Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shortcrust Pastry Is Best...

Percentage of pie to pacman...mmm. Photo via watashwasi. Usual rules apply.

This is rapidly turning into a festive flurry (see what I did there) of posts.

Anyway. This is a semi serious post on the topic of transmedia (or brand story telling mixed in with a little bit of anarchy) and what it can do with three bored twitterers (whose blogs are here) and a brand property.

As you probably know, Paul was behind Don Draper on twitter. It was genius, because of the characterisation, and because he got a whole host of other 'characters' to follow him (who have yet to reveal themselves). There were an awful lot of intertwining dialogues between the characters, and it was great fun. Exactly what brands should be doing on twitter, if they choose to - yes, I do think they belong, but with a few caveats.

Namely, that it doesn't come across as too 'brandy'. I don't just want to hear about promotions (unless you are or Dell), or the absolute minutae about an uninteresting job. Be compelling, or be fictional.

And it is with that sentiment in mind that I happened along the last tweet from our Don. This happened to correspond with Zero's desire to start a twitter bar fight. A notable intention, i'm sure you'll agree.

So, putting two and two together, we got Mr Draper involved (check mine, Zeros and Nick's tweets from late last night). Sorry Betty, Don's not coming home for supper. He IS supper.

As damned funny as it was (and check the blips out, they made me smile), I think it's an interesting lesson for brands. Put your characters out in the public domain, but be prepared for loyal fans getting really involved, knowing more than you - and just sometimes, making a chicken and mushroom pie, with a 1952 piece of meat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Semantics, Recession and Merging..

Really is as simple as that. Picture via Torkveen, usual rules apply.


That meme thing has prompted me to write something proper. That's right, with real grammar and punctuation. Maybe even with some proper spelling. WARNING: There'll definitely be some ranting.

Like almost every person in an agency environment (whether it be PR, Digital, Advertising or Meeja), I've been asked a lot of questions about recession and the nature of it - and for any useful case studies (all of which is vaguely useless, as every recession will be markedly different from the last one - it's like asking someone to compare each grain of sand on a beach).

Ogilvy have had a stab at it, and I applaud them for their efforts. It saves me a job, at any rate, which is always welcome. However, when your clients may well go bust tomorrow, they don't really worry about that - more about whether the EU will follow America's lead. It puts status meetings and fucking stupid brand onions into context.

Of course, a lot of people view this recession as the door being opened for those who are entrepreneurial and future facing. And in both PR and Advertising, a strange beast has arisen. One that claims to be digital, ad focused and interested in 'talkability' and 'advocacy', those two buzzwords which have been comfortably powering the internet and comms in general since before Altavista stopped being the dominant browser.

I'm talking, of course, about the Social Media Agency. It's a bit of a hydra in the world of communications. While I'm a fully paid up believer in the power of social media, and of an overall communications agency, I have a bit of an issue with the term and the agencies I've seen.

First of all - surely every successful piece of communications should aim at advocacy, and achieve it, either subliminally (low involvement processing, anyone?) or actively through talking and recommending it to people.

Communication is inherently social. Duh. Otherwise it wouldn't be communication. As Mark has repeatedly emphasised, we're social animals.

So with this in mind, let's pick apart what a social media offers other than this. From what I can see (and I've been contacted by one or two through this blog), it amounts to emailing bloggers to ask them whether they'd consider writing about the next big ad/product/event that's going on.

Again - isn't that the job of the shoddy PR agency that hasn't done its homework? What some try to sell as 'Digital PR'? Or some gimp in an Ad agency who doesn't know what he's doing?

Ok, so that doesn't wash. Let's have another think. Oh yes, mastery of the latest social media techniques and software. Err, right. I work for what some outside observers would call a 'traditional' ad agency, yet I know what's going on in new launches....the failure of Pownce, the usefulness of Remember The Milk or how Last.FM's new menu doesn't seem as user friendly as the last one. And as for the software point - WTF? The whole POINT of social media is that it's easy to use, and EVERYONE can use it....

Right. Maybe some love can be found in measurement. Last time I checked, no-one (even you, NPS, much as you're not too bad) had found a golden metric which goes all the way through, nor judges which part of the mix was the most useful. Social media metrics are notoriously ropey as well - so a lot of people signed up online. And? Did sales increase? That last question buggers most.

So really, on the face of it - most of this is either already done by the PR, Advertising, Media or Digital agency...who each have specialisms of their own.

