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Posts Tagged ‘Omnicom’

Yesterday, a group of us at Element 79 took part in a conference call as part of an Omnicom initiative via the Harvard Business School called The Digital Transformation.  The featured speaker was Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace: a fast-growing social networking company with an enviable client list (that includes, somehow, both Coke and Pepsi–genius).  She took us through her company’s offerings and learnings, which primarily boil down to creating smaller online communities of deeply-engaged opinion leaders selected to provide a sort-of ongoing super focus group that’s allowed insider access to a company with an eye to helping them truly connect with their market.  Breezy and incredibly candid, Diane’s stories of how Communispace developed from a software provider to a leader in the social network space made the hour long presentation feel like sixty seconds. 

Communispace creates bespoke social networks for each of their clients and while their services are not cheap, they do provide truly insightful perspective that a typical focus group could not.  Using social networks to gain deeper understanding of market wants and needs simply makes intuitive sense.  It was all very fascinating.

But the anecdote that leapt out to me above all others was a casual aside regarding Motrin’s Twitter debacle (read this for some background).  Amazingly, among their highly networked, deeply engaged social networks, barely any Communispace power consumers had even heard of the incident.  This big day of reckoning for Johnson and Johnson, the crowning achievement of corporate responsiveness to a Twitter-driven issue proved to be largely a tempest in a very small teapot to the world at large.  Practically speaking, outside of a very narrow band, no one cared.  And that’s very telling…

Objects Online May Appear Larger Than They Actually Are

Objects Online May Appear Larger Than They Actually Are

For all of our obsession about new media, for all of our hand-wringing about the rise of social networking and the profound ways that Web 2.0 impacts both culture and daily behavior, this reportedly seminal moment in citizen-informed activism created barely a ripple on the surface of public awareness.  And yet it fueled countless blogs and online debates about the pervasive influence of Twitter and other new social mediums.  To anyone in those networks, it was big news.

And that is the point: the world of forwards and retweets and pingbacks can create an ecosystem of incredible influence through the sheer volume of the message.  Spark a debate on Twitter or any other leading social network and you will hear volumes of opinion loudly amplified, albeit in their specific closed systems.  This sturm and drang does not necessarily reflect popular offline opinion.  The very insider nature of such closed systems exaggerates the impact of any lightning rod issue.  Micro-blogging platforms acts like a microphone; creating very loud noise, but often in a closed room.  Meanwhile, the larger non-networked, TV-watching crowd continues their obsession over inanities like the travails of Jon and Kate, blissfully unaware of the drama brewing in one isolated social network.

So once again, it is up to an agency to help clients sort out the meaningful from the localized, the truly impactful from the trivial, when it comes to deciphering the impact of various messages among social networks.  Should you react?  Or should you respond: intelligently, cogently and appropriately?

Responding is always the better path.  These days, it takes consideration and prudence; two qualities not particularly emblematic of advertising agencies.  And so once again, the market dictates we evolve.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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A few of us from Element 79 came to New York City for an Omnicom program on digital platforms.  We spent the night at the Marriott Downtown in the heart of the still-bandaged Financial District.  After an al fresco pizza dinner at Adrienne’s, Brian Williams remembered once visiting ‘the oldest bar in New York City and so we set off in search of a pub called McSorley’s.

It’s obvious why writers love New York; every block holds a hundred stories (the Trinity Boxing Club behind our hotel with its brittle leather boxing gloves and fading poster of Rocky Marciano, the Volvo crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into Mannhattan with a canoe strapped to its roof), at least ten of which would make a compelling short story in the hands of Dorothy Parker or Robert Benchley or even Jay McInerney–this is after all, the financial district.  This town lives and breathes stories, and they came to vivid life when our taxis pulled up to McSorley’s in the East Village.

It’s a simple pub really, serving a few uninspired sandwiches and pints of either light or dark ale, neither of which is very heavy on the hops, with the light in particular displaying the brewer’s mystifying fondness of nutmeg.  Vintage photos and handbills cover the walls, the kind that Bennigan’s and TGIFriday’s reproduce with lifeless precision in their sanitized locations but here, they lay thick with the grime and dust of decades.  It is, after all, New York City’s oldest continually operating saloon, open since 1854.

Speaking of old, the clientele there helped me feel my proper age as they looked to average twenty-four or so, tops.  Gathered talking and flirting and joking around community tables, they smacked of first jobs and long hours, happily spending their paychecks at a watering hole they assured each other was ‘classic.’

Photo by Scott Beale, www.laughingsquid.com

Photo by Scott Beale, http://www.laughingsquid.com

And that’s what really hit me–these young adults with their wingtips and rep ties and work skirts were all enthusiastically reveling in the storied environs.  Three recent UVA grads at our table–two interning at law firms, one at Macy’s– were quick to share the story of the chicken bones hanging over a ceiling lamp above the bar.  Apparently McSorley’s served chicken dinners back around the Second World War and outbound GI’s would save the wishbones from their meals and balance them up on the light fixture, with plans to take them down when they returned from the front.  On that happy day, they would hoist a few pints and pull them apart, preparing for their post war life.

More than a dozen of those wishbones still remain on the light fixture, coated with a heavy rime of greasy dust, talismans for men who never came back from Europe or the Pacific.  The young law school grads pointed them out to us with a respectful awe, clearly caught up in the lives and drama of those soldiers of the great war who lived in an era so far removed from our own.

Why should these young people care?  In a world of 3G networks and text messaging and a million and one everyday miracles where everything is amazing and nobody is happy, why does a sixty year old tale still hold such a powerful sway on the imagination?  Why do legends still loom so large with young people who ostensibly have so many other distractions?

Because they are very good stories.  And in the end, though cities may crumble and our civilization may change in a million different ways, stories are what we hold dear.  Stories bring us together, demonstrating our common hopes and dreams and laughter and sadness in a way no other art form does.  Stories make us human.

Stories matter.

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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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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