Media agency predictions: New models, cultural shifts and greater transparency

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 16 December 2019

Of all the areas of adland, media agencies were one of the main areas subject to major changes, mainly in leadership.

Each of the major holding groups was subject to the CEO shuffle, which this year has included the appointment of new bosses across WPPPublicis MediaDentsuMediabrands and Havas Media.

Outside of this, agency brands continued to bolster their tech capabilities, with a greater focus on working with vendors, while also providing services in the programmatic and automation space.

The neverending pitching cycle did its thing, giving and taking from agencies alike, with UM, OMD and PHD nabbing consistent client wins, while the Dentsu Aegis Network's media brands were hit by significant account losses in a sea of internal changes.

In 2020, agency leaders all agree the landscape will shift once again, with some claiming the mental health conversation will become even bigger. Others have their eyes on the shake-up in the digital space, with the fallout from the Digital Platform Inquiry set to make significant waves.

To get a clearer picture, AdNews spoke with some of Australia's top media agency leaders.

Publicis Media ANZ CEO Toby Barbour:

We are starting to see a cultural shift in how our industry is addressing the physical and mental health of our people and their correlation with high churn rates. As we enter a new decade, we will take back control of how we protect, support and develop our talent. The most successful businesses will understand the value of creating connected, engaged, happy teams as a means of reducing staff turnover, increasing productivity and delivering profitability. Taking a people-first approach within our own organisations will allow us to change the narrative with clients – focusing on adding more value to their businesses, and ending the pitch palooza.

PHD chief strategy officer Stewart Gurney:

2020 will be a battleground for targeting. What once was a simple question for a marketer ‘who are your target audience?’ will become increasingly more complex and nuanced. Many marketers will continue to grapple with their own organisation’s addiction to shorter term metrics versus their desire to invest in long term brand building. This will only be further compounded by the appeal for precision marketing versus the proven effectiveness of more mass marketing strategies. Striking the right balance between these opposing forcing will be challenging. It will require agencies and marketing teams start talking more about business effectiveness and less about media efficiencies. 

IPG Mediabrands’ Magna Australia MD Victor Corones:

Media market conditions will see traditional trading under greater pressure from new models that accelerate ways of working with media owners. We expect further consolidation of the media landscape as media-owners continue to build scale and data capabilities against the global digital giants. Streaming services Disney and others will cause further audience fragmentation, increasing the value of ad-funded environments. We’ll also see transaction technology catch up with new and better automation to lift the transaction workload and reduce process friction across every channel.  Agencies will embrace merging workflows between traditional and digital – transaction mechanics, measurement and metrics. Of course, Voz will be a key focus in 2020.

Hatched Media managing partner Adrian Roeling:

It’s often said that the pace of change will never be slower than it is today, and in 2020 there is no question it will only accelerate. Whether it be changes in privacy laws, implications of the ACCC digital platforms inquiry, or the ongoing developments in platforms, data and technology, the biggest challenge is keeping up with change, being aware of the implications and identifying the opportunity to capitalise for profitable growth. Education, personal development and investment in resource and capability will be critical during the next decade. As the general economy and advertising market is likely to experience flat to modest growth in 2020, it will be those businesses staying ahead of the curve through this investment, genuine agility and good innovation that will prosper.

OMD Australia chief strategy officer Ian Czencz:

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do”. This quote comes from the 1968 film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey, specifically HAL (short for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer)the AI computer that controlled the film’s spaceship. Though one can easily imagine it being a name of a new media tool launched in 2020. There is tremendous hype around AI and machine learning, with one obvious example being voice search. Google estimates that 20% of searches are now voice searches and, as speed and accuracy improve, the prominence of voice search will continue to influence path to purchase, disrupt certain categories, and alter consumer shopping behaviour. 2020 will see this space evolve dramatically and begin to reshape how search is activated by brands, as we combine AI and ML with the most basic of human virtues; our voice. Whilst AI won’t ever become a conscious entity, 2020 will see more marketers look to explore its fullest possible use and ensure they are voice search ready. Yet another confluence of ‘Art and Science’.

OMD Sydney MD Laura Nice:

My prediction is more of a wish and it’s that we start to simplify the language that surrounds data, technology and analytics. By doing so, we expand the knowledge and capability beyond the ‘expert’ and empower the entire industry to embrace its true potential and, therefore, encourage more collaboration between media, creative and CRM. By humanising the conversation, it will bring everyone together to produce data led creative ideas that will deliver commercial success for our clients, by creating brilliant campaigns that resonate with audiences in a truly meaningful way.

GroupM chief technology and transformation officer Cameron King:

The outlook is gloomy. A combination of challenged consumer and business confidence will bring costs and capabilities into focus for Australian marketers. Doing ‘more with less’ will still be the name of the game, and as a result key CMO objectives will emphasise two things; automation to reduce unnecessary costs and measurement to identify efficiency gains and differentiation – looking at price-based competition impacting margins. Marketing technology can help here as properly applied data strategies are proven to create stickier, higher value customer relationships. Meaningful martech adoption has lagged, but fortune favours the brave!

Ikon CBA lead Pat Crowley:

2020 will see the full effect of the ad-free OTT streaming wars on Australian commercial linear television viewing - negatively impacting all audiences at an ever increasing pace. The unfortunate thing about this is the timing. Right when many brands have begun or are about to re-calibrate their marketing investment away from short term sales activation (digital performance media) back towards emotional brand building channels (like broadcast television). With it getting harder and harder to reach scale with TV, more of these attempts will not deliver the desired outcomes and businesses will struggle to hit targets. Add to this an extremely sluggish local economy, we are all heading towards a very tough year for marketers (and everyday Australians).

Kaimera CEO and founder Nick Behr:

I predict the social platforms will see a change in fortunes in line with changing consumer perceptions, both of their business conduct and the products themselves. The seeds of distrust have been sewn, and the ramifications on the digital behaviour of consumers, particularly on mobile, are already evident. More than a ‘digital detox’, I suspect ‘digital fasting’ will become the norm in future, as consumers become more conscious of digital dependency and data privacy when it comes to social media. Media investment can be expected to follow this trend in 2020, with advertising revenue growth unlikely to reach the heady heights of recent years as the big brands slow their spend on these platforms.

Havas Media CEO Matt Houltham:

Transparency has remained a key talking point this year. Marketers continue to rightly ask how programmatic ‘actually works’. Procurement’s increased presence in pitches has heightened the need to explain how agencies can make a fair profit (or indeed fairly make a profit). And we’ll likely close the year with the ACCC making strong recommendations to support greater transparency and consumer control on the back of their digital platforms investigation. All of which sets the stage for 2020 to be a year about re-building ‘trust’. Whilst the industry will continue to talk about TV trading models, data privacy, automation, voice strategies, AI and other hot topics, the brands and agencies that will excel will be those focusing on making marketing more meaningful for consumers. They’ll use data insights to reduce the marketing noise and add more value at every interaction, which will enable them to prove that their marcomms investments can drive sales whilst still building brand.

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