advertising, planning, social media-ising, social networking

Emperor’s New Clothes, Meerkats and who clients should trust: dispatches from the edge of the social media debate

IPA publish and broadcast thoughts on social media.  "that's not very social" said some socially-minded planning types.  "no its not is it?!" replied the IPA, "let's change that" …so it was that last night the IPA Social Media group hosted the most social of evenings to debate and discuss the ongoing evolution of all things socially media…

the always lovely Mark Earls kicked us off with five principles that outline the big picture:

  1. connecting people allows them to behave less independently
  2. connectivity makes things more volatile
  3. connectivity disrupts existing and established power relationships
  4. its not about what technology does but what it enables
  5. technology allows people to spend more time with other people

well worth a read of Mark's full text here

Neil Perkins then took us through ten principles – thought starters and jumping-off points for discussion and debate on all things social media.  they and their authors are thus…

  1. People not consumers – Mark Earls
  2. Social agenda not business agenda – Le’Nise Brothers
  3. Continuous conversation not campaigning – John V Willshire
  4. Long term impacts not quick fixes – Faris Yakob
  5. Marketing with people not to people – Katy Lindemann
  6. Being authentic not persuasive – Neil Perkin
  7. Perpetual beta – Jamie Coomber
  8. Technology changes, people don’t – Amelia Torode
  9. Change will never be this slow again – Graeme Wood
  10. Measurement – Asi Sharabi

Neil finished his section with a quote by John Dodds that really got me thinking…  “Are we actually talking about social media or has the advent of the internet simply revealed that the advertising emperor had no clothes and should have obeyed the the principles all along?”

I Tweeted at the time to "be wary of John Dodds [you quote you understand not John per se – sure there's no need to be wary of him] …Advertising is not the enemy, the too-narrow concept of the ad is. Fireworks are part of the solution"

the point I was making was that its easy and dangerous to treat social media as though its going to usurp the crass, unrefined and unsophisticated concept that is advertising.  which is just plain wrong.  a point made more than eloquently when Amelia Torode presented a case study of VCCP's Meerkat for Compare the Market…

Amelia was very keen to make the point that the Meerkat campaign wasn't a 'social media' campaign but a 'social' campaign.  but I think this misses the point…  Meerket isn't a social media or even a social campaign.  Meerkat is an advertising campaign, an advertising campaign that has made the most brilliant use of social media to extend the scope, levels of engagement and fame of the ad.

great advertising is John's Fireworks that get ooohs and ahhhs from people.  this is how one-to-many broadcasting advertising works.  its brilliant, but let's not pretend that its social-led.


we then had a break out session on which type of agency is best placed to plan social media…

there are echos of the "who owns communications planning?" debate here. the easy answer is that comms planning is owned by everyone and no one. the harder answer is that you have to understand the role of communications in conjunction with the capabilities of a given client.

great social media planning needs generalists who can understand the role that social media plays in a wider strategy and balance the weight of effort across different behaviours accordingly. but it also needs brilliant specialists who can bring the latest technologies and activities to bear on those strategies.

social media calls for new specialist agencies, but at the same time it calls upon all of us – no matter what our discipline – to understand the role it can play and how it might affect and change how we do what we do.

who should clients trust with their social media strategies?  they should trust the people most closely aligned to the role for communications…

  • are you looking to use social media to tackle head-on negative brand perceptions? …trust your PR agency
  • social media to actively create sales opportunities? trust your media / direct agencies
  • or to improve customer service? …that'd be the call centre


all in all an awesome night, but its only the start…  join in the debate via the facebook group, on twitter, or via Social on the IPA website.  and finally a big thanks to everyone who helped organise the evening…


5 thoughts on “Emperor’s New Clothes, Meerkats and who clients should trust: dispatches from the edge of the social media debate

  1. Not sure how Neil presented my point, but you’d be very mistakened to think that I believe social media will replace anything.
    I simply believe both that advertising lost its way and that the IPA’s labelling (not the participants) of the evening as a social media event was also misguided.

  2. deffo didn’t get the take-out that you think social media is replacing anything. quite the opposite in fact – as you point out fireworks have an important role…
    I was responding specifically to the point that the advertising emperor had no clothes, which I fundamentally disagree with. the clothes are very often brilliant (like Meerkat).
    not sure I thought the labelling of the event was misguided… why do you say that?

  3. It was labelled on the IPA site and referred to by Rory as a social media event. Talking to the various speakers in the weeks beforehand, they saw it differently – about marketing having to be social, not about marketing having to be focussed on social media.
    And the meerkat is terrific advertising, good old-fashioned differentiation in a commodity market. But one of the reasons it’s praised is that it is so rare.

  4. @John we debated what to call the evening for a long time, but at the moment given that the industry uses the term Social Media (even if we think its the wrong phrase)we felt it would be sensible to title it that way. Otherwise we would have called it something like Social Communications which we worried might confuse people.
    What would you have called it?

  5. A BBH APG paper recently called it; strategy in a digital world, not digital strategy.
    Not catchy enough perhaps? Should probably crowd-source it.
    Nice post Chris.

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