Media Buying Briefing: Rebundling takes on differing forms, driven by consumer and media changes

The lead image shows an illustration of three people building a question mark.

It’s a well known fact that the media world has changed dramatically as consumers find their new preferences and leave old ways of digesting content and advertising behind them. Agencies are doing all they can to adapt to those changed ways, from the rise of influencers and creators to the continued march of connected TV and streaming services to the explosion of retail media networks.

Those changes have brought about something I call lo-fi rebundling: a renewed realization that media, creative and data in the agency world need to work together at the outset to find effective solutions for clients. 

This time around it’s happening in a much more organic and decentralized way than what the industry experienced five years ago in the form of WPP merging agencies to create hybrid shops like VMLY&R and WundermanThompson. Those unions had more to do with tightening the bottom line; client benefits were seemingly a secondary output. Clients are now coming first.

“Every brand today is talking about full funnel and omni channel and customer centricity. And one of the biggest impediments to that is the fact that we’ve got these different partners who don’t talk to each other, who create things in isolation that don’t measure the multiplicative effect,” said Ryan Kangisser, managing partner, strategy at consultancy MediaSense. “When you think about things like retail media, who’s creating that content? Is it the media agency, the creative agency, the shopper agency or the internal design studio? That’s an experience you want to make sure is integrated with everything else. We’re seeing brands who are really looking to reorganize their businesses to be organized around the consumer rather than the channel. And I think with that, there’ll be an expectation that the agency will start to integrate better.”

Perhaps the best example of lo-fi rebundling is coming out of Worldwide Partners, a network of independent agencies connected by membership, but not by the bottom line. Media agency R&R Partners teamed up with creative shop Odysseus Arms to jointly win and work on clients including The Body Shop, Toggle (Farmers Insurance), SELF Financial and over the last 15 months.

“If I don’t have any proof in results, I can’t be in the pitches that I’m in,” said Libby Brockhoff, co-founder and creative director at Odysseus Arms, who added that it would be difficult for creative shops to invest in the data and tech tools that provide those insights. “Consumers can feel it when you don’t hit that media strategy right, and I think a client can can feel it as well. So definitely, that teamwork is crucial.”

For some clients, it comes down to the “inevitability of the need for story and delivery to come together,” said John Harris, CEO of Worldwide Partners.

“I don’t think that the idea of integration is new but I do think it’s seeing a resurgence and importance,” Harris said. “Developing content at scale is really, really hard and becoming more complex as the media landscape has become more complex, whether that’s the planning side of it, the measurement side of it, the attribution side. And clients are really looking for it to be simplified and streamlined to deliver this integration.”

But rebundling isn’t only at the independent agency level — it’s taking place at the holding company level and it’s a bit more than lo-fi. Look no further than Dentsu’s biggest news at the Cannes Lions festival in June: the formation of Dentsu Creative, which bundled all of the Japanese holding company’ creative shops together with digital shop 360i and data-intensive Isobar. The unit is motivated by three operating principles: create culture, change society and invent the future. You know, no big deal.

It’s even happening within WPP, which got the world thinking about rebundling with its aforementioned agency mergers. Specifically, GroupM’s Mediacom unit has for the last four years been growing a creative unit as an outgrowth of strategy, explained Anush Prabhu, global chief strategy officer (CSO), creative transformation and U.S. CSO.

Working closely with Benjamin Vendramin, who joined Mediacom as chief creative and content officer in 2018 and is global in his mission, Prabhu was involved in the rollout of Mediacom Creative Systems last year. The unit, led by Stef Calcraft, Mediacom’s global CEO of creative transformation, is about to undergo a rebranding soon but is charged with spreading a unified message globally — not too unlike Marshall McLuhan’s message back in the 1960s: media IS the message.

“There’s a whole conversation around people being harder to reach and media being fragmented, but the fact of the matter is that people aren’t harder to reach — they’re harder to reach with ads,” said Prabhu. 

Through Creative Systems, Prabhu explained, “we started pitching with larger stories, bigger insights that were not just about media, but about culture. We also started pitching with ideas. And that generated a massive difference in our win rates. We used to win at 30% and we started winning at like over 80%. Clients would come to us and tell us, ‘You pitch like an integrated agency, with ideas that we don’t get from creative agencies.’ That is when we started recognize that there’s this massive shift happening.”

