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The advertising landscape has experienced dramatic change over the past several years, as consumers spend more time online, have more control over traditional advertising vehicles, and chose to create and share their own content. As a result, some advertisers are evolving to a confluence culture where traditional methods of work must adapt to embrace the new reality of interactive content, emerging media, and production/consumption methods. In this essay, we show how agencies like 22squared and advertisers like CNN are finding new ways to connect with consumers and build their brands. Implications for professionals and educators are provided.
Kim Bartel Sheehan, Deborah K. Morrison
ABSTRACT: The advertising landscape has experienced dramatic change over the past several years, as consumers spend more
time online, have more control over traditional advertising vehicles, and chose to create and share their own content. As a result,
some advertisers are evolving to a confluence culture where traditional methods of work must adapt to embrace the new reality of
interactive content, emerging media, and production/consumption methods. In this essay, we show how agencies like 22squared
and advertisers like CNN are finding new ways to connect with consumers and build their brands. Implications for professionals
and educators are provided.
Keywords: Creative, new media, Internet, collaboration.
You cannot open Ad Age or Adweek these days without finding
bold evidence that significant changes face the advertising
industry. Some of these changes are good: interesting new work,
innovative partnerships, big ideas that show what advertising can
do for brands. But after more than a decade of such evidence, we
also know that there are downsides to these changes: brands
floundering in digital space, layoffs in agencies large and small,
and a workforce often unprepared for new media realities.
During this time, consumers have changed the game as well by
redefining their relationships to traditional media and spending
increased time online. Most, if not all, of these changes are
driven by the growth of the digital world. The advertising
industry, largely governed by decades-old paradigms, continues
to wrestle with the challenges of this digital realm.
The rise of emerging media has resulted in a cultural shift toward
a "digital culture" (Deuze 2006), which is also known as a
"convergence culture" (Jenkins 2006). It is our contention that a
more appropriate term would be "confluence culture," a concept
we wrote about recently in the online journal First Monday
(Sheehan and Morrison, in press). A confluence is a place where
things merge or flow together, where the obsolete gets sloughed
off and strengths naturally evolve as the core becomes enhanced.
Confluence culture is multidisciplinary, nimble, and creative. In
this discussion, we see confluence culture as a talking point for
understanding how the advertising industry must change and
how traditional methods of work might adapt to embrace the
new reality of interactive content, emerging media, and
production/consumption methods.
For advertising agencies, specific confluence issues exist. As best
practices have encouraged the evolution of traditional
advertising practices toward more holistic brand visions, the
advertising profession has reengineered its core approaches. A
first harbinger of confluence, born decades ago, was the new
emphasis on account planning within the agency process. Yet
another marker of confluence has been the forming and
reforming of media planning and media buying systems within
the industry. Then, as digital media exploded, agencies evolved
and changed platforms, either by buying small digital firms or
creating add-on agency units to think digitally for clients.
Confluence culture thus suggests that agencies as units and the
advertising profession as a whole face numerous challenges to
their traditional ways of operation as they grow and morph and
react to cultural shifts, particularly when it comes to creativity
and ideas. We envision four key challenges:
Engagement challenge: reinventing the mass message
CGM challenge: helping consumers tell stories.
Social media challenge: playing in a new landscape.
Training challenge: growing talent with creative
The Engagement Challenge: Reinventing the Mass Message
Mary Beth Kemp and Peter Kim of Forrester Research (2008;
summarized in Morrissey 2008b) argue that traditional
advertising is failing in its purpose. They note that consumers
pay more attention to the recommendations of friends and
family than they do to marketing messages when making
purchase decisions yet that traditional agencies continue to
operate around a "mass message" model that fails to recognize
the importance of one-to-one engagement and interactions. In
addition, traditional channels for advertising messages are less
often used by today's consumers; the increasing use of pull
technology, such as TIVO and Web-based programs, makes it
41JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Spring2009
possible to avoid commercials aired on traditional broadcast
What the mass message model does well, though, is provide the
opportunity for strong branding messages. This capability results
in a dichotomy in agency businesses, whereby some agencies
may be able to provide innovative messages and online
experiences for users but lack strong branding messages, and
other agencies excel at branding but fail to involve consumers in
brands to the degree that consumers become brand advocates.
