Tuesday, February 26, 2008

March 08 - Agency Blogs

One of the great things about being a consultant, is that your opinion is your own, and you’re free to express it as and when you see fit. This is especially true when it comes to blogging.

Recently I took up an irresistible offer of to join the team at Wunderman in Melbourne. Even though the job in question was a terrific opportunity for me, I had to think long and hard about the offer before making a decision.

And what do you think it was that was holding me back?

Believe it or not it was my blog. Well actually my ability to freely express my opinion on the blog to be precise. Luckily Wunderman are keen for me to continue ranting and rambling on my own little slice of the internet.

Not only that, they were also keen for me to help them get a corporate blog off the ground. Which is what I’ve been working on for the last few days.

As part of my research for the Wunderman blog I spent time searching, reading and commenting on a variety of advertising agency blogs. As you can imagine, my learning from other agency blogs has informed our fledgling blog, which will be launching shortly.

To be honest with you, there really aren’t that many agency blogs out there in the blogosphere. And those that are often come with the caveat that the opinions expressed on the blog are the opinions of the writer or contributor, not the agency.

What a cop out! In the age of social media, agencies have to be brave enough to join the conversation, regardless of whether the talk is good, bad or indifferent. Having said that, there are some good agency blogs that are well worth adding to your RSS feed. Here are a few of my favourites:

Fruits of the imagination is the blog of Leo Burnett in Toronto. I’m recommending this blog based on reputation rather than current posts. Why? Because the driving force behind it, strategy planner Jason Oke, left the agency at the end of the year.

Postings have become less frequent since Oke’s departure, however at the start of the year they posted their mission for the blog in 2008. I’m hoping that this was written by someone with their tongue wedged firmly in their cheek.

“This is my promise to post more than it is an actual post. For 2008 it's about easing into things slowly. We will continue to monitor and contribute to some of the major industry and cultural debates including MySpace vs Facebook and bottled vs tap water.”

Love is a blog that I love from a Manchester agency called Love. In fact, you could say the Love blog is everything an agency blog should be. It’s fun, friendly, and the personality of the agency and its people comes shining through in every post.

My favourite was when they shared news of their lack of success in a pitch. Here’s what they had to say;

“Our digital geniuses put together a brilliant pitch to re-design the Crown paint website and overhaul their general digital strategy. It was one of those pitches that couldn’t have gone better on the day. It was also really enjoyable to present.

We were really proud of the work and the Crown clients seemed impressed with our understanding of their brand and the issues it faces. But sadly, after waiting nervously for a couple of weeks for the result, we found out we lost out to Code. Shame.

Well done to Code, who consolidated their relationship with Crown after doing various projects with them. We’d like to think we pushed you all the way and look forward to taking you on in a few more ‘head-to-heads’ next year.”

Strawberry Frog are one of the hottest agencies in the world at the moment. Their blog is always worth a look. They recently posted an interview with their new MD, Mike Lanzi. I think it gives a great insight into what makes them tick.

“The place is doing pretty darn well. The question is how do we take it to the next level, especially when clients are going to ask themselves more than ever whether their agency is really worth all the cost and bureaucracy.

The key is strategic and creative brilliance. We are investing in the best strategic thinkers in the business, and will build the agency by attracting the best seasoned talent in this space.”

Seasoned talent! Now that’s not a term you hear much in adland these days. How refreshing to hear it used by an up and coming agency, that’s made a name for itself by doing things differently.

And doing things differently is, I feel, what sets a good agency blog apart from your traditional toothless corporate web presence.


Fruits of the imagination


Strawberry Frog

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Feb 08 - Transmedia

Just before Christmas I was involved in an inter-disciplinary creative workshop for one of my clients. Over the course of two days we transformed an idea that had been developed for television into a veritable smorgasbord of concepts for all manner of media channels.

What excited me most about many of the ideas that came out of the workshop, was that they required interaction and involvement from segments of the target market. In essence, the passionate consumer as brand advocate was a key element of the campaign.

Another interesting feature of our campaign was that many of the elements were for the creation of interest in the campaign itself, rather than the product. As such we would have multiple storylines existing independent of each other, with influential target groups filling in the gaps.

The idea of a storyline unfolding across several platforms is obviously nothing new, in fact it was discussed at length last year in a blog post called Transmedia Planning by Faris Yakob from the London office of Naked.

In his post Faris acknowledges the book Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins from (MIT) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as “Required reading for anyone with an interest with how the relationship between consumers and media is changing.”

“Transmedia storytelling,” says Jenkins, “drives the formation of knowledge communities - communities that share information – and triggers word of mouth.”

Faris has taken the thinking behind Jenkins’ idea and applied it to advertising. “Transmedia planning would be an evolving non-linear brand narrative,” he writes, “where different channels could be used to communicate self-contained elements of the brand narrative.

According to Faris, these elements, “Would build to create a larger brand world, where consumers pull different parts of the story together themselves. The beauty of this is that it is designed to generate brand communities, as consumers come together to share elements of the narrative. It has a word of mouth driver built in.”

When I first read about Faris’s idea of transmedia planning I brushed it aside as just a variation on the well worn path of media neutral planning. When I read his blog post however, I saw it was much richer in potential than that.

In a media neutral plan, the ‘idea’ is always at the centre. Much like our pre-Christmas workshop, where we took an idea that had been developed for television and executed it across a variety of other media.

Transmedia planning has brand communities at its heart, with different media platforms delivering parts of the story to members of different communities, who then share this information with each other through word-of-mouth.

To say that the idea of transmedia planning has generated interest in the blogosphere is something of an understatement. At the time of writing, I did a Google search for the term which returned over 200,000 results. And yet the term didn’t exist until Faris coined it.

Of course for every new believer like me, there’s sure to be a skeptic too. In this case it was Giles Rhys Jones from Ogilvy London. Writing on his blog Interactive Marketing Trends, Rhys Jones penned one of the headlines of the year – Transmedia Planning My Arse.

“Ok, so what is the score with all the hype surrounding transmedia planning?” asked Rhys Jones. “Isn't that 360 planning: a brand idea at the centre delivered across multiple channels.” He offers the Dove ‘campaign for real beauty’ as a good example of this.

“Each element plays an important and complimentary part but each also exists in its own right, stimulating thought and conversation from your collective brand audience.”

Obviously Faris and Giles, who are both highly respected advertising thinkers, are agreeing to disagree, with both of them seemingly talking about pretty much the same thing only with a different name.

“Transmedia planning is surely a case of the emperors new clothes,” argues Giles Rhys Jones. “The 360 model ain’t broke, just they way that people have been deploying it.”

Commenting on Rhys Jones post, J. Caddell offers up the following; “Reminds me when ‘Integrated Marketing’ was the buzz word two years ago. The idea isn't new, it's just another assault on the traditional marketing model that those with the budgets and most to risk clutch to with false security.”

He then sums up his comment with a touch of provocation. “Change will happen once the old model (i.e.: Ogilvy on Advertising) is officially declared dead. Until then keep up the good fight.”

It seems to me that Caddell may well have unearthed the reason why Faris’s transmedia planning idea has generated such debate on advertising and marketing blogs – it’s a new way of doing things. Something the advertising industry supposedly thrives on and yet is so often slow to embrace.

Much like its belated acceptance of the importance of digital media as a communications channel which, not coincidently, also lies at the very heart of transmedia planning.

Stop by and visit:

Faris Yakob

Giles Rhys Jones

Transmedia Squidoo