What’s On

New guns, old bullets: Google’s Ben Jones on the digital dichotomy

Where technology has armed marketers with the powerful new ‘guns’ to target consumers, Ben Jones, Creative Director, Google is of the opinion that the industry lags behind in imagination, and is still pushing old ‘bullets’. In a conversation with Digital Market Asia, he speaks about what always-on means and the evolution he expects in marketing.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see marketers making while utilising digital?
Consumer behaviour is changing fast. Brands have immense muscle memory in the things they produce to get marketing outcomes. Many times brands begin with the assumption that the product needs conventional advertising and not something else that could be 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, so 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 that change to storytelling happen?
People will chase new models as their efficacies deplete and then someone will make a leap. One great work will see everyone follow it and we will have a lot of good work and then a lot of 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 guaranteed and brands have to experiment. Some brands are very excited about it. The Nick Cricket example, where they invited people into the story is not just a great film and craft but allows the brand to tell a story – that is the kind of work we will see.

Are you seeing good work in Asia per se?
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, that we see 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 communication professionals behind?
The challenge is that all the innovation we see in advertising is coming in the product. People are making innovative products as opposed to making innovative advertising, and agencies have not figured out what territory is left. A couple of years ago we saw many innovative apps being pitched, and most of it 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 larger enough 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. On the performance side, we have but we are yet to understand it in the larger aspects.

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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.