VCCP boss warns ‘we’re in danger of getting the targeting bulls in front of brand building cart’

The founder and chairman of creative agency VCCP has warned Australian marketers that the industry globally is at risk of over emphasising programmatic at the expense of brand building.

Speaking at the Australian Association of National Advertisers end of year drinks Charles Vallance took aim at the growing focus on programmatic marketing arguing many brands were diverting spend at the expense of a traditional brand focus.

“We are in danger of getting the targeting bulls in front of the brand building cart,” Vallance told the room. “Amid the rise of big data and digital generally our ability to target stuff have grown exponentially in fact it has improve beyond recognition.

“This allows us to be more efficient but I think it is possible to become infatuated with efficiency.”

Vallance, who recently penned an opinion piece entitled “The tyranny of targetting”, then went on to argue that advertising’s growing focus on data and programmatic targeting of niche demographics meant marketers were overlooking the importance of selling their message to a wider audience.

Charles Vallance:

Charles Vallance: ‘we can lose sight of the very fundamentals of our job’

“We can lose sight of the very fundamentals of our job,” he said noting that while many marketers wanted “efficiency” when actually some “wastage” is needed to build the brand.

“Waste is good,” said Vallance who added: “This sounds outspoken but really it is just a way of saying brands can’t be built in silos, they are by definition public properties.

“Whether we are talking about Rolex or a Big Mac their power as brands is that they are built in plain sight and if we take the emerging body of tech driven targeting to their logical extreme we could conclude that (these brands) are total failures.

“What is the point with Rolex of having 100 per cent awareness when only two per cent of people can afford one? Rolex should never sponsor Wimbledon. What it should do is stealthily programmatically stalking a tiny fraction of the world’s population.

“Selling its watches on a cookie base focused on the ultra rich – that’s where the logic would lead. But the desirability (of Rolex) is hugely influenced by who else has consumed it.

“Put simply Rolex sales would collapse if the brand had no display value.”

Vallance argued the same rules apply in the broader consumer market and not just among luxury goods.

“All brand building in one way or another involves wastage,” he said. “It involves the brand being overheard or overseen by people who are not at that moment going to buy.

“Despite the fact they are not the target audience they are still part of the brand’s constituency either because they may become a customer at some point in the future or they will influence someone who is a customer.”

He cited research he had done some years ago around what age people chose their favourite car brands.

“We conducted a piece of research that showed most children had chosen their three top car brands by the age of 12,” said Vallance. “I imagine there are not many car advertisers who design their programmatic marketing around 12 year olds.

“The research also showed that not very much changes their minds after that and too often we forget that the end user isn’t the only target.”

Nic Christensen


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