Denise Shrivell

Digital People - Nic Hodges

Welcome to the 99th Digital People profile where we present Nic Hodges - Head of Innovation & Tech at MediaCom. Like several previous Digital People it seemed inevitable from an early age that Nic became involved in digital media now using his innate skills to be one of our industry's key innovators. Nic discusses his work on the recent USnapp cross media app as well as various views. Great read..

nick hodges Name:  Nic Hodges
Works: MediaCom
Job Title:  Head of Innovation & Technology

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

I’m currently the Head of Innovation & Technology at MediaCom. Prior to this role I was Creative Director of Proximity BBDO Sydney / Digital CD for Clemenger BBDO Sydney. That’s the job that got me up to Sydney, before that I did some time at M&C Saatchi and Sputnik Agency in Melbourne.

The “digital” half of the question is pretty straightforward – I’ve had a computer as long as I can remember. I was coding by the time I was 6 (BASICA on an IBM PCjr!) and never really stopped stuffing around with technology. I studied Industrial Design at RMIT, but was far more interested in the 3D modelling side of things – so did a Masters in Design (Multimedia) at Swinburne.

The “media” half isn’t so straightforward. I’ve was never terribly interested in advertising or marketing, but after spending some time doing 3D modelling at an industrial design shop and then some design and coding at mobile startup, I ended up at Sputnik. Back then, it was literally a handful of people in a room making awesome ideas. It was only after a couple years I realised I worked in an ad agency. The rest is history, and I moved through a couple agencies before ending up properly on the media side at MediaCom (although I still have no idea how to book an MRec).

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

It’s mostly about juggling plates. But there’s a few plates that are easily explained -

The innovation part is obviously the centre of it all. I define innovation as “change that adds value” - so across the whole agency I’m always looking for ways to create change in either our business or our client’s business that adds value. This has resulted in prototyping new apps and strategies with clients, as well as building our own tools – such as the recently launched USnapp app that allows users to scan print and outdoor ads to interact with content on their mobile.

I also oversee the digital product for the agency. We’re probably the broadest agency in Australia, with good sized teams across the spectrum of digital media planning and buying, campaign management, business science, SEM, SEO, social media, and digital production. All of these pieces need to be working in harmony, and they all need to be pointing in the same direction. I work with the heads of each of those divisions to ensure we have a common vision and point of view on where digital is headed.

Finally as a member of the national management team, I have a leadership role that is both internal and external facing. Internally for an agency of our size there’s always new business happening, or opportunities in existing business. I also help develop the product for MediaCom and GroupM at a broader level – working on mobile, social, and digital committees at a regional and global level.

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

We’ve undergone a huge amount of change over the past 5 years. From a billings point of view we’re now second in the Australian market. But more importantly we’ve put a lot of focus on broadening out our offer to clients in the last couple years. This includes a content division, business science, a social media team, and a research and insights team. With such diverse skillsets, culture has become a real focus for us too, and we run a huge array of programs to ensure MediaCom’s an ace place to work. It all seems to be paying off too, we won AdNews and B&T Agency and Network of the Year, Campaign’s Agency of the Year, and we’re top 20 in BRW’s top places to work!

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

It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but the industry is in the midst of a massive shift right now.
We’re only starting to see the traditional players start to buckle – not just the Fairfax’s and News’, but even the TV networks. Applying traditional models to the online world, both from a media and content point of view, was never sustainable. I think over the next 3-5 years we’ll see many of the big online brands in the Australian digital market fragment and disappear.

Social has well and truly arrived, and we’re now just entering a phase where social needs to deliver on it’s promises. Money that once went into traditional channels is now going in to social. It’s playing in the grown-up world now, and as such needs to be accountable and effective. I doubt it will all be smooth sailing, Facebook’s recent earnings report started to throw up a lot of questions that aren’t going to go away soon.

Finally mobile is the most disruptive technology in the world right now. It’s not as obvious in Australia, where we’ve had constant mobile growth for several years, but the impact mobile is having in markets like China, Indonesia and India is absolutely huge. That impact is on our doorstep, and will begin to affect how we communicate, how we consume content, and how brands can market themselves.

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

Payments are where I see a lot of opportunity right now, both locally and globally. It’s been a slow start – NFC hasn’t had the impact many predicted (and I don’t think it ever will). But overall the finance space is absolutely primed for disruption, and I would expect mobile to be at the heart of it.

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

Data remains the biggest challenge from an insiders perspective. The era of big data and cloud-based analysis of that data hasn’t made anything clearer – it’s just given us more data to analyse. There’s a real lack of insightful analysis going on in with most data at the moment, and I think it’s a real challenge for that side of the digital industry to start proving and providing real business results.

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

In five years the concept of discrete digital media placement will disappear. We’ll still have brand investment in video and static media, but much of it will be through content generation or integration. The stuff already happening with MirriAd is fascinating – I’m not sure if the public will warm to it but it does give you a glimpse of where we’re going.

Ultimately we’ll see radio, TV and even print migrate to be purely digital platforms – so technology such as adserving, targeting, and measurement will become even more critical.

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

Measurement is still the key one for clients – digital was promised as an accountable channel that would have a measurable impact on our client’s business. We still haven’t gotten there, and in the meantime the landscape has only gotten more complex with the addition of social, mobile, tablet and video.

9. Where do you get your industry information from?

I actually read very few blogs. Most of the tech ones are identical, so I just check GigaOm and TechInAsia every day or two. I check in on HackerNews a couple times a day as well, but outside that it’s mostly through conversations with people in the advertising and startup world. Oh and books, I read a lot of books.

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

I’m on the IAB, MFA, and Communications Council digital committees.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in Digital People.  If you have any comments please feel free to get in touch - denise@mediascope.com.au or phone:  0424 100325.  I welcome your feedback. In mid-August we'll publish the 100th profile where we've asked several previous Digital People to get involved.


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