UM Execs On Agency Universal McCann Turning Toward The Digital Future With Media 3.0

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Universal McCannThis past week, IPG Mediabrands agency, Universal McCann (UM), announced it's data and analytics "Media 3.0" strategy calling it the agency's "new operating platform [which] bolsters UM's proposition as a strategy and analytics-led organization, centered on business outcomes," according to a press release. The new strategy includes integration of data and analytics capabilities from Nielsen. Read more from Joe Mandese on MediaPost.

Kristi Argyilan, UM's Chief Transformation Officer, and Dr. Hari S. Abhyankar
, SVP, Business Insights & Advanced Analytics for UM, discussed what the strategic shift means for the agency with AdExchanger.com.

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AdExchanger.com: What is Media 3.0?

Kristi Argyilan: It is a new way of operating at UM that is still searching for what we really call it. Our working title is 3.0. It is intended to be a clear indication that a digital sensibility is at the core of everything that we do.

Much what is great about digital is that it can be applied as quickly as possible to everything that we do - where we are able to do all media real‑time and respond to things that are driving the right kinds of outcomes for our clients –and, not just digital outcomes but business outcomes.

The core components are strategy, analytics, and creativity and content development. But the analytics piece is the thing that's setting us free in terms of what we do and setting us up to be able to show the right kind of results to our clients.

What were some of the milestones that occurred where you realized that you needed to move into this 3.0 strategy?

Kristi Argyilan: I think that we really started on the journey two‑and‑a‑half years ago. It came from really all of our clients saying at the same time that we're recognizing that just driving down media pricing wasn't going to be a long‑term viable tenet in terms of what media agencies are bringing to the relationship, at the same time that technology was changing and the way that consumers was engaging with brands was changing.

We also saw that creative agencies were able to fulfill a piece of the content requirements that are required in order to really connect with consumers.

And then the final piece was just we also saw that digital was the thing that everybody was excited about because you could see how things were transforming. But we couldn't always see whether or not it was driving business results, so we were setting up to be able to start to do that, too.

So, this is a strategy within UM? What are the implications here for Mediabrands and even IPG?

Kristi Argyilan: Most media agencies are having this kind of conversation right now, as are creative agencies. I think that we're all trying to define our own brand's version of how we respond to what's going on in the marketplace. We were at a fortunate place where we were able to line up against it a little bit earlier than most.

Does this somehow lead to more of a performance model for the agency?

Kristi Argyilan: We hope it does, because we want to get away from an FTE conversation with our clients and shift it to one about value. Another one of those data points that we all hang onto: CMOs don't stay in their jobs because they're tough, tough jobs and it's hard to prove the impact of marketing.

We like to think that we're getting close to helping them start to answer that question in terms of the impact of marketing on the business, and therefore you shouldn't just have to pay us for FTEs and scope of work.

We should start to change our conversation around value and whether or not we're delivering that, and it needs to go beyond just the qualitative stuff of  -are we good to work with? -and do we integrate well with others? It really should be about proving our effect.

We hope that that's an outcome of this, because it helps the CMOs so much with their need to show marketing's effect on the organization.

What’s your case for the procurement officer? Or, did you just make it?

Kristi Argyilan: Yes. The hardest part is just when we get into a situation where it's, say, a new business pitch and we're being compared to others, and others are still putting in FTEs and scope‑of‑work costs. It makes it hard for procurement to know how to compare.

From your analytics viewpoint, is this new Media 3.0 strategy about better attribution modeling capabilities for the marketer and agency?

Hari Abhyankar: I think ultimately there are a broad set of applications. If you get the data right, you have many application areas.

In the parlance that Kristi just described, setting strategy and building programs requires you to get customer insights.

The goal was to get to a state where we have one view of the customer from insight generation, strategy development all the way to media attribution, impact, which goes from changing an attitude, sustaining that attitude, and then actually buying.

That's what we want to model, that whole end‑to‑end view, and by doing it through a single source that we fuse together from about 11 vendors we can create one view of the customer.

Does UM plan on buying, building or licensing technology?

Hari Abhyankar: Generating the insight, generating the segment level mixes proving that we generated economic value, the stack that's required to support it, we didn't find anybody doing that externally.

There are many vendors that are in the space that translate the insight into operations or execution, like Cadreon, which is different. The operationalization of the insight is not the same as the insight itself.

Creating a prescription for the media planners and buyers and strategists to go design solutions against was missing.

We couldn't go out there and find a hosted solution to go, "We'll rent this." We had to go build it and implement it ourselves.

The reality is, in the grand scheme of things it's not that costly yet because it's a nascent space. Some of the components in there are not nearly as expensive as they would be once people realize how valuable it is. I feel like we're first to market in creating that stack.

How does UM use Cadreon – IPG Mediabrands’ agency trading desk?

