Posts Tagged ‘Digital’

Guest Blogger: Tom NapperPicture 2

Tom Napper is our Director of Digital at Element 79, but that hardly describes his real mission; what Tom does better than anyone in his field is drive convergence in constant practical ways.  For years, agencies wrestled with the best way to integrate online expertise into traditional creative development.  Instead of theory, Tom does that everyday through immersion and a calming understanding that, in the end, all that really matters in digital or any medium is the power of ideas.  Our recent awards for interactive creative at the Addy’s, D&AD, and New York Festivals all bear Tom’s influence.  For the past fifteen years, starting at Accenture and then on to Chemistri, Burnett and WhittmanHart, Tom has strengthened brands’ relationship with their customers in the digital marketing space, from Harley-Davidson and their owner/travellers to the KISS nation and the band.  With experience on everything from Secret to the US Army, Adidas, Quaker and Gatorade, Tom connects people, brands and minds.  Our agency deeply appreciates his willingness to commute down from Milwaukee, bringing us his insights and experience across the Cheddar Curtain…

Say what you want about what we do but I think it is magic. We take everyday things and do something remarkable with them. Our creative invokes a sense of wonder or curiosity: “What the heck was that?”

As a geeky kid in Connecticut, I was an amateur magician. I was paid so I guess I was a pro but that would put me in the league with Houdini and I was nowhere near that.

One of my best tricks was the coin-in-the-matchbox trick. Maybe everyone knows how this is done, but back when I was doing the cocktail party/birthday party circuit, it amazed even the most skeptical person. I would ask for a coin, telling the audience member they could mark it however they wanted. I remember one time a guy spent ten minutes marking his coin. When the guy was done marking it, I dropped the coin into my left hand pocket and pulled out of my right hand pocket a match box. You know, the big cardboard ones that have a bunch of matches in them. The box was secured with a bunch of rubber bands. I handed the matchbox to the guy (or anybody) to open up. What they found inside was not the coin but a series of five increasingly smaller matchboxes that were bound with rubber bands. The final box was about 2×3 and covered in rubber bands. Inside that box was a pouch that was secured at the top with another rubber band like a very tiny money bag.  Inside that pouch was the coin.  It freaked people out.

What was so great about this trick was that it used props that everyone had seen before. I let them handle every part of the trick. They could inspect the rubber bands, the boxes, the pouch, the coin. As I made more money doing magic, I tried buying fancier tricks from magic shops, but those tricks looked like tricks and people weren’t as satisfied. They liked my tricks that used everyday things, like their stocking caps to pull a bird out of or stuff like that.

MagicOkay, so what does this have to do with advertising? See I got into this field because I liked making something really cool, things that surprised people. The internet really helped with that. People logged into their computers and holy smokes; there was AT&T with a castle and a frog at their front door.

Our clients want magic to happen constantly. They want that magic moment where eyeballs turn to their table. If our clients were out there standing in the grocery store trying to get someone to buy their product, you bet they’d want a magician. That’s who we are. We take everyday objects or intersections or actions and surprise people. Sometimes we literally surprise them and they are surprised by how we’ve made them feel. We usually do this not by some fancy trick but by using things people know and relate to.

Working in the digital space, I’m constantly asked about the latest thing and how we can use it and what is it all about. In those conversations, what people really want to know is how is everyone else using it?  Until we know that…well, it is hard to find out what the surprise will be and how to create the magic.

One of the things I learned by being a magician was that it isn’t the fancy stuff that made you good, it was what you did with the normal stuff. We fall down when we start turning to the magic stores to supply our tricks. The trick or the surprise isn’t in the things that people haven’t seen before, it is in the cool ways we make the things everyone has seen before act. Everybody is talking about convergence and to my way of thinking, that is just about opening up and looking around. Digital is a space were we all can play. The best minds making creative in TV, print and radio can make really great creative in digital.

The digital space allows us to surprise and freak people out on so many levels because its reach is so great. What is freaky about Twitter today will be old news in about two months. But how the crazy creatives use Twitter to freak us out?  That has no time frame.

The digital space allows us so much flexibility because it is so fluid. What is out of reach today will be normal after you turn the page on your Kindle. And that is just so cool, right?  It can be frustrating to feel the sand moving under your toes, but the next wave is coming for you to body surf into shore. Paying attention and listening is what the best folks in the digital space are doing.

