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Part III: Social Media And The Ad Biz

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The social media and advertising agency conversation continues today. For this third installment, we wanted to take a closer look at how agencies are tackling the unwieldy beast that is social media and its assoicated technology. We ran down Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, in effort to see how one agency (who already has a social media division) is handling things.

We said, “Hey, Ian? What’s the mission statement for Deep Focus when approaching social media? The definition of social media and its associated technology is always being debated, so what are you defining that as? What are you offering clients and what are you working on right now?”

His responses are after the jump. They should make a good conversation starters. The man has a view thoughts about this one.

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Ian answered all of our questions throughly. His full text is below, but we did add some headings for easier reading. Enjoy!

WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOU AND FOR DEEP FOCUS?

“We believe that Social Media is actually a medium within a medium. Social Media is not search, nor is it direct response, nor is it ‘branding’ or ‘awareness’. This is a medium where most of, if not all content is created by the people that use it. It is involvement. Passion. Influence. Passive and active recommendations. Connectivity. Collaboration. Our simplest definition of Social Media is any area of a digital experience where a majority of the content is either created or influenced by users. There is a very different set of consumer behaviors that occur when reading, writing, or responding to a blog post, or sharing thoughts, actions, and experiences via social networks. Social media is dificult-to-control participatory media, which makes it an environment that makes advertisers uncomfortable.

And you know what? Good.

Uncomfortable situations have the potential to bring out the best in us. They can keep us on our toes. They can sharpen our communication skills. They can improve our relationships by understanding what got us into those awkward relationships to begin with. Advertisers that can accept that they are in an uncomfortable relationship with their customers (and want to improve those relationships) are the ones that are most ready for a foray into Social Media.”

CHANGING THE GAME

“But they have to stop thinking about Social Media efforts as ‘campaigns’. And that goes for not only Social Media properties but creative and media agencies as well.

Campaigns have a beginning and an end. Relationships can go on forever if you respect and cultivate them. We train our clients to look at Social Media as a start of a conversation that begins by extending your hands and ears, and accepting who you really are, trusting yourself, and your brand. To succeed, marketers must have a willingness and ability to be active listeners — or at least trust us to do it for them via the appropriate channels. That means not only soliciting advice, but taking it to heart and doing something about it. It’s likely that there aren’t people at their organizations that are trained (or are even available) to do this, so we’ve got folks here that do it for them.

But it can’t be done within a vacuum. To be successful, Social Media strategies and recommendations need to have unbiased inputs from multiple perspectives. All Social Media efforts at Deep Focus keep our clients’ best interests in mind — which sometimes actually means spending less money in paid media (which might be blasphemous for a purely ‘media’ agency).”


THE DEEP FOCUS APPROACH

“As an integrated agency, we have significant experience in not only the media planning & buying aspects of social media, but the creative and community management aspects as well. Ours is an unbiased approach in advising our clients about the correct way to reach out and communicate with their audiences. We train them on accepting the role of ‘active listener’, meaning you actually have to ‘do something’ within Social Media, not just set up a social networking profile, advertise on blogs, or monitor comments. And our ‘discipline-neutrality’ that we utilize when making recommendations is what we believe (and have proven to ourselves and our clients) is just the right thing to do.

We’re not just spending a lot of time working within Social Media because it’s hot right now, we’re doing it because it is the eventual future of all media.”

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CURRENT WORK

“One recent example of how we’ve put these perspectives to work for our clients is our effort with HBO to support Flight of the Conchords. We built the framework of the community on MySpace and provided all the tools necessary for people that have never even seen the show to not only sample the product before it aired on the network, but to talk about it and share it with others. We listened to the community when they wanted t-shirts, and we gave them t-shirt iron-ons, which quickly became the most downloaded asset from the site, and ultimately, the official t-shirt of the series, now available at the HBO Shop. Managing this community and continually giving them fodder for conversation will be integral to the series’ successful return, delayed by the lingering effects of the writers’ strike. Subsequent efforts around the series will likely take advantage of more Social Media outlets (including other social networks, blogs, and communities), and should become an even more important aspect of the overall campaign. In 2008 you’ll be seeing more fruits of our labor with not only entertainment/media companies, but brands (including CPGs) as well (more on this campaign as well as Deep Focus’ thoughts on Social Media metrics are in today’s Adweek.”


WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

“In the coming months, however, you’ll be hearing about a few big Social Media-related announcements coming out of this agency, and they are going to be reflective of all the learning we’ve amassed over these past 6 years. At the risk of sounding self-important, the advertising and publishing industries need what we are going to be doing to advance. If we can educate the industry at the same time as we educate our clients, the rising tide will, in fact, lift all the ships around us. And a better understanding of how to use Social Media will result in longer-term commitments of brands to the medium, and to their trusted agencies to strategize and execute within it. Social media may very well be the key to improved agency business models by de-commoditizing the services that ad agencies render. Conversations, relationships, sentiment — those are not about scale, they are about brand attitudes, openness, and commitment.”

The integrated agencies that can scale brands’ relationships with consumers with depth (while keeping an eye on breadth) will be the victors. We’re trying to set the example.

It’s our quest to make Social Media marketing synonymous with, simply, ‘marketing’. But there’s a lot of work, a lot of education, and a lot of interaction yet to be done before that’s a reality.”

You can find out more about Ian and Deep Focus over at his blog. Thanks Mr. Schafer!

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