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Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

Perception v Reality: A Fightcard Perennial            

Perception v Reality: A Fightcard Perennial

In the marketing business, the smart money always lays down for perception.  And in today’s converging marketing business, that creates a classic brand challenge for traditional agencies: how do you enhance perception for your own company’s brand?

Last week during a TV shoot, a client announced that he had hired a ‘viral’ agency.  In his mind, they offered what we couldn’t because they specialize in viral–that’s all they do.  Further, they’re young and we’re old.

Really?  Huh…

Never mind that this viral agency’s calling card remains a nearly five year old effort that made a naughty but modest splash compared to our traditional agency’s “Ballgirl” effort that grew into the biggest viral hit of last Summer.  And really never mind that any marketer paying attention has already moved past the rather simplistic ‘views = viral’ mindset to require added dimensions and brand engagements for a deeper consumer experience beyond mere view counts.

No, in cases like these, facts don’t matter: perception does.  As it always does. Perception–even misperception–is reality.

On our already crowded agency ‘to do’ list, clearing those up just shot to the top.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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real1My agency joined a number of our fellow agencies in a pro bono effort to help a big civic undertaking.  The clients were very well intentioned: they have a worthy endeavor, a LOT of material and a LOT of ideas.  What they lacked was focus.  And time.  And a budget.  

So there we sat, hopeful believers representing eight or so local agencies, listening as the putative briefing session for what could be a dream assignment slowly revealed itself as another unrealized opportunity redolent with layers, politics, and inconsistency.  Almost as one, every creative in that room lost their initial zeal.  It reminded me of that old business adage: “Hope is not a business plan.”  Sadly, these days, in both the charity and for-profit worlds, too many business leaders seem to forget that things like focus, discipline, and proper funding–if not financially then at least in terms of timing–are essential to success.  A blank canvas may appeal to an artist, but when your art involves driving action and results, a blank canvas proves useless at best.  All in all, it was a rather dispiriting experience.

But the worst part is, we will all probably try anyway.  Dreaming is what we do.  Even if our dreams sometimes become nightmares.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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basketballhoopstockphotosmallTwo nights a week, a group of guys way past their prime play full court at the local Catholic elementary school gym.  Crowding the lane, slamming in the paint, occasionally committing acts of unlikely grace: it’s basically my version of Fight Club. And yet, two or three times tonight, we found an unusual synch with our offensive passing.   Great ball movement makes any team worth watching; it multiplies possibilities and sets up surprising scoring opportunities.  And it made me, however briefly and inopportunely, reconsider my obsession with push and pull marketing models.  Back and forth, over, around, through, across and back and forth again: the constant movement fascinated and engaged all of us, just the way you hope a symphony of multi-platform communications work for a brand.

Of course, I will still stand by the notion of a Perpetual Motion Experience instead of revising it to the Triangle Offense or something similarly basketball-centric.  Sports analogies don’t translate to every audience, and besides, when it comes to advertising sports analogies, no one can match the halcyon achievement of Bob Merlotti’s guest editorial in the October 22 issue of Adweek.  Genius.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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the Viral Hit of Summer '08

In what turned out to be our swansong on Gatorade, our agency created the biggest viral hit of the Summer with “Ballgirl.”  An Ad Age writer called to talk about it today and like most industry journalists covering viral, he steered the questions towards the issue of transparency.  Sure, not identifying “Ballgirl” as a Gatorade ad was benign, but is there a line not to cross with such ‘stealth’ videos?  Must you always announce yourself when creating web videos for clients?  How about working the comments and message boards–if you do that without disclosure are you within ethical boundaries?

All interesting questions but to me, they are all off point.  The fundamental issue boils down to governance: as of now, TV has it and the web doesn’t.  Clients can act in whatever way they choose on the web, unlike television where the FCC sets standards, enforces censorship and demands all claims be thoroughly substantiated (though somehow Enzyte and it’s execrable spokesperson ‘Smilin’ Bob’ got past them for a year or so).  The web is not paid media like television nor is it burdened with television’s standards, which must make network executives more than a little peevish.

Which is why I think we all better enjoy this unbridled freedom now because like it or not, legislation will be coming to the web.  This past February, the European Union enacted legislation that levies heavy fines on any advertiser that creates content for the web without identifying themselves.  With this much money involved in the fight over ever-shrinking media spends, its only a matter of time before the US follows suit.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The Winds Of Change Are Blowing

The Winds of Change Are A-Blowin'

That’s the challenge facing classic advertising agencies: we are generalists in a time of specialists.  More and more over the past three years, clients have turned to consultants and specialty agencies for strategy, insights, and creative ideas, undercutting what had been the traditional  province of advertising agencies.  And so now, we basically have three options to address this situation: 1. watch our portion of the marketing investment continue to shrink, 2. hire specialists in various non-traditional disciplines and broaden our agency offerings, and 3. reinvent what we do and how we do it, including staffing and compensation.

All three options are valid, but all three options also share one common theme: change.  It is necessary.  And coming.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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logoA feature on ShootOnline describing how GSP won both Agency of the Year and Top Interactive Shop accolades for 2008 quotes an internal memo: “This was the year we decided we should no longer be an advertising agency.  In fact, no one should be an advertising agency.  They just don’t know it yet.  Instead, it turned out we should be something that leads our clients to create and embody popular culture in the world at this point in time.  Something that puts them into mainstream media well beyond advertising.”

Given it was an internal memo, let’s overlook the arrogance of the ‘they just don’t know it yet’ comment because the rest of the statement outlines a bold vision, even if it is left open-ended.  How exciting to think you will leave ads behind and enter the culture to redefine yourself as, well, something.  As a something, GSP certainly is an amazing something.  They have developed a singular style for massive, cross-platform projects that is both technically impressive and imaginatively ambitious.  This innovation springs from their thorough embrace of true interactivity.  So what can that teach the rest of us?

Primarily, we simply must create cultures of innovation.  We need to embrace the ongoing need for change and improvement, for redirection and reinvention.

We should innovate our creative staff mix.  Bernbach teamed art directors and writers back in ’47 and we haven’t changed since.  At the least, we should introduce interactive experts into that equation: user experience experts, flash designers, information architects.  But how much more interesting would it be to bring in radio station programmers, rock critics, magazine editors, game and packaging designers, performance artists and improv comics?  It might not always work, but we’d at least get better stories.

We should innovate media planning.  With today’s hugely splintered audiences, there’s real opportunity in creating bespoke brand networks across unrelated platforms.  The instruments in the media mix have never been more diverse; it’s time for new sounds, new experiments with how and where we hear brand voices.

Finally–and this is perhaps the biggest example Goodby sets–we need to innovate the reach of our assignments.  A client may want an ad, but it would be so much cooler to expand that assumption and deliver a movement, a force for social change or a platform for real commentary and engagement.  ‘Enter the mainstream media’ indeed…

A friend of mine who sold a successful Chicago business and moved to New York to start an entirely new successful business recently told me “That old ‘if you can make it here you’ll make it anywhere’ bit really should apply to Chicago because it’s harder there.  New York and the West Coast want innovation; Chicago resists it.”

It’s an interesting if debatable point, but ultimately, it is no excuse for a stumbling Chicago ad scene.  Because innovation doesn’t begin with clients.

It begins with us.

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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