The future of agency/client relationships according to Forrester

I recently came across a hugely insightful report from Forrester predicting how agency/client relationships will develop. The focus is on what they think agencies will need to offer in the future and advice on to clients on how to choose agency partners. They’ve invented ‘Adaptive Marketing’ as a term for how marketing has to shift from

  • ‘Outbound’ to ‘Surround’
  • Campaigns to Experiences
  • Segments to Individuals

In many ways it describes where Chemistry is headed, which is great – my takeout is that the agency of the future is strong in three areas

  • “Mad Men” big ideas
  • digital and direct rigour
  • social media propagation

If you’ve not seen it, you can get a copy here.


The Social Media effect on the General Election

I’ve been fascinated watching what’s been happening in social media around the General Election. In the post “Rage Against the Machine for No 1” era (when a couple launched a Facebook campaign and knocked the default X-Factor Christmas single off the top spot), people understand that they can build a movement and many know how to do it (Forrester’s Groundswell research shows an increase in ‘Creator’ behavior – 24% of people create and upload content).

Its effects are already visible in a number of ways.

For instance, I’m writing this 24 hours after Gordon Brown called life-long Labour voter Gillian Duffy a “bigoted woman”. And #bigotedwoman is massively trending on Twitter and there are new Facebook groups popping up – the chatter is loud and constant. The Labour machine is trying to move the agenda on, and what’s really interesting is that the opposition doesn’t really need to stoke the fires, as the voters are doing it themselves.

During the leaders’ debates there was a huge amount of real time discussion on Twitter (via the #leadersdebate hashtag), with Social TV type commentary, which made it seem like a sporting event. Searches for ‘Quango’, ‘Jobs Tax’ and ‘Trident’ peaked within 30 minutes of the broadcast showing that people were engaged and wanting to know more.

Jon Morter (The Rage Against the Machine instigator) has launched the ‘We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!’ Facebook group and currently has 157,807 members. It’s an interesting thought, and with things so finely balanced, it could give the middle party enough scale to actually make a difference.

Groups of people and organisations are also producing useful applications to help voters navigate through the Parties’ impenetrable policies. For example Voteforpolicies ( has helped 203,534 people understand which party has which policy, pushing the charisma of party spokesmen into the background. 10 Downing Tweets ( aggregates Tweets of the parties and leaders and presents them in real time, with some trend statistics to show how sentiment is shifting.

The parties have also (of course) been jumping on the social media bandwagon too, Tweets a plenty. They’re adding to the noise with a suite of entertain-and-share content ranging from the Labservative from the Liberals, the CameronGirls rapping for the Tories on their YouTube channel and even the Greens with their personalised policy videos. Some of the leaders are on the scene too, Nick Clegg having exceeded his Friends quota on Facebook now has 49,695 fans – not quite on a par with Barak Obama’s 8.2 million – but 18,000 more than David Cameron. Gordon Brown seems not to have bothered.

And so in some ways, most appropriately, it’s Gordon Brown who’s the subject of a charming social happening-come-flashmob. ‘Gordon Brown’s Leaving Pressie’ is a Facebook group dedicated to ideas for what to give him at his leaving do, which they’ll host at The Red Lion opposite Downing Street on May 7th.

Minority Report comes to posters

Innovation in marketing is often driven by the cutting edge of what’s technologically possible – many brands and reputations have been built off the back of being first to embrace a new platform and disrupt a marketplace using it. Here’s one that’s straight out of Minority Report, ripe for the right brand to implement a playful and insightful idea.

Japanese billboard manufacturer Comel, backed by Yahoo Japan, have produced some electronic signage that photographs passersby, analyses it using NEC’s facial analysis technology, and guesstimates a viewers age and gender.

This allows tailoring of both brand message and tone of voice – a great creative opportunity for many categories – you sell insurance to people in their 30s very differently to those in their 60s, and products for reducing wrinkles are usually of little interest to 20somethings.

The actual face image is then erased, saving only a record of the passerby’s age and sex. It’s a little big brother, but no more than cookies in web browsers, I think.

There’s a piece in The Sun about it here (with a quote from yours truly).

Measuring the value of social media investment

NMA have published some of my thoughts building on the DMA Digital Measurement insights about new metrics for social media measurement – the article is here.

It refers to my colleague David Carr’s thinking – which is summarised here.

There’s more analysis and opinion here from Philip Buxton, who came to the DMA event and asked some pretty fare reaching questions of the direct marketing community.

If we laugh at Starck’s students, are we just laughing at ourselves?

