The plan is to keep rolling out & expanding our analytics expertise: Sue Moseley

22 Mar,2012


It’s been a few weeks since IPG Mediabrands made its formal entry into one of the most promising markets – India, but it is clear on the traits that would drive clients to engage in solutions of the future. Led largely by data and analytics, the company expects market dynamics to hit a high note once it finds favour with clients across a broad range of sectors. Sue Moseley, Worldwide Director, Research & Futures, Mediabrands IQ Creation on her maiden Indian trip reiterated the company’s global promise of making data an integral part of a client’s growth strategy, especially in a media environment that’s been evolving over the years.


In conversation with Johnson Napier of MxM India, Ms Moseley outlines the many advantages that an analytics division provides to foster growth plans of clients, on how clients have been queuing up to secure research & analytics services of the company, on how social media would alter advertising options for clients, and the company’s global plans to expand operations in emerging markets. Excerpts:


Q: You’ve just about taken off in India while you have been around in the other markets for a few years now. Could you elaborate on how Mediabrands has progressed as a sought-after media solutions provider, especially in the realm of research, data and analytics?

Mediabrands is all about our media assets, with the main agencies being Lodestar UM and Lintas Media Group (Initiative) and around that we have a lot of different companies that bring different expertise to the table. So it is a group of expert and specialist companies engaging in media services. The big advantage that we have found is that by bringing collaboration within the group is that one, there is no duplication taking place and therefore you are able to reinvest in research and development for the good of the company. That’s been very effective with our media agencies where we have come across situations where they both are looking at similar offerings such as research panels and stuff like that – there is no point in both of them doing it separately. Also, Mediabrands has organized its companies into one-to-one marketing, one-to-some marketing and one-to-many marketing companies. So they have companies to effectively deliver on that front. My role in that is handling Mediabrands IQ which is about data, tools and analytics. So it is about making sure that all of the media companies around the world have access to the very best. So it is a combination of delivering global tools and helping the local markets as well. Also, it enables us to learn what the local markets have to tell us, build that into our global tools and then using those global tools to work with global industry tools.


What the global teams can bring is the experience from other markets such as where we have being doing a lot of analytics where digital and social media is very well established. So we have made the mistakes of learning everywhere else so that we can apply the best practice here. The best example that can be quoted here is our team that we have at Mediabrands with shopper marketing expertise. With the limited interaction I have managed to have with the team here in India, modern retail will see an overhaul with the coming in big retail giants like Tesco, Wal-Mart, etc. And so we have created research tools which looks at the consumer (shopper) and work back the other way round. So we have been sharing the techniques which can be adopted very easily in this market so that they can have a leading edge over everybody else in terms of shopper marketing.


Q: Do clients of today understand the criticality and importance that an analytics and research division serves towards achieving an imperious objective?

The demand from our clients running analytics is growing exponentially. The minute they see the power of what we can do they just want to have more and more. So typically, we find that when we start with the client to do a market mix modelling project, which is really to understand what is driving sales and all the different aspects like what is the impact on pricing, promotion, distribution etc and by deconstructing that you can build a better solution going forward. And the intent of this is to help clients save 10-15 per cent of their marketing budget which is the same levels of sales because now you have this science and fact-based behind your planning. We are finding this particularly useful in fast developing markets where you want experimentation and you want to learn about new things but you do not want to damage any new and existing trends. So by doing market mix modelling you can have a 10 per cent budget that you can deploy into testing and understanding newer media, social and techniques which then can be measured and can be used to spiral continuous improvement for our clients.


Q: How can research and analytics be applied uniformly across the mediums of television, print, radio, etc? What is unique about the way Mediabrands goes about offering solutions to each of these mediums?

The market mix model we use will tell you the contribution of every single medium – it will tell you how different mediums like television, radio, outdoor, etc are performing. I think where we are different to other companies is that we do that analysis and are able to activate it because the team that built our Econometrics software also built our Planning software. So the planners here that are looking at future activity have software that helps them select channels and optimize effectiveness. Traditionally that would mean just looking at reach and frequency which is the best we’ve got but if we have done one of our big analytics project we automatically load that data into software. So rather than say what is the forecast of this plan in terms of reach and frequency they can then say what is this plan delivering in terms of sales. So we are now shifting from talking about reach to business outcomes in terms of our activities across all possible channels.


Q: Has it got to do with the recent worldwide shift carried out internally at Mediabrands that saw you progress towards a pay-per-performance model?

What is happening at Mediabrands is that we are moving towards pay-for-performance compensation model. The reason we feel confident in doing that is because we can take all of this data and analytics and have a good understanding of what is possible, what we can achieve and most importantly, how to achieve that outcome. Our CEO Matt Seiler is passionate about this model and he has the right to feel so – the minute your company is focused very much on your clients profitability it makes the whole culture change that’s much more focussed on that business and that is going to have a much more positive impact on the clients.


