Change ain’t what it used to be, how the digital revolution is transforming our world

“The digital revolution hasn’t just transformed advertising communications, it’s transformed and continues to transform all businesses and it’s now transforming the world,” says Patrick Collister, Head of Design at Google Europe.

Ahead of the Digital Content Summit in London, we caught up with advertising and marketing guru Patrick Collister, to discuss the changing face of advertising in the digital world.

“In the “good old days” you used to buy media, but today an awful lot of media is not owned, it’s free, it’s out there, it’s on the Internet. So we are in an era of unprecedented change as a result of an incredible invention –the computer and an amazing innovation – the Internet. Both of them are transforming everything, including communications,” says Collister.

He stresses that brands need to adapt and to start thinking about new ways of communicating with their customers: “Television is not dead, TV is always going to be with us. However, television audiences have been declining in size. Younger people are deserting TV in order to be able to watch on their devices, and advertisers need to move with them.”

However, he stresses, being on YouTube and social media is only part of the solution. Because of the digital revolution, people now have the option of blocking, skipping and fast forwarding ads, so the challenge is to create content that will be genuinely interesting and that people will choose to watch: “Only a mad man goes online and says: ‘Oh, I want to look at that Levi’s advert” - you just don’t do that, nobody does that. Of course you skip it, unless it’s interesting in its own right.”

For the past 100 years, says Collister, brands used to tell people about their products. Now, because advertisements can be avoided, advertisers need to find new genuine ways of attracting people’s attention.

“Saatchi and Saatchi had a brief for a product called Fixodent, which helps elderly people keep false teeth in place. If I put out a TV commercial, I know I’d be talking to largely older demographic, but 50-60% are going to be completely uninterested in fixing their false teeth,” explains Collister. 

“So we said to Saatchi’s ‘Why don’t you use YouTube, why don’t you use digital media in order to be able to talk to people?”. Instead of writing a 30 second TV commercial, Collister and his team put them in touch with YouTube content creator Kevin Richardson, who is also known as the Lion Whisperer, because he runs a Wildlife sanctuary and Game reserve in South Africa.

“So Fixodent did a deal with him. They paid for a couple of vets to go out to Kevin Richardson’s Game reserve to treat a white lion called Aslan, who had really serious tooth ache and they sorted his teeth out.”  The only bit of branding, explains Collins, is it says ‘the film by Fixodent” in the opening 5 seconds of the video. “So far it has over 16 million views on YouTube alone, and would have had even more on Facebook. I’m told that in brand tracking studies, awareness of Fixodent and what it does has increased significantly”.

“So here is somebody, using YouTube , using a digital platform in order to tell a much longer, more complicated, but very touching story. In 30 seconds all I’m gonna do is talk about how Fixodent is going to stick your dentures in, online I’m able to do a metaphor, which is ‘hey, if Fixodent can sort out Aslan the lion, then just think what they can do for you” and people get it,” explains Collister.

He says that marketing used to be a Monday to Friday job, but today marketers have to be on 24/7 as most of the problems tend to happen on the weekend.

“I’ll give you a little example: a waiter and a waitress working for Dominoes in one of the southern states of America decided to film themselves picking their noses and putting snot into a pizza that they then served to a customer. They did that on a Friday night, by the time it got to Monday morning, 5 million people had seen the video. Dominoes didn’t actually do anything till later on Tuesday, by which time 50 million people had seen it.”

A lot of brands have started to engage with their customers in a different way, says Collister. “Proctor and Gamble’s Always (sanitary products for women), for example, came up with a great idea of short videos on YouTube called #LikeAGirl. In these videos they are talking about confidence among teenage girls, and the limitations and stereotypes society imposes on them. Always created those videos to empower girls to follow their dreams whether they are “girly” or not.” Those videos gathered over hundred million vies on YouTube.

However, Collister warns, branding content is great – engage with your consumers – but don’t forget about the product: “On Always’ website, as well as having Like a Girl videos, there is a video of how to deal with your first period. And this has had 7.7 million views. Again, every single one of those views represents somebody choosing to go and watch it, somebody needing open advice from a brand at a very precise moment.”

Brands, he says, don’t necessarily have to stand for social justice in order to engage with their consumers. But in order to gain significance in the digital space they do have to stand for something, and they need to be able to tell stories that are interesting: “I tell agents and clients there is good news and bad news: as a creative person your creative work has to be fantastic, but the bad news is that your creative work has to be fantastic.”

It’s not just the content and the way brands deal with it that has changed. People who work in advertising have as well, says Collister: “Today, there is a new kind of creative person and I call that the “Creek” – a creative geek. “Creeks” understand code, they are makers of things, they are creative technologists and “Creeks” are the people who are transforming advertising”.

Patrick Collister adds that whatever you do in digital space has to be either “useful, usable or delightful, and if it’s not one of those three you are irrelevant”.

To get more useful tips on how to survive and succeed in the new digital world, join Patrick Collister at the Digital Content Summit on the 23d of May in London.



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