Why Hold Back?

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"It has taken more than a hundred scientists two years to find out how to make the product in question; I have been given thirty days to create its personality and plan its launching. If I do my job well, I shall contribute as much as the hundred scientists to the success of this product."

That notable collection of words, along with many others, were written by David Ogilvy, and appear in Confessions of an Advertising Man, published 1963.

Two things stand out from that famous quote. 1. They had an entire thirty days to conceive campaigns back then? 2. A hundred scientists had an entire two years to make a product back then?

A good half-century after our industry's creative revolution, legends like Sir David might be surprised to know that today's agencies take as much pride in creating products as promoting them.

In fact, in the digital age, it's about to become par for the course. Today's advertising isn't simply about advertising, but about the systematic building of services, tools and sister products intended to do far more than just drive adoption of a brand's existing product.

Imaginative use of technology is, of course, fueling our industry's creative evolution. Take the iFood Assistant, developed for Kraft by interactive agency Genex. It's an iPhone app packed with 7,000+ Kraft-powered recipes, a shopping list tool, a store locator (and for certain grocery items and chains, even an aisle locator) and social tools that allow both user rating and feedback functionality.

And while the experience works the same way creative advertising always has — it inspires trial, repeat usage and advocacy of its products — it's actually a new Kraft product itself, costing the customer the exact same amount as a 7.25 ounce box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner. And despite its 99¢ price tag, as I write this, iFood Assistant can be found sitting pretty at #17 in the store's list of top paid Lifestyle apps. For Kraft, it's not a new ad-like object. It's a new line of business.

Or consider that mash-up of sporting goods, social media and virtual gaming called adidas Originals Augmented Reality Game Pack, created by a mash-up of brand agency Sid Lee, software developer metaio and online game guru Xform.

Forget a new line of business that delivers a 99¢ price point. This is nothing less than a novel line of shoes whose most premium pair tops out just shy of $99. Blessed with an AR code on its tongue, each of the five Originals sneakers launches a series of 3D games filled with social cues, reward systems and virtual street cred when held up to a webcam. It's a pair of sneakers. It's a handheld controller. It's an eCRM delivery vehicle. And it wouldn't exist without marketing and manufacturing coming together to put commerce into the commercial break.

Of course, those are just a couple of the digital world's most recent examples. Stumble upon almost any advertising or tech-centric blog any day over the past year or so and you'd be certain to find a description of one or two new platforms, programs or products that fit the bill (and maybe even charged a few).

And the irony of it all is that this level of impact and influence on clients' brands, that agencies ranging from Genex to R/GA to my own Atmosphere Proximity are having today, was supposedly as long gone as the creative heyday of Ogilvy, Bernbach, Burnett and the rest of those great revolutionaries.

After all, isn't it all but accepted along Madison Ave that the purity of the client-agency partnership died, if not with that golden age, then depressingly, deliberately, definitively over the last 10 or 15 years? How many times have you heard a veteran account or creative director lament the fact that insert-agency-name-here has gone from a true, trusted marketing partner to a mere vendor?

In the digital side of the business, I'd venture to say being seen as a vendor has never seemed like a disadvantage. After all, trusted vendor and trusted partner aren't mutually exclusive titles. And while there are certainly a fair share of Digital AOR relationships, the common practice is for a marketer to work with a variety of interactive firms — a custom that should only become more pervasive as the digital space itself becomes more evolved, more all-encompassing, more specialized.

So go ahead and impact the product, not just its promotional materials. Launch that breakthrough service as a well as that breakthrough campaign. Better yet, gather a group of digital natives — today's version of those one hundred scientists — and declare your intention to hold sway over everything from the factory floor to Global Marketing's floor.

After all, as David Ogilvy also said, "You make the best products you can, and you grow as fast as you deserve to."

Stewart Krull is a senior creative director at Atmosphere Proximity.
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