Media Agency of the Year 2009

Shops Seek Control in Social-Media Space

Scale Is Agencies' Best Weapon in the Hotly Contested Battleground

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NEW YORK ( -- When Pepsi wanted to do a big push into the social-media space, it hired public-relations firm Edelman. When FedEx developed its Launch a Package app, the first branded application to reach Facebook's most-active page, it worked with its digital creative shop, BBDO Atmosphere. When Palm launched a social-media-centric holiday campaign to promote the low price of its Centro handset, it tapped full-service boutique Creature. When JetBlue wanted to drum up excitement for its "Jetting" campaign, it called on MediaCom to produce a 36-hour New York-to-Vegas junket for 150 tastemakers, influencers and consumer sweepstakes winners on a Wi-Fi-enabled plane.

WHAT IT WAS A 36-hour New York-to-Las Vegas junket for 150 bloggers, influencers and customer sweepstakes winners. The goal: to get the word out on JetBlue's "Jetting" campaign.
MEDIA ASPECT MediaCom handled the whole campaign but tapped urban newsletter Thrillist to generate pre-event publicity; the only other costs to the client came from running the event itself.
THE RESULT More than 52 million public-relations impressions in 30 press outlets.
So who owns social media? Agencies of all stripes want to lay claim, and no one wants to cede control. Public-relations shops understand earned media and how peer-to-peer influence works, while creative agencies know how to come up with catchy ideas. So what do media agencies bring to the game? It's particularly pressing for these agencies, whose business is, after all, figuring out where consumers are and how to distribute content to those places. The best answer, unsurprisingly for agencies used to achieving efficiencies through vast buying clout, might come in scaling social campaigns -- specifically getting enough consumers to pay attention to a social campaign so that it makes a dent in the marketer's business.

In some ways, media agencies are a natural for social media. As people increasingly spend their "media time" on social sites -- in some cases at the expense of traditional channels -- agencies need to figure out if they can put marketers' messages in those places. According to Frank Magid Associates, more than 22% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they are watching less TV since they started using social-networking sites.

The social challenge
Yet, thus far, media agencies haven't shown they can own social media. Most media agency-driven social-media campaigns look a lot more like traditional media with a social twist than they do created-from-scratch communities such as Dell IdeaStorm or social-utility staple Nike Plus. And they tend to be defined in campaign terms rather than the kinds of inside-out transformations of culture and organization that companies such as Zappos have pulled off.

While some social-media pundits will discount media agencies for that reason, there are practical considerations for these agencies' approach to social media.

Tom Cunniff, VP-director of interactive at Combe, maker of mouthwashes and men's hair products, said he thinks about social media along a continuum. On one end of the spectrum, 99% of the activity is about conversations, and 1% is about paid media; on the other end, it's the reverse. And the latter is where media shops can really play. One-on-one conversations are not scalable for a package-goods marketer that has to move product through the aisles of Walmart. The solution to that looks a lot more like media, except that it happens in a conversational environment and with some social elements mixed in.

"Dozens of conversations won't necessarily move the needle," Mr. Cunniff said. "Even hundreds or thousands won't. We need to be in the millions, and at that point, one-on-one conversations fall apart."

AGENCIES Dailey & Associates, creative; Initiative, media
WHAT IT WAS Through Tax Day, TurboTax is tossing out tax- and spending-related questions and asking users to post their answers as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter status updates to be eligible to win prizes.
MEDIA ASPECT The idea was born at the creative shop. Initiative was tapped to find the best places to generate awareness.
THE RESULT Midway through the campaign, it had about 3,900 Facebook fans, 2,500 MySpace friends and 670 Twitter followers.
That scale challenge is one of the biggest conundrums digital shops will have to face in social media. In December VivaKi, the Publicis division charged with creating tools and dashboards that agencies across the company can use to buy media and analyze its performance, added a social-media toolkit to its search and display-buying tools. Its first order of business: Make it easier to get campaigns up and running.

