Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion before the CEOs and Presidents of WPP‘s family of agencies and operating companies (Y&R, JWT, Ogilvy, Mindshare, etc.) on the topic of social networks. The moderator was Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau, and with me on the stools were:
- Michael Barrett, EVP Fox Interactive Media and Chief Revenue Officer
- Kevin Wall, founder and producer of Live Earth
- Peter Daou, Internet Director Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign
I was the token corporate presence, and gave my spiel about the role of Social Media Marketing as the true builder of an online brand through monitoring and detection, outreach and participation. The audience, senior as it was, had been brought together to focus on strategy in the era of what I call the “online avalanche” — a silent cascade of online media that is burying traditional assumptions about classic “Four P’s Marketing” and brand management.
Given the huge scope of the topic, I wasn’t able to get into full Belushi mode and launch a Jim Cramer inspired rant, but I landed a few punches around the notion that one cannot manipulate the network and control the conversation without getting nailed on charges of insincerity and astro turfing. I invoked the usual bugaboos of interactive marketing — Dell Hell as the tocsin for blog marketing and conversational/engagement strategies, and the Wal-Mart/Edelman RV blog as the death knell for ulterior motive marketing.
Midway through the 90 minutes I realized how bewildering and cataclysmic this must all seem to a senior executive with thirty or forty years of solid experience in a world once rocked by the web, and now getting churned as the pieces all fall into place. I wonder how many are ready to push the plunger and blow up old assumptions and structures to approach their clients’ in this strange new world. Indeed, I think the ultimate challenge would be to launch, purely online, a new brand with no traditional media support in terms of the old 30-second spot.
The discussion was far ranging — with the common ground between us being the use of the network on cause related initiatives — corporate social responsibility, union organizing, flash mobs, citizen class action movements. Some very perceptive questions emerged, including concerns that clients accustomed to controlling the message would make a half-baked, versus an all-in approach, and the return of “public” to Public Relations which has, heretofore, been primarily a “Press Relations” function.
Good stuff and worth the vacation interruption. Now to have US Air shake a leg and get my flight back to the island back on schedule (I was not voted off the island).
Disclosure: Lenovo is a client of Ogilvy & Mather, a WPP company