How innovative do you think the last 12 months have been when it comes to social media campaigns?
I feel that it’s been a pretty average year for innovation. Most ‘innovative’ and powerful campaigns were not just social media-led, they were integrated campaigns that had elements of PR, tech and branded entertainment. They generated earned media, reach and scale through solid amplification plans.
The biggest shift for me in this space over the past 12 months has been the focus on the power and effectiveness of fully integrated campaign and digital always-on communications versus channel-specific solutions, and the ever-increasing importance of true digital and social-first content as part of a wider integrated solution.
What pieces of social media work have impressed you the most and why?
I adored New York Public Library’s Insta Novels. I thought that it was an exceptionally clever and beautiful use of a relatively new format. I’m a fan of Burger King’s ongoing war with McDonalds. It’s clever, never nasty and doesn’t just play the challenger brand for the sake of it. BK’s Whopper Detour to promote its new app is genius. It’s more of an integrated solution, but its use of social to promote the campaign was best-in-class.
Above: New York Public Library's "Insta Novels"
How has the drive towards social responsibility and authenticity impacted on brands’ social media strategy?
We keep hearing that millennials are the ones driving demand for authenticity, social responsibility and social purpose from brands. And that Gen Z-ers are even more forceful. This should mean that by the time Gen Alpha (born 2010 to 2025) grow to maturity, the job will be complete. 99% of brands will be whiter than their current shades of cream-to-grey, and this is a good thing.
To see how this drive for brands to ‘do better’ has impacted their social media you only have to look at plastic straws. In July 2018 Seattle banned plastic straws. Then Starbucks and McDonald’s revealed they were phasing them out. Now it’s got to a stage where people are pretty disgusted if they receive a plastic straw with their gin and tonic in any type of dive bar. All in the space of less than 12 months.
Has the power of social media influencers and having them at the heart of a campaign started to wane?
At TBWA\Dublin we don’t really advise the use of ‘traditional’ influencers for most of brands we work with. We’re advocates of influe-sadors! It’s a mix of an influencer and an ambassador. Influencers are generally influential due to their social media profile, plus possibly one area of interest (e.g. beauty, fashion). Ambassadors are generally influential due to their skill, expertise and background in a non-social media-based arena. Finding someone that sits roughly in the middle can be powerful.
It’s our responsibility to create some kind of value exchange [and] give consumers something that deserves their attention.
Where do you think this category is heading; is it still an important part of a brand’s advertising strategy?
The biggest shift for me in social media over the past 12 months has been the focus on the power and effectiveness of a fully integrated campaign and digital always-on communications versus social media or one-channel specific solutions. There’s also the ever-increasing importance of true digital and social-first content as part of a wider integrated solution. That’s the public expectation now. Not just re-purposed content from more traditional campaign assets.
How difficult is it to stand out in such a hugely saturated and often ad-unfriendly environment?
Very. It’s the biggest challenge for my team every day; getting people to pause when the average 25-year-old is scrolling for close to 15 meters per day on mobile.
We adopt an approach that people in adland have been using since advertising began; a value exchange. It’s our responsibility to create some kind of value exchange [and] give consumers something that deserves their attention.
What, for you, is the most exciting part of working in advertising at the moment?
The agency silos have gone. Digital and social media is not a nice add-on to more traditional briefs any more. More and more briefs are digital and social first, and then they evolve into more integrated campaigns. It’s a complete flip from three to five years ago, and it’s all very exciting.
What’s been your favourite campaign of any category over the past year?
Nike’s image of Kaepernick overlaid with ‘Believe in Something. Even If It Means Sacrificing Everything’ and the follow up in Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign. Simple. Powerful. Brave.