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The argument for talk human

November 14, 2008

This is a post from my company’s internal blog. Since it’s behind a firewall, I thought i would share it, with a few changes.

Before I get into it, I want to highlight a few quotes:

1. “The problem advertising agencies have got at the moment is that they keep getting asked to do things advertising agencies can’t do.”

2. “I’m fed up with agencies coming in every few months to say the world is changing. I get that it’s changing… (but) other than the speech that things are changing, I haven’t seen much evidence of it in how agencies have been spending my money.”
Stephen Norman, Global Marketing Director, Fiat.

As Stephen Norman said, the world is changing. You don’t need a couple of quotes to see that.

As marketers, we look around and see the internet, cell phones, the internet on cell phones, and we realize we’re on the brink of something. We’re not sure what. Call it Web 2.0, call it Social Media, call it digital (call it ‘people with way too much time on their hands’); the name doesn’t matter.

pra terminar a semana

Image by Ana_Cotta via Flickr

But rather obviously, the internet is different. YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, Twitter,, Linkedin, etc, etc, etc, are somehow part of the change. While they have http://, they aren’t really websites. Not in the sense we knew them in 1999.

They are platforms that allow consumers to connect on levels we’re just beginning to understand.

That’s different?

For half a century, the Advertising Agency has been in the talk to business, on talk to media. The whole idea of a brief, with its ‘single most important point’, is the notion that we’re we’re saying one thing to people in a clever, engaging way.

Ads tell. Instruct. They are emotional. The best of the bunch are compelling without overtly selling. Ads still invoke imagery, emotion, humor, storytelling, intrigue, and perspective – all for the purpose of getting noticed (and selling product — though that’s rarely the overt goal of an ad).

But it used to be a lot easier to get noticed. Fragmentation has made the role of the media department a lot harder. And Web 2.0 has made people take notice and think different because people are going to platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) that don’t talk to them, but let them do all the talking.

So what’s new is that the internet is about conversations. And that’s no longer telling. You can’t repeat a single most important point and be in a conversation, even if you’re being funny.

And yet, there’s still a need for advertising that breaks through and informs.

Think about it this way: if you’ll allow me to call what’s going on “a conversation”, then it follows that no one will engage in conversation with a perfect stranger. No one will engage with a brand in the digital world they don’t already know.

At our agency, we proudly suggest that we Talk Human. That means conversations, and it means listening.

But all conversations start with someone speaking first. The conversations are then picked up in other places, molded, pushed, and prodded.

That’s the theory. As HP puts out an RFP looking for a social media agency, they appear to be going down the road of “getting your own interactive agency”. Are they banking on the notion that one can start conversations in social media with strangers? (Admittedly, that’s a simplification of Social Media, but still, they appear to be going for more fragmentation when what might be needed is less).

That’s the opportunity. To move fast and consider how every piece of communication fits into the larger digital picture. not creating more silos where the Digital Agency sits in the same room as the General Agency, the PR Agency, and the Social Media Agency.

Fragmentation at a time when brands need to be talking in one way everywhere. Armano said, “If a brand isn’t transparent, with sites like Wikipedia, the Web will force you to be.” If a brand is all over the place with communications that don’t work together, the web will highlight that.

The web isn’t adding more tools, the tools are forcing brands to think about every piece of communications in a way that fits into the overall conversation. This thought should be added to all creative briefs (or project briefs).

What engagement will this communication start/continue, or something like that. Prove that every piece of communication is either the first, or simply part of the conversation. (It also logically demands a little thinking about where.)

Clients would get that the agency isn’t jumping into Social media, or Web 2.0, or whatever they call it because it’s hot, new, neat and untested. And they would also get that we’re thinking about marketing a little different than people have for the last 50 years.

As we all get used to high-speed access (and the social, streaming possibilities it brings) the internet, so ubiquitous in our lives, will most-likely be ubiquitous in our relationships to people and brands.

Humans have conversations. To me, that’s the reason why Talk Human works.

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