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What challenges does the digital economy present to brand communications, and what
are its implications on the role of traditional advertising agencies?

Nicolas Jayr
MSc Business Administration
Semester 3: Master thesis
Tuesday 1st June 2010
Words: 30,285
Table of Contents









I. Introduction

The world economy has been facing serious challenges based on the adaptation to both
globalization and the emergence of digital technologies. In addition to these two drivers of
change, global businesses have been facing since 2008 one of the most important economic
crisis in the history of modern capitalism.

With the economic recession in one hand and the emergence of digital technologies in the other
hand, the industry of advertising and communications has been facing a critical period of
challenge and reinvention. The recession has been forcing companies to reduce massively their
advertising expenditures while the increasing acceptation of digital technologies and interactive
platforms by consumers transformed the operational system of advertising.

While global audiences have been migrating toward new media platforms, the fragmentation of
medias and the empowerment of consumers have been among the numerous drivers of
change that challenged the effectiveness of traditional advertising, which in return has been
encouraging companies to benefit from the recession to rethink and reassess their overall
communication strategies.

Likewise, changing environments require new practices, and new circumstances challenge
established principles. This project will examine how traditional advertising models are resulting
ineffective to face the profound challenges that the digital revolution present to brand
communications. Moreover, this project will analyze how the model of advertising agencies itself
is being questioned and threatened by this new environment.

Advertising is operating in such shifting contexts that some affirmations in this project could
seem outdated, or irrelevant. One of the major challenges faced in this project has been that the
contemporary industry of communications is in constant evolution and in radical reconfiguration.
Starting to write about this project, a number of emergent trends already indicated further
restructuring and reorganization in an industry that was already adapting to globalization,
changing regulations and ever-evolving audiences.

The observation of the changing environment around brand communications will be the main
focus of the first part of this project. The emergence of the digital revolution will be discussed
through the review of different theories and discourses questioning the impact of digital

technologies on the economy. Among others, we will observe how the emergence of Internet
has transformed the way people access to content and information, which in return has
radically changed the way people behave with media and with communications. Finally we will
present how this new landscape is challenging the way brands communicate and in which
measure it threatens the traditional advertising model.

The second part will examine how brands should communicate in order to respond to the
challenges of the digital revolution and will highlight the new (and old) communication strategies
that brands should embrace to build on future growth. We will successively present how by
enhancing creativity, physical and digital experiences, brand content and promoting a different
approach of media, companies could successfully develop brand communications adapted to
the digital age. We will then try to understand why companies should let customers have an
important role on the construction of their brands, and present different strategies that, using
among others customization, open-innovation platforms, and social medias strategies, could
successfully increase the engagement of consumers. Finally, having defined what would make
brand communications successful in the digital environment, we will understand how the role of
advertising agencies is being challenged. We will then observe how advertising agencies have
been transforming themselves to respond to the challenge and observe that two strategic
models have been emerging: integration and external growth.

The third part will finally evaluate different opportunities to transform the advertising agencies’
model and adapt its internal organization to the path of digital. We will demonstrate how by
changing the creative development process from static to dynamic, by enhancing the
collaboration between internal disciplines and by planning and managing for the real-time
environment, advertising agencies could build a sustainable organization adapted to the speed
of culture. This paper will also propose a model for external collaboration and present how
advertising agencies could benefit from opening their organization to customers and external
collaborators. Finally, we will propose a framework for agencies’ managers that could help them
to successfully implement the change in their organization.

The aim of this project is to demonstrate that the radical transformation caused by the
emergence of digital technologies and by the change in consumers’ behaviors is challenging the
traditional model of brand communications. This project intends to present the change that
happens to the industry as a source of strategic opportunities and it will try to emphasize on the
benefits rather than on the risks provided by this changing landscape. While many predict the
challenges provided by the digital revolution, this project rather present the opportunities that
the emergence of digital technologies offers to brand communications. At last, this project will
criticize the status quo demonstrated by many advertising agencies and will highlight the
character of urgency in the communication industry.

II. Characteristics of the Digital Revolution

A. The emergence of digital and the Internet economy in the business debate

The review of different theories in the recent managerial, business and economical debates
enables us to understand the implications that the development of the Internet and the
democratization of personal computing have had on the uses and habits of individuals. The
environment in which brands communicate has radically changed, and we have assisted to the
emergence of new behaviours with the raise of the Internet economy. We are going to discuss
these points in the following part, by observing first how the digital economy enabled the
democratization of content creation, distribution and access, and generated a radical
transformation of the media landscape. Moreover, we will observe how different authors
consider that the new digital landscape is encouraging collaboration and external innovation
within organizations, and finally, we will try to identify how this new environment challenges the
future of brand communications.

1. Democratization of content creation, distribution and access

The emergence of the digital economy and its influence on our culture and economy is
discussed in the work many authors. In their book Wikinomics, D. Tapscott and A. D. Williams
(2006, p.3) explain how thanks to the Internet revolution “billions of connected individuals can
now actively participate in innovation, wealth creation, and social development in ways we once
only dreamed of.” In this regard, C. Anderson (2006) draws a clear overview of the possibilities
that the digital revolution presents to our society in his book The Long Tail. He develops the
Long Tail theory, which has become a classical framework of the influence of digital in our
economy. C. Anderson (2006) develops the analysis of three driving forces that explain how the
cost of reaching niches has reduced, which in return enables the democratization of content
creation, distribution, and access.

According to the Long Tail theory, the first driver of change is the democratization of production
tools. Thanks to the developments in personal computing technologies, everything from printing
press to film and music production is now in the hands of anyone. According to C. Anderson
(2006, p. 54), “the power of the PC means that the ranks of ‘producers’ – individuals which can
now do what just a few years ago only professionals could do – have swelled a thousandfold.”
Empowered with technological tools, people are given the opportunity to produce content, from
short movies to albums, and to publish their thoughts to the world very easily. D. Tapscott
(2009, p. 90) argues in his book Growing Up Digital: “consumers are taking the next step and
are becoming producers, co creating products and services with companies.” As a result of this
revolution, the universe of content available has spread and there is a huge increase in the
number of producers.

The second force, according to the Long Tail theory, is cutting the democratization of
distribution, which is cutting the costs of consumption. C. Anderson (2006, p.55) explains: “the
PC made everyone a producer or publisher, but it was the Internet that made everyone a
distributor.” The Internet makes it easier and cheaper for anyone to reach more people. Indeed,
the power of this driver of change is changing many businesses. While distributors such as Wal-
Mart and Carrefour spent years setting up some of the world’s most sophisticated supply
chains to offer massive variety of products at low prices to millions of customers around the
world, it takes today few seconds for anybody to reach an equivalent potential market simply
with a listing on eBay or Amazon. As a consequence, efficient digital economics are leading to
new markets and marketplaces, which have no physical restrictions, and which strongly
challenge traditional markets.

The third force, finally, is the connection between supply and demand, which introduces
consumers to these new available goods on the digital world. According to C. Anderson (2006,
p.56), “this can take the form of anything from Google’s wisdom-of-crowds search to iTunes’
recommendations, along with word-of-mouth, from blogs to customer reviews.” The
emergence and the development of many social websites and personal blogs made that
customers are directly playing the role of sales force and replacing traditional channels of
communication. Besides, the most useful recommendations often come from other consumers
because their incentives are better aligned with our own. This is a very important point for brand
communications and we will come back to this point later in this research.

The three drivers of change that C. Anderson presents in his theory of the Long Tail allow us to
better understand how the Internet is challenging our economy by enabling people to access to
an almost unlimited choice. Moreover, because it has become easier and faster to find and
search for information, it has a direct effect of encouraging us to search further outside the
world we already know. Indeed, consumers’ tastes happen to be, collectively, far more diverse
that what marketers have tried to suggest. The explosion of technologies that connect
consumers is driving demand for niches products, which in return, creates a new and different
economy of culture.

Karl Marx was perhaps the original prophet of this new economy. In the German Ideology
(1845-1847), K. Marx explained: “labour - forced, unspontaneous and waged work – would be
superseded by self-activity.” Eventually, there would be a time, he wrote, when “material
production leaves every person surplus time for other activities.” This is exactly what seems to
happen with the consequences of the digital economy, which is transforming our societies. In
his book The Digital Economy, D. Tapscott (1996) introduces the term “prosumption” to
describe how the gap between producers and consumers is reducing, while Doc Searls (2000)
calls this a shift from consumerism to participative “producerism”:

“The ‘consumer economy’ is a producer-controlled system in which consumers are

nothing more than energy sources that metabolize “content” into cash. This is the
absolutely corrupted result of the absolute power held by producers over consumers
since producers won the Industrial Revolution. (…) Apple is giving consumers tools that
make them producers. This practice radically transforms both the marketplace and the
economy that thrives on it.”

In their book, The Pro-Am Revolution: how enthusiasts are changing our economy and society,
C. Leadbeater and P. Miller (2004) describe the rise of “amateurs who work to professional
standards.” They explain: “the twentieth century was shaped by large hierarchical organisations
with professionals at the top. Pro-Arms are creating new, distributed organisational models that
will be innovative, adaptive and low cost.” This emergence of new customers and new
amateurs is transforming the way companies are building products, managing organizations,
and develop their communication.

The emergence of producers and the access to distribution platforms makes that the content
available has spread. Indeed, according to M. Zorn (2009) in his presentation The Audience is

Always Right, there were two reasons why in the past people did not produce content: (1)
because of the lack of necessary tools, and (2) because of the lack of talent. Thanks to the
emergence of new technologies, everyone has now access to the tools to produce and
distribute easily information and content. The consequence of that evolution, according to C.
Anderson (2006 p. 63), is that we are assisting to a shift in the mentality of people “from being
passive consumers to active producers”.

This theorization of the digital society encounters some critics. Among them, A. Keen, in his
article The Cult of the Amateur (2006) criticizes the emergence of producerism and explains
how it presents real threats to our culture and talents. “The Web 2.0 (…) worships the creative
amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-room musician, the unpublished writer. It suggests
that everyone – even the most poorly educated and inarticulate amongst us – can and should
use digital media to express and realize themselves.” A. Keen insists, “No more Mozarts`, no
more Picassos, no more Hemingways, (…) if you democratize media, you democratize talent.”

D. Tapscott and A. D. Williams (2006, p. 272) criticize A. Keen approach and consider it
“equivalent to saying that democracy is bad for the average citizen, because the average
individual is a poor judge of his or her own interests.” Therefore, the increase of information and
content makes that people live in a world of abundant choice. In such context, Mass Culture
tends to be less relevant that it was and we could rather consider that this environment is
turning culture into millions of different micro cultures that co-exist and interact between each
other. C. Anderson (2006, p. 184) calls it a shift from a “mass culture” to a “massively parallel
culture”. Each of us belongs to different tribes simultaneously, sometimes overlapping, and
sometimes not. We share common interests with our colleagues and families but not all of
them, and we all have particular tastes and likes that make us different.

In fact, what the digital revolution underlines, according to V. Postrel (2003, p. 52), is nothing
more than a reflection of the diversity inherent to any population distribution:

“Every aspect of human identity, from size, shape, and colour to sexual proclivities and
intellectual gifts, comes in a wide range. Most of us cluster somewhere in the middle of
most statistical distributions. But there are lots of bell curves, and pretty much everyone
is on a tail of at least one of them. We may collect strange memorabilia or read esoteric
books, hold unusual religious beliefs of wear odd-sized shoes, suffer rare diseases or
enjoy obscure movies.”

R. Williams (2001, p.46) once wrote in his book Culture and Society, “there are no masses;
there are only ways of seeing people as masses.” C. Anderson (2006, p. 185) demonstrates us
that the resulting rise of niche culture is reshaping the social landscape, “in other words, we’re
leaving the water cooler era, when most of us listened, watched, and read from the same,
relatively small pool of mostly hit content. And we’re entering the micro-culture era, when we’re
all into different things”. As a consequence, there is less space for traditional mass media and
“popular” content, and this impacts on people’s consumption and behaviour.

This change in culture and the emergence of technologies present challenges to the traditional
relationship between brands and consumers. Empowered with technologies, people are not
only consumers for brands but they now take on many new and different roles. D. Armano
(2009), SVP at the agency Edelman, explains in his blog that people can be at the same time
customers, producers, participants, users, multipliers, and they even can take part of brand
See Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1. Don’t call them consumers anymore. Source: D. Armano (2009)

Consumers are changing their behaviours and the access to more content and information has
changed their media habits. This is what we are going to observe in the following lines, by

observing how the emergence of the digital economy is revolutionizing traditional medias, and
how it radically changes people’s media behaviour.

2. A revolution in medias and a radical change in people’s media behaviour

As we could observe, the digital economy is enabling people to access to an unlimited access
to content, and as a consequence, it is radically changing the way people behave with content,
information and media. According to R. Murdoch, Global CEO of News Corporation (2006),
“technology is shifting the power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the
media elite,” and this power tends to be more and more in hands of people. A. Keen (2007)
insists: “traditional ‘elitist’ media is being destroyed by digital technologies. Newspapers are in
freefall. (…) The iPod is undermining the multibillion-dollar music industry.”

“We must address the old saw that new media don’t destroy old media. Radio didn’t kill
newspapers; television didn’t kill radio, and so on. That is true… so far. But some new
medias are so disruptive that they force older media to change themselves radically in
order to stay in business. Those that decide to circle the wagons and refuse to change,
refuse to reinvent themselves, are almost certainly going to struggle to survive.”
J. Cappo (2003, p. 72)

As we can see, researches demonstrate how the emergence of the Internet is challenging the
traditional model of medias. In his presentation The Audience Is Always Right, M. Zorn (2009)
argues that the emergence of the digital ecosystem has changed people’s media behaviour
regarding four dimensions: fragmentation, individualization, volatility and self-determination of
their media usage. In the following lines, we are going to have a further look on each of these
four different characteristics and undertake a deep analysis of their consequences.

2.1. Fragmented media usage

We could observe thanks to the theory of the Long Tail that people are surrounded by content.
The development of new digital technologies makes that they have now the choice between a
multitude of media possibilities to access to content. As a consequence, audiences are
becoming fragmented and people are spending more time with more media differently.

According to a study from the media agency Carat, while the time spent with traditional medias
(analogue television, radio and newspapers) is decreasing, the time spent with new medias
(Internet, video games, digital television) is growing. Still, according to the survey, this trend is
supposed to increase over the next ten years. See Appendix 1.1. Moreover, according to a
study on the evolution of media habits from IBM (2007), personal PC time now rivals TV time,
with 71% of respondents using the Internet more than two hours per day for personal use,
versus 48% spending equivalent time watching TV.

Furthermore, people spend their time with media differently regarding the generations. The new
generations are not using the same mediums and the same platforms than the old generations.
According to a study from Nielsen Media (2009), the new generations are adopting more
quickly new media platforms and usages than the old generations, which keep a strong
attachment to traditional media formats, such as newspapers, books, magazines and
broadcast television. See Appendix 1.2.

Therefore, while broadcast TV remains the dominant channel and keeps attracting generations,
the emergence of digital television is enabling consumers to access much more channels than
ever before. Referring to Nielsen Media (2008), US homes have access in average to more than
100 TV channels. As a consequence, even if a couple of big channels remain dominant, the
competition for audience’s attention is becoming increasingly challenging for traditional
channels. Moreover, the weekly time per channel is dropping, which means that the major TV
networks are struggling to keep attracting their audiences.

2.2. Individual media usage

Digital platforms enable people to access information and content on their own terms and
schedules, whenever and wherever they are. According to R. Halton, quoted in an article from
G. Mann (2007), “consumers will be looking to consume content in their on terms, and in forms
and shapes and platforms that suit their needs.” As a consequence, traditional media channels
need to adapt their offering to keep attracting audiences that are increasingly adopting
individual media behaviours and customizing their media experiences in terms of what, when,
and how.

- What?

There is less big content that everybody finds interesting. Blockbusters have less success than
before because people have access to a profusion of cultural content and to exactly what
interests them on the digital world. This is particularly relevant regarding the music industry. In
2009, the best-selling artist in the industry was Taylor Swift, with her album Fearless, that sold
3.2 millions albums, while in 1999, the Backstreet Boys and their album Millennium sold 40
millions CDs, according to a research from Warner Music (2010). According to T. Hunt (2009,
p.12), “people are buying more music than ever, but because of the added ability to discover
new artists as well as the ability for more artists to emerge via various online channels, people
have more choices and they are making them.” The tendency is also reflected on television
shows, as according to Nielsen Media Research (2007), the best TV audience in the US in 2006
attracted less than 30% of the audience, while it reached more than 60% in the 1960s. See
Appendix 1.3.

- When?
There is no longer a set time when people consume media because content has become
available at any time for consumers. An event, broadcasted live on TV, can be accessed at the
same time through different TV channels and content platforms over the Internet. The main
consequence is that old medias are losing their ‘distribution advantage’ over consumers who
are gaining more control. As a consequence, prime time shows are dropping on the principal
broadcast networks, while audiences migrate to other channels and digital contents. According
to a survey from Nielsen Media Research, the percentage of US homes tuned to one of the
three biggest broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, in prime time, has dropped to less
than 30% while it was superior to 60% in the early 1970s. See Appendix 1.4.

Audiences are migrating to other sources of content, and it is simply becoming more and more
complicated for broadcasters to dictate when certain shows have to be watched or heard.
Besides, there will always be demand for live television and radio, for example to deliver
breaking news and to relay live events, such as sport events and awards ceremonies, but the
drive toward more consumer control will increasingly continue.

- How?
There are fewer devices that most people prefer using because content has become accessible
through many different devices. D. Tapscott (2009) explains that the generations born in a
digital environment are very easy adopters of technologies. As a consequence, these
generations access to media with new devices such as mobile phones, laptops, video game

platforms, and portable music players. If television remains a bridge between the old and the
young generations, the old generations remain attached to traditional sources of information,
such as newspapers, magazines and books.

In fact, the proliferation of media devices makes that the same content is becoming accessible
through many different screens and platforms. C. Anderson (2006, p. 220), in The Long Tail,
provides a relevant example: “today, you can get CSI on broadcast TV, video-on-demand,
iTunes download, DVD (purchase or rent), and TiVo season pass, and watch it on any device
from a plasma screen to a Sony PSP.” Likewise, for some radio shows, which you can get via
terrestrial broadcast (real time and delayed), satellite broadcast, Web streaming, and podcast.
In fact, to reach the biggest potential market, brands are now obliged to broadcast content
across the multiple distribution channels that are available to consumers.

2.3. Volatile media usage

Consumers use media in spontaneous ways. The convergence of medias and devices is driving
to a permanent availability and access of every kind of content from different platforms and
devices. As a consequence, people can decide at any time to switch between a media and
another, and this is particularly applicable for the young generations. D. Tapscott (2009, p. 3)
explains: “young people are using technology in ways you could never imagine. Instead of
passively watching television, the ‘Net Geners’ are actively participating in the distribution of
entertainment and information”. These new generations of consumers switch between different
medias, access the Web on their mobile phones, laptops, and watch TV at the same time. D.
Tapscott (2009, p.70) insists on the importance of multi-tasking for this generation: “while TV
was the signature medium of the boomer generation, the Net Generation doesn’t just watch TV,
they listen to it while they are chatting with friends and navigating the Web”.

Some researches tend to confirm this trend. According to a survey from Ofcom Research
(2008), more than 80% of the 16-19 years old in the UK use another media while watching TV
at the same time. Older generations have a more “monolithic” approach of media, as only 40%
of them are used to consume two or plus medias at the same time. See Appendix 1.5.
Furthermore, static and slow media devices are being replaced with more dynamic and fast
media tools. In addition, new technologies and platforms, such as RSS feeds and Twitter are
allowing people to receive real-time interactive information, which increase the volatility of their
media behaviour.

2.4. Self-determined media usage

As the permanent access to content drives to more freedom of choice, people do not tolerate
intrusive content anymore. Besides, consumers are given the tools to avoid or block content
they don’t want to watch, and as they are given the choice, people skip content they are not
willing to spend time with, which is generally the case with advertising commercials.

Furthermore, the multiplication of media platforms makes that consumers are constantly
exposed to advertising messages. According to a study from M. Story and S. French (2004),
children from 3 to 11 years old are exposed to 40.000 advertising messages every year. As a
consequence, new generations of consumers develop a strong sense of immunity towards
advertising messages, which make commercials increasingly ineffective.

In addition, people generally see advertising commercials as an interruption into their programs.
If that happens, there are chances that people will switch the channel and access to another
content that interest them. The abundance of choice and access makes that people are
increasingly self-determinate with their media consumption. Commercials no longer reach them
between two different programs, because they no longer have a passive behaviour.

In fact, consumers are increasingly having more control on how they view, interact, and filter
both content and advertising in a multichannel and multi devices world where they shift their
attention away from linear TV. This evolution in people’s media behaviour has strong
consequences in the way brands must communicate to attract their attention. Indeed, we will
discuss in the following part how this new context presents challenges and debates regarding
the future of brand communications.

B. Challenges and debates regarding the future of brand communications

1. The end of advertising as we know it?

Since the Mass-Media era, most brands were used to one very simple advertising model that
consisted in buying visibility in Mass media and repeating the same message to target groups.
The objective for brands was to be louder than their competitors, by buying more space and
more visibility in traditional medias. Traditional channels had a major role and were very powerful
because they were the one supposed to attract and retain audiences. According to the famous
statement from Patrick Le Lay, former CEO of TF1 (2004), “there are many ways to speak about
TV, but in a business perspective, let’s be realistic: at the basis, TF1’s job is helping Coca-Cola,
for example, to sell its product. What we sell to Coca-Cola is available human brain time.”1

Empowered by digital technologies and surrounded by an abundant choice, consumers are not
part of this game anymore, which means that the traditional advertising model of targeting and
repeating messages on traditional medias is not effective anymore. According to a research
from Mc Kinsey (2004), it was projected that by 2010, the return on investment of advertising
on broadcast television would be barely one-third as effective as it was in 1990. C. Anderson
(2006, p.225) insists on the decrease of advertising on broadcast television thanks to “rising
costs, falling viewership, ever-proliferating ad clutter, and viewers’ TiVo-fuelled power to zip
through commercials.”

Behind the decrease of effectiveness of traditional advertising, the entire operating system of
marketing is fundamentally being threatened. According to M. Zorn (2009), “it is becoming
irrelevant to send a message to many in the hope of persuading a few.” The complexity of the
digital media landscape has disrupted the ability to easily enforce the attention of consumers
and it becomes more complicated to catch consumers’ attention using traditional advertising
methods. S. Godin (2007), in his book Permission Marketing, calls it interruption marketing,
which he describes as the following: “the key to each and every ad is to interrupt what the
viewers are doing in order to get them to think about something else.”

Interruption marketing is losing ground and it is not effective anymore for brands to interrupt
consumers with advertising messages they don’t want to watch. J-M Dru, CEO of
TBWA/Worldwide (2010) insists that unadapted commercials will never reach consumers: “they
will simply pass it or ignore it.” This new context presents important changes for brand
communications and invite brands to challenge the traditional advertising model based on the
sender-receiver model and on repetition.

