Q&A: Ben Sutherland, global head of direct, Mindshare

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Ben Sutherland
Ben Sutherland

Ben Sutherland, Mindshare's global head of direct, discusses the difficulty in segregating existing customers and importance of measurable media.

Q. How and where do direct and media strategies intersect?


A. My role is to help expand our direct marketing proposition for clients. I look across our client base to see who is using CRM as part of their strategy, and I try to align that client's media activity with direct channels where appropriate. The boundaries are blurring between what's CRM and what's not, and the impact of social has changed both how brands perceive their audience and at what stage in the funnel customers may be while engaging with each channel. 


Q. Does a CRM strategy fit all clients?


A. I think there is always greater accountability available to clients. The objectives and key performance indicators vary, but I don't see any business in our portfolio that wouldn't benefit from measurable media activity. Everything is happening more quickly, so there's a reliance on technology to process the abundance of data we all have. It's about breaking down that data in a timely fashion and drawing the appropriate insights.


Q. What impact have digital and social had on brands' media placement?


A. Digital isn't just a media channel; it's also a communications channel. Most consumer action happens, or is at least facilitated by, the digital world. It's increasingly difficult to segregate existing and prospective customers. Brands can't afford to talk to each group differently now since communications are on a two-way, open platform. 


Q. How can brands use media to differentiate themselves?


A. A lot of what we talk about is loyalty. After you acquire a customer, how do you generate more value for both yourself and them? You can't act like an old-world bank and expect people to stay with you just because they're too lazy to move. Brands have to be more fleet of foot in this environment. Look at Zico — they're finding their niche and doing it cost-effectively. Theirs was not a significant media outlay, at least compared to where you'd have to be years ago to develop a buzz. Since it's easier to attract customers, brands have to focus more on value and genuine product benefits to differentiate themselves.


Q. Is there room for creativity in media?


A. Sometimes as a media practitioner you're bemoaning lack of creativity, but now it's in our reach to come up with our own ideas appropriate for different media channels. The channel dictates in many ways what the idea should be.


Q. Where does media position itself in the creative process?


Clients are more interested in the idea itself. We tread more and more on our creative partners' toes; the boundaries are down. It's about recognizing who is best placed to suggest how a client can work most effectively with Facebook or any other key media vendors. We invest time and effort in the creativity and pride ourselves on the creativity of our solutions.

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