Staff Reporters
Feb 10, 2015

Media360Summit preview: Data a transitional opportunity

Key industry players see technological shift of big data and programmatic buying as a revitalising force but warn strategic caution is essential to avoid pitfalls ahead.

CW from top left: Cooper, Vasudev, Kelshaw, de Rijk
CW from top left: Cooper, Vasudev, Kelshaw, de Rijk

This article previews the 2015 Media360Summit, taking place this Thursday in Hong Kong. 

Mike Cooper, CEO
PHD Worldwide

Over the last decade our business has been transformed by technology. In fact, media has been changed probably more than any other business. More than ever, clients are seeing the impact of media and technology and the inevitable fragmentation this brings has profound effects on multiple aspects of their business. That’s leading more clients to take a step back and look at how they are managing their communications from a holistic point of view. As a result, more clients are now looking at employing agencies on global communications planning assignments because they are seeing the huge upsides this can bring.

Agencies that engage with clients further up the food chain are seeing tangible benefits on a large scale. Through our own experience with Source — PHD’s global communications planning system, which harnesses the collective talent of the network to drive over 450 ideas a day for clients — we’ve seen a real willingness from clients to take that thinking and engage at a higher level than media buying. Unilever has been among the first of our clients to adopt and embrace this, meaning we now handle strategic communications planning globally for the great majority of their business. Other clients are now starting to see value in this tactic and we now manage global communications planning for several multinationals. Media needs to be about strong strategic thinking across multiple markets and media disciplines; simply providing scale is not enough.

This is important because going into 2015, an increasing number of clients will start pooling together their data and enriching it with third-party sources, then using this for more sophisticated forms of programmatic buying. As the buying side of the business becomes more technology driven, the planning side is already being elevated to become more like marketing planning. 

This means that the kind of people we need to hire is evolving. We need planners who really understand the scope and opportunity that the latest technology affords. Hence we are increasingly seeking people who can blend together a strong knowledge of (and genuine interest in) technology with creativity and innovation. Let’s call them creative technologists.

At the same time, the relationships between clients, agencies and media owners are constantly developing. We find the most productive relationships are those where we are collaborating in a triumvirate with all parties.

Collaboration continues to be the key to getting results for clients and it’s no coincidence that our most collaborative work, such as the ‘All-Lego ad break’ for Warner Bros and ‘KKT’ for Unilever, were awarded four of the five Gold Lions at Cannes this year. 


Rahul Vasudev, MD, Asia-Pacific

Before marketers can truly use data as a real revenue driver there is a critical need to take a step back and understand the hard tasks in building a formidable data-driven practice. Without a reflective and calculated approach, the risks of failure or a less-than-satisfactory outcome are not only real, but likely.

We can divide marketers into two broad categories: one group who desire brand equity uplift and a second who are acquisition or direct-response focused. It is usually the latter group who believe that data-driven marketing can help meet or exceed their objectives, while brand advertisers feel they aren’t quite ready yet.

Brand advertisers would be surprised at the amount of data already owned, including audience data and retail performance data, and how today CRM databases can also be integrated to build a data-driven approach to marketing. These data sets can be centralised in a marketing operating system, which enables brand advertisers to achieve up to 10 times the return on their marketing investments.

In the direct-response field, more advertisers are experimenting with and building best practices in the programmatic space. E-commerce giants such as Walmart and Rakuten have developed and deployed their own in-house technology stack to exploit their rich data. Using historical CRM and real-time behavioural data, these firms are able to identify and target both loyal and prospective customers with the right marketing message at the right time through display, social and even video. 

Looking ahead, we foresee a persistent trend of companies beginning to build frameworks to capitalise on and monetise their owned and earned data. For marketers — brand or acquisition — looking to make their marketing more programmatic, implementing the right solutions for the desired business or marketing objectives will be essential. It is equally important to understand limitations to internal expertise and to consequently reach out for expert help when necessary. While progressive firms are moving fast to adopt and bring technologies such as programmatic buying in house, others may fare better by finding the right partner, such as an agency with deep programmatic understanding and expertise, to gain the most benefit out of data activation.

