Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Save social networking for all our sakes

So is this how it ends? A media journalist and blogger has declared January 30, 2008 International Delete Your MySpace Account Day, through, what else, but his Facebook space (check out the logo).

Is it just the rallying cry of Facebookers asking fellow citizens to abandon a competitor’s platform in a brand war to rival some of our biggest this century, like Pepsi versus Coke, Macca’s versus Burger King, Windows versus Mac or Britney Spears versus the real world?

It could be something much more sinister – the beginning of the end for the social.

Spam and a continuous stream of friends’ requests from friend harvesters and bots that crawl social platforms looking for names are cited as the reason to pull stumps on your MySpace account. But won’t that only increase the problem for the rest of us? Everyone pulls out of MySpace, then Live Spaces goes next and then all the spam comes to Facebook and then we might as well all pack up our pokes, superwalls, our galleries and our “which animal/colour/drug/Olsen twin/wardrobe malfunction are you” applications and go home.

For the upcoming February edition of Marketing magazine we discovered just how luke warm marketers are on social networks despite the fact the networks are meant to be a total engagement platform. And lets face it no matter how open source/creative commons/'you make a buck I make a buck' we are all feeling these days, no one is going to keep these things going if there is never any business model.

So please, do your bit to save social networks or beware of the alternative: we might have to start talking to our social network in person, like in real life. Oh the humanity. You'll remember when making friends involved, actually making friends.

Social networks have shortcutted all that for us.

Here's what it would loook like in the real world: you walk in to a room full of people and move from one to another as fast as you can saying in a robotic voice, "add me as a friend, add me as a friend, add me as a friend, who else are your friends? Oh them over there, ok thanks ... add me as a friend..."

You get the picture.

Disclaimer, the contributor has a healthy FaceBook habit...(add me as a friend)

Monday, December 3, 2007

GameSpot must die...apparently

Here is a geek story about an angry mob that is fast leaking into the mainstream and as marketers you really should know about it. Like really.

Over the weekend a story about the CNET owned gaming site GameSpot exploded all over blogs, social news sites and then the mainstream news and yes there were casualties.

This story covers themes like accusations of advertisers manipulating content, what happens when big corps take over indie media properties, the high stakes world of gaming production and how not to handle a branding crisis.

It all started last week when GameSpot sacked its editorial director Jeff Gerstmann, who has been working for the site and reviewing games for 11 years, with no explanation.

Rumours quickly started circulating on blogs and social news sites that he had been fired for a negative written review and scathing video review (which GameSpot has since removed) of Eidos’ much hyped new release Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

Apparently Eidos, which had a lot resting on the game, withdrew US$200,000 in advertising from GameSpot and was furious about the review. Where these rumours started is irrelevant, they have taken on a life of their own and the vocal and very well connected – via social networks and forums – gamer community called for blood.

This wasn’t one of those short lived peeves that gamers have (like for instance about gamers dropping out of shared tasks in the middle of a battle in World of War Craft), this, as far as the community is concerned, fundamentally changes the review system as no one can be sure that undue pressure is not being put on the editorial staffers at game sites and in magazines.

It’s no secret that the gaming biz is now bigger than Hollywood and just as reliant on the knowledge gatekeepers loving the games they produce, and then telling everyone they know, to drive sales.

It has to be made clear that there is commenting going on but no real clarification as to why Gerstmann was sacked other than a vague statement from Cnet that good reviews can’t be bought, but the community doesn’t believe this.

Talk has moved quickly from anger at Gerstmann’s axing to a wider conspiracy theory that gaming reviews are now so valuable to the top gaming houses that they could and are being bought for advertiser dollars.

Gamers started flaming Gamespot, it’s corporate owners Cnet, Eidos and most significantly advertisers on the Gamespot site and then there was the talk of the oganised boycotts.

One game site expressed its outrage, that the industry had been tainted, by changing its name from Destructoid to Cashwhore and pointedly adopted the GameSpot livery almost exactly and includes messages like: “Buy huge ads that eat the entire site and get a 9/10 review for free”.

This story was creating so much activity online that, despite the details being sketchy, it moved out of the social news and gaming sites and into the mainstream. MTV.com, The Guardian and numerous newspapers and sites wrote about the firing and the stir it has caused.

There was even a tantalising suggestion that Pepsico was trying to distance itself from Gamespot by removing, over the weekend, its signicant Mountain Dew branding on the site (which itself was said to have replaced the dumped Kane & Lynch ads).

OK so what’s it mean?

Firstly the companies involved need some serious crisis management training whether what the blood thirsty gamer blogging community suspects is true actually happened or not. Eidos and CNET said little of value over the weekend while a vocal angry mob spread word of the injustice at an alarming rate and all these companies were saying by remaining silent seemed to be we can’t defend the indefensible, at least that’s how fans saw it.

