In an interview with Mindshare’s Katie Rigg-Smith, recently returned Australian CMO Brent Smart said advertising lacks enough emotional storytelling, and that marketers lack the support of their organisations to brand build in the long term.
Smart is the chief marketing officer at Insurance Australia Group, a position he moved to after returning to Australia from the role of chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi New York.
Immediately prior to his CEO appointment, Smart was Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s worldwide managing director. He has also held managing director roles at BBDO San Francisco and Colenso BBDO in Auckland.
The move to Australia, from advertiser to marketer, came out of the frustration of being unable to build brands in the way that he wanted, he told attendees at the Future of TV Advertising conference.
“It was so clear to me what the right thing to do for the brand was, and invariably, they wouldn’t do it,” he said.
In addition, Smart took to the podium to chat with Katie Rigg-Smith, chief executive of IAG’s media agency, Mindshare, about the importance of “emotional storytelling” and its importance for brand building.
“I think it’s rare,” Smart said. “I think when you see it, you really value it, you really connect with it and you like those brands a bit more regardless. It’s hard to do and that’s why it’s so rare.”
In his own experience at IAG, the parent company of NRMA which released some of the most emotionally investing commercials of 2020, trying to tell “simple stories” has been important.
Speaking to Rigg-Smith, he said: “I see too much advertising where the client’s trying to pack everything into it, [saying] let’s get those product messages in there that we care about but the consumers don’t care about. I think you have to strip it back.
“You have to make it very simple and give it room for beautiful storytelling.”
And unsurprisingly, given the event was the Future of TV Advertising, Smart said a key piece to the puzzle of emotional storytelling was having access to “video and a big screen—it’s that simple”.
Smart also touched on what he sees as “the hardest job for a CMO”: long term brand building.
“It’s so easy to react and so easy to focus on a whole bunch of short term tactics that enable you to have a really great meeting with the boss on ROI,” he said.
“And it’s really hard to get a whole corporation to have the patience to let brand building do what it does, because you’re not going to see the payoff in the first year.
“It becomes an incredibly powerful, cumulative effect when you build brands in the long term, but so few marketers either have the patience, the will or the support from their organisation to be able to do it.”
However, the hardest part about building brands is creating distinctiveness, he believes.
“I see a lot of work that is super generic—real people telling real stories, probably with an acoustic version of a popular song, sung by a female—and I could probably put any brand on the end of it, any bank, any telco, insurance company, it’s all the same. It’s not distinctive at all,” Smart says.
“I think distinctiveness, finding something that is so true to your brand, so ownable that it stands out in the marketplace, [is critical], because if your work doesn’t brand … you just wasted a lot of money.”
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