adtech Sydney 2008

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March 12th to 13th, 2008
Sydney Hilton

I was asked to speak at Adtech Sydney on the subject of Integrating Digital into the Communications Plan. For many, the challenge of integrating digital into your “everything else” plan can prove to be harder than what it should be. The question posed was do you start with digital and wrap everything else around it or look at digital as a silo, one of which is growing at an exponential rate, and plan individually?

I was joined in the discussion with my colleague from Vodafone David Morrow, Head of Online and Russell Easther from P3 Digital who moderated the discussion. David and I spoke about the good, the bad and a number of techniques on how to integrate digital into communications plan.

adtech_panel icon_rss To listen to the Integrating Digital into the Communication Plan
talk and other Ad-Tech Sydney podcasts click here.

A few of the questions and answers from the session are highlighted below;

Adam – examples over the years of poorer digital integration? Classic story/joke

I have a few stories and some scars. I take my shirt off and show you some of my scars if that helps.
Seriously I think every digital guy or girl has had the one where it’s ‘hey what can you do online with this completed TVC that’s running”. The bad integration happens when the idea is cracked and a medium is chosen and online is seen as a matching luggage approach. In other words animate this press ad and by the way we have no budget.

Adam – is it getting better?

Yes for both agencies and client’s are starting to get very knowledgeable and also very passionate about the interactive medium. Because digital is so accountable in terms of getting data there is much more interest in the medium and how it can lay a stronger role in the marketing mix. Of course how you use digital, and when you use digital as always must be surrounded in a core idea. There are obviously some people still worried about the digital extension rather then just getting on and developing great ideas and producing compelling content for consumers. If this is done then digital just finds a home. Some people are still a little nervous to do large scale digital programs but hey those groups will be years behind the people that embrace it. Getting the planning and creative process right in the marketing mix is essential.

Adam – why?

The ability for consumers to control what they consume is a cause for celebration in my mind, not widespread panic. It’s fact there is now too much proof that people are willing to interact with brands and products in deeper and more meaningful ways than ever before. Our job is to find and give a good reason for them to do this.

Adam – what are the traits of traditional agencies that know how to integrate digital?

I think respect for the medium, the digital skill set and then ownership in making it work across the organisation are essential elements in making digital work for clients. I think any agency that has a structure where digital is off to one side or in a silo is a little 1995. Sure in the beginning it was right to have a group that specialised in digital but today digital technology is everywhere. The TVC is in the end a video digital outcome, it is produced as zero and ones. It can run on varies screens, devices and platforms. Any forward thinking agency should have digital at the heart of it’s operation across creative, planning, production and account servicing. If it does not it won’t be a relevant agency to build client solutions.

Adam – can you share any interesting experiences of a media and creative agency ‘integrating’ digital communications?

Like a lot of people I would prefer media and creative agencies living together under one roof and structure. But those days are long gone, and to be fair the media game is now very specialised in terms of the data, science and measurement around paid media planning and buying. That said in the digital world media and creative are very hard to separate. The best ideas and programs are when you have close collaboration. I’m not a big fan of the media spreadsheet being sent around and the creative agency developing creative to spec sizes and formats. This only results in push advertising solutions.

Creative and media people working closely together with a strong ‘respect’ and clear ownership to the clients objective we can start to create better ideas and deliver better results. I think media and creative agencies working together can start to create a new currency for brands. Develop things that people will seek out, use, play with, and hopefully share. A lot of the time we are trying to develop killer applications or at the very least some communication community products that people will talk about.

Adam – Through your years of experience, what is the best brand that integrates digital communication the best?

On a category level I think travel, IT and telecommunications have done some of the best innovates programs over the years. Basically any brand that has been testing and learning with digital for 10 years plus is a long way ahead of those that have only been doing it for the last couple of years. Outside of these categories I have always like what Volkswagen do in the UK. There current online programs and web site for their range of cars is excellent. It works if you are ‘in market’ or ‘near market’ a car purchase. Of course Nike has set the bench mark last year for true digital innovation re a product such as Nike Plus. But to be truly honest the online brands are still the best at understanding customer experience and delivering compelling content that gets people back time after time. A good R&D team is needed here to deliver this for an organisation and at the moment only true digital online brands like a Google, Amazon or a FaceBook get that thinking.

Adam – Is the push from agency side, or client side, for digital integration?

I think it’s now the clients that push for integration. And to be honest I think they are over agencies giving them lip service on how they are structured when they use digital. A client really does not care how an agency is structure they just want to work with the smartest, most creative people they can muster. Marketing budgets are not getting any larger and as such clients are always looking for big ideas. I think client’s like to work with agencies that can deliver sustainable and collaborative ways of working, when sharing ideas.

Adam – From agency side and your experience, exactly how, what steps, what techniques do you use to integrate digital internally when integrating digital in a communications plan?

My current role is to integrate digital thinking across a variety of Clemenger Group agencies that have a specialised focused in either advertising, direct, PR, retail, events etc. As mentioned I’m trying to put digital at the heart of all marketing service companies because it’s a good way to foster and develop integrated thinking and the process of integrated implementation rather then matching luggage. We are not ring fencing digital into an agency or department. Dialogue between brands and consumers can start and finish anywhere… jumping between media spaces, from print to event to mobile to street stunt to TV…the Internet is not the purpose in itself, only the big link between everything. We have digital training programs running regularly in all our agencies and across account, creative, planning teams. They are always getting hit with something new to digest and learn.

Adam – Did you have to move any mountains internally to get those steps across the line?

Well sure. Some people don’t like change, some worry about the revenue impact and the structure impact if staff are not trained in digital. Really as mentioned I really do worry less about the right model and worry much more about the ideas we present to clients.

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