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Posts Tagged ‘Convergence’

This morning, an article in Advertising Age landed in my e-mail no less than four times before 9am.  Mike Wolfsohn, the Executive Creative Director of Ignited wrote a strong blog post on his agency’s site outlining his frustration with the Zappo’s RFP process.  He describes how Ignited analyzed the actual time spent with this potential client’s review of their comprehensive response and took issue that it amounted to only five page views averaging fourteen seconds each.Picture 3

The key issue amounts to the trackability of interaction, which Mike understandably views as cursory.  Given Zappo’s hard-earned reputation for outstanding customer service, he believes their consideration to be woefully inadequate.  In Zappo’s defense, they opened up this review to what essentially amounts to agency crowdsourcing. and given their desirability as an attractive roster client, they underestimated the overwhelming response they would receive.  By Brandweek’s estimation, more than 104 agencies responded to their very detailed RFP and the sheer volume of material that reached their small marketing department could probably fill a wing of the Library of Congress.  As it turns out, that estimation was low: in his thoughtful response to Mike’s post, Zappo’s head of Business Development Aaron Magness cited the number of actual respondents as 170.

As someone who has some experience with crowdsourcing, one of the biggest negatives about getting all that freely generated material is the respondents’ need for feedback, which can all too quickly bury the organization behind the effort.  Anyone who gives a brand their time and thinking rightly expects some sort of response for their efforts and when they actually do get it, the work improves substantially.  But it is a very tall order to respond to every submission with meaningful and focussed feedback.  If you’ve ever lived through an all agency creative gangbang, you know the problems.

The simple fact is that our society has recently and powerfully evolved to embrace a Web 2.0 empowered two-way marketplace.  We expect to give and get feedback.  When the demand for that feedback grows too large, the sheer manpower demands to answer chokes most organizations.  This is not simply a Zappo’s issue; this will be a growing issue for all marketers and one that will demand we evolve our organizational structures to answer.  The real convergence today is the rapidly colliding worlds of advertising and word-of-mouth PR outreach.  Marketing organizations need to create mechanisms not just to send messages out, but to prepare for meaningful, ongoing consumer dialogue and engagement.

The outcome of this particular situation remains to be seen.  But as one of the agencies who responded, I want to wish Zappo’s good luck with this challenge.  Of course, I would also be more than happy if anyone there wants to call me for advice.  Element 79 loves that brand.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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Picture 5I let our dog out into the backyard last night and twenty minutes later, the unmistakable smell of skunk barged in through the windows and doors and seemingly the walls themselves.  If you’ve never smelled a skunk, it can only be described as a three dimensional odor of hammering disgust: intense, intolerable and inescapable.  The large-hearted among us may be inclined to excuse the skunk since its low status on the food chain bestows such a nauseating means of self-defense, but no one with even modest olfactory capabilities can–the stink is just too strong.  And so I spent three hours staining Jack’s bounteous ruff with tomato juice, trying to cut the stench from horrific to merely awful.  In the end, Jack still had to spend the night outside, his hangdog expression clearly communicating that this excretion offended even his adventurous nose.

When you get hit by a skunk, you have to act immediately to clean up and then…wait. There’s not a lot you can do other than try to address the issue as best you can and then…endure.  More than anything else, time diminishes the odor.

Dominos got hit by a skunk a few weeks back in the form of two bonehead employees with a video camera.  Their CEO went on YouTube reasonably quickly, showed his disgust and disdain, and then…waited.  And despite how those disgusting images sear into the synapses, time helps the image fade, particularly once you realize this was a rogue act of a skunk.  Our home state got hit by a skunk in the form of Rod “Pay to Play” Blagojevich.  Actually, Illinois has a history of living in a cloud of stench from skunks that go by the title of ‘governor’ or ‘senator.’  Someone like Michael Vick didn’t get hit by a skunk, he was the skunk for the Atlanta Falcons, and they too had to scramble to determine a response that would be strong enough, before stepping back and waiting it out.

When brands are opinions and opinions enjoy the mass distribution channels of social networks, the once separate worlds of advertising and public relations. must converge.  And nothing makes that more obvious than those unfortunate moments when you’re sprayed by a skunk.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Actually, That's Not A Rhetorical Question

Actually, That's Not A Rhetorical Question

 

In a marketplace awash with product offerings, product extensions, and product parity, brands today must know exactly what they are and how they add value for consumers. Until brands recognize precisely where their most valued strengths lie, they can’t determine their mission.  And these days, a brand without a mission is a short term investment (Pat Boone’s metal album anyone?).

