Why digital is still a buzzword

Engagement, personalisation, targeted – these are all major buzzwords in advertising right now and all fundamental to building brand equity. It’s not just HP’s CMO Michael Mendenhall that says this in our cover story this week but the majority of the marketing community Marketing Week speaks to on a daily basis.

Joe Fernandez

This week’s cover story looks closely at how HP has turned to the art of story-telling to really connect with its audiences and give them something to look forward to. In his interview, Mendenhall admits that he took the decision to consolidate the corporation’s global media account to keep up with the rapid changes the media industry is facing. Consumers are consuming media in many different formats now.

He isn’t the only CMO to start thinking this way – it’s a hot topic of discussion in the CMO Club – and is something that as journalists, we ourselves are starting to adapt to.

As Mendenhall puts it: “You have to be where the consumer is, picked up when they want to participate, and offering them an opportunity to have a role in your brand.” He is so passionate about this that he has allocated 30% of his marketing budget to digital since revamping the brand, a significant figure for something that is still seen as one of the smaller marketing disciplines.

Will other large corporations follow this suit? It’s doubtful such numbers will be allocated to digital – but global media accounts are already under heavy review by corporate giants such as BBC Worldwide, COI, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and Bayer.

The aim for all these giants is ultimately to have one media network servicing their entire media planning, buying and optimisation across all capabilities.

Critics argue that such procurement is unnecessary and diminishes competition in advertising. I’m not sure I can agree with them.

Marketers tell me time and time again that they want their agencies to be their eyes and ears – representing a brand that people want to be part of, and importantly in these difficult times, representing a brand that is universal for all.

If you have several different media divisions representing a brand in different ways and in a host of different places, how can you achieve this? It’s especially difficult in a company as large and diverse as the likes of HP or Unilever, which have several different strings to their bows.

Having one single core identity and using one advertising group – who all communicate with each other in one location – with one strong purpose for the brand means the company can feel safe in the knowledge that it has a presence outside of its buildings. There is one company creating one single brand that consumers feel they can recognise and associate themselves with, wherever they are.

Importantly, this includes the online medium, and the ever-growing medium of social media. Brands want to be able to generate awareness and engagement through these techniques, something HP has managed to undertake very well.

Richard Pinder, COO of Publicis Worldwide, admits that it was HP’s Mendenhall who told the agency that they would lose the business if it couldn’t go digital, prompting the group to acquire Digitas and create Publicis Modem.

What is apparent from speaking to people about HP and other corporate giants is that they lead the way in prompting the advertising community to rethink strategies.

Many would argue that metrics are too important to ignore, and click-through-rates or number of fans/comments are insufficient to justify expenditure in this area. But these are signs of changes to come.

I agree with Mendenhall when he says: Yes, people are being careful about how they spend their money, but they’re looking for a brand they trust, for products that are reliable.

Going back to those buzzwords I mentioned at the beginning, it appears that it is these which are important to marketers now more than ever – and it is these that could fundamentally change media agencies.

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