I recently spotted a great article on Razorfish‘s blog titled: “Does SIM mean big ideas matter less?”. I thought this was interesting until I realized the underlying duality of the question was inappropriate. Dualism, or “black vs. white” is never really the way to go; its always a compromise is it not? We may maintain this duality in our minds, but a real glance at reality only shows primary hues: shades of gray.
There’s a lot of talk in the advertising industry of how big idea advertising is losing its importance. Rather everyday ideas, small and nimble ones that can activate consumers and influencers alike across the Internet seem to be getting as important.
Some basic reasoning: what is a “big” idea as it pertains to advertising? My definition of it is: “an idea that unifies the Brand’s central communication in a creative way that engages the widest possible audience”.
The assumption then is instead of a big idea an agency spends months developing, we’re instead moving to a series of small ideas that are easier to activate online over the same period of time.
But wait – wouldn’t it be just a tiny step forward to plan a campaign that had a big all encompassing idea that was layered on top of many smaller activations over the course of the campaign period? Is that blasphemy? Don’t see it? “WTF”?
OK sister; let’s get visual.
So here’s what the traditional campaign looks like:
And what’s being suggested now is we change the “Big Idea” campaign to a small idea campaign like this:
So is this what we have to choose from? My feeling is “no”; if we can plan a content campaign that houses both the big promotional idea that can sprout & support many smaller ideas, then we’ll be able to obtain the “best of both worlds situation”. But there is a big caveat; it requires us (agencies & clients) to change the way we think (oh noes! not that!).
So we know the ideal, and at this point you’re thinking to yourself “so what?”. I hear you – and I have an answer to your skepticism; because there is a way to achieve the ideal, and here’s how: “tiered content”.
The idea is to create several tiers of content for your audience; the first tier is the biggest, most expensive content that cannot be economically reproduced in short time periods (but IS formulated such that it can be naturally reproduced). This falls in line with many campaigns covered on LRB and ZeroDegrees blogs: big promotions engaging huge numbers of users over a short amount of time, usually consisting of some expensive reward (ie: Dell’s doodle campaign where winners would receive a laptop).
Obviously this tier, while the most engaging, is not sustainable due to expenses. But that doesn’t mean it has to end; it can be relaunched at a later date, say monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, whatever; with each new go taking advantage of momentum built from previous runs. However, you’re left with huge gaps in between; which will leave users feeling lost after each push.
What to do, what to do, oh dear lord what to do?
Well, this is where small ideas come into play; though not as engaging as the biggie, they keep things running along, keep visitors engaged with the central message, and essentially keep building all momentum from the first push, coalescing all efforts into a large wave of positive brand communication.
This smaller activation content can be anything; aggregated content from around the web relevant to Brand communications (much like our NY partner SMToday has done for several communities, including one built for SAP, successfully), mini games, advice columns, whatever – think “online magazine” and you’ll have a sense of mini-engagement through value-add content.
So this is what it looks like:
Managing a big idea like this requires creating a localized community first; a place online the Brand can use as a “HQ” to launch all campaigns and eventually bring and retain the traffic from those campaigns at its home base. This is hugely important, and I’ll cover this in depth some point in the future as its a critical element to the success of the campaign, like a hub is a critical part of a wheel.
The key ingredient, like all advertising campaigns, is the creative, or the content, or simply put “what you say”; this is extended into “what you converse” as the campaigns of the future will be about sustained conversations, rather than one-off shouts into the void.
I like to think of it like this: “Traditional campaigns require painters; social media campaigns require authors”. The creative element still exists, but requires a different way of communicating ideas.
The closing remarks of the Razorfish entry circle this concept:
Agencies will need to be idea engines but not of the award winning ideas type but of smaller ideas that produce strong, quick results which when stitched together tell a complete on-brand story.
But the approach is bottom up, rather than top down. Which way is better? Who can tell for now; but as we’re discovering at ZeroDegrees, the top down approach is gaining traction; by this time next year I’ll give you a solid answer.
Is there more to it than the above? Yes. Am I going to keep talking about it? No. Why? Because thats how I roll.
I realize that you’ll probably have more questions and that I’ve likely at best reduced your skepticism from 90% to maybe 89.9%. Fortunately the folks over at ZeroDegrees have some reasonably good answers. Why don’t I say “the best”? Cause in these Fast Times at Red Shang High, none of us have the perfect answer; …but that doesn’t mean we haven’t figured out a cohesively workable solution.
Related articles from around the web.
- Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report (socialmediatoday.com)
- Only 33% of Us Trust Our “Online” Friends; Barely More Than Trust in Banner Ads! (myventurepad.com)
- Razorfish ‘Fluent’ study – TV still strong, social network consolidation (thisisherd.com)
- The Brains Behind Social Influence Marketing (kylelacy.com)