We are still mad men – but we are also maths men?

We are still mad men – but we are also maths men?
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Day two of the Festival of Media showcased a broad range of speakers, from mega brands such as Coca-Cola, politics in the shape of President Obama’s aide Roger Fisk, the great Sir Martin Sorrell and the impressive INKtalks, an Indian collaboration with TED, which showcases inspiring individuals and their stories.  

Brought together to explore the concept of mobility in the social, political and media landscape, their varied approaches were united by the way each had embraced changing individual and social consumption patterns to better engage with their audience. As Sir Martin Sorrell commented in his keynote, “It’s not the year of the mobile, every year is more mobile”.

Data is the compass, analytics is the map"

Quote of the conference for me was President Obama’s former aide Roger Fisk who was instrumental in re-writing the rulebook for engaging with citizens during the 2008 campaign when he noted “Data is the compass. Analytics is the map”. This should be a mantra for all marketers as the value chain shifts and future relevance will require best in market interpretation and application of data findings.

This was echoed by Lakshmi Pratury from INKtalks.com who told the audience that mobility is about more than just technological change; it is moving our thinking and unlocking creativity. But it was down to Sorrell to bring home the impact big data capability is having on the industry. He noted that “we are still mad men but we are also maths men”, asserting that business is now both an art and a science; getting the right balance will be critical. 

WPP’s clients have shifted to embrace not only CMOs but also CTOs and CIOs and there is real opportunity if technology and what he defined as horizontality – getting people to work together, specifically in the area of data – can be successfully applied to the business of marketing.

Frenemy at the gates

There were more than a few murmurs in the room – possibly of assent – when Sorrell, in discussing how the balance of power within companies has shifted, proclaimed that “Google is a frenemy, some people will be upset by that comment but I’ll say it again because I think it’s true”.

He added that Facebook, Google and Twitter are media owners pretending to be technology companies whilst being emphatic that companies like WPP are the intermediary whose role is to guide what their clients spend and where they spend it. This is where he sees considerable value and future continued success.

More conversation and less action…

The notion of trusting and empowering your audience was examined by Roger Fisk, Indra Suharjono of Viacom International Media Networks Asia and Leonardo O'Grady, from ASEAN Coca-Cola.  

From the political perspective Fish highlighted the 2008 US election proved that the use of personalised peer to peer communication ultimately beat the TV broadcast model in terms of influencing. He used the example of reaching 50,000 people in 10 minutes during a political rally by inspiring the 5,000 attendees to contact their friends via mobile phone calls and text messages.

Of course empowering and relying on peer to peer communication can be a white knuckle ride for brands but O’Grady considers Coca-Cola has fully embraced it as a route to market noting that brands are no longer ‘owned’ by marketers. Coca-Cola’s marketing ethos is about participating in culture and engaging in great story telling, creating experiences for the few to be shared by the many. 

Similarly, Viacom’s O’Grady’s mantra was ‘connect, curate, create’, illustrated by the ‘mobisode’ content Viacom develops for mobile phones and the experiences created specifically to amplify messages across multiple devices.

Sir Martin Sorrell was quick to praise Twitter as key in this type of storytelling, branding it as a ‘phenomenally successful PR medium’ before noting that 90% of auto purchasers include search, emphasising the rise and rise of peer marketing. This is borne out by the conversations that we are having with our own clients in Australia. They know that they have to provide the right type of compelling content across the right medium to consumers and are looking to experts in the field to tell them where their audience is and to connect with them irrespective of the platform to effectively tell their story.

And then day two and the festival was over, serving up a timely reminder that our industry has huge potential for those who can marry the mad men with the maths men and significant risk for those organisations who continue to be slow to adapt and evolve. It’s clear our industry offers a fascinating ride for those of us lucky enough to be at the forefront of innovation and change.

Matt Hunt is managing director of Adconion Media Group, Australia 

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