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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

A week ago, Adweek named R/GA their Digital Agency of the year for 2008.  In the past ten years, few saw the sea changes coming to our industry like Bob Greenberg.  So he harangued clients, award show juries, the media–basically anyone he could buttonhole–with his zealot’s vision of a vastly altered communications landscape.  And today we’re living it.  Nice job Bob.

Adweek's Digital AOY.  Again.

Adweek's Digital AOY. Again.

But the thinking behind his shop’s “Apps not Ads” philosophy is nicer still.  In R/GA’s opinion, disruptive marketing techniques don’t work, so they strive to direct their technology in helpful and useful ways, to create positive branded experiences.  In a cluttered world of parity brands, that idea makes a ton of sense.

But this thinking should not be limited to technology.  Social media, microsites, events, sampling, even the humble recipe print ad: all sorts of marketing tools and techniques can provide tremendous opportunities to engage consumers less by being intrusive and more by being helpful.  Thinking creatively, we can bring usefulness and meaningful value to our communications by carefully considering their context and content.

In these times when advertisers no longer control the brand story…  When web 2.0 empowers consumers to share their version of the story…  When social networks enable those consumer stories to spread swiftly, far and wide…  We need to rethink our assumptions about effective messages.   We need to imagine ideas beyond an interruptive, attention-demanding context to a polar-opposite POV: empathy.

But not just empathy, radically-immersive empathy.  We need to get inside our customer’s lives and schedules and values to really understand their needs and wishes. Because the more we can empathize, the more we can innovate ways to intersect their lives with positive, meaningful and memorable brand experiences.

Radical empathy well might be the new creative frontier.  At least, I think so, even if that hasn’t always been valued as a creative strength.  And so I imagine, much like Bob Greenberg back when people like me knew R/GA only as that movie title company, I could well be talking to myself for a while…

But hopefully, it will start making sense before too long.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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TV commercials, print ads, posters, radio spots, banners, rich media, long form: most creatives can generate competent content once they develop a feel for the format.  The challenge of content boils down to narrative or stylistic innovation and surprise.

The Right Message At The Right Time

The Right Message At The Right Time

But content won’t be the biggest challenge for creatives over the next few years; context will.  Advances in data farming and technology-empowered customization will challenge creative imaginations to anticipate and empathize, to visualize and speculate around consumer engagement occasions like never before.  Soon, it will no longer be enough to dream up a surprising idea; we will have to go further and determine how to customize that idea based on variables like target age and gender, time of day and social setting, even changes in weather, news and collective mood.

To truly exploit context demands a more fully immersive imagination: a skill previously unasked of advertising creatives, yet one that will increasingly drive the differentiation and success of marketing platforms.  Messages that reference, or at least acknowledge, the world surrounding them will find more receptive audiences.

Context has long been the promise of mobile marketing.  For the past few years, we’ve been promised the revolution of using GPS location to activate messages regarding local offerings and attractions.  It also promises to improve search as algorithms grow more sophisticated at filtering meaning based on user data.  And it promises to reinvent usage of the humble coupon, creating ever more relevant offers based on demographics and location…and perhaps even astrological signs.

Historically, traditional agency creatives have ceded the entire contextual domain to direct marketers.  But as technology continues to improve and refine user data, innovative thinkers will dream up ways to use this information to exponentially improve the relevance, engagement and impact of their ideas.

Because the most powerful messages are deeply personal.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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How many times have you heard or read that?  In an idea-based industry, some on the business side exert this flat-footed bromide with unhelpful zeal, sure of the immutability of this truth.

And you know what?  It is true, perhaps even immutably.

Yet ironically, while it may not be a plan, hope can certainly be a business asset.  The promise of something better ahead fuels cosmetics, fashion, food, luxury and any number of other categories’ marketing.  obama-hopeWhether conscious or not, we buy certain things to increase our sex appeal, to project a seemlier aesthetic, or even to demonstrate that we are part of a smarter set.  Hope builds brands.  We just inaugurated a President who made hope one of his fundamental platform promises.  Love him, hate him, or plead disinterest all around; among everything else Obama’s election represents, his campaign proved once more that hope can be a genuine motivator to civic engagement.  And thus a good asset for the business of government.

Of course, the challenge of building a business on hope lies in actually delivering results, whether you’re selling a wrinkle cream or a new direction for foreign policy.  We will have to wait and see about that.  And like every consumer of this type of message, we will be hoping for the best.

 

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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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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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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