Claire Fenner is the newly appointed CEO of Atomic 212, one of Australia’s most established media indies. David and Claire discuss what the role of CEO means in today’s industry and why that has to be different to what it was ten years ago; agency brand reputation building and re-building; the hot topics of media measurement and impending changes to the Privacy Act; and what it all means for the industry.
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But it’s valuable, and it’s adding value to what we do. And I think it should be leveraged across the industry as we get more and more capability from it.
Welcome to Managing Marketing, a podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.
My name is David Angell, and today, I’m joined by Claire Fenner. The newly appointed, I think CEO of Atomic 212, one of Australia’s leading independent media agencies.
Welcome, Claire, and thank you for being on the podcast. It’s great to be talking with you.
Great to be here. Thank you for having me, David.
That’s no worries.
Now, let’s talk. I did just say congratulations, but I’ll say it again because I mean, I think we’ve worked together on and off in the past and I was really happy to see you elevated. Congratulations on your recent appointment to CEO.
It’s a role that I’m interested in the CEO agency role. I’ve done a CCO role, I’ve done an MD role. I’ve never actually done a CEO role and it’s a role I think has many preconceptions attached to it, particularly for media agencies.
So, what is a media agency CEO in your view, and how are you juggling the priorities of your role and how are those changing over time, do you think?
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’ll firstly start by saying that I acknowledge that I’m gonna come at this with my own preconceived ideas of what the CEO role is. And I think those ideas I formed early in my career looking at the really big personalities across the advertising industry. Not necessarily just media agency side, but across the full breadth of the industry.
I had in my head that CEOs were always big personalities, had a massive presence in market. It felt very ego-driven. I’m not naming names, it just felt like that was the type of person that had to be, or that was the fit that needed to be in a CEO role.
That’s just how what I had in the back of my head. It wasn’t something I was even thinking about as I progressed through my career. And I don’t think about other people that often really. It was just a general conception in my head.
And I never really aspired to actually become a CEO. I talk about this a lot with people that I’m close to, that I’ve had a lot of success in my career. I’ve worked very hard and people respect the work that I do, and the opinions I have, and the experience.
But I’ve never ever been hungry for that next role. It’s always come to me as a reward and recognition for what I’ve delivered. So, I was never thinking about CEO. In fact, in the last three or four years, I’ve actually been actively thinking about not wanting to do a CEO role whenever it’s come up.
But I started to rethink my preconceived ideas about it because I think the CEO role has changed quite a bit. I don’t necessarily know what has influenced that. Maybe the industry is getting a bit more sophisticated than the way it was when I was first in the early days of my career. Maybe it’s more prominent CEOs that are female that’s changing the dynamic a bit.
I don’t know what it is, but I certainly think that CEO role is becoming more meaningful, broadly speaking, across agencies. And I think meaningful in terms of some of the amazing CEOs across the industry that are actually driving impact in their business and strategic impact for their clients. Not just that big presence in market that I perceived at the beginning of my career.
So, I started thinking about it differently in terms of what I could bring to the role and what value me as a leader in our business and with our client partners. What I could contribute if I was in this role. And to also, elevate my team below me. The leadership team in our business is amazing.
And so, there’s so many people within that cohort in our business that had the opportunity to step up as I stepped up as well.
And so, it was a relatively easy decision in the end, but as I said, I had to overcome my preconceived ideas. I’m a three months in, I’m just gonna approach it with where I think I can add value. I’ve never wanted to be inauthentic.
I’ve always been myself in any role I’ve done. As I said, I didn’t ever have aspirations to get to certain roles. I’ve just kept doing good work and built amazing relationships with clients.
And so, I’ll just continue to do that and support the team. And yeah, that’s how I approach the role and that’s how I think about it.
But honestly, I think the fact that you haven’t had aspirations probably is one of the biggest contributing factors. Because when people do have clear aspirations, that can come across not always in the best way.
If you’re gunning for the top role the whole time and you’re not focused on what you’re doing, I don’t think that always works.
But I mean, you’ve unpacked a lot of stuff there. The sophistication of the leadership role required, I think that’s definitely changed. And I think that’s a lot to do with people’s values. I think it’s a lot to do with DE&I becoming much more to the forefront.
