The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

Social Media: Let's be honest this time
 
Waqar Riaz, Cheil Worldwide
 
Waqar Riaz

It's 8:37 a.m. the man turns on his machine - today he has a lot to finish; call an end to a social media strategy for that brand, dig some insights on how his brand's audience is behaving in those social environments. Check out the latest trends happening in social spaces. Convince his client that they must develop a social strategy for their brand ASAP etc. etc. In other words this is how modern ad men (who are living in agencies, which are desperately trying to create / eat ad spend of a recently born channel 'Social'), start their normal ad day.
 
'Nothing is new there. What digital technology has provided us is the ability to stop the relationships fading through distance and time. Our human networks stay alive through touch points, our ability to reignite memories and shared experiences through casual moments of interaction is what keeps them going’, Russell Marsh. By the same token, the quest here is to analyse how honest we actually are about 'Social' media within our agencies. Do we truly understand and implement the spirit of ‘Social Evolution’ at work? Or, are we behaving like an Auto Salesman, who will sell anything on display?

Let's look at it from a different perspective. Imagine you are a retail grocery brand - you call your ad agency and ask them to create a social media campaign for your brand. Your objective is to acquire more customers and increase the basket size per shopper. Your marketing director believes that the brand should capitalize on the idea of fresh products and world class customer service. The agency takes the brief and starts all that.
 
One fine morning, your agency gets back to you with an amazing all social media campaign. You wish that you would have thought of it, but no you can't and that's why you pay those half philosophers half salesmen. Finally, the campaign gets launched and starts to drive customers to your stores - now this is where the interesting bit starts.
 
With all that imagery of fresh products and smiley faces of the staff a customer walks into your store. She picks her trolley and starts shopping. Suddenly she realises that for some odd reasons half of the store lights are off, she carries on anyways. A moment later in the fresh fruit and vegetable section, she finds some half dead bananas and a rotten black cabbage. She then moves to the freezer section and finds out that half of the products are out of date. In her desperation to find an answer, she runs to the customer service desk, but finds no one to listen to her plea. After some twenty odd minutes an already angry member of the staff shows up - she tells him her experience and he simply replies 'sorry we missed our last week's delivery, you can leave the trolley here’ and turn towards the next customer.
 
So what actually went wrong with your social media campaign? Was the campaign not impactful? Was there something wrong with the media plan or channel selection or the idea wasn’t just good enough? Guess not - think carefully and you will realise that what really went wrong was the assumption of your Marketing Director that the ad agency must play on freshness and excellent customer service. However, he didn't realise that those were the two things totally missing from his brand. He didn't work on his brand offerings, but worked really hard to communicate exactly what he wanted. He failed.
 
This is exactly what is happening in the advertising industry at the moment. The modern ad man is working as the ad agency of the 'Advertising Agency' - the agencies think that social media is something they all should be doing. As a result, from 8:37 in the morning until death the poor soul is convincing him and others about the potential of the new channel.
 
The thing which is missing in most of the agencies is the difference between what they communicate and what they truly embrace. The point is simple, in order to be social, you first have to think socially. The world has changed, apparently what ad agencies can offer has changed, but what not has changed is the way agencies think. We create so many new social campaigns every day - so many of them fail and only few succeed. Have we ever noticed how passionately people respond to comments on YouTube or blogs? They build a conversation and start a dialogue; they make fun of each other (sometimes), but never kill the conversations. No wonder why they are so ahead of any brand or agency in today's world. The problem is in-house. We know everything about social media, we are extremely loud about it and trying to be popular outside our agencies (in all those social environments) all the time, yet we live very isolated lives within agencies. We don't communicate, we don't participate, we don't encourage. The industry is trying to increase the basket size with a multi-million campaign, whilst keeping outdated and expired products in-store. 
 
Social.jpg
(Click image to expand)

To succeed in the social world and create great campaigns, we must first start living and working socially. We must adapt to a culture of sharing and participation. We all should seek co-creation of work and ideas. In simple words, this is the time for us all to take our advertising badges off and start living like normal people. When normal people come across something interesting / relevant in the real world, they share it with millions - when they hate something, they share it with millions, when they love something they share it with millions. The success of the whole social world is based around connected participation - sadly it is missing amongst the advocates of this channel ‘marketers’ and 'ad agencies'.
 
The feeling of connected participation is just too good. It's productive, pleasing and exciting. Just like when that guy at work found that something wrong was happening with one of our brands in the social environments - he shared it with everybody. The account father didn't try to control it, but shared it with everyone else - in moments there was a pool of ideas and clever thinking flying in the office. The next day we had a very powerful deck ready for the client. The whole process hardly took any time, never felt like a job and everybody felt that they had a part in it. With that spirit great work happens, with that spirit people can change anything.

In social world there is no right or wrong, but only relevant stuff. If you have it people will love you, if you don't they will move on. Today, the advertising industry doesn't need to create new systems or tools, but to simply evolve its culture - just as people did, in the real world. And this is not only the responsibility of the top bosses of the agencies, but a duty for us all to perform. We must evolve our thinking and accept the 'Great Evolution'. And only if we do that then maybe, maybe we have a chance to be truly honest to what we do and create some relevant work for everyone.



Subjects: Digital, Brands, Consumers

08 July 2010 13:02
 

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