For Brands, Social is About ‘Finding Narrative in the Chaos’

At Advertising Week in New York, marketers discuss how brands are approaching digital with a lot of talk but little action.


Advertising Week is winding down in New York, but not before fitting in some last panel talks on the ‘burgeoning, inter-connected social media sphere,’ hosted by Crowdtap, Klout and NASDAQ.

Crowdtap’s own Sean Foster moderated a talk with Microsoft’s former creative director Gayle Troberman, Victors and Spoils’ CEO John Winsor and MRY’s CEO Matt Britton this Thursday, where they discussed consumer-brand dynamics and how brands and agencies need to adapt to the new ecosystem of digital marketing.

Foster began by talking about the “demographic tidal wave” that’s headed towards both advertisers and agencies. The fact is that consumers actually like brands and want to engage with them, so it makes sense to involve them in the process. Foster, and Crowdtap, runs on the idea that the brands live in consumers: “We have to stop marketing at consumers and start marketing through them.”

Easier said than done, when you’re talking about an industry that still runs on some old-school ideas and methods. It’s hard for brands, with their multi-levels of management and tight grip on spending money, to accept that things don’t really work the way they used to.

Britton noted that it’s a risk going from spending cash on one Super Bowl spot to running a handful of smaller social campaigns to experiment in the digital space. Everyone knows they should be doing it, but “it’s hard to operationalize it,” Britton said.

Troberman agreed: “We’re living a lie,” she said, and proceeded to explain how she sees the industry talk a lot about digital, about social influencers, and about being where people are actually looking (like on mobile). But despite all the talk, they then revert to the same old system of top-down messaging. She said:

It’s not about creating the message, it’s about mashing [the message and the user-generated social content] together… It’s about finding narrative in the chaos. The agencies that do that best will survive.

The good news is that the sky isn’t falling; Winsor admitted that he used to be the radical, forging ahead into the digital future.

“But it’s more about evolution than revolution,” he noted. “You can’t crowdsource everything,” he added, citing an example about packaging for a major brand. Only so many people can do that. “Being open means being open,” even if that means accepting some of the old ways that do work.

Like everything else, it’s all about balance. You can see more panels from Advertising Week here.

Publish date: October 3, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT