Is Social Media Over-rated? Is Digital Marketing Out-dated? Is Integration really the big word for 2016?

March 21, 2016

Lots of people forwarded me this video (for obvious reasons) and there was plenty of discussion about its merits within the agency. As a result, after watching it a few times, I wrote the following POV and also started following Mark on Twitter.

Mark Ritson’s talk, “Why Social Media is Over-rated, Digital Marketing is Out-dated and why integration is the big word for 2016” is more aptly named for the world of soundbites and sub-tweets, rather than the substance and smart thinking it contains.

  • If your view of social media is real-time tweets, published in reaction to something just four minutes after the fact, then yes, it may be over rated. In truth, social media is so much more than brands publishing to shared social networks.
  • If digital marketing is silo’ed within your organization, then yes, it is likely out-dated. The truth is, you don’t need a digital business strategy, you need a business strategy for the digital age.
  • If integration, and holistic media neutral thinking, are key themes for 2016, then we’re happy to have been ahead of the trend.

However, Mark’s talk had three core themes, which I picked out and fully support…nuance and all:

  1. The organic reach for social media content (as exemplified by the “dunk in the dark” tweet he referenced) is almost negligible. And by extension, a brand’s communities on Facebook and Twitter are made up of absurdly low percentages of their actual customers. For us at Tribal, this represents the importance of paid media to ensure brands enjoy the sort of scale they need to make a difference to their businesses. Since the social media platforms became public companies, and as Mark himself goes on to say, this is an advertising medium. If it ever really existed, the free ride for brands is over. Therefore we should use the tried and tested rules of creating advertising.
  1. Because Celebrities and News Media outperform almost all other brands, (most) brands in their current guise are not welcome in social media. This reminded me of the Howard Gossage quote “people don’t read ads—they read what interests them, and sometimes it is an ad.” We are all forced to consider how we can be interesting and compelling for consumers while also driving our businesses forward. This point also reminds us that owned (websites) and shared (social networks) aren’t the only media in town. Borrowing equity from celebrities, publishers and influencers, or forging “all stars” from within the organization, who can create and propagate content on the brand’s behalf has incredible value if you can reach the required scale.
  1. We need to go back to the “old” rules of marketing, answering the key questions of “who is my target,” “what does my brand mean” and “what is my budget” in a world of zero-based budgeting, media neutrality, clear distinction and proper briefings between client and agency, and performance-based compensation. At Tribal, our bias is in digital and our belief is that powerful creative ideas, which stem from a digital or social insight, have a business-changing impact, beyond digital.

Once you get past the headline and into the body copy, you’ll hear Mark Ritson say that if digital and social media works for your business, as it does for some of his clients, you should go all in, but you should let data guide you. Brands have become complacent and lazy in trying new strategies. They have lost sight of what they are trying to achieve and how to measure success. They are scared to fail and therefore scared of learning or of adapting at the speed of culture, technology and consumers. The best brands who see value from social media show a willingness to invent and be different, a willingness to be free from corporate restraint and embrace the true power of social media – not the ability to simply publish content but in creating a network around your brand.

As an agency, we believe in the power of social media as a marketing channel because we’ve done what many others have not or cannot – we have unlocked this potential for our clients.

Radar 10am One Thing: Dogecoin

January 26, 2014

The following is this week’s 10am One Thing that I wrote for the DDB blog.

This week’s One Thing feels like a best of of all the previous One Things: A meme. A hub of internet activity and activism. A crypto currency. A much loved piece of popular culture. And fundraising.

Lovers of the Doge meme (herehere and here) had formed their own community on Reddit and their own crypto-currency, DogeCoin (XDG) – similar to BitCoin. 1,000,000 Dogecoin is the equivalent to about $2,000 CADD. This week the Dogecoin-redditors decided to get behind the Jamaican Bobsleigh team and raise money, in Dogecoin of course, to send them to the upcoming Sochi Olympics. The campaign was going swimmingly and had raised a good portion of the $40,000 needed but then, in a cruel twist of fate, the burgeoning interest in the alternative crypto currency caused the exchange to swing 50% and severely depleted the funds.

Thankfully, at time of press, it look like $25,000 had been raised and the Jamaican 2man bob has qualified…so we are anxiously awaiting the sequel to Cool Runnings, due out in 2019, thanks to the most unlikely of bedfellows.

Dogecoin on Reddit

Simple answers for common social media questions

November 14, 2013

No matter how many years we are into the post-social world, every new platform (pinterest, snapchat etc) brings with it a raft of new questions, based on niche use-cases hungrily reported on by a sensationalist media corps. This fantastic checklist is here to help!

Simple answers to common social media questions

That social media feeling

October 16, 2013

Social media is so nascent as a marketing discipline that it is sometimes (only sometimes) surprising we are so jaded. But sometimes you see something and it reminds you that what social media does best, is connect people on a very human, very emotional level. Sometimes brands play a role and even connect with people, but sometimes its best to make an observation and then get the hell out of the way.


Are we losing our attention?

October 7, 2013

Twitter. Vine. GIFS. Listcicles. The rise of these content types would all point to the inexorable erosion of our collective attention span. We can’t sit in meetings or classrooms for as long. We flit from task to task to app to web. ADHD is on the rise. Technology is fragmenting our attention and we as a society are suffering from it.

Or so the accepted narrative goes. And this flows into our work as marketers – make the headline snappier. Make the copy less challenging. How can we cut this video down to 30 seconds…45 seconds. That’s the way to capture the attention of the audience.

Or is it?

