What does Harvey Carroll think of working in media?

The IPG Mediabrands Canadian CEO talks challenges, opportunities and why so many people still use fax machines, following his first six months on the media side of the business.

By Harvey Carroll

It has been just over six months since I joined IPG Mediabrands in the role of Canadian CEO, and what a six months it has been.  I am still asked, at least two times per week, why I made the decision to move to the media side of the business from the creative side, like I have in some way betrayed a sacred rule.  The reality is, I could not be happier with the decision to move into media.

The primary motivation for me in making the change was my belief that there was an opportunity to take a more strategic and proactive approach to leveraging media to drive clients’ business results. I thought the media agencies, with a few exceptions, were missing out on this opportunity and taking too complacent an approach. I was not entirely wrong on this. That being said, I did underestimate the complexity inherent in the business, given the pace with which both the media landscape and client expectations are evolving. There is literally so much opportunity that it is difficult to decide where to focus your efforts. It is a great problem to have but it can be daunting as we try to decide where to invest our time and energy. There is a desire for innovation and new ways of thinking, but the agency compensation model does not support this. Commission and FTE-based compensation does not incentivize agencies to deliver the best and most innovative work. We need to move to a true pay-for-performance model where our compensation is aligned with our client’s business results. We are getting there, but very slowly.

A huge opportunity in the industry is automating lower value work to allow us to focus on the high value work that really drives business results. I have been shocked by how much of the media process is still manual and heavily labour intensive. I did not know people still use faxes and enter data by hand into Excel sheets. We have to automate these tasks so we can focus elsewhere. Equally, I have been impressed by the amount of data, information and therefore insights that we have access to on the media side. We need to mine this date more effectively to help influence and support our clients’ decisions. We need to leverage the many technologies available to us to become not only more efficient but more effective.

We can also benefit by learning to work more collaboratively with one another. I have been impressed by how committed to doing great and innovative work our partners (media owners, creative agencies, tech companies) are.  We need to collaborate with them to get to even bigger, more integrated ideas. We need to increase the sense of urgency on this.

At the end of the day, it is really not so different on the media side of things. It is still about telling a great story and ensuring that story is heard by the right people at the right time. It is still about building brands. I now just have access to a different and, I feel more robust, set of tools. So far, I am loving it.