In activating data for performance, the single most important activity is to ensure a strategic and cultural alignment within the organisation. Every stakeholder, from the C-suite to IT, sales, and even fellow marketing team members, must believe that a data-driven approach to marketing is the only way forward. In today’s world, where the majority of audiences are increasingly engaged on digital platforms and devices, this internal conviction is, arguably, a true necessity for any organisation to remain competitive.


Tom Kelshaw, director of technology

In 2015, our industry might advance more through learning from the new breed of exponential technology organisations than from technology itself. We’ll need to behave more like Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb — tech companies we admire, but should also fear. 

The media agency industry is highly specialised yet highly competitive and commoditised. We bemoan procurement-led pitches, while ‘lowest CPM’ is a regular part of our vocabulary.

How do we escape commoditisation? By learning from technology companies. Salim Ismail, Yuri Van Geest and Michael Malone recently launched a book with futurist Singularity University detailing how these Exponential Organisations avoid battles of sameness via a 10 per cent difference. They aim for a tenfold impact by introducing radical changes. Remember newspaper classifieds, film photography, travel agencies and CD singles? All have been destroyed by exponential organisations.

Radical difference could be the key. Tesla dominates through supply-chain. It owns the batteries, the plants, the chargers and most importantly the dealerships. Tighter integration of supply chain could help media to “go exponential”.

Exponential tech companies subvert an important concept in economics called “marginal cost”. After you’ve built your company, your brand and operations and begin selling, the ideal is to reduce the incremental cost of each product to near zero. The first Model T, after R&D and production line, was very costly to Ford. The hundredth was much more profitable.

It costs Google zero to service a new client in Adwords. Airbnb can supply 10 new hotel rooms for nothing. Uber can add 100 cabs for zip. 

Yet for media agencies, the more clients we win, the more data we collect, the more planning we do and the more media we buy. It rarely gets any cheaper. Of course, our holding companies deliver huge efficiencies where they can, but the real day-to-day impact cannot increase exponentially.

The challenge here is to use technology to radically reduce our marginal costs of servicing clients. Programmatic everything — perhaps even creative — may be part of this, but we need to go further to survive.


Michel de Rijk, CEO, Asia-Pacific

As we continue to drive innovation in the programmatic buying space, we expect to see increased awareness on both sides of the benefits it has to offer. We are already seeing an increase in publishers adopting the concept and mechanics of programmatic buying, which gives as much control to the seller as to the buyer if used correctly. In 2015, we are even more focused on partnering with clients to deliver their business objectives with programmatic technology.

The issue with some advertisers is that the focus is often on surface metrics. This mindset of launching programmatic campaigns to chase highest click rates is passé and outdated. To stay on top of the curve, brands need to be able to track a consumer journey from end-to-end: from traffic drivers to audiences and in the cases of performance advertisers, drive conversion. Without proper tracking in place, we will not see this industry progress.

There are also too many advertisers focused on selecting a DSP to work with. A good programmatic campaign does not thrive that way.  It is not a simple case of ‘press and play’. It requires talented people and strategic, intelligent use of data — not DSP algorithms — to achieve great results. In 2015, we will see advertisers who had taken programmatic in-house come back to us for quantifiable ROI. 

Times are changing. We have seen e-commerce take China by storm and we foresee this trend growing in Asia-Pacific this year. 2015 will also see growth in cross-devices. 

Sophisticated markets such as Australia and Singapore will follow the US/UK trend and concentrate more on quality instead of quantity (price) of media bought programmatically. Larger and more discerning advertisers will expect proper brand safety and viewability from their media and technology providers. This will buck the trend with the developing markets and separate the good from the bad use of programmatic.

Finally, we continue to stay strong in our stand that programmatic is the way to go and that all media will one day be digital and all digital will be programmatic. 


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