“Sustainable Brands are Built on True Engagement and Trust”

Editorial content is often perceived as more relevant and substantial than traditional ads

The Association of Swedish Advertisers represents more than 5,000 CMOs and other marketing professionals in nearly 600 companies – the world’s largest organization of its kind. We asked Anders Ericson, CEO since more than 15 years, what the Swedish advertisers are up to right now.

Hi Anders. Your members represent way more than half of Sweden’s total advertising expenditure. In your view, what are their greatest challenges in 2015?

We conduct regular surveys among our members, and according to these the number one challenge is to find effective models for establishing meaningful and measurable objectives for their communication. And, not least, how to follow up the results. 

More than 90 percent claim that they do measure results and effects of their marketing investments, in one way or another. That is probably true, even though they spend most of their time solving earthlier everyday challenges. And the methods applied vary from basic ad hoc reality checks to continual investments in sophisticated tools and models.

Many CMOs also regard social media as a major challenge. They do realize that social media can be important, but fail to integrate them into their overall business context. This is particularly the case in B2B marketing, and there are still relatively few inspiring examples. But many are actively interested and would like to learn more about it. For this purpose, we are organizing a study trip to California in the autumn, where social media is at the very top of the agenda. Many of our members seem to be very interested.

A third challenge is how to buy media space in the future. Programmatic does have some obvious advantages, but in the end it may well turn out to be more costly, particularly for small advertisers. Digital business models are often effective as such, but the money saved doesn’t always reach the advertisers. But we certainly keep an eye on the ongoing development.

You started out talking about objectives and follow up, and a moment ago you mentioned efficiency… What is “efficient marketing”, as you see it?

The common understanding of what constitutes marketing and advertising has varied considerably over time. After the creative revolution in the 1960s, the pendulum swung to the other extreme, resulting in an exaggerated belief in the deceptively precise measuring of contact costs and other key figures. Many people apparently lost themselves in that environment. 

Personally I am convinced that we must combine the key figures and precise measuring tools with an increased understanding of the business context at hand, and softer values. Strong, sustainable brands and customer relationships must be based on values such as true engagement and trust.  

Who knows, maybe a second creative revolution is underway? Combining effect and creativity is also at the very core of our annual award, “100-wattaren”.

Ultimately it’s almost always about sales but, as we all know, it’s not always so easy to relate sales results to specific marketing efforts. I already mentioned the critical importance of engaging people, and B2B marketing often involves complex target groups and buying processes. How, exactly, should we measure communication efficiency in that context?

There are many new opportunities, not least digital ones. But, as any CMO knows, it can be rather tricky to get new funding for investments without any previous track record. How should I motivate such an investment, courting my board or CEO?

The easy answer is to regard them as any other target group. What’s in it for them? How can the investment contribute to reaching their prioritized targets? Sometimes you can refer to published cases or success stories… Every business case is obviously unique.

Now, looking in the other direction: How can we make the creative people at our agencies think more business-like, assuring their contribution to the bottom line?

Firstly, I am convinced that at least the people at the leading Swedish ad agencies are very much aware of this dimension. They are not only chasing creative awards. But, first and foremost, this is our responsibility as advertisers. We must make sure to convey the primary business or marketing challenge as a fundamental part of the agency brief, and give the agency team the insight they need to fully understand the business context at hand.

There is absolutely no contradiction between creativity and business relevance – the messages must of course be relevant and clear, but they should also create emotional responses. 

What about B2C and B2B, do you see any major difference in this respect?

Not in terms of creativity. In B2B, copywriters as well as planners and account managers must have a genuine interest in and talent for complex target groups and buying processes. But then everything needs to be boiled down to something new, and so simple and exciting that the target group is eager to learn more about it. And in that phase, whether at home or at work, we are first and foremost human beings.

Today, many marketing managers seem to invest an increasing share of their budgets on PR and more or less editorial content. What are your thoughts about that?

It’s a rather natural evolution, I think. Many readers may feel that content delivered through these channels offers more relevant substance, compared to traditional advertising. Provided, of course that it lives up to their expectations in terms of quality.

Getting back to the issue of measuring, and what to measure –what, exactly, do your member companies measure today?

The most widely used key figures are MMS which provides information about people’s TV habits, and KIA index which provides facts about their behavior on the internet.  

Contrary to common belief we, as an organization, do not conduct the actual KIA surveys. We provide a standard for others to apply, and routinely publish the results in a uniform, comparable format.

You mentioned the need to consider the greater business context. So what about account-based marketing, where you can continuously trace the reactions of all potential decision influencers in a named target account to your various messages? Doesn’t that reflect the sales and marketing people’s world more than indexes and statistics?  

Several of our members use ABM, by definition in rather specific projects tailored to their needs. It is interesting, and we continuously follow the evolution of new digital media and methods, but currently we have no ongoing project relating specifically to ABM. Right now our work in progress is rather focused on integrating measuring in analog and digital media.

Thank you Anders, and good luck!

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