Wunderman’s Morel on Social Media, Online Video and Mobile

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

In 2005, Morel launched an aggressive strategy to expand the agency’s influence on digital direct marketing and was instrumental in Wunderman’s acquisition of interactive and web analytics agencies — Blast Radius and ZAAZ among them. Digital programs now account for 60 percent of Wunderman’s revenues.

Here are highlights from the discussion:

Melissa Campanelli, eM+C: How would you describe social media?
Daniel Morel: A while ago, when I used the term you’re using — social media — I was corrected by some folks from Forrester Research. They told me that social media is a euphemism. It’s not media, per se; it’s not something you buy but something you measure. Now, when describing what I think you’re talking about, I use the terms social networking, social interaction and social conversation — but not social media. If you look at the largest examples of what I’m describing — Twitter, Facebook, blogs — you’d see little advertising, little paid media.

MC: Do you think social networking is important?
DM: As for social networking, we monitor Twitter, but in my opinion, Twitter doesn’t really have many capabilities these days. We monitor all of the blogs and online communities, of course. We then harvest that information using a variety of tools in combination with vendors, such as Visible Technologies [a provider of online brand management solutions for new media environments that’s formed a strategic partnership with WPP] and Radian6 [a tool for real-time social media monitoring and analysis designed for advertising agencies].

When it comes to social conversations and social networking, the important thing for us is accumulating data and organizing it into knowledge and information. Social networking offers real-time data as opposed to secondary research, where you have to wait six months before getting the results. You have immediate access to what’s on the minds of consumers. Social networking is important for us, but only as much as we can convert the commodity we call data into valuable insight.

Once a client told me that one of his colleagues was doing “the Facebook thing.” He asked me, “Can you give me one of those?” Our job is not to just give our clients a Facebook page. Our job is to ask why. “Why do you want to do it?” “What’s your objective?” “What are you trying to achieve?” You shouldn’t do it just because someone else is doing it.

MC: Is it true that social networking is changing marketing today?
DM: Whether you’re shopping for a car or insurance, you want to know opinions about the products you’re shopping for from people like you — not the brands. You place more trust into what people of similar backgrounds and interests to you are saying about brands, products and services than discourse from the brand.

Brand speech is necessary, however, because you can’t go to a search toolbar and search for a product if you haven’t been informed about the existence of that product. If I want to type “Ford Mustang 2010” into the search toolbar, I must have heard the term at some point. Public relations does a good job of placing words in people minds.

Social networking will become more present, more sophisticated and more original in the future. Right now, a lot of the content on social networking sites is republished, refurbished or reformulated. But at some point some creative people will make it original and germane to each environment. As a result, social networking will become even more relevant.

Check out the rest of my conversation with Daniel Morel here next week. We’ll discuss online video and mobile marketing.