I think it’s also, to do with the profile of a media agency. That the trading behemoth media agency, that doesn’t play so much anymore. And it’s not to say that trading’s not important, but 20 years ago, that was a very different personality required to drive that kind of business.
Rightly or wrongly, there’s no disrespecting that versus this. It just, it is what it is. So, I think, and we’ll come and maybe talk a bit more about media agency development in context of Atomic.
And also, I mean, you mentioned female leadership. I wanted you to mention that. I do think we have seen, I mean, there’s been some trailblazers in Australia who … I mean, probably Katie Ruth Smith springs to mind as one of them. But there are a number of them, right?
And I think the leadership profile of media agency specifically is far more female dominated than it was. And I think that has changed things. I think that has changed the profile of leadership and the some different perspectives and different skills.
Yeah. And I think it’s so beneficial to the industry and the people in our industry to have that breadth and equality across the leadership.
Look, seriously, diversity again. I mean, it can’t be a bad thing, can it? And I think, I mean, gender diversity is one arm of that. And I do honestly think, no one would suggest that the battle is over in terms of making sure that industries really are diverse.
But certainly, I think the media agency industry has taken some great strides. And we’re going off topic slightly here. But do you agree with that? I mean-
There’s stuff to do still, I think. But do you agree with that?
I think there’s absolutely still stuff to do and work to do. And I often stop myself and think about if I was in someone else’s shoes, how I would perceive this. Because I’ve been very fortunate in my career and don’t feel like I’ve ever been held back as a woman.
But I do know that and certainly some close friends feel that at some times that there’s still pressures or restraints in terms of how they can progress within the industry.
So, there’s still work to be done. But I’d like to think that we’ve actually made some decent progress compared to some other industries. And particularly as we’ve just talked about, the number of female CEOs that we’re seeing across the industry, which is a very positive movement.
Look, it’s action rather than just talk. And talking more broadly about diversity, clearly, I mean, the MFA have a number of initiatives, AANA have initiatives.
And I think that combined with actual visibility of people in top jobs who do represent a degree of diversity, that’s gonna lead to reputational … what’s the word? Reputational improvement. That’s gonna lead to more people coming in to the industry from the ground up, who see that reputational improvement. And it’s gonna improve the reputation of specific agencies in general.
I wanted to talk about reputation. That’s the segue. See what I did there?
Great segue. So, have you done this before?
It’s like I’ve done this before. But the fact that I highlighted the segue kind of took away the coolness of the segue, but never mind. You are a leading agency with strong reputation in market today. And that’s for a number of reasons.
But I think it’s fair to say that you guys of Atomic 212 has had its tough times and you’ve had to go on a bit of a rebuilding journey over the past four years or so. And I think, I mean, agencies go on rebuilding journeys all the time.
But I think you had a particularly pronounced rebuilding journey and it’s led to some real success. How have you found that and what do you think has contributed most to what …
I mean, if you look at it on paper, you’re not just surviving, but you’re thriving. It’s clearly been a really, really good turnaround. So, what would you attribute to that?
It’s a really interesting question and I think reputation’s interesting because I think people that have always been close to our business and that work with us, don’t necessarily perceive the reputation that maybe we were dealing with over the last four or so years.
And I’m honestly still taken aback and surprised when I occasionally, (and it’s very occasionally these days) get specific questions about our past. We just don’t think about it anymore. We’re so far beyond it and we have thrived, as you said, but it’s definitely been a journey.
I’m not ignoring the impact of the past, but at the time, we very much focused internally on our staff and on our clients. Our client partners were just focused on the work we do for them every day and the results we deliver for them and the people that work with them.
And they never falted. They stuck with us through that. And we just kept delivering. We kept delivering the amazing product and kept developing our product. And our amazing people evolved, grew. We’ve grown in terms of the number of people and developed our people internally.
And I think that focus we’ve very much been focused internally and on our client partners over the last four or so years that has driven success. And that is what got us through that history. But it’s also, what is driving success today.
And it’s what allows us to compete against the major holding groups and very confidently compete against them.
And it’s our product and our people any day that will win a client for us. I think our product is unique in its future focused and it’s what clients are increasingly looking for in terms of being able to quantify what their media is driving for their business in terms of business outcomes.
And I think as long as you’ve got a strong product and amazing people, you’ll succeed. And I think reputation isn’t hindering us.
