Archives for posts with tag: Co-Creation


I love going to my kid’s school.

I feel very jealous every time I walk into their premises.

I see a few kids huddled around a table, working, co-creating, collaborating, exploring, changing the world.

They have circle time. Everybody shares, no egos, no titles, just being themselves.

Each day they start out with a blank slate. No history, no legacy, just the present.

All the tools they need (Paper, crayons, glue, scissors) are waiting for them. Ready to change everything.

Books and books and books ready for them to read, absorb and mash-up in their innocent minds.

And, when they have recess play time: It’s on. They just play. Because that’s what they are supposed to do.

When are we going to play?


“Advertising says to people, “Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it’ll do for you. Here’s how to get it.” – Leo Burnett

I’ve been in advertising for more than 15 years. I believe good advertising can enrich people, it can inspire them and I regard advertising as a noble profession. If there’s a better way to showcase to people what your brand has to offer, explain the benefits and ways to get the product/service, I haven’t experienced it. Nobody has.

So, why does Adland have such an image problem? Why do 76% of Americans think companies lie in ads? (2009 Yankelovich study) Why do people have problems trusting any of our communications? And, why are we starting to see real recruiting challenges in an economy nobody would describe as humming?

Some blame holding companies and their pure focus on shareholder value, rather than focusing on reinvention of the agency model. Some blame the compensation structure that rewards bodies and time, not great ideas. Some blame the split of media and creative. You ask people in the industry, everybody has a different explanation for the current state of the ad industry.


The problem goes much deeper: people have lost trust in institutions and business. And, let’s be honest, businesses and institutions have betrayed that trust. BP, Enron, Vioxx, Facebook, Catholic Church, Congress, your local city government: We’re surrounded by brands and institutions that betrayed us, lied to us, treated us like dumb sheep, acted like they were above the law. And advertising provides the background noise to that sad drama with exaggerated product claims and photoshopped models. The threat to advertising and our industry is a threat to capitalism. And, just like advertising, I haven’t seen a better system than the capitalistic system.

But, it’s time to change both.

We need to make the advertising industry better. And, at the same, improve the overall capitalistic system. Just like capitalism, the advertising industry needs to cut its worst excesses or Uncle Sam will do it for us. ( In case, you don’t believe me: Have you seen the FTC proposal for a ‘Do Not Track’ option?)

Our future will not look like the past. The past was based on a model of industrial production, the new model will be based on a globalized, collaborative information model. It can’t be about more stuff and pure growth. It has to be about being better, kinder, lovelier and inspiring. It can’t be about targeting consumers, it has to be about collaborating with all of our stakeholders. Ultimately, we have to change our vision and mission of the advertising industry:

  • Our main goal is to make the world a better place. Adding value, inspiring, enhancing life experiences. Making money is a by-product, not the overarching goal.
  • A brand is developed by all stakeholders. Not the marketing department.
  • Business is about fairness, joy and love. Not cut-throat competitive tactics.
  • We work with human beings. Not human resources.
  • We collaborate with competitors to enhance each other’s products/services. Not buy them out to eliminate their intellectual work and the value they could have added.
  • Customers are all people affected by the creation of the product or service. Not just end users.
  • We will communicate values that brands stand for and live. And not some fake world that never existed.
  • Advertising is helping to change the world. Not just change behavior for more consumption.


The belief that this is just a bump in the road and everything will get back to normal at one point is the biggest threat we’re facing. The new normal will be completely different from the old normal. The demands and expectations on capitalism and our industry will grow, just like people expect more and more from brands and institutions. If you think the last decade was filled with change, you ain’t see nothing yet. Think about it:

  • How ware we going to deal with India and China as the new dominant forces in the global economy?
  • What are you going to do when your competitors 2015 come from Vietnam, Spain and Nigeria? Not New York and San Francisco.
  • How will we replace dumb growth with smart growth?
  • How will we strengthen our country’s fiscal future while investing in our people?
  • What types of jobs will we offer to people that had jobs that will never be replaced?
  • How are we going to deal with the demographic challenge?
  • How are we going to revive the middle class?
  • (Insert 500 more urgent questions here.)

The next decade will bring a collision of forces that that threaten to disrupt the Western system, and call into question capitalism, a force on which our prosperity and stability have rested for decades. Forget the financial crisis, the debt crisis, all these political fights pundits tend to focus on. These are just precursors. We’re facing graver economic challenges that are long-term and threaten capitalism as a model for the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher: if we don’t maneuver successfully through the coming storms, we’ll face a major backlash against our economic model. If the world loses faith in capitalism’s ability to improve the lives of everybody, we will have failed miserably and doomed the developing world to infinite poverty.


