Sometimes a behind the scenes piece can go very wrong when the journalist picks up and runs with a piece of information that the agency would rather they had not. Such has been the issue faced by New York and London digital agency Huge, when an article in Business Insider claimed that the agency took a team of 13 people, 45 days to generate a tweet for client President Cheese (see image), that garnered only two retweets. Huge London's planning director, Martin Harrison offers his reaction to the fallout.
"Jesus" was the title of the email that alerted me to the Brie hitting the fan. A fairly innocent article conflated a planning process with a production process, an editor well-schooled in the art of clickbait rewrote a headline, and suddenly I'm working at the worst example of big agency overload in the history of mankind. You'd think I'd have noticed! I've been sitting here for three years. Still, you're not a real digital agency until you've had the horde run you down on Twitter. And I'd probably have reacted the same way if this was another agency's unfortunate moment in the spotlight. Because seriously, 45 fucking days for a Tweet?
Of course it doesn't take 45 days to write a Tweet. Our intention was to provide some insight into the process behind planning a campaign and I'd like to think that most professionals in this industry take a similar approach to their work. I'm unsure when planning became a bad thing (particularly among, erm, planners). Clearly Huge wouldn’t be around as a digital agency for very long if we had teams of “13 social media and advertising experts” all collaborating over a Tweet about cheese. (Though, in another life, I did once spend four hours in a meeting debating Captain Birdseye's tone of voice. But that was for an ad, so it's fine.)
We're eager for casual evidence to chuck behind our long-held opinions. I was thinking about confirmation bias and the response to the article only confirmed what I thought. "Social Media Marketing is the snake-oil of the 21st century", "This is an example of everything wrong in the world", "Fire these guys and hire me instead because I know social" (clever, can you start Monday?).
It's not that easy. As social has grown from a discipline emerging from the sidelines into a core pillar of the wider digital landscape, it also benefits from the increased professionalism behind the approach. People aren't just getting into social because they used to mod a forum somewhere or lead 40-man raids in World of Warcraft. It's moving from a big experiment to something more scientific in how we deliver value for users in social media channels. We’re approaching it the same way we approach all of our work: small teams, working to serve users, learning what works, and constantly trying to get better at it. Having a team of people actually thinking about this stuff seems like a good place to start.
At Huge, we employ real people who are just as frustrated by poorly executed brand content as the next commentator. Our goal is always to make the internet a better place, whether that’s by creating tools and experiences that make people’s lives easier, or social campaigns with real entertainment or informational value for their specific audiences. (The internet’s big enough for people who like to talk about cheese, as well.) None of this is new. All of it takes time. It doesn't always work. We don't always get it right the first time. But none of it takes 45 days – here or elsewhere (at least, we hope).
A 30-strong team of highly-trained monkeys worked for 60 days to bring you this piece.