A view from Paul Frampton

Media is in the middle of a forest fire

The media industry is in the middle of a forest fire and must move from rhetoric to action to tackle its problems, argues Paul Frampton...

Josh Krichefski, the UK chief executive of MediaCom, provocatively opened Campaign's recent Media 360 conference by asking the audience if they were sitting comfortably.

He acknowledged openly the ferocious speed of change in the media industry and that we can neither put our head in the sand, nor our fingers in our ears. 

His sentiment reminded me of a quote that my Havas colleague Chris Hirst often uses from Death of A Salesman: "I’m not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, boys, you understand. There’s a big blaze all around."

We are in the midst of a forest fire. Media has undoubtedly been disrupted when you look at the impact of Google and Facebook on publishers or the Netflix effect on broadcasters. Concerns around ad-blocking and the quality of digital inventory gather frequency every week.

Discussion at Media 360 rightly centred on agency models, building brand fame in a digital age and genuine collaboration.

The media agency model of the future panel reflected that agencies have been fast to adapt over the past decade, but for me didn’t go far enough.

We are in the midst of a forest fire. Media has undoubtedly been disrupted when you look at the impact of Google and Facebook on publishers or the Netflix effect on broadcasters.

I had hoped to hear more talk of the need to start with owned and earned channels and evolve to a more consulting led model with UX at the core.

Holly Clarke from Airbnb stressed that customer experience today is the essential ingredient to building a brand in the digital age. As marketing becomes more underpinned by data and technology, management consultants are poised, but agencies retain a unique differentiator.

Deep human understanding and creative thinking that inform how brands build meaningful connections with people has never been more critical in a world awash with tech stacks and big data. 

On the collaboration panel I sat on, we discussed that collaboration is no longer just between client and agencies or with media owners, but with talent, tech companies, start-ups, influencers and distributors. Media can be built, not just bought today, so the days of paid media ruling everything are numbered.

Matt Warren of Grey Possible admitted creative agencies were guilty of being too distant from media owners and technology, and shared his plans to change this.

There was also broad consensus that media and creative must work closer together in this digital age, where medium and message are almost inseparable.

Chris Macleod of Transport for London was quick to point out it is the client who should orchestrate its agencies and target them with the same common goals, while Jeremy Bassett of Unilever went further by stating that he expected to work with a wider range of agencies given his many, fast-changing requirements.

When we meet again next year, it would feel wrong if the debate remains as religiously focused on "media". We need more creative stakeholders. There is a lot of talk of removing silos but, sadly, too much of this is rhetoric and not reality. 

Only together, can we crack the big thorny issues that impact trust – namely ad-blocking, viewability, automation and data privacy. And only together can we build meaningful brands for the digital age.

Uniting our collective brainpower to drive actionable change might just be the smartest thing we can do to get the forest fire under control and future-proof our beloved industry.

Paul Frampton is group chief executive, Havas Media Group UK & Ireland