Monday, 15 October 2012

Writing to a deadline

After winning the Nextness competition a few months ago, I'd been a bit nervous about collecting my prize. Obviously it was going to be fun jet-setting around Indonesia, but this was a 'trend-hunting trip', and part of the deal was writing three articles for the STW blog based around the trip. It's one thing writing drivel for your own blog; quite another trying to hit someone else's editorial quality standards and expectations against a deadline. Still, I'm moderately satisfied with what I came up - you can read all three posts here.

Jakarta was pretty mental - experiencing rapid growth and development, with infrastructure struggling to keep up. And as you might expect, Bali was more relaxed - although busier than I expected. I've uploaded a few photos to Flickr; Jakarta album / Bali album.

In the meantime, I've hardly had enough time to devote to my own blog, and it's withered on the vine a little bit. Sorry 'bout that. I blame agency life - it's been a mental year so far, and although it's going really well I haven't had much time to pontificate. Hopefully as DT Sydney enters it's 'Second Act' I'll have a bit more time for this kind of stuff...

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Monday, 23 July 2012

DT Sydney

My blog hasn't been receiving much love of late, and I'll happily blame the pressures of work and play. Working for DTDigital has been just as challenging and fun as I'd hoped it would be. The transition from campaign-oriented agency to fully fledged digital agency is well underway, and recent hires have made a massive impact.

One interesting challenge is the promotional aspect. DTDigital is very well known down in Melbourne, where it's been leading the industry for 16 years. But when I mention the name up here in Sydney, I get a wide range of responses - many haven't even heard of it. Fortunately we've made a splash already, and it certainly helps working so closely with Ogilvy, who have introduced us to their long list of amazing clients. 

Anyway, when chances to promote the agency come along, we take them! One such opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago, where our parent company, STW, announced a writing competition on the subject of 'What's next'. I submitted an entry and, much to my surprise, made the cut for the final seven

So here's the article; Customer Experience is the new Brand. It hints at the broader changes at play within the marketing arena, and like I've said in my bare-faced link bait, the advertising / marketing industries need to change quickly. It's probably not my best writing (like I said, pressure of work), but if I win it'll give DTDigital Sydney some much appreciated publicity. Plus I get a trip to South East Asia into the bargin. You know the drill - like, link, love please! Here's a handy small URL for your copying and pasting pleasure:

Monday, 19 March 2012

Sweat the small stuff

Shortly after arriving at DTDigital, I was asked to prepare a presentation for the WPP Global Retail Forum taking place here in Sydney. Generally speaking I'm more accustomed to giving presentations to people in jeans than suits, and never before in Australia, so I was a bit nervous to say the least - but they were a lovely crowd and gave warm feedback. Phew!

Anyway, I was pretty impressed with the breadth of presentations on the day. A few takeaways:
  • Retailers need to be much more transparent with their pricing then they are at present. Customers are in your shop armed with information which is accurate, portable, real-time and free.
  • A free eBook from Google called Zero Moment of Truth came up a few times - haven't read it yet but apparently it's pretty good 
  • The JCPenney case study (3 year experiment) is worth keeping an eye on - they've completely revamped their brand and have ditched the mark-downs previously littered throughout the year. Very interesting from a marketers point of view, although early signs are mixed.
  • 75% of everything sold in America is sold at a 50% discount!
Some refreshingly useful social media stuff too, from Angela Morris at JWT - good to see this industry is finally growing up:
  • 0.5% of people who 'like' a brand have created any content around it
  • Only 6% of people want brand interaction in a social space (the rest want to be left alone, thank you)
  • Only 8% of people who interacted with a brand in a social space (so that's 8% of 6% who bothered in the first place, for those keeping score) said that the experience was 'really good'
Seems to reinforce my point of view - the primary role of brands in the social space is as a service mechanism. If someone complains, offer to help and then follow through. talk was called 'Sweat the small stuff' - a diatribe about paying attention to detail across five key areas of your online offering. I only had 20 minutes and so kept it quite light. Here are the slides. Pictures of sweaty men were added by one of our Creative Directors - if you like them, let me know and I'll make sure the credit gets to him!

Agency hack

Damian pointed me at an excellent article on the hacking culture at Facebook.

It's well worth a read, and I've been mulling over what it means in the context of an agency likes ours. Obviously we have developers, and we look for them to spend time exploring new products and tools and ways of working. But for the rest of us, I think there's an important message here as well.

We should be hacking our tools and processes as much as Facebook hacks its code.

