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Ideas Commentary2019-12-18

The last decade - 10 years of transformation

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With 2020 just two weeks away, we asked Essentials around the world to reflect on how their careers and our industry have changed over the past ten years. While we can look back on major advances in our ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing and our ability to deploy technology to campaigns at scale, there remain exciting challenges ahead in tackling the fragmentation of video and the truly seamless integration of offline and online channels and measurement.

Dave Marsey

President, Global Client Partner (San Francisco)

What's top of mind for me as we close out the '10's' is the rise of DTC brands and their impact on all of us as consumers and marketers. As a consumer, my glasses, vitamins, and a lot of my clothes all come from brands that didn't exist in 2010. Over the last decade, many asked 'When was the last time you clicked on a banner?'; for me, the answer is a DTC brand. As we end the decade, our industry has never been more chaotic than it is today. Legacy brands are fighting to survive, leading to a lot of fear and short-term thinking. Ever an optimist, however, there’s never been a more exciting time to be in this business, chaos and all. Here's to the roaring 20's!

Ali Reed

SVP Client Services, EMEA (London)

Ten years ago I was about to have baby #2 in the city of Khartoum, Sudan. When baby #3 arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, a year later, I needed to figure out how to get back into the industry after a four year break of back-to-back maternity leaves. What scared me then, was that within that short window, so much had changed. The explosion of social media and the rise of RTB, digital technology driving disruption on all sides of the communications relationship triangle (publisher, advertiser and agency) - AND - somehow 'strategy' had emerged as a discipline separate from Comms Planning. I worried I had missed so much in those family-building years that I would struggle to reintegrate. While I managed to get back into the industry I love with three kids under three (for a while!), the change certainly hasn't abated. The proliferation of tools, technology, and self-serve platforms; the locations, the kinds of people we all work with at Essence, for example, demonstrate that going into the next decade, we can be sure that change is the only constant. But what I’ve learned is that as long as you're curious and unafraid of that change - this industry will continue to surprise and reward you.

Tim Irwin

CEO, EMEA (London)

Over the last 10 years digital channels have moved from being at the periphery of our lives to being at the very heart of everything we do, as consumers, as marketers and, of course, as media buyers. When I heard my 84 year old mother tell me the other day that she’d done all her Xmas shopping on Amazon and was settling in to watch an old episode of ‘Morse’ on the ITV Hub on her iPad, it was clear that much has changed.

Aarti Bharadwaj

VP Analytics, APAC (Delhi)

I'm amazed at how some levels of the industry have barely changed, while on other fronts it's completely unrecognisable. The questions facing marketers today are very much the same - How do I make better decisions using all the data that is available to me? The difference is in the quantum of data and the kind of data streams that are available to marketers now. The emergence of digital over the past decade has also brought data and analytics into the spotlight. Today, analytics is no longer another ‘specialist unit’ but central to the functioning of most marketing organisations. Given the importance of analytics today, it’s clear the media industry as a whole should be devoting more attention to data, both in terms of investing in data infrastructure and systems and also in terms of developing talent. On this front, it's heartening to see Essence working to be the change we want to see in the world.

Gila Wilensky

SVP Media Activation, Americas (New York)

Ten years ago I was consulting on SEO and paid search, immersed in Google technologies (Adwords, Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics). As a Google devotee, I could not have imagined having the opportunity to be part of their marketing growth story from within Essence, and applying those learnings on other Fortune 100 clients. My two biggest surprises? 1) the lack of advancement in advertising against voice search, which has been around a few years now, and 2) the fragmentation of the advanced TV ecosystem into a million pieces - surely programmatic maturation demonstrates the value in consolidating quality inventory. Hoping we can sort those two out by 2030!

Jason Harrison

CEO, Americas (Minneapolis)

In 2009 I was working as the CIO of Mediabrands, and our biggest challenge was dashboards’ - flashy data visualizations that marketers could point to as evidence that they were on top of their media spends and the results they were driving. The problem was our dashboards couldn’t tell us whether advertising was actually driving ‘results’ - it was all about metrics like impressions and clicks. Today we know these measurements to be potentially unimportant and/or misleading, but in those days, it was all the rage. So what's changed? Now we know you can measure what's effective. My hope for the next ten years is that we’ll see more companies begin to do this in a meaningful and actionable way.

Manny Hernandez

VP Activation, Americas (New York)

Ten years ago I was in Chicago making the transition from buying television to buying digital media. That was the year a rep from an ad network pitched me and said his company had a new tool called a demand-side platform. I remember thinking 'what the hell is he talking about?' DSPs aren't a novelty anymore, but for me, a decade later, the big takeaway is that technology brings constant and rapid change. In such a dynamic environment, I’ve found that cultivating a few habits will allow a person to build a pretty decent career: curiosity coupled with continual self-directed learning, and a willingness to speak in plain language.