Come on then Social Media Agencies; either call yourself communications agencies or do something which can't be done. I don't see evidence of the latter at the moment. I wonder, with the recession, whether they'll prosper - as clients need to compartmentalise spend, will it make more sense to give them little bits of budget to ring fence as their own, or will they all get truly fucked by the other agencies? Something's got to give.

My true rage is at the term, in all honesty. There are good agencies who call themselves 'Social Media', and do get digital comms and advertising. But to claim yourself as masters of the conversation is the height of arrogance. That's like me blindly assuming my consumer on a well known American car brand is a Texan cowboy and nothing else, who'll buy out of habit. Misguided and foolish, really.

I think JC makes a good point on this topic. The Digital and Analogue argument must definitely die. As he puts it: "the big winners will be those who can mix the proven strengths of the old with the innovation of the new. The ability to deliver that double-whammy will be the only thing worth measuring." Damn straight. And the 'new' Social Media agencies haven't done this. Yet.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Resolution Taggage..

Not mine. Though I like 1 and the last statement. Via Gillian. Usual rules apply.

I've been tagged again in one of those meme things. (Have actually been tagged in 3 odd, but sod it, this'll answer them all, hopefully) by Nick.

So then, shall I answer this personally, or about work? Ah, I'll do both. Starting with worky stuff...

1) Write an APG Paper. If I was entirely honest with myself, i'm not as left brained as i'd like to be. So, being commended by Marketing Week for an effectiveness paper I cowrote for one of my clients was very pleasing. So, I need to get one out for the APG, and I have an idea of what it might be, if the project moves quickly enough...

2) Get back into the habit of writing strategic 'sentences'. One of the things I used to do at United, which I've not really done at Lowe, was to pick a random brand, have a think about what their business or category problem was, write their brand position, their promise, and the brand idea arising for that. NOT a proposition, it could serve as an endline, or just a tone of voice for the brand to think about. It was all Richard's doing, and I really liked it. I had moleskines full of these, and they were always good for getting the juices going.

3) Do one cultural thing a week. Whether it's the Saatchi Gallery across the way, or the Tate, I need to keep expanding my mind. I'm not much of a scrapbook person, but getting as many different experiences as possible is always a good thing. Likewise, I went to the Nutcracker recently and loved it - I should try to see more ballet this year.

4) Continue to think beyond advertising. It's oh so easy to think, working for an ad agency which has such a good reputation in creating big, largely TV led campaigns, that that's what we should be doing. Unquestionably good for a lighthouse effect, it's not always the right idea, no matter what overzealous clients/media agencies/agency teams think. We've bought a stake in a new digital agency, have some interest in PR, and I think the future's bright. No excuse, really. :)

5) Continue to develop AdGrads. We've built a great community, have been chuffed to have the support of BrandRepublic and others, and to have met some really cool folks along the way. We'd relish the opportunity to speak at a few Universities, to link up with some programmes abroad (such as VCU et al) and to continue to be as useful as possible. We're in this because we think advertising (and comms in general) needs to improve its recruitment policy; especially if it wants to remain competitive in the long run.

6) Not become a comms wanker. Sometimes this one is harder than it seems - but damned if i'm going to suggest media ideas which are just London focused, use bullshit bingo terms, pretend the south east is the centre of the world (or the UK ad scene, for that matter) or swallow new trends hook line and sinker. I may sound like a Surrey schoolboy, but not talking (too much) bollocks is part of my Midlander USP. ;)

Now for some 'others':

1) Write more. And by that, I don't mean blogging. I mean begin to write fiction again. I've got a lovely new place, and when I've bought a good writing desk (suggestions, anyone?), I should really write more. Being by the Thames will help, I think. I find water very inspiring (as opposed to the grimy nature of Old St), and I have no excuses now.

2) Get back into the habit of gyming. I play 5-a-side football once a week, but it's not enough. I don't particularly want to look like Daniel Craig, just less like an elastic band.

3) Start playing golf again. It's expensive, it's time consuming, it drives me insane and makes me angry, but I love it. I hear there's a course in Dulwich, and a range in Croydon. Will be sampling both soon enough...

4) Attempt to play an instrument (guitar probably). Not Guitar Hero, but I'd love to learn to play something. And not annoy my flatmates. No idea if I have any talent, but i've always been told I have the fingers of a pianist, so I should learn something, just to see if they help...

5) Save more cash. Setting myself up in my new flat/going to Oz (post forthcoming on that bad boy) hasn't helped, but putting some money away for a house/flat is probably a good idea. That, or winning the lottery...

Phew. I tag Seb, Nina, Lauren, Angus and Sammy I.
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