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Posts Tagged ‘Advertising Age’

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of American jurists has been reducing our vivid national tongue into an indecipherable mind-numbing wall of impenetrable boilerplate.  Which is a form of job-protection I guess but otherwise adds precious little in the way of common clarity and understanding.

A Question Regarding The Cloud

A Question Regarding The Cloud

I’ve been thinking about that ever since the improbably-named Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sent out a change of policy email to all account holders last week.  Given that it was couched in dense legalese, neither me nor you nor the overwhelming majority of account holders bothered to hack their way through that thicket of legal mumbo-jumbo detailing something as seemingly innocuous as a policy change.  So we don’t really know what we agreed to.

But happily, out amidst the vast resources of curious active minds brought together on the web, a few smart people have.  I am particularly grateful for this wonderfully-clarifying analysis and editorial from Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age.  It’s well worth a read.

Dumenco points out how amidst all the details and ‘whereby’s’, Stone buries the small but not insignificant fact that Twitter reserves the right to all of the content you generate on their service.  That’s right: ALL the content.

Those one-liners you send out everyday?  They’re yours, but Twitter can put them into a joke book and not owe you a penny.  That news you saw happening and described from your unique POV?  Twitter can aggregate it and sell it to any of the major news wires.  That novel you’ve been tweeting?  Those lyrics you’ve been half-crowdsourcing?  That witty bon mot about a current event?  Twitter owns them as much as you do, and can profit on them or resell them or license them to whomever they darn well please.

To most of us, the use of this service and the simple fact that we’re not likely to toss off too many intellectual pearls within 140 characters makes this a fair trade.  And given the sheer dunning weight of meaningless prattle on the service, that is not necessarily a reckless position.  It’s a stretch to consider “Man I need coffee” as Intellectual Property, let alone IP worth protecting.

Still, Twitter’s value lies in aggregation.  In aggregation of opinion, in aggregation of highly-defined target markets and perhaps soon, in aggregation of bite-sized content around themes or lifestyles or specific events.  Would anyone ever want to order a copy of The Twitter Guide To Exceptional Birthday Wishes from Amazon?

If it would come out and you did buy it, you might even find your ideas in it.  Whether you’d be credited, well, there are no guarantees about that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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In this week’s Advertising Age, Chris Perry–the senior guy in Weber Shandwick’s digital practice–wrote an article placing the major ‘blame’ for social media’s under-performance squarely at the feet of the ‘dated agency model.’  Because social media is so new and so revolutionary, traditional agencies and their clumsy attempts to mainstream it into existing profit structures fail to use this medium to anywhere near it’s full potential.  In short, we’re all doing it wrong.

Art by Steve Lambert, http://visitsteve.com/

Art by Steve Lambert, http://visitsteve.com/

Oh please.  This kind of hand-wringing, model-bashing argument is getting truly tiresome; it’s too much “I told you so” that doesn’t tell much of anything. We’re slapped in the face with the promise of it even though no one has yet to deliver any profits from it.  Garrett’s Popcorn is tweeting now? Okay, I’ll remember that next time I feel compelled to talk to a tin of caramel/cheese popcorn.  Dell’s much ballyhooed two million dollars worth of @delloutlet Twitter sales?  That’s less than one hundredth of a percent of their annual sales.  NBC CEO Jeff Zucker said it best: “Our challenge with all these new-media ventures is to effectively monetize them so that we do not end up trading analog dollars for digital pennies.”  Indeed.  This is, after all, a business.

But all of this is quibbling; fundamentally, Mr. Perry’s argument is flawed because Mr. Perry assumes there is such a thing as Social “Media.”  I disagree.

Social media doesn’t yet live up to the hype because social ‘media’–as agencies and advertisers define ‘media’–simply doesn’t exist.

