TECHCITYINSIDER100: Toby Horry, managing director of Dare, a leading London creative agency, tells Julian Blake that brands need to recognise how technology can help to ensure that consumers want to spend more time with them.
The explosion in mobile technology offers brands a range of opportunities to promote themselves to consumers as never before. That’s just as well, says Toby Horry, because consumers have less time than ever, and little inclination to engage with brands just for the hell of it.
Horry is managing director of Dare, the integrated marketing agency created in 2011 from the merger of Dare Digital and above-the-line specialist MCBD. The new Dare has rapidly built a rep for creating adventurous multimedia campaignsfor the likes of Diageo, Sainsbury’s and the Department of Health.
“People have lots of things they want to do in their lives and most of those things are not interacting with brands,“ he says. “So you have to think really hard and deliver something of tangible value for someone to want to spend time with you. Increasingly it’s about what value as a brand you can deliver to people.”
For evidence of this brand engagement, Horry points to his own agency’s 2011 campaign for Wembley Stadium. “We took a high-definition 360-degree photo of the FA Cup final and let people go on to a site to tag themselves in the photo. People felt that was of sufficient value to want to do that themselves. So it’s about people doing things that make them want to spend time with a brand rather than being forced to spend time with a brand.”
As ever higher numbers of people own smartphones, then, brands will need to understand the rapidly changing relationship with their consumers, and the ways that technology can generate money. They’ll also need to understand how social media is turning that relationship on its head. “It’s going to be a make-or-break year for brands and social media,” says Horry. “Some brands are using social media brilliantly, but others are not doing it correctly at all. For brands it’s very trendy to be on Facebook, but going forward people are going to start applying the same rigour they would apply to all the other channels.”
But, while brands feel their way through the new tech landscape, Horry feels that 2012’s big event, the London Olympics, could change the game for both brands and consumers. “Technology has the potential to make the Olympics the most accessible ever in terms of people’s ability to feel involved,” he says.
But, Horry adds, “at the same time as there are more interesting opportunities than ever to market in different ways, the economy is making people ever more risk averse. If something hasn’t been absolutely tried and tested to within an inch of its life, clients are understandably nervous about putting money towards it. This obviously quite frustrating.
“Because we have 50 years of TV advertising and data we broadly know how to construct an ROI on the back of it. With some of these newer things often there is no recognisable model of how to construct the ROI. If you move all of your customer service on to Twitter, say, it’s quite difficult to measure the tangible business effect of that. It’s very difficult to extrapolate all the other things going on in the marketing mix.
“When it comes to brand-shaping activity that’s where the real difficulty comes, in terms of what’s doing what. If you wanted to move your brand awareness from 10% to 50%, the things that are going to make that shift happen are going to be multiple, so therefore trying to assign an ROI to the different parts is going to be difficult. So people often go back to the ways they know and trust.”
In terms of Dare’s own business, the company has established itself as an agency that “breaks down the silos of how you build brands”. Last year’s merger was a response to the falling away of the barriers between digital and above-the-line marketing. “We wanted to set ourselves up to cater for that,” he says. “We have different clients at different stages of evolution. Diageo, for example, are much more fluid. They want great ideas and they try not to put things into these silos.”
Banking is one sector that has “massive potential” from technology, according to Horry, “because there’s still quite a long way to go in terms of people having more control over their money.” At the other end of the spectrum, FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] “has always found it difficult to work out how best to use digital and that continues to be the case. The margins they operate on are getting squeezed tighter and tighter.”