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Strategy in the 21st Century (Part 2)

Dawn Anfuso
Strategy in the 21st Century (Part 2) Dawn Anfuso

The following keynote address took place at the iMedia Summit in Florida in May. Carisa Bianchi is president of the L.A. office of TBWA\Chiat\Day. She oversees strategic initiatives, which include account planning, disruption and connections, and new business. She also leads the PlayStation, Energizer, Limited Too and Anheuser Busch accounts. 

Read the first third of her presentation, in which she described four ways the consumer is changing.

Carisa Bianchi: How is the role of communication changing? Four ways. Creativity is the new currency. And, I am going to argue, media passionate, not media agnostic. I have changed, because I was arguing media agnostic probably about four or five months ago. I will tell you why the difference. Demise of the creative ghetto. And, this is mostly from an advertising agency standpoint, but also I think, you know, marketers as well. And, the explosion of the third screen.

Let’s take a look at the first one. Creativity is the new currency. I believe we are all in the business of creativity. Whether we sell media space, whether we sell content, whether we are an advertising agency, whether we are a marketer … whatever we do to help take brands out to the marketplace so that they can interact with consumers and have an experience, it is our job to be creative. We need to bring a lot more “creativity” to the process, because when we talk about creative, it is always about the creative product. It is about the ads. Or, it is about the content. But, why can’t we be creative about the way we think about an audience? Why can’t we be creative about the way we conduct research towards that audience? Why can’t we be creative about the way we choose media for that audience?

Think in fundamentally different ways -- create new boxes -- because the future is going to favor the creative mind, because vanilla is invisible. There are too many choices out there, and if you are dull, or you are status quo, or you are the same old thing, people will not come to you. They will not find a compelling reason. So, why not create ideas that surprise, provoke and compel people? Why are we so afraid of creativity? Why is creativity a bad word? I believe that brands that demonstrate creativity, whether through new product development, through the way that they build their brand mythology, or the way that they actually go to market to talk to audiences about their particular brand, those are the ones who are going to win.

Media passionate, not media agnostic. The reason we changed this is because media … when you say “media agnostic,” it says that everything is equal. And, I think the idea that you should commit to the front of the process and be open to all media choices is correct. Where I would slightly change it is that, we have to be much more passionate about media. Right now, in many instances, media is bundled into the big, you know, media buying companies. And, it is getting separated from brand strategy and creative strategy. But, it is an integral part of that. It cannot be separated. And, I would argue that we need to reintegrate it back into the process because it is absolutely key. We need to understand all of these new technologies, and what the consumer mindset is. When I am on the internet and I am researching a car, I have a very different mindset than if I am looking for the next piece of entertainment I want to go see, whether it is a movie or music. But, I am not sure that we, as marketers, are respecting those different mindsets in each of these new media, or any media channel, and then devising communications that actually reflect that. What is the role of communication in each of these channels? 

So, I think we need to be much more “experts” in terms of, how do audiences actually consume these various media choices that are out there? And, how do they consume the brands that are communicating in them? It is a creative decision. It is not just a delivery system. It is not just about the reach in frequency. That is very much part of it. And, the accountability is part of it. But, it is more than that. Because it is a choice for a brand to say, “I am going to be in this medium, this medium, this medium.” And, you have to ask yourself, “Are all of them equally as strong for that particular brand?” Some are, and some aren’t. That is where the creative piece comes up. That is where I think it has to be much more about the upfront, strategic upstream planning, than it is about a separation. Sometimes I hear people, you know, are developing the thoughts for a brand, and its mythology, and its place and where it stands in the world, and they are completely separated from the media planning process, which I do not think is a smart or sound thing.

So, media choices do create the attitude, the aesthetic and the tone for brand in culture. It doesn’t matter whether it is housed under one roof, it’s just that, let’s make sure there is enough talking and discussion, and respect being given to the media planning process so that it is happening upfront.

Demise of the creative ghetto. We have all heard the 30-second TV spot is dead. I don’t think it is dead, because you know when you think about: did TV kill radio, and so on and so forth … I believe in a world of “and.” But, it certainly is not the only place, or necessarily the starting point where we should be thinking from. We are not … you look at these examples up here: Subservient Chicken, iPod, BMW, Molson -- where they had the come-on lines for the girls -- the Apple Store itself, JibJab. These are very famous examples of communications that people can remember. They are pretty top of mind, when you talk about them. And, they have gotten a lot of fame in the world, and probably more than some of the 30-second TV commercials. 

