Integration – It’s In The Idea

This from the Evening Standard. For the hard of clicking, it’s a piece about the challenges facing the advertising (and by association, the marketing and PR) industry. It’s about integration being the new black (which was a trend in the mid-to-late Eighties, as I recall, but that’s another story).

“”It is a myth that the rise of digital means the death of ‘traditional media'”, adds Woodford (Stephen Woodford, chief executive of agency DDB London). “It just means there is more media for consumers and advertisers to choose from. The winners will be those who use old and new media and play to their respective strengths. A brilliant print campaign can transform a business just as a brilliant digital one can. But it would be better to have both, working together as one.” That’s what integration means.”

Yes, it does. And I, for one, am a great fan of real integration and the power and longevity it instils into any campaign. The example that is cited in the Standard piece (if you STILL, dearest blog snorkellers, cannot be bothered to get jiggy with the clicky on the link I have so thoughtfully provided) is that of comparethemarket.com and its truly excellent Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat campaign.

Which makes me think that all this guff about integration, and how difficult it is to get the respective teams working together – and it is, it is – is actually missing the point.

The starting point for true integration – and genuinely great campaigns, that reach out to the target audiences through all forms of media, using all the communication tools available – is, and always will be, the great idea.

comparethemeerkat.com and the inspired Aleksandr is a brilliant example. It’s a great idea. I bet nobody needed convincing or cajoling into working with that one.

The real issue, therefore, is not getting people to work together. It’s getting them to agree on the great idea.

I’m Michael – Fly Me

British Airways – what a shambles. A once-proud organisation inevitably succumbing to the terribly British tendency to take something good, and solid, and FUBAR.  (See Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell in that meisterwerk of the silver screen, “Tango and Cash”.)

Mind, this time round, you have to give some credit to ‘Wee’ Willie Walsh, who – it must be said – is not doing a completely rubbish job – of the communication of it, anyway. His tactics, of dividing and conquering and picking off elements rather than addressing the whole, seem to be paying dividends.

For the first time, it seems that media sentiment is not wholly against BA’s management. It seems that, perhaps, the tide is turning against those on strike or threatening to strike. What the truth of the matter is, I don’t pretend to know, but the way public perception is being handled is excellent.

And the latest strike-quelling tactic – the threat of appointing Michael O’Leary as CEO – is a stroke of genius.

(OK – it’s not true – but it is very funny.)

Social Media – Examples – Good And….Not Good

Here’s a couple of examples of what you can do with social media, dependent on who and what you are. My loyal blog snorkellers will be fully HP with my point of view (that social media is not a valid business communications, marketing or sales tool) but you’ll also know that I’m nothing if not open to new ideas. Unless those new ideas are genuinely pants or threaten the way I think the world should be. Obviously.

So – here we are from BMW, a luvverly film (and it IS a luvverly film) around some motorbike product or other. Obviously aimed at wealthy young (or not so young) men with a need for speed and a bad taste in trousers, beanie hats and friends. You’d need to be careful – this to my male snorkellers – quite how old you were buying one of these. Don’t want to look like a midlfecrisesian, now do we?

On the other hand, here’s a Twit feed from the British Armed Force, which links to this blog, again from the British Armed Forces. I would like to say – although I have no particular feelings about the conflict in Afghanistan (no-one asked me, d’you see) – that I think this is genuinely excellent and I am – deeply – in awe of the men and women who are out there, doing what they do. If you read anything today, click on the links herewith, and absorb the content. Amazing.

Anyway, conclusions. Look at the commentary stream following the BMW video. Are they going to buy a bike? No. Has BMW built a relationship with them? No. These people are all too macho and self-absorbed and – let’s be honest – a bit fricking thick. So – sorry BMW – it’s a waste of money. You’d be better off with experiential. (Oh, and, fair cop – the video is a little bit too fake, sadly.)

Meanwhile, Major Paul Smyth over at t’Army in Afghanistan. It’s genius. It’s compelling. It’s very scary and it’s shocking to read of the deaths of soldiers in what is, effectively, real time. (For what its worth, my thoughts are with their families.) Someone needs to re-think this whole war thing. Someone without their head up America’s bottom.

Summary – social media exists. It’s a great information-sharer. It’s brilliant for those without an axe to grind and with an interesting (perhaps shocking) story to tell. When it comes to branded stuff however – are you listening, blue propeller? – it’s a waste of money and it sucks.

Social Media – Thoughts For The Day

(N.B. dear blog snorkellers, there will be no links in the copy today. This is because I can’t be bothered to tell you where I’ve been and also it’s a test of faith. Like so many of the social media posts and threads that I stumble upon, today I am going to say ‘trust me’. Take what I say as read. Don’t ask for proof. For once in your lives, believe in something. Me.)