This applies as much to our pre-existing tools and processes as the new ones coming in. Everyone in every discipline - from the most junior to the most senior - needs to think about the way we do business (whether this is at an industry, project, account or individual level) and think about how it can be improved. What do we take for granted that can be done better?

Then think about how we go about implementing the improvements. It might not call for wholesale change, maybe it's just a case of coming up with a modest pilot to see if it works. We need to develop a culture where we fail quickly, celebrate the attempt and move on. We don't want to get bogged down in detail – get it 90% right quickly and fix the rest on the way.

And while we should listen to the voice of experience, we have to realise this isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all. Just because something didn't work in the past, doesn't mean it can't work now. The reverse is also true.

Be wary of the fact that management tends to slow things down. Management's role in all this is to be available for advice and political support, rather than implementing the changes themselves - otherwise it doesn't scale. It's helpful for managers to know what's going on so they can anticipate issues - but as much as possible, the person at the coal face should implement the change. And let's all learn from our failures as well as our successes. You get kudos for trying and failing.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Promises made, promises kept

It's been fascinating learning about the Sydney agency landscape since arriving here in December. There aren't too many large digital agencies here compared with back in London, and advertising agencies tend to dominate the scene, both in terms of revenue and client contact. However, as elsewhere, advertising revenue is falling, and marketers are united in seeing digital as an important part of the solution.

There's agreement on the 'what', but mixed consensus on the 'how'.

Some advertising agencies see digital simply as another way to advertise, albeit with a few interactive features. They treat digital disciplines as subservient to the advertising process, led by creatives and planners who don't necessarily have a digital heritage. Digital may even be treated simply as a production activity, where those who truly understand digital may be isolated from the planning process altogether.

Fortunately, others recognise that this is an unsustainable approach, which misses the huge potential that customers now expect from their vendors, and that vendors, in turn, look for from their agencies. For a while now we've been living in a world where the customer calls the shots. If you don't deliver what customers expect, they'll tell everyone they know on Twitter or Facebook right there and then. Providing an exemplar service to customers is not only more complicated than it used to be, but more important as well - and that's where the focus and budgets are switching.

The role of advertising has to evolve in this changing marketing landscape. To stay effective, it requires meaningful integration between promises made and promises kept. Digital solutions fit in both camps (sometimes, as with social media, at the same time). Thinking has to be integrated across the full spectrum of communications through the line and across the board, from advertising to social media activity, from websites to interactive displays, from open data to call centres, from mobile to content strategy, and more. An integrated strategic approach has never been more important.

For some companies and agencies, this will be difficult or maybe even impossible. But for those vendors who recognise the relationship with their customer has already changed, and have the nerve to restructure and prioritise accordingly, the future is theirs to own.

Joining DTDigital

I'm pleased to announce that I've joined DTDigital as General Manager of their Sydney office!

DTDigital has become established as the premier digital agency in Melbourne, combining several of my passions including user experience design, creative services, technology and strategy. They're partnered with Badjar Ogilvy in Melbourne, and the plan is to do the same with Ogilvy & Mather in Sydney.

Looking forward to it!

Monday, 16 January 2012

2012 - The year of humility

I've been away from work for a little while (hopefully not much longer!), which is always a good way to get some perspective on things. As our industry continues to evolve and emerge, I thought I'd make a (non-Mayan) prediction on one of the main ways the digital world will change in 2012.

The web offers bountiful opportunities for companies when seen as a service medium. And it's staggering how many companies out there still don't understand this - or at least, don't reflect this in their service levels. And this is at a time when the near ubiquitous presence of social media amplifies and accelerates the pace at which customers' expectations rise, and their inclination to share experiences - good and bad, in real time - has become second nature.

Providing an excellent service over the web is both hard and expensive. Even still, I believe that 2012 will mark the inflection point where a majority of those companies who haven't got their act together finally accept that they have to improve their service levels anyway, just to remain competitive. Customers are increasingly better informed to make a commitment with those who do.

While movements such as VRM signal the direction of travel, I doubt most large companies are anything like ready enough to implement the wide scale change in organisation and culture required to serve customers in this way in 2012. This will come later, piecemeal. The improved service I'm talking about today is more within reach; a recognition that customers have more control over the fiscal relationship than ever before, the humility which comes from this recognition, and the activity which springs from this realisation. I'm expecting internal disruption within organisations, which will manifest itself as improved service levels outside.

Here's hoping, anyway!