I happened to see this bizarre TVC last night. It had a son (type of person) clinging on to his dad (type of person), wherever the dad went. Even loo. It ended with something to do with Lenovo PCs being the ones that dads approve, for their son. Totally weird, but that’s not the point of this post…it’s an ad and opinions on ads are very personal.

The point was the URL plastered in the last shot of the ad, prominently.

It was http://whatsyourideaoffun.com/

I saw the microsite. Decent – good enough idea. It had links to a Twitter profile and a Facebook page to boot. Standard, workable campaign – no issues at all.

Where I do have an issue is beyond any single brand, including Lenovo, the one behind this campaign.

To explain that, let me start with how campaigns were run, in pre-social media days.

The same ad agency came up with campaign ideas. They had their creative team work on the ideas and expression, in terms of images and content. Their media buying outfit selects the best set of media that would help propagate the campaign. Pre-social media days, you had print ads, billboards, TVCs, radio spots and perhaps direct mailers too, in the mix.

Now, let us say, you had a campaign ‘ABC’. ABC is promoted using all the 5 modes listed in the earlier paragraph. Perfectly fine. But, when ABC campaign dies its natural death, the agency and the brand plan another campaign, for another purpose. Let us call it, ‘XYZ’. XYZ too is promoted using the same modes, during another period in time. Again, perfectly normal.

Now, think about this – the people who were exposed to ABC, via a print ad or a billboard…does either the brand or the agency own them, in some way? I mean, could they ensure that they (or at least, some of them) are exposed to XYZ too? Not possible, right? Because, the brand and agency do not own that billboard, or that print ad spot. It has to be refreshed each time a campaign is planned, based on specific demographics.

Social media allows brands to own and be their own media outlet. So, a Facebook page and Twitter profile can be used for perpetuity (as long as Facebook and Twitter stay online, that is). The advantage here is that the people who saw your earlier campaign via Facebook updates and tweets, can see your new campaign too. So, you do not start with zero as your audience, but a sizeable enough number based on how intelligent/interesting your last campaign was and how well it was promoted.

It helps that the promotional budget of one campaign goes on helping subsequent campaigns too, by giving you some kind of captive audience who have showed their interest by way of ‘like’ or ‘follow’…it does not mean an intent of purchase, but it sure means, ‘I may be interested’. That ‘may be’ is converted into a purchase intent over a longer period of time, with consistently appropriate communication.

In case of Lenovo (to illustrate the above point – this is beyond Lenovo…across many brands!), if you do a Twitter search for the brand name, there are at least 12+ country-specific Twitter pages and a lot more individual profiles for a host of other purposes like offers and careers. I suppose all of them have built some amount of traction over a period of time and effort. Why not use a combination of those existing pages to support this new campaign, instead of creating another one, from scratch, which has 50+ followers in about 45 days? Why reinvent the wheel all over again?

In other words, why ask people to ‘follow’ yet another Twitter profile…one that is so obviously time-bound and seems temporary, for the purpose of a single campaign? This is not a billboard that will be taken down after 90 days – it can stay on, if only the brand is willing to run it, towards a purpose. For that, it may be better to use existing online properties, to offer that image of continuity. A microsite branded after the name of the new campaign seems like a good enough destination…it could simply link out to existing social media properties in each country for amplifying the communication.

Take the Facebook page. I see that this is an Intel-Lenovo campaign, from the name. There are tons of Lenovo-owned pages on Facebook – one for each country and many more for assorted purposes. Why all these owned properties? Agreed, they have been created already, but why not use their existing reach to promote a new campaign, instead of starting from scratch with a new page?

The problem, as I see, not just at Lenovo, but with most brands, is that there is a split between communications and marketing, internally. The PR team speaks to the PR agency, which offers social media/digital ideas…around owned, paid and earned media. The marketing team speaks to their advertising agency, which offers tons of ideas on how to use online paid media, with a dash of owned media thrown in.

Perfectly valid.

But where brands goof up BIG TIME is in not being the owner of their own brands – they let a PR agency and an advertising agency create so many properties online for every little campaign and every little idea. Result? Tons of properties online, all over the place and each campaign starts from scratch, wasting budgets, every time.

All it requires is one sane voice from the client side which tries to integrate the efforts across divisions, internally, and reign upon multiple agencies to work towards the benefit of the brand and not towards the benefit of each individual campaign. It is unlikely that a PR agency or an advertising agency, however influential they are, will have the voice or might to make this happen, on behalf of a client. It is the client who needs to realize how his brand’s wild seeds are being sown all over the net, only to see bastard kids being orphaned everywhere, after the initial paternal love!

On a related note, here’s a tweet from Arun Sudhaman, Managing Editor of Holmes Report,
I’m looking for examples of PR agencies leading a client’s digital strategy across earned, owned, paid…DM me pls.

Chances are that a PR agency may be doing all this (like we do), but there is also an advertising agency involved with the same client, doing more digital stuff – mostly paid – that doesn’t quite fit within what the PR agency had strategized, but working with marketing team’s specific priorities.

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