Applying Sustainability to Marketing And Media

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Digital World Can Help Align Supply-Demand

Authored by: Daisy Whitney - Ad Age

Sustainability is most often a term used in connection with the environment. Basics, our weekly series of quick conversations with media leaders, today asks why it matters to marketing and media. We spoke with Nigel Morris, CEO of Aegis Media Americas since 2009 and a member of the Project board for the World Economic Forum's sustainability initiative.

Advertising Age: Sustainability is a topic we hear about a lot about as it relates to food and farming. What does it mean for advertising?

Nigel Morris: Sustainability isn't just a green issue. It's about how the whole system of business works, and the fact that we need to ensure that overall economic demand and supply are much more aligned. In relations to media, we have a fantastic source of data increasingly in the digital world that we can use it to better align overall economic supply and demand.

Ad Age: How would you use advertising data to do that?

Mr. Morris: Increasingly, the data we get -- whether through search, social or mobile -- is giving us indicators about what consumers are actually wanting to buy. We can get this very early in the process, and we can start to feed that information into the data systems that form the prediction models for companies and for demand for their products. Take Amazon. That is an incredibly efficient model, and you can study its data about purchases. If you aggregate all the data they know about everyone, they can be very predictive about demand.

Ad Age: This is a big economic idea. You're saying advertising data can help improve supply and demand for the world economy?

Mr. Morris: Everything is about how to cut waste. We have much greater data about consumers and what they're interested in, so we can be more focused on directing people to what they actually want. In terms of the way we buy media, this is part of our integrated communications process and the way we assess different media choices. What was actually bought, what was the impact, what's the ROI, how efficient was the buy? But we also look at how efficient the overall marketing was for the company, and how we can use the new data to feed the new-product-development process for the brand. These are some of the systems we are building at the moment. ... If you go forward five years, the economy will have this layer of data about levels of demand from media.

Ad Age: Aegis and its brand networks operate on one P&L that you believe enables sustainability. How?

Mr. Morris: We have a program called Future Proof. For five years we have been on this journey to make our services more efficient and effective. We got an award for being the most open and transparent in how we report, and we have the highest rating from the 2011 Carbon Disclosure Project. Those are tiny steps, but they're still significant to raising awareness about the way you think about the efficiency and effectiveness and the way we operate. We have tried to strip away all the silos in the ad process -- with the way holding groups are set up with different P&Ls -- so we can operate in a more collaborative way, and less duplicated.

Ad Age: What piece of advice would you give to other companies or brands to be sustainable?

Mr. Morris: Every company needs to organize around the data we are starting to get. Every piece of data that comes in -- use it to organize yourself to become a much more intelligent organization.