This may seem incredibly basic, but it’s not. Today’s world changes with dizzying speed, forcing brands to respond quickly and intelligently, and that’s an inordinately difficult task.  Frankly, most brands are not prepared to constructively and objectively criticize themselves.  

Back in the early 80’s, a few years after long-reigning metal pioneers Led Zeppelin broke up, their lead singer Robert Plant began the first of his post Zeppelin musical projects. Understandably anxious to be starting over after years of multi-platinum success, he spoke of being lost and fumbling for his identity now that drummer John Bonham was dead and he was no longer playing with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. But he related how a friend clarified everything for him by saying “Robert–you’ve always been more of a blues singer than a rock singer.”  That simple definition helped him launch a vibrant post-Zeppelin career that includes solo work, the Honeydrippers, Afro Celt Sound System and most recently, collaborations with bluegrass star Alison Krauss.

At Element 79, we were forced to learn a bit about self definition ourselves.  For years we were simply ‘the Gatorade agency’ but a new Pepsi regime hellbent on massive change pulled that and all of their other accounts from us a little over year ago.  That one stunning move cost us our easy identity and yet it ultimately gave us the necessary impetus to step back, reassess, and define what we truly are, what we can offer potential clients, and how we can continue to bring value in a changing marketplace.

We have a long, proud legacy of excellence in television creativity and production ( stuff like this, this, and the second one here).  And while some reactionary Chicken Little’s may believe television is dead, we recognize it’s merely diversified.  Telling a story with moving pictures happens on PC’s and cell phones, in games, virals, and user generated content.  So we remain committed to that strength, but have intentionally evolved with a mind to develop new capabilities in idea centricity and platform agnosticism.  We have forced creative convergence with an intensity we never would have had we not faced this disruptive loss.  And in many ways, we are stronger for it.

We still face the challenges of the recession, but we already began addressing them a year ago when all that business walked out the door.  As odd as it sounds, we actually had a head start which gives us a leg up in addressing these challenges.

Because today, more than any time in our seven year history, we know who we are, what we offer, and what our mission must be: to help define and then advance our clients’ missions.

And that’s a pretty cool job.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Advertising awards work an awful lot like brand reputation ads for agencies. In the best case, they draw attention to creative accomplishments, reinforcing and creating regard for an agency’s product.  At worst, they fail to engage any sort of relevant target market and merely serve as an expensive exercise in self-congratulation.  Of course, most fall somewhere in the muddled middle, much like most brand reputation advertising on television, garnering some attention but not nearly as much among the right kind of people as an agency might hope.

Apparently, E79 Got Authorization from the One Show

Apparently, E79 Got Authorization from the One Show

Over the past three weeks, Element 79 has enjoyed a very nice run among the major shows, winning an Interactive Silver Pencil from the One Show for our Tostitos web work, a Silver Addy for a Tiger Woods’ online game we developed for his Gatorade line, and a series of Silvers and Bronze awards at the New York Festivals as well, all for our digital work.  

To us, this is a validation of sorts.  Awards from more discriminating shows like these help drive home how we have worked digital convergence here at Element 79, moving beyond our reputation for television creative to demonstrate integrated creative thinking and execution across multiple platforms.  We are very proud of that.

But the truth is, awards shows alone make for a woefully incomplete media buy when you want to influence hearts and minds within the industry. Advertising our agency demands a much more coordinated effort emphasizing digital and word of mouth.  We need the right people to understand who we are and what we can do, and those people probably do not subscribe to awards show mailing lists.  They do however, trust their friends’ opinions, notice interesting work as they surf the web or cable and read trade stories about new business wins.  Those are channels we must work if we want to avoid becoming the proverbial cobbler who shoes the village yet lets his own children run barefoot.  In a world as fragmented and distracted as ours, no advertiser can rely on any one specific medium to carry their message and incite interaction among their most valuable customers, not even ad agencies.

