Why Carat’s President Will Swayne Is Optimistic On MENA

It was just over a year ago that Will Swayne was given the global mandate for Dentsu Aegis Network’s media agency Carat as its President. No stranger to the fast changing media business, Mr Swayne is aware of the evolving role agencies need to play within the rapidly changing consumer and business climate; and he is now charged with driving and delivering that evolution for Carat.

Much is keeping the agency busy at present. Globally, it is evolving its planning process. It is focusing on refining its data process to ensure data delivers actionable insight. Some of these initiatives are also taking shape in the region. Among these is also the agency’s plans to continue the rollout of its CSS (Consumer Connection System) platform that aims to better understand consumers and what drives them.

In a recent visit to Dubai, when Mr Swayne was spending time with the agency’s team and its clients, he spoke to the Arabian Marketer on the role that MENA plays in Carat’s global growth.

A number of key Carat clients are represented in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region as well. A point of encouragement comes in the fact that some of the work done for brands in MENA is being exported to other markets. “The General Motors’ Chevrolet Malibu campaign, for instance, which was a huge success,” Mr Swayne recalled, adding, “That was a non-branded Twitter campaign that ran in the region and was subsequently adopted globally. We see a lot of good work that is driven from this region.”

Marketers & Media Agencies
Among the several takeaways that he has from his interactions in MENA, one area that he singles out as priority for marketers is the impact of marketing on business objectives. “Clients are interested to know if they are investing at the right levels to drive sales. They are asking if they are at the right media sufficiency thresholds to be able to achieve their business targets. In response to this, we are looking at how we model out their sales and how that correlates to media,” he said.

Another top priority for marketers is the role that media agencies can play in utilizing the likes of content marketing. Brands in the region are often facing the question of whether global toolkits serve the purpose of local markets. “This is an area of interest especially when we see the rise of social influencers in MENA and how brands can embrace that without breaking equity. There is a real role for media agencies to help in bringing together the right content and ensure that the brand messaging is culturally relevant,” Mr Swayne commented.

The biggest opportunity for companies in MENA is the rise and impact of a digital economy. The digital landscape is changing the purchase funnel itself, as media and point of purchase converge. In that backdrop, agencies need to gear up to acquire the right capabilities to activate the change.

Mr Swayne advised, “The models we create allow us to be more precise in the value of deliverables. The point of engagement and the point of transaction are coming together. Anyone with a smartphone is able to purchase any product in the world within seconds. This is happening through media. For that reason, media is becoming crucially important and we have to think about how we respond to these changes.”

Will Swayne On The Fast Changing Media Business
Will Swayne, Global President, Carat, speaks to AM on some of the issues concerning the media, marketing and advertising industry…

On the YouTube advertisement controversy, which has led to many brands in MENA freezing their spends on the platform…
Trust is the future of partnership. Ultimately this business is about brands and companies working together with agencies. Media agencies are mapping out how we tackle this concern together and ensure that we have the right approach. We are closely monitoring technologies and factoring in a human element to ensure that we do not drop any balls in terms of brand safety or viewability – areas that are important for everyone.

On the challenge facing media agencies to be seen as more than just cheap media procurement means…
We buy media on behalf of our clients, and we focus on ensuring that we go out and buy media as efficiently and effectively as possible. That is part and parcel of the game. The majority of briefs today are around transformation, and brands are viewing things differently. Within that transformation, they want to ensure that they get the best rate possible within the marketplace. That will always be party of what we deliver but it is only one element of the value that media agencies can provide. As consumers now spend more time with media and transacting within it, media agencies are at the forefront of defining the value that media can bring to a client’s business.

On media holding companies vs. media agencies
Media holding companies only enhance the capabilities of media agencies. Carat, for instance, is building relationships and partnerships with clients directly. Our value comes in understanding what the clients’ objectives are for the next three to five years. We have to make sure that we are clear on how we can help our client reach their goals very quickly. The capabilities that are needed or required to take a client on that journey may mean that we as a media agency may have to reach to our holding company in order to bring in specialist capabilities. A Dentsu Aegis Network only makes Carat stronger.

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