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Facebook; advertising heaven or hell? February 26, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, intent, marketing, web 2.0.
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I read somewhere recently – I think Seth Godin said it – if you were to set out with the express purpose of creating the worst possible environment online for advertising, you would wind up with something pretty similar to Facebook. I’m not entirely convinced that’s accurate, but I’m also not entirely convinced it isn’t. While you certainly have millions of pairs of eyeballs, what you need is an intention economy:

The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don’t need advertising to make them.

The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that.

Thanks Doc. Let’s look at that for a second. The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. Ok, so we need buyers. Are people buyers on Facebook? Have you ever purchased anything from it? I haven’t. I’m not in a consumer mindset when I’m there, at least not one that involves me parting with my hard-earned. There’s certainly an argument to say Facebook users are consuming any time they are logged on, but I question the notion that can be monetised; I’m consuming social interactions with my friends, I’m not viewing it as a platform for purchases.

Contrast that though with businesses who are advertising, are they viewing the Facebook ecosystem as a marketplace? I don’t have hard data to back this up but I’m willing to say yes, based on moves a little-known start-up out of Redmond, Washington made last year. Marketers are seeing the numbers and frothing at the mouth to turn that in to revenue. How one does that and even IF one does that aren’t being considered at all.

The Intention Economy apparently comes ready made, it doesn’t require advertising to manufacture it. What would Facebook be without advertising? Aside of course form hundreds of millions of dollars poorer?  Probably much smaller, since it would have had no way to foot the bill for its massive growth, save for taking on more cash from VCs worried about missing the next Google. And if it was much smaller, how many fewer radars would it be on? You lose the Fast Company, Newsweek, Business Week. You are suddenly still collegiate and walled and not innovating at the pace your market capitalization (suggested or otherwise) allows you to. Facebook’s growth is built on the promise of an Intention Economy in spite of the fact all evidence points to the absence of such a thing.

Lets continue: The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets. This again takes us back to the core issue of how people behave when it comes to commercially consumable goods on Facebook. If I have missed the train on this I look forward to finding out, but I don’t see a dip in Amazon’s trading, I don’t hear about slumps in eBay’s number of auctions (not ones that aren’t brought about by their own ineptitude anyway). Contrast this with little known but rapidly growing Etsy, a site built around the trade of goods that are 100% hand-made. Commerce is core in its business model, coupled with a feel-good, natural vibe that is hard to come by online. I don’t want to talk about it too much, suffice to say the service is brilliant and should be visited (right after we finish here).

Etsy doesn’t need to risk disenfranchising its user-base in order to move towards profitability; the inherent small-business nature of its offering allows it to grow organically, improve and expand as it needs to. I was at a wedding recently and a friend was talking about a marketing plan, saying “Give me$20 million and we’ll achieve “x”, $10 million and we’ll achieve “y“, but $5 million and we won’t even get off the ground.” Facebook needs to grow at its current pace in order to achieve its goals, it needs an Intention Economy to be established and fast, lest the rest of the world pick up on the fact that there currently is no profitable business there, at least not on the scale they are currently operating on. Etsy could stay its current size and be a success, and I imagine that’s quite alright with everyone involved.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. This one goes without saying. Facebook are making moves towards an open platform, surprisingly still sitting out in front of Google who, for the first time perhaps ever, was caught sleeping. The same way Microsoft missed the internet, Google seems to have missed the promise of social networking and what an open playing field can mean. They are of course a little more concerned with owning your phone than your MySpace page, probably because they already have all the access there they need.

Regardless, while Facebook slowly makes moves away from being a silo, they are still being very careful to make sure they remain a focal-point for your interactions. Using an Amazon Facebook application which you’ve plugged in to your Bebo page isn’t a negative for them; continuing to use Amazon as you are, or using an application that runs via someone else’s network is. If Facebook’s usage levels or visitation starts to decline or even just level off as it eventually must, look for some dramatic moves on their part, particularly if the Intention Economy is still nowhere to be seen.

