I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!
It is a ridiculous notion that social media is some paradigm-shifting phenomenon whose waters can only be successfully navigated by people with the word “guru” in their LinkedIn profile. Here’s a bit of honest-true reality. Social media is nothing new — take it from somebody who has been blogging since 1997.
People haven’t changed. It’s only the tools that they—-and we-—have at our disposal that have evolved.
Before we spoke to one another at the water cooler. Today we communicate together on Twitter.
Before we listened to our customers in focus groups to develop insights. Today we listen with Google Alerts, Twilerts and ListenLogic to develop insights.
Before people responded to incentives like coupons. Today people respond to incentives like recognition, self-validation, utility—-and coupons.
Before we tried to get audiences to “click here.” Today we try to get them to “comment here.”
Big agencies and the status quo
Then why is the marketing universe freaking out? Why are big agencies completely unprepared to deal?
The answer to the first question is easy. They’re freaking out precisely because they’ve relied for so long on those big agencies who are completely unprepared to deal.
The second answer became clear to me at the iMedia Agency Summit where I saw the other Adam K. a few weeks back. A question was put to the audience during a participatory session on social media: “What does media mean today?”
My table consisted of very “new media” group: the CEO of Six Apart, the lead evangelist from Eyeblaster, a couple of women from AdFusion content network and me. We talked about media being not just new streams of communication flowing out of corporations, but ones flowing back in as well. Fairly thoughtful stuff if you ask me.
When responses from the audience were taken someone from one of those big agencies grabbed the mike a few tables over.
“Media is anything you can buy.”
Therein lies the rub. There was a great deal of talk at the Agency Summit about the “monetization” of social media. Big agencies make most of their money buying media and charging a substantial commission for it. In their eyes, media has to be limited to what they can pay someone else to place in order for it to fit into their model.
Sadly for them, those eyes are attached to their head. Which is buried in the sand. It’s too hard to change their model, so they ignore it and cling to how things have always been done.
Small agencies positioned to win
Meanwhile, smaller, nimble agencies are there to pick up the pieces. Because we are nimble, adapting our model to changing times isn’t as onerous. Because we are smaller, we can provide valuable consultation and management services that contribute to the bottom line in a meaningful way.
For instance, I believe that there is an inherent flaw in the media commission model. Whenever an agency has a financial incentive to provide one service over another, they are motivated to act out of self-interest rather than the best interest of their client.
Try telling that to an agency exec earning 11% on a $200 million media buy.
Adam Kleinberg is the CEO of Traction, a creative agency with a digital core on the California Street cable car line in San Francisco. Traction has designed cross-channel brand experiences for some of the world’s greatest brands, including Apple, Virgin Mobile, Adobe, Bank of America, Walmart.com, Norton, Alibaba.com, CamelBak and Clos du Bois. They were named BtoB Magazine’s 2009 Interactive Agency of the Year.