Love this ad. No other brand right now is better at making the functional, emotional.
We’ve all heard the saying, or some version of it (I’ll use the G rated version here because my mom follows me…hey Mom!), that opinions are like noses, everyone’s got one. These days it seems that couldn’t be more accurate. Everywhere you look; business, politics, sports, fashion…you name it—people are expressing their opinions. And getting those opinions out to the world faster, louder, and with greater confidence seems to be just as important as insights, information, or even facts. Such is the world we live in the age of Twitter, Blogs, and the 24 hour news cycle.
Typically I’m cool with this. I accept that daily I’ll have to sift through a worldwide web of crap to sometimes get to the good stuff. Variety, diversity, and novelty are beautiful things, and I’ll take them any day over a black and white TV and a daily newspaper. So it’s rare in my daily surfing of the interwebs that I’ll ever really get riled up about any one opinion or viewpoint. I’m typically of the mindset that it’s that individual’s right to put their opinion out there, and hey, what do I know? There could be some truth in it. I’d like to think that I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.
That’s why, when I came across one particular article from Digiday a couple of months ago entitled, “Do Agencies have a 27 year-old Client Problem?” I mentally filed it away under the “well that was pretty much crap without substance, thought, or value” portion of my brain and tried to forget about it. But this one stuck with me. Not just because I’m 26 and I wondered if I should feel fortunate, or concerned about becoming a 27 year old “client.” It was more likely because:
- The article attacked my generation. This is far from a new attack, and definitely not enough on its own to merit personal outrage. If it was, I’d be one angry (albeit still special, lazy privileged, and recognition seeking) millennial.
- The article attacked my specific line of work, Brand Management. We create important things for the world such as this.
- The article accused us brand managers of being cautious, self-serving, ineffective, and lacking an ability to understand the larger picture.
That last part, while a little tough to swallow, would be a totally fair opinion for an industry news outlet like Digiday to put out there. It might be considered newsworthy among the advertising world I think, and it would certainly be cause for concern if what they outlined was true. The problem though (and it’s kind of an important problem) is that the entire article lacks any real insight, information, or facts. The whole thing is comprised of anonymous sources, with the remainder of the article comprised of baseless conjectures. Through this approach, Digiday posits the following:
Jr. Brand Managers on the Client Side (read those that work at companies that hire agencies to help them create marketing), create problems for agencies because they are unwilling to endorse “progressive” ideas. According to Digiday, this is because “junior clients know they’re less experienced than their coworkers, and that can actually lead them to be more cautious and conservative when evaluating ideas.”
Aside from the minor detail that this position is not supported by any concrete example details or um, facts, this notion is both ignorant and ridiculous. This argument falsely assumes that younger Brand Managers either feel completely un-empowered or have a totally unrealistic view of the consequences that could come with supporting an innovative idea that could potentially fail. Not my experience, and not the experience of many other friends I have in similar “client side” brand roles. But Digiday ain’t done, no sir. They go on to explain that:
Client-side staffers are always reluctant to attach their names to risky initiatives in case they flop, and that concern is magnified for those who are relatively new to the business and to their organizations. It’s not that they don’t like what they see from agencies, but they’re just less likely to make big leaps of faith early in their careers.
First of all, that’s an awfully liberal use of the word “always.” Pretty sure making the assumption that the behavior of an entire group is “always” the same is referred to as a stereotype. I may be young, but I do know that stereotypes, while helpful to us humans to classify and simplify the world, are often quite dangerous and flawed. But never mind that. The argument is also terrible. If it were true that we Brand Managers actually like the ideas from the agency, but simply don’t have the guts to support them due to us being so green in our career, then the counterargument would be that those who are most senior are the ones who are willing to take the biggest risks. This is simply not the case. They have more to lose, often more diverse parties to answer to (e.g. shareholders), and can even be more jaded by past failures.
But wait, there’s more.
“…people typically make decisions to serve themselves and their own interests as opposed to the companies they work for. Successful organizations succeed in aligning those interests, but for a young brand manager, the fact remains that putting their neck on the line for a risky idea often has more of a potential downside than upside.”
Here they’ve got it partly right. If you’re are Brand Manager working for a company that has a hope of being successful, your personal interests should be rooted in the objectives of the company. I’d be hard pressed to find a fellow brand manager that isn’t driven to produce a campaign which drives incremental sales, equity, or ROI for their brand. This is a case where the minority example presented is far outweighed by the majority. Andy yes, putting your neck on the line for a risky idea is challenging. But the same is true for anyone, no matter their age (see above).
