Denise Shrivell

Digital People - Liam Brennan

Welcome to Digital People where I'm pleased to profile Liam Brennan - Digital Director at Carat Global Management UK. We often hear of the differences our UK colleagues find in our market so I thought it would be interesting to get some views from an Aussie based in the UK digital media market. Liam offers one of the best profiles of the year - a highly recommended & extremely informative read..

Liam Brennan - Digital Director at Carat Global Management UKName: Liam Brennan
Works: Carat Global Management (part of Aegis Media)
Job Title: Digital Director

1.  Please highlight your industry experience and how, where and when you came to digital media?

I originally got into the industry because I wanted to a big shot in TV adland. But whilst I was doing my Uni internship in the Carat TV department, I became far more interested in what was going on in their (then) small Digital Media department. Carat’s sister agency OneDigital (now Visual Jazz Isobar) then offered me a full time job a Digital Media Planner/Buyer on HSBC and I’ve been in digital ever since.

After launching some of the first digital and social campaigns for brands like KFC/Pizza Hut and Luxottica, I decided to make the move to UK in 2008 and got to lead the digital strategy and planning for some big name brands like Halifax, Nintendo, Transport for London and United Biscuits. I’m now working in a global role (based out of London), and working on some great brands and with teams in developed digital markets like the US and UK, as well as ‘up and comers’ like Russia and China. I feel like I’m learning something new every day.

2.  Can you outline your role with Aegis Media - what do you actually do?

I work under the Carat brand and act as the global digital lead for the adidas, Reebok, ASOS and Swatch accounts. I lead a team of digital and offline planners to deliver central media strategy and planning, as well as market co-ordination of the digital teams in the local Carat offices (60+ markets – including Australia and New Zealand) and other Aegis agencies such as iProspect, Isobar and Posterscope.

Although I’m the ‘digital go-to guy’ for these accounts, I’m finding my role becoming less and less siloed as digital becomes integrated within the overall planning process.

3. Can you offer a brief insight into Aegis Media - your market position and forward plans?

Aegis is one of the biggest media networks in the world – we have over twelve thousand staff in eighty countries, and our % revenue growth was higher than all the other major advertising networks in 2011. We’ve just moved into a fantastic new office space overlooking Regent’s Park in order to house all our network brands, global and UK teams. Carat’s has had a particularly strong year so far, winning the global media account for General Motors, which was the biggest advertising pitch in history.

4. Please share your general views on the current state of the digital media market?

The digital media market is stronger than ever and continues to grow. In some markets like the UK, it’s the media with the biggest investment apart from TV. Clients from all verticals are embracing digital - I can’t recall a client in our office that is not using some aspect of digital media in their marketing mix now. Media agencies have done a great job educating their clients on the opportunities that digital media provides. But I think the real digital heroes are the clients who have championed this internally – embracing change rather than maintaining the status quo.

Digital media is a bit like a 18/19 year old right now – there’s a lot of knowledge, opportunities and a strong talent base – but lacks the maturity of other media. Many areas still need to be ironed out like how best to measure performance, what the ‘right’ digtal client/agency structure is and how to best integrate digital in the planning process.

5. What’s different about the UK digital media market – how is it better & worse than our market in Australia?

Although I’m now in a global role, I’ve been working in the UK market for a couple of years and the UK is still a key focus for our clients. What struck me most when I moved here was not that British staffers were any more talented than those in Australia, but that there was more opportunity, both in terms of the number of publishers available and the UK’s digital infrastructure (e.g. faster, near-unlimited broadband and earlier local rollouts of sites like Twitter, Spotify and VOD services).

The ‘maturity’ gap between the UK and Australia is shrinking and I feel there are just as many of the ‘great’ campaigns coming out of Australia as the UK. Knowledge sharing from industry blogs like Mashable and Contagious as well as Aussie based blogs like Digital Buzz Blog and BannerBlog have done much to help those in AU/NZ keep up to speed with breaking digital campaigns from other parts of the world, where previously you would have to wait until a major awards ceremony like Cannes to see the latest and greatest digital work.

One area where the AU/NZ media scene wins hands down is the work culture. Everyone knows everyone - industry parties are like meeting up with your close mates for a beer. And a boat party on the Thames doesn’t come close to one on Sydney Harbour!

