April 26, 2019

What Brands Today Need to Know About Social Media

by Ellen Mallernee Barnes in News


For the past three years, Davitha Ghiassi has served as Red Agency Australia’s Executive Director of Social & Integration. This month, as she begins in her new role as Executive Vice President of Social & Integration at Havas PR North America she reflects on her time in Oz, what brands today need to know about social media, why the “work hard, play hard” days are over, and why Instagram is her favorite social media platform.

Tell us a little about your new role? What excites you about it?

I love developing new offerings or capabilities and as such the past three years at Red have been magnificent.

I’ve had the opportunity to let my entrepreneurial spirit run loose and build a national team of what ended up being over 25 dedicated social media specialists with a dynamic set of skills across every area of the space from the bottom up—who now work with a range of incredible clients including some of Australia’s biggest brands.

In this new role, I once again get to work with James Wright in bringing the best of the Red and Havas PR offerings together here in the U.S. It’s a really exciting evolution of what we’ve been doing over the past years.

I look forward to fully immersing myself in the U.S. market and collaborating with all of the talented players across our group here to set the Havas PR social and integrated content offering up for success as we enter this next phase of growth.

So, what is true integration in the world of advertising?

I see true integration as telling a single story in multiple different shapes, while ensuring that to the consumer they form one memorable brand experience.

This starts with recognizing that in today’s multilayered landscape the traditional and linear “paid, owned, earned” lines of communication haven’t just blurred, but merged, and so should our marketing methods.

This is why we refer to model as a Merged Media agency. We believe great work starts with the story rather than the channel and our work thrives at the intersection of PR, Social, and Brand Experience with Content at its core.

Should brands focus on telling a story really well on one platform, or should they utilize as many platforms as possible?

I think brands should have a presence only when and where they have a purpose, so it’s about identifying what you’re looking to achieve, where your audience prefers to spend their time, and then how you as a brand can make that time better spent.

Social platforms in particular warrant a considerable everyday investment—from constant quality content to cleverly targeted paid spend and timely customer service. And as such, entering any channel without a clear ‘why’ will do more harm than good.


Most every brand interacts with its audience on social media. How does an organization provide a different, valuable experience on its owned platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter?

A brand’s social presence is only as successful as the strategy that underpins it. Exchanging value in today’s highly competitive social space starts with developing a social channel, content, and amplification strategy playbook that underpins every post with a clear purpose and sets it up for success in the social/mobile environment which has rewritten the rules of traditional storytelling and engagement.

Additionally, in marketing “BAU” (Business as Usual) is often referred to as the boring or bland bit of a brand’s presence—but in social media, your strongest ROI can come from strategically sound everyday executions that creatively adopt emerging formats or optimize activity based on past performance.

I call it “Business as Unusual,” because in the exciting and ever-evolving social realm every single post is a mini-campaign in its own right and presents a new opportunity to make true business impact.  

What’s your favorite social platform and why?

Instagram, without a doubt! Both from a personal and professional perspective. I love how it challenges you to think outside the square and focus on building a brand’s bigger picture.

You can shape an ownable narrative square-by-square in Feed, extend that story via Stories, expand on or serialize it through IGTV, collate it with hashtags, spread it via Influencer partnerships, or curate it through User Generated Content.

And with its continuous infiltration into the e-commerce environment, the Insta opportunities for brands are endless.

Describe the Australian market.

It’s a large, unique, community-led landscape that both due to and despite its geo-location can be equally as interesting and innovative as it can feel isolating.  

How does the Australian market compare to other global markets, such as the United States, France, or the UK?

Being Dutch originally and having lived in Australia for seven years, I’ve found it very interesting to see how Australia’s cultural nuances drive its differences in media consumption compared to markets such as Europe or the U.S.

For example, Australian media is generally more focused on local than global news and people are less inclined to share their everyday thoughts and opinions publicly, which you notice through the significantly lower adoption and daily active usage of platforms such as Twitter compared to other global markets.

Australia is unlike any other market and challenges you to think differently, which I love.


What do you wish you could change about advertising?

I am very passionate about the topic of mental health amongst our industry because the statistics surrounding its status are staggering and there are too many of us still suffering in silence.

A recent Australian study showed that the rate of anxiety across our industry is 29 percent higher than the rest of the country’s average. That is 29 percent too high and a real reason for us to start taking serious actions in our own agency backyards.

I truly believe the “work hard, play hard” days are over and that in today’s world staff satisfaction isn’t driven by beer pong but by balance, to which an agency’s attitude towards flexibility is the key.

Over the past years, we’ve made this topic a major focus and rehauled the agency’s work/life balance principles through the implementation of various initiatives ranging from “always on” flexible working hours to an increased total work from home days per month, improved parental leave policies, and adoption of mindfulness apps.

While we as an industry have a long way to go, I hope over time we can make the world of advertising a place where balanced minds become as important as big ideas.  

What do you hope never changes?

I hope that as data and AI increasingly, and rightfully so, become a core driver of ideas and content by connecting the dots between brands, platforms, and consumers, we continue to trust our guts and let human intelligence have fun.

How do the teams at Red Agency and Havas PR differentiate itself from the competition?

We’re equally passionate about our craft, our people and our clients. That care factor creates a culture that results in incredible creative, commercial and career results.

What’s the best thing about working with your team?

Being surrounded by a bunch of really clever people with great ideas and even better banter.

What’s something that you’d like to accomplish that you have yet to do?

I’d love to shape a product from scratch that can fulfill our agency’s and clients’ unmet needs and be monetized across the market. We’ve got something exciting in the works at the moment so watch this space!

How do you know when someone is the right person to hire?

To me, outstanding candidates tend to not just meet but reimagine the job description. If in exploring someone’s potential for a role they make me envision new possibilities for us all, I know they’re one to watch.

Advice for young folks trying to make it in the industry?

  1. Find out what your passion points are and turn them into your point of difference early on.
  2. Prioritize progressing your soft skills in line with the technical ones.
  3. Seek out and soak up new knowledge or skills daily – don’t wait around for others to teach you things.


Originally published on Download.Havas.com.