Digital media opens new frontier for luxury brands

Luxury brands are uncovering deeper ways of storytelling in digital media as print shifts to a mainstay of integrated media offers, a panel of marketers and media owners heard this week.

With growing discretionary income fuelling consumer passion for luxury goods across Australia, The Luxury Consumer Force panel at Sydney’s Mumbrella360 conference explored new marketing frontiers.

The panel hosted by News Corp Australia’s NewsLifeMedia group lifestyle publisher Nick Smith consisted of David Jones general manager, marketing and communications, Victoria Doidge; Paspaley head of marketing Iris Kleimann; Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann; and Instagram head of development Sophie Blachford.

The challenge for many luxury brands, according to Iris Kleimann, is to emotionally connect with their consumers – and digital media provides a variety of powerful ways to tell stories across platforms.

Ms Kleimann gave as an example Paspaley’s ‘Everything Precious’ campaign. This involved a short story written by Miles Franklin Award-winning Australian author Anna Funder, distributed as an e-book and tied in with a short film with Australian actress Teresa Palmer. It attracted a huge new audience, Ms Kleimann said, with 50 per cent of new customers in the wake of the campaign noted as buying pearls for the first time.

“The challenge was to engage with a younger, fashion-conscious audience, and to develop an emotional connection,” she said. “Sometimes moving footage and images can tell a story better than words can.

“But we’ll always have a presence, for example, in [print media such as] Vogue,” she added, “because we target the fashion conscious consumer.”

David Jones’ Victoria Doidge said the brand was working to create harmony between owned, earned and paid media and across platforms.

“If we’re collaborating with Vogue, we’ll be thinking about how that collaboration can extend across Instagram as well – we’re not thinking about it in a siloed way,” Ms Doidge said. “We think about it as an integrated, 360 campaign across all of those.”

NewsLifeMedia’s Nick Smith said there would always be a place in print for luxury advertisers, and Victoria Doidge agreed.

“You can’t read an iPad in a bar,” she said. “Magazines are a luxury in and of themselves. Having a moment with a magazine where you can sit with a magazine is a beautiful sensorial experience, so they will always be part of the mix.

However, David Jones wouldn’t buy newspaper or magazine space in isolation, she said, preferring to integrate them within a holistic campaign.

“We have media partnerships and we go and talk about our shared aspirations, what are we trying to do together, and you create a range of assets, one of which might be a page in a paper, but usually there’s a much broader conversation.”

The next frontier for David Jones was employee social engagement – finding bloggers across the company to act as influencers for its products. “We have 1500 brands and a social-hungry work force. What we want to do is empower the people of the company to be a loud voice.”

Vogue editor Edwina McCann talked about how their traditional print product – which also includes two magazines already in simplified Mandarin and hosting events aimed at wealthy Chinese consumers – had the ability to make waves on social media with its powerful covers, often thanks to bloggers or “influencers” who Vogue employs to share its content.

“The Chanel dress our fashion director decides to shoot and put on the cover of Vogue, that’s her choice – we do that for free, and then we’re putting it on a celebrity who we don’t pay to put on our cover, and then our cover gets shared globally,” Ms McCann said.

“So we don’t want to underestimate the fact that what was originally a print product is in fact an incredible influencer in itself – not just when you flick through it but through the digital platforms, the sharing of our photography.”

Launching into the online world has been a success for luxury brands, the panel agreed. Far from diminishing the exclusivity of luxury brands, it has spawned communities of loyal consumers.

In terms of any industry on Instagram, it’s one of the best we see on the platform,” said Instagram’s Sophie Blanchard. “They add to the creative community, they’re very authentic, they’ve got a high threshold for their craft.”

Edwina McCann said the only foreseeable long term risk for luxury brands online could be in programmatic advertising. “If you’re a luxury brand and I visit your site and I got to Gumtree or another site entirely, if your ads follow me, I’m not guaranteed to be in the same mindset for purchasing,” she said.

“What we own in print and on vogue.com.au is that luxury mindset.

“But the story we can tell is so much deeper and richer with so many assets – it’s a fascinating environment.”

Instagram has until now been confined to an aesthetically powerful way of building brand awareness and affinity – but due to brand demand, Instagram is now allowing advertisers to place clickable links alongside their images. “They are constantly inspired by what they see on the platform, and they want to go further down the rabbit hole with that, beyond just a hashtag,” Ms Blachford said.

We’re all in the earned media business: UM head

by Declan Gooch

All media is earned and the traditional split of paid, earned and owned media is an outdated concept, Mat Baxter told an audience at Mumbrella360.

Mr Baxter, who is the CEO of media agency UM, was on a panel with One Green Bean chief executive Adam Freedman, digital strategist Karalee Evans, Edelman chief operating officer Matthew Gain and Droga5 executive creative director Steve Coll.

UM head Mat Baxter

UM head Mat Baxter

“Agencies have two choices – either continue to be obsessed by the heritage and legacy that they’ve got and stick to their knitting, or move with the customer and evolve and adapt,” Mr Baxter said.

“If you look at PR’s history, that was largely about managing professional relationships with editorial teams and journalists … [normally in] print media and TV media, and that generated you earned media.

“Now, the thing that generates you the earned media is the consumer themselves. And what they talk about is great ideas. Anyone can have a great idea, and if a great idea generates earned media, everyone is in the earned media business.”

Droga5’s Steve Coll said all companies today were expected to earn their way to success, which is a consideration even for advertising creatives.

“I ask my creatives, on every single job that we do, a very simple question: Will this be in the news feed? Will this be in the news media?”

The categories of paid, earned and owned are only “an industry way of looking at things,” Mr Coll argued.

Controversy followed UM’s decision to reposition itself as a “creative connections agency” in February, with Mr Baxter announcing at the time that his company was not competing with other media agencies and would focus more on earned media strategies.

“I didn’t think it was controversial, but it obviously was. Like any business, we’ve got to do what the customer wants,” Mr Baxter told the Mumbrella360 audience.

“We’re so obsessed with the labels. The truth is, clients do not care. Clients sit in the room, and whoever the strongest person in the room is who makes the most sense the client will back and support.”

He argued that in the future, there will be no split between media, creative and PR agencies, only agencies that are “very good at what [they do] and will just be solving clients’ problems.”

Most of the panel was in agreement, although Edelman’s Matthew Gain said there was always room for specialisation, especially around reputation management. “That’s something that people who aren’t from a PR mindset are going to struggle with,” he said.

Local publishers provide diversity

by Declan Gooch

Competition against Google and Facebook from local publishers in programmatic advertising is important, according to the head of digital, data and investment at the Dentsu Aegis Network, Andrew Reid.

“We’re concerned about balance in the marketplace,” Mr Reid told an audience at the Mumbrella360 conference.

“We don’t want to see this market consumed by Google and Facebook.”

News Corp Australia’s digital sales strategy head Cameron King said publishers could present a localised offering that large media groups could not.

“With a lot of the global players, there’s very limited control to adapt their existing product offerings to the Australian market,” Mr King said.

However, he said he wasn’t concerned by the marketplace influence of Facebook or Google.

“I think diversity is incredibly healthy for the ecosystem.”

Mr Reid said Dentsu Aegis is not “in the philanthropic business of handing business to the local publishers … they can compete just fine.”

“But we’re also very conscious of trying to understand that data does not exclusively reside with Facebook.”

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