The game is no longer about a creative idea, rather an idea that we can leverage for a brand: Melanie Varley

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Jul 22 2014, 07:22am hrs
For Melanie Varley, global chief strategy officer of media agency network MEC, digital and data are the future of advertising. While innovative ideas will still have their place in the scheme of things, technology will surely be the driving force behind such innovations. Therefore preparations have already begun at MEC across the globe with the network zeroing on seven key areas of growth starting from online videos to mobile, data, etc. In a conversation with FE BrandWagon's Anushree Bhattacharyya, Varley talks about how MEC is gearing up for the future and the importance of innovation. Edited excerpts:

How important is innovation and what is its relevance in today's world

Cannes Lions introduced an innovations category last year which was judged by Dave Droga of Droga5. This step, taken by one of the most coveted advertising awards, proves the importance of innovation. Interestingly, 90% of the work entered in the category was innovation in the space of technology. Also, communication was not the area of focus of the ideas; rather all the ideas entered were socially relevant. The winning idea was from Singapore. What's interesting is that so far we saw innovative campaigns, but now innovation is happening at the product end. The industry is now working towards changing and creating new products and services. The game is no longer about a creative idea, rather an idea that we can leverage for a brand, basically finding an innovative idea to drive conversation.

Is innovation about story-telling or use of a technology/ medium

Story-telling has always been about creative ideas and that has not changed. We know the best campaigns are the best stories which performed strongly. Technology is the new piece in the jigsaw puzzle. An idea today no longer completely relies on a story, technology helps in filling the gaps. While creative ideas will remain important for telling a story in an innovative manner, now we have got new tools to make it even more outstanding.

Can you provide an example of any recent campaign by MEC executed in India which you would call truly innovative

One of the recent campaigns which can be called innovative is the one designed for toothpaste brand Colgate at Kumbh Mela this year. The aim was to drive footfall to the Colgate stand, where the new Ayurvedic toothpaste was being sampled and sold at a discount. Triveni Ghat was identified as the best location to target as it was relatively close to the Colgate stand. Subscribers who had previously visited Triveni Ghat during the festival were identified through the usage of their mobile phone, and were further filtered on the basis of roaming, average revenue per user (ARPU) and do-not-dial (DND). These subscribers were then sent a 30-second voice message, as opposed to text message, encouraging them to visit the Colgate stand. The stall attracted over 700,000 visitors. Of those who listened, 60% listened for over 25 seconds. The promotion increased footfall to the Colgate stall by over 300%. The campaign was all about getting messaging in the right place, at the right time, to the right people.

MEC launched a global study for brands called Momentum last year. How has it been received

In today's world where the consumer is swarmed with a variety of choice, Momentum plays a very critical role as it helps in understanding and quantifying how consumers make purchase decisions and select a brand. It quantifies consumer bias by category and brand, the beliefs customers have and the influential touch points. The study further revealed that there are two kind of stages active and passive that a consumer goes through. People who go through a strong passive stage bias consider fewer brands. Also they spend less time in the active stage, are less concerned with price when making a buying

decision and are happier with their purchase decision.

How has MEC prepared itself to tackle the mobile as a medium for communication

In several developing markets we are witnessing mobile leapfrog fixed lines. At the same time, for all of us it still remains a challenge to make money from mobile. In case of mobile there is no one business model that works. There are various models and everyone is trying to figure out which one works better and under what circumstances.

So our number one priority is to use digital and data to bring about a change. For instance, in South Africa we launched a campaign for Johnson & Johnson for its feminine hygiene brand called Stayfree. Young girls in the 14-15 years age bracket were our target consumers. We created an education programme in schools through a mobile application. The incentive was that if the girls engaged with the app then they got free mobile minutes and vouchers from the brand. Even as internet penetration is low in many parts of the world, we need to understand mobile is already present in every corner and so we need to utilise the device in the best possible manner.