Media: Double Standards - Getting results from looking at human behaviour

The chiefs of two direct media agencies on being paid by results, the changing face of the business and why direct departments are no match for years of experience.

PETER MITCHELL - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, WWAV RAPP COLLINS MEDIA

- What differentiates your agency from others?

People. Scale. Resource. Insight. Great people make great businesses. Full stop. But within that context, we have the advantage of being an integral part of an offering that encompasses a creative agency with global scale and a strong data analytics offering (Identex). As media continues to fragment and consumer behaviour changes, access to leading-edge insight gives us a crucial edge.

- What do you need to have a strong direct response offering?

Add robust measurement metrics to the above, plus an understanding of how digital fits into the overall marketing mix and how it has impacted on consumer behaviour and the overall customer journey.

- Every media agency has a direct department now - is it harder for specialists because of this?

We grew our business by 28 per cent last year, so the obvious answer is "no!". Setting up a direct department is no match for more than 25 years of accrued experience and a truly integrated offering. We have access to more expertise - in data analytics, for example - than any other agency, and that's a key differentiator.

- Which single factor has most changed your business in recent months/years?

Digital, without question. While we have always constantly evolved, it has required a step change, but one that has been positively reinvigorating. The growth of digital and social media has complicated the overall customer journey, making life much more challenging, but ultimately meaning only the really smart, insight-driven agencies will prosper. Which is fine by me.

- What do you most enjoy about working in media?

The people. I've been lucky enough to work with great talent - and great people. Not to mention more than my fair share of talented clients! And it's much better than a proper job.

- To what degree do clients pay you by results?

We actually offer more in the way of payment by results than most clients ever take us up on. Many clients still tend to want to work on the basis of fixed, rather than variable, costs.

- What's your favourite piece of your agency's work from the last year?

Somerfield. In particular, the way we worked with the creative agency to glean real consumer insight into Somerfield customers and how they behave. This led us to a strategy that centred on Somerfield's customers and what they value most. The media mix is unique, as is the measurement strategy. The business impact has been phenomenal. And, of course, "best in class" media buying never hurts!

- If you weren't running a media business, what would you be doing?

Obviously I'd make a great client - not sure my agencies would agree, though! Probably something entrepreneurial. I'd be a cross between Alan Sugar, John Watson and Richard Branson. Which is a truly scary thought.

MIKE COLLING - MANAGING DIRECTOR, MC&C

- What differentiates your agency from others?

Our two brand promises to clients. The first of these is that we create new value for clients. Basically, this means that if we can't measure and prove that value, we won't work with a client. Our second promise is that we are business problem-solvers. Of course, media and data are the tools we use to solve business problems, but they are not ends in themselves. It's about getting to the root of an issue and returning with a real solution to it.

- What do you need to have a strong direct response offering?

Fundamentally, you need a team that is prepared to stand up and be measured against its promises. In our approach, every strategy, every plan and every booking has a forecast return for the client. The results of every piece of activity are measured and reported against that original forecast, which means that the team is accountable, daily, for their advice to clients. Not every media planner/buyer is happy with that. Fortunately for us, ours thrive on it.

- Every media agency has a direct department now - is it harder for specialists because of this?

Not at all. It lends credibility to the discipline, and tells clients exactly why they need us. In fact, we welcome the newcomers: the general agencies contribute to the growth of the sector and, in turn, the growth of the specialists.

- Which single factor has most changed your business in recent months/years?

Our ability to provide an integrated view of the world. When we set up, we were focused totally on direct response, and this has certainly changed. One of our key progressions over the past five years has been our ability to both understand and accurately model the return on marketing investment from integrated brand and response activities. Telling a client that they can achieve a greater ROI by predisposing a consumer to respond, as an adjunct to merely exhorting them to respond, has always been a truism. In the end, placing a value on each ingredient in the recipe allows us to bake a bigger cake.

- What do you most enjoy about working in media?

The fact that I learn something new every day. Ours is a constantly evolving market. The intellectual stimulation it provides is fabulous. What you gain is, more often than not, an insight into human behaviour, and how we can influence it. Given that I'm a zoologist by trade, that's a double payback.

- To what degree do clients pay you by results?

Almost entirely, as befits the brand promise. To my mind, if it doesn't create value, why bother doing it?

- What's your favourite piece of your agency's work from the last year?

The "Home for Life" campaign for the RSPCA. It transformed its legacy fundraising, showing donors the value that the organisation can bring to them at their death, rather than the other way around. On a strategic level, that approach significantly changed the relationship between organisation and donor; on a more practical level, it increased response rates by around 170 times - a good example of modern DM thinking and execution.

- If you weren't running a media business, what would you be doing?

There is a very, very long list, and I just don't have the space to even start it here.

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