Creativity is very important in the era of data and technology

Interview with Eka Ruola, President of Balticbest 2017 jury, Hasan & Partners (Finland). 
Eka Ruola

What are the clients mainly looking for when they approach your agency? What is the biggest challenge in Spring 2017? 

I am happy to say – and I think it will stay like this for quite some time – that they are looking for creativity to help their marketing investments be more efficient.  

At the same time, a really big issue today is consumer insight and customer understanding – that’s also very highly valued at the moment. Our clients really need us to understand people. So that we would be doing the right thing for the right people at the right time. Understanding people better is definitely very much on the table.  

Also, we have to be (and the clients demand us to be) very much informed of the latest trends in technology, channels like social media or new technologies, for example VR, AR or AI. We have to be very much up to speed with all these new developments. And it is also a fantastic thing that our clients are more willing to try out different kind of things and they understand that we learn by doing things. 

New generation of marketers are focusing a lot on automation, optimization and talk less about the creativity. What is the right balance between the human creativity versus the data and technology? 

Someone might see this as a difficult question but for me it’s very easy. The new age of marketing communication and creative storytelling is in fact a holy alliance of data, intuition and technology. And we need all three to be able to really make it work.  

If we only have data and technology, in the end we will lose a lot of the human side – the storytelling, the intuition, the creativity, the magic of the brand linked to the product. If we only have intuition, we would be doing guessing in a very hard environment, so we can’t only rely on that either.  

We need data to be able to understand that we’re communicating towards the right audience. And we need to understand the audience much better than before because the world today is so fragmented. We also need technology to get there. We need to understand all the new tools and platforms that people are using and also use the new technology for creating compelling stories. But even though we live in this complex technological world of ours, people still love stories and stories find way to our hearts. And we can just use technology and data to bring those stories to life for the right people.  

I’m not saying ‘no’ to automation and I’m not saying ‘no’ to data, but I’m not saying ‘no’ to creativity either. Because I know that the best brands in today’s world are the ones that really build on this alliance on data, creativity and technology. And they understand that all three dimensions need to be embraced, otherwise you’re not there yet.  

Nowadays, the big brands such as Uber, Amazon, Airbnb, Netflix, etc, aren’t built on advertising any more. They focus on the customer experience?  

I’m not only embracing advertising here, I’m absolutely embracing the customer experience part too. I just read an article saying that Tesla doesn’t spend any money on marketing. That’s bullshit. They use huge amount of money for marketing. They don’t use any money in paid advertising but that’s a whole different story.  

Airbnb, for example, is doing amazing creative storytelling. The way they launched the “Belong anywhere” concept and idea – that was beautiful creative storytelling. But naturally they are using automation to get their story through. But it’s real story that they bring – not just automated “Book now”. So they are doing exactly what they should be doing. Airbnb is a great example of understanding data, creativity and technology. 

Uber again is using a lot of PR and they are investing a lot in their customer interface. And this is also a marketing effort. So I think they are also doing things exactly right.  All these brands just have a different approach to marketing, without high-budget mass media campaigns.  

Of course, in some certain cases, mass media can still be very effective. But you don’t have to be in media all the time. You can still continue the story, for example, on social media platform in very engaging way and it will still have big audience. You can create very interesting and efficient media strategy with elements on both mass and earned media and your own social platform.  

What’s your view on banner advertising? The popularity of banners is decreasing - this is a big issue for the publishers.  

Annoying banners make my eyes explode. When I’m with a content and I’m there for the content only, I don’t like to be annoyed. But of course I understand the fact that this content comes to me only thanks to those banner ads.  

But if it were up to me, I would reinvent the whole idea of banner ads. So that you wouldn’t need to click through to go somewhere to do something. You can have a beautiful display ad just like you have in your normal newspaper. We’ve had great success with banner ads that were there to be display only. And people saw it. The click-through is not always the best thing – catching the eyes might be the best thing.  

And if the banner comes exactly at the right time, when you need it or when you’re looking for certain piece of information, then at best it can even be useful to you.  

All in all, I believe that annoying banner ads will die quite soon. So my comment would be: make it smart.  

Interviewed by Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International 

About Eka Ruola, CEO and ECD at hasan & partners Group (Finland):

Eka Ruola is one of the most awarded creative directors in Finland both nationally and internationally. He is currently the Executive Creative Officer at a 25-year old marketing communications agency hasan & partners, but while most creatives are happy to remain creative, Eka has gone further, taking on the business leadership mantle as the group CEO too. In that role he’s helped the agency to become one of the leading marketing communications networks in the Nordics. 

Today, hasan & partners Group consists of 5 agencies in 3 countries and 150 professionals from 15 nationalities. The group includes Finland’s top creative marketing agency hasan & partners, Hasan Communications, world famous digital agency Perfect Fools and consumer insight agency Frankly Partners. By now, hasan & partners is one of the most awarded agencies in Northern Europe and for 4 consecutive years hasan & partners has been voted the #1 advertising agency in Finland. 

Eka is an experienced jury member in creative award shows around the world. In 2017, for example, he sits in LIA Awards and One Show juries.