The perspective we need to bring is that all channels are created equal in terms of the creative potential within each of those channels. We should have a mandate -- a creative mandate -- that says, “Think opportunity and innovation in all these different channels.” And task your best talent to come up and forge new territory and new ways to communicate about brands in these new emerging media. And, stop treating it as a stepchild. It is not a stepchild. In fact, I think the smart creatives will recognize that this is a land of opportunity, far greater than maybe some of the traditional media that they have been working in.

Explosion of the third screen -- it is coming. It’s fascinating -- one of the things that we have talked about is the battle for the digital home. But, actually, I think coming up, it is going to be the battle for your mobile phone. When you think of the millions, and millions, and millions of handsets that are just in the United States alone, let alone worldwide, it is a mass medium, and it is going to continue to even grow, and some day it is going to have a rate card attached with it. And, there are a lot of companies who are working toward making this something that is vital.

When you think about the one thing that you absolutely, positively have to have at all times, it is your mobile phone. You know, you can maybe leave the PDA behind and not feel, “Oh, my God, I’m naked.” But, if you leave, and you don’t have a cell phone, you feel naked. You feel like you are completely out of touch with the world, and you are not connected anymore. And, with the new manufacturers coming up with the new video phones for TV … I just read an article about Qualcomm, I think it is called MediaFlow, which is a new chip that is going to enable phones to do all kinds of things, whether it is music, chat, games, commerce … it is coming. We need to understand that this is a great opportunity. I always encourage people to look to Korea. It is the most wired country in the world, and the kinds of things that they are doing there, someday we will be doing here. So it is a nice glimpse into the future. 

Mobile will become the new on-demand environment for content, and for commerce. I mean, in Japan already, you can walk into any store, you can point your phone at an SKU of a particular product, and it will tell you if you can buy it somewhere cheaper. And, if you can, you can even order on your phone there. You don’t even have to use the retail space to buy anything. 

I think the key thing is that … how are we going to communicate in this channel? You know, are we going to bombard people? Where we have … the tendency now that has happened a little bit with the internet, where there are so many things (whether it is spam, or this or that) that are intruding … and, again, this goes back to the point: Be respectful of who you are trying to communicate with, and what their mindset is. And, “what” goes back to: How do you make me more? How are you adding value to my life? So, let’s think engagement versus bombardment.

Tomorrow: A look at what TBWA/Chiat/Day LA is doing.

Dawn Anfuso is editor of iMedia Connection.

Inauspicious beginnings

As made famous in the movie "The Social Network," Facebook started as a college yearbook-style directory to compare, to put it delicately, the attractiveness of students. Similarly, YouTube's founders had a vague notion of creating a video-based version of the once popular "Hot or Not" website. When that failed to get funding (shocker) a platform reboot as a video-sharing network became the new strategy when one of the principals realized there was no way to find a copy of the infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. Seeing a theme here?

Twitter wasn't much grander in scheme, although this platform at least had roots in solving legitimate business problems. The founders were working at a podcasting company that was in need of a reinvention, so they came up with a messaging service to quickly communicate with a small group of people. The word Twitter was plucked serendipitously from the dictionary, meaning "a short burst of inconsequential information," and boom: A whole new form of mass communication (micro-blogging) was soon to be the go-to platform for immediate, real-time news and information.

Right place, right time, right technology

 As it usually happens with these things, the timing for the social sites that ended up coming out on top was nearly perfect. Roughly 10 to 15 years into the world wide web era there was finally a generation of teens and 20-somethings that had grown up online. This generation had embraced new and novel patterns for consuming information and interacting with one another in ways even the most tech-savvy Boomers and Gen-Xers where reluctant to. In short, the younger demographics were ready and able to understand, accept, and adopt social media platforms in an unprecedented way. Additionally, for those who think you can't teach an old dog new tricks, at present the fastest growing demographic of social media adopters is the 55+ age group. And just like that the domination of the American consumer through social media is nearly complete.

This mainstream social media adoption didn't simply happen because the technology had improved. These new platforms tapped into a previously unmet need for self-expression, personal/professional networking, and a healthy dose of narcissism and voyeurism. This is all an extension of the "quantified self" phenomenon -- the use of technology to help measure exactly how lives change and influence their surroundings over time. In short, personal connections and interactions are central to our lives, and social media is the newest and seemingly most efficient way to enhance this aspect of ourselves.

