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The perfect local storm in one meeting

Last week I met some new people. Well, new to me. Turns out that what they do isn’t new at all, I was just ignorant of their work. One person’s innovation is another person’s normal.

We met in London, on semi-neutral ground, bringing different perspectives to the table, from different areas of the UK. And yet we were all representing local, through our own lens.

The catalyst for the meeting was Matt Waring from Addiply (@mattwaring, @addiplylondon), the  local online ad platform that brings both editorial control and pricing model control for local site managers across the UK.

The ‘new’ part for me was Jaqui Devereux and Donald McTernan from the Community Media Association. The CMA support around 220 local community radio stations around the UK. They sit on panels helping to shape the local media landscape, and represent broadcast at a not just local level, but more importantly, a local community level.

And representing EMO, and therefore local marketers everywhere, was me.

We went around the table, each sharing who we were, what we did, and what we thought we might get from the meeting (you know the drill). Matt kicked us off knowing, as they do, EMO’s local bent and the CMA’s and their affiliated stations growing need to replace a model based on funding, to one advertising and partnership revenues from other sources. Addiply’s individual (per site) control model may well be a solution for the CMA’s stations with a simple route to ‘monetising’ their websites, bringing as it does the opportunity to determine how, and how much advertisers will be charged. But perhaps more importantly, for a network defined by its diversity, Addiply’s platform provides editorial control over advertisers content. For in this space it is the community that defines what is right and wrong for the community to support, not a sales team for another organisation.

Jaqui followed on, and described to me a world of local empowerment, the blurred lines between small independent commercial radio and community radio, the governance that gives the network structure, but also legitimacy. The passion is tangible, and feels very much like it is powered by the trust placed in the CMA by the network of stations they represent. Interesting and important work is already going on direct with government bodies, targeted support for local communities to get the right messages about local health services and opportunity to the communities they serve. The organisation is set-up for, and very good at, empowerment, support and representation – but in addition to this they need to first craft and then magnify the commercial opportunity to help these stations survive, and thrive. Developments around the opening up of the analogue transmission network, Local TV and web transmission provide new and exciting opportunities, which all cost money.

I closed the loop. Matt and Jaqui has asked me to look a the situation from the perspective of our agency, from agencies in general and from that of the local advertiser. So I spoke about our work, our targeting and how traditional radio broadcast very regularly doesn’t meet our criteria (or our local clients’ briefs) in terms of relevance, reach/wastage, or response.  (NB: Which is not to say that Independent Local Radio is a channel to be dismissed – in the right mix it is very powerful – but rarely do we find we can hone down the audience with the detail that our consultancy results require).

This is where the CMA’s network hold the aces. But aces, from a different pack of cards. Their stations aren’t bound by the need for wide reach and multiple zero’s in their audience figures. They are focussed on their community. Their audience is what it is. Some listeners form a regular, daily audience, some cherry pick the right content, in the right language, at the right time of day. They aren’t held by an intangible demographic group, but by shared beliefs, ethnicity, interest and a shared location. This is powerful stuff for EMO – in the right situation, for the right brief it could be the perfect storm of relevant content, passionate editorial, specific and shared community perspective. But miss by an inch and it might as well be miles away from right.

And therein lies the CMA’s challenge. Commerciality in terms of standard media planning rely on reach, which their network has in pockets. The value of specific and targeted reach goes head to head with general awareness from larger audiences.

I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.


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Guerilla Creative

This hairy man – otherwise known as his Creative Directorness, Andy Purnell – stormed the offices this morning in guerrilla fashion, delivering a drive-by creative presentation.  Just to jolt us out of our mid-morning comfort zones, and into the realm of ever-better creative brief writing. We considered it a teaser, ahead of an all-agency initiative to refine and develop our creative briefing practices – something that no agency should ever rest on their laurels with.  We’re collectively looking forward to more interruptive broadcasts from Mr P.

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I want to start my EMO blogging career not by sharing some stunning creative I have seen, or more importantly these days, experienced but by sharing my thoughts on the changing shape of the ‘marketing agency’ and how that shape relates to EMO and how it will affect the creative solutions we produce.

So, what do I mean by shape?

Clients are demanding new and different ways of approaching their marketing problems from their agencies. To quote an article I read in Campaign recently, the marketing director of a major retail bank said “In my siloed world, I just want people who don’t think in silos.”

