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Op-Ed: Dear Chevy, Find New Ideas

We’re glad to welcome yet another monthly contributor to the fold in the form of Chuck Hipsher, currently a Houston-based freelance creative director who’s worked at the likes of Campbell Ewald, TBWA and what was FCB back in the day. If you wanted a story from the trenches, here you go. We should note that these opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of AgencySpy’s, but feel free to love or hate in the comments thread. By the way, you can read Chuck’s blog here.

I was fortunate enough to have worked on the Chevy Silverado brand from 2005 –2008 at then-Campbell Ewald in Warren, Michigan. I was the Creative Director who led the charge on the “Our Country. Our Truck” campaign.

John Mellencamp’s song, “Our Country” played a decisive role in that campaign’s birth because, frankly, then-CCO Bill Ludwig slid the studio demo cd across the table to me one day during creative development and said, “See what you can do with this, Chuck.”

Coming from the guy who was instrumental in the famous “Like A Rock” and “Heartbeat Of America” campaigns for Chevy, I was nothing – if not obligated, to listen and try.

Early on, we had terrific research and planning information at our disposal on what the Silverado brand meant to the people who cared. It was work extensively mined by one Ted Klauber (the greatest planner in America, btw) and his team months in advance of the creative start.

Ted and team had travelled to a half dozen or so locales throughout the country and interviewed countless truck owners of all brands, not just Chevy. They came back to Detroit and crunched their info and finally decided this: “Chevy truck drivers are everyday heroes. And the Chevy Silverado is their Big Metal Dog.”

That insight immediately sparked the minds of myself and the creatives working with me. We had an early war room with ideas on the wall that rivaled anything I’ve ever seen produced by ANY agency on ANY automotive brand. EVER.

But then there was that Mellencamp thing.

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Op-Ed: They’re Called Editors, Not Content Strategists

It’s no so often we get rebuttal op-eds, but Brian Clark, CEO of GMD Studios, was so inclined to offer his perspective after reading last month’s submission from Extractable VP/user experience Dana Larson, who went into detail explaining what exactly entails being a content strategist. Well, now it’s time to pass the mic to Clark, the former publisher of IndieWire and a founding partner of the content production start-up, Mastheading, who has been “helping brands” like Microsoft, Ford , IFC and News Corp. …”leverage content solutions for more than fifteen years.”

If you believe guest perspectives from some experienced folks in the advertising and marketing press, content strategists are your go-to experts for such diverse skills as content audits, SEO reviews, accessibility guidelines, template design, “voice and tone development,” taxonomy and… oh yeah, content development.

Even when these experts promote the mantra of “think more like a publisher than a marketer,” they end up revealing more about how they think publishing works than the way it actually does. Content Marketing is an old, multi-billion dollar-a-year industry now becoming populated with bloggers and Web developers who think it is a new paradigm-shaking career change to position themselves as “content strategists.”

Guess what title doesn’t exist at real publications? Content Strategist. In publishing, we call those “editors” and they come in a huge variety of flavors, from overall editorial visions (Editor-in-Chief) to production management (Managing Editor) to technical implementation (Assistant Editors). Most content strategists from agencies would be labeled “consulting editor” or “contributing editor” by publishers, since they are advising the client and not actually crafting the result.

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Let’s Talk Ad Math, Vol. 1

This column has been pinballing around my head for the past few months. I’m curious about hashtags. I’m under the impression that although everyone knows what a hashtag looks like, not many people pay attention to Twitter statistics beyond Follower counts. And now that every commercial – online or televised – comes with a hashtag, many of which seem perfunctory, I want to make an inexact science a bit more exact by evaluating basic Internet data and applying it to our coverage for the previous week.

Twitter clearly has value. Celebrities of varying degrees get paid silly amounts of money for sponsored tweets (sidebar: did you know that Melissa Joan Hart makes $9,100 for some of her tweets? That’s more obnoxious than silly). With money and brand equity to be had in the Twitter economy, every company can now slap a hashtag onto a visual ad and pretend to know what it’s doing. Remember when Newsweek ran with #MuslimRage? Or McDonald’s unintentionally eviscerating itself with #McDStories? Twitter can be tricky for the lazy and oblivious.

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Op-Ed: My Generation – Stop Describing Us and Start Listening to US

We always welcome new writer to the fold and now we bring in the first in a series of of posts Maude Standish,
co-founder of Tarot, a Millennial trend and insight company, who will look at Millennial trends and their implications for brands. Now, on with the show.

