UTalkMarketing’s Catherine Turner talks to EHS Brann’s new head of digital Craig Walmsley (pictured) about the industry, the agency, being a digital evangelist - and getting to grips with his new world of direct.
Hands up who’s heard this before: big advertising network ‘gets’ digital and bolsters its ‘integrated’ offering..?
Look to any of the global marketing services offerings and you can bet that their creds and presentations will be packed full of buzz words such as integrated media, cross-platform creativity, 360-degrees thinking and ‘new ways of working’.
For many, they’re playing a catch-up game – either buying or building digital departments and units in an attempt to recreate the excitement and experience of that first bubble of digital hotshops. And some do it better than others.
The big agency innovators talk of the synergies between their previously siloed skillsets and how the breadth and depth of their offerings gives clients the best of all worlds – and all in one place. But for some talk is cheap; simply superficially paying lip-service to the new rules of the game.
Now, hands up who thinks digital when they hear of EHS Brann, part of the EuroRSCG network and one of the world’s leading direct marketing agency?
Not enough, according to Craig Walmsley, formerly of AKQA, who joined as head of digital for the group earlier this year. Not even him, after being approached for the role – and it’s just one of the things he hopes to change.
Speaking exclusively to UTalkMarketing Walmsley reveals how the group must do more to promote its not inconsiderable digital expertise of more than a decade’s standing.
“I perhaps shared that perception in the industry when I first heard of the role,” he admitted. “I didn’t know that EHS Brann really had anything to do with digital at all – but digital is actually a pretty significant chunk of business. 4D is a serious digital agency that has been going for 10 years. ”
Walmsley started in the newly created role in February, with a brief to both head up the group’s digital arm EuroRSCG 4D Digital as managing director as well as spearheading and developing integrated activity for the business across EHS Brann.
“We need to raise the profile of the agency as a whole. It’s partly about us becoming more integrated and sharing our broader story,” he added.
It’s a new sell for Walmsley, who spent over a decade at independent specialist AKQA after joining in 1998 as a strategist. Before joining EHS Brann he held the role of principal consultant at AKQA after spending four years at the network’s San Francisco and New York offices as director of strategy.
With EHS Brann andEuroRSCG 4D Digital – literally direct, digital, data and drive – he has a whole new set of tools to play with. He continued, “I came in to EHS Brann saying that they needed someone to come on board and take the agency they had and give it a shake. To take what they had and integrate it into the rest of the offering.”
It was something that was already happening without him, said Walmsley, although his long background at an independent standalone digital agency perhaps would give him a different, outsider’s perspective of what was needed next.
That outsider’s perspective, and more pertinently a crash course in agency life outside of pure digital, has already opened Walmsley’s eyes to not only what clients want but to some of the synergies that already exist between disciplines.
“Here we have the best of both worlds. We have discovery, data. We have the accountable customer journey as well direct marketing planning skills,” said Walmsley. “It’s what clients are demanding. It’s why we’re trying to create a more integrated offering .
“We are trying to put together a story of what people are asking us to do. It really is about the customer. It is real, it’s tangible.
“Direct is a different medium, but some of the skills, the thought processes and approaches to challenges are shared between direct mail and e-mail [marketing].
“One thing that was really fascinating to me was that the Forrester principle of one right way of designing websites is to create personas for all the characters that come on board – yet it’s something that was already happening here for DM, how ingrained that thinking already was.”
Walmsley believes he has joined the agency at a critical – and exciting – point in the evolution of marketing. He talked of the endless possibilities being opened up in areas such as mobile advertising, something long-since overdue its big moment as a mass marketing medium but until the advent of the iPhone and more standardised mobile platforms was too expensive, too technically diverse to do well.
“[Before] it was too fragmented, too much hard work. But now someone can sell 100,000 copies of an application on Apple’s iStore in just a week. And that model is going to roll out. It will be easy to develop a branded app to run across fewer platforms. We’ll see much more useful applications coming to the fore.”
He believes in some ways it will mirror the rapid rise of the internet, built on easily understood open standards.
Targeted advertising is another of his passion points and the rise of personalisation – brands thinking of how they can make their communications more unique to the individual.
“The cost of creating personalised services is getting very, very low,” he said, mooting car marques creating one-off copies of manuals tailored to each individual buyer or closed access websites allowing buyers to track the ‘build’ of their ordered vehicles.
“We should be exploiting some of that personalisation. We should be helping digital merge and manage some of all that information out there rather than technically creating complexity.”
Cutting complexity and offering a more personalised, integrated offering to clients is at the heart of what Walmsley wants for 4Digital and EHS Brann – as well as his customers.
He concluded, “Strengthening ties across the network is very important to us, making sure that people understand that we do have a dedicated offering, which does have a long track record and enjoyed significant success in the digital space.
"It’s about letting people know that we do have this powerhouse within the group – and one that is doing cracking digital work.”
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