So what I love about this magical thing called advertising is that I can surprise you by pulling a lion out of my hat today, but tomorrow, through the magic of internet, I can make a lion eat your tweet.

Well, not really.  Not yet.  But wouldn’t that freak you out?

by Tom Napper, Element 79

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Guest Blogger: Tim Mauery

Picture 1

Until a few weeks ago, Tim Mauery was a Senior Partner and Director of Planning at JWT Chicago, but his career in advertising has taken him through a number of shops and more remarkably, a broad variety of disciplines.  After graduating from Medill, he began his career at Backer & Spielvogel as a copywriter, creating spots 1-257 of the Dave Thomas campaign for Wendy’s. He then moved to the account side with Ammirati & Puris, helping craft the strategy that led to the “Priceless” campaign.  Eventually, he moved on into business development with JWT, over to integrated and digital development at Euro RSCG and then back to lead planning at JWT before ultimately helping shut off the lights at that legendary shop.  Currently between gigs, Tim’s active curiosity and deep knowledge and experience in advertising keeps him lecturing at Northwestern, Kansas and Oberlin College, not to mention coordinating his three daughters’ active calendars in Park Ridge.  Speaking from personal experience, Tim’s also simply a damn fine fellow.

Due to the bizarre closing of JWT Chicago (fodder for another guest entry someday), I have recently been pounding lots of pavement in these economically challenging times.

Let me state the obvious:  “wow, things are different out there.” 

It’s been five years since I interviewed for a job, and those five years have bred mucho change.  Some more obviousness (is that a word?): the economy is a mess, particularly for advertising folks.  And yes, the new world of media – and the confusion around who does what – has left agencies scratching their heads while scrambling.  But it’s quite apparent to me that the intersection of those two factors will change the agency business forever – even after the economy recovers, and new media (whatever that is this week) is no longer new.

Each and every agency I have chatted with– from lumbering behemoths to scrappy start-ups — is trying to figure out how to make money in the face of rising client demands and lower revenue.  Not only has the economy caused clients to cut fees, the explosion of new media outlets has introduced said clients to new kinds of agencies – agencies that charge less and work on faster timelines.  These client-types wonder why they pay so much, and wait so long, for the work being done by “traditional” shops.  As a result, they are either re-assigning work to “cheaper faster” shops, or lowering their fees for work done by mainline agencies.

Now, this isn’t fair.  Because we all know that the traditional shops do lots of heavy strategic and creative lifting – from brand positioning to broad creative platforms, and everything in-between.  Without that strategic and creative acuity, the other agencies wouldn’t be able to perform so quickly or cheaply.  But life isn’t fair; the world is changing and agencies need to change as well.

Speed To Smarts

It seems to me that what these agencies need can be summed up with the notion “speed to smarts.”  Mainline agencies cannot give up being the smartest; they just have to do it more quickly.  When they are smarter faster, they will realize a higher margin.  And each time they’re the smartest fastest, they’ll get another chance to make a high margin, since clients will reward them with more work.  How are agencies going to get smarter faster?  Who knows, but I do know that those who get there first will win.

What does this mean to agency folk?  The ones who succeed will adopt an “impact mentality.”  They’ll actively seek to make a quicker difference; to see results faster.  They won’t just “work on” an account or “work for” an agency –nor will they float from meeting to meeting or project to project.  They will channel their energy, their restlessness, and their passion into making things happen.  And they certainly won’t be bound by the walls of their job description or their department; they’ll have the ability to play wherever, and whenever needed.  And at the end of the day, each and every day, they will be able to say to themselves, “this is what I made happen today”.

Smarter/Faster – first one in, wins.

By Tim Mauery, Planning Business Develoment, Kantor Wassink   

PS:  As of July 20, Tim began working with KantorWassink.  Proof again that talent never stays on the sidelines for long.  Bully Tim and good move KantorWassink.

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Today felt markedly different at the agency.  We have something of a hot streak going lately, selling big ideas and innovative programs, particularly to clients that once resisted them.  For the first time in quite a while, the department is stretched very, very thin with people juggling assignments and deadlines.  A large portion of our creatives will work this weekend to keep up with the demand.  Better still, this work encompasses gaming, rich media banners, television, content, events, social media, radio, wild postings, couponing and probably another half dozen platforms that escape me now. 

