Digital Transformation Media Planning and Buying

Meet the Media Minds: Spark Foundry’s Marcos Angelides on specializing... and knitting


By John McCarthy | Media editor

August 19, 2021 | 10 min read

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

Marcos Angelides

Meet the Media Minds: Spark Foundry's Marcos Angelides on specializing... and wool

This week we catch up with Marcos Angelides, chief strategy and innovation officer at Spark Foundry.

Lesson for a media newbie?

Simple, don’t over-specialize. Jump between as many teams and career paths, as possible. For years we were told that people should focus on one area (planning, digital strategy, investment) and become an expert in that one field. But what our industry really needs are people who can connect the dots. Your work is only as good as the other teams you depend on, and the more you understand them, by walking in their shoes, the better your work will be.

I’d also recommend reading Range, by David Epstein. It shows that many of the world’s most accomplished people found their calling late on, often by chance, and had spent much of their lives exploring multiple career paths.

So perhaps the best media ‘newbies’ aren’t just those at entry-level, but people who’ve spent years doing something else and now want to make the jump over. I did, and never regretted it.

Always have your hand in the air, asking for more…

Biggest challenges?

Diverse talent.

I’ve never seen such a demand for people, or so many open roles to fill. It’s a buyer’s market, but that doesn’t mean the biggest salary wins. Candidates are looking to understand each agency’s identity and culture. What’s strange is that our industry is about helping brands to be distinct, but we’re not always great at doing that for our own businesses. Now, it’s imperative.

The other challenge with the fight for talent, is keeping D&I front of mind. Hopefully, the current situation will motivate agencies to look for more diverse candidates from wider backgrounds. But the concern is that when companies are desperate to fill roles, they often fall into the same old hiring patterns. “Who can hit the ground running?” “Who is the ‘right fit’ for the team?” We need to ensure that we don’t lose sight of our commitments to making a fairer and more inclusive industry (particularly at senior levels). Not just because it’s morally right, but because it will make us better at what we do.

Platform or channels excites you most?

Audio. One of the world’s oldest and most traditional mediums is quickly becoming the most exciting. From the rise of voice search and sophisticated targeting, to the avalanche of podcasts and creative formats. It offers one of the cheapest ways to reach people and yet offers some of the strongest ROIs in marketing. For brands looking to find a competitive advantage and stand out in a cluttered media environment, then look no further.

We’re spending a lot of time with clients advising them on how to position themselves correctly, the value of sonic branding and how publishers can help to quickly create an effective audio presence.

Whether you’re a brand leader or a lucky DTC challenger, it’s highly likely you can improve your marketing effectiveness through audio.

Most clever use of media?

From a targeting perspective, I’d say Asda launching the UK’s first use of Connected TV. Not only did it put the brand at the forefront of innovation, it also served a very clear business purpose. Through CRM data, they knew exactly who their lapsed customers were, but they needed a powerful medium to tempt them back.

Connected TV gave Asda the fame driving power of broadcast, along with the targeted efficiency of digital. It delivered their highest ever ROI and paved the way for many other brands to embrace the opportunity. No wonder it’s won multiple awards this year.

From a branding perspective, GSK’s work has been hugely impressive. Both in terms of powerful content, but also in taking a clear position on D&I. While many brands pop up for gay pride, but go worryingly quiet the rest of the year, GSK has made a long-term commitment to the community, including a multi-year deal with Gay Times.

They’ve already produced some incredible ads, from recasting their classic ads with the LGBTQ+ community, to shining a light on personal stories of empowerment and positive change. Expect to see even more in the coming year.

How is agency evolving?

Last year, we launched our new proposition as the ’Acceleration Agency’. We did this after a period of consultation with our clients as we wanted our identity to be a true reflection of how they saw us – not some meaningless statement. We developed three options to consider, and across the board our clients felt ‘acceleration’ best reflected our strengths and values.

This feedback may have been, in part, because we have a lot of retail clients, where speed is of the absolute essence. But for us, acceleration isn’t just about doing things faster, it’s about balancing speed with quality, in order to effect real business or organisation change. We apply that energy to our client’s short and long-term goals, whether that’s responding to overnight government changes in the middle of a pandemic or accelerating digital transformation in months rather than years.

Our proposition has definitely fed into the way our relationships have evolved in the past year or so. Covid was such an inflection point, where no one knew what the next day would bring. This meant brands needed us to be proactive; coming to them with guidance on what was happening, what it meant for their business and how we could minimize risks.

Our focus on acceleration ultimately gave us permission to start having conversations we might not have had before. And now we’re coming out the other side, that extra time and effort is being rewarded.

Is tech making things easier or harder?

My auntie used to say, ’Don’t knit a third arm just because you have spare wool’.

Tech has unlocked infinite opportunities in the world of marketing, but sometimes we’ve been guilty of adding stuff just because we could, and not because it was helpful.

Thankfully, things are changing. The role of automation will revolutionize the marketing industry. We probably spend 70% of our time on manual work and 30% on strategic, or creative thinking. Tech will flip that number round. And I’m not talking about sometime far in the future, this is happening now. Just look at Publicis Media’s Abacus bot as an example. The technology is ready, we just need to use it in the right way.

Where’s the money going? What has been the shift?

Digital is obviously getting more and more, but the players are changing. Amazon has come out of Covid as the golden child of marketing and is quickly moving from a performance platform into a full-funnel option. Meanwhile, TikTok has exploded onto the scene and is making the opposite journey from brand platform to credible commerce site. So, the old fears of ‘the duopoly’ aren’t as worrying anymore.

And without wanting to wade into the debate of HFSS, the reality is the ban may help diversify spend further. As brands look beyond the obvious choices of digital and peak TV, it will motivate them to focus on brand building near points of purchase, which opens up incredible opportunities for print, OOH, audio and experiential.

So there’s still a big need for integrated comms planning, and agencies who understand how different channels work together.

Make a big prediction?

Creative and media will come back together. It’s been a long time coming, but it is coming. The idea that you can separate the medium and the message is crazy. The two elements work symbiotically, so if you change one, it dramatically impacts the other.

Michelangelo was an incredible artist no matter what he did. But if the Vatican had given him the side of an old shed, rather than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, then his masterpiece would have looked very different. People who think media is just a vehicle for delivering the message should think again. That vehicle defines how your message is interpreted, and what it says about your brand.

The best agencies of the future will be those where you have media folk who can talk the language of creative, and creative folk who understand the value of media data.

Last week we caught up with Paul Kelly, chief revenue officer of A Million Ads, regarding the opportunity in audio.

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