Advertising, Agency processes, Digital, Technology, Uncategorized

Tech talent – Why adland lacks it and how to get it.

The lack of ‘digital skills in adland’ (the catch all term for not knowing stuff about the internet and things) has been getting a fair bit of coverage in the marketing press of late. To be fair it’s pretty accurate, but I have to disagree with the majority of really unhelpful opinions that seems to be coming from various corners of the industry.

Agencies, clients, industry bodies, Universities and even the economy have had the finger pointed well and truly in their direction recently.

But the thing is, it’s always easier to blame someone or something else for a very diabolical situation – so let’s be honest for a change. Every one on the above list is responsible and I would even add the press and the very people who lack the digital skills in the first place.

Before I go on, I do want to make one thing really clear, that we all need to acknowledge. The advertising industry, as much as we don’t want to believe it, is not the centre of the universe. It’s not as important as it used to be and it certainly isn’t the most advanced industry when it comes to technology.

So one of the main reasons why adland lacks skills in technology, is because the people that really want to work in the field, probably don’t think about working in advertising companies or departments. Funnily enough, they want to work for technology companies with a track record in innovation. Now we have that out of the way, let’s move on to taking some collective blame.

Agencies because they still put short term revenue ahead of a better long term model built around technology, innovation and the training of talent. Don’t expect to attract and retain tech talent, if you just want them to do a shiny Facebook app to support your shit TV ad.

Clients for not embracing change quick enough and failing to reinvent marketing departments and processes. If you are set up to make annual TV advertising campaigns guess what? You get TV advertising campaign.

Industry bodies for pushing a very bias agenda that only worsens the problem.

The press for continuing to hold TV spots up as the holy grail of marketing, focusing on agency politics and even advocating some very dated opinions

Universities for not updating the curriculum in line with what is happening in the real world.

People for not taking ownership of their own career development. Shame on you for sitting there and waiting for someone to magically implant the knowledge in your head.

Let’s not use the economy as a scape goat either. Some of the first commercial websites were made in the 90s and we haven’t been living in some marketing depression for two decades. We have just chosen to ignore it in the hope it goes away.

None of this is new, we have all been shit. Let’s take it in the chin and move on.

So here is my contribution and tips for getting better at ‘digital’

One – Admit you are to blame and you need to do something about it

Two – Acknowledge that advertising is not the centre of innovation and creativity. If people want to work in innovation they will work at innovative companies. If you’re serious, become one.

Three – Act more like tech companies and start by not using the word digital – it’s vacuous. Use technology and/or innovation it’s more helpful and accurate.

Four – If you work at a company where your senior management team are still in denial about the Internet and still think that Millenials will grow up wanting to spend their time watching your ads and your ubiquitous product then leave now. It will never work out there.

Five – If you have tech experience and are thinking of moving to a company that has a ‘big vision for innovation’ only go if they have fundamentally changed their philosophy, revenue model and processes. If its only a recruitment drive for tech talent don’t waste your time. Technology and innovation never flourishes in these environments – it’s simply lip service to the problem.

Six – If you want to take technology seriously, have as many people on the Exec board with tech backgrounds as traditional. Give them the responsibility to make big disruptive changes.

Seven – Don’t just blow money on training if you aren’t willing to change how you operate. It’s like learning French and never going to France. You’ll never become fluent.

Eight – Adopt the processes and methodologies of technology companies and only then roll out a training programme.

Nine – Restructure your marketing department around technology and put more emphasis on the other three Ps. It’s about making things people want rather than making people want things.

Ten – Consider whether your lead agency is really just an advertising agency or genuinely innovative. Can they make your business better or just your ads? If not rethink who should be your go to partner – they may even lie outside of the advertising echo chamber.

Eleven – The Internet is a wonderful place to learn about the Internet. Seriously, start now, learn some code. Follow some brilliant companies and minds, but mostly importantly just do something and explore better ways of doing things.

Advertising, Communications, culture, Digital, Marketing

Henry Jenkins interviews Frank Rose

Frank Rose, contributing Editor at Wired has a new book out called The Art of Immersion. I haven’t got my grubby hands on it yet but if this interview (part one and part two) with Henry Jenkins is anything to go by it looks like a must read of the year.

