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Q&A on Diversification

Q&A on Diversification
MediaCom Managing Partner & Head of Content Nick Cohen talks Diversification after our hugely successful Adaptathon in the first week of February, the second part of President Ian Priest's ADAPT agenda.

What forms does Diversification take for MediaCom?

Staying ahead of the game is one of our core values at MediaCom, so it’s no surprise that the agency has launched a number of specialist divisions in recent years in response to the changing media world.

My experience has been with MediaCom Beyond Advertising, our specialist content marketing division, which helps our clients to connect with consumers through creating content and experiences they choose to engage with, rather than through traditional interruptive spot ads.

Alongside MBA the agency has also launched MediaCom Sport (specialising in all aspects of sports marketing), Real World Analytics (which is focused on understanding consumers through data) and MediaCom iLab (our digital performance division, which came out of our hugely successful regional office in Manchester, but is now operating UK-wide).

In your experience, what are the key learnings for agencies about diversification?

Stay true to your core competencies: diversification works best for agencies when it is a natural evolution of their role, rather than a radical departure. MediaCom’s core business is focused on consumer understanding, strategic communications planning, and media investment management. All of our new services, while diversifying the kinds of work we do, stay true to those three core areas.

The other thing I would say is that these new divisions have to add value to our clients’ businesses above anything else. If you’re delivering value to clients, business success for the agency should follow, and it’s important to always look at these new opportunities that way round.

And what about for clients?

For clients the world is becoming ever more complex, with more and more specialist services such as content marketing, SEO or data analytics required. But having too many separate specialist agencies and advisers can become hugely complicated (both for clients and their agency partners) so focusing on a smaller number of trusted agencies with integrated specialist teams can make life considerably easier.

What are the key roles agencies should play? (ie facilitator/broker/project manager/other etc)?

It very much depends on the client: for example in an area like content, we have some clients where we are fulfilling all of those roles and working pretty much end-to-end; whereas for others we will play more of a simple facilitating role. It really depends on what the client needs and how their agency relationships are set up, and our specialist divisions work within that framework.

You've been in the job a while now? What have been your big learnings?

For me the two big recurring themes are around partnership and flexibility. Understanding the dynamics of working in partnership with others has become absolutely central to how agencies operate, whether that’s partnering with other agencies, media owners, talent, or even between clients.

The world is more inter-connected than ever before, so agencies need people who can quickly understand the different motivations involved and negotiate any conflicting positions. Obviously flexibility is linked to that: with so many new ways of working, agencies need to be able to adapt to the specific needs of the client or project, rather than having a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

What can agencies learn from outside the industry about diversification?

Although it’s probably a bit of a cliché to look to Silicon Valley for inspiration, I do think that one of the biggest areas where agencies can learn from other sectors is in the way that the leading tech companies manage to combine scale with real agility and responsiveness to changes in the market. As agencies move into these fast moving new territories it’s vital that they are able stay on top of market developments and ‘pivot’ quickly to adapt their offer to changing customer needs.

How do you see diversification developing at your agency?

Our specialist divisions like MediaCom Beyond Advertising, MediaCom Sport and iLab are some of the fastest growing parts of the businesses, so I’m sure they will continue to be at the heart of the agency’s development.

As for other new kinds of diversification, all I can really say is that MediaCom is a company that has entrepreneurial spirit at its heart, so I’m sure the agency will continue to evolve and develop innovative new services as the market changes.

How feasible is it for agencies to move from a time-based revenue model to an ideas-based one?

Time based charging is a perfectly good model for expert consultancy, so I don’t see agencies moving away from that any day soon. Instead I think it’s more a question of how agencies can add to that model by finding new ways to generate revenue.

Media agencies have always been good at finding new ways to commercialise what they do, so I think it’s definitely feasible to imagine a future where a greater proportion of agency income comes from exploiting intellectual property of one form or another.

We can already see that starting to happen with agencies charging for licensing tools and software that they have developed in-house, and businesses like GroupM Entertainment demonstrate that agencies can deliver credible business returns by investing in developing creative formats.

Visit our Diversification Hub to view more blogs, video and photos from the three days

Last updated 17/02/2014

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