Lastly, In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that. Right now we don’t have that, we have sellers competing simply for the buyer’s attention. This seems simply ludicrous when you consider:

  • A Facebook user’s attention not up for grabs, not by sellers anyway. They are here for social interaction. Before we get into notions of what constitutes a ridiculous notion of “proper” social interaction (which people usually take to be face-to-face), the rules are different now. The key take away though is the rules aren’t just different for people under 30, people 50+ are interacting in this way too, ith plenty of them getting married. The web has enabled this sort of interaction, the song however, remains the same.
  • There is no intention to buy. Ever see teenagers at a shopping centre, hanging out and not buying anything? Look for this behaviour to continue (funnily enough). Marketers looking to capture that intention are going about it in the wrong capacity. Yes, a person is a fan of the TV show Lost. Yes, you have that on DVD and you can sell it to them. No, they do not want to buy that now. They want to buy it when they want to watch it, so you had better make sure you know enough about your audience to be in the right place at the right time (Hint: the right place is not Facebook, the right time is when they are not on Facebook).
  • Imagine for a moment that Facebook was actually a readily monetisable and viable market place; sellers would be competing purely with the rest of a user’s wall. Vampires, Texas Hold’Em Poker, travel widgets, pokes and haggis being thrown, videos playing and songs streaming from iLike. What could your product possibly offer that competes with all of that?

The ironic pat of it all though, is you cannot afford to not be a part of it, if only because if you’re not, your CEO is going to hear about it from his kids and consider that a mandate for action. Social media runs much wider, and there are opportunities inherent in it. But Facebook? Setup a free fan page and see if your audience finds you. If they do, then that’s a conversation worth having.

As we all know now, markets are conversations, and you get to fight another day.

(P.S. I would love to hear from some folk who have tried monetising FB and what their experience has been.)

Vodafone & the stay of execution February 24, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing.
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Long time listeners-first time callers may recall my recent troubles with Vodafone, mobile carrier to the masses starved for choice. I had come to regard their Australian operations with such apathy I barely had the energy to add a condescending tone to my voice when speaking about them, content to let the name ring out with a monotonous drawl and slide away into delicate traces of nothingness (much like their service). I was utterly flabbergasted when I had posted my lament to better days one evening, only to find a comment from an employee the next, wanting to help. The gesture was tempered in the ensuing days by the fact that, somehow, he worked for the UK division yet still managed to locate me while Vodafone Australia played solitaire in the back room of whatever faceless warehouse they stowed away in this week. How could Vodafone UK become aware of my problem and Australia remain blissfully ignorant?

The details of the ensuing days don’t really bear repeating. I eventually had my phone replaced, though I wound up spending almost three hours on hold to get a handset repaired that I had taken insurance out on months ago. All manner of incompetence was displayed, until the final straw came along when a lovely lady called Casey told me she would need to request the paper work from the store to take a look at my initial request for insurance on the handset. I calmly told Casey I understood the process they needed to follow, but I also explained I had been a loyal customer for five years (I have spent thousands with them) and if this was not resolved satisfactorily I would be taking my business elsewhere.

The call ended, but five minutes later she called back, saying the issues were resolved and I could organise a replacement with their insurance department. I was transferred, my call answered immediately and told I could collect a replacement handset from any Vodafone store.

I’m going to go double-time on this for the viewers playing at home; you should not have to threaten to take your business elsewhere in order to achieve good customer service! All I wanted was for Vodafone to acknowledge their mistake and replace the handset. It took weeks to resolve, hours of my time sent on hold, and an outcome arrived at solely due to me being unwilling to accept the situation as the company presented it. So, a few lessons for all the corporations out there, regardless of the space you’re in:

1. You need advocates for consumers inside your companies

If every person you employ is hell bent on justifying a bottom line, you will lose sight of your audience, cease to be relevant, and fade out of existence. Casey, while simply doing her job, at least understood my plight and went after a resolution internally after our conversation. Companies need people on the inside who are passionate about the consumer experience and not focussed on what it means from within the naive point of view of an operational cost. Vodafone’s loss here is a single handset, versus the hundreds of dollars I spend with them a month. You don’t need an M.B.A. to do the math there.

