Kristian Baek-Mikkelsen is the Senior Partner of Engagement Planning, MEC. Kristian is an experienced media professional that recently moved to New York from Copenhagen, Denmark. There he spent time at major agencies including Mediacom, Grey Communications and Brandhouse. We recently spoke with Kristian about his experience and new role.
The Makegood: Kristian, you co-founded MEC’s strategic and digital offering “Since Twenty Ten” (STT) in the Copenhagen office. Can you tell us about the offering and why there was a need for it?
When I joined MEC in Denmark about seven years ago, I was a part of launching the first real Communications Planning offering in the Nordics. That was a major milestone for what was “allowed” in media. Strategy and insight were considered ad agency turf back then. We helped change that perception. Over the last few years, the communications landscape has changed dramatically. Media and messaging has become much more integrated, making the two harder to separate. We quickly discovered significant benefits for our clients by developing the two in unison. Moreover, we saw that social media, tablets and mobile technology created opportunities that the ad agencies weren’t answering. Back then, the Danish digital agencies, by and large, weren’t equipped to develop good consumer centric communication or they didn’t have the right relationship with clients. So there was a big opportunity for us to use our insight into what was possible in all the new technologies and combine that with our understanding of the consumer and how to reach them. All we had to do was hire some good programmers and creatives and we were good to go. That’s really why and how Since Twenty Ten started – we responded to a client need and in the process pushed the boundaries for what a media agency could offer.
The Makegood: You recently joined MEC North America from the Copenhagen office. Can you tell us about some of the major differences between the two?
The one major difference is that a lot of the money has been squeezed out of the traditional commission-based media business by procurement, the recession, etc. in Denmark. Since the market size, and thus the budgets, are a lot smaller in Denmark, but the time it takes to develop a media strategy, negotiate with vendors and secure placements is about the same, the business model changed. Seven years ago, almost all of the revenue in media came from the traditional media side. Today, it could be less than half – depending on the agency. At MEC in Denmark, we found new revenue streams by developing our offerings in event and sponsorship, insight and analytics, strategy and digital, creative, econometrics, etc. In many ways, this is definitely a taste of what’s to come in other larger markets, like the US. And indeed at MEC in the US we’ve been pioneering these types of offerings. The lines between agency specialists– media, ad, digital and research are blurring in the smaller markets. At scale these lines are more set.
The Makegood: Can you tell us about your role as Senior Partner of Engagement Planning? Where does it begin and end?
The central part of my work is to develop consumer insight and brand strategy with our client teams and tie these back to our clients’ business objectives. At MEC, the role of the engagement planner is also very much about venturing further into the ideas and concept territory.
Personally, I have always been fascinated by emerging media, and the coming of branded utility with the introduction of Nike+, back in 2005 or 2006, really revolutionized my idea of what I thought advertising and media should be. I have spent a fair amount of time developing utilities for clients since. The US media business is still very focused on media channels, probably more than I’m used to, so I my role here is more skewed towards insight and strategy. I expect more collaboration and co-development with our many partners at the digital agencies and ad agencies. I also expect to spend a certain amount of time training our staff on strategy development through MEC’s planning process, Navigator.
The Makegood: What are your plans and expectations for the role over the next 12 months?
The first three months have really been hitting the ground running, which is ideal when you start in a new position. On a professional level, my hopes and expectations are that I’ll learn a lot from my new colleagues, clients and collaborators while sharing my experiences, expertise and adding value to the clients and the agency. I want to keep growing as a marketer, as MEC wants to grow as an agency. Hopefully, those two journeys are interlinked! There has not been a more exciting time in media since Gutenberg invented the printing press and Da Vinci drew the Vitruvian Man. Media is changing the way people talk and relate to each other across geographical and social boundaries. We’re just starting to figure out how to harness the power of all these new technologies and opportunities for our clients. That’s what I want to do. What a perfect time to work in this business.
The Makegood: Thanks, Kristian