Thought Leadership
Mediacom Global Head of Media Hannah Mirza on Living in the Connected Age

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Hannah Mirza
Global Head Media Partnerships
Mediacom London

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Mediacom is one of the largest media buying agencies in the world, and is a subsidiary of GroupM / WPP – the largest agency holding company in the world. Can you share a little more on the role of Mediacom within the WPP family of companies?

Mediacom has a shared belief that everything is connected. Our positing in the marketplace therefore is as The Content & Connections agency. That’s our shorthand way of saying that we have a unique approach to planning and buying across paid, owned and earned media, which can optimise our clients’ entire system of content and connections – not just the individual channel silos within them.  

For us, “content” is the fuel for high-performing communications systems. It refers to any form of consumer messaging that connects brands with their consumers. “Connections” is how we guide the content around the system. It’s about having a closed-loop distribution strategy, ensuring there are no dead ends or wastage. We do this by taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture, designing the content with the connection in mind.

We call this Systems Thinking – and it’s proven to transform communications effectiveness.

 

London is the European analog to New York, being a finance and advertising hub for the rest of the world. What are some of the benefits of being smack dab in the middle of where much of the innovation in digital advertising is happening?

I firmly believe innovation comes from everywhere but certainly the environment to facilitate innovation growth is strong in London, and the UK for that matter, with key university towns and science institutes driving growth in the consumer and marketing technology space.  

Key benefits we are disproportionately harnessing however, are the talent pools attracted to the UK economy. An inherently more global perspective that London has as a diverse multicultural city, which is core to Mediacom’s People First principles. Lastly, as a financial capital, the access to key Venture Capital and Start-Up ecosystems burgeoning across the country.

 

Programmatic has had a meteoric rise since it’s inception in 2009, starting with RTB, and evolving into the automation of workflows to ease the buying process for media planners. What is your honest opinion of programmatic and where do you see it’s place in the digital advertising ecosystem in the future?

A broad range of industries have felt the disruption of SaaS business models, and Programmatic of course is the version of this for Media Buying.  There are pros and cons to the change but we are certain it’s an exponential growth based solution and were early adopters in aligning resources and infrastructure to provide best in class solutions to clients in this space.  

The agencies benefit that single clients can’t realise remains true in this space, where size and scale still matter.  This now extends to technology and data choices beyond just media and specialist skill sets as pure subject matter experts of the entire ecosystem stretching beyond what any one team, or client vertical could be exposed to are more important than ever to stay ahead of your competition.

 

Ad blocker Shine recently signed a network-level partnership with UK carrier Three, which caused a huge uproar in the mobile advertising community. How do you think this whole ad blocking issue will play out?

I started my career when adverts were mainly of the fake windows banner style, pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing click here buttons and dubious attribution and tracking protocols.  I think we have come a long way to improving consumer experience and fitting advertising into far more stringent standards.  

In light of this ad blocking, I see as somewhat late in the day, as the web of old could have surely used some blocking!   I believe our advertisers are increasingly creatively and data appropriate these days, and so they mitigate risk by providing high quality consumer relevant experiences.

I also believe that consumers want access to good quality free content and advertising is fundamental to fund this.   Overall the industry needs to do more to educate consumers of the benefits, which many publishers are doing.

 

Being at a big agency, you must receive a massive number of emails for meeting requests. What volume of cold emails do you receive per week, and how do you manage your inbox?

Yes, loads daily. That said you would be surprised how often I am the one cold contacting new companies.  I hold several demo days a month and they have a very structured brief the supplier has to present against.  

The most productive are when we are looking for new solutions to solve a particular business problem. We will create marketplace maps, short list then curate a day on that topic. Moving forward with the best fit for purpose companies we see.  

I see my role very much as helping companies navigate our organisation, so often my inbox is about pushing content back out to the network.  

Weekly I send a partnerships email to every market so they are aware of the latest and greatest in close to real time.  It’s my personal mission to democratise the access I have to all relevant parties in our network.  

 

What is your typically workflow during the vendor RFP process? (eg: media brief from client, find relevant vendors in comscore, find contacts and reach out, sit on a call/meeting, take notes, evaluate with team members, come up with shortlist, make recommendation, etc)

I would say there is rarely a media vendor on comScore we don’t already work with, so for the bulk of investments, it runs a typical RFP process including software layers we have for planning, channel allocations across paid, owned and earned splits.  Our client remit however is deeper than media, so technology and data RFP processes are a little broader, and less campaign specific.  

We are supporting much broader marketing technology stacks these days for clients, so our remit is significantly broader than responding to media briefs in the vendor selection process.

 

What are some innovations happening in digital / mobile right now that you think can have a tremendous impact on consumer content consumption, and as a corollary, advertising?

Facebook has disrupted the role of Google as your doorway to discovering content. While Google remains the access point for content, when you have an intent against which you are curating an answer, Facebook and Snapchat and even LinkedIn are proving relevant at surfacing content against which you are generally interested in, for more casual browsing.  

I think this is interesting, as Google needs to protect themselves as a route to browsing, and Facebook needs to establish themselves as a route to intent based transactional content.   As greatly covered in the press, the wars of the Giants to keep consumers in the walled gardens is the most fertile ground for consumers, and therefore advertising innovation.  The ecosystems that borrow from the opportunities these larger suppliers create keep it ever interesting.

 

Outside of their core competency being a match for client objectives, what are some key things you look for when evaluating new media vendors?

A vendors ability to articulate their offering is  crucial.  The number of suppliers who struggle to clearly tell their value proposition is surprising. Just last week I stopped someone ten minutes into a presentation as they waxed lyrical about how big and clever they were, and how many important brands had endorsed them that they still hasn’t told me what they actually do.

Nailing your elevator pitch is the best way to start every meeting.  Second to this is honesty about your strengths.  In this case they actually had a great product, but didn’t know how to sell it or that their weakness is in their marketing.  If the core product is good enough we will offer companies that support to make them successful.

 

Lastly, what is your take on the future of the way in which media will be bought and sold?

I’m most interested right now in the Internet of Things and brands experimenting with their products, or as I would term it broadly inanimate objects being a doorway to content.  I have heard one company talk about this being the new media channel, and certainly for us the jury is out on it if you can call it that.  

Certainly though brands in the product space are thinking deeply about if they are turning products into the next channel we would potentially purchase from.  

Observationally, I see in the technology evolution for consumers the companies that are winning are those who have diversified revenue streams from more than one source.  So its logical product companies want to become media owners in effect, if propped up by content created from more traditional style media solutions as a way to ensure their continued success.  

The balance between quality, relevance and demand for this is yet to unfold.  I expect though in 5-10 years I will have media suppliers who would have historically only ever engaged with us in a more client centric capacity.  This kind of radical evolution is what makes our industry so engaging and my role helping clients navigate it so fulfilling.  

 


 

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Our network comprises 7,000 employees in 125 offices in 100 countries around the world.

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We offer specialist services in digital, ROI and direct response, consumer insights and research, business science, sponsorship, sports marketing.

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