Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Future? It’s now!

Cheesy title I know, but I’ve been thinking recently about digital planning and what planners are trying to achieve in this ever changing, rapidly evolving arena and I have a concern. This concern revolves around the fact that due to the speed of change and perceived speed of uptake by the consumer, planners have gone from thinking outside the box to not even considering the box in the first place!

Clearly what I’m saying is quite a generalisation and I believe it is vital that creative planners continue to push the creative limits of digital media which offers those, (who ask of it the right questions) a whole wealth of options. I do not want to marginalise this section of planners, I can only dream of having the scope to produce the work they do, however I do still feel there is a point to be made.

This point stems from my limited experience of working with creative planners and that many of them (especially in the digital sphere) are chasing what appears to be the ‘Holy Grail’ of ideas that will see their client's brand interact and engage with the audience in a totally un-heard of way. Whilst it is great that planners are studying trends and aspiring to achieve this goal, would it not be worth looking at what we currently have and seeing how we can harness what's already becoming the status quo, so that we can engage with users in an environment that they are currently familiar with and feel safe within?

I’m an advocate of Mark Lewis’s theory of ‘Liquid Communication’ - http://www.planning-outside-in.blogspot.com/ (Monday July 30th), where the point is made that in order to engage with ‘generation Y’ we need to engage them in a way that flows around their fast moving, ever changing lives. He talks about pushing interaction over information, which has become a clear trend in how advertising on the whole is changing. He also makes the point that although interaction and integration must be key aspects to any campaign that a planner puts together; unfortunately the brands who finance these plans are not always of the same opinion.

At the end of the day, it must be the brands who need educating/convincing in order for these new ideas to take hold and develop. The work I am involved in is very direct response focussed and trying to get the client to understand the benefits of developing an application on a social network that perfectly targets their desired audience, is not easy. This is not to say that it is impossible and I believe that if planners took a more dynamic approach to the tools and applications that are abundant in the digital sphere and being used by an increasing amount of the online community, clients would be far more susceptible to listening to these ideas.

Without leaving myself too exposed, I feel there are still benefits to social networking despite it fast becoming the norm. The fact it is now mainstream means that many planners are seeing it as old news and have moved on to seeing what potential other emerging media can offer them. As mentioned previously, although this is vital to the development of digital advertising, social networking is by no means exhausted. I am not going to divulge too much into the pros/cons of social networking (these points have been made in my earlier post) and whilst there are still concerns with this wholly un-policed arena (a day rarely goes by when it doesn’t make the press in some form of another) that is not to say we can’t still use this medium and harness it’s fantastic targeting capabilities.

In my opinion social networking emanates many of the important elements of the digital arena, and with sites such as Facebook opening itself up to user created applications/widgets, social networking is embracing all the core elements of Web 2.0 as well. I see Facebook’s organic growth develop in such a way that (as long as it doesn't get shut down!!) it will soon become a one stop shop for all of one's social media needs. This will be achieved by the continued collaboration with established web properties such as Trip Advisor and Flikr.

It is only a matter of time before someone develops a tool that cultivates all the consumer information, that users gladly offer up in exchange for an enhanced online experience, and provides advertisers and ultimately brands highly specific groups with which to target their desired demographic. Once this level of targeting is achieved, the brand wont require a ‘Holy Grail’ of creative ideas but instead can employ more traditional methods, as engagement will come about through precise targeting.

I believe it is possible for brands to both educate and engage, but perhaps using a social network to experiment with this is perceived as a risky strategy. On the flipside however, if the creativity can strike the right balance between engagement and passiveness then communicating with users where they feel safe and secure, (even if this area has become mainstream) such as a social network, could be the best place for promoting a suitable brand and it’s product.

1 comment:

erin said...

Hey Ash. For starters, LOVE the name of your blog.

I enjoy your take on the digital sphere. Do you consider yourself a creative planner? It seems you place the most responsibility with them as far as seeing how all of the online elements can come together.

I like what you said about the benefits of social networking. You see potential for an online space that offers exciting user interaction in exchange for user information (information v. interaction argument in action). And I agree that social networking has taken fantastic advantage of the user-friendly Web. 2.0 elements in a combined space.

I yearn for the day that a social network will harness all of the functional, aggregate resources I find and utilize online. BUT the day this happens, I will not be surfing the net as much because using many sites means finding more sites to get myself to and when if I only use one, even though convenience is great, I will not be having as much fun and the web might seem stale in a sense.

Ok. I'm done. Nice post, you put a lot in there to respond to. And for clarification, you're a planner for direct response advertising? I didn't know they had planners in this area. Cool!

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