New types of collaboration
For publishers, a first step is to meet agencies half-way by creating products that fit a more agnostic customer-centric methodology. Low says SPH is segmenting its audience not by products or media brands but by groups or tribes, in line with what the agencies are already doing.
“I think a key thing is that it’s not all about data, it’s not all about price but it is about ideas and ideas require a certain type of partnership between the client, creative, media agency and media publisher, and I think these days the media owner needs to be able to marry his own product to make sure it fits,” he says.
He cites an example of how it’s innovating around this for print. A new partnership with HP has created a possibility of print titles for clients customisable according to subscriber preferences. Another initiative with SPH’s Circulation division has resulted in extra copies of a print title being sent physically to certain demographics or geographical areas for that day, potentially increasing the ROI of the print ads within.
“We have to adapt our own media. If you say that medium is important, the onus is on us to make sure that’s relevant for you. The key is that innovation doesn’t necessarily happen online,” he adds.
For these partnerships to happen, Oxley Holdings’ Lim says it does start with the client and that starts with understanding that agencies are experts in their fields and not necessarily in your business.
“The market has changed. If you have a creative agency, they will be working on many other brands and so you can’t expect them to know everything about your sector,” he says, “I think a lot of responsibility lies on the client-side right from the start. If you don’t even know what you want and you start fishing around for ideas, it’s not going to work. That’s why it really is a partnership, I say we have to set the direction, we have to know what we want. We know the strategy but we also have to leave it to the professionals to run their side of things, so the creative agency has to come up with the creative, leave them alone and don’t disrupt that. Then the media sales person we trust to get us the best deal.”
Having a stronger partnership would ultimately change the issue of short and long-termism because accountability is better shared, according to the group, which will help shift measurement to business results.
“Some of our challenges with that come from clients expecting us to know everything in their industry, although we may not be as deeply involved, so it really is a partnership that we are looking for so we can lift our ability so we can become accountable from a partnership level. The client may often be in a better position to steer us in some of those areas, so it’s a more efficient use of all of our expertise,” says Yeung.
Doing these things will create a new energy for the industry and one that proves marketing’s function as a growth engine for business, but it requires a united front.
“It is about embedding in partnerships with all stakeholders to ensure a vitality for the marketing and communications industry. We want more disruption, change and choice, so we can create a unified front so that there’s no ability for monopolies to exist in the future. That’s the real threat for all of us,” adds Yeung.
As for how that’d work, it may be time for the industry to be more experimental in its own business models, as Low suggests, “I would love to see an experimental JV between a creative agency, a media agency and a media owner, for example. These three work on a joint P&L. Why not? The integration ring fences it, just to see how it works.”
Whether or not we start seeing joint P&L’s from creative, media agencies and owners still remains to be seen but there’s a hunger from the industry to create a united front and it very well could bring about the holy grail of agnostic marketing.