Invite participation. That’s today’s lesson from the NY Times. For a long time every media business – newspapers, magazines, ad agencies, broadcasters – operated with an us-and-them mentality. The “us” controlled the message and the distribution. The “we” received and consumed.
Granted that model’s been dead or dying for a while now and most media companies have accepted it if not actually figured it out. We’ve even seen some non-media companies get into the media business realizing that online and in the social space content is their product.
The New York Times does it as well as anyone with their reader submitted photos. Not only does it break down the barrier that historically separated us and them, it invites readers (customers) to become part of a community rather than a target audience. It involves them in the creation of the product. And perhaps even more importantly, for the Times, it generates free content that spreads across the web and attracts yet more readers to the newspaper.
Even more interesting is the fact that reader photos are often better than the professional images. No doubt that declaration will meet with plenty of disagreement but it’s true if your definition of better is range, diversity, personal and authentic. Even by professional standards some of the images hold up. That alone is a reminder that as more and more non-professionals become versed in the creation of content – video, photography, writing, marketing – those of us in the business of reaching and persuading people to take action ought to focus on building communities that will do it for us.
Take a look at what the Times gets out of its readers. Granted you probably can’t offer up a platform as prominent as the Times, but there have to be lots of ways you can give your customers, employees and friends a chance to participate.What do you think? Create it all yourself? Or get others to do the work for you?
Share your photos with the Times: post them here
New York Times readers: inauguration
A couple of months ago David Haan, Executive Director of the Creative Circus, stopped by Mullen to talk about The Creative Circus, new programs offered there, and the changes to both agency recruitment needs and student training. However, I never got around to posting it. It still seems relevant so here it is.
As is evident in the increasing popularity of programs like Boulder Digital Works, Hyper Island and any of the dozens of annual digital conferences, this is a pretty good time to be in the business of teaching people new skills.
According to David, digital has hit harder and faster than anyone expected. Agencies are in great need of new talent. And students themselves demand the education they know will make them employable in an industry that’s starting to have more in common with the Silicon Valley of Mark Zuckerberg than the Madison Avenue of Don Draper. And Creative Circus graduates, who’ve been out for five or 10 years, realize they need refresher courses and additional training if they’re to stay relevant. All of which keeps institutions like the Circus on their toes.
If you’re among those who are looking to jump start your own digital experience, there’s no shortage of options. You can attend executive workshops at BDW, dish out even bigger bucks and try a Hyper Island session, or get your employer to bring in one of those organizations to put on a custom session for you and your colleagues.
If you’re a Circus grad, you can get in touch with your alma mater and take advantage of new programs they might have underway. And, of course, you can take matters into your own hands by friending your own company’s creative technology people, partnering with UX types rather than art directors and copywriters, and by playing with all the new tools, app makers, and social platforms that have become easier and easier for the lay person to master.
The pace of change and the importance of technology to marketing, advertising, service and customer engagement is only going to accelerate. So all of us need a way to catch up and stay up. If you figure out the trick, let me know.
Always make sure that 30 percent of the people involved in any strategic decision are under the age of 30.
This might be among the smartest things I heard all week.
It’s no surprise that when I share the thought with people who are under 30 I get a huge smile and a “fuck yeah,” in return. And when I mention it to people over 30 I sometimes get a bug eyed look of fear that seems to ask, “Are you being serious?”
I came across the idea doing research on collaborative methods and techniques. It was put forth originally by Vijay Govindarajan in his highly acclaimed Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From Idea to Execution. A faculty member at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Management, V. G. (as he’s known among peers) has written frequently on innovation.
The premise is simple: people who have been in any company or business for a long time are good at preserving the status quo, or at best improving performance and execution in what V.G. calls Box 1, managing the present. They inherently understand today’s clients, technologies and competitors and how to leverage current competencies. And, of course, they have a tendency to replicate the processes that led to past successes.
But V.G. argues that innovation – across products, services, models and processes – happens in what he’s labeled Box 2 and Box 3. Box two is all about selectively forgetting the past — neglecting the tendency to continually respond to competitors and trends that may not be relevant over the long term. Box 3 is where companies and agencies create the future, inventing new products and new services for clients they don’t yet have. Govindarajan believes that only a younger generation will more naturally be able to see that future.
So why is this important? Why scribble about it here on a blog that covers digital and social media? Because as our business becomes more and more about solving problems rather than making messages, innovation is essential to both our clients and our own companies. In fact when was the last time you got an RFP, assignment or challenge that could be solved by developing an ad campaign? More often than not building a client’s business and hence your own calls for the use of new technology, the development of new platforms and apps, or a different look at a brand’s overall UX.
Most of the advertising industry – agencies, digital agencies, social media shops, media firms – are filled with people under 30. But I’m willing to bet if you look at the room of people who actually make the strategic decisions – businesses to pitch, people to hire, platforms to develop, campaigns to recommend – it’s dominated by people in their 40s and perhaps older.
Maybe it’s time to change that. I’m putting more people under 30 in the room from now on. You?
The Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange has asked a number of Boston-area bloggers and digital leaders to share their predictions for 2011 in a series running on their blog between now and the end of the year.
