Marketers and agency monoliths must adapt or die says Razorfish CTO

By Brendan Coyne | 6 August 2013
Razorfish global chief technology officer, Ray Velez

The convergence of IT and marketing has turned the marketer's role on its head. The launch of a campaign is no longer the end. It's just the beginning. Meanwhile, the agency monoliths of old will not get much older unless top management embraces digital culture.

That's the view of Ray Velez, global CTO at Razorfish.

While big integrators such as Deloitte and Accenture are moving away from pure software and adding user experience and creative, they are not yet fluent in the language of marketers. Meanwhile, traditional marketers are grappling with a rapidly changing landscape. The two are inching towards the middle, but the transition has some way to go, Velez told AdNews.

But for marketers, the golden rule is simple: think like a product manager.

Brand marketers have to reach a "moderate middle ground" where they "know enough about the technology, enough about the marketing, but prioritise those needs in a way that ladders back to the customer."

Then they have to make a 360-degree turn in their approach to marketing execution. Whereas previously both software development and marketing mindsets "launched their campaigns and thought about a vacation" that has "completely shifted", according to Velez.

"The finish line is now the starting point. Because that's when you realise that 60-70% of those features [you had implemented], my customers do not care about, so now you have to throw them all out and start again. And that is a difficult mindset for everybody to change but the reality is that the launch is not your finish point, it's your starting point."

The reason behind this reversal, said Velez, "is because your brand needs to be a service".

"Customers have control, choice and voice. They are going to skip your commercials and look at their mobile device instead of a TV. You have to figure another way to stay relevant to them – that's through customer-centricity. What can my brand provide as a service that provides value?" 

The unsolved question in all of that is how to achieve that mass reach that TV delivers? The answer, said Velez, is "not quite there yet". But maybe, he suggests, it never existed in the first place.

"Maybe mass reach was always a fallacy anyway. Diaper commercials – single people don't want to see diaper commercials..."

Meanwhile Velez suggested that the future of the big integrated agency model rested with the ability of senior management to embrace digital media and technology within their everyday lives – or risk being unable to steer the ship.

“The question is how comfortable is the leadership [of those monoliths]? How many of those top executive teams really embrace technology, really use email rather than having their secretaries printing them out, really understand Twitter or video games?”

If the answer is not many, warned Velez, "I can guarantee you that the digital people within those agencies – the monoliths – are stuck, because the exec team is not grounded in a way that they can use that prioritisation.”

Velez said even if you are a 70-year-old traditional marketer who has earned their place at the top of that monolith agency, there is no excuse.

“If you're not figuring out a way to make [digital media] a part of your lifestyle, you're not going to prioritise it for your business. Those organisations have been around for 70 or 80 years. That is the big change.”

Velez was in town promoting his new book, Convergence, co-written with Razorfish global CEO Bob Lord. It's all about the blurring of technology, media and creativity and what this means for the market and business strategies.

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