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BW Businessworld

New Guns, Old Bullets: The Dichotomy

In conversation with BW Businessworld Ben Jones speaks about what ‘always-on’ means and the evolution he expects in marketing

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Where technology has armed marketers with powerful new ‘guns’ to target consumers, Ben Jones, creative director of Google, is of the opinion that the industry lacks in imagination, and is still pushing old ‘bullets’. In conversation with BW Businessworld, he speaks about what ‘always-on’ means and the evolution he expects in marketing

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see marketers making while utilising digital?
Many times brands begin with the assumption that the product needs conventional advertising and not something that is more innovative or unprecedented. It is hard for agencies or brands to experiment. Some brands do that and use the ability to learn very quickly, as opposed to assuming.

Why do you think we see this behaviour?

We are not seeing enough imagination. We have incredibly powerful uses of data in media for targeting; we have unbelievably powerful guns, but it is the same old bullets. Creative agencies, very focussed on telling beautiful stories, are yet to use data as a storytelling tool. Data is waiting for its (Martin) Scorsese. We are waiting for the “big imagination”, and it can come from anywhere — a creative or media agency or a production shop or a brand content agency. We can all see that it is coming, but no one has leapt over, and made it happen yet.

How do you see the change in storytelling happening?
People will chase new models as their efficacies deplete. One great work will see everyone follow and we will have a lot of good and mediocre work. That is how evolution happens. Data will influence the way a story changes depending on the consumer. Right now, and especially in markets such as India, there is no ‘safe plan’. Nothing is guaranteed; brands have to experiment. Some brands are very excited about it.

Are you seeing good work in Asia?
The Asian markets are evolving fast and in areas such as mobile, they have leapfrogged. There isn’t the same kind of entrenched behaviour, at the same scale, in other markets. That being said, brand building has not built up in Asia too. There is still a lot of focus on utility, and lightweight, ‘snackable’ content versus telling an epic brand story on devices such as mobile.

What is holding back communication professionals?
The challenge is that all the innovation we see in advertising, come from products. People are making innovative products as opposed to innovative advertising. A couple of years ago we saw many innovative apps being pitched, and most died. Either it’s useful enough to be a product or it is an advertisement for the app that is that product. Marketing has not expanded to take on a bigger role, especially on mobile. One of the things we have not shifted to, is the way people are engaging with the medium. When we say consumers are ‘always on’, it is not our behaviour that is always on, but it is these micro-moments that are intense burst of intent-rich activities. We have not figured out how to market into those moments effectively enough.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 28-12-2015)

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