The Limits of Digital and the First Aid Kit of the Future with Ogilvy’s Ritesh Patel

Episode 33 of The Verblio Show

Ritesh Patel is the Chief Digital Officer for Ogilvy Consulting and a lifelong digital evangelist. In this episode, he shares not only lessons learned working at what is perhaps the world’s most prestigious marketing agency, but also insights from his ongoing gig moonlighting as a DJ (focused on reggae and soul music, of course.) He and Steve cover everything from career dreams to the latest in medical advances:

  • The biggest mistake digital marketers make, and what to do about it
  • Why Ritesh tweets the exact same thing every morning
  • The innovators and innovations that make him deeply optimistic about the future of healthcare
  • Where to start when you are tasked with something like the digital transformation of the healthcare industry
  • Top picks to get a crowd of any age on the dance floor

Guest-at-a-Glance

Name: Ritesh Patel

What Ritesh does: Chief Digital Officer at Ogilvy Consulting. Currently focused on transforming the healthcare industry, his professional background spans the early days of digital marketing at Agency.com to systems management at Cushman & Wakefield to pioneering social media campaigns for Chandler Chicco clients and more.

Find him on the web: Ogilvy Consulting | LinkedIn | Personal

Get smart: “Digital is here to enhance and augment and amplify and help you build your brand. If you hold digital only as an ROI mechanism and you focus on it on an ROI mechanism, then you’re missing the plot.”

Top Takeaways

Know what digital is for—and what it’s not for

Ritesh is all about digital. “My motto is, if it moves, digitize it. That’s what I live by,” he says. “But there are times where I have to temper that because that’s not the answer sometimes.”

In our rush to digitize, we may miss situations when another method would be more effective. “I think today marketers are increasingly challenged with the plethora of technical solutions that are available to them,” Ritesh explains. “And I think sometimes we forget marketing is marketing and it’s just different things that you need to connect the dots together.” Digital is appealing because it is measurable with easy-to-prove ROI, but it is precisely that measurability that can cause us to lose sight of our ultimate goal.

“As digital marketers, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by making things so measurable that we’ve forgotten marketing and brand building,” Ritesh says. Technical solutions play a crucial role in that brand building, but beware of letting them become an end in themselves.

The future of healthcare is exciting

We get it: “The healthcare industry has the worst customer experience on the planet.” But as someone leading the industry’s digital transformation, Ritesh has seen plenty of innovations that make him optimistic for the future of medicine. “This year has been the biggest year ever of healthcare startup funding in the history of the U.S.,” he says, and that means exciting changes in a few key areas:

  1. Bringing healthcare to you with connected devices ranging from handheld ultrasound machines to household EKGs.
  2. Direct-to-consumer options that will allow you to have your prescription drugs delivered within hours.
  3. Increased pricing transparency as a result of the 21st Century Cures Act, which has opened access to medical data across the country.

Episode Highlights

Why Ritesh tweets “Good morning, Twitterverse. Have an absolutely fad day everyone!” every morning

“Early on when I was following Chris Brogan and learning blogging from him, the best practices of blogging, he said, ‘You’ve got to be consistent and you have to do one thing.’

…So my thing was, just wish everybody a happy Twitter day and see how many people respond. Sometimes in the mornings, I’ll get 20, 30 people, sometimes I’ll get one person who’ll say, ‘Hey, good morning. Nice, thank you’—that sort of thing. So it’s just one of those things that I picked up from Chris that I kept going and I keep doing it and it’s a good way to let everybody know that, ‘You know what? It’s going to be a good day. It’ll be fine. Whatever we’re going to go through, it’ll be fine. We’re still alive and we’re happy and kicking so it’s good.’”

Ogilvy creativity at work

“I’ve met some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet in advertising. There is a way of recruiting and the culture that has been created that brings the best out of people, and it is some of the smartest people you will meet. There is no challenge or thing that can’t be figured out in some way and there’s somebody around the world who’s done something around it, right?

Just to give you an example, somebody came up with an idea for Pet Comments, right? So rather than you buying your dog a toy, let the dog decide. We can use AI. So here’s what we’ll do: We’ll take all sorts of dogs and we’ll watch them on the camera as we put toys in front of them and see how their ears perk and then we’ll see if they like it. And, based on that, we’ll create a whole AI algorithm and then we’ll launch it on the market for a pet shop company. And now you can sit with your dog to look at the pet shop common sites, turn the camera on and, as you’re scrolling through, the camera’s looking and then it’ll highlight a thing that your dog reacted to and say, ‘This—your dog will like this.’”

