that any kind of business or industry that is cutting cost is almost bottoming out. We need to find ways to be.

Darren: 

They’re in trouble.

Simon: 

Yeah! And we can’t do that. Our only investment that we, well not our only, our primary investment is in our people. Good people is going to differentiate from what our competitors are. But if clients are looking to get value out of media, that’s absolutely fine. We benchmark and do that all the time.

Darren:

And it helps if as an agency and clearly you are, you’re willing to be held to a measure of value based on results.

Simon: 

Correct. We will absolutely on probably every single negotiation we walk into, put a performance related incentive program behind it, PRIP in which we are not only benchmarked against service as in 360 reviews, but also having an equitable partnership so if we do really well and we exceed on the bottom line, why shouldn’t there be some shared risk in that? And similarly, if we don’t, then we’ll put our money where our mouth is. And I think that’s an exciting proposition that guides our industry towards better outcomes at team level too.

Darren: 

Well a lot of PRIPS in the past, especially for media agencies, have been based on how cheap you buy media.

Simon: 

Yeah.

Darren: 

You know, buying positions has been, do you think that actually helps or hurts the industry?

Simon:

That’s a really good question. Helps or hurts, I think those are quite provocative words there. I think that ultimately it definitely helps procurement on the client side to drive the best and you know, I suppose better outcome for the business. Would I say it’s responsible? I think that I worry that if we continue to keep going down this cycle of constantly reducing costs and coming down harder on our investment, it is going to create a change for the industry as we look for then more formats that have higher impact, that are larger scaled.

I think it’s a fine balance. We obviously need to drive efficiencies and effectiveness through media and we will always benchmark and measure against that using third party sources and provide transparency and disclosure against it. There’s something to be said in making sure that we also look at the high value innovation products and leave room to also innovate there too.

Darren: 

Because almost every media agency I’ve spoken to said it’s pretty easy to win a pool or win a benchmark if you know what the criteria is. And so you know, in the past, planning and trading decisions have been made on winning the pool rather than necessarily achieving the outcomes that are required.

So for instance, if CPM for TV is used, they know how to not buy zone one or high-profile media options and they’ll go for the lower rating but they’ll still get their reach and frequency through accumulated reach but the frequency will go through the roof. You know, there’s always strategies that some of these KPIs…

Simon: 

But it’s novelty.

Darren: 

But it gets worse when we get to digital because if you want to buy the cheapest possible impression, it means that you start having to give up some things like brand safety.

Simon: 

I think.

Darren: 

Or even having a real person view it.

Simon: 

I think it’s naughty. I mean, we definitely don’t, definitely would hate to even think or suggest that we cheat when it comes to those pools and I think again it comes back to the trust and transparency we talked about this full disclosure.

Darren: 

Yeah but sorry Simon, the client has set the criteria. They’ve said, “I’m going to bonus you based on delivering the cheapest possible media buy”.

Simon:

If it’s the client’s decision to do that and has made an actual call to go after the lowest end of that pool and look at inventory that has to work twice as hard to achieve even a viewable standard, there’s always going to be rebuttal in that from us. That is, that’s bad for their brand and our position on brand safety and transparency is to obviously ensure that we make our publishers accountable to that.

If the client is driving you to make those decisions, there has to be a conversation which is around why. Why are you trying to do this? What’s the achievement from this? Is there a much better way that we can seek to redeploy that investment? Education is key.

Darren: 

The usual answer to that is, “We don’t want to pay too much”.

Simon: 

If you don’t want to pay too much, there needs to be a different look at what the ecosystem is. Like what channels are we selecting and why that are meant to hit the bottom-line objectives of the brief. And ultimately, if you’re going after inventory that isn’t viewable or in fact lives on sites or in placements that aren’t going to drive an outcome, why? The question simply comes back to, why?

Darren: 

It was interesting wasn’t it, March last year I think it was, March 2018, the Times newspaper listed all of the major brands that appeared in you know, either terrorist, pornography or gambling websites, all of the wrong environments online.

Simon: 

Yeah.

Darren: 

And while there was the initial shock of, I think Lloyds of London, Lloyds Bank was one of the brands that were there and everyone’s going, “That’s terrible!” What immediately happened is, “Oh well it must be the agency’s fault”. And that’s why I think the idea of brand safety, it’s actually really about brand love from my perspective.