We really have no choice: All of us have to create a better form of capitalism. And our job as advertisers is to create a better form of advertising and being a support pillar for the new, more human form of capitalism. We are building this new reality with every decision we make, with every ad we create, with every product purchase we make. For years, we mistakenly believed we had ascended to the zenith of modern capitalism. We knew all of the answers and just need to optimize a little bit here, increase efficiency there and everything would be fine. Events and facts taught us that the journey of capitalism might have just begun. And we need to ask that age-old question again: How can we make the world a better place?

In yesterday’s post, I talked about how advertising has to become more inspirational. Calling it coincidence or luck, I encountered above inspiring example last night.

Visiting Amsterdam for a few days, I’ve seen a lot of print/display ads and billboards announcing the new H&M flagship store in Amsterdam. Nothing made me stop and consider visiting the store. But above video installation just made everybody stop in their tracks and look. Muse created such an amazing video experience, it wasn’t clear for a while if we’re looking at art or advertising as art. In the end, it doesn’t matter. H&M and Muse put a smile on my face and made Amsterdam even more magic. If you think advertising can’t be inspirational, just watch the video.


Unless you lived on the moon, you realize the global economy is struggling because most corporations are not constructed to produce any real value. They are designed to maximize shareholder value while stakeholders are getting squeezed to improve the bottom line and introduce as many efficiencies as possible. Add to that corporate welfare, Fed and Treasury policies, regulations (or lack thereof) and you end up with a toxic mess of an ongoing banking crisis, mind-numbing landscapes of mini malls, toxicity in assets, the environment and the overall capitalistic world we are living in. And, while people are crowding the bargain bins, corporations continue to develop cheaper ways to satisfy the need for the bargain. Interestingly, when you produce a mediocre product/service (create thin value, as Umair Haque calls it), the price is all what matters. When you create real value/thick value, price becomes a tertiary consideration. Call it awesomeness, call it being amazing, call it being a linchpin.

With a few, rare exceptions, advertising has focused on creating thin value. Rather than inspiring people with marketing for products that add value, most of marketing/advertising is focused on brainwashing people into buying stuff that makes no difference. Just another item I can use and throw away/forget about effortlessly without considering the implications for the rest of the world. (Labor Conditions, Environment, Export/Import Structures)

Now, let’s look at the advertising/marketing industry. It’s not a dying industry but an industry in deep trouble. We are not considered partners, we’re just another vendor that sells questionable value. Media Buying has become a commodity, media planning to follow soon. The people we market to are busy tuning us out because they don’t feel marketing creates any real value. While we continue to communicate to people as they were still consumers, they are busy producing, communicating and building networks. We have commoditized our industry to death, starting to hop on a dangerous death spiral. Just like the whole economic system.

Advertising is just one pillar of the economic system we’re living in. Advertising can’t change the world or make it a better place. But, as part of a new economic system, advertising can be an inspiration, an artistic expression of the paradigm change. As an industry, we need to focus on the drastic changes the economic system is going through. We can safely say, the end of creating slim/thin value for profit is fast approaching. No matter how good your strategies/tactics/ideas are, unless you create real value for society with your products and services, you will fail in the long run.

My headline “Why advertising professionals need to be economic professionals” didn’t imply you need to watch Bloomberg all day, read each article in the WSJ or get a degree in economics. Most of what you read or see there is just an expression of times almost passed. All of us need to understand that our whole economic system is transforming and changing into something much more substantial, sustainable and human. Advertising is just another expression of this change. Please work, create, add value accordingly.


(I liked this image, no connection to content overall…still like the picture, though)

In a world of gazillion ways to connect with people, innovative tools emerging each and every day and advertising budgets that would make James Cameron smile, why can’t we make advertising fascinating, interesting and engaging?

Because we rather craft a lie than tell the truth.

The job of advertising is to change the perception of a brand and, ultimately, change behavior. In the age of political correctness, we tend to think that crafting a good lie is really all we can do. The car is under-powered? Let’s come up with new metrics that hide that fact. The product is ugly? Group beautiful people around it. Hiding from facts and misrepresenting the truth has become a common practice in the marketing world. Where have the days gone when Avis confronted the fact to be #2 in the category with “We try harder” or when Volkswagen proclaimed “Think Small”?

While it seems so easy to craft beautiful lies, it has become almost impossible to change people’s perception because of those lies. Have you ever changed the behavior of a cynic with lies? They expect lies, nothing else. Just like the people we advertise to expect nothing but lies and crafted half-truths from us.

Political correctness as a societal malady has brought us to a point where telling the truth is the most impactful communication form. Just should try it. It works.


Brands often consider creating communities on their site or social platforms. It sounds so appealing: You create a community and now you have an easily accessible group of people that you can engage and converse with.

The problem is: You can’t create communities

Think about your local community. It wasn’t created by plopping down a Starbucks, Target or a local snack shack and then hoping for people to show up. Communities are places where like-minded people can come together. That’s why you have art communities, food communities, religious communities – you name it. And that’s the reason why certain stores and brands don’t work in your community because they don’t understand the mindset of your local world.

