Media Buying Briefing: How two media agencies took differing approaches to learning how to adapt to a changing world

Illustration of a puzzle that spells out the word 'media.'

This Media Buying Briefing covers the latest in agency news and media buying for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Monday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

You know times have changed when media agencies do a little soul-searching as a result of digging into what they need to do differently for their clients.

As the media world tries to get its proverbial arms around a vastly changed marketplace — one in which a full-on recession seems inevitable following a life-changing pandemic, and in which the mechanisms of connecting with consumers are morphing faster and faster — two media agencies are looking themselves in the mirror to determine how to adapt their services to go with this newer, faster flow. They’re certainly not the only ones — but they happen to offer two current examples of reaction to the tectonic changes media and marketing are all experiencing today.

IPG’s Mediahub has quietly undergone an internal examination resulting from a presentation it has put together for clients about the dramatically altered media world it’s operating in. Havas, meanwhile, assembled a report that it presented at ProcureCon in Europe last week that addresses how agencies and clients need to change their relationship with each other.

First, Mediahub’s existential presentation, which Digiday has seen but which has been kept under wraps outside of the two dozen clients that have been shown it, addresses all manner of change: gaming and Web3, e-commerce, the surge in content creation, influencers/creators, AI, cultural shifts, diversity awareness, etc.  

Mediahub CEO Sean Corcoran admitted the presentation, “A New Era in Media,” needs to be updated constantly due to the rapidity and fluidity of the media marketplace. But as it morphed, he said, there was a need to look inward to see how Mediahub must adapt as well. 

“Coming out of the pandemic, our feeling was, you know, everyone’s using QR codes, streaming is winning and gaming is huge. Jumping ahead to Web3, we’re totally on board with that, and it just felt like we could finally close the book on traditional mass media and say we’re in this new era,” said Corcoran. “But can I rely on that to drive business for my clients? We got existential, thinking what’s our job in the future? What is our job as a paid media agency? What are we built towards? ”

Corcoran used a quote from corporate sibling IPG Media Lab as a rallying cry of sorts: ““The end of the pandemic will mark the beginning of what comes next, where we must reinvent the pieces of society that have been stubbornly clinging to the past, while balancing the needs of those who can’t or won’t be ready for that new world.”

Mediahub’s conclusions look more outward than inward but offer a clue to how the media agency will adapt: 

  • Data needs to be front and center of pretty much anything any agency does, media or creative, particularly when it comes to measurement. And in order to do so, AI and machine learning need to be applied to determine the best insights to inform creative, planning, strategy and execution
  • The metaverse and Web3 will play a huge role in the future — but several years from now
  • The walled gardens as they exist now will largely be torn down in the next five years due to consumer backlash against them
  • TV content, not necessarily TV distribution, will be revitalized, leading to that content getting more expensive for advertisers
  • Creative will make a comeback, powered by more data fueling it, but it won’t resemble the creative agency of today — it will look more like a studio
  • Mediahub needs to do more work to figure out how to reach people when they’re receptive, since consumers spend much more time unavailable than ever before.   

“These are just some of the ideas we’ve thrown at the wall,” said Corcoran. “The world has changed. We think it’s time to embrace that change, and to think about how to leverage this new landscape to grow your business, even though it’s very challenging and complex.”

Havas Group, meanwhile, examined its own need to change through the lens of procurement — an unfortunately necessary evil in the minds of most agencies. The resulting study, “The Client – Agency Relationship Barometer,” is part of Havas’ annual Meaningful Brands study. 

The study calls for, among other things, agencies to create forums for new experts and talent to come to the table (for example, in the areas of sustainability and brand purpose) and to tie everything back to the delivery of tangible value and actual return on investment

One of the biggest expectation gaps was in the area of innovation — three fourths of respondents thought it was important that their agency innovates for the right reasons, but less than half were satisfied that their agency’s innovation efforts were rooted in actual business needs. 

“The takeaway from this data is one of the key pillars we believe is essential to building a meaningful, long-lasting client relationship: Tie everything back to sustainable business growth and ROI,” said Erin Flaxman, global chief growth officer, Havas Media Group

Marc Guldimann, CEO of attention metrics firm Adelaide, works with both Mediahub and Havas Media Group, said he believes both media agencies are putting in the hard work to understand where they need to go. 

“They’re both leaning into evidence- and data-driven approaches, but they’re both embracing the idea of using the scientific method, and bring as much data into the decision as possible,” said Guldimann. “There’s plenty of historical examples of people in other industries, who have not embraced evidence-based approaches, and history hasn’t been kind to them.”

Color by numbers

The drumbeats around the metaverse got a lot louder last week when McKinsey & Co. issued its latest report, “Value Creation in the Metaverse,” which predicted that by 2030, the metaverse will grow to $5 trillion in total value. McKinsey broke down its elements with e-commerce representing the largest block of value ($2.6 trillion), ahead of virtual learning ($270 billion), advertising ($206 billion) and gaming ($125 billion). 

Takeoff & landing

  • IPG-owned UM, which just landed media AOR duties for Upwork, a work solutions marketplace, is involved in testing a solution to better safeguard podcasting and digital audio that’s being created by Spotify and Integral Ad Solutions. 
  • Nationwide insurance tapped GroupM’s Essence (which becomes EssenceMediacom next year) as its media agency of record, replacing UM (which still keeps some SEO and paid search work). Nationwide already works with Essence’s corporate sibling Ogilvy on creative work.
  • Publicis took an unusual step in its embrace of the metaverse, by naming an avatar named Leon to be its chief metaverse officer. The French holding company also launched CitrusAd, a self-serve on-site and off-site retail media platform backed by the data assets of Epsilon, matched with the assets of Publicis’ recent acquisition of Profitero.  

Direct quote

“Since the … rise of TikTok, brands have been searching for ways to create content that will break through and captivate the platform’s incredibly engaged and growing audience. BeReal gives us remarkable insight into what content wins these young consumers over. They want content that provides authentic, real and unfiltered glimpses into the lives of the people and brands they love. As marketers develop their content and influencer strategies on TikTok, they have a tremendous opportunity to separate themselves from their competitors by lifting the veil and giving their audiences the content they desire.”

—Jamie Gilpin, CMO of Sprout Social, on the rise of BeReal, a new social platform that captures the same moment in time of its users each day.

Speed reading

  • Digiday’s senior media editor Tim Peterson, in his latest Future of TV Briefing, looks at the next stage of the TV upfront, which determines exactly how many billions of dollars will be committed to linear and streaming TV this year. 
  • If you haven’t already read Digiday senior news editor Seb Joseph’s excellent Cannes walkup stories, here’s your chance. And senior tech reporter Ronan Shields previews how Amazon and Apple plan to make their presence felt along the Croisette this year. 
  • And with Juneteenth being celebrated by more and more companies in the U.S., Digiday marketing reporter Julian Cannon examines how much farther this industry needs to go in actually achieving demonstrable results.
  • Finally, I got an early peek at a new study on CMOs from agency Boathouse, which looked at CMO performance through the lens of the CEO.

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