I think it is interesting. Those comments indicate a consistency of approach. Essentially, you held the line. It’s people and products. You focused on what you know and that has then delivered benefits.
I mean, you’ve also, had the C word being COVID happening right in the middle of it. I mean, COVID has been done to death now, I think we’re not gonna talk about it. I’m just acknowledging the fact that you also, had COVID to deal with.
It’s been a hell of a four years.
I don’t know whether you personally have to deal with COVID, but certainly as a business, you had to deal with COVID. And there’s an element of KISS in what you say. There’s an element to keep it simple. There’s an element of you’ve held the line, like I say, through thick and thin.
And I think that’s been rewarded with some client tenure as well as some new clients that have come along.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s something we’ve been very conscious to hold onto as we’ve grown, because we’ve grown significantly. So, even growing pains would’ve been a challenge over this period.
But we’ve always made sure we focus on establishing very strong partnerships with our clients and amazing relationships with them, but making sure that filters down into all levels of our business because if we continue to scale and it’s reliant on two or three individuals that have those relationships, it’s obviously not valuable.
So, it’s really critical for us to make sure that our teams are immersing themselves in their clients and helping solve whatever those challenges are for them.
So, you are growing?
We certainly are.
And agencies generally can’t grow without pitching.
It’s another segue. I’m loving this conversation, it’s a very segue. Let’s pat myself on the back, why not?
Funny enough, I don’t ask that many podcast guests about pitching. I mean, you’d think I would. It’s part of what Trinity P3 does, it’s what we’re best known for. But I don’t often ask about pitching, but I can’t resist. You’re new CCEO, I should probably ask you something about pitching.
What do you think’s changing? What’s staying the same? What’s surprising delighting or dismaying you in the pitches that you are seeing regardless of whether consultants are running them or not? What are you seeing out there in the market?
I’d actually love to ask you this question too.
I think I can give you some thoughts. You first.
I’ll share my thoughts. But I think we see such a broad range of styles of pitchers, as you said, some have consultants involved, some don’t, some are procurement led, some are the marketing team leading them.
And I think that can often influence the types of challenges and the dynamics or the opportunities that we see within a pitch.
I think as a general trend, unfortunately, we’re still seeing so much focus on cost, price. And rather than the value that a media agency can drive for a business and drive the growth through a business, it often still is too much focus on price.
That’s pockets that we’re seeing that are positive in terms of clients that actually recognize the value of what the service and product they’re buying is and how much it’ll contribute. And price is a secondary factor. But I think all too often we are still seeing price play too big a role in pitchers.
It’s obviously critical, it’s a commercial engagement and both parties negotiate that and come to an agreement. But I think it can compromise the quality of service in some instances when clients and procurement drive down the service fee too much.
Sometimes it can be pushed in the wrong direction. But I think more and more we’re seeing clients that are actually have a real appetite to work with agencies that can be a game changer for their business.
So, recognizing what the agency can deliver. As I said, price is often still a factor in the end decision, but that’s not necessarily deciding which agency. It’s more so, “We like you, but we need to get to this price.” Is often what we hear and see.
But I think more and more, a really positive thing is that clients are actually looking for the right partner and recognizing the value that we can drive for them, whether they pay for that and recognize that.
And fee is the question. But yeah, I think we’re starting to see clients as I talked to before, look for an agency that can help them justify their role of media marketing in their broader business and the lever that it is to drive growth for their business.
And that’s where, as I said, our product is really, really starting to come into its own in terms of driving our ongoing success.
Yeah. Well, I can give you some opinion. I mean, I think I want to hold that thought on price because I wanna come back to that.
I think in terms of what I see and what we see specifically, it is kind of biased because there are certain pitches we will not participate in because we have values that are kind of similar to what you just said in terms of assessing based on the value output as opposed to the cost input always.
And that has to be in balance, of course. But we are seeing a greater number of clients who are more prepared to have that conversation, who aren’t prepared to sacrifice and negate the entire process we’ve just gone through to die on the beach of costs.
Because while we have gone through that, we should have just asked for a spreadsheet and be done with it. We make that point all the time. Like I say, I mean, some pitches that we don’t get when we’re pitching for the pitch business. Because we have those conversations and some people just aren’t interested. Fair enough.
