Ex-Mindshare, OMD and Annalect leader Ilana Abrahams-Nolte talks to M&M Global about the challenge of building m/SIX in North America.
“The mission of the media agency is totally changing,” says Ilana Abrahams-Nolte, the newly-appointed president, North America, at m/SIX.
It is against this evolving background that Abrahams-Nolte was persuaded to swap her post as global managing group director at Omnicom-owned Annalect to join m/SIX’s fledging US operation.
Re-launched in the UK in 2012, m/SIX is a joint venture between WPP’s GroupM and The&Partnership, the holding group for creative shop CHI & Partners. It has expanded to Asia and North America, with clients such as Dow Jones, healthcare provider Aetna and real estate firm CBRE, and is now planning rapid growth out of its “very boutiquey, very cool” New York office.
Abrahams-Nolte, a former managing partner at Mindshare Worldwide and business management director at OMD USA, has plenty of experience working in big global media agencies, but is confident that m/SIX’s “refreshing” approach offers something unique to clients.
“We are doing things very differently; we don’t just talk about it,” she says. “It’s not the standard, traditional model anymore. You have to help clients along that path, and help them understand how analytics can better inform what they are doing. It is changing the media model and the agency model completely.”
Innovation and creativity
The rise and rise of content marketing is driving a revolution in the industry, claims Abrahams-Nolte, as is “changing the role everyone is playing”. However, given its close relationship with CHI and other agencies in The&Partnership, she does not believe m/SIX should follow other agencies into the content creation game.
“I don’t think we need to, right? We have innovation and creativity at our doorstep. We work in a very fused way with the The&Partnership, and it gets us more into the data and analytics. That is the core that fuels the good creative and good media planning strategy,” she says.
The rise of programmatic points towards a new, more strategic role for media agencies, argues Abrahams-Nolte (pictured, right): “The way I look at it, and what I tell my team, is that you have specialists on the ground and experts who understand the tactics, but there’s no one at a higher level who is pulling it all together.
“What you are doing cross-channel, and from an owned and earned perspective? That’s the kind of thing we’re doing more of – not just paid media, but from a communications perspective.”
And all of this strategic guidance is offered to clients with the backing of the mighty GroupM, but also the agility and flexibility of an independent agency, she says.
“For me, the short-term focus is just getting market presence in place, and getting everyone understanding and recognising that we have a different model, and a new approach to marketing,” says Abrahams-Nolte.
“It really is a more integrated marketing approach than you would find at a MediaCom or MEC. However, because we are still 50% owned by GroupM, we have the ability to leverage all $106bn of global buying clout.
“We can offer customers all those efficiencies, also with data and toolset availability. That is something our clients wouldn’t get at another smaller, independent shop.”