In this interview Rose essentially discusses the concept of ‘deep media’, where people can engage with a story at any level of depth they like. Whilst the interview mostly references the entertainment industry, it’s clear that this is bubbling over into brand communications on a more regular basis. Ford, Honda and BMW are examples of an entire category adopting a kind of ‘deep media’ approach as discussed by Rose.

As a general rule, the majority of advertising has been about lowest common denominator stuff for decades. How can we reach the most people for the least effort and the lowest cost? I’ve said before that people have always had thresholds when it comes to how immersed they are willing to become in a communication. The net result of generations having grown up playing, watching or participating in more immersive stories will change people’s expectations of everything. Even the most humourous 30 second TVC is quite frankly pretty boring to many people. Hence innovations like this from W+K.

However in addition to thoughts on deep media, Rose also goes on to make some fantastic observations relating to the history and evolution of storytelling and communications.

“the really remarkable thing about Dickens was the way he communed with his readers. That was something serial publication made possible–and serial publication was purely a product of technology. Better printing presses, cheaper paper, trains that could deliver things reliably, rapidly growing cities with a lot more people who could read. Few of these people could afford to purchase entire books, but they could pay for short installments. An unanticipated result of this was that when books were published over a period of 19 or 20 months, readers had a chance to have their say with the author while the novel was still being written. And Dickens relished this. He took note of their comments and suggestions, and he loved interacting with them on the lecture circuit as well. One of his biographers described it as “a sense of immediate audience participation.”

But seeing new media as a threat–that’s a pattern we fall into again and again. Now it’s video games and the Internet. Before that it was TV, and before that it was the movies, and a couple hundred years ago it was serial fiction and people like Dickens. The only constant is that whatever is new is threatening. And usually it’s considered threatening because it’s too immersive–you could get lost in it. But that’s exactly what fiction is. If it’s good enough, people are going to want to inhabit it”.

Advertising, Business, Communications, Digital, Marketing, Social Media

Everything is advertising

Jess Greenwood at the recent Circus Festival brilliantly summed up how I feel these days by saying that everything is essentially advertising. Not just a TVC, but every single interaction with a customer should be treated as an opportunity to advertise in the truest sense of the word. A case in point.

Then I came across this interview with Johnny Vulkan of Anomaly where he talks about something I’ve mentioned here before. Marketing isn’t just about the promotion. There are three other forgotten Ps we should be considering as advertising. Promotion has kind of become like crack to brands and agencies, but we are undoubtedly starting to see a shift to the other stuff.

Advertising, Communications, Creativity, Digital

Thoughts on Circus Festival 2011

One of the things I miss professionally about home is the high standard of industry events and speakers. There is always something on to keep your brain stimulated and generally challenge the industry’s often institutionalised way of doing things.

Now I’ve been in Australia three years, so I think I can say this, but I’ve generally been underwhelmed with most conferences. No offence, but it’s the same people, talking about the past, or passing off creds as thought pieces.

So last week wasn’t just an improvement, it was a huge success thanks to The Communications Council. The first ‘Circus – Festival of commercial creativity’ was actually worth the money thanks to an awesome bunch of speakers.

So here were my highlights in no particular order.

Rob Campbell of W+K was both refreshingly honest and inspirational. If clients and agencies follow his call to arms, I think the industry will be in a good spot. Here’s his presentation, but without the F-bombs and candor it doesn’t quite have the same impact.

Despite the ironic tech issues (Prezzi is cool, but not that practical) Marvin Chow of Google gave a good insight into how the organisation approaches marketing. As an engineering company the cliché of creativity coming from anywhere actually seems to be true thanks to process and beliefs. Substantiated by the fact that the ‘Life in a Day’ project came from the mind of marketing co-coordinator in London and not a highly awarded Creative Director and advertising agency.

Jess Greenwood of Contagious not only had nice feet, she took us through some of the themes that are bubbling around the world of marketing -I particularly loved her statement that ‘everything is advertising’. Never a truer word said.

Agnello Dias was very humble talking about his work with The Times of India. Whilst I think he was a bit modest putting it down to luck, Dias demonstrated how agencies can lead the agenda for brands.

Josh Spear and Jeffery Cole were also fantastic. It’s great to see people talk about digital with some rigor and genuine insights. The whole concept of behaviour changing due to technology is fascinating and probably widely underestimated by people still concentrating on pumping out ads.

Charles Wigley was also great talking about the biggest problem in our industry – The marketing wind tunnel. The reason most advertising these days is either ineffective or homogenous is because of the process we all go through is essentially the same and unenlightening. You can read it here.

