Media: Double Standards - 'We have overtaken the digital indies in all areas'

Kirsti Wilson and Matt Simpson on whether digital marketing is more hype than reality, Microsoft versus Google and how media agencies are outperforming digital specialists.

KIRSTI WILSON - MANAGING PARTNER, MEDIACOM BEYOND ADVERTISING

- What's your view on Steve Harrison's assessment that hype surrounding the digital revolution is overblown?

There is clearly not enough space here to have a decent debate about Steve's views on digital; however, it is important to recognise that digital is much more than an advertising channel. It has changed the way many industries work, it has altered how consumers research products and how to buy them, it has created an entirely new purchase funnel and it is a platform for sharing and communicating through. As Steve points out, the majority of the web population do not blog or Twitter; however, many of the passive bunch he refers to are being influenced by the opinion and experience of those who do find the time to comment.

- Do you see Bing ever really rivalling Google in advertisers' affections?

"Why don't you Google it?" Google has managed to verb its brand and, as a result, has more than 70 per cent of search volume. We need Bing to rival Google in advertisers' affections; but we need users to try it and stick with it to ensure a regular and consistent volume of traffic before advertisers' budgets will follow. Microsoft not only needs to at least equal or better the Google experience, but it needs to shift a consumer habit on a massive scale.

- Are media agencies catching up with digital specialists in terms of their digital offering?

After a relatively slow start, media agencies have now overtaken the digital independents across all areas. I would question whether the independents have a sustainable business model over the next five to ten years.

- What innovations in digital have excited you lately?

The recent boom in mixed reality technologies, catalysed by the launch of the T-Mobile G1. Examples include Lastminute.com's free NRU app, which presents local business information overlaid on a virtual compass. It's a sign that several technology strands are finally converging, with social acceptance driving consumer uptake.

- What do you offer clients that they can't get from other agencies?

Scale, value and innovation in equal measures, and a great bar.

- What's the key to engaging people online?

Identifying the most appropriate value exchange for the audience and platform.

- What's been your favourite digital campaign so far this year?

MediaCom's solution for Turner's Ben 10 Alien Force was an innovative approach to children's social networking to engage and educate children about fundamental changes to the story and characters. Taking two popular children's social networks (Bin Weevils and SwapitShop), we combined their individual attributes to deliver a virtual and real-world campaign to engage and reward fans with B10 merchandise. The campaign was successful mostly as the TV show delivered the best TVRs during launch week that the franchise has enjoyed for many years.

- How long do you spend online when you're off duty?

Probably a couple of hours a day if I can squeeze it in.

MATT SIMPSON - HEAD OF DIGITAL, OMD

- What's your view on Steve Harrison's assessment that hype surrounding the digital revolution is overblown?

I'm not sure he is saying that the digital revolution is overblown. In reality, he is saying that some high-profile digital evangelists have been over-zealous in proclaiming the demise of traditional advertising models. The reason as to why they have done this is obvious - promotion of what was essentially a cottage industry. With the majority of traditional marketers and media men wanting to ignore the medium, evangelists had to cut through and they did it by creating fear. Fear of becoming irrelevant and ineffective. I think they did it quite well, but, personally, I have been explaining to clients for the past five years why traditional marketing models are still relevant and how they need to be used hand-in-hand with the new models.

- Do you see Bing ever really rivalling Google in advertisers' affections?

I think the better question is whether Bing will ever rival Google in consumers' affections. Advertisers are generally a fickle bunch; they show allegiance only to those who give them a great return on their investment. The only thing Bing needs to do to gain advertiser affection is grow market share of consumer searches.

- Are media agencies catching up with digital specialists in terms of their digital offering?

The difference between digital specialists and media agencies' digital offerings have always been largely overblown. The fact is that digital specialists tend to be far better at promoting themselves. If we look at the facts of digital billings, number of clients, awards won and ability to offer innovation and return on investment, we would see full-service media agencies dominating the market.

- What innovations in digital have excited you lately?

Augmented reality, like most new technical innovations, looks great; getting it to work seems more of a challenge. There are some great examples out there - just YouTube "augmented reality". Tagman's tag management software seems to finally give us an answer to tracking all online activities seamlessly and easily in one place.

- What do you offer clients that they can't get from other agencies?

A customer-centric approach based on relevance and advocacy that is connected and naturally integrated. We have always grown our capabilities organically and this has enabled us to formulate expertise in every area of digital media that is linked seamlessly with all other parts of our business.

- What's the key to engaging people online?

Relevance and adding value.

- What's been your favourite digital campaign so far this year?

Without a doubt (sorry if I'm biased) Walkers "Do us a flavour". It showcases our philosophy of relevance and adding value as well as making digital a seamless part of an overall communications strategy.

- How long do you spend online when you're off duty?

About an hour a day, but, as my car has just died, I am spending that much time just looking for a replacement.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).