I think the other thing that’s interesting is the integration of media which has been talked about for years and years. But I think with various elements of tech, with various elements of complexity in the market, organizations are finally realizing that media can’t be a standalone and media does need to be integrated.
And we’re seeing that come through in hybridized models, composite pitching, in-housing, roster structure, and design, that all of which feeds into a media agency that’s more capable of operating in multiple different directions as opposed to just one direction.
Which I think talks to some of the things you mentioned in your model there. And I think probably accounts to some of your success. We’re seeing that quite a lot.
I think clients are finally gripping the fact that it can’t just be about placement, it can’t just be about inventory. It can’t just be about 7, 9, 10. It can’t just be about … it’s taken years. But I think-
Yeah, totally. That’s all become hygiene and it’s the complexity of what we do beyond that, that really adds value.
Yeah. Which is of course, a massive opportunity for agencies and a challenge, but a massive opportunity. But I do wanna touch on price. I mean, obviously, there’s two components of price in a media agency pitch. There’s the service fee, which you mentioned, and or remuneration structure. And of course, there’s inventory cost.
Are you still seeing massive spreadsheets for inventory costs? And you must reduce your CPM every year by 5%, all of that kind of stuff.
More and more in that respect. The agency fee was what I was referring to before. But yeah, more and more in terms of media rate pricing.
See, that’s something that feels a step. I mean, again, we don’t participate a lot. If we can avoid it, we recommend against that. And because there are other ways to look at it.
Why is it happening more and more, do you think? Because that feels like a step back. That’s counterintuitive, right?
Yeah. I don’t know what’s driving the fact that it’s — or at least we’re certainly seeing it increase. It could purely be a procurement thing, it could be nervousness from marketing teams that they need some sort of benchmark to be able to understand if they’re gonna be better off or worse off.
Apples for apples comparison or they perceive it to be an apples for apples comparison rather than the layers that get added on top of that in terms of the service and product of the agency.
I feel like it’s almost creating in their minds a benchmark, whether it’s procurement or marketing driving it. A benchmark that they feel like they can compare and then make a decision based on what they see in the room on the day in the interaction with the team.
But I feel like it’s driven by nervousness a little bit, just wanting that security that they’re not trading off significantly in terms of the cost of the media being such a significant cost to their business. I think that’s what must be driving it.
There’s also, a dynamic for us which we’ve well and truly overcome over the years. But early on, there was naturally a question from clients of whether or not we could compete against the holding groups in terms of our negotiation of buying power.
It’s not even a question anymore, but again, maybe it was making sure that they had something to tick off to make sure that every agency in the mix and being able to invite an independent like us into the mix, being able to compare like for like, and making sure they weren’t missing out.
Look, I do understand, and I’ve worked with … my last agency role was Chief Commercial Officer of Havas across the group. I understand that. And in some past the world, it’s still very, very heavily focused on cheap media.
And I can understand, given that it’s the largest line item of cost that runs through a budget that there needs to be some reassurance. But one thing counteracts the other. If you want a value equation, don’t look at cheap media because that’s not a value equation. That’s a cost input equation.
Totally. And can actually compromise.
It compromises quality. So, and then all of the things that we both know about just how many variables are involved in media trading at any given one time.
How some channels, anything RTB, anything programmatic, anything that’s … it’s just next to impossible to really truly get an apples for apples picture in my opinion.
I’m sure lots of people more clever than me will have products that try and do that, but I’ve never seen a convincing one if I’m honest. You can do a sort of apples for apples in terms of yeah, get every agency to submit their CPMs against certain … but how meaningful is that? Given that even despite any strategic changes, the market changes, everything else, it’s supply demand.
So, all of that stuff I think really is counterintuitive. I do think that clients are sort of starting to realize that more. It’s a shame that you say there’s more, that you’re seeing a rise in it because … and again, this is where our bias comes in because I mean, we’ll do rate spreadsheets if we have to but we’re not a media auditor and we don’t profess to be.
We know how to do them, but we don’t advocate them. And so, lot of our pitches are run without them. And it is very focused on what kind of business outcomes and commercial outcomes are your strategies gonna achieve.
And are you prepared to be KPI’d on that as opposed to KPI’d on making a reduction in line over CPM. And we all know how that can be done.
