Mindshare's Nilufar Fowler on the imminent value revolution

The chief client officer argues that the definition of growth, and the metrics agencies use to inform and execute on it, need to change

Mindshare's Nilufar Fowler on the imminent value revolution

Nilufar Fowler is a Chief Client Officer who misses her clients. She stepped into her new role just a few months ago, in the midst of the pandemic, and that’s left her working extra hard to build the types of client relationships that get things done. 

“A client relationship should be a convivial as well as a business relationship,” she says. “It’s a relationship where you push each other to do better together – and it’s harder to keep that working when you don’t get to meet face-to-face.”

The charisma and influence she carries with her when sharing a room with people is doubly important to Fowler. That’s because, unlike many of her previous leadership positions in her 15 years with Mindshare, it involves making a difference through persuasion rather than leading a team. “It’s not a role with direct reports or responsibilities – you don’t control, you win by influencing people,” she says. “It brings different parts of your personality to bear in the workplace, which I find quite interesting. I get very bored doing the same thing over and over again.”

Fowler needn't worry too much about becoming bored – because doing the same thing over and over isn’t on either her or Mindshare’s agenda. The agency has set itself the goal of helping to guide clients through an era of transformation – and she’s under no illusions about how revolutionary the change needs to be.

Redefining value for a ‘Good Growth’ era
“We’re positioning our agency to answer the question of how we find ‘Good Growth’ for our clients,” she says. “That’s long-term, sustainable growth that isn’t just good for their business but is also good for consumers and for the planet. It’s leading us in a fundamentally different direction and we’re going to see quite a rapid transformation.”

That transformation is already taking place – as evidenced by the way that some of Mindshare’s biggest clients are now approaching brand and business strategy. “For example, the connection with the ‘Good Growth’ concept is a key factor in our successful relationships with Unilever,” says Fowler. “They are driving for purpose-led growth for their brands because they know that their brands that have a stronger sense of purpose grow significantly faster.”

It’s this linking of purpose to the bottom line that Fowler believes can drive a revolution in how agencies and their clients operate – but she’s clear that there’s still work to be done to ensure that it happens. It’s work that will involve media agencies such as Mindshare crunching different kinds of numbers – and using them to make a case for alternative media and marketing choices.

“There's an interesting conversation around how you measure sustainable growth and prove its business impact,” she says. “We all know how to use data to measure sustainable growth in the long-term – but we also need to be able to measure it in the short-term. That way we can start to optimise against good growth measures in the same way you would have optimised against old-world media metrics such as cost per acquisition.”

Media and marketing are at a crossroads
The need for those metrics is all the more urgent because of the way that decisions on marketing strategy and media spend are often made. “You’ve often got very enlightened CMOs who recognise that the metrics of success need to change – but when you get to the pitch stage, the world still retrenches to talking about value in the same way it always has,” says Fowler. “There’s a risk to the media industry of a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, which ultimately isn’t good for anybody. That’s why we’re having conversations with lots of clients about reframing what value means in media and in marketing.”

It all adds up to create the sense that the industry is at a crossroads – with pricing pressures pushing decision-making in one direction, while forward-thinking marketing leaders are recognising the need to take it in another. Fowler believes that a well-connected media agency can play a critical role in helping clients choose the right path.

“The digital transformation that we’re seeing, and the requirements of doing business in a platform world, means that marketing has a more elevated seat at the table than ever before,” says Fowler. “I’ve seen more and more CMOs and Chief Media Officers coming to us and saying, ‘I’m presenting to the board and talking to investors about our brand strategy – can you put something together for me?’ That sort of opportunity to shape the conversation is happening more frequently.”

Attracting the finest future talent 
Another key reason for marketing agencies to drive this transformation is to ensure they appeal to the best future talent.

“It’s the right thing to do to drive growth for our clients and our business – but it’s also the right thing for our people, who want to feel that the work they do is beneficial and not harmful to society,” she says. “There’s been a really significant attrition of talent in our industry in the past 18 months – and making it a better and more responsible place to work is a big part of meeting the challenge. It enables us to bring in fresh thinking from diverse backgrounds – people who can talk to all of the different stakeholders at a client organisation, connect across silos and make things happen.”

Revolutions have a greater chance of success when they connect to people in all parts of our society. A more diverse media and marketing industry is an industry with real potential to reframe growth for its clients. And those are the types of relationships Fowler wants to be a part of.

For more insights from visionary Marketing Leaders check out LinkedIn’s CMO Corner.