EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: David Whittle, Managing Director – M&CSaatchi Australia
Jakomi Mathews caught up with David Whittle, Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Australia, last week attending the Melbourne instalment of global digital marketing conference Ad:Tech. For all you music sync and publishing company personnel this is a very in depth treat which provides deep insight into how agencies view working with music artists.
How do brands measure advocacy?
It’s the question most of our prospective clients ask us and it comes down to two simple things; what people say and what people do. The most important thing is to delineate between those two. What you say and what you actually do are quite often different. To understand what people say, the net promoter approach is a valid and valuable method of measuring advocacy. However, this approach only understands what people say about a brand. This can be very different to what they do.
What people actually do is far more interesting and often more insightful. We work with Woolworths and have gained a good understanding of shopper behaviour through their Everyday Rewards program. We now have a good understanding of cross product purchases. For example we can discern how an advocate for a particular type of tuna will shop for other categories. We can actually see and understand strong correlations in shopping behavior from the data now.
Crucially we also record all of the conversations shoppers have in publicly available digital media. That is probably the biggest breakthrough in this space. Finally marketers are accepting this measure of advocacy very seriously and we are using it to make very serious decisions about marketing, about product and about distribution.
The beautiful part of digital media monitoring is its immediacy and that it provides clients and agencies with instantaneous insights.
So it’s the combination of what people say and what they do that provides us with our insight into brand advocacy. It’s not just one dimensional anymore it is multi dimensional.
What do brands bring to music in terms of creative branding campaigns?
There is a huge opportunity for brands to leverage artists. And that has been going on forever. It is neither a new strategy nor initiative. The things we are seeing today have been going on a long, long time, whether that be dressing artists or making sure they are drinking the right whiskey or owning the right phone. I think what is interesting here is the value exchange and what the artist runs the risk of forfeiting because of their connection with the brand.
I went to see a concert in Australia a number of years ago that was sponsored by McDonald’s. It was a fantastic tie up that McDonald’s had done. The artist actually sang the brand’s line as part of one of his songs. Now if that is not a great brand play I don’t know what is. The brand benefited hugely from that tie up not just explicitly but also implicitly. However, the big issue in my mind and I’m sure in that of the singer’s manager was what the endorsement did to the artist? For some in the crowd it served to dilute the artist’s integrity. Such potential sullying of consumer sentiment can obviously get dangerous, especially for performers whose currency is their persona and artistic integrity.
Notwithstanding, there are huge opportunities for brands to leverage music artists either live in concerts or via their various touch points with fans. EMI is one of our clients here in Australia. Last year we connected a song from an emerging artist called Miami Horror with Optus, a leading telecommunications company in Australia. The television commercial did two things; it used an amazing track from Miami Horror, which appealed to the audience and was absolutely spot on. The other dimension for Miami Horror was that it launched their song into the mainstream. A mutually beneficial scenario.
All of these things come back to the requirement to ensure that there is a fair and equal trade between artist and advertiser. And that it is not just the money that the artist is getting. Money is scant compensation for loss of artistic credibility, especially where musicians and their fans are concerned. I think that is a real watch out for the artist is to make sure they are not selling out or perceived to be selling out. This is the common problem that has been occurring.
Do you find that some of the publishers and even the labels are just after the money and are almost neglecting that aspect of being prepared to do an equal trade?
I think what is interesting here is that a good manager needs to look after the long-term interests of the artists. Situations where managers are incentivized to make short-term gains for their clients are a surefire way to ruin a band or an artist. In the long-term it’s crucial to balance that with the fact many artists are under immense pressure to pay back the label, publisher and management company. But if they believe in the artist they need to stick it out and ensure they don’t erode the priceless integrity and audience connection just for the sake of five, ten or fifty thousand dollars up front.
I think it is really interesting to see recently what has happened with those world famous artists who have performed for Gadaffi over the years. Their situation is a prime example of where things can go wrong. Interestingly many of those artists have not only lost credibility, they have also “lost” a whole lot of money because they have given it away. Crucially they have also lost a lot of time. If you’re an artist with a five-year peak career, one or two days or even a week lost from your schedule is a significant amount out of your monetisable career. It is pretty scary. I hate that there could be instances where that happens – the trade is inequitable and the future benefit is not calculated or even considered. That is what worries me.
What is your opinion on advertising funded services in terms of – will they work by delivering viable incomes for services themselves, labels and artists (essentially what I’m getting at here is there really enough digital advertising/marketing campaigns to support all the streaming music services out there like, Spotify, MOG, We7.com, muzu.tv etc)?
I think it is a fantastic question and one that is relevant to all types of content, no matter whether text, image, audio or video. All content is funded in some way, shape or form by advertising or a promotion of some description. You look at Pandora for example, a truly amazing service. Sadly we do not have it in Australia. I’m an avid long-term member and user of last.fm. I love it. It is a part of my day-to-day life. It is something I find very useful and any advertising in it is an equitable trade. The real opportunity in the business is not just serving music but also video content. Both present with exactly the same challenge.
