ANUSHA ZAHID: What attracted you to OOH as a media platform?
DAVE NELISSEN: Dennis and I met about three years ago when he was the Global Innovation Director for Kinetic. He asked me to help him build a strategy that would allow Kinetic to switch from being a media buying agency into becoming an enabler of innovation and creativity. Together, we developed a two-day training programme for Kinetic called the Kinetic Innovation Road Show. The purpose was to train the Kinetic team and move the agency from media buying to co-creation.
AZ: What is co-creation?
DN: Normally, the creative process is a ‘black box’; a closed system where people do the thinking individually. However, when it comes to innovation you cannot have a closed system; to do anything new, you need collaboration. Co-creation means brainstorming between the client, media owners and agency to help achieve the client’s objective. I train people how to lay new connections.
AZ: What do you mean by ‘new connections’?
DN: It means putting two things (which may already be there on their own) together and making something new. For example, Radjen (van Wilsem), CEO, CS Digital Media, are creating an ecosystem for Shell and as part of it, they have placed a camera at a gas station which recognises the licence plate of every car. In this way, because they know who is entering the gas station, they can serve a particular advertisement to a particular target. This is a new concept of combining consumer data and insights with a creative idea – and this, in my opinion is creativity.
"Facebook obviously has the responsibility to inform users that they can use the platform for free but the trade-off is that their data will be collected to target them with specific advertisements. It is naïve for people to think there is no business model behind Facebook."
AZ: Machines are taking over a lot of functions. Do you think this will happen with advertising as well?
DN: AI is making rapid progress, but creativity is about laying new connections that are not linear. A computer is efficient in going from point A to B and then from B to C. It is also efficient in repetitive, sequential work. They may become creative in the future but as of now, humans are still more creative in laying connections – not from A to B, but from A to F.
AZ: Because of clutter, audiences are skipping or even blocking ad messages. What is the counter to this?
DN: By using different platforms and different messages creatively. Regular mass media is becoming more and more inefficient and soon, it will only be about price; the lowest bid will win. The only way forward is creativity.
AZ: You believe that creativity is enough for people to recall a brand and actually go out and buy it?
DN: We will have to see. One can never know in advance what works. In my conversations with industry experts in Pakistan, I asked them whether they put any money aside for experimentation, and most said they do. They experiment by combining technology with creative ideas and measuring the outcome in real-time and this is very interesting. In the past, you did not know whether a creative idea would work or not. A digital ecosystem helps you get feedback and gauge whether an idea is working or not and if it is, you can get more budget for your ideas and for experimentation.
"If a platform is giving you a service for free, you have to assume they are earning their money by selling your data to advertising companies, which then will target you with ads that suit your profile and preferences in the hope that you will end up buying their product."
AZ: How has technology impacted creativity and what are the implications in terms of data privacy?
DN: Technology not only helps measure results, it creates things that weren’t there before. Look at how the film industry can make anything look real; for example, a dinosaur crushing all the skyscrapers in the world. Technology has complemented advertising and done wonders. Some creative concepts that are digital can be easily replicated through technology. For example, if Unilever is experimenting with something in the Netherlands using digital, this can be replicated around the world. Data collection is an issue, but people like to share things and no one is forcing them to do so. Yet they are surprised when they see a software or website sharing or using their information. They have to realise that everything on digital has a business model behind it. You don’t pay to use Facebook, so you have to realise that Facebook has other means to make money and finance their servers and programmes and that this is the trade-off.
AZ: Is it a fair trade-off?
DN: Well yes, when you know there is a trade-off. Facebook obviously has the responsibility to inform users that they can use the platform for free but the trade-off is that their data will be collected to target them with specific advertisements. It is naïve for people to think there is no business model behind Facebook. They use Facebook, they like it, they post pictures, but they should also ask Facebook what it is doing with their data and Facebook should be open about it. This is the problem. The main issue today is not privacy but a lack of transparency.
AZ: To what extent do you think brands are accountable if they acquire data from Facebook?
DN: If anyone says they have destroyed the data but are in fact still using it, that is illegal – case in point, Cambridge Analytica. Here, Facebook should have been more responsible and made sure the data was not used. However, you will soon see (I think it is already happening), that less and less young people are using Facebook. The overarching point here, however, is that on digital there is a business model behind everything. If a platform is giving you a service for free, you have to assume they are earning their money by selling your data to advertising companies, which then will target you with ads that suit your profile and preferences in the hope that you will end up buying their product. People need to be educated about this and keep in mind that they ought to behave on digital or social media in the same way they behave in the real world.
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