French quote: « Il y a beaucoup de façons de parler de la télévision, mais dans une
perspective business, soyons réaliste: à la base, le métier de TF1, c'est d'aider Coca-Cola, par
exemple, à vendre son produit. Ce que nous vendons à Coca-Cola, c'est du temps de cerveau
humain disponible.
In fact, the impact of the changes in the media landscape on brand communications is well
commented in the debate that takes place in the advertising industry. Business leaders and
agencies’ “gurus” are conscious of the potentially huge consequences that the digital landscape
can have on the future of the advertising industry. J-M Dru (2009) insists in the fact that the
emergence of the digital economy announces “the end of repetitive advertising,” while F. Rodes
Vila, Chief Executive of Havas argues in an article from the Financial Times (2009) that the old
metaphors of ‘campaign, target and launch’ no longer apply: “the model that started with world
war two was based on control in a few hands: very few media, two or three relevant brands in
each sector and a few agencies. We are (now) facing a very different panorama, which is much
more democratic, much more social, much more interesting, but much more complicated for

The idea of ‘advertising’s death’ is present in several major debates. According to J. Stengel
(2007), former Global Marketing Officer at Procter & Gamble, “the old model of telling and
selling, is dead.” A. Ries and L. Ries (2002) both argue that the future for brands is in public
relations and not in advertising, while S. Zyman (2000) warns about the end of marketing, as we
know it. In these books, when death is mentioned, it describes more the idea of a
transformation than an end. However, both authors underline the unprecedented level of
change that happens in the industry.

Brand communications after traditional advertising is also the topic of other books. J. Jaffe
(2005) insists for example on the emergence of viral marketing, gaming, on-demand viewing,
long-form content and other ‘new marketing’, while M.L. Galician (2004) focus on Internet
advertising, video gaming and product placement and S. Donaton (2004) presents the
synergies that exist between entertainment and advertising through product placement.

As we can see, many authors are challenging the effectiveness of traditional advertising.
Moreover, according to F. Perez-Latre (2009), mass-media advertising is also suffering from
accountability problems, as many clients, advertising practitioners and researchers are
complaining about the inability to determine the return on investment from advertising spending.
Advertising’s lack of effectiveness is an important subject of research in the recent literature, as
the works of W. Fletcher (2008) and C. Volmer (2008) tend to demonstrate it. Therefore,
according to R. Briggs and G. Stuart (2006), as much as 37 per cent of overall advertising
expenditures are considered by marketers as complete waste.

2. The emergence of new forms of marketing

Companies are not willing to lose that much and increasingly turn to more direct ways of
communicating with consumers. However, the appeal of mass media advertising remains
strong, as traditional media still accounts for the greatest share of advertising expenditure,
according to numbers from Advertising Age (2010). The share of market of digital advertising
grew to 12,6% in 2009 from 10,5% in 2008, surpassing magazines for the first time, and will
keep growing in share to an expected 13,9% this year, and 17,1% in 2012, according to data
from Zenith Optimedia (2010). Magazines’ share of worldwide ad spending felt to 10,3% in
2009 from 11,6% in 2008 and is expected to fell to 9,6% this year, and 8,6% in 2012.
According to the report, “Television spend felt 6,7% in 2009, but its market share has increased
from 38,1% to 39,4%. (…) We expect it to continue to increase its share over the rest of our
forecast period, reaching 40,5% in 2012, thanks to the rise of the developing markets, where
television is generally a much more dominant medium than in developed markets.”
See Figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2. 2009 U.S. revenue by discipline for 800-plus agencies in report. Source:
Advertising Age. 2010.

These numbers tend to illustrate the rapid path of change that the communication industry is
observing. The emergence of the digital economy seems to have had many implications in the
way brands communicate. However, more than a simple impact, the digital landscape possibly
brings a true revolution to marketing and advertising. According to J. Farrell (2009), in an article

from Tim Bradshaw in the Financial Times, “I can’t think of many other industries where the
fundamental process of producing the product hasn’t changed for 40 years.”

Some observations of the business world today make us understand that some of the most
influent companies in the world, such as Google, Starbucks, Amazon and Facebook are being
built today almost without help of traditional advertising. Moreover, according to a ranking from
the magazine Brand Channels (2010), these are amongst the most popular brands in the world
according to consumers.

The best brands are being intensely creative in getting their message out and have evolved from
the traditional advertising model. According to an article from Business Week (2005), “many of
the biggest and most established brands, from Coke to Marlboro, achieved their global heft
decades ago by helping pioneer the 30-second TV commercial. But it is a different world now.
The monolithic TV networks have splintered into scores of cable channels, and mass-market
publications have given way to special interest magazines aimed at smaller groups.”

In this fragmented world, this new generation of brands has amassed huge global value with
little help of traditional advertising. Brands such as Zara and Starbucks have discovered new
ways of captivate and intrigue customers.

Zara, for example, has never run a single advertising campaign. This does not prevent the
Spanish company, according to D. Arnold and G. D’Andrea (2003) to be one of the most
successful fashion companies in the world and to launch almost 10.000 new designs each year
in more than 1.000 shops worldwide. In fact, the company innovated so much by dramatically
reducing the time between design inspiration and in-store product that it stays months in
advance of its competitors. Furthermore, the strategy of Zara includes launching stores in the
most prestigious streets of the world’s capitals, which ensures that people are aware of its new
stores, without having to invest in advertising.

This example illustrates that traditional advertising is not necessarily an obligatory path for
brands to engage and entertain people in an environment of choice. In this regard, A. Bogusky
and J. Winsor, in their book Baked In (2009, p. 26) insist on the fact that “the old concept of
how a brand works must be called into question.” According to S. Pestridge (2008), Nike UK
marketing director, a brand like Nike does not need advertising because “advertising is all about
achieving awareness.” Instead, Nike needs “to find new ways to become part of people’s lives.”

A. Bogusky and J. Winsor (2009, p. 25) argue that “word-of-mouth can actually be shut off by
using traditional advertising.” The example of Starbucks, with products – coffee and shops –
that are its unique marketing tools, tend to demonstrate that the company would probably have
failed to know the same success if it had used advertising. Starbucks did not advertise, at least
not in the conventional way we think about advertising, but succeeded in attracting and
retaining customers from the entire world thanks to an innovative and unique concept.

The brands that most consumers prefer today are brands that almost do not invest in traditional
advertising. That means that both traditional brand communications are becoming less effective
and the digital economy is presenting serious challenges to the way brands should
communicate. As a consequence, according to S. Berman & al. (2006), many of the skills and
capabilities that were the basis of success for advertising in the past need now refinement,
transformation and redefinition.

Therefore, we will try to respond to these challenges in the next part and present solutions on
how companies should communicate in the digital environment. However, before that, we will
observe why some debates have emerged around consumer-centric and relationship marketing
in the literature, and finally present the concept of permission marketing and analyse in which
measure it can bring a clear path to build on the future of brand communications.

3. Debates around consumer-centric and relationship marketing

The actual debate regarding the effects of the digital economy on brand communications
places consumers in a central role. In fact, the fundamental shift that the digital economy
presents to brand communications seems to be the promise of a different relationship between
brands and consumers. As underlined by Stephanie Bouchet (2010, Interview n2), the focus of
communications is shifting from a one-to-many relationship to a one-to-one relationship, much
more personal and individualized.

The angle of relationship is becoming increasingly important in marketing, and the notion of
relationship marketing is gaining influence in the actual debate on the evolution of brand
communications. According to B. Ivens (2008, p.5), “the classical idea of marketing as a

toolbox used by “the marketing people” in the marketing department is outdated, and modern
marketing is a management philosophy the whole company needs to embrace and adopt”.

E. Josserand (2008) outlined during his course Client-Oriented Organization, that the marketing
concept has evolved from a focus on product orientation, in the early 1950s, to a focus on
customer orientation, since the beginning of the 1990s. The illustration of Bruhn (2000)’s theory
of the evolution of the marketing concept is relevant to detail on this point. See Figure 1.4.

Figure 1.4. The Evolution of the marketing concept. Source: Bruhn, 2000.

B. Ivens (2008, p.6) insists: “the modern idea of marketing is a management concept and a
philosophy of how to maintain a company’s competitiveness, which means understanding
consumers and creating value.” In such context, some business thinkers such as R. McKenna
(1992) have tried to rethink the real nature of brands. According to McKenna, branding is no
longer important and powerful brands have more chance to succeed by building a powerful
distribution infrastructure rather than wasting efforts on branding.

Conversely, in the book Disruption Live, compiled by J-M. Dru (2000), D. Hackworthy criticizes
the belief that the future of marketing is a one-to-one relationship, describing it as too
“conventional.” Hackworthy rather defends the idea of branding and the power of traditional
mass medias. However, with the emergence of digital technologies, we understand that

consumers want and need to be touched individually by companies. Moreover, according to A.
Bogusky and J. Winsor (2009, p. 29), “consumers demand to be involved with companies.” An
angle of personal relationship is becoming essential in communications today, and the
traditional advertising model based on repetition fails to provide it.

In his book Permission Marketing, S. Godin (2000) proposes a new framework for
communications, based on the idea that permission marketing should replace interruption
marketing. S. Godin describes powerful advertising as anticipated, personal and relevant. In his
opinion, permission marketing guarantees that consumers pay attention to the marketing
message because they will be volunteers to be marketed to. In their book The One to One
Future, D. Peppers and M. Rogers (1993) already proposed a radical rethinking of the way
marketers should treat their customers. Indeed, their argument is that companies could
increase their profits by selling more things to fewer customers.

These theories elevate the notions of relationship and consumer loyalty. In other words, both
authors encourage companies to focus on increasing sales to a smaller percentage of existing
customers, rather than trying to find new ones. S. Godin (2007, p. 38) insists on this direction:
“Getting a new customer is expensive. It takes money to get his attention and it takes
continuing effort to educate him.” Indeed, D. Peppers and M. Rogers (2001, p. 35) argue:
“instead of focusing on how to maximize the number of new customers, the focus should be on
keeping customers longer and getting far more money each of them over time.”

Retaining consumers is demanding and it needs from brands that they take a very personal
approach. Stephanie Bouchet (2010, see interview 2) insists: “because people are over
exposed to a lot of messaging, they need to be touched emotionally, which means that it is also
becoming challenging for brands. They need to find ways and moments during the day when
people will become more receptive that anything else.” According to S. Godin (2007, p. 21),
Permission Marketing “encourages consumers to participate in a long-term, interactive
marketing campaign in which they are rewarded in some way for paying attention to
increasingly relevant messages.” As a consequence, it seems to represent the right answer to
customer’s need for attention.

The permission marketing theory encourages brands to take especially care of their loyal
customers. This is important, according to S. Bouchet (2010, see interview 2), because, as she
explains: “you really need to nurture that base of people that are very emotionally attached to

your brand, make sure they’ve got everything they need, to share with their friends, and to
spread the word for your brands.” We will observe in the second part of this project how brands
could benefit from the development of digital technologies to develop new types of relationships
with their consumers.

4. Objective and methodology

4.1. Objective of this project

The observation of the changing environment around brand communications has been the main
focus of the first part of this project. We discussed the emergence of a digital revolution through
the review different theories and discourses questioning the impact of digital technologies on
the economy. We could present how the emergence of the Internet and mobile phones have
transformed the way people access to content and information, which in return has encouraged
audiences to migrate towards new media platforms.

The emergence of this new environment is presenting important challenges for brand
communications. In fact, the development of new media platforms and the fragmentation of
media has dramatically reduced the influence of traditional advertising and it becomes almost
irrelevant to communicate using traditional marketing methods, which are increasingly failing in
delivering results. This context is presenting serious threats to the role and mission of
advertising agencies, which traditional role is being challenged and questioned.

Advertising agencies have been used for decades to a model of repetition that is not
responding anymore to the requirements of the digital age. The main question that comes to
mind is whether brands need advertising agencies anymore, and how advertising agencies
could still provide brands with benefits and value. We will try to respond to these different
questions by first, presenting how brands should communicate in the digital age. We will also
develop strategic advises to engage brands with consumers through different methods, such as
customization, content creation, brand experiences and social media strategies.

Presenting the best methods for brands to communicate in an environment challenged by the
digital will help us to understand how the mission and the role of advertising agencies are
progressively changing, transforming the traditional advertising agency into an interactive
creative agency.

4.2. Methodology

This thesis is based on a deep analysis of the brand communication and advertising industries,
combining quantitative as well as qualitative types of research, such as questionnaires, semi-
structured interviews, and observation. I have been conducting my research based on a post-
positivistic methodological approach, meaning that the reality described in this thesis is
considered socially constructed rather than objectively determined. In social scientist terms, that
translates into not emphasizing gathering of facts and measure how often certain patterns
occurs, but rather to appreciate the different constructions and meanings that people place
upon their experience (Easterby-Smith et al., 1991).

The other basic methodology transition for conducting research is Positivism, which in contrast
is an approach to the creation of knowledge through research which emphasizes the model of
natural science: the scientist adopts the position of objective researcher, who collects facts
about the social world and then builds up an explanation of social life by arranging such facts in
a chain of causality (Finch, 1986). The post-positivistic approach that deals with understanding
the subjectivity of social phenomena mostly requires a qualitative approach (juxtaposed to
positivism, which is more closely associated with quantitative method of analysis).

Interviews have been one of the primary data sources for the research and a semi-structured
interview style was chosen in most cases. During the preparation of this project, I had the
chance to interview successively Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman of TBWA/Worldwide, Nicolas
Bordas, CEO of TBWA/France, Guillaume Pannaud, President of TBWA/Paris, Philippe
Simonet, Vice-President of TBWA/Paris, Cesar Croze, Executive Director at TBWA/Paris, Ed
Palmer, Head of Account Management at TBWA/London, Franck Perrier, Founder and CEO of
Idaos, and finally Stephanie Bouchet, Founder of the marketing consultancy Rouge Frog. Three
of these interviews have been recorded, transcribed and are available for the reader in the
Appendix section.

III. Evaluation of strategic opportunities

A. Redefining brand communications for the digital age

1. Enhancing Creativity and differentiation

We could define in the first part the debate that happens in the business literature regarding the
implications and the challenges that the emergence of digital technologies present to brand
communications. As we could observe, people are increasingly in control of their media
experience as they can access constantly to information, content and entertainment. In
addition, people increasingly have the ability to skip things that are not valuable in their media
environment, such as brand advertising. In that context, brand communications need not only
to attract and retain the attention of customers, but also to give a reason for consumers to
include advertising in their media experience.

The first point is that brand communications need to be more creative and entertaining to
seduce consumers. Creativity has always been an essential factor in the success of brand
communications, as D. Ogilvy (1963) already advocated in his book Confessions of an
Advertising Man: “if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” However, brands should understand that
their audiences are not captive anymore and that they need as a consequence to be
entertained. J-M Dru (2009) explains it in the following words: “if you don’t entertain and engage
people, they will simply ignore you.” In the new media landscape emerged from the
establishment of digital technologies, safe advertising is becoming increasingly invisible.

Creativity in brand communications is becoming essential in every product category and every
communication discipline. Even large companies such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever
understand the need to be more creative in their communications, while both have been
awarded with a Grand Prix at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in 2007. For
decades, these companies had no reputation of being creative and winning creative awards.
Instead, J-M Dru (2009) explains in the article Big is Beautiful that “people were making fun of
these big unwieldy clients with their big traditional agencies.” The fact that both P&G and
Unilever have been awarded the same year the most prestigious prize in advertising

demonstrates that there is no getting away from the need for being creative to attract
audiences, even for largest companies.

Creativity, innovation and a risk approach needs to be enhanced within every single brand
communications. Therefore, during my internship at TBWA, I could observe that the main
philosophical guidance of the agency was to enhance creativity through a concept called
Disruption. J-M Dru (1996, p. 54) defines the concept in the following terms: “Disruption is
about finding the strategic idea that breaks and overturns a convention in the marketplace, and
then makes it possible to reach a new vision or to give new substance to an existing vision.”
The idea of disruption, he insists, is about “displacing limits, breaking the rules, challenging the
conventions and turning them on their heads to unearth something entirely new.” The belief of
disruption is that brands that truly outperform markets and have success do so by breaking the
existing conventions in their market. Disruption means breaking the conventions in brand
communications but also in product marketing and innovation.

The best example that comes to mind to illustrate disruption does not come from business or
brand communications but from sport. In 1968, in Mexico, Dick Fosbury shocked the Olympic
world by high-jumping upside down, instead of following the standard paradigm and jumping
stomach first over the bar. Fosbury won the Olympic gold and broke the Olympic record, but
more importantly, he radically changed the rules of his sport, having tried something that no one
had never tried before.

Disruption is behind the success of many brands, such as Apple, who changed its vision from
being a computer company to become a provider of tools for creative minds. As a result, Apple
embraced different paths from its original computing industry, such as the music and the mobile
phone industry, with the success that we can appreciate today.

This philosophy encourages brands to enhance creativity, innovation, and change in every
aspect of their business, not only communications. It takes risks and courage to do things
differently from its competitions. Businesses are often uncomfortable with the idea of
discontinuity, and change is generally seen as a threat. As Steinbeck once said, “it is the nature
of man, as he grows old, to protect himself against change, particularly change for the better.” It
is natural for companies as for individuals to be reactive against change; however, the success
of companies often comes with embracing change. Successful companies generally see
change as an opportunity and a force not to be feared but to be welcomed and exploited.

The easier step for brands to create discontinuity is to encourage change and innovation in their
own communications. Advertising should be the main source of creativity and disruption for
brands. By fully embracing disruption, not only communications would become more attractive
for consumers, but they would also reinforce the uniqueness of the brand positioning. While
many companies pretend that they are doing it, the majority of brand communications remain
ineffective because they are not creative enough to attract customers.

2. Taking care of the brand experience

The objective of brand communications is to encourage people to buy products and services
from a given company. Traditional advertising is generally perceived as an important factor in
the consumers’ decision. However, people do not judge brands on their advertising but on the
quality of the experience that they deliver. According to E. Josserand (2009), during his course
Client-oriented organizations, “brands generate expectations that are both rational and
emotional,” and these expectations must be enhanced by the physical and digital experiences
that people maintain with the brands that surround them.

2.1. Characteristics and promise of the physical brand experience

Every aspect of the physical experience plays a role in the perception of a brand. In the
Experience Economy, B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore (1999, p.34) explain: “When a
person buy a service, he purchases a set of intangible activities carried out on his behalf. But
when he buys an experience, he pays to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that
a company stages – as in a theatrical play – to engage him in a personal way.” According to U.
Okonkwo (2007, p. 9-10), “every brand possesses the characteristics of identity, promise, value
and differentiation.” These are the features that enable the relationship between a consumer
and a brand.

Consumers expect the promise and the delivery of an experience with the brands they use. As
a consequence, companies should make use of emotions and create feelings to enhance their
experience with consumers. Everything a brand does and offers to its consumers should be
embraced as a way to enhance the brand experience, through its story and its values. Whether

it is packaging, retail presence, website content, PR programs or employees themselves, every
point of interaction between consumers and the brand should be enhanced with creativity to
deliver a unique experience to consumers.

Packaging is for example a very important part of the brand’s perception for consumers and it
is a critical aspect of the brand identity. According to K. Newman (2009), “whether your brand is
aimed at luxury, specialty or mass consumers, ignore packaging’s power to define your brand
is at your own peril.” In addition, for many products, packaging is the first point of contact that
exists between consumers and the brand. It plays a critical role in appealing and seducing
consumers. Even for companies where packaging does not represent an important part of the
buying decision, packaging can bring additional value and is an opportunity to express brand’s
vision and values.

This is the case of Apple, which uses packaging as an opportunity to express its values of
creativity and tell a story about the brand. See Appendix 2.1. According to L. Clow (2009), in an
article in the blog Media Arts and Disruption, “the experience of buying an Apple product, and
discover it through its packaging tells as much of a story about the brand than a TV
commercial,” while L. Bix, quoted in an article from P. Mortensen (2005) explains: “Apple has an
understanding others don’t have that there’s an interface between people and the packages
that happens before you even reach the product.” Packaging brings a real additional value in
the experience of buying an Apple product, and demonstrates the desire of the company to
deliver a beautiful and compelling product.

Another company that embraces packaging design as a creative added value to strengthen its
brand experience is Coca Cola, which enhances collaborations with designers and constantly
creates new limited editions of its bottles. Among recent examples, Coca Cola developed
collaborations with the designers Roberto Cavalli, Sonia Rykiel and Karl Hagerfeld, and created
a limited edition for the celebration of Selfridges’ 100th birthday. See Appendix 2.2. Nike also
gives importance to packaging, and its concept Nike “Stadium,” for example, won the Cannes
Lions Promotion Award in 2007. Nike Stadium consisted in a limited number of Nike shoeboxes
that looked like a stadium, with a printed sheet of a stadium, which created the feeling of
hearing the crowd while opening the box. See Appendix 2.3. These different creative packaging
experiences both provide value for consumers and provide additional opportunities for brands
to build and develop on a truly relevant brand story.

In addition to packaging, everything that affects the customer journey should be taken care of
by brands and perceived as additional opportunities to express the brand story. Every brand
should wonder what kind of experiences should customers have with everything that surrounds
its products and services. Therefore, one of the most important experiences in buying a product
is the retail experience. Apple is relevant again to illustrate the importance of retail in the brand
experience. According to L. Clow (2009), Media Arts Director at TBWA and the man behind
Apple commercials, “the Apple Store is probably the best ad Apple has never done.”

Apple Stores are audio-video experiences where consumers can interact with the products,
discuss with passionate kids at the Genius Bar, and assist to lessons where employees teach
and explain how to use the products, and where films are shown to engage, inform, tell stories
and sometimes entertain. With the Apple Stores, the experience of buying an Apple product is
truly aligned with the brand’s story, its products, and its vision of enhancing creativity.

It is essential to align the experience of buying a product with the positioning of a brand. Both
need to be aligned in order to offer a coherent brand experience to consumers. This is what
Nestle did to upgrade its Nespresso coffee system to a luxury brand, and build it as a premium
brand comparable to Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or Bang & Olufsen. While its commercials promote
“the ultimate coffee experience,” Nespresso opened high luxury flagship stores in stellar
environments, such as the Champs-Elysees in Paris, to align the experience of buying the
product, and become one of the most elite brands in consumers’ mind.

Both examples from Apple and Nespresso demonstrate how building a relevant brand story
requires taking care of every physical point of interaction between the brand and its potential
customers in order to deliver a coherent brand experience. However, while consumers are
spending more time on-line, digital experiences are becoming increasingly important points of
interaction between brands and consumers.

2.2. The digital experience makes the difference

We could observe in the first part how both the emergence of new technologies and the
increasing acceptation of digital platforms were reshaping the way people accessed to content
and information. In this new media landscape, consumers also access to brands’ information
and content through different channels, which means that brands have digital experiences.

Figures and numbers confirm the need for brands to build digital experiences that have
coherence and relevance with their physical experience. In fact, according to a study from
Razorfish (2009), 65% of consumers have had a digital experience that changed their opinion
about a brand. 96% of them report that digital experiences influenced whether or not they
purchased a product or service from a brand. (Details of the survey can be found on Appendix
2.4.) In fact, in today’s media landscape, a company’s digital presence is increasingly becoming
the only experience that potential customers may ever have with a company.

The digital landscape is increasingly becoming the first place of contact between consumers
and brands. Still, according to the survey from the digital agency Razorfish (2009), 97% of
consumers have searched for a brand online, 77% have watched a commercial on YouTube,
68% have read a corporate blog, 65% have already played a branded, browser-based game,
and 73% have posted a product or brand review on a site like Amazon, Facebook or Twitter.

Before making a purchase, consumers often access to information about the products and
services that interest them, and select and compare relevant articles and commentaries,
through the Internet, that help make their decision. Greenberg explains, according from an
article by W. Berger (2009), “the most important interaction between consumer and brand
tends to happen in the digital space - often starting with a Google search that leads to a
company Web site. What happens when people arrive at that site may very well determinate the
survival of a brand.”

Developing a coherent and relevant brand experience on-line is becoming extremely important
and companies need to evolve their corporate websites into dynamic 24/7, 365 days online
experiences. Indeed, consumers praise brands online such as Nike, Apple and Spotify because
they succeed in delivering their brand promise in the digital environment. These brands offer
truly effective and inspiring online experiences that engage and entertain consumers.

