Encounter with Ben Jansen (Medialaan – De Persgroep Publishing) & François Chaudoir (Space)

“Playtime in the digital world is over”

Encounter with Ben Jansen (Medialaan – De Persgroep Publishing) & François Chaudoir (Space)

“Playtime in the digital world is over”

A strong local media player in a globalised market: that can be the description for both the advertising agency Medialaan – De Persgroep Publishing and for the media agency Space. Ben Jansen and François Chaudoir understand each other – but that doesn´t mean they always agree with one another. “Medialaan – DPP is in a courageous and challenging position.”

Ben Jansen (43)
• Managing director advertising Medialaan – De Persgroep Publishing
• Lives in Melsbroek with his wife and three children (ages 9, 9 and 3)
• Loves football, cycling, travelling and classical music (plays the violin)
François Chaudoir (49)
• CEO Space since 2009
• Fascinated by travelling, books, film and his job
• Married, two daughters (ages 19 and 16) and one stepson (age 16)
Ben, why did you invite François Chaudoir?

Ben: We have more than 7,000 advertisers and many partners from the media agencies, but Space is nevertheless a special case. Not only because they are a strategic partner, but also because they are locally anchored, thanks to their special share­holding structure. Space is the only big media agency that, just like us, has to defend its position in a globalised and fragmented media world. Even if we have different revenue models, François and I understand one another because we face similar challenges.

François: Medialaan and Space (corrects himself), Medialaan – De Persgroep Publishing and Space… You guys have really got to find a better name, and fast. (laughs)

Ben: I´m aware of that, François. (laughs)

François: In any case, we´re both masters of our own future. International laws apply and therein we must find our unique identity. I think that we both want to guide and inspire. At the same time we cannot permit ourselves any errors, and that guarantees that the decisions you take will be well-considered ones. Both commercial and in terms of investments.

Let´s take a minute to review 2017.

François: 2017 was an exciting year. We had to work hard until the very last day to reach our goals. A number of things struck me over the past year. Big advertisers have more and more of a say, which doesn´t make things easier for us. In addition, I note that every medium is having difficulties, except radio. And I see that local media companies are adapting ever better to the digital reality, a reality that’s giving rise to new professions within our sector. Here it is appropriate to congratulate Ben and his team: even before the international discussion about brand safety and ad fraud erupted, they were paying a great deal of attention to the quality of their products. We both benefit from that. If the reach – certainly online – can now grow even further, then we are very much on the right path.

Ben: I see 2017 as the year in which we took further steps with a view to the future. Now that Medialaan and De Persgroep have merged into a single company, we can work on the online reach that François is talking about. We can face the future with local quality and a massive reach.

That gives me confidence, even if the digital advertising world is dominated by two international players. In this market, ´the winner takes all´ applies. You cannot come in second place. Our advantage is that these big players think that, with a single press of the button, they can manipulate virtually the entire world simultaneously, without taking account of local sensitivities.

Secondly, I see world players such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever putting on the brakes. Playtime in the digital world is over. Themes such as brand safety, viewability, third party measurement and transparency are now higher on the agenda everywhere. And that’s exactly what we’ve been striving for for some time now. I’m happy that all facets of online advertising are being looked at now. Online communication is no longer an end, but a means. And a means has to work. Locally we have that much more under control.   

“Our advantage is that these big players think that, with a single press of the button, they can manipulate virtually the entire world simultaneously, without taking account of local sensitivities.”

Ben Jansen

“I see that local media companies are adapting ever better to the digital reality. A reality that is giving rise to new professions.”

François Chaudoir

“Our advantage is that these big players think that, with a single press of the button, they can manipulate virtually the entire world simultaneously, without taking account of local sensitivities.”

Ben Jansen

“I see that local media companies are adapting ever better to the digital reality. A reality that is giving rise to new professions.”

François Chaudoir

The promise that everything is measurable online was never fulfilled. Do you agree with that, François?

François: It´s ambiguous. Everything is measurable, but we never measure everything. In addition, digital media were convinced that they could offer quality that was just as good as the traditional media. Quod non. We´re all sitting on an ocean of data, but I see that only now we are organising ourselves for how we can use these data in a good way. And not merely because it has to be.

I want to just return to Ben´s point. Thanks to the merger, Medialaan – DPP is the market leader. I’m happy to see that they are not giving the impression of resting on their laurels. The habits of consumers are changing in such a way that we cannot allow ourselves that. I don’t know whether the adaptations to these new consumers will go smoothly, but I do know that they will require investments. And they are causing commercial pressure.

Ben: François is right. Our position is generating a healthy stress. It´s not that we are suddenly investing in the digital transformation right now, since we´ve been doing this for years now. And this revolution costs a particularly large amount of money, but we are dealing with it in the right way. We never forget that our phenomenally powerful media constitute the heart of our company. We want to continue to grow, as a result of which we remain relevant. The advertising market profits from the fact that there’s a strong local media player who you know you can call on easily.

François: The crucial question you have to ask yourself is twofold. How do you maintain the quality, and how do you convey this to consumers? People are steadily using more platforms and devices and yet you will have to have an integrated offer for advertisers.

Ben: We will in any event have to get away from medium-thinking. That´s not at all how viewers, readers or listeners experience media any more. Thanks to the merger, we can think even better in terms of audiences. Although that´s been the Holy Grail for years now, of course, the answer to the question of how you find out how people move across different devices still hasn´t been found internationally. You also have to be able to pull it off methodologically.

François: (nods in agreement) Should I take the occasion to make an official appeal? We still work very conventionally in Belgium. If you want to change a TV spot, today that still takes up a great deal of time, even though we know that it can be done much faster. That requires investments, but we have to ensure that we can also translate the speed of action that we know from the digital world to TV. You can´t allow too large a gap to emerge between the two.

Ben: Duly noted. But I want to throw the ball back into your court for a second. I would advocate that the UMA (United Media Agencies), and thus also Space, strive for a much higher, uniform quality and measurement standard for online advertising. We shouldn´t settle for international standards, we can do a lot better..

Interview:

Freek Evers (De Morgen)
© 2017 - 2018 De Persgroep
Made with passion @Comfi
© 2017 - 2018 De Persgroep
Made with passion @Comfi