Call me a copywriter, but words matter.  “Social Media” is an ill-considered term for advertisers.  As an important cultural phenomenon, slapping the label “media” on it creates the impression that clients must put messages there and that’s simply not true.  The explosive expansion and proliferation of social networks is nothing short of a communications revolution, but that doesn’t make them a marketing medium…or any sort of “media” whatsoever.  When my sister friends her long lost high school bandmate on Facebook, she doesn’t consider it an advertising platform–Facebook is simply a way to connect and communicate.  It is SOCIAL first and foremost; it is absolutely not “Media” by any traditional industry definition.  This simple reality drives headlines like this from today’s Online Media Daily: “More Women Using Social Networks, But Brands Not Benefitting.”  The whole conceit of ‘Social Media’ is a sociologist’s invention–using it in reference to marketing unnecessarily confuses the issue.  With the notable exception of Word of Mouth PR outreach, social networks provide an extremely limited forum for selling and driving profit.

Do social networks matter?  Very much so.  Should agencies be focused on them?  They better be.  At Element 79, we believe every one of our clients should be deeply involved in social networks–less as a selling platform and more as a deep, rich, real-time glimpse into consumer sentiment about their brands and categories.  Social networks present an unprecedented platform for real time research that savvy planners can mine for opinion gathering and monitoring. 

In these times when brands are opinions and opinion enjoys a vast media channel independent of the paid media that spurs and sparks consumer conversations, we must start creating metrics around social network conversations as another measure of our communications’ success in market.  Internally, this lays a new groundwork for planner responsibilities: first mining social networks for consumer insights and relevance and later assessing the results of our efforts.  Did our ideas enter the conversations?  Were our strategies compelling, our executions memorable, our messages relevant and persuasive?  That’s all measurable with the vast data engine that is the web.

These new platforms are social networks; rich and vibrant communication ecosystems that advertisers should strive to protect and foster.  Social media however, remains a pipe dream, an ill-considered fool’s errand where marketing messages flounder amidst a social setting that so far, is neither welcoming nor profitable.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Earlier this week, Advertising Age posted a story about the Kellogg Co. consolidating its agency roster from thirty down to five.  As anyone who has lived through this nail-biting process well understands, a lot of agency people will be losing a lot of sleep for the duration of this process.

The comments regarding this story decry ad agencies for everything from pushing a dated creative model to displaying a crippling lack of differentiation to cowing to the commodity-creating evils of empowered procurement departments.  Yet none of them mention a part of those six terse paragraphs that comprise the story which set my teeth on edge.  Apparently, a “tight-lipped” Kellogg spokeswoman e-mailed this in response to an interview request: “On an ongoing basis, we have discussions across the broad remit of our partnerships regarding maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of our operations and efforts…  Those ongoing conversations are confidential.”

Time To Head Back.  Again.

Time To Head Back. Again.

For crying out loud, that overwrought tripe was put out by a spokesman?  That’s not communication, that’s robotic oration.  In one compound sentence, she manages to choke the communicative potential out of twenty-five words.  Legally-sanitized whitewash like this treats communication like a commodity; devoid of color, intonation and differentiating clarity.  I would have preferred that she write “Lorem ipsum dolor…”; it would have at least communicated her corporate obfuscation more colorfully.  And ‘remit’?  Come on…  To my wife’s ongoing embarrassment, I’ve read “It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power” in The Reader’s Digest for over thirty-five years, yet never once have I been tempted to reach for the word ‘remit’ let alone the more hysterically-florid ‘broad remit.’

Worse, it’s the wrong usage.  ‘Remit’ is most commonly used as a verb; as a noun it refers to a legal process of transferring records from one court to another.  So while Kellogg currently enjoys a ‘broad roster’ or a ‘broad aggregation’ or even a ‘broad assemblage’ if you feel compelled to get all fancy-pants, their thirty agencies do not comprise a ‘remit’ broad or otherwise.

But I bet they have plenty of people who could make a more compelling spokesperson…

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In his post on Advertising Age’s Small Agency Diary, Marc Brownstein offers some thinking on ‘free media’ and whether or not it poses a threat to advertising and media agencies.  Despite the soaring popularity of social media, do brand efforts in these media advance the strategy and differentiate the product?  Can a fanpage create enough attraction on its own without an introduction via a TV commercial?  Is the platform even viable for self-promoting sales messages?

What?  All You Got Is A Hammer?

What? All You Got Is A Hammer?

