From agency geek to rock star: How “farting around on the Internet” became the coolest job in advertising.
June 4, 2010
I remember when companies (ad agencies among them) used to frown on their employees using work hours to “play” on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Cursory emails were sent out regularly reminding staff of their obligations to the company. HR constantly admonished workers about rules and regulations, both inside the company and out. Disciplinary actions were often implied. If employees saw fit to dawdle on line they risked being let go. Given the very recent history of social media this is not ancient history. We’re talking one or two years ago. In many cases one or two months.
But the times they are a changing. Now corporations (especially ad agencies) are scrambling for competency in the very same social media platforms they used to shun. Classes are being offered. Intensive and expensive classes like Hyper Island, which I recently attended. As headlines about Facebook and Twitter dominate the media, senior managers everywhere are scrambling to get with the program as opposed to get rid of it. We are putting “digital at the core.” We are “getting social.” The great, wonderful irony is that the twenty-somethings who grew up with this stuff are now the ones being looked to for driving company growth. The hipster CEO has replaced the once prevalent stereotype of the geeky IT guy. Remember those hilarious SNL skits? Not so funny anymore.
Or is it? The ongoing frenetic transformation reminds me of that Doctor Seuss story where the Sneetches keep placing stars on their bellies and then removing them, based on the fear of being deemed out of place, out of touch and just plain uncool. In real life the moral is not so ambiguous: the star-bellied Sneetches are cool. The rest of us can only line up to “follow” them and be their “friends.”