One of the best examples of on-line experience is Nike+, a digital driven offering that combines
the products and services of Nike and Apple. Created in 2006, Nike + is an easy tool for
consumers to track and share their training progress. Performance results can be uploaded to a
personalized Nike+ account, where people can review their progress, connect with other
runners, and download training workout created by world famous coaches. The result is a
digital experience that delivers Nike’s brand attributes of performance and innovation, in a
relevant and unique way. According to B. Morrissey (2009) in an article in Advertising Age, since

the launch of Nike+, Nike Plus runners have logged in total more than 100 million miles. The
success of this platform is little coincidence with the fact that Nike increased its running shoe
market share from 48% in 2006 to 61% in 2008.

Many companies fail to understand the needs and desires of their consumers online.
Entertainment and value are two very important factors of decision for consumers in the digital
landscape. Brands should not only conceive websites to promote their products and services,
but also imagine these interfaces as interesting and attracting experiences that incite
consumers to spend time with the brand. Moreover, the emergence of mobile technologies and
digital applications provides new valuable opportunities for brands to engage their consumers.

IKEA, for example, used the benefits of augmented reality2 to enhance its consumers’
experience by providing a valuable interface that enable customers to imagine how their IKEA
furniture’s would fit into their home. Its agency Ogilvy One created a very simple mobile
application that displays different pieces of furniture that customers can select. By simply taking
a picture, aiming the camera of their phone at the area of the room where the furniture might be
placed, customers could see how the furniture would fit in their place. See Appendix 2.5. This
application is a great example of applying the unique attributes of mobile technologies to a very
specific customer situation. This innovation brings a real additional value for consumers and
enhances the brand and products experience.

In the case of IKEA, the digital experience is combined with a real customer need in the physical
world, and provides answers. An example from McDonalds presents another innovative
interactive experience that combines the physical and digital worlds to engage and entertain
consumers. In Stockholm, McDonalds created an interactive outdoor game, combining a
traditional outdoor format (4x3) with Bluetooth and digital technologies. Products from
McDonald’s scrolled on the digital billboard, and consumers simply had to catch one of them
with their cell-phone camera, go to the nearest McDonald’s, and show the picture of the
product to get one for free.3 Consumers were willing to play an interactive outdoor game and be
rewarded with a present, while it drove attractiveness and frequentation to the brand.

Augmented Reality, according to the Financial Times (2010), “deals with a combination of real-
world and computer-generated data, and generates for the user a view that combine the real
scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene generated by the computing machine.”
Watch the video case study:!

Technology is increasingly enabling new types of experiences between brands and consumers,
and it provides brands with opportunities to add value and fun to their communications.
According to a report from DM2PRO and Quattro Wireless (2010), almost one-half of marketers
created a mobile application in 2009, while most are planning to invest in one in the following
months. Brands should use mobile and digital technologies as opportunities to create
compelling interactive experiences that reflect the core values of the brand and complement its
physical experience.

3. Shifting from advertising toward brand content

The role of advertising agencies, according to C. Croze (2009, see Interview 1) is “to advice
companies in order to build great brands’ stories and produce communication ideas.” In a
media landscape where there has never been as much information and content competing for
people’s attention, brands’ stories need much more substance to attract and retain consumers’
attention. Moreover, as we could observe in the first part, safe advertising is increasingly being
ignored and its effectiveness has dramatically reduced.

Building brand stories in this new environment requires more than simple advertising
commercials. Brands need to capture the attention of consumers and for that they need to
produce content that is interesting and entertaining enough to compete with the content that
people use to spend time with. The role of brand communications, and as a consequence the
role of advertising agencies, should shift from focusing on producing advertising commercials to
producing brand content. J. Hicks (2009) the CEO of the agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky
insists: “the agency’s job is to create content so valuable and useful that consumers wouldn’t
want to live without it”.

Brand content is different from branded content. J-M Dru (2010) explains in his article Brand
Content that in the case of branded content, “the brand participates in pre-existing editorial
content” while in the case of brand content, “the brand creates its own content.” Branded
content has always been part of brand communication strategies, through sponsorships,
ambassador programs or public relations. Companies have always tried to find ways to
associate their brands with the power and prestige of famous competitions, ceremonies, artists,

and art fairs, in consumers’ minds. However, the association in consumers’ minds could be
more or less evident, and the effectiveness of sponsorships can legitimately be discussed.

Brand content is different because it enables brands to play directly an editorial role that can
raise the interest of an audience. As it happens for consumers, the emergence of digital
technologies is empowering brands to produce, distribute and share content. Besides,
contrarily to the belief that media providers only should create content and information because
of a supposed neutrality and independence, brands have a real legitimacy to create content, as
illustrated by the words of P. Somarriba, former advertising director of Benetton, that J-M Dru
(2010) quotes in his article Brand Content:

“People believe that media are by definition independent. As a consequence, this

freedom would guarantee the quality of the content they create. This reasoning is not
justified. In fact, the media are profit-making businesses with commercial constraints
that brands don’t have, because brands’ resources come from other activities.”

The search for new experiences for consumers should encourage brands to engage resources
in the creation of content. Brands have access to financial resources that traditional medias
don’t have, which enable them to invest in media projects financially inaccessible to traditional
media providers. This is even truer for international companies that have the ability to connect
with audiences in a worldwide scale.

The challenge for brands with brand content is that they are not only competing with other
brands but also with all kind of content producers (television producers, movies directors,
entertainment conglomerates) to catch audiences’ attention. Some recent examples prove that
brands can perfectly fit the challenge. To demonstrate its willingness to embrace the spirit of
sport, rivalry and competition, Gatorade decided to stage rematches of classic games between
some of the biggest sport rivalries in the US. The first episode of Gatorade Replay staged the
re-match between the Easton and Phillipsburg College teams in a one-hour documentary
showing the return of the original players, coaches and cheerleaders, fifteen years after one of
the most memorable game in history between the two teams, which ended with a dramatic tie.

This idea of re-staging memorable games attracted audiences around the world and helped to
build a great story around the Gatorade brand. The first episode of Replay, according to J. Hunt
(2009), sold 13,000 tickets out in only 90 minutes, received over 130 million worth of media

impressions, and has been featured in almost every single newspaper in the USA. J-M Dru
(2010) even explains in an interview with France 24 that Gatorade and TBWA received requests
from the major studios to turn the documentary into a feature film or a longer series.

The success of Replay demonstrates that brands and advertising agencies can produce
content that both results attractive for people and provides brands with great benefits. Brand
content responds to a real customer need, which is to live new and different experiences while
being entertained. In addition, brand content helps to legitimate a positioning and demonstrates
the commitment of a brand with its values.

4. Changing the view on media

The emergence of brand content such as Gatorade Replay tends to illustrate how brand
communication ideas should enhance creativity both in the idea and in the form. The need for
brand content implies that agencies should focus not only on developing innovative creative
ideas, but also on finding how to deploy these ideas across multiple channels and platforms in
the most creative format.

The development of different types of brand content challenges the traditional idea of media. In
the case of Gatorade, the company did not use media in order to broadcast its message
because the message of the brand itself was the media. For decades, brands have used media
in a strictly limited sense: they paid to leverage a mass media channel and display their
advertising messages. This vision of media was relevant while audiences spent their time on a
few limited mass-medias. However, the migration of audiences towards new media platforms
has transformed this model and forces companies to change the vision of media.

Media is not only a way for brands to target and address messages to consumers, it is also the
way that people are engaging with the world around them. According to L. Clow (2009), “media
is just any space that exists between a brand and the audience.” The Inventor of the idea of
Media Arts at TBWA explains: “everything a brand does that connect to the consumer is
media.” Brands should use their communication strategies as opportunities to develop new
intersections with their customers, whether it is through the creation of physical and digital
experiences. In addition, marketers must understand that the revolution of digital

communications makes that their brands are progressively transforming themselves into a

There are many new connection possibilities between brands and consumers. The digital
revolution has created a whole new universe of media possibilities that enrich the possibilities of
advertising, as represented by this picture, taken from an article from Tim Bradshaw, in the
Financial Times (2009). See Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1. Advertising, 1980 / 2009. Source: Financial Times, August 28th, 2009

Brands have more opportunities than ever to build their communications strategies and to
become part of their consumers’ lives. Indeed, this ever-evolving choice in the media
possibilities reassesses the notion of medias. Brands should stop thinking about buying time
and buying space in audiences’ lives as they have been used to do for decades with the
previous model of advertising, mainly based on a few mass medias. Instead, brands should
rather think and act like media companies, and create time and spaces that attract audiences
and provide them with a valuable reason to live and engage with the brand experience.

Some of the best brands today are already becoming the places, the spaces, and the
experiences that people choose to spend time with. Brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Nike are
brands that are shaping their brands to transform themselves into a medium through which
people can experience their lives. Trevor Edwards, Vice President of Global Brand Management
at Nike explains, in an article from L. Story, in the New York Times (2007): “we are not in the
business of keeping the media companies alive. We are in the business of connecting with
consumers.” The best ways for brands to connect with consumers is to create their own points
of interaction and their own interactive channels.

Brands must shift their attitude from being media neutral to become media passionate. The
digital revolution provides brands with unique opportunities to become the medias of their
consumers, and increasingly, brands should choose to develop media concepts and platforms
that use the benefits of technology to bring the brand closer to its audience. When Coca Cola
creates the “FIFA World Cup Celebration radio”, an on-demand personalized radio in
collaboration with Goom Radio, it expresses its desire to place celebration at the heart of its
communication strategy and it does it by inviting its consumers to celebrate the World Cup with
Coca Cola Radio, a live and interactive media, that creates value and interaction with

5. The power of storytelling

We already discussed that the role of brand communications is to build great brand stories.
These are the emotional links that connect consumers with the meaning of brand. R. Schank
(1990), once said: “human beings are not made to understand logic, but stories.” This is the
reason why, as N. Bordas explains in his book L’Idée qui tue (2009, p. 99), parables are so
important in religions and books like the Bible or the Koran.

Great stories play with emotions in order to be easier to commit to memory. They can be funny,
sad, true, or dreamt, but great stories always play with emotions in order to capture the
attention of audiences. To exist, ideas need to convince. This is the reason why politicians are
among the greatest storytellers because they know how to convince audiences. Barack Obama
and John McCain are also respected and successful authors.

Storytelling is extremely important in the creation of a brand identity. The best brand stories,
and the most easily recognizable, come from very simple ideas that capture a relevant
emotional universe around brands’ values. Many people associate Nike with the idea of “Just
Do It”, while unconsciously, consumers believe in the “refreshing” effect of a Pepsi. When
Adidas claims that “Impossible is Nothing”, it states clearly and firmly its vision that everything is
possible. Great visions are unique. Brands such as Nike, Virgin, Danone, Google have all visions
of their very own that make them unique.

Brand visions must reflect a very unique positioning. J-M Dru (1996, p. 99) explains in
Disruption that brands need to own something because “that is the only way for a vision to be
effective and stand the test of time.” Nike represents the belief of surpassing oneself. “Just Do
It” is the idea that embodies this vision. “Don’t Make Evil,” the motto of new Internet giant
Google, encourages innovation and progress for the good of people. All of these visions are
special and determinate a very specific vision inherent to the brand.

Jean-Marie Dru, in Disruption (1996, p. 100), gives a framework for finding relevant inspirational
sources to define a company’s savoir-faire and mission. The following outline is adapted from
the original one, and updated with recent examples:

Product Performance Product Category

Brand Expertise Inspiration Source Brand Meaning

Company Know-How Company Role

The BMW brand represents the product performance in the automobile industry, in addition to a
special care regarding design and aesthetics. Nintendo created a whole new product category
in the gaming industry when launching the Nintendo Wii, which revolutionized the way we think
and conceive gaming into a more interactive, fun, and participative experience. While other
actors such as Sony PlayStation and Xbox are focusing more on graphics and processing
power, Nintendo represents and owns a different product category. The Michelin brand

symbolises brand expertise, synonym of quality and effectiveness over the decades. In the
other part, a brand like Innocent embodies a different brand meaning, around the respect of
nature and the quality of its components. Hermes represents a company’s know-how, savoir-
faire and an expertise that seems unquestioned in consumers’ minds. Finally, the recent turn-
around of the brand Pepsi, which encourages and rewards consumers to realise charity
projects, through its platform Pepsi Refresh4, is an excellent example of a company that
embodies a role in the society.

All these cases are relevant examples of the importance for brands to have a powerful story and
a relevant positioning that makes the brand different and unique. Strong brands ideas give a
meaning and relevance to the company. In addition, brand ideas are also a great management
tool internally. J.M. Goumnu, J.F. Gagne and E. Josserand (2005) develop this idea in their
book Manager par la marque (Managing through the brand).

Brand visions are not only effective in consumers’ minds but they also galvanize people
internally. Brands need a vision, a belief system, an attitude and a view on the world that is
shared by the entire organization, internally and externally. More than simple guidelines, a brand
vision is a definite set of values. According to J-M Dru (2010), “when a company has a strong
culture, everyone in that organization not only supports decisions made by the CEO – but could
have made the same decision in his ore her place.” E. Josserand (2008) insisted in his course
Client-Oriented Organization that the brand is a promise that is first delivered by employees.
That reinforces the necessity for all employees to share a common vision and the same beliefs.

Thanks to Steve Jobs’ vision, Apple owns a culture of creativity and innovation that makes it
unique. TBWA created for Apple the motto “Think Different”, and it happened that this was
much more than an advertising slogan. In fact, it went directly at the heart of the company and
transformed its way of thinking. Apple embraced internally this idea that it was not simply a
computer maker, but the provider of tools for creative people. As a result, Apple launched new
devices, such as iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, and now the iPad, which have been radical new
departures for Apple, but that were simply in line with this culture.

Pepsi launched the Refresh Project, a grants scheme providing millions of dollars to fund good
ideas that make the world a better place. Pepsi has up to $1.3 million in Refresh grants to give
out every month, ranging from $5,000 through to $250,000.
Finally, the Pedigree brand recently changed its vision from being a dog-food producer to a
dog-loving company. The company fully embraced this idea, and now employees come to their
office with their dogs, the brand launched adoption drive initiatives in multiple countries, and
tries to embrace this positioning in every of its actions. Such examples, from Apple and
Pedigree, demonstrate the importance of having strong brand visions. When brands embrace a
clear vision, then every action of the brand, internally and externally, and then every
communication initiative remain honest with the idea of the brand. Strong brand ideas are
necessary in order to maintain a clear positioning and strong values in the mind of consumers.
This is the necessary condition to the next phase: engaging consumers in the digital world.

B. Engaging consumers in the digital world

1. Brands should let consumers take the ownership of their brands

1.1. Enhance customization and personalized consumption

The emergence of digital technologies has enabled brands to engage a personalized dialogue
and a concrete relationship with their consumers. Thus, we could observe in the first part of this
project that consumers are increasingly demanding to take a role in the creation of their
products. When consumers are given the opportunity to shape and influence the construction
of their brands, companies develop more chances to increase their customers’ loyalty.
Consumers love their own creations and with the increasing development of digital platforms,
they are demanding to have a word in the creation of the products they will become loyal to.

People want to find their identity through their purchases, and consumption is a massive tool of
identification. According to J. Brewer and F. Trentman (2007, p. 42), “consumption is an act of
discovering and cultivating the shelf.” Therefore, consumers expect from brands that they tell
them which kind of person they are. “Consumers gather around object which define their
identity and become centrepieces of particular routines of sociability,” according to D. Miller &
al. (1998, p. 89). Brands must build on this quest from consumers to find distinction and
difference in the use of their products to enhance customization and personalization.

The development of interactive digital technologies encourages brands to build platforms that
enable people to customize their own products. The idea of customization requires from brands

that they stop thinking in terms of control and start to open themselves to customers. On this
regard, A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, quoted in an article from L. Crombie and A.
Simmons (2008), challenges marketers to “stop trying to control their brands and allow
customers to engage with them in creative ways.” Moreover, according to D. Tapscott (2009, p.
79), “the desire is about personalizing and accessorizing, it is more aesthetic than functional.” In
fact, consumers are becoming overused with standardized products and they want products
that are perfectly tailored to their needs.

Companies such as BMW, Converse and Mars have fully embraced the idea of customization
and allow their brands to serve for their consumers’ personal expression. For example,
consumers can draw the exact features, colours, and designs of their Mini Cooper cars and
Converse sneakers. In the case of M&M’s, brides can even serve monogrammed chocolate
candies for their weddings. Nike also pioneers customization since it created its service Nike ID
in 1999. The basic idea of the Nike ID platform is to use technology as a solution to let
consumers customize their own products and experiences.

Customization became one of the key elements of Nike’s strategy that is to shift its perception
from being a sportswear brand to become the enabler of customized and personalized
experience for its consumers. In the blog Buzz Canuck, Nike’s Brand President, Charlie Denson
(2007), explains it in the following words: “customization is a very important part of the way that
consumers interact with anybody or with brands today. We have spent the last 20 years trying
to bundle things, adding value to a purchase or a relationship. And now, it’s almost in reverse,
because you have to unbundle everything if it’s going to become customizable.” Therefore,
Nike’s strategy tends to illustrate the fact that we are leaving an age of controlled and limited
product offering to an age of customization and creative personalization.

The Nike ID platform is the perfect example of brand customization applied to the digital age.
Either on the Nike ID website, on Nike stores, or through Nike ID applications, people can
experience customization in very entertaining ways. Across all these platforms, customers are
given the opportunity to very easily build their own shoes from special sets of colours and
materials. Using the advances in technologies, Nike went further in the interactive experience
and created a mobile service, Nike Photo ID, which enables customers to create their own
customized shoes from pictures of the real world. The service, using MMS technology, identifies
the two dominant colours in a picture, matches them with the ones available from the Nike
Store, and finally generates Nike sneakers inspired from these colours, sending them to the

user, which can purchase them instantly using a unique Design ID code on the Nike ID website.
See Appendix 2.6.

The power of the case from Nike is that it matches visual technologies, very simple and easy to
use interfaces, with a real customer desire which is to customize their own experiences. Other
examples of brands that created customization platforms include a certain number of luxury
brands, including Zadig & Voltaire, which enables its consumers to customize their own
watches on its interactive website (See Appendix 2.7.), and Longchamp, which offers the
opportunity to its consumers to create their own personalized bags. (See Appendix 2.8.).

The idea of brand customization can also takes much simpler forms. Consumers are looking for
personalization and brands can provide them with additional choices or options to accessorize
their own products. Companies can enhance simple details that will provide a different
experience and develop the feeling of owning truly personalized products. For example, Apple
gives the chance to its consumers to add a personal laser-engraved message at the back of
their iPod for free.

We insisted in the importance of physical and digital experiences in consumers’ choices.

Enhancing customization provides brands with the opportunity to enhance their experience
through interactive or physical platforms. Brands should definitely seek new ways to improve
the customization of their offering and use the opportunities of evolving digital technology to
provide consumers with truly valuable ways to personalize their brand experience.

1.2. Encourage customer innovation and participation

Brands should not only enable consumers to customize and personalize their offering but they
should also open their organization to encourage customer innovation and participation. D.
Tapscott explains in his best-selling book Wikinomics (2006, p. 4) how the “traditional plan and
push mentality is being replaced by an engage and co-create economy.” The collaborative
revolution that D. Tapscott describes impacts companies in much more areas than brand
communications only. It involves changing the way companies do business.

Companies such as P&G and Dell have found that collaboration with customers could be
extremely successful and drive the emergence of powerful innovations. P&G launched a
website dedicated to open-innovation called Connect + Develop, which solicits externally

developed intellectual property and provides an environment to share knowledge around its
brand. On its website, Procter & Gamble looks for innovation around all areas of the P&G
business, including packaging, design, marketing models, research methods, engineering and
technology. With this platform, P&G uses technology and networks to seek out new ideas for
future product innovations that would both improve its products and services, and benefit the
lives of consumers around the world.

The computing giant Dell recently launched IdeaStorm, an online crowdsourcing platform that
enables consumers to generate ideas about Dell’s products and services. This open platform is
a direct invitation for customers to take ideas into the company, and ultimately challenge the
way Dell does business. Users can post suggestions and recommendations about Dell’s
products and services, and the community of users can vote, so that the most popular ideas
are well visible on the website.

In addition to IdeaStorm, Dell built EmployeeStorm, an internal website, which also enables
employees to share and discuss ideas for Dell’s products, services and business online. These
two platforms have had very successful results for Dell, as IdeaStorm experienced in 2008 more
than 40’000 unique visitors weekly, 8900 ideas submitted and 67’000 comments, while
EmployeeStorm garnered more than 2’700 ideas submitted and 140’000 votes, with
approximately 22 percent of Dell employees visiting the site, according to the agency that built
the two platforms, Cohn Wolfe (2008, see agency website).

Dell and P&G’s examples demonstrate how companies could benefit from the intelligence and
the creative capabilities of their customers. For these two companies, the development of
external collaboration has proven to be a successful path to innovate. Rather than innovating on
their own, these companies have engaged new type of collaborations and models, which
enhance the participation of their consumers. Opening organizations to find new answers for
product development is becoming more relevant in a world where everything is more complex.
Y. Benkler (2006, p. 125), in his book The Wealth of Networks, sums it up extremely well: “the
world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the
answers inside.”

Opening the organization is also an ingenious way of predicting and delivering what the market
really needs. In addition, it brings the organization closer to its more passionate and engaged
stakeholders. L. Huston and N. Sakkab (2006) both argue that “connect and develop will

become the dominant innovation model in the twenty-first century.” They insist on the
decreasing effectiveness of the classical closed innovation model: “for most companies, the
alternative invent-it-ourselves model is a sure path to diminishing returns.” The results of the
Connect + Develop platform for P&G demonstrate the positive effects; according to S. Kuipers
(2009), P&G net profit tripled to $10 billion in 2007, after just a few years of really embracing
open innovation and crowdsourcing.

1.3. Enhance content creation

Brands are given the tools to benefit from the collaboration of people. We noticed how
customers increasingly participate in the customization and personalization of products. People
don’t hesitate in providing ideas and insights to improve brands’ existing products and services,
and as a consequence, brands should also considerate the benefits from customers’ creativity
regarding the creation of content and advertising.

We presented in the first part of this project how the emergence of computing tools and the
access to digital platforms transformed the development of content production and distribution.
The success of the video platform YouTube demonstrates that people are not only attracted by
professional content but also by content generated by amateurs. These conditions present
opportunities for companies that should benefit from the creativity of their consumers.

When the agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners pitched Nike’s $10 million Converse account
in 2004, it persuaded Converse executives to outsource the production of their advertising to
their fans. Consumers were rewarded, as the 30 persons whose ads would be selected to play
on TV each would get $10,000, and the brief attracted many fans, which produced massively
great advertising. In addition to providing great quality content for a low cost, Converse’s
external sourcing strategy turn out to be a great way to engage consumers and passionate fans
of the brand. Erick Soderstrom, Converse’s global marketing chief, quoted in an article by D.
Kiley (2005), explained: “our customers tend to be creative, and we’ve given them the biggest
canvas we have to express themselves, our advertising.”

Last year, Doritos decided to encourage its consumers to produce the commercial that would
be aired during the Super Bowl. This decision has been extraordinarily successful for the brand
as it generated many different ideas, and the selected commercial ranked number one in the
USA Today’s Ad Meter panel, which measures the effectiveness of advertising commercials

during the Super Bowl, while it was competing with advertisements from the best advertising

According to E. Bryson & J. Mullman (2009), two journalists from Advertising Age, “Jeff Goodby
and Alex Bogusky had nothing on a cheap crotch joke from two unemployed brothers from
Indiana.” These examples from Converse and Doritos demonstrate that consumers can have
brilliant ideas to express their brands. In addition, enhancing content creation brings precious
results in terms of brand understanding. Heinz, for example, asked its consumers to produce a
commercial for their brand, but the reason was not to spend less money on it but rather to find
out how people really connected with the brand.