Simon: 

Correct.

Darren:

You know, how much do you love your brand that you want to protect it?

Simon: 

I think you’re absolutely right. And that doesn’t just leave itself to digital, it includes full brand love, right?

Darren: 

Yeah.

Simon: 

We’re looking at the entire brand and everywhere it sits.

Darren: 

Everything you do to it.

Simon: 

Correct. And I think sometimes we get a little bit too focused on digital brand safety and love when it’s actually, what is your total brand love or brand safety strategy on all channels? So I would say that yeah, if you’re appearing against pornographic sites or you have been against content that you shouldn’t have been against, where are your brand safety protocols first of all?

You know, has that been a sign of process for offline? But then digital for the base of Australia and New Zealand, we use I.S., Integral Ad Science, we not only do brand safety tracking but we also do blocking. So that helps as much as possible but for the sites such as you know, even YouTube, they’ve invested a hell of a lot of cash into making that a much safer environment but there’s always room for error. I mean, user generated content is always going to be the killer.

Darren: 

Well it’s hard to rate it, isn’t it?

Simon: 

Well that’s where you have to make the decision as a brand, do you go, “Well, that 1% risk is just too much risk for us” in which case you then scale your inventories, pool down, and you have to look at other ways which are safer to get the impressions or the eyeballs you need.

Darren: 

So the reason I raised the idea of brand love is there’s also on YouTube by the way, a very interesting video about procurement.

Simon: 

Okay.

Darren:

And it’s a procurement guy and he’s on the phone to the dentist and he’s asking, “Well how much would a filling cost? Okay, could it be cheaper if I don’t have anaesthetic? And what if well you don’t fill it, you just pull it out? What would that cost?” And he’s getting the price down by going through the options.

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren: 

And then you find out, it’s a procurement person and he’s finding out the cost because his wife needs to go and visit the dentist. And it’s really quite humorous but also a very pointed view on if we actually value and love the brand that we’ve created or we’re being responsible for managing, why do we then turn around and focus on the cost without necessarily all the considerations on what we’re actually doing?

Simon: 

Yeah, I’d agree. And I think that if an agency does get the pointed finger as you know, your responsibility. Yes, if you are the principal agent and you have bought and booked that media, then absolutely we should be held if not accountable, responsible at the same level as our clients. And education is key, right?

Understanding what are the protocols, what are the ways in which we can protect this brand, and also an acceptance of that risk and a value against that risk as well. There are so many instances of clients going into a situation blind, you know, not within Carat, and we need to educate them as to all of the risks associated with being everywhere and we started that journey years ago and I’m really pleased to see that we’re in a very good spot and it’s part of our global media partnerships, we lobbied hard with YouTube to ensure that they up their game and I’m pleased to see that they’ve actually met us at the party which is nice.

Darren: 

Well they’re certainly addressing the issues.

Simon: 

They are addressing the issues. There’s always that risk though.

Darren: 

They’re not there yet.

Simon: 

Always that risk.

Darren: 

Now a few times Simon, you’ve mentioned the quality of the team at Carat.

Simon: 

Yeah.

Darren:

But one of the big issues for the industry and not just for media agencies but the whole industry, is talent acquisition but also talent retention.

Simon:

Correct.

Darren:

What, do you have a solution? What have you been doing or what do you recommend is a solution? Because we’re seeing a lot of people choose not to go into advertising. You happened to walk past an office that had a ball in it that attracted you, but there are a lot of other opportunities, tech companies, investment, all sorts of areas that really bright creative people are being attracted to.

Simon:

Yes.

Darren:

Then the second area is then if you can attract them, how do you keep people?

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren: 

Because we’re seeing time and time again,  highly experienced sometimes expensive, people leaving the industry because the industry just can’t sustain being able to keep them.

Simon: 

Correct. And I think it’s not just a problem contained to Australia or New Zealand, we’re seeing it all around the world. And I think it’s a real challenge that as a global industry we have to tackle. There are a few things that we’re definitely doing at Carat that I’ll go onto specifically in a minute but a key area that we have focused on is we just got ranked again which is wonderful, by the AFR as a top graduate employer and we’re really proud of that accolade as we’re investing in an industry that needs to grow from within.

