Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost in Translation: My Love of Social Media and Advertising and Why They Don't Go Home and Shag Like Rabbits.

They don't go home and screw uncontrollably like rabbits is because they want different things. Advertising wants control - social media want openness. Advertising wants logic - social media wants serendipity. Advertising wants planning - social media wants immediacy. Advertising is a top down hierarchy - and social media, aside from Zuckerberg's Facebook, is an inverted pyramid. Advertising is Mars - social media is Venus. And never the twain shall meet. Period, - or maybe we're getting to at least a comma 10 or 15 years on.

Oh the dinosaurs. Hope we can save them before they die.

And god knows, I love advertising - because I've worked in it for my entire adult life. I've done my shit detail - layouts for truly wretched writing, photocopies all night, whatever. I saw my first ad in the New York Art Directors Show Book, on page 3, right next to a Volkswagen ad - probably our greatest textbook study in the art. I've had work on the Super Bowl and then later, founded the first 100% foreign invested advertising agency in Korea. I've been awarded by plenty of shows. I get it.

And now I get social media. This blog (WWED) is the highest rated personal blog in Vietnam by Technorati. Peter Hirshberg, founder of Technorati, and I even tossed a few Red Bulls and Vodkas last year at DLD in Munich. The Wall Street Journal links WWED and so does the New York Times, The Huffington Post and New York Magazine. I guess that's good. Stop wait, reverse that. It is good.

And that brings us to my latest job - a consulting arrangement with one of the top advertising agencies in the world. Yes. And in what could only be described as a 'lost in translation' exchange from the start, with the agency, earnestly wanting to learn social media, but having a background in traditional media and me, trying to teach pigs to fly. Lesson #1: You're not a pig (remove all mirrors from room). Lesson #2: Give up. This ain't gonna happen. They say you can't teach old dogs new tricks and being a bit of an older dog myself, I'm not sure I believe in that so much, but sometimes to learn new tricks you have to unlearn some old ones.

Jason Falls illuminates another part of the challenge here:

"Part of the challenge for Agencies is the ability to "execute" in real time digital space. The social landscape requires a "person" to act and respond quickly to conversations. This requires that the person executing on digital communication be closely tied to the "persona" of the brand. There isn't time to make decisions by committee, or banter back and forth between client and agency personnel. The person/persona must understand the audience, the brand, and be trusted to act instantly.

I wish I had a fix-all answer to this - but all I have is a journey, and I suspect, that's a lesson all in itself.
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