To be successful in 2020, every part of an organisation will need to work together to achieve its goals. Here, we look at data, complexity and technology, content and talent as the four pillars that will determine who the true winners will be just six short years from now.

Data overload: extracting real meaning from big data

The truth is that – regardless of how much data you have – it won’t matter if you don’t know the significance of it. The title of celebrated American statistician Nate Silver’s book, The Signal from the Noise, tells you everything you need to know: what marketers need isn’t more data, but the means to tell which elements from today’s deluge of information really, truly count.

The challenge is how to suss out what’s most important without getting confused or overwhelmed. This is where automated reporting solutions can help: some of our own work at MediaCom recently reduced the reporting workload for a client and its agency teams by 30 percent.

Finding the right way to pull data

To help marketers gain insight and make the necessary adjustments to strategy, big data must be accessible, viewable and manageable. Only then can agency teams and brand managers make smart, fast decisions. By 2020, smart marketers will have implemented some form of automated data reporting. This will allow them to easily see which markets are performing well and delivering the most profitable revenue. The best systems will automatically feed data sources into displays and reports that provide clear indications of campaign performance – in real time. The brands that get this right will significantly reduce the time that highly-skilled media analysts must search for raw data and transform it into something usable. The absence of such systems today means analysts can spend up to 60 percent of their time sourcing and writing reports. In 2020, they will be spending much more time on the actual data analysis that feeds into meaningful decision-making.

Case study: Data-driven campaigns

Challenge

In 2012, a set of niche brands joined the Japanese hair care category, offering new nonsilicone hair care products targeted at women. The popularity of these products took P&G and the other main category players by surprise. Our challenge was to end the sales decline with a smaller media budget.

How MediaCom Made a Difference

We needed something new that would outsmart both our traditional and the new competitors. By examining the historical data for each brand and selecting key touchpoints based on our primary target, affluent Japanese women – P&G’s highest value consumers – we were able to calculate the exact return on investment for every single media dollar spent. This allowed us to create a non-linear optimization system – the first of its kind in the world. Our new Net Outside Sales (NOS) planning system re-allocated budgets away from lower-response activities in order to drive overall category growth. We then folded in broader considerations, such as the capability of each channel to accommodate the creative assets that would effectively address our key brand barriers (particularly trial).

The result was a radically different media plan:

1. TV spend was cut six percent of the overall budget, with the money saved shifted to digital and magazines.

2. Online video – a whole new communications channel – received a 200% boost in spend.

3. Outdoor was removed completely, as its effectiveness in driving awareness did not translate into trial.

4. Five percent of the budget was shifted from lowprofitability brands to higher profit-generating brands.

Results

Our new data-driven planning approach ended a ten-month sales decline and put P&G back in the driving seat in Japan’s incredibly competitive hair care market. This very successful, first-of-its-kind approach to media planning resulted in a nine percent media efficiency increase. The sales impact of an 11 percent cut in media spend was effectively reduced to just three percent, thanks to the gains produced by our optimization efforts. NOS-based planning is now being used six categories totaling $2 billion in annual billings across Asia, including Face & Body Care, Fabric Care, Hair Care, Home Care, Family Care and Prestige, spanning a total of 30 brands and ten markets.

Complexity and technology:  learning to mesh more platforms and more messages together

Marketing communications is only going to get more complex in the next six years. There will be more platforms to integrate, more messages to manage and more personalized marketing to get right (or wrong). Ad management platform MediaMind has developed its own complexity index to track the challenges faced by marketers as they adapt to the developing landscape. Factors making up the index include the number of campaigns, channels, creative variations and media owners involved, as well as the number of third-party data points that must be managed. The results show that complexity is rising. The overall index increased to 130 in 2013 from a base of 100 in 2010, and – for the top ten advertisers – to 180 in 2013 versus the 2010 base line. Marketers absolutely must figure out how to handle this rising tide of complexity. They must identify which elements can be automated, and which will still need a human to oversee them. At the heart of this learning experience will be acquiring the resources to  understand the ecosystem of devices and messaging platforms in use. Central to the process will be technology that helps marketers track the paths consumers take through the branded message ecosystem. Smart marketers will work hard to ensure that these technologies work seamlessly together.

