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Create culture and ditch the excuses IAG CMO Brent Smart tells the finance marketing industry

The former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Brent Smart, who was named IAG Group’s first-ever chief marketing officer earlier this year, has called on the financial services industry to get more adventurous and culture-focused in its marketing.

Speaking on the theme of low-interest marketing at the Mumbrella Finance Marketing Summit, Smart said the industry was missing huge opportunities, even where the briefs appeared low-interest and dull.

“Low involvement, low interest, low engagement – low tolerance, that’s what I’ve got for those words,” Smart said.

“I think they are marketing terms that are actually excuses. I think they are excuses for doing low-involvement marketing. I think they are excuses for doing boring marketing, I think they are excuses for creating more marketing pollution and if there is one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s more marketing.”

Smart also called for brands to think beyond their budgets.

“I love ideas that live beyond the media plan, I love ideas that keep working after you stopped paying for them,” he said.

Smart cited the story of State Street Global Advisors in the US which wanted to raise its profile in the financial media and highlight the need for more female leadership in Fortune 500 companies.

Fearless Girl is an example of a campaign living beyond the budget, Smart said

The result of what he described as a dull and unambitious brief was the the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street which was originally supposed to be in place for a week. New Yorkers are now petitioning to have it remain permanently.

“I don’t think there is anything harder than achieving permanence in the ephemeral world of advertising,” he said.

“Maybe the way we can really make a difference is to bring creativity to these products that really need it. That really need help to be interesting and not be boring. The place that I always start from is that people really don’t give a shit about marketing.”

He warned that the industry needed to stop thinking they were competing with competitors and realise they were competing with people’s lack of time.

“Creativity is not a choice, you have to be creative, you have to be interesting to have any chance of being noticed, to have any chance of being talked about, to have any chance of succeeding because there’s just so much stuff competing for our time,” Smart continued.

“As marketers we are competing with culture. And most of the time, culture is way more interesting.”

Smart: Avoid saying ‘It’s good for a bank ad’ 

He said the world had evolved into two types of marketers and two types of agencies – those that create culture and those that create collateral.

“More marketing collateral, more stuff, more stuff that follows me around on the internet, more stuff that interrupts my YouTube video.”

Smart highlighted Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again hat as a prime example of a disruptive idea which cut through with audiences and helped drive awareness of his bid for the Presidency.

Smart said marketers needed to do three things to make marketing great again including using the word “for” as an excuse for average work, – such as the phrase “it’s good for a bank ad” or “it’s good for the budget”.

“Compete with culture for people’s time. If that is your mindset, if you are competing with culture you have to create stories which are as compelling, as nuanced, as dark sometimes, as funny sometimes, as culture.

“Love the unexpected touchpoints, love the unloved touchpoints. They’re the ones that give the greatest white space to do something interesting.”

He also urged marketers to be “a high-involvement client”.

“As a client and as a marketer you actually have the power to make your agency really, really care about your product. How? By championing great work, by celebrating great work, by making great work.”

He also said marketers need to enlist their leadership teams to support driving great work.

“Even the best swimmers can’t swim against the tide and I think you have got to have that support.”

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