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Covid: One year on 31 Mar 2021 - 4 min read

S4 Capital chief: ‘Second reawakening of digital’ needs a new creative-data culture

By Michel de Rijk - CEO, APAC, S4 Capital

A new creative culture must now strike a balance between data and creativity to better serve distinct audiences in meaningful ways says Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 APAC CEO, Michel de Rijk.

Customer decision journeys are entirely digital

The biggest learnings around customer for me through Covid is that virtual experiences are here to stay;  that the pandemic affected everyone but not equally and to continue serving customers, brands must embrace customer obsession to build relationships and deliver impactful experiences when and where they matter most in the customer decision journey—a journey that’s become entirely digital. 

My view, now more than ever, is that digital transformation goes across all disciplines of the company.

With transformation, alignment of the entire C-suite is key to success as decisive decision-making is the foundation with speed as the essence.


Brand virtualisation the next frontier

The next frontier for digital transformation is brand virtualisation – meeting customers where they are with differentiated, digital environments. Brand virtualisation is not simply translating an experience into a virtual environment. It means rebuilding your strategy and role from the ground up, refocusing efforts on how to best show up for consumers where, when and how they prefer.

 

2020 transformed transformation

2020 has transformed transformation: due to the incredible shift in customer behaviour, (digital) agency services need to change with it. We’ve been in conversations about this digital shift for years and years, and many waved it off as “important but not urgent.” Now it’s here, and many need help shifting to this new digital reality.

Clients are increasingly focused on in-housing and data; fit-for-format content production; transforming the big idea; innovating with emerging technologies; supporting audiences through always-on content; personalising platforms for ecommerce and building virtual events and trade shows.

We’ve had to adapt to portions of the digital market that are growing quicker, and we tapped into some of the quickest growing and sticky permanent solutions - system integrations, virtual events, VR & AR and ecommerce. 

 

Remote content shoots will be permanent

MediaMonks was one of the first companies to adapt to the changing landscape by introducing a remote shoot management platform - an online space with a myriad of tools to facilitate remote shoots.

Thanks to the platform, we made it possible that pre-pandemic quality of shoots can be lived up to and make it even safer and more accessible for clients. The whole crew can communicate at any time of the shoot from a safe distance to ensure the shoot turns out great and goes beyond the expectations of the clients. The tool was developed in Asia and made for global brands preparing their advertising campaigns in Asia via the remote platform. Major technology companies we work with made use of the platform to create successful campaigns.

 

Data partners the new next

In 2020, we officially launched a new industry category – an S4 offering called the Data Partner of Record – or Data Agency of Record in legacy agency parlance. This category was created to meet the needs of the CMO that must now unlock data assets from across the enterprise, connect marketing data to the supply chain, organise consumer data using machine learning, predictive modelling, marketing automation tools and then finally activate that data directly into measurable, dynamic, working media plans. We are the champion of a client’s marketing and advertising data wherever it travels across the customer journey.

  

Tech roadmap – Slack to Salesforce

Key to building a single platform and integrated team, we’ve unified tooling, HR, Finance, Internal Ops and Client Services across S4 – including rolling out Workday, NetSuite, GSuite, Slack and Salesforce.

2020 marked the year in which we doubled down on our unitary promise, integrating together diverse expertise across content, data and media like no one has done before us—a strategy that set us uniquely up for success against a more bleak industry landscape.

 

Second reawakening of digital

What for the next two years? Internally, we call it the ‘The Second Reawakening of Digital’. What’s coming is a new era of insight-driven, tactile and meaningful digital experience (DX)

2020 was only the start of the wider transformations brands must make in their marketing. A new creative culture must now strike a balance between data and creativity to better serve distinct audiences in meaningful ways.

 

Everything in media must integrate

Looking forward, as part of our comprehensive media roadmap you will see that S4 has begun investing in integrated media planning as well as media buying capabilities across paid, earned & owned performance marketing channels including Search, Social, SEO, ecommerce, CTV and other emerging formats.

Consumers increasingly expect an integrated experience so it is vital that marketers prioritize data management. 

We’ve been able to empower our clients like Mondelez to be able to take back control of their first party data, show a single view of the customer, and activate their data against insights.

 

Rip and replace

But a note on cookies – who owns consumer data, how it is consented to collect and use, how it is shared between businesses and what laws will protect consumers have massive implications on our industry.

The real changes have just started; it is the tip of the iceberg and we have been preparing for a long time. Our current and future clients will need to rip and replace decades of legacy partnerships, practices & technology centred around freely flowing 3P data ecosystems powered by cookies and device ids.

 

Creativity has morphed into remote shoots

Our creativity leaped into creating ad campaigns for the likes of Mondelez on Epic Games. A powerful real-time software, Unreal Engine allows MediaMonks’ artists to digitally swap out assets, change backgrounds and colour schemes instantaneously, creating multiple versions of the same product in a revolutionary turnaround time, without needing to shoot the physical assets. 

MediaMonks’ team of Unreal Engine artists from Los Angeles, New York, Amsterdam and New Delhi weighed in on a piece educating the next generation on how to apply their skills in the Unreal Engine to a career in advertising. 

 The real changes have just started, it is the tip of the iceberg and we have been preparing for a long time. Our current and future clients will need to rip and replace decades of legacy partnerships, practices & technology centred around freely flowing 3P data ecosystems powered by cookies and device ids.

My Covid learnings

I’ve been on a journey the last year. Here are three of my biggest learnings:

1. The balance between work and exercise is very important as it keeps the mind in check - as a person and a leader. We need to stimulate and inspire our teams to find and bring back that balance.

2. Being back in the office for a few days a week made me realise that the human physical interaction can’t be undervalued and/or replaced by solely digital experiences. 

3. And not being able to travel is not a reason to not take a holiday. The habitat we live in offers a holiday in itself, if we pause, look and feel.

CMOs now must now unlock data assets from across the enterprise, connect marketing data to the supply chain, organise consumer data using machine learning, predictive modelling, marketing automation tools and then finally activate that data directly into measurable, dynamic, working media plans.

Michel de Rijk CEO, APAC, S4 Capital

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