Former Global Data Strategy Director at MediaCom and Current Director at YouGov
Julian has been working in media agencies for over 25 years. He started his career as a marketer at large UK brands before moving into media planning and buying working with brands to plan campaigns and then negotiate and execute media plans. He is the Former Global Data Strategy and Analytics Director at MediaCom, a large media agency owned by WPP, where he was responsible for helping brands use data to plan, buy, and measure media campaigns. Julian was once a customer of YouGov at MediaCom and is now the Sector Head of Media for YouGov where he works with agencies to plan and activate campaigns with YouGov data.Read moreView Profile Page
Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.
Julian, can you briefly share an introduction to your background, please?
I’ve always worked for media agencies, across my career. I started in London, working on some of the big retail brands, such as Dixons Store Group, when they were the largest retailer in the UK. Then I moved into international media planning and buying. I started off as a planner and a buyer, working with lots of clients, taking in their briefs, doing the media plans for them and then actually going, negotiating and buying those media plans. I moved into the international department and then I started having some leadership roles in media agencies in Vietnam, in China and then came back to the UK to run some European accounts.
I then decided to have a quick look at the other side of the fence and spent three years as a marketing director, in a large start-up, in Abu Dhabi. I’ve been on the other side of the fence and seen how clients and the marketing teams work. Then I came back to working at a digital consultancy. More recently, I’ve spent over four years at Mediacom, as a global data strategist where, rather than looking at planning, specifically, or buying, it’s looking at how you can apply data across the planning, buying and measurement phases of an agency to, effectively, increase efficiency and effectiveness of media campaigns.
My current job is the global agency sector lead for media owners and agencies, at YouGov. I’ve now moved to the third part of the relationship; having done the agency and the client, I’m now the supply.
Can we just take a step back and actually walk through the planning phase of a typical campaign? Let’s say that I’m a big FMCG brand, with a new campaign. I want to market it on TV but also through my digital channels. What is the first planning stage?
It’s a good question because it will very much change by type of brand. If you are an FMCG you will have a very specific way of doing things and a specific set of goals and targets. If you’re a digital retailer or a luxury brand, you will do things in different ways. The planning has morphed into very specific sector-led approaches.
If you’re an FMCG brand, most FMCG brands that I’ve worked on in the past are tied into the bar and chart way to help brands grow. They are really focusing on sales and they’re focusing on reach. They’re looking at broad target audiences for their brands and they are looking at maximizing reach. Generally, that tends to lead them to the large reach channels, such as TV. It is a very different way of approaching it versus a luxury brand, which would be looking at specific audiences – very niche, small audiences – and looking at the best way you can engage with those audiences. Most FMCG brands think, how do I maximize my reach and that’s all I need to do.
In recent years, we’ve started saying, not all reach is equal because you can find reach channels where you can engage more with an audience. If you can find that emotional connection and engage with them, that’s going to drive more sales than just shouting at them.
What data do they use, typically, to build the audience in the planning phase?
Again, it very much depends. It depends on what sector you are in. If I am a retailer, with a large website that has huge amounts of traffic, then I’m going to plug a DMP (Data Management Platform) onto the top of that. I’m going to be looking at my customers coming in, looking at the customer journey across my website and where else they’ve been and I’m going to build audiences off that and go and target similar people, through lookalike modelling. If I’m a luxury clothing brand, I might have a large data set of customers. If I’ve got that data set of customers, I know that those are people who are engaging with my brand, I know they are people who buy my brand. I can start looking at them and say, right, how do I understand more about them and how do I go out and find those people and other people similar to them, and I can build audiences off those.
If you’re an FMCG brand, then it becomes a bit more difficult. If I’m Ariel washing powder and I have a website and people come to that website, that’s not really going to help me build an audience. Those aren’t the sort of people that you want to be going out and finding. Predominantly, you want to find housewives with kids; people who have washing machines and are washing their clothes. It’s a much broader audience and those are easier to find through general capabilities in the marketplace. A TV channel can easily find housewives with kids for you and so can digital channels, because it’s quite a generic audience. Actually, probably housewives with kids is outdated now; you probably just need to look at large families; people who are in large families and making the buying decisions. They’re easier to find than more niche audiences, for specific brands, that hold a specific space.
For the FMCG brand, how has the approach to building audiences changed?
I worked on a project, recently, which was pet food. Generally, we would be going out and looking for people with a pet. If it’s a cat food, people with cats; if it’s dog food, people with dogs. You would go out and try and find those audiences. They are relatively hard to find, accurately. Actually, we took a step back and started thinking, right, how do we go out and find people, specifically, with a dog or a cat? Is it possible for us to build a data set that can then allow us to target more effectively and target more efficiently? Can we bring that audience in, as a first-party data set? Would it be better than a third-party data set, a commercially available data set? A first-party data set is a data set that the brand, itself, owns. Could we bring that in, cost effectively and use that as a backbone of delivering our communications?
Actually, we found a few mechanics where we could go out and, at scale, bring in mobile ad IDs, effectively, at scale and hold those in a DMP and then use that as the route to market.
As first-party data?
Yes, as first-party data.
How did you go about finding those mobile IDs of potential pet owners?
It was through a mobile game where we, effectively, said to the people, play this game; here’s a discount voucher. Would you like to give us your mobile ad ID so that we can communicate with you in the future? It was an exchange of a discount voucher and a game – a bit of engagement – in exchange for permission to use and target them in the future. It proved effective at reasonably large scale.