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2013 may be the year that digital goes mainstream in business, and with that has come a multitude of predictions on key themes and trends.

Russ Lidstone joined Havas Worldwide in 2006 and became CEO in 2009. Since then he has overseen development of the agency's digital, search, social media (Cupola Lab) and channel capabilities, as well as integrate PR into the heart of the business.

Here Lidstone discusses data-driven marketing and great brands disseminated effectively across offline and digital channels.

Are there any obvious differences between the way the big agency networks (including Havas) are approaching 'digital', either through restructuring or acquisition of digital specialists?  

We fundamentally believe that digital needs to be at the core of our business, not a separate business or separate silo. 

Of course digital means many things, and we have realised the importance of specialist skills in certain parts of the digital arena. Acquisition allows for instant access to experience within the required discipline, in return this allows agencies to expand our existing integrated offering. This is especially important for new/emerging technologies.

We are taking a closer look at technologies in use and aligning blended project teams based on client needs and type of work. On a bigger scale yes, acquisition plays a large role in filling the voids that naturally occur given the speed of change.

Marketing is becoming more data-driven and technology-driven. How can agencies - and their clients - best ensure the right balance between creative thinking and scientific marketing?

Techniques and tactics in digital are ever-changing and the days where a 'big campaign' can run over a long duration without ongoing monitoring and adaptation are gone.  Consistent innovation - trying new things to benchmark success is crucial and to do this agencies are required to have a more flexible approach to planning, strategy and execution.

The way we ensure a balance is by no longer having discipline silos - our creatives, project leaders, strategists, analysts, social leads and tech leads work in one process without departmental barriers. This ensures that ROI is at the heart of our operational process.

Does a more integrated approach by your clients make it easier to carry out cross-channel attribution and optimise marketing budgets accordingly?

Yes it does. Creating an integrated approach allows for a single view and continued engagement with the consumer across channels in a choreographed way. It enables us to modify and evolve campaigns and content, and assess effectiveness with a single view. It also ensures that we can act responsibly without defending the individual P&Ls of silo mentality companies.

Importantly, sales and information channels need to be in sync with each other in order to respond and deliver to the behaviours of consumers. e.g. mobile internet is consistently on the rise, people and checking the social media account while in store for researching, comparing and verifying product information.

Companies are offering web only vouchers or check in offer and the evolution of providing a multichannel approach only supports the following data:

  1. 30% of consumers do their product research in store and make the purchase online (McKinsey 2011)
  2. 53% of consumers do their research online and make the purchase in store (McKinsey 2011)

In terms of budgets it makes sense to support a channel oriented approach consistent with making products available on all channels preferred by consumers. With consistency and innovation this can reward clients by meeting KPIs and ROI.

Content marketing seems to a topic on everyone's lips at the moment, even though it's nothing especially new. Have you noticed any recent sea change in how brands are approaching content strategy? 

There's definitely a change from the old days where users were served a 'one for all' type of content. Today's users require valuable information, that which addresses their needs in easily digestible pieces and are prepared to engage with brands on their terms.  

The most successful businesses online tend to serve a high ratio of valuable content with seemingly no sales agenda mixed with occasional marketing messages. With such an increase in social media our clients have recognised the need to create and measure shareable brand content across all channels.

What are other hottest trends you are observing among your clients? 

I think the main one is a preparedness to try new things, monitor, assess and evolve. Strengthening the digital foot print of their brands is universal. Mobile isn't really a trend but it's fundamental and growing and of course we're all exploring where NFC will take us - in both payment and communications terms.

Geographically speaking, which are the real hot spots to look out for? 

Aside from the obvious candidates - Asia, Brazil and The Middle East will see a huge jump in consumer engagement through digital platforms. But interestingly we shouldn't forget that the UK is a hugely digital savvy market and significant investment is being made into the UK's tech credentials in Shoreditch and beyond, so the UK represents a huge hot spot.

Ryan Sommer

Published 11 February, 2013 by Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer is web veteran and recovering expat who contributes to Econsultancy on startups, content marketing and new media. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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