Modern Marketing Media Planning and Buying

Meet the Media Minds: Matt Read, group head of digital at Space & Time


By John McCarthy | Media editor

July 22, 2021 | 8 min read

Adland has a penchant for celebrating creative, but often forgotten are those planning, buying and executing the campaigns. Meet the Media Minds sees The Drum address that imbalance and dig into the models and strategy of the world’s biggest media agencies.

This week we touch down with Matt Read, group head of digital at Space & Time.

Meet the media minds

Matt Read is the group head of digital at Space & Time

What would be your first lesson for a newbie media type?

Don’t let the scope of your knowledge be limited by your job title. It’s very easy in this industry to get set on a path of one media channel or one service offering and become an expert at that at the cost of all other areas.

For example, if you start life as a paid social executive, it’s still worth taking the time to get to grips with other areas such as analytics, Google Ads, SEO and email marketing. You don’t have to be an expert in these but having a more rounded view will help you work better with other teams, offer more to your clients and, in the long term, progress into more senior business roles.

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What are the biggest challenges facing the business?

The biggest challenge we’re going to face over the next two years is continuing to provide marketing that is personalized, relevant and high performing while navigating the new restrictions on cookies and privacy.

Being able to target the right audience, deliver the most relevant message and accurately track results has been key to the unbelievable growth of digital in the last 10 years. A lot of these practices, however, are built on outdated technology that can at times neglect consumer privacy. Therefore, the challenge is to adapt to a more privacy-centric, cookie-less world, while retaining the quality of marketing we’ve come to expect as standard.

What platform or channel excites you the most and why?

It has to be Amazon. Not because I think it’s going to be the best platform out there or is where we’ll see the best results, but because it’s the first real threat I’ve seen to the duopoly of Facebook and Google. The fact that it’s grabbing such a big share of the digital ad market is fascinating to watch. Greater competition in this way between the three will lead to more innovations and opportunities for agencies and their clients.

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

One of the most innovative and creative uses of media I’ve seen in the last year was Heinz’s ‘draw ketchup’ campaign, where the brand anonymously asked people to ‘draw ketchup’ and the majority drew Heinz.

What I loved about this is it brought together two of the most powerful tactics in marketing; user-generated content (UGC) and brand recall. The campaign highlighted the brand’s global recognition and did it in a way that engaged real people who became part of the story and the ads, generating even more buy-in. Clever stuff!

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

Over the past 20 years Space & Time has evolved countless times, whether that be due to new technologies, changes in the market or shifting demand, but what has always remained at the heart of our offering is customer experience. Ultimately, it’s this that has enabled us to have industry-leading levels of client retention.

Looking to the future, we are building on this approach by combining media, technology, creative and training to create FullExperienceTM, a concept that is achieved by working across every stage of our clients’ customer experience, from data strategy to media buying, and flexing our commercial model to suit their unique set of challenges. This could be as a managed service, in-house or as a shared hybrid model. In doing so, we ensure complete strategic alliance. Through this approach, we become more than a media agency but rather a growth partner for our clients.

The brand relationship: how’s the power dynamic, pay and the payment changing?

I think the biggest shift is that it no longer is a power dynamic. The old relationship of agency v client with both pushing each other on price, performance and work has given way to a much more collaborative partnership where we genuinely do all feel part of the same team.

This is actually why at Space & Time we’ve recently launched a new training business, so we can share more knowledge with our clients and therefore work more collaboratively with them. With this, payment structures have of course changed and the innovative agencies are working to agreed deliverables with clients, rather than time. In turn, this increases trust on both sides.

Is tech making your job easier – or complicating matters?

Tech is making the job we do for clients better. Learning how to adapt to new technologies can often be difficult to begin with, but that doesn’t mean it’s complicating matters. In the long run, technological advancements help generate better results, increase efficiencies and help us innovate.

So, in answer to the question, it’s neither! Yes, tech can be complicated, and no, it doesn’t always make our jobs easier, but it pushes us and our clients forward.

Where’s the money going? What’s the shift over the years?

The money will continue to go wherever the customer goes. I often talk to clients about not being behind technology or competitors but being behind the consumer. 10 years ago no one would have expected the volume of spend we now see on Facebook, but that’s where people are consuming media and so that’s where we have to be.

Looking forward, we may see increases in new social channels such as TikTok or new display networks including Amazon’s DSP, but the point is budgets will continue to flow to where the customer is most engaged and most prevalent. Personally, I’m seeing a lot of businesses spread their adspend more, testing multiple social channels, display networks and even alternative search engines so as not to be too reliant on a single channel.

Make a big prediction.

I think with the global focus on user privacy and transparency, the next big trend will be consumers taking back more control over their data and their personal digital footprint. I think people are starting to understand that companies will pay a lot of money for their data and that they can benefit from that.

With this, I predict that in a few years’ time it will just be the norm that people earn rewards or cashback for sharing their data online and, more importantly, that they have the choice to not share anything at all if they prefer.

Last week, Liam Mullins, managing partner of the7stars, talked us through his beliefs. You can subscribe to our Future of Media briefing here for more insights and analysis.

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