Hari Abhyankar: The idea is we're working together with Cadreon to create analytic “glue” between UM and Cadreon. So, if Cadreon sees a behavior, we create a trigger based on our insight of, for example, "You're a price‑sensitive shopper, therefore treat them this way."

There's another layer of analytical modeling integration, between an operational or audience platform like Cadreon, where the number of pieces of information on a record is pretty low and an intelligence platform such as what we're building.

How does this strategy, Media 3.0, get funded? Is it client by client –as in there's a certain amount of their budget that is focused on the build‑out of this overall strategy?

Kristi Argyilan: It actually is an investment that UM makes, and if you think of some of the tools and systems and data that we typically have bought in the past, it starts to become a replacement for some of that information. So as this kind of data makes our ability to be more relevant and more current, the more it enables that we even do media planning and buying, then the faster we'll stop investing in some of the older, more traditional planning tools that we've used.

Will a different skill set be needed within the agency to effect this strategy?

Kristi Argyilan: Absolutely. That's one of the core tenets of what this model is about, what 3.0 is all about. It's taking media planning and buying as we've typically known it, make it more digital in terms of the way that it behaves. But then start to bring in more resources and different talent that can sit with the traditional talent that you've seen in our industry, like brand planners, like creative talent from either creative agencies or production companies, and then also bringing in these hard‑core mathematicians and people who can really crack some of the more difficult analytics issues that we're facing as an industry. That's why Hari's here.

Hari Abhyankar: I would say that solving that world of where strategy and math come together is probably the bigger part. I've attracted people like that just by knowing people in the space and selling them on the vision. That part is a little easier for me to deal with. It's the part around evolving the rest of the agency, because ultimately the math will not solve the whole problem. And I know that. That's how I've always operated.

It's a culture change?

Hari Abhyankar: And it's a culture shift. It's a cross‑functional team approach where this sort of a resource sits together with the planner/buyer, discusses what they're finding, and they iterate together. Then ultimately they take the solution and then go implement it. There's always going to be a difference between what's implemented and what's actually prescribed, and that's fine. That's how it should be.

Kristi Argyilan: That's one of the things that we really have been focused on over the last two years is that I think as an industry we all intuitively know what kind of talent we need in our organizations to be able to address the way that the marketplace is developing. But how you bring them together is just as complex as finding the right talent to bring in. We've been trying different combinations and different team structures to try to really crack what's going to get us to the place where these really rich analytics and strategic thinkers can impact the media planning work and where the money is really being spent.

That's why when Hari talks about becoming embedded in the team, that's been a core design element.

How do you incentivize these new “math”-focused people? Not only do you fight with Wall Street, but you fight with a vibrant startup economy. What do you think? For example, the startup world obviously has acquisitions that can happen and IPOs. It's a different story for the agency.

Kristi Argyilan: I'll take that first, Hari, and then you can pile on. What's interesting is that, especially sitting in San Francisco, a lot of us have already tried the startup route, and we get the odds. What this job offers people is a global stage with several billion dollars in which to invest and to be able to really prove that this stuff makes a difference. That's what people get most excited about.

It's big brands, it's significant media budgets, and it's global in scale, so they understand how this makes them much more valuable to a marketplace that's really struggling with proving that marketing is working.

Hari Abhyankar: I would add that I've been doing this sort of vision‑based selling for a while. So I would totally agree with Kristi that a lot of us who bounce around this space see unsolved problems as the place to go to have fun.

I see us as having a couple of years to solve some of these problems and make the money and be in the CMO office or the CEO office advising, where a lot of the incentive and value is. You can typically pay these people more because they're valued by clients.

And then the execution piece will bifurcate into some people from outside the industry that are not that expensive, and then once we get to more routine approaches we can send things to our offshore centers and Mediabrands as well.

Do you see Cadreon as, in some ways, like they're another vendor solution such as another ad network vendor solution? What's the philosophy there?

Kristi Argyilan: From my perspective, we actually find Cadreon to be a great advantage in the conversations that we have with our clients. We don't feel like we have to use them, because they really do continue to deliver a different proposition in the marketplace that clients are interested in. The other component part is that if we get to a place where we really have our media planners and buyers long‑term starting to look at really making changes across the media mix, across all media types, Cadreon has the potential to provide this evaluation platform for us, an execution platform for us, so that we can be buying and responding to all media as television and radio and some of the traditional media becomes easier to buy this way. It's a great short‑term proposition as well as a long‑term view.

Hari Abhyankar: I think we're flexible, but I think the co‑development that we've started with our internal companies is something that might be a little bit faster to market. The point I made to you, imagine a piece of information that gives you a very comprehensive look at the customer, and then a piece of information which is executional which gives you scale, but it doesn't give you as much of “comprehensiveness,” if you will.

So you will always have that problem - but the glue that we're inventing with them is going to be unique.

By John Ebbert

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