Hill+Knowlton Digital Director Europe Arve Overland: Facebook Should Police Activities in Bulgaria

Interview |Author: Milena Hristova | April 17, 2013, Wednesday // 20:38|  views

Interview with Arve Overland, Digital Practice Director Europe at Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Arve Overland has worked in the digital space since the mid-nineties. Currently he is responsible for expanding and developing the digital practice area expertise and client base for H+K Strategies' 22 offices in Europe.

Says he enjoys the diversity and opportunities of teaming up with people from Moscow in the east to Barcelona and Athens in southern Europe to work on digital strategy for many of Europe's strong brands, companies and organizations.

Milena Hristova spoke with Arve Overland following his lecture on online marketing and social media at M3 College in Bulgaria’s Sofia.

Is this your first time to Bulgaria? What is your impression of the Bulgarian digital space and online marketing?

This is my visit to Bulgaria and I am far from being an expert on the country. My impressions are that some things are mature, while others are not up to professional levels.

I have information about illegal activities going on in Facebook, but this will certainly change when Facebook establish their presence here. Those businesses will be shut down - you just can’t resell ads on Facebook!

When it comes to engineering and development, I must say a lot of brands around the world are relying on Bulgarian development teams, who deliver on a world class level.

Social media in Bulgaria seems to be new in the sense of using it in professional and legal ways.

The mobile marketing is a very fast market and probably more and more people are accessing media channels through the phone, rather than the web site.

Will Facebook start policing illegal activities in Bulgaria even though we are a very small market?

Market size has nothing to do with principles. A brand like Facebook has to have a principle, which applies everywhere. I guess they are just not aware this is happening. A member of their team should be proficient in Bulgarian so that he can go though the pages, conducting illegal activities. If Facebook finds out, they would shut down those businesses just for the principle of it and regardless of the size of the market. They crack down to protect their own business and it will happen here too, that’s for sure.

Is it conventional wisdom that Eastern Europe is behind?

In my work I cover a region, including 21 countries in Europe, and there is a huge variety.  It is all about following the money and the size of population. To say that one region is categorically behind means to oversimplify the issue.

The average salary in Poland, for example, is much less than Norway, Sweden or Denmark, but Poland’s population totals 42 million, while Denmark’s – 6 million. This makes Poland more important than Denmark for major companies, such as Panasonic.

These two factors – the size of the audience and the size of the middle class, who will be buying the products – are most important to get the interest of big brands.

When it comes to marketing it takes time and training to get a base of people who are experts. When it comes to technology and engineering, the Eastern bloc has always had good engineers and smart people. Take a look at the Silicon Desert in Israel, one of the most sophisticated areas in the world, which was almost completely built up by escaped Jewish engineers from Russia and other countries.

I believe Bulgaria has a fairly good set of engineers and companies who operate at a very sophisticated level. Besides, technology moves across borders in a much easier way than market communication, where differences in culture play a role.

If a country is behind in marketing communication, this could be because there has not been enough demand or not enough people have been trained.

Countries like the US or England, which have been doing marketing for longer than anybody else, naturally have a broader set of population dealing with it as opposed to a country, which has had a shorter history in marketing. The digital space however moves so fast that it may be a matter of a generation or two for things to even out.

How have patterns of consumption and marketing evolved with changes in the digital media marketplace? Is “fast” the word that describes that change best?

A recurrent pattern has emerged – every new thing starts slow first, people get educated and go “may be”, then somebody jumps upon it and does it. This is the moment when the other companies realize that this is something, which is working, and finally everybody wants it. We witnessed this pattern with web sites, online campaigning, social media, search marketing, mobile.

The most interesting thing about digital media is that consumers embraced them first, while brands came afterwards.

That will happen in every market.

Millions of Bulgarians have embraced Facebook and brands will follow suit as they should be where the customers are. If you work, take care of your kids, cook, sleep and may be watch a football game, you only have a certain amount of time to do other things. If Facebook eats up most of that time for the consumer, the brands have to talk to them online, where the consumer is.

What was the challenge for marketers five years ago? And now?

Five years ago it was hard to use social media in an effective way in most markets, even in some of the most progressive markets in Europe -  people just were not there.

Back then search marketing, video and online content was very important in our work and a little bit more difficult than it is today. Every year access and bandwidth grew, so we focused on traffic to sites, brands and brand protection, selling of products, finding ways to make the experience of a product come alive.

Now it is the social media, which creates a dialogue about the product and this is much more valuable. Instead of a brand talking about their new running shoes, it is better to have the runners talking about how it feels running with those shoes.

Has the Internet changed the very nature of marketing or just the ways we go about it?

I think it changed the very nature of marketing. Enabled and driven by the digital marketplace, we have available big data, which gives us the opportunity to analyze consumer behavior in very interesting and new ways.

The other important trend is that now the consumer is automatically hurt. This is great for a brand but it also makes it more vulnerable.

The digital market is also a lot more democratic. Enabling smart startups without heavy investments is another benefit.

Last but not least thanks to today’s technology the marketplace is much more interesting and competitive.

Is there any bad news? What are your concerns?

I am concerned about privacy protection, data becoming accessible by the wrong people or being abused.

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Tags: Facebook, Bulgaria, Knowlton Strategies, Hill, europe, Digital Practice Director, Arve Overland, M3 College, sofia


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