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LSBF Great Minds: “The challenge is to find something original that isn’t already being done better,” says MD of Zenith UK

With marketing becoming more and more digitally focused, Tom Cijffers, Managing Director of media agency Zenith UK, says it is essential for new brands to launch with an original digital idea. As part of the Great Minds series, Mr Cijffers sat down last week with Ze Zook, marketing lecturer at London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) and discussed the changing landscape of marketing and branding.

“There has to be an underlying digital usefulness for any brand launching today; this is particularly true for offline brands. For example, a new sports drink is not going to have an obvious digital channel, compared to something like Uber.”

He added: “Nowadays you have to give customers something extra, and with everyone trying to jump on the digital bandwagon, the challenge is to find something original that isn’t already being done better.”

ZenithOptimedia Group, of which Zenith UK is a part, is a marketing consultant and advertising agency and a part of Publicis Groupe, the world’s third largest communications group and second largest media counsel and buying group. ZenithOptimedia was the first agency to apply a rigorous and objective approach to improving the effectiveness of marketing spend.

With a vast array of key clients including Aviva, BBC Worldwide, Nestlé, L'Oréal, Telefónica O2, Toyota/Lexus and Verizon, ZenithOptimedia stands out from other agencies by offering a bespoke service, going above and beyond the traditional.

Tom Cijffers has been a part of Zenith UK for over ten years, having held various senior positions in the company. Speaking about what he brings to the business, Mr Cijffers said: “I aim to provide an environment for my staff that has the right structure and space for them to innovate for each client. I try to enable my staff to be empowered, I give them the right objectives, and at the same time deliver for our shareholders.”

The global marketing sector is currently in a state of flux, with digital platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook becoming major influences in the way that brands approach advertising. There is an obvious shift in focus away from more traditional media like television and magazines. Discussing these issues, Mr Cijffers commented: “Marketing is now a more complex and challenging environment. Digital media was 5% in 1999, it is now 50%. There’s been a massive cultural shift.”

As we become more and more technologically advanced, marketing and communications companies are finding new ways to integrate technology into their strategies, championed by intelligent computers.

Despite all this, Mr Cijffers believes simplicity is always the best way forward: “Machine learning is the future, but in the end this has to be simple for our clients. Machines won’t ever provide break-out thinking, you can disappear down a rabbit hole becoming more and more specific with data from machines. Ultimately you still need a brand that people will be interested in emotionally.”

The full video interview with Mr Cijffers will be released on the LSBF website in the upcoming weeks.

LSBF Great Minds Series

As well as offering programmes dedicated to fostering leadership skills, LSBF also endeavours to provide students with insight and inspiration through a number of innovative resources. One of these initiatives is the LSBF Great Minds Series: a collection of video interviews with leading business and political leaders promoting debate on education, employability, entrepreneurship and the economy.

The video series started in 2011 with a conversation with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, followed by an interview with former Education Secretary Lord Kenneth Baker. In 2012, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group said that universities worldwide should become hubs to boost entrepreneurship and inspire self-starters to develop their own businesses. In 2014, LSBF spoke to Will Butler-Adams from Brompton Bicycle, Guy Hayward-Cole from Nomura Bank International, with former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, entrepreneur and investor Deborah Meaden, Google UK sales director Kevin Mathers and BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie.

Kicking off 2015, LSBF hosted interviews with Andrew Miller, CEO of Guardian Media Group; Jill McDonald, CEO of McDonald's UK; Kevin Costello, CEO of Haymarket Group; Amy McPherson, CEO of Marriott Hotels Europe; veteran BAFTA-winning broadcaster Jon Snow; live chats with Kevin Ellis, Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Claudine Collins, Managing Director of MediaCom UK, and Robert West, Partner at Baker & McKenzie; and, most recently, Mark Wood, CEO of JLT Employee Benefits.

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