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January 4, 2010
Oh, Pioneers! Feigning Expertise Ad Agencies Grapple With Social Media

At our last agency director’s meeting a question was put to senior management: What are we doing to improve as an agency with regard to social media? In reply, one of us remarked on the thought leadership we were sharing, providing examples of various programs being implemented across the network. Another brought up a fantastic new “platform” idea currently in development for a client. And there was the new ACD we hired who specializes in social media. He starts in two weeks. We of course mentioned him.

But, to be honest, none of us really answered the question. Just what are we doing to improve with regard to social media? The closest anyone got to a legitimate reply was our President, Jamie King. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Quite frankly, since we are all pioneers in social media we are learning as we go.”

Oh, Pioneers! That’s what we are. What a wonderful way to couch our agency’s naiveté. Lest you think I’m pointing out a soft spot in our integrated approach, I’d ask you to reflect on your own agency’s acumen in the social media space. Because the “we” Jamie was referring to is not just my agency. “We” is your agency. “We” is you. For we are all pioneers and we are all learning as we go.

Think about it. The experts and gurus of the Internet got their first computers 20 years ago (give or take), many much later. The inventors of Facebook, Craigslist, You Tube, Amazon and just about every dot com are not only still alive, they are still working. They are still pioneers, still learning as they go.

In my opinion, they (and we) are only writing the third chapter of Earth’s digital history. First came science: the hardware and the codes. Then came the land grab -with everybody rushing to own a domain. Remember AOL and Pets.com? Like it was yesterday.

Chapter three is the “social” phase: where blogging replaces journalism and social networks TV; where millions upon millions watch “virals” of kittens playing with themselves; where frantic 50 year-olds pay cocky 25 year-olds umpteen dollars to design pages on Facebook…

In other words, there is not a protocol on how to do social media because there is barely a precedent. We learn as we go.

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Chairman of Euro RSCG Worldwide Chicago, Steffan Postaer is responsible for its overall creative leadership and quality of the creative product. He’s received several prestigious awards, including a Kelly Award, Best of Show, Gold and Silver awards at the One Show, the Addys and a Cannes Gold Lion. Steffan has a novel about god and advertising and posts regularly on his blog, Gods of Advertising. Follow him on Twitter.

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