2009 Festival of Media

Media Agencies Get Advice on Navigating Change

Data Need to Be Comparable, Accurate and Transparent

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VALENCIA (AdAge.com) -- Change was the theme for a midmorning session at the Festival of Media here. And to ensure that the panel wasn't just the industry preaching to itself, two outsiders whose companies have undergone structural change on a global level were brought in to offer their thoughts on how the media industry could navigate through the digital upheaval.

Saul Berman
Saul Berman
Saul Berman, the global strategy and change practice leader at IBM Global Services, said media agencies need to think about change more broadly than they have before, and that the digital revolution is a much bigger shift than when TV moved from black and white to color.

Move to cross-platform models
"The industry needs to move from media-centric models to cross-platform models and move away from proprietary models," he said. "Technology is driving shorter life cycles, so change is something you are going to have do constantly and make it part of your strategy."

Douglas McCallum, eBay's senior VP-Europe, was asked what could help agencies best facilitate any type of change they may have to employ. Collaboration between media agencies and other marketing services can help, he said, but there first needs to be a comparability of data.

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"The other components are accuracy of data and transparency," Mr. McCallum said. "If you have those three things, then you have the data you need to start making the right decisions."

'Change-oriented' environment
Mr. McCallum also said agencies need to drive the culture piece of the equation as well and create an environment that is "change-oriented."

After the change experts offered up this roadmap of sorts to media agencies, Mike Cooper, worldwide CEO of Omnicom Group's PHD, and Dominic Proctor, global CEO of WPP's Mindshare, took to the stage.

"Change is a constant in our business," Mr. Cooper said. "The argument against media agencies is that the move upstream toward content and strategy has failed. And we haven't managed that change and are suffering the consequences. But as a business, we have been through enormous change."

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
'Natural selection'
Mr. Cooper said clients want more than just better pricing from media agencies and are looking to them for consumer insights, digital solutions, strategic thinking and research capabilities. If agencies don't adapt and begin to provide those types of offerings, things could get very Darwinian for midsize to small agencies.

"The idea of natural selection applies to media agencies as well," he said. "And if you're in that middle ground, that could be a bad place to be."

Mr. Proctor said one of the keys for media agencies trying to successfully adapt to today's economic environment is to take heed of the geographic shifts occurring in the world's media economy. "Embracing the new geographical map of media economies is key," he said.

Asked what his agency will look like in five years, Mr. Proctor echoed Mr. Cooper's thought that it would involve a much greater degree of specialization.

"The directional shift is certainly towards specialization but we want these specialists to be integrated with our client teams," Mr. Proctor said. "We would be dumb not to integrate them into our client teams. ... We also have to integrate PR people and the ROI people with those teams as well."

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