Media Buying Briefing: Media agencies embrace B2B and blend it with consumer-facing campaigns

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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 →

It was a busy week in the business-to-business world last week, as two major media agencies opened their doors and expertise to marketers who want to solidify their business-side connections.

First, Horizon Media launched Green Thread, its B2B offering that uses data and insights from the Revenue Enablement Institute. Later in the week, Havas Media Group launched Havas Business, which aims to upend B2B marketing with what it calls a “boardroom-ready” approach that has already secured work for Maersk and AXA clients.

Gravity Global has also continued to acquire assets to broaden its B2B skills, the latest being Mojo Media Labs. 

With apologies to The Buffalo Springfield (and to date myself horribly), there’s something happenin’ here… but what’s clear is the media agency world has seemingly woken up to a $30 billion pool of business brought on by recessionary economic jitters. And from the looks of it, B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing are starting to overlap.

“The digital transformation, accelerated by the pandemic, has shifted B2B to more digital (vs. traditional) activities and spend,” said Kelsey Voss, principal analyst, B2B marketing, Insider Intelligence (formerly eMarketer). “As the B2B digital space becomes more crowded, there’s intense pressure on marketing leaders to stand out from the competition. The pandemic also ignited the expectation that marketing can drive business growth and not only keep businesses operating but be a major revenue center.”

The blurring of lines between B2B and consumer marketing could intensify as media agencies that have historically worked in the consumer space expand their offerings. “One thing I’ve always believed in — and I think a lot of the industry is starting to wake up to — is that the best B2B brands are more B2C in their marketing because decision-makers aren’t walking around the world thinking ‘I’m a business decision-maker.’ They’re people,” said Eric Perko, founder of independent media agency Apollo Partners.

“To succeed, B2B marketers have taken cues from B2C,” agreed Voss. “There’s a deeper focus on brand, customer-centricity, and the full buyer’s lifecycle — not just net new sales. There’s an effort to have better and more meaningful communication and engagement. These agencies understand the B2C — and this new B2B digital landscape is where agencies see an opportunity to help.”

Tom Gavin, senior vp of marketing for Coupa Software, a procurement platform, sees B2B crossing over into consumer territory all over the media landscape. “Look at a company like Salesforce, that’s a B2B brand, but yet it’s a brand that has made significant brand awareness efforts with everybody,” he said. Coupa’s done the same, by sponsoring segments in last year’s World Series and other major sporting events, even if it is largely seeking out a B2B audience (work that was handled by Apollo Partners).

But media agencies are also stepping into what’s already a crowded market, as various companies and ad-tech firms have already targeted B2B with their latest offerings. RollWorks, a SaaS supplier of account-based marketing (ABM) tools, is rolling out Accelerate, a new program designed to help B2B marketers at any point in their ABM efforts. ABM is widely considered a vital element to any B2B efforts as it connects sales goals with marketing efforts within companies so that one hand knows what the other is doing. 

“We feel passionate about getting the efficiencies realized with the power of account-based marketing into the workflows of all B2B companies,” said Randi Barshack, CMO of RollWorks. “We are happy to work with companies directly (the majority of our customers) or with the agencies that service them.” 

Color by numbers

Amazon Prime Day is Tuesday, and Edge by Ascential offers a few relevant stats around what’s become a major retail/e-commerce opportunity for many, not just Amazon. They include:

  • Over the last three years, Prime Day sales increased from $7.16 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) in 2019 to $11.19 billion in 2021. 
  • Amazon’s year-over-year growth in Prime Day sales, which was 7.6 percent from 2020-2021, is expected to stay the same this year.
  • That said, Edge by Ascential forecasts global e-commerce growth based on GMV will still be 14 percent in 2022, despite the slowing global economy due to recessionary fears. This follows bumper years of e-commerce growth during the pandemic (up 37 percent in 2020 and 16 percent in 2021).

Takeoff & landing

  • Media research firm Comscore made a few C-suite moves, most importantly replacing retiring CEO Bill Livek with Jon Carpenter, who last November joined as CFO. Replacing him as CFO is chief accounting officer Mary Margaret Curry
  • Havas Media Group hired Matthew Bogusz as managing partner and head of growth, reporting to HMG North American CEO Greg Walsh. He was most recently vp and managing director of digital at Novus Media (as well as mayor of Des Plaines, Ill.)
  • Mediabrands and R&CPMK, which share ownership under IPG, launched a new tech platform called UpstreamPOP, tech that blends brand integration opportunities and partnerships with content creators and media platforms across the entertainment ecosystem. It will be exclusive to IPG’s clients.  

Direct quote

“As we head into midterm election season, the goliaths of advertising (TV and online advertising) are undergoing the strongest headwinds in history. TV consumption is plummeting, and political news shows in particular have shockingly low reach — not to mention the $1 billion in CTV ad waste. Political advertisers should look to out-of-home advertising as an alternative: it’s privacy-friendly, has built-in brand safety, and is now measurable from an ROI perspective.”

— Matthew O’Connor, CEO of out-of-home advertising platform

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