Aviva’s Jan Gooding: ‘The industry has become too obsessed with campaigns and needs to rediscover its interest in marketing’

Aviva’s top marketer Jan Gooding has urged the advertising industry to “rediscover its interest in marketing” and stop the myriad of formats flooding the market distracting them from advising brands on business strategy.

Her comments came on a panel about effective advertising at the IPA’s Genesis conference in London today (1 November). As the conversation turned to the belief that a choice has to be made between creativity or effectiveness, Gooding slammed the notion for being “too narrow” and said the problem lies in the fact that the industry has become obsessed with “campaigns”.

The issue is particularly close to Gooding given the challenges facing Aviva. The global brand director is in the midst of one of the company’s most transformative periods as it tries to re-establish itself as a ‘digital first’ insurer. But it’s the management consultancies, such as Deloitte and Accenture, that are guiding that direction and marketing has had to be “modest” in its role.

Yet, she believes that it's creativity and innovation that need to be injected into Aviva's business strategy and how it goes to market.

“What is fascinating to me is people, behaviour and how to influence that through communications; it’s the behaviour your trying to change. And that’s where the profitability and commercial return lies. That’s what [marketers] need to rediscover, the excitement of what doing marketing was about – which was solving problems and bringing business strategy to market. Rather than living in the domain of paid for ad space," she said.

However, the fragmentation the industry has experienced over the past few years has led Gooding to worry that there are too many “specialists” (both agencies and talent) and those with the broad skillsets needed to build a business are thinning out.

Don’t put the onus on adland

But solving these issues isn't just up to agency bosses, as a fellow panelist pointed out.

The challenges faced by Aviva rang true for Mark Luce, group marketing operations director at SABMiller. Following the approval of its mega-merger with AB InBev earlier this year, the brewer has been taking a hard look at how its beer business is going to thrive in a market where it is increasingly difficult to find growth.

Luce said it has been forced to look beyond the “blokes in the pub” and get to grips with a new group of customers – women. “Having an aspiration to grow but not understanding what you need to do to change consumer behaviour is going to cause you a problem,” he added.

And whether an agency is working on the business strategy behind this titanic shift or the advertising campaign that will front it, he said there is a fundamental need for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to the factors that will determine its success.

Too often, there is the tendency to point the finger at agencies for not engaging more with defining effectiveness. But Luce held his hands up as a client and said that the onus is not on its partners to come up with a solution.

“One thing clients are guilty of is spending a huge amount of time building capability in an organisation to decide what is effectiveness and how do we measure it? But they don’t share that with partners,” he said.

“So, if you want to get partners to work with you then get them in a room to understand what you mean, the criteria you measure. Have a common understanding. Don’t put the onus on the advertising industry. Clients and agencies must work together."