PHD Media Worldwide > News > Charli Ursell, Head of Transformation, PHD UAE, discusses how digital transformation is helping drive change in the media industry
October 9 2018

Charli Ursell, Head of Transformation, PHD UAE, discusses how digital transformation is helping drive change in the media industry


How is digital transformation affecting your working relationship with your clients?

People used to be passive consumers of the material our customers, namely advertisers, targeted at them, but technology has changed everything. Today, consumers are adopting new technologies so quickly that the average home is better equipped for the future than the average office. Speed of adoption, at a rate quicker than the capability of organisations to change too, is, therefore, a sizeable challenge for us and our clients.

The significant disruption in consumer behaviour and seismic shifts in the potential of data and technology have meant that businesses are reimagining organisational models and processes. At the core of this is devising an approach to digital and technology that allows them to tap into this opportunity.

The traditional agency model offered expertise on media-specific strategy, planning and buying but the evolving landscape is now requiring us to consult for clients on broader aspects of their marketing set-up and approach. Media planning and buying remain at the core of our business but increasingly, we are being asked to help them to get a clearer view of what is impacting their sales as a business. This means building out more insightful consumer insights and advising on technology investments. It even goes as far as interviewing potential new digital and data candidates, as well as providing training to help them navigate the requirements of this changing world more efficiently.

Although we have been offering these services for some time, we are now at a stage where we are enhancing our capabilities based on client needs, making relevant hires, forming partnerships and investing in technology.

Ultimately the growing emphasis on organisational transformation does provide an opportunity to extend our portfolio of services. We have a growing number of clients, both established companies and emerging businesses, who want to work with us outside of the legacy communications planning scope. They recognise and want to tap into the value that we can provide through our consultancy capabilities. Marketing is being transformed by the growth of data, tech and analytics solutions. It’s, therefore, no surprise that our business model is rapidly evolving to address our clients’ needs through data.

What services do you offer to drive your clients’ digital transformation and what impact do they have?

For several years now, we have offered marketing science products (econometrics), business consultancy (portfolio analysis), attribution consultancy and technology/partner/data audits and recommendations. We’ve even been helping clients to set up product feeds for Data-Driven Marketing efforts.

Historically, the approach to providing data and tech consultancy for clients was negotiated product by product. However, it has become increasingly clear that selling a marketing science project or a consumer insight exercise alone is not enough to make a substantial difference to a client’s business. Our focus now is on providing wrap-around solutions that combine multiple products in packages tailored to clients’ needs.

Recently, investments in service offerings have been more holistic as a result. We have launched initiatives such as Engine, a specialist unit built for our global automotive client Volkswagen. It is designed to capitalise on the volume of anonymous data being generated by consumers researching cars online.  Engine will ensure Volkswagen can deliver relevant content to consumers as they move through their digital journey to purchasing a vehicle, pulling together technical experts from Omnicom Media Group agencies PHD, Annalect and Adylic. The Engine teams will collaborate with client and agency teams in all markets around the world on data collection and management, audience creation, dynamic creative optimisation, activation and measurement. The combination of hub and local teams will drive effectiveness and cost efficiency in delivering core digital consumer behaviour KPIs. Test cases in Italy, France and Spain using Engine’s approach have delivered increased effectiveness and efficiency of 30–300%.

Our holding group has been invested heavily in technology and created Omni, our people-based precision marketing and insights platform. It is designed to identify and define personalised consumer experiences at scale across creative, media, CRM as well as other Omnicom practice areas. Omni impacts the way Omnicom teams work, collaborate and deliver value, from insights generation to audience building, channel planning, creative development and message distribution. All the activities are continuously measured and optimised with attribution tied to advertiser performance at every step of the consumer journey.

About four years ago, the global PHD network developed Source, which, at launch, was a best in class planning tool. The new media planning and operations system, which melded data with game-theory and social interaction, was ground-breaking and became an award-winning innovation. It has evolved since and today can do everything from planning all the way up to calculating ROI and the impact of media deployment on our clients’ profit margins.

What advice can you give to get digital systems and services right?

The recent proliferation of technologies, tools and companies designed to answer digital and data challenges for businesses has thrown forth a plethora of opportunities for our clients’ businesses and our own. But it has also resulted in a bad habit of companies investing for the sake of investing.

The lesson in this is the importance of going through a proper and thorough audit process to identify what digital systems and services are the right ones, and how and when those efforts will result in tangible ROI improvements. When we are blinded by shiny new opportunities and jump on them without a clear qualitative and quantitative assessment of their potential value, we are most at risk to get it wrong.

We’ve worked with a company that experienced difficulties understanding the data from their e-commerce site. An audit found significant issues. Among other things, it wasn’t tracking the products being sold or at which stage of the funnel a user was. Its analytics weren’t set up in a way that gave its teams even one correct e-commerce data point on which they could rely. Once the tracking was fixed, the online store revenue soared from zero to over US$4 million. Before the implementation of proper tracking, the marketing team would have had to contact the sales team to get accurate information, which would still have been in isolation from any other marketing metrics.

Often, data lives in silos and isn’t shared across departments. However, to build effective marketing strategies, these barriers need to be overcome. With proper tracking, this company is now able to use data to create rich omnichannel experiences for its customers. Ensuring the accuracy of data is a fundamental step in getting your marketing, and your business, right.

We recently released a whitepaper that highlighted the potential dangers of not getting your data infrastructure right. It shows the importance of beginning with a clear vision of what we want to achieve, maturity frameworks audits to provide us with the pathways to achieve this, and processes such as audits, and cross-business translation programmes to get to where we need to be.

We maintain conversations with companies such as Oracle or SAP, as well as local data and technology partners, to see how their products may benefit our clients. We have spent the past couple of years working on gradually growing the list of trusted partners.

Each new client challenge is unique so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We continually meet with partners who may not be relevant right at the moment but could fill a gap perfectly for a future client project. This is how we stay abreast of the market and are able to best advise our clients.

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