RGA

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Check out this video of the Cut and Paste digital design competition in NYC in October. It is the best single promotional video I’ve seen for getting high school and college kids to get into commercial web design.  The beats, the fashion, the story all serve up the craft of digital design brilliantly.  If you don’t like rap and you don’t like the city and you don’t like brew, you can still get into this vibe.  It’s real and it’s tomorrow. I’m not sure that this Cut and Paste competition was tasked as a recruitment tool and frankly before the recession there were a lot more these type of digital throw down parties but, hey, R/GA, Razorfish and Rockfish, forget the recruiting tents, beer cozie circuit at campuses and get behind Cut and Paste because this is the haps.

 Look into these kids eyes.  This isn’t staged “Put your hands in the air!” crap.

If you read the comments on Agency Spy, Adweek or Ad Age, you’ll know many agency people are jealous, angry, envious and delusional.  Even before online comment pages, the business was infected by malcontents. (And with many out of work, the business they love to hate is filled with even more vitriol.)  But Cut and Paste gives me hope. The next gen of beanie-wearing, skinny jeaned design acolytes are pretty excited and pumped.

We need more of this.  Give people something they love and the won’t work a day in their lives.  Coding at 2 A.M.by the light of a Red Bull machine may not be glamorous, but this vid points toward the prize. And as my chillens used to say “I yike it.”  Peace. 

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Fast Twitch Media and twitch point planning, and from the quality of the responses it seems I’m on to something.  Faris Yakob of KBS+P is in the fast twitch neighborhood when he refers to our low latency culture, and others who talk about integrating transmedia solutions are similarly on the trail.   It’s a nascent practice but quite exciting. One key to effectively getting people to twitch from one media type to another, with the goal of taking them closer to a transaction, is to create intrigue. Especially in a low-interest category.  If we are talking Gillette razors, you don’t need to twitch me to a treasure map or man-scape video game, but you do need to get me to think, feel and do – within the context of a brand idea. Go Daddy got this years ago, albeit shamelessly and sans selling idea.

As the mobile online experience improves, and it’s not there yet, a twitch to a website is only a pants pocket away. A twitch to a hastag. A QR code to a video. A geo-check –all within arm’s reach.  Print ads are already becoming short form billboards using a call to twitch. Check out the new Kobo e-reader ad in The New York Times paper/paper today.

The RGAs , Crispin Porter’s and 72 and Sunny’s are thinking twitch point planning — they just don’t call it so. And they are trying to decide who is responsible for it. Media people, creative, geekuses?  The answer is yes. Peace!

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Twitter and Skype just made executive moves at the top in efforts to take their fast growing, oft used businesses in the direction of profitability.  Both companies are moving past their infancy. The venture partners helping drive the strategy of these two exciting, brilliant tech companies are pushing for stronger, more “grown up” management.

This makes me think about digital marketing shops — other businesses coming out of the infancy stage.  Do big holding companies like IPG, WPP, Omnicom and MDC Partners cut digital companies more slack than traditional marketing companies? My bet is they do.   The young, filled-with-promise always get the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I’m guessing the financial people at the holding companies don’t quite know how to manage profitability of digital clients just yet.  Because digital is the fastest growing sector in marketing, profit blemishes are being masked.

Digital business people grouse that they don’t get a seat at the big person table when it comes to planning. Often, the “idea” is already cooked when the didge shops are brought in — the big expensive thinking complete.  What is left is the digital translation, a degree of digital creativity and execution… much of which can be performed by lower cost worker bees. If this thesis is correct, then the per capita payroll of a digital shop is lower than that of a full-service ad shop. This is why the profit margins are lower, why digital shops don’t scale past new business, and why they are not getting a seat at the big table. This will change, but will probably lag the pace of change at companies like Twitter and Skype. Peace!

PS.  RGA does not fit into this mold. They have strong highly paid talent throughout. They are the exception.

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R/GA is a bold leader in the digital marketing area. As all advertising and marketing shops move toward the middle — toward the strategy — only one digital shop aspires to be the agency of record: R/GA. Most digital shops rue the fact that they don’t get a seat at the big table, R/GA wants the table.  And they make quite a case.  Their entrée is the “platform.”  

