For those of you who, like me, didn’t have the luxury of a recent trip to Austin, our friends at JWT Intelligence have pulled together the highlights for your enjoyment. It seemed like a fitting reason to return to my blog, which has been sadly neglected over recent months due to a little issue with time management. If i’m ever hoping to regain some readers i’ll need to keep the content up in quality, so this seems like a good topic to kick off with.
In advance of the Marketing Association’s Digital Day Out, we commissioned some research in line with JWT Intelligence’s previous work which fed into the ‘Embracing Analogue’ presentation at SXSW.
Here’s the report for any interested parties. Feel free to use – just give us a credit.
A little bit of work to share. As the X Factor auditions swept the country, we were there with Ford, giving people the chance to be part of our re-record of Che Fu’s Fade Away. With a new Ford Kuga pimped out as a recording studio, here are the Passengers in all their glory…
If you’ve been in the ad business for a while, you’ll no doubt be confident that you know what makes clients tick. Unfortunately, as much as we all believe we’ve got an innate sense of what clients are looking for from their agency, time and again we demonstrate the opposite. Not in big, grand demonstrations of ignorance, but with small, seemingly insignificant examples that all add up to a sense that we don’t quite get it.
Well, here’s the antidote to that disease. Ben Rose, a senior marketer at ASB, was kind enough to give our team at JWT his personal view (not that of his current employer) of what clients look for from their agency counterparts, particularly account service folk. It’s a great reminder of the behaviour that’s likely to add value to the client-agency relationship and what will detract from that goal.
If you’re a suit, read this deck every Monday morning, and have a more successful week as a consequence.
Thanks to Ben for taking the time to share this with us.
Countless articles pronounce the end of advertising, the death of marketing, and a gloomy outlook for all involved. From the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, or pretty much every marketing and advertising conference, the headlines shout that we’re in serious trouble. There’s only one problem. It’s all bullshit.
Whilst it’s an easy win to announce the end of advertising as we know it, the underlying point is that we’re simply at a very tangible turning point, and advertising today and in the future will look very different to all that has come before. But as with Romney’s recent attacks on Obama’s governance of the armed forces, I’m inclined to believe that any calls for calamity based on the travails of individual media or channels are somewhat over-stated. We’ve been here before, and as before, some of us will evolve and adapt, and others will choose to bow out. No big deal.
Looking back on the archives, there was a time when JWT was one of the biggest producers of radio shows in the U.S. Not radio ads, but the writing, producing, casting, and broadcast of the shows themselves. I imagine it wasn’t a happy day when someone walked in to the office and told the team that from now on they had 60 (or 30) seconds in between shows to communicate their brand message. Suddenly, long content was out of fashion. Skillsets changed. Writers would be rewarded for being pithy, not for gently unfurled drama. I imagine some people holstered their pens and walked into the sunset, confident that their trade was dead. Others, evolved, embraced the new opportunities and survived.
Advertising is persuasion, behaviour change, and influence. It’s a group of people dedicated to identifying strategies and tactics likely to achieve objectives. It’s understanding people. It’s working out what will overcome indifference to brands, products and messages. It’s not dead. It’s brilliantly alive, increasingly challenging, and all the more enjoyable for it.
It’s just not easy any more. Which is perhaps why people feel more comfortable announcing its demise. The opportunity lies for those who roll their sleeves up while the pessimists walk away.
This post originally appeared as an article in July’s NZ Marketing Magazine, on sale now.
Do you do digital strategy?
It’s a question that’s frequently asked of full-service agencies with some suspicion. It’s also, to my mind, a slightly odd question, but one that I have to confess to giving time to. So much so that I was extremely excited to go on a course with Hyper Island (with a degree of hyperbole they’ve been called the ‘digital Harvard’) a year or two back.
I waited with anticipation for the digital strategy section of the course, only to presented with a digital agency’s creative brief template that, apart from a few semantic differences, looked exactly like every other creative brief in the world. It was a Wizard of Oz moment. I pushed further and in return was given a lesson in the fundamentals of communications strategy development. The course leader wasn’t trying to be patronising. He just had no reference points from the non-digital world and therefore didn’t understand what ‘traditional’ strategy looked like either. And there’s the rub. There’s no difference.
Here’s what I think has happened over the last 20 years.
‘Digital’ agencies have developed in one of two ways; either as breakaways from advertising agencies by individuals who then spent the first decade or so throwing out anything they learnt from their prior lives for fear of not appearing digital enough. Alternatively, digital ‘natives’ established agencies without reference or learning from the traditional world. As a result, the digital side spent many years ensuring that they looked nothing like their full-service counterparts. It’s taken a long time for the two sides to engage deeply enough with one another to realise that in fact they’re not as different as they think.
Now there are many ways that a digitally-savvy agency will look different from those agencies still stuck in the old world. But these differences are at the process, conceptual, executional level. Strategically, don’t get sucked in to thinking there’s a whole new discipline out there. Good strategy is good strategy. The principles that JWT’s Stephen King developed with The Planning Cycle back in 1977 seem as relevant as ever. With five simple questions (Where are we? Why are we there? Where could we be? How could we get there? Are we getting there?) he provided a brilliantly simple structure for the strategic process. Find a good partner who can help you navigate this strategic journey and you’ll be in great shape. Because of course it’s not nearly as simple to answer these questions as it is to ask them.
The key to great communications strategy lies in understanding human behaviour. Get that right, at all levels of the Planning Cycle, and you’ve improved your odds of influencing that behaviour in your favour. How people currently engage with your brand in the digital world, why they do so, what sort of other behaviours they exhibit that are relevant to your brand or category, how we might influence changes in this behaviour – these are all good questions. But they are only part of a broader strategic understanding of the relationship between brands and consumers and between consumers and their worlds. Carving out digital as a standalone discipline just doesn’t make sense in this context.
Thinking of digital strategy as distinct from the rest of your communications strategy is self-defeating. It’s an artifice born out of the structure of agencies, not the real world. Look for great strategists, not those attached to any particular channel. For whilst the variety of inputs and possible outputs may have increased exponentially since Stephen King ruled the planning roost, the principles of good strategic thinking remain comforting in their consistency.