“I can say with certainty that we have never seen a more chaotic time in the industry,” said Michael Kassan, chairman and CEO of MediaLink, opening the first panel discussion for the 350 attendees at the fourth Media360Summit in Hong Kong today.
Henry Tajer, global CEO of IPG Mediabrands, who stepped into his role early last year right in the midst of the ‘mediapalooza’, quipped that he thought “it was my welcome party.”
“I was pleased to find out it wasn’t,” he added. “But it definitely brought to the forefront the ‘T’ of tenacity, to see agencies come together and fulfill promises. As much as we talk about all the pitches that happened, that’s just process. The work begins once that’s done.”
Tajer believes that 2016 is set to witness more changes as there are more brands in the marketplace that need to rethink what they’re doing and take moves to shift to adapt. “It’s a whole new era for marketing as a whole.”
Rahul Welde, vice-president of media at Unilever Asia, said that transformation is the umbrella ‘T’ that is driving these changes, as brands and businesses seek to adapt to a changing environment.
“Consumers now look at brands differently, from a perspective of user consumption and increasingly, as media,” he added. “As marketers we have to revisit the old models. A this all came together in 2015 and is not an issue that will go away. I think we’re looking at the early phases of transformation from all sides, be it brand, agency or media.”
Welde noted that the media reviews that took place last year, Unilever's included, were part of a cycle of assessment that many brands typically undertake, made more prominent by an across the board need to review marketing needs.
“I think what’s changed is the cycle of reassessment in terms length of time,” he added. “It’s healthy and helps everyone take stock of what’s happening and does what’s best for the brand and consumers.”
Christophe Cases, deputy global managing director and CEO of Greater China at Havas Media Group, said that the pace of change and chaos is more acutely felt in China.
“I think the need to rethink marketing for brands in Asia may be more dramatic and rapid than other regions,” he said.
However, Mainardo de Nardis, CEO of OMD Worldwide, disagreed with fellow panelists on the number of pitches last year being an unprecedented event.
“Yes, there were a lot of pitches last year but there were pitches the last two year before as well so I’m not seeing huge change taking place there," he said. "Clients are just reviewing their needs. That being said the industry has changed phenomenally in every aspect including talent, which I believe is the most important thing we need to address.”
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But some aspects of the business have yet to be addressed and to illustrate de Nardis pointed to the pay-for-performance space, where on one side it’s about one-to-one marketing at scale and performance with multi-screen measurement and transparency, but on the other side, it’s selling on commission on paid media.
“This hasn’t evolved,” he added. “How is it going to change? I think this is the biggest black hole in the industry today, and agencies need to be more open about it.”
De Nardis said that more and more, agencies need to “earn their seat” at the table and not take it for granted. He cited market changes as a great opportunity for doing exciting things and trying out new ideas.
Welde said he believes the role of media agencies is changing, and that there is a role for them to play in this new state of affairs. He pointed to the creation of ULTRA (Unilever Trading Desk) to illustrate.
“We just launched our own trading desk, but we still did it with our agency partner Mindshare,” he added. “It not that the agency is out of the picture, the main thing is that accountability is getting redefined.”
The onus is on agencies to redesign themselves, added Havas’ Cases, and operate outside boundaries to create value.
Welde said that with areas like programmatic, change is taking place faster than what the industry is used to.
“We have to step up the pace of change to match and execute some of these transformation models we talk about,” he added. “It’s a lot of buzzwords, but it all now needs to come to bear and be better than what we were before.”
Picking up on the talent theme in a later session, Lindsay Pattison, CEO of Maxus Worldwide spoke on leadership, culture and change covering, Gen-Y and gender inequality: