Live from Cannes: Who Should “Own” Social Media Marketing?
Berlin, Germany – I’m here in Berlin, addressing a group of infomercial and multichannel direct marketers at the 2012 Electronic Home Shopping Conference on whether social media is finally something they need to pay attention to in their marketing efforts. Last week, I was in Cannes as a delegate for the iconic Cannes Lions, where our viral campaign for Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video took home one of the big awards in 2009. The same question about social media emerged at Cannes—though Forbes came away from the festival posing it differently with a piece titled, “Cannes 2012: Does Social Media Make All Creative Agencies PR Agencies?”
The takeaway is that it seemed like marketers of all stripes were trying to posture themselves as owning social media this year. Half-century-old direct marketing firm Wunderman (whose 92 year old founder Lester Wunderman tweets to his 340 followers his clever impressions of “Mad Men”) now heralds itself as the leading digital agency, backed by an AdAge designation to that effect. They spoke at Cannes about hiring digital creatives. Sapient Nitro, the hybrid marketing/tech services company, addressed social currency and the role of celebrities in social media, with TV/film actor Omar Epps and his 1.4 million Twitter followers in tow.
Similarly, branding/packaging specialists Arnell Group did a presentation on “reinvigorating dusty brands in social times,” while more traditional ad/design agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky put on a session titled, “Harnessing the True Power and Potential of Social Media through Cause Swarming,” where they jointly unveiled “Smoke Alarm,” a social media alert system intended as an emergency broadcast system for urgent social causes, in which entertainer Smokey Robinson appeared to hawk his new Twitter and Facebook accounts to get this swarm going. Thus far, despite old-media coverage on CNN, the swarm has not exactly materialized, with @_smokealarm generating just 53 followers and 208 likes of Facebook.
Adding to the confusion was the Lions awards, which now have one or more “social” entry fields in virtually every category, including Direct, Film (as Viral), Promo, PR, Branded Content and Mobile (and which drew more than 32,000 entries overall – that’s more than three paid entries for every person in attendance). I’m not even sure with all those fields including Social Media awards they even bothered with the “Cyber Lions” series of awards, which seemed mainly around website and microsite efforts, but also seemed to be a curious bag of mixed categories, including some dated-sounding ones like viral marketing of MySpace profiles and email marketing and “e-cards” as a form of viral advertising.
Meanwhile, most of the real social media marketing pioneers didn’t even attend Cannes (the ones who have been doing this for a decade), who all come from a PR/community management and not an advertising/direct marketing/design background. And most of the PR panels didn’t address social media, as they still seem to be fighting for their place in the holding company hierarchies (e.g., Hill & Knowlton bringing its political PR A-team for a session called “Selling Presidents, Prime Ministers and Products. How It’s Different. Why It Matters” as a plea for the $3 billion US political ad machine to start considering shifting some of its budgets to the PR side – with a slight nod to digital as part of the equation, but not a leading title role).
Those who have heard me speak know my take on this: The heart and soul of social media marketing, including thought leadership, blogger outreach, community management, and influence building on social platforms are all part and parcel of an earned media paradigm (thought leadership is a hybrid of owned media and earned). Paid media buys can be used to seed social media campaigns, particularly on giant cluttered networks like Facebook and YouTube, but are rarely effective at leading the way toward creating true influence or building community. I’m happy to debate any of the paid advertising community on this one. And see you next year at Cannes – I enjoy your three-martini parties.
Michael Terpin began SocialRadius in 2007 as the social media marketing arm of Terpin Communications, a leading international public relations boutique. Success stories include the viral outreach for recording artist Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video during the Obama campaign (which won an Emmy, Webby and Clio Gold Lion), “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” on NBC, which opened at #1 in its timeslot, and the controversial “Scarface School Play” for Rockhard Films/Sharethrough, as well as social media event marketing for Live8, LiveEarth, the Green Inaugural Ball and the David Lynch Foundation. The company has been a pioneer in generating direct-to-consumer revenue within social media campaigns for clients ranging from Philips to Affinia Hotels. Terpin also co-founded Marketwire, one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive international press release newswires.
Published: June 26, 2012 By: