Susie Sell
Jun 7, 2012

Trio of experts discuss impact of digital on creative agencies

SINGAPORE – In a wide-ranging, candid interview, Y&R’s Jonny Lang, Ignition Factory’s Jeremy Paul and Microsoft Advertising’s Jason Scott talk about the latest trends in digital and the impact those trends will have on creative agencies.

(L-R) Jonny Lang, Jason Scott, and Jeremy Paul
(L-R) Jonny Lang, Jason Scott, and Jeremy Paul

On using digital to interact with consumers and build brand loyalty...

Lang: With storytelling, the fundamental thing with regard to brands is that most people aren’t. With some of the social platforms going forward, it is going to be very hard. But some of these new platforms developing around what people are interested in, versus just what they do socially, seems to be a more natural place for them to go and play and start to interact with people.

Paul: I suspect one of the reasons why Facebook has such low number of active [brand] evangelists is because the ask is too big for too little reward. Why would I bother? It’s much more about how brands get into those conversations. It’s about how do we do stuff that’s interesting for people to adopt it and do it easily and readily and naturally.

Scott: This idea of advertising as a service is bloody useful. When you do not have any trade-offs between utility and delight in terms of the experience it’s a very powerful mix, which I think builds a lot of loyalty.

On the next big thing in digital…

Lang: There are a lot of buzzwords, the latest new shiny thing. But who knows if it will still be there in three months. One of things it is important to do is remember that these [digital tools] are telling stories for brands. We have been doing that for decades. These are just new things in our palette to do that in a more interesting way. We shouldn’t get too intoxicated by the new all the time.

Paul: I don’t even know what “gamification” means because it’s not even a word. When brands feel a desperate need to glue another bit on to look cool, they don’t look cool. They look like a divorced uncle dancing at a disco. Stop it. The basics of what we do is to get people interested in the core bit of a brand by magnifying those out instead of saying, “Oh, we have to have a game”.

On how to best leverage data…

Lang: There is so much data out there that no one is using or able to use because there is too much of it. I think brands should focus on getting the basics right, not trying to sell me stuff I’ve already got. It’s when you become an algorithm though that [data] really gets in the way. My wife’s been using my Amazon account to buy random stuff for the Queen’s Jubilee. And I’m now being recommended all sorts of rubbish on Amazon. I found that quite annoying. You need to use the data in a human as way as you can.

Paul: Recommendation engines are really literal, that’s why they are so annoying. Because they are really old they tend to not be sophisticated enough to recognise trends. Data gives you hidden connections that people don’t even know about, it shows the overlaps we have with each other but it also shows the differences, which brands can use to become overlaps. And that is the real beauty of it. It shows them things that they don’t even know they are interested in yet.

On the impact of digital on the creative agency model…

Lang: The job of modern creatives is to understand what’s possible, they don’t need to know how to do. Someone else can go and do that. They don’t need how to code. A modern creative needs to do what a Microsoft, Facebook, Google API will do. They need to know how Twitter works. They can then commission a production company, just like they did with TV.

Scott: I think the traditional creative agencies will be the next real propellant behind the digital advertising industry. To date it’s really been media-led, because you had to work out how to play and buy the thing, traffic ads, measure. There’s been a bunch of big hurdles to get through. But you are never going to swap out the value of a great idea and great insight.

Lang: It’s important that we open our eyes and look at the most interesting stuff that’s being done in media and creative agencies around the industry and learning from that. The old mass-media operating system has gone. We need to understand that everything now is social and interactive and has game mechanics in it. If we do that we will be fine, but if we bury our heads in the sand, we won’t.

On the media / creative divide…

Lang: One of the most important groups to learn from and hang out with is the media guys. We have been pulled apart for a couple of decades now. Coming back together is crucial.

Paul: It’s not a meaningful divide. The idea that one fights the other is a discussion from 10 years ago. It’s about getting people to tell the stories to each other. It’s the key thing we do. How we do that and the name of the agency or the type of agency is absolutely irrelevant to me, because it’s irrelevant to consumers. The consumer benefit is in the overlap of agencies growing up and working together.

Scott: It just signals to me that we are in another growth spurt. This is an age-old debate, and when this debate starts are when things are being blurred. Everyone is trying to do the best for our clients and when it gets a bit blurred that’s when you start to see this competitiveness come out.

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