Creative Agencies Bring Media In-House

As consumer attention continues to fragment, creative agencies are relying more on real-time insights to craft personalized messages and optimize them on the fly. That requires bringing media and creative services closer together.

While smaller indie shops are bringing media execution in-house to make messaging more relevant, holding companies experiment with cross-discipline and cross-agency teams.

“You have to understand the media people are consuming in order to create something for them,” said Nelson Freitas, chief strategy officer at Wunderman. “Otherwise, you're just creating in a vacuum.”

Quantifying Creative

Media data has typically been difficult for creatives to access because they don’t own demand-side platforms or data management platforms (DMPs). So creatives have restructured their planning processes to incorporate talent and insights from media at the beginning.

To help its sister agency Grey in London integrate programmatic data into the creative planning process, Mindshare’s media performance unit, FAST, developed a framework in January that packages media insights in a way creatives can understand and apply quickly.

“We need the creative agencies to take a more rapid pace,” said Adam Ray, head of programmatic at Mindshare. “The challenge was to take the flesh of programmatic from a creative angle.”

The project, called Mindshare FAST@Grey, refocused the creative brief around targeting audience segments and optimizing campaigns against real-time data like location, frequency and cross-device messaging. Mindshare brought on Babs Maye as programmatic creative director to bridge the gap in understanding between media and creative.

“The media agency has a lot of value to add to [the creative] process,” Ray said. “So much knowledge is gained when the campaign is in execution.”

Creative and CRM shop Wunderman began incorporating media talent and data into the creative planning process in 2014, when it launched Collision, a workshop that pulls in perspectives from media, analytics and outside companies like Facebook to plan an integrated campaign.

“We’re including data as a bigger part of the inputs coming in, not just what’s coming out the other way,” said Wunderman’s Freitas. “It’s not a pass-the-baton thing anymore.”

Through Collision, Wunderman taps into search and social listening tools as well as its DMP Zipline, which hooks into GroupM data assets like Turbine and Kantar, to create messages for specific audience segments and optimize throughout the campaign.

“We need multiple layers of understanding of who [the audience is], how they use the platform and where they are,” Freitas said. “The more I know where you are and why you’re there, the better engagement I have as a brand.”

When Collision brings together agencies from competitive holding groups on shared account, the process can be “a little more difficult, but not insurmountable,” Freitas said.

After being acquired by Dentsu Aegis Network in July, B2B creative shop Gyro restructured to integrate its Precision group, which covers media, analytics, programmatic and other measureable disciplines, with the creative process. Gyro now plans campaigns around an overarching measurable metric that the entire agency can point back to.

But granularity around how that metric is measured and what other metrics ladder up to it are buried deeper in the brief.

“I’m not sure that many creatives dive that deep, but it’s there should they want to or have questions,” said Liam Blackwell, chief digital officer at Gyro.

By optimizing creative against real-time digital signals, Gyro can cross-sell products, nurture leads with sequential messaging and update burnt-out creative on ongoing campaigns.

If Gyro notices a company is buying land, for example, it can follow up with a personalized message to buy machinery to work that land. Or if a CFO downloads a white paper, Gyro builds a cookie segment and programmatically targets him or her to take the next step in that acquisition funnel.

“All the way through the process is that tactical segmentation that requires specific messaging,” Blackwell said.

As part of Dentsu, Gyro leans on partnerships across the network to target B2B customers in B2C environments with the right creative.

“There’s a lot of information about what a CIO does in their working week, but if we take a sideways step and see how they’re interacting on social media, we can enrich the process,” Blackwell said.

Creatives Bring Media In-House 

As holding companies bring media and creative closer together, indie shops are building in-house media divisions. In the past year, creative agencies like Droga5, Figliulo & Partners and Walrus have launched media groups to make their creative more personalized and relevant – and easier to build.

“There are so many different creative formats and each serve a different purpose from a media point of view,” said Mel Stern, head of media at Walrus. “If you’re not communicating from the beginning, you may run up against timetables that don’t allow for that.”

Since bringing on Stern in October and building an in-house media unit, Walrus has snagged the media account for steakhouse Smith & Wollensky, as well as athletic gear brand CWX.

“It’s about making your media smarter, educating clients on the power of digital and especially the power of programmatic,” he said.

 

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