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Archive for November, 2008

Ahh, Delicious Convergence  

Ahh, Delicious Convergence

This year’s and every year’s…  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, brussel sprouts, green beans with those dried onion thingies: all working together to create unified brand impact on behalf of Thanksgiving.  God Bless Them.  And all of us.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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bluescarf2Kira and I work together and today, she sent out this story via a company wide e-mail.  It’s a lovely reminder for this and the upcoming Holiday season…

OK, so it’s not a miracle, it’s just a story.  But a true one.  It all started this morning…
I got up at 6:30 to get a headstart on housecleaning.  My whole family was flying in for the holiday, and they’d never seen my apartment and if you have a Mom, you know she checks everywhere looking for any scrap of filth you may have overlooked.
So about the time I vacuumed out the dryer lint trap, I realized “Crap!  I’m late for work.” Normally I wouldn’t be too hard on myself for this little mishap, but my first houseguests were due to meet me at the office in T minus forty-five minutes.  So I put down the vacuum and dashed off to catch the bus.
Fifteen minutes later I’m getting on the 147, feeling pretty proud of myself, when I realized I left my security card at home.  Normally I wouldn’t let this little mishap get me down. But this morning I needed it to let my sister and her husband in and out of the office…and more importantly the bathrooms.  Reluctantly I turned back to get my card.
By this time I was frustrated, cranky and hungry.  Even in the 40º wind, it got warm as I trotted the 1.3 miles back to my house. Off with my mittens, my scarf, and–wait…where was my scarf?  The one that I just bought two days ago?  The warm one that matches my new coat perfectly?  Then I spotted it, back across the four-lane road that took four minutes to cross, slumped on the sidewalk out of the path of hasty passersby.
It seemed out of harm’s way so I figured I’d grab it on my way back.  I knocked out the last two blocks to my place, grabbed my CTA card, petted my confused dog, then headed back out to retrieve my scarf and catch the bus, all before my sister arrived on the 33rd floor.
By that point, I was running, and scanning for my teal blue scarf, but it was nowhere to be found.  In the four minutes since I abandoned it, someone else had come along and claimed it.  Now I was downright mad. This morning wasn’t going as planned; I’d been robbed!
As I got in line at the bus stop, I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye.  There, huddled under the bus shelter, was my scarf…with its new owner: an old, bent-over homeless man who admired its beauty as he tied it around his neck and settled in next to his bags.
For a split second I thought about saying something to him.  Couldn’t he see how his new treasure matched my bright mittens perfectly?  But just seeing his appreciation for my scarf–something so simple and mundane–told me he was getting much more from it than I ever could.
And it struck me as I sat down on the 147 at last, that this was a little reminder sent to me this Thanksgiving to stop sweating the small stuff and give thanks for all the wonderful stuff we have in our lives.  I hope you’ll do the same.
Happy Thanksgiving!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Arthur Golden, Massachusetts/Geisha, Japan     

Arthur Golden, Massachusetts/Geisha, Japan

Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal moderated a panel at ad:tech New York at the beginning of the month featuring Sean Finnegan, President of Starcom MediaVest, Richard Guest, Managing Director of Tribal DDB New York and Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA.  The subject turned to recruiting digital talent.  Mr. Finnegan and Mr. Guest both weighed in on the side that integrating traditionally-trained agency people into their digital organizations can prove very valuable.  God bless them both…

But Mr. Bedecarre only believes in youth.  “Young people who are coming up in the industry are so naturally cross-platform savvy,” he said. “All this digital technology is human nature to young people. So I think we’ll have more luck training new people than retraining old people.”

Tom.  Tom, Tom, Tom…  I’m sure you’re a nice fella.  Maybe you contribute to the Sierra Club or take soup to shut-ins or perform some other noble service out of the goodness of your heart.  But that comment is just plain silly and short-sighted.  Creativity is creativity, and it’s best measured by the boundaries of the  imagination, not the technicalities of engineering and interfaces.

I have two words for you: “Arthur Golden.”  Remember him?  At the ripe old age of 40, this Jewish father of two from Massachusetts wrote Memoirs of a Geisha: a first-person account of a woman’s journey from a rural fishing village in depressed pre-WWII Japan into the elaborately ritualistic life of a geisha in Gion.  How’d he do something like that Tommy?  How could a white guy from America create such a compellingly vivid and believable account of someone from such a vastly alien culture?

I bet it’s because Arthur is curious, creative and driven.

Those character traits could probably make Arthur a good digital creative too.  And he’s waaaay over thirty.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Charlton Heston, Pre-NRA

Charlton Heston, 1971. Pre-NRA, Pre-Damned, Dirty Irrelevance.

At first blush, today’s post by Kendall Allen continues the faddish piling on of advertising agencies as out of touch and increasingly irrelevant.  But her piece contains more than a fair share of truth.  And ultimately, Kendall makes hopeful, positive statements about convergence and it’s availability to anyone tireless enough to “evolve during complicated times.”  

She makes a number of valid points concerning both how marketers from all disciplines can benefit from cooperation and the entrenched barriers to it.  More than anything, her characterization of the entitled attitude at ad agencies reflects the accumulated hubris returning like a tide toward traditional agency people who have long expected online and direct partners to follow our lead.  Because as we all know–or should know–traditional agencies can no longer assume that they drive the bus.  As marketing tactics grow increasingly driven by pull, engagement and experience, that attitude represents a dangerous assumption and a direct roadblock to true integration.  Ultimately, Kendall’s post is a call toward collaboration, across channels and platforms, all in service of cooperating to find solutions.

