Smart agencies will integrate.
In the communications world there is never a dull moment and just when you think you have learnt it all and mastered your game, the playing field changes. And the fact is that the advertising business has changed more in the last five years than it did in the last 50.
The induction of digital and social media into the arsenal of communications has thrown the entire equation out of whack. Some people believe this is the future of advertising, while others are in a state of denial. Seasoned advertising agencies are learning how to use this new weapon in the overall communications mix. Regardless of beliefs, we have entered a new era of communications; communications, not advertising. This is the era of dialogue not monologue.
So what does this mean for traditional advertising agencies?
For sure it’s not business as usual, but there is no need to panic and shutdown your agency. It is important to take a closer look at the overall communications scene, which is in a state of disruption and has gone to a new level of experiential and interactive approach.
Advertising agencies need to change their business model and incorporate digital in their overall communications mix as a strong pillar comparable to print, TV, outdoor and radio. They need to integrate traditional media with digital and social media. Success for any agency is the ability to generate great ideas that can be seamlessly woven across media. Idea generation that was once the forte of an ad agency is now the communication tool of an empowered consumer. Agencies need to take their social skills to a new level, while developing a flexible mindset that will help them evolve strategies that will resonate with their target audience.
To effectively use a variety of platforms agencies must change their structure so that creative and media come under the same roof and thereby achieve the important KPI’s associated with any campaign. Engagement, not impressions is what needs to be achieved and taking the big idea and translating the concept through visuals requires that creative and media work closely; an area where full service agencies already have the edge.
The game changing development is the power shift away from brands and advertising agencies to the consumer. Brand communication can no longer dictate the way a consumer perceives and interacts with a brand. Now the power is with the consumer, whose buying decision is made the minute the product rolls out, simply through a click of a button or via social media feedback. The ability of the consumer to control and instantly comment and criticise, can signal a curtain call for any brand. However, with extensive research and smart creative execution, a campaign can achieve a positive domino effect, creating formidable word of mouth.
#### Although digital and social media are making their impact felt on brand communications, this doesn’t mean that traditional advertising is dead. There will be more and more integration between traditional and new media advertising.
The question for creative agencies is whether they can wake up and react to what is happening around them and engage the target audience and make the brand part of the new reality. To a certain extent agencies have started to respond to this reality by either acquiring established digital agencies or making their media department work closely with digital experts. However, the missing link remains the interaction between agency creatives and digital and social media experts due to issues of territory encroachment. Techies and part-time creatives are poaching on a domain ruled by agency creatives for decades.
Some recent brand communications are a testament to the fact that in this new age, content that can take a life of its own will rule. A recent global example is the song Gangnam Style, a single by South Korean rapper Psy, released in July which immediately topped the South Korean Gaon chart. As of now the video has been viewed over 394 million times on YouTube and has become the site’s ninth most watched video. The single has inspired celebrities across the globe and was the signature dance of the 2012 T20 champions, the West Indies.
Now, who would have thought the Gangnam district would drive communication in Pakistan? Zong has used it to communicate their latest prepaid offering. But Zong’s adoption is their answer to our own digital star Ali Gul Pir, who featured in Ufone’s Tum hi tu ho saeen after making viral history with Waderay Ka Beta. Also released in July Waderay Ka Beta has over 2.5 million views on YouTube. (This figure would have been higher if the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority could understand how digital works.)
The popularity of Waderay ka beta solidifies the notion that a great idea will find its way into our lives. The song was initially turned down by the TV networks and radio stations hence its release on digital – and what followed was history. The popularity of the song forced TV networks and radio stations to comment and air it. During the process Pakistan’s first digital-led communication was born and Ali Gul Pir catapulted to stardom overnight, inspiring Ufone to use him for their T20 campaign. The catch phrase saeen tu saeen, saeen ki team bhi saeen was used (and abused) throughout the tournament while creating stickiness among Ufone’s target audience, not to forget 0.7 million hits in four days, before YouTube was banned.
Although digital and social media are making their impact felt on brand communications, this doesn’t mean that traditional advertising is dead. There will be more and more integration between traditional and new media advertising. Agencies will have to move out of their comfort zone and create campaigns targeted at online communities (common interest groups etc.) not audiences (target audiences based on individuals). The new approach is pull not push, while thinking in multiple versions, customising and looking at options backed by analytical strategy.
Agencies have been around for a long time and adapted to change successfully in the past from driving sales to becoming brand custodians, to big idea creators, to specialists in PR, media, design and digital.
Well it is time to adapt again, from specialist to integrated full service agencies.
Ali A. Rizvi is COO, Interflow Communications.