TAKE A RISK, LEAD THE CHANGE
Businesses need to stop reacting to changes and start instigating transformation of their own – all the tools are there to challenge the norm, you just have to decide to do it
Is it time to stop accepting change and start orchestrating it? “We can get better and better. The disruption hasn’t even started,” said Mediacom’s chief transformation officer, Sue Unerman, during a round-table discussion.
Programmatic is unchallenged – accounting for 50% of all non-search digital ads. Now in its tenth year, the industry recognises programmatic’s immense power to transform the way in which customers experience ads and interact with brands.
As programmatic enters its second decade, fears over brand safety and a lack of transparency are just two of the fundamental problems the industry faces. There is also the stark feeling that creative programmatic work simply isn’t up to scratch. Huge adjustments must be made.
Aligning creativity with technology is key, achieved by bringing together some of the incremental moving parts of the programmatic journey. But how does that work in practice?
At a lunch hosted by Campaign and Mediamath, brands, media agencies and publishers including Dell, Shazam, IBM, Uber Brazil, Canon, Zenith and Newsuk, laid bare the challenges and debated how the industry must adapt.
High on the agenda was how to solve the problem of creativity falling behind fastmoving technological progress. Joanna O’connell, chief marketing officer at Mediamath, explained her frustration. “We did such a good job building all this great, smart technology and we just didn’t pay it off,” she said.
As Mark Simpson, vice-president, offering management and strategy, at IBM, pointed out, there is so much consumer data available, but it’s simply not being used enough in the creative. Marketing departments are coming together, but the gap between creative and marketing teams is holding back innovation.
SHIFTING TOWARD CREATIVE
Carolina Palma, Uber’s growth marketing manager in Brazil, said that media teams should work more closely with creative teams who don’t yet have the same data, tech, or user-behaviour knowledge that they have. “It’s going to take us a long time – years, maybe – but this is something we need to push hard,” she added.
Creatives must be more aware and hungry for the data and insights now available. Nonetheless, as Sean Healy, global communications planning director at Zenith, argued: “The key thing is who writes the brief. I would imagine that programmatic will shift the emphasis of the creative process. We’re figuring out how we get briefs to creatives’ minds that are fit for purpose. We have to push the dynamic adaptive creative more. We should work to elevate that to the highest possible art form it can be.”
Lee Bonniface, EMEA marketing director at Canon, agreed. “It’s about understanding the message you want to give your customer at the right time,” he said. “As a brand, we can see thousands of bits of content across the customer journey. We need to be clear about how we want you to use it.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, measurement is still a significant challenge.
“There is an opportunity to fund a new and more sophisticated approach to the consumer experience and creative process by driving more efficiency at the point of activation. What is holding us back is that measurement techniques are lagging behind delivery technology,” Healy said.
“I see generation after generation of people coming and doing what they are told by their bosses and not challenging it,” Unerman noted.
Dell’s global DSP manager, Asha Neuville, concurred, adding: “We’re
not testing new things… it must be very hard for an agency, coming back with something risky – saying: ‘Right, I have no idea if this will work… it could work or it could be an utter disaster.’”
Unerman conceded that it can be difficult to take innovative propositions to a client. “They ask how you know it’s going to work. We live in very hard times,” she said.
The guests at the table agreed that a flop is as useful as a great success in providing insight. However, as Ebru Ozguc, head of brand and marketing strategy at Vodafone Turkey, emphasised, businesses are operating in very uncertain times and fast-moving markets, with perpetual targets that must be hit. So how crucial is it for the industry to take the time and money to test new ideas?
“It’s short- versus long-term,” Simpson said. “The companies that have success will be long-term thinkers. Spending money on failures and learning from them is a much more effective use of time if you take that approach on a consistent basis, but it’s just tough taking that first step, culturally.”
Healy added: “Ultimately someone has to be the orchestrator of this stuff. “Whoever is acting as the orchestrator, be it creative or media – they need to get the right people in the room early. Technologists get involved [in the process] too late. It needs to be a different group of people around the table.”
So is a shift of focus needed from all sides – media-owners, brands, agencies and technology companies “actively thinking about making these things work together, rather than just making one piece good”, as O’connell put it – and would this require organisational change?
Unerman argued that it was simpler than that. People need to get behind one goal, which is to grow the business – not the KPIS or site visits. “The tech now is so exciting and revolutionarily that the capacity for us to get better at our jobs is higher and higher,” she argued. “I don’t think we’ve even started on the disruption.”
The group agreed that there was a need for greater unity and collaboration across the board – and what Ben Walmsley, digital commercial director at Newsuk, called “the democratising of data all the way along the chain”, where everyone has access to the same data and insights.
Nonetheless, as O’connell said, while helping build direct relationships sounds really good on paper, if there is no real will to focus on the relationships that are truly important, nothing will change.