It’s about attracting the right people, but also attracting the right capabilities. We aren’t absolutely dedicated and focused on advertising and marketing degrees, it’s about a range of specialists and capabilities and nurturing that talent to be able to use that full brain model as we talk about quite a lot. I think a key part of retaining talent is respect. It’s an alignment of values as well and we stand for being ambitious, pioneering, agile, ensuring that when anyone joins our organisation, they are able to match their own values with ours is critical because otherwise if you don’t match them, it might not be the right job for you.

We need to make sure that you’re on board on that journey. I think as an industry we have to work together as an MFA, as an industry body to nurture talent, to continue to educate talent, develop talent as well. But agencies need to take responsibility for their own talent as well and ensure that if an opportunity presents itself outside of the network, whilst that isn’t ideal for us, we also need to make it clear that someone’s career develops in a nature of different ways, whether it be through diversified services, if someone is introducing an idea of going to Isobar which is one of our sister agencies in digital transformation, that’s a wonderful skill set.

That person can leave Carat, go to Isobar you know, two or three years and bring that skill. We’re all down for that. And vice versa. Someone wants to come from a web experience part of the business, I’d also take that. Because introducing clients to these services and allowing them to see a broader spectrum beyond media is critical.

As I said today, there’s loads of things we’re doing to give the industry some insight. We’re looking at flex models, making sure that people with sport commitments, mothers, fathers, or anyone who has kids or needs a relationship with their working and home life, that requires them to take time off during the day, we’re introducing those programs.

Really simple, you know, if there’s trust with your employees and transparency and we’re kicking goals, there’s actually no reason why someone shouldn’t feel the freedom to work flexibly with us. All other range of things, DNI, super important. It’s come up all throughout last year. Really it should just become a part of what we do in our DNA.

We launched Am Proud which is a program I head up which is our advocacy group for the LGBTQI Plus community. So making sure that we’ve got trans, intersex policies, training and awareness across our ally communities too and then we also extend all of our programs across a whole different range and lines are things that we do and it’s all about bring your whole self to work and enjoy your job beyond just doing your job.

Darren: 

Do you think one of the problems, and we’ve seen especially in the last decade, is that when you look at the structure of most media agencies, they’re flat in their organisation, which is a good thing except that you end up with lots and lots of graduates, and let’s say there’s a hundred people in the agency, you could have half of them being graduates. Then there’s the first layer, the second layer, the third layer and then you’ve got the likes of yourself, the managing director.

Simon:

Sure.

Darren: 

So there’s only five levels which is more than reasonable, except that there really is no path for those people and it’s almost like if you make it past the first two layers, then you may actually survive to have a career in media. But in actual fact, that flattening and that quite shallow pyramid means that it’s hard to consider possibly for those people that enter it as a career, to have a long-term career, to actually have a career path.

Simon: 

Yeah, it’s an interesting take. I do understand it and I think that there’s this notion and I’ve got inverted comma fingers going on here that there’s the hard yards that are expected. And I think that our industry is moving away from that. I don’t believe that we should be hiring graduates to sit in front of Excel for the first two years of their career.

In fact, if anything we want to be bringing in those levels of candidacy and having them jump in feet first and be working on where their specialism or skills are so I would say that as an industry, there is most likely a movement towards agile. I spoke to a client this morning, loved what she had to say which was, “Well, if agile is the answer, what’s the question?” And I was like, “Oh, that’s a really great flavour and take on it”.

I think if you look at the way in which technology businesses are surviving and are really developing from Uber to a Google or a Facebook, the idea of a matrix reporting organisation is one in which I think that you should we be able to build a business case that’s strong enough to not just report to your line manager for everything. Whether it be your work day submission for time off, to, “I have a client concern, a contractual concern, I’ve got this, that and the other”, it’s about going to the most appropriate person in the organisation of 1800 people that exists across Dentsu Aegis network and finding the right person to be able to get the job done accurately, timely and you know, in the interests of our client.

