Technology does not drive change, people do: John Sheehy

With an insatiable appetite for making their lives more relevant, consumers are demanding and driving change and agencies need to connect programmatic, data and analytics, search and content, says Sheehy, President, Global Operations, Starcom MediaVest

e4m by Saloni Dutta
Published: Oct 1, 2014 6:03 PM  | 7 min read
Technology does not drive change, people do: John Sheehy

Addressing the needs of a world which is experiencing constant flux brought about by technology, John Sheehy, President, Global Operations, Starcom MediaVest touched upon the key insights that can drive a perfect combination of technology and marketing in the future.  Sheehy’s topic of discussion was ‘Staying ahead of #WhatsNextInMedia’ at the exchange4media Conclave and he shared some future-defining insights that can change the way we perceive and operate in the fields of advertising, marketing and communications.

He asked the audience as to where will they place their dollar and hoped by the end of the presentation they have a good idea of their bet. “I have a great job and a big part of my job is to decide where to invest that next dollar, whether it is markets, whether it is clients or most importantly where the capabilities of talent of tomorrow are going to be the driver of business, not only for the agencies but for the clients,” said Sheehy. The things that we are learning in this fast changing environment according to him is that you see a lot of graphs that show the slow decline of TV and print. “What we have realised today is that models today, they don’t bend, they don’t take that nice gentle curve but they actually end up breaking,” added Sheehy. He quoted examples of Airbnb, Spotify, Flipkart in India, Netflix, Alibaba, remarking, who would have predicted that Spotify, five years ago, would reinvent radio and how people listen to music. And here in India who would have assumed that Flipkart would change e-commerce and take on the likes of Amazon and get a two-billion dollar investment. Netflix changed the way that TV is going to be broadcast and consumed forever. These examples prove the fact that models don’t bend, they break.

He discussed how agencies must fight this disruption by embracing and connecting new dots like programmatic, data and analytics, search and content. “The marketplace is going to accelerate and here is why - change is not driven by technology, it is driven by the pace of people. In all the examples that I showed you from India and other markets, are because consumers have an insatiable appetite for making their lives more relevant, brands part of their life to deliver value, and that is what is driving the change. Consumers are going to demand it and they are going to drive it,” said Sheehy. So in this uncertain world, Sheehy listed five things that they are looking for the industry to drive us to certainty and five things that he is looking at in terms of where are we investing our dollars?
1. Audiences
According to Sheehy everyone wants to target an audience. But we generally line up the brand benefit, some paid TV ads to drive awareness, and that is our marketing mantra for a mass appeal. Tomorrow will be about audiences and what is really incredible will define future roles with capabilities of understanding audiences at a much more discreet level, noted Sheehy. The audience are going from one mass audience, to few. When you look at audiences, you can’t not look at the technology behind them, everything from COM data, to Facebook, and segregate the data infinitely for better reach, engage different audiences. “You got to bet on audience capabilities. It is going to be a fundamental shift, that where you place you dollar,” added Sheehy.
2. Content
In that old world of marketing we have one big awareness TV campaign, maybe two, we do some print and 93 per cent of the spending goes away for that. However content driven by consumer, enabled by technology is now the coming infinity. We are borrowing and partnering to get it, are not spending a half million dollars on the big ad, Sheehy said, “I’m not saying that it is not important, but content is the way you engage. You need content to drive relevancy and engagement with specific audiences, so that the right segment gets the right message. So content is the bet you want to make and an easy one for a lot of people in this room because video, source, publishers are getting into it.”
3. Convergence
Speaking about the importance of convergence, Sheehy said, “We are seeing that the whole marketplace in terms of how we measure things whether it is India, developing or developed countries, is changing. We need to make sure that our methods are keeping up with that change.” In the new world, two things happen, the linear world becomes non-linear and all the channels influence and are influenced by pay and they influence each other. According to Sheehy, we need more sophisticated models and we need data. What is important in terms of convergence is what is happening when you start running more digital campaigns, how are you able to measure real time, adjust your content, messaging and audiences, to optimise that mix and how you are able to do attribution modelling because the data is coming in 24 hours. It is live, predictable, and responsive and its everything that traditional media is not.
4. Programmatic
When programmatic comes, what it does is it lights the power building or engage the consumer in new ways to drive a greater ROI and drive greater sales to clients, to excite and delight the consumers in different ways. It is a damn good thing, and it is not only going to be display and video but if you look at where Netflix and TV is going, programmatic is going to be a part of everyday life. Programmatic is also underpinned by a lot of technology. It is not something that you go back to the agency and buy off the shelf, it is more sophisticated, you have to manage it, you have to find vendors to supply it, it is a big investment in time and commitment and mostly the agencies don’t have a programmatic route, are not prepared to go ahead and build one, to understand technology, it is a really confounding situation.
5. Mobility
You have probably beaten this horse to death, but it is more important because maybe that dollar is going to be all in on mobility, noted Sheehy. We entertain, connect, it informs, we do commerce on it, for the first time mobile search has overtaken traditional desktop search. How many marketers and agencies have taken the mobile first planning approach when it comes to building today’s or tomorrow’s capabilities? 900 million people have a phone, maybe 200 million smartphones, with a desire to upgrade fast.

Summarising the five big bets Sheehy said, “Simple stuff, you got a dollar to invest, all this change of media, we go after audiences, we double down on content, how about this whole convergence of data analytics, big data the most exciting place, how about programmatic and how about mobility. My job is pretty cool and also pretty challenging because we have to figure out how the heck are we going to make those investments. Not only do we have to figure out if we make that investment in India-China, established markets, where we place our bets, what is the return on that, and the toughest part of the job is how do we shift the people who work at SMG globally, how do we shift their mind-sets, behaviours and capabilities in all these areas.”
Fifty per cent of their revenue is still tied to traditional media, the other half is digital, data analytics in content today according to Sheehy. The answer lies in connecting the dots, you got to partner in new ways, start shaping your talent in different ways, and that is the exciting part, because this is the future. “Out of the 1.25 billion people in India, 800 million are under the age of 35, and they are digital savvy, globally connected. More importantly under the new PM Modi, India’s future is based on young people’s energy, enthusiasm and enterprise. That is where the government is going to put their bet. India is at a tipping point and if you ask me where will it be in three years, I am going to point to the upside,” concluded Sheehy.

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