Byravee Iyer
Jul 29, 2013

Q&A: SMG's John Sheehy on device convergence and integration

ASIA-PACIFIC - Publicis veteran John Sheehy took on the role of Starcom MediaVest Group’s president of global operations in 2011. As its president, Sheehy’s key role is to grow SMG’s business in emerging markets.

John Sheehy
John Sheehy

Sheehy’s other big responsibility includes working closely with clients across the globe to optimise budgets while preparing them for a new convergence-led marketing model. Sheehy is strongly against silos and believes that SMG is on the brink of being fully-integrated in all markets. The former Leo Burnett hand is based in Chicago and reports to global CEO Laura Desmond.

What are the key trends you’re seeing in Asia and what are you focusing on?

Certainly mobility and what that means to being able to deliver experiences. You take Indonesia as a market—we just did a Twitter campaign announcing new mortgage rates and the results and the return on investment was up significantly. In the past, we would have used traditional press, out-of-home and whatnot. The results and the ROI were up significantly. It’s a changing dynamic in terms of how consumers are using technology and how it’s impacting messaging. We see that trend happening market by market. We’re looking at a convergence model that’s helping us understand the amplifications from paid to owned to earned: how twitter is impacting TV and how they’re working together and the ROI and that. Another big trend, is looking at video and reach-based planning for our clients. The ability now to take a budget and extend reach by 10 per cent has certainly a big sales impact. Another trend is how we’re looking at audience segmentation and to get those meaningful audiences in real-time.

The consumer shift is happening at a quick transition rather than a slow glide. Clients are getting there faster and they are demanding real-time capability.

Media agencies have started to integrate online and broadcast TV teams, particularly in China. Is this the trend moving forward?

Absolutely! The digital team that we talked about a year ago is now fully embedded. This includes 100 per cent Google certification and Google analytics training across all our offices for all our staff. That’s really been the thrust of how we’re transforming. We’re trying not to silo digital, and mobile capabilities. Of course, not all markets have this fully integrated capability, but that’s where we’re headed. The other offshoot of this is to get data analytics infused not just to measure, but also to work with insights—how we are using new tools and capability to bring our clients more insights and capability.

Does it make sense across the board or perhaps in markets like China where online video viewership has outstripped traditional TV?

That’s even more reason to do it across the board. We know that the way consumers are evolving, digital demand will outgrow traditional media. In Western Europe we’re seeing traditional spend drop and digital increase. Here in Asia we’re seeing traditional spend growing, but at a decreasing pace while digital growth explodes. There was an announcement on Baidu and Facebook about their accelerated earnings growth on mobile, so it’s not surprising where usage is going. So if we’re not changing capabilities and tools and talent, we’ll lose. That’s what clients are asking, too. In line with that, we’re doing lots of training with clients, partnering in different ways to bring in different types of talent and to connect the dots.

What does this mean for the marketing mix model?

Let’s go back to consumer usage and experiences. If you look at the role of each individual influence, traditionally, we’ve been able to say how TV impact sales. We don’t have a way to measure convergence. Today it’s more important than ever to understand how you measure a total media effect and understand the amplification across paid, owned and earned media. If you can measure that you can shift your spend. At SMG we can use that data to optimise spends. That’s where it gets really exciting—whether it’s the evolution of a campaign or bringing in new content, or partnering up in different ways. It’s not a service business anymore, it’s a product business. Our new modeling approach called ‘Poem’ is a convergence model that looks amplification. It allows both efficiency and effectiveness.  It’s been a big change for clients like Microsoft, Samsung and P&G.

SMG has been striving to bring down silos. How are you leading clients, particularly traditional marketers in that direction?

By having conversations that are a lot different from the ones we had a year ago. When we go to a client, it first starts with the consumer—how we’re building reach and how share shifting is going from TV to tablets to mobility, and how optimisation across zones could use the same budget and maximise reach. That has been a game changer. We’re also having conversations about modeling. Traditionally, media companies have been able to do upfront measurement and audience targeting, but now we’re able to look at how the variables are working. It’s really about adjusting dials to fine tune what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

What shifts are happening with clients and what are they seeking from agencies?

Most clients want to understand their consumers, their category and they want to make sure that as a business partner we understand what they’re doing, which is to maximise their dollar effectively and efficiently. From a media perspective, we have incredible consumer understanding capability that we unleash for our clients. That gives us a front seat at the table. Then we get into our activation capabilities. Marketers want to understand what happens if they shift their dollars from TV to video. So we’re helping them understand that and execute that. It’s not that marketers are saying 'what' about Twitter but more ‘how do I do it’. So we’re helping them lead that piece of change.



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