Satin Reid

Satin Reid On Disrupting The Old Media Models

EssenceMediacom 'new-ish' COO talks about the future shape of the business and changing expectations for what’s possible

By Creative Salon

There's an army of senior women running media agencies in the UK. And very successfully. Add to that list Satin Reid - who was earlier this year promoted from MD to chief operating officer at EssenceMediacom UK. Reid joins the ranks of other senior female leaders at the agency, at whose helm sits Kate Rowlinson - part of the EssenceMediacom story for over ten years, running MediaCom as the CEO, before transitioning into CEO at the merged behemoth that is now EssenceMediacom UK.

Reid succeeds Luke Bozeat - who has been appointed the COO of GroupM. Having started in the industry as a media planner at Universal McCann, Reid spent much of her early career in planning and strategy roles initially at Michaelides & Bednash and later at Carat/Dentsu and joined MediaCom in 2017. In her new role, Reid will oversee key accounts and be responsible for helping the agency grow organically in the market.

We caught up with Satin Reid to talk about her new job, her "bloody mindedness" and how in this era of seismic technological, economic and cultural shifts, a new agency model will drive business growth.

Creative Salon: Congratulations on your promotion to COO. What does the new role mean?

Satin Reid: It's about the future shape of the business. And that is a big, exciting shift for me.

As the MD I was responsible for all the client teams. And Luke - in his previous role - was responsible for all the specialist divisions such as data analytics, insight, content, etc. And we worked brilliantly together. But I said to Kate [Rowlinson] that the key is how you make those two things work really together rather than having them run separately. So I still have some responsibility over clients, but it's moved much more into those specialist capabilities, and - importantly - organic growth, and even more importantly, looking at the future shape of the business. As a business, where do we invest? What are the future capabilities, the new skill sets for tomorrow? How do we rebuild the agency around the things that are going to change? Asking these questions is what my role is all about. And it's super exciting.

But the relationships we have with clients, I think, is probably the core of where my role is also at. Anybody who works at an agency will know that your job doesn't really change from when you're very, very junior - it's always been about keeping clients happy; making work that is good; and making money for the agency and the clients. It's all about the clients and always will be.

From strategy to an operational role - was that always the plan?

When my amazing boss Kate asked me what I wanted to do next - and I always had my eye on this role - I just had to say yes to the role. But was that the plan? I don't think so. Just that I've been in the right place with the right people and there's always opportunities. I've always taken those opportunities.

Michaelides & Bednash was the turning point in my career - it was the best agency in town at that point and at its pinnacle when it came to communications strategy. And then when I was at Carat, I was asked to run Diageo for Northern Europe. Another pivotal moment in my career. I kind of grew up with that business. It was so huge and culturally a brilliant business to get to know and run. And then in 2017 when Josh [Krichefski - now GroupM CEO for EMEA and the UK] asked me to join MediaCom as the MD it was a big, big leap for me. Also at one of the biggest agencies ever! And now this.

You started you career as a strategist - do you miss the craft and art of of doing pure-play planning?

I don't miss it. But I never want to be far away from it, much to some people's dismay. I will never not be thinking about the brilliant insights or the right story and the narrative that moves the brand. I think it's really important, and the most difficult thing in an agency to preserve is the quality of the work. Perhaps that just makes me a slightly different leader, in the sense that I've got that [planning] part of me as well. Kate is the same. She's also a former planning strategist in a leadership role. I think it's very cool that the business has planning and strategy quite central to the way we lead. Strategy to operations feels like quite a big stretch - but I love it.

You talk about the future shape of the business. What are you most excited about looking into the future?

I started off working at a full service agency. I was part of what was once called McCann Erickson and I worked in its media department. We were just breaking out as Universal McCann - at that point under Trista Grant, who was this super-woman. And it was very clear at that point that the creative was still very much leading the media. Rebalancing those two things, I think that is really exciting. We're just getting back to that point where everything is connected, and the fact that everything - media, creativity, innovation, data - is perhaps playing a more equal part is really interesting. What also excites me is this relationship between content and media - given so much content is appearing on so many different platforms, the relevance of those platforms and the way that they're consumed is so different. So you have to bring those two things together in that context.

