Ahead of the curve

Annabel Denham
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Annabel Palmer talks data with Tash Whitmey, UK chief executive at Havas EHS

CREATIVE agency Havas EHS aims to be a market leader in delivering ideas, powered by data, for a digital world. At its helm sits Tash Whitmey, long-time champion of data’s potential. She tells City A.M. how she is driving relevant targeted communication.

How has the creative industry changed over the course of your career?

When I came into the industry, people were fixated on the broadcast end of the communication journey. I was obsessed with data, although it’s only been in the last five years that we’ve seen the explosion of connections being made by the public. As a result, today data is abundant.

And with the explosion of technology, we cannot just talk to people exclusively in broadcast channels. It is now recognised that, to build experiences that people will want to be a part of, agencies have to blend data, creative and technology.

But while the majority of what we do at Havas EHS is digital, we are aware that people still go into shops, read magazines, watch TV. Traditional media still has its place, though the slant towards digital is going to get bigger and bigger.

What’s your secret to navigating the fast-evolving media landscape?

In the past 18 months, we’ve developed a new proposition: FULCRM. It enables us to activate data to create insight and power ideas, and use the most up-to-date technology to let those ideas speak to people. We believe we’re ahead of the curve. But we’re not naive enough to imagine we can create FULCRM and just sit there. We’ve ensured it’s flexible enough to evolve.

And we’ve stopped trying to build everything ourselves. Look at the startups cropping up everyday, working with new technology and new forms of data. We can’t hope to keep up. But we have the vision, and we’re now forming key partnerships with people whose day job it is to build technology. They can enable us to deliver that vision.

Our easyJet Inspire Me campaign was the articulation of FULCRM. It used real-time data, was beneficial to people, and delivered a huge return on investment.

What will be the next big thing in the industry?

Rather than one “big thing,” we are seeing a number of key trends. The first is mobile. It will grow and grow until it becomes the predominant way that people interact with brands. Anything you do as an agency must work in mobile. But we are also seeing a big shift to utility. People are wising up – they know we collect their data; now they expect us to use it to their benefit. Usefulness – and Nike’s FuelBand is an excellent example – is now incredibly important.

But we also need to stop talking about “consumers” and start talking about “people”. People don’t have linear journeys anymore, and organisations need to stop thinking of them in terms of ownership.

What’s the one campaign you wish you’d worked on?

House of Cards. Some say that data stifles creativity: this proves them wrong. By using big data, Netflix created a wildly successful series, which gave its producers more licence to be more ambitious and creative.