Archive for September, 2010
Like everyone in this industry – past, present, and everyone yet to join it – I personally believed I was joining my first advertising agency at a moment of radical step-change for the whole model.
I was a passive, lost observer at a great agency back then, but those evenings of account people and planners drinking and smoking at their desks while art directors with magnifying glasses pored over 96-sheet poster proofs seemed very much to be the tail end of something. There was a sense that it was all about to change. We were told at industry events that there had never been a more exciting moment to join the fray.
I remember receiving an e-mail about the agency’s shiny new toy, an in-house digital shop that was capable of producing animated banners and other such witchcraft. These days, if I type in that shop’s old URL, I’m redirected to the agency’s homepage. This is meant to suggest that digital thinking is at the heart of what they do.
I don’t believe it. The fact is that digital, no matter the PR, is nowhere near “the heart” of most agencies these days. Rather, the “heart” remains a desire to create advertising – a desire that consigns interactive work to second-tier status.
Yes, traditional advertising is sometimes the answer. And when it is, that advertising should be extraordinary. We at Modernista! can certainly do that, and we have. But increasingly, we need to answer questions that aren’t about advertising, and to answer them with just as much comfort, and as much desire, as we once did in a world dominated by print and TV. It sounds easy, but it isn’t.
Approach a creative director at an ad agency, and ask him to break down his day by media in terms of the work his teams have shown him. In most cases, he will point to TV, print, outdoor, and a bit of digital, in roughly that order. Many creative directors still feel that work set to run on anything smaller than a TV is below them.
Many of the best agencies in the world did not change, as they believed they would, in the years after I joined this industry. Though the smoking at the desks disappeared (the drinking never quite did), and everyone went on pithily named crash courses to become digitally literate, there remains, to this day, nothing that excites many creative directors more than the words ‘60 second TV’ at the top of a brief.
There has been no agency world revolution. I think, actually, that we can stop expecting one. No, it’s been a constant, non-uniform change of focus, and it will continue to be that. The industry, as an artificially aggregated whole, remains lodged well behind the consumers out there who have become comfortable with the modern media landscape far more rapidly than the agency world has. Those agencies who thrive will be the ones who are willing to let go. Who are willing to start each conversation with a genuinely blank piece of paper, not a set of channel boxes waiting to be ticked. It remains to be seen how many of those agencies exist, but we think we’re one of them.
I spent most of last week on my feet at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York, shaking hands and having some motivating conversations. My most interesting meetings didn’t occur with politicians, CEOs, or celebrities. (Although ten minutes with Christy Turlington proved not only delightful, but I found she certainly cares tremendously about problems in the world.) No, the most interesting conversations were with ordinary people who just want to help fellow humans born in an unfortunate zip code.
Let me name a few:
-Killian Stokes, the founder of mygoodpoints.org, a wonderful young Irish man who has built a website that allows people to turn their travel and credit-card miles over to causes that need the cash. A really nice idea and a wonderful site as well.
- Molebatsi Pooe-Shongwe, the founder of Breastsens, a strongwilled woman who has survived breast cancer only to realize that African men often shun women who dare lose a breast. These ostracized women are forced to take action to save their lives.
- Dr. Bruce Charash, who has supplemented an illustrious career as one of America’s top cardiologists by founding Doc to Dock, which recovers tons of unused medical supplies typically dumped in U.S. landfills and sends them to hospitals in Africa and Haiti. Just think of the potential this has for developing countries. As a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, Modernista! is currently helping Doc to Dock expand its program.
To say that I am inspired by these people is an understatement. They remind me that nobody needs permission to do something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big and popular. What’s important is the simple act of beginning something, taking the first step to help others who lack resources.
My suggestion: Find something to fix, and who knows, it might even fix something in you. It certainly is fixing my heart.
The Long-Form Revolution is upon us. Or maybe not quite yet. But these days the moment you predict something, it happened a couple of minutes ago. So let’s just agree that this is already a fact.
When a hit film like Paranormal Activity cost only $15,000 to make, and Clerks required $30,000, why are marketers contenting themselves with 30-second spots and 2-minute YouTube videos? Well, a few are not, and we like what we see. For example, take a glance at the Palladium boot company’s series of film documentaries, which pretty much constitute the company’s Web page. These longer-form films have been covered as news by outlets like the L.A. Times and the Huffington Post, and well they should. This is solid, authentic stuff, and it’s going to earn major points for Palladium.
With technology making the creation of a feature film as affordable as, say, taking someone on an expensive date, agencies and their clients face a whole new future. And why stop at film? How about a big, complex transmedia effort like our current Alternate Reality Game leading up to Dexter Season Five? No matter how many different media you add to the mix, at the end of the day you can still do a hell of a lot with a hand-held camera, some loft space, a bunch of lunatics, and several buckets of fake blood.
Viva the long form. This is going to be fun.
A big win this week for sustainability behavior. And the environment.
Ebay announced at its 15th anniversary celebration that it is giving away 100,000 shipping boxes to eBay sellers and buyers to encourage sustainable shipping. This pilot program is aiming to make shipping greener. Ebay estimates if each box gets used five times, 4,000 trees, 2.4 million gallons of water, and the electricity to power 49 homes will be saved.
It’s a fantastic thing to solve an often ignored problem. Recycling is profoundly simple and common behavior, yet when it comes to shipping, the first step is too often to find a new box. Businesses do recycle, but it’s often behind closed doors. Consumers have really taken the lead and adopted the behavior faster than brands can implement. Just think of all the packaging UPS and Fedex use and supply to offices globally. We hope eBay’s solution will open the sustainability dialogue between other industries and their consumers as well.
Kudos to eBay for reminding us all why they are a unique and progressive company.
Check out the eBay Boxes here.
Following the 2008 economic crash, consumers were eager for any evidence that companies cared. Recognizing this, businesses embraced cause marketing in droves. By the end of 2009, it seemed that virtually every ad in the country sported a pink ribbon or something similar.
With cause marketing came its sister, sustainability marketing. Leading the charge was BP, which trumpeted the tag line “Beyond Petroleum.”
What followed was a depressing chunk as a coffin-nail hit home.
The fact was: Consumers had never been convinced by companies’ environmental claims. This was underscored by the recent “Sense & Sustainability Study” from the PR firm Gibbs & Soell. In July, the firm polled 2,605 U.S. adults and 304 executives of Fortune 1000 companies. It found that:
-Only 16% of consumers and 29% of executives believe that most businesses are committed to “going green.”
-While 69% of executives say their companies have people responsible for sustainability, most of these people have merely added green efforts to their primary duties.
Translation: Consumers and executives agree that, while companies talk the talk, they have rarely walked the walk. Few businesses have devoted the high-level attention to sustainability that they claim – and as a result, most marketing in this regard is dismissed as greenwashing.
It no longer works to put lipstick on a pig. Consumers aren’t fooled. They recognize it instantly. And they ask: “Why didn’t you kill the pig?”
At Modernista!, we do in fact believe that a company must do what it can to benefit the human race, and the planet. But it can’t achieve this by slapping ribbons on ads. Rather, it needs to engage in meaningful, positive activity, and then provide hard facts about its work.
We’ve been looking beyond traditional cause marketing to identify ways for brands to walk the walk and PROVE that they’re doing so. We’re fond of one strategy in particular – a means of making a serious difference in the world, without necessarily breaking the bank. If you’d like to learn more, leave a comment here or e-mail me at email@example.com.