So we can agree that shared incentives and interests are important. We’re on to something here, and the article manages to spell out another totally valid point:
Beside the risk element, other agency execs expressed frustration that some senior clients don’t work closely enough with their junior staffers. Provided there’s a close and trusted relationship there, working with junior clients is often a better experience, they said. But if that kind of relationship doesn’t exist, those younger staffers can end up just becoming another hurdle they have to overcome to get to key decision makers.
I couldn’t agree more that close and trusted relationships are essential to fostering any successful agency client working relationship, regardless of age. Too many approvers and a junior brand manager who doesn’t feel empowered is certainly a problem.
First points on the board for Digiday. End it on a high note? Judge for yourself with this final brilliant observation:
But given the choice, most agencies say they’d still rather work with younger clients than older ones who often don’t really understand what they’re buying or why. At the very least, the younger clients understand the concepts being pitched to them. Even if they can’t find a way to justify buying them, they’re more open to new concepts and ideas than their older colleagues.
Now we’re offending everyone. The young, the old. We’re all idiots! You’ve managed to piss off both me and my boss. Well done!
After revisiting this article after my first read a few months ago, I thought I’d try to offer up a few constructive thoughts in response. I’ll be the first to admit that the young Brand Manager/Agency relationship can be fraught with problems, but it’s not because my colleagues and I are nervous idiots who lack influence within our organizations. Instead, I believe there are a few essential ingredients that that need to be in place to ensure a healthy and mutually beneficial working relationship.
Ingredients for a successful brand manager/agency relationship
- Mutual trust. That the agency has the client’s best interests in mind and is putting forth smart strategic work. That the brand manager is supportive of the agency’s ideas and shares a mutual vision to see them succeed.
- Empowerment. For the agency to bring forth innovative ideas and solutions. For the brand manager to effectively gain alignment and sell those ideas in to management.
- Autonomy. (see empowerment). For the agency and brand manager to move ideas forward without the excessive constraints of multiple approvals and reviewers.
- Guts. That both agency and brand manager have the balls to stand by their intelligence, their ideas, and their ability to articulate those ideas to their respective managements.
While certainly not easy, achieving the right mix of the above ingredients can lead to great work—no matter how old you may be.
Dr. Dog just keeps getting better and better.
Really unique voice and amazing minimal production. Next big thing status.
A lot has been said since Marissa Mayer and Yahoo! acquired Tumblr back in May. Much like Facebook’s IPO in 2012, as the commentary on the acquisition has picked up amongst the Wall Street crowd, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the long term viability and competitive differentiators of Tumblr as a social platform.
More surprisingly though, the same skepticism has persisted amongst those who should understand these platforms—especially when it comes to how consumers are using them and how brands and bottom lines can benefit. Rob Norman, CEO of WPP’s media-buying giant GroupM, was quoted by Bloomberg last week on his views on Tumblr and Yahoo’s acquisition:
“The acquisition strategy is either not especially clever or too clever for me,” he told Bloomberg. “I am negative on Tumblr, as I don’t believe it’s truly social.”
Unfortunately for Norman and fortunately for Mayer, this acquisition by Yahoo! was well thought out, strategic, and yes, clever.
Many have been quick to brand Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr as a “sexy” move, executed to generate buzz and positive PR for a ‘back from the dead’ tech company. What seems to be getting lost in all of this is the important fact that Tumblr is far and away the most open and social of the all of the leading social platforms. The same can’t necessarily be said about its social counterparts.
Facebook, motivated by the ever increasing demands for profitability and the need to create new revenue streams, has put extensive efforts into walling and controlling how consumers interact, experience, and share content through their platform. Twitter, commonly seen as an exemplary open and distributed counterpoint to Facebook’s model, has been moving away from 3rd party developers and a distributed Twitter experience across the web. Simply put, both Facebook and Twitter want more eyeballs, on more content, on THEIR platforms. Their business models, reliant on revenues from ad dollars and data monetization, depend on this.
But not Tumblr, at least not yet. Tumblr is both extremely ‘open’ and very social. It began its ascension into a $1.1 billion valued company by placing an uncompromising focus on empowering creative expression and the open sharing of content its users created. As founder David Karp said in a note to employees after Yahoo! purchased Tumblr, “Marissa and her team share our dream to make the Internet the ultimate creative canvas.” (He also signed the note “Fuck yeah” which is awesome). This emphasis on the creation of quality content has created another important differentiator for Tumblr. It’s no secret that Facebook faces huge content quality problems—I’ve personally stopped checking Facebook regularly for fear of seeing one more wedding or baby picture. Twitter also has content challenges, but its problems are rooted in quantity. The more people you follow, the more noise you have to sift through to get to what you really care about. Tumblr on the other hand is much better suited to avoid these pitfalls, by embracing the creation of beautiful, interesting, and creative content at its core.