If an agency has to hit a financial incentive on low cost CPM, then certain inventory will be prioritized. And that’s just the way it is. So, yeah, I think that everything we just said there suggests to things are sort of pointing in the right direction in some ways, but still being dragged back a bit in others.
I guess the only thing I’d say about the media pricing with our clients and there’s a broad range of whether they’re audited against the pricing or if it’s just a benchmarking exercise in the pitch. There’s varying degrees of that.
But I would say, 90% of the time, those pricing commitments don’t compromise the quality of media we’re delivering for them. In the day to day, there’s a conversation around what we’re actually doing, why we’re doing it.
And then if it doesn’t fit within the constraints of the pricing template, pricing benchmarks, that will become an exception if it is audited.
And so, I don’t feel like it compromises our delivery, but it does play a role in how we operate and how we work, of course for our clients naturally. And it’s only gonna impact the end, the media owner. Like it’s just gradually beating down that price further and further.
Yeah, agreed. And it doesn’t really help. I take your point about of course, every good agency doesn’t like compromise equality, no good agency is. You wouldn’t have big clients if you just continuously buying crack all the time. Of course you wouldn’t.
But those exceptions get harder and harder the more and more and more exceptions. Okay, at what point does it become meaningless to talk about CPM and more meaningful, just to talk about what’s the best use of dollar for dollar return on a sales basis rather than the dollar for dollar cost input on a year on year basis?
And look, frankly, I think once a client is within your walls, it’s easier to have those conversations. And it makes the setup of your contract, your KPI structure, all the more important, even if you have to do this stuff in pitches.
If you can set something up like you say that has exception clauses or however you want to put it, then that gives you leverage to then start evolving over time, I guess. Tell me how you disagree, but that’s how I see it.
Yeah. It’s very, very true. Yeah. And as you said, ultimately, driving the result for the client is what matters.
It does. And measurement is what matters, isn’t it? Measurement is what matters. We’ve been talking about measurement from the perspective of the client and measuring outcomes, but there has been some recent debate if we sort of narrow in a bit on the media industry. Around the modernization and overhaul of TV measurement.
Nothing we’ve said to date about CPMs and cost inputs, and everything else, makes measurement not important, obviously. How we’re measuring success is one thing, but how we’re understanding what we’re trading as a media agency is quite another. And we of course need that to be accurate and modernized.
So, yeah, the modernization and overall of TV measurement to replace the current OzTAM and lots of opinions regarding the feasibility of it, the willingness for some to use … and a consolidated linear and digital, the VOZ platform that’s been mooted. As CEO of Atomic, what’s your position?
I think progress is good and I think we need progress. I think in some respects, it’s been slower than we’d ideally like, but with the shift in viewing behavior … obviously, we’re talking specific to screens or TV and billboard in this conversation.
That shift in viewing behavior mandates that we need to progress beyond the traditional measurement. So, VOZ is a great step toward that. It’s still got kinks, it’s still been worked out. It’s have not been rolled out in its fullest capacity.
But it’s valuable and it’s adding value to what we do. And I think it should be leveraged across the industry as we get more and more capability from it. I think it’s critical to have that unified view of TV and billboard.
I think we cannot operate and do a good job of buying screens, video, on our client’s behalf without that unified view of the audience. I think we are only looking at one small piece of the pie if we stick with the traditional metrics.
But I’ve shared my views recently in terms of, I think the industry, so that we are not lagging constantly, we need to look way beyond VOZ, leverage it for what it is and the value it’s gonna give us in the insight across the two platforms. But we need to be looking further than that.
As the viewing continues to shift more and more into streaming and billboard, we need to start to think about how we can better measure the impact of that activity on business outcomes beyond audience there.
I think there’s gonna be so much capability that could be unlocked if we actually start to … and I’m not in the rooms that might be planning the end state, but I would hope that there’s a lot more thought way beyond where we are with VOZ in terms of where we can get to with measurement.
The billboard marketplace will be something if it eventuates in terms of all TV networks coming together with a joint billboard marketplace, again, helps with that measurement equation because we’re actually able to look at unified inventory across a single platform rather than disparate buying solutions. And therefore the measurement can give us a unified view of audience as well.
Yeah. I mean, there’s an analytical component and there’s a human component, I think. I mean, consolidated measurement across multiple media channels, not just screens, has been rooted for years, and years, and years.