The downside of digital’s measurability

“We’ve made digital so addressable and so measurable that it’s to our detriment. …You don’t question a media buy which is a combination of a TV, radio, and billboard. Nobody says, ‘Well, can you tell me the click-throughs on the billboard?’ It’s just a given that there’s a billboard that helps me build my brand as people are driving past it. But there’s no measure that says, ‘I can tell you exactly how many cars drove past and who in that car then based on the review of the billboard bought your product.’

Yet we hold ourselves to a different standard in digital, where when we do a display ad on the Wall Street Journal, the first thing the marketer asks is, ‘Well, how many clicks am I going to get and how many sales am I going to get from that ad?’ And then you have to say, ‘Wait a minute, it’s part of an overall brand building exercise.’”

Why marketers need to take responsibility and consider the consequences

“This whole ad tech stuff and the marketing tech stuff—it’s all a bubble. There’s going to be a shakeout for sure. I think that we’ve all hurtled towards this because it seemed to be a good nirvana to go after and the promise was there, but the execution has been horrible. And I think that we all need to collectively step back a little bit and say, ‘What good is this doing?’

I question social at the moment a lot. There are great things from a marketer perspective that social provides us. But look at some of the bad things social is putting onto our societies and the things that are happening that wouldn’t have happened if social wasn’t as big as it is, right? Those smallest vocal minorities are getting the biggest amplifications for their voices, where in that traditional sense we never had that before. So, we need to think about this a little bit and say, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ Both from a business perspective and marketing, but also from a humanity perspective, right?

So I do question some of the things that the players out there for the goal of creating more audiences and greater market shares—are we sacrificing things that we should be mindful about?”

The Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm

“This whole moment that we’re in with the politicization of vaccines and the COVID situation, the practitioners are sitting back going, ‘Whoa, guys, all we want to do is save you. We just want to help you live.’ That Hippocratic oath is good and people really do subscribe to it. …Digital is being forced upon us by this pandemic and that’s helping the transformation of the industry. But the reason it’s tough is for reason number one: I want you to live.

So I see it on the media, there’s all sorts of noise around, ‘Why can’t—I bet you there is a vaccine, but they’re holding it back, they want a profit.’ No, they want to make sure it is completely safe before they give it to you so you don’t die. Plain and simple. That’s the only focus of people who are doing this stuff.”

The first aid kit of the future

“There’s a couple of companies that are looking at what I call the first aid kit of the future—the 21st century first-aid kit. You have a connected blood pressure cuff, you get an AliveCor EKG—this is a handheld EKG 6-lead that gives you all of the data you need by you holding it. $189, by the way. Take it, touch it to your knee or your ankle and you’ve got your complete EKG and your vitals which you can then send to your doctor. You never have to leave your living room, right?

A Kinsa Digital Thermometer to take your temperature, and then a Steth IO, which is a handheld stethoscope connected by Bluetooth that you hold to your chest and now you’ve got your heart rate.”

Ritesh’s top musical recs

  • Billy Paul – “Let ‘em In” and “Bring the Family Back”
  • Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine”
  • A Taste of Honey – “Boogie Oogie Oogie”
  • Chaka Khan – “I’m Every Woman”
  • The Ohio Players – “O-H-I-O”

Top Quotes

Ritesh:

[8:01] “The advice I give to the younger members of my team is find a good mentor because that’s what I’ve had, and I’ve been very, very lucky.”

[11:39] “If you’re a fast learner and you’re open to change and open to new experiences, then you can become a chief digital officer because it’s, ‘All right, you’re now a chief digital officer.’ Okay, let me go figure this out, right? It’s doable.”

[21:25] “I think as digital marketers, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by making things so measurable that we’ve forgotten marketing and brand building.”

[22:05] “Digital is here to enhance and augment and amplify and help you build your brand. If you hold digital only as an ROI mechanism and you focus on it on an ROI mechanism, then you’re missing the plot. Because that’s not the way you should do it.”

[23:29] “The lurch to technology as the savior is a wrong thing. I think technology is an enabler and a tool set that you should be using to build your brand for your product.”

[42:39] “I worked very hard to be number one and number two in the search results of Google. You can just put my name in and you’ll see my ugly mug appear straight away.”

Steve:

[4:14] “I’ve always said my dream is to be a Brazilian rockstar, and I only have two things against me: the Brazilian part and the rockstar part.”

Learn More

Tune into Ritesh’s radio show before he becomes a world-famous DJ. You heard him here first!

Check out Chris Brogan and The Backpack Show, one of Ritesh’s early examples for blogging best practices.

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