December 16, 2007

School at Substance


We recently had the pleasure of hosting the current class from WK12 (the “experiment disguised as an advertising school within Wieden+Kennedy“) for an afternoon of digital discussion. Over the 90 minute conversation, we talked about all sorts of stuff… mashups, strategy vs. technology, the future of social networks, APIs, trains… but mostly we talked about conversations.

Starting with how Substance was founded on the idea of conversations instead of simply “telling,” we tried to explain how companies (brands) now have significant opportunities for one-to-few conversations instead of one-to-many mass marketing. Many of these opportunities are created through the economy of one-to-few relationships that digital media can create. Digital media allows for productive, meaningful conversations with smaller groups of people that are receptive and care about the message. It’s not everything for everyone. It’s everything for a select few. But these select few have greater opportunity to purchase, to request more information… to continue the relationship with the brand.

Traditionally, campaigns are a mass media focus on marketing across multiple platforms (tv, radio, magazines, billboards, banner ads, maybe a microsite…) to people. But how does this work as a communication between a brand and a person? Campaigns are simply push strategies: look at this! look at this! They don’t adapt to what people want to hear, they only engage the person who is receptive to the message at that specific point in time. A conversation is a two-way dialogue, an adaptive dialogue. The conversation has the opportunity to evolve and grow. It involves and engages as opposed to bombards the same message over and over. Diplomacy vs. “shock and awe.”

Digital media is not a “technology,” but an idea. We discussed the idea of transparency and how blogs are allowing this kind of look behind the curtain. But blogs aren’t creating transparency. They’re simply technology that facilitates this conversation. People are communicating transparency. The tools (technology) exist, but it’s the ideas of how to use them to build relationships that matters. Technology companies are commodities. Ideas companies make meaning.


(See? They’re interested.)

We wish the students of WK12 the best of luck as they graduate and go out into the advertising world. Hopefully we were able to provide at least one or two nuggets that can act as the genesis for the future of advertising. Now go out and make meaning.

“I believe advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” (as quoted on Fast Company)
“Advertising is a tax you pay for unremarkable thinking.” (as quoted in BusinessWeek)
Robert Stephens, founder of the Geek Squad
I guess take your pick for the version you like more… they’re both applicable.

1 Comment…

  1. Absolutely right, having a blog or a Ning network doesn’t automagically mean that you’re being ‘transparent.’ Of course most corporate pundit today still think this way. They view blog and social media as just another way to advertise (ie. Facebook Beacon.)

    Problem is, their customer can distinguish at first glance if their intention is ‘real’ or isn’t, so they’re in trouble. They’ve learned to utilize the media for their purpose, but haven’t got the right intention to use it—and I think that you guys are hard at work doing something about that everyday.

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December 26, 2007

Best follow-up