Tag Archives: Advertising

All I Really Need to Know I learned from… Dr. Seuss

15 Feb

Putting on my child sized thinking cap!

That Dr. Seuss, what a character!   Shoot- he wasn’t even a real doctor…and he certainly wasn’t some highfalutin business consultant.

Nope, Dr. Seuss is best known as a children’s book writer who had a flair for the imaginative and nonsensical: the man who gave readers fantasy lands filled with characters like a Grinch [who learns that Christmas is more than gifts], the [eco-conscious] Lorax, and [a book loving] Cat who wears a Hat.

Hmm… maybe Dr. Seuss’ world wasn’t so nonsensical after all.  He was, after all, able to get his viewpoint across on some pretty complex/pressing issues.  The imaginative/fanciful part was in his approach- he was able to break down the complex issues in such a way that even the smallest child could both delight in the story and comprehend, on a basic level, that there is more to Christmas than presents, that we need to protect our natural resources, and that reading can be fun.  But the real magic, in my opinion? Seuss didn’t trivialize the issues with his approach- the messages in the books also resonated with the adults reading the children the stories.  (I’m reminded of some present day Pixar films that approach issues in the same way- Wall-E anyone?)

Maybe it’s just my overly idealistic nature, but I think Dr. Seuss was on to something- what if we approached business problems [or really any problem] through the eyes of an innocent child?  Could we perhaps gain some clarity/insight into how to best tackle business problems if we were forced to take a step back and simplify these problems/our resulting solutions to such a level that a 5 yr old could understand?

A few Dr. Suess-isms I really love, and wish were more widely practiced in the business world:

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

What kind of crazy person thinks left? Or really says what they mean all the time?  A child. Children aren’t afraid to imagine, [think outside of the box in business jargon] say what’s really on their minds, [uninhibited brainstorming for grownups] or question others when they don’t understand or have a different opinion [daring groupthink and the popular opinion at the office].

But when was the last time you thought left at the office?  What if we forced ourselves to think like children- with uninhibited creativity and curiosity?   What’s the worst that could happen?  We have to explain to our co-workers why we proposed something a little different?

Here’s where thinking with the simplicity of a child could really come in handy– we could break down the reasoning behind the new/different idea to a very basic level– which will do two things: ensure that we know the intricacies of what we’re proposing inside and out, and ensure that our co-workers have the best possible chance of understanding our proposal.

And really, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  Rejection?  As long as you approach the situation, and all parties involved with respect, there’s still a silver lining to rejection.  You opened yourself up to new possibilities- and the more you’re willing to ‘think left’ the more you’ll be able to come up with new/different ideas that are actually workable.

And I say this from experience.  If you’ve read any of my other posts (or even just my bio), you’ll know I’m a researcher.  But I write about my ideas for advertising, namely for television shows- promoting a show through a group buying platform, asking fans to create their own show promos with Xtranormal, and redefining what it means to be a member of a ‘street team.’  Have any of these ideas come to fruition? NO.  But have I ‘thought left‘ and proposed them to anyone who will listen? YES. Have I learned from these experiences and have my pitches become better? I’d like to think YES.

And drumroll please… will I soon be tweeting/blogging/shouting from the rooftops about an upcoming promotion that can be partially attributed to me? YES 🙂

Share your  ‘think left’ moments!

**Showing my love for the ‘We Love Bloggers Contest‘- show yours- what have you learned from children?**


A New Type of Street Team

1 Feb

Can we use social media to redefine a b(r)and’s ‘street team?’

Street Team: A dedicated fan of a band (or brand) who decides, by simple virtue of liking a band (or brand), that they will take it upon themselves to help promote their favorite band (or brand)… for free or minimal return.  A member of a street team could promote a band (or brand)by distributing promotional materials , tacking up fliers to promote an upcoming show, call radio stations to request songs by their favorite band, post to online message boards, etc… and in return? Eh, maybe some free swag or early access to ticket sales…basically nothing compared to the virtually free promotion/advertising (and largely in the trusted word-of-mouth advertising form at that!)  by your biggest band (or brand) advocates.

Sweet deal for the band (or brand), right?

And why would a fan want to be a member of a ‘street team?’   Because they want to feel like they’re a part of something.  Because the (minimal) return- say, a sweatshirt exclusively available to members of the street team- is an exciting and rewarding incentive.  Because they just love the band (or brand).

What if we tweaked the idea of a ‘street team’ by asking our tried and true, loyal brand advocates to be our ‘street team’… instead of waiting for these fans to come to us?

Social media makes it extremely easy for a brand to identify their most loyal and dedicated fans- so why not ask these fans, who are already talking about your brand just because they love it , to help you out with promotions/advertising? Here’s a golden opportunity for a brand to connect with fans and  show them they’re appreciated…. and here’s the opportunity to create a new kind of street team.

So what do we need to create this new street team from social media fans?

DATA! Don’t run away yet- you’ll be shocked at just how simple (and inexpensive) it is to get information about a brand’s fans on social media sites.  Two examples of extremely easy tools:

1. Rowfeeder: lets you  ‘track Tweets and Facebook posts in a spreadsheet… We provide raw data, with no bells and whistles, in a format that fits existing workflows – spreadsheets’ (via crunchbase)

Ok, thanks for the data, but how is it useful? A company can look at trending of posts/tweets–> are there a few fans/twitterers who mention the brand over and over in a positive manner?  Also included in the data- information the fan/twitterer has already provided about themselves (twitter bio, etc)- a brand can see if these loyal fans/twitterers have personal blogs, how many followers they have… IE how large of a network they’re reaching with every Facebook post or tweet.

