Posts By: AgencyUK

My dad killed Facebook

I’m a Facebook fan. I use it daily, and keep it at a safe distance from anything work related. However, I’ve recently started vetting my status posts, censoring my wall comments, and removing any material that could potentially be viewed with disgust.

Given I work in a creative advertising agency, and our success is directly linked to the richness and wealth of our reference material, censorship on a social scale shouldn’t really feature. It’s not as though I’m trying to cover up an online flirtation. The reason is that my dad is now on Facebook and linked to me and many of my closest friends.

Not since being a small child have I felt the embarrassment that comes from a father’s vocalised disappointment about the appropriateness of certain remarks, comment posts, pictures, and the general lack of decorum shown when communicating with one’s peers.

So am I surprised that Facebook has reached 500m users, yet recent stats (Mashable) show that 9% of youth users are becoming dormant, and this figure is rising?

The answer is no. Teenagers want privacy from adult supervision, and an open forum for friends. (And as I’ve discovered, so do men in their 30’s). Unsurprisingly they also shy away from many things mainstream.

The problem with Facebook, and many social media platforms today, is that you end up saying everything to everyone, so it has stopped being personal.

Perhaps the answer to effective Facebook usage is less about what you say, and more about who you say it to? The answer could be a technical one, about functionality, permissions, grouping your contacts blah blah blah.

Or perhaps it’s about deciding who you are and what your persona is going to be, and sticking to a one size fits all personality. But that’s not social, that’s contrived.

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Is it time to let consumers "Play the Brand"?

I remember having a telephone interview with a journalist from The Times a few years back, where I naively and rather over excitedly ranted on about mobile marketing, and a day when all Outdoor, Mobile and In-Store channels would be intrinsically linked, both creatively and promotionally. The idea was that the data held on individuals would be so vast that advertising would literally be tailored to their specific needs.

For example: Man likes coffee, walks past poster, it changes to reflect an ad for Starbucks, and an e-coupon is sent to his mobile as he walks past the coffee house. Bluetooth nailed it.

In my head, this was integration at its peak. The pure amalgamation of above the line creative with below the line tactical right through to a reflective in-store experience. Suffice to say that not one word was printed.

Today, this is less a reality, and more of a normality, and in truth a rather mundane solution. In fact the onset of Four Square and social media in general is far more sophisticated than anything I could have ever imagined.

This year we’ve seen some stand out campaigns. Magnum introduced a heavyweight ad campaign with Benicio Del Toro, then rolled it out beautifully with a viral that allowed you to paste your face into the dummy movie, as the hero. Jimmy Choo gave away shoes using Four Square and got people running all over London hoping to spot them. Marmite launched the Marmaritum, an elite group of Marmite die harders that hold a unique and extra powerful Marmite recipe.

What these campaigns and their integrated use of media has enabled brands to do is to successfully make them less about the brand and more about their customer. The term “living the brand” used to refer to companies and their staff. Perhaps today we should re-coin that phrase. It’s actually about “playing with the brand”, and all we’re doing is providing the ball. It’s the consumer that owns the game.

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What’s the best way to build an integrated team?

I was sat in a board meeting yesterday, where we were reviewing upcoming job roles within our business. And I found myself pondering the question, “just what is the best way to build our integrated team?”

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Is social media forcing us to be proper marketeers?

I read an interesting article on Mashable recently about which department “owns” social media. My hope was that if we answered that question, we might have a better idea which agency is best set to deal with it.

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Shop Online. Is it freedom but on railway tracks?

Before the rise of the digital aisle, we’d thumb through records or books in a store and MIGHT get a bit of advice from a shop assistant or another shopper. Outside of our own peer groups or reviews, we weren’t inundated with advice on our purchasing decisions.

But today online retailers need to get a clear picture of our behaviour to optimise the services and products we’re offered. And of course maximise the profits. That’s why your purchases and activities are tracked and matched with other ‘like-minded’ shoppers.

Our online purchasing patterns began to lose their individual flavour years ago, and most of us have become part of an ‘individual segment’ that’s easy to herd. Yet the web was meant to give us total choice and freedom?

The more we engage with “it” commercially, the more it shapes us. Think of it as freedom, but on railway tracks.

However, do we enjoy the experience, because emotionally we feel that the suggestions save us time and makes our lives easier? Perhaps we don’t enjoy genuine freedom; we’re just getting stuff that’s more like the stuff we saw before.

Yes in stores we’ve always had promotions and POS trying to push us to purchase. But there’s a difference when you can still see all the ranges on offer. Are we therefore less likely to impulse buy off line?

