Posts filed under ‘agencies’

Wheel of Marketing Misfortune

I loved this article by David Armano and his Wheel of Marketing Misfortune. It’s a fresh way to exhort everyone in the digital marketing business to just, you know, chill out a bit.

Read the whole thing here.


July 9, 2008 at 4:33 pm 1 comment

On PR 2.0 and killing version numbers

In our network, we also have a global PR agency. Recently,we have been working more closely with them, and it’s been a great experience that has given me insights about a totally different way to work on brands. In this collaboration, I’ve come to notice the changes that are going on in the PR world too. Obviously, the fact that everything has changed for traditional marketing communication because people have been empowered by digital technologies has also arrived in the PR world. In fact, the say they knew it before the old traditional agencies even started thinking about changing their ways.

And some of that is true. If we look at Al Ries’ book “The fall of advertising, the rise of PR” which was authored around 2000, we can see that the trend was there for many to see. And it is true, that in the type of brand work PR agencies do, they have always focused on the more immediate human opinion and context in which they can positively influence brand opinion. But the thing is: it’s not that PR agencies were rising by because their work got better, or their approach drastically different. Isn’t it more likely that traditional agencies, which were the main mass media opinion shapers for brands started sucking? Or to be fair: ad agencies were conveniently repressing the fact that mass media started bleeding its effectiveness to digital channels and 1:1 and social media interactions.

What will be interesting for me to observe is: will PR agencies make some of the mistakes that ad agencies made? Like: “Hey, here’s an idea, we’ll just start an interactive agency that can adapt our stuff online,” or will they be less prone to the “channel-adaptation” mistake? I think they might. Why? Well, since the PR guy’s job is to influence opinion of people in a way that is different to regular mass media communication (the staple of the ad agency), it has always been about word-of-mouth, even before the web. Think about it: if, on one side, you have an expert of influencer opinion and how to use it to influence others, and, on the other side, an expert on creating single-minded propositions for mass media: who has an advantage in a landscape where single-minded messages are being fragmented, spoofed, barely measureable, and generally ineffective and where everyone can have an opinion, influence product design, brands and author about everything on a free blog? Yes, it’s definitely the PR guy, not the ad guy. So this is where they have the leg up, but I think they’ve had this advantage rather unconsciously. Now that the web is mainstream, even traditional PR (even if it was more modern than the traditional ad business by design), has to think about PR 2.0 just like advertising has to think about advertising 2.0. And they do, and they might want to break some of the negative PR stereotypes as they go along.

Okay, you say, but digital agencies obviously knew before. Yes they did, and if we again look at Al Ries’ book, you will notice it doesn’t even go into any detail of the potential of how digital channels are changing peoples’ behavior. And here is my point: while some PR agencies had started working closer to the context of the people in order to influence human behavior than traditional ad agencies, most of them still did it in a traditional channel mindset. The reevaluation of what a traditional ad agency has to do, or if in fact, it is still advertising it needs to create, is also taking place consciously in the PR world now. In fact, the question is: if the word “advertising agency” is passé, is “public relations” also a bit yesteryear?

The funny thing is, as the process of redefining the ad agency and the PR agency is underway, look at the schools of thought out there on this topic:

  • Markets are conversations, not messages
  • it’s about listening not talking
  • Engage people on their level, not as abstract consumers, insulting their intelligence
  • and so on and so on…

Doesn’t that sound all too familiar? Isn’t everyone saying the same thing?

Yeah, again, nothing new to anyone who worked in a digital agency, in, say 1995. The only difference is: now everyone is talking about it and it’s mainstream, oh, and bandwidth is better. This is good, mind you, but it also let’s me beg EVERYONE who works in this industry, whether they are in ad agencies, PR agencies, media agencies, digital agencies and even marketing people: don’t we all say the same thing, no matter who said it first, or who put out the best “integrated” campaign? Can’t we just decide that communication is a people business, not a brand business and that therefore everything we do should start with people, not brands, or products or categories or marketing toolkits?

And for chrissakes, can’t we stop putting version numbers on our respective displines (advertising 2.0, web2.0, PR2.0 and media 2.0) just because we want to tell everyone that we finally got the fact that people are in control?

Acts, not ads!

PS: I will be off on a vacation, so there will be no posts for a while.. Cheers.

May 26, 2008 at 1:26 pm 2 comments

Rory Sutherland on “stripping out agency overhead”

Looks like Rory had some of that cidre himself. 😉

Thanks, Maurice!

February 18, 2008 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

Tools for retaining creative knowledge

Great post by my former colleague Tim Büsing, now at NetX in Aussieland, on the difficulties of retaining knowledge within creative and planning processes. Enjoy it and dare to be insprired by something no creative would usually really even look at.

November 22, 2007 at 6:00 pm 3 comments

Testing Tales: Using Testing to ensure the delivery of vacuous, uninspired mediocrity in brand communications

I have been quite frantic recently, so I apologize for not providing endless tirades on the future of advertising as usual. However, the good news is, I do have a tirade that has grown like a bacterial infection in my strategic tummy and it needs a good antibiotic rant.

My question these days is:
What is this whole obsession with communications testing??

