« Our sales revitalisation plan is on track »
How would you judge the first year of the sales development plan?
Our target is to win 1,000 clients net over five years and we are on track to achieve that. Even better than that, we are ahead of target after the first year. In 2017, we made significant efforts to identify potential clients, which has enabled AFP to reverse a negative trend, especially in the French market. The picture is now positive and we have to keep up this pace and even accelerate. We are fully up and running, but also aware that 2018 will require an additional push on the sales front.
What are the precise areas you will be concentrating this effort on?
Beyond purely identifying potential new clients, we hope to improve the average bundle per client. We need packages that are better tailored to expectations to generate more value. But we also need to work hard to keep our existing clients, which contribute to the value created by the Agency every year. We will therefore strive to enhance client relations as well as closely monitor for signals of interest from potential new clients. In particular, I think of the thousands of unidentified visitors to our afp.com website or our AFPForum platform. To find these potential clients, we are integrating new digital marketing tools into our systems. These data will feed the databases for the client relationship management software we are in the process of rolling out.
Speaking of clients, AFP video continues to attract more clients and even some very prestigious ones…
Video produced for television channels has been a great success. Clients have realised that the AFPTV product is now mature and better than the competition. That is what led the BBC to subscribe to our complete video feed (see the interview with Jonathan Munro on page 26), dropping another international agency. This decision has had an extremely strong impact on the market. Our brand has gained in strength worldwide. In 2017, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which supervises American public media broadcast abroad – like Voice of America or Radio Free Europe – also chose AFPTV. In addition, video continues to make progress in Latin America and we are very popular in Asia.
Has the ability to stream video live over the internet helped this upward trend?
It has been a decisive factor. With our AFPTV Live Select package via internet, we can broadcast to clients more easily, without needing a satellite feed, and we can offer them up to four feeds simultaneously. We have had some very positive feedback. Clients that have already moved over to the new system find the interface easy to use because all they need is an internet connection. On an organisational level, newsrooms can pick and choose from our programme of live coverage events. All this has boosted us in terms of sales with TV channels but also enabled us to offer live video to big digital and online players as well as platforms. We have opened a second Master Control Room in Hong Kong after the one installed in Paris in 2015. Thanks to this, we have considerably extended our working hours for centralising and routing live feeds.
Alongside video and sport, is the corporate market still a priority?
More than ever, because there is no shortage of demand from companies and big brands. Corporate clients are turning to us several times per year – there is a real appetite. The online services team at Chinese firm Tencent, for example, have started to ask for exclusive AFP-Services videos during fashion weeks. Tencent now wants packages during the Winter Olympic Games and the Football World Cup. But the corporate business also concerns text, photo, graphics and videographics. Our delivery via API (Application Programming Interface) should allow us to develop this field by moving us away from the logic of a pure 'wire' service towards breaking up our production into topics.
The development of API is therefore a mini-revolution in itself?
It improves the service in terms of access to our content. Rather than giving clients an “all or nothing” option, they can choose according to their actual needs. If they are interested in a specific segment, they will receive less content and their fees will be adjusted accordingly. Our packages and prices need to adapt to the needs of the market and the configuration of “the wire” does not completely enable us to do this. Our aim is to offer as wide a range of content as possible to all sorts of clients. This includes traditional media -- likely to want a large volume across the whole range of production -- but also clients with more targeted needs, which can make requests via API and be charged accordingly.
Is 2018 shaping up to be a good year for sales?
We are confident we will hit our targets but sales operations require constant and relentless work. Sport will require a great deal of engagement from the whole Agency in 2018, including on the sales side. In 2017, as well as the usual competitions, we covered – via AFP-Services – the Islamic Solidarity Games, working for sponsors or international federations. An agreement with Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) to get highlights from events like the Tour de France, the Vuelta or the Paris-Dakar race for AFPTV Sport was a big moment in terms of enriching our sports production. 2017 also saw a significant improvement in our delivery service, which has given us great pleasure. We have efficient tools in place to monitor our systems and anticipate system failures. This progress has greatly improved relations with our clients and gives us grounds for optimism.