The robots are helping: Mediabrands solving talent crisis with automation technology

Facing a race for talent in 2022, IPG’s Mediabrands has turned to robots to solve one of the industry’s most challenging issues: repetitive data input tasks.

After a two-year development, the automation transformation is now in play at both Mediabrands agencies, UM and Initiative, with the software allowing talent to focus on development, and the more creative and innovative aspects of life at a media agency.

Partnering with global software company, UI Path, and IT services company, Cognizant, Mediabrands has now automated all of its systems and processes, as national CEO, Mark Coad described the move as positioning Mediabrands as a “true innovation leader”, having now advanced or improved many of the investment and partnership practices that have been in place for the last twenty years.

UM CEO, Anathea Ruys spoke about the transformation on this week’s Mumbrellacast.

Speaking on this week’s Mumbrellacast, UM CEO, Anathea Ruys said the implementation of the robot technology was a necessary step to transform, and progress the agency, and its developing talent.

“Now for me, technology is here to serve people. That’s the point of this type of technology, and the reason for implementing it is that this industry has not changed fundamentally for 20-plus years. We’re still doing the same level of detail that we were all that time ago, and that’s not very exciting for the people that joined this industry looking for the kind of engaging, thoughtful and creative thinking that we really can do.”

“I’ve had plenty of these conversations,” continued Ruys. “We want you to be creative. We want curious thinkers. We want someone who’s looking to make a difference. And then we bring them into the office and we put them in front of an Excel spreadsheet, and we say ‘could you please do this repetitive task for seven hours?'”.

Coad described the media industry’s lack of progress as its “uncomfortable truth” over the past two decades, with its junior staff continuing to spend time on the “time-consuming” and “tedious day-to-day” operations.

Mark Coad

“For those of us who have been in the media hot seat for a long time, we know it’s pretty tough starting out in media agencies,” said Coad. “By investing heavily in finding ways to remove some of the less glamourous and more menial tasks from daily workloads, gives our people time to spend learning and developing in areas that drive business growth. Yes of course this benefits our business but more importantly it provides opportunities for our people to improve their career path and self-esteem growth.”

“Staff turnover remains a key on-going problem across the industry and the future will be won by the group who can deliver true career value, and improved career pathing.”

Coad said this offers a clear career path for young Mediabrands staffers, and with the transformation getting their career development out of “slow-motion”.

Ruys said that it is not only a benefit for those young staffers coming into the agency, but all people across the organisation, as it allows for much more meaningful and appealing conversation for managers and those they are managing, teaching and learning about identifying “really interesting trends, and how to read and interpret data, rather than simply transposing or transcribing”.

Project lead on the transformation, Geoff Clarke said that the technology “facilitates time for our team to produce higher quality work, which has a direct roll-on effect to increase the value of individual IP, increase craft skill diversity across each business and creates opportunity to shift client relationships from largely a commodity-based arrangement to a true business partnership,” he said.

The attempt to solve the talent crisis by focusing on the material day-to-day work for staff takes a different approach from many other staff retention initiatives across the industry. Across 2021 the industry saw development academies, internal training, return to office policies, and potentially overdue updates to parental leave, domestic violence and pregnancy loss policies.

Mediabrands said that the Bots have saved more than 3,300 hours since launch, in automating almost 13,000 tasks that were previously manually completed. Ruys also said that on average, the Bots are saving around 80% on time overall when implemented across data tasks.

Jake Devlin, senior partnerships manager at UM added that since coming across to UM, access to the COE and Bot Automation has broken the conception that media is all about spreadsheets.

“The added dividends we are able to provide to clients has become immediately apparent. Not only has the team been able to generate deeper insights, but they have also been able to explore more of the avenues that interest them personally, creating more passionate and happy staff.”

Head of media partnerships, Michael Mellington also said: “Automation really does set us apart and I have seen genuine surprise and excitement from potential candidates when discussing the roles and responsibilities of UMers as this minimises the tasks that are commonly disliked.”

Ruys finished by saying that across UM, the leadership team is seeing that for “the folks that are coming and joining us, it is making their lives more interesting and more meaningful”.

“And do you know what happens when you’ve got an interesting and meaningful job? You stay there.”

Look out for the full conversation with UM CEO, Anathea Ruys on this week’s Mumbrellacast, dropping on Thursday morning. 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.