Why we re-engineered Starcom towards ‘People Powered Growth’

Nick Keenan
By Nick Keenan | 24 November 2020
Nick Keenan

Nick Keenan, CEO, Starcom Australia

I’ve got to admit a guilty pleasure of mine is catching up on 80s music. The decade was fun, optimistic and despite the big hairstyles, was one that leaned into change. So I found some inspiration for announcing Starcom Australia’s repositioning in a Joe Jackson hit from 1982. He was a complex songwriter that pushed the listener to challenge outdated societal norms and find the counter culture that was really nudging society along. When penning the relaunch of Starcom as a media agency of the future, some lyrics from his song Real Men really stood out to me:

“Now it’s all changed, it’s got to change more, cause we think it’s getting better but nobody’s really sure… and so it goes, go round again...”

A provocative song that in principle rejected absolutism. In our re-positioning of Starcom we aim to challenge the conventional, technological and algorithmic absolutism that exists in agency land today. Instead of focusing just on technology and data positioning (while still recognising its critical importance) we aim to build an agency model where our people, our clients and our group services are integrated into one collaborative platform.

So we’ve re-engineered, rebooted and relaunched Starcom under People Powered Growth (PPG).

What do we mean by PPG? Well, simply put:

“PPG is a framework that develops our talent to be multi-skilled within a cross-functionally operated agency structure that delivers group marketing services to our clients.”

Obvious? Over simplified? Well maybe, but by and large our industry in response to being the deer on the road of change has avoided the incoming car by running away from organisational redesign.

Data and technology without expertise and adequate integration into marketing operations becomes just another expensive black box with little input into campaign-to-campaign decision making. Its effectiveness is often overstated – “and so it goes, round again” – which is a repeating problem for client marketing teams that occurs way too often.

The reality is the capability to process and deliver a digitally-led marketing product (with best in breed tech and data) does not work without an entrepreneurial redesign of an agency. This is hard work and requires a lot of unsettling change and the management of significant short term, sententious risk.

At Starcom, we aim to leverage the best in data science and technology led by our Publicis Groupe services with an equally innovative agency structure that’s adaptive and flexible to enable it all to work. We know that our people are our greatest asset and it’s our people that a client hires at the end of the day.

There is of course science behind our approach. It comes from a collaboration with Forrester and our research into ‘Return on Experience’ (ROE) that identified growth lies in people. Understanding both the human outcome and business outcome when activating a campaign produced better work.

Further, it’s been found that companies with an engaged workforce outperform their peers by 147%; and we know from our ROE research that by creating positive personal experiences for consumers through multi-moment campaign activation it delivers a ten time more positive return for brand choice. It seems despite automation, human experiences and interpretations are now more important than ever.

To further enhance our positioning and point of differentiation in market we’ve combined PPG with our existing strategic framework which will remain. The Human Experience (HX) Company is who we are. It’s also now more relevant than ever as a strategic framework, and by integrating it completely into our organisation design we can co-collaborate more effectively with our clients, media partners and internal group services.

“The Human Experience Company is who we are and People Powered Growth is what we deliver. 

"We don’t claim to have all the answers, nor will we push our experience and position in market as absolute. No one has split the media atom. But PPG has enabled us to address three critical trends driving the real and immediate change in media agencies and it didn’t involve hooking up to more robots and AI.

These trends include:
1. Top talent demanding scope of role and training to develop diversified skillsets;
2. Clients demanding that agency complexity become invisible; and
3. Group Marketing Services as a standard in media/marketing tenders.

For us it’s about having the right people, with the right skills, using the right technology at the right time to deliver their best work.

These trends existed before Covid but in a cost efficient, hungry market they’ve now significantly increased. To solve for them and secure the opportunities they throw up you need a highly-engaged workforce with interconnected capability, custom fit to clients with dynamic scaling of specialists who can come in and out of workflow. This suits both client and talent.

Further, this adaptive and fluid resourcing enables us to address the latent outcomes of a market that has overstated claims of data connectivity. Seamless integration into 1 st , 2 nd and 3 rd party data with the impending death of the cookie is the correct pursuit for all brands and the PPG position does not challenge that. However, as the Boston Consulting Group recently published in its research, only 2% of brands globally have reached digital marketing maturity. That’s a damming report card for an agency village that claims it’s achieving the opposite result. What of the other 98%?

To address this we aim to provide clients digitally-led, tech and data enabled multi-skilled teams within an operating model that delivers group marketing collaboration. It might, dare I say it, be a model that’s lower in traditional media billings, but it will produce far better work for clients, better opportunities for our talent and a future business model for agencies.

That’s what we call People Powered Growth!