The “competitive, curious and creative” Tanya Schreuder talks about the evolution – and disruption – of the media industry.
When media agencies across South Africa were developing and launching digital departments, Vizeum challenged their staff to take a deep dive into the ‘new’ medium. They knew it would be uncomfortable for many people, but at the same time, the company’s management were secure in the knowledge that if the company was to evolve, and the staff with it, they needed to be so much more than simply TV strategists or radio planners.
Vizeum, founded by Tanya Schreuder and Richard Procter and launched in a joint venture with the Dentsu Aegis Network, has certainly evolved most successfully. At the end of 2015, it had passed R1-billion worth of billings, had its fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth under its belt and had won the AdFocus Media Agency of the Year Award. So of course it was time to disrupt the status quo!
Schreuder took on the new role of group managing director of media brands within Dentsu Aegis South Africa in June. Procter has taken long leave and will return to the group next year, while Kelvin Storie has assumed the position of managing director of Vizeum.
Don’t get too comfortable
Schreuder believes that if you become too comfortable in a role, it’s probably time to move on or up. “I think there’s a maverick in me,” she says. “I’m a creative soul, and don’t like the word ‘no’. I value relationships hugely. For me this is not just a job, it’s a world and industry that I love. Compared to other jobs, media is one of the most disruptive spaces to be in right now. I learn something new every day. It’s scary, because this is never a comfortable space.”
Clearly ‘scary’ is something she is not afraid of. Schreuder is competitive, curious and creative, and she knows consumers. The way media agencies are constantly evolving in the age of big data – pioneering digital developments, artificial intelligence and virtual reality – make these important characteristics if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
Schreuder likes the word ‘future-proofing’. She uses it a lot. So when she describes the Dentsu Aegis Network’s One P&L business model, she demonstrates how it future-proofs the business. “This means at the end, we are physically measured as the group, on how everyone operates. I think it’s an interesting mindset. It positions the company for marketing convergence and globalisation,” she says. “We’ve positioned ourselves to go full circle [the circle includes Vizeum, Carat, Isobar, iProspect, Amplifi, John Brown Media and Posterscope, among others]. “We’ve gone from a media group to a media communications group, which is a new space for us.”
In effect, because each company is 100% owned, clients can access multiple experts across multiple disciplines, all within the group. “It’s a huge unique selling point. We’re not just planning TV spots. If you can control communications from what people are reading to where they are reading it, that’s a powerful combination,” Schreuder says.
Schreuder says media agencies sell creative solutions. “Clients want clever strategic thinking, not just the most cost effective TV plan (although that’s what procurement wants). We sit with clients, and come up with full circle solutions. Our model is able to do that, which is certainly disrupting the traditional media agency model,” she says. “Our USP cannot simply be creating value. It also has to be innovative and strategic.”
Schreuder says research and understanding how people move between different platforms have changed the game, which, with data, continues to evolve. “I think media groups are going to become data owners and that will be something that differentiates us. How will we mine data and store it? And then, once we’ve got the data, what the hell are we going to do with it? That’s why there’s always space for skilled strategists,” she says.
So while programmatic buying is the future, it’s not the only future. Skilled humans will still be needed to analyse that data and make it work with its owners. As Schreuder says, people are the differentiator, and if that means upskilling and reskilling, well then, that’s what has to be done. “Media job specs are evolving and mostly, we find our people and teams evolving with it. Some go ‘hell no’ but most embrace change. If you’re comfortable, you’re not learning as you should be.”
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