Brand Fiction Can Be Loads of Fun, But It’s Not The Whole Story

On the heels of W+K’s huge social media marketing success with Old Spice, Brian Morrissey of Adweek notes that traditional ad agencies are “closing the tech divide.”

Thanks to social media, the biggest challenge for brands is often less about creating the kind of technically sophisticated “immersive experiences” that digital shops have specialized in and more about crafting engaging content that people are likely to share with each other.

There’s no doubt that brands have to become better digital storytellers today, which is a good match for W+K and other gifted story-based agencies. But it’s a bit early to say W+K gets digital now. Crispin, yes. They get digital, and Morrissey’s piece supports that. But what I really find interesting is this bit from Bob Lord, CEO of Razorfish.

“I don’t believe I’m in the business of creating brand perception,” he said. “I’m in the business to create brand reality. Hopefully that feeds back into the brand perception, but I’m not in the business to create that. There are a lot of other companies to do that.”

Therein lies the fundamental difference between digital marketing and traditional advertising. Digital is transparent and democratic. And let’s be real, transparency and being on an equal footing with the customer is not something most traditional advertising agencies are comfortable with.
Frankly, digital is a massive undertaking and it’s not something that can be, or will be, owned by any one communications specialty. There’s a deep need for expert storytelling, advertainment, and compelling consumer-generated content. But there’s also an incredible need for technical infrastructure that lets brands gather data and do everything from customer service to direct sales.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.