Media: Double Standards - Are 'traditional' agencies made for social media?

After joining the smaller specialists in the social media space, the big ad networks are having to 'undo the damage of social snake-oil salesmen'.

JONNY SPINDLER, innovations director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

- How significantly do you think social media has reframed the way that brands interact with consumers?

Social media has simply accelerated the ability and rate at which consumers can interact with brands. Consumers now have a much louder voice with far bigger crowds listening due to the available social platforms. Therefore, brands need to pay more attention to their consumers than ever before. It is no longer a bloke in a pub talking to four mates about a brand, but a Tweet that reaches 4,000 ready to spread the word further.

- What do you actually do for your clients?

We provide a way for clients to embed social listening, activation and management into the heart of their brand and their yearly planning process. We have always listened to what consumers are saying through offline methods but now we can listen to even more conversations on a daily basis. Our new community management unit provides clients with the resources required to turn social insights into creative briefs and, most importantly, manage and maintain the conversations with consumers in social spaces during and between new campaigns and ideas.

- What is the biggest challenge in your job?

Turning the excitement of new marketing opportunities and all the things clients "could" do into hard-working solutions and plans that clients "should" do. There are many new shiny toys that appear across the marketing world each day, with people thinking that it's right to just try them all because they can. The challenge is to help clients understand which "toys" are right for them, the ones they should be using, how best to work these new toys and, most importantly, what they get back in return from playing with them.

- How do you monitor who is saying what about your clients' brands and how can you influence them?

Social media monitoring tools are great for getting deep into hard-to-find online conversations, which can often return interesting insights and opportunities. They also help to identify the source of influence for any given brand or topic. Although listening to conversations online is a good source of insight, it is important not to forget a lot of consumers still talk offline and sitting in a client's call-centre or riding along in patrol van for a day can still provide some of the most interesting insights.

- Media agencies, ad agencies and specialist agencies have all moved into the social media space. Who do you think is best placed to deliver it in the long term and why?

New media, interactive, online, digital, social media - as these terms have evolved, so has their importance in the marketing mix. So it is not about agencies best placed to deliver social media, but agencies that truly understand consumers and their attitude towards brands - what makes them love or hate a brand. Ad agencies have defined and led how to communicate what a brand stands for, provided insights to create ideas that are best suited to drive an action and maintained relationships on behalf of brands with consumers, often for decades at a time. A brand may no longer define itself through traditional media alone, but the skills required to discover the right insight, turn that into a long-term plan for the future and create ideas that generate action and real return are still just as important.

NEIL KLEINER, UK head of social media, Havas Media

- How significantly do you think social media has reframed the way that brands interact with consumers?

I think the real change is how consumers choose to interact with brands. How brands interact with consumers is still in flux and we are in a strange place in history where the marketing hegemony has been flipped. It is not enough for brands to just shout the loudest any more. They have to be interesting and try to play a useful, relevant role in the life of their customers. This is massively significant as most brands are not set-up to deal with this and most agencies are not helping their clients towards this new model as they are equally ill-equipped. This change is permanent as it is a change in people. Facebook and Twitter are just websites that have helped power this change, but its permanence is fuelled by behavioural change.

- What do you actually do for your clients?

Simply put, we help them achieve their business objectives using social or emerging media tactics or platforms. Social media strategies, tone of voice guidelines, community management, influencer marketing and creative engaging content. The other key issue is helping social media activity to work in an integrated way with other marketing communications: social and search, mobile, content and offline. Social media works very rarely in isolation so a move towards a more integrated offering is key.

- What is the biggest challenge in your job?

Undoing the damage of social snake-oil salesmen. For the past three years, social has been ruled by smaller start-ups that have been promising the earth without delivering tangible value. We have seen a lot of clients who have had their fingers burned by unfocused social strategies, fuelled by the land-grab of smaller boutiques that do not have experience in data and measurement. The other issue is with brands (and practitioners) that view Facebook as the easy be-all and end-all of a social media presence. The "let's just put up a Facebook fan page and we'll get loads of fans" type mentality is still rife.

- How do you monitor who is saying what about your clients' brands and how can you influence them?

There are a great many wonderful pieces of technology out there and we use quite a few of the usual suspects. We've also created our own proprietary tools to help as there are some big gaps in the off-the-shelf products. Flightdeck is our proprietary listening tool and Artemis is our campaign management tool across all digital media. Also, we've invested in people. We've appointed specialist data experts across Havas Media to assist in human-powered analysis.

- Media agencies, ad agencies and specialist agencies have all moved into the social media space. Who do you think is best placed to deliver it in the long term and why?

The cop-out answer is that the best agency for the job is the right agency. Ideally, an integrated perspective is key and that is one of the reasons we formed Havas Media Social, to draw on the different, yet complementary, skillsets of the Havas Media UK agencies and offer "full service" social across paid, earned and owned social media. There is no doubt, however, that some elements should ideally reside in-house within our clients when they are ready. Community management is a skill that we are happy to do for our clients if they are not equipped to do it themselves; however, this is one skill that we see our clients begin to take in-house. This is because of the crossover of internal PR, customer support and product development.

Topics