Russel Howcroft: Modern advertisers can learn from traditional advertising

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 27 November 2018
Russel Howcroft

Technology is rapidly changing and marketers are being inundated with data, but PwC chief creative officer Russel Howcroft argued advertisers still have a lot to learn from traditional advertising.

Speaking on The Future of Marketing panel at Salesforce’s Connection to You event in Sydney, Howcroft invoked adman David Ogilvy, saying advertisers need to respect consumers and not consider brand purpose as an afterthought.

“What’s happened is the idea of purpose and values was a like a sticker on a box,” Howcroft said.

“We put a poster in the staff room and thought it was enough until we were confronted with what’s going on in the world and confronted with consumers being able to find this stuff out.

“Get real about it and be unwavering as well.”

Other panellists agreed, with Merkle ANZ MD Ted Stites adding in the digital world brands have to be genuine with their execution of purpose because consumers will critique those that stray from their values.

People increasingly don’t just want the best product, they want a brand whose values align with their own, Stites argued.

“It’s going to be some 20-year-old kid on Twitter that’s going to make it known when you’ve diverted from your core values,” Stites said.

“That’s going to get proliferated across your marketing landscape and it’s hard to reel that back in.”

Adapting old lessons for new technology

Howcroft said advertisers need to take these old lessons and apply them to the latest technology – voice activation.

Global research firm Gartner predicts 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020, which will fundamentally change how consumers engage with a brand.

Google Marketing Platform lead Meg Thomas said consumers will expect brands to have a meaningful response to their commands.

Howcroft said creatives should be thinking about applying 1950s-style advertising to their voice strategy on platforms like Amazon Alex and Google Home.

“The voice challenge is going to be really interesting and there is a huge amount to be learnt from David Ogilvy and how he used direct marketing,” he said.

Howcroft urged advertisers to return to the language of direct marketing and instruct consumers, for example, by using a call to action.

“When consumers are doing a voice search tell them the sentence you want them to use,” he said.

“It’s interesting how advertising is as powerful as being able to instruct.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus