Earlier this week, Mediabrands announced the acquisition of social agency Spring Creek Group. Read more on PaidContent.
Moorcroft discussed the acquisition, audience buying and the strategy ahead for Mediabrands Audience Platform.
AdExchanger.com: First, can you talk a little bit about what Mediabrands Audience Platform is?
BM: Sure. It was about this time last year we had a leadership change as Matt Seiler was confirmed as the new CEO of Mediabrands. At that time we looked at all of the practices and specialist entities that we had outside of our two main agencies of UM and Initiative and we saw an opportunity to bring together assets aligned to the consumer opportunity that was being presented to us.
In our own words - "Mediabrands has evolved the specialist practices of Reprise Media, Cadreon, Ansible, and now it’s going to form a constellation of data driven services and enabling technologies called the Mediabrands Audience Platform."
We describe the Mediabrands Audience Platform (MAP) as a platform that improves insight and results by helping our agencies find, buy, and engage their most valuable audiences. This is an evolution of the practices of Reprise, Cadreon and Ansible.
And, why buy Spring Creek Group?
Most of the assets for MAP we had within, but one of the clearest gaps and opportunities for us was social.
And when we define social, it’s every element of social. It's the intelligence that you can glean through monitoring, listening, and capturing insights through conversation. It's the ability to create and form communities around content, around conversations. And, it's the ability to execute paid campaigns on social platforms today like the optimization it can do within Facebook and others.
On the client side, what were you hearing that made you pull the trigger on Spring Creek?
Social is becoming one of the most critical platforms to communicate with audiences, period. Social is not just a campaign tactic. It's systemic to client activity, to client business. Clients are looking at us to fulfill and provide strategy on how to leverage the big platforms that exist today. We heard that consistently from every one of our brands within the clients that we manage. This is a critical element to communication planning moving forward.
Given the role of the strategic communications planner at Initiative or UM and the potential benefits of the Spring Creek acquisition to them, how much of it is about the digital channel versus a communication with the consumer that is uniquely mined in social?
That’s one of the reasons why we're so interested in creating that whole platform, not just the social piece. Think about the combination of the data that you can capture through what we learn which people are searching or tweeting or blogging, etc. – and what about the creatives they're engaging with, sites they're searching for or content they're reading?
You now start to imagine all of this consumer-centric data that's starting to be fused together to form communications planning at UM and Initiative. We see the audience platform as a massive engine to provide the intelligence, data, and insight to our agencies of UM and Iinitiative - and to a lot of other IPG agencies, too.
What would you say is the connection between Mediabrands Audience Platform, Spring Creek and television?
Sure. We've had a partnership with Visible World through Cadreon for the last year or so. This is another great avenue for us to provide the digital intelligence and help the systems of addressable TV. We see a huge opportunity to take and append the data that we're getting back from cable boxes and the addressable over-the-top hardware that's going into TV. So imagine now, with more granularity and with faster turnaround, we can start to see the chatter about topics, shows and content that are being developed in the traditional world.
We see even more opportunity with TV moving forward. We've got a great partnership [with Visible World], but we're exploring with some other providers. We've had a relationship with Simulmedia and Brian Weiser, a former Mediabrands employee. We’ve had conversations with Microsoft and others. We really do see an opportunity for TV to start to be impacted. Expect to hear more from us in the next couple months about what our next step with TV is going to be. There will be a push within the Mediabrands Audience Platform to do this.
Let’s take a look at Cadreon specifically. Can you articulate what component Cadreon fulfills within the MAP architecture?
It's not a surprise that Cadreon, given their leadership, technology and services team is actually playing a larger role within the Mediabrands Audience Platform – we had to imagine what the future of an agency looked like when we created Cadreon. We obviously have had an incredibly successful run over the last couple of years and have been growing at an amazing rate. And so, we've applied a lot of that philosophy in the creation of MAP, which Cadreon is a backbone of. But we've also got to look at the depth of experience and intelligence that we can glean from Reprise and Ansible – together with Cadreon, these are product capabilities that come to life in what we call the “benefit bundles” within Mediabrands.
One of the pillars of these bundles is a way for us to clarify the product and services of the specialist entity. So when we talk about Cadreon, we talk about Cadreon as a one-to-many solution. If I'm starting to look at a mass audience strategy, Cadreon fulfills the requirement for marketing to many targeted groups of people and is far more efficient than what we have been able to do with digital in the past.
But in a search engine, it starts to become more of a one-to-one conversation. So with Reprise and Ansible, we start to talk about in the capability of one-to-one within the benefit bundles.
Yet, [three groups] are powered and managed as one integrated team within the Mediabrands Audience Platform, which helps us leverage intelligence across all of the digital platforms.
So the term "trading desk" has been associated with Cadreon in the past. Are you comfortable with that association, or has it changed?
I've never been comfortable with that. That's one of the functions of Cadreon - to be able to buy media through trading tools in liquid exchanges. Yets, that's one thing Cadreon does. But – and we've talked about this a great deal over the last couple years - we think the role of Cadreon is as important to fueling insights and intelligence across media platforms, as much as it is to actually buying and optimizing media. That's why, in the positioning of MAP, we talked about finding, buying, and engaging audiences. That's really what Cadreon has been about for the last couple years in digital display. We're now trying that philosophy across search, social, video, addressable TV and mobile.
Getting back to Spring Creek and filling the social silo for the client, if you will, shouldn’t clients start thinking about it more holistically - in a cross‑channel kind of way? Making sure all those channels are working efficiently would seem to be most critical. How do you respond to that?
I think we're in position today where we have a little bit of everything [on the client side]. Certain clients - large, big, global network clients - want things controlled and managed via one single choke point. And so, at that point, when they hire an agent, they look at the holding companies and they piece together all of the specialist capability into one group. And so imagine the way we served Johnson and Johnson. We put together the best of Mediabrands. And, we’ve had partnerships with RGA. So a client like that looks for a holistic overview and wants to know that all of the those specialties are within the holding company.
And you have other clients that want to ensure that the best of breed specialists are represented. In that case, they want to work with a specialist creative entity, CRM entity, specialist media entity and so on. Honestly, we're still seeing a good mix of both types of clients. It depends on the way clients are structured and what information or what teams they're involving in-house or not.
But, I think that there is a shift. I've talked a little bit about it in recent weeks. I think we're also starting to see a shift back to creative and media being closer together again. While you still see the media AORs as a platform to build on, I think you are starting to see close partnerships developing with creative entities again. That's really exciting.
Finally, with Mediabrands Audience Platform, what's in it for “brand”?
So, we have a definite intelligence today about how people look engaged with digital experiences, whether it's in search, community, chatting, disclosing statuses. Whether it's watching digital video, engaging in games - it doesn't matter what it is. There is so much data that we are starting to capture about what people are doing that we are able to glean intent. And we're able to see if we're shifting the perception of a brand, of a product just as much as we're able to say, "Yes, we can get the consumer to take an action, and therefore judge us on the cost per action."
The blend between those is really what we've been about - we can support ways of creating and distributing really rich, beautiful stories that shift people's perception on a product or a brand just as easily as we can use an algorithm to optimize to an action of a sale, lead, downloading a white paper, etc.
I think the great opportunity is that we have more measurable data to act on more quickly. The opportunity to support brand-based initiative is rich, fertile ground for us to explore right now. I think this is one of the greatest parts of doing what we're doing, to help support great brand messages.
By John Ebbert