Ogilvy Group’s Rory Sutherland made an entertaining keynote speech this morning at the Insight 2007 conference, describing how brands ‘on a clear mission’ are the most likely to prosper in the digital environment.    

The DoubleClick event was straplined ‘Succeeding in a Fragmented World’ and Sutherland spoke engagingly about how marketers need to embrace the diversity and complexity on offer, rather than being paralysed by old-school thinking.

An obsession with reach and demographics must be replaced by an appreciation of the opportunities afforded by digital media, including the abililty to be relevant, timely and targeted, he argued.

Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK, said that marketing control freakery needed to give way to “ideas that reveal their own source code and allow other people to make contributions to it“.

He cited the example of the Dove campaign for real women which has succeeded and gone viral because it is a message or ‘big ideal’ that people can identify with and feel strongly about, irrespective of their social class or demographic.

The speaker stressed that it wasn’t just ‘big’ or ‘cool’ brands who could benefit in this changing marketing environment. He said that any brands could be successful as long as they had “an audience with a sense of community“.

A big chunk of his speech was an amusing analogy with food and drink (hard to do justice here), and how diversity of channels and types of media is to be welcomed.

He compared old-school marketing thinking in the digital age to “a moronic sommelier” who is bent on explaining to his restaurant guests the best way to get inebriated for £5. Not everyone wants fast-food and nor does everyone want to get as drunk as quickly as possible at the least expense.

There is a time and a place for different types of digital engagement and they should not all be judged according to the same metrics.

On the subject of alcohol, Sutherland compared contextual advertising to Pernod. That taste of aniseed is great when you’re sitting outside a French cafe, but not so good when you are back in England in the rain.

Michael Nutley, Editor-in-Chief at NMA, also spoke at the event and said that digital marketing was well and truly “past the tipping point“.

He said that the biggest change in how customers are marketed to is ”the move from interruption to engagement“.

Marketers should be “creating advertising that is so interesting, powerful and compelling that people want to engage with it rather than just tolerate it“.

The question for companies, Nutley added, is whether they are fllexible enough to re-organise themselves and adjust to a new paradigm.

Those interested in these topics can download our

Online Media Planning and Buying Roundtable Briefing

(free to registered users). This report follows a roundtable we hosted in April.