We get it.  You don’t like us. And by us, I mean the roughly 82 million Millennials living in the US.  You think we are all living in our parents’ basement, eating organic food we bought with food stamps, posting selfies, and counting down the day not by what we did, but how many “Likes” the internet bestowed on us.

You think we are idiots. No matter that we are on our way to being the most educated generation in the history of America, you think we aren’t going to understand you unless you talk to us in internet speak. OMG. LOL. ?WTF?

You think it’s our fault that we aren’t listening to you. That we are too ADHD to pay attention to what’s important. (And OBVI what you are saying is TOTES more important than anything else we could possibly be doing. I’ll put this iPhone down now and watch your ad.) But guess what?   It’s not our fault that we’re not listening to you–it’s yours.

Yeah, yours. Because you Boomers and Gen Xers are all so busy describing us that you have forgotten to listen to us. Even if we are all those things that you think we are, that’s not how we see ourselves. And until you see us as we see ourselves you are not going to connect with us.

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Op-Ed: What is Content Strategy, Really?

Alas, our usual Extractable contributor Simon Mathews is sitting this month out, but we gladly welcome this rather epic debut from Dana Larson, VP/user experience at the aforementioned San Francisco agency. Larson has spent 20+ years in the biz, holding a wide range of positions including copywriter, CMO, content strategy director and ECD. Seeing as she has some experience in the content strategy field as noted, Larson offers a comprehensive look into what this job exactly entails. Read on.

Recently I was reading a discussion on LinkedIn Groups about whether or not it was a promotion to go from copywriter to content strategist. I asked one of my old colleagues what he thought, and his response was, “I don’t know…what is content strategy, really?” Actually, that’s a good question as I think a lot of people don’t really know what content strategy is. Erin Kissane explains this phenomena in her book, The Elements of Content Strategy, by saying, “In an industry in which the efforts of visual designers, information architects, front-end developers, and content creators can be seen center-stage when a new website launches, content strategy is a fundamentally backstage discipline.” And because content strategists typically work with all of these more visible roles, it can make their role seem even less clear-cut.

I’ll get to just what a content strategist does in a bit, but first let’s set the stage by taking a look at a website that was clearly designed without the aid of a content strategist. I’m kind of at a loss for words at how a renowned organization like Massachusetts Institute of Technology could produce something like the Center for Advanced Visual Studies website. Its haphazard placement of text islands obscured by clouds of floating type combined with random web 2.0 animations is a recipe for digital indigestion. Wow. Go there. Now. Resize the window. Experience the wonder. It’s the site that keeps on giving.

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Op-Ed: Rethinking Advertising as Digital Relevance

Virginia Alber-Glanstaetten, group director of planning at Huge, has returned with her monthly column for this here site, this time discussing why “digital is the perfect agent to demonstrate relevance to your customers.” With nods to everything from the Gecko to Netflix in tow, we’ll let her take it away from here.

Last week, Geico muscled past Mayhem to take the #2 spot in the highly competitive insurance marketplace. This maneuver was executed with the help of a boat-load of ad dollars, ensuring all of America now knows how happy people are when they save hundreds of dollars by switching to Geico: happier than a camel on humpday, happier than Dracula at a blood drive, and definitely happier than Paul Revere with a cell phone.

The nature of free markets is inherently challenging—and companies are always fighting to stay front and center with their audiences. For most companies, gunning for brand preference is a tough task; it stresses margins, profitability, and generally you’re fighting neck and neck with little to differentiate you from your closest competition. And—let’s face it—while we all dream of it, it’s rare to have Warren Buffet’s substantial backing as you aim for the top of the ladder. In a race to be the preferred insurance brand, Geico has taken on a tough and expensive task of implementing clever, traditional advertising that’s simultaneously memorable for its humor while highlighting value. With their deep pockets, Geico is in an enviable position in terms of budget (and now preferred standing).

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Op-Ed: Let’s Talk Inappropriate Brainstorming

We welcome back monthly contributor Simon Mathews, currently chief strategy officer at West Coast shop, Extractable, who’s also worked on the strategy side at the likes of Isobar and Molecular during his career. So what does the title of his latest opus mean? Well, let Matthews explain and discuss where the bounds of brand permission lie.