2 . Customer service is the new marketing

This is not a new idea, but I’m amazed at how few people actually get it. Good customer service is priceless. These people should not be paid poorly, stuck in a corner to deal with complaints every day until they have had enough and quit or leap off a bridge. They should be applauded and celebrated as the front line in the ongoing battle in an increasingly competitive space for eyeballs. These people should be empowered to make decisions based not on profitability, but on a mantra of “how do I make this person a fan of our company?”. Until I am given evidence otherwise, I will tell each person who asks me about car insurance to call AAMI. My circle of friends is one that AAMI stand to get a lot of business from.

3. You ARE being talked about. You’re either a participant in the conversation or you are a deer in headlights

My initial episode of being contacted by Vodafone UK showed how easy it was for the conversations you have to get out there; there being the wide open spaces of the inter-webs. I’m going to get in touch with the Vodafone UK people with a view to interviewing them on their approach to online media and how those interactions are changing the way they do business. While it wasn’t an optimal outcome for them, they showed it wasn’t hard to find the conversations going on and get involved, and I imagine they do that countless times a day. The fact is somebody somewhere is having a less than optimal experience with your product, brand or service right now; how much you care about making that better is in direct correlation to how much you care about being around in five years.

Consumers are changing their behaviour, demanding more and rightfully so. The companies that take the time to get this right have a much easier road ahead of them. By the token that money doesn’t make you happy but it does give you the opportunity to worry about other things, getting your customer service offering in order means your attention can be focussed on innovation in other areas of your business. And your competitors get left for dead.

Even Rome fell my friends.

Yes We Can February 24, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in politics.
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Coming to the party a bit late on this, had had the video loaded for a couple days before I got around to watching it. But it’s a great speech, and gave me chills in places. Obama is more than anyone living outside the US has had to hope for in a long, long time. If only there was a system by which the rest of the world could have a say, because the President of the United States invariably becomes everyone else’s president, whether we like it or not.

But I wouldn’t mind this one, not one bit.

Everyone wins; brand association and confounding expectations February 21, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing.
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I was driving from meeting to meeting the other day, stopped at some lights. I turned and looked out my right-hand window and saw a Pininfarina badge staring back at me. For those that don’t know, Pininfarina are a boutique design firm in Italy specialising in cars, specifically ostentatious, expensive, European-made cars. Bughatti, Alfa-Romeo, Maserati. These are the names and brands associated with Pininfarina, very much from the If-You-Have-To-Ask,-You-Can’t-Afford -It-Department.

Now I’m no auto-enthusiast, I would frankly struggle to change a tire on my own. But I knew Pininfarina. And I knew that something was not right, or at least not expected. I eased in front of the car next to me and through the mirror saw, much to my surprise, there wasn’t a Europen badge in sight. It wasn’t even American. The badge staring back a me was Hyundai. Even some of friends who are actually into cars don’t know the Pininfarina name, so I’ll frame it like this: imagine Gordon Ramsay released his own menu in McDonalds. THAT is what a Pininfarina badge on a Hyundai is. Unexpected. Attention-grabbing. A story I want to know more about.

However this goes a bit beyond a simple comparison of prestigious brand meets common denominator brand; if Gordon Ramsay released a line of meals in McDonalds, I’d find it less a curiosity, more so a gross diminishing of his brand. McDonalds are a global leader in mass-produced junk food, there’s nothing beyond a general charitable interest in Ronald McDonald House that I find even remotely appealing about them. Ramsay himself I don’t really care for, but I’d be a big dirty liar if I said I had no interest in eating at one of his restaurants. But that sort of association would say to me (and I’m being grossly irrational here to prove a point):

  1. He was somewhat of a whore
  2. He ceased to care about the experience of eating his food and focussed simply on the mass promotion of his brand
  3. McDonalds had no idea;
    1. who their core audience was anymore
    2. nobody who gave a toss about who Gordon Ramsay was would be drawn to McDonalds, and did it simply for the brand exercise.