"Unknown Caller" U2  No Line On the Horizon

"Unknown Caller" U2, No Line On the Horizon

But even as this sudden burst of reinvention elated me, it made me wonder: what changed?  What spurred this flurry of creative innovation?

And then it hit me: since losing the Pepsi brands, almost everyone that joined Element 79 when we bought a small digital company named Tractiv has left.  And that’s made all the difference.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t say this because those people were awful—–hardly.  To this day, I miss some of them terribly.  But that failed experience proved that buying digital specialists and expecting them to drive integration works about as well as hiring a surgical team and expecting them to run a wellness program. Much like surgeons love operating, digital specialists love doing digital work.  They couldn’t drive integration because they weren’t motivated by integration.  So they kept a separate name, separate e-mails and a separate unit within the agency.  In hindsight, the signs were obvious: just buying a digital company didn’t work for us.  I doubt it works for other agencies either.

That said, some of our best creatives today do boast strong digital backgrounds, even deep expertise.  And one extremely valuable team leader even remains from that original acquisition.  But none of these creatives are merely digital people.  They all think in convergence and so they represent the next evolution; not determined by their background, but rather inspired by it to become something totally new.

Platform agnostic, these converged creatives mingle and work easily with their traditionally-trained creative counterparts, encouraging them to evolve as well.  Because just as hewing to digital work limits a creative, clinging to traditional media stunts creative growth just as severely.  But by focusing on ideas not platforms, each expands the other’s imagination and occasionally invents entirely new combinations.  To me, that represents the bleeding edge of creativity—forging new, never before tried ideas through the clever melding of various disciplines.

No, digital creatives are not the future.

And traditional creatives certainly aren’t the future.

Converged creatives represent the future of advertising.  Creatives who use their free will to choose a new path for a changing industry.

And I am lucky to work with more and more of them every day.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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One might reasonably trace our industry’s current low regard for TV back to Top Gun. Tony Scott’s chocolate filtered, MTV visuals ushered in a new standard for visual storytelling on film…and in turn, sent our industry down a road of escalating production costs.  The CG, the morphing, the big dollar talent before and behind the camera; through the 80’s and the 90’s, ad professionals learned to approach commercial filmmaking with a high end fetishistic mania, whether selling cars or Levi’s or spreadable cheese.

So as the new Millenium dawned and the digital revolution took ever deeper hold and changed the fundamentals of how and where we consume media, clients leapt to this new platform and it’s alluring promise of low cost development and free placement.  From a procurement perspective, this is all good for clients.  And today, the promise of social networks and their attendant database and word-of-mouth and viral message amplification promise even greater returns.  For free!  It  is all sooo much better than TV.

"...The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration."

"...The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration."

Except for the small detail that it isn’t entirely true. Recently, a group called the Advertising Research Foundation reviewed 388 case histories from seven different advertising research firms and concluded that TV is not only as effective as it’s always been, it may even be increasing in effectiveness at sales building.

To many in our business, that news will be as welcome as a floor length mink at a PETA convention, but the ARF people conjecture that in a market cluttered with choice, television ads help simplify the buying decision.  “They want to zone out and watch TV and relax and let the communications wash over them. It’s an extension of the brand experience,” said Joel Rubinson, ARF’s chief research officer.  That’s not exactly web 2.0 behavior…

In this case, perception is not reality.  Of course, in an image business, perception often means more than reality, and many clients perceive TV as costly and irrelevant. And there’s the rub…

Clients are entirely correct that digital media provide highly personal, cost-effective opportunities to connect with their consumers.  Savvy marketers should use this intimacy to create deeper levels of brand engagement, particularly with innovative engagements on social networks.  Still, the undeniable fact remains that TV continues to hold serve as the number one way to raise awareness.  Period.

And so, high costs and all, high risks and all, lack of guarantees and all, television should remain part of the marketing mix for many major brands.  The dream of a digital world resplendent with business-driving free media simply does not exist for every brand.  A few, savvy, first-adopters?  Maybe, but the rest of us will need to keep applying inspiring new thinking to both our messages and our marketing mixes.  And we’ll need to keep integrating television into our plans: convergence across mediums remains an inevitability.

