In the wake of Mediacom’s most recent Blink event, APAC chief executive Mark Heap believes the marketing industry is in a more exciting time than ever as trends converge together.
The takeouts from the event, which covered topics including brand purpose and AI and robotics, cover the gamut of the varied and complex marketing industry but, for Heap, these once siloed trends are now coming together, representing a challenge and an opportunity for marketers.
“The industry is ripe for these things to be interconnected in a way that they haven’t been before. At our previous events, clients have wanted to talk about feed-ready content for social or how can we use influencers, or do data differently, or how can we use new tech, but these were always discreet questions and lines of inquiry. It made me feel excited that these things are so apparent, so interconnected,” he explains.
Connecting the dots is easier said than done, and Heap argues that to really benefit from interconnecting trends, progressive marketers need to be more holistic and less short-term.
“For clients, it's a lot to get their head around. You could tackle it in silos but for progressive clients that want to get it right, they need to have a much more holistic view. There are so many bases to cover and it's a connected ecosystem, do you have a strategy that realizes when you dial one thing up, it impacts the other?” he asks.
The short-termism in marketing currently is a big talking point for the industry, but the topic reminds Heap of a talk from the first Blink event two years ago. Mediacom invited Ogilvy to talk about the importance of brand building, but Heap said the talk would have worked in 2019.
“During the first Blink, we invited Ogilvy in to talk about branding. Back then I felt clients often put so much focus on a very discreet area of the process, there was so much focus on optimization. Now, optimization is not wrong but there is also a point when you optimize to an inch of your life but take your eye off the ball and do nothing to build the brand long-term."
The talk looked at famous brand-building campaigns that may not have ever happened if they were pitched in today's over-optimised climate. The examples Heap gives are Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ or Johnny Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’. "Brands that had the patience to build that equity," he says.
"It seems brands are now so obsessed with short-term gains - even ones that aren't typically 'demand generation brands'. Two years on, at our third Blink event, the session by Unruly talked about some great research that links to exactly this. The research look at how online video works differently depending on the objective, be it demand generation or attention, or emotion and connection."
He adds: "It found there was a role for longer format creative, for example, by focusing on the right objective. Research like this shows there's value in swinging back to valuing brand and that is good for the industry. The key is to make sure it is not at the expense of optimisation and targeting, it’s just that we’ve been arguably been disproportionate on that."
As an agency, Mediacom has to help brands navigate this delicate balance. How Mediacom plans to be that partner to brands in APAC sits in three areas of strategy, according to Heap; growth, people and product.
The growth strategy, he explains, is partly a lesson in changing a vernacular around this term, which has become commonplace among marketing and business because it resonates with clients. Growth also means changing the agency’s shape to service converging trends.
“As an agency, we are talking the language of growth a lot more internally and externally. It’s the way we are thinking, not at the expense of talking about brand and media but dialling up the recognition that all of that effort is a ladder to deliver growth. A key point is making sure people in the agency are aware of what's going on in the client's business," he says.
"Agencies now have to look throughout the clients business, we can advise on pricing strategy and e-commerce, for example. We developed some tools this year that help clients analyze presence on e-commerce websites, as they would analyze their placement in supermarkets. For FMCG brands, you’d pay attention to placement in the supermarket, it’s a massive competitive battleground, but they don’t have the same attitude to representation in e-commerce."
The product part of Mediacom’s strategy has been around packaging and turning these converging trends into products. The agency hired Josh Gallagher as chief product officer last year, poaching him from Havas to lead this ambition.
“Clients wanted a more singular point of view on the industry and we got Josh in to sit over the top and pull it all together into something that makes sense. The aim is to develop products that we can take to clients that help them make sense of it all,” explains Heap.
The final piece is people, a topic which Heap is animated on. “We are people-first and we will continue to be until we close the doors.”
Heap says he believes Mediacom is good at talent development and adds that the company is working on implementing personalized career plans for staffers, in recognition of people’s unique skills and aims. Heap also believes Mediacom is one of the few agencies in the region to put their talent director on the board.
“Other agency leaders say to me ‘we can’t afford that, it’s such an indulgence’. We are talking about agencies between 16-1700 people and we don't make anything, we sell people. How can you not think that’s a critical investment?”
For an agency that put a robot on as the keynote at its event, a defensive people-first attitude shows an appreciation of the fine balance these converging trends represent for the industry.