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“Agencies Need to be Intrepid Explorers”

Jack Klues

Jack Klues

As the economic slowdown persists, companies are looking for new digital marketing options that could yield more bang for each buck they spend on brand communications.

Marketers, however, are facing a series of bottlenecks including lack of skills and traditional mindsets that are hampering their movement in the digital space.

In today’s evolving marketplace, VivaKi (part of Publicis Groupe, a leading global communications group) has positioned itself as a specialized agency to help brands operate effectively in the digital landscape.

With the aim to understand the current challenges in the market and VivaKi’s approach to overcome them, RMN Digital invited Jack Klues, chief executive officer, VivaKi to discuss an array of related issues.

Here he presents his views in an exclusive interview with RMN Digital managing editor, Rakesh Raman.

Qs & As

1.     What’s the current state of digital media market – promising, uncertain, or hopeless?

Digital media is definitely promising, and growing. In the most recent adspend forecast from ZenithOptimedia, internet spending is forecast to double-digit year-on-year growth of 10.3%. This is an upgrade from March forecast of 9.3%. As content, experiences and inventory improve on tablets, online video and mobile, the ad dollars will migrate to follow the consumer.

2.     Do you agree that most agencies are still trying to make do with archaic processes and traditional mindsets in a new media environment that demands a totally fresh and technically competent approach?

Agencies that intend to endure and thrive should be well into a transformation process. Consumers have been steadily gaining control over commercial messages for the past decade. In the past 24 months, the pace has increased exponentially fueled by new screens, devices and platforms, technology improvements, the explosion of social networks, the advent of the tablet and the increased quality / quantity of content available on digital platforms. The result: consumers are now spending 3.5 hours a day with digital media or apps.

What’s more, digitization has produced a world of data that needs to be captured, stored, manipulated and translated into actionable insights and powerful stories for marketers. More than ever, clients need agency partners who understand consumers, and who can deliver data-driven content and messaging across pipelines that intercept people at the right time, in the right place.

Clients need more from us in this new world, including:

  • 21st century platforms, pipelines and distribution systems through which marketers can deliver messages to consumers who are most interested;
  • Technology and software services that enable clients to manage and manipulate their multiple marketing components required to reach people in today’s digital world;
  • Data capture and management systems so that we can keep our clients and their messages relevant;
  • Automation and standardized processes that will enable us to streamline workflow and achieve operational efficiencies across the globe.

This is not easy, and it is not cheap. Inside VivaKi, the products we build flow out of the core expertise that already exists inside our agency centers of excellence, and they are built in partnership with some of the best technology companies in the world (Adobe, Google, Microsoft, etc.). The partnership approach ensures that our products are world class, and that they advance rapidly by virtue of the major investments the tech companies—our partners—are able to make.

Our approach is to build these products at the center, and allow each of our agencies to access them, wrap a unique service layer around them and deliver them to clients. It is the smartest way to build what is needed in an environment of higher client demand and equally high procurement pressure.

3.     Today, one of the toughest challenges for digital agencies is the scarcity of skills. What should agencies do to overcome this challenge?

Recruitment, training and opportunity are more important than ever to today’s talent. Agencies need to perpetually recruit talent that brings new skills into the organization. Innovative internships, social recruiting and mining talent from unexpected places are three ideas that we leverage successfully.

Training must also be a priority. People want to learn and grow, and we provide our global teams with ample internal e-training as well as training programs that are developed or co-developed with partners like Facebook and Google.

We have also learned through dialogue with staff and additional research that opportunity is more important than money to tomorrow’s talent. People lean into new challenges and we’ve championed what we call fluid talent—a program that allows people to migrate across clients and assignments, providing them with hands-on opportunities to develop new skills, expertise and global dexterity.

4.     Most digital agencies have been focusing just on computers and mobiles for brand communications. What communications approach should they follow to manage up-and-coming digital systems like gaming consoles, interactive/social TVs, and so on?

Agencies need to be intrepid explorers, constantly seeking and experiencing new technologies and the platforms of the future.

We are perpetual students in this regard. Our Ventures practice exposes us to pioneering technology and media. We conduct annual treks to events like CES (Consumer Electronics Show) to see what new products and inventions are changing the way consumers interact with entertainment, content and messaging.

We also have what we call The Pool, which is a collaborative research effort that partners our clients, content creators, tech companies and publishers to test new content innovations. We spend thousands of hours with consumers to learn which new platforms and ad unit or content ideas are most likely to resonate and scale.

5.     What is the role of content in the digital environment? Are agencies adequately equipped to create, deliver, and monitor content around the clock to manage communications in the always-on business world?

Content is just as important in the digital world as it has been in a traditional media landscape. It is also more complex. On one hand, the digital space needs more premium content, imaginative storytelling and engaging experiences. There is more room than ever for the big, game-changing idea that has defined our industry.

On the other hand, digital opens the door to addressable advertising—delivering tailored, relevant messaging to keenly defined audiences with a propensity toward the brand being advertised. We are entering a world where creative campaigns might be comprised of a thousand pieces of addressable, rather disposable content that can be produced, served, measured and iterated in nearly real time.

The implications for production and distribution are massive and right now I would suggest that most agencies are not adequately equipped. Inside VivaKi we are moving quickly, in partnership with key technology and content companies, to bridge the gap.

6.     Can interactive marketing bring measurable benefits for brands?

Of course. Digital is profoundly measurable and informs marketing in real time.

7.     What yardsticks VivaKi uses to measure the impact of a digital media campaign?

VivaKi is four agency networks and each of those networks has multiple measurement approaches and tools. The question is too complex to answer simply. In general, we are moving away from exposure models to engagement models. We put less stock in clicks and impressions, and more stock in outcomes, sales and consumer behavior.

8.     Keeping in view the developments in the digital media market, what’s the future of traditional media?

Traditional media is alive and for the most part, doing well, but it is increasingly evolving to digital, and consumers increasingly demand that messages travel across screens and platforms. We are in an era of convergence and multi-screen content. The faster traditional media catch up with this fact, the better their long-term prognosis.

* * *

Jack Klues (pictured above) oversees the strategic assets of VivaKi’s four agency networks – Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) and ZenithOptimedia (ZO). He is also a member of Publicis Groupe’s Directoire and its executive committee, the P12.

Prior to VivaKi, Jack was chairman of Publicis Groupe Media, where he oversaw the global expansion of SMG – which he founded in 2000 – and ZO. A revered figure in the media industry, Jack has been named president of the Cannes Media Jury (2000), Mediaweek Media Director of the Year, Advertising Age Media Maven, Festival of Media’s Media Professional of the Year and Adweek Top Buyer.

This interview is published under the RMN Digital’s “Thought Leaders” series in which top tech market leaders of the world express their views on different burning issues and market trends.

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