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But I first had to take care of the world I know February 8, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy.
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Budd Carrell

Bud Caddell, as surrounded by Post-It notes.

So nothing like 2 hours in customs and then more hours sitting on the runway because it’s snowing at your destination, but it gave me time to read through this thought-provoking article from Bud Caddell on the future of the ad agency.

First off, it’s great; it doesn’t claim all the answers but it probes in all the right places. And for whatever reason I was thinking about this a lot over the weekend, and you should totally read Bud’s piece first, because this is my take, and there are a bunch of synergies.

1. We do not need more web shops.

Now, I say that with a lot of friends running their own places, so let me qualify that statement. Most companies only need some simple hosting, a WordPress install, and should spend the majority of their money on design. To saddle people with cumbersome, proprietary content-management systems and code re-written from the ground up when someone else’s plugin will do exactly what you want is morally bankrupt.

On top of that, it can be done more cheaply and to a reasonable level of quality for around US$20 an hour. Sad for some, but it is the modern equivalent of the industrial revolution. And the money is best spent elsewhere.

2. This is “elsewhere”.

Content. Content content content. I recently did an audit for a company and came out of it with the exact thing I expected: they didn’t give their customers anything other than coupons, so subsequently that’s all they talked about.

3. Everything gets easier.

This is the biggest truism, and it exists as uch inside the ad industry as it does outside it: everything, I do not care what it is, will get easier. It will happen in manufacturing as much as it will happen with technology, so companies whose existence relies on technology have but one choice: to make problems that are difficult easy for the people facing them.

Agencies with big technical production capabilities need to send the work out to be done more cheaply, take the best and brightest they have and remake that department as a research & development arm. There is no reason Foursquare could not have been created by Zagat’s; but nobody was working on that kind of problem. Not hard enough anyway. The digital shops need to go back to their engineering roots; they need to sit a bunch of curious minds from across the board together and be inventors; that work is far too important to leave to agencies – and they’re not going to do it anyway.

4. No points for second place.

One of Al Ries22 Immutable Laws of Marketing said it was better to be first in a new category than 2nd in an old one; that is basically positioning but it speaks to a fundamental truth: marketers need to stop inventing problems for products to solve and focus on creating products that get back to the existing ones, which I suppose just echoes what I said in point 1 more generally. And particularly in the CPG space, they need to udnerstand the conversation around the product is always more interesting than the product itself (e.g. baby formula or parenthood? Which is more interesting?).

5. What we used to call digital will lead, and it won’t survive without traditional talent.

Bear with me: it doesn’t make sense to talk about “digital” anymore, it’s too ubiquitous to mean anything. What we’re really looking at is a kind of “curation of connections”, which happen in various places. Great strategists can lead that, but they’re going to need content produced – and occasionally a short, branded spot or a still image. One thing traditional advertising still has over new media is the ability to tell a story in a heartbeat; we’ll always need that sort of eye, but there’s no longer any reason for it to lead, its importance is decreasing by the day.

6. This only applies to the companies that don’t create true value.

Apple, Zappos, and the other handful of brands that create products and services so compelling they don’t need to market the way everyone else does are going to continue to chart their own course. Long term, companies are better off focusing on that than trying to advertise their way into people’s wallets, as that stops working the second the ad stops.

So, in summation: the agency will be replaced by strategists defining touch points and curating content for those points, and that can be a 3rd party or it can be a savvy brand manager. Regardless of who it is, a lot of people currently in agency land are simply not capable of that. It isn’t a sell, it’s leading by being meaningful, and advertising just isn’t good at that.

Web shops who want to remain web shops need to use the cheapest technologies available, and make their own approach more turn-key. If they don’t, they will lose out to overseas suppliers who can do it all cheaper (and likely faster). The whole notion of a “digital” agency needs to be ditched, we’re talking user-experience and connections, regardless of whether that happens virtually or in the real world. The shops who don’t want to do that need to be inventors.

And brands that don’t want to deal with either need to create products so compelling and in-tune with their customer base they largely sell themselves. Advertising was always the price you paid for being boring, and shortly it may not be a price you can pay at all.

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Let’s get together and do it again January 6, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, technology.
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JP Morgan’s Imran Khan (different Imran Khan) is tipping online display advertising to grow this year by around 10.5%. Which is obviously massive. He also cites a few trends that seem to be moving the industry away from naff executions – aka the banners that neither you nor I ever click on. Which, let’s be honest, is all of them. He is talking though of a trend more towards what Banner Blog exists to share with us, which is great.

