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The year ahead for Media Agencies by Steve Parker, CEO of Publicis Media Middle East

As an agency leader, passionate about constantly learning to unlock more value and ultimately growth for our client partners, I remain excited and inspired by the ambition, capability and opportunity of this great region. In challenging times, opportunity is plenty but unlocking profitable and sustainable growth is hard for all.
Growth in 2018 will come in part from striving to get better every day at delivering core strategic and executional capabilities whilst cementing relationships through a natural and consistent focus on delivering through trust, talent and transformation. These are the foundations for success in 2018.
Growth will also be dependent on identifying and investing in capabilities that reflect our client partners’ business challenges and that are sustainable platforms to unlock growth. This will often demand new approaches, technologies and partners that help accelerate existing strategies or business units.
Importantly, growth will only come from the ability of leaders and their business partners in understanding, reflecting and challenging the macro factors that are influencing their respective businesses. Once identified, it is not only operational or capability change required but, more crucially, behaviour change. Creating an environment where your talent listens, adapts, initiates and reacts to the ever-changingrhythm of business and partnership is more important than ever before. This reflects the new definition of agility. There is not one pace,or one size, or one fit. Understand and act on this and you will start to uniquely deliver on the ambition and the opportunity.
The reality of this is felt by us in several ways. One is the changing role of the CMO – often debated and discussed, all marketer, part data officer, part transformation consultant, part procurement officer. The reality is unique to each individual and their alignment to their businesses and their brand’s ambition. The complexity of this role puts increased focus on how open and collaborative their agency partners are in bringing the talent, the experience and the insight to the table, to consult, plan and deliver whatever the partnership requires to unlock growth. These often challenge existing scopes, remuneration frameworks and talent profiles. This challenge should be embraced, it is healthy, it is respectful and it is changing the shape of our business and delivering growth.
This means that the role of large communication holding companies is changing. They must adapt and evolve to become platform businesses – it is the only way they can provide scale and consistency married with the capability and flexibility to meet these disrupted and shifting client demands.
I am privileged to be part of the Publicis Groupe, whose recent bravery in both organisational and behavioural evolution has given us the tools and the support to earn the right to be at the centre of our clients’ challenges. We are free as leaders of our business to bring the very best talent from outside Publicis Media agencies around technology, creative and content. This talent helps us to identify and deliver key marketing and brand-building objectives, built and influenced by the consultative and technical expertise of Publicis Sapient. This in turn leads to a transformational suite of skills that will unlock growth for a business by allowing us to refine, rebuild and optimise every aspect of the customer experience with that brand, no matter the sector or the size. That breadth of capability may well be unique to the Publicis Groupe, but the structure is nothing without the permission to behave differently, to collaborate naturally and effectively around a single, unifying client objective, often based on unlocking growth.
Being in step with our clients’ challenges and greatest opportunities is so critical and is highlighted by the growing requirement for commerce specialism to help our client partners unlock growth through delivering more consistent and engaging omni-channel experiences.
We are all so aware of how the retail world is going through unprecedented disruption from a customer journey and a technology infrastructure perspective. The Middle East is still predominantly a bricks-and-mortar region where the mall experience continues to lead the world and enhance its position within the fabric of society. But two things are happening. The importance of omni-channel customer experiences continues to grow, allowing customers to shop when and where they want. Secondly, e-commerce is continuing to accelerate as choice, technology and the online experience improves.
The role of agencies in the e-commerce landscape is clear. We believe strongly that it is our responsibility to provide an end-to-end solution that provides management and optimisation at the intersection of sales and marketing. Agencies should be investing in talent and technology to create collaborative commerce frameworks that provide efficiencies to businesses and allow growth to be unlocked by:
1. Partnering directly with marketplaces to enhance granular targeting capabilities.
2. Optimising product placements and descriptions based on individual marketplace nuances.
3. Applying first-party data to target customers, establish key performance indicators and satisfy consumer intent.
4. Using platform measurement tools and proprietary technology to evaluate the success of retail marketing investment in real time.
Our responsibility is to partner with businesses to deliver growth by building their e-commerce presence either directly to consumers or through appropriate partners.
As we accelerate and invest in our e-commerce capabilities, three recurring principles stand out as pointers for a successful partnership:
1. Never lose the focus on your product. It is what has attracted consumers – and always will – and it is the basis of any business and the key to successful omni-channel growth.
2. Use data to truly and consistently enhance the customer experience at every touch point. Challenge and change your legacy infrastructure and constantly listen, learn and adapt that experience to acquire, retain and enhance the lifetime value of customers.
3. Be aligned, collaborative and brave, and make smart investment decisions for a successful journey into e-commerce.
Finally, capability is less valuable without the right behaviour. To unlock growth in 2018, leaders must ensure their talent thrives on teamwork, working interdependently across complex structures and geographies and seeking out the best and brightest and most collaborative partners to unlock growth.
Publicis Media is driving this behaviour and we look forward to accelerating existing partnerships and developing new ones through groundbreaking collaboration initiatives like our Next Tech Now programme that helps bridge the gap between tech startups and brands, bringing smart businesses together of all sizes in partnership to unlock growth.
Embarking on 2018, I am positively enthusiastic about the future of our industry in this region, a region which is going through disruption but which remains full of talent, drive and opportunities.
It is our job and our commitment to constantly evolve to unlock growth for our trusted client partners and in turn keep the region going forward.
Investing across the region with our clients and our trusted publisher partners has always been our way, and is more important than ever before.