Three technologies to get started with are:

1. Centralized ad serving: ad serving solutions help manage the complexity of display advertising. Using this technology, campaigns can be distributed from a single location to many countries and the resulting set of diverse publisher technologies. Ad serving technologies also have their own data collection and reporting engines.

2. Bid management: bid management solutions help set up and run digital campaigns across all biddable channels, such as paid search, paid social and display. Aggregating the handling of these individual channels onto a single platform helps reduce complexity.

3. Tag management: tag management puts measurement tags on client websites and digital assets in a coordinated, centralized way. This helps measure the productivity of a marketer’s owned digital assets.

Case study: Fully automated reporting

The Challenge

A global MediaCom client was using five different ad servers across 12 different markets. Accurately tracking and reporting on digital campaign performance consumed considerable time and resources, as data had to be manually pulled from the original five sources and then combined.

How MediaCom Made a Difference

MediaCom’s Global Data Solutions team proposed the creation of a custom dashboard solution: data from all five ad servers would be automatically pulled into a central database and made available via a custom, interactive, Web-based user interface.

Data would be refreshed daily, giving agency and client teams access to the most up-to-date results across all digital  campaigns.

The Results

The solution delivered a 30 percent reduction in the reporting workload for the client and its agency teams. The group also benefited greatly from the intuitive, graphical interface, which made it much simpler to compare different time periods at just the click of a button.

Content: engaging the “me” generation

Many marketers think that content consists of films, articles or books, but it can be anything that they or their agencies generate. It could be a tweet, a customer service message or an emotional Christmas TV campaign. Ultimately, brands need to become storytellers, rather than simply creators of content. Storytelling means adding relevance to a pool of content through order, progress, drama and meaning. MediaCom’s approach to every project is to first define the connections ecosystem in which we’re operating: how can we characterize the relationship between a brand and its audience; which paid, owned and earned connections can we leverage; and what types of content are needed to fuel them? A creative layer – aka “the story” – can then be developed and a content map sketched out so we know which content pieces we need to develop and coordinate.

The central principle is that none of the content pieces operate independently, even though some might pull more weight than others. Together, they create an ecosystem across the target group’s connection points and through time, add up to an  expansive brand story. Clearly, owned media (such as shares, likes, Facebook comments, subscribers or followers) is not the sole driving force behind a successful campaign. Based on 15 KPIs and a thorough brand content analysis, we investigated 1,500 YouTube videos from 25 different brands in Germany to identify what made them successful. Quality of content is key, and – of the 32 videos with more than 10 million views – Dove’s Beauty Sketches, Old Spice’s “Scent Vacation” and Heineken’s UEFA short films scored the highest. But how many of these could there be? To be part of the six billion hours of video viewed every month on YouTube (where 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute), brands need to create and distribute content that engages consumers across all connection points on an ongoing basis. Sound intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. The American cookie brand, Oreo, is a good example of turning plain creative into relevant content. As part of its 100-year anniversary campaign in 2012, the company monitored daily trending topics in pop culture and created new content on a daily basis for 100 days. For example, Oreo created a brilliant visual of a moon boot stepping in the cookie cream to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing. MediaCom understands how such stories evolve (and where they should be placed) because our heritage is knowing and delivering messages alongside the content that target audiences love.

At one time, that work involved studying newspaper readership data and diving deep into TV viewing figures. Today (and tomorrow), it means understanding the consumption and digital journeys taken by consumers via blogs, search, mobile, video and many other platforms.

