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Laziness towards learning stops agencies from evolving like Facebook, says Val Madon of Havas

The chief creative officer of Havas South East Asia has revealed that her one-year stint at Facebook was a “life-changing” experience for her in terms of shaping her approach to creativity.

Valerie Madon, who left J. Walter Thompson Singapore for Facebook in December 2015, said creative agencies are being held back by a “fear of letting go” and a “laziness towards learning”. They should instead embrace the social media giant’s “openness” and “willingness to disrupt” – she said.

Speaking during the Mumbrella360 Asia conference, in Singapore last week, about how data can transform creativity for the better, Madon said agencies were too focused on the “sexy” side of executing campaigns, rather than using the available data to boost return-on-investment for clients.

When asked further by Mumbrella Asia about her time at the social network and its relevance for the agency world, she said: “My experience at Facebook was quite life-changing and it comes down to really the culture of a place.

“And I have to say admittedly, and this is partly the reason I went back to an agency, I believe there’s no reason why an agency cannot evolve and adopt that openness, that willingness to disrupt and change – and lose themselves – and start over again. And it’s that what’s holding the agency back because everyone’s too afraid to let go of what they knew before.

“Either that or it’s just pure laziness of wanting to keep learning, which is a huge difference with Facebook. Every day, they are learning something. Despite them being a billion dollar company, Zuckerberg says they are only 1 per cent done. When does an agency ever say they are 1 per cent done? The agency is always happy to say we’re 100 hundred per cent done and now can we sit back and party.”

She added: “That complacency and closed-mindedness is very ironic for an agency that’s supposed to stand for creativity, newness and innovation.”

Val Madon: “I have been exposed to the world of Facebook and with every campaign, if you are lucky, you will get a single-digit conversion.”

Before joining Facebook, Madon was the chief creative officer of the JWT Singapore office for three years and globally the executive creative director on the Shell lubricants business for the last two years.

After leaving the social media network in June this year, she was snapped up by Havas to take on the role of CCO for the South East Asia region – leading the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) account. 

During her 30-minute presentation, Madon told delegates at the Marina Bay Sands that she now schools her creative team in executing a “slew of messages to rightfully target the person in the most relevant manner” rather than just the same message and visual for every consumer.

“If you think about your customer like the girl you’re going after, the first thing you are going to do is go on her Facebook page; trying to find out what she likes and what she’s interested in so that you can have a more relevant conversation with her,” she said. “But the interesting thing is, do you say the same thing to her in the morning, the noon and at night – and you don’t.

“Whenever I show my creatives [the methodology], they all ask me: ‘Why are we not doing this?’ We really need to assess the way we think creatively today and over the last 150 years. I think today still brands and creative teams still look this way: we look for one insight. The one insight became one idea; the one idea became one message and one key visual.

“Eventually that one key message and visual became plastered all over the media channels. It worked this way in the past because things couldn’t change fast enough. But with today’s media platform, why are we still using 150-year-old methods?”

She added: “I have been exposed to the world of Facebook and with every campaign, if you are lucky, you will get a single-digit conversion. So what happens to that other 90 per cent of non-converters? And how much money is actually spent if you don’t investigate why they are not converting?

‘It’s a very different way of thinking, but who is to say we can’t change things with this much data in our hands?”

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