- Interview -
Surrounded by the mediasphere
It is no coincidence that we are welcoming Xavier Romatet to this issue dedicated to authenticity. The man who was held the reins at Condé Nast France for 12 years is confirming his media leadership status and could well take the head of the future group in the making formed by Lagardère, Mondadori and Groupe Marie Claire. At a time when luxury industries and the media are facing up to the necessary restructuring required to keep pace with the evolution of society, he agreed to share with our readers his expertise that is a blend of know-how and how to make known…
How would you define authenticity?
Authenticity is about nobility in terms of attitude, behavior and feelings, which must reflect the impression one has of a place, a moment and the people with whom one is in a relationship. It is not about expressing that which is true, fair or beautiful, but instead an attitude whose reality can be measured by what is felt, because the unsaid is stronger than what is articulated. There is a vast difference between authenticity and transparency, two concepts that are sometimes regarded as contradictory. People view transparency as hiding nothing and showing everything, which is the exact opposite of authenticity.
The media has come to be composed of media brands. In an era of complete upheaval on all sides, how are business models and the journalistic profession being reinvented?
We are witnessing a change of era and hence the profession is also undergoing a paradigm shift. Publishers are longer merely what their name implies, but instead storytellers, producing content with high added value. This translates into the quality of the narrative, of creation and of execution. Today, the primary mission is to win the battle for attention. Partly because habits have changed and multiplied, and partly because access to content is non-stop and constantly shifting form (text, photo, video, audio). In a totally interconnected world, journalists must grasp this major shift in behavioral patterns, while adapting to the multiplatform reality. What really counts is their intellectual agility and their ability to glide seamlessly through worlds that were previously cut off from each other (based on the media-advertisers-distributors scheme) and that are now entirely integrated.
The flow of new technologies, which shows no sign of abating, is continuing to reshape society and drive our modes of production, consumption and communication. What are the key issues for the media world and for the luxury industry?
Technology is modifying habits and having several consequences. It imposes the “client-centric” concept, since consumers are back in control and can change a situation with a single click, whereas we used to be governed by the “brand-centric” concept of which brands were the core. All of which means we must seek appropriate equilibrium between the two elements.
Other goals are taking shape, calling for a rebalancing between supply and demand, as well as a need to highlight the exclusive nature of products and distribution. Our relationship with time and place is also being modified. These days, access to information is so fast that one becomes jaded more quickly than before. Desire must thus be renewed by a creative acceleration. The interaction between brick-and-mortar stores and digital is within reach of the customer who maintains a fairly hybrid approach. Digital is merely an extension of one’s own physical at-home experience.
What are the keys to success in appealing to the new generation of millennials?
This ultra-connected generation no longer believes in marketing dictates, particularly in the luxury business. Millennials have turned away from this approach based on possession, novelty and constant one-upmanship with each new product driving out a previous one. Persistent product overexposure and overvaluing has blurred differences, and yet it is precisely these that generate preference. To reconnect with the public, we need to return to a discourse imbued with humility, sincerity and generosity. The idea is to recapture a tone, words, codes and languages that are those of people’s real lives rather than being imposed by brands or marketing. From now onwards, luxury must win people over, inspire dreams and create desire, no longer through excess but instead through authenticity.
You spend your present time writing tomorrow’s history. What are your next professional and personal challenges?
Two things are important: cultivating a passion for the exercise of my profession, as well as convincing my teams to shake off fear and instead dare to invent. In addition to understanding new issues and paradigms, one of the keys to the future for those who will succeed lies in being prepared to take the risk of making mistakes. The media world is undergoing a powerful global structural mutation, which forces us to make major transformations in our business models. This revolution is not a crisis of media channels but instead of content, or perhaps both. By wagering on boldness, difference and creativity, the media must fight to restore nobility to the value of information, words and images, as well as to generate new revenue via a post-advertising model.
Based on an interview by Stéphanie Laskar