Television is not digital media enemy: Kent Wertime

By Biprorshee Das and Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | May 21, 2012
Ogilvy's Kent Wertime talks to afaqs! on how perception towards the digital media needs to evolve.

Kent Wertime, president, executive manager and chief operating officer, Ogilvy Asia Pacific is not amused when told that digital is still seen as being in an experimental mode. He is particular that the marketing community needs to catch up with where the consumer is going with digital, and needs to do it much faster than at the current pace.

In an freewheeling chat with afaqs!, Wertime notes how the digital market is still underspent and while television and traditional media are not real threats to the digital medium, digital is still being seen as an add-on by some.

Excerpts from the interview:

Kent Wertime

afaqs!: Digital agencies in India say that the clients' focus is mainly on performance marketing. ROI does matter but digital is surely much more beyond just performance.

Wertime: You just asked me a question with a very strong view and I would say I agree with that. It is not just about performance. There needs to be a business case but in case of digital, it is not just about a measured ROI number.

In terms of media spends, it is the ROI of the totality of what you are doing. It has to incorporate brand owning, customer love and customer contribution.

For instance, if my customers are able to give me ideas and tell hundreds of people about it through tweets and blogs, that makes for a lot of financial value.

One of the benefits of digital media is to be able to generate leads, measure it, optimise it and change it. You see more transparently what you are buying for your money. If you are in marketing primarily to generate lead and that is what you are doing with your money, then it is very, very important. But not everything that needs to get accomplished will be about performance media.

afaqs!: In India, many e-commerce businesses are using traditional media to build the brand and digital is being used to get leads and more business. Is it the right way to go?

Wertime: TV is not the enemy of digital. Having a marketer spend money in a variety of different areas is not a threat to digital. It is ultimately about what is going to create the greatest impact.

A lot of work we do for clients involve multiple channels. I disagree with the notion that one medium is used to build the brand and another for acquisition. What drives us is the reality of the performance of the totality.

I think what is missing is that too often digital is seen as an add-on or the extra. It is not central to the idea. And, the best digital ideas today are fundamentally going to be around ideas that live in many different places.

TV is still growing in this country. It is still growing around the world. TV is not a dead medium. That said, does it merit having all of your spends? Probably not. And that is the problem. There are a lot of marketers who are afraid to make that shift.

afaqs!: Is a change of perception needed on the part of marketers and agencies?

Wertime: Humans have shifted their time. Therefore, marketers need to shift their money. There is another part to this equation. It is not just about money. You have to shift an entire skill set. You have to shift your understanding. If you want to be a great digital marketer, you have to understand digital media, you have to understand data, you have to understand how to drive better customer experience; the confidence needs to build.

I have seen a lot of marketers get involved with digital, especially in the early days. They were not set to deliver it. They did not put the people in place, let alone the policies or understanding to actually engage with the customer.

That has changed some but I would still argue that a lot of companies do not have a marketing department that is structurally staffed sufficiently to deliver great digital marketing.

It is a human thing, right? You are talking about a generation of shift in marketing. That is going to be the challenge. That is going to require more than a shift of spends.

afaqs!: Does the Indian market behave differently compared to the other APAC markets in terms of digital marketing?

Wertime: You will be disappointed but not really. It happens in different speeds at different places, depending on the market and the level of penetration. However, in every market, you have the same issue of marketers trying to figure out how much to do of what.

In other markets, you may have higher spends on digital but you still have these basic decisions to take care of.

afaqs!: In terms of advertising technology, for example augmented reality or QR code, we do not have too many case studies to talk about.

Wertime: You know what? I could go to Japan and say, 'find me a thousand augmented reality case studies' and they do not exist. Technology is part of it and certainly, the technology adoption curve is ahead in certain places but when it comes to the real core of 'how well are you doing digital marketing', a lot of companies are still struggling in, for example, social.

Social is a great leveller. There are a lot of people sitting in Japan right now saying, 'Hmmm what do I do on Facebook? I have got a Fan Page and a bunch of Likes. Am I happy? ' I cannot say it is a dramatically different situation in India.

There are obvious unique things about this market. After all, this is India. The complexity of the nation and the size are like very few others in the world. You cannot compare a Hong Kong or a Singapore to an India or even Vietnam or Thailand.

India simply being India makes it unique but that said, the country is pretty much grappling with the same issues as everyone else is.

afaqs!: Do you think marketers are overinvesting in Facebook? It is an external medium at the end of the day, right? As a brand owner, earlier I had a microsite that I could control. I cannot control a Facebook.

Wertime: I do not think we are overinvesting. People are not irrational at the end of the day. If they do not get their returns, they will disinvest. Enormous platforms create enormous interest and reach, and that always excites the marketers. That is the case with Facebook. The question is, is what is being done on Facebook driving enough business value and brand value?

afaqs!: Is Facebook advertising threatening search? Have you observed a shift in the marketers' spends from search to social ads?

Wertime: The search market is still underspent. If you were talking about a completely matched-out mature market, you would have that shift. But then a lot of people still do not have a coherent search strategy and a lot do not have a social strategy.

There is still a lot of money spent on traditional media that needs to shift to search AND social.

afaqs!: Are advertisers over-expecting and over-measuring the digital medium? Usually, they spend and forget in the print and television media. They do not measure much. However, in digital, they probably start expecting too much data.

Wertime: I think they underestimate what they should demand from other media. Direct marketing built its reputation on being measurable marketing. Digital media provides measurability and you cannot then be upset when people want it measured.

The question to ask though is when you can get such levels of measurability, such data, are you using it well enough and are you really willing to continue spending 80 per cent of your spends on something you cannot measure as you can measure this.

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