Everybody Play the Game

FOB:Everybody Play the GameFluid, agile, dynamic, nimble: That's how agencies and marketers are expected to be these days, always in a position to react to discoveries and changes in the culture or marketplace. Innovation and ideas flow in real time online, and in order to be part of the conversation, you have to be fast. Everyone agrees on that at this point. Well, they do in theory. But in real life, it seems the structures and processes on both the agency side and the client side are designed to prevent this at all costs.

Example: A 12-year-old fashion blogger named Tavi is interviewed for an article in The New York Times Magazine, then gets written up in New York magazine, and is subsequently covered by pretty much every fashion blogger out there. (Her blog now ranks No. 1 in a Google search for "Tavi.")

This happens over the course of a few weeks. If you're the proprietors of a small Web site called, you can react quickly and send her a little gift (which they did), resulting in an enthusiastic post from her while her blog is garnering high traffic from major fashionistas.

If you are a marketer for a large-ish brand, you may not have the luxury of responding that quickly, and you might miss a chance for your brand to be part of the cultural zeitgeist.

Should we cry about it? No. Should we do our best to game the system? Of course we should.

Be psychic. Just kidding. We can't predict the future, but we can predict our companies' responses to potential scenarios - the bad, the good, and the out-of-the-ordinary. Exploring them ahead of time and vetting them internally allows us to quickly respond when and if they actually happen. The practice is something like "war-gaming" - brainstorming responses to every possible disaster - but evolved to anticipate positive situations and opportunities.

Embrace empowerment. Especially in large companies, too few people are empowered to make decisions without first getting a myriad of approvals. If agencies are ever going to be truly agile, they need to be connected with someone on the client side who can make fairly independent decisions. And vice versa.

Know who greases the wheel. Like the character The Wolf in Pulp Fiction, is there someone who can make things happen when no one else can? Maybe it's an interactive producer who has a great relationship with a developer, or someone on the client side who has the ear of a crucial decision-maker. Identifying and befriending these people now will pay off later.

The first step to achieving change is taking that first step, unprompted by crisis. You probably know your company's systems pretty well - so who better to start figuring out how to game it?

Amber Finlay is a senior strategist at Naked Communications. (
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