“What really frustrates me…” says Marc Bresseel, vice-president of global agencies at Microsoft Advertising, “…is that we’re always talking about chief marketing officers creating strategies. But how can you genuinely talk about strategy when this person will only hang around for 18 months?”
Marketers showing commitment to initiatives in the long term is vital to the future of the industry, claims Bresseel, talking to Marketing Week following his appearance at the Valencia Festival of Media last month. Bresseel and his peers suggest five themes concerning how marketing and media will evolve, including the importance of creating real partnerships, the rise of data and new client-agency models.
“A lot of people use the word ‘partnership’ lightly,” complains Bresseel. “But real brand partnerships go quite deep. There has to be influence from both sides – travelling both ways. You should even affect new product development at each other’s company.”
Microsoft has had a partnership deal with Fox for about four years, which saw the two brands use each other’s product development and marketing assets to promote the Avatar movie – which was released in 2009 – to distinct audiences.
Fox created an exclusive four-minute trailer for the media-savvy users of Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform in the months before the film’s release. Bresseel explains: “These Xbox Live people have the latest equipment and technology. They use the latest networks and they need content that they haven’t seen before. Just playing them the trailer everyone has seen isn’t enough.”
In return, Microsoft allowed the film to “takeover” its homepage. This included showing trailers, promotional stills and a downloadable mobile app. It put the film in front of millions of people logging onto the internet.
Bresseel says that strong relationships are necessary for both sides to collaborate on a product and its marketing when it is unclear how the end result will turn out. “At the beginning with Avatar, there was nothing but talk of virtual worlds. I couldn’t even imagine this thing they were working on, and that’s part of the issue for digitally created content; there is a marketing challenge around how to plan for something you can’t imagine,” he remembers.
The importance of data
Bresseel believes that data will be one of the most important assets for marketers in future. As part of the partnership with Fox on Avatar, Microsoft built a data management system with a 1 petabyte – or 1 million gigabyte – capacity.
“The majority of the film was created on computers. Plus, you had real-life actors in a studio with three cameras creating output for 3D. That amounts to an incredible amount of data – every facial expression in that film generates data, which has to be stored,” he says.
But the real value of Avatar’s bespoke DMS was not simply its ability to hold vast reams of information. It also created a content hub for other brands to dip into. Ubisoft, which created the game based on the film, and Multiverse, which created online Avatar games and apps, were able to use that same system to create their own products, resulting in consistency across all the brands.
The marketing teams were also able to draw on this data resource. “Marketing and advertising is becoming multichannel – TV, digital and print are all moving the same way. Hollywood is changing – everything is now about data. Every storyline becomes a data project,” Bresseel says.
Doug Scott, president of OgilvyEntertainment, adds that data should be treated as a vital part of the marketing process because it “fuels knowledge which informs creative”.
Our marketers have built 13 $1bn brands but the challenge is now to increase this number. The brand equity of today is our topline growth for tomorrow.
Maarten L Albarda, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Maarten L Albarda, vice-president of global connections for Anheuser-Busch InBev, agrees. He believes this is one area where companies need to become really proficient in 2010.
“We are getting to a point where if you overlay all the data points, you can really understand what a big campaign does for a business. You can look at cost-per-thousands or clickthroughs and then try and link these together with things like share value and brand equity,” says Albarda.
Microsoft’s Bresseel adds: “Marketing is all about data and business intelligence. Who are the consumers? What are they buying? When and where are they buying it? What do they want next? It is all data that needs to be understood.”
He is not yet convinced that multinational companies such as Unilever or Procter & Gamble will build massive DMS capabilities for their brands. While they share data on a massive scale in a business sense, Bresseel is not sure they have their creative assets organised for marketing in such a way.
New agency models and measurement
Both Albarda and Bresseel believe that new ways of brands working with agencies need to evolve in future. Albarda says that companies and their agencies should no longer see themselves sitting alongside each other. Instead, they need to imagine themselves as two pyramids, touching at the top.
In one pyramid sits the client structure; in the other sits the agency. Where the two points touch, there needs to be one person at the client end to manage the brand and one at the agency end to co-ordinate a number of agencies.
“We did an audit of all our markets, comparing the more successful and less successful ones,” he explains. “One of the success factors was to brief the agencies together with one overall budget, rather than briefing the media agency with its individual budget and so on.”
