Got an interesting email today from an old colleague. We worked together in the legendary halcyon days of the term "social media." Same agency, different departments, working together to help get our social media practice up and running (yes back in 2007 it was started organically, without acquisition.)
The point of the email was exploring the differences between North America and EU social practices. Very interesting query. Something over nearly 3 years living here, working with a bunch of brands and meeting lots of interesting people outside my agencies.
Thought it worth posting the points for posterity. I apologize in advance for the excessive of pragmatism and lack of dogma.
It seems like EU is where social was a couple years ago in the US.
- Everyone was aware , a few had tried but were underwhelmed as expectation weren't in line and brands got a little shy.
- But then consumer behavior ran ahead and suddenly brands had massive scale so that it became a core part of the marketing mix rather than novelty.
- I would say there is a place for proper grown up social business and strategy - I struggle apart from AKQA to identify to many agencies at an international level here in EU killing it.
The dynamics causing this:
- It is a huge area of responsibility that has mostly been left to the hands of media agencies - which makes sense as companies like Facebook set up sales offices long before development teams.
- Given the scale of media businesses, they went social early but brands have been slower to uptake partly as they haven't needed to as Pan EU business growth could be delivered through emerging markets like the East
- Additionally budgets are being hit hard, 20 to 30% year on year for a few years now, even growing brands
- Olympics are a great example of this - the media owner social was amazing. Brands really didn't use the space to inspire, even those with aggressive "innovation" strategies like Coke
- It is a lot tougher over here as everything is so much more fragmented and complex with deeper cultural variance between and within nations. At the moment it is also really risk adverse given the financial crisis that is still working itself out. Heavey oversight. Very siloed. People still commonly talk about ATL and BTL as though they are still different worlds.
- But some markets, like France have great isolated successes now (see the McDonald's work DDB has done for example)
- To get social through the door most agencies did a cost arguement rather than quality of engagement.
- It seems to me the opportunity to bring proper grown up experience is needed.
- One things euro's don't begrudge is if you don't live down the street.
- Be really sharp where in the market you fit in between brand agency, activation agency, PR, the remaining digital silos, etc, as budgets tend to be far more fragmented and protected by different hands than in the US as politics often carries more strongly over merit comparatively
- Direct to product teams rather than through marketing teams is where the budgets are shifting. Curiously, product teams are proving more creative and innovative than many brand teams - evidenced a lot in FMCG lately. Baked in social I'd say has huge potential, though that is a feeling not fact