How do you make something go viral?

June 25, 2010

I’m cheating a bit and doubling up another post with the Albion Blog, but thought this was worth a mention on here also. On Wednesday morning this week I was overcome with geeky excitement when a picture I posted ‘went viral’.

As much as I hate those words, and find it difficult to comprehend when clients ask for ‘virals’ – It was great to see the power of online word-of-mouth succeed again. I just wonder if this had a company logo in the corner it would have done half as well. Have a read of the full post I wrote here.

The England Muppets

Digital & Traditional Agencies; The Differences.

April 13, 2010

I’ve written posts in the past about the differences between digital agencies and more traditional Ad agencies – both claim to be leading the way with innovative communication methods (online or otherwise). So, I thought it was about time I opened the floor on this and asked a few industry stalwarts to chip in – these guys have been living and breathing agency life since before I was donning my graduation cap, so pay attention.

First things first, I’m not going to get bogged down with who comes up with the better ideas – or even start to talk about that magical word ‘creativity’ – that opens a whole world of different arguments. But here goes:

  1. The attitude. Phil Adams (Ex BBH, Leith and now Managing Partner at Blonde) explains how  Digital agencies are naturally collaborative – Digital people share and talk openly in the expectation that doing so will make things better’ and ‘They also embrace the idea of launching something, then perfecting it.’ Whereas he explains traditional Ad agencies can be more closed and insular in terms of generating ideas, building to a ‘supposedly’ perfect big reveal.
  1. The budgets. Jerome Cortial (Ex Glue, BBH, Weiden +Kennedy and now Strategy director at Saint London) places massive emphasis in the hard cash that different ‘types’ of agencies get hold of: ATL (above the line) agencies have big budgets. They can afford time to think, plan and execute.’ But on the other hand he explains: ‘Digital agencies are built on speed – Briefs need to be written in hours, creative ideas cracked within a few days’.
  1. The ideas…Digital is NEVER an add on. Keith Martin (Ex WCRS, BBH, Albion and now Business Director at Work Club) will try and claim this one – but I also want it for myself. Look at any agency nowadays that answer a client brief with a TV, Print or PR idea and doesn’t show how it lives and breathes online in its own right, and you’re looking at agency that won’t be around for much longer –  Some traditional ad agencies are still guilty of this sin, adding the ‘bolt-on’ digital layer of an idea just to tick the box.

So there are many other differences to add to my list, and I may well run this into a second post later down the line. Things such as agency culture, how ideas are sold in to the client, the ‘rock star’ effect and the key difference in talent that’s attracted to certain types of agency.

But studying the responses I received to the original question – I keep coming back to my original thought – putting all the differences to one side, and I’m in agreement with all of the above (some I’ve seen more clearly than others) – all agencies, no matter what their industry pigeon hole, should just be concentrating on creating communications that capture the imagination of our digital-dependant world.

Thanks to all who contributed, if not mentioned above you certainly added to the thinking here.

Digital Direction & Tangible Results

February 10, 2010

How refreshing. A group of clients that really seem to get what modern agencies are driving towards. Taken from a study in the US, with input from the likes of Nestle, Pfizer, Kraft Foods and Colgate-Palmolive, the extract below really caught my eye. Good Agencies are here to deliver digital direction and produce tangible results. And now ‘the client’ has said so, it must be true.

What the client wants from Digital Agencies...

Dave Birss on Digital (Part 2.)

January 21, 2010

To follow on from part 1 earlier in the month, I asked Dave Birss a few more questions on the evolution of Digital media and the difference between the work created by Traditional Vs. pure play Digital agencies. Thanks again to Dave, for taking the time out to put his thoughts across.

How do you think the evolution of all things digital media has affected the agency model in general terms?

