Monday, June 29, 2009
Enter the digital ninja exit the overnight "expert"
On a trip just completed to New York to rally support for, well, I can't say too much, but it's a pretty badly kept secret, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting agency people on Madison Avenue including a ninja.
I was very interested in how fast digital was moving in the US as compared to Asia and if the Yanks at the epicentre of advertising and marketing had any answers.
My thinking was we really don't know where it's heading in Asia, clients blame the agencies for not being forward thinking enough and not being able to define what works and what doesn't, and agencies blame clients for not being brave enough.
But hey they must know where it's all headed in the States, they have the biggest clients, they built most of the biggest or stickiest online properties (and all the ones China likes to ban); Google, twitter, facebook, digg.com etc. and they have witnessed the fastest fleeing for the exits, in main media, of any market.
One of our meetings was in the offices of McCann Erickson New York, where the extremely helpful Susan Irwin arrange for us to meet with Faris Yakob EVP chief technology strategist with McCanns or self described digital ninja.
Faris, has a laid back skate boarder vibe about him and is addictively enthusiastic about the digital space (actually I'll stop with the glowing description there, I don't want to risk the caning a competitor recently got over a profile of Moray MacLennan!).
What transpires is Faris experiences a lot of the same frustrations in his market as we do out here, a lack confidence not matching the soaring wave of digital media consumption and considerable knowledge gaps.
He recalled to me sitting in a meeting with someone who was supposedly something of a digital adviser who continually called the world's favourite micro blogging site "tweeter" which took us on to talk of charlatans who set themselves up as consultants, taking advantage of the lack of real knowledge in the field.
He stresses that it's important companies get used to and immerse themselves in the technologies and platforms to understand and engage consumers better, otherwise you are just on the outside trying to look in through what can be a pretty foggy window if you don't understand it very well.
I guess it isn't enough to play around the edges you really need to understand why audiences engage on all these platforms or spaces, before you can hope to get an understanding of how you can take advantage of the environment.
But just as interesting as anything Faris had to say was the fact McCanns has this job function inside its walls - you feel very much this guy has time to think, research and play, all the better to advise the agency, and more importantly the clients.
Sure a lot of agencies out here have staff who blog, twitter and socialise in other ways online and most now have staff in a digital department, but there used to be in those last years and months before the bubble burst last time around a push to have digital "thinkers" in the company who just were allowed to sit around and come up with ideas, of course they all went the way of online pet shops by 2001.
But maybe it's time the job function, with a bit more of a pragmatic overlay, is revived.
Faris' job title reveals he does more than sit around and think all day, he is part of the executive that shapes the McCann business model and works with clients, planners and creative teams to build clients' digital presence, he's also a pretty promiscuous figure on the speaking and writing circuit.
As clients are now looking for more than canned responses to their very many questions about digital marketing and need access to someone within the agency's walls who has more than just a day pass to the digital world, we could do worse than hunt for and install talent in agencies that comes from non-traditional places.
So maybe it's time to lock away the breakables and bring in a ninja!