Facebook, apparently, has 400 million users, half of which log in every single day. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t think is true. Today I ran across a reasonably authoritative article that quoted a figure of 160 million logging in every day. But hey, what’s 40 million users per day between friends?

I’ve also made a big point of my belief that no brand, business or organisation is yet to make a significant commercial return on their investment in social media. This has got me into a lot of trouble – but I stick by it – every time I scratch the surface, the same old names crop up – Starbucks, BestBuy, Amazon, Dell, Coke, Ford. I gave myself into the gentle embrace of that most Googlicious of search engines and tried variations along the lines of ‘big brands social media’ and ‘brands social media success’. I know this isn’t scientific, but I couldn’t find any list of branded social media successes more recent than July/August last year. Not terribly reassuring, is it?

Mashable.com – useful blog, but hideously heavy going – published a list of Top 10 Twitter trends for last week. Tell, just who in the hell is Justin Bieber? I’m guessing here, but I’d imagine he’s got the same level of social and cultural significance as The Jonas Brothers, Tiger Woods, Super Junior, Lil Wayne and American Idol. I don’t think anyone’s in danger of drowning in this particular knowledge pool.

And, finally, I had a quick skim round the various Twitter feeds belonging to some of the bigger brands, just to reassure myself that the ‘Big Conversation’ hadn’t somehow become more valid and meaningful over the weekend. It hadn’t. Here’s where we’re at with corporate tweeting: “Woo-hoo! Just launched! check out the brand new http://www.starbucks.com/” (It’s the least I could do – give them a bit of a plug. Apparently, the fact that Mr Bux has got some social media icons on the home page, that’s enough to make the average punter believe they’re soc-med savvy. All smoke and mirrors.)

(B*gger – there’s a link in my copy.)

Anyway – conclusion for the day? Social media is obfuscation, flim-flam and chiffon gauze. (Sort of.) It still does not represent a route to market. An ROI cannot be extrapolated from social media. All business is about sales, and the value that those sales deliver to the brand, business or organisation – social media do not sell, nor can the effects that they may have on an audience be defined or evaluated. At best, social media raises awareness – but not of overtly branded messages because if you break the unwritten rules of the feral community, its members run back into the shadows, yelping abuse.

By all means – experiment. But don’t waste too much time, resource or money on it.

Social Media – Fact Or Facebo**o*ks?

Today, blog snorkellers mine, I is mostly having difficulty getting my head round this. I’m not saying it’s not true, mind, simply that I am having difficulty getting my head round it. It’s called ‘Visualising Six Years of Facebook’ (it’s actually called ‘Visualizing 6 Years of Facebook’, but this title, as it stands, is ugly, depressing and incorrect) and it shows – pictorially – salient statistics illustrating the rise and rise of this social media phenomenon. And, as I’ve said, I’m having difficulty getting me ‘ead around it.

Listen, right. The global population, according to the United States Census Bureau, is estimated to be in the region of 6.8bn. (Obviously, the USCB counts some US citizens twice, because they’re so gosh-darned saturatedly fat, but even so, it’s a pretty accurate and informed stab at the number.) According to the ‘Book, it now has 400 million users. That’s (for the sake of argument) 4% of the world’s population. Which means that four in every hundred people have – at some point – logged on and registered themselves wiv da Face’. Then, further to that, it appears that 200 million of these users log in every day.

Every day. 2% of the global population log in every day. Two people in every hundred, everywhere, log in to their Facebook account. Is it just me – or does this seem just a little far-fetched, especially given that global internet penetration stands at 25.6%? I mean – here are the actual figures – population 6.8bn, internet users 1.7 bn. This implies that 25% of internet users are on Facebook and 12.5% of them log in to the ‘Book every day. Sorry, as I say, I’m having difficulty wiv me ‘ead.

Further than that, even, this piece of work says that the ‘average Facebook user’ (they don’t define what they mean by ‘average’) spends 55 minutes every day (every day!) on the site. It’s one of those stats that seems faintly plausible – just so long as you don’t look at it too hard, or think about it too much.

No – I’m sorry. I don’t buy it. I don’t know where the data is coming from. My suspicion is that someone is feeding it into the marketplace and there are enough gullible souls and snakeoil salesmen preying on the gullibility that it gets picked up and touted around and then becomes fact. I feel a conspiracy theory coming on – after all, usage data should be very simple to get from a site like Facebook – but it just seems too high.

Anyway, I am probably completely wrong and the world is, indeed, being smothered by da Face’. Sooner or later, it’ll achieve sentience and then we’ll be properly f*cked.

