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News Analysis 31 May 2021 - 5 min read

Toyota, Johnson & Johnson, Bridgestone point to winds of change for data, creative and full service shift, say DDB, Howatson + White, MediaMonks, Saatchi chiefs

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Chris Howatson: "It's going to be hard for a sole creative agency to generate that data at scale without a media offering or a connection to media capability."

The race for first-party data is heating up and marketers are looking to creative agencies to demonstrate their data skills to drive smarter campaigns and to ensure they do not lose the ability to collect data. Leaders at both the big groups and the indie shops think that requires a more integrated approach, if not a full swing back to full service models – as proven by recent pitch battles.

What you need to know:

  • Creative agencies are under pressure from clients to prove their value in the first party data race.
  • Pitches are increasingly including demand for data capabilities and post-tracking solutions.
  • Creative agency CEOs say this is driving a more integrated approach, and potentially a fresh push back to full service models.
  • Johnson & Johnson, Toyota and Samsung may be shape of things to come.
  • Brands increasingly at risk of losing opportunities to collect and share data if they get their approach wrong.

It's not just creative and data and that's it. Clients are looking to tie every element of the customer experience back to data, that means having your creative, media and digital capabilities connected.

Leif Stromnes, Managing Director, Strategy and Innovation, DDB

Change of pitch

With marketers scrambling for solutions to the impending cookie meltdown and the incoming fallout of the iOS 14.5 update, creative agencies are being asked to deliver more tightly aligned data and creative services.

Calls for iOS 14.5 solutions are increasingly being featured within recent pitches, Tyre manufacturer Bridgestone went to market in March with an RFP that looked for both a creative and data offering from a single agency. Meanwhile, those close to the recent Toyota pitch, which saw the majority of the creative, digital and media moved into Publicis, suggest connected data capability played a significant role.

DDB's Managing Director, Strategy and Innovation Leif Stromnes tells Mi3 the industry is shifting a large amount of its focus into contextual marketing, which means creative agencies need to be me more engaged in the data conversation. And he thinks the post-Covid, post cookie world favours an integrated approach that can provide brands with a more complete picture.

"It's not just creative and data and that's it. Clients are looking to tie every element of the customer experience back to data, that means having your creative, media and digital capabilities connected."

Stromnes points to Team Josephine, the integrated DDB unit that supports Johnson & Johnson. The team was formed just over 12 months ago after J&J called a pitch, with one of the key components requiring the successful agency to tie creative execution to a comprehensive understanding of data, digital media targeting and formats.

DDB landed the account and now handles media planning for the first time in 10 years.

Stromnes says while an integrated agency model may not always the optimal solution, it's still key for agencies to be able to have data linked across each capability.

"The questions we get are about whether we can integrate great creativity with great data, with great media thinking to deliver that emotion at scale, alongside contextual placement that really delivers a client the efficiencies and the disproportionate growth they seek," Stromnes says.

"That doesn't mean every client is going to want all three services tied together. But they are going to be more inclined to work with an agency that has an understanding and proven ability to connect data from every line of communication back to the work they are hired to do."

Full service return

Chris Howatson, founder of integrated agency Howatson + White says data is best harnessed when integrated across three key categories – customer, transactional and media data – and breaks them down as follows:

  • Customer data is all first party data owned by a brand (personally identifiable information and anything attached to it) and is used to prioritise marketing investment, product design and differentiate service experience. 
  • Transactional data is data that can be at a customer level, but typically at a product category and geographical level. 
  • Media data is how people consume media and the cost of reaching that consumption and informs bought and earned investment and messaging through media channels.

Howatson says each source of data is incredibly valuable, driving organisational decisions in differential vertical functions.

"Individually though, they don’t tell the whole picture. Bring them together and you can optimise design and delivery at the intersection of efficiency and effectiveness," Howatson tells Mi3.

"The challenge for most brands is how to bring them together. It’s not hard technically, it’s structure, people and process that are the barriers. "

Howatson says this is where fully integrated service models win. He cites the relationship Samsung and CHE Proximity, the Clemenger-owned agency he left last year to start his own shop, by way of example. 

Last year Samsung ditched its decade long partnership with Publicis in favour of a consolidated media, creative and digital contract with Clemenger group.

"There's always been an intersection between data and creativity but it's not always come to light because of the association with creative agencies managing brand or a major piece of work," Howatson says.

Where that has led creativity to "splinter off" with some creative shops specialising in things like martech and some digital agencies handling e-commerce and often crossing over, "now the demand is going to be for which agency can bring that all together, with a solid data and analytics offering at the core", suggests Howatson.

"Equally, it's going to be hard for a sole creative agency to generate that data at scale without a media offering or a connection to media capability."

If you can use clever creative on your owned platforms there's a stronger chance a consumer is going to be happy to share their data.

Anthony Gregorio, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi

Tipping point

CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Anthony Gregorio, says the industry has reached a "tipping point" when it comes to data at the centre of each agency's function.

"Clients and agencies now have data, systems and tech stacks in place to drive a unified communication strategy across every touchpoint – we're also at the point of understanding how each fuel the other," Gregorio says.

"That has already begun to proliferate through the majority of the marketing mix but is now becoming more tightly linked to the creative piece, especially given the level of variation that occurs across the growing number of media channels."

Gregorio says his agency is currently involved in a "sizeable pitch" with the client assessing agencies across multiple disciplines but proving data-driven marketing capabilities is a core measure of success for each agency.

He says the brand is looking for connectivity across agencies – a growing trend. He cites the Toyota account Saatchi & Saatchi helped Publicis win earlier this year with its 'Power of One' approach across digital, data, creative and media securing the majority of the account.

Gregorio says brands are starting to recognise that creativity and data are key to every step of the customer journey and must work in tandem to inform each other.

"We're increasingly living in a platform world, which is driving a need to use data intelligently to both determine the best context for messaging as well as using it to drive the right content," Gregorio says.

Gregorio says creativity is also driving the collection of data as clients shift fully towards first party data and that involvement of creative agencies in areas such as CX, digital transformation and e-commerce is increasing exponentially. Without strong creative, he thinks fewer consumers will consent to data collection and sharing.

"If you think about it, creative campaigns are about driving that connection with a brand, so the same applies in the digital landscape – if you can use clever creative on your owned platforms there's a stronger chance a consumer is going to be happy to share their data," Gregorio says.

"It's about using creativity to develop better customer or user experience to prove a value exchange – in this instance, email, personal information or other relevant consumer data."

Alternative models

MediaMonks' creative services are targeted towards digital channels that can be programmatically traded.

Local boss Vinne Schifferstein agrees with Gregorioin that digital has historically been viewed as a channel for mass reach, much like the role television has historically played in traditional advertising.

However, when data and creative are coupled together, it enables "relevant reach" she says, whereas relentless targeting and retargeting of consumers across the web has fuelled distrust in data collection.

Schifferstein says brands now grasp there must be a fair exchange of analytics and data used to optimise the customer experience. Articulating that exchange will be crucial in advertising's incoming new age.

"This not only means being more transparent in when, where, how and why data is collected, but also that brands must limit themselves to only collecting the data required to fulfil a specific need at a given moment," Schifferstein says.

"Therefore, the first step to gaining consumers' trust and building up your first-party data is to consider how the creative experience elicits and improves upon customer data – and making that relationship clear in the experience.

"From our perspective, data is critical to both media planning and fuelling creative ideas—not only helping brands zero in on and deliver the experiences their audiences crave, but also offering efficiencies as these practices seamlessly influence one another."

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

Market Voice

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