Tuning into media chatter

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Agreed! A good idea can come from anywhere, says Guy Hearn

Pratap Bose

When two senior media professionals talk about what could be better with the existing media agency structure, cat.a.lyst is all ears



Guy Hearn, chief innovation officer, Asia-Pacific Omnicom Media Group is a market research professional who entered his current role only about 10 months ago.

Now his primary role is in trying to get clients and people in his agency to think out of the box. “It’s easy in the media to get stuck in the rut. You think in a certain way. The client is also not complaining,” he says. Then suddenly one day everything you thought was normal changes. A new person takes over at the client’s end and begins asking, “Where is the innovation?” As Hearn points out, “You cannot tell him, you never asked for it till date,” and before you know the agency might be in the danger of losing the business.”

In conversation with him is Pratap Bose, president, The Advertising Club. Bose was till recently the COO of DDB Mudra Group, he has been a part of the media function even before it was split from the full service agency. His first comment is whether agencies should look at online media separately, rather than look at print, television and outdoor on one side and put digital and social on the other. “One of the things we all struggle with is that media agencies as a philosophy think of channels. But you have to look at a holistic consumer-first view,” says Hearn.

“You are saying the idea comes first and channels follow,” Bose clarifies. “Yes, the strategy comes first. Channels follow,” says Hearn. The trouble is that media agencies are not realising this fast enough. The trouble is to integrate all of the expertise that’s available in-house. Often, media agencies look at the top media channels first in the budget allocation phase. When they have a little more money, they will divert it to avenues like on-the-ground (OTG) activation or some such channel. It’s only then that the team in charge of OTG begins to think of an idea rather than being involved with the entire process of media strategy from the very beginning.

“We first do channel planning and then look at strategy. We all struggle with it. Of course, we are getting better. But we are getting better faster in some areas than others and in some businesses faster than others,” says Hearn. He issues a warning that agencies should start thinking in terms of strategy rather than the schedule planning, as the latter will surely get automated sometime soon. “Is there some value we add in the algorithm of media planning, I don’t know. But all I know is that, the lesser you add value, your job will disappear at some point of time,” says Hearn.

“The other thing is our obsession with revenue over profit,” says Hearn. A $10-million dollar client is more valuable than a client who would spend less regardless of the profit. Again, that needs thinking.

Hearn and Bose agree that a good idea can come from anywhere. That’s why agencies are now opening their client briefs to offices around the world to crowd-source ideas from internal resources.

“It’s collaborative vision,” they say. “The incentive to people is recognition. They want to be on the leaderboard. This person from some small office somewhere would have never got this opportunity before,” says Hearn.

The chat steers back to the digital domain. Why are digital teams treated as if they are from a different planet? “You call someone a digital media expert, but not someone who works on print media as a print expert,” says Bose. “I came to media from the outside,” says Hearn who has worked with market research organisations such as Millward Brown and TNS. “I did not understand why digital social or mobile teams used to sit in a different section of the office. I understand that execution is different. I do not understand the differentiation,” he says and foresees the end of the digital department. The other area that annoys Hearn are terms like B2B marketing. “It’s the same customer,” he says.

Finally, Hearn has a question for Bose. Will reintegration of media with the creative agency ever happen? “Media and creative will never come back again. We have gone too far from the line now,” says Bose. But both agree that being separate entities does not stop media and creative agencies from working together. The client that makes a compatible pair like that would win.

Published on June 05, 2014

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