This week, our MSc Digital Marketing students were treated to a glimpse into the Future of Marketing at DigitasLBi's Edinburgh office.
DigitasLBi, one of the key partners in the first year of our Masters, have been supportive right from the start. The agency is actively engaged in enhancing and promoting the role of digital in Scotland (I attended their excellent hosted BIMA Edinburgh Breakfast Briefing back in September), and shares our commitment to the digital skills agenda. We want to create a talent pool of digital marketing experts with the right practical and soft skills to hit the ground running!
Our collaboration on the MSc Digital Marketing involves a Mentorship programme, which pairs up students with mentors working at DigitasLBi Edinburgh. Mentors have been providing support and guidance to the students via remote sessions using Skype for the last 3 months - and this week they finally got to meet them for real!
When we arrived, we were welcomed by a coffee and a quick 'mingle with the mentors', following by a tour of DigitasLBi's cool Edinburgh offices. We then sat down and listened to their Media Innovations Director, Andrew Girdwood's guest lecture on The Future of Marketing.
Andrew's opener challenged the concept of 'The Future'. In marketing, he argues, 'The future is next week'. So, when we think the future of marketing we need to think very soon - next week, or even tomorrow. 'Agile' is the key term here, and agile thinking needs to be part of our DNA.
Three points in his subsequent talk stood out for me, and resonated with the audience.
1. Owned paid earned media
Andrew made us question the distinction of owned vs. earned vs. paid media. He argued that brands didn't actually own their Facebook pages - their customers did, and Facebook own the customers (their data). In fact, brands may not even own themselves any more.
In the age of the customer, you are who your customers say your are (not who you say you are).
Andrew also took the mantra 'Brands are Publishers' to its logical conclusion - 'Customers are Publishers' (ever tweeted? You're a publisher!). I agree there is a significant merging of all functions and roles (random fact: I researched the 'prosumer' - the digital consumer who is also a producer - for my PhD thesis 7 years ago - the term 'social media' didn't exist back then).
Nowadays, consumers are publishers are advertisers are producers... for example, some Instagram users are consumer-publishers, getting paid a dollar each like, YouTube stars sell 'native' advertising without disclosing it, and the average Joe or Jane can no longer tell the difference between organic media / news and its paid equivalent (i.e. advertising masking as fact).
I think it's still important to keep owned, paid and earned media as separate concepts, if only for practical reasons such as allocating marketing budgets. In addition, what hasn't changed is that fundamentally modern marketing is about attracting customers to your website or store, and buy from you (or whatever 'buy' means for your business). Repeatedly.
We had a lively discussion with some questions around privacy. Everyone agreed that privacy would be an important issue for digital marketing in 2015, and when Andrew asked who of us had concerns about their online privacy, probably two thirds raised their hands.
I also shared my story of zooming out of Streetview recently and discovering that Germany is one of the last beacons of non-surveillance in Europe.
What I'm not so sure about is how important privacy issues are for 'digital natives' (born 2000 onwards). The generation arguably never had any privacy to begin with, so this may not be something they value or care about.
I'll ask my future students of the MSc Digital Marketing (2020 applicants and beyond) i.e. the digital natives, themselves. I'll report my findings then..
3. Retargeting ads destroy Christmas
Andrew related a funny observation that stuck with me - this Christmas, many kids will already know their presents because they are being retargeted by display ads for products that their parents have already purchased for them 😀 - retargeting setup #FAIL (But are kids smart enough to understand this? I bet they are).
My guess is that this isn't just the case for parents and kids though - I'd be interested in finding out how many Christmas present surprises retargeting is ruining this year - and it's the same for search too 😛 .
Top tip: Don't share a browser with your loved one in the run up to Christmas (or at any time, really!) as otherwise you'll probably know half of the presents you're getting each other.
All in all, The Future of Marketing @DigitasLBi was a great success. Andrew's guest lecture taught each of us something new, and the subsequent dinner with the mentors rounded off a productive and valuable day out for everyone involved.
And here are some student comments:
Importantly, the agency visit has also deepened the desire of some of the students to work agency-side when they graduate next year (yay!).