Five questions with Davis Jones, Managing Director of Media Services at The Many, an award-winning creative advertising agency based in Santa Monica.
1) In just one word, how would you describe the digital media landscape today?
2) What do you consider to be the most exciting developments in marketing and media right now?
Purpose. Marketing at its best has the power to affect, not just reflect, culture and move it in positive ways. This requires being culturally relevant in some respect, even if that’s to a very small group of people. So at any given moment, you can look at the state of marketing as a representation of the state of culture.
Right now, we see many brands seeking to understand and appeal to younger audiences, and some are finding their desired audiences, for example, are generally tech-savvy, connected and informed, and caring about all kinds of issues—social, environmental, health, etc. And so brands spend a good chunk of their marketing budget trying to demonstrate that they hold similar values.
However, people have increasing power to block, or at least limit, brands from communicating with them if they’re not relevant. This has forced brands to think deeply about why they exist so that they can find ways to not only say what they value, but also show it—those that try to say it without showing, or that show it in an inauthentic way, are called out or ignored.
“Living by one’s values requires a great deal of reflection, intention, and vigilance, and seeing brands care about and prioritize this ultimately deepens the work we all do.”
As an agency partner, we provide an outside perspective and work to challenge the marketing teams we work with to think differently about who they are as a brand, what they can be and how they can show up. It opens up possibilities in marketing and, with a little optimism, we can push each other to do work that is meaningful for the organization, agency, and audiences alike.
People, and in particular younger people that represent the future, have challenged brands to stand for things that have the potential to push our culture forward and as marketers, our job is to understand and navigate it. That’s exciting!
3) How do you integrate the creative+media with the agency’s overall marketing strategy?
“Marketing is often most effective when it’s true.”
We are a values-based agency, so leading by our values gives us a pretty good sense of what drives us to do the work we do and how we like to work with each other and clients. Our values inform our culture, which is the foundation for any marketing that we create. But the most important part of our marketing strategy is that we deliver on the promise of what it will be like to work with our integrated teams. If that falls down, no amount of marketing strategy can save us. So our best marketing is how we interact with and work with our clients every day. It is critical for both retaining current clients and attracting new ones.
4) Do you feel like The Many has been able to target Gen Z successfully with its “human-centered” approach?
I do, though generally I am skeptical of targeting purely based on generation or demographics. A human-centered approach requires us to be less fundamental on the stereotypes of generational definitions and more focused on the values or mindsets of the people with whom we want to communicate.
“While it’s true that Gen Z may have certain traits that are generally more prevalent than other generations, those traits are not necessarily limited to that group alone. Those traits can in fact cut across many generations.”
Our job is to identify groups of people based on the values they share, understand what matters to them and why, and find moments for meaningful connection. And in each of those moments, we can ensure that what we say is tailored to fit with or positively disrupt the experience that the person is having. This kind of work takes care, collaboration and perhaps most importantly, the diverse, vibrant agency culture from which we draw every day.
5) What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.