FIVE MINUTES WITH BEN WALLACE
After 23 years of being DRPG's director of digital, Ben Wallace moves onto director of media. More than two decades in the field have given him invaluable insight, which he shares here with Communicate magazine. Among other things, Wallace discusses the changes he has observed over the years in the digital field, the challenges communications face, and how even the digital can be sustainable and eco-friendly.
You’ve just become director of media in 2019. How was the transition to that from director of digital?
My role in digital has always meant that I’ve worked in collaboration with the live, motion graphics and video teams. This provides me with great knowledge and experience of what capabilities each team has. The really exciting aspect of my new role is exploring and generating new opportunities whereby the teams can work even closer together. Taking advantage of technology and creating an environment that enables our teams to offer our clients greater return from the solutions we produce.
How has the digital field changed since you first began working at DRPG? How have media relations changed?
The landscape has changed dramatically in the digital area specifically. Obviously, the rate at which technology develops is a constant challenge, but it also brings great opportunities. We have the chance to reach wider audiences than ever before across so many channels. It’s a great time to be in this industry as we can be more creative, more targeted and as a result, far more effective than ever.
Can new technologies like AR become legitimate marketing and communication tools for brands?
Absolutely. We’ve created a number of AR and VR solutions for our clients that have had a huge impact on the intended goals. Both technologies can be extremely advantageous in the exhibition space, but we have also utilised them to support product launches, training and internal communications.
What advice would you give to brands that are looking to make an impact through digital solutions?
Make sure you focus on what ‘impact’ you want to make. Technology can be hugely effective, but it can also be a distraction and even brand damaging in some cases. As with any project the starting point must be ‘what does success look like’? Then build the solution around the goal. Never choose the technology first!
How will the digital and the corporate comms world change in light of the new wave of technical innovation?
It never stops changing, it can’t. As new technology comes online, we should always be considering how this can improve our lives. There always seems to be a quicker uptake of technology in our everyday lives than in business. However, this is changing and it feels like what used to be a barrier commercially is now being questioned more and more. As it should be.
What does the future of digital look like?
I’d like to say faster, better and simpler! However, from experience we can’t deny that with that also comes complexity, challenge and frustrations. The positives should always outnumber the negatives!
What challenges lie ahead for communications?
I think the fact that more and more people are working from home or remotely means that the constant challenge of how to communicate effectively with them remains the number one priority. Yes technology and innovation continues to develop at an unprecedented rate however harnessing this tech to improve operations should be our focus.
How can digital solutions help brands become more sustainable and eco-friendly?
Undoubtedly digital provides opportunities to tackle the issues faced by business today. You only have to look at the automotive industry to see how much investment is going into electric cars. We should always be asking ourselves if this is the best solution. Is it sustainable? Does it support our values and culture? Is there a better way? Technology can help us with that but it’s also about creativity. Being creative in our thinking and our solutions.
The 2020 Eldeman trust barometer showed that the UK public is the least trustworthy of institutions, media and business, second only to Russia. The survey highlighted that the public doesn’t always trust brands to do the right thing, something which is now essential for consumers buying. How can communications campaign and digital solutions help?
The only way brands can build trust with the public is to demonstrate (with evidence) that its actions are true to its values culture. Businesses can claim they are thinking about the planet, but when you purchase their products and they are layered with packaging there’s clearly a contradiction. Only creative thinking and ideas can lead the way and through the use of digital can really make a change.
National Apprenticeship Week has just come to an end. As a mentor of apprentices, what do you feel are the greatest benefits of being part of the program, both for the company and the students?
I’m a huge fan of apprenticeships. We’ve had dozens of people transition through our programme in all areas of the business and it’s great to see most of them secure full-time positions in any number of roles. For the individual it offers an unrivalled combination of training, experience and qualifications. With the added bonus of developing relationships and potential longer term opportunities at the same time.
For the business it provides a much more flexible way of managing your resource and recruiting in a more structured way. It also enables you to mould your talent specifically around your business rather than compromising with what can be more generic core skills.
Some of our apprentices are the stars of tomorrow!