That’s not what I want to talk about though. In the same article Khan talks about mobile growing 45% (!!!) this year, winding up with $3.2 billion spent on SMS, $253 million in mobile display, and $321 million in mobile search.

A few things:

  1. As the mobile platform improves, the notion of display as distinct on mobile from PC will disappear
  2. It will however give way to services sensitive to your platform and do other interesting things around location, and device-specific functionality
  3. I don’t understand what constitutes “mobile search” – maybe someone can explain it to me?
  4. Advertisers who invade the phone like they have every other medium are going to get smacked; it’s still too personal

Aside from all of this, it’s the same Mcluhan-esque mistake (slide 44) made in online advertising where we take what we did before and force it into this new shape because we don’t know any better. If anyone truly believes the best way to use a mobile phone is to send people SMSs, they deserve the rapid demise their business will receive.

Frankly it speaks to the lack of vision and general laziness that pervades the entire ad industry. With the simple days of TVCs and print long behind it, rather than thinking about how it can reinvent itself to be relevant in a new era, it consistently mines tired ideas that speak to the silo-mentality of 20th century media.

People, look at foursquare, get in and use it for a few weeks. That, right there, is a perfect storm of local marketing, small business marketing, and mobile. If you do not see it, either try harder, or find a job where you do not need to.

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When honour is at stake, this vow I will make November 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about The Three Musketeers – my framework for business models which places them (perhaps overly simply, but simply none the less) into two baskets: All-For-One (self-serving pursuit of value) or One-For-All (pursuit of value for an ecosystem). The former is business as usual up until the advent of Google, at which point things seem to turn, and we see more and more businesses cropping up and being successful by creating value

I had, for the longest time, felt uneasy about Facebook. My sense was that it was founded with All-For-One principles, and I have a hard time viewing it as a business that seeks to create value for an eco-system; it is, to my mind, the second coming of Microsoft rather than the second coming of Google.

I say that, but I also now can’t help but acknowledge the market they have developed for small and local businesses to target customers, and the platform they have provided for brands to interact on a more personal level with fans. In some ways, it lessens the role of the ad industry, which to my mind has a hard time justifying itself as even remotely One-For-All, and so can only be viewed as a good thing.

Your friend and mine Umair Haque takes aim at Facebook in a recent Harvard Business blog: over the Farmville debacle

Once, banks held debt till maturity. The great unnovation was being able to sell it to the next guy, who sold it to the next guy, and on and on and on. What was once a simple, short value chain lengthened to the point of absurdity. Exactly the same value chain pattern is surfacing in media. Ads used to be bought and sold through a short value chain. Facebook ended up serving toxic ads because they were sold through lengthening chains of intermediaries — each of whom shifts the buck to the next guy.

The argument does and doesn’t hold water in places – to my mind it swerves dangerously close in places to the kind of opinion that states ISPs are responsible for their customer’s illegally downloading music. The overall point stands however, which is sacrificing the end-user for the man with money is a short-sighted strategy.

We need to spend more time creating things that user wants in the first place.

That is what One-For-All is all about.

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I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world November 4, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising.
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Tomorrow I’m teaching a course at the agency I work at, titled (long before I arrived) “Today’s Digital Consumer”. The first thing I’ll be doing is pulling out “Digital” from the topic heading, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has read Digital Strangelove.

I’m wrestling with theory vs. practice right now though; it could be a very practical talk, or it could be one of big ideas, and I’m not sure where the common ground is. I feel like it’s a moment for practical advice, for saying things people can take away and do. I also feel like advertising spends too much time just doing, and not enough time thinking about how it should be done.

Regardless, I’m thankful to have an audience that stretches across a variety of disciplines, from media planning to print production, and I’m hoping what comes out of it is a practical discussion, a lively debate and some points of view that challenge my own. It isn’t about being right, it’s about being least wrong, and I’m viewing all of this space right now with a smile and a shrug and a sly nod to a future version of myself who is already looking back and saying “Remember when…”

Image courtesy of the gracious and lovely Hugh Macleod.

