David Craik is not happy. No sooner than he gets his hands on the top marketing job at S1, than he turns 30 and immediately is excluded from the Marketing Society’s young membership cell, Marked Talent – which he co-founded last year – and is ineligible for entry to its Young Marketer of The Year category, in which he was nominated last year. It seems a shame given his credentials.
At S1, Craik has been responsible for some edgy creative work for its S1Jobs site, including the recent TV campaign by The Union, which is done in a testimonial style showing couples talking about how they ‘met’.
The first, showing a man and a woman talking about meeting online, has a twist at the end when it becomes apparent that they’re not a couple, but the woman has in fact joined the company due to her CV being on S1Jobs. There’s a risquÃ© line at the end – ‘he had a very nice package’ – which at first glance easily prompts you to think that was why the ads were rejected by the BACC. However, the BACC had no problem with the tagline, instead it was unhappy that S1Jobs claims to be number one in Scotland, yet gives no proof on the ad. The ad had to go through a last-minute tweak to put the data source on.
“There are a lot of advantages from using SMG Commercials [who produced the ad],” says Craik. “They’ve got full access to the Scottish TV resources, which they can get at the drop of a hat. We were up against it time-wise and if it hadn’t been for that, things would have slipped. The one line of text hasn’t been needed before, but apparently it was as a result of an ITC ruling.”
The new ads are a bit more grown up than the legendary ‘ice-cream’ ads, and with the risquÃ© tagline and the use of a same-sex couple in the second execution, it would be easy to say S1Jobs was courting controversy for headlines. “The brand’s always been a little controversial, so it was in keeping with that, we certainly didn’t set out to be controversial for the sake of it,” says Craik. “I think that primarily that creative worked with the message we were trying to get across. Initially the creative was the heterosexual couple, but then the idea was to have couples all the way through the films. So if we were going to have a second ad, have a second couple and why not make it a same sex couple. Again, not to be controversial, but why not? If you think about it, it shouldn’t be controversial. I think it was our suggestion that it should be a same sex couple, and the agency were a bit surprised about it but delighted we were up for it. The ad itself is not really sexual, the way we’ve done it is very matter of fact. They’re actually quite serious ads in the deadpan way they’re done, which is where the humour comes in.
“Whenever you produce new ads, you always feel a sense of responsibility for the ads that have come before and which were so popular with the public. We do need to move the brand on, though. When we first launched, we were the new challenger brand and we’re now the market leader and we’ve got a much more sophisticated product range and services, things change. As much as it’s about delighting audiences, it’s also about communicating a message. You have to get the balance right. It’s easy to produce entertaining ads, but do they shift any product, do they get people on to your website?”
S1’s CV Database product encourages job-seekers to post their CV on the site even if they’re not actively looking for a job. Using sophisticated technology, when an employer posts an ad, it automatically scans the CVs on file for a match.
“From a marketing point of view, the message is the key difference that actually changes things quite a lot in terms of targeting,” he says. “We’ve always had it as a product, but we’ve just completely rebuilt it and relaunched it. When you think about it, it’s really a different model and approach. That’s the ways things are moving we think and if it does end up there, the whole process of advertising jobs and hunting for a job, will change. I don’t see people stopping posting ads. At the moment the way the market is, and the way we make money and the way that people use the internet, it is still in vacancy listings. The big change we’re seeing within the last six months to a year is direct employers as opposed to recruitment agencies. The penny’s starting to drop as to how efficient it is as a model in matching supply and demand. Part of that change is the realisation of the CV database concept.”
The concept is not new, Monster was probably the first to do it, but Craik believes S1’s sophisticated technology makes its service stand out. So much so, that the product has been entered into The Marketing Excellence Awards’ innovation category. “There’s too much focus on advertising and in the obvious front-end of marketing and not enough focus on strategy and products, this award will recognise that,” he says. “There are loads of creative awards and they are hugely important, but at the same time there’s a lot more to what we do than people see. It would be nice, especially for these guys, to be acknowledged. We think our system is as good, if not better, as any other in the world. Monster is a massive global brand and there are plenty of others. But we think that technically ours is right up there in terms of how easy to use it is and how sophisticated it is. The whole point of these things is to have this massive sophistication but to make it as easy to use and straightforward.”
Craik graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in business studies, and very nearly didn’t make it into marketing, after his initial career choice was to be a vet. “Right at the start, I realised that wasn’t going to involve nearly enough time in the pub, so I moved degrees,” he says. “I’d kind of wanted to be a vet since I was about nine years old. As you get older, your ambitions change. Management studies was one of the many courses you do at the start, and I enjoyed it. I certainly didn’t see myself as a career marketer. I don’t live and breathe it. Some people can get a bit too caught up in it. I think you want to be as successful as you possibly can at what you do, and this is what I do. Marketing in general is a really interesting area to work in just now, partly because of the internet but it’s not really about technology. But I think marketing will face some fairly major changes in the way that it’s done over the next few years. The whole notion of big brands and the marketing that’s being done for companies and by companies will change. I think a lot of people in marketing are... not in for a shock, as it were, but will certainly have to adjust. Your classical kind of brand manager, who’s obsessive over his brand and who obsesses about micro-managing every single detail, you just can’t do that with the internet because communication comes in different ways according to the consumer. Which is great for marketing, I think, because you have to be as good as your word, as good as your promise, or you get found out. It strips away a lot of the bullshit that you get in advertising.”
S1Jobs is only one facet of Craik’s task at S1. He is also responsible for S1Homes and S1Play, scottishlegaljobs.com, scottishretailjobs.com, scottishhospitalityjobs.com and Scottish clearing. S1Play has had very little marketing support, something he’s hoping will change. “We’re looking at redesigning it at some point this year,” he says. “I would imagine it would get some marketing support then. S1Homes, we’re actually planning a campaign in around April time. There’s a different dynamic to the whole property market in the west coast because the ESPC doesn’t have the market sewn up in the east, but it has a much larger chunk of the market. Obviously it’s difficult for us to break into that. Although having said that, more and more solicitors in the east are signing up to S1Homes. Mainly because, one thing we offer that ESPC doesn’t is branding online and display ads and microsites, In the west, the market is more about estate agents as opposed to solicitors, so the GSPC is much weaker than the ESPC is.”
One thing Craik is passionate about is measurement. “One thing that’s been a mantra of ours is that the online industry needs to start paying more attention to measurement in order to maintain standards,” he says. “The more of our competitors that are involved in measuring the industry the better. Obviously we’re the market leaders, but it’s good for the industry to grow up.”
The Newsquest question
Craik has been with S1 since its launch, working first at SMG in The Herald’s marketing department then at Newsquest, a total of eight years. He hasn’t found life much difference since Newsquest took over, but obviously with the group announcing a raft of redundancies last month, life may change. Newsquest has ringmarked the S1 Group as safe, a decision which has annoyed many of the other staff who could be forced to take redundancy. Craik is pragmatic, but guarded about the effect this will have on his group. “It’s something the industry is facing, it’s not unique to Newsquest,” he says. “We’re lucky that s1 is unaffected for now but I’ve good friends in other departments who are obviously concerned.”