Some level of rapprochement must be achieved for the
advertising business to regain a level of success.
Interactive creativity is not simply the use of the latest
technology or the race to put the most digital bells and whistles
on a site. Interactive creativity is built around engagement, and it
recognizes that people are inherently social and look to create
and maintain relations not only with other people but also with
brands. Brand stories, both in traditional media and online,
provide ways for advertisers to engage consumers more deeply
with their brands. An engagement perspective changes the view
of a brand from a transactional perspective, in which a brand
addresses a transient need, to an interactional perspective, by
which the brand story becomes part of a person's own story
about him- or herself.
The Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant chain and its agency
22squared used the storytelling concept to move beyond
advertising the chain's attributes (i.e., food and sports on
televisions) and instead create an image of a clubhouse where
camaraderie is easy to find. The agency believes that sports,
jokes, and competition represent the "social currency" of the
target, so it makes these three things part of every brand story.
All messages have a strong attitude that clearly resonates with
the target audience; the agency uses the voice of these messages
as the key means to differentiate Buffalo Wild Wings from other
restaurants. Television ads set up the story, and then the story
moves online to the social media space where patrons can
organize their social lives, using the clubhouse as the physical
meeting place.
The result of using such brand stories, according to Jenkins
(2006, p. 3), is that "every important story gets told, every brand
gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple
media platforms." Confluence, then, occurs when media
industries are less task bound and merge together to allow
content to flow freely among them, empowering technologies
and practices that are both adaptive and associative in nature.
The CGM Challenge: Helping Consumers Tell Stories
The act of consuming media online has become synonymous
with the act of producing media (Deuze 2006). Many online
users are not content with accessing and viewing or listening to
content from established sources; rather, they want to interact
with message content by adding to it or repurposing it for new
and different uses. Some traditionally closed models of
information distribution (e.g., Web pages) therefore have given
way to new, open models. These new systems, including the
social media sites Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, enable
consumers to distribute content that they create. Interactive
creativity therefore involves providing consumers with the tools
they need to be creative themselves.
To succeed in the confluence culture, agencies must rethink
content, moving away from what Deuze (2007) terms "show and
tell" advertising and toward proving content for consumers to
create their own stories. Agencies must find more ways than ever
before to bring consumers into the advertising process. Deuze
(2007) also imagines a flattening hierarchical relationship
between the agency and the consumer as agencies adapt to this
new engagement model; he uses the term "bricolage" to describe
the remixing, reconstructing, reusing, and repurposes of audio,
visual, and textual content. It simultaneously consists of
repurposing and refashioning the old while using and making
the new.
One such example is the M&Ms Web site, where online visitors
gain access to the tools to create M&Ms characters in their own
images and then can use these characters in digital images and
videos to share with their friends. The holiday sensation "Elf
Yourself," sponsored by OfficeMax (
allows visitors to create elves in their own images and then set
them dancing to different types of music. To promote its new
line of coffees, McDonald's developed a site where visitors could
create their own coffee ring snowflakes
). On the CNN site, consumers can
select news headlines to make into t-shirts, branded with the
CNN logo. In each of these settings, the brand becomes the base
for the creative product, and the time spent on the sites during
the creation process allows brand registration to occur.
Participation suggests that brand stories actually are created and
disseminated in a partnership between advertiser and consumer.
Kemp and Kim (2008) further suggest that the advertising
agencies that survive will be those that evolve into what they call
"Connected Agencies" (Morrissey 2008a). In Kemp and Kim's
view, these Connected Agencies will do more than create
traditional advertising messages; they will nurture consumer
42JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Spring2009
connections and create conversations between consumers and
brands and among consumers themselves.
Confluence culture allows consumers to tell their own stories by
taking the information provided about the brands and mixing it
with their own experiences, including how the brand has
transformed them. Confluence culture will provide messages
that are more reflective of the highly customized reality that
digital culture provides. Participation, remediation, collective
intelligence, and bricolage encourage the development of many
more messages, allow many more stories to be told, and enable
users to become much more involved with brands than ever
before. This personal engagement provides a strong, positive
brand message.
The Social Media Challenge: Playing in a New Landscape
Historically, advertising has been produced in a black box:
Agencies seek consumer input during various phases of
campaign development, but most consumers are unaware of the
content of traditional advertisements until they see them in print
or broadcast media. The growth in consumer-generated media,
as evidenced by the popularity of social media sites like Facebook
and YouTube, suggests that the black box model is becoming
outdated and that a new culture, a confluence culture, needs to
be established as essential to the organization and processes of
agency life. New media realities demand such a different way of
working, primarily because they tend to be pull media-
consumers chose what to see and what to do with what they see-
as opposed to the traditional push media that reflect the
workflow used by traditional top-down structures at both
agencies and media outlets.
As Palfrey and Gasser (2008, p. 229) describe storytelling on
social media sites:
This story of interoperability-a boring-sounding, technical term,
admittedly-means that people who do not work for Facebook
can drive competition and innovation within and across popular
social networks. Interoperability enables a new process of
communicating and sharing new discoveries in computing to
take place. By making these systems work together online,
developers have a new incentive to innovate and collaborate.
New cultural production has always been led by fans, those
people who have a deeper-than-average fascination with and
affinity for a cultural artifact. Certain brands naturally develop a
strong fandom. Rabid fans will always find ways to create and
disseminate the content they create for the brands they love.
Brands with less to offer their fans must find places where fans
can interact and create. Such participation can also create a
stronger affinity between audiences and brands.
A 2008 TNS/Cymfony study of more than 60 marketers found
that the majority of them believed their own agencies to be ill-
equipped to help them succeed in the social media space
(Morrissey 2008a). We believe strong brand stories are a key
element for agencies to use when playing in the social media
space. Strong brand stories can result in compelling characters
that represent the brand, and consumers are more likely to want
to engage with a character than an inanimate object. On
MySpace, for example, the character Helga from a 2006-2007
Volkswagen campaign (
continues to have an active presence online; the page gets
updated regularly, and Helga has over 6,000 friends who
download audio, video, and graphics from the page. This
campaign no longer airs, but the MySpace site remains active;
thus, the character story has transcended the limitations of a
traditional advertising campaign.
The Training Challenge: Growing Talent with Creative Vision
Sternberg and Lubart (1996) argue that confluence theory is
appropriate for studying creativity, because it suggests that many
disparate pieces converge and grow together to form a rich
pattern of the meaning of creativity. Similarly, confluence culture
is a rich conglomeration of ideas and approaches, depending on
how new ideas get generated and developed to become part of a
living cultural process. For the advertising industry, creativity is
vital. Confluence culture requires new creative skills throughout
the agency. Creative skills thus cannot be relegated just to
traditional "creatives" but should be developed and expected
throughout the organizational chart. It begins with researchers
and strategists, who must see bricolage as a type of consumer
research that unlocks valuable insights about consumers. The
bricolage process may help instigate more interesting ideas from
advertising writers and designers. As an example, Hill Holliday's
Liberty Mutual Responsibility campaign asks the question,
"Responsibility: What's your policy?" in television, print, and
interactive ads. From the overwhelming response to that
campaign, The Responsibility Project was born, taking root to
find and discuss how ordinary people embrace responsible
actions as a way of life. Short films, community discussions,
blogs, and consumer activism are campaign subtexts, all having
grown from the branded concept. The brand concept became
content that consumers embraced and extended. It was an idea
built from a strong strategy and smart conceptual development.
Talent development for twenty-first century agencies must
depend on universities and programs that understand
43JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Spring2009
confluence culture and the need for adaptation, as well as an
array of creative skills. Creative strategists, the new professionals
who are trained to generate new ideas in a strategic setting, no
matter the job title they hold, will tackle the problems in
meaningful fashion, armed with curiosity about the culture and a
resounding belief in ideas as strong cultural commodities. In
turn, they will be reflective and proactive about cultural shifts,
social concerns, and the importance of brand leadership.
