I was intrigued by a tongue-in-cheek editorial in Advertising Age this week, “Creative X Finds Redemption in the World of Social Media,” which declared that social media is “the punishment [the industry] deserves for the guilt-free excesses of [its] trade.” The author argues that in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, creative budgets are being slashed and the advertiser is forced to finally cater to the consumer. The author jokes, “[l]ike convicts forced to play Santa Claus, we’re handing out everything from free Starbucks to Toyota Tacomas to get people to participate in our little social-media shenanigans” and sagely states that “in the new ‘social engagement’ game nobody will even give you the time of day unless there’s something in it for them.”
The editorial goes on to insinuate that perhaps there’s an opportunity here for the industry to redeem itself. “Maybe this evolving medium will be the thing that makes our karmic balance sheet a little more balanced,” the author conjectures. An interesting idea but, unfortunately, the article ends a few sentences later without declaring just how social media will force us all—regardless of industry—to be more transparent, equitable marketers, capable of spreading around a bit of good karma.
If consumers are no longer willing to give us the time of day unless there’s something in it for them, then we need to look at creative strategies that will both benefit both businesses and consumers alike. I don’t think the answer is with freebies and giveaways. In fact, according to the 2010 goodpurpose study, 72% of U.S. consumers would be more likely to purchase a product from a company that supports good causes and has fair prices than a company that offers deep discounts but does not support good causes.
The Edelman goodpurpose study also found that 66% of U.S. consumers want companies to make it easier for them to make a positive difference in the world. These statistics clearly point to an age of consumer engagement and interactive dialogue between companies and their customers, and social media is the path to achieving that. Just take a look at Southwest’s new partnership with The Make a Wish Foundation, in which Southwest check-ins through Facebook Places provide $1 in travel for terminally ill children. This and many other highly creative social media campaigns demonstrate how digital creativity can produce ardent brand advocates making a positive difference in the world through just a few clicks—and not one coupon in sight.
I disagree that social media might play a role in forcing out creativity; in fact, digital demands that we get more creative than ever.