REAL strategy
Vivaki created a sort of approved list of vendors in the space, with the intent of reducing the time spent researching potential vendors or wading through various terms and conditions -- the sort of legal stuff that can hinder the process. It dubbed the toolkit REAL, an acronym for reach, engage, amplify and listen. The reach part involves straight media buying on social-media sites; engage and amplify include creating branded experiences and applications that live on social sites and ads that incorporate some sort of friend-related message; and the listening part includes conversation-mining tools.

Reach is "probably one of the areas that will be easiest for media agencies to start," said Cam Balzer, senior VP-social for VivaKi. He described media buying in the social-media space as "Advertising 1.0 made better with Web 2.0 data." Some media sellers and vendors are trying to figure out patterns of influence and use those to help target ads; others are adding friend data to ad creative to get users to engage with it.

Buddy Media is on VivaKi's approved list of vendors. CEO Mike Lazerow said about a quarter of its business comes through media shops, another quarter from creative agencies and the remainder from clients themselves, who often tell him current agencies are relatively inexperienced in the social-media space.

"It's hard to buy applications in a spreadsheet model," he said. "When you're buying impressions, where do you put the app?"

Intuit, which has used social media to promote its TurboTax product in past tax seasons, this year launched a campaign called Super Status, aimed at getting users to update their social-network statuses with tax-related comments, luring them with sweepstakes and prizes.

No assurances
On Election Day, for example, it asked people to pick the craziest thing they'd make tax deductible if they were president and post it as a social-network status update. While Intuit iterated on the initial idea presented by its creative agency, Dailey and Associates, it tasked its media shop, Initiative, with figuring out how to get the word out about the campaign. It did a deal with MySpace and another with NBC for a sweepstakes prize and airtime to promote the campaign.

"We still need to have our media-buying power and smarts to ignite social," said Seth Greenberg, director of marketing for Intuit. He said there's no assurance that social media will work when you launch a campaign, but you give it your best shot, and that includes putting media support behind it.

CLIENT Hallmark
AGENCIES Leo Burnett on creative; Starcom on media
WHAT IT WAS Hallmark and Product Red created "badges" users could add to their social- network profiles, showing their support for fighting AIDS.
MEDIA ASPECT Starcom's social-media lead, Art Sindlinger, was brought in to help figure out how to best distribute the idea. The campaign called on MySpace, Gather and Facebook's Card for Africa application as partners.
THE RESULT More than 165,000 people participated and 35% said they viewed Hallmark stores as "more relevant" after the campaign.
"So far, in my experience, I haven't seen an agency that gets it all," he said. "And I think, in my experience with social, we've got to use the best of both worlds, creative and media."

That kind of collaboration is how Hallmark and Product Red launched a campaign in 2008 that had social-network users pinning branded badges to their profile pages. The idea was to make the Hallmark brand more relevant with younger, networked consumers. Starcom shares the Hallmark account with fellow Publicis agency Leo Burnett, and Art Sindlinger was brought in to devise a list of distribution partners, which ended up including MySpace, Facebook and Gather. The campaign was also promoted on the home pages of The New York Times, CNN and USA Today.

"It was: 'Here's the concept. Where does it make sense for us to take this idea?'" Mr. Sindlinger said. In the end 165,000 badges were displayed.

A different way to scale
Of course, in some cases, progress is hindered by existing compensation models or dated push-message philosophies. Can these shops, raised in a world where not every transaction is bought and sold, thrive in a world where the ability to scale depends on not just how much money you throw against a campaign but how consumers receive it?

Craig Daitch, senior VP at promotions firm Measure2X, has logged time at PHD and Digitas working as a sort of social-media evangelist, and laments the problem. "You can't append a CPM to it, and you have a hard time putting a profit and loss to it. So the question is: Who pays for it, how do we quantify ROI and how do I convince clients this is a worthy endeavor?"

He said digital shops need to embed a social-media way of thinking with their planning groups. He pointed to one, albeit old, example to illustrate the difference that can make. When Mentos saw the videos of two guys in lab coats dropping its mints into two-liter bottles of Diet Coke and making them erupt in a fizz-filled geyser, it bought ads on YouTube. Coke's initial reaction: That's not what you're supposed to do with Diet Coke.

"You shouldn't see it -- it's all about conversation," Mr. Daitch said. "When something pops and people are talking about it, you look for brand involvement."

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