Australia is underrated when it comes to advertising. I spent some time between 2004-2007 down under working as a digital media director at a creative agency (Tribal DDB) and a media agency (Carat). The former were brilliant at what they did, winning agency of the year for a few years in a row among many other global accolades. The leadership group have all gone on to bigger and better things and deserved their reputation as pioneers in the digital space.
Now Tribal shared multiple clients with OMD which at the time didn’t see much of a future for online media. Often this prediction was propagated by the ‘London lads’ that were imported to ensure the natives showed up for work before they hit the pub to practice their Thames Valley accents. DDB itself looked at its digital arm as an infected limb that would hopefully just fall off unless it made a bunch of money. Most marketers accepted that having a company website was important but the internet was no place to advertise.
This was 2005.
Over at Carat the word had come from on high (London) that digital was the future, an edict that was not popular with the group business directors who suddenly felt less important. Admirably management made one of their KPI’s digital revenue which shut down any conflict over budget erosion. Most clients were still hesitant to consider carving off more than 5% at most to spend online with a big insurance client the exception that proved the rule (“we don’t sell anything on our website so why should we pay to send people there?”). Ultimately Australia spotted the wave heading ashore and dived right in by about 2007-2008, last time I checked Google had 96% market share and Facebook the same. Australians are early adopters and have taken to the next big thing often before its annointed as such.
Back in Aussie adland, these days everybody everywhere, including the desert island survivors (print buyers), understand the power of the medium to influence consumer behavior. Much like their American bretheren Adweek and AdAge, the local trade press still have their training wheels on and a website that needed an overhaul 5 years ago. Go take a look: Adnews.com.au and BandT.com.au . Neither has yet to deploy a favicon (a.k.a. favorite icon), not a crime by any means but symbolic of their fear of cannibalizing their magazine subscriptions which still pay the rent.
Social media is a hot topic down under just as mobile and location are. Today there is a post on AdNews featuring the wisdom of one Mr Geno Church, leader of a South Carolina company called ‘Brains On Fire’ (Walking Dead fan?) He’s an author of a book about WOM, with 5000+ twitter followers of which 40% are inactive with his bio reading “My job WOM Inspiration Officer and DJ of Chaos” The blog is a good read and puts your typical ad agency website to shame, although to be fair, creative agencies can never agree on what they want their website to look like and media agencies are worried clients will see theirs and think they must be paying them too much (also explains why media agency offices still resemble Initech’s cube farm design motif).
The posts title ”Word-of-mouth guru warns of social hype” caught my attention because I detest the term guru, and ninja, to describe somebodies job. Unless you can levitate or be invisible you are neither so enough with the superhero shizzle already. Mr Church and a few other thought leaders share their POV on what
brains brands should be doing with social, namely avoiding the ticking of boxes, jumping too much and saying yes too often. All sage advice for sure but really after all these warnings do I want to do social now? Meh, it sounds like a hill caked in lard, every way you turn could lead to near fatal disaster.
Here’s some advice from a consumer of social media: Try to be yourself. Be honest if you want to be in a relationship with us, don’t be selfish or go on about you all the time. Try to listen best you can, leave the buzzword bingo at the office and make yourself like able so you can make new friends and influence people. AND BE FUNNY. Marketers are consumers too, we all are, sadly we eat our own dog food without ever realizing it. So have a read below and ask yourself: do we come off like a Donald Trump robot army? Here’s a good reference point for you to check: https://twitter.com/urtweetsrbad
ADNEWS: Social media is over-hyped. That’s what word-of-mouth marketing evangelist Geno Church thinks. Too many brands are still jumping onto social tools and tactics without really knowing why they are using them, he says. Agencies agree but say it’s improving.
Church, who runs US word-of-mouth agency Brains on Fire, was speaking to the industry at the first of the Influence Group’s ‘Influence’ breakfast events. He told the audience only brands that evoke a strong emotion are likely to be talked about and earn consumers’ conversation. Brands need to recognise the motivations for interacting online and offline are different, Church said, advising them to pay more attention to what they want to say than what channel they say it on. He added that there are offline opportunities for brands that are more relevant than social channels that shouldn’t be ignored because of a desire to “tick the box” of social.
Aden Hepburn, managing director of VML, agrees that it is still the case that brands jump into social without having a purpose set out, but that it is declining. He says unless a brand has identified what they should, and shouldn’t, get involved in on social media and what consumers will allow them to connect around, some would do better to steer clear altogether.
“A year or 18 months ago you would have found a lot of top brands jumping in and starting [Facebook] pages,” he said. “A lot of big brands do small chat when they don’t have a good content strategy. Once you’re manufacturing stuff to talk about, you’re already failing.”
Nicola Swankie, head of social media at Leo Burnett Sydney, says brands also need to recognise that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to social media. Not having a presence can be a better option than talking for talking’s sake, but if social is essential, it should be part of the brand’s strategy from the start rather than retrofitted after a TV campaign has been created, Swankie said. She has advised clients eager to adopt social channels away from using them when it would be irrelevant for their brand or objective.
Lion’s national marketing director, Matt Tapper, says the company’s social media strategy is always driven by an idea, rather than the channel. For some of its brands, like Boags Draught, social marketing only plays a small part in the media mix, because it’s less relevant to the target audience. Others, such as its Summer Bright Lager or Tooheys 5 Seeds Cider, have a more digital and social media-led strategy. “It comes down to the target and the media that those consumers are consuming and getting to those eyeballs,” Tapper said.