Putting media agency heads together

ADVERTISING MEDIA FORUM: Britta Reid says that the only way forward is to bring digital and traditional experts together to find the perfect strategy.

About a year-and-a-half ago I attended a discussion where I was intrigued to hear a representative of one of the country’s largest digital agencies talking about their new campaign. He made some truculent remarks about the lack of support from above the line agencies. At the time this seemed almost amusing to older hands in the business, who had been subjected to an onslaught of digital propaganda and treated with a rather large dose of condescension by the youthful ‘digerati’.

It is, therefore, heartening that the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) has shown interest in developing a closer relationship with the AMF.

Looking forward, GroupM’s ‘This Year, Next Year December 2012’ predicts a 42.6% share globally for television with all forms of measured digital ad investment accounting for some 21.4% of the measured total. As we all know, this has largely been at the expense of print.

Obviously television viewing is evolving. Connected televisions and a variety of connected screens are giving rise to more opportunities to watch on demand. We recognise that the empowered consumer is in a position to become much more discriminating and demanding.

But TV has always been an inherently social experience, whether it was the initial obligatory family gathering to watch TV in the early days through to guys getting together to watch an important game, or the water-cooler conversations about the previous night’s developments in the programme of the moment.

Watching live TV nevertheless continues to be popular, and viewers want to discuss and comment on what is happening on the box. But now, they are not bound to be in the same location to do so. The 2013 Superbowl generated 22 million tweets. Some 40% of Twitter’s peak time traffic in the UK is related to what is showing on TV.

So rather than being the death-knell for ‘traditional’ media, it looks as if digital media could even enhance traditional media consumption habits. In fact, we should be moving beyond our old divides, and looking at a total integrated communication mix.

Certainly, the consumer does not make the distinctions that we in the industry do. We have let ourselves be dizzied by the furious rate of technological change, and possibly awed by the techno-heads driving the evolution.

But our human motivations have not really changed. We have always looked for entertainment and information. We have always searched for the easiest way to buy things and services. We have always consumed content. We have always wanted to share our experiences and opinions, exchange ideas and gossip.

It is true that we are now more connected and can feel inundated with information and diversions. We can lie in bed and order a book at midnight on our Kindles or shop for New York fashion on our iPads. We can share our thoughts with people we have never met. But our basic drives have not changed.

If we are to meet the challenge of utilising these technological innovations successfully, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of that. What makes communication successful is consumer insight. If we are to achieve that then the two sides of the divide do really need to come together to focus on the consumers we are addressing.

Over the last 18 months to two years, MediaCom has focused on integrated communication, employing digital specialists to join our ‘traditional‘ team. At the outset, there was a distinct sense of two tribes uneasily co-existing under one roof. We did seem to speak two languages and each tribe had an arsenal of acronyms to deploy when obfuscation was required. But eventually we began to understand each other better and even see parallels in what each of us was doing.

The traditional planners and buyers were tentative at first. But with training, and as they spent time with their digital colleagues, the open-minded found their fear began to give way to confidence. Having digital and traditional strategists working together in teams leads to a far more consumer-focused and single-minded communication approach.

Now the digital people are actually beginning to want to understand how the traditional media work. Then, of course, for the younger members of the agency there is no divide in their personal lives so they can comfortably work in a wholly integrated way.

While there will always be specialisation, given the complexity of the technology, we need to be able to work in a seamless way. We can only do this if we engage with eachother. And proximity has certainly proved to be the catalyst for integration.

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