In a recent interview at Boards 2009, R/GA’s Bob Greenberg gently accuses agencies of selling what they do, rather than doing what will sell to consumers.
“A lot of agencies aren’t focused on the consumer and that’s a problem if you look at consumer behavior.” Problem? It’s worse than a problem. Consider the fate of the once great Cliff Freeman and Partners.
Anyway, in this brief video, Bob goes on to remind anyone who’s listening what the younger generation is up to. “They’re working with multiple devices. They can block out advertising at will.” (Obvious. But worth remembering.)
Granted, Bob and friends find every opportunity they can to push their model (platforms rather than campaigns) as the ultimate solution for the digital age. And even as Bob compliments his analog competitors, he never misses the chance to explain why the R/GA’s approach is the most relevant to where the world is going. (Full disclosure, R/GA is a sister agency of ours in that they’re owned by IPG, which also owns Mullen.)
But Bob is right. Everything an agency does should start with the consumer. And I don’t mean the insight that tells us how a consumer feels about a brand or a category; that’s just basic planning. Today it’s more important to understand a consumer’s relationship with media and content. Is she a spectator? Socializer? Critic? Content creator? What role does she want to play in the brand experience? Does she simply want to conduct a transaction? Or is there an opportunity to forge a relationship?
Ask and answer those questions and you’re far less likely to come up with an ad and more likely to conceive a mobile application that offers genuine utility. Or a way to access information about a product while you’re in the middle of shopping. Or a community that connects your prospective customers to your existing customers so they can hear from each other rather than from you. Or a digital platform that becomes as much a part of a brand experience as the products the bear the logo.
As Bob says you’ll have to learn to make those engagements as interesting and entertaining as the best TV spots you’ve ever made, but that’s a different challenge. The first one is to stop selling what you make and start creating stuff you may never have made before if that’s what it takes to engage your prospects and involve your customers. Hint: change up the people in the room. Add a UX person, a developer and a digital media planner to your creative team.
Thoughts? Please share. And if you’re interested, here’s more great Bob Greenberg content.