Monday, July 19, 2010

(empo-tymshft) (empo-utoobd) (empo-tuulwey) Social media at Interpublic Group - what's changed in four years?

In 2006, both Marshall Kirkpatrick and I were blogging, and B.L. Ochman was blogging also. She wrote a post in 2006 and re-posted it in 2010 because, in a macro sense, not much has changed. Many marketing advances, such as blogging, are made by small companies, and when the big companies try to imitate these trends, they sometimes fail.

Intermedia Group issued a statement in 2006 which Ochman quoted:

"In the age of the empowered new consumer, the establishment of this unit at Interpublic Media is a logical next step in broadening our offering and further maximizing the opportunities for our client partners in the emerging media space."

What does this mean? Ochman wasn't quite sure, but she did note:

Interpublic Group: 91 ad agencies, 43,000 employees, $6 billion in revenues annually, no agency blog listed on its website. How can they possibly lead a conversation they haven't even joined?

This got me curious - while perhaps the macro environment is similar, what about the micro environment? Specifically, what is Interpublic Group doing in 2010 in the social media arena? In a sense, it's hard to deduce this, since Interpublic Group is a parent company to a number of different organizations, but I figured I'd start at the parent level and see what I found.

My first Google search, for interpublic group blog, resulted in a number of hits to blog posts about Interpublic - blog posts from other companies.

After a number of other searches, I found a 2006 article about Interpublic Group and Facebook. That seemed promising.

As part of this partnership, the Interpublic Group of companies (McCann, FCB/Draft, Deutsch, Jack Morton, etc) will receive .05% ownership of in return for a 10 million dollar Advertising commitment. Moreover, Interpublic will receive preferential access to prime ad space on Facebook.

The writer, Eric Friedman, was breathlessly ecstatic:

This partnership is a brilliant move for Interpublic, especially given the recent success of MySpace. While News Corp. paid $500 million dollars to control advertising on MySpace, IPG secured a mutually beneficial partnership with Facebook....

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this deal is: the Interpublic agencies gain exclusive access to Facebook user data for research purposes.

OK, this is all well and good, and all of us in 2010 know how valuable Facebook user data can be to companies, but I'm still wondering - is Interpublic actually using some of these new tools (other than banner ads or whatever) to get their messages out?

I figured that it would be best if I concentrated on one component in the Interpublic Group. I picked McCann Erickson because it appeared first on one of the lists that I saw. The McCann website has a bunch of tabs on the bottom of the page, which allow you to launch a bunch of other microsites.

At this point I asked myself - what I am looking for here? Am I looking for a blog? Am I looking for a Facebook presence? I decided that I needed to reframe the question - is McCann using tools (of whatever type) to interact with its audience (or at least engage it), rather than doing the traditional blasting messages to a passive audience (e.g. one sitting in front of the aptly-named "boob tube")?

So with that, I went to the Momentum site. It sounded promising:

Momentum is the first and only marketing agency for the Phygital(tm) world. We create ideas and brand engagement with consumers through the seamless interplay of experiences in both the physical and the digital space. In doing so, we inspire action and loyalty.

Once you get past the ad-speak, it sounds like this was exactly what I was looking for. So now the question is - what has Momentum DONE? This led me to the Estonia story. Here's the video:

Now the one thing that caught my eye, especially in 2008, was the use of Google Earth to upload information about the country's litter spots to a national map.

From October 2007 until april 2008 we geomapped with the help of hundreds of volunteers about 10 000 tons of waste littered all over Estonia. One of our core-team members, Ahti Heinla, developed special software based on Google Earth. It allowed us to place all the illegal dumping sites on a Google map, visible to everyone on the web. Our partners Nokia, EMT and Nutiteq provided us with phones, connection and special software to make the mapping process easy and fun. Each of the illegal dumping sites was given an ID code on the map, relevant descriptive data and a photo. Such details made later a thorough logistics planning possible. The map was located online, on our webpage during all the mapping period. By april 2008 we had located more than 10 000 specific dumping places on the map.

The actual engagement of the volunteers was multi-faceted, using both traditional and newer avenues of communication:

Media was the key partner through all the process. It was never just about the garbage – it was about engaging people from all the corners of the society and change the way they see their sorroundings and their own role in creating it all. The key was that from the start we perceived and treated media as our partner and participant. Without the real support from the journalists in national and local level, we couldn‘t have brought our message to so big audience. In addition to extensive media networking from october 2007, we needed to give things extra boost at the final end. In March and April 2008 we launched broadest media campaign ever in Estonian history. We had twenty Estonian cultural leaders, artists, musicians etc giving their own personal message to the audience – about why it was important to take part in this big step, why they personally felt the necessity to participate. Campaign involved national and local TV, radio, print media channels, internet, outdoors and other alternative mediums.

Now the YouTube video that I posted above was from the account of Firstbuddy7, an Estonian. No idea who Firstbuddy was, but I looked for McCann Erickson YouTube channels. I found one in Portugal. Here's the most popular video:

Now some may argue that these examples are too isolated, and don't necessarily indicate that Interpublic Group as a whole has any understanding of how these tools can be used to engage customers.

But is it necessary for Michael I. Roth to personally be tweeting about his company? Let's face it, Larry Ellison is not on Twitter (this is not him) - that's why Justin Kestelyn is there. As long as the Interpublic Group has people scattered throughout its organization who are knowledgeable in these tools and can employ them in intelligent ways, that's good enough for me.

P.S. Off-topic, but I have to share this tweet from the fake Larry Ellison:

The president of a corporation is one of the most highest ranking execs. I got two of them! That's the way of the Larry, remeber that!

Unfortunately the fake Larry wasn't tweeting during the attempted purchase of the Golden State Warriors...
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