All up a great few days and I can’t wait for next year.

Business ideas, Digital, Digital Strategy, Technology

If you can’t make the journey quicker, make it more enjoyable.

I can’t remember where I read this, but apparently designers and engineers in Japan are more focused on making journeys more enjoyable, where as in the West it’s about trying to make things more efficient. Here’s a great case in point from SEGA found via SMH.

You could apply this thinking to anything. Take applying for a bank account or credit card online as an example. You can’t reduce the number of fields in the form and the annoying tech limitations don’t allow you to make it that seemless, so you are left with one option, make it more enjoyable. You can have this idea for free but yhy not stream some relaxing music? You would if you had them on hold over the phone.

Business, Digital, Technology

Mark Zuckerberg at Web 2.0 Summit

I know we all like to think Mark Zuckerberg is evil having watched the Social Network, but make sure you take the 1 hour to watch this interview at the recent Web 2.0 conference. Not only was he very honest about issues such as privacy, he gave some great insights into the inner workings of Facebook and how it is moving forward. From a commercial point of view my big takeout was that Facebook is seeking big industry changing collaborations over advertising and promotions. Citing Zynga, gaming and Facebook credits as one example, Zuckerberg essentially invited industries to think of Facebook as a platform to make your industry and the world more social. Sounds exciting when you think about it as a platform to create opportunities rather than another media channel. What could it do for music? News? Banking? Rewards programs? Commerce?

Business models, Communities, Digital, Music

A fairer business model for musicians? (and you can bring back Cast)

Whilst watching the awesome show Soccer AM last week I was pleased to see that Cast are trying to make a comeback. More interestingly they’re doing it without the help of record labels.

Using Pledge Music, fans can donate money to help a band release an album so that band can own all the rights to their music. In return a percentage goes to charity (a bit Bono I know) but there’s also a range of incentives that match the contribution of the pledgee. Ranging from 8 quid for a download of the album or 1,500 for a live acoustic set, there’s plenty of options that reflect the value of your investment.

The Times, rather ironically, blogged about the music industry a while back showing that music revenue isn’t going down, it’s just being distributed more efficiently and to be honest fairly. In the digital age artists are receiving more money than ever before both directly and through live gigs. For a more succinct analysis go to Mr Kay.

Having said that there is still a huge divide. Apparently for every $1,000 in music sold, the average musician makes only $23.40

Via The Daily Swarm

Go Cast, Go a better model for musicians.

Branding, Communications, Digital, Digital Strategy

Marketing as platforms and applications

I’ve always believed that the single easiest way to get your head round digital and more importantly the direction of communications and culture type stuff, is to simply look at the vocabulary being used by the people that do the doing, not the thinking. This post on Savage Minds highlights a potentially better way of looking at marketing by comparing the techy terms like platform to culture and application to subculture.

It makes sense when you think about. You don’t really manage a brand in neat little channels anymore. Like in John Grant’s book, The Brand Innovation Manifesto, brands are really defined by a bunch of complimentary associations and experiences. John calls these brand molecules, but it’s essentially the same. You should be creating a platform, with a series of applications that allow you to keep moving quickly and effectively. Much like Starbucks has done

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t need anymore marketing words, but we do need to use more helpful ones.

Communications, Digital, Digital Strategy, Technology

Technological progress and addiction

Paul Graham has just posted this great read on the acceleration of addictiveness. Essentially the world is more addictive than it was 40 years ago and it’s going to get even more so.

Interestingly he puts this down to technological progress, which in his words means ‘making things do more of what we want’. Which is probably one of the most articulate ways of talking about all this stuff that’s going on in a digital world.

However it’s also this gem of an observation I love;

“What hard liquor, cigarettes, heroin and crack have in common is that they are all more concentrated forms of less addictive predcessors….

“Checkers and solitaire have been replaced by World of Warcraft and FarmVille. TV has become more engaging, and even so it can’t compete with Facebook”.

Obviously when technological progress means things doing more of what you want, predecessors such as TV, that don’t evolve quick enough in the right direction, aren’t essentially keeping up with that new demand.

I wonder what ad revenues might look like now if all the TV channels clubbed together, backed web enabled TV and put them in the house of people for free ages ago? They’d probably be more addictive and looking a lot healthier.