The MiC media agency review with Michele Pauchuk

MiC reached out to some of Canada's media agency leaders for their thoughts on the year behind, and the year ahead. Today, we feature Initiative's Michele Pauchuk.

MiC reached out to some of Canada’s media agency leaders to find out their thoughts on the year behind, and the year ahead. Here, Initiative EVP and managing director Michele Pauchuk talks about some of the challenges facing the industry today and how her team plans to address them in the year ahead.

What are the biggest challenges facing media agencies today?
The tightened economic outlook has become the new reality. It is no longer the passing depression we anticipated. Marketers have seen their budgets contract but not their goals. Every dollar had to work harder and every program needed to prove its value. We saw more and more clients looking to tie communications activities to results. Traffic, awareness and consideration are a few of those results, but sales are the true destination.

At the same time we have an expanding universe of options for consideration. We can no longer only consider only the traditional media touchpoints – consumers have moved into many new areas of communication and we need to be able to address all. Marrying these two challenges together will require looking at planning in a new way.

How is your agency working to address them?
Whereas agencies have historically focused on media outputs (e.g. ratings, reach, frequency, price and flowcharts), Initiative is now driven by client business outcomes.

Each of our functions will be revitalized and new expertise added to focus on being performance-led. We will deliver strategies and activations through a new approach, which brings together data, insight, innovation and creativity to produce outstanding business results. The opportunities in our business are changing. We need to position our agency to recognize what brands and clients need now and in the future, and to allow them to get ahead of their competitors.

Marketing has changed significantly in that insights and ideas can now be gleaned more readily from data. This valuable learning is produced at every touchpoint and covers every interaction brands have with consumers, as well as the interactions consumers have with each other when they are talking about brands.

Analyzing that data and putting it back into our thinking, planning and activation allows us to continually improve the results of our work throughout a campaign. It also enables us to track the impact from exposure all the way to conversions and even sales. This makes our work more and more valuable to clients, as we can produce creative and innovative programs that drive accountable, measurable results that build their businesses.

To that end, Initiative has invested significantly in analytics, both in talent and in software development. Starting with our Connections Panel, we have developed an integrated system that is based on why consumers use all communications touchpoints, versus the old standard of how much they use. This foundation panel (renewed annually) is tied to our planning analytics program Matrix, allowing us to map not only reach curves but awareness and sales data and provide modelling capabilities. We also have more extensive opportunities through our analytics team who provide deep-dive analytics. All this information can then be pulled together through the use of real-time dashboards or customized reporting.

Being performance-led means everything we do is driven by business outcomes and this approach is our commitment to our future. Performance will drive our entire process, our ways of thinking and the ways in which we do business with our clients.

What media do you think could most benefit from a reconsideration of valuation? Why?
Magazines have become the left-behind media. As marketers jump into digital they have forgotten the valuable brands that lie within this medium. While advertisers have moved dollars, the reality is that consumers have not abandoned magazines. We can’t forget that magazines are brands that are far more than just the publication. They represent a conduit to a group of people with similar views and lifestyles, just as social media does. Magazines have the potential to work as well as social media if we can wrap our head around the notion that they are a delivery system.

By working together with a magazine brand we can develop a relationship with its audience as well as have the ability to share in the credibility the brand has with its readers. There are many more ways to utilize this media than most marketers have explored. Those with the insight to do so have reaped great benefit. For example, The Home Depot partnered with Canadian Living using an editorial-only approach in print and in blogs to demonstrate that kitchen renovations don’t have to be a nightmare. New approaches also allow for the ever-important ROI to be built in and develop a real value of the medium. And with the onset of iPads, the sky is truly the limit for how far our thinking can take us.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for growth in 2011?
The universe has expanded exponentially. To try to dissect all the new opportunities would be impossible, so we have looked at the wide net of opportunity that social media represents. It is the vehicle that allows for the best two-way dialogue (other than sales associates) between a brand and a consumer. The caution here is that marketers don’t feel pressed to jump in without a deep understanding of what their audience wants and what they can offer up. There must be a solid strategy behind this type of campaign that ensures the brand develops a strong relationship with its customer base. It also requires a defined end result; what is the objective and how is it being measured. Too many campaigns are cast out into the social media net without KPIs being set or even worse without a goal at all. How many times have you seen a marketer collect addresses or information from you and never hear from them again? The relationship must be built on dynamic ongoing conversation of value to the consumer.

On the consumer side, like all media, we believe you need to understand the role each particular type of social media plays. There are numerous and varied reasons for participating in this arena – from your 15 minutes of fame to getting someone to help explain how to put together your new Ikea furniture. And there are a vast number of different social media to address these needs and wants. You cannot put them all in one bucket with one strategy. How the consumer uses the vehicle needs to strongly impact the marketing strategy put against it.

These communities clearly have a huge benefit to the brands involved, creating advocates, driving brand loyalty and sales. However, understanding the nature of social demand for each consumer, category and market will be the key to creating a successful social media strategy.

What are you most proud of at your agency in 2010? How will you top it next year?
2010 has been a significant year for Initiative Canada. Over the past 12 months we have added a number of important clients to our already blue-chip roster. New additions include Hyundai Canada Corporate and Dealer Association (planning), Sun Life, Victoria’s Secret, and ING DIRECT and have increased our billing 60% VYA. These wins also provided the opportunity to bring on new and varied talent to the fold.

Much of the team growth has been the realization of new skill sets within the company. We have established a DR specialist team as well as a search team to manage ING Direct’s CPA-driven business. In concert, we have developed web-based dashboards for desktop access of all mass media reporting requirements.

Our philosophy of integrating digital media strategy within the planning team remains, but we have beefed up our intellectual space by hiring a digital guru to keep us on the edge of new platforms and ideas. We have also worked closely with our parent company Mediabrands to leverage our shared resources for best in class approaches to client needs.

We have a desire to continue to grow and outpace even 2010 in the coming year. We will be looking to integrate more performance-based planning with our clients to help drive stronger business results. As well we will continue to grow our skill set to manage the ever more diverse communication needs of our clients. As part of a global network we will access best in class global resources including product integration, search, analytics, which we will bring to market to provide our clients with innovative solutions.

This article originally appeared on Dec. 24, 2010 as part of an overview article called ‘The MiC media agency review: Corner office edition‘. Media in Canada will be running the features profiled in the article all this week.