As the world’s largest media investment group, responsible for one in three advertisements globally, a powerful system is required to be able to store and ultimately leverage the mountains of data available. For GroupM, this solution is [m]PLATFORM.
“[m]PLATFORM is GroupM’s solution for shaping data and technology around each advertiser’s needs,” said Marcus Siddons, Managing Director, GroupM MENA. “We get unique data from across the media landscape and various consumer touchpoints to help clients best use technology and deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time.”
“It allows us join up all important insights to execution, but what it really boils down to is understanding individual users and having a complete view of a single user. For our region, that’s both unique and challenging in equal parts.”
GroupM has operations all over the world, including Germany, Korea, Japan and the United States, but the company is currently undergoing an aggressive expansion plan throughout the MENA region.
This is where Siddons comes to the fore. Working alongside Daniel Vaczi, [m]PLATFORM Head of Data & Technology, the two are tasked with delivering cutting edge data and technology solutions to GroupM agencies and their clients.
“The UK, for example, is a challenging market to operate in, given the number of players live and scaled,” says Siddons. “I feel both Dan and I are privileged in the sense that we can apply our experience of such developed markets to the MENA region, and through our agency backgrounds remain close to what business challenges clients need solving.”
“That’s very important,” adds Vaczi. “It’s often easy when working in a technology role or company to be disconnected from the real business challenges that clients and their agencies are under. We understand both agencies and clients as we were in the same shoes in our previous roles. Using this experience, we can tailor solutions that directly addresses these business challenges.’’
Across its MENA footprint, GroupM has a presence in over 20 countries from Morocco right through to Oman. As an organisation that defines itself through the way it works closely with its client base, operating across the region presents unique challenges from location to location, and as a company with technology at its heart this challenge is only exacerbated.
“At GroupM we are trying to tackle a huge challenge with [m]PLATFORM, not just siloed understanding of our customers but ensuring we can execute against this seamlessly,” says Vaczi.
Technology of course is an ever-changing beast and a company like GroupM has to not only recognise this evolving landscape but try and remain ahead of the game in order to continue to deliver for its clients.
This in itself creates its own unique challenge; does a company look to innovate and implement technology just to stay in the game? Or does it not take the risk and fall behind the rest of the market?
Siddons agrees as much, believing that the conversation surrounding technology creates a lot of “noise” and that the key element is to cut through this noise and focus on what is actually going to deliver and provide true value to clients.
This, he confesses, is not an easy thing to do, particularly as clients also continue to evolve.
“In essence, working with a client is about helping them drive growth and profitability,” says Siddons. “But, that’s changed. As the world moves into the digital sphere, clients now have a far greater understanding and control of what they want and how they want it.’’
“It’s not just the client that has a greater understanding of so many different domains, their consumers, our partners and our people do too which wasn’t the case as much as five years ago. So, for us, the demands have changed because not only do clients rely on us provide the right advice to deliver on our promise to drive success for those clients, partners and people.”
This is where [m]PLATFORM comes in. [m]PLATFORM represents a key differentiator for GroupM, allowing it to gain insights into audiences like no other agency or provider could.
As Siddons notes, the industry has changed and so too has the market, and this forced GroupM to re-examine its process and service solution.
“The industry has grown,” he says. “As that market has changed, we looked at our operating model. Do we buy other businesses? Do we build our own technology? Or do we partner with other businesses? How do we stand tall above other players?’’
“It became clear to us that understanding our audiences and being able to use and apply scale to that was going to be a big differentiator.”
What [m]PLATFORM does is provide clients with the best in class audience insight, data analysis and visualization tools on a global scale.
But as Vaczi points out, “It’s more than just audience and data analytics. It’s about identity and actually turning the data into value and being able to provide actionable insights.’’
“We use sophisticated artificial intelligence to turn data into insight and then into actions, which is unique to this region. But let’s not forget that there is still a huge people element to this.”
In any technology conversation, it is often easy to forget the key role that employees, suppliers and people will play. That expertise element cannot be underestimated.
Vaczi firmly subscribes to that notion.
“[m]PLATFORM requires a unique set of skills in order to deliver it,” he says. “We are really proud of the diversity of our teams who come from media planning, buying, programming, data science, analytics and trading backgrounds.’’
“That we have all of these specialists under one roof cannot be understated. Our people are what makes [m]PLATFORM truly unique.”
Attracting this talent is often a challenge, but it is a challenge that Siddons feels GroupM has been incredibly successful at doing so.
Vaczi confirms, “it is incredibly important that we have the best people. We do this by making it a company that people genuinely want to work for.’’
“A key part of that for me, is that cross pollination of skills, talents and ideas. People really benefit from being a part of GroupM and it shows.”
Siddons points to GroupM as having one of the lowest turnovers of staff since he’s been there, not just in the industry but also across the region.
GroupM also has one eye on the future workforce and works closely with local universities and schools to foster a pathway for the next generation of students who can drive the company to new levels of innovation.
When identifying the challenge that lies ahead, GroupM looked at partner relationships and how those relationships can push the capabilities of the company. In any technology transformation or journey, no company can do it alone.
“As much as we want to use our own people, in some cases we do need to look to our suppliers and partners to help push our capabilities and our skillsets in order to achieve our project goals or roadmap,” says Vaczi.
“Having a shared vision with these partners is crucial. When we partner with these companies, we aim for multiyear long-term relationships. This really ensures that we are aiming for the same goal and this applies across our entire global presence.’’
Both Siddons and Vaczi have been on a considerable journey over the last few years through the development of [m]PLATFORM, but both admit that for them the journey is very much still at the beginning.
As the company embraces the future of digital, it will do so by building on the foundations of [m]PLATFORM. Data will only continue to define and redefine the industry and so GroupM will continuously place data at the very core of its operations in order to gain better insights which will drive greater results for its clients.
“At GroupM we continue to re-invest into our people and technology,” he says.
“We are looking to innovate every week so that we are operating in a very different place than we were last week and will be in a very different place next week.”