So ultimately the more we try to be different, the more we become the same. That said, those recommendations usually work for me… and did I really want to trek around the shops?

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Has Max Clifford taken over the world? by Saman Mansourpour TheAgency

Okay, that may just be a headline to grab your attention, but the point I’d like to make is that social media is turning us all into our own PR agents.

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Pretending to be deaf just isn’t going to work.

We’ve recently run a number of campaigns in the gaming sector. The guys in the office often hook up online to play various games. So I thought it was high time that I dived in and tried it myself.

Expectations? Well I had a few. I expected it to be different to my Friday night gathering around the console with my friends as a kid. I thought it would be a good way of catching up and having a few laughs with distant friends.

With hindsight, I should have known that it would not live up to my expectations. Because we’re talking about an environment populated by over a million people, predominantly teenagers, clever discourse over the state of the world was never going to be on the agenda.

Then again hindsight probably would never have prepared me for what did happen. Within two minutes of playing my headset was filled with non-stop verbal abuse. And it didn’t stop. For two hours. I gave up.

Back in the office I chatted to some of the guys. My experience wasn’t out of the ordinary. They informed me that ‘clans’ compete to see how quickly they can force people off with abuse.

Thinking about it now, am I shocked? No, not really.

People are always braver, ruder and more opinionated when the chance of the recipient being able to respond in any real way is less likely. Take driving, and instances of road rage. Most of us have yelled at another driver for cutting us up in the safety of our driving seat; very few of us will have done the same when another person cuts across us when walking along a street.

Having physical distance from our target makes life easier and all of us much bolder.

People operate online in much the same way. With an avatar to hide behind, they’re always more vociferous in their criticism. But online, criticism can stick and gain momentum fast. And with Tweets now feeding into Google, the consequences could be quite painful. It’s not just forums that you need to keep an eye on.

More so than ever, you need to be aware of how people are commenting on your brand. The good and the bad. What’s more, it pays to have a strategy in place for counteracting any negativity and promoting positive feedback.

The fact is, unlike my Xbox Live experience, brands can’t just pull out the earpiece and ignore the online noise. Because if you do, there’s a risk that it could be amplified. And if that happens, it won’t just be your ears that are left burning.

The missing link for marketers is getting to grips with the online persona and effectively targeting the individual underneath.

The difficulty of linking individuals to their online profile becomes amplified in the gaming world, where people’s online behaviour differs so greatly to their identity in the real world. Fake avatars and an unwillingness to share personal information leaves marketers at a loss as to how to approach individual networks of gamers.

Playstation and Xbox addicts may be aloof but it’s the console owners who hold the key to this unpenetrable mass. As users sign up and consume via the online stores, Playstation and Xbox accumulate a wealth of data, which links the users from their avatars to their sofas and their true identities.

Find a way to tap the Playstation and Xbox databases and you have the key to targeting gamers. In the somewhat turbulent gaming world, it’s the middleman – not the Nathan Drake – who holds the power.

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Is News International Revolutionalising Search?

The subject of our daily news digest, its ownership in the public domain and its value has long been up for debate. It’s no secret that news corporations from the BBC to News International have all struggled in the last decade to maintain control of their content, and effectively charge for it.

Clearly the Internet has offered us “free” access to news in real time, and various search engines like Yahoo, Google and now Bing have been able to point us all in the direction of the content we’re after. The announcement that News International were considering severing ties with Google, or that Microsoft had approached them to offer payment for search listings, depends on which papers you read.

However, only allowing their news group content to be searched through Bing surely puts the control firmly back into News Corporations hands. For some time, news agencies have been searching for a way to make profit from online portals. Finally charging for access to their news group content could be the missing revenue generator they’ve been looking for. Regardless of the online backlash currently circulating, it is unlikely there will be any negative implications on News International’s revenue streams.

More importantly how does this effect you and I. Outside the boardrooms of big business, we use search engines on a daily basis, and the challenge in this day and age is less about access, and more about aggregating the news that is relevant to us. So will this strategic move pave the way for more effective content filtering? If so, we could be seeing the start of a new era in search, one that operates more like a traditional library, ordered by subject matter. I for one think this might actually be one boardroom deal that benefits the general public, and brings a little more commercial realism to the intangible world of “free” information.

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An instant tap on the teen market By Saman Mansourpour, Partner, TheAgency

In a week when record numbers of teenagers have been biting their nails in anticipation of their A Level results and pundits are predicting that students will leave university with an average debt of £17,500, leading brand and marketing response agency, TheAgency, has been conducting research into effective sales and marketing to teenagers.

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