Exposing the marketing elephants in the room at AWEurope

Anyone who has been in this industry for a few years like I have knows just how much hype and smoke come as part of the deal. Which is why I found the sound of The Marketing Society’s session at AWEurope rather intriguing. Were they really going to delve into the Uncomfortable Truth about Marketing and expose the elephants that are always in the room?


The AWEurope panel, chaired by Herdmeister Mark Earls, included top marketers from global brands and seemingly they were not holding back on each of their personal bugbears in the industry. For Unilever’s Patricia Corsi, Vice President Foods & Beverages UK & Ireland, it’s the over-dependence on data and how we’ve all lost the ability to make decisions based on good-old gut feel. By contrast, Sainsbury’s Director of Communications Mark Given is fed up of agencies siloes; Santander’s CMO Keith Moor thinks we need to get real when it comes to video engagement (or lack thereof); whilst Travelex’s Global Digital Marketing Director Dominic Grounsell shared his fears around talent. Each had a couple of minutes to share their elephant in the room and you’ll find a summary below.


We have Analysis-Paralysis says Unilever boss Patricia Corsi


Twenty years ago all we wanted was data, to help us make decisions – but data was not forthcoming. As a result we have a generation of marketers who were the excel-whizz kids – absolute experts at manipulating the data available to compare and analyse what was to hand.


Fast forward 10 years and we have more data than we know what to do with. We’re obsessed with data. But – argued Corsi – we’ve completely lost the ability to make decisions based on intuition, creativity and intelligence. That means we’ve removed the human aspect of marketing.


“I’m getting more concerned about how this is becoming larger than us. For me [data] is a means to an end, and I don’t think by over testing things we’re going to over deliver things.”


Corsi is an engineer, turned marketers – this is not coming from a discomfort with data. She passionately believes insight is being quashed by reliance on algorithms. Worse that that – the current new generation of marketers are being trained to only look at what the data tells them. Yet they need to be able to know when to try something, and not feel trapped or paralysed because they don’t have the data to back up a decision.


There is no book on what marketing will be right for your campaign – yet increasingly there is a belief that the answer is “in the data”. It’s a collection of experiences – risks and failures as well as successes -, that help us learn as marketers. Not data. I don’t know anyone with a successful career that hasn’t had a failure. It’s the human touch and we mustn’t forget that.



Be honest all that video content is not watched declares Keith Moor of Santander


Over 60 per cent of branded content on Facebook isn’t watched – which is a bit of a shocker if you’re trying to get your brand message heard. Trouble is, there’s eight billion daily video views which, on Facebook alone, equates to over 700 years of video viewing time happening each day. How the hell do we cut through?


Worse than that no one is really watching either in this dual screening world. On average, only 5% of videos are watched all the way through – the average time being 22 seconds of a 2 minute video. Yet we keep talking about storytelling and how the story should crescendo to a conclusion at the end.

“It’s not the last five seconds that are important, it’s the first.”


We’re entering a world where by 2018 some eight out of 10 Facebook posts will be video, and that means we need to win in the first five seconds to cut through.



How do we hire the right people for marketing? asks Travelex’s Dominic Grounsell


The new world of marketing is digital-orientated and highly data-driven and that means we need people who can analyse and handle large amounts of data for the future of marketing. People who studied maths, engineering even physics. The problem is though, we’re not much good at attracting them to the marketing industry and the industry is going to suffer unless we do something about it. We have:


An Awareness problem: The people doing these courses do not even have marketing on their radar. Instead they’re being courted by the big consultancy firms, accountancy firms, and engineering firms. Hence they don’t even know marketing requires their skill-set.


A Perception problem: Caused entirely by the industry ourselves, we look like the ‘colouring-in’ department – rather than the strategic growth department we actually are. How did we get here? Well, take a look at what we celebrate – TV ads (and winning awards for TV ads). Yet only c.5% of the job is creative. The rest is commercial, financial, strategic, business focused – we don’t celebrate (or even try) getting into the Harvard Business Review.


“It’s like celebrating just the last mile of the marathon”.


A Salience problem: Perhaps the most fundamental is that in business, the cool, shit hot talent doesn’t want to be in marketing anymore, they want to be in product. They want to be designing, development and building the apps and new products of the future. And even if they do want to work in marketing, then they probably still don’t want to work for your corporate – a start-up (or a start-up cultured corporate like Google or Uber) is where they actually want to be. We’ve got a fundamental problem.


Surrounded by siloes and no-one takes responsibility for them says Mark Given at Sainsbury’s


There’s all this talk about omni-channel and mobile first – but it’s not mobile first – it’s customer first. Yet we still can’t achieve it! With an increasingly savvy customer our focus job has to be to deliver an omnichannel customer experience. One where no matter where a customer interacts with us, the experience is the same, and joined up. But joined up is still hard. Why? Because of silos. We’re in an industry that is full of them. We have silos in terms of organisation structure client side, we have silos in terms of data and the biggie – we still have silos in agency relationships.


The full-service agency does not exist – in the disparate, fragmented nature of marketing now, no one can can do everything. But at the same time clients can’t manage 10,12, or 15 specialist agencies. So there is a desperate call for agencies to work together, better.


“While you are happy to tell us you can work in different structures and play nice, the reality of competition within agencies and commercial set up is that you fundamentally don’t want to.”


Let’s get the right tight-knit core or people who are as passionate about the business, and the customer, as the client is and make it happen.

Header Image: Flickr