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The most important thing regarding Fiat's development of the Fiat Mio (translated: "My Fiat"), the world's first open source car, is not the participation of the crowd itself, but the fact that, for the first time, the auto industry initiated the endeavor as an open source project and released it for everybody under the creative Commons license.
Fiat’s choice resulted in an open forum and marked a move to an approach for automobile production that is normally dominated by a culture of secrecy. How revolutionary and subversive was the adoption of this approach? The specification of the Mio is now available for anyone to see -- an open work that challenges the traditions of automobile manufacture.
So when the customer experience begins with the design of a car and not just the ownership experience and the role of the manufacturer becomes the orchestrator amongst customers and engineering teams, what impact does that have on the value of the brand in a world of open source knowledge? Is the brand enhanced or devalued?
Fiat Mio it's not just communication. It's business.
This analysis was made by Abel Reis, the president of the AgenciaClick Isobar, responsible for the project developed for Fiat. Fiat, the largest car manufacturer in Brazil, was looking for a new way to engage consumers in the evolving Brazilian market. The initial stages of a new concept car project was taken as an opportunity to create a more engaging and transparent relationship.
Click, as it is commonly called, has developed an open collaboration platform to enable car enthusiasts to set the agenda for the car of the future: a car to call your own. In just three months, they received more than 11,000 ideas submitted by over 17,000 participants from 160 countries around the world. These ideas were transformed into a car concept launched at the Sao Paulo Automobile Show last year.
Although Fiat Mio is the most visible project of AgênciaClick Isobar, it is far from being the only one. AgênciaClick, founded in 1993, is currently a part of Isobar Group, a communications agency network based in the United Kingdom whose slogan is “we bring people and brands together like never before.”
AgênciaClick is specializing in developing products for digital media and considers the open-source branding as its soul.
AgênciaClick works closely with the traditional advertising agencies of its clients by
helping them in the transition from mass medium to communication networks. Click works for clients by structuring actions of digital media.
I had a long chat last week with Abel Reis. Reis is one of the founders of the Click and a widely recognized professional in the Brazilian market. For two consecutive years he has been selected by InfoExame, a highly-popular Brazilian technology magazine, as one of the top 100 technology professionals in Brazil.
I met Reis for the first time almost five years ago when I was executive-editor of O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper and AgênciaClick was our partner in a social media news project. In our conversation last week, Reis talked about future plans and the arrival of new international competitors in the Brazilian market, such as Poptent, Mutopo and the Frances Publicis Groupe, which just bought DPZ, one of the best known advertising brands in the country.
“The positioning of AgênciaClick nowadays is to be a strategic partner with its clients,” said Reis. It is a natural evolution for an agency that started making CD-roms in a pre-Internet era and grew up at the same time that Brazil learned how to interact with the global network. “We are a communications thought partner.”
According to Reis, Brazil became visible in the world of advertising particularly in face of the vitality the country has in the digital world. Data released by Intermeios-Meio e Mensagem shows Internet advertising as the third force behind TV and newspapers. In 3 to 5 years the Internet should become second. It shows that the country has an advanced attitude in terms of digital technology, in fact more advanced than many countries in the world.
“This business attracts many agencies around the world. Digital is the great frontier,” says Reis.
Another interesting observation is the fact that lower Brazilian classes have always perceived the computer and the Internet as a means of social advancement – in the past five years 39 million people in Brazil have moved from the lower class into the middle class, a sign of increasing economic opportunity.
“What is at the head of this new generation?” asked the president of AgênciaClick. “Social advancement,” he answered himself. For this reason, the Internet occupies, next to the TV, the center of the room as a place of entertainment for families.
Mobile has also assumed the role as information and entertainment center, and this will further increase as the low income population is increasingly able to access smartphones.
Another reason that boosts Brazilian growth in this area is the fact that the country has a special configuration in the advertising market. “In Brazil, creative and media departments work together. This doesn’t happen in other countries”.
It is a characteristic of the Brazilian market, he explained. “Here, creation and media are designed in an integrated manner. It is a virtue of the Brazilian market. And in the digital world it makes even more sense.”
Reis also explained that most digital communication action helps deliver concept brand communication and business itself. “The wisdom of crowd is working for the brands. It shows that the line between business and communication is very tenuous.
Next six months
The success of Fiat Mio has prompted another unprecedented initiative: the creation of Fiat Agency, an operational joint-venture between Click and Leo Burnett, the advertising agency responsible for traditional campaigns. It’s being called “The Fall of the Betim Wall’ by the specialized press, a reference to the Fiat headquarters city in the state of Minas Gerais. But is not so difficult to justify this action, since Fiat is among the top ten advertisers in Brazil. The company invested R $ 877 million in 2010. Indeed, a customer of this size can cause certain barriers to break.
The fruit of this new initiative will be known over the next few months when Fiat will launch its new generation of cars. Fiat, like most automakers, has increased its funding for actions on the web. And it has been audacious: the total budget earmarked for the launch of models, promotions and institutional campaigns, between 15% and 20% go to websites, social networks and mobile applications. In other automakers, this ratio is between 8% and 10%.
In its initiatives AgênciaClick looks to the people inside the crowd, explained Abel Reis. Besides the concept of open source branding, expressed in a manifesto issued by the agency, Click uses the concept of the First Follower in its campaigns, developed by Derek Sivers.
This concept sheds some light on how a viral campaign can grow and propagate. AgênciaClick had produced this interesting video about the issue, and although it is narrated in Portuguese, it is easy to understand the meaning - First Follower.
What has AgênciaClick learned during its 18 years of activities? “When we work together with our client and their consumers, the benefit for the branding is obvious,” says Reis.
Flavio Gut is Crowdsourcing.org's correspondent in Brazil.
Flavio's experience includes executive editor of Agêncita Estado and newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, and reporter at Agência Folha, Agência Estado, and Jornal da Tarde. He can be reached at email@example.com