Now there are a myriad of other things wrong with a Ramsay-McDonalds association, but it is fictional so we won’t dwell. What I will say is it would be entirely unexpected, but I don’t think it would be well received. Contrast this with a Pininfarina-Hyundai association, which is equally unexpected, but received in such a glowing fashion that it changes the perception of both brands for the better.

For Pininfarina, it shows a level of candour and humility in what they do. They care about spreading a gospel of style and substance. They recognise continuing in an isle of exclusion among premium European automakers will not grow their business or brand, and are interested in more than just what their countrymen have to offer.

For Hyundai it is a stunning move. Let’s get something out of the way – it still looks like the kind of thing Hyundai would make. But to get hung up on that misses the point entirely. Hyundai is about providing the best car they can for the lowest possible price, eschewing a car that turns heads for one that is affordable and packed with as many features as possible. The people who buy cars from Hyundai want something that turns heads, but will settle for something generically comfortable, cheap to run, cheaper to fix, an, most of all, reliable.

This understanding of what a customer wants and what it expects from a brand is paramount. Who knows – Pininfarina may have first submitted something typically them, I would love to know! If that happened, then Hyundai made an astute move – the typical Hyundai customer would, I feel, have looked at it, and passed it by. It is not what they expect or come to Hyundai for. It would be like a no-frills brand being out a premium range of products. I can buy a $15 tshirt from Target, would I buy a $100 t-shirt from them or would I go to the store I associate with that price point? So too the car produced by Pininfarina and Hyundai hits the core offerings Hyundai is known for. And Pininfarina pocket a cheque that allows them to make the supercars they got into the business for.

Everyone wins, but consumers win most. Just as it should be.

Brand equity; saying and doing (and knowing the difference) February 12, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing.
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Recently I was in the office of a Marketing Manager I’m doing some consulting for (we’ll call her company Brand X because that makes life easy. Ok it makes my life easy. Moving on…). I was giving her a hard time because her company talks a lot about its interest in the environment, yet still uses Styrofoam cups at its outlets (obviously it is a food & beverage retail shop). How did they expect me, the consumer, to take them seriously on the environment when this was the case?

We got into a debate and then a bunch of stats were put in front of me, research that had been done showing their utilisation of Styrofoam cups actually impacted the environment less than if they used recycled paper. “What a fascinating statistic,” I said. “Why don’t you share that?”

Apparently they do, or at least have done in the past. The problem with Brand X is their management has a fairly 20th century view of marketing; we can’t sell our product online as it is part food preparation, so what is the point in marketing online? Actual quote. I needed a forklift to pick my jaw off the ground the first time I heard that, such an incredibly narrow-minded approach, you almost want them to go out of business.

Back to the Styrofoam cup though. They were attempting to convey their message in ways that just didn’t make it out there in a Marketing 2.0 world. A wholly flash-driven site, content buried within, hidden from search engines and RSS and all the things that have come along to make it easier to communicate with your audience. I suggested a few things which I won’t go into now for various reasons, but the kicker came when an example of an alternate cup was produced.

Out of a box the Marketing Manager pulled a recycled-paper cup. It had dimples all over, making it easier to hold I suppose, but she sighed and simply said “The branding isn’t as strong on this one.”

Allow me to step out of my story here people, and relay the following: If you are relying on your logo being on the side of a cup to promote your branding, you have issues. Seriously pack up and turn the lights off, theres nothing for you to see here. If a change of cup starts with “the branding isn’t as strong” and not the story behind it then you are proper fucked. Full stop.

Brand X failed (and fails) to understand three things:

  1. The story around legitimate environmental concern
  2. The way that ties into their brand
  3. The way it manifests itself at the store-front

Environmental Concern

I talked recently about CERES, an organic farm that goes out of its way to practice what it preaches. Everything about the place rang true, you didn’t think for a second that they were stretching the truth in any aspect of their operation. Made to Stick talks a lot about this; concrete ideas, simple and easy to understand, even easier to execute. The best and most successful companies have this at their core focus, and they’re able to execute on it because the CEO doesn’t need to be present to convey a 12-step program to each employee every second of the day, they can’t possibly be. What they can do is boil the vision for the company down into a single, concrete goal.