The emergence of crowdsourcing can threaten advertising agencies. The costs involved in
these examples are very advantageous for brands. In the case of Doritos, the cost of the TV
commercial was of less than $100. It is legitimate to wonder what justifies spending large
amounts of money on a piece of creation while crowdsourcing advertising can be more effective
and at a lower cost. However, behind any successful commercial, there is a brand. Producing
commercials is easier for brands like Converse and Doritos because these brands are very
recognizable. These brands represent values, experiences, and very concrete moments in
peoples’ mind, which have been possible only thanks to the constant strategic and creative
work of advertising agencies.

Crowdsourcing and consumers’ content creation are opportunities for advertising agencies and
companies to open the creation and the production of some parts of their creative production.
Enhancing consumers’ content creation is also an interesting way to enhance consumers’
engagement and to benefit from their relevant insights.

2. Building the road to success: engage and convert consumers

We could evaluate how consumers are increasingly asking for more participation in the brands
they like. According to A. Bogusky and J. Winsor (2009, p. 29), “customers demand to be
involved with your company. They want to participate in building a brand they will become loyal
to, generating a conversation around new ideas, and manufacturing products that will speak to
their needs.” We evaluated how companies could turn consumers into producers. However,
one of the most relevant opportunities of the emergence of digital is the fact that brands can
now engage individually consumers and turn them into brand advocates.

2.1. The effects of word-of-mouth and viral marketing

According to a survey from Nielsen Media (2009), 90% of people would be likely to use a brand
recommended by someone who has used it himself. Word of mouth has long been considered
as the most powerful tool for marketers as it is valued twice as much by people as an
information source compared to advertising, according to J. Berry (2005), and 92% of them cite
it as their favourite source of information, according to Keller (2005). He insists that word-of-
mouth is also increasing in importance as people value it today 50% more than they did in the
1970s. However, until the emergence of the digital world, “word-of-mouth” strategies were
extremely complicated to measure and to approach for marketers.

The emergence of social networking websites combined to the evolution of people’s behaviour
transformed word-of-mouth into a credible marketing arm for marketers. Indeed, according to
F. Reichheld (2003), the likelihood that clients and consumers advocate a brand to their friends
is directly correlated to business growth. Her research found that companies with high word-of-
mouth advocacy rates and which are more recommended grow fast, while those with little word
of mouth advocacy rates stagnate or shrink. Brand advocacy even appears to have more
importance than brand image or brand satisfaction in predicting growth. This is due to the fact
that word-of-mouth takes power from both its credibility and its exponential reach.

Prior to the emergence of the Internet, word-of-mouth was very complicated to activate and its
effects were contained to very specific geographic areas, simply because of the lack of social
tools allowing its spread. Word-of-mouth was limited to the physical world and the ability of an
influencer to physically speak to another potential customer. The Internet changed so much the
way people contact and communicate with each other that word-of-mouth has now turn into a
dominant and increasingly powerful marketing tool.

The term “viral marketing” was chosen to describe the word-of-mouth phenomenon in
reference to a famous campaign from Hotmail, in 1996, that helped Hotmail becoming the first
leading personal email service provider. The campaign turned users of the service into brand
advocates by attaching to all outgoing emails a small P.S. message (as if it was written by the
sender) with the mention: “Get your free email at Hotmail.” By turning Hotmail users into a

promotional sales force, the email service knew a huge success and recruited 12 million
subscribers in only 18 months with a limited marketing budget.

The term “viral” was coined, based on the assumption that if an advertisement reached a
“susceptible” user, that user would instantly become “infected” and this new user would then
infect other susceptible users. The email was the first catalyst of viral marketing, but the
emergence of social networks, online communities and online chat has provided the ability to
distribute information exponentially faster than ever before. While word-of-mouth marketing
could take months to reach a thousand people, viral marketing empowered by digital tools
enables brands to reach hundreds and millions of people in a matter of hours.

The new idea that viral marketing brings into communications today, according to E. Kasapi
(2009, p. 120), is that “messages are spreading thorough the Web at an exponential rate.”
Internet users who receive messages forward them to their social networks and a similar
dissemination follow, initiated this time by the receivers. Some relevant examples of “viral
videos” include Evian’s “Baby Rollers” campaign, from the agency BETC Euro RSCG, which
became the most viewed online advertisement in the history of advertising5, and the campaign
Dove “Evolution”, from the agency Ogilvy and Matter, which used time-lapse photography to
show the transformation of a natural woman into a glamorous billboard model, using beauty
stylists and Photoshop arrangements. The success of both videos reproduced the scheme of
“communication epidemics”, proposed by M. Gladwell (2000) in his book The Tipping Point,
which explains that “a social epidemic begins when a successful idea passes a threshold that
epidemiologists call ‘the tipping point’ and this is when growth of that social epidemic shifts
from linear to exponential.”

Word-of-mouth and viral marketing are effective because human beings are powered by
emotions and not by reason. Consumers who make decisions based purely on facts represent
a very small minority of the world population, and the majority of consumers consume and shop
with their mind and their emotions. According to R. Martin (2007), “people want to be liked and
using humour in social interactions is very likely to increase someone’s likeability.” Brands must
embrace emotions and understand what they mean to people, and how they affect their

The Guinness Book of Records considers Evian «Roller Baby» as the most viewed online
advertisement ever with 45.5 million views by November 9th, 2009.
The success of viral videos makes us understand the importance for brands to give the tools to
consumers to spread the word about the products and services they feel emotionally linked to.
According to S. Bouchet (2010), “it is all about how content is sharable between people.” This
observation should encourage brands and agencies to focus on building content that will more
likely be shared and spread online.

2.2. Building on brand advocacy

Brand perception is an important driver of success for communication strategies. Building on

brand advocacy is becoming absolutely essential and brand communications should focus on
optimizing the chances that people recommend the brand to their social networks. To increase
the chances of success, word-of-mouth initiatives should involve targeting at special segments
of the markets. Indeed, some people are more important to secure and involve because they
have the ability to influence other people.

Observing the characteristics of the theory of the Diffusion of Innovation, which studies how,
why, and at what rate new ideas and technologies spread through cultures, will enable us to
understand the strategies that brands should develop to optimize their brand advocacy. E.
Rogers (2003) first defined this theory, describing it as “the process by which an innovation is
communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.” In
this theory, Rogers defines individuals as adopters in a social system regarding their
innovativeness, and suggests five different categories of adopters between innovators, early
adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.
See Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1. Diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers: 1962): Five categories of adopters

- According to Rogers (2003), Innovators are considered as the first individuals that adopt an
innovation. They are people who are willing to take risks, who are very social and who have a
close contact and interaction with other innovators and scientists.

- Early adopters are the second fastest category of individuals that embrace innovation. They
have a high degree of opinion leadership among other categories of adopters. Rogers (2003,
p.185) describes them explaining that “they have a higher social status, have more financial
lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. “

- Early Majority comprises individuals that adopt an innovation after some degree of time. They
tend to be slower in the adoption process but show some opinion leadership and have
influence within their closed social contacts.

- Late Majority includes individuals that adopt innovation after the average member of the
society. Their approach of innovation is generally sceptical; they usually have below average
social status and little opinion leadership.

- Laggards, finally, are the last to adopt innovations. Unlike other categories of adopters,
laggards show little or no opinion leadership. They typically have an aversion to change and are

mainly focused on traditions. Generally advanced in age, they only have contact with their family
and close friends.

Rogers’ theory presents the necessity for a brand to define and target its most important
customers. It is essential that brands recognizes innovators and early adopters among their
consumers and creates advocacy among them. According to S. Rusticus (2006, p. 28), the
best strategy for brands is “to create advocacy among the 10% of your target market,
considering that these 10% would tell the other 90% what to think, say and buy.”

Influencers have a strong power on the digital world and particularly on social networks, where
they can easily express and share their behaviours. Famous personalities, and bloggers, for
example, attract passionate and loyal readers and followers, which turn them into important
target for brands that must find ways to endorse them as their brand advocates.

Brand advocates are another target group that brands should definitely harness to drive
demand through word of mouth. Those people are average consumers, not specifically regular,
but who are so passionate about the brand that they are willing to recommend it to others.
They are different from opinion leaders because their influence is uniquely due to the fact that
they are highly satisfied adopters and enthusiastic endorsers of the brand.

Brand advocates are extremely important for brands because they have a key role in spreading
positive or negative messages on the Web about brands. S. Bouchet (2010, see Interview 2)
argues: “it is essential to nurture that base of people that are very emotionally attached to your
brands, make sure they’ve got everything they need, to share with their friends, and to spread
the word for your brands, and make sure they are always happy.” Happy consumers are
consumers that will more easily spread a positive word about the brand and they will help to
increase the positive image of the brand.

Tools and techniques exist in order to transform brand adorers into active brand advocates and
help existing advocates to evangelize about the brand. The most basic tool is the classical
referral programme, known also as “introduce-a-friend”, “member-get-member”, or “customer-
get-customer” schemes, which rewards brand advocates for recommending the brand and the
people that have been recommended, if they become adopters. The online market place eBay,
for example, invites members to introduce their friends to the service, in return for which both
parties receive a $10 voucher on the website. In addition, online companies such as Gmail and

Spotify, only available through invitations, encourage their users to invite their friends through
exclusive invitation programs.

Engagement strategies are becoming essential because brands are facing empowered
consumers whose words and behaviours have many implications in the success of a brand.
Providing consumers with the tools to share content, express their opinion, and see their loyalty
rewarded creates a sustainable advantage for brands, which, when it is well executed,
becomes brand advocacy.

Consumers are demanding to be engaged. According to C. Denson, Nike Vice President

(2007), “they want to be part of a community, whether it’s a digital community or a virtual
community, or whether it’s a physical community. They want to feel like they’re part of
something.” Engagement provides brands with positive word-of-mouth, which is the reason
why companies must provide customers with the tools to express and share their passion for
their brand. We will now present the opportunities that social medias strategies can offer to
foster consumers’ engagement.

3. The opportunities of social media strategies to foster consumers’


One of the essential components of the digital landscape that transforms brand
communications is the wide acceptation of social networks by Internet users. The development
of these online social platforms provides brands with many opportunities to foster consumers’

3.1. How to be a Social Capitalist

As we could observe in the first part of this project, consumers are increasingly using the
Internet as their main source of information. On the Web, they spend most of their time with
social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, as Facebook has recently become the most
visited website in the US, behind Google. See Appendix 2.9.

The success of social networks is due to the fact that consumers are given the opportunity to
connect and interact between each other. According to C. Li, in an article from The Economist
(2010), “the social networks’ greatest achievement has been to bring humanity into a place that

was once cold and technological.” In the same article, Marc Andreesen, a Silicon Valley veteran
who has invested in both Facebook and Twitter, insists: “the emergence of social networks
represents a dramatic and permanent upgrade in people’s ability to communicate with one
another.” For brands, it is a unique opportunity to be part of people’s conversations and to
engage directly and personally with them.

Social media marketing is becoming one of the main priorities for brands, as it is projected to
grow at an annual rate of 34% from 2009 to 2014, faster than any other form of online
marketing, according the US Interactive Marketing Report (2009). Marketers are trying to add
social media as a key foundation of their marketing mix and start to understand the need for
them to be more open and connected with their consumers. However, we are only at the very
beginning of the deep impact that social networks will have in our society. M. Zuckerberg
(2008), founder and CEO of Facebook, explains: “in order to be successful in this century, we’re
going to need to be more connected and we’re going to need to have a better sense of
understanding of where other people are coming from.”

Social networks offer many ways for brands to create a direct and personal contact with their
consumers. The ability to create and foster communities is also very attractive for advertisers
that are looking for trust and achieve loyalty with their consumers. The fact that marketers are
adding social media marketing as a key element of brand communications does not necessarily
imply having to spend a significative investment of money, and that is because engaging
consumers on social medias is not about money. There is no need to invest money to develop
its reputation in social networks.

According to T. Hunt (2009, p. 5), “money is not the capital of choice in online communities, it is
whuffie – social capital.” In the new digital world, market capital flows through having high social
capital. T. Hunt (2009, p. 2) insists: “without whuffie, you lose your connections and any
recommendations you make will be seen as spam – met with negative reactions and a loss of
social capital.” E.K. Clermons (2007) explains that there are four conditions for marketing
communications to achieve loyalty with social networks. They need to be personal (interesting
personally for the user), participatory (interactive), plausible and believable, and in addition,
possibility of a physical transition must exist (ability to go from the online world to the real world).

Entertaining and maintaining a subsequent social capital requires some rules, as we will observe
from the example of Nestle. The giant FMCG company became recently the object of attacks

from consumers online following the broadcast on YouTube of a video from Greenpeace
denouncing the fact that Nestle uses palm oil from deforested areas for its chocolate bar Kit
Kat, which has dramatic consequences for endangered species of orang-utans.6

In a viral effect, critics of Nestle took on its social networking page on Facebook to criticize the
company’s environmental and operational credentials. The sentiment expressed by users was
fundamentally anti-Nestle, and the page began to attract a swarm of comments accusing the
multinational brand of unethical practices. In a couple of days, thousands of users expressed
publically their rage against the brand, and their willingness to spread the word against Nestle7.

However, this example is very relevant because of the very bad reaction of Nestle following the
critics. As new negative messages continued to appear, the administrator of the Nestle page
attempted to accommodate the influx, writing the following post: “we welcome your comments,
but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile picture – they
will be deleted.” The reaction of Nestle was very disappointing; the company proved not only to
misunderstand the context, but it started eluding the problem by creating another one. Then,
while users continued to post rebellious messages, the administrator of the Nestle page ended
responding: “Get it off your chest – we’ll pass it on,” which had no other effect than inciting
users to continue invading the Nestle page to claim their critics.

The surge of violence was not orchestrated by anybody, even Greenpeace. According to Ian
Duff, a spokesperson from Greenpeace, quoted in an article from E. Fox, in the Guardian
(2010), “We don’t have resources to invest in a social media agency. Nestle have brought this
outrage onto themselves.” People themselves expressed publically their disobedience against
Nestle, which found itself with very few arguments in order to respond. The company ended up
writing on its page: “Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the

This type of situation is something that brands must absolutely prevent. We will come back to
this point later while talking about the need for advertising agencies to build on real time

The Greenpeace video was in fact a parody of Kit Kat’s commercial «Have a break, have a Kit
Kat.» Playing with the slogan, Greenpeace ended the video with the slogan: «Give the orang-
utan a break.»
When visiting Nestle fan page on Facebook, we could see a web user saying, for example,
“start taking some responsibility for where you source your ingredients… and just maybe we will
forgive you.” (More examples in the Appendix 2.10)
capabilities for their brands. According to T. Hunt (2009, p. 89-90), “the way companies
respond to negative feedback is as important as their response to positive feedback.” She
argues: “the best way to handle negative feedback is taking a step back from it as long as it
takes to remove your emotional reaction.” The mistake of Nestle was to respond emotionally,
taking the negative feedback personally.

Conversations exist in the digital space whether brands like it or not. The conventional business
wisdom that companies need to be secretive in order to be successful is becoming increasingly
wrong. People are talking more and more and they are ignoring crafted messages. The Internet
is a medium that multiplies word-of-mouth, and for this main reason, brands must open
themselves up to the conversation.

To turn into social capitalists, brands must build on communities, engage conversations, and
create personal interactions, which have to be meaningful and authentic because consumers
are increasingly looking for honesty and integrity. According to D. Tapscott (2008), 71% of
digital consumers will tolerate corporate mistakes if corrected honestly or quickly, and 77% say
that untrue advertising would convince them to tell friends not to buy a product.

The digital revolution is bringing a new era of transparency, which obliges marketers to speak
openly and honestly with their customers. The companies that still are opposed with that point
are losing much credibility on the social world. By having the opportunity to connect with
customers through communities’ interactions on the social world, companies are given the
unique opportunity to raise social capital, create demand, and sell more products. According to
T. Kelley, cofounder of IDEO, in a comment on T. Hunt’s book The Whuffie Factor (2009),
“social capital may be the most powerful currency of the twenty-first century.” Consumer loyalty
is a direct result of a great social capital. Brands that understand that raising communities and
engaging customers on-line can help them to be successful will be rewarded with sustainable
competitive advantages on the long term.

3.3. Attracting audiences on social medias

Brands want consumers to interact with them to build buzz and engagement, but social media
users often desire something in return. According to a survey from Marketing Sherpa (2009),
learning about special offers and sales is one of the main motivations of those who are following
a brand online, as well as learning about new products, new features, and new services.

However, only 30% of them do that because of the company culture, environmental
responsibility or workers’ policies. See Appendix 2.11

These numbers tend to demonstrate that to attract consumers on social networks, brands need
to provide value and reward loyalty. For customers, the company in itself (values, behaviour,
culture) is not necessarily a reason to “follow” or “like” a brand on social networks. The main
reason for consumers to engage with brands is to earn advantages and benefits from the
personal relationship that the social networks present. For this main reason, brands must create
value and offer consumers a good reason to be their partner on the social media landscape.

The luxury brand Louis Vuitton understood this advantage and presented last year its Women
ready-to-wear summer collection in exclusive live on Facebook. As a result, more than 300
million web users could assist to the brand’s catwalk like during the last Fashion Week in Paris
(October 2009). The campaign helped to engage consumers with the brand, and increased
considerably its social media presence.8

Special offers and private sales are important motivations for consumers to engage with a
brand online, but entertainment and games are also great ways for brands to attract audiences.
One great example of social media strategy is the application “Whooper Sacrifice” that Burger
King created on Facebook, with the help of its advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Using this application, Facebook users were given the opportunity to delete ten of their
Facebook friends in exchange of a free Whooper Burger. As users deleted the ten unlucky
friends, the application published a humorous notification to each of them, alerting them that
they had been abandoned for a free hamburger. The messages were similar to the alerts
received when a Facebook contact adds a comment or posts to a user’s message board. In
total, 234’000 friends were “deleted” from Facebook lists, in exchange of some 23’000 free
burgers. The price of friendship: Facebook ordered the suppression of the application…
See detail of the case on Appendix 2.12.

The application both involved a funny and entertaining experience for consumers, the challenge
of deleting or adding a friend, and the opportunity for consumers to see their love of the brand
rewarded. Another relevant example of interactive engagement through social networks is the

Louis Vuitton Facebook page attracts now more than one million users (April 2010)

simple idea that IKEA developed to promote the opening of a new store in Malmo in Sweden.
IKEA invented a new type of interactive marketing using the popular Facebook function of
tagging people in photos. On his profile, Gordon Gustavsson, the store manager of the new
store, uploaded pictures of the store’s showrooms, enabling Facebook users to tag their own
names on the different furniture displayed in the pictures to have the chance to win them.9 This
innovative and unconventional campaign provided a very positive word-of-mouth and a real
“buzz” around IKEA and its new store for a media budget of almost nothing. Not only
consumers responded with a strong engagement rate, but the campaign also generated a huge
amount of media coverage. This is the demonstration that very simple ideas on the digital world
can generate great results for brands for a very low budget.

Such examples tend to demonstrate that consumers appreciate to be involved with brands on-
line and further observations enable us to understand how customers are seeking new
experiences in the digital space. The relationship between brands and consumers is becoming
increasingly more personal and individual to adapt to the new behaviours of the digital space.
Finally, customers are empowered and take more importance than ever in making a brand
successful or not. Social networks enhance the voice of customers’ opinion and the only way
for brands to gain their confidence is to offer them new experiences and true advantages.

Throughout this second part, we could observe how the digital revolution has been changing
the relationship between brands and consumers by enabling brands to engage consumers as
their advocates. This evolution presents a different context for communications, and challenges
the role of established advertising agencies. Communication strategies are increasingly involving
less traditional advertising formats and platforms, to involve new technologies, new platforms
and different connection spaces. That context obliges traditional agencies to change their core
offering, while in the meantime new specialists have emerged, mainly from the digital and
interactive landscapes. Evaluating the role of traditional advertising agencies in that context and
observing how they have been adapting to these changes will be the next assessments that we
will discuss in this project.

C. Which role for advertising agencies?

Watch the video of IKEA Facebook Tag Marketing case study: http://creativity-
Changing environments require new practices. Traditional advertising formats are not effective
anymore and advertising agencies are facing a real challenge: transforming their organization in
order to provide effective communication solutions adapted to the new landscape of brand
communications. We evaluated previously the strategies brands should adopt to communicate
effectively in the digital landscape, which in return challenges the established principles existing
in the industry. To better understand how advertising agencies are facing this context, we are
going to observe first the evolution of advertising agencies’ organizational model, and finally
observe how traditional agencies have been constantly changing their offering and their model
to adapt to ever evolving landscapes.

1. Industry background

1.1. Evolution, growth and fragmentation

The history of the modern advertising agencies is the result of many influences, always related
to the evolution of brands’ promotional needs. The adaptation to ongoing technological
developments, the constant proliferation of medias, the development of new technologies, the
emergence of globalization and finally the result of economic cycles that impact businesses
both client, and agency-side are all drivers of change that have impacted the organization of
advertising agencies throughout their history. To better understand this evolution, we need to
come back to the emergence of advertising, which happened with the development of
capitalism at the end of the XIX century. Both capitalism and advertising are closely linked and
have been supporting each other in the same objective of encouraging industry growth.

In the 1880s, industries ranging from soap to canned food to cigarettes introduced new
production techniques that allowed creating standardized products in very large quantities.
These large quantities of products sought to find and persuade buyers and national advertising
of branded goods emerged. Advertising agencies became the servants of these new national
advertisers, designing copy and artwork and placing advertisements in the places most likely to
attract consumers’ attention.

Advertising really developed with the emergence of newspapers. The early advertising “agent”
did not work for a client but rather for a newspaper, selling advertising space for a fee. At that
time, the advertisers themselves produced the copy. However, as the number of newspapers
increased, the “space seller” turned “space broker”, according to Leiss & al. (2005, p. 132),

recognizing “the advantage to be gained in independent status, buying space in bulk from the
newspapers and selling it on to an increasing number of clients.” This new arrangement meant
that agents were not tied to one particular newspaper. According to E. Powell (2009, p. 13), this
new context provided them with “an opportunity to advise clients on media planning and on
readership and circulation, with agents benefiting from this specialist advisory position through
maintaining media neutrality.”

From this point, the agent not only advised its clients on where to effectively place the
advertisement, but also on how to make it more attractive. This was the first time, in 1880, that
the creative and media sides of advertising came together under one institution. The first
agencies emerged at this period, however, the first modern advertising agency only emerged in
the 1920s under the impulsion of J. Walter Thompson, according to M. Tungate (2007, p. 26),
who explains in his book Ad Land, that “such an organization offered clients a ‘full service’
based around the four pillars of creative work, research, media planning (print, cinema, cinema
and outdoor) and account management, the bridge between client and agency.”

This new model gave to clients a sense of added value in using an agency rather than having in-
house production. With agencies becoming more and more professionalized, clients could gain
a specialist knowledge and expertise on creative work, research and media planning that was
unavailable elsewhere. Then, following the World War II, advertising changed with the
emergence of a new technology, television, which took an ultra dominant role in the diffusion of
information. Due to its combination of video, sound, and image, television was a much more
emotional medium than print and radio, and national advertisers rapidly understood its power
over mass audiences. As a consequence, by the 1960s, television became the main tool for
companies to advertise their products, while some commercials surrounding brands like Pepsi-
Cola, Volkswagen, and Levi’s, were as frequently watched by consumers than television shows.

