Lars Samuelsen is Chief Strategy Officer & Head of Digital, at Grey Nordic. He presided the jury for this year’s edition of Internetics, organized by The Institute, in Romania. Lars has led brand strategy for brands like Weber, Somersby, Canon, P&G or Emirates. He holds an MBA from the Berlin School of Creative Leadership and his work was rewarded with IPA Gold, Euro Effies, Cannes Lions, D&AD Pencils and Webby awards.
Although he admits AI has its role in the advertising industry and beyond, he is cautious about how everybody perceives and understands its potential. Speaking about digital trends, he thinks that raising the level of content could qualify as one.
Referring to the influencer marketing industry, Lars believes that the way influencers are used today, made them lost the innocence of feeling they weren’t paid to speak about a product.
”There is a really big lack of creativity in how we work with an influencer – most of what we see is like: please hold this product and take a picture of yourself in the mirror.”
Furthermore, we spoke with Lars about things to avoid in digital communication, big data or how social media is shaping the society.
Digital vs traditional marketing
I think there are obvious benefits. If you look back a couple of years, some of the things people were talking about were probably the ability to do targeting, not having a lot of wastage when they did their campaigns and to be able to easily tailor your message to different kind of personas.
I think people always felt that digital would be much more effective, but the most interesting thing now is perhaps getting into a place where some of those promises have not really held up.
People have started to look at digital as an industry that is not only about rationalization - it is not only about making it cheap or faster. In digital, I guess quality is going to come back. We are going to see a lot more brands focusing on stuff that really matter, that are really entertaining, stuff that people really want to engage with.
I think we have been through a couple of years when everybody just wanted to make as much bad shit as possible. It is just a question about making lots of different things, making them cheap and cutting them up differently. Now, if it is not good, consumer is not going to care. It is getting harder and harder to buy those eyeballs, so you have to do something that people really enjoy.
Digital trends in 2019
Most people will probably say that AI is one of those really big trends, but I am not quite sure everyone that talks about it really understands what it is and what it potentially can do. But I think AI is something that can and will transform our world, also outside advertising, so it deserves a lot of consideration and research.
If you look more towards our industry, people are still trying to make more sophisticated and dynamic creative optimization. Robotics and the ability to automate are something that I guess we are going to see a lot of. We talked about content for so many years and it is still going to be relevant, but perhaps the most interesting digital trend is raising that level of content.
Things to avoid in digital
We could probably relax a little bit with the passwords. I think short termism, the idea of doing something for the very short term, has something that has been very big in digital and I think you should have more long-term goals.
If you go back to the value of using an influencer some years ago, the premise was to have someone that you did not feel was paid by an advertiser – when they did something or they talked about a product, you knew they did it because they liked it.
Now, it is media buy, like everything else. So, I think the contract between the viewer and the influencer that was established from the beginning - of them being objective - has been completely broken. It changes why we got into this in the first place.
There is a really big lack of creativity in how we work with an influencer – most of what we see is like: please hold this product and take a picture of yourself in the mirror. I don`t think that enough people realize and think enough about it, even though we are experiencing a pretty big backlash in terms of how we view influencers in general.
Micro vs celebrity influencers
You could maybe argue that some micro influencers are slightly more honest and they feel less as if they have been bought – I don`t know if there is any big difference in reality. The one thing I will say, even though it is a media bias, if we are referring to really, really big influencers, they still have the power to put stuff into culture (e.g. Kim Kardashian, Kanye West).
The power of creativity
If I have to put my money in one metric, I would always go for creativity. People underestimate how much it requires to get people`s attention and in digital, there is always something better just one click away. The options are just massive. Some brands are basically just giving up instead of trying to raise the level of entertainment, quality or purpose of whatever they are trying to put into their message.
Working with big data
In general, when we talk about big data, one of the things that concern me the most is that a lot of people – agencies and clients as well – do not handle small data very well in the right way.
I don`t think that scaling that up would be an easy thing to do for them. I think we are talking more about big data than we actually see it applied in great examples. Big data requires fairly different skills and technological knowledge, so if agencies are interested in working with big data, they need to start looking at the talent level they have and make sure they work with the right people.
I think we are seeing the beginning of a huge backlash towards Facebook – from a brand credibility stand point to some of the things they have done. I want to give a little bit of a shout out to Twitter, which banned any political messages from the platform. I think it is really strong, also in terms of what we saw in the last couple of years. Even though the financial implications would be big, I would like that Facebook comes up with the same idea – I think it would be beneficial on the long term.
Judging at Internetics
Originality is one of the things that I really look for in the works. I am looking for something that feels like a strong idea, but also something that I don`t feel I`ve seen before or not too many times. That`s a good plus. At the same time, I feel like it has to drive some of the objectives that have been set, forward.
What’s next in digital?
Less and more. I hope to see brands that are less infatuated with doing a lot and being more infatuated with doing better. If brands have the same budget, I would rather see them doing less, but doing better.