Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the decayed

My new resolution is to eliminate self delusion. I hope to make some quiet and effective changes in how I work, so that I am not chained to the mac while the kids are taken by mum to the shoe shop for the next size up. If I'm not still being self delusional that will require taking things to another level in terms of business structure. A scary thought, but I've had many adrenaline rush moments since 2008. It's just another one.

And anyway, my job description is changing every month, even while the core of what I do remains the same. When I started as a copywriter with Wilson Hartnell, as Ogilvy & Mather were known in Dublin then, the task was simple and difficult. I worked with an art director and we dreamed up 2D campaigns that would hopefully work for our clients. The campaigns would not require much in the way of measurement. A bunch of senior ad guys would rely on that good old gut instinct for a grabby headline or a strong visual. They'd pick what they liked, get us to mock it up with fairly finished illustrations, put together a working script if it was TV or radio, and then they'd take it to the next level.

Client meeting.
They'd always try to have the meeting in the agency, because it was a chance for the client to enjoy some sexy, away from the grime of the west Dublin industrial estate. Plush seating in reception, avant garde artwork strewn oh so carefully around, coffee fetched by an eager runner and only the efficient swish of the receptionists' glam rags as they switched shifts. All so very civilised.
Not a jot of accountability, of course. Tscha. That was for (sneer here) direct marketing. We didn't need that because we were Brand Ambassadors! Loftier things awaited us don't you know.

A quick story about the two sided nature of non-accountability.
At one point, in the early 90s, we wanted the snack brand we were working on to 'own' the Irish comedy scene by using a coterie of excellent stand-ups from the burgeoning circuit. There was no Bulmers Comedy Festival or Murphy's Laughter Lounge or Carlsberg Comedy Festival. Even the Cat Laughs hadn't yet arrived, much less Father Ted. We got as far as making a test ad using a great Irish comic, and were given the greenlight. Why? Because the client's kids liked the ad. That was enough for us. Spurious as all fuck, but we were getting to make our ads, so we didn't care. We shot a dozen in a day, cheap and dirty, on video. We were made! The first burst went on TV and we told all our friends, family, even our pets. They were silly ads but they made people laugh. Unless, of course, you were the sales dept of the client who was selling the utterly disposable snack food. No, they did not like silly. Our ads were pulled. Most of them never saw the light of a cathode ray tube, despite the fact that production had cost buttons. The Sales team at Snackky Ltd (name made up to protect the idiocent) didn't like the ads, so within fourteen days we were canned. Shortly after, Irish comedy went stratospheric (at least in the English speaking world) but Snackky Ltd had already missed the chuckle boat.

What have we learned, children?
As William Goldman says of Hollywood in Adventures in the Screen Trade, nobody knows anything. We didn't then. We don't now. I was humiliated on that occasion by other people's idiocy, and I vowed never to let it happen again. How? It's easy really. You just don't put your heart into it. Go ahead and put your intelligence into it, sure. I mean, nobody's going to pay you just to sit there, are they? But if you become emotionally invested in something that's not yours, you're open to a severe kicking.

Sounds callous, I'll admit. But a fundamental truth was revealed to me with that experience, and while I'm the dumbest arse on the planet in many respects, I was smart enough to see something then. If it isn't actually yours, don't ever become its. That sentence looks terrible, but you get me, right? In the meantime, I work for myself and I freelance as a copywriter and content writer and I do a variety of other related activities. I am the product now in some respects, so I have to care. And I like it much better that way. The old model of copywriter/art director dreaming up campaigns is still out there in the agencies, but it's no longer for me. It's pretty much defunct in digital creativity, because you need to understand the medium to a far greater degree. The passivity of tv/radio/press is not tenable online, which is why there's growth right now in digital agencies, unlike tradvertising. But you need to understand people's habits, have a grasp of the technology and be able to assemble the team that can make it happen.

The other kicker is that results matter. The faux parade of glitzy peer-to-peer awards means nothing in new media, because efficacy is all, and efficacy is decided pretty quickly. Kind of makes it exciting too, and separates the can do people from the quacks fairly sharpish. Still plenty of quacks though, particularly in the area of providing digital marketing to green-behind-the-ears clients. I predict that a lot of people will fall into this trap in 2010, but that won't last too long. Resources for quackery just ain't there they way they were in the last decade.

So roll on the tens, with new opportunities and new adventures, and if I get to own a part of it I will give it my heart. I fully plan to.

And this comes via the ever wise Paul Dervan. Dave Trott on making pow without kerching.

A prosperous 2010 to all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The last days of Bebo?

Not too long ago Bebo was the bright and shining star in the Irish social media firmament. They trilled loudly about having a million plus accounts, back when Facebook had considerably less than half that. But the worm hasn't just turned. It's fallen into a vat of toxic chemicals, emerged with super Bebo-munching hunger pangs and has just devoured the kids' favourite. Meanwhile school buses packed with migrating teens have been pulling up outside Facebook High in an endless stream. The glitzy shimmer of your own designer skin is suddenly old-skool, and the nu-skool uniform of anaemic fb blue seems to be all that the kids want. Jesus, is this a Heathers moment or what?

