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Don’t just buy whatever your agency is selling you

This past Friday, I was chatting with a friend who just started working for a luxury brand consulting firm when she asked, “Do you Twitter? I’m just asking because it’s THE new media.” Oh no, I thought, it never ends. Since I’ve been in the digital industry, which by all accounts has not been that long, I’ve seen agencies SLAMMING their clients with “the next big thing.” Social Marketing using MySpace was the be all, end all, until roughly two years ago when Fox took a chunk of it and Facebook was opened to the public. Then there was Second Life and all the MMRPGs, which never panned out for the advertisers, so back to buying Facebook.

Along comes Twitter, the new must-buy, must-have. Even though it’s been around for a year or two, it seems like everyone in the world of media and advertising caught on March 23rd. (Check, it’s truly bizarre.) From left field, Jay Leno and Ellen and the Today Show simultaneously start to talk about tweeting, even when it’s clear that they don’t know what they’re talking about. How in the world did that happen, all at once you ask? My bet would be that the mega-agencies are putting on the full-court pressure.
But how are marketers supposed to keep up with all that’s new and great, without being oversold by their agencies? This one is easy. Most times (although not every time) common sense will prevail. Start by asking yourself if you’d ever take part, and as always consider your customers. The Second Life hype is amazing example of this. At the height of the hype, AdAge boasted about how Toyota was dropping major money pushing its Scion brand. This is pure speculation, and I have no idea how the actual campaign fared, but promoting fake cars for real money to people who are actively avoiding real, personal interaction didn’t seem like cars made a great fit for that media.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Twitter. I get it, I understand what you are all saying, but I don’t think anyone really cares what I’m doing right now. (I’m writing this blog entry, surprise!!) That being said, people do care about what some people are doing. Ellen, Jay, or the folks on the Today show have a personal following and I guarantee their days are far more spectacular than mine. Tweeting makes sense for them, but common sense piece of advice number two: If you or your product isn’t interesting, this highly connected piece of mini-media isn’t going to make you.
All said, new media can be great for a marketer in the right context. Maybe some highly-branded apparel or a custom mobile phone ring would have been better in Second Life. As for Twitter? There are tons of interesting ways to use this for radio stations, relevant personalities, politicians, etc. But watch out when your agency thinks your (insert CPG product here) needs a constant Tweet Stream. I for one will never wonder what my deodorant is “doing right now.”
The bottom line is that agencies have to grab on to what’s new and what’s hot as a way to make money and keep your interest, so it’s up to the client marketer to stay on guard. As a skeptic, I’ll leave you with a couple thoughts to help you stay vigilant.
“Making it viral” shouldn’t mean adding a send to a friend button; rather, it should be about inspired, great creative.
If “Creating Award Winning Campaigns” is at the top of your agency’s mission statement, fire them. Clients want results.
And, finally, if you’re being recommended something that you can’t imagine your customer being interested in, they probably won’t be.

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