Media Buying Briefing: Agency news and takeaways from CES 2024

Keep up to date with Digiday’s annual coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. More from the series →

While artificial intelligence was a major theme across the Consumer Electronics Show this year, agencies and marketers are trying to move past the hype — and seeking real investment and applications across the media spectrum.

“There isn’t a marketer in the world that hasn’t seen a compelling AI demo at CES,” said Henry Cowling, chief innovation officer of Media.Monks, “but we’re in a moment when marketers have to show the receipts — as the commercial model of the advertising industry is going through a paradigm shift, moving from hours to outputs.”

There was also focus on influencers and creators, streaming and retail media throughout the show. While there were innovations like the metaverse and larger Web3 applications in previous years, agencies have shifted to this year’s CES to spotlight AI services. Some of the consumer technologies, such as smart home devices and integrations, may also give agencies more data opportunities as AI experiments continue.

“We’re seeing a lot of smart refrigerator type things … so there’s a lot more data points to be gathered [that] become data signals,” said Josh Campo, CEO of Razorfish, an interactive agency within Publicis Groupe.

AI developments in marketing tools and messaging

S4 Capital’s Media.Monks introduced Monks.Flow, an AI-driven suite of tools aimed at automating processes and streamlining marketing activities. It is meant to combine all of the company’s AI-related work, such as its fan highlights content to other personalized creative content.

Monk.Flow was designed to work across an organization’s applications for marketers, helping manage costs through efficient workflows and building business intelligence with live data. Right now, many of these third-party services and processes happens in siloes, said Wesley ter Haar, cofounder of Media.Monks.

“We’re bringing disparate pieces of the marketing organization together,” ter Haar added. “There’s a misnomer that organizations think they can just train their people on new tech and see efficiency.”

Meanwhile, Dentsu has been experimenting with different metaverse and Web3 initiatives that included a partnership with Microsoft to build a virtual campus. That metaverse space was meant for research and testing with clients or partners, and now the agency is looking at how AI can become a bigger part of the retail workflow.

Joining a panel with Meta, Instacart and others, Dentsu showcased an experiment with liquor brand Glenfiddich incorporating its Intelligent Messaging experience, which includes five main services. The app introduces people to different liquors, product information and food pairings through a conversational chat. Part of the goal is to address the millions of customers that don’t hear from businesses when they send messages, said Val Vacante, vp of solutions innovation at Dentsu.

“Businesses just aren’t replying to them,” Vacante told Digiday. “So there’s a massive opportunity there that’s across all Meta’s messaging platforms. … Then we can help our clients have a first-market advantage and tinker [with] solutions for messaging.”

Dentsu’s new messaging services are being developed alongside Meta, Salesforce, Amazon, Google and other partners. Last December, Dentsu also partnered with Meta to provide joint clients with access to Meta Business Messaging platforms and both companies’ product teams.

Sustainability, smart homes and data

While Razorfish did not introduce any specific CES activations, Campo mentioned the potential of more smart home and appliance connections that could give marketers more consumer data than existing personally identifiable information.

“Certainly from an agency perspective, more data is always better, right?” Campo said. “Potentially you have new channels, like you now have an opportunity to say, ‘[This person] is out of soda. He should get more, and where does it get delivered from? And what brand are we going to suggest to him?’”

Campo also saw on the floor some of the sustainability-focused devices and apps that could start to integrate with other smart home technologies, such as AI functions to encourage consumers to be more environmentally conscious.

CTV’s growing role among media options

Stagwell, the only agency holding company that actually presented technology on a showroom floor — it showed off its AI-powered SmartAssets creative optimization tool — also unveiled a partnership with connected TV firm MNTN at CES. The partnership between the two plugs MNTN’s clients into the Stagwell Marketing Cloud, which houses most of the holding company’s AI- and tech-driven products, in a bid to bring more performance-driven tools and measurement abilities to CTV.