At this time, the counterculture symbolism of the 1960s was co-opted by business, particularly
the advertising industry, in order to unleash creativity. The ad industry defied conformism and
homogeneity but still promoted consumerism. Advertising agencies started to produce
unexpected messages that made advertisements more tempting to consumers’ eyes. The best
example of this “creative revolution” is a famous Volskwagen campaign produced by William
Bernbach and its agency DDB, featuring such headlines as “Think Small” and “Lemon” (which
were used to describe the appearance of the car). See Appendix 2.13.

Following the emergence of television, the advertising industry knew a period of unstopped
growth, until the end of the 1980s, which marked a turning point in advertising history. Due to

calls from clients for greater degrees of accountability and transparency in terms of expenditure,
the roles of creative and media split apart into different agency roles. At that time, agencies
were paid with commissions on the repetition of advertising commercials. To encourage
transparency, clients required that these two functions became separated and independent,
which ended the model of the full service agency.

Meanwhile, advances in product design during the 1960s and the 1970s resulted that most
products were very similar between each other, a problem that C. Goodrum and H. Dalrymple
(1990, p. 57) qualified of “product parity.” This phenomenon forced advertising agencies to
become more creative in order to differentiate the products of their clients against competitors.
However, the emergence of this enhanced creativity had a cost, and producing two minutes TV
advertisements became very expensive for brands, which is the reason why agencies started to
design thirty seconds commercials.

At the same time, companies became more exigent and asked for more results for increasingly
expensive ads, in the form of research data from the end-consumer, still according to C.
Goodrum and H. Dalrymple (1990). The cost of research was heavy and it forced small
agencies to merge into larger ones and the industry entered in the 1980s in a period of mergers
and acquisitions, which helped to build the large agency networks that we know today. In
addition, this period coincided with the emergence of globalization, and the emerging need for
companies to communicate on a global scale.

Agency networks offered the scale needed by agencies to develop their communications
globally. However, this period saw the emergence of digital technologies, which had the
consequences that we discussed, and the added cost of maintaining such global networks are
becoming irrelevant with the speed of digital communications. At the same time, some
advertising agencies moved from traditional radio and TV advertising toward new sales
promotion techniques, which offered measurable proof of increased sales. New specialists
emerged, and new forms of expertise emerged, sometimes at the margins, to re-create the
professional practice of advertising.

1.2. Specialization and atomization of the advertising offering

According to C. Croze (2009, see Interview 1), “before the emergence of digital advertising,
advertising agencies were doing almost everything regarding client’s communication.” Agencies
integrated from an idea they came up with the entire development of the communication
process. With the emergence of digital advertising, and the need for brands to approach

consumers through a multitude of platforms and channels, this organizational model exploded
under the principle of specialization. Clients were looking for more focus from their agencies
because they believed that there were competences, technologies and techniques, which could
only be acquired with specialization.

With many specialties emerging, advertising agencies started to integrate these different
capabilities through different specialized agencies, through an “umbrella” approach that is called
360º communications. The different communication activities, such as advertising, direct
marketing, sales promotion, PR, experiential marketing, branding, design or events became
placed under the responsibility of different agencies. Therefore, consecutive to the emergence
of digital advertising, agencies added the digital component as an additional element of the
360º communication mix. See Figure 2.2.







Figure 2.2. Organizational model of advertising agencies following the emergence of digital

The emergence of these capabilities and the increasing acceptance of digital communications
added complexity to the global agency model. In addition, the separation of traditional
advertising and digital advertising contributed to isolate the traditional model of advertising
agencies from the reality of brand communications. At the same time, the function of marketing
within the major international brands changed. Marketers were less focused in building strong
brand visions than in integrating all the different marketing capabilities of their brand. Moreover,

communication strategies were split between different specialized agencies, mostly between
traditional and digital agencies. Traditional agencies continued to produce commercials on
classic supports such as television and print, while they kept the primary leading creative focus.

However, the confirmation of digital as one of the main platforms of brand experience, and its
increasing importance in consumers’ lives has definitely challenged the traditional model.
Moreover, the phenomenon of hyper specialization made that traditional advertising agencies
lost control over the brand, while the separation out of communication functions reduced the
effectiveness of their strategies. As audiences continued to shift from traditional platforms to
digital and interactive platforms, agencies started to understand that their organizational model
was not adapted to the change.

Moreover, the contracting global economy forced marketers to reassess old ways of
conducting business, particularly on large advertising expenditures, such as TV campaigns.
With so many options to communicate, marketers have expressed their desire to build more
integrated campaigns that combine online and traditional media, direct mail, marketing, public
relations, social networking, and even customer loyalty programs. Using different agencies
reduce the effectiveness of communication campaigns, and clients are now willing to use just
one or two agencies that will be able to offer many of those skills under one roof.

According to David Kershaw, Chief Executive of M&C Saatchi, quoted in an article from G.
Spanier (2010), “about half of the new business pitches we are working on are integrated
pitches.” Advertising agencies are increasingly asked to build on communication strategies that
blend old and new medias. Moreover, marketers that use the same agency for both mass
medias and digital are more satisfied, according to a survey from the consultancy Bain &
Company (2009). The results of the survey shows that marketers believe that using the same
agency brings a better relationship, a deeper knowledge of the client and its industry, and a
higher impact on the creative work.

Building on capabilities to develop integrated marketing campaigns encourages traditional

advertising agencies to rethink and reassess their core capabilities. Technology is changing so
fast and the communication possibilities are so wide, that it requires a lot of efforts for agencies
to adapt to the pace of change. Indeed, integrating digital and technological capabilities has
become an important priority for the majority traditional advertising agencies. We could observe
in the previous months before the elaboration of this project some important moves in the
structure and organization of some of the most important advertising agencies. We are now
going to present these new organizational perspectives.

2. Different models are emerging

Digital is the future for all ad agencies. However, advertising agencies seem to embrace
different models in order to adapt to this new future. The observation and the analysis of some
of the recent changes in agencies’ organizational models enable to distinguish two distinct
models, based in one side on integration and on the other side on external growth.

2.1. Integration model: placing digital skills at the heart of the organization

Once In 2005, as for the majority of advertising agencies, 80% of the revenues of the San
Francisco based agency Goodby SIlverstein & Partners was made from traditional advertising –
commercials, press ads and posters. In 2007, only two years later, following a radical
reinvention of its business and its capabilities, the agency made half of its revenues from
websites, virals, point-of-sale and other “non traditional” areas, much of it taking part of
complex, integrated campaigns working across all kinds of outlets.

The reason of this radical change was the integration of digital at the heart of the agency’s core
offering. It was reported, according to an article from Britannica (2006) that to announce the
new direction, the partners called the staff together and told literally the employees: “if you’re
not into this, it is time to leave.” Will McGinness can be given much credit to the change that
happened in the agency. McGuinness joined Goodby Silverstein & Partners at the position of
Interactive Creative Director, and was charged by the Founders to give a new impulse to the
agency, embracing the change of digital technologies.

The same approach has been initiated during the redaction of this project in France,
respectively at the agencies TBWA/Paris and DDB/Paris. These two agencies brought talents
from the digital world, and placed them at the heart of their organization, in order to inculcate
the values, the skills, and the mentality, that are needed to succeed in the digital landscape. As
Guillaume Pannaud, President of TBWA/Paris explains (2009), “interactive must be anchored in
a permanent and strategic manner at the heart of agencies.” He insists in this vision, building on
the fact that “this process must be carried out at every level of the agency - and not via external
growth or complex agreements.”

This strategy was conducted at TBWA, by the promotion of Philippe Simonet, former President
of the digital agency Publicis Net to the position of Vice-President, and in the same approach of
digital integration, the transfer of all its digital competences from its digital shop Tequila to its
advertising agency TBWA/Paris. As a consequence, TBWA’s digital capabilities are not
anymore separated from its traditional agency.

In the same approach, the agency DDB Paris demonstrated its desire to integrate digital at the
heart of its organization by promoting Mathieu de Lesseux, former Founder and CEO of the
digital agency Duke, at the position of Co-President. M. De Lesseux (2009) explains his goal:
“the key to integrate digital is to boost the reflection, the creation, and the execution of Internet
strategies.” Through the integration of digital talents, advertising agencies such as DDB and
TBWA aim to change the mentalities internally and transform radically the way they conduct
communications. The approach of integration requires enabling the change within every single
component of the agency in order to transform the organization into a fully integrated and
interactive skilled agency.

2.2. Organic growth model: mergers and acquisitions

Some agency networks have taken different approaches to solve the issue of the emergence of
digital communications. If Publicis, for example, was one of the first agency networks to predict
the emergence of digital communications and effectuate organizational moves into this
emerging business, it did it through an organic approach of buy-outs and acquisitions. Publicis
bought in 2006 the digital agency Digitas for $1.3 billion and in 2009 the American Giant
Razorfish from Microsoft for $530 millions. Indeed, according to an article from the blog
AdExchanger (2010), Publicis would prepare $489 millions for digital acquisitions in 2010.

Both Digitas and Razorfish are very powerful and successful digital agencies, with particular
activities. Razorfish, for example, advises businesses on “social influence marketing”, which is
the name of its specific approach for employing social media and social influencers to achieve
the marketing and business needs of an organization. The agency is specialized in strategic
counsel, digital advertising and content creation, media buying, analytics, technology and user
experience. Digitas, in the other side, is specialized in the integration of digital advertising
formats, such as websites, digital brand content or the creation of web banners.

Publicis’ approach seems to have been successful as the network announced a 3.1% growth in

organic revenues for the first quarter of 2010, doubling the 1.5% organic growth. Overall,
consolidated revenues grew by 8,1% over the first quarter in 2009, according to data from
Publicis Group (April 2010). Maurice Levy, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Group explained in a
recent statement: “the numbers exceed even our most optimistic forecasts; [it] is truly satisfying.
Digital activities grew more than 15% and now account for 27% of our revenues.” One of Levy’s
goals for 2010 is that Publicis revenues come for 50% from digital activities and emerging
markets, still according to this statement.

Mergers and acquisitions in the digital business have proved to be successful for Publicis.
However, the threat of this model is that these external moves have not changed the
organization and the behavior of its traditional agencies, such as Publicis Conseil. Digital
advertising has grown thanks to the integration of Digitas and Razorfish to take a consequent
part of Publicis revenues, but it has been done only through external growth.

While marketers, as we could observe, are increasingly demanding integrated campaigns, that
can match both digital platforms and traditional platforms, the challenge of this model is to
coordinate global campaigns from different agencies, even if they are all parts of Publicis Group.
It also presents threats as it can keep digital behavior off traditional advertising agencies. If
everything related to the new world of advertising is part of digital agencies, traditional agencies
can fear to progressively lose every part of the business, because it will not learn from the
differences inherent to the digital revolution.

Therefore, some other approaches from Publicis have even been contrary to the integrated
approaches of TBWA and DDB. While these agencies have chosen to place digital talents at the
heart of traditional creativity, Publicis made a different bet and took Sebastien Vacherot, the
Creative leader of TBWA/Map, to offer him the position of President of its proper digital agency
Publicis Net. Publicis enhanced its opposite vision of placing the creativity at the heart of digital
communications, with the objective, according to A. Sadoun (2009), President of Publicis
Conseil, to “place technological tools at the disposal of great brand ideas.”

3. The quest for the ideal model

These different approaches and these different moves that we could observe demonstrate that
traditional advertising agencies are trying through different models to adapt and change their
organizations to remain competitive in the digital landscape. In one hand, some traditional

agencies integrate digital capabilities at the heart of their offering, while other agencies bet on
external growth and acquisitions to reinforce their global digital offering, even placing creativity
at the heart of their digital communications.

This change enhance what Guillaume Pannaud explained in an article from Le Figaro (2009):
“the advertising industry in a phase where the digital is being integrated into the agencies, as 50
years ago agencies integrated the television media.” However, contrarily to television, the digital
is not only one single medium that transforms the consumption habits of audiences. Digital
represents a radical shift in the ability between brands and consumers to interact, exchange,
and collaborate between each other. The change is in that case much more profound than the
emergence of television because it threatens, for the agencies that will not understand its
consequences, the role itself of traditional advertising agencies.

As we have explained, the transformation of the digital revolution is not only a threat for
advertising agencies. In the contrary, the digital landscape represents a multitude of new
opportunities for the agencies that will embrace creativity and innovation, and that will build on a
unique knowledge of the different points of interactions that the digital environment creates
between brands and consumers. Indeed, according to Lee Clow (2009), Media Arts Director at
TBWA/Worldwide: “we are at the most exciting time the advertising business has ever seen.”
He insists: “While people are talking about the challenges of the multi-media future, I believe it is
the biggest opportunity for creative minds since the ‘60’s.”

Time is running for traditional advertising agencies because digital agencies will start to build on
traditional capabilities to transform themselves as well into “full service” digital agencies. Smart
interactive agencies are starting to figure that if they can master the digital component, which is
probably the most complicated aspect of marketing today, they can surely handle traditional
branding and advertising as well. While traditional agencies are looking for models to integrate
digital capabilities, interactive agencies are adding traditional communication skills to their
offering in order to build truly effective integrated communication campaigns to their clients.

However, M. De Lesseux (2010), who made the move from an interactive to a more traditional
agency, is convinced that “advertising agencies will be the best placed to manage advertisers’
digital strategies.” His main argument is that “advertising agencies kept the contact at the
highest level with the most important advertisers.” That is probably the most important chance
that traditional agencies have in front of interactive agencies.

For example, the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which we took as a good

case of successful digital integration and transformation, increased its revenues with digital
advertising mainly with its existing clients roster. Rather than gaining new digital accounts, the
agency strengthened its existing client base by adding digital into its capabilities, in order to
build truly integrated campaigns, effective in both traditional and interactive environments.

The learning, as a consequence, for traditional agencies, is that building on digital capabilities
should enable them to integrate the digital pieces of business from their main clients in order to
build truly integrated communication campaigns. This is probably the objective of TBWA/Paris,
as Its client’s roster include brands such as McDonalds, Michelin and Nissan, while all of them
have hired external digital agencies to manage their digital communications. TBWA’s strategy
seems clear: repatriate the digital piece of business, in order to build truly integrated campaigns.

As Cesar Croze, Executive Director of TBWA/Paris explained me during a conversation we had

together: “perhaps the most frustrating is to have ideas and not be able to develop them across
all platforms.” Advertising agencies are feeling the shift in clients’ expenditures between
traditional and interactive platforms, and while they remain the creative leaders, responsible for
building big brand ideas, the frustration comes from the fact that they can’t apply them across
all platforms and medias.

We observed how communication groups are developing different, often opposing strategies.
Some, through a series of acquisitions, attempt to create a technological barrier between them
and their competitors, while others are putting digital at the heart of their conventional activities.
Neither model is by definition the winner. There are different ways to succeed. What makes the
effectiveness of a strategy is the quality of its implementation, and the commitment that all the
stakeholders inherent to the company take to make it happen. There is no ideal model, as we
can’t predict which model will be the more effective in the future. However, there are some
paths that advertising agencies should absolutely undertake in order to evolve their organization
at the path of digital.

IV. Discussions and findings

A. Adapting the organization to the path of digital

As Mark Read (2010), CEO of WPP Digital said recently in a conference, “the boundaries

between digital and everything else will be irrelevant within the next five years.”10 Digital is
becoming an increasing reality for brand communications and traditional advertising agencies
must be able to build brand ideas that can adapt across multiple platforms and medias. In order
to implement this, advertising agencies must effectuate changes and refinements in their
internal organizational processes. Their organization must adapt to the path of digital and the
first step for agencies is to redefine their creative development process.

1. Changing the creative development process from static to dynamic

1.1. Enabling reactivity within the creative process

While the requirements of brand communications have radically changed, advertising agencies
are still organized through the same creative process that enabled their development in the early
1960s. Like companies’ marketing departments, agencies creative departments are organized
in order to provide communication campaigns that are scheduled in time and planned with
anticipation. As a consequence, the creative development process within advertising agencies
remains a non-reactive process that is thought to create “big-flights” campaigns that are
scheduled in time and anticipated. The creative capabilities of advertising agencies are aimed to
create campaigns that are not reactive and as a consequence that do not take into account
consumers’ real-time reactions and expectations in the digital world.

As we could observe, the emergence of digital technologies made that consumers have access
to more entertainment than ever and it becomes increasingly complicated to enforce their
attention. This context requires from brands that they produce more content and exist more
creatively in order to attract and seduce audiences. The creativity in a world of communications
transformed by the digital revolution requests much more substance, much more ideas and
much more content than ever before. Indeed, this context implies changing the codes of
advertising and the planning development of campaigns. Therefore, the creative development
process in advertising agencies should be organized in order to facilitate the creation of lots of
smaller editable ideas, rather than “one-big-flight” campaigns. See Figure 3.1.

Non-reactive development, Reactive development, creating
creating one-big-flight lots of smaller editable ideas

Figure 3.1. Changing the creative development process from static to dynamic. Adapted from
Michael Zorn’ presentation, The Audience is always right

The evolution of brands communications makes that advertising agencies must change the way
they think about communications planning and creativity. As R. Greenberg, quoted in an article
from W. Berger (2009), explains: “marketers can’t necessarily rely on a clever line or 30-second
story to do the heavy work of building brands; they need lots of multifaceted ideas, including
ones that go beyond slogans and metaphorical narratives to offer something more useful to the
public.” To answer this request, agencies must change their creative development also from
focusing on specific advertising formats and messages to focusing on ideas and behaviors that
can be adapted and activated upon a multitude of formats and models. As Alex Bogusky (2010)
explained during a conference about digital, agencies must “let the idea find the medium.”

1.2. The form is as important as the idea

In the new environment of brand communications, the creativity in the execution has become as
important as the creative idea itself. According to E. Palmer, Head of Account Management at
TBWA (2010, see interview 3), “the importance of a strong organization thought for the brand is
as important as it ever was, but making that absolutely 100% original is perhaps less relevant
than making the way you take it to the market really original.” Indeed, the way ideas are
deployed and taken to market by agencies is becoming more important than ever before. As
people are surrounded by media, entertainment, and advertising messages, brand actions need
to be more creative than ever to attract them, and a large part of the creativity lies in the
The media is becoming a creative support in itself, and some examples from the agency TBWA
are extremely relevant to illustrate it. One of them is the awarded campaign produced by
TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris for the newspaper The Zimbabwean (Appendix 3.1.), and the campaigns
Vertical Football (Appendix 3.2.) and Impossible Sprint (Appendix 3.3), for Adidas. Vertical
Football consisted in the invention of a new sport defying gravity, a match between two
footballers, suspended by cords in the air, dribbling a ball across a billboard backdrop in Tokyo.
In the same mood, Impossible Sprint consisted in a series of races up the side of skyscrapers in
Osaka and Hong Kong.

Such creative ideas are as disruptive in their thinking than in their execution. These
communication actions are typical examples of creativity that gets the attention of consumers
and encourages people to talk about the brand. We discussed the need for brands to be part of
audiences’ conversations; the actions of the brands themselves should lead to the
conversation. To come up with the creation of such ideas, the strategic organization and the
thinking behind the agency organization must be turned to the future, be open to more creativity
and encourage risk taking.

Such creativity represents differs from the way traditional advertising agencies used to work.
Advertising agencies are not only tasked to build advertisements. Agencies’ creative
departments have been built generally to conceive advertising in limited formats, such as
television, print, billboards, and sometimes digital. However, brand communications in the
digital age lie more in a creativity that goes well beyond advertising. In that case, the creativity
should not be the result of an “omnipotent creative department”, to use the expression of Ed
Palmer (2010, see Interview 3), but should rather be the consequence of a creative collaborative
thinking between every department and every function of the agency.

2. Enhance collaboration between disciplines

The idea of a creative department that detains the entire knowledge of what should be the idea
and how this idea should be deployed is becoming irrelevant with the requirements of the digital
age. Advertising agencies should reconsider the way they create and develop ideas in order to
unleash the internal creativity of the organization.

The future of advertising lies in creative ideas that are not tied into specific mediums or formats.
As a consequence, creative ideas should come from every single discipline of agencies. The
communication idea could come from very different areas such as technology, visual art,
strategy, or media planning. Every aspect in the management and the development of brand
communication idea could embrace creativity and add relevance to the idea. As a
consequence, agencies should develop an organization that enhances the collaboration
between the disciplines within the agency.

We could even argue that the idea of a “creative department” in itself is becoming irrelevant.
Everybody inside the agency organization should have a word and a contribution in the creation
of a campaign. There is no reason that the development of a creative idea remains the privilege
of a so-called creative department. Indeed, its development should move from silos to become
a collaborative and open process that constantly happens between the different departments
and functions of the agency.

Employees have a role in the creation of knowledge and in the development of creativity. The
organizational design of agencies should enhance the creative mindset of every employee in
order to enable the creation of constantly reactive and innovative campaigns. The digital
revolution should transform radically the creative process of agencies the same way television
brought a new creative organization, with the association of “copywriters” and “art directors”
together, fifty years ago. In the traditional model that still prevails today, copywriters are the one
in charge of writing the advertising copy, while arts directors have an eye on the aesthetic of the
format. However, before the emergence of television, only copywriters were considered as part
of the agency, as the creation was sent to a production department without any particular “in
house” eye on the production.

The revolution of digital should allow the integration of new talents from different artistic
backgrounds in the creative organizational process. In that case, people that master digital,
interactive and conversational creativity should have the same importance as copywriter and art
directors on the traditional model, because some of the most important interactions between a
brand and its consumers tend to happen in the digital space.

The interactive and digital creativity involves different insights and a challenging creative eye that
agencies should master in order to provide the best online experiences to their consumers’
brands. R. Greenberg, quoted by W. Berger (2009), explains: “interactive designers are telling

hundreds of linked stories as well as non stories, everything from short films that link to demos,
that link to games, workouts, or social networking applications, all of which should come
together to form a coherent brand experience.” The online creative capabilities that are required
are very different from the capabilities required for traditional creativity.

The entire digital creative process must be thought and designed very carefully to be simple,
practical, and useful for consumers. This type of creativity is very different from the traditional
creative model that advertising agencies developed, and it elevates disciplines such as
technology, interaction design, and analytics at the same level of traditional disciplines of
advertising, such as copywriting, art direction, planning, and media.

In addition, it is extremely important to keep control of the entire creative process to master
interactive creativity. Externalizing the production without keeping control of every aspect of the
creation implies losing a large part of the interactive creativity. Moreover, when agencies follow
the old way of handling off ideas from the creative department to other departments and
outside production suppliers, they participate in marginalizing their ideas. Keeping control of the
creative production enables more reactivity and more flexibility for agencies, but it implies
transforming the traditional methods. This is the reason why we would argue that traditional
advertising agencies should integrate digital capabilities and technological disciplines to control
every aspect of the interactive creativity.

Building and developing creativity in this new landscape requires that advertising agencies
decompartmentalize their departments and functions, and open their creative process to more
disciplines. The creative process in agencies should involve working in mixed teams of different
expertise, that collaborate together from the beginning to the end of a project, in order to
elaborate ideas appropriate at every level. This is why the organizational model of agencies
must reinvent itself into a much more reactive, collaborative and open model, which enhances
the participation of every discipline and every capability.

3. Planning and managing for the real-time environment

Consumers are taking more control in the development of brand communications and the
emergence of social networks made that word-of-mouth and viral marketing have become
more important than ever. The voice of brands in the social media landscape needs to be
effective, reactive, and in line with the constant conversations of people. We observed that

online conversational management is essential for brands in order to navigate into the real-time
environment. As a consequence, advertising agencies should build tools and resources that
enable them to plan and manage for the real time environment.

