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Torin Douglas 

The Torin Douglas Interview: Dominic Grounsell, MORE TH>N

sponsorIn the third of the series, Torin Douglas speaks with Dominic Grounsell, marketing director of RSA's MORE TH>N, about the advertising power of Facebook for the insurance brand, big data scepticism and how clients should work closer with media owners.

As regular attenders at MediaTel's seminars will know, I've never been a fan of Facebook, either as a social network or an advertising medium.

The primitive concept of 'Like this' - the thumbs-up approval of anything from Royal Underwear to the British National Party to the amateur drawings of acquaintances' dogs (which seem to fill up my misnamed News Feed) - has never appealed to me, any more than the photos uploaded and tagged by well-meaning friends, without a care in the world about privacy.

The sponsored links alongside my so-called News Feed hardly enhance the reputation of Facebook as an advertising medium. Two hearing-loss products, one Royal Underwear codpiece and a promise of '40 per cent more pension income' (supposedly liked by 697 people - but how many were generated by the company that just cold-emailed me, suggesting I pay them £50 for 2,000 Facebook 'Likes'?)

However, I always keep an open mind, particularly when talking to someone as plugged-in and experienced as Dominic Grounsell, marketing director of MORE TH>N/RSA. He's chairman of ISBA's executive council, a member of the IPA's client panel, and a former marketing director at BT and Capital One.

In the latest of my interviews with marketing leaders about their use of media in the digital world, he is almost evangelical about the power of the social network: "Facebook, for me, is the most exciting marketing channel that has come along in the last 50 years.

Facebook went from being a testing channel to our number one digital channel in a number of months and we were spending significant sums - often at broadcast-level investment because the opportunity for volume is huge."

"The opportunity to speak to customers in a broadcast way, reaching a mass audience, but in a very tailored way, so you can almost have a one on one conversation, gives me a huge amount of exciting opportunities that didn't exist before," he says.

At MORE TH>N, Grounsell is still testing ways of using Facebook, but in a previous job it became a key part of his marketing armoury. "In my last business, where I was running credit card marketing for Capital One in the UK, Facebook went from being a testing channel to our number one digital channel in a number of months and we were spending significant sums - often at broadcast-level investment because the opportunity for volume is huge," he said.

Grounsell believes that digital channels are fundamentally changing the marketing world and that the pioneers are to be found in the telcos and finance companies, not the FMCG companies which have traditionally been the marketing leaders. (He says this as someone who trained at Unilever, and ran the Dove and Lux brands.)

"Coca-Cola, Unilever and P&G are still winning awards because they are doing fantastic brand-led marketing, but I believe financial services and telcos are leading in the digital space because we have a wealth of data about our customers and we're able to leverage that, to improve the targeting and effectiveness of what we put into the marketplace."

He has strong views on the use of data but is sceptical about Big Data: "I've got to be honest - I don't know what Big Data is! I hear a lot of talk about it but I think it's just another buzzword," he said.

He also welcomes the desire by media owners to get closer to clients: "I'm a big advocate of having direct relationships with media owners. Those guys know their platforms better than we do and in many cases better than the media agencies do. If you give them a business problem, they often come back with much better solutions..."

You can hear more of what Dominic Grounsell says about digital marketing, including his views on Twitter, in the ten-minute video above.

The Torin Douglas Interview is sponsored by Sky IQ - to find out how Sky IQ insight can help improve your TV advertising effectiveness and maximise your return on investment, click here.

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