A Sweet Act of Creative Generosity

Most challenges modern agencies face stem from how we, as an industry, spent decades devaluing our one, singular asset: creativity. We gave it away for years since we earned our margins in media markups.

This worked fine, until it didn’t. By the time broadband and mobile fragmented the media landscape into a thousand platforms, we had trained clients not to pay for the one thing we truly own. And the results have not been pretty.

It’s a situation made worse by creative people themselves. We tend to underprice our own product, accepting lower compensation due to our sheer love of making things. That’s why a story last Saturday involving a creative team from Wong Doody LA made me smile so much. Call it “The Saved Quinceañera.”

The creative team was prepping a massive video and still shoot down in Houston with Patrick Molnar, a nationally-recognized, professional lifestyle photographer. As they worked in the museum district off Rice University, producer Amy Wise noticed a group of teenagers posing around a fountain as family members snapped photos with their phones. Being curious and outgoing (invaluable traits in an agency producer), Amy quickly learned it was Jasmine’s quinceañera–the traditional celebration of a fifteen year old girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood. Unfortunately, the large bus they had rented for their celebration hit a curb and blew a tire, setting them back a few hours. By the time they arrived at the park for their shoot, their photographer had given up and left.

And yes, the movie-of-the-week scene you are currently imagining in your head is exactly what happened next. Amy told the creative team, the creative team told Patrick, and within minutes, a major professional photographer was lining up shots of the young woman and her court, saving the day with a level of professionalism far beyond anything the family might have imagined. For no other reason other than it was fun, and it would brighten this girl’s day, transforming disappointment into delight.

The whole experience lasted less than fifteen minutes, but in that time, Patrick squeezed off bursts, insuring he’d have lots of selects to choose from, which he did later that night, retouching frames in the hotel bar.

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Unretouched photo courtesy of Patrick Molnar.

Creative people get into the business for the joy of making things. On Saturday afternoon, they didn’t make an ad or a piece of content or a digital experience; they simply made someone’s day. And in this case, that feeling was compensation enough. Well done Matt Burgess, Vanessa Witter, Callie Householder, Amy, and Patrick.

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B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): Confidence Looks Like Generosity

Picture 1Guest Blogger: Kim Noles

As an EVP/Management Director at Element 79, Kim Noles juggles an inordinate amount of responsibility, overseeing our Cricket and ConAgra businesses and spearheading new business.  She’s spent all of her twenty years in advertising in Chicago, working for agencies large and small with a heavy emphasis on foods, beverages and travel. Kim has been a critical part of the agency leadership team, driving our recent digital reinvention.  She was instrumental in re-engineering our internal structure to focus on Inciting Interaction and taking a pro-active stance on two-way engagement between brands and consumers.  This demanding workload may also explain her equally passionate appreciation of fine wine…

A dear friend once said to me, “You know what confidence looks like?  It looks like generosity.”   What a lovely thought.  A truly confident person doesn’t need to tear others down to build themselves up, or hoard their talents, or refuse to help others.  A confident person knows who she is and lends her talents openly and willingly.  She is generous with others; with her expertise.

This is true of brands too.  As we look across the fragmented media environment and try to help our clients connect with their targets in meaningful ways, it becomes more and more important to find ways to add value to people’s lives.  In the old days, we talked about stopping power, disruption, and break through.  But today, consumers can find brands when and where they want; you no longer need to stop them in their tracks, but rather encourage them come to you.  However, consumer expectations are higher than ever – you better make it worth their while.  One of our colleagues at E79, Tom Napper, recently attended a 4A’s Conference on social media in New Orleans and he offered this great observation: “85% of all social media users want to have a conversation with brands. Not only that, but they expect brands to contribute, to give something to the conversation. They are seen as content experts.”

What Can You Offer?

What Can You Offer?

Brands are content experts and consumers expect way more than simply the product or service a brand offers for sale…  That’s a profound change.  To make it worth their time, consumers now expect brands to share their expertise: to educate or provide expert information, to facilitate community, to support causes, offer valuable tools or simply entertain.

At Element 79, we have always helped our clients define their brand’s mission. But lately, we’ve been having more pointed discussions with our clients about activating those missions in more engaging ways.  What is the brand good at? What can it contribute?  What else can we offer in exchange for consumer attention and engagement?  How much can we afford to give away?  And just how comfortable are we with the opinions about the brand out in cyberspace?

Fundamentally, we offer the same advice to marketers as we might to our friends:  be generous and confident members of the community.  That is, be generous with your expertise; it’s like bringing a hostess gift to a party. Whether it’s a better user experience on a website, a treasure trove of information, or a little mindless playtime, as long as what you offer links back to the brand mission, it adds value and contributes to the community.  And that’s helpful because a confident brand, like confident people, attracts others to its cause.

Instead of worrying about things like the changing media environment, losing control of the brand or the cost of sitting on the sidelines, brands should enter the world of social media confidently and generously — offering their unique talents openly and willingly.

In these crazy times, what’s more attractive than a little generosity?

By Kim Noles, EVP/Management Director, Element 79