For Google, it is all about being the best in search, even BEING search (ie. do you “search” for something or do you “Google” it?. For Southwest Airlines, it’s about being THE low-cost carrier. Once an employee understands that, each decision gets a whole lot easier. I do a lot of work with Hippo Jobs right now, and we’re all about being THE job site for youth. Once a person understands that core goal, it informs every decision and makes life a whole lot easier; I couldn’t possibly tell you what was informing Brand X’s decisions; I know innovation is supposed to be a core value but that is far too vague to be in any way meaningful.

If environmental concern is genuinely a core goal, then you make your mandate the following: we will be THE most sustainable and environmentally-friendly company in our space. If that vision is communicated, then it informs every decision made and is easy to execute culturally (if not always financially).

How does this tie into the brand?

There is a serious lack of authenticity in Brand X’s voice, and this stems largely from the absence of focus in its management. It is clear from an operations point of view it is driven by financial results, not notions of altruism it makes claim to. Understand, they are working towards a number of things, I’m haranguing them on the environment because it is an easy point to make. If Styrofoam is actually a better choice for the planet then that story needs to be told, nobody is going to trust you just because you can buy space on TV or in a shopping mall.

When writing about The Black Swan, I showed the importance of telling a story vs. presenting the facts; rolling over and producing a paper cup sends the message “We’re more interested in playing to popular opinion than really doing the right thing” to me (though to the market it may suggest a genuine interest in the environment as the stereotype is Styrofoam is bad). Regardless, as soon as the tide turns again, Brand X’s convictions shatter. Which means people don’t ultimately buy in to your brand (even if they can’t quite put their finger on why). Which means people move as soon as the next guy presents something they can believe in. Hugh Macleod nailed this in his Hughtrain Manifesto when he said “the market for something to believe in is infinite”. If your product or brand doesn’t start tapping in to something fundamental about the human experience, don’t expect to stick around, and don’t be surprised when people toss you over for the next craze.

You need to be authentic.

You need to stand for what you stand for. Every. Second. Of. The. Day.

Even then you may not make it, but people will remember you for having the balls to take a stand; if you don’t get remembered for that, then you get remembered for being divisive and not, in the end, worth anything.

The Way This Manifests Itself at the Store Front

When a business’ goals are articulated clearly to everyone that works for it, things happen on their own. At CERES they decided to stop selling bottled water because of the myriad of environmental issues the plastic caused. They laminated pieces of paper (initially bad for the environment) so they didn’t have to go through endless pieces of paper (long term sustainability). These are the things at the surface level, the “branding on the cup” so to speak; they’re obvious to all who visit the place and are clearly the manifestation of core goals the organisation has.

As much as the management of Brand X would like to think it, the 16 year old employed last week has a hard time buying in to the corporate culture unless they see it ring true and inform the choices of those around them. Enthusiasm and passion are infectious, they inspire those around them to greater heights, to better truths and bigger ideas. Energy saving lightbulbs, green energy providers, flyers about sustainable initiatives and products in store, articles in the Brand X club magazine and franchisee initiatives are not only easy steps forward to take, but they write the story themselves and I bet there are a hundred more that only come to light once you know the business inside out.

People used to spend all their time trying to come up with single word associations to define their brand, but that isn’t good enough anymore. We need big ideas, we need mission statements, we need concrete goals set that every single person in an organisation works towards. When you get it right, you’re Google (or at least the Google of your space).

When you get it wrong you’re…hmmmm…

Come to think of it, I don’t remember. Do you?

Twitter, its users, and the notion of “free” February 10, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in web 2.0.
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There’s been a lot of chatter lately around Twitter and its inability to remain online consistently. The service is doing its best to scale but it doesn’t not seem to be improving reliability overall. People are threatening to leave, which isn’t a great sign for something still very much in ‘early-adopter’ stage, but I find the whole thing largely amusing, and I really think the user base needs to just chill out.

