Trains, blames and auto analysis

Today started happy. I wasn’t headed anywhere on #Eurostar. Then, TechCrunch made me even happier that I wasn’t Eurostar’s agency.

I’m not linking to all of the blog brouhaha because this post isn’t about Crisis Dos & Don’ts. (My employer has better folks for that.) This is a personal ponder on why us agencies preach so much better than most advertisers practice.

TechCrunch usually writes about web 2 start-ups, but you have to assume their savvy editor knows enough about the marketing agency model to understand we cannot do anything on behalf of clients that they haven’t actually commissioned. Yet it seems the age of transparency means being outed for sins of omission. Harsh.

For literally years now, as one micro example, I have counseled clients to claim back their brand-jacked Twitter urls. Even this small step however, falls in the cracks between corporate departments. My own take-away from this latest #fail case is to work harder to jump those divides.

Clients often ask me who ‘owns’ social media. By which they mean, does it sit in the PR, digital, research, or customer service budget? So I draw my little overlapping Venn circles and explain about the hybrid teams needed, but is that a good answer? Oh, it is the right answer. But is it a useful answer? It would be great to get comments from client side people here (or here).

Frankly, this confusion is all our fault. Although perhaps mostly the media agencies’ fault (sorry mates). Since brands first went online (circa Netscape Navigator), agency enabled clients have marked ‘digital’ as just another ‘channel’ in their marketing plan. (I don’t have the strength in this 20th year of the world wide web to explain how whack that is, but probably you already know.) These new applications weren’t built as marketing channels any more than highways were built for billboards.

And here we are entering 2010 with a new, fairly skinny linear line item on that spreadsheet, misleadingly called social ‘media’. It shouldn’t take a crisis to see that that line should instead be a circle around the whole company. But maybe it does.

Please follow me on Twitter in case we get stuck on a train.