Advertising gets social (IPA social and a bit about #measurementcamp)

I didn't make it to the IPA event last night but if you haven't visited the blog to see the tablets of stone brought down off the mountain (yup there really are 10 commandments) then its well worth a look.  I'm not sure if the IPA (that's the Institute of Practitioners for Advertising for those who don't know – advertisings trade body in the UK) realise what they are getting into here. I suspect that this has been permitted because of this funny thing off to one side called socal media which clients are interested in because they have got Facebook accounts and have a friend who Twitters. But the IPA may have inadvertently done more than get the builders in to throw up an extension – this one will rock the building. Have a look. 

1 People not consumers – their status as consumers is 3rd or 4th says Mark Earls. But advertising cannot survive talking to people as people first and foremost. This is one of the reasons why advertising is holed below the waterline. It addresses an identity which is partial and which is less and less relevant the more 'stuff' people accumulate. Consumerism was based on identity and ownership.. And scarcity.  Left to themselves most people don't talk about Heinz. Which is why advertisers have to interupt and change the subject back to commercial discourse.

2 Social agenda not a business agenda Yes again much more interesting. But Tesco didn't post 1 billion in profits for the first 6 months of the year by being social but by selling – much of it automated (Just put 2 loaves in your trolley love don't think about it – its the same price). It isn't clear to me why a business should make social agenda more central than business agenda. CSR all well and good. But what if you integrate yourself fully in your customers lives and find that you're marginal? Important but marginal?

3 Continuous conversation not campaigning The idea of the campaign came from wars which traditionally used to be fought in the summer months when there was plenty of food and you didn't have to stay warm. Having listened this morning to social media agencies spending hours identifying social media messages and answering them individually – the notion of talking to all your customer all the time through a galactic internet call centre is one which I think will horrify most clients. A campaign has a beginning and and end with time off for good behaviour. Research is great – lets talk to a few of them. But talk to all of them all the time forever? ROI is bound to be the next topic to come into the conversation. Loyalty marketing was about doing one thing to sell a lot of things. It was never about taking a series of orders one at a time. 

4 Long term impacts not quick fixes Faris talks about creating long term value. Yup but owners and investors (and via what is left of our pensions that is most of us) need the creation of short term value and this isn't doing anything towards creating that.  I am learning that if I want to talk to some companies all I have to do is to stumble into Twitter and troll. And an understanding customer service rep will engage me and try to calm me down. Across all the companies I deal with I can't see how this is creating long term value – what I can see is that it is creating short term increases in cost.

5 Marketing with people not to people Absolutely – where companies can be in partnership then this would be desirable. But the people you partner with are the ones who show up. Those who are extreme advocates or frankly weird. You don't get to pick your own players in this kick around. You have to work with those who show up. And hardly any of them are remotely close to the average. They're nothing like the meek lambs who filed obediently into focus groups money in hand.

6 Being authentic not persuasive  Interesting choice of authenticity versus transparency. Authenticity is a tricky word which I feel belongs to individuals rather than companies – so takes us towards Cluetrain Manifesto territory. Companies without transparency are in dead trouble – but Perrier fessed up about pollution – and disappeared. I don't think authenticity would have saved them. Authenticity comes when employees and other stakeholders can talk about the products without saying either I can't comment – or don't quote me.

7 Perpetual beta Truly terrifying when so much of the margin in the creation of advertising content comes from production values and effective execution. Quite correctly Jamie has identified that now we have the ability to light many fires and optimise then there really need be no beginning or end. But it means that the future of communications is more like a Google Wave document than a desktop published one. And marketers may not pay as much for the former even though it will cost even more to optimise and engage with customers as they participate.

8 Technology changes people don't A terrific principle which liberates us from dependence on the latest platform. It also allows us to get the causal direction right. Facebook was successful because we wanted to connect with each other – it didn't make us do it. So we have a much more rounded understanding of what makes people tick that we have after 200 years of advertising artillery which have allowed us to measure impacts minutely but have told us relatively little about what it means to be human. 

9 Change will never be this slow again Hmm not sure about this one – having had every business organisation run conferences with scary headlines for the last 10 years I don't see why we shouldn't have a health warning – the speed of culture may slow down as an alternative to speeding up. That's what the dark ages was about not to mention World War 2. It has happened before. We can slow down again.  Let me be clear here – I don't intend to be changing my social media platform another 15-30 times in the remainder of my lifetime.  One of the pleasures of mass culture was shared experience. I don't believe  the world is going to be distributed across hundreds of social media platforms. There are too many commercial interests who will want to aggregate us together. Remember Compuserve? They're still with us – its called AOL.

10 Measurement and evaluation Our culture is measurement obsessed at present – this can change – but social media activity is so trackable I don't expect this to change any time soon. One of the pleasures of going to Measurement Camp is discovering how many things it is possible to measure. Even though financial return isn't often one of them.  A culture of measuring is healthy (though it is easy to become cynical after 12 years of New Labour: how many MPs do you need to form a majority? Not enough not enough) One of the most useful comments at Measurement Camp this morning was the observation that measurement had to be one of the first things you sort out and not something you try to do afterwards. Also because measurement is all about expectations as one speaker pointed out – which may be realistic but may not be. There is nothing like generating a hypothesis and then watching to see what happens when the activity begins.

Please don't get me wrong. I think this is a wonderfully provocative set of statements – a terrific starter. But the impact of these goes well beyond social media to the heart of how business needs to be done. As is evident from the way these 10 principles have been articulated. But they raise a question about the fuure of advertising. If it costs so much to promote commercial discourse then its value consists largely in its ability to speak to everybody – to address a public we – when social media channels involve a personal exchange between people and people and between people and companies.  Social media is goign
to suck in more and more resource from marketing budgets if these principles are taken seriously. Conversely social media could experience a sudden repulse as marketers realise and retreat from the implications. 

I hope you don't get confused between the 2 events. IPA social is an initiative run out of the IPA. Measurement camp is an open source movement which happened to meet the morning following the IPA social launch. Both are symptoms that there is much more to social media than your personal facebook or twitter account.  Remember also that there are many companies starting to play with social media who won't allow social media applications inside their own offices. Hilarious, pathetic and I am afraid true. So this represents a significant staging post towards the mainstream adoption of social media thinking as a philosophy for business.

For me the biggest headline here is the acknowledgement that humans are primarily relational before they are commercial. Put that in your pipe and smoke it even if you don't intend to open up your company to Facebook just yet. And relational cultures flourish over non relational or dysfunctional cultures. You have been warned.

 

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