Twitter itself came about almost by accident. The company behind it, Obvious had the foresight to spin it off into its own entity and remain as a investor; such a shrewd move to be sure, one that could only be born out of the experience of selling Blogger to Google and getting another company – Odeo – to a stage where it could be acquired.

To put the events around Twitter into context, let me explain the perspective I have on it. I used to make video games for a living, a job I enjoyed for the most part. Some of the best times we ever had were when we saw people do things in the game that we hadn’t actually intended; it’s referred to as emergent gameplay; and basically you create a set of tools and the player manages to solve puzzles according to what make sense to them (it’s a little more complicated than that, but that definition works none the less) – you give someone what they need and then see what they do with it.

Prior to Twitter launching, I don’t think very many people could have seen it as something they needed. Trialled initially out of curiosity than anything, people users have come to love the service. Not only that, but they applied it to different situations, certainly ones that went beyond the original vision for the application. That great, but what it means is Twitter is being used for things it wasn’t designed to do. Obvious, being the clever folk that they are have embraced the behaviour rather than hinder it, spawning new micro-behaviours such as “live” or “event” tweeting, taking live blogging to a new platform altogether, along with the conversation around it.

Cue major events, marketing/tech conferences, elections, natural disasters. The Twitter service suffers because of overload on the infrastructure. People in turn start complaining that Twitter isn’t reliable, or scaling appropriately. Yes a few events have taken place where it has become obvious that work needs to be done on their backend, but what the tech was created for and what it was applied to are different things. Obvious are being smart and doing their best to run with that, but it is going to take some time to get right.

What it means is we have a service which is still very much in beta but that people have come to rely on the same way they rely on pieces of software that cost them hundreds if not thousands of dollars. What a fantastic development!! Unfortunately people forget it didn’t cost them anything to arrive at this point and expect the same level of service they get out of their commercial software.

I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and acknowledge Twitter is a fantastic service that is having some growing pains. We’re such an instant and on-demand culture nobody seems willing to acknowledge it just might take a little time to build it into the service it can be. Twitter could never say this themselves, their users would revolt and call them arrogant. But I’m on their side.

And I think they’re doing a great job.

An open letter to Vodafone February 7, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing, work/life.
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Dear Vodafone,

We’ve been friends for a while now, since 2003. I was with your competition, but they were a touch incompetent. I’m an international sort of guy and I liked what you were about. Plus the girl I was seeing at the time used you, and if I can trust someone enough to swap bodily fluids, then surely I can take a punt on their carrier of choice.

Things were great initially, new number was easy to remember, the free calls to my true love, and after my friends finally stopped calling the old digits, it seemed like everyone was using you. Great! Nothing like being part of the crowd to make a guy feel good about himself.

Time passed, things changed, but you remained the same. The girl had other ideas but you stayed true, online 24/7 so my friends could call and console me, even offering me new phones every now and then so I didn’t think about running to your competitors. You even stayed online once new girls started to call me. You were good to me, and I was good to you. We were good to each other (and really, how many people can we say that about?!?!).

Lately though, things haven’t been the same. When my last phone was an absolute piece of shit, you weren’t there for me, even though you had offered it up under the guise of a “reward”. That wasn’t cool. You knew better. You’ve been OK (generally) about my new pride and joy, but as I sit here, waiting on hold to find out when you’ll be done assessing my insurance claim, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe it isn’t time to move on.

Last week, when all I needed was to give you my poor Blackberry Pearl to be repaired or replaced after a nasty run-in with the Great Southern Ocean, you kept me on hold for 40 minutes. FORTY. With the ear piece glued to my ear as, funnily enough, I need the damn thing for work.

