Media: Double Standards - 'Even I smiled when I first heard my job title.'

SMG's Iain Jacob and MEC's Mel Varley explain why innovation, investment and a global perspective are always vital to successful growth.

IAIN JACOB - president, global innovation, Starcom MediaVest Group

- Why is it important for your network to have somebody senior in a global strategy/innovation role?

Yes, even I smiled when I first heard my title! It's everybody's job to innovate, right? My view is that agencies must learn to lead again and innovation is where clients need leadership. In 2009, clients re-set their cost base - in 2010, they are seeking to return to profitable growth. This means finding new markets, segments and audiences. Doing this demands leadership and commitment at a global board level.

- How encouraged are you that clients are now looking for service that goes beyond control of costs?

Very. Deutsche Bank recently published a report showing the difference in profitable growth between client companies that have invested in marketing and those that had simply cut back. The results spoke for themselves and it made buy/sell recommendations on the back of it. But clients aren't looking for more advertising; they are looking for profitable growth. Digital blurs the lines on services that get them there. For example, we recently brought together Pizza Hut and Vodafone so people can add the cost of a pizza to their phone bill with an app. One click to buy creates more sales.

- How true is it that media agencies generally have failed to invest enough in innovation and new services

Any agency failing to invest in innovation has no future. In 2009, despite the recession, we launched Space ID, the agency insight programme that was recognised as Research Breakthrough of the Year at the Market Research Society Awards. Our investment in performance marketing tripled the size of the business, and our media holding group, VivaKi, bought Razorfish - so we are investing. There is, however, a pervasive and rather daft idea that a single agency or group can have all the answers and can invest enough to answer all client challenges. They don't and they can't, and that's why in today's complex world, open-source approaches work. Innovation is 50 per cent culture, 50 per cent investment; you need to know how to collaborate with other companies to succeed.

- In what ways can the role of the media agency grow in importance to clients?

There are two types of people in life - those that spend money and those that make money. Guess which are most important? Our innovation is all about client growth. For example, we run our own social network in the UK called The Street, which we use to test ideas in real time. Using this for Hovis, we identified how to best position its Hearty Oats product, thereby adding value quickly and tangibly.

- To what degree does your network recognise local differences and regions growing at different rates?

We cluster markets by commonality of environment, not by geographic position on the map. This recognition is a deep part of our organisation strategy, and our approach makes us more agile. However, there is one common truth across markets. When I first got the EMEA chief executive role five years ago, a global marketer told me my job was easy. All I had to do was get the right leadership team in place in each market and everything else would work out fine. He was right, but it wasn't that easy.

- What's the most exciting thing about your job?

Continual change ... and Airmiles.

MEL VARLEY - chief strategy officer, global, Mediaedge:cia

- Why is it important for your network to have somebody senior in a global strategy/innovation role?

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become our clients' most valued business partner by shifting communications to the centre of the value chain. This is an incredibly exciting and highly complex challenge for a network spanning 84 countries. To deliver that, we need a global plan, a route map and a navigator.

- How encouraged are you that clients are now looking for service that goes beyond control of costs?

Cost remains the primary focus. However, the debate has become more balanced in the past six months. It has also accelerated in more digitally developed countries where the opportunity for communications to impact the client's bottom line is greater.

- How true is it that media agencies generally have failed to invest enough in innovation and new services

It is not true at all. History shows that most innovation occurs during recession, and this is true for MEC. In recent years, we have rolled out search, SEO, social, performance, mobile, retail, content, sports, entertainment and cause practices. We have aggressively shifted the profile of our talent pool during the recession to be much more digital.

We have re-engineered Navigator, our integrated planning approach, and trained more than 1,000 people globally in three-day boot camps in the past six months. In 2010, we launched a blueprint to guide future development of our Analytics & Insight practice (previously MediaLab) and ramped up our technology investments.

- In what ways can the role of the media agency grow in importance to clients?

This is the subject of our recent thought leadership work, "Are you in control enough to let go?", available at www.mecglobal.com. In a digital world, we can better understand and change people's behaviour, not just attitude. We can hardwire data to decisions. We can plan and buy organically to improve results, throwing off the restraints of the annual marketing calendar. We can create, amplify and distribute liquid content. We can orchestrate effective integration of marketing and communications across paid, owned and earned channels.

- To what degree does your network recognise local differences and regions growing at different rates?

We have consistent objectives, principles, practices, processes and values as a network, as well as tools and technologies. Local chief executives blend these with their national resources and practices to deliver the best job for our clients. We are growing where our clients are, and resources tend to reflect that.

- What's the most exciting thing about your job?

Sharing the passion of our people around the world, and seeing our work continually evolve and become more exciting and effective.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).