Digital Essays 2014: Shaping new roles in the communications industry

Mark De Rijke

The role of the media supplier will change as ad sales is predominantly automated, says Mark De Rijke.

Every year new solutions and formats are introduced to the digital world. New fancy terms are being used in the industry almost every day. Everyone is talking about the connected consumer, that content is king and we have to think digital first. I won’t even mention the year of the mobile.

The reality however is that these are nothing but buzzwords, but do highlight the key issue facing agencies and brands which is how to drive standout and relevant communication to an audience that unconsciously moves across multiple, overlapping platforms and show a tangible ROI.

If this challenge is to be effectively addressed, all parties must break from traditional silos that have been in place for years and even decades, which requires strong leadership along with a core culture of collaboration and data-driven proactivity. This however is still missing across the majority of stakeholders in the marketing process and as a result key organisation changes are still not being successfully implemented.

What are these changes and drivers?

Integrated planning based on programmatic

With audiences communicating and consuming content across multiple platforms, we as agencies, brands and media partners must plan our communication seamlessly across all devices both on and offline. This does not mean replicating the same message across each platform but understanding how our target audiences interact with each platform, why they use it and how platforms interact with one another to tailor our comms approach. For this to work, integrated planning is only challenge as agencies now have to track and measure audience across multiple platform and devices to ensure relevance of message and truly measure ROI.

Programmatic platforms are becoming key facilitators in the media integration. Not only is all digital media increasingly integrated but also traditional channels like TV, radio and OOH. Whilst programmatic is still in its infancy in the MENA region, looking five to10 years from now, trends indicate that a greater variety of media will be integrated into programmatic platforms, which in turn will make buying and measurement of audiences across channels for more robust and efficient.

Traditional media buyers to data-led communication consultants

For a few years now there has been a lot of talk about the future of the media agency, going from a group of planners and buyers to data-driven consultants and creative media strategists. Doing more with less people is something I’ve heard a lot when the question is raised about the future. With data becoming more important (again driven by programmatic) the culture and skillsets of agencies, creative and media partners have to change to maximise the opportunities this will bring to all parties. All parties need to ensure all key stakeholders are capable of having proactive data-driven conversations based on driving tangible business growth to client. “Cheap media” and “awards” are no longer enough in this competitive environment.

Media, a driver of big ideas and content

With more automated trading and buying models in place, the role of the media supplier will also change as advertising sales is predominantly automated. Be it content and consultancy-led or driving incremental sales from big ideas, formats and sponsorships. Again this will see skillsets and structures change, with editors becoming the creative spirit of brands, utilising audience and market data to drive creative engagement across multiple channels. Support comes from paid media, where programmatic buying connects to data to assure brands finding the right audiences, again, across platform or channel.

From one-size-fits-all to bespoke creativity

For creative agencies this means that assets have to become as adaptive as the consumer. A one-size-fits-all creative doesn’t work anymore if the data tells us that two persons in a similar demographic profile have different interests. Being flexible, able to have multiple storyboards in place based on the actual behaviour of your potential customer today will drive personalised, location-based and segmented messaging driving the highest level of relevance.


These are but some of the factors that show the impact technology, data and integration is having on our industry and how it’s becoming the key to drive success in a highly volatile environment.

To thrive in this landscape, all stakeholders must have the agility and skillsets to adapt to changes brought on by industry evolution or even campaign data to ensure brand communication is relevant, engaging and drives tangible results. To facilitate this, strong leadership combined with a culture of collaboration, proactivity and learning is a must.

There’s a long way to go with many more changes in store, but it’s a very exciting time. There is no reason to worry about the rise of programmatic platforms, integration or big data. They are opportunities to expand our own skillsets and shift focus on becoming truly valuable business partners. By executing this shift, all industry stakeholders will be able to spend more time together, shaping relationships with valuable and tangible results through innovative and creative solutions. But to do this we must start the change now.

(Mark De Rijke is
digital planning director at MEC MENA)