Close-up: Social media moves on to real-world experience

VCCP Share's Dominic Stinton believes successful social media campaigns are grounded in old-style marketing techniques.

For the past couple of years, some of us at VCCP have been obsessed with getting our heads down and to grips with social media. Working alongside fellow Chime digital explorers Kevin Read, Mary Pollard and James Thomlinson, we have tried to gain proper hands-on experience, but also to look our clients in the eye and say: "I know this much to be true - this works, and this doesn't work."

Never before have I encountered a sector with such a lot of hot air, theory and recycling of other people's case studies from so-called "experts". So I can promise to not talk about My Starbucks Idea, or Dell bloody Idea Storm.

Beyond a commitment to doing rather than banging on, we've made a few discoveries in the social media space. Namely, that it helps to have your DM head screwed on. Increasingly, the work we do for clients such as News International is driven just as much by cost-per-acquisition as it is engaging content on Facebook, for example.

Meanwhile, planners with a hunger for how campaigns demonstrate an ROI across multiple touchpoints, armed with a range of tracking tools such as Omniture, Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, can jump effortlessly between social spaces and the vast fields of published content thrown up by search, understanding that each are mutual bedfellows.

Working on an interweaving plan for our O2 Street Age campaign was an exercise in demonstrating what integration needs to mean today. It spanned a Facebook build, ads and competition, another separate web build, film and search campaign.

Beyond the satisfyingly boffin-like application of just about every marketing technique under the sun that social media requires, the other big realisation for us was that the increased social behaviour that drives all this is much bigger than just a lot of people doing frenetic status updates. Sure, digital is greasing the wheels of this social behaviour, but we're currently witnessing extraordinary levels of participation offline as well as on.

It seems we can't get enough of each other. From booming live music and festival attendances, and the success of live TV formats such as The X Factor, we're witnessing the birth of a genuine socio-cultural phenomenon.

Which is why we've set up VCCP Share, a social and experiential hub that's about more than just creating campaigns in social media. We will be looking to create campaigns that work in live experiences too. Because the bigger opportunity is to get brands into the heart of these experiences, where the raw visceral thrill of living in the moment provides the perfect mental state with which brands can win valuable headspace.

It's important that these live experiences aren't confined to large-scale, one-off events, though; appearing alongside me recently at a social media conference was JCDecaux. What I anticipated being the least interesting talk from an old-world media owner turned out to be the most inspiring, as it provided an overview of brilliant experiences made possible by digital out-of-home, where Lynx Angels appeared alongside lads at Victoria station, and Peroni created a cinema experience for a group of pedestrians, complete with popcorn, out of a digital poster on a London street. We did something similarly low key but very impactful with Aleksandr Orlov's pop-up shop in Regent Street, which saw 250 people walk off with signed copies of A Simples Life, as well as countless others flock to the store to view priceless art from his mansion.

So the possibilities of creating great experiences not just within the screen of the PC but within arm's reach of each other is an exciting one. The new challenge for traditional agencies is to work their magic behind the scenes, spotting connections and opportunities for creating value, and delivering pulse-quickening experiences.

Dominic Stinton is the managing director of VCCP Share.


Chime launched VCCP Share earlier this month as a social media and experiential unit that will sit in the heart of the main VCCP agency. The offering will be run by Stinton, who takes on the role of managing director, and Graham Drew, who will be the creative director. The agency has also hired the PR specialists Kate Collis and Jed Hallam to work within the unit. Collis, who previously worked at Taylor Herring, will be the PR and experiential director, while Hallam, who joins from Wolfstar, becomes the communities director.