Agencies Mistake Social Apps For Television Spots

I had breakfast last week with my friend Stan Joosten, who works in digital marketing innovation at P&G. We were talking about the role of social Internet apps in brand-building, and how to expand them from tactical tools to long-term strategic platforms.

One of the barriers to this happening is a common mode of thinking in the agencies that help handle app development.

Too often, agencies will devise a social app strategy that not only follows the lead of a television campaign, but also follows the paradigm of television production. In that model, you typically make the creative assets upfront and then you’re done.  From that point, media execution takes place for the rest of the campaign lifecycle.

The problem is that unlike a television spot, a social app must provide value for people on an ongoing basis; repetitive usage and deepening engagement is much more important than downloads and trials.

Moreover, good social apps are very expensive to create, and require maintenance and enhancements over the campaign lifecycle. In fact, good social apps may be poised to long surpass the lifecycle of an advertising campaign.



Instead of approaching social app development like television production, marketers and agencies should take a product development approach. This includes developing a concept with the expectation of iterating and testing in the beginning until you get the right product-to-market fit -- as well as  factoring in frequent releases for new features and bug-fixes, and periodic releases for entirely new versions.

Given the high expense of social apps, you should develop standards and templates so your app can be reapplied in many different contexts, across different markets, brands and campaigns. If done right, the expense of development and management can be amortized across different stakeholders and over time, making higher quality and more sophisticated apps more feasible.

Given the volatility of agency tenures and frequent rotations of brand managers, marketing investment most often is directed to shorter-term campaign tactics with quick, observable response. A better social app strategy requires the leadership of marketers with a longer-term view and cross-enterprise accountability -- most certainly a CMO or head of digital, who seeks standardized performance and KPIs across the entire brand portfolio.

Have you ever seen a social app strategy expand from campaign to platform?

3 comments about "Agencies Mistake Social Apps For Television Spots".
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  1. Walter Sabo from SABO media, July 3, 2012 at 12:43 p.m.

    Agencies mistake everything for TV spots because they cannot make as much money on other media as they do for a TV spot. They pray SOMETHING will be as profitable.

  2. Rob Schmults from Intent Media, July 3, 2012 at 2:56 p.m.

    This was exactly the issue in the early days of web -- entire sites were built to resemble a company's TV (or print) ads. And then online advertising similarly tried to follow suit with online ads that were essentially repurposed TV or print ads -- a legacy we are still shaking off. When you have a hammer...

  3. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, July 3, 2012 at 9:01 p.m.

    Great post Max.This issue goes way beyond apps and applies to all social outreach, marketing and development. Agencies can only think as far as the campaign. That is their DNA. Creating relationships other than with their brand clients, is something completely foreign to them. When social is strictly campaign based, the only thing agencies understand, you miss the whole value of what social has to offer. When only campaign and initiative based social is nothing more than another tool in the marketers toolkit. Just like you explain with apps... to amke social truly valuable you "must provide value for people on an ongoing basis; repetitive usage and deepening engagement is much more important than downloads and trials." So true of the whole new paradigm.

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