“Today the owner is the consumer”
Julio Castellanos has built a global career in Marketing and Communications. He was once an entrepreneur (he was a partner in an independent Hispanic marketing agency in Los Angeles), but he also held several leadership roles in iconic organizations such as McCann Worldgroup and Leo Burnett before joining Aegis Media in 2013 to lead the operation in Mexico. In July 2018, he became the CEO for Latin America at DAN. He believes the challenge of making DAN into a refence in the transformation of our industry in Latin America is the most exciting project he has ever been a part of. Besides his passion for marketing and communication, Julio is a “sports junkie” and sees himself as a lifelong learner, as he believes learning is the fountain of youth. “Our services and products are driven by ideas, with innovation at the heart of everything we do: data-driven creativity is at the core of the relationships with our clients. We have developed a culture in which the brand potential must be a business catalyst for our clients. As Yamamoto-San (Dentsu's global CEO) says, an idea can come from “anyone, anywhere” in our organization since creativity knows no boundaries. By the way, this is a culture that started in Japan over a century ago, when Dentsu was founded in 1901,” he said.
Julio, what is essential to excel in the advertising world?
Thinking of Communications or Advertising as the solution to our clients’ business problems is no longer enough. We need to understand their business goals, the barriers they face to achieve these goals (for example: relevance of the brand proposition, the brand’s performance or delivery quality, competition, consumer trends, audience’s new behaviors, etc.), and to be able to design “solutions” to break down these barriers. We excel when we help clients grow their businesses, which is achieved by winning, growing and making their customers loyal. Nowadays, this requires a holistic service skill (including "advertising") that meets the entire consumer journey with the brands. In short, excelling requires being a (business) partner, an architect (of the best solutions) and an excellent executor.
How should innovation be seen in this business?
Innovation in our business is the original combination of solutions that deliver an effective result. Without this result, it may be original, but it isn’t innovative. Therefore, innovation in our business is a non-negotiable condition, almost synonymous with success. In a world where behavioral and business model transformation is a permanent state (and only tends to accelerate), our focus on innovation is vital to our own relevance to the market and to our clients: 80% of the CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) believe they will need to take more responsibility for innovation over the next 2-3 years, as presented in a recent survey with over 1,000 marketing professionals.
Our services and products are data-driven, with innovation at the heart of everything we do: data-driven creativity is at the core of the relationships with our clients. We have honed a culture in which the brand potential must be a business catalyst for our clients. As Yamamoto-San (Dentsu's global CEO) says, an idea can come from “anyone, anywhere” in our organization because creativity knows no boundaries. By the way, this is a culture that began in Japan over a century ago, when Dentsu was founded in 1901. We value long-term persistence, working with the clients to build strong, lasting relationships and upholding our purpose of entrepreneurship and collaboration.
We also see diversity as an engine to generate good innovation and we have clear goals to ensure that our team is richly diverse. This is crucial for the way we operate. A creative product needs diverse thinking, diverse skills, and the ability to mix and match them for each situation. We actively adopt and promote this diversity in the way we think and develop our talents and teams.
What are the biggest basic mistakes an organization can't make in times of uninterrupted connectivity?
The biggest mistake is for marketing professionals to believe they “own” their brand positioning. Today the owner is the consumer, that relies more on the recommendations from the people in his/her circle of trust than on brands’ speeches. Another mistake is not to acknowledge that people nowadays identify more with what brands do than what they say. To win hearts and minds, brands need to convey relevant values through their initiatives and to offer unforgettable experiences.
Is creativity the Midas of the new times or do you still point out other values?
The Midas of our times are the business solutions with inspiring, data-driven, technology-enabled ideas.
What is critical to winning, maintaining and developing brands and consumers?
To do this, we need to be able to engage consumers through inspiring ideas in order to convert this interest into action/purchase with a highly personalized media performance plan, and then, we need to encourage repeat consumption or consumer loyalty with a CRM program that capitalizes on the positive experience the consumer has had.
As a Group, this is our vision and our proposition: we are organized to manage the complete journey of the consumers of our clients’ brands, putting together a team of experts with complementary skills and facilitating the collaboration among them. We organize ourselves around the client and design customized solutions for the reality of its business.
In your point of view, how should a CEO face these challenges?
With a willingness to engage the best people and teams in the strategy and vision we propose. Our model is different from our competitors’, whether the other communication groups or the traditional consulting firms. We’ve had the guts to design and invest in this transformation, and our challenge is to ensure a collaborative team dynamics to deliver the proposition we understand as the path for our industry and the businesses of our clients. Besides that, I have a mantra: Dream big, as the size of your ambition determines how far you will go.
What has the advertising world taught you throughout these years?
What has clearly been a constant during my career is that Marketing and Advertising are team sports. We're as good as our team and we can't improvise or be cheap when it comes to talent. Great talent always pays off. Great talent attracts more talent, because great people always want to be surrounded by great people. It’s not rocket science.
Will you apply some of the lessons learned to Dentsu?
I often say that I am a lifelong learner, and I learn a lot at Dentsu, including from the ancient Japanese culture, which we are more and more integrated into. Of course, I contribute by offering my vision and experience with people and business, but learning every day is what moves me. And my level of daily learning has never been as intense as it is today. I can’t see a finish line!
What are Dentsu’s current pillars and which ones are non-negotiable?
The clients and their business challenges are always our main focus. Our proposal is to win, develop and retain the consumers of the brands we serve. We are a company made up of several expert groups. What matters is the sum of the parts, a systematic collaboration among experts with complementary skills. We embrace constant change as our ally. We foster and value a genuine entrepreneurial spirit, turning opportunities into concrete results. We believe in the power of diversity at all levels of the organization. Society is also a stakeholder for us. Our efforts can never be detrimental to the well-being of the communities in which we operate.
How has mobile affected the agency's business?
Digital continues to drive the growth of advertising investment, which, according to the Dentsu Aegis Network Ad Spend (a quarterly global survey), is expected to rise by 11.5% globally in 2019. Video (with a 20.5% share) and Social (19.8%) were also the main growth drivers of media spending in 2018, boosted by the massive adoption of smartphones and mobile videos, which is expected to grow + 21.4%. Almost one-third of total advertising spend should be delivered through mobile platforms until the end of 2020. With IoT expanding and voice assistants becoming more and more popular, we can no longer treat cellphones as second-screen.