Sunday, 19 October 2008

Charlie's Angle - Not made for TV

I've been pussyfooting around what I think, the future agency model should look like, and I may have failed quite badly by alluding to things rather than getting to the point. I was trying to suggest that the future agency (in some way) was likely to have some sort of Black Swan meets transmedia planning as a fundamental approach to work, although I never really explained in simple terms how things would tick, and then I saw that Adrants wrote that Wendy's used the inefficacy of an ad to explain what I wanted to say, and so I thought it best to be brutally simple given that I haven't seen enough to support the article's main assertion and more importantly the one I wish to emphatically make.

These are fast moving times and so it's even more important to be professionally radical, given there are fewer chances as the money dries up, to do what ad agencies excel at under the right conditions: kick ass commercial messages, produced to the highest level with flawless scripting (something the US market leaves the UK in the dust for), micro second timing and creative touches that often are more emotive than the creative idea. I think the days of doing an expensive TV commercial as the shop window output of the agency, or ground-to-air communication missile for clients are numbered. There will always be room for this kind of work. A smarter agency-client relationship will coallesce that it's a lot more effective to deliver more frequently and more experimentaly, then execute in Lo-Fidelity, responding lightening quick and making use of contextual dynamics such as what was on the news an hour beforehand. That's just for starters.

Easier said than done, as to embrace this communication ideology means making and accepting lots more mistakes, yes more inexpensively but creatively (statistically speaking) doing more surprising and succesful work that is, by the potential of its breadth, much more internet sticky. It makes a lot of sense to do 20 to 50 different types of communication pieces for a brand knowing that one or more is destined to be a Black Swan viral than to do a one-off that is by any historical assessment likely to be a well-polished and quickly forgotten museum piece. Sure there will be times when it's not smart to use this route. But in principle, if a polished but unmemorable piece of work is the category modus operandi, then more variations (and predictably forgetabble failure) make sense in much the same way that say the author of The Black Swan (Yes I know, his pecker is rarely removed from my chops these days) Naseem Nicolas Taleb espouses spreading risk over 50 biotech stocks rather than one blue chip as an investment strategy providing worthwhile returns.

We can see in the prevailing global financial topography, that mediocristan is not so safe or smart is now self evident. Actually it's dangerous but nobody took an economy down by doing mediocristan advertising to my knowledge. Or maybe just by beating any creative or intellectual pulses into submission we extinguished the likelihood of respect from our customers.

If we start to reorganise agencies around the idea that experimentation and failure make for much more interesting and effective work, as well as marrying the successes into transmedia execution -- or part of it -- I think a more robust case is made for spending marketing budgets today by deploying more unprecedented attempts at risky but rewarding ideas than are currently being implemented.
There you have it. 50 scripts, Lo-Fi execution, one or more hits that get passed around, and a model that doesn't bank on the bazooka approach but takes a good idea and lets other media play around with it as Faris would espouse. I would love to know if any people disagree with this. There are lots of gaps that need filling but surely the status quo of risk aversion and forgettable TV commercials is a scandalous waste of money. Particularly in these belt tightening times.

Let me say that again. Most shit is scandalously shit and furthermore it isn't hard to figure out why it was so easy to get away with in the past. That media context is changing so fast I can't see many modern marketing/advertising types surviving a brutal employment cull. My only hesitation is that as the volume of output increases with the model I'm proposing, the attention intervention, isn't necessarily deserved. It's likely though that the old frequency metrics which shaped 'campaign' efficacy are nowhere near the levels I'm thinking of for Transmedia meets Black Swan. Even the best virals I've watched only a handful of times. Naturally this idea will piss off a lot of creatives, and scare the crap out of agencies and clients who have built whole careers on risk aversion, but there's a shed load of opportunities too, if any are suspicious of what ostensibly looks like random shot blast for marketing communications. It itsn't. It's about playing.

I make no claim for coming up with something new. Just being a bit culturally recombinant about existing ideas and knowing how the system worked in the past. Those days are numbered.
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