I mean, there’s been various currencies put forward by various agencies or various groups. But of course, without consolidation, that’s really hard. And from an analytics point of view, you have to be much clever than I am to work out how that’s actually done. I’m not suggesting it’s easy, it’s really hard.
But of course, the human component. You just mentioned TV networks coming together, there’s a human component there. It’s competing-
Inter agency competition, inter media channel competition. I think there have been some quite encouraging voices. Was it Michael Stevenson or Natalie Hart, I can’t remember. One of the two of them, possibly both saying that, “Look, disparate measurement, I mean, it’s gonna lead to in quotes, chaos. It’s just chaos.”
And I agree with that. I mean, at some point, something has to give and the networks have to accept that they’re gonna win some, lose some off the back of a consolidated measurement platform that is more future facing, shall we say, than what we currently have.
Yeah, absolutely. And when I talked about the end state measurement that I envisaged for TV, billboard, I think having it closer and closer to the impact for the client beyond just audience is valuable for the media owners in terms of valuing the inventory they’re selling and preserving the yield, et cetera.
I think as agencies, we are responsible for looking at the holistic measurement of our campaigns. And yes, there’s no system that does that in terms of a single measurement platform that can evaluate the impact of all campaigns in terms of a media tool.
But modeling has always been there, will always be there, and it’s the most robust way to measure the holistic impact of a campaign.
And that’s where the end source of truth should be in my opinion. But there are the day-to-day processes that the teams need to go through in terms of what you said, we still need basic metrics that we buy towards, that we trade against. So, there’s two dynamics.
Yeah, correct. Absolutely right. It’s translating analytics currency into trading currency. And I mean, modeling I think is becoming more and more sophisticated over time. It is becoming more and more important over time. I think it’s becoming more holistic over time. It’s not just media modeling anymore.
But yeah, from the buyers perspective … and there’s still media buyers are still important, and media salespeople are still important. And there has to be an equitable currency that translates one from the other. But look, hey, we’re not gonna solve that in this room. I don’t think.
We certainly aren’t, but we can dream.
We can dream.
I want to pick up on another sort of really challenging issue. A germane issue for the whole industry, I think agencies and advertisers alike, is privacy. The government’s plans to limit segmentation and targeting of advertising ordinances for privacy reasons via an updated privacy act.
And I think in fact there’s an argument between industry bodies, the government, the consumer rights alliance is really kind of heating up.
How big do you think the fallout could be? It seems like this is becoming really quite tricky and challenging.
Yeah, I think it is. And I don’t profess to be an expert on this. I think there’s a lot of people that have analyzed this in much more detail. But obviously, across the major issues in terms of our industry, and I think it has the potential to be quite severe.
And I think it’s largely driven by I guess the constraints and allowances that are within it that are aiming to regulate it and control it. But even just the … I forget the wording, but the right to sue. The end consumer has the right to sue about misuse of their data.
That’s great for the end consumer in terms of the intentions around it, that it puts the power in their hands. But to me, that feels like it’s driving a lot of fear in terms of trying to find the middle ground between protecting the end consumer and how businesses then need to operate.
If this becomes legislation, the constraints around how they need to operate and the restrictions on businesses that are leveraging data in our industry in particular. I think there’s a safe way to do that, to leverage data without compromising privacy.
But I think right now, if I was sitting on the other side of the fence in terms of, say a media owner or a loyalty business, if I was looking at this legislation and thinking about the impact on my business, but also, the need to make sure that everything is buttoned down and adhering to the potential legislation, I think that fear of the right to sue would naturally be playing into it.
And so, if that means that everything gets paired back completely, businesses will be compromised by that because it is something that is becoming a very commercial driver for major businesses.
A lot of them would be compromised significantly, as I said, loyalty businesses, but even media owners as I think would be compromised in terms of the content they can deliver for the end audience, the end consumer.
And so, I think it needs to find a balance. It’s not as simple as typing it up so much that the end consumer is protected.
I think it needs to be somewhere in between so that where data is being used in a way that doesn’t actually compromise their privacy, it’s not identifiable data and not tracking them in a way that is compromising their privacy.
