Paul Wilson, Managing Partner, Strategy, Starcom MediaVest Group, is on the judging panel for the Effective Use of Tech category at the Warc Media Awards.

Warc's Lucy Aitken interviewed him earlier this month.

What is your take on the role of comms planning versus creative planning?

Where you talk to people and how you engage with them is becoming more important because increasingly, people can opt out of advertising completely. If you subscribe to Netflix or use an ad blocker, for instance, you can avoid a lot of advertising. So now you start with where to put the messaging and that's now defining the canvas the message goes into. People's paid media is decreasing – they don't have the budgets to achieve cut-through on TV anymore - so they have to do something else.  For instance, we want to reach gamers because the graphics on the Samsung Galaxy S7 are really good. But we're finding that gamers tend to have ad blockers so we're looking at in-stream advertising because they can't block that. Then you have to look at how you work around those things and add value. 


What has been the most useful new platform to emerge in the past five years?

Facebook. Social is overtaking search and Facebook has moved into messaging and live video. It just edges past Google, but between them, Google and Facebook take 65% of all adspend now.


What criteria do you use to assess an emerging platform?

In terms of the latest tech, we have a relationship with start-ups where we've worked really hard to sort out contracts and processes. We've had lots of success in getting projects off the ground with the likes of P&G and Samsung. When we look at start-ups, the areas we're seeing most people cluster around are mobile, social and market research and, broadly, the partners we're bringing in are in those areas. User-generated content is another area where we're able to plug into existing clients to help them adapt and move into emerging areas. Innovation at scale is about working with partners to move from a £10k test to a multi-market spend. We introduced Snapchat filters for Samsung Galaxy S7 and scaled it across 23 markets. It's about how you scale. Rather than 'test and learn' which always feels a bit passive, you've got to go big and go big quickly! If something has worked, it's about how you can rapidly push it across markets.


Spotify and Clear Channel claim that 100% of their inventory will be automated within five years. Will this also be the case for your business?

The long tail, yes. But there will always be a need for deep meaning that resonates with people. There's one way of looking at a customer journey or a customer experience where you look at each step and how you make it better. The other way is to look at the highs and lows of that experience – so what do you remember a week later after that experience? If you're shopping, a good interaction at a cash desk in terms of a rational reading would never come through because check-out took 53% longer than a benchmark. Yet the customer had a nice conversation with cashier. That's the danger of too much automation - we're not robots.


What will future media agencies look like? How do they need to adapt?

They need to be more fluid and flexible and that takes a hell of a lot of thinking about how you bake in agility to massive organisations. It comes back to clients, the questions they have and how you address them. You can see media agencies splitting into one part that's about automated buying - the heavily data-driven direct response model of agencies – and another part that's about understanding people rather than thinking that everything can be run off algorithms.


How does 'moment marketing' change the nature of comms planning?

Context has always been central to media. What we have now is more data to understand those moments. We could disappear into a world of hyper-personalisation and hyper-granularity without creating those big moments that bring people together. Marc Pritchard at P&G has talked about moving away from so much targeting and personalisation because they don't need it. There's a great thing with Coke where they found that sales went up when it snowed heavily because schools shut early and the kids were allowed out to play. They all went to a store and bought Coke. That makes snow days a big enough 'moment' on the happiness platform.

Can you cite an example of how data helped you uncover a surprising insight that informed future comms planning?

We found out from a client that there was a massive spike every year in cold and flu medicine when people get a cold. Yet unless they have a cold, they don't think about cold medicine. We used to advertise in December, but by that time they could have missed the season by a month. We looked at social data and at Twitter, and we could see that British people like to have a whinge about having flu. So we created these comedic videos to cheer them up in response to that. We would never have got there without seeing those data patterns.


Warc's Media Awards recognise comms planning which has made a significant impact on business results. Free to enter, there's a $40K prize fund. To enter your work, click here. Deadline for entries: 19 September.