A passionate futurist and a technology trend forecaster, Goodwin, SVP of Strategy and Innovation, Havas Media, gives us a glimpse of the future of advertising
Roshni Nair | Delhi | September5, 2016
The role of Tom Goodwin, SVP of Strategy and Innovation at Havas Media, is to understand new technology, behaviours and platforms and ideate and implement solutions for clients that take advantage of these new opportunities. The founder of Tomorrow, an agency that provides innovative advertising and marketing solutions for the post-digital age, Goodwin is a passionate futurist and doesn’t like to dwell in the past. He speaks to BestMediaInfo about digital innovation, future of advertising and much more.
BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Goodwin on the sidelines of the recent ZeeMelt 2016 conference in New Delhi. Excerpts:
How much has digital changed the game for innovation?
I think it has changed a lot but I also think we haven’t seen anything yet. What new technology does is create new behaviours and new expectations. It provides the best opportunity for how advertising and marketing can become. When we look at new business models like Snapchat, it is easy to somehow think that we have got there but there is much more stuff to be done in the future.
How willing are brands to spend on digital innovation or digital advertising?
They are very willing to spend on digital advertising. There is a general feeling that ad spend should co-relate roughly with time spent on media. So the more we use our phones or the more we are on the internet, the more money is spent on those places and that is appropriate. But when it comes to innovation it is quite hard to get budgets for meaningful innovation. It is easy to get budget to do something that is going to get the press. It is more difficult to get the budget to do something meaningful because there are more risks involved. By definition, innovation is about things that are new and by definition, budgets need to have an ROI attached to them and it is difficult to get an ROI for something that has never been done before.
A lot of agencies are cutting their digital budgets because of ‘ineffectiveness’. How do you tackle this problem? What are the solutions?
I think there is a movement within the advertising industry to measure what we can change most quickly and measure most accurately and that has led to a kind of relentless optimisation and an obsession with media metrics. The industry should take a step back from what we can measure most easily and instead focus on what really matters.When we start to think about advertising in those terms it becomes a lot more exciting.We enter in more profound, meaningful conversations about how to tell stories and connect to people, the most important part about a communication.
What do you think is the scope for digital innovation in India and where do you see Indian advertising standing in the global scenario?
The amazing thing about India is that there are huge opportunities for companies to come from nowhere. A lot of problems developed nations like the UK and America suffered from is that they invested in infrastructure in a pre-digital age. So, on the American subway there is no real-time information, in American airports there is no area for scanners to operate because they were built before security was much of a concern. But when I come to places like India or China, what I love is that there is none of that baggage to worry about. So for me what is most exciting about these markets is that they get to completely leap-frog over that investment in the past and just create stuff in the future. I find markets like India and China to be most exciting and fascinating.
What is the most challenging part about creating a communication?
I think the biggest problem and opportunity in this industry is that we have stopped being brave. Whether it is this focus on optimisation, testing, using data to try and understand things it all makes me think that we have lost confidence in our convictions. The greatest opportunity for us is to realise that we are wonderful people. We are good at understanding people and understanding business problems and that we are creative. We just need to embrace a world where we understand how important we are and how good we are.
There is so much clutter in communication today, how can you break the clutter and reach your audience?
I hope that by being brave you can do things that aremore interesting and different. It is not about being provocative for the sake of it. I think brands need to understand first that things are cluttered, they need to focus slightly more on bold ideas. Focus on campaigns that build over time and don’t be afraid to define yourself by who you are not. Not all brands are for everybody, not all ads are for everybody, that is a really useful thing to be aware of and to do things that are different, refreshing, make people laugh and entertain people. As Dave Trott says “We can’t assume that somehow people are going to be paying attention” because we have so much stuff in our lives that increasingly we don’t have time for anything else.
Although the time spent on media is increasing, people’s attention span is decreasing. In such a scenario, how do we grab attention?
I think we always assume that the units of the past are right for today and the 30-second TV ads have become the default TV ads and maybe we need to look at that a different way. These are fantastic challenges. I would love to see someone focus on three or four-second adverts like maybe on a phone or on how do you tell stories with consecutive units. We need to become much better at seducing people and entertaining people.
What is the biggest challenge that the industry is facing today?
I think probably the biggest challenge is the pace of change and complexity and navigating distractions from profound changes. The media is full of stories like Pokemon Go is the next big thing, VR is the next big thing. Everyone is being bombarded with these messages all the time and some of those things will profoundly change everything and some of those things won’t. So the biggest challenge is understanding what matters the most.
What do you think the future of advertising looks like?
I think the future of advertising is about serving people without interrupting them. It is about making their lives easier rather than making them more complicated. It is about making products that people want more than it is about making people want products. It a great challenge of the future. There have been a lot of changes but not everything is different, we need to understand what has changed to help refocus our energy and when we do that we will realise what an exciting job it is.
If you had to give one piece of advice to give advertisers, what would it be?
It would be to focus on your gut. If you are really good at your job you will find it very easy to feel what works, to feel what your target audience is, to feel when it is the right moment for the right campaign and just trust your gut. Data is very important for support but decisions should not be driven by data they should just be supported by data.