So I would say that we are breaking down legacy structures. I talked about this quite a bit which is not only legacy structures with clients and contracts, but also making sure we innovate the way in which we’re building brands. And also defining new ways of working. And so we’re finding that some teams will organise themselves in a hierarchical way based on the nature of who they are. There are some clients that are doing full-service teams. We have others that are doing implants. So our team is actually working in that office as an extension of the marketing team. I think as long as we keep our mind really open and  begin to introduce agile methods, we’re going to work much better.

Darren: 

Yeah because we really have embraced the idea of team of teams which is a theory around self-organised, self-aligning teams of expertise working together.

Simon:

Yes.

Darren: 

I think that’s where people are going to answer your client’s question, what was the question if agile is the answer? We live in a complex world which you’ve already mentioned. The thing about that complexity is that the traditional siloed models are not adaptable enough to be able to respond to what a complex world throws up.

And so agility is purely being, and you know, people misuse it, they think it just means faster, but it actually means to be able to adapt, to bring the resources within your organisation to the problem when the problem occurs, not to sit there and go, “Oh, we’ve got a problem. Well let’s plan for the next six months on how we’re going to restructure to actually do that”. But to have agility to be able to answer or respond to opportunities and problems in real time.

Simon: 

That’s exactly what our clients want and I think I’ve used this line before and I’ll probably use it for the rest of our career that our complexities are not our clients’ problems.

Darren: 

Yeah, that’s right.

Simon: 

I think that really refreshingly Henry Tajer joined our organisation on Monday and even in his initial company address, he talked about the ambition of being integrated and having respect and integration across our business and that’s if anything a rally cry, which is you know, the one thing that is going to help our clients better is integrated services that answer a business problem.

Darren: 

The flip side to that is your clients’ complexity is your problem.

Simon: 

It always will be. We get paid to do that right, to navigate those complexities. So I actually for one personally love a complex problem. And so I’m all down for it.

Darren: 

They’re the big juicy ones that are actually fun when you crack them.

Simon: 

Love it, yeah. Give me as many complex problems as possible. Yeah, and I think that the quicker we orientate ourselves at Carat to being much more around business solutions with the effective use of solutions, the more exciting our world is going to be and a much more exciting place to be for new talent and retaining talent too.

Get out of the day to day of just focus solely on achieving something through reach frequency and take a bigger picture and a step back. Yeah, I reckon we’ve got some fierce competition that’s going to, it’s all around us. But we can step up and we have already stepped up. It’s exciting.

Darren: 

Now enough of where we are.

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren: 

The trends for 2019 and the year of connectivity or the expanding connectivity. Tell us a bit about it.

Simon:

We are super excited so we commissioned a piece of work, we’ve commissioned pieces of work probably, well we have done for the last ten years actually, 2009 was our first trends piece that we released and put that in context, that was before Uber, before WhatsApp, you know, we were here publishing trends so we’re pretty good at this now.

And we have stated that 2019 is about expanding connectivity and that’s probably with the introduction of 5G networks. Notably U.S., U.K. are really kicking this off at the moment. But we really wanted to take a rally cry of ten key trends for people to watch out for. So you can find them online if you want to, there’s a little plug there. But a few things such as.

Darren: 

I’m happy to put the link so we’ll put that into the podcast: The Year of Expanding Connectivity: Carat Ten Trends 2019

Simon: 

Thanks. Yeah, great. We focused late last year on data consciousness as a project as well when we did a good national tour. Understanding you know, what is, and what is trust and data consciousness and how much data do you give away? So when everyone walked into the room and signed up for Wi-Fi, little did they know in their terms and conditions that they’d pretty much given up their first born and were actually going to war.

And that just goes to show how many people don’t read the T’s and C’s of all these wi-fi obligations. So it became a really good research piece for us. So we used our internal systems to be able to predict what that would be. So in 2019 we looked at a few things so life as a service is one. So we’re going to be seeing brands with that strong proposition or that daily, weekly, usual cycles really kick off. So coffees, taxis, entertainment.What is life beyond Uber I suppose. What else can become life as a service as well? And then there’s tonnes of other things that we began to explore in here as well.

Darren: 

What are the ones that get you excited?

Simon: 

Definitely contextual commerce.

Darren: 

Yes.

