Ben Shepherd – 1 Year On

2008 – 2009: This Thing We Call Digital

I spoke to Ben at the beginning of this year about his thoughts of the digital industry, and from where I sit, it seems the industry has continued to be as dynamic as ever.  And one common theme we’re seeing is the importance of measurement and meeting business needs – it’s not about the activity, the shiny bits: it’s about the results: and the strategic, planning and execution skills required become more important than ever.

Ben, do you think the digital space has started thinking more commercially? Is this purely in light of the GFC, or do you think we’re all starting to grow up?

I guess the wider economic issues caused some people to think commercially as they needed to to keep the lights on and retail staff. Still, there’s a difference between thinking commercially in a strategic sense and thinking commercially in ‘needs’ sense.

People like Peter Bray, have recently moved to a more integrated approach to digital (with traditional) – do you think this is becoming more common in the space? It was one of your strongest recommendations, and one I entirely agree with.

I can’t speak for Peter Bray (having never met him) … but speaking to people who are smarter than me, there seems to be some momentum towards truly skilled cross media planners and strategic minds and more links between the areas of planning and trading. So you’d assume if the people thinking this way are running agencies it’s not too long until actions are put in place to make this a reality. Digital in isolation doesn’t make much sense for me … great ideas come out of robust communication strategies and the ability to think broadly. You’d think in a couple of years the idea of a digital only strategist would be redundant.

Any thoughts on Search for the future? It’s something I’m becoming more involved with, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts on what the future might hold here.

As an area it’s still very important … measurement will evolve and we will move forward to search and associated data becoming a real barometer of the rest of the comms mix. It’s a rare form of media that is both a distribution tool and an insights one.

And finally, what should the industry be paying attention to in the next 6-12 months?

Whatever is relevant and important to their business and clients. For me, I am interested in better measurement across channels that leads to better decisions. Better ideas.

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.