Secondly it’s a really bad idea to try and buy content or influence it in any market on any platform. Readers hate to think they are reading content that has been influenced by commercial considerations rather than editorial ones no matter whether they are reading a games site, the Wall Street Journal or Teddy Bears Monthly (I really hope there's no such title). In today's fully connected and totally social communications landscape it's a really bad idea. If someone suspects tampering , it can go from a nagging suspicion to a 10,000 comment streamed negative brand attack in just a few days.

The outcomes (even if the rumours are untrue and what insiders are hinting, that Gerstmann was fired for broader reasons is more accurate) are; GameSpot has suffered a significant and sustained on and offline assault, Eidos has suffered the same and the game title itself is likely to suffer seriously in sales.

The smart idea would have been to heavily advertise Kane & Lynch both offline and online and run a heavy keyword search camapaign, since if you type the title into most search engines now all you get is damaging info about the Gerstmann scandal. Eidos really needs to try some sort of counter offence to get some postive messages out there because now potential consumers who don't necessarily follow the hard core gaming press, either on or offline, are only hearing not only what a rubbish game it allegedly is supposed to be but also that Eidos is a manipulative corporate ogre.

Gerstmann broke his silence through Facebook to simply ask people to stop calling his parents house at 2am looking for comment (according to Wired). He further says he can't reveal anymore for legal reasons.

Note: pics are Destructoid's new site livery and Penny Arcade's take on the whole situation.

UPDATE: Just after posting this GameSpot posted a brief note on it's site but gave few details. Check out the readers comments to get an indication of whether or not it is likely to mitigate the crisis.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bitch, berate, BLOG!

Get some user generated contentment in your life by contributing to Marketing's Your Pitch blog. Criticise a campaign, can some creative awards, tell us about a trend or just spread some love about someone or something in the industry that's getting it right.
Send submissions to editor@marketing-interactive.com and we'll load them up.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Uniquely Singapore - is it tender enough?

Dear Editor,

I felt that I should write about the uniquely Singaporean practice of issuing tenders that add little to the credibility of the marketing industry in this haven of transparency.

Over coffee last week an advertising agency owner recounted the woeful tale of 3 rounds of creative pitches and tacit approval of their ideas, only to be told after several months of working on 'concepts' that the company had decided to tackle their design issues in-house. My own PR agency had a dedicated team of 8 people working at speed on a pitch getting through 3 rounds to the final. After 4 weeks without word I withdrew our bid. The next day we received a letter to inform us that we had not been selected. The following day we read in your newsletter that the encumbent agency had been re-appointed, with a view to a two year contract; hardly the decision to take hurriedly.

The lack of courtesy given by companies to agency people who spend countless hours giving free ideas and well documented presentations is in itself to be disappointed by. In the case of our recent pitch, it was even more disappointing to hear from a person familiar with senior people inside the government agency that there had been an understanding all along that the incumbent agency would be retained. The objective, I presume, was to see how high the incumbent would jump and how low they would reduce their fees. I would happily have shelled out the cash for 2 mocha frappacino's at Starbucks for the two parties instead of the costly charade of a uniquely Singapore pitch. For those marketing managers sending out RFP's - do agencies a favour and call Greg Paull of R3 on +65 6827 4448

Yours sincerely,

Mr Integrated out of Sorts aka Jim James

(EASTWEST Public Relations, Beijing)

Note from the editor: In Marketing's November print edition, look out for an opinion piece by director of Versa Creations, Vivienne Quek, on her thoughts on free pitches.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

At the One Show: A fly-on-the-wall account

If the attendance was anything to go by, the first One Show Design ceremony was an unqualified success. The chic Chelsea Art Gallery it was held in was packed to the rafters and I'm guessing it had nothing to do with the South-American artist (who made flower and insect shapes from slashed-up Puma sneakers) who shared the gallery space. Apple Computers sent three of their Prada-suited best from Cupertino to collect their awards for the iPod Nano and iShuffle designs. The Ames Brothers from Seattle, the guys behind the much talked about posters for Pearl Jam were there. So were Santa Monica’s Blind agency who were responsible for the Gnarls Barkley ‘Crazy’ music video. Add several radiant winners from Germany, Japan, Croatia and one prodigiously talented duo from Y&R Singapore and you pretty much get the idea.

Armed with the task of covering the ceremony for Marketing magazine, I decided to report to the Press section instead of the Delegates section, announcing importantly that I was covering the event ‘for Asia’. I also mispronounced Marketing as Newsweek so maybe that explains all the fawning, ingratiating smiles from that Duffy guy.

That Duffy guy, by the way, was Joe Duffy. The Joe Duffy. Duffy is to designers what Neil Young is to grunge artists. The jury this year was hand-picked by him I suspect, seeing as how they were all ex-employees of Duffy & Partners. The jury was a good mix of old-Helvetica-worshipping-fogies and uber-hip young upstarts.

