Monday 5 May 2008

Prove It

The best marketing clients in the world are those who are prepared to be brave. They balance their experience of what works historically against their judgment or instinct for what might work. In my experience they are highly demanding but are also the most rewarding to have.

I think we're living in quite profound times and not only for marketing communications, if anybody corners me privately on the implications and similarities of ubiquitous connections and say telepathy/extra sensory perception.

I don't believe the revolution will be twittered. I think it is being twittered and it's still early days yet. That doesn't mean the current slew of marketing automatons should rush to be prematurely involved and start interrupting peoples fun - That's not fast strategy that's dumb strategy, and a waste of carbon footprint between servers. It's a good idea to hang out with folk before you try and make money from them.

Why not try thinking of it differently? As Rob Alexander (I think) of JWT in London says 'We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and start being interesting'.

It's worth considering as Clay Shirky puts it: "Here comes everybody"

Then Charlie Leadbeater says: "In the past you were what you owned, Now you are what you share"

Let me paraphrase that "We are what we share"

I'm no longer surprised how excruciatingly dull marketing people can be. They used to hire their agencies to be interesting for them, but since they squeezed that equation to the lowest common denominator, it is now difficult to distinguish between the marketing department and their agencies. They're now frequently both dull and in all too many circumstances regrettably loathe each other. It's rare, particularly in Asia to hear 'I've got a brilliant client' from senior ad folk. Tell me if you believe I'm exaggerating or plain wrong, that's what the comments are for. If not, doesn't this suggest that it's time to change?

Interrupting content is the 20th century model for marketing communications and it still works to the extent that many people put their cognitive surplus into 'vegging-out' in front of the telly - Maybe they are the ones who work so hard executing, that they then have too little time exploring the internet to grasp what's going on. If I'm being charitable some of the most time pressured clients are too busy dealing with today to think about a very different tomorrow.

Do remember though that Hip Hop didn't start with the Record Labels. It started in the projects of New York and was home made. Its now the dominant music form globally. Because that number, who are chilling (or slumped) in front of the telly (and constantly ask me incredulously 'where do you get the time to blog?') are diminishing noticeably as the internet becomes more interesting. It's the clients who are smart and courageous enough to take a bet on the quantitatively unprovable yet instinctively worthwhile that are likely to be the new stars of tomorrow.

Here's 30 seconds of interesting content. I filmed it, edited it, added music and uploaded it all from my Nokia N95, as I was exploring my phone features. All the marketing folk have got to think about is how to facilitate that process or be part of the digital-content-topography for enjoying it without interrupting it, delaying it or annoying the much more demanding 21st century participant.

Disclaimer: I didn't take the dancers back to drink Cristal and dance around chrome poles like the air hostesses in Iron Man's corporate jet after.

I'm quite interesting enough thank you.

Untitled from Charles Frith on Vimeo.

And here's some proper content from TED if you're still paying attention.


  1. Wow, the best blog posts since...wll, since I've read "the advisor conspiracy".

    I don't think you are exaggerating and it's definetely time for a change. Maybe it's just a question of generation.

    But another reason for a lack of braveness and vision in most companies is: people who apply there and who get the job only apply there, because they heard they are cool and a good company to work at. But those people are not even interested in the product of the company. How should they develop a vision and a brave approach to marketing. Especially since they have a controller sitting in their back.

    I think it's different in companies like Apple or Google, where people work that really know their shit.

    Keep on going, Charles.

  2. I think this is a blinding post.

    But my question would be this: How would you go about persuading clients (and agencies) not to keep on working people until they are hollow shells of people, with no time to explore the internet, or indeed, stick their heads above the parapet at all?

    Clearly, working people harder doesn't make them any better, and I think it probably knocks out the joy of exploration that most probably had before they joined either organisation.

  3. Two things:

    1: Hip hop is dead.( look at sales, look at creativity)

    2: Hip Hop was started in the streets, but it took Def Jam ( a Label) to take it to the top and it took other labels securing major distribution ( Cah Money, Bad Boy, Death Row, Roccafella) to make it main stream. It took a white boy to brake al the dams.

    So while it is fun and it is good to trash big business and their marketing departments, without them stuff will not get done (all things in life are politics.

    So before we ask anybody to prove anything, let's have a trackrecord of our own..

    Great post,...the title alone made my day. Made me think of darkness at the egde of town, which I haven't listened to in ages...cheers for that

  4. Thanks Michael. Maybe the likes of Apple and Google, who really aren't in it for wealth creations sake but are on a 'mission' have given us a glimpse of the future. Companies that wish to change the world rather than just suck it dry. Lets see.

    Nico. I hear what you're saying but Hip Hop is yet to go mainstream in China and its gathering steam. I've seen local forms of Hip Hop in the shit holes of Burma to Mumbai and I assure you that wherever there is real discontent (not blinged up wannabe gangsters and their hos) there will be room for hip hop. I did write about the reasons disenfranchised cultures all around the world identify with hip hop in that post Darkie.

    As for big business. Its pathological in most circumstances. Wealth creation for wealth creations sake is the growth that we're choking on and big business takes responsibility until it changes. Its just logic.

    Will - I totally know what you're saying. All I can say is find a home where people embrace curiousity. Put prestige, kudos, salary and all the other stuff last on the list of job hunting, and if you put nurturing your curiosity first you'll be fine. Sometimes we can't afford to choose we can work with and in those instance its important to take care of ourselves. Spiritually, psychologically and creatively. Otherwise it all gets sucked out very quickly.