VivaKi's Kenny Calls For 'Moral Marketing'
Advocating that corporations adopt morally informed marketing strategies in tough times was one of the main themes emphasized by David Kenny, managing partner of Publicis Groupe's VivaKi unit, during a keynote presentation at the Jefferies 5th Annual Internet and Media Conference Wednesday in New York.
"The fundamental question is, how moral is marketing?" said Kenny. "People are spending and consuming more than they should. You can only produce more than you sell for so long before you go out of business. I think the air is out of the tires and people have to adapt to a new reality."
For brands, that means using the slowdown to zero in on which products and services customers really want and how to deliver them most efficiently without cutting back too much on distribution. "It's a lot more about services than sales right now," said Kenny, who co-leads the VivaKi organization that Publicis formed last year to serve as the hub of its digital media services.
When asked which clients were cutting back on ad spending, he did not point to any specific companies--but mentioned the auto, durable goods and financial services sectors as the ones that are scaling back. Highlighting the excesses of Wall Street that helped trigger the economic meltdown, Kenny suggested to the room full of investment bankers that "maybe there are too many hedge funds?"
But he also indicated that spending by packaged goods and other companies that provide staples from breakfast cereal to soap remained steady because consumers still need those basic items under any economic conditions. Some clients are actually increasing advertising, with the belief that "now is the time to build brand equity the way Kellogg's built brand equity during the Depression," he said.
Kenny noted that in the digital realm, especially in social media, companies can expand marketing efforts without necessarily buying paid media. "We have great campaigns that run on Facebook. We haven't paid for that," he said, noting the brand-building value of word-of-mouth campaigns online.
Social sites are especially useful for gauging consumer attitudes in order to develop more effective marketing messages. And while social media currently offers advertisers the best opportunity go beyond click-through ads online, he acknowledged that Internet advertising still does not deliver the emotional impact of traditional media. "We haven't found an ad unit for that," he said. "Most of what's advertised on the Internet to date has been direct marketing."
Even so, Kenny expressed confidence that the majority of media will eventually be distributed digitally, presumably with advertising to follow. That's where VivaKi comes in, helping clients to make the shift toward integrated digital campaigns. "The whole roster has got to move to a place where they can use this space," he said.