Commentary

What Could Destroy Us

All things considered, the future looks bright. In these times, when the market is reasonably healthy, and when revenues, new business activity and optimism are all moving in a positive direction, it is easy to believe that our companies are poised to prevail.

But across the networks of Publicis Groupe Media, we believe that even in the best of times, we have to perpetually address about a half dozen issues that could destroy us if not managed. They are out there, looming. Some are internal, some external. All are serious. Perhaps you've had a brush with one or more of these threats. To find out, read on.

1. Inner Dinosaur Disease
Unchecked, Inner Dinosaur Disease (IDD) will destroy us. Let me explain.

No word in the English language is so hackneyed, wasted, abused and ultimately ignored as "change." It is uttered constantly, delivered rarely. Decision makers hate change because it is scary. So instead of embracing it, they let their inner dinosaur roar and roam unleashed and do one of two things. They and find tried-and-true excuses to preserve status quo:

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· Blame the boss who "won't let me."
· Blame "The Street" for paralyzing profit pressure.
· Blame the Client or Customer for change aversion.
· Blame the employees who won't answer the call.
· Bemoan past failed attempts claiming, "Tried it, failed."
· Wait for someone else to try and fail so that he/she can declare foresight and strategy in opting for inaction.

Or they apply Marketing Botoxsmall injections of temporary surface embellishments to distract from real change. Common manifestations include the hiring of a new agency (talent, word of mouth, pick your niche) followed by a press release declaring action that never happens. Some proclaim commitment to new and more daring media behavior, and then dedicate a tiny "new media" budget to some quiet, unsupported brand. Others retain consultants to benchmark and map out an action plan over an undetermined period of time, or they launch a Vision 2020 task force, which results in several finely crafted sentences about how the company intends to "get out in front of" change.

This affliction will destroy us. Survivors will be the ones who own and lead change.

2. Optimizing the Wrong Things
The second thing that will destroy us is misplaced optimization.

In a world that changes frenetically, many clients focus on inputs and costs. They measure and reward reduction in fees, reduction in media costs, and so on. They haul out the procurement experts and liberally apply ROI formulas.

This is a natural response, perhaps, but this behavior does not get the client closer to valuable metrics. What matters is not return on investment, but return on objectives (ROO). Clients need measurements that can tell them whether or not their media plan delivered the outcomes they desired, versus the amount of money they saved in delivering it. If we don't nail this, we can easily be destroyed.

3. Lack of data.
Whatever we're going to be when we grow up, we'll be lost without data. We need data that tell us not only where the consumer is and how they feel about a certain product or brand, but data that also tell us what a consumer is engaging with, when, for how long? Consumers are willing to give us this info, if we're willing to use it respectfully and in a way that rewards them.

That means we have chop up the data we get (think beef chuck), and reform it (think hamburger), into something substantive. We have to rebuild customer bases and build meaningful relationships with millions of consumers, one at a time.

Sound impossible? It's already happening with VOD and Broadband. People are voluntarily aggregating by intent (e.g. Google adwords); by content behavior (what someone has read or video streams watched); and by shopping behavior (what SUV's are you looking at and configuring at a site like Edmunds?).

The same thing will happen to Television, thanks to:


· TechnologyTV is increasingly delivered on measurable IP platform,
· Consumer demand for controlhowever cliché, this phenomenon is profoundly real, and if we don't speak to consumer passions they will opt out,
· Client demand for outcome measurement. We are close to nailing this. Very shortly, clients won't ask us how cheaply we can deliver their target, but how effectively.

Fail to do the same at your own peril.

4. Our Napoleon Complex
Threat number four is what I call the Napoleon Complex. This happens in the media industry when success (a big win, or few headlines or a nod from Wall Street) leads us to believe that we should expand our kingdom to include arenas outside of our core competencies. We entertain the notion of launching creative units or hiring creative directors. We start to look at our holding company partners as competitors, and we devise ways to steal business from them.

Let's not forget what happened when Napoleon attacked Russia. We must not overreach, lest we discover scorched earth. Instead, we should extend the skills close to our core while embracing a range of partners to deliver the complete solution to our clients.

5. Creative conflagration
By the same token, creative conflagration will also destroy us. The marriage of creative and content is key to the future, and we have to figure out how media and creative companies can work together in partnership. Who will effectively develop new content for all the new contact points? How will we measure success and who will do the measurement and decision-making?

We all want to be first. But that position belongs to our clients. It is our job to work with, not compete against, the content specialists at agencies, media publishers, content owners, young digital upstarts and technology companies - whatever it takes to deliver solutions to our clients. Only that will preserve us against destruction.

6. Dearth of Talent
One final threat, and perhaps the most daunting, is the shortage of new and remarkable talent who might be interested in the making a career of marketing services.

Consider the pressure on us to innovate into the future. It will require insights, imagination and ideas that can only come from bright minds. Attracting and rewarding the right talent against a backdrop of commodity pricing and procurement pressure will be a significant challenge. The world wants innovation and ideas, but these things come at a cost. If we are not careful we will hollow out our industry as the best talent migrates elsewhere.

Six threats. How many are you facing now?

To conquer them, the first thing to change is our mindset. My boss pays me to constantly explore the future. To rethink everything. To reinvent the way we do business. We have invested in what seems to be the only futures practice thriving in the industry. We are partnering with the people who are changing the world and we are mapping out a plan to successfully deliver ourselves and our clients into the future.

Are you?

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