Not even ad agencies with a gleaming new shelfload of shiny new objects.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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I’ve read and heard hundreds of definitions of brands over the years and while many of them are compelling in one way or another, most of them get bogged down in intellectualism.  To me, the definition is simple: brands are opinions.  

Of course, thinking of your brand as a collective opinion of your market reveals the classic notion of brand management as a rather hollow conceit.  Today’s socially-networked, highly-viral world enables the exchange of opinions with unprecedented reach and speed, thus the idea of ‘management’ overpromises; a more precise word would be ‘advocacy.’

How You Feel About a Brand = The Brand

How You Feel About a Brand = The Brand

Further, the Web 2.0 revolution means we no longer control every brand conversation.  To be truly effective today, we must move beyond the static concept of reporting structure management to a more nimble, balls-of-your-feet stance. Protecting and advancing consumers’ often quicksilver opinions demands we stay highly aware, consistently focused, and quickly responsive.

When I first started this blog, the convergence of digital and traditional advertising seemed critical to this changing industry.  Yet despite all the jawing and posturing, that is currently well underway; digital agencies are hiring traditional agency people and digital people are increasingly mainstreamed within traditional agencies.

Nevertheless, convergence remains the central issue, but it is increasingly the convergence of advertising and public relations.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Not Exactly the Wisdom of Crowds           

Not Exactly the ‘Wisdom’ of Crowds

If you go to Flickr and type in the phrase “Holding Up the Tower of Pisa”, you will get 324 results, all featuring tourists documenting themselves as they interpret this classic comedy meme of flawed Italian architecture optical illusion photography.

There is nothing original about this gag, and yet, like the compulsion that drives Pacific salmon to swim hundreds of miles to return to their birthplaces and spawn, thousands of tourists can no more leave the Pisa area without documenting themselves in this act then they could visit Kiev and not order the chicken.

As advertising adapts to the realities not only of convergence, but also the creative democracy of mass amateurization ushered in by today’s wonderfully accessible digital photography, video editing, audio mixing, and desktop publishing tools, one fundamental truth becomes absolutely inescapable: the best idea wins.

Despite budgets, despite production values, despite credentials and titles, in the final measure, the best idea wins.  Most times, that won’t be an amateur’s idea.  But if you spend anytime surfing the net, and you see things like this, this, and this, you can’t deny that a good idea can come from anywhere.  And does, just often enough, to create a vague sense of doubt among some clients about whether or not they should buy a concept…or wait around and hope for something better.  From someone.  Anyone…

It’s a major frustration of the business.  But the only way around it is to have the best ideas.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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We Like To Watch...

We Like To Watch...

Yesterday was Day Two of the Advertising Age Digital Conference in New York City and the person whose presentation generated tweets that really caught my attention was Jen Walsh, Global Director of Digital Media for GE. Among the dozens of topics she covered, the ones that stuck out to me–at least among the posted tweets that our own Stephen Riley culled–were how GE’s data proves that online video-based ads telling their story generate interaction rates that are off the charts.  Further, among online ad formats, GE found their sweet spot when they used video to tell larger stories in a 300 by 250 unit (the one that most approximates television’s 4:3 video ratio).  It was such a strong performer that ultimately, they dumped all other units in favor of this one.  Finally, when it comes to online video, Ms. Walsh believes that to get a true sense of that unit’s value, you must look beyond mere click-through rates and consider time spent and qualitative tracking of control vs. exposed audiences. 

Many organizations champion online video and it’s ability to present a more dimensionalized brand message to highly-targeted audiences.  And I agree.  With the technological innovations in cable television, even offline video advertising soon plans to offer targeting down to the individual set box level.  When this happens, advertisers will no longer buy time slots, but demographics.

Aside from the practical challenges of hyper personalization and fragmentation, this is good news for those of us who earned our stripes on creative video production.  Telling a compelling, engaging story with video remains one of the most primal and powerful communication mediums today, even if the various technologies and formats have evolved.  Increasingly, we must tell those stories on two screens–HDTV and internet video.  Soon, that list will expand to three, as the mobilenet delivers ever better video content.

All of which demonstrates once again how our business has changed.  Yet convergence simply demands that we learn to adapt our video-based stories in a manner that respects the idiosyncracies of the various platforms.

Because ultimately, digital and mobile are merely regional dialects–they are not entirely new languages.  Creative people still need to lead with ideas.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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