Love and fear of metrics

June 30, 2009

By Michael Mark, creative director/ceo @NYCA

I have a love and fear of metrics because I am a story teller. It’s because I care about my audience, even more than my work.  I want to know how they feel, think, what they want to do once they get touched by my work. This is the real creation – the change, what we call at NYCA: the grow!

That’s why I love good advertising.  We use ideas, pictures, words, media to connect to millions on behalf of our clients. And the best part is the analysis to see what happened.

“How are you feeling, honey?” That’s a tender and perhaps worrisome moment – as you listen for the reaction. In advertising it could be the verdict on the campaign you worked so hard on for months.

It’s the most dramatic of pauses as we wait on the answer – far more telling than the unveiling of the strategy or creative idea. Unfortunately, that is where too many agencies stop – and I can understand why. It’s scary to hear the news.

But it would be a lonely, unfulfilling lie if we didn’t know how people reacted to what we put out there. How can you have a healthy nurturing relationship if you don’t have intimacy?  So we have to find out. Sometimes we ask our lover, “How does this feel?” (really, really scary). Same thing at work – kinda. We need our connection points, our messaging, to be well-directed, true in intention and hard-data effective.  It is a professional, personal and emotional matter. In truth, it is all that matters.

John Harris’s talk on TED is remarkable. He has done some great work on following people’s feelings on the web. See how it makes you feel.

What the flock is up with Twitter?

June 26, 2009

By Dave Huerta, VP, Associate Creative Director @NYCA  

Have you ever wondered how flocks of birds are able to change direction in unison like they do? It’s amazing.  birdsThey’re all going one way and then all of a sudden, on cue, they all go a different way.

You might think it’s some highly evolved bird-brained telepathy, or that there is a leader in the group sending out signals to all the other birds to turn left NOW. “ 

Actually, it’s a much more democratic process that happens millisecond by millisecond. As birds fly together, individuals within the flock make decisions resulting in the collective direction the flock will travel.  

If a bird in the group senses danger, for example, it flies away from the potential danger. All the other birds then react eventually changing the direction of the entire flock.  

That same kind of interconnectivity that’s shared by a flock of birds is shared by millions of others who use Twitter. And, it’s this social aspect that allows information to go from one member to another that gives it its power.  

As its millions of users are following links or videos or tweets about what you’re doing right now, like the birds flying in a flock, they are collectively changing the course of how information is shared and used. 

Imagine if advertisers and marketers worked this way. Imagine if their products and services were conceived and sold with the same input that a flock has from the birds in it. 

The smart ones are already working this way. Little by little, other companies are following the flock. They’re finding relevant ways to have honest dialogue with their potential customers through sites like Twitter. Access to new products or promotions, live customer service, and customer involvement in new product development are all ways consumers can feel valued and closer to the brands that choose to listen to them.  

The smart ones will understand the strength consumers have when they’re part of a network like Twitter.

And that a comment from co-workers and peers will have more weight than a trophy from J.D. Power and Associates. 

The marketing model of the past where a company would create a product, create a need and sell it to a customer is growing stale fast. If advertisers want to stay relevant, they’ll have to develop a new model that works in the reverse order: listen to your customer, understand their need, and then provide them with a solution.

You can’t get away with nothing these days. And that’s good news.

June 23, 2009

By Michael Mark, creative director/ceo @NYCA

Big Brother does exist. No, it’s not the government. It’s us. And it’s a good thing. With the ubiquitous capacity to take a photo or capture video from your phone combined with the ability to communicate in an instant to millions on Twitter, we have 24/7 surveillance. We are being watched while we are doing the watching while sharing and it’s for our own good.  Who better to do it?

Personally I believe human nature is good. Yes, that even goes for most ad people.  The universal camera that is trained on us all will show that to be true. In our emails we get more good stuff than ever; like this video about people who commit random acts of kindness.

The first images I saw from the United Airlines emergency landing in the Hudson came to my phone via Twitter.

But if you happen to be trying to pull something Mr. Naughty – well then, just like Tom Joad said in The Grapes of Wrath, “I’ll be there.” The 2009 version of the book will add “and I’ll tweet my 25,000 followers and they’ll tweet their followers….” The point is, if one person sees it, instantly millions will see it.

The election in Iran proves this.  The outpouring was immediate and gripping. Twitter lists showed a steady stream of updates and links to photos and videos all making the developing turmoil clear and irrefutable. It’s still going on despite threats from the Supreme Leader. The communication will not stop.  And it’s not only in government that this is happening, of course. When Amazon seemed to be censoring books, the Twitterverse was on them fast as you can “oh no you didn’t” and Amazon used Twitter right back to react to the protests. The books are up for sale again. 

Twitter had approximately 17 million unique U.S.-based visitors in April, and about 24 million worldwide, according to Nielsen. Its number of users has grown by more than a thousand percent over the last year. Are they all good guys? Maybe not, but their followers are watching them, making sure they behave – a mass deputizing.

So if you’re a bad guy, take this as a warning because bad news travels faster than ever. Don’t do it — because it’s wrong.  But if that isn’t enough, don’t do it because you will get caught. Because you are being watched. 

Good news, though perhaps a laggard in making the rounds, will still get passed around and will inspire more and more good.  I’m convinced of it. And that makes us all better, don’t you think, my Brother?

