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‘No one gives a shit about making the ecosystem fair’ – hears programmatic debate

The role of agencies, standing up to the duopoly of Google and Facebook, and whether ad shops are better off aggregating – or building – technological solutions for clients. These were just some of the issues discussed at TrustTalks, an event organised by ad tech firm Unruly last week.

The last debate of the day – at Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa island in Singapore – was moderated by IAB South East Asia + India chief executive officer Miranda Dimopoulos. It featured Dentsu Aegis Network’s Asia-Pacific president of programmatic services Sonal Patel, S4 Capital APAC CEO Michel de Rijk and MediaCom APAC chief product officer Josh Gallagher.

Here are some of the most pertinent points made.

On the future of the marketing communications business:

Michel de Rijk and Josh Gallagher

Michel de Rijk: “It is difficult to predict. It used to be all about big agency models. But I don’t think there’s going to be one model in the future. Depending on what each brand is focusing on, it could be driven by agencies or tech vendors, or consultants.

“I don’t think the consultants will be eating the agency’s lunch. Agencies are best equipped to understand brands because of their relationships. The needs of a brand are not best defined in the boardrooms where the consultants are floating around. 

“And that’s why I don’t believe agencies will cease to exist. They are like cockroaches, they will survive, reinvent and continue to deliver value for brands. Maybe in different ways than they do today.

“It won’t be as clear cut as it used to be. The consultant will having some of the responsibility sharing it with agencies as well as new sort of companies.”

On whether agencies will have to build proprietary technology in the future:

Josh Gallagher: “That has been happening. If we do it, it should come from the right place and not just a rush to build something nice and shiny that we can take and sell.”

Sonal Patel: “The challenge is you need time time to build capabilities to create a proprietary product.

“We are looking at it through a bifurcation project: creating a technology and layering it with products that others have created to make it proprietary.

“Our fear is that time is passing us by and the level of partnerships the ad tech players have with Accenture etc means we have to go further.”

Michel de Rijk: “It depends on the definition of a product. Agencies are best equipped to understand what a brand needs. The challenge is building that and getting different vendors on board.

“But if you define it as engineering a product: agencies are least equipped. The business model is not built for that. If you have hired a bunch of engineers and say your branch in Mexico fucks up, what do you do? How do you handle a hiring freeze?

“Given the financial management of agency groups, it is very difficult to have engineering and product development resources in house. If the definition of the product is the first, agencies are the best equipped and if it’s the second, they are the worst.

On the people who need to be brought into the conversation on programmatic

Michel de Rijk: “We have been saying for years now saying that one day everything will be digital and all digital will be programmatic.

“But how do we get this idea into the boardroom, when the people there have no idea what it is? One of the big obstacles for this is: why are creatives not joining the conversation?”

On the duopoly of Facebook and Google:

Miranda Dimopoulos and Sonal Patel

Sonal Patel: “The duopoly is almost getting into board level conversations. It helps the conversation if the person at the boardroom used to be with Google.

“The marketer pushes conversation to the duopoly who in turn push it back to the agencies. The power is shifting away.

“From our perspective, what we are trying to do and I am sure every agency is trying to do the same thing is to bring something to the table, back to the CMO. “

Michel de Rijk: “Google and Facebook work. No one gives a shit about making the ecosystem fair.”

Sonal Patel: “Why I give a shit is if you think of what happened with Google, the recent pedophilia scandal. Who is managing the user generated content? If you are spending on content not managed by anyone, you are precipitating fake news.”

Michel de Rijk: “At the moment, an advertiser does not have a lot of alternatives. They stop advertising for a month but are back again because they need to be there.

“Until someone comes in, TikTok or whatever it is – I have been to their Beijing office and it is very impressive – there is no place for people who are angry to go to.”

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