In the continual flow of communications that happen in the digital world, advertising agencies
must be able to react and move “at the speed of culture,” according to Colleen de Courcy
(2009), Chief Digital Officer at TBWA/Worldwide. E. Palmer (2010, interview 3) insisted in the
fact that “the only way you can win in this world is to define your parameters for your time
marketing.” `In other words, advertising agencies should settle clear steps to define the role that
either brands or agencies need to have in particular situations. To predict and prevent crisis
situation, a “scenario case planning” should be implemented in every campaign in order to
enhance the reactivity to customers’ real-time conversations.

Things happen so quickly in the digital world that both brands and agencies must be able to
react effectively and in time to good and bad situations that happen to brands. The case of
Eurostar is relevant to demonstrate the necessity of adopting Scenario Planning methodologies.
In December 2009, five Eurostar trains from London to Paris suffered electrical breakdowns,
leaving passengers stuck on trains in unpleasant conditions, and more consumers being left
stranded as Eurostar services were cancelled in the following days. As it can be expected with
an event of this kind, Eurostar failures became quickly the big news on Twitter, blogs and
everywhere else in the social media world. In such case, which can be extremely damaging for
the brand, it is absolutely necessary for brands to react quickly and effectively.

Agencies should build for their clients real-time social media monitoring programs, and put
responding crisis plans in place. Indeed, brands are judged in a case like Eurostar in their ability
to respond quickly, honestly, and effectively to consumers’ concerns. Recognizing mistakes,
offering real-time support and proposing adapted solutions and responses to customers is
essential in such case. The reactivity and effectiveness of brand communications is judged in
extreme situations. The case of Nestle, that we observed in the second part, in its attempt to
respond to Greenpeace attacks, demonstrates the necessity for brands to have the right
knowledge and the right understanding of how social medias work.

Scenario case planning should be the solution to prevent from real-time crisis situations, but
also to respond quickly and effectively to the evolution of communication campaigns. It should
include clear steps and precise the responsibilities of who and how, within the client’s marketing

department, and within the agency, should respond to given situations. Moreover, functional
teams should be established to come along the development of specific communication
campaigns. During the launch and in the first weeks following the launch a campaign,
advertising agencies should develop event-centric teams that manage and fuel the discussions
around the brand.

Centric teams should meet every morning in order to discuss, manage and react to the
conversations that happen about the brand in the digital space. In order to do that, agencies
should use digital monitoring tools such as online dashboards like Netvibes, and use the search
functions tools of Google, Twitter and Facebook, to constantly observe the conversations of
consumers online. Such operations are important to be up-to-date with what consumers are
saying about the brand in the social media world. Once the conversations are located and
analyzed, the centric team should develop reactive creative responses and actions to foster and
redirect the conversations.

The development of event-centric teams could enable agencies to effectively respond to the
reactions of consumers to brand communications and brand actions. These tools are Public
Relations tools, adapted to the digital age and to the focus of advertising campaigns, that
advertising agencies should integrate if they want to understand the behavior of consumers and
the effects of their communications, while adapting their organization to the path of digital.

B. Opening the organization to external collaboration

One of the main conclusions of this project is that brands should encourage consumers to
collaborate and actively participate to the creation of their own experiences. We presented how
brands could benefit from the creativity and the insights of their customers through open-
collaboration platforms, but we could also assume that advertising agencies should open
themselves to these new types of collaborations with customers.

1. Approaching Open-Innovation in the communication industry

The paradigm of Open Innovation has first been developed by Henry Chesbrough, professor at
the Center for Open Innovation at the University of Berkeley, in his book Open Innovation: the
new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. According to Chesbrough (2003, p.):

“Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as
well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance
their technology”.

The success of many companies in the XX century was linked to the paradigm of closed
innovation, which implies that successful innovation in a company requires control. In the
traditional world, the belief wanted that companies should control the generation of their own
ideas, as well as its production, its marketing, its distribution, its servicing, and its supporting,
on their own. As a direct consequence, companies created their own research and
development (R&D) departments within their organizations in order to control the entire product
development cycle and product research inside the company.

Adapted to the agencies’ model, the closed innovation paradigm would be that advertising
agencies should only concentrate on generating and producing ideas for their clients on their
own, without opening their organization to outside collaboration, neither on the generation nor
on the production of ideas. However, as we could observe in the first part of this project,
several factors, such as the increasing capacity of production of external suppliers and
customers, and the increasing availability of customers to participate in the creation of their
brands, should erode this closed innovation paradigm.

According to A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, in a comment about Don Tapscott’s book
Wikinomics (2006), “no company today, no matter how large or how global, can innovate fast
enough or big enough by itself. Collaboration – externally with consumers and customers,
suppliers and business partners, and internally across business and organization boundaries –
is critical.” Companies always have to look around to take and benefit from the innovations of
their competitors.

Historical researches show how innovation comes in many cases from comparing models,
systems, and ideas. Some of the most powerful companies in the business world today “stole”
the ideas that made them successful from other companies. For example, Apple is recognized
to have pioneered the graphical user interface and the mouse, but in reality Apple “stole” both
ideas from Xerox. Apple neither invented the MP3 player, however its iPods are widely
recognized to have revolutionized the portable digital music industry. Rarely the inventor of an
idea becomes the dominant player in the long run. Often it is a question of time, because an

idea or an innovation might be very powerful but ahead of its time, but not adapted to the actual
demands of consumers.

A. Bogusky and Winsor J. (2009, p. 98) explain in their book Baked In that “the key to stealing
innovation is to steal it from a different place altogether, a place outside of your competitive
set.” Indeed, stealing to innovate requires bringing together different external elements to create
something entirely new. The Open-Innovation paradigm and some of its applications, as the
P&G Connect + Develop program that we discussed in the second part, suggest that
companies should steal, or at least benefit, from external ideas to improve their own products.

The reasons why open innovation models represent a great opportunity for advertising agencies
seem obvious. The role of agencies is to find the best creative solutions for the communications
concerns of their clients. In other words, their mission is to find innovative directions to
communicate effectively new products and services, and to connect and engage brands with
their audiences. When P&G launched its platform Connect + Develop, it looked exactly for the
same thing: innovative ideas and innovative solutions to improve its products, and improve the
life of its consumers.

One of the main observations of the open innovation models we studied, from Procter &
Gamble and Dell, is the endless possibilities of customers’ creativity and imagination. P&G has
1’000 active partnerships, many resulting in real success stories, that came from its P&G
Connect + Development project, according to P&G website.11 Consumers are passionate about
the products they use in their life, and they are increasingly willing to help brands to create
products that can be more suitable to their needs.

The success of such platforms has demonstrated the interest for brands to engage consumers.
Furthermore, when it comes to entertainment, fun, and experiences, customers are willing to
have even more creative ideas. To respond to such praise for participation, advertising agencies
should build collaborative platforms that allow brands and consumers to exchange, interact,
and collaborate between each other. We will observe that there are two different aspects in
which consumers could have a role in the advertising agencies organization, and where open-
innovation models could present great opportunities to improve their effectiveness.

P&G Views: Innovating from the outside-in, Dec 16th, 2009, Retrieved from
2. Implementing an open innovation model to generate creative ideas

Traditionally, the generation of ideas in the traditional advertising agencies’ model is the role of a
creative department. Within this department, one or multiple “creative teams” are responsible of
generating big creative ideas, while ensuring the creative development corresponding to such
ideas. As we could argue, this method is reductive internally, as only a small number of persons
are given the opportunity to propose and express their ideas, while there are hundreds of
employees who could bring a substantial knowledge or added value in the creative process.

In an industry that is considered as the industry of creativity and ideas, it looks surprising that
the creative development process remains a closed and reductive process. Such process is
supposed to give birth to the most creative, entertaining and innovative ideas in different ranges
of businesses, while engaging brand communications with their audiences. To encourage the
creation of the best ideas, innovation and creativity within the organization should also come
from external knowledge. Agencies should encourage a more open model that would enable
creatives to receive and share information, insights, and knowledge with people, consumers,
and innovators around the world.

The examples of Doritos and Converse, which we explained in the second part of this project,
demonstrate how challenging customers could both generate engagement for brands and bring
strong end results in terms of creativity and sales. These examples should push advertising
agencies to understand that they must benefit from the ideas of people around them, including
the customers of their brands, to craft better ideas and more innovative communication

To make that happen, agencies should build online platforms, exactly the same way P&G and
Dell did with Connect + Develop and DellStorm, to encourage people to participate and share
their ideas in response to precise briefs. In that case, the role of the creative department in
agencies would change from focusing only on the generation of ideas from scratch, to
compare, choose, and take benefit from the best ideas from people, in order to come out with
the best idea, and the best creative solutions to take that idea to market. See Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3. Open Innovation model applied to the generation of ideas in advertising agencies

This open-innovation model should benefit agencies in the generation of ideas. In that case, the
organization would benefit from external collaboration and external ideas to concentrate only in
the production and the development of the ideas that it finds more relevant. In that model, the
advertising agency should rather build on technological and production capabilities, and benefit
from external creativity in the generation of ideas, taking advantage from them by mastering
their production and development. In the other side, the advertiser (client) would keep a
stronger focus on creativity, while needing an agency that focus more in the production of
creative ideas both generated by the company and external collaborators.

3. Implementing an open innovation model to the production of creative ideas

The second way in which open innovation models could benefit advertising agencies refers to
the production of ideas. Thanks to the emergence of personal computing and the Internet, as
we could observe in the literature review, consumers, people, and semi-professional people
own the tools to produce, make and distribute content.

In that case, instead of asking people for ideas and then producing them with their own
technological and production capabilities, agencies could do the opposite, and find ways to
offer creative briefs and ideas to external collaborators, which will then produce and execute the
idea in different forms with a given degree of freedom. The role of the advertising agency in that
case would change from producing advertising content, to coordinating the production of

advertising. The advantage of this model is that clients could benefit from the lower costs of
crowd production.

While working for Nissan at TBWA, the agency organized a crowdsourcing advertising contest
to launch a new print advertising for its most famous car, the Qashqai. Aimed to target at
influencers and designers, the competition was hosted in the website Design Boom, well known
by the designers’ community. The brief and the details of the campaign can be found on the
website and in Appendix 3.4. The results of the competition were
extremely encouraging both for the agency and for Nissan. The competition generated
hundreds of submissions that included excellent and inspiring creative work. The jury,
composed of marketing and advertising executives from Nissan, and the chief creative officer of
TBWA/G1, chose together their favorite creative work, which would be released in magazine
and press, with an international coverage. Appendix 3.5.

This example demonstrates that allowing external people to participate in the creation of
content is not contradictory with the creative role and mission of the advertising agency. First,
the agency keeps a key role in elaborating the strategic orientation of the brand with the client.
The agency develops the brief, while having the most important role in the choice of the right
creative production. In addition, in the case of the Designboom competition, the advertising
agency remained responsible for the coordination of the overall implementation of the
campaign. The agency, in that case, can benefit from the crowd-production of the idea, letting
external people the ability to propose different visions and adaption of a single strategic idea.
See Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4. Open Innovation model applied to the production of ideas in advertising agencies

Advertising agencies should benefit from the external collaboration of people in both the
production and the generation of ideas. As we could demonstrate, external collaboration
doesn’t prevent agencies from maintaining a determinant role in the creative development.
Agencies that will not adapt their organizational approaches to more open and innovative
models will experience difficulties to maintain a strong competitive advantage in the new
landscape of brand communications.

Companies are already starting to develop new creative approaches for their communication
strategies that imply the collaboration of external people and consumers, without the
intermediary of advertising agencies. Unilever, for example, announced in April 2010 its
willingness to crowdsource content for some of its biggest brands, including Lynx, Ben &
Jerry’s, Dove and Vaseline, in collaboration with MOFILM, a community of aspiring film-makers.

The creativity of people represents an opportunity for the advertising agencies that can
understand the power of external collaboration and build collaborative models that both
reinforce their internal creativity and make them benefit from external creativity. The agency
world is still considering crowdsourcing as a threat, but according to B. Malbon (2010),
managing Partner at BBH Labs, during a panel discussion about crowdsourcing and disruption
in New York, “crowdsourcing is about finding new ways to solve problems.” The role of
advertising agencies is to come up with the best ideas that add value for their clients’
communication strategies, and technology is radically facilitating the process of collaborating
and involving more people in the creative process.

Sharing and exchanging knowledge with external collaborators can benefit to both brands and
agencies, and this is why advertising agencies should fully embrace external collaboration
models, either for the generation or the production of ideas. Moreover, agencies must
understand that either of these two business models (idea business vs. execution business) is
viable, but they are different businesses that require different cost and pricing structures, and a
different internal organization.

C. Managing the change

1. Establishing a sense of urgency

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful
of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order or things”.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

We could observe through the reading of this thesis that the digital economy is radically
transforming the way brands must communicate to their customers, and as a consequence, the
way advertising agencies should provide advise to their clients.

This change in the environment of brand communications is so strong that the role itself of
advertising agencies is being threatened. New actors are emerging from the interactive
landscape and are challenging the role of advertising agencies. These are transforming their
organization, through different approaches and implementing various models, as we could
observe, in order to integrate new skills and capabilities required in the digital landscape.
However, as we discussed, the transformations that are required imply to transform profoundly
the way agencies are building communication strategies, by reinventing capabilities and
undergoing a total change in the working and collaborative processes of agencies, both
internally and externally.

According to J. P. Kotter and L. A. Schlesinger (1979), “organizational change efforts often run
into some form of human resistance. Although experienced managers are generally all too
aware of this fact, surprisingly few take time before an organizational change to assess
systematically who might resist the change initiative and for what reasons.” The conditions of
survival for traditional agencies rely upon a radical transformation of the internal methods and
processes. In such case, it is important that the top management takes a strong leadership
position and establishes a strong sense of urgency through all the different components of the

The change process that advertising agencies should initiate must be conduced and maintained
at every level of the agency and happen through a total redefinition of the business and the
mission of every department. However, changing people’s behaviour inside an organization is
often difficult, and conduces to a strong resistance. J. P. Kotter (2000, p. 60) explains:

“sometimes, executives underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort
zones.” The advertising industry has been used to the same model that justified its growth
during almost fifty years. As a consequence, there are lots of habits and uses that are difficult to
transform in the first instance but that absolutely need to be changed. P. Strebel (2000, p.88)
explains: “employees often misunderstand or, worse, ignore the implications of change for their
individual commitments to the company.”

The change in the organization requires a strong lead from the top management. Kotter (2000,
p.60) insists: “Change, by definition, requires creating a new system, which in turn always
demands leadership.” For the change to be successful, it is essential that managers and
executives understand the need for a change and apply the transformation with a strong sense
of leadership. However, one of the main issues is that some of the managers don’t necessarily
understand how the digital economy is transforming the business, and most importantly, what
must be the right agency organization in this new context.

2. Creating a vision

For a transformation effort to be successful, individuals need to be guided upon the same vision
of the future of their company and the evolution of their business. As we could observe, the
transformation of the advertising industry with the emergence of digital is unavoidable. As a
consequence, a strong vision should clarify the direction in which an organization needs to
move. In that case, many traditional advertising agencies should admit the necessity to
transform their organization to adapt to the path of digital.

The organizational advises that we presented need to be applied upon a clear vision of what
must be the company in the future. According to J. P. Kotter (2000, p. 63), “without a sensible
vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible
projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.” When the
agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners started its reinvention, transforming its organization into
an interactive agency model that placed interactive and digital at the heart, it all started from the
definition of a clear vision and strong objectives for the agency.

When in 2009, TBWA Paris, through its President Guillaume Pannaud, announced its
willingness to integrate digital at the heart of its communication offering, the objective to create
a vision of what should be the company in the future, to which employees and individuals can

easily identify. Furthermore, the vision must be very easy to remember and define. According to
J. P. Kotter (200, p. 63), “if you can’t communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less
and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are not yet done with this
phase of the transformation process.” The vision is essential in order to align the interests of the
individuals within the agency under the same common goal.

S. Ghosnal and C. A. Bartlett (1995, p. 87) explain: “as powerful as a new structure can be,
structure is only one instrument of organizational change.” The role of top management in the
context of advertising agencies is to shift the organizational needs from established structures
to new collaborative processes that lead the transformation of the agency model. In that
context, and to drive the change, agency leaders must develop new collaboration tools and
knowledge bases to unleash the internal creativity of the organization.

3. Foster exchange and collaboration across the organization

We observed that enhancing collaboration internally and externally within agencies is essential in
order to improve the efficiency of the agency organization. Agencies should foster exchange
and collaboration within their networks, and a solution for that is to develop new collaboration
tools and shared knowledge bases.

In their article Integrating the Enterprise, S. Ghoshal and L. Gratton (2002) take the example of
the interactive agency OgilvyOne, from Ogilvy & Mather, which developed an integrated system
called Truffles. They describe the advantages of the system as following: “Truffle provided not
only a database and a system for testing ideas and hypotheses, but also opportunities for
people to generate new ideas together through a variety of chat rooms, bulleting boards, and
dedicated forums.” Supported by knowledge officers across the company, this initiative allowed
the company to keep up to date its knowledge and documentation, make it accessible across
their worldwide network of agencies, and present a living forum for creating and sharing new

At TBWA, employees have access to an internal knowledge database, called MyTBWA, which
enables employees from every single TBWA agency in the world to access to a shared base of
knowledge. In the database, employees can find many case studies, information about
campaigns, and many pieces of documentation about the agency’s working processes.
Furthermore, the internal database also enables employees to follow the news of the company,

through regular updates. However, what make a system like MyTBWA successful is not only its
excellent IT infrastructure and its possibilities, but also the efforts and investments made to keep
its information current and to encourage employees to use it.

While working on Nissan at TBWA, I participated to the development of an internal knowledge

database exclusively dedicated to Nissan communications. Accessible to every TBWA and
Nissan employee across the world, this online platform, called Niroom, had not only the
ambition to become a relevant and up-to-date platform of knowledge around the car industry
and communications, but also a great tool for managers and executives from the network to
build interpersonal relationships. Under the leadership of TBWA/G1 Creative Director, Alasdhair
Macgregor, TBWA developed new initiatives to foster the collaboration and the habits of sharing
between the creatives working on Nissan across the network, through the organization of
creative seminars around some areas of the automotive business (e.g. Retail).

Moreover, it is important to build conversation forums and use the tools of the digital landscape
to enhance sharing between employees and develop the vision and the actions of the agency.
TBWA, for example, owns a blog, regularly updated by its key managers and executives across
the network, which demonstrate and illustrate the vision of the company to the world.
Furthermore, some of its key managers have as well an important social media presence,
through Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, or personal blogs, which make them more
accessible for both employees and external people. It is important that advertising agencies
embrace internally the new advices related to the digital environment given to their clients.

VI. Conclusion

The tools we use to communicate have known a seismic change in recent years. Since the
advent of the Internet and mobile phones, communication has become increasingly varied and
fast moving. The digital revolution has brought a significant amount of change and
transformation in the communication industry. On the one hand, consumers’ attention has
become increasingly hard to keep, while on the other hand, the development of digital
communications has multiplied the points of interaction between brands and consumers.

Both factors have helped in placing creativity at the centre of communication concerns. Creative
brand experiences are increasingly being enhanced through the development of new physical

approaches and the emergence of revolutionary digital and interactive platforms. Besides, the
multiplication of new media opportunities require from agencies that they produce more
content, across an increasing number of platforms, to provide consumers with a coherent and
relevant brand experience.

While the number of existing communication solutions has increased, the economic recession
has been forcing companies to reassess their marketing and advertising expenditures, and in
most cases to reduce them. As a consequence, advertising agencies, with more options to
communicate available through ever-increasing platforms, are being asked to produce more
content while receiving in the counter-part a lower compensation.

Challenged by their clients, and threatened by the emergence of new competitors, traditional
agencies are being forced to integrate new capabilities in order to compete and respond to this
increasingly changing environment. Communication groups, through different and often
opposing models, have been initiating processes of digital integration, building on new
capabilities mainly based on digital, interactive, and social media techniques. Some agencies,
such as Publicis have been attempting to create technological barriers between them and their
competitors through a series of acquisitions while others, such as TBWA, have been trying to
integrate digital at the heart of their traditional activities.

There is no ideal model, by definition. These two different approaches have both equal chances
to result effective in the long run, but only if they are well implemented and if the commitment to
the change is fully embraced by the entire organization. Our approach, however, is that in a
long-term perspective, the second approach sounds more suitable to provide agencies with a
sustainable competitive advantage. Indeed, there is no getting away from the fact that digital will
be at the heart of communication strategies, if it is not already, and advertising agencies need
to fully embrace the change at the heart of their organization.

Transformed by the digital revolution, the idea itself of advertising is being challenged.
Increasingly, communication groups are delivering different communication formats, which bring
together more creativity and more relevance across brand stories. According to Lee Clow
(2009), “perhaps, the creativity of what we’ll do in the future needs a new name.” In fine, smart
communication agencies will realize that they are not advertising agencies but rather creative

Advertising is only one part of how brands behave, and brands are being judged on everything
they do, and not just on their appearance in advertising. This is even truer while the digital
landscape encourages brands actions to be relayed, commented, and judged everywhere at
any time by consumers. Communication agencies need to embrace all the ways that exist to
build on relevant brands’ stories, whether it is through packaging, with its consumers must be
enhanced in a creative way to tell the brand’s unique story.

Contrarily to the past, agencies will only achieve this if they learn how to control the rhythm of
their communications. Ensuring the coherence of brand communications does not only depend
on mastering the different communication tools that are available, but also to feed and develop
an on-going conversation with consumers. Advertising agencies need to organize themselves in
order to deliver constant communications, which enable them to create relevant conversations
between brands and audiences.

Due to the digital revolution, the proper rhythm of communications is moving from being based
on the repetition of “big-shot” campaigns, to the creation of multiple smaller initiatives, creating
regular interactions between brands and consumers. As a consequence, the creative
development process internally within advertising agencies need to move from being a static
and slow process to a more dynamic process, encouraging ongoing initiatives, where every
department and every collaborator can take a role in the elaboration of ideas.

Planning and managing for the real time environment is also a key requirement of the digital age
as brands must be able to react at the “speed of culture.” The time when companies addressed
messages to target audiences has gone as the culture of the XXI century is a culture of motion,
where constant connectivity and the increasing speed of information makes that people expect
faster and constant communications. The challenge is about how fast brands can go to
respond and react to consumers’ needs and to become part of their lives. Brands must be
opportunist and find the right and relevant moments to address messages to their consumers,
while leveraging key moments that bring brand relevance.

On the first side, the empowerment of consumers can be perceived as both a threat and an
opportunity. Consumers are taking increasingly more control, and companies must learn to
transfer responsibilities and control to their consumers. Communication groups, on the other
side, should open their organizations, and encourage their clients to push boundaries of
collaboration with their customers. People are increasingly demanding for brand experiences

and they want to participate in the creation of brands they will become loyal to. User-Generated
Advertising is in that case a relevant path to engage consumers, which could benefit to
advertising agencies both regarding the generation of ideas and the production of ideas.

Advertising agencies should understand that different business models must co-exist together.
Agencies are in the businesses of both the generation of ideas and the production of ideas.
Both business models require different cost and pricing structures, which must be adapted with
the relevance of the digital context. As regarding agencies’ remunerations, some challenges
remain important to determinate the evolution and the future of advertising agencies. Agility is
essential, and communication groups must strongly embrace the change of digital to sustain
their position of important brand advisers and creative leaders in the business world.

