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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Is it OK to slag off the oppo in public?

OK, this seems a bit random, but a debate has been raging this morning after an advertising agency posted a couple of tweets, the first which boasted about making less loss than another, and the second which took a pop at a rival agency for going bust in one of the countries they operate in and thus bringing into question their 'global' claim.

Now, the debate is this - to the outsider who doesn't know the agency in question it seems like a blatant dig at one of their competitors. The flip side of the coin is that to those who know this particular agency, their comments should always be seen to be a bit tongue in cheek as they are 'a quirky bunch'.

My take on it? It may attract attention but I am not sure the attention is purely positive. Potential clients reading such tweets might judge it as being in poor taste and unnecessary, particularly the heralding of a business going bust and jobs being lost, wherever they might be.

What's your take? Keep quiet on such matters and be judged by your results or post seemingly damning stuff then hide behind your company's whacky persona?

I'm a judged by results man myself. I made a profit last year. That must make me better than the lot of them!

PS- Showing my age, but it reminds me of the Saatchi's and JWT I think it was, spat years ago. One slagged off the other in Campaign one week, so the very next the other took out a full page ad saying something along the lines of "being slagged off by them is like being savaged by a dead sheep". It created quite a stir at the time. I could have crushed several grapes I can tell you!


Oliver Urpi said...

Personally I think it is fine to comment on the competition but only if the comment is valid and constructive. I know of companies who try to totally ignore their competitors and act as if they don't exist which always strikes me as a little petty. Likewise a sly dig at another company will probably just make you look bad.
I think if a company (or individual) is confident that the service they offer is good value for money and is competitive within their market then they should be happy to receive constructive feedback from anyone.

Gareth said...

In my opinion it was pointless and nothing positive could have come from it. It was written in a snide fashion and seems heartless when you consider that people are losing their jobs.

@alexhens made a good point about previous actions by the competitor creating animosity between the two organisations, but we need to remember that people's lives are falling apart whilst we debate this subject.

On the other hand - the feed has gone from 77 to a whopping 91 followers (at time of typing), so maybe the 'all publicity is good publicity' adage is true.

Jamie said...

Right or wrong is irrelative. Its social media and people / companies are aloud to express themselves however they like. This isn’t China! Especially on a site like Twitter, which in its essence allows you to only see stuff you choose to follow.

Ok, is it a smart business move? Probably not, but thats their call.

dom said...

nice pick up alastair - you would have to work yourself up pretty hard to get offended by this. Its just a playful dig isnt it? to pretend they are celebrating people's lives getting screwed is nonsense

Alex Hens said...

Feel I really have to respond because I got myself caught up in the twitter scrap ("twap"? ;) earlier.

I reckon:
- Dom nails it.
- Jamie mostly - but I think it'll make sum total of 0 difference (in a -ve way) to the business.
- If Gareth is who I think he is then that's fine - he's close to it and so taking it personally (as it wouldn't have been intended) is pretty understandable.
- Oliver - sorry fella - bit "sitting on the fence" kinda comment that IMHO, but fair enough if that's how you roll.

If I know one thing as an ex ThirtyThree employee it's that the person who gives least of sh*t about any storm in a tweet-cup is the guy who tweeted it. In a world of beige and vanilla (although I am personally a huge vanilla flavour fan so hate using that expression) nailing your colours to the mast, saying what you think and not being afraid to be different is something quite precious - especially when the message is delivered with openness, honesty and integrity backed by a passion (and reputation) for doing the best job you possibly can.

And if there are any clients out there in the twittersphere following this and evaluating agencies to move their account to then they'll undoubtedly already be aware of the ThirtyThree brand (which is consistent with the tone of the tweets anyway - go look at the news items on the site or any promotional advertising that's run) and I'm certain will evaluate on much more than the strength of a few tongue in cheek tweets (if indeed they were ever aware of them in the first place). If not then I know the sentiment will be that they're not the right client fit anyway.

For my money - there's more than enough BS in our industry, not least when it comes to pitching and postering where substance is so often overshadowed by paper thin spin, so if I were in a client's seat then a no nonsense approach would be like a breath of fresh air. But maybe that's just me.

But one thing I can't shake - this has all come about because of the thoughts of one of the founders of a business that has been massively successful over it's 11+ years and not so long ago turning over in excess of £20m. I believe still THE most successful owner run business in our little corner of the economy. I can only hope that I may build a business that is as successful as that, with a brand that has a distinct personality, a sense of humour and maintains it's perspective whilst never being afraid to tell it how it is (or at least looks to us).

And congrats on last year's profit Alastair.

Matt said...

For what everyone is dismissing as a #storminateacup there seem to be a lot of you commenting ;-)

The caveat for my views = there aren't any rules on Twitter and actually there aren't many in business that aren't subjective either so 33 can do whatever they like, they obviously are and good luck to them.

The three points I was trying to make earlier in 140 characters

1) Quirky brand personality or not that kind of comment about a company closing down is a cheap shot. I hate it when companies pretend their competition exists as well but didn't think this particular comment achieved much

2) I actually found the tweet celebrating making a loss more bizarre than the TMP one. If you read the whole stream and are aware of the brand personality etc etc etc etc then it makes sense in context. However lets not forget that tweets live forever are indexed for search (sporadically now and properly soon) and are always far more likely to be viewed out of context than within it. If 33 are happy to make that kind of of loss celebrating announcement in other channels (website, press release etc) then absolutely fair enough, if they aren't then it is strange to do so on Twitter

3) This is actually my main point that everything seem to escalate away from yesterday. I don't really care what 33 say to be honest and whatever opinion I may have I'm sure they will have a good counter argument. However for a company with such a "quirky personality" I'm amazed that they aren't taking full advantage of Twitter as the perfect tool for this to come across. Why just broadcast when you could have the kind of conversation we're having right now! Yes Alex you're right they can do whatever they like but this isn't about having complex social media ROI "engagement strategies" it's just about them missing an opportunity IMHO



Matt said...

that should of course be "competition doesn't exist"'s early in the morning still!

