Clemenger Brisbane Managing Director and AdSchool Digital Strategy presenter Rob Hudson has worked in digital marketing for 26 years but says there is no such thing as a ‘digital expert’. So, what’s his advice to the next generation? Find out in this Comms Council Q&A exclusive.   

TCC: How is the evolution of human-centered design having an impact on the creative process?

RH: More and more we need to find the sweet spot that sits between single mass-market executions and the currently utopian dream of one-to-one adaptive omnichannel communication. CRM has come of age and stepped out of owned channels into virtually all channels. All this means the creative process needs to deliver stronger platforms on which to build custom messaging, even if, for the time being at least, that’s to cohorts, not individuals. More than ever we need to produce marketing that people want to spend time with.

TCC: What role do data and analytics have to play in delivering effective digital strategies?

RH: Data sits front and centre of most digital strategies; thankfully we seem to have moved from big data to actionable data. Strategists are learning to derive insights from data as well as design communications that react to changes in data sets. On a simple level that could be displaying more holiday ads in cities where it is currently raining. At the other end of the scale are communications that adapt to user behaviour and event triggers to construct a near unique message to the user. As an example, martech now makes it possible to serve comms with any SKU in a retailer’s system, at a custom price point, to an individual, based on previous purchases, search activity and next best product logic. Very quickly it’s possible to deliver tens of thousands of variations with just a few data points. Loop in real-time analytics that optimise the entire process, and you have some amazing results. Never forgetting, of course, you still need cut through, and more often than not that means good creative concepts.

TCC: In an age of ‘digital-firsts’, can a digital strategy succeed if it has been done before?

RH: I’ve been in digital marketing for 26 years; digital firsts are getting fewer and further apart. It’s still about great insights driving great ideas. Strategies shouldn’t be about digital or traditional they should be about people, so looking back at successful communications and taking learnings forward into new ones is surely desirable.

TCC: What single best practice case study can you reference that combines creativity and technology?

RH: SNICKERS® Hungerithm. What a surprise using one of our own, but I love this work because it uses real-time data without talking about data. Oh, and it delivered sales, not hype, a sadly overblown aspect of the modern case study.

TCC: What is your advice to the next generation of digital thinkers?

RH: Be thinkers, drop the digital. Let’s be honest in a few years the term will seem redundant. Already so many channels have shifted. Out-of-home is a good example; only a few months ago we ran a billboard campaign in Melbourne and Sydney and never printed a single sheet of paper, all the sites were digital screens and data feed.

Also, understand that you can no longer be a ‘digital’ expert. Digital covers a vast number of channels and technologies so you can be a generalist or find your niche, doing both isn’t an option anymore. Sorry.

TCC: How has your background in engineering helped you in the creative media industry?

RH: When I started out, digital was, and to a point still is, all about hardware advancements. I used to design floppy disks and CD-ROMs for the front of magazines and business promotion, so understanding engineering was critical. In recent times the same passion for technical design has translated into connecting the digital world with the physical one to deliver consumer experiences, many of which are used in communications.

TCC: You’re quite the inventor – what has been your favourite product that you’ve developed to date?

RH: They are all my children I couldn’t pick between them. A recent device for Weis was lots of fun; it started with a banana piano. In the final project, we wired up fruit to a midi system, added in the musical talents of DJ/Producers ‘YesYou’, filled a beach with people. Take a look here.

TCC: And we have to ask, how did you come up with the idea for the functional cat translating collar?

RH: As with so many of my inventions, it starts with a collaboration around something, and then my inability to just keep it simple does the rest. The cat collar came from a creative team in NZ wanting a remote controlled device that the owner could trigger prerecorded messages, a gimmick. That just all seemed way too easy, so after six months, 30,000 YouTube videos of cats making noises (don’t ask, I’ve blocked it from my mind) and 27 prototypes later I had a working cat translator. And before you ask, and everyone asks, it’s not possible to make it work on dogs. It would take too long to explain why, you’ll just have to believe me that it can’t be done.