Technology and the role of the media agency

Media agencies have become too preoccupied with the notion of making stuff in the digital era, when the focus should be finding better and more effective ways to connect clients' brands to people, says Vizeum's managing director, Richard Morris.

Richard Morris: managing director of  Vizeum
Richard Morris: managing director of Vizeum

I believe we should be focusing on making the connection, not making the technology. So we should judge our levels of innovation on how well we connect and not what we connect with. And in this way, we should not differentiate between media (an audience and an environment) and technology (the tools and machines created to improve upon the past).

The basic premise of how we add value to our clients' businesses therefore remains the same – to give our clients advantage over their competitors. And this means identifying the right technologies and applying them in the most creative and integrated ways for maximum effect. Oh, and doing so quickly before a technology's application becomes widespread and any competitive advantage diminished.

Open to ideas

Collaboration, as hackneyed a term as it is, has therefore never been so vital. Every start-up may have a technology with the potential to transform a client's marketing or indeed business, and we need to know about it.

Organising ourselves to help manage the sheer volume of introductions and meetings is critical. This requires new ways of working that leave behind the 45-minute "sales pitch and media pack" of old. We've adopted a "little and often" approach here at Vizeum, typified by the regular "speed dating" events we hold. Clients select those entrepreneurs they want to meet in advance and then pose them a burning question they want solved. On the night, each has a 10-minute window to impress.

We are building relationships with Tech City to connect our clients to technology start-up communities. Our endeavour is to provide innovation pipelines for all of our clients and this particular part of London is incredibly rich with potential. Currently four of our clients (ABInBev, BMW, Heinz and Panasonic) are involved with us in The Bakery, an accelerator programme designed to incubate technology ideas at Stage 2 of their development – post venture capital funding. This has been a really productive exercise, helping our clients connect their brands to their audiences through emerging technologies.

These are early days for the initiative, but each client has identified and incubated a technology that may genuinely have the potential to transform their marketing.

Our relationship with established media owners must also transform as we seek to understand the potential of all of their assets and technology stacks – not just those classified as paid-for media. This means agencies need to employ the skills and capabilities required to fully appreciate the potential of these assets and to develop new relationships with partner organisations.

70/20/10

Google have been working with a 70/20/10 model in the management of innovation since 2005, and we believe this remains a highly relevant and practical way in which to organise ourselves to embrace innovation. The 70% is the tried and tested, 20% adjacent innovation, and the 10% of our output is our commitment to pure innovation – both in terms of our skills, time and financial investment.

But for innovation to be truly transformative, it needs to happen at scale. So when we look to innovate, through technology or otherwise, we ask ourselves whether, if successful, could our 10% today become our 70% core tomorrow? Get this right and the media agency's future will blossom in a world where technology increasingly becomes the means in which brands connect to people.



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