Posts Tagged ‘New Media’

3pleatsEarly in my career, I had to break down and buy a decent pair of dress pants for meetings.  I walked out of a prominent men’s store the proud owner of a pair of pleated wool trousers.  But not just pleated, or even double pleated: those beauties were triple pleated.  Further, the pleats were inverted.  Yes, for that brief moment in the era of Crockett and Tubbs, I owned it.

Of course in today’s flat-fronted times, such effusively-extravagant bunching of fabric around a male waist ranks as only slightly less abysmal on the “I’ve Quit Trying” fashion scale than say a home made Snuggie.  Because fashions change in dizzying, arbitrary ways, and that sometimes costs you a pair of perfectly functional pants.  

Changing fashions apply to our business as well.  Reviewing my TV reel, anyone can chart my forays into Morphing Mania, the Tony Scott Chocolate Filtered Phase, the CG-Enhanced Animals Era, the ‘I Loved Napoleon Dynamite‘ Period…

Today however, fashion whims extend beyond the obvious realm of advertising creativity to advertising’s less obvious creative realm of media and platforms.  Today’s new thinkers denounce the time-honored Interruptive advertising model as hopelessly dated, a relic of an earlier era of one way communication.  And to a certain extent, I agree.  Newer notions of Brand Alignment or Brand Bridging that seek to create contextual empathy with consumers as they connect them to or affiliate them with our brands seem much more forward-thinking and thus earn millions of words in industry press and blogs.  We need to encourage this kind of innovation, to re-imagine where and when and how we can engage consumers in meaningful ways.  Often, this calls for the greatest acts of creativity in our workday.

But unlike the rigid world of haute couture, where the ‘in’ stands rigidly defined and the ‘out’ lies hopelessly marginalized, most advertisers should avoid sweeping judgments. Because like it or not, old fashioned or not, irritating or not…the interruptive model still works.  Television still works.  Radio still works.  Transit posters still work.  The old interruptive model even works in new media iterations like pre-rolls and page take-overs.  As do new platforms like social networking and experience marketing.

Opinion leaders in advertising need agendas, they require outspoken, inflamed ideologies to champion.  Such ivory tower conceits draw readers and fill seminar seats.  But practically speaking, down in the actual trenches of commerce, in our imperfect workaday world that lies thick with the muck of situational decision-making and budgets compromised on both time and money, we don’t face an either/or decision regarding ad models; it’s both/and.  Just like we don’t face an either/or decision regarding creative mediums; it too is both/and.

It’s convergence.  These days, it’s all convergence.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Bill Gates, Devolved 500,000 Years or So

Bill Gates, Devolved 500,000 Years, Give or Take

As budget cuts, media confusion, and the baleful world economy wrack our incredible shrinking advertising world with round after round of staff reductions and pay cuts, we all worry about tomorrow.

But today, I attended an Omnicom DAS seminar where Jonathan Nelson, co-founder and chairman of Organic. addressed the current situation and how social media will reset the marketing game once again, with the same sort of revolutionary impact as Web 2.0.

He provided resonant insights and perspective on our changing business but one anecdote hit me like a ton of bricks.  Back during the dot com bubble of the early 90’s, Organic had 1280 employees.  Then the bubble burst, and within twenty-four months, Organic shrunk to 160 employees.  In other words, nine out of ten employees lost their jobs.  Moreover, of the thirty-nine web development agencies back then, only five survived.

Now I remember the dotcom bubble being bad from a general viewpoint, but I had no real empathy for just how bad that must have been until today.  Our troubles loom large; very good people have already lost their jobs and industry stability still seems out of reach at the moment.  Yet as Jonathan tells it, this bitter experience taught digital agencies how to expand and contract better than their traditional counterparts, which can be a real advantage in a scary marketplace.

But taking the uptside, more than anything this anecdote reinforces that business flows in cycles; even the crappiest craptastical crapfest of crap-crap-crapellicious times eventually passes.  And you can quote me on that.