Training grounds for this type of professionalism underscore
broader themes than just management and media, strategy and
creative. Instead, leading programs must emphasize the idea and
its ability to change brands, consumers, and culture.
Leaders in the confluence culture will be those creative strategists
who have an understanding of all aspects of the advertising
process and use creative skills to solve brand problems. These
individuals-nimble, digital, and prepared for new challenges-will
be able to consider the stories people tell, craft resonant brand
narratives, and help clients use these stories to connect people to
brands in new and exciting ways. Agencies embracing the
creative strategist approach will be poised to provide outstanding
messages for clients, protect against economic downturns as
clients embrace the value of such messages, and find even more
innovative ways to communicate.
Deuze, Mark (2007), "Convergence Culture in the Creative
Industries," International Journal of Cultural Studies, 10 (2), 243-
--- (2006), "Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering
Principal Components of a Digital Culture," The Information
Society, 22 (2), 63-75.
Jenkins, Henry (2006), Convergence Culture. New York: New
York University Press.
Kemp, Mary Beth and Peter Kim (2008), "The Connected
Agency Marketers: Partner with an Agency that Listens Instead
of Shouts." Available at
June 15, 2008). Podcast outlining the key points is available at
(accessed December 9, 2008). Video outlining the key
points is available at
Morrissey, Brian (2008a), "Social Media: Agencies ‘Don't Get It',
Survey Says ," Adweek Digital. Available at
--- (2008b), "Forrester: Agencies Need to Reboot," Adweek
Digital. Available at
d8f3 (accessed December9, 2008).
Palfrey, John and Urs Gasser (2008), Born Digital: Understanding
the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic Books.
Sheehan, Kim Bartel and Deborah K. Morrison (in press).
"Beyond Convergence: Confluence Culture and the Role of the
Advertising Agency in the Digital Age," First Monday,
Sternberg, Robert and Todd I. Lubart (1996), "Investing in
Creativity," American Psychologist, 51 (7), 677-688.
Kim Sheehan is Associate Professor at the University of
Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication. She teaches
courses in advertising management, media and research, as well
as new media courses. Her research involves culture and new
technology, and she has published extensively about privacy and
the Internet, and about Direct-to-Consumer prescription drug
advertising. She is the author or co-author of three books about
advertising. She currently serves as Associate Editor of the
Journal of Advertising. E-mail:
Deborah Morrison is the Chambers Distinguished Professor of
Advertising at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism
and Communication. She teaches conceptual thinking, creativity
and content, portfolio, and campaigns courses from a social
responsibility perspective. Prior to the University of Oregon,
Deborah was the leader of Texas Creative at the University of
Texas at Austin for 18 years. Her research concerns professional
creativity, social responsibility in advertising, and creative
process. Importantly, she believes that good advertising can be
one way to save the world. E-mail:
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... Recently, a report by the Ericsson ConsumerLab (2017) argued that consumers are increasingly likely to see advertisements as a disruption of their media experience. Thus, advertisers are shifting towards new, consumer-driven means of getting their messages across, entailing: consumer-generated content, consumer content sharing, and co-creation (Sheehan and Morrison, 2009), marketing in social media (Ashley and Tuten, 2015) and interactive online advertising (Belanche et al., 2017). However, such approaches usually rely on the consumers' engagement, and on whether consumers find the advertising content valuable in itself. ...
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Relationship marketing uses a strong relationship between seller and customer to offset limitations of selling an intangible service, such as insurance. Social media can facilitate interactions between agent and customer, thus strengthening the relationship. Customers willingly connect with companies via social media. This article examines the social media platforms’ usage of insurance companies. Findings show Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to be most commonly used. Differences in social media usage were found between companies selling life and health insurance and those selling property and casualty insurance. Companies highly involved in social media possess higher profit margins than companies with low involvement.
