All posts in “complaining”

Trying to fit Foursquare into a round hole

photo courtesy of

Catching up on some reading this weekend, I consumed this article from AdWeek with interest. It was essentially a litany of agency bitching that location-based service Foursquare didn’t have the tools, manpower or know-how to cater to their needs.

“They’re not responsive and extremely hard to work with,” said a digital agency exec who asked not to be named. “It’s hard to bring campaigns to life. Nobody knows how to create a badge or ask [Foursquare how] to enable behavior. It’s black magic.” In general, he said, “it’s pretty much unworkable.”

Guess what, folks? Foursquare is a startup, not CNN, and they are figuring out their ad model in this emerging space in realtime. That’s called “innovation”, and in a nutshell? It’s not them – it’s YOU.

Agencies are accustomed to working a certain way (especially when it comes to media buying), and when you deviate from that, it does not compute. Emerging platforms like Twitter and Foursquare are opening their doors to advertisers, but one of the biggest issues is that many client agencies simply are not flexible enough nor do they have the expertise to do it right. They revert to their comfort zone, which results in below-average performance and all kinds of friction around actually getting the work underway. Just ask Digg and Twitter; we’ve seen it there firsthand.

So what’s the answer? It’s all in the right approach and attitude. Imagine this – as a participant in closed betas and other first-of-their-kind opportunities in the paid social space, advertisers often have the chance to co-create by providing meaningful feedback. The rewards of participating well can be significant (we’ve seen results of between ten and 40x that of “traditional” display advertising with our clients, never mind the value of the business intelligence gathered). In other words, you don’t just write cheques, you get to help influence direction in order to generate maximum value. I’m not sure where else an advertiser would have the chance to partner, learn and get a significant competitive advantage in quite the same way.

However, the catch is that if your agency isn’t adaptable or able to help you keep pace with innovation (and likes to prove it by bitching in print) you might have a problem.

[photo courtesy of Kathleen Leavitt]