Simon:

I’m really excited about the personalisation of experiences. I think that advertising and media has a pivotal role to play but the more that we’re allowing the usage of our data, the more that we’re going to see integrated, full customer experiences. I think this year as well, and a trend we haven’t noted is probably the rise of seeing the benefits of full stack technology.

I think one of my clients said a few weeks ago that the one thing that could get a CMO sacked the quickest is integrating a full stack of technology. Because it takes years to pay off and you really have to understand how to get the best out of it. But I think that now we’re beginning to see that tipping point of okay, everything’s sat on a technology stack or everything is talking to each other through a data lake or a data swamp, how do we use it?

How do we make consumers more aware of our products? Cross sales, up sales, integrated reach, so again, contextual commerce is huge.

Darren: 

And how to make the customer’s experience seamless and desirable.

Simon: 

Amazing. A hundred percent! Well that’s what brands should be playing in, right? Every interaction with the consumer should be one of innovation, excitement and beauty and you know, I don’t want us to lose touch ever at Carat with our consumers. Ultimately, we serve a message and it should be the right place, right time, and the right experience. And you can add more and more onto that if you kept wanting to. But yeah, and I think that some of our top ten trends, we’re really encouraging clients to take a look under the hood and begin exploring those areas in a bit more detail. And jump ahead of the curve.

Darren: 

It’s interesting the concept of connectivity because I think it’s one of those things that happen, has happened to us as a society, without people really understanding what that means. Like you enjoy the benefits or the mishap, or don’t enjoy the mishaps.

Simon:

Yeah.

Darren:

And don’t realise that in fact we’re more connected than we’ve ever been before.

Simon: 

Oh, absolutely. I was really privileged about two years ago to go to Mountain View with Google and we met, I think their job title was Chief Evangelist, and he talked through the fact that every time you put a search into Google and the fact that it was able to return something like over 12 million results in less than a second, is nothing short of a miracle.

And now we expect that if my Uber is not here in two and a half minutes, cancel and get another. And the expectation of the consumer on the experience has become one at which, where is that tipping point and I often look at the Gartner Trough of Disillusionment to have a look at where the consumers expect things to be versus where they’re actually at and there’s this notion of a precipice where if you are unable to keep up, you will eventually full off the edge of innovation and not be able to achieve against what consumers’ needs are.

I think we have a real fine balance and with 5G I think one of the key stats that I walked away from, is something along the lines of back in 2013 if you tried to download a film it would take 26 hours and now it takes like 20 seconds and that is just for me, like, mind blowing numbers that we’re in a world now where it’s seamless. You can have it when you want it, whenever you want it.

Darren: 

See it’s interesting because I remember all of those presentations where they’d show you you know, Uber has disrupted…

Simon: 

Oh I’m a bit sick of those slides but yeah.

Darren: 

But you know the ones, disrupted the taxi industry.

Simon: 

Airbnb.

Darren: 

Airbnb the hotel industry. And it was because of technology. It wasn’t because of technology at all. It was actually making the customer experience more seamless and more enjoyable.

Simon: 

Life as a service.

Darren: 

Yeah.

Simon: 

That’s it.

Darren:

Life as a service.

Simon: 

Life as a service.

Darren: 

And yet, technology was the enabler.

Simon: 

Absolutely.

Darren: 

And yet you hear time and time again, when you’re talking about full stack integration, right, we hear about people focusing on the technology because it’s exciting, it’s new and yet what hasn’t changed is all that is is a tool to deliver a better customer experience. Giving people what they want, when they want it, how they want it, before sometimes they even know that they want it.

Simon: 

Just connecting experiences. I think that some of the best ideas the industry has ever had are the most simplest. And these are simple ideas that just connect two entities together.

Darren: 

Now on that idea of connecting, because one of the things that people talk about a lot is the idea of media and creative agencies getting back together.

Simon: 

Okay, interesting, yes.

Darren: 

And connecting the content messaging with the…

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren:

And look, anyone in the industry would absolutely agree that the two work hand in hand. You can’t have great media and no content and you can’t have content unless it’s distributed through some sort of media channel.

Simon: 

Agreed.

Darren: 

What’s your view?

