"You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose"

                                              Mario Cuomo

There's a phrase coined by Paul Isakson that has been going round in my head since I saw it in Paul's deck on Modern Brand Building some time ago:'Stop Campaigning, Start Committing'.

Paul talks about the difference between changing your core brand message to fit what you think people need or want to hear today so that they buy your product or service (campaigning), and building your brand on core principles that never change (committing). The difference, in other words, between short-term gains and a constantly changing story, and marketing for long-term growth and creating an evolving collection of coherent brand ideas and experiences over time.

Tough perhaps, to keep focused on the long-term when the average tenure of a Marketing Director is 18 months and when, now more than ever, it's all about hitting the next quarter's number. But the structural change that needs to happen in marketing and advertising works to a different set of rules. In an environment that is participative it is rude to start a conversation and then walk away. In an environment where your audience have contributed to the success of your idea by building on it, and helping it spread, it is rude not to acknowledge that contribution. In an environment where your audience demand interaction with your brand at their convenience, rather than yours, it is rude to ignore that demand. Conversations can strike up at any time, with anyone, and will last for as long as they are interesting, fun or useful.

This creates a problem. Because the traditional advertising process is established around discontinuous cycles. I'm a big brand, I do two bursts of TV a year. I'm a product launch, and I make a big noise around the time that I launch to make as many people aware of me as possible.  I'm a service, so I decide what I want to say about my service and then I say it to as many people as possible as many times as possible over a short window of time to convince them to use it.

The Advertising industry is not set up around continuity. It is set up around campaigning. Campaigns have a beginning, middle and an end. The process, the model, the way advertising is made, the way it is bought, the way it is implemented, the way it is assessed, are all focused on keeping this model alive. Advertising is stuck. We may be campaigning in poetry, but we haven't written the prose yet.

Digital models of-course work differently. Digital is all about experimentation, adpatability, optimisation, beta. What Mark would call 'lighting lots of fires'. Being flexible, seeding many ideas, optimising the best ones. Digital also allows for adpative change. Instead of coming up with a grand idea, researching it to death and presenting it to the world, it allows for a continuous cycle of development and improvement.

So if the future is at all going to be about a different kind of relationship that audiences have with advertising, perhaps we need to create room for more of that which is incremental, iterative, adaptable, collaboratively formed. Agile advertising, if you like.

In software development there is an interesting way of working called Agile Development. It is an approach that aligns the development process not only with the objectives of the organisation but with the needs of the customer in order to allow the rapid delivery of high-quality software. Agile methodologies generally involve a process that encourages frequent adaptation, teamwork, self-organization and accountability.  

Agile techniques are interesting because they are far more adaptive and iterative than traditional methods for developing software. And to borrow from a post written by Kelly Waters, our Web Tech Director here, Agile Software Development operates around some key principles:

1. Active user involvement is imperative. Agile cannot work wothout continous feedback, from internal stakeholders and end users. There is complete transparency.

2. Agile teams must be empowered. The team includes all the necessary members needed to make decisions, and make them on a timely basis.

3. Time waits for no man. Timescales are fixed but requirements emerge and change. This contrasts to more traditional development techniques where one of the earliest objectives is to capture all known requirements and "baseline the scope so that any other changes are subject to change control".

4. Agile requirements are barely sufficient. Requirements are captured at a high level so not everything is detailed upfront. This allows for swift adaptation and minimises the time spent on anything that doesn’t actually form part of the end product. The output is therefore highly relevant to the needs of the end user.

5. How do you eat an elephant (in small bitesize pieces). Small, incremental fulfillment all the way through helps minimise risk, results in better control on costs, and allows for change. Beta is good but perpetual beta is better.

6. Fast but not so furious. The focus is on frequent delivery of products and regular iterations through a regular rythym and pattern of sprints and work cycles.

7. Done means done. With traditional development, when 80% of project is completed, the last 20% often takes forever, because needs have changed. With agile, features completed within an iteration should be 100% done ie. shippable

8. Enough's enough. Apply 80/20 rule. 20% of the effort can yield 80% of the results so do the high value stuff first.

9. Agile testing is not for dummies. Testing is a continous, integrated part of development.

10. No place for snipers. People can become detached. Close co-operation and collaboration wins.

It's interesting to think of what advertising could learn from this, and the potential to work not only with clients, but with audiences, in a different way. The benefits of a process like this are clear:- speed to market, agility, adaptability, relevance, quality, visibility. Best of all, it's people driven. Interesting thought.

Original Post: http://neilperkin.typepad.com/only_dead_fish/2009/04/agile-advertising.html

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