Coke marketer Leonardo O’Grady on mobile, social media and brands that try to save the world

Leonard O'GradyLeonardo O’Grady is the integrated marketing and comms director of Coca-Cola in Southeast Asia.

In this interview, he talks to Mumbrella Asia editor Robin Hicks about why mobile matters, why ad agencies are struggling with social media and how to unravel a genuine consumer insight.

You’ve made a number of presentations about the importance of mobile for Coke. But the reality is that you’re still a TV marketer who spends about five per cent of your budget – if that – on mobile. Are you just saying the right things at digital conferences?

Firstly, there are two sides to mobile. There is mobile media, and how we gain permission to advertise to people and create content for them – whether that’s a game or an app. We’re not doing a lot of that, except in Japan and Korea. In markets where we have loyal consumers, we use mobile media to keep that close relationship going.

The other side of mobile is using it to communicate more broadly. Take our Hug Machine activation. Was that a mobile idea? Content was captured on mobiles that was shared, but the medium was not used as an ad platform.

Should mobile be part of the bread and butter marketing mix? Marketers have to make a choice, and that choice usually defaults to what is proven to work. But for any big campaign now, mobile is present in one form or another, either as a mechanism or a standalone platform.

So what is Coke’s position on best how to use mobile?

We’re trying very hard to move away from time-based, traditional campaigns. We want to create programmes that unfold in chapters. Campaigns come and go, but a programme is organic and ongoing. We want communications that feed into one another, and content that has a liquidity to it. We want content so interesting and compelling that people want to share it, and the mechanism that does this better than anything else is mobile.

Are agencies struggling to keep up with the way social media is changing marketing?

I’m not blaming agencies. We can be just as bad at embracing change. A lot of agencies do understand social, and we get a lot of interesting proposals from them. Often the issue is a reluctance to commit to a program because of business planning and review obstacles.

We need to work closer with agencies on how to evaluate the success of a program and then evolve it. The question is how content should be different when creating it with social media in mind, and how you manage it, rally behind it, and respond to it.

Building long term programs, with many chapters to an ongoing story, is something agencies are comfortable with. But they’re not comfortable with social media. The challenge is how do you steward consumer empowerment when you have short-term business objectives to meet. Agencies haven’t cracked it. And we haven’t either.

Not all content is created equal in social media, and agencies are having trouble adjusting to this. They might make a massive production that works brilliantly on TV and wins awards. But it’s naïve to believe that it will work in social media, which tends to be more DIY, more personable, more my mate next door.

P&G’s top Asia marketer said recently that industry hubris was getting in the way of uncovering genuine consumers insight. Do you agree?

I think the industry is quite good at uncovering insights, but whether or not they are business changing is another matter.

Often we are not given insights, rather trends or observations. Such as: ‘teens are struggling with the need to be individual’. Well, tell me something I don’t know.

What’s interesting is the sociological lens you can put over an observation. You can say, ok, at one point success was everything for teens in Asia. But today, it’s less about destination and more about the journey.

The idea for Share a Can came from a genuine insight in retail – there are a lot of teens who cannot afford everything they want in their break. They can either have a chocolate bar or a can of Coke – but not both.

I like the idea behind Small World Machines. But does Coca-Cola seriously think it can ease the deep-seated tensions between India and Pakistan with a vending machine and a free can of Coke?

The brand idea is be an antidote to modern day woes, and make a commitment to ‘open happiness’. We don’t think we can solve the world’s problems, but the brand does believe that small gestures can inspire individuals.

We took on bullying in the Philippines, but the idea wasn’t about eliminating the problem. We created one day a year when people are not labelled, where bullied people didn’t suffer, and in doing so created a window for what is possible.

The same for The OFW Project in the Philippines. We’re not going to try to solve those problems, but it created worldwide empathy and pushed the limits of the brand.


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