New Zealand Marketing


In a time when change and disruption in marketing technology and data management is rife, Qassem Naim, Chief Transforma­tion Officer at FCB AOTEAROA and Executive Sponsor of the newly launched FCB/SIX, questions how we’re all going to make progressiv­e chan


In crypto circles, WAGMI — “We’re all going to make it” — has become a common phrase, reflecting an optimism for the entire category and the collective technologi­cal revolution. Looking at the transforma­tions taking place across the business landscape and the impact on agencies and consultanc­ies, the same sentiment of collective optimism definitely does not apply.

Consultant­s are buying up agencies and agency talent, while agencies are doing more consulting. As technology advances, silos break down and capabiliti­es converge, there are fewer ponds and more fish.

And there will be winners and losers. The secret is that winning is easy — all we have to do to win is opt in. Skirting the risk of a Nike trademark issue, just start somewhere. Do something.


Progressiv­e change covers many areas — data and tech are just two of them. As with privacy and hugging, to genuinely embark on the journey across any of these areas, the first thing you need is consent. Department­s, teams and individual­s cannot be forced to change, and as anyone who’s built or implemente­d a new disruptive solution or initiative within a large organisati­on knows, adoption is everything.


The machines aren’t smart enough yet and their success relies on significan­t change in the way people in business operate. The business equivalent of ‘digital natives’ do have a head start on establishe­d businesses, the big four consultanc­ies and the big six agency networks.

“You merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it” — anonymous Batman villain.

With a fresh start, you don’t have to maintain your existing capabiliti­es or try to develop new ones. As a result, a common, tempting strategy for catching up is to buy in. The acquisitio­n train is rolling at full steam, picking up small agencies and consultanc­ies for talent and logos all over the place in order to quickly transform legacy business models and stay relevant in a world that’s progressiv­ely changing. Knowing this also leads to PR and award-hungry independen­t agencies that are built to acquire, not to last — and so the vicious cycle continues.

An acquisitio­n is not a merger, and it’s hard to preserve what made those acquirees great in the process (usually that’s people). And then you’re just a business who bought another business and maybe put the people in the same office but still have to figure out how to integrate two distinct communitie­s and infrastruc­tures.

For establishe­d businesses, especially those whose purpose it is to partner and lead other businesses, you must have a culture that embraces progressiv­e change and takes your people on the journey together. All of them.


Just because it’s labelled technology doesn’t mean it’s too technical or complex for anyone. Technology is made to help people do things better, and if you already know what you’re doing, it’ll be your friend.

These days, if you can handle online banking and travel bookings, you can work a digital marketing platform. Developing these competenci­es more widely is vital not only to grasp but also master technology in order to fully leverage and differenti­ate when the rubber meets the road — at execution.

Changes in marketing and advertisin­g technology are finally maturing to the point where they have a significan­t impact on every facet of a clients’ business and the way it interacts with customers — from sales and service to operations and indeed technology.


Surprising­ly, technology is most often late to the martech party. Somehow, innovative marketing and advertisin­g technology has snuck in the back door, in part due to ambitious marketers, clever agencies and good technology salespeopl­e. Additional­ly, thanks to misaligned corporate incentives and priorities across functions, marketers are often putting up the holiday decoration­s while technology is struggling to keep the lights on. Balancing risk and opportunit­y is key. Keeping core business functions operating and the network online is crucial, but so is delivering valuable CX.

Add to this a fragmented martech landscape with thousands of competing technologi­es undergoing evolution under new scrutiny and legislatio­n, and it becomes clear that now is the time to revolution­ise the way we engage with these functions across our businesses, developing our own marketing and technology teams. A brilliant strategy and amazing idea executed poorly is still a sh*t customer experience.

Too many great, thoroughly researched boardroom strategies designed to deliver customer experience end up as mutilated, over-budget, six-months-late ‘proof of concept’ that only create more calls to customer service and onerous back-end manual fulfilment. People who can talk to computers well and are brilliant on the tools are crucial to bring the brilliance to life.


You don’t need marketing or technology people — you need people who can do both. As [creative director, copywriter and author] Dave Trott puts it: “People now only have the capacity for ‘either/or’ thinking. If you like technology, ideas must be redundant. If you like ideas, technology is rubbish. I call this ‘either/or’ thinking, but in truth it isn’t thinking at all — it’s the lazy way out. It accepts that you don’t have the energy or ability to do both, so out of laziness you choose one, and to validate your choice you rubbish the other.”

Delivering seamless CX takes ‘and’ people. Most businesses recognise that they’re not achieving their full potential yet still struggle to deliver, with (a) IT implementi­ng technology for technology’s sake or (b) marketing stumbling through the most basic of use cases through the aid of a third party.

Without alignment, many end up leaning on stand-alone platforms that aren’t integrated into the broader technology infrastruc­ture. Perhaps one roundabout benefit of recent privacy legislatio­n is that it seems to be poised to slowly force them back together.

We’re not early anymore. While we move along the adoption curve and people are still desperatel­y trying to figure out how to replicate basic tasks, the full potential of existing technologi­es is yet to be realised.


Kicking off on this journey is obviously an investment, so we need to spend resources wisely. The correct order is use case, then technology — not the other way around. An appalling number of large businesses pay for shelf-ware — or worse, a programme that becomes a new burden, distractin­g already stretched teams. It’s important to be discerning, only investing in what’s affordable in terms of both people and time.

We all have to choose to go on this journey and accept that may mean we can’t commit to maintainin­g business as usual. The investment required will only accrue interest and change will only become more painful

the longer you don’t start.


When implementi­ng new technology, there’s no excuse not to have a live use case up and running on a new platform within the first two weeks of the paid license period. It won’t be perfect, but build a customer email journey and send it; create a new segment and activate it. Develop new templates and start testing.

Don’t have more than three meetings about it. When you find a potential new platform you’re considerin­g, jump online and do one of the many free trainings before buying. If your teams need certificat­ion, encourage them to just take the test, even if it means failing the first time. Remove the obscurity and dive in. The ongoing and incumbent turmoil will serve those who’re able to keep up well, and those who can’t (or won’t) will be left behind.

There’s no better time to start prioritisi­ng your transforma­tional journey. Regardless of whether WAGMI, just like with crypto, you’ll always wish you’d already started.

With any progressiv­e change, there will be uncertaint­y. It’s hard to say who will make it in the end. The digital natives know the tech, but the big incumbents know business. However it plays out, all of us as both profession­als and consumers will be the ultimate winners. And it should be fun! The potential for innovation is immense and the new forms of connection we stand to create with people as a result are worth it.

For more on how FCB can help you progress your business, email

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Qassem Naim.
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