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Too many agencies come to the table with ideas to sell predetermined solutions: George Coleman

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Too many agencies come to the table with ideas to sell predetermined solutions: George Coleman

George Coleman, President, talks about communication with an open mind, challenges for Creation in the Indian landscape, how connected devices are fuelling the rise of real time marketing, and more…

Is it important for a new agency to let go of legacy mindset altogether or retain the essentials and adapt to the new age media?

The communications landscape is going through significant disruption. The rise and rise of digital and social media, in lock-step with the penetration of mobile and broadband connectivity, has fundamentally changed the way brands need to go to market. Consumers are now increasingly in control and the old linear marketing communications models are fast becoming outmoded and ineffectual. We are in a period of constant innovation and technological disruption where change is now the new normal.

In this new era of engagement, influence, co-creation and participation, brands need to be everywhere their audiences are. Ideas now need to transcend media, channels and disciplines. Agencies therefore have to let go of legacy modes of thinking whilst retaining, growing and innovating their capabilities across paid, earned and owned. But it’s not enough just to re-wire how you execute, but you must also re-programme the way the agency thinks.

    What are the recent PR disruptor case studies/examples can you share which have caught your attention?

Coming to India is always a pleasure. This time around, my biggest takeaway will be examples of how brands are behaving disruptively by becoming their own media. A few examples that impressed me were Unilever's Kan Khajura Tesan, a specially designed medium for feature phones (that includes advertising as part of the content), Lifebuoy's use of a health message branded directly on Indian breads to engage religious festival goers and with significantly increasing their target audience and painting religious imagery on walls to change toilet habits. These kind of direct-to-consumer activation is obviously a response to the complexity and constraints native to India. However, I can see the same thinking and approach working in any market around the world. And often in very mature markets, low-cost innovations like the examples I’ve given are overlooked. Expensive doesn’t always mean better.

Globally, the campaign that has captured my attention is #HeForShe. Emma Watson's speech at the UN was incredibly powerful and the conversation is being driven globally across off- and online channels in a thoughtful way that seeks to persuade rather than confront. In essence, it seeks to make everyone part of the solution and makes equality a human issue rather than a gender specific one. Powerful stuff and a very well executed platform.

What will be Creation's USP in the Indian PR space?

Creation’s USP in India centres our response to the disruption we see happening in the comms landscape. In the engagement era it’s not enough just to re-wire how you execute, but you must also re-programme the way the agency thinks. Our proposition is anchored around open, creative ideation for integrated campaigns (where we might execute some or all of the campaign elements). Too many agencies come to the table with ideas to sell predetermined solutions, we take the opposite approach.

At Creation, our purpose is to open minds. To create ideas that inspire people to think, behave and do things differently. Ideas that are powerful enough to drive internal and external communications across any channel, in any format; to engage audiences through every touch point they experience a brand or participate in its story.

And with a canvas this big, you need a communications agency with open minds. We never limit ourselves to just one fixed point of view. We’re media-, discipline- and channel-agnostic. We’re a team of inquisitive, insightful and imaginative people who mix scientific rigour with creativity to get to the very core of how communications can inspire outcomes.

The other thing that sets Creation apart is our global DNA. Typically, agencies have been a domestic market leader before expanding internationally, and their approach is often defined or at least very heavily influenced by their country of origin. Creation, however, was born global. In the past 18 months we have scaled to 34 offices around the world. The agency therefore has a huge diversity of talent, thinking and approaches which all go into making up our offer. Creation is as much ‘made in India, as it is made in Shanghai, Seattle or London.

How can PR industry leverage earned media innovatively? What are the remarkable trends in this area?

The PR industry is fast adopting paid strategies to amplify the impact of earned media. Using context-based syndication services, we can promote earned coverage at the points at which our targeting audiences are consuming related stories and content. For example, earlier today I was reading an article on the BBC online news site about technology and one of the promoted links to the side was a context-relevant story on TechRadar about Nokia. We’ll see more and more smart, strategic use of paid to amplify earned over the coming months and years, especially as PR agencies build out their own media buying capabilities or form key inter-agency partnerships.

Is there enough investment in content in digital or traditional PR?

The market always follows the money. If there’s a clear return to be made, investors will pile in. The same dynamic applies in marketing communications. The more we can evidence the business value we can create (such as an increase in sales or market share, for example), then the more clients will be willing to spend with us. The challenge in modelling ROI, however, is often how to apportion results across different marketing efforts, especially where companies are running integrated campaigns.

So whether you’re delivering content marketing, digital or more traditional PR programmes, measurement and data analytics  capabilities are now an imperative, not a ‘nice to have’. Communications agencies have to get smarter to understanding and quantifying engagement, influence and brand sentiment and correlating these to business outcomes in order to grow their revenues with existing clients as well as win news ones.

     What will be Creation's biggest challenges in the Indian market with clutter and competition?

The communications market in India is incredibly exciting, dynamic, disruptive and innovative. In this environment, the biggest challenge for Creation is less other competitors, but more how to help clients manage change and evolve their communications function. As communications looks to take more ownership of digital and social, and become a more integrated part of the marketing mix, it needs to be bolder with its ideas and campaign executions. In other words, we need to help our clients foster creative bravery – to challenge the status quo and help the organisation understand the full potential of communications to drive business outcomes in the engagement era.

     How can marketers leverage the phenomenon of connected devices and generate valuable analytics insights from them?

Connected devices are fuelling the rise of real-time marketing. As marketers, we can now deliver brand connections in the moment. Mobile especially provides a rich data environment for targeting and personalization. With location information, we can now engage consumers when and where they are. Whilst this brings interesting new opportunities, brands now have to work harder to be relevant and be creative in context. Consumer expectations are rising.

How can PR industry effectively utilise Big Data to drive communication insights?

Big Data is like an elephant (as we might say in the UK). We’ve all heard about it, but never seen it, but are sure we’ll recognize it when we do. The truth is, however, it’s more about ‘small data’ – not the volume of data you crunch, but the valuable insights you curate through making interesting connections between data sets. This enables us to develop more compelling, engaging stories and refine and adapt in real-time (or as quickly as we can analyze and update). It’s the combination of art and science that is so powerful.

What are the main differences that you see between independent PR agencies and those owned by holding companies?

I’ve worked for both. For me, Creation would not be possible without being part of a network and the ability to draw on an incredible smorgasbord of talent and resources around the world to deliver best-in-class work for clients. The ability to bring non-core solutions to the table is much harder for the independents. But ownership structures aside, the clarion call for all agencies is get big or get niche. We’re seeing an accelerated hollowing out of the middle, as clients either turn to integrated agencies or specialists at either end of the spectrum.

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