As anybody who’s been to one of these will tell you, getting a drink in the first hour of the ceremony is an accomplishment of sorts. Famous reporters who cover events for whole continents don’t seem to have that problem. They get their drinks brought to them.

They had our entry on display at the first corner and I spent many rapturous moments silently recording the swooning visitors. Ok I made that up. Nobody swooned or anything. But I blame that on the distracting blonde waitresses carrying sushi-laden salvers.

Walking past the exhibits you clearly feel the unmistakeable One Show flavour to the work selected. Unlike Graphis and other pure design awards, you’ll notice that the One Show will only entertain those pieces rooted in clever ideas rather than mere clever technique.

They’ll doff their hats at anything which is a) an intelligent idea, and b) hasn’t been done before. Although it may be pointed out that there have been occasions in the past where some absolute turds have slipped past, it is the exception rather than the rule.

By and large, I found the entries that won Pencils were those which displayed wit, irony or simply blindingly clever visual plays. My personal favourites were the Pearl Jam World Tour posters, the Gnarls Barkley music video and a pair of idents for MTV. A mention must be made of this outstanding environmental design idea from Germany where they created an accurate miniature model of a football field complete with turf and goalposts in a parking lot. The message urged people to petition the Mayor of the city to build more spaces for children to play in.

It goes without saying that the Malaysia Dairy Industries poster was a work of rare genius.
Nirmal Pulickal and Andrew Phua with the Bronze award they won for their 'Udder' print work, for client Malaysian Dairy Industries.

I’m afraid I still haven’t found a suitable opportunity to bludgeon you with the reams of information the One Club provided in their Press Kit. I’ll skip the boring parts (something about 20% more entries…blah…blah…) and just say that from this year onwards the One Show Annual will come as a set of three books – Advertising, Design and Interactive. The books, individually will be lighter than the hernia monsters of the past.

That brings to an end my report. Sadly, I didn’t get drunk enough to ask the One Club president what the deal was with the pukey flames-and-hell illustration on one of the recent One Show covers. I had that on my agenda but in the end decided to play it nice.

Nirmal Pulickal, reporting from New York City, Friday, 13 July 2007.

Pulickal is a senior creative with Y&R Singapore, who, along with his partner Andrew Phua, created the ‘Udder’ poster for Malaysia Dairy Industries that won a Bronze Pencil at the One Show Design.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How to reach the digital consumer ?

Do me a favor and do the following test tomorrow morning. Try to leave your place without any electronic gadget and especially your mobile phone. Difficult isn’t it ? . Try as well to remember the telephone number of your best friend, or your siblings…I would bet this is not as easy as you would imagine… Welcome one more time to the Digital Age, where our life depends on electronics…

We know that our society drastically changed over the past 40 years, moving from the Analog times to the Digital Age . From the tape to the MP3, the TV to the Plasma or LCD TV, from the camera to the embedded digital camera in your phone, from VCR to DVD, BlueRay, HDDVD, DVI, HDMI…… And the revolution is not over, we are just entering the Web2.0 and the Web 3.0 is almost ready…

On top of that, the traditional marketing approach is not working anymore. The society of conspicuous consumption from the 80s is over and branding perceptions have changed too . Have a look at the number of new raising brands from China, Korea and Taiwan and you will realize that consumer are more open to purchase a B brand type product versus an A brand product.

Most of us are using mobile phone and internet on a daily base. Do we really understand the implication it has on the consumer ? Do you know that more than 100 millions videos are downloaded every day from YouTube ! Should you need an information, forget about encyclopedia and old yellow page : Google it, Wikipedia it. Looking for friend ? just Linkedin it , Facebook it… Wanted to share information ? Space it, Technorati-it, Blog it...

How do we take those new parameters into account when we need to develop a new campaign for a new product ? Consumer is not isolated anymore. He is more connected, more mobile than ever.

There is definitively a tight interaction between technologies and consumer. Technology is adapting to us while we adapt to technology. Recently, an American survey even suggested that the dexterity of the teen’s thumb has increased compared to ours… ( I finally understand why my young brother is continuously beating me on video games…Honor is safe, this is not my fault, I am just an old school ‘thumb’ guy…) I know it seems weird, however, have a look how we SMS and compare it with teens and your parents. While our old man would proudly enter one letter a second with his index, kids will use their biotechnology thumbs programmed to directly connect to those small tiny keyboards….

Let’s face it, not only the technology has changed, but the consumer has evolved too. He is bombarded with information and we , as marketers, have a tendency to believe that he is more receptive because we can reach him differently, faster than before.

Well, that maybe the opposite. Do not overestimate the efficiency of using a simple digital campaign. Your consumer is more clever, more gifted, more educated and more skilled to avoid the traditional marketing traps.

