Media: Double Standards - Fostering an 'experimental marketing culture'

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 12 November 2010 12:00AM

Two advertising technologists on the importance of innovation to connect brands and consumers in the digital age.

JOHN SNYDER - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, GRAPESHOT

- What changes have you seen in media agencies' approach to innovation in 2010?

Agencies are responding to the non-broadcast world, where consumers choose who to interact with and when. As people spend more time online, agencies understand that where someone sees a display ad, or in what context they clicked through, can affect the creative displayed and provide intelligence that helps ensure customers' loyalty. However, many agencies still buy large volumes of display ads and spray them around the internet with little use of technology to target, segment, interact with and learn from specific online audiences. Agencies talk about demand-side platforms and real-time bidding to buy inventory, but few have the in-house technologies and know-how to find the right audience.

- What practical change has this delivered in the way media agencies work?

Some agencies are moving from talking to doing: working with technologists to obtain more intelligence about the online inventory they are buying and influencing the creative served as well as where the click lands on the advertiser's page.

- In what ways have these changes delivered real added value to advertisers?

Click-through rates are often criticised, but uplifts of between 40 and 115 per cent in CTR on campaigns do indicate a change in users' response or reaction. The ability to carve out the appropriate contexts in which an ad should appear increases both the efficiency and efficacy of a campaign. For example, Grapeshot was recently used for a L'Oreal campaign run by Zenith on IPC Magazines to connect the ads with news about Cheryl Cole, the face of L'Oreal.

- And how have they delivered a better experience for consumers?

The data revolution and new technologies are delivering display advertising that is subtle and relevant and adds to consumers' experience rather than being irrelevant noise.

- What do you think the biggest innovation challenges will be for media agencies in 2011?

They need technology and data fast. Either they outsource to suppliers or get some internal USP or capability that gives them a technology edge. Google has successfully built systems and methods, and the danger is that agencies rely on Google as their white-label supplier, without realising they need their own unique differentiator.

- Describe the media agency business model in 2020.

Agencies are calculating ways to participate in online conversations that they do not control. This means they will focus on multiple interactions with consumers based not only on age, gender and location but also interests, habits, intent, likes and dislikes. Agencies will be far more knowledgeable about how to converse and with whom to converse in a world that is more fragmented than today. For economies of scale, this will require technology and data at its heart. The business model will be predicated on results that can be measured and linked directly to sales and increased of share of voice.

JOHN V WILLSHIRE - HEAD OF INNOVATION, PHD

- What changes have you seen in media agencies' approach to innovation in 2010?

It varies by agency, obviously, but I think at the heart of every media agency is a realisation that our role has always been to connect companies with people, and there are a lot more ways to go about that now besides buying space in broadcast media. Admittedly, though, some agencies are further down the path of acting on that than others.

- What practical change has this delivered in the way media agencies work?

It's about breaking all the old habits, continually questioning the given logic of a previous era, and trying out new approaches. Given that we're identifying opportunities for clients to connect with people, we're asked not just to identify the space, but create that which fills it too. So we've made everything from primetime ITV shows, to episodic social games on Facebook, to running crowdsourced design and manufacture projects. It works because we're not afraid to bring in specialist help and collaborate to make the thing brilliant, where perhaps other types of agency want to try to make it all themselves.

- In what ways have these changes delivered real added value to advertisers?

A great media agency nowadays is leading clients into a much more experimental marketing culture, which means that, in the short term, the value you're looking at is more often "learning and understanding" for everyone involved. This is really important in an age when "case studies" are largely redundant as an exact predictor for what will work. Every organisation's culture and people are so different that copying exactly what other people did isn't going to work for you in the same way. Learning what works for you specifically in the short term will deliver real value into the medium and long term.

- And how have they delivered a better experience for consumers?

For a start, we need to stop calling them consumers. It's a word that makes you think that everyone's the same. If you think of customers as people, with all the discrepancies and differences that suggests, I believe you'll start doing things that are inherently much more rewarding for them.

- What do you think the biggest innovation challenges will be for media agencies in 2011?

For some, it will be how to build on the success of 2010. For others, it will be what else to suggest when the clamour for "advert fame" means the 30-second spots in The X Factor become too expensive to justify.

- Describe the media agency business model in 2020.

Nope. Anyone who claims to know that is either a fool or owns a Tardis. Though if anyone reading this does have a Tardis, how much do you want for it?

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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