Simon: 

I can’t make a statement on what the architecture our business may well look like and with Henry on board now, really excited to see his approach but you know, flavours in his key address were around integration and I think that absolutely aligns to the fact that ultimately what we’re trying to do is put a piece of content, regardless of what it is, whether it be a podcast, the spoken word, or a piece of advertising, in front of someone in the right place and the right time.

So that content led by data and creativity, it is the holy trinity. So I’d absolutely agree that if a media agency is not already working hand in hand with a creative partner of a client whether that be an external agency to the holding group opportunity or internally, that we need to absolutely remedy that and fix it. You cannot have good content without good data and without good placement otherwise you’ve got the tail wagging the dog. It doesn’t work.

Darren: 

So it’s interesting, we see a lot of creative agencies go back to the old model of bolting on a media function into the creative process.

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren: 

The thing about that, and when I started in the mid 80s, it was a one-hour meeting would be 50 minutes about the creative strategy and the creative work and then 10 minutes of, “Oh well, there’s the media. Is that fitting with the budget? Yeah, thanks very much.”

Simon: 

Yeah.

Darren: 

You know, it was always the tail of the dog rather than the dog, right?

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren: 

And when people talk about putting the two back together, it was actually Harold Mitchell who is, still I guess in some ways, he reflects a shadow over Carat and Dentsu but he said, “You can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube”.

Simon: 

Okay.

Darren:

That once it’s separated, they can never be back together again. The reason I’m sharing this with you is that recently, I’ve been really excited about the fact that people are not putting the toothpaste back into the tube, they’re reinventing the way of working.

Simon: 

I was about to say that. I one hundred percent agree. And also the view that Harold has, and most will respect his opinion is that very much we’re in a world now of unlimited data and creativity and I think that maybe we hadn’t considered the possibility of a data led organisation that’s able to have data led creativity where it is integrated across all platforms. So I think that the world has moved on and changed and we are innovating the toothpaste.

Darren:

Yeah. So Hearts and Sciences in the U.S., MDC Media Partners, there’s some examples that I’ve heard of around the world.

Simon: 

Yes.

Darren: 

When they work with creative agencies, it actually starts with data and the insights from that, from the media agencies. The client’s brief comes in, they go straight to the data and who has access to more of that than anyone else? The media agency.

Simon: 

Absolutely. I mean our proposition.

Darren: 

You’ve got first party from the client, you’ve got second, third party, you’ve got proprietary data, you’ve got all the data in the world. From that, you then get a view of the market place, insights into the market place, that informs the overall comms strategy, informs the creativity and informs the channel planning.

Simon: 

Absolutely. And I think to say that our proposition is real people. That underpins everything you do. It’s either real people proposition and at Carat we believe in the spirit of firsts and so that real people density that we’re able to drive is a catch cry, right? It’s a one to one relationship with a consumer if we’re able to unearth those insights compliantly through GDPR and also through all of our tools, techs and systems, then ultimately, why wouldn’t you use that data?

It seems a bit daft to me. It’s an area where we can drive creativity and vice versa though. Creatives absolutely understand that the best way is to entice a consumer, it’s the two together in a room with a client’s ambition that is just magic and I love it. So they’re the really good environments to be in because you get all that full brain thinking otherwise it’s just one side of the pie and we need to make sure that we bring all the mix together.

Darren: 

So you can see this already as a trend that’s happening?

Simon: 

I can see clients more and more are integrating the way all work flows of how we come together and if clients aren’t, then we’re innovating and asking them to work in a certain way which brings multiple capabilities into the fold. But it’s not just creativity, it’s technology, it’s sports marketing as well. They’re very different sets of capabilities that need to at certain times be brought into the mix at the right time too.

Darren: 

Sponsorship.

Simon: 

The whole shebang. And I think the quicker you can introduce what could be right at the edge of the comfort zone is where the magic happens.

Darren: 

Absolutely. I’ve just noticed the time, it’s been a terrific conversation, Simon. I really appreciate it. Thanks for making the time to come by and have a chat.

Simon: 

No worries, thank you very much for having me.

Darren: 

And just before we go, who do you think will be standing up there winning at least one of the three media agency of the year awards this year?

Media continues to be the single largest budget item for most advertisers. But media has changed significantly. Find out about our media solutions here

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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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