Carat: Redefining The Way Brands Are Built
Media Independents around the world apparently had no other choice than to agree with the conclusion of the Research Company Evaluating the Media Agency Industry (RECMA) that Carat, the world’s first media agency, was the No. 1 Global Media Network and the fastest growing agency in the world in 2016.
This is because apart from being an independent organization that publishes media agency notation reports on a global scale and provides strategic intelligence reference tools to help global advertisers in their decision-making and agency sourcing, RECMA is also the only research company that evaluates digital and media agencies worldwide.
Carat, established in 1968 and a part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, won the acclaim not only for its consistency in redefining the media landscape globally but also for creating better client business value through its command of media convergence in close to 50 years of doing business. With a firm presence in more than 150 countries servicing top notch clients, the agency currently employs more than 10,000 talented staff members worldwide.
For Carat, the purpose of doing business is to redefine its collaboration with clients, colleagues and external media partners. This implies continually challenging the media status quo by seeking to reinvent legacy media models and looking to do things differently in media.
As a catalyst that brings disruption to its clients’ brands, Carat is not tied to the conventions of traditional advertising agencies, which has afforded it a level of agility and independent thinking in responding to people’s rapidly evolving communication behaviours.
Little wonder that Carat was able to bring its global reputation to bear on its operation in the Nigerian market shortly after it opened shop in the country by immediately making it clear to the competition that it was out for serious business in a spectacular fashion. It did this by winning the much sought-after Diageo Guinness multi-billion Naira media business in Ghana and Nigeria after a keenly contested pitched with other top media independents in the country.
Igwe Okeke, Media Director, Media Fuse Dentsu-Aegis Network and consummate professional who is piloting the affairs of the agency in Nigeria, looks at how the global agency influences the local agency in Nigeria. “The global Carat brand drives innovation across the various markets for Carat and these innovations also come in forms of the tools we use, the systems we use, how we approach the client from a client service point of view, the structures and things like that.
“What this means, in essence, is that globally, we drive consistent performance which is shown in the kind of results, reports and awards that Carat is winning across the globe. We are very aggressive in understanding the global marketplace. Carat understands the global marketplace and tries to ensure consistency across the different markets.
“There may be local nuances that may be addressed in the course of delivering such consistent systems and tools. We take those things very seriously both locally and internationally.”
The agency sets out to redefine the media independent business as its primary mission. The agency does this in four ways by redefining insight, redefining planning, redefining investment and redefining business outcomes. In addition, Carat ensures that it creates better business outcomes for clients through its command of media convergence by combining strategy with expert specialist execution to deliver integrated solutions for clients – from integrated media ecosystems reflective of culture to data-enabled content delivered programmatically and optimised continuously.
Okeke further breaks it down. “How do we redefine media? We redefine media in several ways. We redefine media by redefining insights. We demonstrated this with the launch of the Consumer Connection System (CCS), which gives us a deeper dive into consumer understanding, media habit understanding, motivations and the likely action of the forecast of what will drive success for our brands and for consumers of our clients’ brand. We also used this to add value to brands.
“We also redefine communications and media strategy. What that means is that we are not just focused on media strategy alone but understanding holistically the consumer from a communication point of view.
“We also redefine media from a buying point of view by innovating media for our clients and we are consistent about that. Each goal or each target achieved helps us to drive that furiously and consistently without mincing words.
“We also redefine business outcomes. What exactly are business outcomes for our clients? It is not enough for a client to send me a media target. We will want to understand the business implication of that media target, the business objective and how it affects the marketing objectives, how the marketing objectives will lead to communication or how communication will affect the marketing objectives and ultimately, the impact of media in delivering those communication objectives.”
There is no doubt that the agency’s core competences give it an edge over the competition in the market. Some of these competences include communication strategy and planning, consumer insight, media buying, global media partnerships, branded content and product placement, content development, mobile media, search engine, marketing, social, sponsorship & experiential, data management and direct marketing and CRM.
However, as Okeke points out, it is not so much about the offerings and competences alone but about Carat’s contribution to the growth and successes of clients’ brands in the marketplace.
“Carat does not see media planning just as media planning. We do not see media buying as just media planning. We see it as a contributor to the business growth of our clients. Therefore, the question we ask our clients is what are the communication opportunities to drive business growth for their brands? We go for those communication opportunities, and then we take it from there up until how media will deliver that communication agenda.
“For instance, if a certain level of awareness is required for a brand, I should be able to justify to the client the contributions of media to delivering that awareness and be able to show it in tangible forms how that would help. In that way, I am not just doing media planning or media strategy. I am doing convergence strategy and planning. That is just one of the things that separate us from the rest. Like I said, our people are very key in driving these structures and ways of working.”
Another area in which Carat is clearly ahead of others in the industry is its young, vibrant, versatile, intelligent and highly mobile team.
“We are a very young set of people. I am not sure that there are many in the market that will have the array of young talents we have. We are not looking at 50 years or 20 years’ experience on the job. We are looking at people who are smart and who can drive business goals.
“The world is very fast. Technology is driving the way we live. Therefore, we need to be sure that we are in touch with modern technology and realities, and that we are making the right forecast and delivering on that forecast.
“If you have good systems, good structures and then you have good tools and then you don’t have the right people to manage these resources to deliver to clients, you will still not be able to deliver. So, it’s a combination of consistency in our systems, tools, structure and people that have contributed to driving the force of gravity of our company locally.”
The agency attracts the best of hands and continuously trains and retrains its people to keep them in touch with the evolving and dynamic character of the industry. Carat is always able to attract media and marketing professionals who are brave and are willing to challenge what has gone before – people who want to be the catalysts for change for our clients.
“We are very consistent in our manpower development. I think with the kind of system and tools that we have, we are attracting the best in the market in terms of human resource. We are also not ignorant of the fast pace of our system and our marketplace. As such, we invest in regular training of our staff both locally and internationally. We have a series of programmes for managers, we also have programmes for mid-level managers as well as for people just coming in as assistant executives.”
According to Okeke, most of the training programmes in the group are online. Participants write the exams and are awarded certificates on successful completion. Meanwhile, the agency ensures that it also monitors the growth trajectory of its workforce and reward accordingly.
Okeke reveals that the group has a global programme known as Route 500. The programme recognizes the outstanding performance of individuals within the group and empowers them to global leadership. The identified individuals are trained to become the future men and women that will take over the business of group as well as the business of Carat. Unsurprisingly, Okeke is a beneficiary of the Route 500 programme