How People Create Iconic Brands

In this revolutionary age of digital advertising, the goal is to harness consumer participation to promote a brand, according to Patrick Venetucci, ’05, president of global operations at Leo Burnett

Venetucci’s keynote presentation was part of the Media Entertainment & Sports Fall Conference, which gave students an opportunity to hear from top executives in media and entertainment. Sponsored by the Chicago Booth Media, Entertainment & Sports Group, the daylong conference on October 29 at Harper Center also featured such speakers as the Chicago Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts, ’93.

“Digital is about creating participation,” said Venetucci, who is also senior executive at Leo Burnett Worldwide. “It’s enabling us to reach people on an entirely different level by delivering experiences that invite people to participate in the brand itself. The vast digital landscape is unfolding into an infinite canvas of creativity. Technological advances are opening new ways for moving people, and magic happens when you fuse creativity with technology.”

He pointed to the success of Canon EOS’s Australian advertising campaign, which encouraged consumers to create a photochain on the camera company’s website. People could upload photos and start their own photochains or join those created by others. The photochains and the photographers who created them were then featured in Canon’s national advertising campaign. Photochains developed into a social media platform. People connected with friends, family, colleagues, and other photographers, subsequently creating another way for people to interact with others.

“Advertising agencies and clients don’t create iconic brands, people do — at least on the internet,” Venetucci said. “People are no longer passive receivers of a brand story. They now actively participate and even co-author. People want to involve themselves and play a part in the brand story. The greater participation of the audience, the greater effect of the campaign. They have technology at their fingertips and they will use it for or against you as a client.”

Venetucci said some countries are more open to edgy digital ad campaigns than others. “Argentina is a hotbed of creativity. Mexico is not very creative. It’s a cultural thing—a lot has to do with taking risks and wanting to be different.”

Currently, there’s a lot of experimentation going on in the digital marketplace. “Nobody’s got it correct,” he said. “Put a little money here, put a little money there and get some feedback and decide whether to carry on with it. You’ve got blogs and microcommunities that are aligning around certain interests.”

Evolution in advertising does not necessary mean the death of old, traditional formats, Venetucci said. “Newspapers didn’t become extinct with the advent of radio, radio didn’t become extinct with TV; TV didn’t become extinct with the advent of computers. Things just changed. Why? Because none of these are perfect substitutes for each other. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses from a marketing perspective.”

Audrey Pang, a second-year student in the Full-Time MBA Program, said the digital marketing strategies Venetucci described easily apply to her area of interest—sports marketing. “His ideas are applicable to everything,” she said. “The level of thought put into the ad campaigns he showed us was amazing.”

Fellow second-year student Josh Gantz found it “eye-opening” that the advertising industry placed such a high emphasis on creativity. “I thought there would be more emphasis on placement and product,” he said.

— Mary Paleologos

Read what Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said at the conference about winning the World Series.