Gray Matters: worry, demand for digital, customer journey and celebrity endorsements

Two items on StopPress got me thinking about how the world of advertising has changed and is changing. The first was the ‘unpitched’ pitch process that Kiwibank went through before appointing 99 as its lead strategic and creative agency partner. The second item was the item from that expressed the view that “agencies are seeing an uptick in younger employees reporting burnout”.

With regard to the first,Adweek‘s comments are pertinent: “Agencies will also see more attempts by brands to either streamline or avoid the traditional RFP and pitch process. Considering how costly pitches have become, this is a favorable development for agencies. In any path to new business, marketers today hold disproportionate power. To avoid undervaluing themselves, agencies must be clear on what they will compromise on, the value they bring to the table, where they can be flexible and which opportunities are worth pursuing.”

As far as burnout is concerned, there is no doubt there are a number of young go-getters working 70-hour weeks in the belief that they are bulletproof. Some are – some aren’t.

Agencies now have to be a lot more agile and responsive to far more than just the market. The demand for more gender and ethnic diversity hasn’t hit New Zealand in the way it has overseas, but the need for agencies to have less fat, less overhead and greater category expertise, is becoming self-evident. There is also appears to be a growing lack of trust between marketing departments and ad agencies as clients are forced to substantiate the value they are getting for the budgets they allocate. Some even believe in taking some work off their agencies in the belief that they can do it better in-house.

Last year, AdAge talked about survival of the fittest. “Technology, data, consumer demands, talent, financial pressures-marketers’ needs are changing rapidly. The big question: What will agencies have to do to stay ahead of this incessantly shifting industry?” was the question posed by Michael Kassan, MediaLink chairman and CEO.

In October Stuff ran an inspiring piece by Marisa Garau, who slaved away in major ad agencies overseas, before starting her own advertising agency. Over the next 10 years, her stress turned chronic. Moving to New Zealand and practicing mindfulness helped her “unlearn the unconscious habit of worrying”.

Look around you each day and you’ll see the “unconscious habit of worrying” everywhere. Be conscious of it and chill. There are more important things in life than clients, deadlines and advertising.

Digital miracles required

Digital analysts with knowledge of content strategy combined with data analysis skills are in particular demand from both agencies and clients in New Zealand, according to the Hays 2019/20 salary guide, insights from experts. The average salary for a digital strategy manager is now $150,000 per annum, according to the report.

A quick peek at Seek, pulls up 297 job opportunities looking for similar skill sets, from digital managers and manager of digital channels to digital strategists and senior digital marketing managers.

In the September, Marketing Awards issue, of NZ Marketing magazine, I’ll be writing a feature on 25 years of digital advertising, with reminiscences of how we got to this point. It is hard to believe that the first banner ad appeared just 25 years ago and yet it is predicted by eMarketer that digital advertising will exceed traditional ad spending this year, globally that is, New Zealand still has a way to go.

From the time pop-up ads launched in 1997, through the launch of Google Adwords in 2000 and the first iPhone in 2007, savvy New Zealanders have adopted the new technology to create a different way of communicating with their audiences. The early adopters trod the path of digital advertising success and today our ad industry has a number of digital advertising specialists who have created some great advertising over the years.

Despite the progress, Sunil Gupta, a professor at Harvard Business School, argues that many companies are still doing digital strategy wrong. “Their leaders think of “going digital” as either a way to cut costs or to attract customers with a flashy new app but successful digital strategy is more complicated than that,” he says.

Gupta, the author of Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business, warns, “most of the companies that are under fire are the ones which are using consumer data for advertising – Facebook and Google, to some extent. And that’s because most people don’t see advertising as being useful for them. They don’t see that benefit in advertising…. That’s why the click-through rate in most of the advertising is less than one percent…. So even with all the technology and data and everything else, they’re 99 percent of the time failing. That’s because consumers are telling them, I don’t care about this.”

In a recent blog, Why Strategic Thinking Is So Hard for Digital Marketers, Brian de Haaff, co-founder and CEO of software company Aha!, writes, “many digital marketers are still operating outside of this strategic mindset”. Like a lot of marketers, they are the doers and order-takers as opposed to being the thinkers in the business.