6.  Is there any one person, digital business or sector you think we should be keeping an eye on?

It has been said to death, but mobile is still the next big thing. Some will say that last year was the year of mobile, but I’m not so sure. I feel that it’s still a developing media. In Europe, mobile media is about to become a €1b a year business – but 70% of that spend sits with mobile search. The UK is the leading the world outside of Asia, but mobile display only represents about 5% of overall UK digital display budget. Outside of US/Western Europe/Asia non-search/sms mobile investment is close to zero, so there is much work to be done.

The other big area to watch is video. Unlike mobile, we’re seeing spend grow across all the markets, reaching about 10% of display spend in Western Europe and the United States. But unlike other digital growth areas, it’s coming at the expense of traditional banner buys. So now is a great time to chat with your creative agency and ask them why they still rely so heavily on 40kb leaderboards and MPUs!

7.  What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the digital media market in the coming 12 months?

The current buzzword around our agency is the ‘second screen’ – digital screens to complement media activities, like watching TV. The ‘water cooler moment’ happens online, and in real time. At Aegis, we’ve seen this as an opportunity to get more value from our media. For example, Aegis agency Vizeum recently ran a campaign for Prometheus on Twitter and Zeebox (an app that allows you to comment on TV shows in real time with other people – a bit like a Twitter for TV on steroids).

The new trailer for the film premiered in prime time on C4, and if users tweeted/Zeeboxed their thoughts on the trailer with the hashtag  #AreYouSeeingThis, they could win tickets to the premiere in London. The best responses were then complied by C4, assembled into a thirty second spot, and run in the next break only ten minutes later. There were 25k mentions of #AreYouSeeingThis and it became the top trend in the UK that day.

The campaign was a complete rethink of how to use TV and digital/social – these ‘big event’ TV moments are often the source of much evening Twitter traffic. So let’s take that positive social buzz and broadcast it back to a bigger TV audience. In a way, the consumer had become the creative agency and a new media channel in one.  We’ve also been experimenting with this for adidas – taking the social buzz from adidas players and teams in Euro 2012 in real time and creating pieces of content to be fed back to their social followers during and after the matches. We expect to see some great examples from other brands during the Olympics.

We’re also keeping a very close eye on the EU Cookie Law – which is having a significant impact on how advertisers and media agencies track and use consumer data. It has just come into effect, and if successful, similar legislation could be adopted by other countries.

8. How do you see digital and other media evolving in the next 5+ years?

All media is becoming digitised – the line between what is ‘digital’ and ‘offline’ is blurring. Who plans VOD? Full-page ads in tablet mags? Paid-for social posts? Convergence has led to a new media ecosystem, and the silo model won’t be appropriate in five years (or possibly even sooner). My role as Digital Director is becoming one of education – both within Aegis and client side – as much as is it about digital planning/activation.

9. What does the digital/interactive industry need to do better right now? 

Aside from removing siloed thinking, I’d say the one thing the digital industry needs to get better at is measurement. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, the use of clicks as a KPI is often not appropriate. We also need to get better at understanding the relationship between offline and online media (e.g. TV driving social mentions and searches) and how digital media impacts the bigger picture (e.g. brand/perception metrics).

10. Where do you get your industry information from?

Twitter is a great filter for industry news – it’s so simple just to follow your industry peers and they can give you the ‘good stuff’. I’m lucky to be working with digital teams from around the globe, and they share best in show examples from their local markets with the wider agency network. The Cannes Cyber/Media Lions winners this year are a testament to the fantastic digital work being done outside the ‘traditional’ US/UK hubs, and you often don’t get to see that in the local trade titles.

11.  What industry groups or networks are you a part of?

IAB and IAA events are always a great way to network with the industry. LinkedIn is proving to be a fantastic networking tool. Google have also been putting on some fantastic events in London recently, such as the TED-esque Firestarters. The speakers never cease to amaze – don’t miss them if/when they come down under.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in Digital People.  If you have any comments please feel free to get in touch - or phone:  0424 100325.  I welcome your feedback.



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Denise Shrivell MediaScope Denise Shrivell
Company: MediaScope
Position: Director
Founder of MediaScope - Australia's most up-to-date & evolving directory resource connecting agencies & marketers to more than 3,000 niche, alternative & emerging media options Read Denise's full bio

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