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You light up my life like a polystyrene hat October 20, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising.
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I give advertising a really hard time, partly because I work in it, and partly because it is a collection of some incredibly insightful and creative people who have chosen to try and sell more soup. I know soup needs to be sold, but I feel like after 8000 or so years of it, soup’s proposition is fairly well established.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself loving the below TED Talk from Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman and Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy UK. I originally found it via the newly-discovered (by me) brilliance of Simon Kemp, and after bristling self-righteously that someone would argue for perceived value instead of actual value, I found myself giggling at Rory and remarking to a friend how insightful he was; his delivery is so desperately English, I love it.

Watch and enjoy.

*Update* The afore-mentioned brilliant Simon Kemp is also sharp and posted a link to a Q&A done with Rory after the talk he gave.

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Digital Strangelove – or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Internet October 19, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, best of, business strategy, digital strategy, social media, social networks, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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I mentioned last week I had been staying in on weekends and up at night trying to get everything I was thinking about out of my head. The space I feel was created in my head is amazing, leaving room to think about a bunch of other projects I have on the go but have also played second fiddle to this.

I’m not presenting the below presentation as gospel, if I may be so bold as to quote myself, I am not looking for right, just for least wrong, as one of the premises I state in the presentation is that so much of this space will continue to change for a long time to come.

The deck covers a lot of ground, mainly from the point of view of where we are right now in the evolution of the Internet and culture, and where I think we’re going. I welcome feedback of all kinds, from bursts of agreement to arguments against each and every slide.

If I have moved the conversation along in even the slightest way, I have succeeded. As always, thanks for reading, I really appreciate your time.

And the world seems to disappear August 18, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, marketing, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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So I was watching Curious Films’ Best Ads on TV vodcast this morning, the latest installment of which has a cracking Johnny Walker ad in it featuring Robert Carlyle. It’s below, enjoy.

posted with vodpod

So as I was watching this I got thinking about the length of this “commercial”. It may get a few runs on TV in its entirety, may get a few more in cinemas, but will most likely find its life, if it is to have one, online. So, that takes us quickly to a place where it isn’t a TV spot, it isn’t anything other than video which will be consumed in various places and fashions.

We’re seeing the destruction of industries built to sell physical things in large quantities. Text, pictures and sound are things that will shortly exist almost exclusively in bits, not atoms. Fred Wilson talks about the destruction of industries that are “end-to-end digital”. We’re seeing in the music industry, in publishing, in television, in marketing, in R&D and we’re going to start seeing it in a bunch of other industries that perhaps aren’t as innately adaptable to being entirely digital, but you can bet that the parts that are will follow swiftly.

Clay Shirky said in a recent TED talk that advances “don’t become socially interesting until they come technologically boring”, and we’re almost there. When everything is delivered via what we used to differentiate as “the Internet”, the medium may infact cease to be the message.

That strikes me as, social or not, very, very interesting.

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It’s all about them words June 25, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy, marketing.
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A few years back I did a consulting gig on a print directory service everyone is familiar with. The project looked at how digital media was changing the landscape they existed in and they were interested in finding out how they could continue to be profitable while these changes happened. In the end the recommendation was to ensure migration from the offline service to the online one, and involved a strategy for doing so. Having delivered the final report however, the response came back stating their print directory represented X-million dollars of revenue so they expected it to still be a thriving business in years to come, regardless of what we had to say.

No prizes for guessing how that turned out.

I was reminded of this when I got home one day last week to see the below in the lobby of the building I’m living in at the moment.

Yellowpages1

Yellowpages2

Now, Yellow Pages wasn’t the company so desperate to display their desire to stick their head into the sand, however they must, at some point, have had someone have a similar conversation with them. Three years ago when I was doing that project I stood in the middle of my agency and asked the entire office who had used a print directory in the last 6 months. Unless I was willing to accept “door stop” as an appropriate use, I had nothing.

It used to be if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages you didn’t have a business. Now it’s a matter of being on Google‘s pages, and you best make sure its the first one. If I was advising a company still advertising in the Yellow Pages, I would tell them to take that spend and invest it in SEO, optimising its site for core competancies and locality.

Understand I don’t think it is a good thing that a once proud business is dying, but few things are more Darwinian than business itself; ignorance should not be rewarded, nor should an inability or unwillingness to change with the times.

And we definitely shouldn’t invest in delaying the inevitable.

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The best around – June 12th, 2009 June 14, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, branding, business strategy.
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So this week I tweeted about an agency website which both had me giggling and marveling at its inventiveness. The agency in question, Boone Oakley is leapfrogging the notion an agency needs to have an impressive corporate site with not having a site at all. Instead, they have a video on YouTube which they have taken the time to build specifically for the platform, leveraging it in a way that is custom tailored to the site; it is not only a uniquely digital execution, it adheres to still fringe ideas around the distributed web and making your very presence as distributed as possible.