“You should be known as the digital marketing expert who drives the growth of the business – not the person who is simply taking orders.”

Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese military thinker, wrote that “strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Or as Greg Satell writes for DigitalTonto: “The fundamental problem of strategy is developing a coherent logic for making choices. To achieve that logic, strategists need to not only understand the objectives to be achieved, but the tactics that will get them there. You can’t, as many would have us believe, separate strategy from implementation. Nowhere is that burden as heavy as in digital marketing strategy.”

The jobs are out there, and the salaries are good, but the challenges are humongous.

Path to purchase

On the subject of digital strategy, Facebook is the go-to platform to build awareness, advertise specific products, and drive revenue. However, as Mike Farrell writes for Marketing Land, “many marketers simply invest in the channel with no clear strategy, which frequently leads to wasted ad spend”.

Most shoppers use a variety of different platforms to shop but Facebook has an increasing role in the customer journey. However, it engages consumers at the early stages of decision-making, not when they are ready to buy. Because of this, “retailers need to shift their measurement focus to multi-touch attribution (MTA),” says Farrell.

Multi-touch attribution is the act of determining the value of each customer touch-point leading to a conversion. It is a set of rules that give variable weight to different marketing channels.

NinthDecimal, the San Francisco based omnichannel marketing platform, has just announced the launch of the industry’s first multi-touch attribution (MTA) solution for foot traffic measurement. The idea is to help advertisers understand and engage their audience across all media channels by targeting individuals at the right marketable moment to achieve the best campaign performance possible.

Locally Ipsos New Zealand’s MMA’s MTA approach combines software analytics and data management platforms with in-depth consulting. Its Multi-Touch Attribution models enable marketing planners to improve the effectiveness of their digital channels.

“Real customer insight is the goal of analytics,” says Adobe Analytics. The goal of attribution is to understand the value of each contact point in each customer’s buying journey. Hypothetically, this makes it easier to decide what tactics and content you should develop.

Marketers and retailers need to track their customer’s journey through all their online and offline channels and they need good attribution measurement to tell them what’s working. This will help to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time

I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!

George Clooney, Serena Williams and Will Smith are just some of the international celebrities used to puss everything from coffee to water and beyond. Here in New Zealand, sports stars like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are on our screens alongside other local celebrities.

For a look at the weirdest and most wonderful Kiwi celebrity endorsements go to The Spinoff, which has a list that includes a really unlikely match-up of Dai Henwood and Rachel Hunter.

But are these celebrity endorsements worth their weight in the gold the stars collect? It would seem that younger generations are more likely to be influenced by their peers, or at least those that look like them on Instagram.

“Social media users with as few as 100 followers are becoming paid influencers, as brands continue to steer towards more authentic online endorsements,” wrote Sarah Keoghan for Stuff in May. And in a follow-up on Stuff in June, Alice Clarke reported on a recent Salmat marketing survey, which claimed 5 per cent of Australians said they used endorsements from influencers/celebrity ambassadors when making purchase decisions.

So, do advertisers need to pay the big bucks likely to go to Kane Williamson after his impressive showing at the Cricket World Cup, or to some of the rugby stars if the All Blacks go one step better for a threepeat in Japan?

According to a study that appeared in the Social Influence journal, celebrity endorsements are just not worth the cost.

“The overall message to marketers is be careful, because all of us, celebrities or not, have positives and negatives to our personalities, and those negatives can easily transfer to a brand,” said research leader Margaret C. Campbell, who teaches at CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, as reported in .

Imagine if you wake up one morning to discover your celebrity endorser has been arrested for drunk driving, wife-beating or having sex in a public toilet.

While insisting on some protections for your brand may seem prudent, it didn’t work for the Australian Rugby Union and Israel Folau.

The risks of celebrity endorsement might just not be worth the rewards.


“Resisting surveillance capitalism is not simply ‘the right thing to do’. Just about everyone connected to the internet is crying out for an alternative path to the digital future, one that will fulfil our needs without compromising our privacy, usurping our decisions and diminishing our autonomy.” – Shoshana Zuboff: Facebook, Google and a dark age of surveillance capitalism.


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