He’d spent some time at the Google Campus in the US and had undergone a Damascene conversion of some sort. Words like asynchronous aggregation supported by collective intelligence fed into a brand optimised crowd-sourcing mash-up flowed from his mouth with a zeal and belief much like televangelist Jimmy Swaggart before he discovered girls.
As his pupils dilated with online excitement, I realised he was another who’d gone to the dark side of media and had lost focus on the core purpose of brand communication. As his marathon bout of verbiage came to an end, he trumped up his latest campaign effort by shouting – much to the astonishment of the Swiss merchant banker at the adjacent table – that he’d succeeded in getting 457 Facebook likes for the product and well over 300 hits on YouTube. But did you actually sell anything I asked from behind the cover of a starched white napkin? (He’d been rant-spitting up a storm.)
Well that wasn’t the point, he argued, spinning the tired old agency line of brand awareness.
"So just over 700 engagements at what opportunity and development cost?" I asked, emerging from my cover as I launched into my counter social media argument.
And here it is: While the excitement of technology is patently seducing and simultaneously confusing agencies and brand custodians, it is simply another new channel of delivery albeit super-new and super exciting. And while we may well be the most mobile-penetrated developing market on the planet, most of us are still engaging with print, newspapers and the monolith of television.
Let’s not forget that the DTP brochure from Shoprite or Pick ‘n Pay still does the job fabulously as does the 30 second spot on Scandal or Generations. Agencies in that respect need to conduct a platform reality audit. And as social media expert Mike Stopforth pointed out to me in another less caffeine fuelled meeting, there is another hidden danger in supercharged brand engagement on social media. It’s all very well to tweet up an anthem or gather Facebook followers like lice, but the brand experience behind the social media initiative must also work. In others words don’t promise something your call centre doesn’t know about or your shop floor sales person can’t deal with.