5 posts categorized "Interactive Agencies"

03/17/2011 The State of Interactive - #SXSW1

Whew. Finally coming down to earth after a weekend in Austin at SXSW. It was my first time there and there were a lot of people attending. There were a number of key points I took away from the panels and from my discussions with people there. In this first post about SXSW, I wanted to address the “state of interactive.” 

I went to a number of panels where the discussion still involved questions of how companies and agencies can focus more on interactive ideas rather than the usual traditional marketing. For all the talk, traditional marketing is still king of the hill and, despite solid inroads, interactive thinking and social programs are still afterthoughts in the grand scheme of things. 

The panels talked about the challenge of bringing new ideas to the forefront and convincing clients to do them. They talked about internal challenges of having the right technical/digital people to influence marketing thinking. In both cases, it seemed like a slow slog, if not a downright losing battle. 

I also talked to a lot of people in charge of embedding digital changes to their organizations. These people came from all over, from the very, very big, to the medium and small. They had the role of inspiring the internal culture to make it a more digitally focused, innovative company. I found an overstretched under-supported group. I met more than a few that were ready, or had, given up trying to change the traditionals and who were ready to do something more digitally focused.

They reminded me of myself 3-4 years ago when I received titles like Chief Digital Officer but no mandate or authority to actually hire new digital people. When it comes to making companies more interactive, it seems like we still faced with the Sisyphusian challenge of trying to change something that, really, doesn’t want to change.

I think that’s why you see people like John Winsor starting Victor & Spoils and Ty Montague starting Co. It’s why Howard Draft, chairman of DraftFCB told a panel at the latest 4A’s Conference that if he were to start over today, he’d start a small, solely digital shop.

Don’t get me wrong: There were a lot of great digital and interactive thinkers and thinking in Austin. But when it comes to shifting business and agencies to interactive and digital marketing, we’re not as far ahead as we think.

It points to a potential huge advantage in the coming years for those who have made the shift. And it shows that once the big marketing shift actually happens, if it does, the ones who are talking about it rather than doing it are going to be in a very, very tough spot.


03/06/2009 Skittles' Agency Strategy

The Skittles social media bomb went off this week, when the candy maker swapped its home page for its social media presence on various platforms. I’m not going to debate whether it was original or a rip-off, whether it was gimmicky or brave, smarter minds than I have already expounded on those topics.

No, I simply want to tip my hat at Skittles' new business strategy targeting creative and marketing people who work in big and small agencies. Yes, amid all the hoopla, I believe Skittles smartly developed and brilliantly executed a plan to grow its business through candy and junk food dependent marketers, designers, programmers and their ilk.

Face it; every agency has some snack strategy to keep its worker bees working harder and more productively. Most have bowls of candy throughout the workspace, they reward overtime with pizza and more than a few have beers or kegs on tap. When these aren’t enough, agencies sprinkle vending machines throughout the office.


Skittles made a play to be the snack of choice for those of us in the creative and marketing world, and they did a great job. Whether the rest of the country noticed or not, we marketers did notice, and we Tweeted, Blogged, Facebooked and chatted like never before. General Motors approached bankruptcy and the stock market dived to scary depths but all we had on our minds was Skittles social media play.

Watching the power and the fury on Twitter this week reminded me of my own Skittles story at my former agency. We always had some snack on hand: gumballs that were hard as rock and may have been up to five years old, Hershey’s kisses, and Jolly Ranchers, among others. We all snacked on them, occasionally. Then our admin had a stroke of brilliance and started buying bags and bags of Skittles at Costco.

The first batch disappeared in 3 days. The second batch disappeared in 2 days. We ate more Skittles over the first two weeks than all the other candy combined over two months! I admit I was one of the worst culprits. Chomping down Skittles (and chewing up the in-sides of my mouth) I developed more Web strategies, online marketing plans and RFP responses than ever before.

And then it stopped. The big boss was willing to spring for candy, just as long as we didn’t eat too much of it. Things went back to normal, and the gumballs came back.

This is what I think Skittles is up to this week. As we follow trendsetter David Armano on Twitter describing his own Sour Skittles consumption, can the rest of the industry be far behind? Watch for sales results around Madison Ave, Chicago, S.F, Boston, Portland, Austin and other creative mega-centers for March.

As for the rest of the population, Skittles still has more work to do. Like actually engaging with people and providing a direction for the noise they create, rather than just watching the noise happen.

In the mean time, we should expect to see some amazing marketing ideas and creative campaigns over the next several months as our Skittle highs kick in.

