Great Concise Global Digital Strategy

I’m going to blog this just so I don’t forget it.



Developing a global digital strategy

How does a global company take advantage of digital technology? Johnson & Johnson’s vice president of digital strategy, Gail Horwood, explains.

October 2014 | byGail Horwood

I joined J&J Consumer Companies about four years ago to start its Digital Center of Excellence. Our role initially was to build capabilities and develop strategy that served multiple brands in multiple regions, so I did a landscape overview to help develop the approach. What I saw was that we had hundreds of different websites and digital platforms that we were operating upon globally. If you want to get a message across globally on your owned assets, you need to do that in the same way across the world.



Addressing the talent challenge

Johnson & Johnson’s vice president of digital strategy, Gail Horwood, discusses the importance of talent development and the role of the specialist.

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So we made a strategic decision to agree to build certain types of things, with a website on a shared platform at the center. We work both internally and with external vendors globally to build that and we love the open-source model. As we develop modules that suit our businesses, they can be shared, and it’s very exciting for our internal developers because it’s a new way of working.

In the past, the model might have been that our biggest brands had the most budget and developed the most robust platforms. And smaller brands had less robust digital footprints because they had to build that on their own power. Yet when you share a platform, any brand small or large can benefit from improvements. What this has enabled us to do is to bring the same power that one of our biggest, most iconic brands has to one small brand in a very particular region or market. And that, of course, enables us to innovate very quickly and iterate.

J&J has historically been very decentralized. One of the things I was able to do in the consumer sector was bring all that work together. The more we bring our cross-functional partners and projects together, the more we’ll make true impact for the business. It’s great to execute on a regional and local basis—and it’s really at the heart of our business strategy—but I believe digital brings opportunities to streamline and leverage certain capabilities that are really common across the businesses.

Real-time marketing

Social media is an example of something that truly requires a global and local strategy, because social makes any communication global. Setting a global communication strategy requires some pretty foundational things: content management, digital asset management, new production models that help us create and then leverage and syndicate content globally.


The digital business model 

The digital business model

Horwood explains how to embed strategy into a business.

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For example, we recently participated in a real-time social-media campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup for our Listerine consumer brand. For the first time ever, J&J built two newsrooms, and we responded to action in the matches in real-time with brand messaging. We had to set up the appropriate processes, governance, a risk matrix, channels, and work very closely with our cross-functional team, as well as with regulatory compliance, legal, and marketing.

And you see the results of your work immediately and how consumers respond to it. We’ve had some great success with that. But the real lesson is that real-time marketing is as much about the preplanning and the preparation as it is about enabling people to act in real time.

In big companies like ours, creating a TV spot or a few pieces of copy a year would be quite typical. When you’re developing real-time social-media campaigns, you might have 200 pieces of copy in a month. Taking advantage of that required a new business model, a new way of thinking about it. It also required thinking about tolerance and risk. Tolerance is about asking, “What is a reasonable threshold for when we need to take action?” when something unexpected happens. It gave us the confidence to say, “You know what? We knew something like that could happen. It did, and we’ve already decided how we’re going to manage against that.”

I think it’s very important that social media be managed, at least in part, internally in an organization. As strong as our agency partners are, and they’ve been terrific creative partners, nobody knows our business and our business requirements as well as we do.

Serving consumers better

Evolving our model has been a learning journey. The challenge for us is not that the model is wrong; it’s that the landscape has changed. The model doesn’t fit the new landscape, so we’ve had a lot of success through these active learning projects.


Driving results 

Driving results

Horwood answers the question she hears the most: “What is the ROI of digital?”

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Understanding the consumer journey and what we’re building for whom and when is very important. So I’ve set up a group that has product-development expertise. They translate business requirements into technical specifications. They maintain the responsibility for not just building and overseeing the build of digital products, but also ensuring that they’re measured and optimized. We treat them as platforms rather than projects.