Though you might want to rephrase that last bit if you have kids…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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A Too Common Writing Assignment...      

An All-Too-Common Writing Assignment

Confidence means jobs.  Unfortunately, consumer confidence, client confidence, market confidence: all languish at crushing depths compared to a mere year ago…

Lack of work means more than losing some fat in the agency system: today’s historically bad numbers cut to the bone, costing talented thinkers and rich imaginations their paychecks and health plans and office comraderie.  The number of paying creative jobs don’t support paying the same number of creatives.

Still, one area of advertising desperately needs these creative minds in a way they never did: media.  Social networks and the ongoing new media revolution put media professionals at a horrific disadvantage.  Decades of metrics and planning no longer apply to a world of three screens–TV, Internet and Mobile.  Worse, robust new platforms like Facebook call for formats of advertising yet to be invented.  I believe the creative platforms that will be most prevalent five years from now have yet to be invented. Seriously.  

With the vast data engines of the internet and digital TV pumping out actionable information about audiences with unprecedented accuracy, our industry needs creative thinkers generating ingenious responses to these opportunities.  Hyper- customization, day-part targeting, contextual messaging and couponing: all of these will be commonplace tomorrow, despite being largely impossible today.  The media discipline has never faced a greater need for innovation and ideas.

In his delightfully-imagined book The Happy Soul Industry, Euro RSCG Chicago’s Steffan Postaer tosses his angelic protagonist into a modern hotelroom, where he turns on the TV news: “Finally and mercifully, the piece ended.  But then came the commercials.  And in their own way, David found them more obscene.  Not because of what they were about–banks and cars and video games–but because of how blindly they went about their business.  Like the reporters, the spots traipsed across the screen utterly unaware of their context…”

Great insight from Steffan.  But we will soon see the final days of commercials that are ‘utterly unaware of their context.’  The sad comScore fact that US Internet users saw 4.5 trillion display ads last year will soon become an archaic indictment of lazy media.  Context will change everything.  Context and that convergence thing.  Convergence between disparate marketing entities far beyond mere online and offline.

I’m talking the convergence of creative and media.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Reviewing the last few posts, apparently it’s Social Media week here at Collective-Thinking.  And that makes sense.  Disintegrating audiences in old media threw our industry into a tizzy; re-aggregated audiences in new media like social networks could provide a fresh playground for innovative marketing ideas and programs.

Eric Heneghan–digital smartguy, curious cat, and CEO of Elevation–tapped me into some amazing statistics about Facebook via, well, Facebook.  iStrategyLabs culled that social network’s demographic data for the past few years and just published these mind-blowing findings in their latest report

1)  The 35-54 year old demo is growing fastest, with a 276.4% growth rate in the last half year.

2)  The 55+ demo is not far behind with a 194.3% growth rate.

3)  The largest demographic concentration remains the 18-24 college crowd at 40.8%, but that’s down from 53.8% just six months ago.

4)  The 25-34 year population on Facebook now doubles every six months.

It's Getting Crowded In Here

It's Getting Crowded In Here

In other words, what we considered a youth market now features an emerging concentration of parents and professionals (this isn’t a problem: Facebook provides age filters on their ad targeting).

iStrategyLabs goes on to point out that anyone advertising alcohol can now reach an age-screened audience of nearly 28 million people: nearly two thirds of Facebook users.  The trick for the Budweisers and the Beams will be converting this targeting into engaging creative marketing programs that this captive but highly-particular community will embrace.  Creatives can’t simply pattern their work on a set precedent here.  Unlike the Super Bowl, we can’t look back at years of big ads to determine how we are going to enter the program with our work.

Considering how tired and uninspired so much of that work seemed last weekend, that could be a good thing.  This is a time when creatives can get really creative, reinventing platforms and experiences and messages in a medium where no one has outlined the rules yet.  Inevitably, someone will step up and earn recognition as the Lewis and Clark of this wild, unexplored territory.

