3 New Year's resolutions of a brand digital marketing chief

The entire advertising ecosystem is under massive pressures, from media owners to tech providers, agencies to brands.

Huawei is the third-biggest smartphone maker after Samsung and Apple, according to International Data Corporation’s latest figures. The brand’s global digital marketing chief Nick Graham has outlined three pressure points that he’d like to see resolved in 2016.

No more junior agency staffers running client accounts. 
Agencies put a lot of time and investment into pitching, and it’s no wonder they want their top talent leading them. But once the pitching is over, often less experienced teams take over the actual running of the accounts. That’s nothing new of course, but the fallout from it is far more noticeable these days, when digital marketing operations account for a larger part of the mix and are far more technical, according to Graham.

“When clients deal with agencies on the digital side, it’s no longer good enough to have six graduates working on your business,” he said. “You then find the ones actually running your ops aren’t very good. You could hide that in the old world where media buying was about selling an IO and doing reporting, but in the new world, it’s about operational efficiencies delivering value, and these guys [grads] can’t do it.”

Stop obsessing about “right time” and unite branding and digital. 
“Right time, right place, right message” is not enough. Advertising is a blend of art and science, and the rise of ad tech has threatened the balance, according to Graham, who believes there’s a risk of “optimizing the fun and surprise out of the way marketing works.”

Graham also believes the digital industry has done a bad job at understanding the power of branding, with the result that everyone lapses back into the direct-response part of digital, which usually consists of doing a TV burst, then harvesting the response with surges of digital activity more generally.

“Clients and agencies are guilty of this. We want to put everything into a neat model where we say, ‘We’ve invested X and got Y.’ That misses the point to a degree; it should be something more.”

Brands must find a way to navigate in “walled garden” era. 
There’s been a lot of talk about walled gardens this year, as Google, Facebook and Apple all have made moves to fence off their precious customer data. Graham isn’t a fan of walled gardens, believing they give advertisers less freedom when it comes to picking media, and that in doing so they are harming advertisers’ ability to run unified campaigns across all media environments.

“For clients, any effort to build a CRM, in the much newer sense, is going to be more challenging,” he said. “You won’t be able to get the data you want from something like LinkedIn and tie it with Facebook, for example. There are organizations trying to offer that kind of service, but we will still come up loggerheads with them because these platforms believe the true value will lie in staying within the platform. That’s a massive structural challenge.”