Stagwell Marketing Cloud incorporates such tools as PRophet, which uses AI to predict PR and media relations impact — not an element that usually gets factored into media buying — as well as Koalified, which identifies influencer opportunities and manages such campaigns. In exchange for accessing these tools, which some of MNTN’s clients may not otherwise be able to use, Stagwell gets exposed to MNTN’s mid-size clients, which might one day become Stagwell clients.

But delivering performance metrics and results is the first order of the day, noted Stagwell’s chief brand and commuinications officer Beth Lester Sidhu. “We are lucky to work with clients who intrinsically understand the value of performance,” she said, “and so with better performance tools, we can make progress more quickly.”

If it happens in Vegas …

This last bit of news may not have been announced at CES, but since it happened in Vegas, it merits mention. Last week, a new agency based in Sin City launched — Monogram, a new boutique shop that specializes in luxury travel and hospitality. Backed by The Harkey Group, which runs several specialized marketing agencies, Monogram will be overseen by executive director John Schadler, and its disciplines include media management, strategy, branding, advertising and design.

Check out the rest of Digiday’s coverage on CES this year.

Color by numbers

Data.ai’s 2024 State of Mobile Report examined record mobile app usage. In the top 10 markets, the weighted average of time spent on mobile surpassed five hours in 2023 — up 2% from the previous year. More stats:

  • Mobile ad spend is expected to reach $362 billion (up 8%), boosted by short-form video and video-sharing apps.
  • Mobile spend decreased to $108 billion, down 2% year-over-year, while social and entertainment apps saw double-digit growth, with time spent up 14% to 2.4 trillion hours and spending up 10% to total $26 billion.
  • With traveling and live events rising, travel downloads on mobile increased 34%, with integrated travel services leading.
  • Total hours spent on mobile phones totaled 14 billion hours in 2023.

Takeoff & landing

  • Havas Media Network shook up much of its leadership under global CEO Peter Mears last week, moving North American CEO Greg Walsh to a global role as chief business transformation officer, and filling his CEO slot with Greg James, who had been global chief transformation officer. Meanwhile, global COO Jorge Irizar will focus on growing other units within Havas. Finally, longtime North American president Shane Ankeney, who helped build Havas Media Network’s health media discipline (and one of the nicest smart guys in the business) has left the company.
  • Albertsons Media Collective, the retail media network of the grocery chain, chose commerce media firm Criteo to help its media sales efforts on both the DSP and SSP sides of the business.
  • Attention metrics firm Adelaide made several moves last week: it struck a deal with podcasting analytics company Magellan AI to provide advanced attention metrics to its clients; a deal with Inscape has Adelaide using Inscape data to help with content detection and improve the accuracy of connected TV scores for its AU metric; finally, it added two new members to its advisory board — Nishat Mehta and Ryan McBride.
  • Milwaukee-based independent Hanson Dodge landed North American agency partner duties for outdoor dog gear brand Ruffwear.
  • Consultancy Interbrand promoted Holmfridur Hardardottir from COO to president of Interbrand New York.

Direct quote

“Data is probably much more valuable when it’s bundled with something else, like media or services (or possibly software, too). The value of data is improved when someone invests time and effort make it more actionable … Going forward, it seems that any agency group looking to capitalize on data-driven growth will undoubtedly want to look to these lessons — more specifically that data agnosticism is unlikely to outperform data integration with services and media.”

— Brian Wieser, independent media analyst, in his latest Madison and Wall Substack newsletter.

Speed reading

  • In last week’s Media Briefing, Kayleigh Barber looked at advances in generating sustainability standards in digital advertising — and what still needs to happen.
  • Tim Peterson, in last week’s Future of TV Briefing, analyzed where YouTube stands in securing a place at the table of streaming ad revenue generation.
  • From CES in Las Vegas, Marty Swant spent lots of time roaming the convention floors looking for interesting tech — and noticed AI-generated advances in TV set makers.
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