A proper 360 marketing campaign should definitively include digital, and a mobile component if you want to increase its ROI. However, let’s go back to our basic and do not forget that our job is to answer consumer’s needs . Use technology as a media, a way to reach them and use it wisely. Do not overload your consumer with too much information, promotion or messages. Technology is not a mean by itself , it is just a new weapon to reach your digital consumer. You still need to target him properly and you should be even more accurate than before.

Gregory Birge

General Manager

Wunderman Asia Pacific

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Really Creative Creative Directors Club declares war

The other evening, I called an emergency meeting of the Really Creative Creative Directors Club of Singapore, requesting that, as I had a very urgent matter to discuss, everyone should do their very best to attend unless they forgot, had something better to do or, at the last minute, just couldn't be bothered. No other excuses, I stressed, would be even remotely acceptable. It's important. There's a war going on and somehow, some way, we have to win it.

Well, the first to arrive was Mr. Gordon, who asked, as you might: 'What war?'

'A battle-of-the-departments type war,' I replied, adding: 'One of those wars that begins with a niggle, escalates, and can absolutely destroy a working relationship.'

'By "niggle",' queried Mr. Gordon, 'do you mean realising you hate each other, should never be working together in the first place and wishing they were dead? Will there be tips on undetectable poisons and tampering with their car brakes?'

I said: 'Honestly, Mr. Gordon, we did that last week. Didn't you attend?'

He said not. He meant to, he said, but on that day he put his back out and then his left leg fell off - 'in Brewerkz, can you imagine! But they did carry it out to the bike for me.’

I got a bit cross about this, I admit. 'Mr. Gordon,' I said. 'Unless you forgot, you had something better to do or, at the last minute, simply could not be bothered, I don't want to hear it. I won't be fobbed off with such feeble reasons for not attending.'

He rejoined with: 'Oh, and I couldn't be bothered.'

I said: 'That was better. Thank you, Mr. Gordon. That will be all. You may hop to your seat now.'

And so, as the others had arrived, the meeting could begin. 'Ladies and Gentlemen,' I said, 'this spring, what has preoccupied you for much of the time? Has it been timesheets?'

'No,' everyone cried. 'Has it been cost estimates?' 'No,' everyone cried. 'Has it been forecasting revenue and working out the next quarter’s budget?'

'Get a life!' everyone cried. 'Has it been leaving things at the bottom of your in-tray to do later and then never doing them?' 'Yes, yes, yes!' everyone cried. 'OK, apart from leaving things at the bottom of the in-tray to do later but never doing them, have you also been writing and art directing stuff?'

'Well, yes, a bit!' everyone cried. I said: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, if this war - and it is war, not a game - in your office is anything like the one in mine, I'm guessing it goes like this, and always goes like this:

1) You, who occasionally make a stab at work, put down the gin and Hello! and write an ad, using a comma in the headline
2) A person of a suity nature then takes it out
3) You put it back in
4) They take it back out
5) In
6) Out
7) In
8) Out
9) In
10) Out

'And so on, until the very end of time itself. And is it any fun, Ladies and Gentlemen? Is it amusing in any way? No. Plus, if I'm guessing right, and I think I am, it can get dirty. Very dirty.

'On occasion, you may even meet in the studio while one is in-ing and the other is out-ing. This, of course, can result in a fist fight, so, if you want my advice, always come prepared with, for example, a Doberman and a scalpel. Alternatively, broken bottles, knuckledusters and old D&AD annuals are suitable.'

'Yippee,' exclaimed Ms Dickinson. 'Good show!'

I pressed on: 'Further, you must be alert to cheating at all times. They may, for example, not take it out after you have put it back in, which you may think means you have won.'

'Does that mean we can't use the broken bottles, knuckledusters or old D&AD annuals?' interrupted Mr. Tan.

'No way,' I said, 'because, what you will discover, is that they have left the comma in the headline but THEY HAVE GONE AND TAKEN EACH AND EVERY APOSTROPHE OUT!'

'The creep,' yelled the other Mr. Tan. 'The sneaky little creep! Let me at them with the scalpel!'

'You may, of course, choose to go the non-violent route and give them the facts,' I said. 'You may tell them to read Fowler, you may then wish to conclude with: "It's a grammatical fact, matey. Get over it. The comma is in and the apostrophes stay."

'But will they accept this? No, Ladies and Gentlemen, they will not.’

I finished on a heartfelt plea to the meeting: 'Revered Members, how are we to win this war?'

'Undetectable poisons and tampering with their car brakes?' suggested Mr. Gordon, 'or even detectable poisons, what the hell?'

We considered Mr. Gordon's suggestion, and discussed whether we thought he might be being a bit hasty, but then concluded: no.

It's the only way. It's not nice, we accept, but this is war. And this is what can happen when you play havoc with a person’s punctuation.