I’ve been on the road this week visiting a couple of clients and working with them on their digital planning for the next year, and in some cases beyond.

Over a meal in New York the conversation topic turned to what the assembled diners thought of the NSA story hitting the headlines that day – how allegedly our government has been capturing everyone’s emails, phone records for years. To add to the discussion, I introduced a business idea: If the NSA has all our emails and data, maybe they could launch a backup/recovery service (e.g. Your computer crashes, the NSA provides a backup of all your lost data)?  I’d call this, “SpyVault”.

My fellow diners seemed remarkably unmoved.

In the cold light of day, clearly this is a ridiculous idea. But it is an example of a deliberate thought process we can use to help push digital innovation – “Inappropriate brainstorming”.

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Op-Ed: DDB Cali’s New CCO Jason Elm ‘Goes Unplugged’ at Cannes

It’s been a few days since Cannes closed the books on its 2013 clusterfuck, but what the hell. Fresh off of taking the creative helm at DDB California, Deutsch L.A. alum Jason Elm gives us his observations from the event, in which he discusses going 24 hours without iPhone on purpose. Take it away, sir.

Every year, my iPhone becomes an increasingly critical part of my Cannes experience. A few years ago, I’d use it to reach people and take photos, but now it’s almost never in my pocket: I’m using it to Google things I find interesting, taking notes or voice memos, tweeting, using the Cannes app to capture the work and schedule my day, reviewing office emails, texting my friends over here and using six different social media apps to keep tabs on people nine time zones away in California.

It’s now a persistent input/output extension of my brain while I take in the festival and its surroundings. But, is it enhancing my experience or getting in the way of it?

This year, I found out by negotiating the hustle and bustle of the Festival without my iPhone for an entire day: from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, I wouldn’t so much as touch the phone. When I told people I’d be doing this, most of them looked at me like I was insane. But, it was actually a big eye-opener to just how constantly I use my phone (sorry, “connected mobile device.” But, I’ll simply call it a phone because, well, that’s what we say. )

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Op-Ed: Idea Before Experience – The .Com Era Repeats Itself

Virginia Alber-Glanstaetten, group director of planning at Huge, has returned with her monthly column for this here site, this time discussing among other things, the mobile web, couponing, digital performance and how a certain well-known retail chain is playing into it all. Why say any more, let her take it away.

I was recently reminiscing about the early days of .com: an era where big ideas came first and the business model came later, if at all. We can look back now at what were essentially large scale experiments in digital:, brought down by its free shipping on any order;, the founding fathers of cute overload but otherwise useless for pet owners; and WebVan, whose razor thin margins couldn’t support their vision resulting in 2000 people out of work.  We didn’t really know what we were getting into and, at the time, few people were thinking about things like the user journey, the consumer experience, or basic usability for that matter.

Fast forward to 2013 and we’ve made strides in technology but we continue to make the same mistakes. Perhaps not with the same pageantry as with Webvan or, but every day agencies produce work where good user experiences and viable business results take a back seat to a big idea, or at least something that will generate a cycle of good press. As digital has become more sophisticated and extended to multiple platforms, so have our audiences and their expectations.  The gap between great idea and another failure is getting smaller and smaller.

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Op-Ed: Data-Mining Lemons

We welcome the return of our monthly contributor Simon Mathews, currently chief strategy officer at West Coast shop, Extractable, who’ s also worked on the strategy side at the likes of Isobar and Molecular during his career. As per usual, we’re not really sure how to preface Mathews’ entry, so let’s just let him do the talking. Take it away, sir.

For the last few days, I’ve been buried deep in a stack of spreadsheets analyzing an annual website user satisfaction survey for one of our clients. The client is a large business-to-business technology firm, primarily targeting engineers, and hence the survey is rich in specific questions around product interests, content consumption and ability to achieve key tasks. This rich data is augmented by connecting reported behavior (the survey) to actual behavior via web analytics to build an all-round picture of their audiences.

When deep in data I have a tendency to sometimes become somewhat (very?) distracted. This week, a particular weakness of mine, geographic trivia, got me sidetracked.  Did you know that, for example, since the revolution / war in Libya there is now no sovereign country in the world with a national flag that is a single solid color with no other markings on it?  So, obviously I love challenges such as the “View from your window” completion on the Daily Dish, where you have to guess a location based just on a photo taken from a hotel window, or Geo Guessr, where the challenge is based off a random Google street view.

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