That’s good news for brands, and likely also a big reason why Mayer placed such a high profile bet. So why are investors and ad execs like Norman so doomsday on Tumblr? My guess is the answer is much less complicated, but a bit more concerning than many would assume. Simply put, investors and ad execs aren’t using Tumblr. I’m sure of it. This might sound ridiculous, but all it takes is a look at the recent past or the Tumblr ‘blogging’ experience itself to realize this is probably the case.
Let’s look at recent history first. When Twitter was first attracting attention from brands 2-3 years ago, many in the advertising and marketing industry were hesitant to move past the flirting stage. Yes, questions around reach and relevancy were abundant and oftentimes valid, however a fundamental lack of understanding of how to use the platform was what held many brands back from investing meaningful dollars. These days, one needn’t look any further than Twitter’s job pages to understand how important educating agencies and brands has been in growing the company from a $3.7B valued social feed in 2010 to a $11B real time social juggernaut in 2013.
The same things being said about Twitter 2-3 years ago are quite similar to what you hear today from ad execs and Wall Street suits about Tumblr. “It’s a niche service only used by teens,” “It’s just like Facebook,” “It’s too complicated for the average consumer to use,” were all things that were said about Twitter then and about Tumblr today. My suspicion is that these same things are being said by the same groups of people simply for lack of a deeper understanding of the platform’s functionality and also their long term potential. People like Mr. Norman are way too smart for me to assume otherwise.
Now let’s take a look at what you can quickly understand after spending some time as a Tumblr user. Tumblr’s core consumption experience is centered on a user curated dashboard, serving up a beautiful array of rich imagery, videos, links, music, and GIF’s. Dashboard content is created by fellow Tumblr members a given user choses to follow. The experience is curated by a user’s self-selected interests, much like Twitter, but it combines the best aspects of Facebook to deliver a content rich, mobile friendly experience running the gamut of sight, sound, and motion. When it comes to sharing content on Tumblr, the experience is as straightforward as you can find. Simply click an icon at the top of your dashboard to share a video, photo, quote, link, or music and that content immediately uploads to your personal page and into the dashboards of those who follow you. You also have the option to upload that content automatically to Twitter or Facebook. No walls, no special language, and no character limits to worry about.
The criticisms of Tumblr by those in the financial and advertising industries aren’t new and I guess shouldn’t be surprising either. New ideas spawn skeptics, and this will always be the case. Whether Yahoo! is able to make Tumblr an even better platform remains to be seen, but it doesn’t change the fact that the product today is already a damn good one. It’s social, simple, and perfect for creative expression. Mr. Norman you should try it.
"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."
It’s Vines like this that make you realize how intimate and simple 6 second storytelling can be. #PicassoBaby
“I applaud anyone’s desire to open my eyes, to make me look at things afresh and bring different ideas to my attention. But it must be done with sincerity, integrity and with sympathy.” –Sir John Hegarty
“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities. It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” -Thomas Carlyle
When tens of thousands of tunes-minded folks walk into the Bonnaroo Music Festival, which begins today, many will notice Ford-branded signage that encourages them to dial **Ford on their mobile phones in an appeal for the carmaker’s 2014 Fiesta model.
Hey guys, so we’re going to Bonnaroo. Awesome! Can’t wait to camp, dance, and party with thousands of my closest friends. In the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, no less. Gonna be amazing.
You know what else I can’t wait to do? Text an American car brand via my smartphone and social media while we’re there. How cool! Not that it won’t be nearly impossible to text my actual friends from the middle of the crowd during Mumford and Sons anyway (“I’m by the guy with the giant decorated totem pole dude!”).
Never mind that. They’re giving away a Ford Fiesta! Yes, a single Ford Fiesta. Wouldn’t want those puppies going to the masses. These Fiestas are the next big thing. I’m telling ya. Might even tweet about it to my friends…no need to even find them! (“I’m back left speaker next to the shirtless guy with glowsticks!”)
But seriously, these Ford guys have it figured out. All you have to do to join in on the fun is text a code with some meaningless symbols and the car name and whalla…you’re right in the running! Even if you don’t win, Ford’s got you covered dude. Get this, the message you get back is tailored to your location! Trippy right?
Simple to use and totally useful. Even if I don’t win this Fiesta I’m totally buying a Ford someday.