TJ Lightwala, head of Future Adaptive Specialist Team (FAST) and Performance, Mindshare MENA, spells out the real meaning of innovation in today’s media landscape
Innovation is often referred to in the context of cool, new pieces of technology which, in some way, shape or form utility and overall value, which ought to help both, demand and supply. But, is this really the case and is it enough? Innovation, to me, means two things as of today: adaptability to dramatically change the landscape, and establishing what ‘value’ means in this changing landscape.
As target audiences, not only are we constantly served information, but also have unlimited access to all sorts of news and updates in real-time. It’s no surprise then that brands are fighting for their fair share of attention. Which means that as agencies, our approach to our clients’ business needs to change from one-to-one communications with independent teams to an integration of cross-functional talent serving client focus. It’s a combinatory effect of integrated performance specialists and brand strategists with planners, to advise, manage and drive business to eventually attain a share of attention within the audience set. When done right, this approach serves for better and targeted communications to audiences, dynamically based on context. For instance, at Mindshare, we have adopted FAST (Future Adaptive Specialist Team) to ensure a 360 approach to client outcomes by putting an integrated performance unit at the heart of the business.
Next, and equally crucial, are the people who form the new agency model. Conversations with clients have now extended beyond media buying and best trading value to finding solutions for business challenges and delivering ROI. As clients’ business landscape changes, so do agencies’ talent requirements. There is now a great need for up-skilling talent in the areas of programming, marketing sciences, data and analytics. We are in the business of outcomes – creating and driving a roadmap for business transformation; essentially serving as consultants and practitioners of our craft.
There is no war on talent; it’s merely survival of the fittest.
The worlds of value and innovation are merging. Innovation, in itself, is valuable, and value in the new agency model is riding on the heels of innovation. The subject of value is broad; technologies are constantly permeating the ecosystem; and IT, marketing, business intelligence, and finance together are the steering committee bringing the value of the platform, technology, data, strategic inputs, and monetary responsibility into the project. This is innovation in its workable form.
There are three key points inspiring the confluence of value and innovation:
- Telcos. One of most significant game changers today is the telcos’ acquisition spree. For instance, Verizon purchased AOL to now become OATH; Singtel’s digital ad division Amobee acquired Turn embedding telco data into a DSP; The Trade Desk joined hands with an unnamed telco partner, and there is a deal brewing between AT&T and Time Warner for more targetable communications. These strategic partnerships are creating more value in the space of highly relevant, demographic and user-level targeting than ever before.
- Dynamic creative optimization. Although there has been much talk for the last five years about the worlds of context and messaging converging for personalization, there is more talk and less walk in this space. Large e-commerce establishments such as Booking.com, Amazon, Emirates, and Staples are likely more evolved than others. This is, in part, due to the scale such personalization needs to increase reach and, the several permutations that make for good and relevant communications.For instance, if one is flying from New York to Dubai, and then Dubai to London, each search should yield a different advert based on origin-destination dynamic, pricing, and the actual image. These elements are defined as “dynamic elements” and can be coded to appear against certain rules. The rules could be origin-destination, prices, colors and sizes of clothing, cars et al. Therefore, the result is highly relevant and personalized data-informed messaging. This may seem simple. The reality? Not always.
- Addressable TV. TV spend is the darling of all media conversations here in the region, for reasons both objective and subjective. According to industry data, of the total ad spend, TV commands 30 percent versus 18 percent on digital. The region is experiencing a softening of TV investments, mainly, due to traditional big TV spenders questioning true reach and measurability of GRPs. With the growth of new media and programmatic channels, marketers are looking for ways to monetize their dollars via a mix of digital and addressable channels with stricter controls on measurement and returns. This new wave has resulted in “Addressable TV,” which uses programmatic technology and audience segmentation to deliver specific video ads at a household level in real time. It’s the same concept as programmatic TV but since Addressable TV, identifies matches at a household level with real-time bidding, it results in far less wastage and hence, more optimized targeting.
In a world hungry for quick wins, constant consolidation of media and complementary partners, rapid transformative technologies, more and more programmatic and AI powering faster algorithms, creative and data merging in value, the one thing that remains constant is adaptation and innovation. So, by all means, innovate. But, don’t forget the human touch and personality – that’s the key differentiator. As GroupM’s chief innovation officer, Cary Tilds, puts it, when asked what’s the next big thing, “Human Beings”.