In Response to MediaMonks and Martin Sorrell
It didn’t surprise me one bit to learn that Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital has acquired MediaMonks and that likewise, the Monks have 'bought in'. But what I want to know is, what are they bought in to building exactly?
MediaMonks is ostensibly a production company, and production companies have historically serviced ad agencies, but you’ll have noticed in the announcement of the sale there was literally no mention of any of its agency clients. The value that Sorrell and the other potential investors saw in this acquisition was the Monks’ brand clients. Which begs the question, are they building an agency? Or will it still be a production company? What is a production company any more? Does this sale mean that the industry and the client are all evaluating the importance of production companies and is their place now working directly to brand?
With the likes of Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft all hedging their bets that augmented reality and AI (voice especially) will be the tech to power future marketing, products and services, having the smarts to think in TV like a traditional agency is not nearly as valuable to any brand or business as being able to think in technology. It’s the kind of knowledge held in spades at interactive production companies and whilst MediaMonks is the behemoth of our world (and this sale will guarantee their continued growth on the global stage) all interactive production people have cut their teeth taking briefs over two decades to make agency ideas 'more digital'.
We have grown up in digital culture and digital culture isn’t about posters or passively watching a TVC. Sorrell knows it. MediaMonks knows it. The brands do too, but they haven’t been able to articulate it in the same way this move from Sir Martin does. Mark Pritchard was close when he recently landed on the line of, “we need more creatives”, but just shy of the truth, which is actually that we don’t need more of them. We just need the ones we have to know how emerging technology works, which is where MediaMonks comes into its own.
Chatbots and machine learning, augmented reality... Agencies know they need these kinds of ideas, but nobody in them knows what ideas they actually need. This is the domain of the interactive production company talents, which, if you ask me (and Sorrell clearly), have always operated at the wrong end of the funnel in the process of ad creation, where the people that have the ideas and the people that build them only come together when it’s time to execute. The agency, with only a cursory knowledge of the tools at their disposal, spend the majority of a client’s precious time developing ideas for the media of a bygone era, and then try to 'make it digital' at the end of the pipeline. It hasn’t been too big of a problem until now because it’s pretty easy to transplant a print or TVC idea into a banner or even a website both essentially being 2D. But in the age of experiential an idea is expected to manifest in three or even four dimensions, and across not one but all the platforms, tools and technologies consumers are using.
Put simply, the process and pace of idea creation has changed and Sorrell knows it. Traditional creative agencies might be the absolute experts of the message business: master storytellers, brand shapers and designers, but they don’t know how to have two-way conversations with consumers like we do. No other industry understands the value of this as implicitly as ours and if the success of a business is measured by its potential, there’s no mistaking this move from Sorrell. He’s got his eyes on the prize alright.
Emma Willis is general manager at makemepulse London