Meet the Media Minds Media Planning and Buying Media

Meet the Media Minds: Nicolas Bidon of Xaxis on the power of intuition


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

October 14, 2021 | 6 min read

Adland has a penchant for celebrating creativity, 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.


Nicolas Bidon, global chief executive of Xaxis

This week we catch up with Nicolas Bidon, global chief executive of Xaxis (part of GroupM and WPP).

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

Use your intuition – we are all media consumers and digital creatures after all – and stay curious. Consumer habits and the industry change so fast that having a desire to understand new tech and behaviors, plus committing to constantly learning, is key. This fast pace of change is what makes media exciting though.

What are the biggest challenges facing the business?

We face the same challenge as others within the industry: finding, developing and retaining the best talent. Our exceptional growth means Xaxis has more than a hundred jobs open globally. The labor shortage is not a temporary problem and we need to think differently to address it. Investment into training will give us a more diverse and inclusive pool of talent, alongside the acceleration of apprenticeships and back-to-work programs. It’s also important to establish a flexible working policy and foster a forward-thinking company culture.

One of the ways we grew our sense of culture and community while our employees were working from home was through Xaxercise, a company-wide challenge to virtually travel a total distance of 71,856 km, stopping at ten of the cities we have an office in. Employees could choose how they covered that distance – running, cycling, swimming, walking or even kite-surfing, to name just a few. As well as the obvious physical benefits from the challenge, we found that employees felt better connected despite working remotely, and this boosted morale company-wide. Culture-building activities like Xaxercise have helped us keep hold of our talent, as well as attract new hires.

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

I am very excited about the growth trajectory of programmatic out-of-home (OOH). Programmatic OOH has allowed advertisers who embraced it to rapidly adapt to the new challenges Covid-19 has brought by mixing new location-based data sets and technology to adjust ad placements on an hourly basis to react to peak audience movements and other physical world conditions.

It’ll be intriguing to see how brands continue to creatively harness this newfound flexibility and speed in future OOH campaigns, and incorporate this new programmatic channel into their overall digital media mix.

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

Restaurant chain Wendy’s is doing some amazing work at the intersection of culture and media. Its campaign with VMLY&R in partnership with Fortnite – where they got millions of players destroying freezers in the game to reinforce the Wendy’s ‘fresh, never frozen beef’ messaging – stood out for me and deservedly won numerous prizes.

How is your business evolving and how’s that differentiated from the competition?

We are staying true to our mission of delivering better outcomes for our clients by leveraging Copilot (our proprietary AI platform), the power of our 1,500 programmatic experts around the globe and, increasingly, creative coming from our in-house Xaxis Creative Studios. We’ve made a significant investment into Xaxis Creative Studios as part of our all-inclusive model so we can rapidly produce data-informed creative that is more appealing and works better for both brands and customers. This ability to blend both AI and creativity at scale really differentiates us and has had a marked impact on the performance we deliver for clients.

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

As new channels and tech platforms continue to emerge unabated and consumers’ attention becomes even more fragmented, brands are realizing the benefits of working with specialists that can help them simplify the complexity and guide them through an ever-changing media landscape.

Flexibility for commercial terms is key, however, and brands are looking for partners that can offer the right commercial models and solutions for them. This could mean an all-inclusive, risk-based outcome model in some markets, and a commission of FTE-based model for others. One-size-fits-all just does not cut it anymore.

Is tech making your job easier – or complicating matters?

I think it is a bit of both. New developments in augmented reality or privacy changes such as Apple’s recent App Tracking Transparency (ATT) initiative present interesting new technological challenges for the industry, but on the flip side, advancements in areas such as AI or cloud computing also create exciting new possibilities. On the whole, I would say that tech is making our job easier.

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

We’re continuing to see more money channeled into digital and programmatic, and – increasingly – also commerce solutions. From a format perspective, video is taking over from traditional text and images thanks to the exponential growth in streaming fueled by billions of dollars of investments in premium content, and also the rise of social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. From a branding point of view, I would expect TV dollars to continue to move to CTV and digital video, while from a performance point of view, I would expect a large proportion of the traditional display spend to move to on-platform commerce solutions.

Make a big prediction about the sector.

As more media channels become increasingly addressable and measurable – and new scaled digital platforms appear that require their own set of creative formats – media and creative agencies will need to work closer together (or even merge) to help brands take full advantage of the real-time era we live in.

Last time we sat down with Total Media managing director Tom Laranjo.

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