Why Advertising Agencies Struggle With Social Media

The day an advertising agency’s creatives (art directors and copywriters) truly “get” social media and how to communicate ideas through social channels, is the day said agency becomes a relevant player in the new marketing landscape. Trouble is, in my experiences, advertising creatives are often solitary, anti-social types, content to focus on their art and craft even at the expense of changing with it.

Certainly I don’t infer that all creatives are this way. Many have made the transition from “working on my book” to creating compelling communications. Many more have gravitated from nice print and outdoor pieces to providing creative direction for simpler methods of transmitting messages, like sales letters, Pay-Per-Click ad copy or even blog posts.

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But the transition of the advertising creative to be able to include compelling social activations in their traditional communications concepts has not been an easy one for many. When you think about it, the media creatives typically deal with are known and, thus, uncomplicated. We understand that a billboard is stationary, can’t be too dynamic or distracting to the audience (lest it causes accidents) and must communicate a compelling, memorable message in art and copy that takes less than 10 seconds to comprehend.

Conversely, a piece of content you would provide to your audience on Facebook can be more complex in language, include dynamic or multi-media elements, but is also rather unpredictable in that the audience can respond to it. In fact, good creative execution on Facebook compels the audience to do so.

Now the creative concept must truly live outside a prescribed box of parameters. If the content is good enough, the audience will demand more and fast. Reactions or comments on the content may open new avenues to explore in conversation with your audience.

Facebook content potentially has a never-ending life of its own. A billboard gets taken down after a while because everyone who will see it, has.

The reason creative executions of social media campaigns work, like the Old Spice response commercials, is because the creative team took their thinking outside the confines of a set of parameters. The elements of size and duration are erased, even flipped to have the creative expectation ever-present and always changing.

In years past, an advertising campaign may evolve and have a life of its own, but there are typically weeks, even months in between the first set of commercials or placements and the next iteration that continues to tell the story.

In social media the time to press for phase two is often minutes.

Since first trying to communicate the importance and dynamics of the social web to the wonderful creative teams I worked with at Doe-Anderson to the custom training and education sessions I do with advertising agencies and PR firms today, I’ve been searching for that switch to flip and illustrate what can make a traditional creative understand how to approach social media marketing successfully. I haven’t found it yet and it will likely take collaborating with a creative to really nail something relevant.

But I’m understanding more and more that the roadblock has less to do with the personality of the art director or copywriter in question and more with the space and time differences in digital and social versus traditional executions.

Your ideas? How can we facilitate understanding and advancement within the traditional agency environment to help our creatives produce compelling communications that are persuasive, but also social? What are your agency creatives doing that compels you in this space? As a creative, what differences in approach do you find helpful in producing communications that work online?

Your thoughts will help shape our understanding of the conversation and contribute to a better environment for us all. the comments, then, are yours. BY JASON FALLS