Leigh Terry, CEO at IPG Mediabrands Asia-Pacific since January, 2017, took time for an exclusive interview with adobo magazine during his stay in Manila.
IPG Mediabrands was founded by Interpublic Group to manage all of the global media related assets. IPG Mediabrands’ network of agencies includes UM, Initiative and BPN as well specialty business units including Ansible, Cadreon, Healix, Identity, the IPG Media Lab, MAGNA, Mediabrands Insights, Orion, Rapport, Reprise, and Society. Prior to heading IPG Mediabrands APAC, Terry was CEO, Omnicom Media Group Australia & New Zealand.
Riding the wave of disruption
In an era of disruption, innovation, and programmatic media buying, Terry reveals how IPG Mediabrands is responding to these changes across Asia-Pacific.
“The vast majority of my career was spent working in digital and data, before moving into management. The world has evolved. There's certainly more data, and more digital opportunities within the world of programmatic; which we have seen evolve, if not explode in the past couple of years. This is an area where we have great strength and depth within IPG Mediabrands: Cadreon for programmatic, Reprise in terms of search, and Ansible, which we are just launching here in the Philippines, is our technology and mobile business,” Terry highlights.
Cadreon is IPG Mediabrand's ad tech unit responsible for programmatic technology solutions. Reprise is IPG Mediabrands' specialist search and digital experience agency. Ansible is IPG Mediabrands' mobile marketing and technology agency.
“We are able to capitalise not just upon our global playbook and global strengths, but also building stuff up in market. It’s not a case of copying what we’ve done in the US, UK or Australia, it’s about what is right and what is relevant in a particular territory. And while the Philippines shares a lot commonalities in culture, mobile adoption and social media with many other markets, there’s also certain nuances that the local team have taken me through today. They’re going to ensure that we’re building products that are specific to the Philippines’ clients and consumers,” he explains.
At a time when many media buyers are apprehensive about losing their jobs to programmatic technology's automated real time ad bidding, Terry offers a positive perspective: “I prefer to think of it as healthy paranoia.”
He advises professionals to constantly rethink how to evolve their role and themselves in the business they work in. He notes how programmatic ad bidding technology has attracted bonds traders with Wall Street backgrounds, physicists, double mathematicians, and engineers into the media buying profession. “There is always new opportunities to move into, so rather than be scared by it, be excited about it. But certainly, give it some thought, for it’s gonna change,” he advises.
Terry explains what IPG Mediabrand is doing to prevent programmatic's automated media buying from inadvertently placing the ads on the wrong websites: fake news sites, hate sites, porn sites.
“The benefits of programmatic massively outweigh the risks, so long as the risks are carefully considered. Cadreon, IPG Media Brands’ programmatic agency, look at brand safety, viewability, whitelist, blacklist and bot traffic but you can’t solely rely on technology. You will never be 100% risk-free 100% of the time, but I do believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. When those risks do come up, we work with clients and jump on them immediately” he underscores.
Asked by adobo magazine if the different competing programmatic agencies are open to sharing their respective white lists—known safe websites—and black lists—known sites to be avoided—Terry had this to say: “I think it’s a really good question to ask whether competitive agencies will ever consider sharing their whitelist or blacklist. That’s the first time I have ever been asked that. That’s one I’ll consider.”
With fake news, porn, and hate sites constantly proliferating and being renamed and intentionally mislabeled, white lists and black lists need to be constantly updated to safeguard brands from unintentionally and unwittingly being associated with them or funding them with their internet advertising. Sharing white lists and black lists among competing programmatic agencies would vastly improve their accuracy.
Media spending and brand values
Asked how media spending and ad placement could better reflect the values their clients espouse in their ads, Terry elucidated, “The very heart of media planning, to my mind, is reaching the desired target audience. So if we’re truly being media neutral, irrespective of channel or even content of that particular channel, we should be looking to use whatever helps best reach that audience and maximizes the context of the creative message... I think our role in working with clients is to expose their virtues.”
He adds, “Agencies can put forward best recommendations, but those recommendations have to be bought by clients, so it’s a two way street. Whether it be brand safety, potential CSR backlash, or even marginalizing other audiences, all of these things need to be considered within context of where media in this day and age gets placed.”
Man for the job
The new boss of IPG Mediabrands APAC since January this year, Terry reveals his vision and his mission:
“The great thing, being nine weeks into the role and having visited 10 of our markets, is that I have been so welcomed. It feels like family already which is fantastic. There’s a connective glue amongst all of those offices. And certainly the number one priority for me, is ensuring that connectivity of the network, and not just on the leadership level, but within the specialist business units and the agency brands. Ensuring that everybody truly knows each other and everybody shares what they can as a network, to ensure that our knowledge base is maximized,” he shares.
“I think from a philosophical perspective, one of the things that most inspired me about moving to Mediabrands was the global positioning ‘dynamic by design’, essentially not being set in our ways... and it does come back to that healthy paranoia again, and the idea that businesses can be disrupted any point in time - even when they’re becoming really successful. So we always have to be willing to look at changes, even if we’re absolutely at the top of our game. I think within APAC, we’ve got 13 really strong markets. While it’s been successful to date, there’s a lot of potential that’s still truly untapped” he adds.
With his experience at Omnicom and OMD, Terry brings a unique perspective, skill set, and personality to IPG Mediabrands.
He confesses, “For starters, I am a geek. I will freely admit to being a geek and celebrate the fact. Whilst I’m not good at technology, I love what technology can do. I’m an absolute passionate believer in how technology can allow brands to connect with their consumer base in entirely different ways than they did 5 years ago, let alone 10 years ago”
“I think the experience and the skill set that I have developed over the last 20 years, first and foremost, comes down to people. I look at the 2,600 people that we have across Mediabrands in our 13 markets. Some phenomenally, talented, motivated, inquisitive people; and a large part of what I see my job as, is getting the best out of those people. And that’s something I’ve always taken great pride in, the fact that my success will come through the team’s success.”