Like many of us, I’ve been avidly following Philippe Starck’s reality show ‘Design for Life’. If you missed it, in the programme British designers vie for the work placement in a million – working in Starck’s Paris studio. But were the candidates for real? Is that really the best we have to offer? Or were they just picked for us to laugh at? This is, afterall, entertainment

Looking beyond the game show, it occurs to me that the programme reflects much of what goes on in everyday agency life. More importantly it highlights some of the basics which are so easily forgotten.

Firstly, Starck used an internet competition to select the participants, only meeting them once they’d arrived. This seems to have been an extremely unreliable indicator of talent – perhaps one of his goons could have sifted out some chaff (a dud on TV makes funny TV, one in an agency makes work clients won’t buy). In our agencies, how often do we rush in new recruits, waiving more rigorous testing, only to rue our choice?

Next, his briefs seem to consist of a few disconnected words and thoughts, and nothing else (eg “A product for daily use which is Democratic, Ethical and Ecological”) – and that describes the bulk of the responses he’s getting. How often do we all write unclear briefs which confuse rather than inspire?

I do, however, like the way Starck crits the work, though – passionate, instinctive and decisive – everything’s either ‘ok’ or ‘shit’. He speaks with his heart first, then post-rationalises his feelings. His sixth sense finds potential in work that’s now just mediocre, and so he doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Could we all learn to see with our heart before we think the ideas into the wastepaper basket?

The students’ presentation skills are judged as lacking and I can’t disagree – Starck kicked out the one who could sell his work in the first round for being a smartypants. Maybe our schools and colleges could teach young people to express themselves rather than nurture a fear of public speaking?

What’s really clear is that the ones who do their homework come up with better ideas – insights from the coal face beat random thoughts every time, and give the context required to sell the ideas.

But for me, the cherry on the cake was that Liverpudlian designer Ilsa Parry finally won through because of her energy, passion and belief in her idea while he pressed eject on others for not going the extra mile. Belief is a quality I think we easily forget in these times where we bend over backwards to keep and please.

So, what can we take from our Philippe’s game show? Do our homework to really understand the task, then write a clear, inspirational brief, use our heart when we develop the work, passionately follow through on our ideas and communicate them well. If we’ve been laughing at the programme, have we just been laughing at ourselves?

Is digital delivering what it promises?

I’ve been involved in conceiving a digital event for the DMA which is on the subject of measurement for digital and offline campaigns.

The context is that more and more money is being spent on digital channels because they are perceived as effective (better targeting), efficient (cheaper) and more measureable.

The question we ask is: Is digital delivering what it promises?

What’s important about this subject is that it’s very current and an its something on which the DMA should have a point of view.

We’re conducting a survey which should give us the insight we require to both PR the debate and introduce it on the day.

Its here – please could you ask people in your organisations and also colleagues in other agencies to complete it. We need a few hundred responses, and time is of the essence, as ever!

The date they’ve provisionally booked for the live debate is after work on Thursday 15 October – its at the DMA.

Many thanks, and see you then, hopefully!

Who wants to work in a F#%()NG advertising agency?

!@?*-agencyThis is the message on the wall at TBWA Berlin (and all other TBWA offices?), where I recently spent a couple of days at a ‘Disruption’ workshop they ran for one of our clients.

‘Disruption’ is TBWA’s brand planning process, their rigorous approach to earning a brand a greater slice of ‘share of the future’. The process works through the conventional wisdom of a market (‘Convention’), using that to work out how a brand can behave differently (‘Disruption’) and developing these into an effective future for the brand (‘Vision’).

They’ve published a number of books on the process, and deeply embedded the approach into the agency’s planning culture, with workshops run frequently in all offices. The Berlin event however, with 50 participants, was on a much bigger scale than normal.

A huge amount of effort had been put into preparation with data, insights and campaign creative collected on to large floor to ceiling boards to set the scene and inspire. They had even converted a number of offices and spaces in to home environments (kitchen, living room, adult and child’s bedroom). The cherry on the pie was that after they’d shown some vox pops of consumers (diary studies around product consumption), a couple of the families actually came in and took questions from the workshop!

The process produced some really powerful territories, but most importantly, it built momentum within the client business behind embracing something new and fresh. Specifically these territories are about brand behaviour, not advertising, and inform the whole communications mix – not just advertising.

I left impressed and feeling that TBWA Berlin really are embracing integrated communications (not something I believe about most ad agencies) and await to see how much of the thinking is embraced and implemented, and how much does just end up as TV, out door and press. Watch this space…