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Zenith's Tom Goodwin dismisses concept of a digital world

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MUMBAI: The last few years have seen a major shift in consumer behaviour and the way brands interact with them through various mediums. So, the industry is evolving and changing? Well, if Zenith Media EVP and Head of Innovation Tom Goodwin is to be believed, nothing is changing.

“All we hear now is how the world is changing and the [advertising and marketing] industry is evolving, which is not true. Nothing is changing. Our businesses will not be hampered with drones overnight. It’s easier for people living in big cities to say that the world is changing, which is not the reality,” Goodwin said.

Speaking at Zee Melt 2018 marcom event here yesterday, Goodwin not only shattered some of the common perceptions and myths about the advertising and marketing industry but expounded too on his theories.

Take, for example, the perceptive trend of newspaper readerships on the decline globally with people now accessing news on hand-held devices like mobile phones and tablets. Goodwin rubbished this belief by stating that newspaper readerships have increased significant, especially in countries like India and Africa.

According to the Zenith executive, in a perfect future, passwords and payments could become a thing of the past and one would be able to unlock devices or pay a bill via face recognition software or a smile or a just a gesture. “But that’s far from today and we have to work actively in the right direction to make that happen as we, as an industry, only talk about technologies but know very little about them,” Goodwin explained, adding the industry hasn’t been able to use chatbots effectively.

Expounding more on technology, he said people were still trying to figure out technology and its many uses in, what he calls, the “mid-digital era”. “As our expectations are high, we tend to refer [to] the past and layer it up without completely understanding it. For instance, reading newspaper should give different consumer experience on different mediums. But it doesn’t. Most newspapers today tend to copy-paste the same model of the physical paper and put it up on the internet without any innovation,” Goodwin explained.

Pointing out that the world hasn’t “really seen any innovation in advertising since 1950”, while taking pride in being in the creative industry, he didn’t mince words: “We keep making the same mistakes”.

While everyone talks about how the millennials were difficult to connect with, Goodwin thought they were the “easiest generation to target”. Reason? As the millennials were always connected or on their mobile phones, there, probably, hasn’t been an easier group to “reach in the entire history of humanity”. Though he’s not the only one now saying so, but Goodwin is of the opinion that “TV is not going anywhere” or dying out due to a digital onslaught simply because “TV is now being watched at more places than ever” and it was “irritating to hear” about the death of television.

However, Goodwin certainly is not wishing away the march of digital altogether. The post “digital age” will be a world where digital will become a part of everybody’s existence and, for that to happen, “markets and agencies collectively need to create brand new experiences from the scratch”, was the advice. He added: “In order to do better business in times of chaos, brands need to transform their communication strategy by understanding people and what they need at what time.”

While everyone talks about a digital world, Goodwin thinks there is no digital world and people were just “obsessed with the idea of digital being a thing”. Why so? He explained: “We still talk about digital as a thing and a behaviour. We have heads for digital and digital strategy and digital advertising. For the next generation, digital will be a part of their lives just as electricity is. Do we have a global head for electricity? People today don't do internet banking but do banking in 2018, they don't do e-commerce, they just buy stuff as and when they feel like it.”

Not content with countering some presently held popular industry beliefs, Goodwin had some observations on brand expectations too. “Brands today like to set expectations of being the best or giving the best experience ever, which is not at all true. For instance, every bank wants to compare with every other big bank on the street,” the master said, adding, “But that’s not how a consumer judges you. They [consumers] judge you for your own service. Brands need to look into that [aspect], rather than setting high expectations.”

Moving on to technology and companies, Goodwin advised people to apply technology correctly though they may not necessarily be technology companies. Driving home the point that beyond all the hype, consumer was the king and that every company should keep consumers at the heart of their businesses, he said, “It's an incredible balance to be made and brands like Uber, WeWork, Whatsapp, Facebook are doing a tremendous work in that area.”

He also noted that it was easy to presume that most companies don't know what they were doing today, which is not the case really. “Most companies in the market today have had a large legacy behind them, and whatever and whichever version we see of them today, is a compilation of all the work they’ve been doing for so many years,” Goodwin explained, however, cautioning them of the need to “revamp and relook at their consumers” with a different lens to keep up with the changing needs and demands.

What does he think of the present era? “It's the most exciting time to work in business, advertising and marketing. And to be alive,” was how Goodwin summed it all up.

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