I don't think that the kids have just graduated because of the colour scheme somehow. You'd have to give some credit to Zuckerberg's minions for getting the functionality of Facebook to a level where the yoot would want to go there, despite the fact that it looks like corporate fascist design of the most boring kind. Whatever the motivation, be it functionality, peer pressure or both (or perhaps just a superior product), the roll call has been taken and not too many are still hanging around the Bebo gym. (Ok, I've been waiting for someone to call me out on the piss-thin schoolyard metaphor for two long paragraphs and nobody has, so I'm just going to have to shoot my own damn self. Why oh why did nobody shout Stop?)

Daily unique visitors to Bebo Ireland (source Google)

And to Facebook Ireland (source Google)

Google's impassive adplanner analytics paint the sobering story. Barely 30,000 hits shows a plummet of over 200% since January '09. Last month saw the departure of Philip McCartney, Bebo's head of sales in Ireland. It highlights the fickle nature of the younger target market, and the dangerous dustbowl that social media spaces can quickly become. Not that Facebook will be caring too much right now.

Bearing in mind that Ireland was the Golden Child for the platform, it wouldn't fill me with confidence today to be an AOL shareholder. The American mammoth bought Bebo last year for $850 million and despite a hefty redesign early this year it's been tanking steadily since.

Advertisers take note: when you're hot you're hot. Bebo no longer is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why SMEs use Social Media Marketing

Chanced upon this in, of all things, an actual printed quarterly bulletin. It's from Amas, and the research was done by David Scanlon at Enterprise Ireland, who kindly allows me to republish it here.
A total of 48 SMEs involved, using Linkedin, Fb and Twitter. 86% use it to promote their company, unsurprisingly. For 36% it's a way to cut costs without killing the marketing goose. Almost half (48%) use it to enhance/protect brand reputations. We need more information like this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Digital suppliers In Ireland: E to J

eBay Ireland Dublin 15 (Online marketplace)

Ebow Dublin (Web development & design)

Ecom Ireland Dublin (Web & software devel, SEO, online marketing)

eGain Communications Dublin (Software and services)

Eighty:Twenty Dublin (Digital Advertising)

Eirborne Dublin (Mobile entertainment)

Eircom Net Dublin (Broadband, web hosting and ISP services)

Electric Media Sales Dublin (Online advertising sales)

Elucidate Dublin (Online communications and marketing)

eMedia Galway (Electronic media)

Engine Solutions Dublin (Software development)

Enhance Dublin (Web Design)

Entropy Dublin (Digital security solutions)

Escape Web Designs Limerick (Web development and design)

Esus Web Consultancy Services Cork (Web development)

E-Type Dublin (Online Advertising)

EU Internet Dublin (Domain name management and services)

Evolution Internet Dublin (Web design & internet marketing)

Fireball Media Cork (Web development and design)

FireIMC Ltd Belfast (Advertising Agency)

First Advertising Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Fluent Design Dublin (Web design)

Fluid Rock Dublin (Interactive media agency)

Future Image Co Down (Advertising Agency)

Generator Dublin (Interactive marketing agency)

Gerry McGovern
Dublin (Web content management solutions)

Google Ireland Dublin (Online advertising and search)

Graphedia Wexford (Web design)

Green Island Interactive Dublin (Web Development & design)

Green Room Media Dublin (Web design, online video)

GT Interactive Dublin (Digital Agency) Dublin (Web Design)

Herbert Street Technologies Dublin (Private web-based secure communications systems)

Hosting365 Dublin (Provider of hosting, colocation and managed services)

i-believe Dublin (Online Advertising)

ICAN Dublin (Online advertising and marketing services)

Icarus E-Com Dublin (Database backed e-commerce applications)

IE Domain Registry Dublin (Allocation and management of Irish domain names)

i-merge Dublin (Integrated digital marketing communications)

Impact Media Galway (Advertising Agency)

Impact Media Limerick (Advertising Agency)

Independent Digital Works Dublin

INEX Dublin (Internet Exchange Point)

Initiative Media Dublin Dublin (Media Independents)

Inspiration Dublin (Online marketing consultants)

InterFusion Networks Dublin (Provider of managed network and e-security services)

io - Interactive Ocean Dublin (Advertising Agency)

iPLANIT Dublin (Web & Internet services)

iQ Content Dublin (Custom content solutions)

Irish Broadband Dublin (Provision of broadband services)

Irish Domains Dublin (Hosting, domain name registration and ecommerce services)

Irish International BBDO Dublin (Advertising Agency)

iTouch Ireland Dublin (Mobile solutions)

iWord Wicklow (Mobile Marketing)

Javelin Group Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Juritsu Limerick (Web & Graphic design)

With thanks again to the industrious folks at Mount Media.