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Carnegie’s Den 2013

This time of year agency diaries are coloured with all manner of media events – TV up-fronts, new publisher projects are unleashed, and the general frivolity of pre-Xmas festivities find their way into the daily grind. However, this year there was something a little different in that mix which sparked my interest – enter Carnegie’s Den.

Carnegie’s Den is the first partnership between investment capital firm MH Carnegie, and media industry rag Mumbrella – setting out to find the best new ideas in media & technology. After a brief call-out for ideas in aforementioned trade press title, a shortlist was formed, and voila! – an afternoon of the 8 best start-up ideas currently on offer in the land of Oz. These were to be judged by a small handful of industry icons – Mark Carnegie of MH Carnegie, former adman John Singleton, Rebekah Horne (TEN Chief digital officer), and Tim Burrowes (Mumbrella).

So what sparked my interest in this late October romp? MH Carnegie has recently set up an innovation fund of $120M – certainly nothing to sneeze at, and certainly a lot to gain for a hopeful  and ambitious young start-up. But why partner with Mumbrella? Not only was I curious about the ideas being put forward, of which I’ll highlight a few at the close of this article, but it was something that I hoped would lend itself to shedding light on the following question:

In an increasingly digital world, can media – or more correctly, can media agencies – play a larger role in the formation, development and optimisation of business decisions? 

Most would agree that media & marketing will often lie on the periphery of a brand’s core business decision making. But within the growing and evolving digital world – home of consumers, and where many brands are still finding their feet – should this really be the case?

Media & technology are driving the business of start-ups. Carnegie did not choose these areas by accident, they are significant growth streams. Media agencies in turn are possessed with the most intimate knowledge in new media technology usage. The logical conclusion to this would be to unite them from the start.  This is what Carnegie has done.

This truth for start-ups should in no way be lost on existing brands, because what we’re working through now is many businesses moving from one age into another – translating their business footprint into the digital space with varying degrees of success (i.e. the growth stream).  Media agencies are developing consumer insights constantly that can objectively address some of those critical questions up-front: ‘How will it be received? What aspects of the concept / product will stop it from being adopted? Will it be developed with high level marketability in mind?’ Together we can help optimise the strength of the product, the model, adoption against different consumer segments, and ultimately work to lifting media ROI and brand health measures.

All in all this sounds very theoretical and quite utopian. But I don’t believe it is a Matrix-style scenario, this is not just something that lives in my mind.

Earlier this year I sat in a room over a period of 7 weeks with a retail client to discuss the long term plans for the business, and what they needed look at changing in the coming years . In the room were heads of division from marketing, business, buying, media, creative & brand research. What started as a consumer segmentation project for better media targeting, progressed to the coming together of all facets of the business to collectively strengthen the brand as a whole, for the long-term. This was only the early stages of discussion that will run for the next few years, but it sure did leave me hopeful. And ironically, only when the segmentation work was adopted throughout the entire business could media truly work its heart out and reach its highest level of accountability.

So after my sessions earlier in the year, as well as Carnegie’s Den more recently, I think the answer to my question is ‘Yes we can’.  If investment capital firms are acknowledging the role media entities can play in recognising the potential strengths of not only new business ideas, but improvements to those business models, then it is probably high time we joined hands earlier on. By no means am I suggesting that media agencies hold all the answers. We are still specialists in a certain field. But what I would like to do is open the door to the idea that perhaps we can start to close that distance between business decisions being made, and media supporting it after the fact. We talk often of integration when it comes to brands and media platforms, and I think that same principle applies here.

Finally, my top 3 start-up ideas from Carnegie’s Den 2013:

  1. Cloudherd: Fully integrated livestock inventory and trading system, negating the need for costly inspection trip. My thoughts? Quality control. Also, brilliant as it works for an entire industry.
  2. Food Orbit: Making buying & selling local and responsibly farmed food simple by enabling wholesale buyers of food (chefs & restauranteurs) to connect & trade directly with local farmers & producers online. My thoughts? I love the local and the green stamp, as do a whole lot of other people.
  3. RentSmart: Landlord software and guru advice for self-manage your property. My thoughts? This was presented so well that part of me wished I owned a property simply to deny the real estate agency their 6% for doing nothing throughout the year.