Ad agency Twitter feeds are, as a rule, about as interesting as a couple at Home Depot debating which paint chip would best match their duvet. One consistent exception has been R/GA, which serves up fun links and clever insights with a biting wit. The man behind the feed is Chapin Clark, evp and copywriting chief based in the agency's New York headquarters. We spoke with Clark about how he keeps @RGA's tweets interesting and whether he offends any peers or potential clients in the process. He also shares some advice for how agencies and brands can turn their Twitter feeds into something worth reading. Check out the Q&A below.
@RGA is probably the most consistently sarcastic and opinionated agency account out there, at least from a major shop. Has this ever raised any hackles among the execs or with clients?
I've only gotten positive feedback from clients. If there has been any hackle-raising, I have not been privy to it. I don't think I'd still be doing this if I were alienating clients. I can just imagine the conversation with [R/GA CEO] Bob [Greenberg]. "So let's see, this Twitter thing. It doesn't affect sales. Our paying clients hate you. But it's amusing three or four times a week! What do you think we should do here? …"
It's not for everyone. I'm pretty sure there are people within R/GA who don't like it, and I'm OK with that. Wanting to be liked by everyone is what's wrong with a lot of Twitter. However, I do prefer affection to contempt. If the majority of your audience loathes you, you're probably doing something wrong. If that were the case, I'd be looking to adjust my approach.
Vice Media worth $1.4 billion, according to the company that paid $580 million for MySpace.
— R/GA (@RGA) August 16, 2013
Why not just dump the daily tweeting on to low-level staffers or agency PR flacks?
That question perfectly captures what's wrong with a lot of corporate and brand accounts! I mean, yes, it's Twitter. We're not mapping the human genome. But it has emerged as a pretty important communications channel, and this is what we do.
If you were in a room speaking to an audience of thousands of people, you'd take that pretty seriously, right? I don't see how Twitter is all that different. If you're going to bother having an account, I think it's worth taking a bit of care to say something truly informative, or differentiated, or funny, or whatever. Whether it's a junior person or a senior person, someone in PR or creative, whoever it is should be someone you trust to do a good job and give it some love.
"Where you go to have lunch has to be on brand with your brand." An actual human apparently said that in the presence of a reporter.
— R/GA (@RGA) September 4, 2013
You're not above calling out other agencies or non-client brand work. How often do you get a response from the other side?
Well, that's something I try to do sparingly. I know how hard it can be to birth a project, and all the things that can happen along the way—things often beyond your control—to alter the final product. I also have praise for other brands' and agencies' work. But sometimes I see something that is so perplexing or appalling that I feel I can't not say something.
— Arby's (@Arbys) September 19, 2013
You can set your watch by these Arby's tweets.
— R/GA (@RGA) September 19, 2013
A lot of the critical things I tweet are not aimed at singling anyone out but at ourselves collectively as an industry, including R/GA. Like, can we please be a little more thoughtful, a little more suspicious of received wisdom and groupthink? We're all guilty of it. But I think every time we use the word "innovation" for something that makes ordering a pizza easier, or reflexively refer to the simple doing of something as a "hack," we die a little.
What do you think should be the primary goal of an agency's Twitter feed?
Don't be boring. Don't assume that because of your name and reputation people who are chatting with their friends, sharing photos posted by their favorite celebrities, and watching sneak previews of hotly anticipated movies are then going to be interested in reading your press releases. The first goal is for the account to establish a reason for its existence, other than your existence.
Do you ever have trouble keeping up with Twitter postings while dealing with agency projects? Do you go out of your way to make time for it?
Even on my busiest days, it's not hard to work in a few posts. You know, "keeping up" implies that there is some kind of daily expectation on the part of @RGA's followers, which I don't think is the case. I don't think the world is really feeling the loss on those days when I can't push out more than a couple of things. Often, less is more anyway.
I do believe there is a rhythm to Twitter that you develop a feel for. On the days when I have more time to focus on it, I definitely feel more in sync with that rhythm. The things I write feel sharper and better timed, and they get more of a response. My least effective days are when I'm busy with other things and I tweet stuff just to remind people I still exist. Those things are usually out of step with that rhythm, and they die quiet, lonely deaths.
For connoisseurs of the worst of both FM radio DJs AND tech blogging, check out CNET's live stream of the Apple event now.
— R/GA (@RGA) September 10, 2013
How would you advise brands to be more engaging (or at least interesting) on Twitter?
It's a challenge, for sure. As awful as most "real-time marketing" is, I sympathize with the people charged with making, say, Snyder's pretzels interesting and relevant on Twitter. I guess my first piece of advice would be to pick your moments. I loved it a few weeks ago when the Weather Channel replied to someone who said watching TWC made her "feel like a granny" with "Oops, you misspelled 'baller.' " There's a big difference between that and, crap, it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day so I have to tweet something in a pirate voice.
I think brands could do a better job of finding a space that's connected to what they're about and mining that. Somehow I started following the Little Caesars Bowl. For the potential humor value, I guess. At first I thought, this is going to be good, because what are they going to talk about the other 51 weeks when that event isn't taking place? Well, duh, they talk about college football. It's college football season, and on game days they're really active, and the tweets are OK, and it makes sense for who they are.
And completely aside from brand voice or being entertaining, I don't think you can ever underestimate the value of good customer service, delivered promptly.
I like the Charles Schwab takeover ad on WSJ's homepage today because it makes me feel as if it's 2004 and I am a youthful 35 again.
— R/GA (@RGA) October 9, 2013
—Chapin Clark is evp and managing director of copywriting for R/GA. In addition to @RGA, he posts to Twitter as @chapinc.