Spotlight: Jean-Philippe Maheu, chief digital officer, Ogilvy North America

Q: What have you seen in terms of digital evolution in marketing?

A: I personally got exposed to the digi­tal world in a significant way when I joined Razorfish in 1993. We really had to make up a lot of what we had to do. There was no recipe yet. We thought that we were changing the world. There was thishuge ambition — not just at Razorfish, but everywhere in the indus­try. It was not about money; personally, it was combining business, technology and art.

Q: How is this idea of art in online marketing being used today?

A: The importance of stories, storytell­ing and engaging consumers at the emotional level is absolutely criti­cal now. The digital technology, the Internet and the Web-based market­ing possibilities have not negated the importance of story-telling; if anything, they have reinforced the need for creat­ing an emotional bond between a brand and consumers. In the online space, the consumer is always a click away from getting to the next brand. So the brand needs to be even stronger with how it engages and communicates, and how relevant it is.

Q: Can you give me some examples of ways clients have used this concept?

A: We created a branded content initia­tive for Hellmann’s, “The search for real food,” a 12-week mini-series of webisodes where Food Network chef Dave Lieberman traveled the US com­ing up with his own recipes and having people upload their own recipes. The focus from a marketing standpoint was to associate Hellmann’s with real food and getting through to people that may­onnaise is made of three totally natural ingredients. The branded content was a cornerstone and it had huge market­ing results. The unit sales went up to a degree that was exciting, and the brand favorability index went up.

Q: How has social media changed the dynamic of digital campaigns?

A: I think a lot of our clients are real­izing that while they own the brand, the ownership is a combination of them and their consumers. They need to engage with those people and they need to create advocacy. And the Web is the perfect channel to engage the advocate and nurture them. I’m telling our cli­ents that marketing should be the chief listening function of an organization. It has always been the case but I think that it’s been lost a little bit. Digital media gives you so many capabilities to enhance your listening skills as a company, we should retake ownership of that function. Companies that suc­ceed tend to be customer-centric; they engage them, listen to them and are able to anticipate.

Q: How do you help clients find the balance between listening and project­ing to consumers a brand image?

A: Human beings are all social beings and we all want to share and commu­nicate with others. [Most] brands’ first reaction was ‘how can I leverage [social media] to show my messages?” and we say another thing that you can do is try to listen and try to engage, because people are talking about your brands.

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