New broom

2011-06-09 10:00

Under new leadership, Mediacom’s South African subsidiary is shifting its focus from buying to strategy, parlaying the network’s global ambitions into “a new kind of media agency for this market,” promises local CEO Ian Manning, a South African expat who has returned after 10 years in London. “We’ve spent six months recruiting strategically focused talent. Now we have one of the best teams in the market.”

Nick Lawson, CEO of Mediacom’s huge Europe-Middle East-Africa region, says that globally traditional buying shops are focusing more on engagement, involvement and clever use of media and on the integration of traditional and digital advertising. “We’re investing in this market to address those opportunities,” Lawson told Finweek in a face-to-face during a visit (his sixth in two years) to Johannesburg. “Media agencies have more research, more insights, more access to consumers than any other part of the agency world. My aim is for us to be the premier qualitative research agency in the marketplace.”

Buying was one of the fundamental planks on which media-only agencies built their businesses. In the SA market under previous CEO Paul Wilkins, Mediacom was a champion negotiator. But now change is necessary, says Lawson. “Instead of spending clients’ money on producing plans, modern media companies focus on the changes in consumer behaviour. In the future you’ll find a real blurring of the line between traditional creative shops and media agencies. Media shops will be more involved in content but they won’t become traditional ad agencies. The two are doing different things. Creative agencies are briefing the media agencies to supply the work to leverage our communications idea.”

Lawson says media agencies are pigeonholed as un-creative – a view reinforced by the creative agencies’ successes in winning media awards. “We tend to define creativity in a narrow way. But media agencies are packed with brilliant creative people. Creativity is about problem-solving. We’re pushing for the problem-solving part because we can add value.”