You founded your own content agency, Kamber. Why did you decide to join Ogilvy now?
My last three jobs had been starting something from scratch or building something from scratch and that’s super rewarding but it takes a certain type of energy. I think sometimes you can go through cycles in life and the timing of this opportunity was right. It meant I could come into an already established business and that requires a different set of skills. I’m at my happiest when I’m learning and I think sometimes moving into new environments can reignite learning.
Kamber was purely online and purely content, purely social. All of the solutions we came up with for clients were limited to owned digital channels. Not a bad thing, by any stretch. We specialised in a very specific space and did it really well. Whereas with PR, the solutions can be broader. Being able to solve problems and apply creativity with this broader lens was definitely a big factor in my decision too. I originally started my career in PR, veered off and got involved in digital, ended up doing that for seven, eight, nine years and now have come back full circle to hopefully apply and combine the best of both worlds.
And last, but definitely not least, the people. I worked with some great people and clients at Kamber. I then had the chance to work with some great people and clients at Ogilvy PR. I wouldn’t have made the move if the people box wasn’t ticked and it was.
How was it being at the front of the social media evolution?
I was lucky. When I was at Cricket Australia in 2006, I was in the PR team in the summer but in the winter, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. I ended up becoming the Editor of the website and looking after online fan engagement. I got exposure to things like HTML, SEO, CRM tools, writing for the web, online publishing and that really whet my appetite. I moved to the UK in 2007 just as the social stuff started to kick off and clients were after more and more advice and direction in that area. I started blogging and was taking it pretty seriously. Our clients, including the likes of Coca Cola and Costa Coffee, wanted these skills too.
There was a lot of self-teaching involved, a lot of exposure to new things and a lot of hard lessons were learnt. There was no formal training at that time. You’d find someone to learn from and then pass that knowledge on to your team. Then, as they became more knowledgeable they’d do the same and normally for someone else because there was such a shortage of talent.
At the core, the principles are still the same. Whether it’s traditional journalism, social, digital, whatever, if you’re telling a story it’s got to be compelling, it’s got to be interesting. If you’ve got a marketing or communications objective you still have to drive everything back to that so I think the technical side of things and some of the details are different, but the principles are still the same.
Do you think social media will be the core of PR strategies moving forward or will traditional media always be the core?
We have to be channel agnostic from a strategy perspective, always. However, it’s an interesting time and the lines between traditional and social are only getting more and more blurry. Ultimately, people want information from people and sources they trust so perhaps that’s the way we should re-categorise things. Reliable bloggers. Reliable journalists. Reliable Instagrammers. Developing insight-driven strategies and working with reliable media to amplify messages is what’s required. It’s not a sexy answer, but social media needs to be put into perspective. Social media mostly acts as an outpost or billboard for content from traditional sources anyway. And there’s also so much empty noise in the social space too. Interesting stories can and should live anywhere. Sometimes they start on the front page of news.com.au and end up being re-shared in bulk via social media. And other times, they start as a YouTube video and cascade up. It really is about the story and content, not the channel.
Do you think agencies in the UK or Australia take more risks?
I think there’s a few factors. In Australia, you’ve got, in most of the sectors, four or five brands. You’ve got four or five big banks, two supermarkets, etc. Because the sectors are so small, while there’s an appetite to take risks, you’ve also got more to lose. Where as in places like the UK, you’ve got more like 10 or 12 in a sector. You have to take risks, you have to challenge things, you have to think a bit outside the box to be noticed. That’s a factor.
Technology and the costs associated with it are another factor. Broadband is slower here. It costs more, comparatively, for broadband here. This has traditionally created limitations when it comes to the accessibility of content and media. Technology, in general, is adopted a little later in Australia and this is a factor.
And, there’s a little less margin for error here because the opportunities are more finite. It can sometimes be harder to get braver ideas and solutions across the line. That’s not to say there’s not a hunger for it. I think clients really want to try and push the envelope but a smaller environment means sometimes it’s a little harder to get those things approved.
What would you say to anyone starting in PR tomorrow?
