AANA CEO John Broome wants media agencies to ‘become cockroaches’

The newly installed CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), John Broome, hopes media agencies will become the cockroaches of adland – adapting and surviving in the face of unprecedented change and brands bringing media buying in-house – rather than becoming dinosaurs and disappearing.

Broome: “I want media agencies to become cockroaches” 

Broome was responding to comments raised at the US-based ANA’s conference by Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser, who said “the one who survives is the one who is the most adaptable” and suggested agencies just may “outlast us all”.

Broome said he hopes this is true and argued that despite PwC research showing more and more brands are considering bringing their programmatic and buying in-house, most won’t be able to actually turn the idea into a reality.

“I actually want media agencies to become cockroaches, because I think the majority of advertisers in Australia won’t be able to bring this in-house because of the costs associated with it, the scale that we’ve got, so therefore we need trusted, capable, and forward-thinking [agency partners],” he said.

PwC’s CMO Advisory Market Sentiment Survey on whether brands are bringing media planning and buying in-house (Click to enlarge)

Jeremy Nicholas, executive director of retail marketing at Telstra, conceded the brand had a hybrid model, where elements of media and creative are done in-house, but said he relies on the tension agencies bring to the table.

“I would say we have refined the number of agencies we work with greatly over the couple of years I’ve been there, and I’d say we’ve got a fantastic relationship with all our agency partners. And I think for us we see the benefit of the hybrid model is, we’re a huge data-driven company as it is, with huge amounts of data and security, quality control, a lot of capability inside the company which we leverage. But we do need the outside perspective as well of agency partners working on the trading desk or in an advisory role, and our creative partners as well, in order to provide that tension,” he sad.

“I think we really run by, no-one knows the business as well as the people working there every day, collided with no-one can give you the perspective of your industry like someone sitting outside it.”

Sunita Gloster, John Broome, Anneliese Douglass, Jeremy Nicholas, Mark Coad and Paul McIntyre at AANA Media Challenge

This tension, he said, is the only thing that will produce the right outcome for brands.

“So I can’t see us going completely one way, or completely the other, we need that tension, and we need that positive conflict in it, and that’s what I really depend on our agency partners and advisors in it, and also my product, store, channel, sales people in the company as well to provide that as well. You’ve got to have that diversity of opinion in order to get the right outcome overall,” he said.

Anneliese Dougalss, head of media and PR at Unilever, said brands may be tempted to bring programmatic in-house when looking at the profit and loss sheet, but argued it’s not that simple.

“Year one bringing it in-house from a programmatic perspective is often the most attractive from a P&L perspective, but year two and year three are often the hardest to actually return that profit. So, I think there’s a whole heap of questions that need to be addressed, and it’s not as simple as data protection and data privacy,” she said.

Mark Coad, CEO of PHD, agreed a longer-term view was necessary when weighing up whether to bring the services in house.

“I hold the view that the programmatic capability, albeit largely digital at the moment, is going to form the heart of the future agency. That’s the core of what an agency’s going to be – the ability to use artificial intelligence, automation, algorithms to serve right messages, right time, based on data. That’s kind of what we want to be…that’s the core of a media agency,” he said, noting brands which go down the path of doing it themselves would need immense scale.

The risk of bringing it in-house, he said, was the process would slow down, and opportunities would be missed.

“In a world not far from now, the competitive advantage of our clients is going to be the capacity to get the right message at the right time, before their competitors get it. As soon as a consumer displays a behaviour or a trigger that shows they’re in market … your speed to market is going to become your competitive advantage.

“So you’d better have the best tech and you’d better have the best people – because you might save some money in the next couple of years, but I think there’s a longer-term view to be considered.”

Coad also questioned the motivation of brands bringing their buying in-house.

“I think there are some legitimate reasons to do some stuff in house, transparency shouldn’t be one of them. Privacy of data is one of them. And we’re working with a large client where their data is very sensitive, so we’ve built a hybrid model where they own the data, we own the tech and the people and it kind of works.”


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