The answer is digital. What’s the question?

27 Jan

It’s exasperating.

I’ve been doing some work with a charity client and have been given a brief to ‘do something digital’ this year. This is because last year’s digital foray is being hailed as ‘a great success’. This success translates to 139000 page views of the charity’s website and 1000 uses of the campaign hashtag on Twitter.

At the same time, we have been asked to re-run a lacklustre poster campaign that was created last year as an 11th hour compromise after all the good ideas had been rejected.

I’m sure this is typical of many briefs being thrown at agencies by clients who see digital as a cost-effective way out of a problem. After all, why pay for media when you can get people looking at your wares for free? The trouble is, 139000 people? Out of a nation of 60million, that seems, well, a little small.

But what about these 1000 tweets? The snake oil pedlars have fiddled the figures here. Talk is of a ‘3.5million reach’. Which means that if you add together the number of people who follow these 1000 people, you get to 3.5million. Which means? Well, even if you believe that this number is accurate, a tweet will have appeared on the screen of 3.5million laptops, tablets and smartphones. One tweet. Quickly followed by another from, say, Alan Carr, and one from Joey Barton. And one from Ricky Gervais, and the Guardian, and the Onion, and…


In other words, if our 3.5million people haven’t momentarily downed tools to check their Twitter accounts, the tweets will have disappeared into the ether (or is that e-ther?)  I’m pretty sure most of our client team don’t tweet and so cannot see the way these stats have been pimped. In agencies, we are bombarded by stats from digital gurus telling us how amazing the digital medium is, yet most of the time, we ignore online advertising messages ourselves and happily take money form our clients and watch it disappear into a black hole.*

The best digital stuff depends on something being made in the real world – a TV ad, for example – that creates an online vapour trail. This piece of work needs to be brilliant enough for people to want to share it.

Another great way of getting a message across is a stunt or an event which is filmed and put on YouTube or Vimeo, but these cost money, and our client doesn’t have huge amounts of that.

The answer is simple. A ballsy, attention grabbing poster campaign. A brilliantly produced TV ad that cuts through the online clutter. A stunt that captures the imagination of the nation. Put another way, the less money you come to the table with, the bolder you need to be. In my experience, if an idea is strong enough and the client famous enough, people will fall over themselves to reduce their day rates.

But one thing’s for sure, simply running last year’s half baked posters and hoping for a digital miracle is a one way ticket to oblivion.

*My agency’s website states in no uncertain terms our dim view of digital. We only work in media which we believe in.

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