New realities propel media account movement and brands in-house creative

By Kasim Bakare

The year 2020 was an unforgettable year for the global economy as many economies grappled with COVID-19 induced economic realities. The global health pandemic that triggered the economic crisis introduced unique challenges to the creative industry that previous recessions did not prepare it for. The imperatives of Covid-19 have imposed a lot of innovation and belt-tightening measures on brands in the new normal.

The pandemic has changed the fabrics and texture of reality and none of these brands will dare swim against the tides of the new normal. Consumers now communicate, interact and purchase differently and it is therefore expedient for brands and marketing to evolve. The consequence of this for brands is that it has necessitated that they become more innovative in their marketing strategy to actualize their pre-determined goal. Many creative agencies have also had to re-invent the wheel considering the declining budget of their clients.

Quite recently, many global brands have had to move their media accounts to new creative agencies while some have had to look inwards to develop or bolster their creative offering. Recently, many mouth-watering and juicy global media accounts were on toss. While some brands retained their accounts with their creative agencies, others put their accounts on toss by calling for a fresh pitch. For some other brands, their in-house marketing department worked with other creative agencies to develop their creative in a strategic cost-saving move.

Whether it is a case of the Korean proverb that; in dress, the newest is the finest; in friends, the oldest is the best” or that  the devil you are familiar with is better than the angel you don’t know, MTN retained the service of Omnicom Group. In a heavily contested pitch, as was in the previous one when WPP, Omnicom Group, Publicis, Dentsu Aegis Network, Havas and Interpublic battled for it, Omnicon came out top. “Omnicom proved themselves not just as a creative powerhouse, but also demonstrated a solid commitment to partner with MTN in achieving our common goal to contribute to Africa’s progress,” said Bernice Samuels, MTN’s Group Executive for Marketing. Citing the delicateness of the situation. Samuels also noted that: “The caliber of submissions from all bidders was of an exceptional standard, despite the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in”. It would be recalled that in 2016, MTN, Africa’s telecom giant requested global network agencies with tentacles across African markets to apply for its business. It was arguably the first time a multinational brand would be committing the whole of its marketing and communications requirements to a range of agencies in a single pitch.

For The Coca-Cola Company, the beverage giant may have given the biggest news in the IMC industry for 2020 when it announced it is working with MediaSense and PricewaterhouseCoopers to oversee its media and creative review. The beverage giant awarded the U.S. creative duties of its Coke brand to MDC Partners’ Anomaly in August and discontinued the production of over a hundred brandsTab, Zico, Odwalla amongst others),. The move was necessitated by the tides, as the company spends around $2.5 billion globally on media per year,$1.8 billion on traditional media and $700 million on digital media (according to data consultancy COMvergence).

In a statement by Coca-cola, the beverage giant stated: “Media and creative agency services require significant investment from our brands. They are also a crucial component of our ongoing digital transformation journey to drive our business. With that in mind, we have decided to undergo a complete redesign of our media and creative agency models in an effort to align the strategic, operational, and commercial needs of our new, networked organization.”

The statement continued: “This will necessitate a full review of our media and creative planning and buying practices, as well as our media and creative agency appointments and commercial relationships around the world. We expect this process will be completed by the end of 2021.”

“We are on a journey to fundamentally transform and dramatically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our marketing investments,” Coca-Cola spokesperson said. “By improving our processes, eliminating duplication and optimizing spend, we will generate significant savings to fuel reinvestment in our brands”.

 For global beer giant, Heineken, charity begins at home. Rather than lend an oar, Heineken lent chisel and wood to create its own. Although, it appointed Dentsu Red Star as its sole media agency, for its creativity it partnered with with Publicis Groupe, world’s third largest communications group and Epsilon and Publicis Sapient, who boasts of data and tech to create Le pub. Explaining what geared the move, Bram Westenbrink, global senior director at Heineken said: “The global pandemic meant we had to pivot and work differently, which is what inspired us to design this new model. The partnership with Publicis will help us to drive growth, giving Heineken a sustainable competitive advantage.” In almost similar fashion, PepsiCO looked inward, the company created a new in-house media and creative agency team to be led by Nancy Croix, marketing director for creative across Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

For automobile giant, BMW AG, “THE ENGINE” was a way of integrating in-house marketing and the expertise of creative powerhouses. The partnership is made up Media Monks, the Serviceplan Group and Berylls Strategy Advisors. Commenting on the roles of the partners, BMW AG said:” At the heart of the constellation will be the Dutch agency Media Monks with its highly automated and data-based creative and production skills. The ServicePlan Group will be responsible for the technological and data-driven components as well as management of the local interfaces to support marketing as-a-service responsibilities. Berylls Strategy Advisors will take on responsibility for the transformation and on-boarding of the markets”

“Our decision to select ‘THE ENGINE’ as our new agency constellation for all of Europe clearly dovetails with our claim to provide the best premium customer experience within the automotive industry,”Pieter Nota, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Customer, Brands and Sales said. The appointment was a response to the change that has been brought about by the pandemic, as he stated further that: “In the process, we are steadily expanding our expertise in the digitalization of customer, brand and sales processes and are thus investing in the future of our commitment to providing customers with a source of joy in their lives. I would like to express my gratitude to all those who participated in the pitch stage; everyone delivered professional presentations they’d put their heart and soul into”.

The game has changed for brand-agency relationship given the new realities thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic especially as regards the terms of engagement and platform selection. As budgets get leaner and platform priorities change with budgets moving more online than offline, the renewed quest by brands to get more done using fewer resources and this is certain to continue as the Covid-19 induced situation takes its toll on the advertising industry.

As the industry goes into the year 2021 with renewed hope of a lasting solution to the Covid-19 induced economic situation, it is pertinent to note that the situation has made both brands and agents to re-invent the wheel.






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