Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ad Men Get Bitch Slapped, The Cable Guy Tweets

In today's NY Times, Stuart Elliot reports that the attendees of this year's American Association of Advertising Agencies (Four A's) leadership conference found a very different event from previous years. Instead of the usual agenda of drinks/golf/and self-congratulatory bullshit, the attendees were dished a series of verbal whuppings followed by workshops on digital media. If this sounds like agency-abuse, it was actually self-inflicted. The conferences of the past several years were so thin on content and relevant information that, Elliott reports, some wanted to do away with it altogether. So this year, the format was changed.

Tom Carroll, TBWA Worldwide president and ceo, laid it on the line:

Mr. Carroll acknowledged that it would be hard work to “change the way we do our business,” but called it a necessary response to the profound shifts in media, consumer behavior and technology that are remaking the advertising landscape.

“All industries recalibrate themselves,” Mr. Carroll said, illustrating his point with a rhetorical question, “How’d you like to be in the CD business?”
My hero, Lee Clow, showed even less mercy and here's where the bitch slapping started in earnest:
“Stop whining,” Mr. Clow told the estimated 380 attendees. The new realities “shouldn’t be scary,” he said, because they offer “a huge opportunity for us” to become far more useful to marketer clients as they seek more effective ways to sell products.

“If you want to participate, you’ve got to start hiring young people,” Mr. Clow said, “and don’t tell them what to do — ask them what to do.”
Apparently, the crowd received their flogging enthusiastically and flocked to the digital media demonstrations. All of this warms my heart to read, but it makes me wonder, if agencies were so hot to find out about transforming their business and really integrating digital media in meaningful way, what in god's name have they been waiting for???

Today's Social Media Insider Blog by Catharine Taylor, reports about the opposite end of the spectrum - a company that doesn't need to be bitch slapped in order to wake up and smell the coffee. Comcast has appointed a customer service rep, Frank Eliason, to be their Twitterer, under the name Comcastcares. Taylor writes:
The fact that Eliason’s job even exists illustrates the serendipity required for most companies to get with the social networking program today. His emergence on Twitter is the result of his own long-held interest in tracking customer sentiment — along with a nudge from a Comcast executive a few months ago to check out what people were saying about the company on the micro-blogging service. Eliason just observed Twitter at first before tentatively wading in. But earlier this month, his dalliance with Twitter burst into the blogosphere, when he noticed a tweet from Michael Arrington, who runs the highly influential blog TechCrunch. Arrington was complaining that his Comcast Internet service was inexplicably down. Eliason reached out to help, and Comcast soon dispatched a team to Arrington’s house to fix his Internet connection. It was, Eliason says, a turning point, but not in quite the way you’d think. Sure, Arrington’s experience with Eliason turned into a lengthy post on TechCrunch, but what seems to have interested Eliason more is how his Twitter followers rallied around him when some said that Comcast had only helped Arrington because he was Arrington. No, his supporters said, he’d helped out many other people too. Comcastcares was forming relationships.
So does this mean Comcast has succeeded, where agencies have failed, in molding themselves to operate and succeed in a digital interactive world? I'll bet anyone who's called their customer service lately would vote no. But, as Michael Arrington blogged about his experience:
But wow, they’re doing at least one thing right. Well before most people, they have identified blogs, and particularly Twitter, as an excellent early warning system to flag possible brand implosions.
Maybe next year the 4 A's should be held in Philadelphia.

advertising, 4 A's,consumer behavior, customer service,interactive

No comments: