The rate of change: Oliver's Simon Martin on speed, Starbucks and the in-house model

 
Will Railton
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Content is only as good as its distribution, says Martin

Whether it’s time to market or a reactive social campaign, speed is of the essence in business today. But while a catalyst remains unchanged after accelerating a chemical reaction, marketing agencies must transform to meet the evolving needs of their clients.

“We created all the content around educating Starbucks customers about pre-ordering their drinks,” says Simon Martin, chief executive and founder of Oliver, which has pioneered the in-house agency model to stay ahead of the curve. “It has been of huge business benefit to Starbucks and its customers, but the great thing was that we created it so fast.” By having teams on-site, the lines of communication are shortened. This, Martin believes, ensures executions are better, faster and more economical.

He gives City A.M. a steer on what marketers can learn from brands’ business models and why he is in no doubt about the usefulness of metrics.

Having spent the first 16 years in financial services, what experience did you bring to marketing?

Aviva was an outstanding employer which invested a lot of time and energy into my development. I had about 30 different jobs during my tenure there, some in marketing, and it was there that I got the inspiration for our underlying strategy at Oliver – market orientation.

We look to do three things all the time: achieve sustainable client benefit; differentiate ourselves from competitors and ensure maximum operational capability. Very few businesses do all three at once. Gillette is a brilliant example of one which does. It has a fantastic product, and distinguishes itself by launching new iterations. It has 80 per cent market share and enjoys 95 per cent of the whole category’s profit in global terms.

Because clients’ needs are constantly changing, and their competitors are evolving with them, it is important that marketers do the same.

How can businesses differentiate themselves?

Culture is accelerating rapidly, so are businesses, and so must marketing creativity. In the analogue era, the pace of change was much slower than today. But humans’ ability to create data is vast, and will grow and grow in the future.

Our model allows us to live in our clients’ data world, and provide them with social media command centres to ensure content is created and campaigns activated quickly, so that the brand’s performance is continually improved.

Being close to first-party data must have its advantages. How convinced are you of the value of metrics?

There’s no conflict in my mind; it’s a shallow argument to suggest that metrics inhibit creativity. The worlds of marketing and business in general are becoming more measurable. What some firms struggle with is how to derive real insight from data, and how to do it fast enough.

Data allows marketers to acquire a strategic understanding of the needs and benefits of their audience and the environment in which they operate, and base their communication mix around that. Content is a massive mechanism for serving up engaging and inspiring material to help achieve a particular business goal. But distribution – getting your content noticed – is just as important. It’s about how you use data to understand the world.

How can the digital consumer’s experience be improved?

I think there needs to be an amalgamation of digital media with the distribution of content, to produce a more holistic understanding of the best way to connect with consumers. Programmatic is still a bit randomised, and at the moment, the two sides operate in separate worlds. Content is distributed in one way, and display and programmatic in another. Bringing them together would provide a really integrated experience for the consumer. As we continue to learn about these things, brands will have the opportunity to understand and use them.

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