Clients want media at the front-end…

07 Jul,2015


Pele Cortizo-Burgess, Global Director, Integrated Planning at leading media agency MEC isn’t from a typical media agency background. He was last at Grey North America as Chief Strategy Officer. Excerpts from an interview with Pradyuman Maheshwari when he was in Mumbai for Zee Melt 2015.


With the kind of background you have, what are you doing in a media agency? Apart from the fact that both your last agency and the current one are WPP-owned?

[I’m] still learning, growing, getting sharper, because there’s a level of creativity, media that I think a lot of clients and makers, if you will, people who are responsible for the advertising product… there’s a lot of creativity within media that they’ve not been exposed to.


Before you came in to a media agency, you must’ve come in with certain expectations. Obviously, media agencies have changed dramatically from the last few years…

I wouldn’t know because I’ve only been in one media agency, and it’s this one.


What was the perception?

The perception has been almost disposable. It is in the last 10 minutes of the meeting that the media guy stands up and gives a presentation, which is such a shame especially when you look at the resources, discipline and talent media companies have. It’s almost irresponsible to save that to the very end of a creative presentation, versus if you start the approach of understanding the opportunity, challenge, problem on the client’s behalf with inputs from media, I think that the idea actually ends up being more exciting.


Would you say the clients expect a lot more from media agencies today than before?

I think clients are incredibly open to media companies being [engaged in] more than just buying and planning. So I think what’s happening now is clients are recognising the value of media being at the front-end of the approach, versus the back-end.


Are creative agencies okay with it?

Yes, they are smart. There are agencies that are for this, but, I think that it’s not a hundred per cent. There are advertising agencies that, unfortunately, still look at media as a discipline that’s [revolves] around execution, versus looking at media as an essential ingredient in a creative process, to create an idea. And when that happens, it’s only to the positive benefit of the client.


I’m not very sure what the scene is internationally, but in India, media agencies have always suffered from the fact that they’re unable to hire talent – especially at junior levels – because they don’t have the money, thanks to what they earn. Is that a problem elsewhere in the world?

Not many people have enjoyed my saying this, but if I reflect on my own career, some people ended up doing media because they couldn’t become an account planner or couldn’t make it in the creative department.


Like if I can’t become a doctor, I turn a dentist.

There was always that stigma which led to a lot of people not choosing to go into media. Given the changes that are happening right now, when I look at the talent that’s coming in — mostly outside India in the markets that I’m more engaged with — it’s about retaining that talent, not just retaining them on the possibility that they’ll go to another advertising agency, but to Facebook, Google or Twitter. Today, there are so many different environments that are calling out for amazing talent. Media is one that deserves that amazing talent.


Increasingly, media agencies are becoming full-service, because in digital they do creative and they also do buying and planning. This is happening in India too. Your views.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it as a prediction. I myself don’t see that as a way of embracing or creating the most amazing ideas for a client. Because it’s fragmented. I’ve been asked if, in future, I see all disciplines coming together, and my response is that they may not all come together under one roof, but if you’re my client, [I have a] responsibility to connect all those different inputs to ensure that you have an idea that is as dynamic as the world that we’re about to unleash it into. Does that mean that I see media agencies becoming full-service? We’re not built that way at the moment. What we’re building ourselves is for transitioning that discipline from just being the backend more towards being an essential component…


Could there be a conflict between media agencies and creative agencies, given the larger growing of those roles?

I think there will always be conflict around territories, humans being humans, organisations being organisations. A lot of the companies that have started to create a discipline [do it to] create a holistic point of the view for the client. When you talk about better understanding a customer’s journey, you can’t do that without better understanding his/her behaviour and engagement with media. When that happens, a lot of people will say, may be there’s conflict. That happens because we’ve traditionally kept media separate — in terms of involvement in the creative process — which I think is a shame.


For clients it’s a win-win because they’re getting ideas from everywhere…

Yes, but be careful about ideas coming from everywhere. Despite what people say, every idea may be a good idea, but there are also a couple of bad ones. And I think bombarding a client with ideas from everywhere isn’t a role that partners need to play. I think partners need to engage in creating the most dynamic, most engaging, most relevant idea and then implementing that accordingly. Yes, it’s a win situation for the client, knowing that the idea put in front of him/her has been holistic in its creation.


MEC, for instance, has this unit for Colgate. For large clients, composite units have been built.

I can’t answer that question in too much detail other than to give you a general point of view. When that is being built, it’s being built in pure dedication to that client.


How familiar are you with the Indian scenario in terms of the work that’s being done?

Not as familiar as I should be, or would like to be. This is my third trip to India. When I think about the practice of media here, what’s exciting for me is it’s almost a proof point of the shift away from paid/owned/earned, to starting with owned first, when you look at media. It’s exciting. There’s still tons for me to learn from here, and to share, hopefully.


First appeared in dna of brands dated July 6, 2015


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