Then I think that’s the ideal middle ground that we need to land on. But as I said, I don’t profess to be an expert, but-
You’re more of an expert than I am. I mean, I’m following it as a media practitioner, so to speak. As are you, I’m certainly not working for the government and I don’t have an expertise in legislation.
But it does seem like you say, I mean, it’s knock on effect, is what you’re describing. And that would extend its service providers and various businesses who are set up to provide data that can maybe no longer be used.
The right to sue. I mean, it’s not just about buttoning down, but I think it opens the door to spurious misuse of litigation by consumers who just are trying their own, chasing their arm. And how’s that gonna play?
Yeah. And you can imagine that the … and like I’m not a lawyer, but you can imagine that the-
We don’t know anything. And so, we’re not lawyer, or the government. We just-
You can imagine that the onus would then fall on business to defend the claim against them rather than the onus on the consumer to prove it, because-
Yes, of course.
… where is that proof gonna come from? And so, that’s scary in itself.
It’s potentially hugely damaging. So, yeah, look, again, we’re not gonna solve it in this room, but it’s certainly interesting to have your perspective on it.
And I mean, the IRB is quite strongly involved in this. And I mean, I’m not sure how their intervention is gonna play out either, if I’m perfectly honest, because how defensive it becomes, I don’t know. But it’s one to watch.
Yeah. And it’s an interesting one if we take off our industry hats. Like if I think about my friends that don’t understand the depths of their data that’s being used, I think there is a bit of a fear around it.
Like sometimes I’ll get into lengthy discussions where people will raise it with me knowing that I’ve got a bit of understanding from my job of how data is used. I think a lot of people would probably have a visibility of how it’s used across broader industries.
But I think yeah, certainly the average consumer either wouldn’t be conscious of it and therefore it could be being abused beyond their knowledge and they just don’t have that control. But the average consumer, I’d say has concerns around it.
So, I think it’s a necessary step for us to take to make sure that the privacy legislation is up to scratch and making sure businesses aren’t misusing data. But yeah, finding that balance is critical.
Indeed, indeed. I mean, it’s gonna be one that plays certainly into the short term. And there are other big plays I think. I mean, there are always other big plays happening. And this industry never stops.
We haven’t even mentioned AI once or ChatGPT, which gotta be a first in any conversation I’ve had in the past-
You just mentioned it.
I’ve ruined it because I’ve mentioned it now. So, I hoped we’d get through half an hour without talking about it, but you don’t have to answer with ChatGPT or AI.
But thinking about the short to medium term future and marketing, not just media necessarily, but marketing, what do you see out there? What are you hearing from your clients? What’s coming down the pipe that excites you or maybe scares you a bit? Like privacy legislation that could have a profound impact.
I’m gonna talk about this more broadly because I think trends come and go. And I’m not saying that AI, ChatGPT will come and go. I think they have a role in our future, absolutely.
But I think there’s a broader theme that I think is really, really positive in our industry. And I’ve talked to this a bit already, so I don’t wanna sound like a broken record. But I think more and more marketing as an industry, media marketing, advertising is looking more at the impact it’s driving in terms of business growth.
As I said earlier, like I think we’ve lost that over the more recent decades in terms of the value of marketing with within organizations. And I think, as I said at the beginning, marketing often has become a cost center rather than a growth center.
And I think that’s the biggest opportunity for all of us is to shift that tide and continue to shift that tide so that the value of what we deliver is truly recognized within businesses. And it’s a opportunity for a business to invest and drive growth for their business because they can quantify the impact and the outcomes that are coming from their media investment.
And continuing that journey, I think that’s a long-term trend that I think is really, really positive in our industry. It’s not a trend that’s gonna come and go. I think it’s something that we’re gonna see as something really sustainable and that we’ll see our industry flourish into the future.
I hope so. I can tell you, we certainly see it really has ramped up. I mean, we went through a whole era of personalization being the thing that would deliver return. We’ve gone through a whole period of enterprise tech being a thing. From a C-suite perspective that we just magically kind of create this.
I don’t think that’s all that those kind of promises have always been or even often been realized. And I think that has put marketers then ever increased pressure to say, “Well, look, we’ve now, got all this stuff, where’s the bridge between the cost of marketing and the impact of marketing?”
So that I don’t view it as a sunk cost and I don’t view the marketing department as the coloring department. And I can trust you as drivers of growth as much anything else.
