Teacher! Leave them clients alone!

Every blog, news site, conference, seminar (or webinar?), there is one thing that has been appearing for as long as we can remember.

It is some variation or the other of “Digital agencies aren’t doing enough to educate clients”.

The thing is, if they haven’t succeeded till now, there is something wrong. It could be any of the following:

– Agencies don’t want to educate clients.

– Clients don’t want to be educated by agencies.

– Agencies don’t know jack about anything themselves.

– It’s a meaningless, slightly condescending and probably irrelevant objective in the first place.

Or, they may all be true. (Though as you may have detected, we lean slightly towards the last point.)

What is hard to understand is, what exactly do clients need to be educated about?

Media properties? Effectiveness for those properties? Facebook insights? Relevance of Facebook insights? How to create viral videos?

Almost all aspects of digital advertising, perhaps advertising itself, have been obfuscated beyond the grasp of a normal person.

It probably suites some people well, if clients don’t understand what goes on behind the servers and clouds, in the magical ecosystem of socially empowered consumers engaging in interactive experiences and conversations.

But the point is, why do clients need to be educated at all?

The role of an agency should be pretty simple. You do try to understand and solve a client’s problems. You show the client how well (or badly) you did it. And you repeat, until you win awards or get fired.

How you solve it, what strategies and platforms you use, how much time and money you devote to any aspect, is up to you.

It sounds a bit condescending to say to a client that we can’t really account for your money, or measure ourselves against a clear objective, so we’re going to make up words and educate you about them.

Granted, clients may sometimes come across as utterly clueless about even the basics of the medium.

But it’s 2012! Everyone should know by now what a website is for and what’s cool on the internets.

Apart from that, it’s not that complicated, is it?

You create something interesting that communicates a message and persuades people to act. And you try and reach the right people wherever they are.

The clients don’t need to be educated about much else. They have their own job to do.

Agencies, on the other hand, could probably do with some education.

About what the client exactly does. About how their products or services are created and used. About the real business problems they face, and if they can be solved by us.

Or, we could all just get MBAs!

PS:

This is not to say that we’ve got it all right. Probably the opposite, if anything. But we usually like asking questions and wondering aloud.

At least unless a client tells us they want their own Facebook 😛

Sent from the bottom of our hearts :P

Just some things we gathered from your email.

  • How to save the forests.
  • How to save the tigers.
  • How to save the children.
  • Your company’s logo. (Yes, it was big.)
  • URLs to your LinkedIn, Twitter and corporate blog.
  • Your fax number.
  • Your email ID (within your email – emailception!).
  • The awards won by your company.
  • Your company’s no. 1 ranking in something.
  • Your disclaimer about something.
  • Your warning about not stealing any of the above.
  • And, that all of the above was sent from your super-awesome gadget.

Thing we struggled to find:

  • Respect for the English language.
  • Any evidence of serious deliberation.
  • Meaning.

Is the internet closing our minds? (And our dogs’ too.)

The internet is a funny thing. Everyone has their own perspective on it, but there seems to be a general consensus amongst the learned on one aspect: that the Internet has helped make people and societies more open and free to new ideas and influences.

Well. Not sure if that’s really true. In fact, the internet, esp. social media (we’re looking at you, Facebook), seems to be making everyone increasingly uniform in thoughts and behaviours. It is slowly erasing the quirks of individuality and spreading a web of conformity across its population, where people who like cats and tag holiday pictures from Goa are ‘cool’, and the ones who dislike cute animals or the DSLR disease are just weird.

Of course, the web lets us indulge in every possible hobby or interest, from philately to light-saber fighting, which is great. But the uniqueness is becoming increasingly confined to the niches, and the masses are becoming more closed to new ideas or challenging thoughts.

Perhaps the best example is the online matrimony business – one of the few which have been wildly successful since the beginning of the internet era in India.

A quick glance at the matrimony websites will show you how they work. They positively encourage you to choose people from your own caste. Whatever caste you can dream of has its own yourcastematrimony.com. Not just the obvious ones like jat matrimony, gupta matrimony, brahmin matrimony, etc. Even the most obscure ones. Do the Khandelwals really only want to marry other Khandelwals?

Perhaps it merely reflects the way Indians work. But the internet here is not helping anyone be more open. If anything, it’s manipulating the caste-focused culture to help us be more inbred. Without it, if your options were limited to relatives and neighbourhood aunties, you may still have had to find someone different. But now you can search for people with the same surname from across the country, even the world.

