The Marketing Opportunity In Social Pales When Compared To Spreading An Idea Virus

Socialistic CEO Colleen DeCourcy sat on a panel during Ad Week in New York last week that was hosted by’s John Abell. According to Adweek, Abell wondered if the multi-billion dollar advertising business on social networks is sustainable.

DeCourcy argued that brands should be using social media for bigger ventures than simple micro-targeting. “Social is more than creating an experience with a friend. It is about creating an experience to share with a culture.” In her view, content, systems and objects create that seminal cultural experience. “Advertising isn’t just about giving someone a soda when they want a soda,” she said.

Later, she clarified her point on Socialistic’s Facebook Page:

“The larger point I was trying to make was that the use of Social Media for mass cultural activation and change has been proven. Why are we, as brands, content to use it as a DM opportunity…Shoving people further down the funnel because we ‘know what they like.’ This is the first digital medium I’ve seen that can create global, mass media style momentum. So instead of micro-targeting, what about designing shared experiences around social objects?

If you can decode what that last bit means–designing shared experiences around social objects–I’d love to hear it.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Colleen Decourcy says:

    Hi David, a social object is the thing that a networked community gathers around.  It’s the picture/video/game/app/idea that people care enough about to experience with others.  Farmville is a social object. Stickybits is a shared experience design for which you provide the social object (ie the topic, thing or location). Nike’s “Write the Future” was a shared experience designed around a social object (Football).  There is a distinction gap between brands pushing me things based on my preferences (as gleaned from my Social Media activity) and brands that place ideas on those networks that I want to share with others. One is Direct Marketing, one is Advertising.  There is definitely room for both approaches and in Social Media they often work together. But, the latter approach leads to other good concepts to Google like: “Engagement”, “Active Fans”, “Mass distribution” and ” Visibility”.

    Hugh MacLeod said:  “The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else…There needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.”

    Adrian Chan/Gravity 7 also has some progressive thoughts here:

    • I wondered if you’d drop by and educate us. Thank you for taking the time to do so, Colleen.

      I am familiar with the term “social objects” and MacLeod’s role in advancing the discussion. I think I just trip up on industry speak, even when it’s as eloquent as “what about designing shared experiences around social objects?” Because there’s a need to translate this kind of thinking into even simpler language, if it’s going to mean anything to a brand manager in Cincinnati.

      When it’s your job to sell more tooth paste than you did last year, you want to know how shared experiences around a social object will benefit the brand. Or if it will. Because our desire to make something more meaningful than advertising may not matter all that much in the C suite–the brand manager has to believe her investment in “culture” is one that will work for everybody.

      • Colleen Decourcy says:

        Guilty as charged.  I think it’s because right now, as we’re in another forward leaning, rapidly changing environment for digital, our heads go down and we grapple with how to talk about these things as we uncover them.  Josh Williams of Gowalla said: “As an industry, it behooves ourselves to look for more human ways to explain what we’re doing.”  You’re both right.