In the digital space, brands often consider communities as a place to be worshipped by people. Instead, online communities are places where like-minded people hang out and, if you’re really lucky and doing a great job managing the community, where people can interact with brands and tell them how to do a better job delivering their product/service. At the minimum, brands need to help communities do what they want to do. Brands need to give people something concrete to gather around for. You have to kill your corporate hubris and believe that participants in your community can actually improve your product/service. Foster discourse and an open exchange of ideas.

Tap into the need of people to be heard: People have transformed from passive consumers to active collaborators and co-creators of the products and services they produce. These principles help you tap into the power of communities by developing a foundation of trust, motivating people to become more active participants and providing access to peer group knowledge and skills. It requires a lot of work and community management to tap into the power of communities. You don’t create communities, you merely help them get things done. On their terms. Based on their needs. Not yours.


Image: Courtesy of Pentagram

You go to a big party and you meet them all: The life and soul of the party, introverts, couples just focusing on themselves, party poopers, the networker, social butterfly. Brands are a little bit like people. Some are meant to be social, some are better off just hiding in their corporate office.

Let’s face it, most people don’t care what a company thinks about things. Do you care about Mercedes-Benz’ mission statement?

We invented the automobile – now we are passionately shaping its future. As a pioneer of automotive engineering, we feel inspired and obliged to continue this proud tradition with groundbreaking technologies and high-quality products.

“We invented the automobile – now we are passionately shaping its future. As a pioneer of automotive engineering, we feel inspired and obliged to continue this proud tradition with groundbreaking technologies and high-quality products.

Our philosophy is clear: we give our best for customers who expect the best – and we live a culture of excellence that is based on shared values. Our corporate history is full of innovations and pioneering achievements; they are the foundation and ongoing stimulus for our claim to leadership in the automotive industry.

The principle of sustainable mobility underlies all of our thoughts and actions. Our goal is to successfully meet the demands of future mobility. And in doing so, we intend to create lasting value – for our shareholders, customers and workforce, and for society in general.”

Are you still awake? This might be important to employees and stakeholders of the company. But as a buyer, I don’t care about your philosophy, your mission or vision. I care that you deliver a sexy, reliable car that makes me feel good about myself. Or whatever your reasons are to buy a car.

The majority of people don’t want to be friend with a brand. They want a brand to do their job and do it better than the competition. Actually, I prefer brands focusing on doing their job and deliver more usefulness to me. I’d rather you stay away from the big Social party and come up with new ideas/services that make my life easier/more delightful.

Still, too many brands are doing social for the sake of doing social. (“We have to be at the party, man.”) They might be better off being anti-social and stay away from the social party crowd. Instead, focusing on social where the brand has weaknesses (Customer Service, Support, Research). There’s nothing wrong with being a socially awkward introvert. Just ask Apple.


Just read an interesting post by Don Dodge where he makes the analogy that startups play poker, big companies play chess. He continues:

Using a game analogy, startups are more like poker players. They take big risks, they bluff, they make quick decisions, change direction constantly, and they keep their competitors off balance. In poker you never have all the information, but you must make fast decisions. You never know if what you are seeing is a real threat, a bluff, or something that will soon disappear under the stress of the game.

Poker is an aggressive game where if you play your cards right you win big, and win fast, or totally wipe out in just a few hands. However, if you lose a hand on a reasonable bet,  you can come back and double your money in the next hand. There is no time to wallow over a loss. You did your best. Move on and your luck will be better next time. Chess is a very different game. Both require incredible skill and talent.

Big companies think long term. Like chess players, big companies think four or five moves (years) ahead. They protect their assets, play defensively, think strategically, and carefully consider the options before making a move. Big companies have a lot to lose, while small companies don’t. No offense to Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, but big companies like Microsoft don’t go “all in”, risk everything, and bet the company on one thing. Big companies can lose a “pawn” or even a Rook in a strategy move, but they wont risk the King.

Big companies leverage their assets (conservatively) and flex their muscles where they can. They go for incremental improvements in position. Big company CEOs, like chess players, work a long term strategy. Each short term move plays a part in a longer term strategy that is not visible to the casual observer. In fact, their strategy is often kept secret, and they take care to make sure their short term moves don’t reveal their long term plan. Strategy is a competitive advantage.”