Google also throws up sites claiming ‘caste no bar’ in their URL. The first thing they tell you is that they have “18 different community channels to choose your life partner from your own caste”. Then there’s a little link at the bottom for ‘caste non-oriented people’. Clicking on it opens a woman’s profile, where the 5th word in her description is, well, her sub-caste.

Maybe, as a capitalistic enterprise, you have to give people what they want. But don’t you also have a social responsibility to encourage ideas and behaviours that could help our societies be more open and free-minded?

On the bright side, there is also a dog matrimony site. They offer Arabian Nights-themed weddings for your dogs, followed by “We are against animal cruelty”. I don’t know about you, but to the male author of this blog, it sure sounds cruel to be dressed (against your will) as Aladdin on your wedding day.

What if we *don’t* need a community?

Depending on who you’re talking to, it may sound preposterous, hypocritical, ignorant or just plain dumb. But it’s always, always a whole lotta fun.

Now, this is kind of tricky territory for us, because some clients have been known to find us too thick or too non-serious when it comes to the wonders of social media. (Maybe they’re right?)

But every time we’re in a meeting, or a pitch or something, with people talking about how a “strong, engaged community” is the single most important objective for the brand, we’re just waiting.

Waiting to utter the simple question that instantly transforms the atmosphere and provokes a reaction from every single person.

“Why do we need a community?”

But seriously. We sometimes really don’t understand. And community mostly means a Facebook page.

Maybe it’s a good idea if you’re, say, an ecommerce business (promos, CRM). Or a bookstore (passionate, niche, local audience). But what if you sell bluetooth headsets? Or washing machines? Now we don’t have any research, but we just wonder if people out there are dying to have conversations about washing machines.

“It’s an excellent way of keeping people engaged with the brand over a long term.”

Is it?
In May 2011, Eminem had over 41 million fans. Which is about 41 million more than most brands do.
But the core fans – who interact with the page more than the average (which is usually once) – were 575.

That’s 0.001%.

And that’s Eminem. People generally tend to love him a bit more than their washing machines.

Also, the way Facebook works is poorly understood. Most people consider the million or so fans they have as a captive audience of minions waiting to hear the brand’s message and scream ‘Wah-wah, wah-wah’.

In reality, it’s nothing but an illusion. Unless you have actively interacted with a page – continuously over time – Old Zuck’s secret (dubiously acquired?) algorithm will make sure you never see its updates again.

In reality, about 96% of fans will never visit the page again, after liking.

In reality, links posted by pages get 0.00093 clicks per fan. That’s roughly 1 click for every 1000 fans.

It all comes down to how different, interesting, relevant and creative you can be. And how meaningful your message is.

For an average page, there’s hardly any point.

But let’s just forget all about it. Let’s assume we did have a community of a million people, eager to listen to what a brand had to say. What will we say then? How will it help? Even if we post cat videos and pictures of Aishwarya’s baby and keep a million fans hooked, will they buy our product because of it? Will it have any effect at all?

And then comes the big one. The one that clears the fog of confusion and lets in a bright ray of light to illuminate our befuddled faces.

“Let’e be clear about our objectives here. It is not sales. It’s brand salience, consumer engagement and long-term relationships.”

Ah. Why didn’t you say that earlier? Of course, it all makes sense now.

As usual, we apologize for the silly questions.

*Sources:

http://mweigel.typepad.com/canalside-view/2011/09/fashionable-yet-bankrupt.html

http://www.marketsentinel.com/blog/2011/08/can-facebook-work-for-brands/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/14/page-post-ctr/

Killed the microsite? Now blame the apps.

Much has been said about the once-mighty microsite and its fall from grace, but this little post at BBH Labs hits where everyone misses.

But as with all great ideas, there were thousands of bad executions, wasting clients’ money with little to show in scale or engagement as a result … If you make something great, they will come (or watch). Otherwise, they won’t.

The latter part of the latter sentence really is the key. Everyone seems to be convinced these days that nobody will ever visit their microsite and every idea should be based entirely where the “fans” are.  So what are your top 5 favourite branded Facebook apps, by the way?

