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Opinion 8 Dec 2019 - 6 min read

Mi3's Top 20 for 2019: Who and what the smart crowd read and rated

By Paul McIntyrte - Executive Editor
Stuart Tucker

Hipages chief customer officer Stuart Tucker believes the power of brand building and emotional messaging has been lost as marketers have focused on performance media.

It's been quite a year for the market, Mi3 and the huge response to our launch in May to help stimulate more intelligent conversations, debate and coverage across the marketing, media, agency and technology sectors. Much more is to come from Mi3 in 2020 but here's the top conversations that Mi3 readers - and podcast subscribers - piled into this year. There's insights everywhere. Take the refresher here. 

With the sort of market conditions we're facing in the coming 12 months, more considered, strategic, business-stimulating conversations and debates, which have dominated Mi3's coverage this year, will only rise. It's vital for a broader swathe of industry to engage in more informed contributions about how consumer, culture, technology and media developments impact business - or not. The signs are promising as industry leaders push higher order thinking to their teams beyond the daily diet of easy, one-dimensional headlines and news.   

The top stories in Mi3's 2019 line-up included:

  • Digital pureplay Hipages shifts its reliance on paid search to brand building through a strategic overhaul driven by chief customer officer Stuart Tucker
  • Carmaker Volvo has done likewise under its marketing team, lead by Julie Hutchinson
  •  IAG's CMO Brent Smart put an overdue spotlight on the effectiveness of martech and vanilla customer experience investments
  • McDonald's long-range market-mix modelling work unflinchingly demonstrates a doubling of media ROI, thanks in part to higher, smarter  ad spending and better understanding of the role of creative
  • It's all in our Top 20 for 2019 below. Enjoy our fast refresher, led by our biggest story of the year, Hipages.      


"Like a lot of digital marketplaces, we built our business on paid search and we became very, very dependent on it. But the problem with that is you're not building a brand over time."

Stuart Tucker, Chief Customer Officer, Hipages

'Get off the paid search drug to build brand': Hipages chief customer officer Stuart Tucker


Former KFC, Optus and Commbank marketer Stuart Tucker did the unthinkable earlier this year for a digital pureplay targeting the $70bn market for tradies - he cut back paid search at Hipages and piled into television to build the brand. The business results are booming as Tucker unpacks how "we needed to essentially get off the drug or reduce our reliance on the drug of pad search". 


"I'm not going to sugar coat we've had a number of account losses. You do not lose accounts because things are going well. We're working towards really having the capabilities to be competing in a different market to what most of us believe the market is and it's not just the ad market."

Henry Tajer, ousted CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network

Dentsu's Henry Tajer breaks his silence: the group was 'over-engineered'


In typical form, Dentsu-Aegis boss Henry Tajer came out blazing a new trail after joining the troubled Denstu Aegis Network in early 2019. Don't expect him to be just the 'media guy', he said in this Mi3 piece. His eyes were on martech, creative, digital business transformation, data and outplaying the consulting firms - until something happened, probably within the media division, that saw him suddenly ousted in November. More on that here


"We've all got Salesforce and Adobe plugged into our tech stacks. We've all done media mix modelling and attribution studies. It's hygiene. It doesn't give you competitive advantage."

Brent Smart, CMO, IAG

IAG CMO Brent Smart: martech is "hygiene", everyone's doing it, no competitive advantage


Marketing automation is quickly turning vanilla as "customer-centric" becomes "customer-generic", says IAG CMO Brent Smart. Longer-term brand building, emotionally connecting with customers and prospects and a two-year brand building trial were priorities for the insurance giant's top marketer when he triggered a new round of industry debate on the martech boom in July. He's all for marketing automation and customer experience - but much of it is too generic.   


“You can put in as many employee hotlines as you want. You can bring in yoga and meditation five times a day. But that will not fundamentally change the problem. What is required is fundamental change - and that comes back to things like pitching."

Danny Bass, former CEO, IPG Mediabrands

IPG's former CEO Danny Bass on his imminent return, industry viciousness and why LinkedIn is a new problem


Danny Bass finished his gardening leave in October and is set for a return. In this piece he reflects on six months outside Australia's media bubble; lets rip on the "viciousness" of the local market; says workplace yoga and meditation can only do so much for mental health issues because marketers have a defining role. And why he's worried about LinkedIn and the next generation of talent who don't aspire to climb the agency ladder because they'll be caned by holding companies. 


"Maybe the problem with the product isn’t the advertising. Maybe it’s got the wrong positioning, the wrong name, the wrong packaging. You can’t impact that when you’re an agency. It's just like, “Yes, do the ads“.

Matt Knapp, Executive Creative Director, Dollar Shave Club

Why a Unilever company is advertising on PornHub - and it's ok


This Mi3 story got a sudden burst of renewed interest in November when The Times in London published this piece on Dollar Shave Club's taking ads on PornHub, linking Mi3's coverage of comments on the strategy from Matt Knapp, the Australian expat executive creative director of the direct-to-consumer leader. The company is still breaking rules, four years after Unilever gobbled the company up for $1 billion. The trained industrial designer and former creative with DDB in Sydney and New York is a massive fan of in-housing. Creatives at Dollar Shave Club, he says, are close to the marketing team, "so you can influence a lot".


