Interview with Robbie McCalwey, Director Global Marketing Strategy, EA

November 14, 2019

Belinda – What particular challenges are there in the Media & Entertainment sector?

Robbie – Advertising campaigns within Media & Entertainment are seeing an increasing over reliance on personalisation that is probably caused by the fact that most of the industry has become digital. This has created really lazy campaigns that are based on fairly rudimentary data signals instead of true insights. While this type of campaign does deliver efficiency, it’s often at the expense of true brand campaigns and scale, which is causing amazing short-term results that are negatively effecting the long-term health of brands.

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Belinda – What would you consider to be an essential component of a successful campaign in that sector?

Robbie – It’s most important to establish an emotional connection with your audience by telling a compelling story and finding a way to relate to them beyond the features of your products/ services. How you using your content, influencers or partnerships in a way that is both relevant to your brand AND matters to your audience?

Belinda – There’s an increasing trend of brands moving their advertising in-house. What do you think the advertising landscape will look like in five years’ time?

Robbie – There is? I think there was! I’m not sure it’s quite a trend anymore and we are seeing a lot of brands going back to agencies. I think what brands are realizing is that while you need some expertise in-house, an agency gives you perspective of what good really looks like… so you’re not drinking your own Kool-Aid. I think what brands will keep in house is more strategic and creative thinkers who work with an agency team of like-minded thinkers to bounce around ideas. Once a great campaign is locked then the agency will also handle execution because it’s difficult for brands to scale those teams.

Belinda – Which new innovation do you think has the potential to have the greatest impact on the consumption of content marketing?

Robbie – I don’t think there are any new innovations that are currently changing the consumption of marketing. What is most important for marketers is how to be disruptive with what already exists. Streaming is one example of an area that I think there is the potential for further disruption, both by streaming services and brands, but I wouldn’t call that innovation.

Belinda – How is data changing the way you design your content strategy?

Robbie – We’re moving away from over targeting audiences. If you need to make 1000 pieces of content for 1000 different segments then you’re doing something wrong. You look at what brands that have remained successful and they are telling compelling stories that have mass appeal, with some nuances based on ‘culturalizing’ their content for different groups or markets.

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Belinda – How can brands use content marketing to align themselves with particular values or topical issues?

Robbie – Take a look at macro cultural trends. This isn’t an option, it’s something you have to do. Otherwise you are just looking at data without context – which is looking at shadows of people and what they did, not the people themselves. It’s also more important for brands to stand for something than align to a cause. If you do want to align to topical issues or represent causes you definitely can! But your entire company needs to be representative of that cause or you’ll be found out by consumers. For example, if you want to stand up for women’s rights, then are you paying women equally? Does your board have 50% women? All this information will be found out by consumers and if you don’t embody the cause you are marketing then you’re done for.

Belinda – Can you sum up the holy-grail of content-marketing in one sentence?

Robbie – Start with an insight based in human truth.

Belinda – What is the secret to implementing a successful cross-border advertising campaign?

Robbie – You still need a consistent narrative that can stretch across borders. This is becoming more and more important given how quickly messages spread online and how irrelevant location is becoming. Any good idea is based on a clear and actionable strategy and this strategy needs to have the ability to be nuanced locally based on local cultural and audience insights.

Belinda – What’s the key difference between targeting a domestic audience and an international one?

Robbie – If you are going international you need to ensure that you’re not too focused on local execution or insights. You need to consider a broader audience and macro cultural trends. Having worked in the US for a US company for the last few years this is something we are acutely aware of when developing campaigns to ensure we aren’t excluding, offending or confusing our global audience.

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Belinda – How can you measure the success of your partnerships during an international campaign?

Robbie – Our KPIs for a campaign are based on your campaign objective. If this is the same across markets then your KPIs should be the same too. If you have different objectives per market than you should consider if your strategy needs to be reworked for particular markets.

Belinda – What is the best content marketing campaign you’ve ever seen? And why did it stand out?

Robbie – Nike’s Dream Crazy was the best piece of content I saw from last year. The way they consistently executed their story across multiple pieces of content and partners was an example of great storytelling. Unfortunately they also experienced the dangers of representing a cause/ societal topic in diversity, because it was exposed that they were  stopping payments to their female athletes when they got pregnant. This saw the campaign end prematurely and they faced backlash for their misrepresentation.

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Belinda – Why is benchmarking and celebrating great international advertising strategies essential for the success of the industry as a whole?

Robbie – As the world continues to get smaller consistent international campaigns are going to become even more important for brands to tell compelling stories. Executing those international campaigns effectively across multiple markets requires not only great insight and strategy but also deft execution, and so the work should be recognised and judged separately to smaller local campaigns.

Belinda – What is your top tip for creating a winning entry?

Robbie – It’s all about your story. Your campaign was successful based on the story that you told your audience and you need to tell an equally compelling story to the judges on why your campaign mattered.

Robbie McCawley, Director Global Marketing Strategy, Electronic Arts (EA) and World Media Awards 2020 Judge discusses the importance of celebrating the effectiveness of content driven advertising and shares what he’s looking for in award winning entries. To find out more about the World Media Awards and how to enter CLICK HERE