Not a day goes by, it seems, without unique campaigns being shot down because a panel of a few consumers chose the one “they liked most.” Or to put it another way: bland, mediocre and sterile campaigns do get chosen because they were the ones with the least potential to upset anyone.

Now, I am not saying there are no good big ideas with effective campaigns out there anymore. Also, I am not saying that testing is a bad idea. However, there may be a trend that more and more marketing decision makers resort to testing as a way to make a decision instead of using it to improve the execution of an idea. And really, comms testing can just help you improve the execution of an idea, not serve as a tool to make a decision on whether your brand idea is a good one or not. So if you shoot down a campaign after communications testing, you really shoot it down because of its execution, not because of its idea. Why? Because recruits can’t tell the difference. They will rarely go: “Oh, well, I really liked the idea behind this one, but I think the execution is way to urban and sophisticated for me, so if you’d adjust the tone-of-voice to be a bit more down-to-earth on this one, I would definitely go for it.” If they did, you’d have to fire your recruiting agency for letting agency hacks get through the screening process.

Alas, people see and judge the execution first, then they intuitively understand the idea (often much later, when they had a true brand experience with the product in question instead of being subjected to a test being stared at through a one-way mirror). It’s friggin common sense and should be obvious without going into a segue about the Heisenbergian Uncertainty Principle.

But wait, that’s not all! Within this already zany approach, what is being tested is often just one type of brand communications: mass media communications. This essentially means: we will test a TV spot to make a decision on which brand idea will work the best (mistake #1) without bothering to test brand interactions in other channels (mistake #2). Now why would you test a brand idea through a piece of uni-directional communication with a medium with the least amount of brand interaction? I am too tired to hazard a guess.

Now where did this come from? Why don’t some markters believe in their brand/product ideas anymore, why is communications testing misused for something it can’t really deliver, and why is there a surge of this kind of activity? There are probably a couple of reasons, such as blindly following marketing processes made for yesteryear, or inefficient hierarchies and budget structures, but how about this: maybe it’s the fault of them dang Internet people.

“Huh?” you might proclaim. Well, we all now how hyped up the whole web thing is, and how marketers and agencies (traditional ones, especially) are struggling to understand it, use it, sell it, scrambling to “upgrade their website to web2.0,” generating a plethora of buzzwords like “participative brands” “viral marketing” “user generated content” “behavioral targeting” etc.

You can definitely say that digital technologies have re-written the rules of how people consume and discover, and that the interplay between human behavior and receptivity to marketing has been significantly altered.

Because of this, and because everyone is trying to figure out what to do with the changed media and communications landscape before you, your CMO sends you to a congress on digital marketing and you learn that the “consumer” and traditional advertising” is dead, and that in the brave new world of the Internet, the customer is an active participant, not a passive recipient of branding. So, you (or your digital agency du jour) start coming up with community ideas, widgets, social networking tools and a Second Life Presence for your Brand, with little brand or business strategy behind it. And, this is my point: you even let recruits decide which brand idea you should go with.

Bad idea. How can you be a strong brand if you let them decide what your brand idea is supposed to be?

Just to be clear: by all means let consumers participate in how you can improve brand experiences in all stages of the customer lifecycle from store layout, orientation, information architecture of your digital offering, additive services, hotlines and customer service. Also let them help you improve your product through product testing and observe their true behavior when they interact with your offering at all touchpoints.

However, it is foolish to believe that customer-centricity means allowing people to chose what you need to say in the first place. Customer-centricity and the lore of the empowered consumer cannot be a chicken-hearted way-out of Brand Management, just because we live in a time where the consumer has the last word. Because, so what? You still need to make sure your brand has the first word. People need strong brands to make decisions, not brands that ask them what to be.

Just imagine this: How would you like to go to your doctor and hear this after he examined you: “Well, it looks like you have cancer. Would you like to have your leg amputated or would you like chemo with a lower chance of success?” No matter what you would answer, you’d be tormented by the choice and wonder: “Why didn’t he just propose the best course of action, he’s the doctor!”

Now, this may be a bit drastic as an example, but still: if you ask people what your brand is supposed to say, you are losing the function it has: Guidance and room for identification in a sea of options and choices.

So, all in all, hardly a good way to proceed, I think.

What you really need to come up with effective communications for your brand idea is is brave belief in the idea itself because you believe in the product, your engineers, your employees and your company and because you know it serves your brand strategy and business objectives, and because you have a good idea how it will resonate with consumers in real life. Then you test whether or not you can improve the execution to make sure that the message gets through. This has always been true and is still true whether or not digital technologies have changed consumer behavior. In fact, it’s even more important today to have a strong stance on what a brand is.

Therefore, I believe it’s time for brand balls, because balls is what has been missing.

  1. Today, authenticity and brand intimacy is not created through single-minded propositions, it is built through brand interaction, so observe human behavior instead of starting with the brand itself, the category or a marketing toolkit.
  2. Being a marketer or agency professional following a marketing process can become quite abstract. Don’t forget you are a consumer yourself and use common sense. It works.
  3. The only difference today to 15 years ago is that markets are conversations. Enable your brands to be listeners, but make sure you have a statement with which you can join a market conversation. You don’t want to be a moderator of market conversation, you want to be the driver.

