Innovation only through diversity
A little over a year ago, Jean Lin took over the position of Global CEO for Isobar, which is part of the Dentsu Aegis group. This professional feat mixes two very rare characteristics in the market since neither women or chinese usually occupy leadership positions in the advertising networks. But according to Jean, it’s exactly in this difference that lies the capacity to innovate. Jury President for the Cyber Lions at the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes this year, she was witness to the discussions at the event, about the need for a greater female presence in the communication industry. But Jean emphasizes that this is just the most evident of the many discrepancies of a market that needs to make way for new professional profiles in their teams. The executive also talked to Meio & Mensagem about the chinese market, innovation and e-commerce, under the premise that in the future, even coffee makers will be intelligent and will connect to people.
Meio & Mensagem- The advertising market has discussed the lack of women in leadership positions in the companies it’s composed of. This theme was actually one of the main ones discussed at the Cannes Festival this year. Why is this one of the most urgent issues of the sector ?
Jean Lin — If you look at the big picture of the advertising market there is a very similar proportion of men and women, in line with the natural population distribution. But the fact is that there are fewer women in leadership positions and this has never been so argued over as to why it is so and ways to change the situation. This situation must be dealt with and I affirm this, not because I am a woman, but because my belief is that only in a diverse environment it is possible to create true innovation. The industry needs to strive to create a more interesting environment, with different professional profiles. And women are an obvious part of this because they represent half the population. But the issue at hand is much greater and we must face diversity and all its manifestations in the most urgent manner.
M&M – The fact that many brands still don’t have an adequate vision for digital is a problem that begins in planning or strategy, areas where you began professionally?
Jean — There is a problem, but not only in planning and strategy. The market has been obsessed for some time by digital, but the issue that hasn’t been solved yet is how to bring digital messages to real life. That is the key to the future success of brand strategies. I believe that strategies need to be more tied to the commercial side of brands and leaders must learn to design these solutions. But this is not an issue that ends at strategy. We must understand how to make the entire process happen up until its execution. In the past, for example, the agency would handle the creative idea and produce it. But at some point this connection was lost and things went their separate ways. Today, this division doesn’t make any more sense and it’s understood that not everything can be outsourced, specially in a scenario where digital planning is centered in technology. There’s a lot of strategy in production and delivery. This universe has become much bigger. This is why this process must be embraced by the agency as well.
M&M – Which formats and platforms are going to be featured in the future of digital communication?
Jean — We shouldn’t just dwell in formats when thinking about digital five years from now because the ideas will always be in the center of everything. The difference is that it will be possible to express these ideas in different ways. The future is clearly in intelligent objects which already exist in the format of telephones, tablets, clocks and other gadgets with screens. But this intelligence will spread through home appliances such as coffee makers, and will change completely the way through which people connect themselves with objects via digital. In this scenario, the media opportunities will go beyond what we can imagine today. It is a sure thing that there will be many new opportunities.
M&M – Do agencies need to be in close proximity to the thought process of start ups of the Silicon Valley?
Jean— The market of advertising agencies must be close to those who offer meaningful solutions. The start ups market is certainly a part of this, and it’s not by accident that SXSW has been so interested in our market. But this is not the only source of reference for an industry that’s going to need to offer more content and more media solutions. There is a thin line between the various industries and that is not just globalization. Considering that the most adequate definition for advertising is to create solutions in communication to solve a client’s problem, it’s clear that agencies must be open to potential solutions, not only from technology and the Silicon Valley, but from companies that offer a new way of doing things that will never be be replaced, which is telling storeis that touch and move people.
M& M – Should agencies break from their traditional business models? Jean — The question is not if the agency needs to change its model, but to which one should it move on to. The change has been on its way for a very long time. The traditional business model has been efficient for the last 50 years and it’s quite a challenge to adapt it to a new era. Digital communication is based on return on investment and digital agencies have entered this process a few years ago, changing the traditional manner of delivering communication services. The faster the agencies adapt, the greater the benefit will be for those who embrace the change that is occurring on many different levels.
M&M – What did you perceive as tendency for the communication market as president of the jury for Cyber Lions at the Cannes Festival, which awarded such distinct cases like "House of Mamba", "Wall of sound" and "I will what I want", this last one being the winner of the Grand Prix?