A big shift in our organization has been to manage those over time and to iterate and build upon them as opposed to consider them a discrete project that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you put an app into the app store, you’re potentially finished with it, but the consumer is expecting updates, improvements, messaging. And that’s something that we’ve built into our organization that didn’t necessarily exist in our former model.

The other thing we’ve done is develop benchmarks. The number one question I’m asked by our business leaders is, “What is the ROI of digital?” If you’re developing across multiple platforms and multiple regions, the way you’re looking at the world and consumer behavior is very different. So what digital analytics and a standardized approach—rather than a custom and bespoke approach market by market—has brought us is true consumer insights. And we’re able to watch trends develop in consumer behaviors, see them change and develop.

We started very much as a strategy organization and we built common platforms that serve multiple brands in multiple regions. That didn’t mean anyone used them. So a lot of what we’ve been doing is around training, talent development, identifying talent that can staff these organizations, so we can really take what we’ve built and truly embed it in the business and in business practice. We’re trying to teach our businesses to leverage these new insights in ways that they hadn’t thought of.

About the authors

Gail Horwood has been the vice president of worldwide digital strategy at Johnson & Johnson since September 2010. This essay is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by McKinsey Publishing’s Simon London.

Speaking in Barcelona – Did Mobile Video Kill the TV Star?

Did or will?  Or we will see.

Mobile Media Summit @Mobile World Congress on Tuesday, February 25th held at Fira Montjuic – Avinguda Reina Maria Christina. 08004 Barcelona, Spain.

Your panel: “Did Mobile Video Kill the TV Star?” begins at 2:25PM. Please be on site at least 1 hour prior. 

Your moderator is Ali Rana – Group SVP Head Scientist Emerging Media, Millward Brown Digital. He will set up an intro call, which I’m happy to attend (make sure you send me any dial-in information necessary).  

Also on your panel:  

·       Darin Brown – President – Europe, Crispin Porter + Bogusky

·       John Baker – President, dotJWT 

·       Doug Livingston – Global Chief Digital Officer, mcgarrybowen


·       Zaid Al-Zaidy – Chief Executive Officer, McCann London

Future of Advertising Post on JWT Blog

This piece was just published on the JWT Blog.  It is unfair to say Google has pulled creativity out of the busienss because their Art, Copy, Code program and Project Re:Brief are both excellent examples of adding creativity to the industry.  That said, ad words?  Much harder to defend in terms of creativity.


Is This the Future of Online Advertising?

July 18, 2013 • by  

There are three platforms that dominate the time people spend online and their names are no surprise – Google, Facebook and Twitter. They have become the backbone of the digital experience and smart brands go where their audience is – so is this the future of advertising?

Dry. That is the best word to describe the experience users have when they see the ads above. These ads are all structured and template-driven. Yes, there is space for a great headline and brands can do something with their thumbnails, but there are no big full-bleed images, no snippets of killer video, no clever interactive overlays.

The “ads” have this form because all three companies have shifted their focus to content distribution and lightweight publishing.

Unfortunately this means the ad unit is a tiny chunk of content with about as much heart pounding, emotion-inducing impact as a postage stamp.

– See more at:

“News Hijacking”, “Aggregating”, or “Reblogging” — Fact of the no-cost publishing environment

I just came back to an old debate in new journalism:  Is it fair that people generate traffic from other people’s work and journalism.

The Huffington Post and Business Insider are the poster children but I’m sure there are many more.

I love this piece by Brian Morrissey from DigiDay which includes this paragraph on a simple piece they conceived and wrote that Business Insider was able to hijack:

This hit home recently. On Friday, we did a somewhat silly Friday feature on digital executives “then and now.” One photo in particular, showing an emo teen version of Tumblr exec Rick Webb, piqued interest. Business Insider took a screenshot of the before-and-after shot, copy and pasted a paragraph, and then slapped on a sensationalist headline and called it a day. The author linked prominently to Digiday in the quick-hit post. The result: It generated 224 pageviews for the Digiday story. Along the way, BI banked another 1,500-plus pageviews — and that many “welcome ad” impressions along with multiple banners and a “native” video ad. Meanwhile, Digiday’s original post — thought up and executed by our staff — got 2,500 pageviews. Is this a fair trade?