That sounds like fun.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Passive voice robs writing of vitality, sapping ideas of their strength and grasp on reader attention.  Writers should strive to excise Passive Voice, replacing it with more muscular, more engaging, more descriptive Active Voice.

I’ve banged that grammatical drum for two decades, to the point of self-parody.  But increasingly, I see this passive vs. active debate transmogrifying from mere copywriting to encompass every aspect of advertising.  As an industry–and particularly as practitioners from the traditional agency world–we need to replace passive thinking with active thinking.  As the world of communications and consumer behavior changes, we must change too.  That requires a new active mindset that questions assumptions and encourages innovation.

Too many creatives still value edgy executions over edgy platform mixes.  Your TV spot may look incredibly cool, but if you haven’t introduced it in some new manner or added content and extended the experience to new and hopefully interactive platforms, what did you really accomplish?  Maybe slightly bigger ripples on the lake, but even those disappear pretty quickly–it’s a busy lake with a lot of different traffic.

Experience applied passively is no more than habit; experience applied actively truly breaks new ground.  All that wonderful video storytelling experience many traditional TV creatives possess remains vital, useful and differentiating when they apply it actively, pushing the delivery experience as well.

This Is Not A Book On Advertising.  At Least, Not Intentionally.

This Is Not A Book On Advertising. At Least, Not Intentionally.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s richly-imagined novel The Poisonwood Bible, the mother character looks back at her horrific experiences in the early-60’s Congo and how much of her family’s loss sprung directly from the intransigence of her husband.  Pushed to her breaking point, she simply walks away from their pathetic mission outpost, and her preacher husband…  “I moved, and he stood still.  But his kind will always lose in the end.  I know this, and now I know why.  Whether it’s wife or nation they occupy, their mistake is the same: they stand still and their stake moves underneath them.”  You got that right Barbara, whether wife, nation…or agency: rote behavior leads to failure.

Advertising agencies face increasing challenges regarding compensation, resource management, and results delivery.  Passive reliance on the old ways will doom us to failure.  Active innovation and opportunity generation deliver the possibility of new revenue streams, new markets, and new category benefits.  And unlike our brethren in the financial world, ours will probably remain a free market, without government intervention, stimulus packages or bailouts.  The agency  organizations most open to active thinking will thrive.  The passive ones will provide the lions share of lost industry jobs.  Time to start thinking.  Hard.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Admirably Old School  

Draplin Design Co.: Admirably Old School

Seriously, surf over to the Draplin Design Co. website and you will not be disappointed.  Aaron Draplin is a compulsive blogger and designer with a strong bent for mid-century American graphics.  I’ve visited his site daily for months, compulsively reading his opinionated ramblings and perusing the odd ephemera uncovered by his rabid curiosity.  I look forward to every new post.

It’s remarkably powerful, the relationship between inspiration and ideation.  Everytime I drop by, his offbeat images spark my imagination. For instance, one of his links led to this stunning image.  Another led to this remarkable Flickr collection of shots of an old Kansas City Star newspaper press.

Which got me thinking how easy and fun it would be to assemble a collection of the most oddball hairstyles ever captured by film or pen and post them as a Flickr set provided by Supercuts.  It may never gather a huge audience like a TV spot, but it could earn a cult following.  And unlike TV, it costs virtually nothing.  As does a YouTube page, a Wikipedia entry or any of a hundred other new media opportunities.

In our Web 2.0 world, these kinds of innovations will grow increasingly critical to maintain meaningful engagement with our far-flung consumers.  Keeping a watchful eye on some of the most accomplished and interesting creative minds working the web today makes it far easier to integrate these ideas into our daily worklife. 

So thanks Aaron.  Wherever you are.  I’d really like to meet you someday.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Ass 2008...

Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Ass 2008...

I won’t miss 2008.

We hit a rather rough patch this past year.  Personally, professionally, heck even meteorologically (Chicago’s wettest year on record)–2008 delivered a seemingly unending series of heartbreaks, bad breaks, and just plain disappointments.

