Mark Ritson’s digital scepticism is ‘a service’ to industry, says new Omnicom Media Australia boss

The new boss of Omnicom Media Group in Australia, Peter Horgan, has described the recent comments from Professor Mark Ritson on the questionable value of some digital metrics as having done “something of a service to the industry”.


“Emperor’s new clothes”: Horgan

Ritson’s comments that digital media is a “tsunami of bullshit” have stirred a big debate in the industry as to whether too much value is being placed on the digital, and in particular, social media channels currently, when there is no recognised way to measure their effectiveness.

Speaking on a panel at APN Outdoor’s Media Jungle event today, Horgan – who assumed the top role at OMG last week – said: “Mark Ritson has probably done something of a service to the industry by calling a form of Emperor’s New Clothes on digital channels,” he said.

“Digital is incredibly powerful if it’s correctly deployed and its effectiveness is really only just starting to get tapped. I think there’s a reassessment happening but digital is only just starting to find its strongest options to prosper.

The comments came as part of APN’s presentation as to which animals consumers felt best represented different media types when it came to their feelings about ad display. While outdoor was an elephant and TV a lion, radio was seen as a cicada, mobile a fly and digital a mosquito.

Amongst the statistics in the survey was that 45% of the 3,000 people surveyed were uncomfortable with their personal data being used to target ads at them.

(l-r): Tim Burrowes, Mumbrella; Ana Bacic, Seven Network; Peter Horgan, OMG; Brett Dawson, Bohemia; Joe Copley, Posterscope

(l-r): Tim Burrowes, Mumbrella; Ana Bacic, Seven Network; Peter Horgan, OMG; Brett Dawson, Bohemia; Joe Copley, Posterscope

Asked about that figure Bohemia CEO, Brett Dawson, said the industry needed someone to take a stand and educate the public on what it means.

“I think at the moment it’s not understood in this room, let alone by 3,000 consumers responding to a survey,” he told the room full of media executives.

“At the moment, like any new technology and innovation, it’s in its infancy, and it’s not necessarily being used for good but used for bad; and to follow me around the web and annoy the hell out of me.

“So whilst it continues to be used in that way and no-one is really taking leadership of educating the Australian public, it will stay that way.”

Horgan, who is president of the Media Federation of Australia, was asked whether the MFA should be the organisation to lead that educational charge.

“Is it incumbent upon the industry to push the attributes of data stalking? I don’t know,” he admitted.

“I think it needs to be proven through usefulness to consumers. To show people that a certain problem in a moment in time has been solved for them.”

Ana Bacic, head of network marketing for Seven Network, said there was a “big job to do” in using data, adding: “It’s only useful when we can turn it into an insight and act on that.”

She added: “When you meet somebody new you exchange phone numbers or Facebook details. There’s a fine line then between someone getting to know you to enhance the relationship or stalking you, going through social media feeds for the last five to 10 years, understanding exactly who you’ve met, what you’ve done and who you’ve had a conversation with, then regurgitating that the next time you meet.

“You can find all these things out but it’s how you apply it that’s important.”


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