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Online marketing strategies are an important part of any destination promotion agenda. DMOs use Facebook to engage with various stakeholders and enhance their image. Given the benefits of this approach, destination managers often are not guided or well informed about success strategies to maintain their Facebook brand pages and effectively communicate, engage and enhance their relationships with their consumers. The lack of empirical longitudinal research led this study to perform a retrospective analysis of the Facebook pages of the 22 most popular tourist destinations in Europe according to TripAdvisor 2017 rankings. The data-driven approach demonstrates which marketing activities triggered various consumer engagement behaviour and, thus, are successful in Facebook spheres. Furthermore, the study allows destinations to benchmark their Facebook presence and position themselves more strategically.
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• This article maps the emerging practices in media professions like journalism, advertising, marketing communications and public relations in adapting to a new global environment, characterized by an increasingly participatory media culture. Among creatives and brand managers in ad agencies `interactive advertising' is at the center of the contemporary buzz. Marketers in the cultural industries brainstorm about the potential of upstream marketing, while in public relations the opportunities of two-way symmetrical communication are explored. Editors of news publications increasingly jump on the `citizen journalism' bandwagon. All these trends are part of the same phenomenon: a convergence of the cultures of media production and consumption. In this essay, these developments are discussed in terms of their potential impact on consensual assumptions about the nature of media work, seen through the lens of the combination of individual creativity and mass production, also known as creative industries. •
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Within media theory the worldwide shift from a 19th century print culture via a 20th century electronic culture to a 21st century digital culture is well documented. In this essay the emergence of a digital culture as amplified and accelerated by the popularity of networked computers, multiple-user software and Internet is investigated in terms of its principal components. A digital culture as an undetermined praxis is conceptualized as consisting of participation, remediation and bricolage. Using the literature on presumably ‘typical’ Internet phenomena such as the worldwide proliferation of Independent Media Centres (Indymedia) linked with (radical) online journalism practices and the popularity of (individual and group) weblogging, the various meanings and implications of this particular understanding of digital culture are explored. In the context of this essay digital culture can be seen as an emerging set of values, practices and expectations regarding the way people (should) act and interact within the contemporary network society. This digital culture has emergent properties with roots both in online and offline phenomena, with links to trends and developments pre-dating the World Wide Web, yet having an immediate impact and particularly changing the ways in which we use and give meaning to living in an increasingly interconnected, always on(line) environment.
Review of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives / John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, New York: Basic Books, 2008
Why do some seemingly interesting, important topics receive relatively little research attention, whereas other topics are given center stage? Taking the topic of creativity as an example, we consider several reasons why psychologists may have underinvested in the study of creativity, relative to its importance both to the field of psychology and to the world in general. We propose six reasons for this underinvestment. Confluence theories, representing various multidisciplinary approaches to creativity, are proposed as offering a more promising approach to the study of creativity than do the uniperspective views. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
New Internet technologies allow online users to create content. Some of this content is brand information that traditionally developed and promoted by advertising agencies. Agencies have reacted to this phenomenon in different ways: some embrace it, some ignore it, and others encourage employees to act as consumers in developing content, perhaps in questionable ways. This essay presents a concept called confluence culture to describe the changes that the advertising industry is currently undergoing relative to the rise of digital culture. We argue that all advertisers, in order insure their relevancy, must recognize the role confluence culture plays in their work.
The Connected Agency Marketers: Partner with an Agency that Listens Instead of Shouts
  • Mary Kemp
  • Peter Beth
  • Kim
Kemp, Mary Beth and Peter Kim (2008), "The Connected Agency Marketers: Partner with an Agency that Listens Instead of Shouts." Available at Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,43875,00.html (accessed June 15, 2008). Podcast outlining the key points is available at _493 (accessed December 9, 2008). Video outlining the key points is available at entry/024-forrester-the-connected-agency/6749459/.
Forrester: Agencies Need to Reboot
  • Brian Morrissey
Morrissey, Brian (2008a), "Social Media: Agencies 'Don't Get It', Survey Says ," Adweek Digital. Available at 3cf7c770b633b60456549756b829bc. ---(2008b), "Forrester: Agencies Need to Reboot," Adweek Digital. Available at content_display/news/digital/e3i55bff7bc1a68ecef566a2850d389 d8f3 (accessed December9, 2008).