Q: Could you share a few examples of clients who have been exposed and are content with your service offerings?

We do a lot of modelling work for Chrysler, Hyundai etc in the automotive sector; we do a lot of work for J&J in the FMCG sector; we do analytics for Tesco etc. So we do analytics across a very broad range of sectors. I think the power of putting clever mathematicians in these hubs that we have set up around the world is that they actually like to be challenged. You give them a challenge and they’ll provide a mathematical outcome at the earliest.


Q: Could you quantify the global growth in client numbers witnessed by Mediabrands over the years?

The growth has been phenomenal. We started in North America and then we rolled out to Europe and now we are rolling out around the world. From year one where we had 20 clients that number today is in excess of 150 clients. The speed at which this takes root is quite scary. I think this is because it appeals very much to the CEOs and CFOs across companies and is helping them cut marketing budgets during recession because now they have evidence and hard facts around the contribution that communications is making to their sales.


We have about 150-odd clients now and we expect by the end of the year that figure should go up by at least another 100. And this will come from all our key markets across the globe.


Q: As you move across borders and from the West to the East, what are the key trends that one gets to observe that are changing the market dynamics where the domain of research and analytics is concerned?

A market like US is certainly ahead in terms of digital and social media analytics. The big trend that I foresee is in the social media space. I think consumer research has been such a life-blood for our business and I think there is going to be a big switch from consumer research to really deeply mining the social media space.


Q: There has been a rise in the number of clients who are opening up to the concept of real-time data. How do you view this trend as an analytics expert?

Real-time requires analysis; what we are doing is trying to get a balance between getting data fast and some of the fast data streams we get are actually from social. So if we can understand and use social to track effectiveness — like say for the automotive industry, website visits and things like the use of car configurator on the site is a very good indicator of subsequent sales. So we can use that data to make much faster decisions because we understand their relationship with sales. But across your total marketing mix, unique things take time to take roots -it isn’t real real-time. I think real-time really means that time span needs to collapse and also it has a big impact in the way the clients work when they set their annual budgets – they now need to rethink maybe to have a more flexible and minimum budget and then do a 20-25 per cent more flexible budget. You cannot make a difference if you have your budget already set at the start of the year. So it’s going to mean big organisational changes within clients and the way they currently work around real-time.


Q: What are the challenges that real-time technology throws up to research agencies like Mediabrands IQ?

The biggest challenge we face right now is making sense of the data. It’s now about ‘x’ bytes of data and making sure that we get access to it. Also the computing technology world is progressing rapidly and we now have managers and heads talk about how we are in the clouds with our data storage. It’s a space race to be the first and we are investing very heavily in making sure that we have got the right tools to understand social media to really understand the consumer’s pathway. At the moment there is a risk within the digital space in the sense that the last click you did was search or the last thing you did before you went click and bought something…so all the effectiveness is attributed to the last thing that happened before you made your purchase but it could actually be the other thing including the video that you saw, the blog that you read or the conversation that you were a part of… So we are investing real heavily to do some real analysis to say which of these component parts of the digital stream are adding value etc. So it’s constantly finding new techniques to unravel the data so that we get the real answers. So that’s the real challenge at the moment but it is fun.


Q: It is said that the future belongs to Asia and Asia is not just about India and China. Where do you see the next big global stories arising from the APAC market?

Our planning tools are in all of our markets. So we have North America, which is US and Canada then we have the G-14 markets and then we have the World Markets. The G-14 markets are like-minded in their approach so as to bring together the management under one regional manager because as I said, they are like-minded, progressive, most moving forward and that’s where the demands from those markets are different from the world markets. So the G14 markets comprise of Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Spain and UK and World Markets include all other markets from Europe, Middle East and Africa; Latin America; and Asia-Pacific.


It was only in the middle of last year that we became a G-14 market and I think it’s a challenge in some of our markets – like our Thailand market is extremely progressive and I can imagine because of that and the work that they are doing therefore makes sense potentially for them to make way into the G-14 umbrella and further expand that number.


Q: As you move forward, and given the economic gloom prevailing around, what is the roadmap you have drawn up to achieve commendable growth for your division?

The roadmap is certainly about rolling out and expanding our analytics expertise – we are recruiting heavily to build up talent. So rolling out more into shopper marketing and sports analytics would be our core agenda. Also we have set up consumer panels which are now in 51 markets covering 41 million consumers worldwide – we are building on tools so that we are able to extract data and bring it in context to that of the rest of the global market. Also, the other big thing is that we are doing more mining into social media and looking at the sentiment which I think it is really dabbling around the edges because sentiment isn’t the right thing to look at; it is much better to understand strands of conversation, what those topics mean and that is where we are really building our tools around.


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