After that I had to drive to a store. A proper store, with bricks and things holding it up. I was willing to at least experiment with the idea, we have after all been together a while, and I do want to try and make it work. But then your people (it is probably the best way to describe them, though it is in no way indicative of their true, insidious and hidden dark form) just didn’t care. Really. I don’t mean they were a touch laissez faire, I mean they did not care, the way a mother turtle might lay eggs and then waddle off into yonder sea, black beret tilted just so, cigarette in mouth muttering “C’est la vie…” as the gulls make ready to swoop. Not only that, they were poorly trained. Perhaps they had skipped the sections on product knowledge, retail management and general courtesy and focussed solely on Appendices with titles such as “101 ways to ignore customers” and “Things you can do to avoid doing your job”. Understand, I’m not being snooty. I worked retail for years while at university. In fact I worked it full-time while studying to help my parents pay their bills; what I’m saying is I know the job can be a bitch, and I know there are extenuating circumstances that may make you feel like not being there. And there’s a word for people like that, certainly for the people that manned your store that day: useless. I have other words too, like lazy, self-absorbed, and waste-of-space. Get over it or change your line of work; I hear they’re still short on sand bags in New Orleans!

I’m not sure which moment stands out more – the dull glimmer of acknowledgment once a particularly fine specimen of cro magnon man clocked my person in the store (I was the only one) or when I had to correct him on his own form, advising him that “Store contact info” probably did not mean my home address. I reluctantly left the phone in his ape-ish hands and, with little option wandered into the 3 Mobile Store located conveniently next door, to get a cheap, pre-paid Skype phone. Funnily enough, they were no better (maybe it’s just telecommunications retail staff in general, I know a website that can help you with that).

I was told it would be 3 – 5 working days before I had my phone back (or a new one). Great success, I can live with that. And being a little distanced from the office by not getting my email on my phone? Good for the soul.

So when it hit seven days, I became a little concerned. I decided to call your number for a chat, thinking I would show a bit of proactivity, touch base, get an up date. Not spend 45 minutes this time waiting for my call to be answered. Seriously, I know you have problems, we all have problems. But 45 minutes? Were you making soufflé by way of apology? Did I miss the invitation? I’m pretty sure I played my part, I know this dance well as I did it once already.

The thing that really brings a smile to my face though is what your insurance people finally have to say to me, after the 45 minute rehearsal. It seems when my account was switched over onto the Blackberry and away from a device born from Satan’s own loins, the miscreant we’ll (for the sake of the argument) call “a customer service representative” didn’t move the insurance with it. So, I have an already broken and utterly useless Nokia 6288 that I haven’t had a call on since July under insurance. And I have the phone you helped me switch to meeting an untimely end on a beach in Lorne. This is the equivalent of trading in a Datsun, acquiring a Nissan Z and then the mechanic being surprised when you show up with it. “Where’s the Datsun?” they ask bewildered. “Datsun?” you say, “YOU WERE THERE WHEN IT LEFT!!”

So, my course of action is pretty simple here. We’ve had fun, really, we’ve had a ball. You’ve been there through thick and thin and captured some things on various media devices it’d be best if my parents never saw. I’m going to call in the morning and try to sort this out with your account people. If we cannot make it work, I’m going to cite irreconcilable differences. Nobody likes a drawn out custody battle, and I think we both saw this coming.

One more chance Vodafone, what happens after that is entirely up to you.

Yours sincerely,

David Gillespie
(disgruntled customer)

10 reasons why digital is better than advertising February 5, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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One of the most fundamental rules of blogging is someone has probably said the exact same thing you did, only much, much better. After writing my Us vs. Them post, I went over to CrackUnit and dug up one of Iain’s pieces from last year; 10 reasons why digital is better than advertising. For anyone wanting a basic course in the key differences between digital and other disciplines, or if you’re on the digital side of the fence and just want to read the writing of someone who Gets It™, it is well worth your time.

Us vs. Them February 5, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy.
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I had the pleasure (genuinely, I’m not being sarcastic) of bumping into the Creative Director of a very successful DM arm of a big global ad agency on Friday. She was having going away drinks, moving from one office to the country’s HQ. As I congratulated her on the move she happily told me that she would be over-seeing digital as well in her new posting; it was all I could do not to grab the nearest steak knife and swing it unwaveringly into a forearm – mine or someone else’s, I didn’t really care.

