Meet James Kirkham, Global Head of Social & Mobile
Today, Leo Burnett Worldwide announced the fusion of its global social and mobile capabilities under the leadership of newly appointed Global Head of Social and Mobile, James Kirkham. The practice area will be fueled by Holler, Leo Burnett UK’s digital content and social agency, which was co-founded by Kirkham in 2001.
So, what does this mean for the network? We took the time to speak with James regarding his new role.
What's your first priority stepping into this role? What do you plan to tackle first?
I want to ensure everybody understands we're in the business of making hits. This isn't about quiet efficiency and merely ensuring we can perform a service. For example, the ability to service global clients with effective community management in social already exists. Instead, I want to put into place the structure to quickly produce the next Old Spice or #Youdrive, and the next and the next.
I also want to ensure we speak in a common language that everyone understands, and never use impenetrable language as many try to do which baffles or befuddles brands. I want to talk in terms of people and the ideas that connect them. Brands will be the connective tissue, and my remit is perfectly placed to ignite the imaginations of the people who are at the heart of all that we do.
We already have great pockets of strength in the network in terms of social and mobile capabilities, how are you planning to leverage those?
We do already have some world-beating capabilities dotted around the globe with real talent, ideas and ambition. I plan to leverage all of this by quickly finding what we have at our disposal, meeting the stars and perhaps uncovering more superstars of tomorrow. It’s also important that we have systems and models in place to allow this talent to plug in and flourish effectively, so joining up the thinking and encouraging brands to adopt our strategies in a way that allows Leo Burnett to lead from a social and mobile perspective is paramount.
That said, there are probably areas in which we presumably need to bolster our chops — where do you think the network will see the first improvements in our offerings?
Mobile and social being considered together means we're truly respecting the ‘Always On’ model, which is so vital for our ability to lead. We want to ensure that—at a global level—we swiftly move to a structure which allows us to back our hunches, act in a nimble and quick fashion, react to ongoing analysis and, above all, demonstrate truly outstanding creative which resonates at real speed.
It means we'll have hundreds of staff understanding how to react at the speed of memes and news rather than solely work at the pace of traditional advertising cycles. The response lab model which Holler has grown will be able to be replicated throughout the world, allowing us to tailor bespoke creative for people, rewarding our audiences with surprising content made just for them in an instant. Once these creative moments break through and are reflected above the line too (much like McDonalds' We All Make The Games campaign in the UK) then we'll be able to spread enthusiasm swiftly as it is so infectious.
Why is it so critical that we think of social and mobile together?
People who separate mobile and social really don't get it. They're no longer mutually exclusive. They're entwined and all the more powerful for it. They're simply the two things that every (internet) user on the planet does more than anything else.
In my opinion, advertising isn't about 12 month planning cycles. It’s about picking up your mobile, reacting to what just happened, telling your social sphere, then being rewarded via a symbiotic brand relationship.
This is about identifying who really owns the brand, too. Consumers now own the brands. A socially switched on, mobile audience means you find them anywhere and at any time. The smart brands that understand the space, that have a clearly defined role and who leverage our savvy, chatty audiences on the move will be the ones who win.
For those who might not know, give us an overview of Always On, please. How does it inform the way we'll be approaching this new unified practice?
The introduction of real-time analysis meant that smart brands were able to pass judgment on creative content pieces mere moments after speaking to their communities. Real-time rolling judgments mean that marketing is happening instantaneously, requiring us all to be 'Always On.’
This speed of response suddenly makes the old media model outdated and requires nimble teams who are able to create content experiences on the fly, jump on opportunities when they're spotted and back those hunches with real media money.
If something works, it can be spotted, highlighted, pushed further and instantly given the oxygen of publicity—in a way never before possible.
It means the era of archaic, long-distance media planning and buying is over. We need to be so fleet-of-foot that media can be swapped out, changed, shifted and altered in a moment.
This is about how a brand can capitalise on the whim of the community or an opportunity, just as Oreo proved by a Super Bowl blackout.
Obviously, understanding people's behavior is the heart of what Leo Burnett does. What are the unique challenges and opportunities that mobile and social present in terms of understanding behavior?
Mobile has always been the most personal of devices, the one thing always in your pocket. There’s massively personal relationship to you, the consumer, and your mobile.
It’s why the push tactics of the last ten years have been superseded by the more choice driven embracing of apps and utilities. As with social, this is about you and what is right for your world. How you want to run it and how, therefore, brands can act as a canny connective tissue between you and something wonderful.
Five or ten years ago, we would not have known how successfully we would consume other people's data output from whatever exercise they'd just undertaken or why we would even want to. Now my main consumption of Nike advertising is via the people I follow who send me nuggets of Nike-wrapped data every time they finish a quick run. This is mobile and social fused together to create advertising that we might not have known we were even amenable to. A brand has piggybacked on an existing behaviour, offered up a very tiny, but wonderful addition or improvement, and used social and mobile to further advertise but in a way that feels natural to the consumer.
Where do you expect us to be one year from now?
Absolutely flying. Social has taken off, yet still there is too much of the dark art about it. Too many instances where ad executives or industry CEOs think it is something which they only partially understand or leave to their younger generation to explain.
I want it to continue its current trajectory and be understood by all; a part of everything we do, the perfect punctuation mark to start or stop and campaign around the world. Mobile is the perfect facilitator for social, and the place where we now access the internet more than any other. A year from now we'll see thousands of more wonderful examples of how our lives are being turned through increasingly smart use of mobile devices and understanding of social.
Since we're on the eve of Cannes, tell us your one or two top contenders for Mobile Lions.
I particularly liked the simplicity of the Tokyo Shimbun "Share the Newspaper with Children" campaign by Dentsu / Tokyo. There is something inherently playful about characters, personality and simplified words leaping out of the traditional page to such a young audience. Being an avid reader of old media newspapers, I distinctly recall being a child and picking up the sport pages for the first time. As such, this feels both a smart utility and a chance to revitalise a medium for a generation who might otherwise have ignored it. That may only serve to better connect parent and child as opposed to convince the latter of the worth of it, but it at least means a child won't see their parents reading a paper as something better left in their local museum. Lovely campaign.
And on the subject of prognostication, give us a quick hypothetical scenario to how brands will be working in the social and mobile space in, say, five years time.
As we're highlighting in our Wildfire Cannes seminar (broadcast live on YouTube 5pm Tuesday), the future is going to be about many small wonders that brands can facilitate and help improve our every day lives in currently unimaginable and magical ways.
Look at an area like cognitive health, where marketing blurs and brands will become more like tools and platforms… or taking wearable technology to the next level with things like epidermal electronics. This is in essence wearing small patches that understand how you're feeling and acting accordingly. It means if you're about to embark on a day's mountain biking, you'll hypothetically be able to hook directly into Gatorade or Vitamin Water and have the brand responding to your declining blood sugar levels as only they can.