Making Sense of it All: Nick Emery doubts advertisers need 'agencies of record'
The industry needs to reinvent planning as creative and media come together, You & Mr Jones Media founder Nick Emery argues in the second episode of Making Sense of it All.
The former Mindshare CEO joined You & Mr Jones in April with a mission to “put brands back in control of their media, putting it at the heart of their businesses, empowering them through transparency, technology, and in-housing.”
In this interview with Brian Jacobs, partner at Crater Lake & Co, Emery says clients are more sophisticated than agencies and are unlikely to need agencies of record anymore.
Emery also argues:
- how in-housing, or "residencies," is a particularly critical part of how You & Mr Jones Media fits into the wider business
- network media agencies had become guilty of sub-standard client-service and were more interested in selling "things the holding companies happened to have bought rather than necessarily what was right for the client"
- the industry has an opportunity to "reinvent planning around context with the rigour of the Web".
Watch the video below or read a full transcript below.
Making Sense of it All is weekly video interview series by Mediatel News in association with Crater Lake & Co. Each Tuesday, we publish interviews with the industry's most thought-provoking marketers, agency executives and research thinkers to find out how people working in media can make sense of this ever more complicated and fragmented ecosystem.
BRIAN JACOBS: You have a very unusual and almost unique opportunity to start a media network really from scratch. Can you tell us about the core principles that you'll be instilling within your media operation as you as you get it up and running?
NICK EMERY: Sure, thank you. It is unique. It's pretty exciting as well and I think one of the best things about it and the lucky thing is that I'm working with some amazing people to do it. That's the most exciting thing really about the whole thing.
But it does feel to me – I don't know if you agree, Brian – there's something really quite exciting happening media at the moment: the new technologies, the things that are happening in AR and VR; all the conversations about the metaverse; the mergers and acquisitions; the startups... it does feel like there's something happening and I've always thought that media was the most exciting business to work in. But sometimes we made it the most boring. Sometimes we contrived to make it – not that numbers aren't interesting – but just solely about numbers.
Whereas now it's about everything, from Twitch to Discord to WeChat to Alibaba to Google and it feels like we're on the cusp of a change. It feels like there's an energy and excitement in the business that we haven't had for a while. It's easy to look at how that how that manifests itself. If you look at the [financial] results that have just been published for Alphabet or Pinterest over the traditional media companies and that's a sea change everywhere so e-gaming's taking over from sports, the creator community is taking over from traditional agencies and streaming's taking over from cable, cloud is taking over from traditional technology.
Clients are probably more sophisticated than agencies. They don't really need a full [agency of record] anymore.
We think new-style marketing and technology groups are taking over from traditional holding companies. So we wanted to design a media company for that world that's new and different and has technology at its heart but it's for a progressive client who wants a full-funnel, warehouse-to-wallet approach. So we have a couple of principles, to come back to your question. It will be built around content, commerce and community. Content increasingly has to be integrated. It's a commercial world and a world where you have to work with communities in the creator community and integrate all that into one place.
There are four founding principles. One is built around in-housing to puts clients back in control of their own data and their own approaches. It's transparent both in its commercials and in its operations. It's founded on the best technology in the marketplace, whether we own it or whether we don't own it – it doesn't matter. Whatever is the right technology for the client. And centred around D, I and B [diversity inclusion and belonging]. So those are the four principles.
Everything has to be addressable, shoppable, personal and it's very much centred around creating residencies for clients, solutions for clients around people. So in some ways it's a bit like a global talent agency. How do we assemble and disassemble teams around a client's needs to create residences for them.
Because, in the main, clients are probably more sophisticated than agencies. They don't really need a full [agency of record] anymore. They need people who can fit in around around their team so that's what we want to do. If you think in society there are residencies, as artists in residence, poets, scientists, academics... we want to create several organic solutions for clients and assemble and dissemble teams. Because six months ago you probably didn't need a team which was concentrating on decentralised finance and the metaverse and NFTs but now you do.
So we need to be flexible and fluid in that way and almost operate the same way as you would do 'total football'. Sometimes your offence, sometimes your defence, depends on how you assemble and you coalesce around a client.
BRIAN: Back in the day, as it were, media networks were built around a basic principle of being able to do everything, weren't they? They had departments for every single every single thing. You mentioned "in-housing", meaning client in housing... are you now considering bringing a lot of skills into your organisation or are you going to join up with people in whatever way happens to make sense for the client?
NICK: In a world that was defined really by being about servicing clients we've kind of lost the idea of how to service clients. There's an awful lot of self-interest in our world rather than how to service clients. So, to your latter point, whatever is right for a client. I think the framework and the spine is important to put together; to somehow knit together.
There's some great work done by the consultancies but very rarely is it taken to activation. The rigour of a consultancy that you can take through to activation so you can diagnose the problem you can integrate creative and media and all the data and technology into one place and you can hygienically execute, I think it's important to be able to do those three elements. Now, whether clients want all those elements or not, it's up to them; they might not. But you also have to create an open-source spine where people can put in the right technology, almost like apps that are right for them at the right time, whether you own it or whether you don't own it.
There are almost two different types of people in agencies now: people do understand data-driven platform-centric worlds and those who understand brands.
I think too often in our collective past we probably had to sell things that the holding companies happened to have bought rather than necessarily what was right for the client, so i think it's really important that, especially given the pace of change, that you can have a consistent integrated way of working but append these apps at the right time in the right place.
BRIAN: It's interesting, in our collective past, media agencies or media networks used to make a bit of a merit out of being distant from their creative siblings. It was almost like "well, yeah, but we're in charge now; you've had your turn, now it's us!" And I think that's obviously changed over time and increasingly people work much closer with creatives. Do you think that was a bit of a mistake? And are you looking to make sure in this flexible world that you're working in that you work across disciplines as well as within what could be very broadly called the media discipline?
NICK: Yeah I think it's really important to put it back together. We think creative and media has to come back together. If you look at dynamic content and what's happening with commerce and iterative needs, creating almost like a newsroom of creative and media together – you can't do that unless you work together.
Especially when it comes to commerce, if you look at SHEIN in terms of how they're developing their product, product is developed almost the same as the speed of content now so you have to have that virtuous relationship between content and media. And also across channels, whether it's Twitch Amazon Live, Amazon Prime, you whatever the properties are MGM, whatever properties they have, you have to have consistency between the creative and the media partnerships.
I don't think there are many reasons why it happened, but you also have to accept as a media person that creative is still a large part of the effectiveness of what happens. You have to admit that! And it has to work together.
But I think, just as it is about putting creative media together, I think there are two other things that go with that.
Context is as important. Context and content but probably are more important than reaching impressions and we've lost that a bit. There's a real opportunity to reinvent planning around context but with the rigour of the web. That's a real opportunity in how creative and media comes together.
And the third one we want to put together is brand and performance metrics. There are almost two different types of people in agencies now: people do understand data-driven platform-centric worlds and those who understand brands. Putting a full funnel kind of warehouse to wallet solution together is rare to put those two things together, so I think those three things have to come together creative and media context as well as content and brand and performance metrics. They're all driving the same point.
NEXT WEEK: Abba Newbery, CMO of Habito