The same kind of blanket rejections extend to “virals” these days. Sadly, amongst our marketers and agencies, there seems to be a firm belief that what they themselves like to refer as ‘virals’ don’t work anymore. It’s all too common to hear something like , “Oh those Sholay-type virals? People are not interested in those now.” We often succumb to the urge to ask which research study they are quoting. We owe this attitude to the ‘thousands of bad executions’ too, each with a horrific, banal Rajnikant parody.

Anyway, the point of course remains the same. Create something truly excellent, and people will watch. With or without Gabbar Singh.

(Thakur, on the other hand, is a 100% guarantee for success.)

Oh look, we’re famous!

We’re trying very hard not to let all the fame get to our heads.

We were recently covered in HT Mint – one of India’s best newspapers which does not only provide extensive news about stocks and stuff, but also gives balanced, in-depth analyses about important things like insurance and all. And it has graphs and pie charts. And it looks great.

Yes, yes. They’re one of our clients. So? We swear this wasn’t a plug. Would we make it sound like we’re sitting in Abbotabad? Read it here and see for yourself!

At the Digivaasi office, accessible only via a dark, winding staircase*, Sachdeva and creative director Prabhat Bhatnagar explains why that term [viral] is a misnomer.

*Emphasis ours


Picture courtesy HT Mint

That’s Prabhat Bhatnagar in red. Founder and Chief Creative Officer. Who was specifically asked to shave for the occasion and pretend to work seriously. And look, he’s still on Facebook!

Sigh. What can you do with these celebrities, really.

Blykin’ Around

A little something we did for Blyk (pronounced: Blik) – a new mobile service launched in India by Aircel.

Since it’s exclusively for the youth – no, really: you don’t get it if you’re over 24, we think (which also shattered some illusions about ‘youth’ around here, sadly) – we tried to create a unique look and tone for the service and created a video explaining what it is, apart from a demo and the website.

The video went down well and was aired on TV as well. And it stars our very own creative team!

Hope you find the service interesting (and the video too!).

The same look and tone was carried over to the Aircel Facebook page, along with a neat little contest letting people star in the video too.

Link here, s’il vous plait 🙂

And while we’re at it, wish you a great new year from the digivaasis!

Hey, relax. We’re just being social.

We’re proud to unveil our latest strategic innovation: our unique social media roadmap to help your brand connect with consumers like never before!

The revolutionary new strategy is based on the 3 pillars of the social ecosystem:
Widecasting of content
Transformation of media
Friendly social connections

Yes, it’s a joke.
But believe us, with a little work, it won’t be impossible to pass this off as serious document.
It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

***********

It’s hard to escape the hoopla around it.
Depending on who’s on the other end of table (and often their hairstyles and spectacle frames) it’s either the most overrated, useless piece of junk or the future of marketing, hell, of mankind itself.

In such a scenario, for a digital agency to say that they don’t ‘get’ it may be seen as the ultimate faux pas.
Well, being uninformed might just be better than being misinformed here.

So, yeah … we’re no social media gurus (Although we’d love to be … watch the video below).

Our social media strategy, approach, or whatever it’s called, can probably be described in a single sentence.
Use common sense, and a bit of creativity.

The way we see it, it’s just talking to people (even if they’re called tweeple, or some such travesty of the Queen’s language).
So, common sense mostly involves respecting those people and saying something meaningful.
And of course, saying it in a different, interesting way (that’s where that old-fashioned creativity kicks in).

What also confuses us is why social media is defined as facebook and twitter these days.
You know something is wrong when meetings begin with ‘What are we doing on facebook?’ and, ‘We can’t ignore twitter any longer’.
Well, we’re looking at our friends’ friends’ Thailand holiday albums on facebook, and we believe twitter is coping just fine with our continued cold-shouldering.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not dissing anything here, nor are we trying to look like smart-asses.
It’s just that even with our limited knowledge of the wonders of social media magic, we can tell you that Your-Product-Ville is not always the right answer. Just like nothing else is.

Maybe it all sounds like a load of uninformed blabbering (which it may very well be), but hey, we’re learning.

But if you secretly admit you don’t know jack about it either, don’t let it stop you from creating super-awesome presentations to impress your clients/bosses.

Here’s a handy tool to do just that:
http://whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com/

Finally, why we’d love to be social media gurus:

When is the Quit Being Stupid Day?

So, May 31st has apparently been ‘declared’ the Quit Facebook Day. Wonder if they have a Facebook page (They do. With thousands of fans. Ah, the sweet irony … but anyway.)