Erfan Djazmi

VP Client Partner, EMEA (London)

Ten years ago I was convincing P&G to invest in digital - increasing digital spend and building custom made-for-digital creative. A decade later, brands and agencies are still have those conversations. Automation has disrupted our industry - cleaned up spurious vendors, increased speed and put the control with advertisers - which has brought efficient and effective ways to buy media. But we still have some way to go to, particularly when it comes to traditional/offline media. Could that take another 10 years? While the industry could have advanced further even than it has, as a practitioner and consumer it has still been a decade of empowerment, allowing me to think bigger and do more. The pace of change - the evolution of platforms, tech, and vendors - has kept me on my toes and developed my creative side to work out how to use emerging tech in meaningful ways for clients.

Claire Zhao

General Manager Strategy, China (Beijing)

As a strategist in China, a lot has changed over the past 10 years. A decade ago, we worked with planners to develop strategy. Now, the very first thing we do after getting a brief is to speak to the analytics team. In a similar twist, 10 years ago traditional media planners briefed digital planners, whereas now, digital planners are briefing traditional media planners. And those planners might only be accountable for 10 million RMB each, instead of managing budgets of 100 million RMB. Even the mechanics and metrics have changed. 10 years ago, we bought digital media through CPD (cost per day) and paid in cash. Now, we buy CPL and pay by phone.

Tiphaine Tarhan

SVP Analytics (New York)

The transformation in technology and the underlying media environment over the past ten years has been fascinating. The explosion of screens has fragmented the media landscape like nothing before. Social media has transformed the way people access their news, who they trust, and what they choose to consume and marketers have had to adapt. Well-established businesses disappeared while others flourished overnight. Like Essence, the agencies and advertisers that have been the most successful are the ones that embraced the change, stayed close to their customers, and led through data and technology.

Jesse Cahill

SVP Product, Americas (New York)

I think the biggest change over the last ten years has been the integration of once fringe elements of digital marketing into the center. For example, it's strange now to think back on siloed mobile teams focused on ad network buys and point-solution measurement infrastructure. Smartphones, after all, were still in their infancy (only 25% of U.S. mobile subscribers even had a smartphone in 2010), and data usage was paltry in comparison to today (mobile data usage increased 73x from 2010 - 2018). Looking forward, it's easy to predict something similar happening to emerging channels like Advanced TV, Digital OOH, Digital Audio, Connected Cars, etc. On the other hand, I'm still waiting for 'Digital' to merge with 'Analog' channels across all teams, but we're making progress there, too!

Clare Chapman

SVP Media Planning, EMEA (London)

So much has changed in the last 10 years! In 2010 I was working at MPG (now sadly non-existent) leading the BBC business, which I loved. It was an exciting time for media planning creativity in the UK as many traditional channels had started to 'go digital', bringing a whole raft of new potential. It was also a frustrating time, with plenty of overclaim and under-delivery! As an industry, I guess we were all learning, which is one thing that absolutely has not changed and I hope never will; the reason I am still so engaged with our fabulous industry over 20 years after starting out. When the landscape moves so fast and you are forced to learn at least one new thing practically every day it can be thrilling, tough, sometimes exhausting, but always compelling.

Toby Roberts

VP Strategy, EMEA (London)

Oxford University Press published Byron Sharp's 'How Brands Grow' 10 years ago (well, 9 years, 9 months ago). Now widely accepted and quoted (and in truth a restatement of many of the findings that had been received wisdom for decades), at the time the book had a seismic effect on our industry, challenging the dominant narrative of personalisation, digitisation and the end of 'brand' as we knew it. Much of the discussion was fruitful, well timed and certainly much-needed but it also hardened into a conflict between devotees and detractors, which we're only now emerging from. Redefining the principles Sharp outlines in the book for a radically different era of media consumption and brand distribution is the challenge that lies ahead. Linked with this is the remarkable resilience of TV as a medium, given some of the apocalyptic predictions that were being made about it 10 years ago. Today, TV is still the most powerful creative medium (using adstock decay as a proxy), still reaches the vast majority of the population on a weekly basis, and still captures the cultural heartbeat of the nation. Over the next 10 years, however, we can expect the streaming wars will lead to increasing decline in the channel in commercial terms, meaning we will need more sophisticated and nuanced plans to meet our clients’ objectives. Lastly, power has shifted in the media agency landscape away from scale in terms of billings to scale in terms of technology. As media vendors become increasingly global, and our clients seek to in-house more and more of their activity, the ability to deploy more sophisticated technology, at scale, will be the true driver of agency success.