They asked me for mine. However, there are people much more qualified for that task than I. So I took a pass. Instead I made a list of wishes.
Would love to hear your wishes for 2011, too. Here are three of mine.
Schools will teach kids to write code instead of how to use Powerpoint
Too many public school systems fail to teach programming until high school. Instead we teach kids to use Powerpoint and other programs. Our educators need to read Douglas Rushkoff and Jaron Lanier. Just open a Facebook account and it’s evident that the web and its creators are programming us. We’re forced to fit personal profiles into pre-determined templates. We squeeze our ideas into fields that someone else has prescribed. We’re even told that the only way to organize content is in cute little desktop folders. Don’t get me wrong. I love Apple, AppMakr, Weebly, WordPress and Posterous. But I don’t want my kids (or anyone’s kids) to be programmed. I want them to be programmers.
More people will start businesses with a conscience
I watched this year as Sheena Matheiken launched The Uniform Project. To raise money in support of Akanksha, Sheena wore the same dress every day for a year, changing her appearance daily with nothing more than donated accessories – belts, scarves, vests, leggings. Using Twitter, Facebook and a blog to promote the project, she raised $100,000 to send kids to school in India and amassed a large enough following to start a sustainable fashion company. Today Sheena “uses fashion as a vehicle to make acts of charity more inspired and playful, enabling individuals to rise as role models of style, sustainability and social consciousness.” Sheena’s selling dresses, raising money for charity, and in the process, pioneering a new business model. I’m hoping for more Sheenas in 2011.
Design will become big enough to affect real change
For most of us it’s the sleek look of Apple’s products that epitomizes modern design. But I’m hoping this year we embrace a new definition of design — one put forth by Ideo’s Tim Brown. Design needs to be big again and more companies and organizations need to embrace design as a way to solve real problems: bringing potable water to the places on earth that suffer from drought and pollution; reducing automobile congestion in our cities (government and engineers have failed miserably); improving how we deliver health care. Design and design thinking may be our greatest asset in solving the big problems especially now that we can crowdsource, co-create and instantly mobilize communities. As Tim Brown says, “design is too important to be left to designers.” In fact it just might be the solution for how to solve the challenges listed here and many more. Then they wouldn’t have to be wishes. They could become predictions.
What are you wishing for in 2011? Please share.
BBH Lab’s founder Mel Exon has a great post over on the Labs blog this week, asking do we still need the word digital in our advertising and marketing vocabulary. Isn’t everything digital? Won’t the use of the word just perpetuate the erroneous labeling of ideas, defining them as either digital or not digital?
The dilemma with words that have lots of meanings is that not everyone interprets them similarly. Is digital an application? Or the device on which it runs? Is it the process by which it’s made? Or the code that makes it work? We call people, departments and strategies digital. Does that mean if you don’t have the word in your title that you’re not digital?
Consumers, however, don’t think in terms or labels. They simply engage.
Hey, there’s a QR code on that billboard for a new camera that I can scan in order to access a video that demonstrates the features of the camera (along with a link to a Facebook page with comments from users) which I can email to a friend who can store it in her Springpad app (client), which will connect her to the best price on the web so she can buy the product directly from her Smartphone while paying for it with any of a variety of online options.
Is that digital? Or just advertising? Maybe it’s mobile. Or social. Two more terms to complicate things. Some people define mobile as a device. If you’re in marketing, maybe you consider it a channel. But isn’t it really a behavior? It’s not my phone that’s mobile. I’m mobile. I’m the one who is in motion, untethered yet connected, demanding remote access and contextual information. Same with social. It’s not a medium. It, too, is a behavior, exhibited by both individuals, and if they’re smart, companies and brands.
The example above is just basic marketing. Awareness that leads to a product demonstration that allows for sharing and subsequently a transaction. Presumably the billboard was attention getting and its location right for the audience. But the most important component in the entire process was the consumer for whom the experience isn’t digital but simply convenient, fun, informative and easy.
Which brings us back to the D-word. To a newspaper it may refer to a technological platform. To a retailer it’s an online presence and a convenient shopping experience.
But to those of us in marketing, digital should just be a mindset that inspires us to create experiences and utility rather than messages or ads.
Inside agencies and marketing departments that’s not always the case. Based on what I hear at workshops and conferences, people still solve problems with positioning statements, headlines, and ad-like objects rather than with products, platforms and services.
As long as that’s the case, maybe we do need the word if for no other reason than to remind people to make rather than say. Or as Gareth Kay and Flo Heiss recommend, to “stop having advertising ideas and start having ideas worth advertising.”
Mel also concludes that we still need the word. (No doubt the award shows with their interactive categories, Ad Age with its digital edition, clients whose RFPs ask for digital capabilities, and all those agencies with funny names are breathing a sigh of relief.) After all, digital, in all of its manifestations, is still in its infancy. What we create, the skills we need, the processes we use, the ways in which we monetize products and services, are just getting figured out. The word serves a purpose. I just hope it ends up uniting people — creatives, planners, strategists, clients, consumers–rather than segregating them. And that it makes for better ideas.
Photo from: switched.com