Art of Transition

June 22, 2009

By Lynne Roswall, VP and Director of Production @NYCA 

Transitioning an advertising agency into the fast-paced new media landscape is a little like becoming a new parent.  As with parenthood, one can never know what it is like until that fateful day when birth arrives– you can read about it, talk about it, gain some exposure through taking care of nieces /nephews, but it will never be like the real thing.  And it is irreversible.  One day you aren’t doing much in digital and then the very next day you are moving dozens of diverse digital features through production. 

Transitional experiences take guts and a little naivety.  Not able to rely on the ‘old standards’ means what is in front of you is uncharted territory.  Embracing possibility is something we creative entrepreneurs do naturally, and yet there is still struggle to get out of our own way.  For seasoned professionals to think with a beginner’s mind is a part of transition that’s both exciting and uncomfortable.   

The art of transition is facing those crevices of having no idea how to move forward – not for lack of smarts, talent, or inventiveness – but because it’s never been done.  Those who have an incessant need-to-know embrace becoming a beginner again, not being perfect and not having the answers.  The great thing we found is that prior experience – those faithful systems and experiences our folks had in their general market advertising careers – are critically important for solving problems in new media. It’s challenging to learn how to engage consumers in an ever-changing digital media landscape. But you have to start not with mechanical knowledge, but with great consumer engagement skills – period. The right mechanics are nothing without a create idea as a spinal cord. 

The art of transition lies in balancing the fever of exploration, development of a new business model and the acceptance that transition takes time.  We now tell expectant digital parents to enjoy the journey, bring what you have learned, rely on your successful core, be open to imperfection and just DO.

The hypocrisy of growth

June 18, 2009

By Michelle Edelman, President @NYCA 

I heard Alex Bogusky speak this week at the AMIN network conference. Once you get over the fame and the looks, he really is just a sweet and well-spoken, kick-ass creative guy. 

He said he joined Crispin Porter back when it was 16 people and he was a senior Art Director. It’s now 1,000 people. 

He said he loves when Crispin ‘gets small.’ When the agency opened up a location in Boulder, the plan was to take 50 people. This was energizing to him. CP+B has just acquired a small digital shop in the UK which is also 50 people. The nimble entrepreneurism and we-can-do-anything optimism of a small team is what he craves.

growthThat’s what we have at NYCA and it’s so funny – we seek growth. We long for new challenges and to explore the horizon we know is out there for us. 

The irony is that at a certain size, we will no longer be small. And we love the feeling that small brings. Our teams are like little schools of fish, supporting each other and swimming to protect each other and the marvelous ideas that get pinned up every day. 

It’s an unsolvable puzzle: how to get bigger without giving up our smallness. Let me know if you solve it and we’ll write a book.

Relevance is cool.

June 16, 2009

By Michael Mark, creative director/CEO @NYCA 

What is the future of advertising? Selling stuff.  Yeah, still. How: Relevance. Not fancy self promoting cloudlike techno-marcom-digital-social-speak. Delivery systems will relentlessly evolve, but the only thing that will ever get to and hold the consumer’s heart and credit card is dramatic relevance. Only through relevance in product, messaging and media context will advertising do its good work – and it’s not enough to engage only, or to educate, or to tickle a remembered laugh out of them. You have to sell. Selling takes empathy and trust, and you can’t get there if you are not taking the superhighway of relevance. Now, you might say, relevance isn’t sexy. There’s no award show category for relevance. Relevance is not the first one asked to the marketing dance floor, sadly overlooked in search of the new hot trend. But relevance touches you deeply. Your mom is relevant. Your home is relevant.  iphone The iPhone has apps that people want, like a counter that tells them how many calories they are ingesting. If you’re a dieter, that’s so relevant. That’s why it’s selling so well.  Wal-Mart is cheaper and has lots of stuff in one place so you can check off your list all in one stop without wasting gas or time. That is so relevant. That’s why people are shopping there now who weren’t before when luxury cool was “in.” But what’s “in” now is relevance.  Take relevance for a spin. Be brave. Drop the attitude, walk over and just ask.  Selling is the new cool.

US auto makers show their stripes

June 12, 2009

By Michelle Edelman, President @NYCA

The economic crisis looks back at us in the mirror every day and asks: who are we? What do we really need in this life? What of our happiness is monetary? What of our very survival? 

Brands and companies are no different than we are – just a lot more public. The US auto companies are visibly melting before our eyes. What will reform from the molten metal when all these companies emerge from their bankruptcies, closings, and mergers? Hopefully, innovation will emerge. That’s the American spirit, after all.

That’s what GM wants to capture as its own spirit:

It’s always hard to tell whether the target audience on these briefs was you and me, or Wall Street. Or the thousands of GM employees, ex-employees, subcontractors, suppliers and retirees that are promoters or detractors of this brand. It’s a TV commercial that’s meant to preserve our faith in a time when truly, we have no idea what a government-run car company will yield. I sure hope the resultant cars don’t turn out like the other things the government makes, from buildings to tax forms. 

Despite its 1-way omniscient nature, this GM spot does espouse a positive message for consumers: that of hope. But consider this one too:

Hear that? Hyundai is speaking to you. In a year when every auto maker will take double digit sales hits, Hyundai still found a way to innovate car ownership and a relationship with the dealer. Whereas GM is banking on our hope for the future, Hyundai is giving us something to hang onto today. 

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the GM spot is beautiful, uplifting, and may even be successful. But it’s just an ad. Agencies can do better. We have a programmatic responsibility to our clients. Reassuring words are important – but they aren’t the same as commitments. 

My hope for NYCA is that we always help our clients act on behalf of their consumer – not just speak to them. Sure, sometimes we make ads. But we’d rather make promises.