CIO of the Month
ZenithOptimedia is a leading global media services network with over 7,500 people working in 262 offices across 74 countries. We speak to CIO and Head of Data Sciences Ian Liddicoat about the vital role he has played in the firm’s success.
Please give us a brief, overall description of ZenithOptimedia and the work you do.
ZenithOptimedia is a leading global media services network with over 7,500 people working in 262 offices across 74 countries. We are part of Publicis Groupe, the world’s third largest communications group, and the world’s second largest media agency group.
As the first agency to apply a rigorous and objective approach to improving the effectiveness of marketing spend, ZenithOptimedia delivers to clients the best possible return on their communications investment. This philosophy is supported by a unique approach to strategy development and implementation across the full spectrum of paid, owned and earned contact points – the Live ROI planning process.
The ZenithOptimedia Group of companies equips our clients with a full range of integrated skills across communications planning, value optimisation, performance media and content creation.
Tell us more you role and responsibilities as CIO. Are there any additional responsibilities you hold alongside this role?
I am Chief Information Officer (CIO) and also Head of Data Sciences. As CIO I am responsible for defining and implementing our strategy with regards to data, technology and analytics. The majority of my work is client facing and as digital, programmatic buying and the use of data increases in importance it is an interesting time.
Data Sciences has a broad remit that includes software development, data visualisation and Consulting. Within Data Sciences sits Ninah, which delivers a broad range of analytical products including digital attribution, econometrics and long-term brand effects. The integration of the people and products across these disciplines and connecting them to our strategic planning product is a unique feature of our business.
Please tell us about your approach towards hiring staff. How do you ensure you source and retain the best talent in the industry?
In our industry the best talent is in high demand so we use a wide range of specialist recruitment companies, particularly for Developers and Analysts. We are fortunate that our own talent team has taken the time to really understand our specialist field so our recruitment process includes a number of modelling or coding tests for specialist roles, particularly in areas such as machine learning. Retaining staff in this field requires a focus on advanced techniques and ensuring individuals are exposed to wide range of markets, industries and business issues.
Please give us an insight into the Return on Investment market currently. What are the challenges/ opportunities you find working in this market?
ZenithOptimedia is uniquely positioned as The ROI Agency. Therefore, our focus in everything we do is in enhancing the relationship between our clients and their customers on an increasingly profitable basis. As a media agency it is not always possible for us to access the granular data we need to build sophisticated measures of ROI but as charging models increasingly become performance-based this will need to change.
Please give us an insight into your region. What are the main challenges and opportunities of being based in the UK?
I have a global role so the UK is ideally situated from a geographical and time zone perspective. More importantly, the UK is one of the most advanced nations in the world when it comes to adopting new technologies and new methods for generating value from so-called big data. We have been a nation of explorers and that is the perfect mind-set for a Data Scientist.
When working in an industry that is constantly evolving, what measures do you take to ensure that you are at the forefront of any emerging developments?
There is no doubt that the growth of digital and programmatic buying requires media agencies to adapt and ensure that data, advanced analytics and technology are at the heart of their business. In many respects the best way to keep up is to be ahead, and I believe in many ways ZenithOptimedia is doing just that, such as in the application of Machine learning to optimise the relationship between media and digital sales.
Tell us about your overriding philosophy when it comes to your clients. What do you see as the most vital areas to focus on when it comes to providing the best possible service?
We are a diversified agency so we have a range of services from content to performance, analytics and the more traditional media buying. Our philosophy ‘Live ROI!’ means we continually optimise our activities to deliver the best possible return for our clients and enhanced relationship with their customers. Our service levels are a function of our people and in ensuring we fully understand our clients, their challenges, opportunities and constraints and strategy.
Tell us about the culture within your agency and the things you do to maintain and develop it. How does it influence your interactions with and results achieved for your clients?
ZenithOptimedia is a people business so maintaining a culture that is clear to our staff and our clients has always been a priority. We work with specialist training companies such as “Upping your Elvis”, run numerous social events under the “Percy Club” banner and have a long established employee exchange program called “Live my Life” where we give team members the chance to live and work with a colleague in another office across our global network.
There is no doubt that this generates an energetic and infectious culture that our clients recognise and value and we see it as major point of differentiation.
What makes your company unique? What separates you from your competitors and marks you out as the best option for your clients?
Our culture and our focus on delivering ROI is a very clear point of differentiation for us and is referenced repeatedly in our independent client assessments. Beyond that we are committed to innovation. The creation of Data Sciences as a discipline, the move to bring our programmatic function into the Agency, and the links between these two things is unique among media agencies. I am sure this will be replicated but we will continue to innovate as we continue to cement ever closer partnerships with our clients. This gives us the remit to challenge our clients’ thinking in a constructive way, as much as support it.
What does the future hold for your agency? What are your plans for 2016 and beyond?
The media sector continues to face change on a massive scale. Much of this is driven by consumer behaviour where the continuing rise of the mobile device, cross-device media consumption, privacy and the constant demand for increased personalisation and relevance are just a few examples. These behaviours and the presence of businesses such as Google, Amazon and Facebook and their ability to present relevant content to consumers means we have to build (but not rest) on our rich history in this sector.
Name: Ian Liddicoat
Telephone: 020 7961 1000