Martin Cass is currently the CEO of Assembly, a the media agency of record for AMC and responsible for generating engagement with some of today’s most popular shows. Prior to Assembly, Cass was Carat, as well as across Europe at some of the recognizable brands. The Makegood recently spoke with Cass about his provocative viewpoints on creativity and programmatic.
The Makegood: You have almost twenty years of experience in media. Could you discuss some of your views on what media is or should be? How do you believe your views differ from others in the industry?
Literally everything is media. Digitization has gone beyond connecting people; it now connects us to things, and those things to other things. Your car is a connected mobile device in which the engine provides data to its management system. The management system actually knows when it needs to be serviced, when a tire needs to be changed, and if there’s been an accident. Understanding this and how to build this capability within it changes the way tires, insurance companies and dealerships can be marketed. Although this makes the media ‘ecosystem’ more complex because we must think more broadly, it also provides us with far more opportunity than ever before. At Assembly, we’ve begun working collaboratively with all sorts of different solution providers to consider how to build relationships between brand and people, rather than simply exploit what was already there. We are paving the path for the industry by ensuring we utilize an entrepreneurial approach to developing creative media technology, while tapping our strong roots and experience in media.
The Makegood: What do you think about programmatic buying? Do you find it stifling of human creativity?
Automation is the key to unlocking creativity. It simply isn’t possible for people to carry the workload of assessing, managing and acquiring the volumes of atomized inventory that make up the vast majority of media opportunities. That work has to be done by using technology under human supervision. By removing the time and cost of delivering the foundational media buys, we free up time for people to look creatively at big opportunities. We like to think of these as “media properties around which marketing programs can be built.” If these programs are done well, they can be transformational to clients and brands – but to get it there takes time, energy and imagination. Programmatic is here to stay and we should embrace it in order to carve out more time for creativity.
The Makegood: How do you think technology has both helped and hindered creativity in the media industry?
If you think of the world’s most “creative” companies you probably think mostly of technology companies like Google and Apple. At Assembly, we think of ourselves as a media company built around brilliant technology. Technology is absolutely there to enable creativity, and the fact that so many companies fear it is a problem.
The Makegood: What differences do you see in the way media is utilized in other countries? Are European countries any more or less partial towards creativity in their media?
As someone who has spent more than half of my career in Europe, I can say confidently that the raw talent in both North America and Europe is fantastic and equal in terms of creativity. What is different is the size of the U.S. It’s just more difficult to deliver a creative solution at scale in the U.S. because of its size and scale. Most countries in Europe have economies that are smaller than Texas or California, so to take a creative risk costs less, can be delivered faster and has a disproportionate number of people working on the idea versus the spend involved. For example a brilliant creative idea delivered in (say) London, Birmingham and Manchester will be picked up across the country and quickly gain enough momentum to have a national impact. Geographically those cities would fit between Philadelphia and Boston. But technology is “shrinking” the U.S., and ideas can be scaled better than ever before at lower costs. Now is the time to grasp the opportunity. You will see U.S. talent be able to express itself more freely in the same way that my friends in Europe have done.
The Makegood: How do you plan to continuously encourage creativity?
It’s about culture. So many people set out not to lose rather than playing to win. Once that mindset gets into the culture, creativity is stifled and the status quo rules. I am lucky being part of MDC Partners where the culture is defined by the idea that creativity is a powerful force for business success and we encourage everyone to play to win.
The Makegood: What do you see for the future of media?
The only thing I can say with absolutely certainty is that there hasn’t been a more exciting time to be in media than now, and that this industry is only at the beginning of the technological advancements that will drive creative opportunity. The future is as bright as we want to imagine it.
The Makegood: Thank you, Martin.