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Media Agencies Live at the Heart of the Communications Ecosystem, Say MediaVest Executives

11/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers," reports a Harvard Business Review article published originally in 1994 and recently reprinted.

Lisa Donohue, president of the Truth & Design Group at media agency MediaVest, whose parent company Starcom MediaVest Group is a division of France-based Publicis, is focusing her planning team on providing clients with services that emphasize "connecting brands with consumers through active inclusion and solid business propositions that deliver measurable value."

"The current economic conditions are convincing CMO's they have to integrate digital tools across their whole companies," says MediaVest chief executive officer Bill Tucker. "Everyone is on the consumer page and the digital page. It's how to do business that's in transition. There has been a sense of urgency resulting from the macro forces of the push into digital and the ensuing changes in consumer behavior and media patterns," Tucker points out. "It's driving more of a balance between traditional brand advertising and customer acquisition and retention."

We are focused on understanding how the digital ecosystem works within the total operational and communications ecosystems. For example, Tucker considers social networks as part of a holistic brand solution. "Viewing them as part of the ecosystem allows us to evaluate their role as a community rather than as page views," he explains.

"The basic notion of building brands is not changing," adds Donohue. "The tools at our disposal are different and better. We are focusing on how we use these tools and how we use the new data that's available." The HBR article points out: "A growing number of companies know that when they make employees and customers paramount, a radical shift occurs in the way they manage and measure success. The new economics of service requires innovative measurement techniques. These techniques calibrate the impact of employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity on the value of products and services delivered so that managers can build customer satisfaction and loyalty and assess the corresponding impact on profitability and growth."

"Clients are more willing to share data," Donohue explains, "but it is not the data itself that's the intellectual property. Proprietary insights are gained from the interpretation and activation of data." But, points out newly named MediaVest EVP Managing Director Tim Castree, "the power of data is not yet that well understood. We have probably made more progress in the past nine months than the past several years, but traditional [media and advertising] business models are still wedded to the past." Tucker believes "media companies need new strategies for applying data and research and for partnering to create value for marketers." The network TV Upfront process, he suggests, is increasingly being managed on a client-by-client basis with more focus on specific goals and outcomes.

"When you project out the future of television it's a scary proposition. It's going to be tough. It is a fact that the next 12-months will be more difficult economically. We focus with our clients on what still delivers core value," says Donohue. "We have an experimental bucket for making investments in learning and we ask what is scaling but not yet fully scaled, where there are opportunities. We need to deliver solid value propositions with each experiment and for those we activate we need to be able to convince clients these new models can get to scale quickly and help growth their businesses. We approach these new resources from the consumer point-of-view, not with a technology lens. They need to be part of the ecosystem and not viewed in a silo."

Media agencies are clearly in transition as are all those who contribute to marketers' communications with their customers. The economic downturn is accelerating the need for agencies to deconstruct and reconstruct their business models and services. "Ninety-five percent of our staff has been structurally integrated into full service teams," Tucker points out. "Integration is happening. There has been a reinvention of media planning. We are bringing in other marketing partners."

"Media," adds Tim Castree, "is at the epicenter of innovation. More and more, clients will coalesce around media agencies as their partners. We live at the heart of the communications and operational ecosystem."

Jack Myers Media Futurist: For more than two decades, Jack Myers has been the media industry's leading analyst, researcher and advisor on relationships among marketers, agencies and media sellers, providing business development services and custom insights on relationship best practices to more than 200 marketers, agencies, media companies and industry service providers. Jack can be reached at jm@jackmyers.com.

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