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Digital is nothing, says Havas Media’s Tom Goodwin

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NEW DELHI: Tom Goodwin is not happy with the way marketers have abused the word ‘digital.’ In fact, he doesn’t want the word to be used at all. To the roomful of marketing enthusiasts gathered at Zee MELT 2016, who anticipated a lecture on cutting edge technology and the disruption it brings to the brand world, this 37-year-old SVP of strategy and Innovation at Havas Media said: ‘Sorry, no change.’

“Things have never changed so fast before, but it will never change so slowly again. If you look at the daily everyday lives of people in suburbs, not everything is changing. While it’s important to look ahead, we need to pay more attention to what is not changing,” Goodwin made it clear.

One needs to be mindful of the human behaviour that has evolved from centuries, that won’t change so easily.

Through a number of pictorial slides, Goodwin then took the audience to a time before the industrial revolution to point out how that big change had effected how we function, and its implication in the new world of disruption.

Giving the analogy of how power plants looked almost the same before and after electricity was discovered, Goodwin implied that technology can be embraced at surface and at deeper levels. Only when the latter is done that real efficiency kicks in a system.

Putting it in context with the current ‘digital’ onslaught, “currently businesses are trying new technology only at the fringes. Whenever something new comes up, they are tacking it on their existing system without rebuilding the entire structure,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin then cautioned creative agencies from celebrating their so called ‘digital ads.’ “Simply sticking a TV ad on a pre roll before an online video, or publishing an ad on an online portal doesn’t make it digital. There is nothing new about using the same old ideas in different devices,” he said.

Calling the current use of technology in marketing as a ‘digital garnish’ done mostly for PR attention rather than serving a functional purpose, Goodwin called said businesses were getting complacent on using digital in silos or add-ons.

“That Dominos ad with drones delivering pizza was an attractive piece of content but we still await a drone to deliver pizza at our doorstep. British Airways went all high tech and introduced Neuroblankets that would gauge its passenger’s emotions for collecting data, when its website doesn’t have an email address to write to! That’s a perfect waste of marketing spends when the same purpose could be served if they get their basics right,” Goodwin advised.

In order for business to get these basics right, Goodwin suggested a few pointers. To start with “we need to stop getting awed by digital like we are still in the 90s, as if it is some place to go to. In today’s world there is no concept of ‘online’ or ‘offline.’ An 11 year old boy who has grown up with Internet, doesn’t go to shop ‘online on his smart phone’, he simply shops. Marketers need to understand this concept of ‘disappearing of digital world,’ and stop introducing new ‘digital arms’ in their respective organisations,” Goodwin explained.

“People really don’t care about how a product gets to them, they don’t want to understand what is radio, print, digital, display, out of home, television or streaming, so marketers too should stop overanalysing over the different channels,” he said.

Marketers should be mindful of the new realities like virtual reality augmented reality, chat bots and even AI; but ensure that technology or tools aren’t limiting their imagination and growth. “There is a famous saying that goes ‘we shape tools and then they shape us.’ Hotel lobbies still use a giant desk to separate the consumer from the staff, when it was a product of pre digital age and can be done without off now,” cited Goodwin.

Goodwin sees huge potential in the use of anticipatory computing in advertising where contextual information on how a consumer lives his or her day can help brands target them with meaningful and relevant advertising. “The goal of an advertiser is to make people’s life easier. Brand building can play a huge role in this. Advertising should help us navigate through life not woo us at points with cool tech toys,” Goodwin opined.

Lastly, Goodwin left the room with a thought: Digital is nothing. It is vital but noticeable only through its absence. This mad race to add another ‘digital’ silo to our business isn’t challenging any system, but following it. No changes there.

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