Now, we’re no Facebook fanboys. In fact, we don’t even have a page of our own yet. Partly because we don’t see any great benefit at this point, and partly because we’re busy doing some actual work.

However, we do individually spend tons of time over there, keep up with the much-maligned changes and Open Graph thingies, and even occasionally develop applications on it. And everyone seems to think it’s fun, right?

Apparently not. It seems that Facebook has suddenly become all evil and taken over all our embarrassing pictures and not-so-wise status updates. So, horror of horrors, anyone who cares to search for the said embarrassing pictures will find them! It’s the end of civilization as we know it! We must burn down the ugly, slyly slithering, blue-white page.

Or. We could try not putting up the embarrassing pictures up. ‘Oh, but what if we don’t put them up, but other people tag us in embarrassing pictures, then what?’, some might say. Well, even better: let’s not get embarrassing pictures taken in the first place. And if you are the kind of person who lets people write ‘witty’ tit-bits with markers on your torso and go around flashing it in bars, be proud of who you are. And if you still want to share the love with all your friends, may we suggest … e-mailing them?

And it’s not just about facebook. People love googling other people (second only to googling themselves – and the video below shows how to use that to your advantage with sheer brilliance). The search fields can change but the inherent voyeuristic nature won’t. So if you’re consciously putting things online which you don’t want people to see, stop now.

But the bigger issue here, we think, is the self-importance we attach to ourselves. Seriously, we doubt anybody’s out there searching desperately to find incriminating material to ridicule you. And if someone really is, you may have a bigger problem on your hands anyway.

The Thing about Goafest

For most of the people there, or should I say ‘delegates’, it was the most fun they’re going to have until April 2011.

And that’s the problem.

It’s not that I have anything against general merriment. I love my King’s beer as much as (probably a lot more than) the next bald guy in low-slung shorts and a clever t-shirt.

I just think the source should be a little closer to the lecture halls and showcase rooms than the silly little insulated bubbles that are the agency shacks.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t fight the feeling that it’s no more than a paid holiday for the people who’ve just joined the industry, and the seminar halls tucked away in the corner are simply the excuse given to justify the astronomical costs.

And it’s sad because you can see where this is going. The skirts will keep getting shorter, the tattoos and facial hairstyles will keep getting more creative, and the work will keep going down the toilet.

Interestingly, a sign inside the toilet read: ‘If it takes too long, it’s not worth it.’ I don’t know if that’s meant to be funny, but it sounded like a fairly good reflection on a few things.

And then there are the awards themselves.

(Full disclosure: We were nominated in 5 categories and were disappointed to not have won in any. However, this is not about being a sore loser. I respect the jury’s decision and judgment. I just disagree with the way things were done, which would have stood even if we had won.)

That said, I still found the childish absurdity hard to believe. Cheering and hooting is one thing, sending cheerleaders on stage and acting like a bunch of drunk college freshers just takes whatever dignity is left in the ceremony and chokes it do death with a pair of blood red pom-poms.

And like a friend tweeted: What if the Oscars jury was also ‘strict’ and decided there were no good movies made this year, or that nobody cares about ‘best cinematographers’ so there’s no need to call them on stage, or Katheryn Bigelow came to pick up her Oscar with a bunch of cheerleaders… and so on.

Again, I don’t have anything against having fun. But doesn’t the value and stature of this event depend on how the ‘delegates’ treat it?

If we all want it to be an excuse for a paid, drunken holiday, that’s all it will ever be.

Being in digital, I’ve never really felt a sense of belonging to this community. But seeing the show at Goafest 2010, I have lost whatever desire I had for it. People wearing checkered shirts and normal hairstyles simply don’t cut it at the festival of cool. The fits, it seems, have become the misfits.

So, after spending this one at the opposite end of Cavelossim beach, peacefully distant from the party zone, next April, I’m going to shave my head, grow a goatee, get a Chinese tattoo and yell ‘What the fuck, dude?’ at the top of my voice, all the fucking time.

That’s probably the only way this circus can be enjoyed.

Disclaimer: This post is by abhishek prasad, copywriter at digiVaasi. The views and opinions expressed by this author may not represent or be endorsed by digiVaasi in any way. Well, maybe in some ways. It’s a bit tricky … we’ll have to ask our lawyers.