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[February 03, 2014]


(City A.M. (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) CARAT, part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, is the UK's second biggest media agency. Over the course of her career, chief executive Tracy De Groose has worked in marketing and communications on both the client and agency side. She talks to City A.M. about 2014's big challenges and adapting to a constantly changing industry.

When was your big break? Working at Whitbread Beer Company back in 1998, when I led Stella Artois from a top 20 to a top 10 fast-moving consumer goods brand. It was an exciting campaign that translated into business results, which is why I've always had an ambition as a marketer to find a way for media to drive value. A lot of media agencies still measure success on old metrics like reach and frequency.

But those metrics are less relevant today. Instead, we need to find ways for media to drive sales and, in this technology age, that's becoming ever more possible for all companies and brands.

What's unique about the way Britain does media? We are very good at the strategic planning side, and we have a dynamic, mature marketplace. There's a lot of creativity within that. But being a judge at the Cannes Lions Festival last year made me appreciate the scope of creativity that exists across the world. Latin America and Asia are both doing very interesting work - particularly in the Outdoor space. The UK would always see itself as a progressive market, ahead of the curve, which we are - but other places are catching up.

Over the course of your career, how has the industry changed? There has been a big transition in the last five years, driven by the rise of digital.

But I think we're at an inflection point. The biggest change is ahead of us in how that technology is used and adopted. Keeping up with that will be a key challenge for all brands and businesses.

Where is the market heading in 2014? One big trend we all talk about here is convergence: the point of engagement and the point of transaction is coming ever closer together. The good old days, when a customer journey was spread across different media - a TV ad, a press ad, a poster, possibly some direct mail - are over. Now, you can deliver an advertising message, a call to action and a transaction - even drive a repeat purchase - in one place, at one time.

We're responding by horizontally configuring our business. We are uniquely structured into six business units, which plan campaigns across all media, whereas many of our competitors operate in media silos. But all agency groups are grappling with the move away from that linear approach, as well as how to bring multi-disciplinary integrated teams together that can look more holistically at the marketing challenges our clients are facing.

What's the most exciting campaign you've worked on? We've just started working with British Airways. It's an exciting opportunity - its "Don't Fly. Support Team GB and Paralympics GB" campaign before London 2012 was brilliant. One campaign I didn't work on, but which I admired, was Channel 4's "Meet the Superhumans".

Do you have a catchphrase? I probably have way too many. We're in a people business, so it would probably be "Do unto others". Collaboration has to be part of how we as an industry work in the future. It will be less about competing with one another, more about working together in partnerships to get a brand message to consumers.

(c) 2014 City A.M.

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