Alconcalcia said...

Finally figured out how to reply to my own blog!

From the tone of some of the replies anyone would think I was having a pop. I wasn't. I just wanted the general consensus on whether it was a good idea to post what appear to be negative comments about competitors on a platform such as Twitter where anyone in the world can see such comments and draw very differing conclusions from them.

Alex, you know 33 as you worked there, but with respect that gives you an insight that very few people have. In my own experience, even the simplest most innocuous comment on the web can be misinterpreted because type has no emotion, no vocal tone. It is read flat and digested as the reader sees fit.

I was brought up in a sales world where one of the first rules was 'never knock the competition' however lighthearted or throwaway your comment is intended to be. Like Matt, I don't care what 33 tweet. It was more a general question about whether, given that tweets can go out to all sorts of people all over the place, whether, in jest or not, it is a good move to be making such comments, for anyone, not just 33, or ad agencies in general.

Stephen said...

in summary - yes its a good idea to tweet interesting (controversial) comments - if its just going to be boring PR - dont bother.

Jamie said...

I was at the Small Circle (industry piss-up) last night and spoke to 4 people from 33, and interestingly none of them knew anything about #thirtythreegate #storminateacup and the passionate arguments happening on Twitter. Makes you think, maybe its just important to us geeks?

Mark said...

I really enjoyed the conversation yesterday and I am glad it has moved to this platform for a little more in-depth discussion. As I added my opinion on Twitter I thought it would be rude if I didn’t take part in the wider discussion as well. Working for ThirtyThree I am of course going to have a slightly different slant to this. I am also aware that I (and Hensy) have a little ‘inside information’ on the personality that sits behind the Tweets.

A couple of weeks back ‘andsome made the valid point that the agencies have a really poor presence on Twitter – especially when they are so well followed. But it did get me thinking, who is managing those accounts?

As it happens there are a number of people with access to tweet via the company Twitter account – including me. You’ll notice my tweets as they are the dull, self congratulatory ones about award wins, etc. But what you’ll notice more is that they are ‘safe’.

My tweets are not going to cause any problems – but neither are they going to provoke discussion. Now I am not safe by nature, but if I tweet using the company Twitter account I am actually representing the firm – albeit in 140 characters. And as an employee I am bound both contractually and morally not to do or say anything that would have a negative impact on the business. So, I simply wouldn’t and couldn’t tweet out anything of the nature that we have seen recently.

So my tweets are having no impact at all on the brand, they are not engaging, they are not conveying the personality of the organisation, they are not provoking discussion … in fact they are failing.

But that’s because I am a employee – if I was an owner, things would be probably be different. You boys are all leaders of your own organisations and your company’s brand is inherently linked to your own personal brand. And if you say something interesting (innovative, humorous or even contentious) you answer to no-one. You no longer need to be ‘safe’. Your tweets are absolutely about engagement and personality. And I am sure that won’t change when your companies continue to grow into large, multi-site businesses (if that’s what you want).

Which is where the person who writes the ‘interesting’ tweets now sits. And I am really pleased the tweets aren’t ‘safe’, they are reflective of his personality and reflective of the organisation he has built.

The content of the tweets in question (if read with the writer in mind) were funny. Even if you don’t know the writer they’re still funny. I had lots of direct messages when they were posted. Mainly saying thank god you got rid of those dull, self-congratulatory, award-based tweets – they were rubbish.

Ah, another ‘interesting’ tweet has just gone out …

PS – Normally I would write a response like this and delete if before I ever post it. Why? Usually the same reason my tweets were safe. But this time I didn’t. Feels nice. But I will still tweet if we win at the TARGETjobs awards tonight.

Alconcalcia said...

Thanks for your input Mark. is it that naughty Mister Goold who posts the contentious stuff out of interest? They're almost as good as his golf used to be! :)

It really is no biggie, but I was just curious as to people;'s take in general, not just because it happened to be a rec ad agency. Both Mark Rice and I recently questioned the presence or lack of it on Twitter amongst rec ad agencies and it's good to see 33 tweeting more.

I am, amongst other things, ex TMP, and don't have an issue at all with people having a dig at them, though they are not the same firm they used to be. the McKelvey (and Tarrant) days are long gone, as is the empire.

neil said...

Bit disturbed by what some people are up to at 3 in the morning...shouldn't you be on a porn site?


Alex Hens said...

Gooldy - contentious? Me thinks you've never met Andrew Young then :) He's the "edgy" bit of the personality behind the brand.

And think you've really hit the nail on the head Mark. And that's why it's 100% the right thing to do - namely "because they can". Marketing is about differentiation, and if having the freedom to establish a marmite style brand is what gets you noticed then that doesn't cost much and will definitely differentiate from the (arguably) sterile samey samey brands that over spin half baked "world firsts" at any given opportunity.

(And think the blog's timer's set to a different time zone than we're commenting within Neil ;)

Nice to chat though - must go plan a freethinking and edgy profile raising strategy of my own. Anyone else agree that are pants? ;)

Alconcalcia said...

Thanks for all the input. Think we can put this one to bed now. Have managed to change timezone as well finally!

PS - TMP are shit :)