The need for speed

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    Paddy Power "we hear you"

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Agencies should view the 'always-on' world as a chance to showcase great copy, sharp wits and irreverent ideas, James Kirkham believes.

The advent of the always-on approach is changing the landscape for  advertising. Just as the industry has got to grips with the advent of digital and social media, now the content and creation cycle is taking another rocky ride around a landscape that is untrodden  and where there are plenty of hidden bends.

Innocent, the drinks brand, has become a master of always-on entirely through Facebook. The brand’s set-up enables in-house designers to sit next to their community managers, and it is this,  combined with a consistently irreverent tone, that enables the brand to react on a daily basis.  Paddy Power and Specsavers have both been turning this space into an increasingly competitive art form.

No subject area is safe from exclusion, be it politics or the Pope – Paddy Power’s brilliant insight being if it is interesting enough to be worthy of the news, then it is worthy of a punt.

Specsavers created now-epic ads built around pure simplicity that often tapped into major sporting events where there is a guaranteed pool of interest. After the incident at the 2012 Olympics, when the South Korean flag was mistakenly shown alongside female footballers from North Korea, the brand served up an ad with flags side by side and a hint that someone needed their eyes testing.

And Holler’s work on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class campaign demonstrated an on-the-fly content creation approach that rewarded fans. We set up a social response lab at Holler that was manned by six staff over a core weekend of activity. Anyone who engaged with the #youdrive hashtag was sent their own bespoke film-style poster.

The impact for brands playing in the always-on space is huge. In February, Oreo won the Super Bowl advertising war not by using a glossy $3 million super-spot, but by a single Tweet. Its ability to craft an ad and turn it around in such a short space of time meant it has been spoken about in almost every major industry publication, and 14,000 retweets have ensured that Oreo has huge momentum behind it. Nobody mentioned that the ad itself isn’t even that good. Whisper it quietly, but the copy is OK and the art direction distinctly average. But here is another secret of the always-on approach: it is a forgiving space where speed of response and reaction outweighs analysis of an ad’s art direction.

This year, we will see an avalanche of brands swiftly adopting the always-on culture. The most successful will adapt and evolve their marketing and communications teams, alongside that of the agency, to enable this sort of approach.

Agencies, such as Holler, will run daily editorial meetings to decide what cultural cues we need to employ to inform content and editorial through the next 12 hours, and for which brand. In addition, more agencies will continue to bring social media buying in-house. But those who designate this to an entirely separate division are missing the point. The media analysis, cross-channel expertise and social buying need to be an essential part of the daily process that underpins always-on community management.

The best agencies will continually listen, harvest brand pages, test and learn, pilot ideas and capitalise on opportunities as they happen. The approach is breathing new life into advertising. It should not be feared or revered, but seen as a brilliant return to the importance of fabulous copy, quick-wittedness and an excellent idea.

Brands that respond to an individual will be given the trust and good faith to grow, and audiences tend to flock to those authentic advertisers that conduct themselves in this smart fashion.

James Kirkham is the managing partner of Holler.

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