The challenge for agencies, with the empowerment of consumers and the increasing availability
of production and distribution tools, is that they could be easily desintermediated. Companies
do not need advertising anymore if they can successfully build on relevant social media and
brand experience strategies. Brands could also decide to integrate creativity internally within
their marketing departments, and only externalize the content production, with easily accessible
external collaborations and open-innovation platforms.

However, brands need more creativity than ever, and some communication groups can
demonstrate a relevant ability to break the rules and bring innovation through creative
communication ideas. The future of advertising agencies lies in their ability to create innovative
communication ideas that can adapt to the multitude of formats and possibilities that the digital
revolution has given birth. The role of agencies should go well beyond traditional advertising,
and they will increasingly be responsible to create content and supports that can compete with
any other entertainment options for audiences’ attentions. From their ability to develop creative,
qualitative, and interesting experiences to consumers will determinate their chances to survive.
Creativity is the most important aspect of brand communications, and the agencies that will
embrace this philosophy will probably be the one that will succeed in this future.



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Advertising Age - -

Blogs - - - - - -

Campaign Live -

Cohn Wolfe -

Publicis Group -

TBWA - -

We are Social –

Movies / Films

Adidas Vertical Football -

Did you know 3.0 -

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30th, 2009.

Gatorade Replay Trailer -

IKEA Tag Marketing on Facebook -

McDonalds’ interactive billboard -!

Nike iD Phone App -

The Zimbabwean Trillion Dollar campaign -


Appendix 1.1

Appendix 1.1. Hours spent with media (US), Source: Carat 2008

Appendix 1.2

Appendix 1.2. Minutes per day spend with media (US), Source: Video Consumer Mapping
Study, AC Nielsen 2009.

Appendix 1.3.

Appendix 1.3. Percentage of U.S. homes tuned to Big Three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS
and NBC) in prime time, Source: Nielsen Media Research

Appendix 1.4.

Appendix 1.4. Share of audience tuned in to No. 1 TV show. Source: Nielsen Media Research

Appendix 1.5.

Appendix 1.5. US Media preferences 2007, Source: NBC New Media Study

Appendix 2.1.

Appendix 2.1. Example of packaging creativity: Apple

Appendix 2.2.

Appendix 2.2. Example of packaging creativity: Coca Cola

Appendix 2.3.

Appendix 2.3. Example of packaging creativity: Nike “Stadium”

Appendix 2.4.

Appendix 2.4. The importance of the digital experience. Source: Razorfish (2009)

Appendix 2.5.

Appendix 2.5. IKEA use of augmented reality through mobile application

Appendix 2.6.

Appendix 2.6. Customization / Nike Photo ID: Send a picture with colors you like / Receive your
customized sneakers

Appendix 2.7.

Appendix 2.7. Customization / Zadig & Voltaire: create your perfect watch

Appendix 2.8.

Appendix 2.8. Customization / Longchamp: customize your bag in four steps

Appendix 2.9.

Appendix 2.9. Facebook behind Google in terms of audience in the US. Source: Les Echos

Appendix 2.10.

Appendix 2.10. Nestle “Anti Social” Page. Source:

Appendix 2.11.

Appendix 2.11. Reasons for Friending or Following companies through social medias according
to US consumers, December 2009. Source: Marketing Sherpa (

Appendix 2.12.

Appendix 2.12. Burger King “Whooper Sacrifice.” Source:

Appendix 2.13.

Appendix 2.13. Famous Volkswagen Ad, representative of the 1960s ‘creative revolution’, by
William B. Bernbach, from DDB.

Appendix 3.1.

Appendix 3.1. The Zimbabwean, TBWA Hunt Lascaris, Trillion Dollar Campaign, 2009

Appendix 3.2.

Appendix 3.2. Adidas Vertical Football, 2003

Appendix 3.3.

Appendix 3.3. Adidas Vertical Football, 2003

Appendix 3.4.

Appendix 3.4. The ‘Think outside the parking box’ Competition, by Nissan, accessible on the
website Designboom. Source:

Appendix 3.5.

Appendix 3.5. Winning ad of the Designboom competition


Interview with César Croze

Directeur Général Adjoint – EVP, TBWA\Paris

Quelle est aujourd’hui ta vision du rôle d’une agence de publicité, quel était-il il y a dix
ans, et quel sera son rôle dans dix ans ?

J’ai une vision de mon point de vue assez claire. Le rôle central d’une agence de publicité, c’est
à la fois le conseil aux marques, et à la fois la production des idées. De manière très
philosophique, ce sont pour moi les deux grandes missions qu’a une agence de publicité, face
à ses clients.

Je partage ton point de vue sur le fait que nous sommes dans une très grande période
transitoire, probablement la plus forte période transitoire que notre industrie n’est jamais
connue, et dont le digital a été le principal déclencheur.

Il y a dix ans en arrière, les agences de publicité faisaient tout. C’est à dire qu’elles intégraient, à
partir d’une idée, à partir de ce que tu conseilles à tes clients, soit au sein d’elle même, soit à
travers de groupes constitués mais qui étaient des satellites des agences de publicité, toutes
les disciplines de la communication. Il y avait un client, à qui on suggérait une idée, et après tu
avais dans ton groupe, la possibilité de mettre en œuvre cette idée, jusque dans les médias. Et
puis tout ça a explosé sur le principe de spécialité. Quand tu étais un acheteur, et que tu faisais
de l’achat média, il fallait que tu sois spécialiste et donc que tu ne fasses que ça, et ne pas
dépendre d’une agence de communication. Quand tu faisais du marketing services, tu ne
pouvais pas être relié à une agence, il fallait vraiment que tu ne fasses que ça, puisqu’il y avait à
l’époque de la compétence à acquérir, de la technicité, de la technologie à acquérir, donc le
métier s’est vraiment spécialisé, et donc du coup s’est atomisé. Cela a correspondu,
probablement, avec une mutation chez l’annonceur de la fonction marketing, qui était moins
des personnes qui avaient des visions sur leur marque, que des personnes qui intégraient les
différentes disciplines, au service de leur marque. Du coup, je nierais t’avoir dit ce que je t’ai dit,
même si c’est enregistré, mais je trouve qu’il y a eu un affaiblissement de la fonction marketing
chez l’annonceur, et donc du coup en cascade, un affaiblissement de la relation entre les
agences et les annonceurs, l’affaiblissement de la rémunération entre les agences et les
annonceurs, et donc du coup par effet de ricochet, même si cela a eu quelques années de
retard, l’affaiblissement de la qualité des agences aujourd’hui. Nous sommes dans des agences
aujourd’hui ou on a moins de gens pour des revenus qui sont aussi importants si ce n’est plus
importants, et donc du coup on a plus de juniors, on paye moins les gens, c’est une industrie
qui fait moins rêver qu’elle n’a plus faire rêver il y a dix ou quinze ans en arrière.

Dans le phénomène de balancier, il y a dix ans en arrière, relative centralisation autour de l’idée,
c’était le point de départ, puis atomisation, parce que spécialisation, des disciplines, ce qui
correspondait aussi à la volonté d’aller chercher du revenu en se présentant de la manière la
plus spécifique, et donc la plus compétitive possible à l’égard des annonceurs. Là je crois
qu’on est en train de passer l’effet de balancier, pour remonter dans l’autre sens, ou là,
paradoxalement, on va assister de mon point de vue à une recomposition d’une prestation

relativement globale. La seule chose, c’est que le point de départ ne sera plus uniquement
l’agence de pub. Je m’explique, dans ce que j’ai appelle moi le phénomène d’atomisation de la
prestation, on a des agences médias qui se sont spécialisées, qui ont créé une ligne de conseil
direct avec leurs annonceurs, puis qui ont commencé, autour du conseil média, et donc de la
capacité à faire du retour sur investissement, à agréger des prestations de communications, et
il y a fait un fait extrêmement important qui s’est produit la semaine dernière, c’est qu’Aegis
Media a annoncé qu’elle recrutait deux directeurs de création pub, pour les mettre dans une
entité avec Christophe Lambert, qui est quand même un ancien directeur d’agence de publicité
et après, tu as beau l’appeler de comme tu veux, ça revient à créer une agence de publicité au
sein du groupe Aegis.

Pourquoi l’achat média a-t-il été séparé de la création en agence de publicité ?

Aujourd’hui, avec l’importance du choix des différents médias, comment peut-on
continuer à avoir de l’importance si on ne choisit pas soi-même les bons médias ?

Le conseil média aujourd’hui est de mon point de vue pas aussi stratégique que ce que fait
l’agence de publicité. Je persiste et signe que le contenu est plus important que le contenant,
mais néanmoins, être capable de conseiller un annonceur sur les points de contact entre lui-
même et ses publics est essentiel, et c’est aujourd’hui d’ailleurs un pan de prestation
stratégique qui a complètement échappé aux agences de communication. Les agences web
ont gardé cette dimension là, parce que par définition elles font du web, donc elles maitrisent
aujourd’hui ce qui est à la fois un canal de communication et à la fois un canal média, mais par
contre les agences de publicité ont laissé partir la prestation média, pour deux raisons, la
première, c’est une loi qui a régit, en 1993, tout principe de facturation des agences à l’égard
des annonceurs, sachant qu’il y avait quand même beaucoup de malversations qui étaient
pratiquées, donc ça a assainie le métier, mais ça a aussi contribué à couper le métier en deux,
les agences de communication d’un côté, et les agences média de l’autre. Et puis une fois que
les agences médias se sont constituées, elles ont valorisé la nécessité d’être grosses, pour faire
bénéficier à leur client de conditions d’achat d’espace meilleures, donc elles se sont
transformées d’une mission de conseil stratégique, à un grossiste en achat d’espace. Donc le
métier s’est totalement transformé en quelques années. Et donc c’est ce qui a contribué à
vraiment séparer les agences médias des agences de publicité, mais ce qui est vraiment
intéressant, c’est qu’au fur et à mesure du temps, les agences média se sont rendues compte
que leur modèle économique ne pouvait plus vivre exclusivement à travers le fait d’être un
grossiste en achat d’espace, donc ils ont commencé à prendre, d’abord, des gens qui savaient
réfléchir, puis à agréger autour de leur métier de régie d’achat d’espace des métiers de
production de contenus, ou de conseil sur des éléments périphériques de l’achat d’espace, et
ils ont franchi le rubicon, la semaine dernière, en recrutant des gens pour faire une agence de

Cette loi a fait que les deux métiers se sont séparés. Comment se fait-il que les
agences ne puissent faire le chemin inverse ?

La loi n’interdit pas. C’est un peu compliqué, mais l’achat média, qui représentait une grosse
partie du revenu des agences de publicité à l’époque, compte tenu de cette loi, le revenu est
arrivé à zéro, les agences de pub ont été obligé de faire des choix, et se sont dit, comme le
métier d’achat média ne m’intéresse plus, j’ai plus intérêt à entretenir un département, avec des
gens, des salaires, qui me coutent cher et ne me rapportent plus grand chose. Donc du coup
ils ont laissé partir ces gens là, et tous ces gens sont allés dans les agences médias, qui se
sont constituées et qui ont compensées, elles, le problème de la rémunération, par les volumes.

Dans ma vision, toute cette partie de conseil en achat média, en connections média,
est sensée être intrinsèque à la fonction de conseil stratégique. Lors de l’élaboration
d’une stratégie, Ne faudrait-il pas valoriser le support au même titre que l’idée.

Le problème, c’est qu’aujourd’hui il y a une culture, qui a été construite par les agences média
chez les annonceurs, qui est que tout est mesurable, et qu’il y a une absolue nécessité pour les
annonceurs de mesurer ce qu’ils investissent, et le retour sur ce qu’ils investissent. Donc le
marketing du canal de communication intuitif, n’existe pas, ou plus. Tu ne peux pas exister de
manière crédible à l’égard d’un annonceur, si tu fais juste du je crois que, j’ai l’intuition que,
enfin, tu es quand même obligé d’être adossé à un certain nombre d’outils, d’études, qui
démontrent que ce que tu fais n’est pas que de la pure intuition. Très concrètement, pour parler
d’un média unique, qui est le Web, il y aujourd’hui des tas d’études qui traquent les visiteurs sur
les sites, et la structure de leurs visites et la structure de la démographie des gens qui visitent
ces sites, si tu n’as pas ces informations, tu n’as pas de légitimité à donner des conseils.

Pour moi c’est un métier qui s’est vraiment écarté, et qui commence à se réconcilier, d’un côté
les gens qui génèrent des idées, tout ce qui est de l’immatériel, de l’intangible, qui est quand
même l’aboutissement d’une démarche stratégique, mais qui relève de l’immatériel. A l’opposé,
tu as des gens qui eux maitrisent la partie extrêmement rationnelle de ce métier, qui est
l’investissement, le retour sur investissement, quels sont les canaux les plus efficaces, les plus
pertinents, en fonction de la problématique… Et ces deux éléments là du métier à mon avis
sont en train de se réconcilier. Ce qui est amusant, c’est que c’est en train de se réconcilier,
dans les agences de publicité historiques, puisque si tu prends notre cas à nous, on va se doter
de gens qui sont des experts du web, quand on dit experts du web, ce sont des gens qui sont
des experts de la créativité sur le web, mais qui sont aussi experts de la mesure de l’audience
sur le web, du retour sur investissement sur le web, cela nous a longuement titillé de réintégrer
des experts de l’achat média dans l’agence, on l’a pas fait, mais ça ne veut pas dire qu’on ne le
fera pas un jour, ce que je veux dire par là c’est que l’on est en train de reconstituer dans les
agences de publicité une chaine de décision globale entre la génération de l’idée et la gestion
de l’idée. Les agences média font la même chose, et à mon avis celles qui vont s’y mettre dans
très peu de temps, ce sont les agences web. Les agences web sont nées avec la bulle Internet,
et leur mutation est en train de s’achever, elles sont en train de se sophistiquer, et aujourd’hui le
principal point de faiblesse des agences web, c’est qu’elles raisonnent web, exclusivement
web, et qu’elles ont assez peu de gens qui sont forts sur l’idée. Mais après, c’est juste une
question de débauchage, de gestion des talents…

C’est ce que Publicis fait à l’inverse, en prenant Sébastien Vacherot, de l’agence

TBWA\Map, qui est nommé à la direction et création de Publicis Net ?

Oui, absolument.

Finalement, tout le monde se rend compte qu’il faut faire la même chose…

Tout le monde se rend compte que quand tu as une bonne idée, c’est extrêmement frustrant
de ne pas la piloter partout. Alors c’est frustrant sur le point de vue intellectuel, mais c’est
frustrant aussi sur le point de vue financier. Concrètement, c’est ennuyeux d’avoir une super
idée, et que à moment donné quelqu’un te dise, bien merci, mais le web c’est pas toi, donc je
vais la filer ton idée aux gens du web. Ca c’est extrêmement frustrant, donc c’est la raison pour
laquelle on essaie de se doter de l’ensemble des compétences pour a minima assurer une
équation financière qui est j’ai une bonne idée, j’ai aujourd’hui la compétence pour développer
le déploiement de cette idée, avec les revenus qui m’intéressent.

Par rapport à la fonction créative dans une agence, est-ce que ça ne doit pas amener
à une redéfinition de la notion de tandem créatif rédacteur / directeur artistique ?

Oublie les fonctions, très honnêtement, aujourd’hui on continue à les appeler comme ça parce
qu’on les a longtemps appelle comme ça, mais les deux fonctions qui sont la conception et la
rédaction. C’est amené à bouleverser très durablement la notion de ce que font les créatifs.
Aujourd’hui les créatifs en agence publicitaire raisonnent complètement à l’ancienne, c’est un
film télé, des affiches et de la presse, et ils n’ont pas du tout aujourd’hui l’ouverture d’esprit du
web. Ils considèrent actuellement le web comme un média. Le web les intéresse à partir du
moment ou le web permet de diffuser des films beaucoup plus trashs et beaucoup plus longs
que ce que la télévision nous permettrait de faire. Mais ils n’ont pas du tout l’appréhension de
comment je pourrais utiliser le média web pour communiquer. Donc de toute façon je pense
qu’il va y avoir un mélange des genres entre les créatifs qui proviennent du web, et les créatifs
qui proviennent de la dimension traditionnelle, ou en tout cas à minima la nécessité, d’un point
de vue créatif, de s’ouvrir très rapidement, et on est nous, très particulièrement en avance la
dessus, de s’ouvrir aux nouvelles idées. Ce qui ne va pas dire qu’il n’y ait pas à un moment
donné, peut être pas dans le team, mais à leur assistance, des gens du technique, puisque sur
le web, il y a une dimension très technique qui est beaucoup plus prégnante que dans les
autres canaux de communication.

Finalement le tandem de demain ne serait pas un « disrupteur » d’un côté, et un

« média artiste » de l’autre : un qui a les bonnes idées et l’autre qui sait les mettre en
œuvre d’un point de vue technique. Redéfinir la fonction du créatif.

Je suis assez d’accord, un qui génère une rupture sur l’idée, et un autre qui génère une rupture
sur la façon de déployer l’idée et exprimer l’idée.

Au niveau de l’account management, comment on fait pour que l’idée se traduise des
créatifs à l’account. Chez Fred et Farid, par exemple, il me semble c’est celui qui a
l’idée qui est l’interface de A à Z avec le client.

Je ne sais pas si c’est un problème de modèle ou un problème de gens. Je suis plutôt toujours
amené à penser que c’est plutôt les gens qui priment sur les modèles. La raison pour laquelle
c’est souvent l’account qui est en charge de la relation commerciale, c’est d’abord parce que
c’est son métier, et ensuite son job, c’est de faire la différence entre ce dont a envie, et ce dont
a besoin un client, et arriver à réduire l’écart entre les deux. Le rôle d’un account, c’est de
savoir ce dont a envie un client, de faire bosser l’interne à la création, pour faire générer des
idées qui soient un peu au delà de ce que veut le client, et après de vendre le chemin que doit
faire le client, pour parcourir ce dont il a envie et aller jusque ce dont il a besoin. Du coup, c’est
théoriquement un job relationnel qui est extrêmement important. Cela ne veut pas dire que
quand il va faire de la vente, il y va seul. Quand tu vends de la création, tu y vas souvent avec le
créatif. Il y a des créatifs qui n’aiment pas, mais souvent tu vas vendre tes idées, avec les gens
qui ont eu ces idées. Tu es quand même la pour garantir le cadre dans lequel cela a été généré,
garantir la relation, prendre de la hauteur, pour apaiser un peu tout le monde, tu rassures ton
client parce que tu es son interface, et tu es la pour rassurer les créatifs, qui sont dans une
tache qui est très difficile dans notre métier. Dans notre métier, le plus compliqué, ce n’est pas
de générer des idées, c’est de les vendre. C’est de générer les bonnes idées, et de les vendre,
c’est ça qui est compliqué.

Tu présentes trois idées à un client, il y en a toujours une qui est un peu moins bonne. Après,
on ne va pas rentrer dans un débat psychologique, mais la société aujourd’hui n’encourage
plus à la prise de risque, donc un mec qui est patron du marketing, il ne sera pas jugé au

résultat qu’il va faire, mais à l’absence d’échec. Donc si tu veux, les schémas marketing
aujourd’hui sont extrêmement conventionnels. On a tendance à reproduire toujours ce qui a été
fait dans le secteur, et ce qui a été fait dans la société. Et d’ailleurs, ce qu’il y a de très amusant
c’est que tu prends les directions marketing des différentes boites, c’est une diaspora. Le mec
qui est patron marketing d’une boite d’hôtellerie, c’est un mec qui était patron marketing d’une
autre boite d’hôtellerie, ou d’une boite qui était proche du secteur de l’hôtellerie. Ils n’ont pas
l’idée de prendre, j’en sais rien, un architecte. Ils ont peu de capacités à ouvrir l’esprit.

C’est peut être le rôle d’une agence comme TBWA de justement ouvrir l’esprit de ses
annonceurs. Avec une philosophie disruptive qui se veut à contre courant et
différencient, c’est sur cette image que joue TBWA ?

Il faut des clients qui comprennent ça, des clients qui sont éduqués, cela demande du temps,
je crois que la durée moyenne d’un directeur marketing en poste, c’est de deux ans et demi, ou
trois ans. Donc c’est parfois beaucoup d’énergie investie pour pas grand chose, c’est le
quotidien, faire évoluer les gens, leur faire ouvrir l’esprit, on les fait participer à des disruption
days qui est une façon extrêmement intéressante, et en peu de temps, de ramasser la
quintessence de ce qui est notre métier, c’est à dire partir d’un faisceau de contraintes pour
arriver à une génération d’idée. C’est notre job. C’est le job de TBWA comme en général le job
des agences de publicités.

Est-ce que les process qui sont mis en place ne présentent pas des risques de perte
de temps ?

Cette batterie de process est entièrement tributaire de la qualité du client que tu as en face. Soit
le mec est courageux, il sait ce qu’il a envie de faire, et il a des capacités à défendre ce qu’il fait
et les raisons pour lesquelles il le fait, sans s’embarrasser de tous les parapluies que constituent
les pré tests, les post tests, les avis des uns et des autres, et puis tu as un mec qui est un peu
frileux, il s’environne d’une batterie d’outil et de process pour dire, voyez, c’est pas moi qui le
dit, c’est lui…
Effectivement, comme après tous ces process ont comme objet de donner un point de vue, tu
pars d’une idée qui est brillante, et tu finis par l’affadir. A un moment donné, c’est presque le
courage de l’agence de dire, ça je ne fais pas. Il vaut mieux rien faire, que de partir d’une bonne
idée et mal l’exécuter parce que on a été pré-testé 550 fois…

Une question relative au passé de TBWA\Paris. Quand il y avait Erik Vergroeggen, et

malgré tous les prix que l’agence a engendré, qu’est-ce qui a motivé son départ ?
TBWA a-t-il l’intention de récupérer ce scalp de créativité ?

Je vais prendre une analogie que tu connais bien puisqu’elle est issue de l’industrie automobile.
Tu ne peux pas passer ton énergie, et exclusivement ton énergie, à briguer le salon de Genève
ou de Détroit, et à faire des concepts cars. C’est bien d’en faire, ça montre la capacité d’une
industrie automobile à avoir de la créativité, à se remettre en question, à suivre les tendances
du moment, mais tu ne peux pas passer ton temps à faire que ça. A un moment donné, tu dois
être capable de transformer l’essai, sur le grand public, et de manière industrielle. C’est
exactement la raison pour laquelle on a arrêté avec Erik, parce qu’on a effectivement été
couronné 5 fois au salon de Genève, avec des concept cars qui étaient formidables, mais le
problème c’est qu’il n’y en a pas un qui a vu le jour, et que il y a un moment donné, dans ce
métier, la créativité, si on le fait, la quintessence de la créativité, c’est d’arriver à sortir une
campagne extrêmement créative, sur un de nos grands clients, et qui modifie en profondeur la
santé d’une marque. Soit parce que tu lui fais gagner de l’argent, soit parce que tu crées un
niveau de vente extrêmement substantiel par rapport à avant. C’est ça qui est intéressant. Et ça

Erik, il était arrivé dans une logique ou ça ne l’intéressait pas. Parce que tu te bagarres sur 20
dossiers et à la fin il y a en un qui voit le jour, et parce que souvent il est affadi par les tests, les

Ca revient un peu à faire un parallélisme entre l’art et le business, comment vendre

des produits artistiques ?

