BBDO Atlanta CEO: Agencies Need To Be Smarter About How They Produce Content

BBDOWith all the recent talk about automating the ad-buying process, it’s easy to forget about content. But Drew Panayiotou, president and CEO of BBDO’s Atlanta division, thinks agencies will sink or swim depending on their ability to produce the “next generation of content.”

“Content is dramatically changing as media is changing,” Panayiotou told AdExchanger.

Panayiotou has held senior level roles at J&J, Disney and Coca-Cola. Prior to joining Omnicom’s BBDO last April, he shepherded Best Buy’s media budget as CMO for more than three years. The Atlanta office Panayiotou oversees is home to the agency’s national practice of analytics and works with clients like Starbucks, CVS, FedEx and AT&T.

Panayiotou spoke to AdExchanger.

ADEXCHANGER: What about content needs to change?

DREW PANAYIOTOU: A lot of clients want more fluidity from their agencies, but many agencies haven’t evolved to be fluid enough yet to maneuver within digital.

For example, we have people that write code and people that shoot video. We’re collapsing the supply chain of how content is being produced at an ad agency and changing the economics of how things are done. Consumers need and want more content, and we have the ability to produce a lot more content. But clients are not increasing their budgets for that content, so agencies have to find new ways to produce and measure it. We’re at the crossroads of going through that transformation at BBDO.

How do you define the agency of the future?

Agencies have to have a digital DNA. The old agency model used to have junior copywriters, copywriters and creative directors, but now, we’re hiring creative folks that are copywriters but also videographers. They conceive the creative idea but also execute it. That type of creative execution is in short supply but it’s the creative of the future. You need different creative capabilities and approaches because the media landscape is changing.

What are the opportunities for agencies to combine data and creative?

The term that gets overused is storytelling. What’s more important is the type of conversations you have with customers, and digital media allows for more sophisticated conversations. Some people call that personalization; I call it synchronizing the customer conversation with the consumer experiences. Finding a place to put your message isn’t hard. The challenge is coordinating those touch points.


Creative supply systems are coming into conflict with media because there’s not enough content, and brands haven’t figured out how to talk to customers in a long-form fashion. Historically it’s always been a 30-second sound byte, but now it’s an eight-second sound bite on Facebook, or a longer-form piece of video.

We’re not able to track and have an integrated view of the landscape yet, and it’s still very fragmented from a data perspective, so we don’t yet know what creative is touching customers in an integrated fashion. The media industry has jumped a little ahead of where the creative production world is today.

What kind of data tracking are you doing around creative?

Some of our clients use us for mix modeling, or they’ll use folks like MarketShare. Mix modeling, and understanding the interplay between channels, is still important so that you don’t have one-lane analytics that give you performance tracking in independent channels. There’s also tracking dashboards from [Salesforce’s] Radian6 on Social and [Adobe’s] Omniture for measuring clickstreams.

Our clients use so many different [tools] and they’re varied. We’re working with a pretty large advertiser, who I can’t name. Their CMO said to me, “If I took all of these independent dashboards and I added up the sales you’re attributing to each of these different channels, we’d be twice as large as we are today.” I think that’s a common problem.

Depending on where clients are getting their data, or how they’re measuring their clicks, none of them necessarily connect well enough yet. In totality, the numbers don’t add up. We’re pushing our clients to think about the return on marketing objectives rather than ROI, because ROI right now is a holy grail you can’t get to. None of these analytics systems, platforms or exchanges is linking up holistically.

Are you seeing more agencies taking programmatic in-house?

I do think that is a trend that will happen as more companies try to decipher the mystery of programmatic in media and figure out what’s working and what’s not. To the point I made earlier, if the only way to make sense of ROI is to get really specific to the actual company and industry sector, then it gets really tough to have it live outside of a company where someone doesn’t understand your business well enough.

Apple, for instance, is hiring tons of marketers. Why are they doing that? They’re realizing that they need a ton of content. Agencies produce that content at a very high-class level right now. But on the media side, a lot of clients don’t necessarily believe the metrics that they’re seeing and don’t fully appreciate the systems. If you were spending enough, why wouldn’t you bring it in-house?

On the other hand, agencies are very nascent in their own understanding of programmatic. It you look at most media firms, or most networks, there’s still a significant separation between the linear world and the digital world. This is true of ABC and NBC, though Viacom is making some progress there. But the same thing is true at big media firms. They’re still a lot of silos, so it’s really tough to make shifts to your media business unless you bring both silos together.

How is programmatic buying a challenge to agencies?

The expectation with automation is that we’ll be able to send out a higher volume of messages to a larger audience more efficiently. But I have yet to see enough clients that have created enough types of content streams.

Three years from now, I think a lot of messaging will be video-based. In that medium, personalization will be more effective and more persuasive. But how do you customize massive streams of video? Right now, a lot of companies are struggling with that concept.

The answer is a creating a lot more message types and a lot more content. And that goes back to the first question, which is where does media technology and the content world collide? Agencies need to be smarter about how they produce content. The industry is evolving from simply delivering a message to creating experiences. I think we’ll see the emergence of a lot of new types of agencies that are experience-based.

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