Studies like this provide valuable reminders against confusing popular opinion and reality.  And how ‘popular opinion’ often proves synonymous with ‘wishful thinking.’  (see also: California Banking Crisis).

In these expanding times, TV now crosses the three screens of TV’s, PC’s and cell phones.  So the real truth is not that television is dead, but rather that is has really, really diversified.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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As part of Omnicom’s admirable ongoing commitment to education, I attended a short but wonderfully informative session, mostly focused on digital and emerging media.

They instructed us to approach digital as a language, not a technology or media platform.  This approach makes all sorts of intuitive sense.  Digital does work like a language: everybody talks, but very, very few make inspiring poetry.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Web-based news media attract many users through the ability to choose the topics that interest you, and the political perspective of those feeds.  All of which means you get your online news just the way you like it, without any opposing viewpoints or tedious articles on boring subjects.

Of course, now that changing consumption habits compel every major newspaper to simultaneously publish their articles online, traditional editors find themselves in a position similar to traditional ad agencies: proving their mettle in new media while arguing for the viability of their traditional product, in this case–newsprint.

Yesterday, as part of a series on the future of journalism, Charlie Rose interviewed a panel including Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal.  He set online advocates’ tongues wagging by opining that , “Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google but it’s terrible for content providers.”  Mr. Thomson’s issue stems from his contention that Google doesn’t consider the quality of the content around the ads it places, being far more concerned with quantity than quality.

One for you, Three for me

One for you, Three for me

Almost immediately, a hue and cry lit up the blogosphere as the acolytes of new media assembled like torch-wielding villagers, looking to burn Mr. Thomson’s effigy.  Their comments expressed histrionic outrage against this guardian of the past, featuring words like “dead trees,” “buggy whips,” and “30% margins.”  One respondent considered his attitude to be so quaint, he wondered “do you have a cat?”

Actually, that’s kind of funny, but still, this partisan posturing must stop if we are to move the medium forward.  Randall Rothenberg set a great example just days ago, calling for the better creativity this sector has long lacked, forfeiting it to pure technology.  Both sides have to stop taking their cues from the idiots of congress, stop pointing fingers across the aisle in kneejerk fashion, and begin looking for ways to connect and cooperate.  As I watch agencies like Tribal DDB staff up with traditional creatives, I can’t help but wonder which digital agency will be the first to earn heavy PR for the ‘man bites dog’ story they would exemplify if they were to acquire a traditional agency.  And you know it will happen.  Because that’s what’s called for with the needs today’s clients want filled: full spectrum, platform agnostic creativity that drives business and builds loyalty.  Cooperation is the key to convergence; working together, positively, for the greater good of our clients.  That’s a far cry from fingerpointing.

Besides, whenever you do that, you always get three more fingers, pointing back at you.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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In today’s OnLine Spin, Joe Marchese of socialvibe posts some provocative thoughts about the battle looming between marketing disciplines over who deserves appointment as a brand’s Social Media A.O.R.  The importance of this struggle intensifies exponentially when you consider how technology could soon make all media social media.  If that’s true, whoever wins could evolve into the overall AOR for all marketing efforts.  Leaving the losers as useless and dated as as external dial-up modems.  



Joe outlines how industry players from widely-varied disciplines–from PR to media to creative to search and all the way up to holding companies–could vie for this role, and makes a compelling argument for someone to coordinate a truly client and community centric offering with clear goals and value.  Do this fastest and you could win.

To put it bluntly, traditional agencies have been sleeping through the revolution in social media.  We gotta wake up and act, now. We must throw ourselves into this battle with full abandon if we hope to maintain a position anywhere near the center of future marketing actions.  To do this, we must consider and implement all sorts of possibilities, from re-purposing the classic AE role to creating cross-functional partnerships between junior planners and AE’s and even to scouring the web for bloggers who are already brand fans with the intention of ‘freelancing’ them in this role.  The point is we must act on this opportunity immediately, even if we make mistakes along the way.  Because despite what some may claim in this space, there are no clearly-defined experts.  Not yet.  But they will emerge very soon.

Our jobs demand we deliver strategically-applied inspiration and creativity everyday, so the problem for traditional agencies will not be in rallying solutions to win the battle.  The challenge lies in recognizing that there is a battle to be fought at all.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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