We Want Our Data, We Want Our Freedom - Brands Fight Back On Global Deals

Now that the news has broken that Johnson & Johnson has placed its global media account with IPG's J3, a shop dedicated to the brand within UM in London, it's probably a good point to think about the motivations that are prompting the mega media deal under review. I'm picking Johnson & Johnson as I recently caught up with the guys from ID Comms who oversaw the process, racking up a healthy Air Miles balance between London and New York in so doing.

According to the ID Comms guys -- who were speaking about multiple media deals up for renewal rather than J&J in isolation -- the two huge factors behind the current, unprecedented activity might seem a little contradictory at first glance. However, it is data and creative freedom that are driving the current round of media deals, from a client's perspective.

First up, with data it is no surprise that J&J's account is being handled within a dedicated unit within IPG-owned UM (Universal McCann). If there is one thing the industry needs to know about how client attitudes have changed, it is the importance now placed behind data. According to the ID Comms guys, it's quite simply the number one subject. While some may be writing about the current round of negotiations spells the end of the global deal, such talk seems premature because the feedback is that global brands like to have their eggs in one basket where they can get the best value for money. However, they also want their data in that same basket, available for their own exclusive use. Nobody -- repeat nobody -- wants their data disappearing into a trading desk that is shared with rivals and from which they're not entirely sure they can withdraw data that is untainted by other brands' campaigns. More to the point, nobody wants to be spending a fortune on gathering in market data that helps inform a rival's campaign.

Given that many of the current huge global media deals that have been renegotiated this year or are still under discussion were signed three to five years ago, ID Comms' opinion is that the current process is mainly about data ownership and transparency. It's basically making deals relevant to today's circumstances rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

The creative side is an interesting one too. I've blogged about this before, because one of the really major gripes that comes up time and time again from household names is that global media deals have placed their UK brand within a network from which they are expected, and often obliged, to buy creative services from. The experience can be positive, but I know of at least a couple of major brands that are tearing their hair out at the work supplied by a holding company's creative agency which they suspect isn't trying too hard for the very good reason that a signed contract means they don't have to. Honestly, I've been amazed at the stories of how billings shoot through the roof and the time delays and sheer inaction that big brands are having to deal with due to being compelled to work with an agency they have no choice over.

It's not always the case, but it happens often enough to be a real issue in my experience, and according to the ID Comms guys, it's a gripe that has percolated up to the top. Whether it's the quality of work or the inflated billings that have caught the eye at a central headquarters, the word is that global media deals are now often being discussed without any tie-in to creative. It obviously doesn't stop a holding company from suggesting their creative agency joins them at a meeting, but it does at least ensure they have to be hungry for the work and drop the "we know best, you're dealing with the big boys now" mentality which so many regional marketing heads have found both patronising and very bad news for their budget.

So there you have it. If you want to know what the big issues are, data is number one -- but close behind is a media deal being a media deal and not an all-encompassing compulsion to only work within a particularly holding company's network.

If you want to know where it's taking us, look no further than a bespoke unit working within an IPG agency. A global outlook and brief within a Chinese wall erected around it to keep it exclusive with no creative strings attached.


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