And the best bit? Tapping into what is still quite untapped - all the data and information we have on our clients. We're all still kind of grappling with what the right data is to use and how we use it and how that drives real distinctiveness and differentiation for our clients, especially on the big platforms where it's becoming quite automated. So that for me is super exciting, because that's going to be the magic that agencies bring, and the advantage in the marketplace. That's where I want to be. I came from one of the most brilliant agencies Michaelides & Bednash - which was at the pinnacle of communication strategy and now I'm on the leadership team of an agency that is disrupting the old models across media, creative, content and data.

From the cost of living crisis to AI to the complexities around data - what are the immediate concerns of clients and what are they demanding from their media agencies now? And what are the biggest challenges?

All of the above.

The real question is how do you connect all these things? How do you bring new services and products to clients that are going to make a real difference, when the market is more challenging than I can ever remember? And then the flip-side of that is the pressure on budgets. So what does that mean for driving efficiencies? What does that mean for communicating more effectively? How do you make the best out of media budgets that you have? Be that through measurement or analytics or the way in which you use channels differently. The effectiveness and the impact of what we're doing is more important than it ever has been. So it's challenging from all angles.

How is the 'new' EssenceMediacom set up to help drive that organic growth for existing clients? And perhaps simplifying some of those challenges?

As 'just' MediaCom we had brilliant brand strategy, consumer insight - all at a global scale. The coming together of MediaCom and Essence brings our DNA and theirs - that of brilliant data and analytical performance - all together. We already had some of that as MediaCom, but now it sits at the core of our business. Clients want brilliant efficiency and are asking us 'how am I going to make the best of my budget and extract all the value?'. And also how can I make sure that I'm really properly connecting, driving distinctiveness and really understanding consumers? As EssenceMediacom we are brilliantly placed to answer these questions.

I also think that agencies just need a kind of refresh every so often. And that energy and the cultural shift that's been created by bringing these two businesses together has been so transformational and really exciting to work with. And the timing couldn't have been better, when everything feels like it's up in the air. Business is super volatile. And EssenceMediacom has the capability to help businesses and brands navigate this very uncertain era.

Let's talk about leadership and leadership skills. You are joining the ranks of several wonderful and powerful women running media agencies in the UK - a welcome step change. What skills helped you get to where you are at now?

Just bloody mindedness. And also massive amounts of determination to succeed in this business.

It's hard and it's very tough and you need to be very, very committed to the cause. But as a leader you also need to have an element of humility and a level of self-awareness. I've worked with quite a few leaders that perhaps don't have those qualities and it's always such a turn-off. So understanding and humility have become really important to me. And hopefully, I have a bit of that.

Also, sometimes serendipity and sometimes having people that believe in who you are helps. What I now know about me is that I have the ability to bring strategic thinking in a commercial context. But when I started out in the planning department I thought I was an alright strategist, didn't think I was amazing. It was Tracy De Groose [the former CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network UK] who once said that she needed me to run a piece of business, and I said: "I don't do client leadership stuff". So she said, "don't worry about all that other stuff that you don't do, we'll find someone else to do that". Obviously, they didn' I had a really steep learning curve. But I just had an epiphany at that moment - that I can do both of these things brilliantly. That realisation sort of shaped my career really. Having quite divergent skills has been quite useful to me.

What is that one thing you would want to change in this industry?

Diversity and inclusion. It's an obvious thing to say, but it's been a huge challenge for the industry. At EssenceMediacom we're committed to making a change and creating inclusive environments but even then shifting that dial [on DEI] has been a challenge. I would love to see more women and men of colour being more senior in agencies. I'm Iranian and I can see how very white our industry is. Yes, there are more women running businesses in advertising and that is brilliant. But we haven't quite cracked the diversity thing, have we? I would love to see some real shifts happening. There's still plenty of room at the top.

Tell us about one of your favourite pieces of work from EssenceMediacom?

For me it has to be Pre-Loved Island work for eBay. It was a stroke of genius I think, where eBay's partnership with Love Island meant that we were able to convince its target audiences that second-hand clothes are cool and stylish. I have re-discovered my love for pre-loved clothes. And the eBay Pre-Loved Island work is genius on so many levels, changing people's behaviours and attitudes - it will always be one of my favourite works.

Also sustainability is another thing I think I would like to change about our industry. This summer we all watched the fires across Europe and it just feels like it was a peek into the future. And we're not doing very much about it. It's something we just haven't cracked. The change can only come when we are very, very focussed on being part of the change.


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