Matthew Mee, Mediacom’s global chief strategy officer, was recently in Australia to help the Australian operation “supercharge” its product offering for 2020 and he took time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts with B&T.
Mee sums up his role as CSO as business development, providing counsel to clients, and working on product.
When probed on what a product is in a service-orientated business, Mee explains product “could be a way of organising your analytics teams. your insight teams and your data teams into a more integrated client facing whole I call that product”.
Part of Mee’s remit is to work with all the internal people within Mediacom to be more client facing. He also thinks about new areas of expansion and concepts. For example, content creation and optimisation.
“Media agencies tend to think of products as things that resemble tools. Stuff. Increasingly, and I think data is probably a case in point, that’s not product. The product’s the application of that tool, that technology or that capability, in a way which is particularly interesting, unique, compelling for a specific category that they’re working in.
“I think we’ve moving from that period where product is something which comes in a box. That’s generic. That works across everything. To product being a way that you put together components and capabilities for specific client’s needs in a category in a market,” Mee explains.
This is a long way from the old remit of media agencies who just bought the media at scale. Are media agency’s not trying to play in the big consultant’s space?
“Trading asymmetry is no longer the ace in the hole of any marketing services company . . .
“Consulting is an interesting question and I can give you a rude answer: they don’t fucking execute! So, they’re not ultimately accountable. It’s really important. The emergent property of all of this shit is selling some stuff right?
“The second thing is actually that there’s, I think, a huge, huge importance in actually delivering something that is properly integrated. And that service needs to be delivered in a much more flexible way whether this in housing, out housing, whatever? But it’s really, really important.”
Integration is obviously an obsession of Mee’s. Continually he bring the conversation back to systems and integration, moving the whole agency towards much more integrated ways of working using much more integrated, enabling technologies, which ultimately help its clients sell more stuff.
“In 1983, 90 per cent of what I do is buy TV? And your problem was actually selling Twix. Maybe I actually have part of the solution for you. I would have a tendency to think that I had all of the solution for you, because I just did that one thing. But that’s no longer true. “You know, if your distribution wasn’t there, that’d be the fastest way to burn through your marketing budget. In 1983 you could meet a lot of people media agencies, who couldn’t give less of a fuck about your distribution. They were just interested in what you transacted them to do.
“Now I think we have to be much more aware and much more accountable of everything that we do within the wider kind of marketing communications process. Irrespective of how broad our remit is. Otherwise I think you’re in danger of only seeing that much of the picture. That can be a very expensive mistake to make with someone else’s money.”
This holistic approach to marketing communications and a company’s broader business for that matter, could well be something straight out of the martech automation giants such as Adobe, Oracle or Salesforce. Indeed, Mediacom’s sibling business within WPP, Wunderman Thomson, makes a very tidy living integrating such systems as well as providing the creative input.
“Having that kind of applied platform knowledge in our own business the better, and not just our business but the wider WPP is enormously beneficial. Because you’re right. It’s you know, you bought this expensive piece of kit and you can’t make it work. The salesman is going well actually you know that [data management platform] DMP you parked in your garage (like it’s a redundant piece of fitness equipment).
Actually, what you need is you need another one. You now need a CMP. You have the rowing machine, now you need the Nordic SkiMaster.
So, there is value in a lot of those incredible investments, but actually sometimes, sometimes, they’ve kind of happened rather pre-emptively.
“The importance of first party data actually operating in a category where it exists is the kind of first primary question you should ask before you buy the equivalent of the Nordic Ski Master.
Now, I think that’s where we’re kind of getting to now is kind of reverting back kind of going. Okay, so let’s go back to first principles. What have you got? What do we know about where we can create value of its application? Was the sweet spot between the cost of doing this? Because you are still selling Twix for instance, and that’s very different from selling an Audi or a Citroen or a Peugeot. I think they’re all really good, practical strategic questions that possibly sometimes we have already hurried past.”
And why do brands and companies hurry past these important decisions? One of the main reasons for this may lay at the feet of the CMO’s dubious honour of being the shortest tenured of all of the C-suite.
“If it wasn’t so tragic for the people whose careers it’s affecting. For the productivity loss that happens, and I think for the kind of credibility of marketing as a value-creating skill and capability. It becomes one of those interesting paradoxes, right?
“You look at all the evidence and the importance of marketing is more than it ever was, yet there are so few whom seem capable of doing it.”