Media: Double Standards - 'The industry is on the brink of something great'

Two digital media specialists describe the exciting new advertising opportunities technology is affording clients.

PETE ROBINS - MANAGING PARTNER, AGENDA21

- To what degree does online and other 'digital' media remain a specialism apart from offline media?

These days, you can't advise a client about media if you don't know something about digital media. But with digital media now encompassing so many channels, you need specialists to properly keep up. There are areas within digital media that require skills not needed for other media, such as campaign delivery or the more technical bits, so it requires you to be doing it all the time to prevent a descent into generic waffle. I think a more generalist media planner cannot have the in-depth knowledge that's required. However, given its mainstream stature, to do digital media you need to get media per se, otherwise you'll struggle to put it in context of other marketing.

- Describe your agency's approach and how it benefits clients.

Doing digital media is pretty easy; doing it really well is hard - it's the last few per cent that makes the difference. We focus on the things that will make the biggest difference while scrutinising the finest detail, inspire our clients and media owners, and use data and technology to drive it all along. This requires really smart people, a team with plenty of experience, strong processes and an entrepreneurial spirit. Then, by being nimble and collaborative, we try to outwit our client's competition.

- How important is it to integrate your thinking with the creative message of a campaign, and are you making steps in this direction?

Sometimes, time and money issues prevent proper integration, regardless of where the creative is coming from. Our view is that clients and creative types do need help from us in terms of the art of the possible as, increasingly, this is media-led, and a little bit of open communication goes a long way. We try to do this as early on as possible and then let them do their "magic".

- What lessons can the market learn from the collapse of i-level?

Even with a solid business, be wary of the economics of debt. We don't have any.

- How inevitable was slower growth in online adspend last year, and do you see this trend changing any time soon?

In the context of the overall market, people expected it. I still envisage growth, but not at the rates of old. There are so many tangible developments we've not yet capitalised on as an industry. The rate of invention in the digital space outside of agencies isn't going to slow, and this is going to keep fuelling digital marketing investment for a while yet.

- What are the most exciting advertising opportunities available online right now?

The ability to link more and more useful data into the decision-making chain, which then subsequently runs the media delivery technology. With behavioural, profile, client and media owner data, and even other third-party-sourced data, we can be increasingly advanced in the way we decide an exposure's worth at the point of delivery, the message we deliver and how we measure it. Making sense of all this, reacting quickly, modifying a number of variables and bringing in bigger, bolder media ideas that link deeper into a client's business - this can be done now.

- What are your plans for your business?

Ideally, to grow at the rate we have been growing in the right areas. Continue our investment plans into a wider range of services and other businesses - eg. digital asset optimisation, managing discovery and distribution techniques alongside traditional digital media skills. Then develop our Media Science data and tech tools, and push on with our sister full-service mobile agency, addictive!

CHARLIE MCGEE - DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL, CARAT

- To what degree does online and other 'digital' media remain a specialism apart from offline media?

It's no longer a specialism and should no longer be described as such. It still very much requires skills, training, investment and specialist teams - like all types of media - but digital works harder for advertisers when it's part of an overall media approach, rather than something that sits outside the strategic thinking.

- Describe your agency's approach and how it benefits clients.

Carat is very much integrated - in that all our thinking and delivery is done by people who understand the role of digital within our clients' business. Ranging from paid media to technology to social to search, the inter-relationship of these is vital to pushing a client's business forward. This way, we can start to make decisions based on overall media performance, rather than just the performance of different media. A subtle but important difference.

- How important is it to integrate your thinking with the creative message of a campaign, and are you making steps in this direction?

It's very important. The best work we see is when all the agencies get in a room right at the start of the briefing with a strong client leading the process. That way, we start with an idea, not just an ad. We are making progress here. We are seeing less land grabs from competing agencies, better ways of working together and clients that are encouraging better inter-agency relationships.

- What lessons can the market learn from the collapse of i-level?

The digital media landscape changes so rapidly that innovation and constant development are vital to any business of any size within our industry. You need a vision to achieve even the most basic of goals and this, sadly, appeared to be missing at i-level towards the end.

- How inevitable was slower growth in online adspend last year, and do you see this trend changing any time soon?

It was inevitable that things would be tougher. However, if you can go into those circumstances and survive, you come out a stronger proposition. Online adspend is up and will continue to increase. However, the money is being spent smarter than ever before - and that's a good thing.

- What are the most exciting advertising opportunities available online right now?

What's exciting for Carat are the new ideas across mobile, social and demand-side trading, and innovations in the video-on-demand market. Where it gets really interesting is how you combine all of these with all the data available from both offand online activity. The industry is on the brink of something great.

- What are your plans for your business?

The development of ad exchanges, as well as new data and technology platforms. On top of this, we will continue to focus on integrated thinking, continued investment in digital talent and working closely with the network to harness different skills. And we plan to have some fun along the way.

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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).