TRENDY OR TRITE?
The direction and movement of ad land is one of swings and roundabouts with trends coming and going.
For DDB New Zealand chief executive Justin Mowday, it is the swing back towards creativity and brand- building to drive business that is the most interesting trend at present.
“I think what we’ve learnt the world over now – from Unilever and various others – is that the pendulum swung too far [towards digital/individual personalised communication/ programmatic niche targeting]and now most of those brands and businesses have corrected their investment levels.”
Mowday says increasingly, the industry is trending back to marketers, clients and agencies understanding the value of proper brand-building and emotional communications, which
has a tangible impact on business and business results.
An emerging body of empirical evidence includes the work of UK strategist Peter Field, Les Benet and professor Byron Sharp from Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.
At the 2018 Effies, the Commercial Communications Council (CCC) launched a book by Field titled Why Aren’t We Doing This? How long-term brand building drives profitability, which urges marketers and business leaders to understand how overly sales- led advertising is negatively impacting their business in terms of long-term growth and profitability.
Talking with Paul Head, chief executive of the CCC, he says there has been a real focus on the short-term, with long-term brand building all but forgotten.
“Brands are kind of the last competitive advantage in a world that moves as quickly as this one … there is nothing wrong with tactical campaigns, there is nothing wrong with sales promotion. It’s about understanding what your business long-term goals are and making sure you’re working towards those.”
Head says that marketing, not just advertising, is a key engine for business – a driver of growth.
“I think that conversation is one collectively that the marketing community needs to be having with senior management.”
Rainger & Rolfe managing director Jen Rolfe says one of the big trends she sees is the increasing integration requirements of agency relationship with media. For Rolfe, it is both an opportunity and a challenge, because the media environment is getting very data-driven and specific.
“Our success will be increased by how well we make digital work with our creative ideas and strategies,” she says.
“For advertising, this trend impacts on our requirement to have both an understanding of, and a close relationship with, media to make the most of whatever we’re producing for our clients, supporting with content and driving it through more than the one touchpoint.”
Taking a macro view, Blair Alexander, head of media at FCB, says consumers are expecting more relevance and specialisation, which is putting pressure on marketers.
“Increasingly we are seeing CMOs being forced to stretch into every aspect of the customer journey, not just marketing. At the other end of the spectrum there are probably more specialist resources to help but even that can create its own challenges around maintaining oversight over everything – because consumers demand seamless brand experiences.”
Matt West, partner and business director at EightyOne, sees a “big, old gap between the brave and the safe” trend emerging.
“You use the tools at your disposal, allow the data to inform target markets and apply the metrics you have, but then you have to allow for some gut feeling as well. That wonderful black art of marketing is still alive and well.
“With greater demands for ROI and increasing scrutiny, I reckon many clients and agencies are running scared. A little of Richard Branson’s, ‘Screw it, Let’s do it’ goes a long way. You have to take a leap.”
L-R: Justin Mowday, Jen Rolfe and Paul Head.
WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?
As with many other industries, there are constant challenges to overcome to ensure clients are happy, that creativity is paramount, and that business and revenue are on the up.
One of those challenges is talent, according to Mowday. DDB recently hired Chris Willingham, the former global business director of Nike at Wieden+Kennedy, establishing the role of managing director for him.
“Finding the right talent, nurturing it and keeping that talent is really tricky both for clients and agencies. New Zealand ultimately is a talent constraint market, there’s only x amount of people,” Mowday says.
“I think what New Zealand needs to do is grow our own and attract international talent.”
And marketers agree. In the 2019 NZ Marketing Agency Perception survey results [page 20], access to the right talent/skills was the biggest barrier to agencies meeting their needs.
From an overall marketing point-of-view, Mowday believes some companies have relegated marketing to the communications department over the last decade. The next step is getting marketing back to the top table, with Mowday giving the example of Vodafone New Zealand with its former marketer chief executive Jason Paris.
L-R: Scott Coldham, Simon Hofmann and Blair Alexander.
KEEPING IT TECH
Keeping up-to-date with emerging technologies and media, and their impact, can be a challenge.
To keep Rainger & Rolfe informed and making the most of it for clients, Rolfe says the agency team has to be “enthusiastic, relentless learners, poking their no
es into where they shouldn’t be, trying to understand the technologies as they come up and how they can be useful”.
Industry-wide, agencies have to continue to be creative and innovative as budgets get smaller or stall.
Taking New Zealand-born nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford’s famous quote “We’ve got no money, so we’ve got to think”, EightyOne’s West says the challenge is “doing bolder, better work” while being “smarter about the smaller budgets available”.
However, there is some good news on the horizon. According to the NZ Marketing Agency Perception findings, more than half of marketers reported their advertising budgets would grow ‘a little’ over the next five years, up from 39 percent in 2017.
This article was originally published in the NZ Marketing Agency Issue 2019.