But somehow, despite the fact that nothing more separates 2008 from 2009 than an arbitrary draw of chronological numerics, I know the coming New Year will be different.

Because I will be different.  And I believe a good number of people in our industry will be different as well.  

We will be different because we won’t wait to see what changes technology and evolving media habits bring; we will be a part of those changes, riding the wave and trying new possibilities on web, mobile, and social platforms.

We won’t wait to see how clients react to those changes, we will stay a halfstep ahead of our clients, introducing changes and helping make sense of them.

And we won’t wait for consumer confidence to return to the market after hitting record lows in December, we will hustle it back ourselves with ideas and campaigns that build something even more meaningful than short term sales: long term brand faith.

I don’t have a lot of John Mellencamp on my iPod (though in fairness, the man is woefully underrated and puts on a surprisingly amazing live show), still just this once, I want to quote a lyric from Your Life Is Now:  “CAUSE I BELIEVE YOU COULD CHANGE YOUR MIND AND CHANGE OUR LIVES.”

It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we make of what happens.  So on to a New Year, new thinking, and bold, new experiences.  I can’t wait.

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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Charlton Heston, Pre-NRA

Charlton Heston, 1971. Pre-NRA, Pre-Damned, Dirty Irrelevance.

At first blush, today’s post by Kendall Allen continues the faddish piling on of advertising agencies as out of touch and increasingly irrelevant.  But her piece contains more than a fair share of truth.  And ultimately, Kendall makes hopeful, positive statements about convergence and it’s availability to anyone tireless enough to “evolve during complicated times.”  

She makes a number of valid points concerning both how marketers from all disciplines can benefit from cooperation and the entrenched barriers to it.  More than anything, her characterization of the entitled attitude at ad agencies reflects the accumulated hubris returning like a tide toward traditional agency people who have long expected online and direct partners to follow our lead.  Because as we all know–or should know–traditional agencies can no longer assume that they drive the bus.  As marketing tactics grow increasingly driven by pull, engagement and experience, that attitude represents a dangerous assumption and a direct roadblock to true integration.  Ultimately, Kendall’s post is a call toward collaboration, across channels and platforms, all in service of cooperating to find solutions.

To be fair, she hardly takes any real sideswipes.  So maybe it’s not her.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe as a longtime leader at a traditional agency, I’m a touch over sensitive on this topic.  After all, I’m looking to evolve, and most (but not all) of my traditional agency is actively trying to grow as well.  

But sometimes, the world changes and ‘experience’ becomes another name for ‘habit.’  The business evolves and you gotta figure out where exactly that cheese went.  Hmm…

And maybe, just maybe, all of us traditional agencies owe an overdue ‘mea culpa’ to our friends in the disciplines rising to the fore in today’s marketing world.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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In meeting after meeting, clients and agency people espouse the virtues of finding or creating new mediums for ad messages.  That’s a classic half-solution: all reaction, no consideration.  Because you don’t break through ad clutter by adding a new format for clutter: that perpetuates the problem.  With the average American experiencing 3,000 ad impressions a day (a five fold increase in just over twenty years), no one can argue that the messages don’t get out–the question is whether they cut through.  And that comes down to engagement.  All that clutter grows boring.


This Tagger Speaks for a Nation

That’s why the helter-skelter rush for re-naming rights baffles me: my opinion of US Cellular actually dropped when they changed the name of the White Sox’ Comiskey Field.  Nothing about that action felt relevant or engaging to me: in effect, they were demanding that I do something for them, and that’s hardly engaging.

Compare that investment against elevator advertising, where small screens present fun facts or breaking news of the day amidst surrounding sponsor messages.  I can’t tell you how many times I have referenced some bit of trivia picked up from them during a meeting later in the day (“Yeah no kidding; David Cassidy is 58!”).  It may seem like a small thing, but the sponsors of these messages provide something to me, and that creates engagement.

Think of that the next time you consider pasting your ad on a store floor or taking over my cash station screen: are you adding anything for me or is it all about you?   And if it is all about you, how can you change that?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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