Marketers from American Express Co. to Exxon Mobil Corp. are demanding out-of-the box messages and media that more clearly home in on consumers' lives.
"I'm against advertising," asserted Stefan Jacoby, exec VP and head of group marketing and sales strategy for Volkswagen AG, during a panel discussion. "We need to touch consumers in the life they're living." To do that, he said, is less about the 30-second spot than about pioneering marketing techniques that require risk-taking by both the client and the agency
Stew McHie, global brand manager for Exxon Mobil, agreed. "In the past, we've given agencies a box and specific parameters, but now it's more important than ever to immerse our partners in the business and give them permission to take risks," he said.
Bob Greenberg, VP-corporate brand marketing for Panasonic, said "the bar has been raised to understand what connects viscerally with consumers" and called for a new level of what he termed "anthropological research" to determine exactly what people are doing and how to give them what they want. "You can't ask them, you have to observe them," he said.
Such a reality means "it's time for media companies to step up," and media agencies have to do far more than just get the best rate, said Dave Burwick, senior VP-chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola North America.
"Relevancy of message and reach has intertwined, and the solutions are different, " he said. He noted Pepsi's media partner, Omnicom Group's OMD, brought the idea and structured the ensuing deal for the Pepsi Smash live music series on the WB network. Going forward, he said, more money will go their way for such non-traditional ideas, as Pepsi sets aside dollars usually spent on the TV upfront markets.
American Express is also taking a chance in new arenas. It is evolving its long-time strategy of featuring aspirational celebrities in ads into a more risk-taking "artist-in-residence" approach that calls for collaborating with top creative talent.
Over the last three years, "American Express has moved from sponsoring content to enabling it, not just using the equity of its celebrities' names but actually bringing their creative minds to the table," said Diego Scotti, VP-global advertising. Examples of the new strategy include Jerry Seinfeld's "Webisodes," a Sheryl Crow concert for the launch of its Blue Card and a documentary by Martin Scorsese for the reopening of the Statue of Liberty.
"We have to be pioneers to get close to the consumer," said Volks-wagen's Mr. Jacoby.