Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome Radical, and welcome MeasurementCamp!

I've got this doo-lally feeling tonight. Like maybe the future is just up ahead. Possibly even tomorrow.

It's getting semi-official, this internet thing. It might just last for another couple of years. Certainly looks that way, with the announcement of the fab fusion of Interactive Return and Captivate Digital into new creature Radical. Both companies belonged under the Publicis umbrella and I wish them every success as they merge. It's a first of sorts for the digital landscape here, (the merge, that is, not the existence of such agencies) but there's no doubting that the appetite is growing for cohesive and comprehensive digital delivery. Heck, I've even had to add a new blog to me list over there on the right, and it looks like a useful one too.

As a client you could usefully scan the services they provide at Radical because they seem quite comprehensive, and as an ad agency you could possibly use that list of services to shed some light on how your own offering needs to encompass the same tools. As they say it:
Radical will deliver innovative solutions across all digital marketing channels, including social media marketing, online PR, web design and development, online advertising, search engine optimisation, email marketing, and usability.

In particular, I love how Radical draw and explain the simple but effective parallels between old and new in a way that even guys from the era of rub-down letraset could understand. Take SEO as an instance. This is what it takes, I guess.
You wouldn't print 10,000 brochures and leave them sitting in a box under your desk, would you? So, why do web designers still build websites that are impossible for search engines to read, index and rank when we all know that search is the number one way for users to find their way to your website and having a good ranking in search engines is critical to the achievement of your online business objectives?

Uh, I dunno. Anyway, that segues beautifully into my other bit for tonight. MeasurementCamp Dublin. I may be nerding up, because I am getting like soo excited by this already. Fuck. I am nerding up. Anyway, I'll let the Mulley fella do the explaining.
Online campaigns can be evaluated and companies and their clients need to know this. It’s not guess work. It’s not throw fifty grand at something and being told a few comments are the way to see that it worked. MeasurementCamp, the regular meetup of people who want to measure the effect of social media style campaigns now has a franchise in Dublin.
Why am I excited? Because I will be in the presence of dozens of people who are as excited by the prospect of working in this environment as I am. Because I will get to network with a lot of people who know a lot more than I do and are generous with it. But mostly because I figured out how to add my name to a wiki. Bow down before me, pondlife! Haha, in truth I felt like a brachiosaurus with a ballpoint pen but I figured it out on my own so already shut up.

Takes place the 27th of May from 10:00 am - 12:30 pm at The Odeon Bar & Grill, Harcourt Street, and I'm really encouraging everyone I know who lives on the interested periphery to sign up. But you have to learn how to add your name to the wiki haha! (Not wiki haha. Wiki. Haha.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My new adland manifesto. Sorta.

The ad agency as we know it: like many a good concept, it's bin-bound.

Many people I know are truly good at offline advertising. They produce some genuinely great work, some memorable, entertaining, thought-provoking, brand-building creativity for their clients. But ask them why their work slams into the glass wall when it comes to bringing that level of creativity to the online world and the fizz goes straight out of their bucks. Or maybe the bucks go out of their budget.

The manual is in Martian for a lot of agencies right now. The atmosphere is Martian. They are increasingly aware that clients need this work and are in many senses way ahead of them with their online familiarity and, more pointedly, their willingness to take work to digital specialists. So why the paralysis? The learning curve too steep? It's not. The public are driving social media, and they're doing it because linking and sharing have never been easier.

Clients meanwhile have very definitely decided not to place too many eggs in one basket. It used to be that you had an ad agency and a PR agency if you needed one. Back when I were a lad, the media department was in the attic or in the basement and toiled away thanklessly, until they got smart and decided to piss off and set up their own stand-alone media agencies from the late 80s on. The audacity! Some creatives ran with the ball at that point and set up their own outfits, delivering creative solutions only. The marketing-speak guffmeisters had no option really but to become that most maligned of c words, consultants. Fragmentation and reinvention, but at least it seemed driven by some entreprenurial chutzpah.

But things have gone much further now. Key agencies no longer think in terms of retainers for any client. That level of blind loyalty no longer exists, and this is, in Darwinian probability, no bad thing. Project by project, campaign by campaign, agencies have to fight for every month's work and justify every budget in a way we never dreamed of even in the 70s, when nobody had a pot to piss in or a window to pitch it from. I see several shark clients smelling the fear and cutting their way through the soft underbellies of once-were-fatter agencies. It's not edifying, because some very good people are getting stiffed along the way, but I console myself that Darwin was clued in all along, and this level of upheaval will result in a sleeker, more dynamic communications model for Irish companies.

Nonetheless, looking objectively from the outside, almost a year on since I went freelance, I can see scurrilous practice on behalf of some clients. (If the word clients even applies any more. In many cases I think it's now a misnomer.) They're using the difficulties of the times as a great excuse for swinging a not-always-justifiable axe. And in the meantime agencies are holding the inevitable at bay, until they hear about the results of that big pitch, or until that big retail client shuffles the core of its business to another media house, or the great and fearless international leaders decide to realign their local agency portfolio. That one, let me tell you from experience, sucks three-months-rotten eggs.