In the meantime, despite this data being used to big the ‘Book up and point out how great it is, and how it’s changing the face of our society as we know it (eating it from the inside, more like), it still remains true to say that no-one has found a way of harnessing it for a commercial end. Social media as a business marketing or communications tool still doesn’t work. The feral communities that these sites create simply will not be leveraged, herded, corralled or targeted.

Say this data’s true. Say that 200 million people do log in each day. That’s an enormous amount. Should be like shooting fish in a barrel. But I’d say that if big business can’t get a result with these sorts of numbers – well – doesn’t matter how big it is, it’s still a white elephant.

Social Media – Good, Bad and Ugly

Very brief post – just to keep everyone thinking. So Twitter right, it’s all about stuff and conversations and motivation and – sometimes – some primeval horsesh*t from those who should know better – check this out (and no, I don’t care that it’s out of context, it’s frightening nonsense from a grown – well – human – I presume):

“More PR hip shooting I see.

 The empirical research show us that it is about commonly held and and understood values.

 I thought that was what Bruno Amaral showed at Bled.

His work is not based on counting fairies on a pin head it accesses tens of thousands of discourse items analyses them and identifies relationships.

It can be about ‘me’ but unless me is part of ‘me and me look alikes’ it will fail.”

This is a comment on a post found here – it’s not about Twitter, mind, per se, it’s about scial media. It’s a shocker. Enjoy.

Anyway, Twitter. Here’s a couple of things.

First, here’s the Williams Formula 1 twitter feed from the daughter of the team principal (Sir Frank), which has been posting interesting updates on pre-season testing over the last week. If you’re an F1 fan ( and I am, I am), you can dip in and out of this for news and views, without compromising your integrity and without – I have to say – a single brand mention. Works for me. Other teams are doing it as well.

And this is how Twitter – if it does have any use – actually serves a purpose. Distributing ‘what are you doing now’ posts for those who have an interest. When are the social media gurus going to realise that this is not an answer to the marketing ill – it’s merely another tool in the marketing toolbox and (if I can mix a metaphor) in the toolbox it is at best a signpost. Not a megaphone. (Yes, of course I have a megaphone in my toolbox. Don’t you?)

It doesn’t sell product, it doesn’t change opinion, except on an oily tanker sort of basis. (That’s an opinion turning circle of several hundred miles.)

To back this up, I present this. This is Advertising Age ‘Top 10 Most Tweeted Brands” survey from last week. Have a look and shudder with the realisation that it’s all – without exception – stuff that people have learnt about elsewhere.

Don’t know about you, but if I was a marketer, or a comms professional – oh! I am. If it was me, unless I had unlimited budget, Twiiter is the last place I’d be allocating time, resource or cash.

What some of F1 is doing is good. What overzealous, over-funded and overpaid marketers are trying to do is bad. The reality of Twitter is ugly.

Go figure.

Social Media – Handling Online Criticism

Once again, dear blog snorkellers, never let it be said that I don’t give you anything of any value. Here’s a piece which I came across recently, which is entitled “For Nonprofit Organizations: How To Handle Online Criticism” (As you can see from the errant and offensive ‘z’, it’s an American post.) Don’t be put off by the whole ‘Nonprofit’ bit (if you’re not a nonprofit), the meat of the article applies across the board. It is a long and lengthy piece, stuffed full of links, so it takes a bit of time, but it contains good thinking on the topic.

For the sake of clarity, I am not a fan of social media as a commercial marketing or communications tool. I think it is overrated and overvalued, and that far too much is being made of it by people who do not understand (for who can) where it is going, how it will develop and what effects (if any) it will have on the way people make purchasing decisions.

The one thing that I am certain of, however, is that social media will cause and trigger more problems than it solves. The very fact that anyone, anywhere – if they have internet access – can post anything is going to lead to trouble. It’s the whole ‘infinite number of monkeys, with an infinite number of typewriters’ deal, only in this case an infinite number of surfers with an infinite number of fora are unlikely to produce the complete works of Shakespeare – more likely the sort of chaos that is created by the complete works of any local council’s department of works.

But what is guaranteed is that with complete freedom of expression comes a complete range of opinion – including the bitter, twisted, isolated and disturbing – and some of that opinion will be critical. And if that critical opinion gains critical mass – rightly or wrongly – very quickly (very quickly indeed) it will be everywhere.

How you deal with that criticism – the speed with which you do so, the manner in which you do so, the content that you use – will reflect upon your enterprise, business, organisation or brand and – in fact – offers an opportunity to amass valuable reputational credits.