Carat MD Matthew Hook took to the stage at Advertising Week Europe to debate how the confluence of content, distribution and technology is re-shaping the media landscape. He was joined at St James’ Church, Piccadilly, by Nikki Mendonca, OMD’s President, EMEA, Paul O'Donnell, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, and Kate Robertson, Co-Global President of Havas Worldwide, in a session chaired by Guy Johnson, TV anchor at Bloomberg. Jenny Cornish, Carat’s blog editor, went along and picked out seven key points from the session.

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  • The Holy Trinity of advertising

Johnson described the confluence of content, distribution and technology as ‘the Holy Trinity of advertising’ and asked whether all these things were compatible.

Hook said: “I think they’re all totally interrelated and reliant on each other. Where you tend to find the tension is between the content and distribution.

“They underpin the challenge of the human element of what we do and the tech and data driven element of what we do. When you resolve that conflict that’s where the really great work comes from.”

O’Donnell said the industry needed to move beyond the tensions between these different elements.

“Without distribution content is just landfill,” he said. “There is already far too much content or as I call it stuff, in the world.

  • Creative needs to redefine itself

Robertson said she feared for the future of the creative side of the business. “I noticed last year and I’ve seen it more this year that this is getting squashed out of the discussion,” she said.

“We’ve lost the plot. We lost the plot with the rise of media independence. With the creative side of the business, we’ve never learnt how to charge for what we do.

“I think the creative side of the business is going to have to be swept in with the distribution side. It’s absolutely seismic.”

  • We’re still in the foothills

Hook said the changes to the industry are only just beginning. “We need to bear in mind that a huge disruption has happened to what everybody does,” he said.

“In reality we’re about 10 per cent of the way through it. We’re just getting over the trauma. Creatives are engaging with data, media people are respecting non-numerical disciplines, we’re all ready to form full service in some format, which in my mind is through collaboration.

“A great example is if you look at how the World Cup happens now and the work we did with adidas, it’s rooted in the mobile, it’s rooted in the moment, it links through to transaction, it’s both engaging people and selling trainers.” But he said there were still not many examples of campaigns that worked this way.

  • Finding people with the right skills is crucial

Hook said: “You need to bring in different people in the first place. We’re not thinking enough about 18 to 21 year olds coming into the business. What should their first few years in the business look like? They shouldn’t just come into a creative department and sit there for the next 20 years.”

Mendonca agreed that it was crucial to keep the talent happy. “They absolutely have to be kept inspired, motivated, they have to be always learning,” she said.

“I still think that there are some excellent pools to fish in to get that talent from. You have to fish in different pools. You have to make sure that you go sometimes where they are and make yourself an attractive place to be at, where they can build their careers and travel the world.”

  • The industry needs to work together to attract the right people

“There are some things that we should be doing together,” said Hook. “The people who are coming through schools now, do they really understand the advertising industry?

“Some industries are doing it better than advertising. Technology is doing it better than advertising. Google and Facebook are working with government to change the curriculum and I don’t think we have a voice in that discussion.”

Robertson agreed. “All people are asking is ‘how do I get a job at Google?’” she said. “The thing about talent is, if it’s very talented, it went round the corner and trebled its salary at Google, and we can’t compete with that. We really are in a talent war with Google and Facebook now.”

  • Big data – the consumer has the power

Hook said the value equation with the consumer was crucial. “There is an assumption that we’re going to live in a future where there’s going to be a lot more sharing of data. That’s only true if people decide not to turn it off,” he said.

“If we don’t treat that value equation quite carefully and make sure that when you give me data, I give you value back, there is still a chance that the presumed future may not be true. There may be more of a movement for consumers to lock down their data.”

Mendonca said consumers could even cash in on the value of their own data.“We might come to a time where the consumer really understands the value of their own data and will actually sell it,” she said. “Consumers are getting very savvy now.”

Hook said: “We’re very excited about the data we don’t have and what we could potentially do with it and we’re thus far quite unsophisticated in the data we do have and what we do with it. There’s a whole craft that is probably two years into its lifestyle, that is, how do you use real time personal data to create amazing, wow experiences for people?”

  • We all need to adapt to constant change

Robertson said: “In the 35 years I’ve been in the business, when I got into the business my first client was Unilever and they always used to quote Lord Leverhulme saying ‘I know 50 per cent of my advertising works I don’t know which 50 per cent’. What we’re talking about now is a world where we really do know.”

Hook said: “Most of us here are relatively well equipped to enter this world. I think the challenge that we have pales into insignificance with the challenge that some of our clients have. If you are sitting on a very large physical estate business that must be truly terrifying.” But, he pointed out: “We are the people who can take these clients on this journey.”

Mendonca said that again, the key was recruitment. “We have to recruit people who are comfortable with constant change,” she said. “You have to recruit the right mindset and that sometimes is hard to find.”

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