Mark Higginson


There's a homogeneity to modern advertising; I expect you see this and dislike it just as I do.

Mainstream agencies are in denial of this basic truth. They prefer to map new media onto traditional structures. I don't think this is working for their clients or the people they are trying to reach. There are no doubt many reasons for this; I point the finger at the agglomeration of agencies and the fad for the notion that 'data', translated into a view of imagined personas, has some kind of predictive quality. This has been at the expense of great creative execution.

Given my viewpoint it may seem odd that my job falls within the wider discipline of marketing. I prefer to emphasise my specialism, which is discovering why and when people make the decisions that they do and where this can be turned into a profitable outcome. I define this as being more than about things like design and usability but about the wider significance of associations with a brand or product. The essence of my work is the question of what prompts a person to make an informed decision and how to assist that process.

I’m not as interested in interrupting people, as per ‘traditional' advertising, but in permissive and shared forms of marketing; people who have expressed an intention we can satisfy or had a positive experience they would recommend to others. This doesn't mean I think this replaces outstanding creative – it's another layer of a process that was previously hidden to us.

This has been termed social media: the process by which something interesting attracts attention that can be signified to others through interactions with that thing.

Here’s what I said about the web’s impact on this at a speaking engagement:

"In simplistic terms we’ve always known people talk about the decisions they make in their lives... the shift has been that technology has turned what was once ephemeral into something that is publicly searchable and retrievable, amplifying the potential effect of an opinion to include groups of people potentially only tangentially related to one another... as well as allowing these opinions to persist over time, e.g. through related web searches."

It’s a powerful way of raising awareness to encourage new and repeat business. It doesn’t replace advertising but can make it cleverer; it also makes marketing overall a more creative and better informed endeavour. The skill lies in making the tools we have at our disposal complement one another.

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.