10/22/2008 MITX Awards

MITX announced its finalists in its 2008 Interactive Awards competition. This is the 5th year I’ve judged in the competition and while I've competed for the past 7 years. The MITX awards have always been, in my opinion, one of the better award competitions in the interactive space.

13thAnnual This year I judged the Best Brand and Best Integrated Campaigns. I noticed two big differences this year.

First, the level of entries was the highest I’ve seen in any of the competitions I've judged (and I judge a number of them, including WebAwards and W3 Awards).  That’s saying a lot for MITX where in years past shops Barbarian Group and Zugara dominated the awards.

Second, I was surprised and delighted to see such a wide range of entries in the Integrated Campaign category. Yes, the big agencies had a number of entries, but there were also some great smaller shops and client entries. It showed that, across the board, everyone took the idea of digital centric campaigns seriously.

What’s less clear, though, is what an “integrated campaign” actually consists of.  In the old agency days, integrated meant that everything, whatever it was, had to look exactly the same. Repetition, however, does not equal integration. Now, it looks like shops deem integration to mean that you have a clear media mix of offline and online marketing. Integration means lots of touch points including digital.

I think a better definition would be that each medium adds it’s unique engagement opportunity to your marketing dialogue. Kind of like the sum is greater than all of its parts.

Take an example of a campaign that lets people upload their own picture and voice recording online. Wouldn't a good integrated print or outdoor execution include some type of mirror so you could start seeing yourself as you would in the final conversion? Wouldn’t the mobile integration ask you to record the message and then download the background music as a ringtone?

To me, integration is a finely tuned machine, all working in unison, but with each part doing something unique that makes the whole better.

I would love to see those campaigns.

10/14/2008 Credit crunches, mortgage backed securities and online marketing

My friend Andrew, a honcho at Deutsche Bank, who’s been working with mortgage backed securities since the late 80’s, warned me last summer that things were going to get ugly. How right he was. Now that we’re facing a major economic recession, the pundits have started to forecast the decline in advertising and marketing budgets.

Media analyst John Janedis sees total U.S. ad spend slipping to a 0.8 percent growth rate this year and next year. He and others have revised their online spending estimates, and online media outlets have reported this with headlines such as:

Credit Collapse Dampens Prospects for Web Advertising (Clickz, 10/10) or
Online Ads to Take Hit Based on Economic Crisis? (Mediaweek 10/9)

What’s interesting in this is that their revising their growth forecasts downward, so that online advertising is expected to grow 10% and not 15% in one estimate (Wachovia) and 14% not 24% in another (Barclays).
Let’s see: we’re entering into a recession, overall ad spends will remain static, and online will increase between 10%-14%. That sounds like opportunity knocking. Marketers will demand that their spending be more targeted, efficient and results driven. Exactly what online delivers.

So while the economy is pretty scary right now and my 401K is only worth a 301K, it’s time for us online marketers to put our engagement ideas on the table to help our clients over the next year or two. It’s up to us. The money is there; the question is with whom are companies going to spend it.

Brian Eisenberg has a good article about this over at grok.com.

If you’re an interactive or Web firm, now’s the time.

09/09/2008 What Marketers Want

According to a new report from Sapient marketers want agencies to have a greater depth in the digital space. Is this really a surprise? It seems to me that this had been on the wish list for a while now.

While agencies don’t seem to have changed that fast, perhaps the marketers have started to. In other words, marketing directors seem to be more precise in what they’re looking for. Interestingly enough, the people in this survey already had a significant amount of their marketing dollars online.

Some of the desired items include: more knowledge of the digital space, more pull (read conversion) tactics, online communities. What I find most fascinating is that #10 on the list, below design, strategy and branding is analytics. That is, making sure the tactics actually worked and grew the business.

What does this say about marketers? That results are secondary? That hiring a firm with a chief digital officer is better, smarter or easier than hiring a firm that brings in the bacon, online? [Note: Having been a “chief digital officer” at an agency, I know how that can work successfully. But it’s still not as good as business results].

Idris Mootee in his recent blog post doesn’t think that traditional agencies will ever get this and sees a brain drain happening in the opposite direction.

The question for marketers is: Isn’t it better to hire a firm that can deliver on 1-6 and 10 as their primary focus, and augment that with specialists who can deliver on 7-9 rather than vice versa?

The opportunity is ripe for digital firms who understand the customer and who can speak brand and marketing. Just like AKQA and EVB are doing

It seems that that is truly what marketers want.

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