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Marry digital with traditional: JWT’s Tom Doctoroff

As the brands are shifting focus from advertising to digital marketing for the fear of being called obsolete, Tom Doctoroff, Asia CEO, JWT, talks about an integration of digital and traditional marketing. In his new book ‘Twitter is Not a Strategy: Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing’, Mr Doctoroff insists that new forms of technological engagement are not, in and of themselves, creative ideas.

Speaking to Digital Market Asia on what inspired the book, Mr Doctoroff says, “In 2010, I was sitting in the audience at the Cannes creativity festival. The head of the cyber jury was giving a speech in the Grand Palais and he said, “We are no longer creatives. We are all inventors now.” And I felt a shudder, a premonition of an industry identity crisis. It has come to pass where the practitioners of so-called traditional brand building have begun to question their relevance to the industry. I think this is unfortunate.”

He feels that the celebration of technological innovation has come at the expense of ideas that stood the test of time. Clients are scared to miss out on the latest high-trend and marketers feel compelled to join digital companies regardless of where their talents and interests lie. “But they forget about where loyalty springs from: [by] touching the heart of consumers,” Mr Doctoroff quips.

Twitter is Not a Strategy cover image 1Mr Doctoroff believes that in order to explore the shoals of a new digital landscape, timeless brand building truth should be the industry’s compass. “I am neither a creative guru nor a digital expert. I am a fervent believer in the fundamentals of brand building, the ABCs of loyalty. But I also appreciate the transformative nature of technology on our industry and consumer behavior, not to mention their lives. I was always mindful of the need to avoid coming off like a Luddite, resistant to the waves of change. I try very hard to strike a balanced tone, rejecting both algorithmic seduction and head-in-the-sand, old-school traditionalism,” he opines.

Mr Doctoroff spent around three months conducting research and another three months writing the manuscript. “I tried very hard to back up my beliefs with empirical support, wherever possible. But my conclusions can’t be proven or disproven. There will always be room for debate on topics as unwieldy as the future of marketing and optimal consumer engagement,” he stated.

While he believes that advertising is not dead, he says he was warned by people that the digital community would crucify him for denying it. “I’m no Pollyanna. I believe that our industry is evolving. But it is not being thrown off its axis. Conceptual craftsmanship defines compelling brand propositions. Technology enables consumers to deepen involvement in brands,” he suggests.

As a result of the growth in technology and its impact on marketing and communication practices, the industry has created a slew of buzzwords such as Big Data, programmatic and real time bidding, but Mr Doctoroff feels that in a mad desire to keep up with the times, the industry has lost sight of the essence of brand building. “We need to forge products and propositions that touch the hearts and minds of consumers. Big Data will become more and more invaluable in targeting consumers with surgical accuracy, often in real time, as they move through their decision making. Perhaps data applications will be able one day to predict behavior. But even the most sophisticated algorithms will never answer the question, “Why?” Technological wizardry will never explain fundamental motivations for behaviour and preferences. We must never forget the best marketers are aspiring psychologists and anthropologists. We must also never forget that transactional acumen is not a substitute for long-term brand ideas — that is, relationships between brands and consumers that deepen over time,” he observes.

Talking about how the brands should approach marketing, he says the goal must be to align yin and yang – that is, “top-down” (broadcast) and “bottom-up” (interactive) platforms. “If digital and traditional creatives are conceived separately, brands lose focus, which confuses people. In addition, each achieves complementary objectives. Top-down shapes preference. Bottom-up deepens engagement – or time spent with an idea – that leads to loyalty,” he concludes.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.
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