Monday, 14 May 2012

I've been watching how Kraft Foods handed over their Mac n Cheese social media accounts to Dottie and Frankie, as part of the "celebrations" around their 75th anniversary.

Non-Americans clicky here to found out what Mac n Cheese is.

And I smell something fishy in the state of Denmark. (hmmm now *there* is a mixed metaphor) as this whole escapade poses a number of questions...

1. What kind of damage will this do to the Kraft brand? Being patronising (calling your 2 new brand advocates "gals" for instance) to a demographic group that is important to sales of this product is probably, in hindsight, not such a good thing
2. If you're going to publish content to YouTube, try not to over-polish it. The Kraft official videos have the lingering odour of being heavily scripted, and the 2 ladies don't come over that well. And definely a whole lot less spontaneous than Kraft would have liked, I'm sure. Check them out for yourself
3. The language of the tweets is all out of kilter. Clearly there is someone behind the scenes (the mac n Cheese ad agency  CP+B is all over it, and so they should be) so why claim you're handing over your social media to the 2 ladies, if actually you're not? Check out the tweets here!/kraftmacncheese and look at the language.

What are the takeaways from this? (oh, and can you see what I did there?)
1. don't make claims about your social media that you might find difficult to follow through
2. don't patronise the elderly. Ever.
3. don't allow your ad/PR/marcomms agency unfettered access to your customers. They may mean well, but don't always get the brand tone in the right space
4. things that look good in a PowerPoint presentation don't always translate to the real world.

I'll be speaking at a conference in June

I'm one of the speakers at the forthcoming Web Effectiveness Conference in Budapest talking about devising and implementing web governance.

As it's only a month away, I suppose I'd better start preparing!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Never go to bed on an argument. How to foster a happy client/agency relationship

Client/agency relationships – is your's feeling more like Marie and Frank Barone than Ross and Rachel?

For nearly 25 years now I’ve worked either in an agency, or as a client managing an agency [but you look so young, I find that hard to belive – Ed]. During that time, some of it in traditional design or advertising, something that I’ve seen far too often is the breakdown of the client/agency relationship.

Shotgun weddings aside (and if you’ve ever had to deal with a large corporate procurement department you’ll know what I mean), like a warring couple, no one intends for it to happen when they swap virtual rings, eat digital cake and embark on their honeymoon.

So what can we all do, no matter what side of the bed we sleep on, to help build and maintain a good, productive working relationship? How do we keep the romance alive, and share thelove?

Yes dear, how awful

In the agency, you don’t see all the wrangling that’s usually been put in by your client contact. The painful extraction of budgets, the protracted negotiations over the deliverables, and if you’re lucky, the teasing out of a brief – it all happens out of agency sight.

The agency bit is often the last link in a chain (more so for design and build, rather than marketing), but your client contact may be pretty beaten up already. They’ve probably had a really bad day at the office. Be nice, support them, and see what you can do to make it a success.

And clients, dumping a quick turnaround, small budget, poorly briefed bit of work on your agency late on a Friday afternoon has consequences (bitter, regretful tears can stain your project manager’s desk something awful).

You wash, I’ll dry

I know it sounds pretty basic, but as a client you’ll get the best results by briefing up work to the best rostered agency who can deliver against it. So don’t give an SEO project to your UX agency and expect a good result. When I've been client side, I’ve always maintained a roster of agencies, all with varied (and sometimes multidisciplined) but specialised skills – design & build, marketing & SEO, testing, usability, technical build, translation, content maintenance, mobile and so on – and briefed work out appropriately.

And as an agency, learn to say “no, I’m sorry, it’s not really something we have the skills in house to do at the moment”. That way, no one can say you didn’t tell them if you have a hitting-the-fan moment.

So, shall I just move the couch right back to where it was at the beginning?

Briefing late, briefing incompletely, and briefing something that you know you’re likely to change is the digital equivalent of suddenly deciding you want to rearranging the furniture in the living room.... and then to change your mind and move it all back....half an hour before your mother is due for lunch. Please, don’t do it. Ever.

And agencies, learn to say “we’ll need to see if that’s going to work first” before you roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.

No, the dress doesn’t make you look fat. Your fat makes you look fat.

Good, constructive feedback is vital to an agency. Without it, everyone is really working blind, and creative execution (either graphic, content or technical) becomes a mixture of guess work and divination. However, just saying to your creative or technical director that “you just don’t like it” or (as has happened to me in the past) “who wrote this, the MD’s dog?” really does fall somewhat short of anything constructive. De-personalising your feedback for both parties is really important - things become much less about fragile egos and more about the job in hand.

A good agency will be under your skin already, know you well, and chances are will produce a piece of work to fit the brief you gave them. After all, noone in an agency wants to spend hours on a piece of work that they know is poor quality, or which is knowingly going to be miles off target. A constructive, honest and trustful dialogue is key to critiquing work – as an agency, if you’re going to go a little off piste tell the client beforehand, prep them, let them influence your direction more closely, that way there are no surprises.

And clients, please be really boringly pedantic when you prepare a brief. If there is no creative wiggle room, them say so right up front. If there is, then work with the agency, talk them through what you think you can get away with together, and what really will end up in the recycling bin in the kitchen.

And notes stuck on the fridge door are never taken constructively. Over the phone or face to face is better from a relationship PoV than trashing something in an email.

That’s it, you’re in the spare room

When things do get tricky, or there’s an issue that needs addressing, sulking and complaining behind each other’s backs to their friends really isn’t going to fix things. [Haven't we had enough of this analogy yet? - Ed.] Get it out in the open, talk about what went wrong, and why. Again, no one, either client or agency, deliberately sets out to fail, so talk about where the failure points were, and work out how best to avoid these in future. And don’t do this in the heat of the moment, nor leave it to fester. Remember; never go to bed on an argument.