Instead of playing chess or poker, successful companies in the 21st century have to be more like MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). It’s not enough to be skilled at chess or poker anymore, the complexity of systems, connections and networks in the 21st century requires different skills:

  • 21st century companies will have an authentic mission that is transparent and believable.
  • As a subset of a general mission, 21st century company will set out on various quests and missions.
  • 21st century companies can’t focus on shareholder value alone. They need the community of all their stakeholders to succeed in their quests and missions.
  • A culture of collaboration and co-creation between all stakeholders is required to succeed in the 21st century.
  • 21st century companies will use game mechanics to reward their stakeholders by deploying various ranking and recognition systems. This proves to be a much better motivator than any bonus or salary increase.
  • Incentive systems that allow to divide the winnings from a “quest” improves the connection between effort and reward.
  • Hyper-transparent information with data-rich dashboards will be basic requirements for successful companies in the future.

Most importantly, you have to create “thick value”, defined by Umair Haque:

“(…) awesome stuff that makes people meaningfully better off.”

The creating of thick value will be the core of each successful company in the 21st century. Most of the bullet points are natural extensions and will develop organically if your mission is authentic and taps into the idea of thick value.

Poker and Chess were about beating the competitor at any cost, often just creating thin value. MMOGs are about co-creation and collaboration, delivering value throughout the stakeholder supply chain.


This column appeared first at Jack Myers’ MediaBizBlogger site.

Many people in the Social Marketing world say that anything social should be measured with soft metrics (fans, followers, number of conversations) and brands should focus on enhancing the brand by adding a social layer.

Sounds good to me.

Others in the Social Marketing world say that ultimately in marketing it’s always about money: Sales, increase in customer service efficiency (decrease in costs) and more effective ways to communicate with people compared to the guessing game we call advertising.

Sounds good to me.

How can we align both paradigms?

We’re living in tough times. Clients need good returns on their investment. Any discussion about Social Media will touch the money issue: Resources, re-allocation of funds, organizational commitment. Sure, there are organizations where the ROI is fabulous and immediate: Just ask Burger King, Starbucks or Dell.

What about the majority of brands?

Let’s be honest with them: Most likely, Social Marketing won’t deliver immediate sales increases or anything that can be quantified monetary. Social Marketing (well done) will add another layer to the overall brand experience that will help your sales number incrementally.

Will people read your tweets and immediately purchase your product? Hell no.

Will they join your community and share with the world that your brand is just the best and everybody in their social graph should join as well? Doubtful.

Will participation in Social platforms enhance the overall brand experience by providing a positive impression? Absolutely.

So many Social Marketing initiatives have been abandoned because they didn’t deliver immediate results. Don’t blame Social Media or the client for that result. Blame yourself for not setting the right expectations. There’s a lot of value in Social Media. It’s your job to unearth it and keeping it real.


You hear and read it everywhere: Social Media is overhyped. Social Media experts will soon be applying for jobs at Burger King. In the end, the bubble will burst and Social Media will be Second Life 2. Or Zune 3.

Even in the Social Media echo chamber, we can feel the skepticism and defeatism when discussing the future of Social Media. The big agencies and brand will take over and ruin everything. Again. (Cue the Kleenex box.) Brands don’t get it. (Fist against the wall.) Money ruins everything. (Head against the wall.)

And we thought Social Media would change the world.

Let me burst the first bubble: Social Media won’t change the world. Stop drinking that Kool-Aid, it’s not good for you. Technology has changed everything: Transforming people from consumers to producers. Changed human behavior. Redefining human relationships. Transforming how we live. Transforming companies how they do business. Transforming institutions. Changing everything.

Social Media is just one expression of that change. Nothing else. It’s more than another channel to broadcast your messages. But it’s not the messiah that will miraculously change the world.

We wanted to change the world and all we got was Lolcats.

The essence of human beings didn’t change because we have new technologies. Silliness is just another expression of human creativity. But we see people helping each other by using these technologies. On a small scale. On a big scale. I can send my kid every night a good night story while 7,000 miles away and share a video of my experiences in Tokyo with my wife, feeling a connection to my girls. I can meet the woman of my dreams online. I can have meaningful discussions with people all over the world without ever meeting them. Or finally meeting them. And that’s the just bottom of the first inning of a long game. I would argue, this is the bottom of the first inning of a Best of 7 World Series. Soon, you’ll be able to own your own data, share it on your own terms, issue personal RFP’s and revolutionize everything: healthcare, politics, marketing, enterprises – you name it. And that might be bottom of the second inning. Who knows what will happen in Game 7, bottom of the 9th?

So, let’s burst the bubble of the Social bubble.

If you define social as Facebook pages, Twitter feeds or a fancy application: That bubble will burst. I totally agree with you. And you should be cheering for it. Most of these initiatives are just applying the old broadcast strategies, tactics and metrics to a new way of interacting with people.

Social isn’t a beauty contest, a chase to add your follower counts or another popularity contest. These are the LolCats of social. What social is really about is trust, connection and community. Social is about rewiring human beings, communities, societies, business and the world.

So stop whining, stop being afraid of the Twitter/Facebook bubble to burst. Just keep on moving foward. We’ve barely begun.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Clavin Coolidge