Social media finally found an environment and a whole generation of users ready to accept it. Like any revolution, the diverse manifestations have influenced things in ways that may not have been apparent from the outset.

For better or for worse

Since social media is by nature a self-publishing and user-generated content platform, it has had a massive effect on the mainstream media and the way news and information is disseminated. Breaking stories that used to wait for verification or publication dates can now go public immediately -- in 140 characters or less. Not to mention that without social media many digital publications -- like Mashable, Buzzfeed, or Upworthy -- wouldn't exist. Both new age content producers and the old-media guard are now dependent on social media and social networks to spread content via sharing and other methods of viral pickup to drive readership.

Of course, adapting to the speed of Twitter and real-time newsgathering hasn't been the smoothest of processes. There have been some growing pains and more than a few very public snafus and suspended Twitter accounts. But regardless, these new platforms are now integrated into the media and public mindset. Consider how these new behaviors even affect mainstream politics due to the fact that if we experience journalism and news differently, we will experience politics and political discourse differently. For better or worse, political debates are now shaped by the sound bites that resonate on Twitter or other social media driven outlets. Just look at the lasting impression of Mitt Romney after the 2012 election, which will always be boiled down to the "binders full of women" or the "47 percent" remarks. In short, social media giveth, and social media taketh away. It took away the career of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. He learned the classic lesson of the social era -- hitting send often leaves a permanent digital imprint.

Besides improving discourse, social media can improve sales

Online retail is another industry that has successfully embraced social as a way to market on a more personal level -- and to increase sales. Massive retailers -- such as Lands' End and Sephora -- have created storefronts on Pinterest and are seeing significant web traffic and sales coming through these channels. Arby's uses Twitter to provide real-time discounts to followers for immediate use in an attempt to drive traffic to its restaurants. Similarly, personalities like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber (brands unto themselves) wouldn't have seen such fame or driven record sales without this direct line to fans.

As brands have started to move marketing dollars -- from traditional one-way advertising to interactive, conversation-based content marketing distributed over social channels -- social media has grown in importance. Marketers were fast to seize on this direct and measurable link to consumers and the ability to bypass the major media gatekeepers and paymasters.

A positive development is that brands now view customers as a community rather than targets -- a subtle but important change in the marketing mindset. Many forward thinking companies are creating social hubs on their sites to have a destination for curated social content that supports their content strategy through brand storytelling, original content, and public relations.

While this can be a double-edged sword as companies no longer own and control their brands completely, the good clearly outweighs the bad. Companies have no choice but to alter their strategies to get the most out of their social media engagement.

Social media meets customer service, meets responsive advertising

Since everyone is always connected, we all have a digital (potentially viral) megaphone in our hands at all times. This means that customer service blunders are no longer quiet affairs. Rather, they are splashed across Facebook or Twitter requiring companies to establish teams to monitor and respond in real-time. Massive companies such as Jet Blue, PayPal, and Nike have used social media to great effect not only to correct support issues, but to publicly display how much they care about their customers.

On topic with real-time responses, the newest trend of in-the-moment social media marketing has been dubbed "hijacking." Oreo first made this idea famous with its timely tweet about the Super Bowl blackout a couple years ago. Driven by the linking of Twitter -- and other social media outlets to live TV -- advertisers will need to think through the second-screen effect as a core tactic in the future. Consumers now watch TV -- sports, award shows, even Hulu or other online video providers -- with device in hand. The lesson here is that creativity and responsiveness will win the social media battle by captivating the hearts and minds of engaged consumers.

Social media acceptance

Consumers don't pay for social platforms because they are the product that's being sold. The ongoing challenge that companies, brands, and marketers are faced with is how to develop an intimate relationship with consumer's wallets. As for consumers, making peace with being the product is happening -- somewhat.

Of course the industry will continue to change as technology does and it is very hard to predict exactly who will be the winner or loser in 5 or 10 years. Given the pace of development in the tech industry, it is hard to imagine Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn still being king of the hill, though they could be building or inspiring new businesses that will stand the test of time. However, one thing is for certain: The primal needs that spurred the incredible growth of these networks are not going to change, nor is the desire for marketers to build close relationships with customers. The need to share, connect, inspire, and entertain is what makes us human and is the real life force behind these newfound empires.

Gordon Plutsky is the CMO at King Fish Media.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet. Follow Gordon Plutsky at @GordonPlutsky and King Fish Media at @KingFishMedia.

Cover story image sources via here, here, here, here, and here.


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