Why I quit PR and started a digital agency (or, To hell with swim lanes)

Three years ago I quit PR after 20 years and started a digital agency, Daylight (this one, yep.)

I did it because I was tired of head-butting this perception that PR is just writing press releases and media relations. I did it because I was tired of being excluded from creative pitches because we were a PR agency, or coming up with great Big Ideas that were given to advertising agencies to execute because clients said we hadn’t done it before. I did it because PR as a descriptor is archaic anyway. (Who is the Public? What Relations are we having?)

Recruiting digital talent (or what I call, talent) was an uphill battle because digitally experienced marketers want to work for “digital” agencies, not PR. This even though many experienced PR practitioners are skilled storytellers and masters of messaging, regardless of channel.

Brands tend to confine agencies to swim lanes labeled PR, Advertising, Media, Creative, and Digital. We’ve done ourselves no favors by inventing new labels such as Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Sensory Marketing, ad nauseam. These swim lanes are a holdover from pre-Internet days before it totally disrupted the marketing and media industries.

Clients know agencies don’t like to be boxed in, and over the years we’ve met enlightened clients that bring agencies in for “agency days” where the team with the best idea gets to lead the campaign, regardless of discipline. That’s great, until the client has to decide how much each agency should be paid. Then the Media people scream bloody murder. Or the advertising agency.

It’s time for CMOs to lead the charge, break down the silos, cultivate cross-discipline synergies and make a paradigm shift into a world without swim lanes (Us marketing folks also like our buzzwords.)

Simply said, clients need to be daring, to put their money where their mouth is when they say the Best Idea Wins. They need to nurture the flame of invention from smaller agencies (especially when it’s hard), and challenge their larger agencies to be more inventive.

I founded Daylight because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a PR agency, because digital agencies are granted more flexibility in the sandbox these days. But isn’t Digital just another swim lane you say? This is where it gets interesting, because Digital isn’t a swim lane, it’s the water.

Let me repeat that: Digital isn’t a swim lane, it’s the water.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know with a comment below or send mail to David@Daylightpartnership.com

Social Media isn’t making the world worse, Advertising is

The news that Instagram will join Facebook to impose an algorithm-curated feed is causing all sorts of hand-wringing, but of course the writing was on the wall the day Facebook acquired Instagram. Why else but to monetize all that Attention from their users, and maintain Facebook’s dominance? (Or prepare for eventual irrelevance, if certain pundits are to be believed.)

The real danger is more insidious, and there is no broad-based solution in sight, at least that I know of. It’s the societal impact of Social Media in our lives, but not for the reason you think.

If you’re a TED talk fan like me, you might have heard that social media networks have created a “filter bubble” that has led to polarization of views and a general decline in civility online (YouTube comments, anyone?) Search engines are guilty of this too: Google searches are highly personalized. Don’t believe me? Have a friend (preferably with a different demographic or cultural background) google the same keyword and compare your results.

This bubble enslaves you in an online echo chamber where you only see content by people that agree with you.  How did this happen? You.

  1. In order to serve ads that are highly targeted and effective, Facebook and other networks must know your interests, political views, travel habits, preferred news sources, and so on.
  2. They know what you like by tracking what content you engage with the most, from tracking your Likes and Shares, to measuring how much time you spend on each post.
  3. In order to keep you on their platform so that you can be available to be targeted by advertisers, Facebook (and Instagram, and Google) must create a content stream/newsfeed that is finely tuned to what you like to see. You stay because your natural desire is to keep consuming content that YOU want to see.

This bubble effectively hides dissonant content from you.

Exposure to diverse points of view is critical to developing a balanced, largely unbiased view of the world, so this filtering of what you see, can polarise you. When the online world meets offline though, people with extremely different POVs can clash, often with severe consequences.

While the social networks are not going to change this state of affairs anytime soon, there are a few things you can do as an individual:

  • Switch your Facebook newsfeed setting from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent” (Find out the settings in other social networks that allow you to do this. Warning: It’s not always possible.)
  • Actively subscribe to news sources with a different viewpoint from yours. If you’re liberal, make sure you include a few conservative news sources in your feed.
  • Spend less time consuming your news online, and more time cultivating a natural curiosity by speaking to people you meet offline. Take an open, non-judgemental stance when listening.
  • Ask lots of questions. Question everything you read.



Picture credit: NYT

Hail to the Pink Dollar (Daylight launches LGBT practice)

Today we celebrate the addition of a new client, The Society for AIDS Care, an NGO that delivers after-care to HIV positive patients and people living with AIDS.

Daylight’s association with the LGBT community has been long and abiding, beginning with our team that’s itself diverse, and intolerant of intolerance. We were the official social media agency for Pink Dot Hong Kong 2015, a massive outdoor event that brought together over 15,000 LGBT people and their friends to Hong Kong’s Tamar Park for a day of music, games, food and drinks.

In fact, since our founding we’ve always ensured our client campaigns never ignore this very important demographic, even when a client brief is not explicit on it.

That’s why in early 2016 we stealthily formed our LGBT practice, Daylight PP (for Pink Power), a team of marketing professionals dedicated to bridging the gap between brands and the LGBT community at large. LGBT consumers have been an underserved demographic in Asia, but the tide is turning. While studies have shown that in Hong Kong there isn’t a substantial difference between what gays earn and what everyone else earns, the difference lies in where they choose to spend. LGBT consumers typically spend 25% more than other consumer groups on non-essential expenditures, like dining out or shopping. When on vacation, gays tend to spend more as well.

More importantly, LGBT people are understandably ultra-sensitive to discrimination. Overwhelmingly, if perceived to be discriminated against by a brand, gays would distrust the brand, avoid purchase of their products/services, and promote the same attitude to friends. That is a brand communication minefield where an experienced guiding hand is essential.

LGBT people also tend to care about brands that speak to them positively as a community. They tend to support brands that celebrate diversity and create LGBT-friendly products and services. How to speak to this community, however, is an art that relies on in equal parts Authenticity, Sincerity, and Sensitivity.

Over 80% of LGBT people said that they would “try a product or service by a brand if it deliberately targeted the gay community.” That’s what Daylight PP is here for, and our win today is just the start.



Source: Community Business LGBT Climate Study