And the lay-offs continue, and the leaching of talent is ongoing, and the fear grows ever more palpable month by month. Adland is in the grip of it now. But you know what? That old Feel the fear and blah blah bullshit is utterly correct. Adland has no choice. The goalposts have moved. Hell, the entire game is over. Now what? New game, that's what.

Here's my new communications credo. Disregard it if you want to. I'm not particularly bothered. I believe it. That's why I wrote credo.

  • A massive disintegration is underway.
  • There is no going back to the days of Brett Easton Ellis-like excess.
  • An utterly realigned and forever fragmented adscape will follow.
  • A large serving of humility is being served to a lot of people at the top.
  • A new underclass of talented and unafraid people is rising.
  • The learnings of people who understand brands will NOT be lost.
  • Those who adopt the basic tenets of social media AND understand brands will thrive.
  • That thriving will not be to previous scales, but an altogether more modest beginning.
  • The web developers and digital experts already out there, who embrace and work with the best of those in offline adland willing to learn and happy to fuse their bank of brand understanding with newer media, will have the communications powerhouses of the future.

But first the pain.

Like the Wild West, anaesthetics are thin on the ground. I'd suggest clamping down hard on a piece of desk and watching some of the YouTube funnies. They can be ok.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wanna be an extra?

Just mind the edge of the pool...

Despite O2 now having trademarked little yellow duckies forever, Bord Gáis Energy have taken like webbed Anatidaens to water with the whole customer reachout thing, even to using meejums like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and... oh you get the picture.

They're now working with their online people at Target Digital to follow up their Big Switch advertising and want a whole geansaí load of real people to feature.

Are you a real people, slightly unemployed perhaps, and available to spend a day or a half day as an extra? If so, go along to the Casting Couch at 3 Fitzwilliam Square on Thursday next, May 7th for 11am.


And if you're just a blogger nosing about, link to this page or write the info up yourself. There's a few quid in it for the lucky auditionees, and who would say no, what with the current climate given the state of the times that are economics a challenge with in a fiscally forward uncharted waters and what have ye.

Full disclosure. In return for writing this blog post, Bord Gais Energy gave me a three bedroom apartment with sea views in Seapoint for 12 months, plus use of a vintage S Type Jag and an unlimited expense account (for online purchases only however) with Curious Wines. But I do have to walk two Dobermanns on the beach every day. And do this flipping blog post.

Someone you'll hate would love to

I do tend to witter on about brand engagement. Today's little tutorial (courtesy of Jacob's Biscuits) highlights one of the lurking dangers: having to engage with arseholes.

Because it's a lot like life, the web contains gormless idiots who can barely contain the snot in their heads long enough to type out their imbecilic message on your comments thread.

And thus the good guardians of Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream found out why it's vitally important to engage with customers, clients and complete gobshites alike. If you're going to run a competition on your site, say offering someone the opportunity to win their weight in biscuits (?), make sure you moderate the responses. Or else you get this.

No doubt it's hilarious. If you're sixteen. Or a complete twat. Or both. But if it was my brand I'd be equally creative in coming up with suitable consequences for whoever should've been moderating comments.

Engagement. If it ends up in a 'My Dad is bigger then your Dad- Well my Mum is bigger than your Dad' then you're to blame. It shouldn't ever get to that. You have the tools to moderate it and you're the client, ie the grownup in the equation.

No point hammering the guys in Jacob's or the agency behind the idea. Whatever your views on the content, the design or the level of full-on engagement, the concept of connecting with the huge heritage that a brand like this would have is not bad: a promotional engagement that uses a familiar brand and attempts to harness some of the new media opportunities that are freely available.

And the 'bad' publicity seems to have been contained to the unnamed chattering class on one of those forum type places that I loathe for their creaky structures, lack of navigability, boring design and apparent love of anonymity/pseudonymity.

So for Kimberley and co. a pretty cheap lesson overall from a handful of sillies. I hope they learn from it. The level of hater comments to be found on places like YouTube can be quite staggering, so don't go in blindfolded.

  1. Moderate comments and block offensive users, spammers and other undesirables.
  2. Accept legitimate criticism graciously. Nobody is perfect, and that includes brands.
  3. Respond to it positively. You would be surprised at how a customer's perception can change just by being listened to.

One last tip. If you're going to use Twitter, talk ordinary. Not things like 'We would love to be having a Kimberley, Mikado & Coconut Cream picnic in the park today'. That's a classic Marketing Dept statement akin to the range shot at the end of the ad. Every version of every model we ever made, and make the logo bigger too. Real people don't do that. (It's probably all academic, because I couldn't find the Twitter account for this particular promo anyway.)