In the end, Marc gently and tactfully demurs, his answer boiling down to “possibly, kinda, but not really…’  I’ll be more direct; absolutely not.  There is simply no way ‘free media’ will usurp paid media. First of all, the entire notion that there are ‘free media’ is flawed.  The placement of brand messages within social networks may not have an associated cost the way a spot does, but the time required to create bespoke responses to each individual inquiry/complaint/compliment/request for more information can be staggering.  For most companies, the current means of working social media amounts to little more than a new take on the old department store complaint office; you create a human face for the brand that allows people to talk and engage directly and conveniently.  But that requires staffing.  And man hours.  And training.  None of which come free.  I far prefer the title ‘earned media’–and savvy companies that commit to that investment are very likely to earn meaningful media placements in this emerging space, if for no other reason than there efforts will be have a strategic foundation.

Second, advocates love to trot out a few high profile examples of success in these arenas to demonstrate the emerging power of social media.  While a few efforts merit our attention, even those require a bit more sober assessment.  Yes, @DellOutlet is a notable success story for social media with it’s Twitter-exclusive offers and 600,000+ followers.  Its growth has been phenomenal, earning two million in annual sales in less than two years.  All of which is remarkable.  But it’s chicken scratch compared to the company’s total 2008 revenues of $61 billion.  Twitter sales represent maybe .003% of total Dell revenues, which makes me think it’s a bit premature to toss aside the traditional media powered sales channels and throw everything into free media.

And lastly, do consumers really welcome brands as active participants in these spaces?  They are, after all, social networks; the ‘social’ notion comes first and foremost.  Some brands can navigate this challenge, offering enough interesting content to keep people engaged, but that requires consistent, steady effort to insure your exchanges mesh with the brand’s strategic voice.  Treating social media as a separate silo will inevitably create dissonance between brand messages.

I believe every brand should engage with social media because brands are opinions and social networks let marketers assess ever-shifting consumer opinions of their brands in real time basis. Since social networking provides opinion with a powerful mass channel, marketers must take steps to actively influence brand opinion in that channel.  This is why we see such powerful convergence in the form of advertising and word-of-mouth.

If you truly want to integrate your messages, you can never rely on simply one tool.  You need to use you entire toolbox in thoughtful, strategic concert to build a truly great brand.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Picture 2This week’s cover headline on Advertising Age reads “Cannes swept by PR, integrated, internet winners” with the subhead “Tally suggests ad age is over–or, at least, it’s evolved to higher plain.”  Setting aside my issue with the subhead’s overuse of commas, this still reads like a textbook example of a classic journalistic mistake: burying your lead.

The headline should emphasize that advertising is “evolving to a higher plain,” instead of continuing to forward the whiny, helpless hand-wringing that’s become endemic to our industry (“it’s over–everything we’ve ever known is now wrong!”).  Yes, social networks are a critical platform that our industry needs to address.  Yes, the media landscape has changed radically.  And yes–most critically from my perspective–advertising alone is not enough anymore.

But here’s the thing: it never was.  For advertising to really work, it has always needed a great product or service, attractive design, and engaging street and retail programs.  But somehow, the simple fact that the advertising environment has become exponentially more complicated over this past decade has led some people–including apparently, the editors of Ad Age–to subjectively dismiss the foundation of our industry: generating creative messaging in paid media.  And that fries my bacon, that salts my shorts, that makes me pigbiting mad…

Because here’s a newsflash: advertising works.

Please read that sentence again.  Better still, let’s read it aloud together, shall we?  Advertising works.

Television?  Still works.  In fact, that audience is bigger than ever.  Radio?  Still works: we may court disaster by texting in our cars but all that commuting time is still filled by AM/FM radio.  And print?  It may be changing radically, but answer this question: would you rather have your name mentioned in the online version of the New York Times or the actual paper?

It’s time our industry corrects itself from this odd fever of self-loathing.  Because the facts don’t support all the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  In the June 22 issue of Adweek, Mark Dolliver wrote a story unfortunately relegated to a short item on the Adweek Media page.  In it, he cites an Adweek Media/Harris Poll recently fielded that concludes that yes, indeed, people are still swayed by ads.

Is advertising alone enough?  Of course not.

The real innovation our industry needs is the strategic melding of creative messages distributed through a coordination of both paid and earned media.

It’s not one.  It’s not the other.  It’s both.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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