Media and creative division and a lack of clarity on purpose hurting Australian agencies, says Hero COO

The Australian media and marketing industry is being held back by agencies lacking clarity in their purpose as well as having significant business divisions, says recently announced Hero chief operating officer, James Greet.

Speaking to Mumbrella for the latest episode of the Mumbrellacast (to be released this afternoon), Greet lamented the current agency landscape which he says is not keeping up with media fragmentation.

Mirroring what VaynerMedia’s Australian business director, Amy Bradshaw, told Mumbrella earlier this week, Greet agreed that there was a “ridiculous” divide between media and creative and that the current situation was uninspiring. He questioned how many media agency professionals had stepped foot inside of a creative agency to understand the creative development process.

James Greet

“As human beings, we spend more time consuming media than anything else we do,” he said. “We do that because it’s interesting and it’s exciting for us, but I think some of our media agencies have managed to make the business of media dull and boring, confusing for clients, when actually it should be an amazing input and catalyst for sparking relevant, creative thinking and bringing it to life.

“The concerning thing for me is that… media has become hugely fragmented and is evolving faster than the speed of light… it’s never been easier to buy impressions, but it’s never been harder to make one. Consequently it’s never been easier to drop $10 million bucks and be invisible if you’re an advertiser.

“I think for a lot of clients as well, finding trusted partners to actually help remove the myth and the confusion around media is becoming increasingly hard.”

Questioned by Mumbrella why this was and what part mergers and acquisitions within large networks contributed to this issue, Greet explained that he believed incorrect incentivisation was a large contributor to the current situation.

“A lot of those networks acquired businesses individually as opposed to growing them organically. They acquired them individually to build their collection of services so they could provide the one stop shop.

“Unfortunately, a lot of those businesses weren’t incentivised to work together, to develop ideas and bring them to life in the most relevant place. Instead they were incentivised to grow their own P&L, and my experience of working in groups, they never played well together because everyone wanted to try and influence the client relationship and think of themselves.”

Greet, who’s experience within large multinational networks includes being CEO of OMD and CEO of Mindshare Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, went further by saying that this situation, in turn, meant that agencies struggled with their fundamental purpose, something which had a significant flow-on effect when it came to their success as a business and for clients.

“In my mind, purpose is really simple,” he said. “[But] the reality is that I think in our industry, many businesses lack that clarity of purpose. They are what Theodore Roosevelt described as energy companies in the past, just seeing themselves as gas companies, as opposed to actually being in the business of something broader if you like, because if they were, they would have gone into renewables.

“They would have seen themselves not as gasoline companies, but companies that were there to power the world. Power people, power business, move things or whatever.

“I think that’s probably true of a lot of agencies. I don’t really think they have that clarity of purpose. They simply are a product category. Okay, they’re buying media. Or they’re writing ads. I don’t think they offer anything more meaningful if you like. And I think that becomes an issue.”

Greet pointed to a recent study suggesting that there were three things that employees look for to decide whether work was meaningful. Clarity of purpose, alignment between their role and the business purpose, and a connection between themselves, their co-workers and the systems in place to deliver on that purpose.

He suggested that without that, the only differentiation becomes price, which then only has one way to go, and “that had been an issue for the industry for the past 10 to 15 years.”

Despite the challenges, the Hero COO who also counts Ikon and Cummins & Partners as agencies at which he has held leading roles, said the current challenges are allowing a certain type of agency to capitalise.

“[It’s] why I think you’re seeing a lot of startups and indies emerging, because it’s probably easier to realise that ambition and realise that dream as a startup, organically as well. It’s easier to begin it from scratch, or bring the right group of people together around that purpose and then start delivering it, as opposed to try and take something that has 500 people in it, or 300 people in it, that’s part of a global sort of entity and re-engineer it.”

Watch out for the full interview in the Mumbrellacast this afternoon.


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