"For a long time the marketing community has kept digital media and marketing at arm's length. The cookie problem is another reason why the CMO practice needs to get much closer to how their money is being spent."

Cameron King, Chief Technology & Transformation Officer, GroupM

Digital cookie meltdown: what every marketer and agency should know (but doesn't think they need to)


Former IAB chairman Cameron King, Verizon Media's Sebastian Graham and marketer Jon Bradshaw warned Google's new Chrome cookie policy will trigger huge change to online measurement, heap pressure on agency and  marketer in-house trading desks - and push media owners to scale-up together for identity management. Here's the global and local take everyone piled in on. 


"The single biggest issue for brands that have taken media in-house is they've found it hard to stay on top of the market and benchmark themselves against an evolving market. The second biggest issue is talent."

Jen Davidson, Managing Partner, Tumbleturn Media

WTF? Brands begin outsourcing their agency in-housing


IAG's director of content & customer engagement, Zara Curtis, says even a big insurer can't go it alone on in-housing. It's a trend Justin Ricketts, CEO of WPP's Hogarth, says is biting across the market. The same goes for programmatic media, said Tumbleturn Media's Jen Davidson - although CX Lavender chairman, Will Lavender, says in-housing is now 60 per cent of his firm's business. Here's the outsourced, in-housing debate unpacked for 2019.


"When Marc Pritchard said for everyone to get in the weeds [on the murky supply chain], it was like someone flipped a light switch. It's given some competitors that were heavily into some of the, let's call them exotics, an impossible thing to replace."

Peter Horgan, CEO, Omnicom Media Group

Peter Horgan: why Omnicom Media is trumping rivals...and some


Omnicom Media Group's CEO unleashes on the 'shameful' standard of industry debate in Australia (it's a global peculiarity), hungry holding companies and why playing the long, clean game is finally working for OMG. For the record, the media agency model is not broken. Here's the Peter Horgan-style tour de force which miffed a few rivals.


"I witnessed relationships in the UK where you couldn’t tell the difference between who’s working for the agency and who’s working for the client. In Australia it is much more split. It is absolutely more adversarial."

Sherilyn Shackell, CEO, The Marketing Academy

Australia’s “horrific” tall poppy syndrome is killing marketing; CMOs, agencies more “adversarial” than US, UK


There is a cultural cancer at the heart of Australian media and marketing that doesn't exist in other countries: An aggressive desire to cut people down to size that is slowly killing the industry, its people and innovation. Sherilyn Shackell, founder and CEO of The Marketing Academy, operating at the highest level in the UK and US markets, says Australia is loaded with talent but must accept there's a downside to the Australian way - and it needs fixing. 


“I love [Professor] Byron Sharp. When I arrived at Volvo, everything was conversion, everything was tactical and price points … lots of investment in Carsales, Carsguide and CarAdvice but really it was at the bottom of the funnel.”

Julie Hutchinson, Marketing Director, Volvo

Volvo flips to long-term brand building over digital performance metrics


When Volvo’s marketing boss Julie Hutchinson arrived two years ago from Lexus, “everything was conversion, tactical and price-pointed” in channels like CarsalesCarAdvice and Carsguide. But Volvo had a brand problem which she set about fixing. Along with Mindshare and whiteGREY, Volvo won the Media Federation’s 2019 Grand Prix. Here’s how the automaker is transforming its short-term tactics and longer-term brand building.


"We've been watching closely how other large-scale retail businesses internationally are better engaging customers along the path to purchase - many are now leveraging new digital and data technologies to become major media businesses in their own right."

Brad Banducci, CEO, Woolworths

Can Woolies new media ad sales unit Cartology extract another $100m from marketers...before Amazon?


In this piece we flagged Woolworths was just months from an early market rollout of Cartology, its rewired $100m media unit, with plans for an additional $100m in revenues to come. CEO Brad Banducci says the $36bn retailer is following the likes of US retail ally, Walmart. Target too has overhauled its US in-store and digital promotion division into what it calls a "modern media company", badged Roundel. The premise of these retailer-owned media operations is that they link targeted advertising "impressions" to actual customer behaviour through diverse stacks of rich purchasing and profiling data, captured by the retailer. 


"A big trend in the next two years will be businesses popping up allowing people to take more control of their data and what we can see and don't see. Consumers having the chance to opt out of tracking and cookies is a good thing because they start to take control."

Jason Tonelli, CEO, Performics

Cookie meltdown - first party data is looming as the next flashpoint for marketers and agencies


In part two of the Cookie Meltdown series, we covered the changes coming to cookie tracking on the world's biggest web browser, Google Chrome, as just a curtain raiser to a much bigger challenge for marketers in managing their first-party data. A new era of consumer privacy and consent will effect every brand's paid and owned channels. Publicis-owned Performics CEO Jason Tonelli, News Corp's Suzie Cardwell and marketers Andy Lark and Jon Bradshaw made some eye-popping observations. Chomp on Part Two of Mi3's "Cookie Meltdown" series. 