He continues: “It leads to a different kind of brief. On a big campaign, you can easily end up with between five and ten agencies involved. There is no way you can have ten agencies report into one person on your end, so you need someone from the agencies to take on that role. It takes a different mindset and there’s no rule on who it has to be.”
Diageo global media procurement director Kester Fielding agrees that agency models are changing and they must better show clients they can work on a “shared agenda”.
Unsurprisingly, he sees procurement becoming further entrenched in the relationships between marketers and agencies. Just last month, PepsiCo and AB-InBev announced a joint purchasing agreement to get better value from their media agencies.
While this shift will require both agencies and marketers to define new models of working over the next few years, Fielding says that procurement should be seen as a positive development for the industry.
For Bresseel, the changing relationship between clients and agencies needs to be about measurement. While much of the digital marketing industry is based on results obtained through measures such as clickthroughs, he argues that this “absurd focus” is outmoded and unrevealing.
He has been working on the metric “dwell time”, which aims to better understand how consumers interact with digital technology and what this means for brands. “Clickthrough rates are still being used to measure things, no matter how meaningless,” he says. “We’re keen to educate people about this.”
Marketing as a business priority
It may seem like stating the obvious, but Albarda at AB-InBev says that marketing still needs to be given more credit as a rigorous business discipline. For AB-InBev, formed as a result of multiple mergers and acquisitions, the competitive advantage for the future comes from treating marketing as its “fourth muscle”.
“We already had three strong muscles – operational, financial and the sales machine. We were very well known for that,” he notes. “But as we grew and became this global company, we started to ask: who do we want to be?”
He adds: “Our marketers have built 13 $1bn brands but the challenge is now to increase this number. The brand equity of today is our topline growth for tomorrow.”
While the financial markets were aware of the three conventional business muscles possessed by the brewer, Albarda says the idea of elevating marketing within the business is thoroughly supported by both the board and external analysts.
“Marketing is important. We need it to nurture those 13 $1bn brands and build more of them. Marketing is going to play a critical role in that and wasn’t maybe part of the toolbox that got us where we were a couple of years ago,” he says.
Improving marketing capability
One of the ways in which Albarda hopes to improve the skills of marketers working at AB-InBev is through intensive training courses. Rather than looking inside the business alone, it has collaborated with a number of US universities to create bespoke programmes for its staff.
It works with the Kellogg School of Management at every level from the board downwards on its branding; and it is about to start a training programme with Stanford University on communication. As part of this course, AB-InBev staff will learn about new digital channels from Facebook and YouTube executives. A more lighthearted element will see staff learn to make their own virals in the evening.
“We’re also doing a management programme with Harvard University to accelerate our skill and bonding around a common approach to how we want to do things as we come from a fragmented past,” says Albarda.
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia
Brands have to realise that the new era of “participation media” will happen with or without them. If any conversation is happening about you or your products, you’ll want and need to participate in it, wherever it is occurring.
In some cases, that conversation might be on social networks, on your own website or it might mean building your own brand’s wiki [information library]. There is no longer a choice on whether you should be involved; it’s just the new way of the world. Word of mouth has always been important, but now much more so than previously.
Consumers want more information than ever from their media. If you take a traditional magazine, it might be 100 pages long each month. But now people simply expect to go online and find huge amounts of information – far more than those 100 pages. That’s a real shift.
In terms of the future of paid-for content walls in media, I think that will work sometimes but not other times. Very often, companies try to charge for commodity content and that just doesn’t work. It has to be very specialised content that no one else has, which holds specific economic value for people willing to pay for it.
I can’t see the Bloomberg terminal going away any time soon, but too much content has now fallen into the “general information” category and people won’t pay for that.
This new phase of participation media means that brands can be built more quickly than in the past. This might not mean being able to get away with zero marketing investment, but with the right idea and a product that really captures the imagination, it’s entirely possible to build a very large brand presence quickly and cheaply.
Take brands like Pepsi and Coke. You might imagine that they have only that one large rival and so smaller companies out there won’t challenge them for global recognition without spending millions in marketing. That’s not true anymore. Sure, there are challenges in scaling up, distribution and production, but the idea that you are such a famous brand that it will be many years before someone can challenge you is no longer true.