Alistair King is the founder of King James advertising agency. The King James group is made up of eight communication agencies coming together to make up the integrated company. Perhaps best known for their Allan Gray commercials, King James’s philosophy involves everyone working under the same roof, thinking outside of media silos and drinking at the same bar. We were honored to have Alistair speak at last night’s Heavy Chef session and managed to corner the inspirational Mr King for an exclusive interview on his take on the future of advertising.
Thanks for talking to us at Heavy Chef, Alistair. How has the rising demand for digital marketing affected your agency’s approach to advertising?
There is a rising demand for what we call ‘integrated campaigns’ in which digital marketing plays a very big role. Clients are no longer asking for once-off ads that demonstrate their brand’s features and benefits, but rather for richer, broader experiences that their target market can interact with, and this obviously calls on social media and digital platforms. Having said that, I believe many marketers are still grappling with how this kind of advertising works. Many marketers are talking digital because they believe it’s more cost effective than traditional media, so their motivation isn’t necessarily right. But yes, it’s having a massive bearing on how we develop our agency and what skills we need to add to it.
Despite the hype of the ‘digital revolution’, many traditional agencies are still standing strong. Do you think there is a place for both – or will we eventually see digital and traditional merge as one?
Many traditional agencies will definitely stand strong and committed to their area of expertise, in much the same way as many PR agencies, or digital agencies, will stick with what they know. It’s not about being stubborn or shortsighted. It’s simply about an agency’s appetite to tackle something outside of their immediate expertise or comfort zone. Many ad agencies are expanding their skills into all sorts of areas, including PR, digital and social media. But how many digital agencies or PR agencies are expanding their skills back in the opposite direction? There is absolutely space for people to stick to what they know and love, although there will definitely be a lot of agencies bringing into their companies whatever skills they think are lacking. Advertising is definitely evolving rapidly, but I don’t think that merging a digital and traditional agency even fully equips you to handle where marketing communication is heading. New generation ideas are even broader than what those two merged companies can deliver. But yes, in principle I believe that if you want to be fully equipped to make great marketing in this day and age, merging traditional skills with digital skills is the very least you should be doing.
Is there a good example of King James merging digital and traditional platforms in a current campaign for one of your clients?
We have a number of clients who are aggressively pursuing integrated campaigns, and right now we have a dozen very large campaigns in development and production. Five or six creative people across three or four of our companies have sat and collectively brainstormed these campaigns, so they will look quite different to the normal sales pitch that a traditional ad might deliver. I’d rather not forewarn their competitors by listing them, but Kulula.com has been our most innovative client in this regard. We have had massive success with them on integrated campaigns like “The official sponsor of the you-know-what” and their 10th Birthday celebration. But to be honest, I think we are only just starting to find our stride now.
Ha, thanks for the tip; we’ll keep a keen eye on Kulula. Tell us about your current passion project. What are you most excited to be working on?
We will be making a very big announcement, possibly even during the course of this week. King James is always constantly evolving as a group. We believe that we have a strong sense of where marketing is heading and we’ve identified what we need to do right now to be better at what we do. We’ll be taking a big, bold step in the right direction this week, and it will most certainly open the creative flood gates for King James. So needless to say I’m stupidly excited right now about the way we’ll be able to think going forward. Other than that, nothing excites me more than a client who has a twinkle in their eye – who not only asks for bold creative thinking but actually buys it when we give it to them – and we have a number of clients that fall into that category right now. I’ll be lynched if I mentioned one over another. I’ll take the 3rd amendment, if we even have one.
Alistair, thank you for chatting to us. Your work is very inspiring to us, and we’re looking forward to seeing how your agency evolves over the next few years. Heavy Chef readers, you can find out more about King James on their website (here).