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Meet the Media Minds: Simon Bevan, chief investment officer, Havas Media Group

Simon Bevan, chief investment officer, Havas Media Group

Adland has a tendency to fixate on creativity at the expense of those planning, buying and executing campaigns. But no longer. In The Drum’s newest series, Meet the Media Minds, we dig into the creative ways the world’s biggest media agencies are navigating the digital waves. Up first is Simon Bevan, chief investment officer at Havas Media Group...

What would be your first lesson for a newbie buyer?

Be curious and be mindful that the one constant in this market is that there isn’t one. The pace of change is only accelerating through technology and instant access to data. While this can seem daunting, embrace it, as the ability to be agile and find the angle on new buying models will help you through your career.

Too many buyers starting out in their career now have a very transactional relationship with media owners, hidden behind the technology at their disposal. This past year has only reinforced these behaviors and we are now at the start of a new era where a balance of remote and office working will become the norm. I would encourage any new buyers to build meaningful relationships with their media owner partners through face-to-face engagement where possible (safely and within government guidelines, of course). They will take these friendships through their careers and better buy- and sell-side relationships will benefit both parties.

What are the biggest challenges facing the business?

There are many in this market. However, I think one of the biggest challenges on the imminent horizon is reacting to the impact of the impending changes to privacy on iOS 14 and Chrome, seeing the demise of IDFAs and cookies respectively. There are three tenets to this: audience, technology and measurement.

This impacts on every part of the media process from the client brief, how we plan with data and activate against it through to how we learn and optimize through measurement. This is a topic that we are actively engaging our clients with as we find bespoke solutions to meet their business needs.

What platform or channel excites you the most (and why)?

I have to say TV. It’s where I started my buying career, so it’s definitely the channel I have a soft spot for.

After all the noise from naysayers who said TV was going to die as we saw the rise of digital, I find it fascinating to see how technology is transforming the TV landscape at such pace. While you may no longer be able to reach over 50% of your target audience with one spot (61% is my record for a Coronation Street spot on Grampian Television in 1994), today’s AV planners and buyers have to deal with a far more complex ecosystem as they blend linear viewing with on-demand addressable services, mobile and social platforms such as YouTube that continue to take a larger proportion of viewing time. This is a real craft that many advertisers are seeking to sit alongside navigating the complexities of pure-play biddable channels. It’s a theme that I see in many conversations with our clients, both existing and prospective.

For me, no other channel creates as much excitement or a stronger narrative than TV, be that your guilty pleasure viewing (I’m ashamed to say that mine is Love Island) or those must-see event moments.

What’s the most clever or innovative use of media you can think of?

There is so much great work out there, but a personal favorite has to be a Havas Media campaign: last year’s OOH promoting the BBC series Dracula. This was outdoor innovation at its very best, and caught the imagination of the industry, sweeping the board at awards and winning the Grand Prix at the OMA. The billboards showed a collection of carefully-placed wooden stakes that, when lit, created a silhouette of Bram Stoker’s monster – just a genius execution creating significant industry and national PR coverage.

How is your agency evolving, and how has that differentiated from the competition?

Havas Media Group’s media planning and buying philosophy is centered around ‘meaningful media‘, and we believe this sets us apart from our competitors. We focus on the ‘media experience’ (Mx) and the media that matters to change how audiences think and feel about brands. These experiences fuel growth and deliver meaningful outcomes for brands.

Mx goes beyond a standard media plan by using data to identify not only the most effective channels, publishers or platforms, but also the most effective context and messaging choices for clients. In a digital media environment with impending privacy changes and the demise of cookies, this context-centric approach puts us in a unique place to navigate these challenges.

Mx and our suite of proprietary tools allow the entire agency, from the strategy and data teams to the buyers themselves, to be crystal clear on the outcomes that will drive the biggest change for our clients, and the roles that we all play in delivering them.

In brand relationships, how’s the power dynamic, pay and the payment changing?

Remuneration models with our clients are evolving rapidly to meet their ever-changing needs. While commission models continue to exist and are the predominant legacy payment structure in many areas of media, we are moving to more agile models where services on offer are FTE-based, especially as there is a greater requirement for data, analytics and content skillsets that sit alongside more traditional services.

Brands are asking for greater agility and specific skillsets in the talent available to them in order to meet complex business challenges. This requires agencies to pivot quickly and breeds a new way of thinking about how we create an ‘agency talent bench’ to parachute in specific talent to meet those needs, either as part of the existing agency FTE model or within a client’s business unit as required.

Another key dynamic in the evolution of the remuneration model is the need for agency partners to have ‘skin in the game’, linking part of the remuneration to agreed business KPIs and delivery performance. This is an area I expect to see accelerate further as agencies create deeper partnerships with brands to navigate an increasingly complex ecosystem in tech, commerce, data and analytics solutions.

Is tech making your job easier or complicating matters?

Both. There is no doubt that technology has revolutionized how we plan and buy rapidly, making the process more efficient through turbo-charging analytics and measurement capability and enabling greater agility in activating the buy. The challenge we face is the complexity of choice in delivering cost-efficient solutions for our clients – platforms that offer the most intuitive functionality, as well as continuous investment in the product, that can work in a modular capacity alongside others will win favor in the long run.

Where’s the money going? How has it shifted over the years?

Over the years, the migration of money has been into digital channels, with the large global platforms such as Facebook and Google benefitting the most through sheer ease of access and the direct correlation to marketing performance and business KPIs. In the last year, we saw businesses really double down on lower-funnel activity, with biddable channels benefiting as performance metrics came to the fore, especially in PPC and social. E-commerce is also front and center in many client conversations, and in reaction to this demand we launched Havas Market last year. It’s a full-service e-commerce offering incorporating everything from tech through to marketplace and DTC marketing.

As we continue our journey back out of lockdown restrictions, we are starting to see the rebalancing of investment and businesses refocusing on brand activity alongside the performance-based activity of the last year or so. I expect to see the more traditional broadcast channels benefit from this change as we enter H2, but in my mind TV will be the main beneficiary as we see the market grow. TV is a core channel to stimulate demand in lower-funnel biddable activity.

Make a big prediction

2021 is going to be a good year for our sector as we get back up on our feet. Let’s be clear, 2021 is about revenue course correction, but I believe that with a returning confidence, 2022 is going to be an absolute belter in terms of real investment growth on a like-for-like period.

I also think Havas Media Group is perfectly placed to capitalize on this opportunity, with our focus on meaningful media and ultimately meaningful outcomes, to help our clients and their brands grow sustainably for the long term.

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