Plus it is very, very funny, and at 300,000-plus views, I imagine not only a bunch of disgruntled agency employees agree, but a host of disgruntled clients. To the companies out there who for some reason think they can get away witha  mediocre presence online and “let the work speak for itself“, think again.

While we’re on the work though, Goodby & Silverstein have a lovely piece up for telco Sprint. It is an execution unique to YouTube as far as I’m aware, following on from the brilliant Wario execution Nintendo had – I imagine this sort of thing will occur more and more as Google attempt to plug the US$500 million hole in the ship that is the world’s most popular video sharing site. Users upload videos of themselves making a number via the ad and then are inserted into the appropriate spot in a banner that takes the idea of a digital clock to a new level. Check it out at BannerBlog.

Last but not the least, the biggest shift online this week is coming courtesy of Facebook. They’re falling inline with most social networks and services and allowing personal URLs to be registered (e.g. http://Facebook.com/DavidNGillespie). This has previously only been open to brands at a cost, the indomitable Gary Vaynerchuk has more:

more about “Gary Vaynerchuk – Why Facebook fan pa…“, posted with vodpod

Take care everybody, and please let me know if you come across something during the week that simply has to be seen.

Best digital work this week – June 7th, 2009 June 7, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, digital strategy, social media, technology, Video Games.
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3 comments

Hi,

This is an ongoing series I’m doing rounding up the most interesting digital work I’ve come across in the past week. Sometimes it won’t necessarily be new, it’s amazing what can slip under the radar. If you find something you think is worth checking out, please leave me a note in the comments!

Cheers,

David

P.S. This post is best enjoyed with some Motown on in the background and a glass of wine/ice-cold beer.

—-

This week has been somewhat of an odd one, I’ve been fixated on augmented reality (henceforth referred to as “AR”) and have thus been scouring the web in search of the latest and greatest while trying to concoct ways to foist it on clients. Aside from just geeking out over it though, I really think there’s an opportunity to tell some interesting stories in ways that have previously eluded marketers. Mini started off with a cute but ultimately shallow AR spot, I like what Ray Ban have done though, upping the stakes ever so slightly and making sure to use the medium to do something others can’t (THE rule of ANY advertising: what can we do here that our friends in other disciplines can’t?).

As has been called out in other places however, not offering the option to “BUY NOW!” is a wasted opportunity.

In the interests of pushing things forward, I also came across a mad genius Russian raising the interactivity stakes, creating an environment virtual characters could interact with and makign it accessbile from your mobile (if your mobile happens to be a Nokia N95).

And I couldn’t bring this up without of course pointing you in the direction of a video I found and lost a long time ago, bless the Japanese for all they have brought us:

Experiential markteters: take this and run with it. Please.

Now, as I am a big proponent of brands getting more into the facilitation of experiences and services in more of a sponsor sort of way, I was a big fan of this new webservice, Supercook. The premise is simple: punch in the ingredients you have lying around and let Supercook display recipes that match what you already have in the pantry.

Dear Heinz,

Why are you not all over this?

Hugs and kisses,

Gillespie.

Moving on, in a great example of transparency, however cultivated I’m sure it is, I had no idea the Obama White House was running its own Flickr photostream. All companies who sell people-powered service please take note: putting a human face on what you do will always, always bring your customers closer to what you do. Next thing you know there’ll be a Get Satisfaction feedback form on the official White House page.

Adding another section to platform cold war going on right now, a game called Spymaster has launched a closed beta. “What is so special about a game being in closed beta?” I hear you ask. Well, not much, except it has been built on and is to be played using Twitter. Mashable have a great round-up of it, and while this shouldn’t be all that surprising given the myriad of web services already available, it’s interetsing to see people extend Twitter’s platform into a realm of sheer entertainment.

Last but not least, I couldn’t help but share this Brazillian site encouraging people to…errm…urinate while in the shower as opposed to the toilet. I can’t say it’s a practice I’ll be indulging in, and while I risk exposing myself for the hypocrit I am by including this site even amidst the lack of meaningful interaction between the site and its visitors beyond obligatory links out to various social networks, the execution is lovely and put a smile on my face.

Really, what more can we ask than that?

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