To be fair, she hardly takes any real sideswipes.  So maybe it’s not her.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe as a longtime leader at a traditional agency, I’m a touch over sensitive on this topic.  After all, I’m looking to evolve, and most (but not all) of my traditional agency is actively trying to grow as well.  

But sometimes, the world changes and ‘experience’ becomes another name for ‘habit.’  The business evolves and you gotta figure out where exactly that cheese went.  Hmm…

And maybe, just maybe, all of us traditional agencies owe an overdue ‘mea culpa’ to our friends in the disciplines rising to the fore in today’s marketing world.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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So a couple of creatives thought they would create a knowing, lightly-sarcastic bit about a stress of mommy-hood and things went horribly, desperately wrong in their creative execution.  Is it funny?  Almost, just not quite funny enough.  If it were hilarious, Mom’s less prone to righteous indignance might have weighed in and leavened out the response.  But it wasn’t, they didn’t, and now all of us must read post after post discussing how the microbloggers at Twitter brought the big heartless  pharma company to its knees.  And how consumers quickly replied by generating video content. And how the overly corporate tone of McNeil Consumer Healthcare Companies’ eventual response missed a chance at connection.  And on and on and on…

By Law I Must Reference This Incident Today

By Law I Must Reference This Incident Today

All of which misses the point entirely.  The blogosphere responses only address the symptoms; the actual sickness lies with the ill-considered idea that started everything.  I loved that “Reservoir Dogs” animated typography on YouTube too but that doesn’t mean swiping it and applying it injudiciously makes any sense.  Marketing begins and ends with ideas, but those ideas need to be clever, strategic, and relevant to the target.  On those points, this one missed.  Big.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Push?  Pull?  Or something far, far better?

Push? Pull? Or something far, far better?

In the ongoing tussle that characterizes far too many competing agency interactions, separatists on both sides make blanket statements asserting the superiority of traditional reach or digital engagement or whatever approach favors their current business model.

And everyone loses, the brands first among them.

In a converged world, marketed brands require both.  The balance may change from brand to brand due to factors like where they stand in their product lifecycle or their specific consumer demographic, but all require a carefully orchestrated pull and push.   Since ‘push/pull’ reminds me of that goofy llama from the Dr. Doolittle movie, let’s refer to the converged marketing approach as the Perpetual Motion model.  In other words, our work must flow back and forth in an endlessly interactive cycle.  You announce then you engage, or you attract then you inform; you set a lofty brand goal and then take small daily steps to bring your market along to that better, better place.

In a dynamic world, brands take on their own lives.  And as anyone who has ever cared for a child or a pet knows, living things demand perpetual motion to keep them growing healthy and safe.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

 

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The Madison Advertising Federation

The Madison Advertising Federation

 

I drove the 143 miles to Madison today through light flurries (!) to speak at a luncheon put on by the Madison Advertising Federation.  Perhaps not surprisingly, I discussed convergence and Element 79’s experiences as we, like every other marketing entity in America, struggle to master these emerging mediums.  Preparing the speech proved rather reassuring: considering how the market tags us as a TV shop, we have a number of highly successful viral and social networking programs to highlight–always a good reminder.  Yes, despite what the creative head of Akqa might contend in public panels, traditionally trained creatives can create powerful integrated programs so long as they insure their idea includes meaningful and relevant interactivity.  Do that, and you don’t have to apologize to anyone about your background.  Hell, in three years, those of us fortunate enough to still be working in this industry will look back at these times and think how quaint it was back when we made such a distinction between offline and online marketing: those are simply media, our true business is ideas.

But that’s what I walked in knowing.  I walked out knowing a number of new things, particularly after fielding questions at lunch and a subsequent breakout session…

1.  I like people from Wisconsin.  Who doesn’t like people who are honest, direct, and polite?

2.  I only spoke about video-based virals.  One woman questioned whether viral existed–or could exist–in other media as well.  When you think about it, chain letters, certain health tips and pop culture jokes could qualify as viral as well.  This is probably a better question for Paul Rand and his word-of-mouth experts at Zocalo Group (http://www.zocalogroup.com/).

3.  Everyone worries about shrinking ad budgets.  And reallocation of dollars away from their specialty.

4.  A lot of people work in business-to-business advertising and wonder how viral and digital can help their clients.  Given the specificity of the target, viral and social network solutions could be particularly powerful.  I referenced the classic story about Google (this excerpt taken from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20071101/help-wanted-meets-buy-it-now.html):  “The quintessential employer brand is Google. In 2004, the company posted obscure math problems on billboards in several major cities. Any enterprising math geek who could solve the equation was directed to Google’s hiring website. The billboards drew a lot of press attention as well as thousands of resumés.”  Speaking so selectively identifies individuals as members of a Godin-like tribe, and everyone likes to be on the inside.  Additionally, to establish themselves as a leader, doctors or lawyers could start blogging.

5.   Everyone, from agency types to designers to specialty in-house creatives, misses having media partners right down the hall.  Holding companies may have aggregate buying power, but they inadvertently destroyed knowledge centers.  Pity that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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