Mindshare's Digital Chief On Mixing Media With Creative

norm johnston mindshareAs Mindshare Chief Digital Officer Norm Johnston recalls, the impetus for Content+ occurred during the Cannes Lions advertising festival over several glasses of rosé. (What else?)

Content+ is a partnership between media agency Mindshare and its WPP sister, digital agency POSSIBLE, that launched last week in London, Singapore, Shanghai and North America.

“What came from the POSSIBLE guys was their frustration that they didn’t have all the tech or data that we did,” Johnston said. “We were frustrated that a lot of creative agencies just wanted to win awards at Cannes. They’re more interested in winning the annual award for creative than the daily battle their clients face with the competition.”

From that session, the two decided to work together. Content+ is used by Nestlé-owned pet food company Purina – an existing Mindshare-POSSIBLE joint client – and the two entities are talking to about 10 different clients worldwide.

“Our sense is that [merging creativity and technology] is an area where a lot of clients are unhappy,” Johnston said. “[Content+] can empower the creative process. It can provide insight into the brief, because we know behaviorally what people are interested in and what their tastes and interests in film and music. Or we can use data points to change the creative experience they put in front of people.”

Mindshare isn’t alone in trying to figure this out. Its sister GroupM agency Maxus is trying to build collaboration between the historically separate disciplines of creativity and media. And Omnicom agency RAPP hired a head of media in the US to oversee such efforts.

Johnston spoke with AdExchanger about Mindshare’s efforts to conquer this front.

AdExchanger: What specifically do you hope to achieve with Content+?

NORM JOHNSTON: We want to deliver highly relevant content for very specific audiences. How do we develop a library of visual assets and calls to action that we can deploy dynamically to specific audiences along the customer journey?

We have all the data and the technology but we’re often handed off one or two creative executions, which doesn’t use the capability we have.

How do creative agencies and media agencies typically work together?

The creative agency gets a brief, the media agency gets a brief, the creative agency creates a couple of [creative assets] and hands it off to the media agency, which we execute on.

This is shaking that up. We want an agile, adaptive planning process where in real time we can sit with partners at POSSIBLE and develop content for various scenarios.

What tech components do creative shops typically lack that Mindshare can provide?

A lot of it is the programmatic side. If predictions are correct, programmatic will be 60% of total display spend in the US. That’s quite fundamental to getting into the future of online media, both from a simple targeting perspective and sequential storytelling.

Also, we have multi-screen planning tools. What’s the best combination of TV and online? Our Loop room is full of data about performance. That’s not just paid media. It’s also media performance and the ability to track performance on a website or in an app.

I think of Xaxis as the marketing and technology arm of GroupM. What role does it have in Content+?

It’s an essential component to making Xaxis perform to its full capability. We have both Xaxis and a disclosed programmatic model. Part of our frustration with Xaxis is it has such incredible capability, we just want more content put into it. We can target multiple audiences at multiple points of the journey with Xaxis. But when we only have two banners and creative executions, it limits our ability to drive ROI.

Mindshare is working with Purina out of its Chicago office. How did that come about?

We both worked with Purina. They didn’t buy into Content+, they bought into Mindshare and POSSIBLE separately.

And we know firsthand that a lot of clients were frustrated there wasn’t a solution that brings [creative and technology] together. They could see the components but not the greater combination.

How do client concerns differ around the world?

The conversations we have in Shanghai are more about ecommerce. They want to combine media and creativity, but in a more ecommerce environment. In London, it’s more about programmatic and in US it’s more around the social space.

In the press release, Mindshare emphasized social capabilities. Why are US advertisers so interested in that facet?

I’m not sure if they haven’t gotten to the programmatic bit yet. It could be a sequential thing. For the moment [social] is where the priority is.

Can you give me an example of how Content+ advertisements might appear to consumers?

With organic reach declining – with Facebook trying to minimize promotional content with the news feeds – there’s a much greater pressure creating content that can break through those algorithms and resonate across a fan base.

It’s a little different the way Twitter works.

So it’s less content in some cases, but more impactful content. The bit we want to focus on now is how do we do that using existing tool sets in existing ecosystems. But a year from now: How do we advance that into new areas?

What specifically are you looking at?

The interesting bit is how we can extend that into the mobile world, either through deterministic or probabilistic matching. And possibly with Facebook IP using Atlas.

Beyond that, as you get into wearable tech or Internet of Things, how do we deliver native content or paid advertising using biometric data?

What is the advertising opportunity for the Internet of Things? Is it positioning an ad on a wearable or connected appliance, or is it another data pipeline you can leverage?

At the moment, it’s mostly content that shows up in your app. We’re working closely with MapMyFitness. We have five things we’re doing with them right now. One is using biometric data to reward somebody, or provide them with useful content. It could be as simple as someone doing 10,000 steps and getting a discount on ice cream. Or if you have fitness goals, we give you health-related content like fitness tips.

There’s also a corporate responsibility angle as well. This wasn’t us, but Coca-Cola last year put a challenge out with MapMyFitness to count the number of steps taken in parks around America. The park that got the most steps got a grant from Coca-Cola to put new playground equipment in the park.

Are you an Atlas partner?

We’re looking at Atlas for a couple of different clients. We used it for a few clients [before Facebook rebuilt it] but the majority moved onto other ad serving like Sizmek or DoubleClick. But there’s a genuine interest in revisiting Atlas as a potential solution. You have to give credit to Facebook, which reinvigorated Atlas and is leading the charge in a post-cookie world.

Does Twitter offer the same opportunities in terms of targeting and dynamic creative?

Twitter’s portfolio is largely around its relationship with TV. Most of the work we do with them is about leveraging that. That could be looking at social bounce off Twitter to re-evaluate RTB plans, or retargeting people we know have seen a TV spot or program based on semantic matching of what they’ve tweeted. We’ve done work with them from a programmatic standpoint, but it’s mostly about the relationship with TV.

Do you think that’s Twitter’s strength going forward?

We like Twitter. Working with POSSIBLE and putting out native content around events has been very successful. We’ve done a lot of work with Nike and some other clients.

The concern with Twitter is twofold: Will they scale anymore or have they hit their peak? Second is user experience, which is quite crowded. There’s a lot of criticism with Facebook around the news feed algorithm and how they’re filtering content. It’s controversial with a lot of advertisers, but at the same time, the Twitter experience can be confusing and overwhelming for a lot of people.

They need better ways to help people better manage the flow of information within the app.

What makes Mindshare different from other GroupM agencies?

How can I say without getting in trouble? We all have our nuances. We’re very open-sourced. We’re very open to working with different partnerships. We are the strongest network because we work with big, blue-chip clients who are global. Because we were the first of the GroupM agencies, our network is very strong.

 

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