Nous, on fait de l’art appliqué. C’est ça pour moi la différence entre l’art et l’art appliqué. L’art
est conceptuel. Nous il y a un moment donné on fait de l’art appliqué. La cuisine est un art
appliqué, parce que tout un chacun est capable d’appréhender ce qu’est la cuisine, et tu as un
point de vue. L’art c’est d’aider au jugement et à la vision d’une certaine élite, de gens d’une
certaine catégorie. L’art appliqué il est appréhendable par tous. Plutôt que art et business, je
ferais plutôt cette césure là entre art et art appliqué. La publicité, dans une agence c’est de l’art
appliqué. A un moment donné c’est bien de faire de l’art, mais on a une finalité qui est de faire
progresser les marques desquelles on s’occupe, et on est jugé la dessus. Et on est plus jugé
dessus que par la qualité de l’art qu’on développe. L’art est un terme duquel il faut se méfier. Je
parlerai plus d’idées, tu peux avoir une excellente idée publicitaire, qui ne donne pas forcément
lieu à une création artistique, mais néanmoins l’idée est extrêmement intelligente, et elle
fonctionne. Pour prendre un exemple, c’est le premier qui me vient à l’esprit, il y a cinq ou six
ans, Volkswagen a révolutionné la façon de faire de la promo sur la voiture. Au lieu de montrer
les voitures plein pots, avant, arrière, avec un gros prix qui venait barrer l’ensemble, ils ont fait
cette fameuse campagne que tu connais, avec un abri bus sur un prix, et tu as une nana qui a
le hochet, dès qu’elle passe devant, et elle s’arrête, tellement le choc est violant. Ce n’est pas
de l’art, mais c’est une excellente idée. Autant Erik avait industrialisé l’agence, pour faire de la
production pour Cannes, ce qui est d’ailleurs assez frustrant, puisque ça veut dire que pendant
six mois, l’agence était organisée et tournée uniquement pour délivrer pour Cannes. Quand tu
as des clients, c’est un peu compliqué de leur expliquer. Aujourd’hui on est rentré dans un
système beaucoup plus sein qui est de se dire on bosse, on essaie de trouver des fenêtres de
tir, si on peut sortir des campagnes qui sortent un peu du carcan habituel, et si ça marche on
les présentera à Cannes.

Pour finir, qu’est ce que c’est pour toi le modèle à suivre aujourd’hui. En dehors de
TBWA, est ce qu’il y a des agences que tu trouves plus inspirantes, plus évoluées,
plus avancées que les autres.

De ce point de vue là, en tout cas en France, je dois te dire que Fred et Farid ne me bouleverse
pas. A la fois ils gagnent beaucoup de choses, c’est une agence en bonne santé, du point de
vue psychologique, mais je ne suis pas bouleversé par ce qu’ils sortent. V, il y a des choses
que j’aime bien, d’autres que j’aime moins. V est un héritage de la publicité de DDB, c’est une
publicité pour laquelle j’ai beaucoup d’attachement, c’est intelligent, j’aime beaucoup ce que
faisait BDDP à l’époque également, des campagnes sensibles, sensées. Ce que je trouve
intéressant moi, c’est qu’il y a la place aujourd’hui pour réinterpréter notre métier, au prisme
des petites agences. Tu regagnes en légèreté, en souplesse et en agilité, ce qui est toujours un
peu le problème de nous, les grosses agences, les gros réseaux.

Au niveau international, des agences comme Wieden & Kennedy, Droga 5, ou Goodby
Silverstein and Partners ?

Oui, clairement, ce sont des agences qui trustent chaque année le palmarès des agences à
Cannes. J’adore aussi BBH, il y a d’excellentes agences, en effet. Non, sinon, je suis assez
bluffé par ce qu’arrive à faire BETC, qui est à la fois une grosse agence, et qui garde un prisme
extrêmement créatif.

Interview with Stephanie Bouchet

CEO of Rouge Frog, marketing consultancy.

Former Product Marketing Manager at Skype.
Former Marketing Manager at BT.

What is your vision of marketing today?

I think there is an angle of relationship; this is not anymore a “one to many” relationship but “a
one to one”. This is a challenge for the brands to communicate to people on a one to one basis,
and how they engage for their customers. I also think that because people are over exposed
now to a lot of messaging, they need to be touched emotionally, that means that it is becoming
challenging as well for the brands. They need to find ways and moments during the day when
people will be more receptive than anything else. By ways, we mean the tools brands are using,
the methods, and also different channels. I think these are the two sides of marketing that are
significantly changing.

What are the three words for you that will characterize advertising in the future?

Integrated. Emotional. Scalable.

Which value can advertising agencies bring to clients and marketers in this new
marketing world we’ve just discussed?

I think there are two things. One is the creative, but creativity in the way you can deploy things,
how you take a concept and how you deploy it across different channels, using different tools
and techniques. I think that this is the biggest challenge because that does not mean they are
good at it. That’s the challenge they are facing. I also think that they could develop the
marketing intelligence, “think outside the box”, and for that, they need to come with examples
and success stories. That’s the reason I think it is more difficult today, it’s becoming harder
because it involves outside to think how people will react to it. I also think it’s harder for them
because there is a lot of visibility and track ability, so now you can pretty much track anything
you do, even more than before, and you know, social medias were associated with PR, but PR
is not measurable, people were questioning it, but today almost everything is traceable, you can
see the number of files, you can see the number of pictures, almost everything. For the
marketers it’s great, for the agencies, it’s also great, but only if it works!

Consumers are in control. How do you think brands can use consumers at their own
advantage, and which role can consumers have with brands?

I think it’s a cascading effect. Some brands are very emotional, or manage to take emotion of
certain people and not everyone, and they should definitely use these certain people as
ambassadors, and influencers, so I think, this concept is very important. It is not new, in 2004
we already used this concept with Skype, but it is even more prominent today. You really need
to nurture that base of people that are very emotionally attached to your brand, make sure
they’ve got everything they need, to share with their friends, and to spread the word for your
brands, and make sure they are always happy. It is essential that unsatisfied consumers are

being taken care off, it takes much more value indeed, when somebody is unsatisfied, with the
power of social networks, you are able to spread anything on the Web now, everywhere, so I
think it’s really important to make sure that you always evaluate how people are happy with your
brand, and kind of solve the issues pretty quickly, before the cascading effect goes against your

You have worked in many different companies, advised very different companies from
different sizes and organizations. What do you think is the best organization to
produce great marketing and advertising work?

I think that it’s important to have key people in place. Very strong marketers, and when I say
very strong marketers, I don’t mean somebody very specialized in online marketing. I think the
marketer of tomorrow within big organizations has to be able to do a bit of everything. That’s
more like a full marketer, but he can allow himself to have a set of advisory people in very
specific areas, but I think you need an overall understanding of elements like partnership
marketing, online marketing, brand, social media, community. You need to know your stuff,
right. Within that you can offer yourself to bring some people, like an online marketing
specialists, or a social media specialist. Just people that will help you to dig it to the dirt and
that will be really facilitating the execution of marketing activities.

What is for you the best marketing or advertising operation of 2009?

Big companies? Small companies?

Global scale, overall…

It is a tough question. When I personally have to quote one brand, and I think people really like it
as well, and it’s the only page product that I’ve got on any tool I’m using, which is Spotify.
That’s the only app, or only application on top of Skype obviously, that I would consider
payingful, and I’m paying 10£ a month and what I liked about Spotify is that, simply, that was a
need of listening to music. I don’t necessarily care about owning the music, actually I don’t care
at all, I just wanted to listen to it, when I wanted it, and they allow you the unlimited listening of
music, even offline, from your iPhone, considering I’m running with my iPhone, I’m listening to
music in my car, I can take it everywhere, and that’s the ultimate experience, and I think they
created very well. When you listen to them, the message they have is very educational for
people. It is not about pushing people, they don’t force you to buy anything, they just suggest
and they very educate about “this you can do with the product.” Even if you listen to the
advertising, they have a very personal voice, and I think that is a brand also: Tone of Voice is
very important. One last point I think, is that Spotify is heavily sharable, and they provided all the
tools for people to be able to share whatever you are listening to, or get recommendations from
other people, and that has make also the success of the product. So, I think, for a brand, the
learning would be: combine these elements whether you are personal, emotional, touchy, use
the tools and the mechanics in place, and all is about the content, and how the content is
sharable between people.

This makes me think to a book from Alex Bogusky, CEO of CP+B, and he says:
“marketing should be baked into the product. The marketing is the product in itself.”
Do you tend to agree with this affirmation ?

Totally, I think, marketing is 80% of the product. That’s why when I make business I’m always
focusing on “product marketing”, but you know, this is it, this is the core. If you don’t get that,
you can waste how many millions of dollars that you want, it’s going to be totally wasted

because people will come, and they won’t convert, and you won’t be able to retained them,
and that’s over. So totally agree with that, product is essential.

Should agencies, not only give advice on communications, but also on how to make
better products, how to make products that respond better to consumer needs?

I think that’s what we talked about before, with tools and scalability. Agencies should be very
knowledgeable, and that’s their role to find resources internally, it’s kind of for them moving
from coming with the idea, to providing and enabling the idea. They need to have good
resources internally to be able to set up those tools, but also invent mechanics that are going to
facilitate the product to live, be, and grow.

We talked about the Pepsi Refresh Project. Do you think brands even more today
need to make business for good? Thinking as well about Nestlé, do you think that
brands today needs to stand for good?

I think it depends how you position yourself, but you need to be responsible. If you are a
company, and you have brand values, but you never included anything like that in your brand
values originally, and you’re not social responsible or you don’t have that aspect, I would say
don’t go there or minimize it. However, if you have an overall vision and you’re aiming to please
people or to do good things whether for the planet, or the environment, or whatever, I would
say, definitely encourage that side of the business or the brand, and communicate to people
about it, otherwise there are so many brands that are doing that are out of the blue, and they
are doing that badly. So, your original responsibility needs to be kept, and explained, I think
people feel well with brands when they feel the essence of the brands. And don’t fake it. Don’t
pretend to do things for people when you’re not, cause I think the customers are very aware
those days, and very knowledgeable, because of the Internet, and all the digital stuff, so they
will literally give it right away when you try to play with that.

Advertising agencies are struggling in finding new revenue models with brands. What
should be the new business model for agencies in this new context?

I think maybe there is a risk and engagement factor so that agencies can take more ownership,
and more responsibility in what they are delivering, meaning there is potentially few things you
can look at, there is revenue share and it demonstrates that the agency should commit to
certain numbers. Obviously there are variables, that going to influence the end user choice,
whether they want to buy the product or not, but it’s part almost of their responsibility and
there’s also working to minimize the cost working in partnerships with other organizations, so
that they can spread the risk, between them. This one is the less obvious because I think the
more people you bring up to the game, the more budget you need potentially and more is going
to be spread between agencies and other people, so that’s how you get yourself organized,
how you could potentially bring more clever resources within the game, and outsource some of
the work as well, but I think the brands are going to look for more engagement towards the
agency and feel they are going to take their own responsibility on it. Until now, if you’ve got a
campaign that fails, the brands is going to be affected but the agency is not going to win the
award of the year, its reputation will be affected, but you know, financially, I think it’s more a
question of long term impact. But if you have more commitment toward the company, on the
long-term basis, this affects you.

Do you think a system with commission or percentages is the good solution?

I think the revenues will force the agencies to become more committed to the brands or the
accounts, or the names, to focus probably a bit more, so rather than trying to reach 20 clients,
they may need 5 clients. At the same time you could argue that, we are in a world of “agile”,
and there is a lot of demand but also a lot of offering out there, so the challenge for the
agencies is that there are a lot of clever young guys, that are proposing interesting concepts,
that can outsource by other develops, whether they are in eastern countries, or at a cheaper
cost, and I think agencies are competing against those guys. I think it is very challenging now,
for big agencies, because people care less about the agency tradition, at the end of the day,
what they want is just to get extra, and keep control of it.

I was interviewing the CEO of Fairtilizer, a digital music company, and he told me that
in USA, some brands were starting to “internalize” the creation, bringing creatives
from advertising agencies into proper brand marketing departments, and they just
outsourced the mechanics, the production of content.

I think it’s the right approach, it minimizes the cost; it guarantees the mechanics are there
already, and it’s much faster.

Interview with Ed Palmer

Head of Account Management – TBWA/ London

The way creativity is organized in agencies needs to change, as the new digital
environment needs to be much more collaborative and much more open. As Robert
Greenberg from RG/A said, “two guys, thinking in a room” can’t be at the origin of
ideas that are valid for 365 days and every point of contact with consumers. Do you
think that agencies need new organizational ways that let everyone participate?

Let’s start with the creative process. I think there are two points on that. One, I think you
mentioned that before, is the notion of “one big idea,” that’s what the agency is kind of tasked,
is, I think, becoming less relevant. I think the importance of a strong organization thought for the
brand is as important as it ever was, but making that absolutely 100% original is perhaps less
relevant than making the way you take it to the market really original. I give you an example,
something like Burger King, when they say, “Have it your way”. It’s quite a classical FMCG
message; really, the idea of personalization is not something new that the brand just said. It’s a
strong big idea, a strong organization thought. Is it massively original? Perhaps not, but the way
they have taken it to the market is really original, with things like subservient chicken, and all the
other interesting things, that Crispin Porter does, absolutely. So, in that context, the idea of the
kind of emblematic creative department that detains all the idea of how should we deploy is
relevant anymore, perhaps not, and if we look at, say, digital agencies, they would have creative
technologists, for example, who is a kind of relatively new discipline, which is all about finding
out what is the new and original kind of creative technologies. It is not about the idea, it’s about
how those ideas can be expressed in a truly and original way. I guess the less formal way
behind is that account management or planning departments should have… They were kind of
black books of people that know things, or creative stimuli, is more important than it never was,
because the idea that anyone discipline can know all of that stuff, is just naïve. I guess my
analogy would be, in the old days, you had something called a polymath, it was a kind of a man
of letters, you could be best in class architect, or best in class scientist, and you could do it
those days because each of these disciplines were not as sophisticated as they are now, but
the idea that you can have a polymath has kind of gone away. I think there is a relevant parallel
to something like account management, where, you know in the old days, a truly accomplished
account handler was someone who could understand the client business as well if not better
than the client himself, and at the same time, know all the different routes to market of potential
communication solution. Now, I think, client business has become more complex than it ever
were, and the number of solutions or routes to market has absolutely proliferated and
fragmented, so the idea that the account handler can competently resolve both is very tricky.
So one of the things that a lot of agencies have been talking about, and we’ve said become
important for agencies like TBWA, is redefining the role of account management, and kind of
understand that perhaps, not one person can’t necessarily do it all, but maybe there is kind of
“we play with our strengths”, so for example, you can imagine that they are account that are
most predisposed to be a kind of business leaders and be that kind of person that really
understanding the client business, and I guess will have more strategic skills, and there is
another type of account handler, that is perhaps much more kind of producer mentality, and
that will produce some models, very entrepreneurial, give him a problem and he will find a way
to resolve it, make it happen, so I think many agencies have started to think at these two kind of
separated disciplines, and if we go to the extremes, there is an agency like Mother, who doesn’t
have account handling at all, and they just have mothers, which are kind of producer types and
strategists, who are basically a kind of enlarged planning department. I don’t think we would
ever go to that extreme at TBWA, but Mother is something that really we could definitely learn

I come back to your point about how the creative process changed, or changes things, I think
the idea of the omnipotent creative department is less relevant, I think that new disciplines are
starting to come in, and need to come in, to kind of take into account the huge gamma of
potential creative solutions which are available to us, and I think account management, which is
obviously the one we are most particularly interested in, will have to change, and perhaps we
have to recognize that there are kind of sub disciplines within it now, and need to be more

What the competences and the capabilities that agencies are missing? Are there more
technological capabilities, or strategic capabilities? What clients are requesting from
their agencies?

I think speed is a tricky one. There is a huge research infrastructure, that agencies and clients
have built up that is guide around lonely times, huge media investments, and it’s quite normal
that when you spend a huge amount of money behind something, you want to make sure it’s
absolutely, 100%, the right thing to do. So, I’ll give you an example, Buheistorff is one of my
accounts, we wonder sometimes why they do so much research, they do qualitative research,
then they do quantitative pre-testing, and then make the ad, then they do quantitative testing
again with the finished ad. When you realize that any one ad, TV commercial, could have 30/40
million Euros of media money behind it. What other type of industry would make that source of
investment without being absolutely 100% sure that that is the right thing to do. Now, as TV
advertising and paid for medias become less relevant, the idea that you will be putting 30/40
millions pounds with paid for support behind a piece of creativity becomes less and less
relevant. So, I think you need to shift the mentality, change that research infrastructure to
perhaps do more things, with less investment, knowing that maybe 30, 40 or maybe 50% of
them would fail, but actually the amount of up-front investment would be the same, so we
would just move from doing 2 or 3 big things for a client that we would research to death, to
lots more things, more quickly, without researching as far, and just getting the ad there, and see
which would take hold. So, that kind of, I would say, creative Darwinism, if you like, create lots
of things, stick them out there, and the most original will survive.

I wanted to come back to your point of speed. I think this is the important thing. Everything is
moving so fast, and lots of things are happening every day, every minute. Are clients aware of
that, and do they think reinforcing the relation with the agencies is the solution for that? It’s
important to have an agency that give strong advises, and that can react very quickly to what
can happen. If the client has a lot of different agencies, with very different tasks for each
agency, there is nobody that can have the required reactivity on every media, and every touch
point. Are clients aware of that and how clients and agencies try to reinforce their collaboration?

I think it’s a tricky one. Yes, clients are asking for more speed, but, at the end of the day, they
do have a reputation to manage, and I think this goes to the heart of how brands can navigate
in social medias and conversations, and real time marketing, if you like, because the truth of it is
that we can only go as quick as the slowest part of the chain. That’s interesting, just as an
aside, but I talked to Rob Brawn, from Stanford, he wrote a book on social medias and is a very
interesting guy to talk to about how social media works and they obviously use a lot of web
analytics, buzz monitoring systems, and it’s an all load of kind of software and algorithm
systems that make sense of the buzz and the chats that happen about particular brands but it
is not good having all of that, unless someone there, it is necessary to have a human aspect at

some point of time and somebody that can make a decision on time. I think agencies could be
quicker at that, but actually quite often, we’re as slow as the client tend, and it’s for very good
reasons actually, because if you take a brand like PlayStation, we constantly come to them and
say we should do this, or we could do this and this, and there is so much attention focused on
their brand, and if there is just one little mistake, that could really damage the brand. I give you
an example, there was a game called Little Big Planet, last year, and a few days out of launch, it
was discovered that there was a song embedded in the game, that had a sample, it was a rap
song, and had samples in Arabic, and they did not bother to translate it, because it was just a
little song in the track, and someone, after they pressed up all the discs ready to launch, and
the media was booked, someone translated it, and discovered there were some jihads lyrics on
the song. There was a huge panic, what do we do, and in the end Sony decided to trash all of
the discs they pressed, go back to the source code, change the song, repress the discs,
cancel all the media they had booked, it cost them a lot of money to do it, but they had to do it,
because Sony is a big brand, has a global recognition, with almost 100% awareness, within the
game world, so it can’t afford to make mistakes, so it leads to the heart of the difficulty, if you
are going to be part of the real time conversation, you have to give some control of your brand
away, and, or at least, be prepared to make quick and faster decisions, and that is a tricky
balance to navigate. Do you accept that there will be some incidence with the Little Big Planet
thing, but actually to be part of and operating at the speed of culture, which is what we talk
about with Adidas, this is the price you need to pay. This is the really interesting debate, and
that’s the heart of why I think things don’t operate as quickly as they could. One good case
study to look at, of how a company has made great use of social medias and operating in real
time environment is Wholefoods, just Google this case study, but in a sense they had less to
lose, because they were a relatively new brand, and not many people had heard of, so you can
afford to be a bit more risky.

For a brand like PlayStation I imagine it must be very complicated because you need
to be at the same time reactive, and to manage a global brand, in the real world,
where things sometimes can be very slow.

I think, my kind of solution way through this is what Riot is doing with Adidas. Riot is the digital
agency of Adidas, and they talk about organized chaos, and in my mind the way you can win in
this world, is to define your parameters for your time marketing. In the old fashion world of PR,
you call it “scenario planning,” we are actually looking at doing it, a presentation to PlayStation,
called “in case of emergency break glace” and basically, you need to define around 10 different
scenarios, where we would say, ok, within this context, what are the parameters that we can
do, so you almost get the things pre-approved in advance, but you can’t never predict
absolutely everything that will happen in advance, but you can say: here are things that can
happen, either good things and bad things, but is something that is likely to happen in the world
of gaming. This is something that we would do, so we get something that is already pre-
approved. You have to do things like that because you can’t just sit around and look at Twitter,
and say “oh my god, what do we do, what do we do!” and you need to wait 20 stages of
approval, and then it’s late and the buzz is down, people will be talking about something else.

It’s true. When people say something on Twitter, it is so quick, so fast; it has to be responded
immediately. The case of Nestle for example is really badly managed, and sometimes it’s better
not to be there, than to be there and damage the brand. The scenario of organizing what can
be done and what can’t be done, what are the responsibilities between the brand and the
agency, is very important in cases of emergency, if something happen, how to react.

A good example is what we are doing with, at the moment we had strikes happening
on BA, and we’ve got a really substantial social media buzz monitoring and assessment

analysis program, working with them and different people can do a shift work looking at the
blogs and the forums, using very sophisticated monitoring tools, like Symphony, which is a
piece of software, from TNS, and actually BA makes really high level strategic decisions based
on the real time intelligence we are giving them, but the issue there, was that they knew that a
strike could be happening, they knew it could go on in certain number of ways and so you
could get the infrastructure in place you almost have agreed tricky points for actions, so if the
amount of negative buzz, which is level x, you know, people that do this, issue this video on
YouTube, you’ve probably seen, using YouTube quite successfully to kind of get support, for
BA positions on the strikes, so I think potentially, when things are over, we’ve got really good
case studies on how an agency can really work properly, in real time, and kind of seat on the
top table, having made big decisions.

These new responsibilities are very different from the traditional role of agencies.
When you create two or three big campaigns every year, the processes are more
defined. When it is more complex, about reacting quickly, faster, it seems much more
complicated. How do you think will evolve the remuneration for agencies? For
example, how do you valuate the remuneration of a social media agency? It is not
about how many messages I put on Twitter and how much money I receive back? I
guess there is more a strategic thinking behind that…

I guess so. There is a school of thoughts that says social media marketing, if you are from a PR
background, it is reputational management; it is just very fast reputation management so you
take the PR model of remuneration. The fact that there is inevitably a kind of human aspect in
social media, marketing people need to be there in place monitoring, of making sense of all the
insights, so it is a kind of resources of honorary rate system that is quite needy for that. But I
guess it is tricky and it has more a kind of analytics coming, like quantifying buzz, the amount of
buzz an agency has originated, or managed, or amplified, or whatever. It should be ways of
kind of turning this quantification into remuneration; I don’t think any agency has really cracked
it yet. The other side of it, it is kind of what properties are we going to create, we are going to
create conversations, it’s not just about monitoring, reacting, and managing, it’s about how do
we start that conversation in first place. And that just becomes about what IP have you created,
and that takes you back to models about remuneration based on IP, and I think that could be
the future, and the reward for an agency for the actual IP they have created rather than the
number of bodies they have just put in place.

With the digital, everything has become more traceable and measurable. For brands it
is perhaps a bad point as they will ask always something measurable, when creativity
is sometimes more about the idea, the beliefs behind the brand, and not about how
many people have talked about it, and how many people have “liked” it. Do you think it
is about finding the right balance between measurement and long-term creativity?

It is very easy to measure when we talk about e-commerce, or the number of click-through, it is
pretty straightforward. When it comes to core brand image stuff, from a short term point of
view, I think, sentiment analysis is becoming pretty good at tracking, while I think, from a long
term point of view, it is more complex. You have distinctions between short and long term of