I’ve spoken to quite a number of traditional agencies over the past year and I’ve seen some changes in attitude towards digital. But they seem to be pretty half-arsed. They know they have to incorporate it into what they do but they think they can address it by hiring some digital people to ‘integrate’ their work online. That’s never going to work.
It all comes back to this red herring of the word ‘digital’. It’s not about hiring a couple of people to help them fill a new kind of media space. That’s concentrating on entirely the wrong thing. The big change we need to address is consumer behaviour. The influence of advertising in the buying process is continuing to drop. Online retail is continuing to grow. The spread of the mobile web is giving more people access to impartial reviews at the point of purchase. These are the things we need to be addressing.
And I think to do that properly, agencies need to take a more radical look at their model, their structure and their purpose.

Do you think there is a big difference between traditional ad agencies’ digital work compared to pure play digital agencies?

Generally yes. But the difference is a lot less than it used to be.
However, I see each kind of agency tending to fall into different traps. Please excuse these obnoxiously sweeping generalizations. And please understand that the comments that follow are based on my experience in quite a number of agencies rather than in my current position!
‘Pure Play’ Digital Agencies have tended to suffer from a lack of integration. This is not entirely their fault. They are usually given a brief that only applies within the boundaries of pixel-ville, along with a TV ad and a poster campaign that’s not designed for participation or engagement. To get anything that will attract any kind of involvement, they either have to go off-message or use borrowed interest. The result is a disjointed consumer journey.
On the other hand, traditional ad agencies often come up with digital work that ‘integrates’ with their TV ad or poster campaign. By integrating, I mean that they come up with stuff that uses the same visual assets or hangs on the same line. It’s as if the digital stuff is the less important bit that gets added on after the more ‘glamorous’ work has been done. And the job of the digital work seems to be to advertise the advertising.
I’ve been scathing to both camps, I know. Basically, I think the entire industry needs a fresh approach. One with an engaging idea at the centre of it that integrates seamlessly from the first time the audience encounters it to the moment they hand over their credit card. I live in a utopian world!

Part 2 - Interview with Dave Birss

Dave Birss on Digital (Part 1.)

January 14, 2010

A while back I read a blog post that really got me thinking. Written way back in 2007, by Dave Birss. The post explained Dave’s thinking on the evolving Agency model and generally what he thought on the Traditional Agency V Digital Agency debate. To save time you can read the original post in full here, but in a nutshell, Dave’s forward thinking on what he thought the future held led me to ask him a few more questions.

For those of you who don’t know, Dave is Head of Digital Creative at OgilvyOne and Creative Head of the Ogilvy Digital Lab (an innovation division within the agency). He’s been agency side for over 15 years with a long list of top agencies – Poke and MRM to name just two.  Listen hard and listen well.

Every agency under the sun seems to claim to ‘get digital’ at the moment – what are your thoughts on this?

I think that ‘getting digital’ is a bit of a red herring. What surprises me is how many agencies don’t ‘get people’. The old way of doing advertising was simply about finding an interesting way of communicating a client’s message. That worked in a broadcast culture. But things aren’t like that now. It’s not about digital technology – it’s how digital technology has changed people’s behaviour and expectations.
It’s easier for consumers to have their voice heard. It’s easier to find out the opinions of people who’ve used a product.  It’s easier to share information with your friends.  The agencies that truly ‘get people’ will be coming up with the most effective ideas. Bad ones will be creating work that gets ignored.

The post you wrote back in 2007 described three distinct approaches a digital agency could take in order to survive the future – do you still agree with this now?

My opinion hasn’t changed too much. But if I was to write that piece again today, I’m sure it would be pretty different. I’ve got a whole new swarm of bees in my bonnet!
To be honest, ad agencies haven’t adopted digital quite as well as I thought they would. I suppose the economic downturn is one reason for that as they’ve been concentrating on just staying afloat. But I still think a lot of them continue to suffer from ostrich syndrome, thinking the world will at some point start loving TV ads again like they did in the 80s. Good luck to them!

– I’ll post more on this interview later in the month.

Part 1 - Interview with Dave Birss