Markus Lind: We're only seeing the beginning of mobile marketing

You’ve been a mobile jury member at Cannes Lions 2015, so let’s start with the mobile. The views on mobile advertising have been quite mixed – on one hand there seems to be a huge opportunity because everybody has a mobile and people spend so much time on it, but on the other hand it seems to not have really taken off as a mainstream media. What is the status of mobile marketing or advertising in your opinion? 

Firstly, I think that the meaning of words marketing and advertising is completely different today, compared to the old sense of these words. Advertising is not the same thing these days as it was before. If you look at advertising, for example, in the form of banner, then I guess the mobile hasn’t indeed managed to deliver on the same scale as desktop. But then again, the use of mobile marketing is extremely vast. There are just so many different ways to do it.  

One thing, for example, what I also saw in Cannes, was the introduction of 360 video and the Google Cardboard which we awarded with Grand Prix. The really interesting thing with the Google Cardboard is that they are democratizing the 360 experience, so that you don’t need a thousand-dollar-equipment to experience good 360. You can just use your phone with Cardboard and you’ll get quite an immersive experience. We’ve already seen a lot of solutions that used Google Cardboard as a platform.  

So, in some way I think we’re at the moment only seeing the beginning. And I really believe that mobile is already mainstream. Everybody’s on mobile and the time that they spend on mobile solutions is increasing. For example, we recently had a mobile campaign for Volvo and the average time spent in that app was almost 30 minutes. So, I think there are quite a few possibilities. 

Speaking about apps, there have also been quite mixed opinions, especially if you look at branded apps. They are not very successful, compared to some entertainment apps or practical utility apps. Some experts also suggest that brands shouldn’t focus on apps but rather create mobile websites because people don’t want too many apps on their phones. What’s your opinion on that?  

It’s true that the advertising industry has created quite a big app graveyard out there. There are lots of apps that never should have seen a light of day. On the other hand, there were times when you couldn’t do many things using mobile websites. For example, if you wanted to use gyroscope or some camera solutions, you couldn’t really do it without mobile applications. But these things are getting better and you can do more and more stuff on mobile websites too. So I completely agree that you don’t need all those apps today.  

But sometimes an app could still be useful. If the client spends a certain amount of money on an app and they get a return on investment in thousands of views and interactions, then I think it’s useful either way. But of course the most successful apps are the ones that actually are useful for the users.  

We recently interviewed one of the owners of the biggest advertising group in the Baltics, and he was quite negative, saying that advertising industry has lost its attractiveness and glamour and it is increasingly difficult to find talent because all clever guys want to go and work for startups. Also, the clients are becoming very pragmatic and not spending money on production and therefore most of the campaigns are very dull and sales oriented. Is the situation same in Scandinavia? What’s your view on that? 

It’s true that the advertising industry loses talents, and also for different kind of startups. So I can see this point in his view. But in general, we rather see a shift in the advertising industry. I’m actually getting quite tired of the word advertising, because if you look at the industry now, you can see that it’s not so much about advertising anymore in the old sense of the word. I think the success in today’s advertising industry is more about the agencies’ ability to push through the digital era. Those companies who are not adapting to the digital world, they will of course lose.  

In our agency, we see digital as our business. We feel that we are creating solutions rather than just advertising. What I mean is that our task is to create a piece of communication, for example a technical solution, a solution that’s kind of utility. And then that utility can also become a nice advertising. And I see that lots of companies in Scandinavian advertising industry are creating useful solutions for their clients.  

Also, the way we think about creativity and creative process has shifted. We see that if you also value the expertise and creative talent of the client, and you work together with the client, then you can create much more interesting things. In the old days, you got the brief, you saw it and presented it, and it was either go or no-go. But these days it’s much more about cooperation. Also the teams are much bigger and there’s lots of different expertise in these teams.  

Many of the digital agencies in Norway are actually doing quite innovative stuff that is not only advertising. So I think that advertising industry is still one of the most progressive industries when it comes to creativity. 

Speaking of skills or the expertise the agencies require to adapt better with this new reality – what do you think are the key skills or key knowledge that the advertising people have to excel today? 

You know, I hear all these buzzwords all the time and it seems that some people have made a living out of inventing new words, but I personally still believe in the core idea of creativity. I still think this is the most important talent and trend. If you possess creativity, everything is possible. All the other things are changing, but I think that’s the constant.  

Times and trends of course are changing, so for example we have to relate to a different media these days and you need to think much more long-term. You also have to be quicker. You have to create new ideas and concepts much more rapidly, you have to react in a second to the things that are happening in the society. Rapid creative content production – this is something we are going to see much more. You don’t have the time anymore to go through all these waiting stages – waiting for approvals, etc. In our agency we actually have Facebook groups for each of our client – we put up our ideas and sketches there to get an approval quickly. If they like it, we can just publish it within minutes. So everything works much more rapidly these days. That kind of mentality is becoming increasingly important.  

But I also think that design and technology are important keywords. In our company we have design department and technology department working closely together. And I feel that design is constantly becoming more important and it is so much more than aesthetics obviously. If you manage to create really good UX and usability, that’s the key factor for good return on investment. I really like the mix between creative content production, design and technology. Those three factors work very well together.  

You mentioned creativity as an essence of everything. Do you have any tips or maybe some personal experience on how to boost creativity? What do you do in order to generate ideas? 

It’s always stimulating to take on another way of working, rather than the usual way. It can be pretty useful to the creativity. For example, instead of locking myself in a room or office, I like to grab my copywriter and we just walk around outside for a while, thinking aloud. This works very well for me.  

Another thing, which can be really difficult, is to allow yourself to have some free time from your cellphone and all the other screens and devices. I’m glad if I manage that. So that might as well be one of my ‘rituals’ – turning off everything and just have pen and paper with me. I really feel that sometimes computer and phone can actually be an opposite of thinking creatively and be rather a distraction. 

Authors: Hando Sinisalu and Maarja Laasu (Best Marketing International)