The new

Everybody talks about change in the marketing industry, but the big question is whether all this change is going to kill us.

Recently a friend of mine, Micky Denehy, emailed me about the EFCCE Annual Conference taking place in Antwerp on May 13th and its theme this year is “Death by Facebook – can advertising survive social media?”

But as well as death BY, we need to look at death OF …

I read an interesting blog on Linked-in from Tony B of the SEO Agency. He writes “If there is anything that can be observed about human behaviour by examining social media, it’s that people are basically restless. They’re always looking for something new to read, watch, see and interact with.”

Tony then goes to give his tips for what, in this climate of endless change, might usurp the big F and the big T …

“Bebo; described by some as “Facebook marries Twitter.”

“Delicious; what’s new to see on the web.

“Eons.com; Where baby boomers come to connect.

“Foursquare; Real “next big thing” potential here, as people move away from their computers and onto their cell phones.   

“Focus.com; Think “Twitter for Business.”

“Friendster: Where gamers go to geek out.”

From there, (as he says) the list grows exponentially. But he reckons Quora.com has the greatest potential.  It was created in 2009 by two former Facebook execs and Business Insider recently reported rumours that they had already turned down a $1-billion acquisition offer.  

(I recently turned down a 35 quid lunch with the chairman of a digital production house. So there you go.)

The upcoming Digital Shoreditch event promises more of the same – advertising bad, social media good.

To misquote “Abide with me” – Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and social media in all around I see.

Now, change can be adopted, and adapted to. Or it can kill you.

Let’s look at two watershed moments in the music industry to understand this better.

(Or maybe just because I like looking at the music industry.)

I was reading the magisterial Nick Kent writing about the first gig he ever went to, at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, in 1964.

“All these acts basically looked the same. Thin lips, prominent cheekbones, pompadoured  Everly Brothers hair, shark-white teeth clenched in winning smiles, tight shiny suits …  They sounded identical also. Twanging guitars played at docile, non-feedback-inducing volumes, drumming you could gently tap your foot along with,  singers clumsily attempting to reproduce the husky-voiced drama of Elvis Presley’s recent recordings.”

Then he encountered the watershed moment.

“It occurred at the very moment the Rolling Stones entered the building”.

“Suddenly the mood in the hall became more charged and disruptive. The Rolling Stones never smiled and physically they were the polar opposites of everyone else on the bill.

“Then they began playing. It was raucous and primordial and it sent young women into an instant state of full-on demonic possession.  Something that had previously been forbidden in white culture was being let loose here.

“Jagger was at that point one scary motherf*cker to behold. No one had seen features quite like his before: the pornographic lips, the bird’s nest hair.

“By the end, all the barriers had come tumbling down. When they left the stage, they’d obliterated every performer and every note that had preceded them.”

Note that. The older bands weren’t “incorporated” into the new order. They were out of a job.

And this appreciation for change stood Kent in good stead when the NEXT watershed came along. 11 years later found him playing guitar in a bare room with Glen Matlock, Paul Cook  and Steve Jones in a prototype band then called by Malcolm McLaren, QT Jones and the Sex Pistols.

But my favourite watershed moment in music came at the Newport folk festival in 1965 when Bob Dylan turned up on stage with an electric guitar. The assembled audience of folk-y purists hated it.

Someone shouted “Judas” and there was loud applause and laughter.

Looking at it now, it’s blindingly, bleedingly, obvious that the folk groups look like unicorns who aren’t bothered about catching that particular ark.

Whereas Dylan’s band looks like the blueprint for every guitar band that’s existed since that time.

He almost single-handedly created rock bands, in the face of continual carping, criticism and booing. At one concert, it was reported that “Everyone in the audience left in protest.”

When Dylan read that in a paper, he laughed out loud.

In footage now available of the fateful “Judas” concert, you can see Dylan turn to his band before they launch into what is now the definitive version of “Like a Rolling Stone”.

He says “Play it f*cking loud”.

That’s the thing about change. It’s no good “embracing” it.

You’ve got to get into bed with it and f*ck it.

  • Iain Harrison

    Interesting points. Anyone working in social media right now is convinced that it’s going to herald the death of advertising next week.

    Just as those who worked in DM predicted their industry would be responsible for the death of advertising due to increasing amounts of data they had access to in the late 80s.

    To me, social is another channel. A way to engage with an audience that bypasses print and telly.

    It’s also a way to augment advertising campaigns. (And, hell, what of the potential of social-based advertising that interactive magazine and tablet PCs can offer?)

    I also predict a flip side to this: as more and more social tools, sites and apps launch it’s going to become increasingly difficult to tell which is the one that will deliver the best value to you.

    Every day Twitter delivers news of new social sites to me. Which is going to be relevant to me? This is when telly and print could work to augment social brands.

    Y’know, in much the same way that the world’s biggest search engine is currently using OOH to tell you about its new services.

    Social won’t entirely replace telly, at least not for a generation or two. There’s a lot of fun to be had until then (and after).

    So to take your f*ck analogy a little further: while we can, let’s enjoy a threesome with both social and advertising. The offspring will be beautiful.

  • Andy Sandoz

    Really well put Steve.
    Relevance is a choice. You just have to be interested.

    I’m intrigued why people are not interested. All the explorations are about people who are totally into ‘it’. I’ve yet to see detailed research/debate about why people do not adopt. Fear, energy, dogma etc. These things needs to be tackled because at this accelerating pace a lot of folk may find themselves significantly out of touch with life a lot earlier than they thought. It’s a potential big social problem.

    Iain, I view social as a power source, more than a channel. It doesn’t replace anything. It’s not even new really, it’s just the ongoing growth of the original concept of the internet: connectivity of information. To me it’s like electricity. Just plug it into things and watch them light up.

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