September 30, 2007 at 2:27 pm 2 comments

Fun: Second Life in Real Life

The guys a DraftFCB made this great video about how real life would be if it was like second life. Interesting concept:

copying virtual life copying real life in real life.

June 22, 2007 at 2:43 pm 1 comment

My Diatribe on “Digital” vs “Traditional” Agencies

Just found a video which was presented in Cannes about “Digital Creativity” with some good quotes from senior creatives with some opinions such as:

  • the Internet as Medium isn’t just one channel it is as many channels as you make of it
  • that it hasn’t just changed the requirements for how to communicate, but that it has changed the landscape completely
  • that traditional agency tools do not cover these new developments, in fact that they never had to do as good of a job in tradtional media as they would have to do online
  • that all big ideas will come from the Internet because it is the most relevant medium today, just like TV used to be in times past
  • that everything keeps changing rapidly, and there is no one approach or methodology to predict anything with

Apart from not understanding what they mean by “digital” creativity (in comparison to “analog”creativity??), I agree with most of the statements themselves. In fact, I am surprised that some say that people don’t know of the importance of the internet or believe otherwise or refute its validity. Over the years, most of the people I have worked with have been making statements like that for, what, 12 years now. And now people who previously were unsure about the digital space suddenly go tooting the digital horn?

Like, hello? Welcome to the “interweb”. Glad you could make it.

So yeah, within the argument of the video, it is an easy point to make that certain traditional agencies (as well as certain of their clients) have been missing the boat on like, errr…, 12 years of stuff going on, demanding to keep making their money with a 12% cut off the media budget, due to their business model (built on the TV network and media structure of the 1960s-80s), their antiquated consumer and market research methods, out-of-touch view of the “consumer”, their philosophy of creative as an end to a means (as opposed to a means to an end).

Obviously then, it is equally as easy to point out the results of this: Increasingly irrelevant communication concepts, back-slapping award shows, dipping sales and the fact that consumers themselves now create more compelling messaging for brands than the companies and agencies actually tasked with it.

And yes, more and more touchpoints will become digital. More and more awareness, consideration and retention processes will be influenced by the increasing digital lifestyle, and as a result, more ideas will come from creative solution processes for this digital lifestyle. Even offline touchpoints and communications as well as underlying business processes have already changed and will change even more.

However, the perspective some digital creative agencies have adopted suggests to me that they are bound to make the same mistakes as the so-called “Traditional Agency”. They use their medium-specific creative and technological development capabilities and equate them with “being the most creative” or “the most relevant”. If they don’t adjust their capabilities and retain a flexible innovation architecture in order to be able to generate more than digital insight, digital strategy and digital communications, they will be overwhelmed by the next big thing, just as traditional agencies were. My guess is, the next big thing isn’t gonna be webx.0, but rather “Marketing 5.0”.

In the end, the weakness inherent to the 100% digital proposition isn’t that you can’t make money with it now, or that it won’t remain a really important factor of how communications will be played. The weakness is that building a services structure that doesn’t consider all touchpoints and examines all types of consumer experiences and brand experiences will ultimately only be able to be sold as a specialized solution, not a provider of encompassing big ideas. Because, the last time I checked, we don’t live as disembodied avatars enjoying our Burger & Coke digitally, bringing our kids to school digitally, getting a high from corporal excercise digitally, falling in love digitally, etc.

So, while the digital space is a driving force behind a lot of factors for consumer expectations and brand communications, to me, the most interesting task in all of this is: How do we generate better insights about this changed landscape, and come up with new types of developing strategies and ideas and then apply them regardless of a “channel”? After all, ideas are ideas. The factors of what I call the Four Rs: reach, relevance, resonance, and response of communications cannot be owned because you know how develop for a particular medium du jour. Creating powerful communications has always been owned by the most relevant insight, the most strategic idea and the most compelling creative, whether it is the radio of the 30s or the TV of the 50s or the latest version number of the web today.
To the consumer of today, the channel is irrelevant anyway until he doesn’t get the experience he expected from it. He adopts technology in search of this experience, doesn’t give a fetid donkey’s kidney on how a company and marketer produces content, services or products. He wants interactions with brands his way, when and where he wants it.

“Convergence”, “Channel-agnostics” and “Through the line” aren’t just cool things to do, it is what people expect anyway. In fact, it’s not just brands who are in the position to create new things to then convince the consumer of. It is actually the consumer now who is convincing brands to finally deliver what he has been expecting anyway.

To end this diatribe, the Internet as integrator of all channels is key in making articifical differentiation between “lines” (ATL/BTL) go away to enable more relevant “brand experience delivery”. But what really sets the boundaries for the competitive playing field of communication agencies isn’t which medium they develop for. It is how well agencies will be able to help companies deliver the delayed fulfillment of brand experiences regardless of medium, based on the understanding that, weirdly enough, the medium is indeed the message, but only because, today, the medium is the individual consumer himself.

It’s off to the races, no training wheels on.

June 21, 2007 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

Subscribe now!

Recent Posts


My Flickr Photos