We get asked this stuff all the time in all the work that we do that’s not pitches. We do assessment work, an internal work of various kinds with different marketers. And we run a lot of stakeholder interviews that go in and around not just the marketing team, but internal stakeholders.
So, typically, when you talk to a CFO for example, it’s always the first question, how do we do it? And the role of agencies within that is obviously, critical because so much money flows through them and so much expertise is derived from them.
So, I think you’re absolutely right. It’s a bit like with diversity and inclusion, there’s still a long way to go, but I think those questions are becoming more and more prevalent.
I think they are contributing to stress and shorter and shorter tenures of CMOs in on the one hand, but on the other hand, they are a massive opportunity for marketing to sort of come out from under that pile of rocks and be a real influencer.
Yeah. And I think the reason we’re in this position, in my opinion, and with this opportunity ahead, is that we as an industry, for so long became obsessed with digital metrics because it was the first time it was readily available that we had real-time data linked directly to spend.
And so, agencies and marketers relied on that to provide an update on what their investment was delivering. Especially when it first started it, digital investment was such a small piece of the pie.
But even at its peak, it is only a portion of the pie. And so, it’s doing a disservice to marketing to say that these are the results we’ve delivered because you’re missing so much of that impact. And I think that’s been a big part of why we’re here.
Yeah. You’ve expanded on the personalization, but I mean, I was alluding to that in part, is that the magic of the internet fixing everything. Now, we can run dynamic content that targets individuals and it’s linked to the privacy thing. Well, of course, there’s been a backlash against it become too …
But yeah, people became fixated with those metrics. And all too often, and this links to something else we were talking about around value out rather than cost in, all too often the metrics became too myopic, too inwardly focus. We were looking at cost per clicks and cost per engagements and-
And often false metrics like last click.
I mean, last click attribution is still here, and visibility standards, and all of those kind of things which half of the frame being seen for one second or whatever … I can’t remember the exact detail, but those kind of things.
Along with all the challenges around botnet fraud and everything else, that you have created this kind of real challenge around … I think some CEO, there’s an inherent sense of kind of promise not delivered about it all, that does need to be rectified.
And we can’t expect CEOs to be marketing experts and that they’re still catching up with all of this stuff because it’s just we’re in our little bubble talking about it and the rest of these organizations is catching up with this.
Some marketing teams are still catching up with it, so.
Do you know what, Claire, we’re all catching up with it. Can you bring me one person in here who knows everything about this and the pigs will fly, so to speak. I think it’s all part of the challenge. And our whole industry has grown up and flourished around it.
And the complexity of that, just of that industry, as a subset, as you say, it’s only one part of the pie. But oh my god, it’s a complicated part of the pie. Look, again, it’s both challenge and opportunity, but we’ll see where things go.
Well, I should ask one final question. It is a bit of a tradition. I get told off sometimes by Darren. Darren likes me to ask a random final question. So, I’ve been thinking about what that question might be.
And I have to, we were talking about your 14 month old beautiful daughter. So, my final question is, scale of one to 10, if your beautiful daughter became an agency CEO in her future, how happy would you be about that knowing what you know, three months in?
Ooh, I would be very happy, and I’ll caveat this.
This is just a joke question by the way. Of course, you’re happy in your own role, but what …
No, I’d be very happy, but I think it would be a positive indication that our industry is still thriving and it’s still a critical industry.
Because I also, have concerns that maybe it’s not gonna head in that direction. She’ll be, let’s say 30 minimum, maybe 40. That’s in a long time. It’s a few decades from now. I have questions of whether the media agency industry will exist in its current form. And so-
That’s a really good answer.
… that actually makes me very happy to think that at 30, 40 years’ time, she will be a CEO.
It’ll be Fenner Media by then.
It’ll be Fenner Media and you’ll be sitting in a castle somewhere in London, controlling, with nine phones in front of you.
Yeah. I also, hope she’ll do something really fun and creative with her life. So, we’ll see.
That’s what we hope for all our children. That’s a good way to end. Hope for the children. It’s all about the children.
Hope for the children.
Hey, it’s been lovely talking to you, Claire. Thank you so much for your insight. I think that’s been a really fascinating conversation. And all the best with your still new role.
Thank you very much. Lovely chatting to you.