Proceedings at the inaugural Media360Asia event got underway with an address by WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell, who gave his views on the outlook for the media and advertising industry for 2013.
Looking ahead to the coming year, Sorrell was cautious. He noted that while clients for the most part presented a positive face, there had been little evidence of that translating into a positive change in spending behaviour. He listed the biggest spending sectors as being FMCG, automotive, technology, telecoms and government. He concluded his talk by stating that agencies needed to find a new way of engaging, “not just with clients and media owners of the legacy kind, but of the new kind — or we’ll be increasingly disintermediated”.
Sorrell’s presentation was followed by a discussion that focused on enhancing the client-agency relationship. A panel of three marketers, moderated by Rob Norman, chief digital officer of GroupM, exchanged views on effective collaboration. Prashant Agarwal, regional marketing director for Dell, said he was not looking for agencies to “service” clients, but rather challenge them and be suitably empowered to operate as a partner on a common goal.
From an IT perspective, Adam Anger, GM of advertising and online for Microsoft Greater China, agreed that the market had evolved from requiring “transactional resellers” to “solution providers”. Sameer Singh, vice-president and global head of media at GlaxoSmithKline, lamented a vacuum in terms of thought leadership and transactional leadership. “Thought leadership can be managed by anyone who has thoughts,” he said. “Transactional leadership has become more like project management. That is a really important skill.”
A session featuring Chris Dobson, executive vice-president of BBC Advertising, examined means of calculating the value of different media. Dobson pointed out that while consumers do not differentiate between screen formats, there is still a tendency by the industry to assign different values to mobile, TV and desktop platforms based on outdated preconceptions. “If we do not redress this, we have a problem,” he said.
Dobson’s argument was followed by a panel discussion around the changing media agency model. Participants included PHD CEO Mike Cooper, GroupM chairman Irwin Gottlieb, and ZenithOptimedia CEO Steve King. All were in agreement that clients were increasingly looking for what King described as “navigational partners”. But King cautioned against agencies moving too fast to offer services that were not yet fully developed.
There was also a difference of opinion between Cooper and Gottlieb. Cooper argued that “big ideas” should be the main currency of media agencies; Gottlieb countered that while groundbreaking thought was important, it did not occur with enough regularity and agencies instead needed to cultivate a “healthy tension between big ideas and value and savings opportunities and value”.
That was followed with a discussion between Starcom CEO Laura Desmond and Wall Street Journal corporate editor Mariko Sanchanta that addressed topics such as big data. Desmond pointed to the major benefits of real-time marketing, but said that it could only be expected to work when supported by a robust infrastructure and strong analytics ability. She stressed the need for improvement: “In general, agencies, like most companies, have been awful at data,” she admitted.
Afternoon highlights included a presentation by Elle Todd, partner of Olswang LLP, on the issues surrounding privacy and data protection in Asia. Todd dispelled a series of “myths”, including that Asian consumers were not as concerned with privacy issues as their counterparts in the West. She added that while privacy legislation was still “piecemeal” in the region, it would be likely to follow Western models, but stressed that brands had a duty to take the lead and shape regulations.
The day concluded with a lively discussion relating to the ever-present challenge of industry talent, hosted by regional M&C Saatchi CEO Chris Jaques and including ZenithOptimedia global chief talent officer Severine Charbon, her counterpart at GroupM Angela Ryan, and regional Aegis Media CEO Nick Waters.
Jaques challenged panelists as to what they were doing to attract top talent. All claimed the industry offered more in terms of excitement and variety than it had done in the past, but acknowledged that media agency brands often lacked the profile to appeal to the brightest minds—particularly recent graduates—in the region. Early-stage training was highlighted as a priority, along with drawing talent from different sectors. “In the next three to five years, we are going to have to completely transform our talent pool,” said Charbon.
The article first appeared on Campaign Asia