The full conversation that went on between Henry Bloget and Brian Morrissey is really interesting from a future of the industry POV.  And Paid Content did a nice write up.

Given that the cost of generating a reblog post is so minimal, it isn’t a suprise everyone is reblogging everyone’s work.  And given the distracted nature of the end reader who is bouncing around the web based on search links and social mentions, there is little loyalty to specific news sources curating content.

So for the moment everyone will be “news hijacking” as I like to call it.  Until people get tired of sacrificing time to random content and start choosing specific sources for their content. 





Wealth in America

This data visualization video really does make you wonder.  If 400 people have more wealth combined than the 200 million other people in the United States, and I believe they do, then are we headed for trouble?
I suppose if you look at the developing world you can see incredible differences in income living side by side.  In a lot of those countries you don’t wear your Rolex to the party, if you own one, you put it on when you get there.  And you don’t stop at red lights at night because that is asking someone to take your car.  I can’t really see that kind of environment in the US. We’re already much more used to “no go” areas in our cities then Europeans are and we haven’t had unlivable levels of crime.  And the idea of the middle class still is strong even if both parents need to work to maintain it.
It is probably more the classic angst of the middle class that always wonders, “wow, the upper class is really, really loaded.”
Of course in the US Warren Buffet didn’t call himself upper class and made his fellow 747ers eat of paper plates in a backyard barbque.  So I suppose the proper way to say it in American is “wow, the upper middle class is really loaded.”
Best just to recognize if your boss has a huge paycheck you should thank them, it means there is lots of room to grow.

A Thought on Fundraisers

Love For Buggie
The other day I was riding on the train and had a thought about the fundraiser we were doing.  Since the train is an amazing good place for writing, I jammed it down on paper and then put it up as a comment on the fundraiser Facebook page.  At the event a number of people came up to me and commented on it, so I thought I’d repost it here so that when Facebook goes out of business and is turned into a music discovery service by a next-generation Justin Timberlake, I’ll still have the thought.

If you already read it, thank you.  And if you attended the event or have given at the site, thank you again.

I had a thought about this fundraiser and cancer in general I wanted to share. 

It is amazing that despite all of the technology we have today, we basically don’t have a clue how to treat cancer.

In this case alone we’ve tried 3 treatments and researched a hundred others. Whether we are talking to leading oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, board members of St. Jude’s or doctors with huge pedigrees that have gone independent, there is no right answer. Unlike a crushed leg, the doctors really don’t know what works and how to fix it. And that is massively scary.

This sense of not being in control and not knowing, whether for good or bad, is probably the most difficult part of the disease. It puts so much pressure on everyone that we act strange and take the frustration out on the people around us. And while everyone shows the stress differently, everyone shows the stress.

I think this is why this fundraiser is so important.

It gives the everyone something to focus on that we CAN affect. Instead of digging in on what someone said or how they said it, we can think about tents, websites and balloons. We can talk about this nightmare with a way to help instead of feeling completely powerless.

The Buddists say that when you put bread in a monk’s bowl you also say “thank you” for being given the opportunity to give.

The amount of people — whether close friends or people we don’t even know — that have shown their support demonstrates this. None of us are alone in this and everyone wants to help in any way they can. It restores your faith in humanity.

Creative Technologists? No, Coders

This is a great piece from Wieden & Kennedy blog called Why We are not Hiring Creative Technologists. The writer is @IgorClark.

The main point is that if you are going to be in the business of making or designing software, you need to have technical people on your team. All sophisticated digital programs are fundamentally software and even if you are working with a production house, you need to understand it to keep your seat at the table. Having only people that only understand he concept is dangerous.

Clearly many non-technical factors are involved, but there is one simple and concrete thing we can do: stop hiring “creative technologists”. Hire coders. Reject compromise on this front, and resist pressure to give in to it. Only hire people to work at the crossover of creative and technology if they have strong, practical, current coding skills.