I went through a period where I only hired people who had established a functioning blog and maintained it for at least 12 months. If I’m at uni or just about to embark on my career, I’d seriously consider adding that to my repertoire. If you are able to show you’ve created basic content and publishing strategy, I think that’s so impressive. Blogging and publishing can teach you so much. It can teach you about content, obviously, but also how to use analytics to improve your output, how social plugs into websites and blogs. It just teaches you so much. This is linked to a broader imperative which is being tenaciously curious. The more curious you are, the more you take things in, and therefore you’re more equipped to solve client problems or come up with solutions that are sometimes hard to see. Just be the biggest sponge you can be.
What was it about digital and tech that interested you over other topics?
When I was in London, I lived with a guy who was a developer and it was when Twitter started to get a bit of momentum. I was sceptical at first. He would constantly say “you really need to take notice of this” and the deeper I dug, the more fascinated I became and it snowballed from there.
I think not being able to grasp it early on made me really hungry to understand it. I just wanted to learn and setting up my own blog was part of that. Taking blogging seriously ignited things even more. I just wanted to learn and it was a good time to be open to learning. New technologies like Twitter began to impact culture in ways we hadn’t seen before and that made it even more fascinating. When I’m learning I’m really happy and when I’m laughing I’m really happy, so was the element of learning. That was the main bit. It was just really fun.
What do you think is the biggest change or challenge coming in the industry in the next 12 months?
A challenge is always finding and keeping the best people. Particularly creative talent or talent that has experience in advanced analytics. It is always in such short supply, especially in this market. That challenge isn’t going away.
Clients want integrated solutions and for their agencies to collaborate to develop the best solutions. Social media has made many of the crossover points blurry which has made things challenging on both the client and agency side of things. Navigating the blurriness will continue to be a challenge.
I think, to my earlier point, the veracity and reliability of news and how people tackle that is going to be huge. Google and Facebook are talking about how they’re going to verify the news more. I read yesterday that people are quite nervous of Amazon because of the access to data they have on shoppers. So while we talk about Facebook and Google all the time, Amazon knows what people are buying and how they use that information. Some of the non-traditional players in the media space are probably going to start influencing things more going forward. Change brings new challenges and that’s a good thing.
What does a day in the life of Adam Vincenzini look like?
Apart from me getting a puppy six weeks ago, which has changed the way my days start, most of my days are shaped or driven around what the team need from me or how I can be most useful to them. Then, as a group, our days are shaped by the problems we’re trying to solve for our clients. These problems, while rooted in PR, tend to be a lot broader and we spend our time trying to solve the most important ones. Lot of problem solving, that’s the common thread in a typical day.
Most memorable campaign?
When I was in the UK, Costa Coffee was a client and we got a brief about a brand relaunch. They really wanted to focus on the quality of their coffee. For a high-street coffee chain that’s quite a challenge.
After a lot of back and forth, we landed on an idea that centred around their Master of Coffee, Gennaro Pelliccia. He was excellent, he had been with the company for 15 years, excellent Italian accent, the real deal. We wanted to insure his tongue for 10 million pounds. We thought if we did that, it would show how much Costa valued him and his ability to make the best coffee in the country.
We spoke to Lloyds of London and we insured his tongue through them. We had some great vision of him and his priceless tongue. It was a unique story that had all the ingredients you could ever want. It went bonkers. It wasn’t just the tabloids in the UK. I remember my mum had a clip of it and sent me a scan from Australia which was really cool. Beside it being fun, Costa sales went up 12 per cent in the first week post that activity which was amazing. A Costa fan even created a Twitter account for his tongue after the launch! It was just a fun idea and that helped make it so successful and memorable.
Where do you get news from?
Lots of places and primarily via my mobile. For real time information and live events I go to Twitter. For general stuff, Facebook has become my start page or main news feed. A lot of my favourite publishers have their content featured there so while it’s originating on a classic news site, it ends up in my Facebook feed. Reddit as well, if I really want to access news that is less mainstream. I use a news aggregator on my desktop too and that has all my feeds coming to the one spot. It really depends on the news I want and the best places to get that specific form of news. I’m a news and content geek.
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