Few people have experienced the transition from “analog transactional media buyer” to the “almost full-service provider” that is today’s media agency than Steve King. The CEO of Publicis Media had a bird’s eye view of the birth of Zenith Media in 1995, back when the notion of unbundling the media department from the full-service agency structure was heretical at best.

“When we set up, people like Martin Sorrell said ‘we’re never going to take media out of JWT or O&M,’” King recalls in an interview with Beet.TV at the annual IAB MIXX conference in Manhattan. “And of course now, 95% of all media is handled by these specialist media agencies. When you look back it’s like, ‘that’s a nice story,’ but there were car crashes and bumps in the road along the way.”

King himself started in an agency media department in London. “We were down in the basement along with the post boys and the photo copying machine,” he says.

Fast forwarding to the present finds media agencies at the epicenter of a new ecosystem juggling data, analytics and content. “A media agency is almost a full-service provider with relevance to the client,” King says. “Every single client’s business is being disrupted. So we’ve found ourselves not just as a media agency across all these different vehicles but we’ve got the opportunity to participate in the transformation of our clients’ businesses.”

About a year ago, Publicis decided “if we’re going to help our clients deal with this transformation, we’d better start transforming ourselves,” says King. That resulted in a thorough reorganization aimed at making it as easy as possible to work with entities under the Publicis Media umbrella.

Which leads to the on-one-hand, on-the-other-hand fork in the road epitomized by the rapid growth of all things digital and the rise of consumer power with regard to all things digital. ZenithOptimedia recently forecast that by 2018, 40% of all investment will be in digital media. “All of that is good,” says King.

“On the other side is this challenge we have about engaging consumers at a time when consumers are empowered by technology…they can find a way of circumventing our messages,” he adds.

One solution Publicis Media is developing to help its clients navigate the maze of digital audiences and platforms is a “Publicis ID,” which will enable it to make surrogates for individuals and to target them based on specific amounts of information, according to King.

“The clients will own that data, but we’ll be able to interpret the data in order to serve specific messages. It’s our way of making sure both the content and message is delivered in a way that enriches the online experience and they will be far less likely to want to opt out of our communication,” King says.

This video is part of Beet.TV’s coverage of the IAB MIXX Conference, 2016, presented by The TradeDesk. Please find additional videos from the Conference here.

IAB MIXX Conference 2016, presented by The TradeDesk