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Matt Williams: why real time marketing forces agencies and clients to change their processes too

Speak to any young person getting into the marketing industry for the first time and they’ll all identify the same frustration. “It just takes forever to do anything.”

Ah, process. Man’s best friend and worst enemy. We all want to just get on with things, to sink our teeth into a brief or sit down at a laptop and just start writing. But we also know that we need some sort of process to drag us through whatever we’re doing and ensure that something comes out the other side that doesn’t wildly miss the mark. Even my favourite creative company, Pixar, has “trust the process” as one of its main mantras.

But as the industry evolves, so should the processes in which an agency follows. And whilst I’m sure you all have small examples of clients that have shunned conformity, I’m just not sure whether things have really changed as much as we’d like.

I say this after attending a talk last week held at Engine on Real Time Marketing. Inevitably, one specific real time case study was brought up. No, not Oreos, but President Cheese.

You’ll have no doubt seen the article by now. A jaw-dropping expose on how one single tweet took 45 days to create.
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Let’s get some perspective here. It didn’t take 45 days to concoct the 140 characters. It probably didn’t even take 45 seconds. But the process it takes for a brand to build and maintain its agency relationships is so astronomical, it’s not actually that surprising that we can end up in that situation.

It can take a week to raise a PO, let alone actually approve a piece of work. By which time, of course, the opportunity on social media is gone. My colleagues at Synergy recently singled out Gillette as one of the losers of the World Cup, for not being able to react quickly enough to the 10 yard ‘shaving foam’ that FIFA introduced on free kicks. Was it that no-one in the creative department of Gillette’s ad agency was able to spot the similarities? Clearly not.
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Was it that no-one could think of a witty enough tweet? I doubt it (and if it is the case, then that agency has a lot more to worry about than their real time marketing). No, it all suggests that Gillette simply didn’t have the process in place to be able to react in a timely enough fashion.

So where do we go from here? The traditional advertising values do not change. A good client-agency relationship has and always will rely on trust, understanding and most of all, an ability to create great work. But the process needs to be tweaked. That trust no longer means “take me out for dinner and convince me why I’m to spend my entire marketing budget on a TV ad shot in Hawaii,” it means “tell me that this is the right tweet to send out right now and I’ll approve it, without having to go through eight layers of management and test it with our sample audience.”

In some cases this has closed the client/agency gap to such an extent that you’ll now see clients in your office more often than not. Not just on a Friday before their big slap-up lunch. If you need something approved or agreed on, they’re sitting on the next desk, ready to work in tandem. We recently set up a Moment Studio to do just this, while I’ve heard stories about Beats having real-time copy approved via What’s App, and Microsoft agree campaigns quickly through a brief Skype call. It’s invigorating.

At the aforementioned conference one of the final questions put to the panel was ‘is real time marketing just a fad?’ The answer: “the phrase ‘real time marketing’ may be a fad, we wont use that word forever, but the concept will remain.” The quicker brands realise this – and the best companies already have – and adapt their structures and processes accordingly, the quicker everyone wins.

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About Matt Williams

Matt Williams
Matt Williams is head of content at Partners Andrews Aldridge.
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