The challenge is how to attract them. What people often forget is a good developer can be as prima donna as a great creative. At Organic in the first boom we sold eCommerce. 50% of our offices were engineering. In most digital shops the Director of Technology is on par with the Creative Director.

Ultimately, to do that you need to provide an environment that’s as appealing and satisfying for extraordinary, creative software people as the one you already provide is for traditional creative folks. But it also needs to be as appealing to this new breed as their potential alternate settings at Google, Facebook, Tech Startup X. Fortunately, you have the potential to make it even more so for genuine creative coders – because they’re not looking for pure engineering any more than you are.

And this is the great shift marketing technology can offer. We can free the right kind of developer from the racks of coders locked up in banks across the globe working for Accenture. Of course, if 4 out of 5 conversations end in frustration because the broader team doesn’t understand software, doesn’t get the answers the tech team needs or doesn’t understand functionality trade-offs, then they won’t stay in the business.

While you don’t need to become an engineering company, you face some of their challenges. You need to understand, accept and embrace some of the nuts and bolts of software development, and take on board the work dedicated shops are doing on its processes. You need such a strong streak of code running through the atmosphere that coders want to come to you, and everyone else gets code spilling over them.

And this is the key point. If team members say “I’m all for digital, but I’m not technical” then you have to throw them out. It is like saying “I’m excited to work on the Olympics but I don’t like sports.” Digital marketing by definition is technical and this means we need to find a real home for coders in our agencies.

Don’t get me wrong, this is hard, and it’ll take time. It’s not just procedural, but cultural, so a big part of doing it comes down to who you hire and how you let them do their thing. But that’s exactly the point. That’s why it’s most important, way before you get all that fixed, and as the first major step on that road: just don’t hire “creative technologists” who aren’t strong coders.

Oh, Microsoft…



Really, if you wonder why people get frustrated and stop using your services, consider how often you discontinue them.  As a company you are showing the attention span of a gnat amped up on Jolt cola.

First it was Live Sync turning into Windows Live Mesh and now SkyDrive.  Really?   Take a look at this Wikipedia entry and the opening line says it all.  And this all happened in about 5 years?

Windows Live Mesh (formerly known as Live MeshWindows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare)[2] was a free-to-use Internet-based file synchronization application by Microsoft designed to allow files and folders between two or more computers be in sync with each other on Windows (Vista and later) and Mac OS X (v. 10.5 Leopard and later, Intel processors only) computers or the Web via SkyDrive.[3] Windows Live Mesh also enabled remote desktop access via the Internet.

Windows Live Mesh was part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011 suite of software. However this application has been replaced by SkyDrive for Windows application in Windows Essentials 2011


I love entrepreneurship and being able to build and launch new services, but I’d swear I heard somewhere that brands require continuity and stability…


Digital Culture

I’m working on a presentation and was surprised that I couldn’t find a concise definition of digital cutlure in the workplace, so I’ve written one.

It is now, gulp, 13 years since the Cluetrain Manifesto and amagingly two plus years since I last wrote about Digital Culture. (Note, it is weird to see your own blog in your Google search results, or maybe that is it is just weird for me).  Unfortunately I didn’t really summarize what Digital Culture is, rather then say we should embrace it.

So here is a shot and critiques, rants and flames are welcome.

Digital Culture in the Workplace

  • Embrace Transparency – It can be because of the platitude that “information wants to be free” or becuase the ease of publishing information means there is no excuse not to publish your strategy internally to avoid ambiguity.  The point is give as much information to your teams as you can so that they can do their best work. With the right information they will do what needs to be done rather then just what you tell them to do.  Ambiguity or manipulation are both easily exposed and recognized for being distructive.
  • Speak with a Human Voice – Corporate language that obfuscates key points is easily recognized and easily called out.  People prefer to be talked to directly and in a human voice.  This also implies not taking oneself too seriously, bringing your pers♦onality to work and recognizing your faults — because we are all human.  This extends to encouraging people to speak freely because if you don’t provide the forum, people will create their own behind your back.
  • Use Digital Tools – Email, the mobile phone and web publishing were just the first tools to enable a digital culture.  Because you believe technology can make you happier, more efficient, or more creative, you are constantly looking for new tools to make your life better.  Google, Twitter, Facebook, the iPad all didn’t exist when the Cluetrain Manifesto was published.
  • Look for Collaboration and 360 Teams– “Today the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical.  Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.” (Cluetrain Manifesto #50)  It is impossible to assume 1 or 2 people can have all of the answers.  This means teams have to work together to get different points of view.
  • Move Fast – Because markets are changing so quickly, teams need to move quickly.  This also means forgiveness for communication errors or mistakes in work as long as it is progressing work towards the end goal.
  • Test and Iterate –  Intense reasearch and planning slows down this process so instead a focus is on iterative development.  Start small, run, test, learn, build.
  • Love Technology – It is hard to really participate in a digital culture without being interested and intrigued by tehcnology.  While this doesn’t imply everyone needs to learn to code, it does say everyone has to “consider themselve technical” and be able to understand basic of software development.  Digital marketing by definition means marketing with computers and this implies being technical.

WPP Stream – An Amazing Unconference

Just came back from WPP Stream 2012 and am in the process of writing it up for distribution inside JWT.  

How do you write up an unconference?

Mark Read wrote it up this way for the Huffington Post.  And in the piece he calls out some of the items that make the event so strong.  

In fact it is the culture it has built and the structure it has developed that work together intrinsicly.  

The culture at Stream is one of participation and ideas.  Given that everyone is from different organizations, how people react and engage is based on the thinking not the titles.  The fast running schedule reminds everyone speed is important and changes up the day from full conference events in the Big Top and smaller group activities, and they all occur with the constant backdrop of the bar for coffee or drinks.  Free standing demonstrations of new technology and games provide additional opportunities for serendipidous meetings.

How do the events drive collaboration and demonstrate digital culture?

  • Big Boards – The Big Boards are the schedule of Discussions that occur in smaller meeting spaces throughout the conference.  The Discussions are proposed by the attendees and put up on the boards as soon as they are opened.  Because there are a lot of Discussions, this also pushes leaders to promote their events to get attendance.
  • 30 Second’s of Promotion – As part of the opening session, everyone that wants to lead a Discussion is given 30 seconds to pitch it to the full audience.  Like the digital economy this adds the sense that speed and succintness is as critical as standing out as you promote your idea.
  • Midnight Cooking Madness – The unspoken element of the conference is that in effect it runs from 8 am to 2 am.  Asking people to contribute a recipe from their country or family, and asking them to “serve” it to the full conference in a trade show environment brings out personalities, increases opportunites for small interactions and ensures the bar stays open until 2 am.
  • Ignite – The opportunity to talk about any subject is classically TED.  Adding Tim O’Reilley’s mechanic of a set number of slides on a timed rotation brings discipline and rhythem.  15 slides, 15 seconds a slide equals 4 minutes per presenter which even with transition time makes 10 ideas in a hour easy. Buzz Feeds Ignite Presentations.
  • Gadgethon – Technology is critical to digital culture, and as a proxy, gadgets are as well.  Two minutes, open session, demonstrate whatever you find interesting.
  • The Pitch – Clearly nothing drives marketers like a competition around ideas.  Allowing ad hoc teams to form up drives collaboration, new connections and generates solid ideas for charitable causes. 

Overall the key themes that come out are Connections between people that don’t work together as frequently, a focus on Ideas based in strong points of view, and respect that if asked, peopel will Promote themselves in a public forum.  These are all fundementally digital concepts that have been carried on since the Clue Train Manifesto and before.  

The gadgets are interesting but they change. The discussions are critical but the content is trendy.  What makes the conference so strong is the culture of the conference is the culture of digital start-ups across the globe.