For the past several years, advertising agencies that built their reputations by way of traditional media (read TV commercials) have been harshly criticized for not fully embracing the digital and mobile worlds. Even the mighty Wieden & Kennedy was publicly called out by flagship client Nike for being slow to build up its new media capabilities.
Some of the shrillest critics were the upstart digital shops who dismissed mainstream agencies as clueless dodos, doomed to extinction in a world of UX, CMS and API’s.
There was certainly some truth to their charges. Many agencies went through an awkward period of retooling as they struggled to grasp new digital opportunities. And marketing heads, always in search of a panacea, diverted large portions of their budgets to interactive initiatives through digital-only agencies.
So it was somewhat surprising to read a recent ADWEEK article entitled, “Marketers to Digital Shops: Diversify or Die.” It cites results from a survey conducted by RSW/US of 174 marketing executives. “More than two-thirds…said the digital shops need to offer more traditional services to remain relevant, while just a third thought digital-only firms could survive long term.”
So it turns out that being a pure digital play is just as self-defeating as ignoring the explosive growth of the Internet and mobile. This little corner of cyberspace has a response to this startling revelation:
What sensible professional working today thinks (a) technology alone is the answer to marketing problems or (b) the Internet doesn’t matter? All but the brain deadest among us long ago understood that the best IDEA wins—and that a great idea straddles traditional and digital media.
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Here at the agency, we’ve had a longstanding vacancy at our reception desk. In an effort to address this personnel challenge we’ve implemented a forward-thinking policy of crowdsourcing our reception duties. We hope you enjoy being greeted by each of our smiling faces when you drop by the offices.
From: Jim Copacino
SUBJECT: Welcome our new receptionist
OK, let me explain.
As much as we love our new space, there is a slight problem: The reception desk is disconnected from the hum and flow of the agency. Putting someone at the front desk for the entire workday essentially removes that person from the rest of the agency.
We feel it’s important to have a greeter at the front desk throughout the day for the sake of efficiency and professionalism. So we’ve come up with a solution.
We plan to implement a “receptionist by committee”—and every agency employee will participate.
During the workweek, we will all take turns sitting at the front desk, 30 minutes at a time. This means that each day, 16 of us will take a turn up front. During the course of a workweek, you will have to spend 3 or 4 thirty-minute “shifts” as receptionist.
We are working out a schedule that will be soon be posted on the server. Every 30-minute time slot will have a designated receptionist plus an alternate. You are exempt from reception duty for client meetings. However, if you fail to show up for your 30-minute shift for any other reason (outside of excused absences) you will be fined $10.
It will take some getting used to—but it will also be fun. We think there is a PR opportunity here as well (“Agency Co-Founder Betti Fujikado doubles as receptionist!”).
There will be a workstation at the front desk so that you can continue to log billable hours during your shift.
See Betti, Tracy or me if you have any questions.
Last year South by Southwest Interactive outgrew the music festival that spawned it, and this year expanded to 11 “campuses” spread throughout downtown Austin. It has rapidly evolved into the biggest event of its kind. Some old-time conference-goers grouse about the increasing crowds, expanding footprint and incursion of big brands into their hallowed ground. I was a SXSW newbie this year and wouldn’t be able to tell you if the conference has jumped the shark. I was simply excited at the concentration of smart people all discussing the issues I am most interested in. Here are some of the themes I picked up over five days.
Lots of people are concerned about the loss of serendipity in our lives now that we have the ability to get exactly what we want whenever we want it. Referral engines like those behind Netflix and Apple’s iTunes Genius mine our preferences and figure out exactly what we are going to want next. Search engines are seeking to capture as much of our data as they can in order to better refine searches based on our preferences, proclivities and current state of mind. With all this computational power figuring things out for us, are we losing the opportunity to stumble upon random new things? Is it possible to change our perspective when outside news and views come in a pre-selected feed? This concept of serendipity is occupying computer scientists as well as marketers and came up repeatedly through the weekend.
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“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic cockroach.”
—Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
I was thinking about the first sentence in Kafka’s novella the other day. Many of us advertising veterans are having uneasy, Samsa-like dreams of our own.
Our fear is that we’re a waking up as dinosaurs in an industry that’s been radically transformed in the last few years.
In the not too distant past, even a modest media budget was an assurance that we’d reach our “target audience” with a “brand message” through the trusty mass media of broadcast television, drive time radio and daily newspapers.
Our job was to craft clever ads that would bust through the clutter, attract attention and succeed through repetition. We interrupted programming that people wanted in order to force-feed them something they grudgingly tolerated—our ads. It worked because the consumer was a prisoner of mass media.
That was then. But that ain’t now.