As do all the traditional publishers, newspapers, broadcast and television providers. That common challenge is to deliver relevance to consumers. That’s the bottom line. Relevance is key to the success of these advertiser-funded businesses. Lack of it results in their undoing. These platforms and channels are all accountable now. The measurement around them is fantastic, there are no longer any secrets or smoke and mirrors. When you’re advertising you can accurately measure response.
How do they do that through last.fm? Through collection and use of data. The most crucial part of these services, whoever or whatever they might be, is to collect data about what consumers say and what consumers do. If you take those two datasets and combine them with the other datasets you achieve very powerful inferences. And it is those powerful inferences that should be informing an ad server to make the decision of which ad to serve to which person and when. That’s the fantastic opportunity that these businesses have.
Again history repeats itself. Newspapers and magazines operate on a rudimentary version of the same model. Over the years they have each worked out what is the right relationship and balance between their consumers and their advertisers via their content. But now, because it’s all transparent, measured and accountable, it makes it more difficult for them. But at the same time they have the data at their disposal so they should be able to make better decisions.
What is your favourite brand campaign that really worked primarily because of the music?
It would be the usage of CSS’s ‘Music is my hot hot sex’ in an Apple commercial you may remember from some time ago. This is a favorite for many different reasons. Not because it is my favourite song, not because it is my favourite product and not because it is my favourite execution of a campaign. What I really liked was the story behind it.
That song was taken by a kid, a student, who mashed it up with an existing iPod ad that was on the market. He put the mash up on YouTube where it drove heaps of traffic and the guys from the agency or Apple contacted this student and asked him if it would be ok to turn it into a broadcast ad. Obviously he said yes and the rest is history. What I love about this is it is a crowd-sourced example, it was incredibly cost-effective (obviously they had to pay all the license fees), it was using all the mediums and data points. Why send something to research when the research, conducted by the YouTube universe, has told Apple that this ad is already popular so may as well run it.
There is another back-story to this. The song had been previously used for a Microsoft Zune promotion. This adds a whole new dimension – a bit of history and cloak and dagger. It is consumer generated, which is fantastic and it is a great example of a brand recognising that and taking it all the way to broadcast. It is also a very simple ad with great cut through. I really liked it for all those reasons.
Going further is there an opportunity for more agencies setting up record labels as with HAVAS and their ‘The-Hours’ label? What are they key benefits in such a set-up for?
a). Brands/agencies and;
What is interesting here is the consistent pattern that has emerged of the music industry going both ways, moving up and down the supply chain of marketing services. One element of marketing services is using audio content, whether it is a voice over or a music track, to accentuate and make a campaign work. Audio content is an obvious asset for a big marketing services group to add to their mix.
This makes it another element on which the music industry can make margin and most importantly that they can understand why their offer is important to brands and their clients to drive sales. So will we see it happen more and more? I have no doubt it will because it is following that supply chain strategy.
But what is the benefit for brands and agencies? At the moment it is probably tenuous and it goes all the way back to the board and senior management of those agencies to help understand first what business they are in and second what business they are going to be in, in the future and that’s quite important.
The over-riding benefit to the artist and labels is the greater choice provided to them by marketing services companies in their space and choice is a good thing. However, choice can sometimes be a burden borne by the extra decision-making adding complexity to the process. There is also a risk for some artists working with marketing services groups aligned to clients and brands posed by the competitive issues that come from those arrangements. These commercial restraints erode freedom and flexibility, limiting artists and labels from selling their content to other clients.
The form/manner in which you believe music/artist brand relationships will or should take in the future?
I think we will see more brands connecting with an artist early in their career with both artist and brand taking the journey together, riding growth, success and popularity. I believe that is happening now and there are instances in the past whereby people in other performing arts have connected with a fashion label for example. They have grown with that fashion label and the fashion label has grown with them.
However, does that undermine their artistic integrity, their creative integrity? Is it too limiting? I think these are questions artists find difficult to answer in the face of financial reward. However, as music becomes even more commoditized, brand alignment becomes a more normalised option for artists to make money. For some it could be the difference between giving up or not giving up their day jobs.
What is the music service you like most (i.e. that you use for your own personal use)? Same goes for music device?
I love Pandora, which we sadly can’t use in Australia. Also Last.fm, as I mentioned previously, although I just snack on it I do not use it all the time. Obviously I use iTunes. I also use YouTube a lot. YouTube is built and designed to run playlists and be a great music product. I believe there is probably an insight there for brands and marketers for how consumers are listening to music; because they are not just listening to music they are watching music.
So there is this whole other dimension to what they are consuming and I think that ties back into what we discussed about how brands can work with artists and labels together. That is a very big opportunity.
I also like nothing better than to turn on my late ‘80s Bang and Olsen stereo and play a CD from start to finish. I get great satisfaction from it and it avoids this music snacking. Many of the greatest artists write albums to be played in their entirety and that is something that I think is lacking at the moment.
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