The science of creativity

What some would call traditional advertising is now less than half of our business. We are no longer just Mad Men, but Maths Men too (in fact, the majority of us are neither, because 54% of our people are women). For many reasons Don Draper would hardly recognise much, perhaps as much as three quarters, of our business today.

Of course, advertising and media investment management remain substantial and incredibly important, but there are new areas that are crucial to us as well. One such area is data investment management.

Data investment management is similar to media planning and buying, in that we manage an investment fund for our clients and have to make sure we maximise their return on it.

Clients buy a lot of data. They develop a lot of data. They own a lot of data. They obtain it from many sources, but they rarely integrate those different sources. We're doing that job for them: joining the dots and improving the effectiveness and reach of every campaign.

Our role is to help clients find the Holy Grail figuring out how much they should spend and where they should spend it to maximise their return on investment. In other words, it is media investment management. The more complicated it becomes, especially in digital, the more important we will become, particularly as we have the data and that consumer insights can be integrated into strategic planning and creative executions.

As a result of the new emphasis on big data, we must increasingly engage not only with the chief executive and chief marketing officer, but also with the chief information officer or chief technology officer, along with the chief procurement officer and chief financial officer.

Last year were listed as one of the world’s 10 most successful digital companies

Just as clients have changed, so have we. Back in 2002, digital was around 15% of our business. Today digital marketing, media investment management and data investment management account for about $12 billion of our $17.3 billion of revenues, and last year we were listed as one of the world’s 10 most successful digital companies, alongside Apple, Yahoo and Thomson Reuters.*

We are the owners of, and investors in, a broad range of leading digital and technology-based firms.

Xaxis is the world’s largest programmatic media and technology platform. It directs more than $750 million of audience-targeted media buys across 32 markets in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America and manages over two trillion impressions annually. On the basis of current market valuations, Xaxis would be worth $4.5 billion on its own.

In AKQA, Wunderman, OgilvyOne and VML we have four of the world’s leading digital agencies. And we have investments in a range of exciting tech and digital companies, from global youth media brand Vice and YouTube network Fullscreen to Latin American software developer Globant, US content provider Percolate and e-commerce businesses mySupermarket and eCommera.

*GigaOM's 2012 paidContent 50.

Not forgetting art

Some have taken our emphasis on technology and data to mean that creativity has been relegated to the lower leagues. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There’s certainly no shortage of exceptional work in TV, press, outdoor, radio and other so-called ‘traditional’ media. It continues to be hugely effective for clients, and hugely important for our business.

But, in today’s world especially, it would be nonsense to suggest that creativity exists solely within the creative departments of advertising agencies. Imagination, inventiveness, wit, ingenuity and talent are just as at home in media, PR, software development, data and research as they are in art and copy.

Creativity remains the beating heart of our business. There is no business without it. But it doesn’t belong exclusively to one discipline or another.

Who’s watching?

No discussion of data would be complete without touching on privacy and data security. The allegations about Prism, the global eavesdropping operation run by America’s National Security Agency, were game-changing, and have alerted people's attention to privacy – even among younger people, who generally take a more relaxed attitude to placing their private lives and personal data online. In fact, security may be a more important issue than privacy.

The erosion of trust between individuals and organisations on this subject is a major issue for a vast array of businesses – everyone from tech companies and retailers to marketing agencies and banks. Indeed, anyone anywhere who handles personal data.

So businesses, like governments, will have to work harder to show the benefits big data brings to consumers and economies, to educate the public about how their data is protected and to demonstrate that companies are responsible custodians of people’s information which can be distributed anywhere in the world.

Chapter 7 of 13