Along with the rise of short form, bite-sized, snackable content, we’re also seeing the rise of #longreads, binge watching and extended video on YouTube. A few facts and personal anecdotes:

40% of all YouTube video views are now on videos more than 40mins in length. And they aren’t just looped cat videos, movies or TV shows. Gamers are creating full-length (or longer) feature movies out of the interstitial clips in games like Injustice: Gods Among Us (below). 2 hours of content. 2 million views. Amazing.

The #longreads hashtag is mentioned more than 100,000 times every 3 months, according to Sysomos, and the twitter feed has that many followers again

The breakout TV shows of the few years have all been enabled by bingewatching, either after the fact or through design – think how Breaking Bad benefited from distribution on Netflix and how House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black have captured our collective conversation.

With connected and synched devices, I can now read longer articles, albeit in shorter sessions, across my desktop, mobile and tablet

Since I bought my iPad and subsequent iPhone, I’ve not only been consuming more content (in the online sense) but have been reading a lot more books. Rather than having to lug a paperback, or worse, hardback, book around, I can now carry thousands of books on my devices and dip in and out accordingly. Whatsmore, by using something like Readlist, I can take the #longreads I find and turn them into ebooks for my Kindle or iBooks app.

Yes, our attention is fragmented and it is harder for marketers to earn from their consumers but we are also being bored of the short-term “sugar” rush of snackable content. We are craving something more substantial and we’ll get it where we can. Hopefully marketers can start providing high quality, compelling, interesting content that can satisfy this craving.

To paraphrase an old football saying:

If its good enough, its long enough.

Winning and Losing in Real Time Marketing

September 29, 2013

iMedia Connection recently ran a piece on Real Time Marketing and they graciously featured some of my thoughts. Obviously only the best bits got into the article but here’s all the stuff I submitted to iMedia.

What is real-time marketing?

The inception of RTM came when brands and agencies realized that they could not create social content to scale by employing the same process used to create TV ads. Real-time marketing recognizes that brands must become part of their consumers’ lives and in order to do so, the brand would have to take on human qualities.

What types of goals should a brand be looking at from real-time marketing? In other words, what can a brand realistically hope to achieve in real time?

Aside from the usual social metrics, namely engagement, companies that do well with RTM will transcend being brands and become part of the cultural fabric that their consumers operate in. They will become talked about, as opposed to simply having their messages broadcast. Ironically, becoming part of the cultural fabric is exactly what great TV and print ads have always strived to do.

What’s been the biggest (or most common) misunderstanding you’ve seen with respect to real-time marketing? Or, put another way: what’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to explain to clients about real time?

It’s easy to get excited about the promise of RTM but the reality is, that it takes a long time, hard work and buckets of trust to get to a place where everyone feels comfortable about operating in real-time. I read that it took Oreo 17 months to get to its Super Bowl tweet, which demonstrates that brands should plan for a long haul. The vital element is being agile enough to support your output with paid media – otherwise it may not matter how relevant or how human you are, you will not achieve the sort of scale required for your business.

Real time can be a tricky thing because it obviously means doing away with, or at the very least streamlining, approvals. While nobody wants to make mistakes, it seems like they come with the territory. What’s most important for a brand in terms of responding after a real-time mistake?

Social media is simple and we make engaging with it far more complex than we should. RTM humanizes brands, and humans make mistakes. Obviously, brands are held to higher standards than humans, or at least their mistakes are more obvious because they reach so many people. Nevertheless, they should act as humans do: ‘fess up, apologize and try their hardest not to do it again. Humans are a forgiving species, and we reward honesty and transparency.  

It’s been more than six months since Oreo’s famous Super Bowl tweet, and yet we’re still talking about it. Does our industry have an unhealthy obsession with real time?

I don’t think that obsession is the right word. Even if it is, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing. From a creative standpoint, we always look to do things that have never been done before and now RTM is a tactic to achieve differentiation, moment by moment. “Firsts” in competitive categories typically outperform the norm. Therefore, RTM can still work for brands and agencies – the first brave financial services or pharma company to do RTM in an authentic and successful way will be able to differentiate itself from its peers.

With so many brands competing in real-time, do you have any concern that consumers will suffer from real-time fatigue?

Facebook’s newsfeed announcement revealed that each user could see 1,500 potential pieces of new content every time they update their experience.  All of this is being done in real-time. Brands need to be relevant to their audience and RTM is one tactic to help achieve relevance. Brief-driven work will not go away. It is, however, now being complemented by relevance and humanity.

Five ways brands win (or lose) with real time marketing on iMedia Connection

Hashtags #IRL

September 26, 2013

I don’t mind putting #hashtags in emails…I actually quite like the absurdity of it.


Rather like @ing someone in an email, there’s no tangible use for it but it calls out something as being a bit more important than everything else…like basic plain text way-finding.

However, some people do go overboard in their use of hashtags in tweets. There’s no need…as Jimmy Kimmel Fallon and Justin Timberlake explain:

#hilarious #sotrue #isthisstillironic

404 error not found on MySpace

July 17, 2013

Love the 404 error page on the new MySpace…a 4’04” mix tape. This sort of genuinely human user interface is sorely needed around the web, just like awesome landing pages. In a rapidly clean and some may say clinical web, adding value and showing empathy are two of the human traits web services need to be relevant.

MySpace 404 error page music mix


Yes, I understand the irony of using MySpace and relevant in the same post. Give it a chance you cynics!

Sometimes I don’t think Twitter “gets” me

June 13, 2013

twitter suggested follows

Or maybe they know me better than I know myself. Its hard to be sarcastic when you’re second guessing yourself…

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