Case study: Venus Tag the Weather

Sweden gets very cold in winter. For five months of the year, sub-zero temperatures engulf the region, and darkness and snow force people to stay indoors. As a result, Swedish women don’t shave much. Why bother, when they have to swaddle   themselves in coats, thermal pants and long johns just to leave the house? This is bad news for Gillette, whose Venus women’s razors suffer a serious sales decline in the country each winter. While MediaCom can’t change the weather, we could help our target of Instagram and Facebook lovers dream of sunnier days, and – if we could get them to “think warm” – perhaps they would start paying more attention to their legs… and use more Venus shavers. Using Instagram as our platform, we asked Scandinavians to upload their best pictures of winter using the hashtag #venuscompetition, and we implemented a carefully planned incentive system.

In just two weeks, we attracted more than 5,800 Instagram photos and reached 444,500 Instagram users. The campaign site attracted over 160,000 unique visitors, with 80 percent visiting via a mobile device. We also reached a total of three million unique mobile devices, while Facebook and Instagram activity reached 91 percent of all Swedish women 18-35. Sales of the Venus razor rose dramatically, with online sales of the product up 570 percent and in-store sales rising by 36 percent.

Talent: identify the people who can make a difference

There are two kinds of people: those that make a difference to your business and those that do not. That’s as true now as it will be in 2020. But the people who will make a difference in 2020 may have a different skill set than today’s business drivers.

The art and science of managing staff – and helping them make a difference – is very different than it used to be. Employees have more power in their relationship with employers, just as consumers have more power in their relationship with brands.

At MediaCom, we don’t talk about the development of a “talent” strategy anymore; our commitment is all about creating and implementing an innovative engagement strategy for both new and existing employees. In The Truth about Talent, Jacqueline Davies and Jeremy Kourdi argue that – in the current business environment – conventional approaches to talent fail because they are process-heavy and don’t reflect the employees’ experience of the interplay of social, demographic, economic and geographic influences that affect their everyday lives. For example, it’s not always about the money. If employees feel connected to the “brand,” stimulated by their work, have a voice and are given the opportunity to progress, they are more likely to achieve greater success for themselves and the business. In many corners, in fact, the old rules no longer apply. Consider that today’s workforce freely shares personal salary information and has access to global peer data from a variety of websites such as Payscale and Glassdoor. And in many marketing departments, the junior workforce will have more technical knowledge than their managers. They also consider tenure longer than 12 months to be a hindrance to their careers.

Rebalancing the power means a new approach to many aspects of traditional talent management. Talent specialists need to work with line managers to ensure performance management is an ongoing, day-to-day part of the work, rather than a once-a-year process that everyone dreads. Career development needs to be highlighted, with new opportunities across the organization promoted broadly. Employers also need to be more flexible regarding family commitments and make it easy for employees to introduce potential new colleagues into the company.

Three things to do to cultivate talent

1. Have talent teams utilize social media to create a more immediate and relevant conversation with employees. This includes keeping the performance conversation alive throughout the year, rather than looking at it on an annual basis.

2. Involve employees in the talent process. Allow them to introduce talent to the business via their own social networks, and share stories of mobility across the network.

3. Ensure that all employees believe they can grow and flourish in your environment.

Case study: MediaCom expands internal recruitment process

Once a year, MediaCom invites all employees to submit ideas that they would implement if they ran the company. In 2011, a German team submitted an idea – now called MediaCom Careers – that was recently implemented. MediaCom Careers allows current MediaCom employees to recommend their friends and former colleagues for unfilled positions at the agency. Essentially, we’ve built a global careers website that allows employees to instantly share MediaCom jobs with their social networks and get rewarded for a successful introduction.

Ultimately, MediaCom Careers makes it easier to find talent by expanding our global candidate database and providing staff with incentives to recommend talented individuals they know.

MediaCom Careers works as follows:

1. All MediaCom job opportunities are uploaded onto the careers section of MediaCom.com. Any MediaCom employee can apply for these positions.

2. At the same time, MediaCom employees can share links to these jobs via their social networks.

3. Friends apply by following the link (thereby being tagged as a referred applicant) and are directed to a microsite that allows the individual to complete an application specific to the open job.

4. If the referred applicant is hired and successfully completes a probation period, the employee who shared the link is paid a referral fee.

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