2013 challenges: Peter Biggs

2013 challenges: Peter Biggs
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Peter Biggs, chief executive at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, shares the challenges facing the creative industry in 2013

2013 will be a year when the usual fog of war – for clients and agencies – will become more intense.
Why?

In the reception at Clemenger BBDO/Melbourne, we have a poster on the wall. It’s a quotation from the great broadcaster, Edward R Murrow, who was immortalised in George Clooney’s movie Good Night, And Good Luck: “Anyone who isn’t confused doesn’t really understand the situation.”

This seems to capture the reality of where clients and agencies find themselves in this shape-shifting, always-on world.

In the first decade of the 21st century, we have moved from a marketing environment focused on power (spend, weight and scale) to one focused on agility. The game is now not about share of share – but speed of share. The consumer now is the medium. Earned media – not owned media or bought media – is the pearl of great price.

With this in mind, all of us who lead organisations are being called upon to make the kind of lightning quick and seemingly contradictory decisions taken by Marshal Foch which won him and the Allies the pivotal Battle of the Marne in 1914 and saved Paris from the invading German army:

"My right is driven in. My centre is giving way. Impossible to manoeuvre. Situation excellent. I attack.”

The biggest challenge facing Clemenger BBDO/Melbourne in 2013 is to gear the agency, in terms of structure and culture, to not only respond to this new world – but to lead it.

We’ll have to do this running forward through dust and smoke. Even so, we can glimpse the faint shadows of what needs to drive us. And the largest and most distinct shadow is “digital”.

But what do we mean by “digital”? A large part of today’s fog of war is confusion within clients and agencies around defining digital. We all want it – and we all want to do it. But what is it? Come with me as I grope for an answer.

In order to thrive, brands need to create compelling experiences that are powered by, and made relevant through, social connections people value.

As brands seek to engage people rather than simply broadcast messages to them, digital is key. The opportunities it offers are significant but equally the challenges can be stifling, not least because the balance of power between brand and consumer has changed to the latter’s advantage.

At the heart of this new ecosystem of engagement is the need for marketers and their agencies to create strategies, customer journeys and experiences that are not just ‘liked’ but lead to genuine advocacy. This is the measure of success because nothing can compete with the persuasive power of individuals spreading brand information through their personal networks.

By advocacy, I mean going beyond an affinity with a brand to a more personal, intuitive connection with a product or service – a cause even – that you feel bonded to and passionate enough about to share with others. A brand has much more power and depth if people want to join it – rather than simply buy it. Let’s face it, a lot of the so-called doctrines of “top down” brand theory have been turned on their heads in recent years. To affect people’s behaviour we now need to understand diametrically opposite influences – mass and personal.

Broadly as a society, we are now being influenced by the wisdom of experts and the wisdom of crowds but on a more personal level, subjectively, the wisdom of friends will always be more relevant. This is the big opportunity for brands today – to work out how we improve the way we use social technologies to bring together the intelligence of people’s friends with their own beliefs. The big question, then, is this: How do we better use social networks, technologies and all the touch-points of interaction together to increase the flow of advocacy for a brand?

The brands that get this right will be judged as the ones that successfully create more valuable interactions, appealing to personal tastes and preferences. This is really all digital has to be. Simply, it needs to be useful in this context. Everything else is secondary. If you address anyone in this way, with their problems or by creating new opportunities to experience something, people will engage with the brand more.

But you cannot define a digital philosophy without also focusing on the role data plays. The key is using data to orchestrate and build engaging platforms. Think of it as the fuel that drives digital – and by this I mean it’s the behavioural proof of what people are doing in their day-to-day lives. And it’s digital’s ability to connect all the parts of our lives every second of the day, leaving a data trail from every interaction, that we can use to orchestrate and develop engagement platforms in our social and personal worlds. This is what is driving ideas. This is what is driving creativity.

But unless we have the knowledge that will enable us to make these connections, we cannot bring it all together – or integrate, if you will. These connections go to the heart of what it takes for a brand to be successful today – brands will only sell if they engage. And by “engage” we mean enter into a provocative, interesting and on-going relationship and interact in a way which makes the core brand idea even stronger and compelling for people. Ultimately, it’s about making brands more personal.

So the onus is on us – clients and agencies – to find compelling ways to earn people’s attention and, in turn, keep them engaged by giving them reasons to think more about a brand, why it’s useful and what more it can do for you.

That’s why, when it comes to digital, brand advocacy is everything. When we work from an understanding that digital is opening up ways for people to experience and express their feelings more intensely than any other medium before, the brands we own or steward will go from catch-up to leading.

So, in summary, I hope that 2013 will be a year of revelation for marketers, namely:

·         Digital is not about speed, price, being a channel or even technology. Its power lies in making things personal.

·         Advocacy isn’t a measure. It’s THE measure.

·         Digital is the spine that enables organisations to manage and nurture every interaction with their consumer, turning consumers from people who buy to people who advocate and join.

·         Digital provides the opportunity to link our storytelling to the data to create greater brand relevance and differentiation.

In 2013, we shall keep on learning that the old way of doing advertising won’t work anymore – because it has to exist in a culture of certainty and absolutes, where things are right or wrong. Today’s consumer-driven ideas culture is one of taking risks and learning from it, trying to disrupt and gaining insight from mistakes to feed into longer-term success.

2013 will be a fascinating year. Bring it on.

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