Social Networking vs. The Faceless Entity

Social Networking vs. The Faceless Entity

Ever see a cool commercial and wonder who made it? I do all the time, but that's because I've directed a few and have worked in the industry for some time. And after seeing said cool commercial, do you ever try to find out who made it by searching for the thing online? I do, but of course, that's just me. And when I do, I hit a brick wall almost every single time. Why is it so hard to find out who made a commercial these days? Especially during this day and age of social networking, of Google, YouTube, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, et al? Are production companies scared of these networks? Of sharing? Of getting their work out there?

It's not the same for all of these companies, I'm sure. I see some ads (and entire ad campaigns) that are promoted to the hilt online. If it's done right, it gives a face to who makes them. A persona, if you will, and makes me more than curious to see what else they'll do. If it's done wrong, this self-promotion can come across as being gaudy and superficial. A thin line to cross, apparently.

But I'm perplexed by the double standard of how production companies promote themselves. There's plenty of boasting about who they are and what they do on their websites, touting all the latest awards and recognition they've received, and how long they've been receiving these awards. Most will update their sites solely for the purpose of letting us know what they've done lately. If they're smart, they'll mention each of their directors with a list of all the ads these directors have done for the company. But all of this is for....who? Me? No, of course not. Potential clients, right?

Problem with this type of promotion however is that it's blandly informative, not at all personable.

The last two companies I worked for, I constantly talked with certain people about starting a company blog - one that would be regulated by the principles of the company, by someone who would know what to say and how to say it, to promote the company as an entity that had a face. A voice. A vision. But nothing ever came of it.

I'm happy to say that since then, one of my former employers has started to embrace social networking through both Facebook and Twitter. No blog, but still, they've started to create a presence online, outside the usual incestuous circles that most commercial production companies usually confide themselves in. They mention the latest project they've recently completed and will occasionally post an interesting link or video. I like that.

The other company is still faceless online. In fact, their website hasn't changed since its inception. That was 2005. Five years in the online world is like an eternity. No blog. No Facebook. No Twitter. What are they afraid of?

The biggest fear is probably the aspect of sharing too much information. They think social networking would expose "company secrets" which is TOTAL BUNK. I don't buy that. Not if these blogs or Facebook or Twitter accounts are monitored by a PR person who would know what would be too much to share if anything gets too "sensitive." The nature of the industry is wrapped in secrecy, though - with nondisclosure agreements a staple for anyone working on a each and every project, of which I completely understand and respect. But there are plenty of ways to work around any questionable content and generate buzz or interest solely on the fact that they're working on something awesome. Take a lesson from some ad agencies. It can be done. (Side note: Clients themselves must break free from this cloak of secrecy, however. Some big-name companies are too slow and so far behind the times that they don't realize just how backwards this way of thinking is. Wake up, people.)

These companies who eschew any sort of connecting online are missing the boat and make it extremely difficult for someone like me to be positive about what they're doing, even if what little they show is "cool."

What are you working on, companies? What are you doing to get us, the AUDIENCE, to know about what you're doing? Do you realize that if you talk about your work outside of your industry and trade magazines and design award shows that maybe, just maybe, your current clients will like you even more? And, if you're a buzz generator, do you realize that more people (read: potential clients) might be interested in what you do?

Just a thought.


  1. So true Ward. It's easy to end up a shameless self-promoter, but that can be avoided. Done right, it gives everybody along the value chain (clients, employees, directors, audience) added value. No reason to not do it. The earlier companies get into it, the quicker they'll figure out how best to use these tools for their organization.

    To me, the starting point is to try and offer value to your audience instead of just bland information that's all "me, me, me". It's not always easy to do because it takes real thought. But once you get into a habit and find your groove, it gets easier and easier. Dare I say fun?

  2. I agree, Mike. Finding a voice for your company does seem to be an integral part when it comes to PR - but you're right, once you find your groove, it can be very beneficial!

    It also works for you guys if you're talking about your work via these outlets (facebook & twitter, etc.) if and when a potential client does a search for you (or for whatever you've worked on) - Google's tapping into these sites for relevance and it only supports (and gives credence) to your company.

  3. Interesting post Ward.

    I think you hit it on the head when you say that production companies aren't interested in their image as it pertains to the general public, just the people who can give them business. These companies might call it targeted advertising; focus more effort on the people who are in the industry, and less on the average fan.

    Nobody ever said a little buzz was a bad thing & is there a better/cheaper/easier way to do so than through social media?

    Thanks for an interesting read!


  4. My best guess as to why most production companies shy away from this sort of promotion is A) they fear that it will empower individual creatives and give them a more direct access to the client, endangering both their control of the account AND the internal creative, and there's also probably a concern that promoting on sites such as Twitter and others will lead to employees frittering away time doing exactly the same thing, only for more personal reasons. But I'd bet that most of the fear has to do with employees becoming sufficiently empowered to create a potential wedge between client and agency.