In a video by Nick Law, R/GA’s chief creative officer (thankfully, he’s not goofily titled), he says advertising needs to move “from metaphors that romance a brand to seductive demonstrations of a brand platform.”  Agreed. Were he to have substituted the word “strategy” we’d be in perfect agreement.  The word platform, you see, is a euphemism for website (and other digital stuff residing on the website). Brand strategy is hard to put a price tag on and websites and digital assets are easy estimate. 

Mr. Law is correct campaigns come and go. He’s right that tactics need to feed the brand strategy. He’s right that utility and community are the source of sales growth and retention. And he’s certainly not being disingenuous in suggesting that something needs to hold and tie all the brand building work together. So I’m going to cut him some slack and not argue the noun platform and favor a more verb-like version of the word. 

In the video Mr. Law refers to one of R/GA’s most famous successes Nike+.  “Nike+ is a platform fueled by campaigns” he says.  Nike+ was first a product and it’s growing into a branded utility. Is it growing into a platform? You tell me. 

These guys are the real deal. And as good marketers they are trying to create a new language for the marketing world.  As I said, bold.  

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In the advertising and marketing business, digital is its own channel.  Rare is the vendor that provides a truly integrated single source worldview of a brand. A really smart person once said to an important client “campaigns are overrated” which stuck me with a ferocity that shook my world, but he was right.  A campaign, when well-defined and well-equipped is a powerful selling mechanism.  It’s what people talk about. But translating campaigns across silos is not easy.  Heck, anyone who has ever worked at an ad agency knows campaigns don’t always transfer across media.  A great design-driven print campaign may not work well in radio or a murderously effective TV campaign may not work as out of home.  It’s tah-woooh.  And those silos are under one roof.    

Competing Market Forces

A bunch of hearty souls are trying to bring online and offline selling under one roof.  Yet a greater number of very skilled entrepreneurs are out there selling against the one roof approach — creating even greater and greater specialization.  A friend at CatalystSF told me that there are over 200 social media agencies in the New York area alone.  So what do you do about these two competing forces — the shops who want more pie and are trying to integrate and the shops selling best of breed, stand alone digital marketing specialties?  Well the planner in me usually starts problem solving by “following the money.”  In the case of integrated vs. stand alone I say “follow the strategy.”  

If you find a potential partner with a sense of business strategy that transcends tactical discussions, listen. Business strategy first. Marketing strategy second. Message strategy third and tactical fourth.  I don’t care if its RGA or TBWA. Peace it up! 

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Last week a VP of human resources was telling me about a “digital strategist” position he was trying to fill. His was a digital shop whose roots were in SEO and SEM.  The client roster was a veritable Who’s Who and they were growing like a dookie but wanted to expand in the direction of web and application development and better compete against the likes of Razorfish, Big Spaceship, and R/GA.

Again, the job was “digital strategist.” Listen to what he had to say and I paraphrase: “Our digital strategists are hybrids and kind of hard to find.  They are part account manager, part technologist, ideation generator, account planner and handler of analytics.” Pause for effect.

First of all, this person doesn’t exist except maybe at the highest level of a company.  Good shops need 5 departments to do all this well. These disciplines are so different my head is spinning.  Here’s a technology word for this shop “scalability.”  And here’s a prediction: There won’t be any Cannes Cyber Lions or 4As Jay Chiat Awards in this shop’s reception area any time soon.  Worse, this approach will give digital shops a black eye. You might be able to search for these keywords online, but not on street.  OMG. Peace!

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RGA and the Platform.

bob greenberg

Yesterday I attended a talk by Bob Greenberg, CEO of RGA and his right hand man Barry Wacksman as part of Advertising Week in NYC. The preso was entitled “The Way Forward,” an up to speed on digital marketing.

Messrs. Greenberg and Wacksman are both very smart men and have done some serious selling – especially for Nike – but I’m not sure anything they shared was seminal. These gentleman suggested the way forward was via online “platforms.” Campaigns come and go, they offered, which I completely agree with. Bridging ecommerce with an online experience that collapses steps to a sale is a good idea. And I agree using the web in a participatory fashion to further affinity for a brand, increase loyalty and/or promote or entertainment is a terrific use of marketing dollars. But if to believe Mr. Greenberg and Wacksman, one might come away thinking the platform is more important than all else. Nay, I say. Nay.

Brand strategy is the driver of marketing success. Campaigns, platforms, media are all tactics used to deliver the strategy. Unless a marketer has a tight brand strategy the world wide web and all these commercial platforms will turn into an online Levittowns; a bunch of houses all looking alike, with a few build-outs on the corners.

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