"I grew up in an era where out-of-home was the first thing knocked off the plan. And when you now see that data showing we are one of the three priority media that people should use in combination to get the highest ROI, it delivers confidence to advertisers. Forget the term 'alternative'."

Brendon Cook, CEO, oOh! Media

Has oOh! Media just fractured the OOH sector or set a new benchmark for the world?

Global market-mix modelling firm Analytics Partners says the Australian OOH industry leads the globe. Now an audacious data play by oOh Media! is aiming to advance that reputation, arguing it should become a “primary” medium alongside TV and digital. But will advertisers and agencies embrace the existential shift?


“We’re a marketing and business transformation company. We can see the conversation between the CMO and CIO overlapping. We need to bridge that gap as a group.”

Mike Rebelo, Publicis Groupe CEO, ANZ

Publicis CEO Mike Rebelo: Sapient's platforms and systems the new secret sauce; what next for Starcom, Zenith, Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Digitas?


When Publicis Media’s Australian CEO Matt James left for the UK early this year, it fast-tracked a restructure of the Paris-based marketing services giant’s Australian portfolio. Decades of supremacy by the group’s media, digital and creative agency brands was cut and flipped for a new approach. 


"We were fortunate to have a really progressive, courageous MCN board that immediately allowed us to invest in a growth strategy and they allowed the exec team to behave in a really progressive, courageous manner and to innovate and lead the industry."

Anthony Fitzgerald, former CEO, MCN (now Foxtel Media)

Former MCN CEO Anthony Fitzgerald breaks his silence after MFA Hall of Fame award


The media sector's widely regarded agent provocateur, Anthony Fitzgerald, returned  for some trademark trailblazing observations on the industry after the Media Federation inducted him into the MFA Hall of Fame in October.


"It's reinforced our view that if we put more money into digital, incremental money, it would help drive our return - but we've got to have those building blocks of TV, radio, outdoor within that."

Chris Graham, head of global media accountability, McDonald's

Maccas bullish on media, lifts spending, doubles media ROI, discovers creative accounts for up to 70%


McDonald's global head of media accountability and sourcing, Chris Graham, has come out swinging for the media sector and there's a twist: the hard data says creative plays a massive role in media effectiveness. Graham also wants digital and legacy channels to transform and translate their audience and engagement metrics to real business results. It's all achievable, he says. Get on the horse.        


"If I go back as a client [at BMW], I had no KPIs based on website visits, clickthroughs or views, no reach and frequency KPIs. I had KPIs based on growth delivering against our volume aspirations and growth targets."

Stuart Jaffray, MD, Starcom Melbourne

All media agencies agree to shutdown in October - make it a defining moment


Australia's media agencies have mobilised under the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) to shut their shops and send their people to a new industry media "Effectiveness Expo" in a move of solidarity and symbolism. Marketers take note. Agencies... don't squander the opportunity for real regime change.   


"The professional services firms are the place where great creators go to die. Your ability becomes diluted by the model."

Nathan Birch, CEO, Interbrand (ex-KPMG and Deloitte Digital)

Three years on, the consulting sector's raid on agencies is "not all it's cracked up to be"

About three years ago media and creative agency bosses were getting nervous - the big consulting firms were hiring and acquiring agency talent and businesses to crack marketing and communications. But the wave of agency defections to consulting firms has reversed this year. Big names are leaving and former Deloitte and KPMG advisors, Nathan Birch and Nicola Mansfield, now running Omnicom's Interbrand unit, say more consulting exits are coming. What's going on?  


"It's difficult for us to work with Google or Facebook. They tell everybody they are doing top-of-funnel brand building and push all the way down through to purchase. We know that's not right."

Pippa Leary, ex-commercial director, digital sales, Nine (now CEO, Swift Media)

Marketing funnel wars: Coles and Woolies new media units trigger "future of the funnel" debate


Australian marketers and agencies are two years behind the UK and US in using retail media - Amazon included - to "close the loop" between ad exposure and a purchase. Brad Moran, the man behind Coles' new e-commerce advertising platform, predicts a "lower funnel" ad boom for retailer media units and marketers. Nine's Pippa Leary, meanwhile, sees a grand "through-the-funnel" opportunity for media companies to link and share addressable audience data with retailer transactions. But right now, she argues Nine is "probably one of the few media companies in the world" that can do it. Either way, the funnel debate is back. Get across it.  


"PwC is behind its peers such as Deloitte, Accenture, and EY globally in building out its services from customer experience and design through to data, analytics and communications."

Paul McIntyre, Executive Editor, Mi3

Let's pretend the PwC + WPP merger rumours are real...


The rumours were flying hot about PwC exploring a deal with WPP globally. Several well-placed executives I spoke to said talks have taken place at a global level. Not that a deal is done. Or that it will be done. Just that the two professional services giants are in conversation.  

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