“I just know your red nose will help me navigate social media.”

Last weekend I read yet another article featuring a chief marketing officer bemoaning his advertising agency for being out of touch with new media. Here is Part II of my response…

For the entire twentieth century brands endeavored to grow by alleging they bring people together. Indeed, connectivity has long been the uber-strategy of so many of our biggest clients: CPG, QSR, Telco, beverages and spirits, the list goes on; you name a brand and I’ll show you a connectivity strategy. The Holy Grail was to create an obsession around brands. A cult. Nike, Coke, McDonalds, Apple and so many others claim –often rightfully- to have done just that. And they’ve done so with our help.

But client’s now bellow (sometimes at us): “We need to be part of the conversation. We need to engage people!” Clueless about these new paradigms, the much-educated CMO is frustrated. He clamors for relevance like a drowning man over a life preserver. He wants “likes” and “fans” and “followers.” In some respects advertisers are dogs chasing their tails. The faster they run the more frustrating things get. Agencies become their scapegoats. But isn’t that like blaming the pusher because the drugs don’t work?


“Make me relevant!”

Besides, whenever we created something new and different you called it “edgy” and “hard core.” We’re not selling skateboards to skinheads, you said. Guess what? We cut our shit with vanilla because you make us. But now the world is upside down. Everyone is praying to new and different Gods. Indeed, the new, new thing is the only thing. And guess what? Your best chance at getting religion is with us misfits in the creative department.

While we’ve all got a lot to learn, the ad industry began digging into new media before most industries. Likely including yours. That makes us the closest thing to experts your money can buy. Welcome to the Island of Misfit Toys. I suggest you stop making fun of the red nose.


“Make me relevant!”

Over the weekend I read yet another article featuring a chief marketing officer bemoaning his advertising agency for (among other things) being out of touch with new media. This is for him, recompense in two parts. It’s all in good fun…

We all know the last few years have seen advertising agencies universally scrambling to figure out and monetize social media. Some are doing it better than others but all of us are feeling the heat. Adland wants to master social networks so we can sell that mastery to our clients. No big secret, right? The diminishing role of mass media, as a source of revenue needs to be replaced and social media is that new well. Maybe I’m overstating the issue or understating it. Either way, we agency folks are feeling the heat.

Yet, what if it’s actually advertisers who are most threatened by social media? What if clients are the ones truly freaking out? Not us. Them. Think about it. Clients are the ones who got advanced degrees in marketing, learning a ton of stuff that no longer has value. (Did it ever?) I don’t know about you but I got a liberal arts education. I took writing and psychology courses. Wrote a screenplay for credits. Hell, I only took one ad class and it was pass/fail.

The average CMO spent 8 years in college(s) learning stuff that seemingly no longer applies. No wonder they’re scared of new media. They didn’t take that class or anything like it. Maybe now they do but not then. If anything, such courses evolved out of communication arts, not business or marketing curriculum. Chances are, then, we artists and writers got the leg up. We were already learning how to communicate via film, design, poetry and prose. New media was merely an extension of that, albeit a significant one.

And they, with their popped collars and backward baseball caps, laughed at us. “What kind of job do you expect to get with that,” they sneered.


“One day you’ll be working for us!”

And what about the kids who studied computers, anthropology and psychology, all those courses no self-respecting Master of the Universe would ever enroll in? Those wimps, as much as anyone, understand human behavior and therefore the true promise of social media. They know it’s not a tool with an instruction book. They know you don’t need a master’s degree to master social media.

According to Wikipedia, Mark Zuckerberg studied Latin and enjoyed dicking around on the computer. In other words he was an odd duck who didn’t quite fit in, especially at Harvard. That is until he invented Facebook. I haven’t seen the new film, The Social Network but I’m guessing it’s a lot like Revenge of the Nerds. How sweet it is to think, nay know, that it is we, the curious legions of liberal arts majors and rogue bohemians, who understand social media and intuitively grasp its mechanism. For us it is just more of what we already know and like.


Zuckerberg: Revenge of the nerd!

So why do clients belittle us, decrying our ineptitude at bringing them solutions, even when we do? Next up, a closer look at social media in Adland, before and after.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,369 other followers