De Gannes wants Digital for Everyone

Above: Robert De Gannes. Photo by Kerron Riley.

Originally published in Newsday’ BusinessDay for June 11, 2020.

The format of Robert De Gannes’ Digital for Everyone livestream series is deceptively simple. The digital marketer hosts a selected guest for a casual chat about an aspect of digital business for 30 minutes on Instagram.

I’d met the low-keyed young man ten years ago to photograph him for a story on his new role leading Rostant Advertising’s local branch of Tribal DDB, an early effort at creating a digital agency.

The rather more bearded and unquestionably wiser Robert De Gannes is now Senior Digital Strategist at McCann Worldgroup Port of Spain, where, as he puts it, he is part creative and part data analyst.

Digital for Everyone sounded like exactly the kind of thing that people get fired up about bit-related buzz, but the conversations he has been hosting are elegantly deceptive.

It’s the kind of Marshall McLuhan conceptualising that could easily become boring, but the banter between De Gannes and his hosts makes potentially challenging subjects seem rather obvious and straightforward.

For one thing, De Gannes doesn’t seem to have a master plan for articulating some large vision about the realm of digital business.

Instead, he lets his guests talk about what’s important to them as they see it, and when it works, it’s riveting.

Niall McNish’s enthusiasm for Instagram Live was infectious, as he barrelled along, lauding community building on the platform. QD Ross had an excellent conversation about what he termed a “media-neutral” idea, concepts of messaging, and communication that reshaped themselves according to the exact medium they were published or broadcast in, instead of trying to make the medium fit the message.

It’s the kind of Marshall McLuhan conceptualising that could easily become boring, but the banter between De Gannes and his hosts makes potentially challenging subjects seem rather obvious and straightforward.

“I never liked a lecture,” De Gannes said, “I much prefer conversational engagement, which Instagram allows for.”

“I wanted to leverage a platform with a low barrier to entry. Contrary to the stats which say ‘people only like to watch shorter videos,’ the platform doesn’t matter. The relevance of the content to the audience is the key factor.”

“We have a community of digital marketing professionals whose own expertise varies wildly in terms of breadth and depth of their skillset.”

“No one client understands everything about digital, and no one professional is an expert in all facets of digital.”

De Gannes is taking a measured approach to building his audience and his content, which remains available on the @digitialforeveryone Instagram feed.

“The response from guests is great, there is a lot of appreciation for developing the platform where everyone can learn in an informal setting.”

“The audience is growing slowly, as expected, but those that do tune in have never left without learning something new.”

“I didn’t want it to be for CEO’s and heads of agencies, neither did I want it to be for university graduates fresh out of school or the thousands of entrepreneurs in TT. I wanted it to be for everyone. Simple conversational key points that everyone could follow and learn from.”

“In talking to the guests, I often ask them to frame the conversation in this way – ‘Imagine your aunty or uncle comes to you and says, I keep hearing about this platform,’ you know this digital stuff, what do you think? Is it good for my business?”

“My goal here is not to drum up more clients, it’s to provide a platform that allows industry professionals to share their knowledge in a productive way that helps grow the confidence in the industry regionally.”

De Gannes explained that Instagram’s barrier to entry is among the lowest with regard to doing a ‘live,’ so the ease of use led him to that platform.

“Instagram LIVE’s limit is 1 hour,” he said, “but I chose to keep the conversations around 30 mins to ensure people can view, get the key points and digest it without having to devote a massive chunk of their time.”

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