Jean — Besides the Grand Prix that everyone was talking about, there were another 3,7 thousand entries that represented the most diverse specters of digital advertising, from the big integrated campaigns to product design actions, passing through the use of technology, engaging platforms and the creation of great experiences enabled by digital. These works indicated towards a complete design of what is possible to do with digital intiative. The perception is that most clients perceive digital beyond the channel of communication it represents, such as a platform that allows for innovation. Another characteristic that became clear is that the challenge for brands and agencies is to create digital experiences that culminate in unique experiences for people.
M&M – In 2011, the president of the Cannes Festival, Philip Thomas, expressed the possibility of closing down the Cyber category, with the idea that digital is present in all areas. How do you evaluate this possibility – that has been discarded – but which indicates a lot about the future of communication?
Jean — The Cyber Lions category has been in the Cannes Festival for 17 years and has always been defined as the innovative part of the industry. Digital is a catalyst of new techniques and communications philisophies and it will remain so. By recognizing that ideas change the game in advertising, Cyber has the power to propose innovation and find new ways. A classic mistake about this area is to think that the entire campaign is digital. The correct things is for the central thought to be digital, but it must be able to be applied in other areas, such as press. Digital has always been an important part of ideas in other categories, but its technical part, such as Craft, is getting better and that reflects, for example, on actions that involve online videos. Video is a format that is present in all communication strategies and you can’t remove a category such as Film because the technical aspects remain important. The same logic goes for Cyber. Ten years ago, it was a category of banners and that has changed. In 2015 we had few banner entries and, if they showed up at all, it’s because they were part of a bigger digital campaign.
M&M – Now that social networks connect millions of people what are the next challenges, specially in respect to brands.
Jean — Social has a key role of connecting people and it has become a powerful communication tool.
The goal now is how we can go beyond this and reach another level of engagement through social commerce. This already exists at some level. But if the brand wants to be in the mindset of the next generation it will need to consider social commerce even more. It’s also important to look at social data analytics, which offers fundamental data to increase creativity and offer more customized solutions.
M&M – The chinese market attracts sentiments such as curiosity and interest in the same level. How is the development of advertising in China ?
Jean — The chinese advertising market, just like everyting else that takes place in China, has no connection to the old Chinese industry. The country has been open to the world since the 90s and this has been an experimentation period where things developed quickly. But before ten years ago advertising was simply unheard of. This made things develop quickly because we weren’t bringing anyting new to an ecosystem, because there was nothing beforehand. Chinese advertising cannot be compared to the Western advertising, because we did not have na industry focused on 30 second formats. Over there we began with 15 seconds and even 6 seconds. Chinese video channels on YouTube are strong and this shows how content became the key element in our communication. In China, the story has to be told in a quicker manner because there is no culture for this from the past, like in western countries.
M&M- Although it’s a relatively new market, China is a leader in social networks, e-commerce and other digital modalities. What does the country have to teach the Western world ?
Jean — The market is based on the ‘mobile first’ model and that created an engaging ecosystem that allows for a marketing that’s closer to people and a connection that is closer between experience and the brand and the act of purchase of a product or service. The reason for e-commerce to be so strong in China is because people have little time to go to the big shops and they need the convenience of home delivery. You cannot analyze the chinese market in a traditional manner because it reflects the local business environment where there is a great and ample convergence of social commerce. The lessons for the Western world can come from two different angles. The first one is about having a vision that not so guided by the past.It’s a market that thinks of new mash-up solutions. China did not have a previous communication infrastructure and the Western culture is made up of industries that have processes that are way too sophisticated to create solutions from scratch, in a smaller scale.
M&M – How to make a more effective e-commerce??
Jean — In the past, clients’ communication began at storytelling and then another technology or design company created the consumer experience. Now, the brand’s storytelling must interact with commerce in a more effective manner. In Western culture, by legacy, agencies create design solutions with both sides completely separated. In China, there’s a greater connection between brand communication and the technology for the creation of more effecive solutions for commerce. Of course it’s not always a bed of roses, because there are problems of access due to government policies.
M&M – In march you celebrated one year as the CEO of Isobar – is it possible to analyze the results and the path the company will follow in the future?
Jean— We need to clearly draw up what we want to be as a company. This means offering a more agreeable environment for our teams which can allow, even in a natural manner, for people to expand their talents. We are well positioned in brad commerce and geographically in Brazil and the US, just like other large networks. So the differential is to create a special culture where we can offer beyond the border solutions.