A traditional ‘agency’ is ‘shaped’ around the multi-department structure. Planning, Media, Creative, Account Management, Production etc. All beavering away in their own silos on their ‘bits’ of the brief.

Many in our industry believe that this traditional silo structure is on its way out and in its place is a more collaborative way of working.

Setting up new agency, Now, strategist Kate Waters said their aim is to “…create a more fluid agency structure, organised not in departments but in ideas teams.”

Endorsing that thinking is Andy Fowler executive creative director at Brothers & Sisters who says “We wanted to create a much more collaborative agency – much less departmentalised – still with every skill you could imagine but working together in a more collaborative way.”

Agencies are ‘knocking down’ walls between departments. Skills and disciplines still exist but this integrated approach enables an agency to create more bespoke solutions to a client’s marketing challenges.

This is something that EMO and in particular its ‘Localisation’ offering is embracing and delivering.

Here at EMO we have the talent and experience from a host of different backgrounds that are able to work together to produce solutions that meet our clients’ needs. From a website design to an experiential event, from an ad campaign to social marketing.

Another major factor of this collaboration concept is the impact of digital technology.*

Today, digital is a common denominator of almost every form of marketing communication, it has created channels though which every big idea can be transmitted.

And so the big idea becomes the central core, and then the appropriate communication channels are selected for it. As a result, according to Dare’s deputy chairman, John Owen, “agencies need to write briefs that are less directional. They need to apply a more discipline-neutral approach.”

So what is the ideal shape for the marketing agency of the future?

In my opinion it is an agency that has a broad range of production capabilities ‘in house’ (geared to the digital age) that work closely together to ensure their expertise is shared throughout a campaign’s development.

Explaining the agency of the future Owen imagines it as “three concentric circles. The ideas are in the centre, with a variety of ‘in-house’ production skills surrounding them and beyond that are external production resources that are either unavailable or uneconomical to provide directly. The production skills blend with each other and with the planning core. There are no partitions either conceptual or physical.”

While there will always be a need for an agency to deliver a retail urgent, reactive response, this is best served by an underlying bedrock of multi-disciplined, collaborative talents, where ideas are at the very core and routes to market are diverse and emergent. Creative can thrive in an agency shaped like this, as can client business. It’s a shape that EMO can look to and see that, with ever-continuing moulding, it’s not all that far away.

*As if to emphasise its importance, the investment bank JP Morgan recently launched a $500 million fund to invest in digital and social media companies on the back of investor interest in Facebook and Twitter. It’s hard to believe that Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist 6 years ago!

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Daring to Differ

As great believers in the power of experiential, we’ve long championed the cause of real-time brand interaction.  We all know that people engaging directly with brands is a sure way to big impact.  But what if we step sideways for a moment and watch someone else not just engaging but becoming the brand?

St John Ambulance are built on making a difference, and anyone who can administer first aid, is that difference.  The other day I came across this film, created for St John Ambulance by BBH.   It’s from back in November and there was some buzz around it at the time, so chances are you might have seen it.  But in the event that you haven’t… watch it here:

The first time I saw it, I had a little cry.  Not full-blown sobbing, but definite glassy eyed, dry of throat territory.  Admittedly I’m an easy easy crowd, but since then I’ve been thinking on its power.

For me – it’s because what happens is so darn unexpected.  When the woman stands up and heads towards the screen, I genuinely had no idea what would happen next.  I practically joined in with the spontaneous applause that erupts, when she reappears.  Because I knew I’d witnessed something really quite original.  And originality will always elicit an emotional response.

Answer this – how often do we have a brand experience where we not only wonder what will happen next, but have no idea where the medium will take us?  We’re used to unexpected things happening in the cinema – but they’re usually limited to the screen.  Any interaction with fellow cinema go-ers is usually of the sharing laughter, or swapping scowls at too loud m&m munching or pop slurping variety.  To watch the action unfold here, not even amongst the handful of people that were there for the event, but much later through YouTube, is to be launched into new territory.

What does this leave me thinking?  Not just that the agency that created it are jolly clever, but that no medium can ever be considered ‘done,’ something that’s worth remembering as we ever look to better engage people at a local level.  Having the wit and wisdom to inject new energy into received formats is an exciting challenge for those who choose to accept it.  And it doesn’t necessarily take big budget either.  It takes bravery.  Not quite the kind of bravery that saves lives, but the kind that makes life more interesting for all of us.

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