Are agencies no longer the flavour of the month?

Following on from the Twitterer is a mainly a narcissist article, the currently trendy term of “Consumer intelligence” seems to be giving clients the jitters (so agencies see it). Companies that understand the need for a consumer “pull” strategy where the emphasis is on the consumer, fits with the need to quickly respond and listen to the consumer, analyse new behaviour and habits. In a very interesting Ad-Age article the journalist explains that companies feel they don’t need agencies as much!

There is a great quote from the CEO of Unilever Paul Polman:

“Maybe the most extreme example of this is to be found in consumer-generated content, where we have invited consumers to develop communications for Omo and Vaseline as a complement to those generated by the company, and in the case of Peperami, we have even dispensed with the agency in favor of exclusively ‘crowdsourced’ content.
“However well traditional advertising agencies read the signals and recognize the need for radical change in their capabilities,” he said, “few agencies can address all the communications needs of a brand. … This is making the management of agencies increasingly complex, and raises challenging questions on how best to measure the value added by the respective partners and consequently how to manage remuneration.”

The current economic situation pushes clients to search for financially viable solutions, or at least good ROI you can present to your boss. From an agency perspective, we know this is without being prepared to accept a reduction in scope or speed to market. Although the speed to market aspect can often be better managed by agencies, the “same scope, with reduced budget” is just not always possible. Sure you can provide cheaper solutions but that generally implies a reduction in quality, even though clients may agree to it. Clients rarely anticipate the reactions from their project sponsors and hierarchy and it can fall back on the agency.
Clients who have previously externalized their marketing and branding requirements are now looking to internalize what they had given away to agencies over the years according to the above article. The likes of Forrester are pushing to get marketing and brand managers (sorry Forrester prefers Brand Advocates) to be use ‘invaluable’ Forrester insight and work in house rather than go through agencies as much.
Would this have anything to do with some of the larger digital agencies producing detailed market reports (ex: Digital Outlook) and complex dashboard systems that provide the same type of ‘insight’ Forrester is selling to clients?

I’m not sure Forrester is my idea of a company capable of seeking and identifying trends in the digital arena to serve as a catalyst for the client’s brand coverage but hey I work in an agency so I would be biased. Without denying the importance of the number crunching and analysis, it is just a small ingredient of the digital marketing mix.

Although the above article does not touch on the details or definition of an agency I think there is a tendency to consider them all to be the same. In the same way that Jon discusses how both Forrester and Gartner don’t go into enough details in their Content Management comparison reports, I feel they do the same when discussing and comparing agencies. Good digital agencies do provide support for the above areas mentioned by Forrester and far more. The intricacies and issues of implementing complicated technical solutions are part of a digital agency’s normal day. They also have a good understanding of all the other ingredients of the digital marketing mix, how it all works together down to the small details that Forrester don’t even touch on!

Mad Men lessons in Twitter

For those of you who follow the series ‘Mad Men’, you may have heard about the twitter story around it where characters from the series appeared on Twitter. After having been closed down by the company AMC behind the series as they were not endorsed, they were then reinstated after the following outcry from fans.
The fans behind the twittering ‘Mad Men’ discuss in an article on CNet their experience and the lessons that can be learnt from it. Two interesting quotes from the article:

First, she [Carri Bugbee] said, producers should strive to reserve the Twitter accounts for all the characters in whatever show or film they’re making. “I can’t believe that any of us would have to say that,” Bugbee said, adding that for fans, “if you have a favorite TV show, you could probably go reserve (any character’s) name on Twitter” even now.

“Ross said there are further lessons producers and marketers need to draw from the “Mad Men” Twitter experience. Perhaps most important, she suggested, advertisers need to “stop siloing.” In other words, they need to understand that to get their message out, it is necessary to spread it across a wide variety of platforms”

Update: take a look at an interview of Carri Bugbee’s interview on Ad Age

Surfing the focus groups

Using focus groups to test an upcoming product / service / system is common practice and can really help pin point issues before launch date. Depending on the money behind the product, the size and variety of the target population there can be several focus group tests and/or different phases before launch. On the other hand some companies don’t do anything, considering that their knowledge is paramount to any form of focus group feedback.

It is more and more frequent that companies launch web based services as a ‘beta’ and thus acquire testers to provide feedback on the system and help them perfect it. When done properly it can even be sold as a special invite only, VIP type event so that users feel special. But companies that launch their new product or service, with a new look and feel, can get a deluge of feedback from unhappy customers. If a focus group has one person representing loyal customers and gets swayed by the whole idea of being part of the focus group this can skew the feedback. The other loyal customers may be really unhappy about seeing a change in the packaging or look and feel of the new product. Tropicana recently changed their design but has now decided to switch from their new packaging design back to the old following all the complaints. As a Tropicana loyal customer it was a shock for me to see this new packaging (even though it is for the US). I mean it looks like some cheap orange juice and has no soul to it!

Tropicana new packaging

And the one that I just love to see in my fridge:

Tropicana old packaging

What is interesting around the whole Tropicana packaging debacle is that how the message got back to Pepsi the owners of the Tropicana brand. There was a deluge of messages telephone calls, forums, letters, emails, twitter…

An article on NY times about the Tropicana incident talks about the ad for Motrin pain:

And in November, many consumers who used Twitter to criticize an ad for Motrin pain reliever received responses within 48 hours from the brand’s maker, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, which apologized for the ad and told them it had been withdrawn.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup is officially a UK icon

It seems that Lyle’s Golden Syrup has acquired the status of brand stardom since the Guiness Book of Records has officially recognized it as as Britain’s oldest brand !


Should you have suddenly acquired a craving for golden syrup just looking at the tin, then you’ll be happy to know that you can purchase some through Amazon.

As an article in the Daily Mail explains :

The Lyle’s story began in 1883, when Scottish businessman Abram Lyle built a sugar refinery in London.

A by-product of sugar was a treacly syrup, but it was canny Lyle who discovered it could make a tasty spread.

This syrup was poured into wooden casks and sold to his workers and local customers.

Word spread fast and, in a few short months, a tonne a week was being sold.

Wooden casks soon gave way to large Lyle’s Golden Syrup dispensers being displayed on store shelves.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup was first poured into tins in 1885.

Now nearly 1 million tins leave the Plaistow Wharf factory in East London each month.