“Media agencies have the insights, they have the data — I need to understand platforms, I need to understand gaming better, I need to understand the tools on Reddit and the tools on Instagram,” added Vendramin, who cited work with Zales and Jared jewelry brands as well as Coke. “The nucleus of the creative team has changed.”

Color by numbers

Performance media agency Broadbeam shared some findings on media habits of U.S. adults 55-plus, studying their lifestyle and video and audio adoption throughout June to July 2022. The big takeaways: linear television still has the highest reach with this group, but streaming adoption is increasing. On the audio side, some are listening to more podcasts and music streaming services, a trend that seems to align with their streaming video habits.

  • 84% watched broadcast or cable TV in the last month, while 80% watched any streaming service.
  • For streaming, there is an 80% penetration among this group, but individual service adoption is much lower than younger age groups. The pace of adoption is evident when looking at newer services, such as HBO Max, Discovery+ and Paramount+.
  • Netflix has the greatest reach (50%), followed by Amazon Prime Video (45%) and then Hulu (29%). The ad-supported connected TV services Roku Channel and Tubi rounded out fourth and fifth highest in usage.
  • On the free AVOD services, such as Crackle, Pluto and Vizio, the audience liked watching classic comedies, dramas or movies, especially during daytime.
  • For audio, younger seniors listen to more podcasts, while older listeners aged 70-plus prefer satellite radio, which has twice the reach. And streaming music, including Spotify and Pandora, are gaining an older audience – with 30% saying they use these apps. — Antoinette Siu

Takeoff & landing

  • Independent media agency PMG continued its hot streak of winning new business, landing media AOR duties for smartphone case maker Otter Products following a review. PMG will handle omnichannel media strategy, planning and buying.  
  • Chalk up another major grocery chain getting into the retail media game: Ahold Delhaize, owner of Stop & Shop, Food Lion, Giant Food and other chains, took its retail media network, AD Retail Media, in house. Meanwhile, rideshare giant Uber also announced the launch of an ad network called Journey Ads.
  • Personnel moves: Performance marketing agency Code3 hired Craig Atkinson as its new CEO, coming over from Tinuiti, where he was chief client officer … Independent agency Barkley hired Reshma Karnik as its chief media officer, as the shop picks up more media accounts. Karnik most recently was vp of data and technology solutions for MediaLink.

Direct quote

“For this holiday season, I’d like to reframe the divide between brick-and-mortar vs online. Why can’t they be viewed as one that contributes to the greater good? It’s no different than the divide that streaming video services did to traditional TV. The industry created strife between the two as if the end-user had to only use one and abandon the other. It’s not binary. Do you know of anyone that exclusively buys all their needs 100% online or offline? The real conversation in my opinion is knowing that a consumer will decide where to buy based on their personal preference when presented with the right research and opportunity and it’s on brands and retailers to ensure that they deliver adequate and informative information that furthers their decision making.” 

— Victor Lee, president of performance marketing agency Advantage Unified Commerce, on holiday spending

Speed reading

  • Digiday’s senior news editor Seb Joseph unpacks the reasons why a somewhat serious marketing spend slowdown is expected in 2023. 
  • Senior tech reporter Ronan Shields looks into Google’s My Ad Center’s offering, and why it could end up hurting the digital and search giant’s bottom line. 
  • Digiday’s research unit released its first ever Agency Report, detailing the ups and downs media agencies are experiencing in 2022 while also looking forward to what will happen in 2023.

More in Media

Daily Mail plans to debut a dozen YouTube shows in 2024 in long-form video push

Daily Mail is making a big push into long-form video with plans to debut a dozen shows on YouTube by the end of this year.

Publishers’ top tips for pitching advertisers at Cannes

The art of making sales at Cannes may not be the same strategy taught in business school.

AI Briefing: What would Steve Jobs say about Apple’s ambitions for AI?

Last week’s WWDC made plenty of headlines with various AI updates across Apple’s operating system and apps.