Graham Moysey on his first six months of agency life

The new IPG Mediabrands CEO on the group's most recent acquisition, and why the industry should be 'realistic' about TV.
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It’s been six months since media veteran Graham Moysey took his very first agency job.

That first job just happened to be CEO of a group of media agencies.

This past winter, Moysey was chosen as the new CEO of IPG Mediabrands, replacing Harvey Carroll. He had already spent nearly 20 years in the media industry, with roles focusing on the media ownership side – from Bell Media to CanWest and, most recently,  Oath (formerly AOL), where he eventually rose to head of international. Now, at IPG, he oversees the network of media agencies including Media Experts, Initiative, UM, Cadreon and more.

MiC caught up with Moysey shortly after he passed the six-month point to discuss how the job has changed his perspective and what challenges he sees ahead for both IPG and the broader industry.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

MiC: Do you feel like your background prepared you well for this role?

Graham Moysey: I think I’ve had the benefit of managing big, diverse, integrated teams through change and growth. Those are consistent whether you’re on the vendor side or agency side. That, and my focus and background on digital and ad tech have been helpful as I approach this new role. Having said that, it’s been a steep learning curve. I’ve spent a lot of time with internal people, understanding roles across the broader group, and of course spending a lot of time with our customers. There’s a lot that’s come very naturally, based on my strengths, but at the same time, as I said to the teams on day two, there’s a lot of listening and learning associated with the transfer.

MiC: So what have been some of those biggest lessons, and even surprises?

GM: Maybe this is a bit self-serving, but there’s a lot of notion around “Is the agency channel relevant? What’s the future prospect? Are clients bringing business in-house?” I’ve come across those questions in the last six months. And I dismiss that wholeheartedly. The more time I spend with our client base, the more it’s obvious to me that although the agency model needs to change, it has a very solid future. We have to be serving up the appropriate skillsets and staff. It feels very validating.

MiC: But client needs are undoubtedly changing, so what is IPG doing to meet its clients where their needs are?

GM: Change is driven largely by consumer behaviour. Brands are looking to get their messages to audiences in the appropriate time and place. We’ve got to solve the appropriate problem and drive efficient results. There’s two core areas we’re focusing on. The biggest asset we have is our people, and I don’t take that lightly. Succession planning, investing in the right skillsets, those are needs that are accentuated with the agency model, so the first thing is just to make sure that the appropriate talent is serving the appropriate business. The second thing is ensuring we have the appropriate portfolio. [Earlier this summer] IPG has made a big bid for Acxiom. It’s a big bid in terms of relevancy. It’s rooted in the currency of data, first-party data, privacy, consultative services around data, all with the common DNA of using data to drive business results.

MiC: You spent a few years outside of Canada before taking this role. What is it like observing the Canadian market with a new set of eyes? What are some of our unique challenges and opportunities?

GM: I think some of the obvious and clear changes are the shift to digital, whether it’s suppliers, tech tools we’re investing in. Ancillary to that, television is a great medium, I believe in it, but I do think it’s worth being transparent. The audiences are shrinking. If I think about five years out, I think we can assume that the [TV audiences] are going to go down in their current form, yet price points are staying the same. It’s creating lots of tension in the marketplace. The agency job is to attract and find high-value audiences at efficient price points. If TV’s going in decline, you’ve got to find that audience elsewhere. It’s not doomsday here, because TV is still very important, but we’re looking at trends and we’re identifying opportunities based on those trends. Digital pure-plays are investing in technology that allows you to find an audience, and that’s important, and they’re also investing in content.

MiC: With agency groups making acquisitions or investments in data, setting up content shops, investing in analytics, how can leaders of those groups assure that they’re creating an offering that’s unique?

GM: I think about this all the time. If you’re on an elevator and you have 40 seconds to make your pitch, what does that look like? But in terms of all agencies having the same data and tools, that’s not true. There are enough differences in terms of the data sets, and the data you can connect with different clients, and I think there’s an opportunity to differentiate across that portion of the product portfolio. The answer, outside of that, is people. I think if you polled the customers that are new to the stable and asked them what they like about working with us, they’d say “Look, there’s a culture there, there’s a consistent talent level.” From the executive all the way down to the intern. It really is such a huge area of focus and will be going forward. We’re training for the next two to four years.