Let’s get this straight, and let’s not be shy about it: traditional ad folk (I’m talking above and below the line people) do not, as a general rule, get digital. It requires a different way of thinking. You cannot serve up a message to be consumed just as you created it. That completely misses the point. I had the same argument with film people when I worked in video games; you can’t just transpose a narrative into a digital setting, you must consider interactivity! Otherwise you simply take the piss out of the entire fucking thing. There’s a whole other notion here about why people who are only thinking about creating traditional messages are soon to be gone, but I’ll leave that stuff to Hugh Macleod.

The unfortunate flip side of this is digital people can be their own worst enemies. Aware they do not get asked for any meaningful level of input, they often wind up not sharing their best ideas because they assume they either won’t be listened to or the ideas will be stolen (even though that’s more likely to be done by their own creative director than the traditional media folk). This creates a gruesome us vs. them mentality where nobody wins, accounts are lost, traditional media say the digital shops are hard to work with, and the digi guys say nobody listens to them. I spent long enough at a house claiming to be integrated to make me never want to work at a traditional “agency” ever again. I saw a great quote over the Christmas break by a Sydney suit saying she hated the stereotype that advertising was filled with wankers from the 80’s. She may be right, but what she doesn’t say is a whole new bunch of wankers came along to replace them.

In among this are some guiding lights, eager to learn and doing great work already. One person I had the pleasure of working with is Chantelle Warren who is now at M&C Saatchi in Melbourne. If this woman’s C.V. ever comes across your desk, find out how many zeroes she needs then add another just for good measure; she will reward you in spades.

Unfortunately, she was a rarity. Equally unfortunate is that as digital practitioners we preach openness, sing the praises of the Creative Commons, yet we’re not often willing to put those things into play when it means sacrificing our egos a little bit. This business of Marketing 2.0, to quote Jerry MacGuire, “is an up at dawn, pride-swalling siege that I will never fully tell you about.” The value as I am coming to see it, is in giving the ideas away. The reality is if people don’t conceive an idea in the first place, they won’t know what to do with it when you’re not in the room anyway. That may sound as vindictive as not sharing ideas in the first place, but at least then the clients stick around, happy with the quality of work and eager for more.

Some things will remain more effective for the time being. Demos 35 years and older are largely still well-reached by radio, even better by TV. Marketers need to realise though that people not yet 30 (this includes myself) do not reliably consume media in any of the traditional ways they’ve been able to reach us on, and the digital equivalent of stuffing your DM piece in my inbox or forcing me to watch tedious ads will lose you business.

And that’s the way it should be.

CERES – a lesson in authenticity February 4, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing.
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Sunday morning I went to brunch with friends as is my want. And by morning I mean 1 in the afternoon. Bless. My friend Al picked the destination, and after acquiring a couple extra we drove over to the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES), a self-sustaining organic (NOT vegetarian) farm – they call it a “community environment park” – which regularly holds a variety of lifestyle workshops (damn dirty hippies!) but also has a fantastic cafe where the owners clearly practice what they preach. Last year they won an award from the Victorian Premier for sustainability, and have been nominated for countless others.

Aside from all the obvious ways that a belief in sustainability manifests itself, there were little touches, such as laminated pieces of paper to take orders on (thus never actually throwing out the paper on which you write) and not stocking bottled water due to the landfill and other environmental issues the plastic causes.

Wandering around the park I got a real sense of what the community goals were for the place and how focussed they were. They’ve been going for over 25 years and continue to expand where they can, spreading a message of sustainability by doing as opposed to talking.

For all the high profile groups out there that seem just to shout louder than others, it was really refreshing to see people quietly going about their work with a sense of purpose. It rings true and there’s a lesson in marketing here that backs up my experiences with AAMI recently, along with a bunch of things I’m reading right now in Made to Stick: communicating your core proposition to everyone who works for you is paramount. Drum that in to people and then get out of the way and allow them to deliver. I doubt CERES’s founders were standing around one day discussing laminating a piece of paper to take an order, its the kind of idea that springs up in the moment, borne out of the raw manifestation of a company’s ideals.

How many corporations can you think of where you could imagine that sort of behaviour going on?

I can’t think of many either.

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