Advertising is no longer a series of controlled messages tidily distributed to passive masses. Not only do consumers control when and how they receive information from a brand, they are creating their own brand content. (Exhibit A: Some ten million people have watched “United Breaks Guitars” on YouTube.)
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Seriously. We don’t. You can stop looking for hidden messages.
I read an article a few months ago in Time or Newsweek (what’s the difference again?) about an advertising study focused on radio commercials. The study concluded that people respond most positively to the sound of babies cooing and dogs barking and some other painfully obvious thing I can’t recall. Brilliant work, science. The article then implied agencies were using this information to craft radio spots that would SUBLIMINALLY GRAB YOUR BRAIN THROUGH YOUR EARHOLES AND MAKE YOU DO STUFF!
Which agencies? What creative teams? I’ve never heard of any reputable agency or creative trying to incorporate any subliminal messaging into anything. Ever. Here’s an even bigger shocker: the vast majority of ad people never intentionally distort the truth.
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The information superhighway is littered with dumb new names for the Internet. Cyberspace, hyperspace, the internets, a series of tubes. As if it wasn’t already confusing enough, along comes “The Cloud”.
Just as Web 2.0 was an unnecessary name for the technology that survived the dot com bust, “The Cloud” is a confusing new way of describing the boring old Internet. The term Cloud Computing came about to describe Web-dependent applications and storage. It really only has meaning in opposition to desktop or local applications—Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office, a remote virtual host vs. a local server. Fact is, if you were already doing it on the Web you were doing it in The Cloud. Uploading Facebook photos? The Cloud. Using Hotmail? The Cloud.
Rebranding the Internet as The Cloud is just plain silly and is bound to confuse the less technical consumer. So why do it? Suppose you are late to the game and nervous that your competitors already own the Internet. You might be tempted to come up with a fancy new object that you can own for yourself. To the Cloud!
“The reality is that social media are where the national conversation is taking place today—and either you’re part of that conversation or you’re not.” – Brian J. Dunn, CEO of Best Buy
I like Brian Dunn’s sober analysis of social media’s role in business. Today, social is simply a fact of life for marketers—full of tough challenges and potential rewards. It’s a space where the right customer experience can build lasting brand loyalty, but the wrong approach will be met with the sound of crickets, or worse, a pitchfork-wielding mob.
A recent survey of small business owners reveals some restlessness with social media as a marketing vehicle. Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of their social presence in generating site traffic. A minority of 29% declared satisfaction. While the survey is limited in scope, I think it reflects the challenges many marketers face as they create their own approach to social media. In their efforts, they’ve probably discovered a couple of things:
- If you treat social as a direct marketing vehicle, you’ll probably get a traditional DM response rate (that is to say, very low). Fact is, most consumers who “like” brands don’t believe they’ve given permission to be marketed to.
- Liking, friending and following create weak-tie relationships that don’t easily convert to increased commerce.
While there’s no formula for success in social media marketing, here are a few attributes of a successful effort.
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My dad really knows how to tell a joke. His cadence, his timing, his facial expressions. When the punch line comes, people are rolling. Let my sister tell the same exact joke and she’ll barely earn a sympathy laugh. Sorry, Sue. You have many other fine qualities though.
Which brings me to PowerPoint presentations.
You’ve all been in meetings where the presentation material is important, relevant and interesting. Yet the mind-numbing way it’s presented, well, cue the crickets. The book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery can help change that.
The book isn’t rocket science. But it’s practical, and smart, and with every chapter you find yourself thinking 1) yes, that’s exactly how we should be doing it and 2) why didn’t we do it that way before? Things like:
Make a presentation that requires you to be there (as opposed to writing everything out then reading it aloud)
Don’t rely so much on bullets (which PowerPoint prompts you to use). Heck, you might not need bullets at all. I know, blew me away too.
Create metaphors to capture concepts and make them memorable.
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Branding lessons often come from sources outside the marketing world.
Here’s one from an interview several years ago with the Saturday Night Live comedian Darrell Hammond. You may recall that he did a brilliant impression of Al Gore. (Al Gore, the bumbling presidential candidate not the resurrected Green Saint.)
Hammond said he was struggling with the Gore impression. He was focusing on the speech pattern, the body language, the hair—but we wasn’t getting the character. He “found it” when he realized the key to Gore’s personality was that “he was a guy who tries too hard.” Tries too hard to be liked. Tries too hard to be sincere. Tries too hard to be funny.
This key insight unlocked Hammond’s brilliant creative execution.
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There was an ad campaign running here a few months ago that basically read like this:
Seafood! Coffee! Rain! We know Seattle!
No. No you don’t.
There’s nothing wrong with localizing a message if it makes sense. But if you’re going to do it, go beyond the very first link that pops up on Google. Would you run an ad in New York that talks about the Statue of Liberty? Or do a campaign in France that features a mime holding a baguette?
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