And the cost? Free for tracking one term, $35 a month for tracking up to 3 terms and 5,000 comments/tweets.  And the most premium package listed on Rowfeeder‘s site? $255 a month for up to 10 terms and 50,000 comments/tweets. Wowzers.  That’s a lot of valuable data for not a lot of cash.

2.  Topsy: ‘indexes and ranks search results based upon the most influential conversations millions of people are having every day about each specific term, topic, page or domain queried…Topsy displays realtime results for related terms & articles, trending topics, identifies experts (influencers) for any queried term and shows you trackback pages for everything in its index, displaying what everyone is saying about that query. (via Topsy about us page) a

Ok, there’s the data. Tell me why I should care. The results are in realtime, and Topsy not only lists tweets about the search term, the site also lists results from all over the web.  The most useful information (for my current purposes) is the ‘expert’ information, a listing of everyone who has tweeted the search term, with a count of how many times they’ve tweeted that search term.

And the cost? Free as far as I can tell.

(And that’s just two of the simple, inexpensive social media analytic tools available for anyone to use)

So now that we know how to get information about who mentions a brand/tweets about a brand, etc, what do we do with it?  How can we create a new ‘street team’ from this information set?

Let’s say a cable channel wanted to amp up promotion for the return of a popular series. The channel thinks that by reaching out to fans and by asking them to tweet about the show, post comments to their facebook page, or even blog about the show, they can increase the reach of their promotion efforts.  And by employing the fans who are already mentioning/tweeting about their love of the show/channel- the cable channel can simultaneously say ‘thank you’ to these loyal fans and ’employ’ them to continue to keep spreading positive sentiment about the show/channel.

To start, the cable channel used one of the tools listed above (or both, or multiple other ones) to identify their loyal fans. All they did was type in a key search phrase- the name of the show, or a popular character on the show, or even just the name of the cable channel itself, and track the data for a few days.  Once the cable channel had an adequate sample size, they analyzed the data to see which fans/twitterers had been the most active around the search term.

After taking out comments from ‘verified’ accounts, (for example, FOX wouldn’t want to count the @gleeonfox twitter account as a brand advocate as the account is a corporate, and not personal account) the cable channel identified a handle of users who were frequent (and positive!) mentioners of the search term.

Now that the cable channel has identified a collection of loyal fans, let’s turn these fans into our new ‘street team:’

First, the channel should immediately thank these fans for being such loyal devotees of the channel/show!  The channel could send these fans a message/send them schwag from their favorite show/anything to show these fans they care!  And to get these fans to become the new ‘street team’ and get them to help promote the returning series? The cable channel could send the fans an advance preview tape of the premiere episode and ask them to tweet about it, ask the fans to attend a press screening and tweet/blog about the experience, have a few fans do an interview with the stars of the show and post the interview to the web…

Are you noticing a trend with the possibilities for the new street team? Advance preview tapes, special screenings, exclusive interviews… hmm… all activities traditionally reserved for the ‘press.’  And the point of these efforts?  To get the show featured on the ‘what to watch this week section’ of the newspaper, for Matt & Meredith to talk about the show on the Today show, to have pictures of the  show’s stars in the next issue of People magazine.  And while these (and other) traditional outlets are still very important in a show’s promotion, why not give loyal fans the same opportunity?

What do you think- can companies/brands ’employ’ these already loyal fans on social media sites as a new type of ‘street team? ‘

Explicity Implicit ‘Skins’

25 Jan

To borrow a quote from my favorite movie,

‘If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… [advertising] actually is all around’- Love Actually, 2003

And to rephrase that quote, ‘I’ve got a suspicion… that advertising actually is all around and sneaky.’ Yes, advertising is a sly, sly business- and all around us.  It’s easy to recognize explicit advertising/promotions- the TV commercial, the outdoor billboard, the print ad- that give consumers a clear call to action to buy a product/service.   But it’s a little harder to recognize  advertising/promotions that rely on implicit messaging- your favorite celebrity ‘candidly’ photographed wearing a popular brand of jeans or a Mac being used by the ‘cool kid’ in a movie- the advertising message is implied- buy these jeans and look like this celebrity, buy this computer and you’ll be cool- but not directly expressed.

In a previous post, I wrote that a purchase decision is a matter of need and want– which are personal and emotional decisions.  Advertisers are tasked with finding a way to tap into these personal/emotional purchase decision rationales, and to be a little cliche, it’s sometimes what they don’t say, but rather what they do that ‘sticks’ best with consumers.

Or to be even more cliche, it’s often the non-verbal (implicit) communication that speaks more loudly to consumers than verbal (explicit) communication.

Which begs a larger question- who is in the business of advertising and who is responsible for messaging sent to consumers?  Similar to the relative ease at recognizing explicit advertising, execs on Madison Avenue are clearly in the business of advertising- and responsible for the explicit advertising messages they send to consumers.  But who exactly is responsible for implicit advertising messages? Just Madison Avenue execs, or say, anyone who creates content and directs a message to a consumer?

Can a TV show’s content also be a form of advertising?

Just watch the promo for MTV’s new show Skins:

Hmm. This is a promo for a TV show (looking at the promo as a proxy for the show’s content)- no advertisers are sending explicit messages to minors to buy/partake in alcohol/drug use, but there’s a hellalot of implicit messaging from MTV going on in that 45 second clip.

Advertising really is all around… sneaky.

Take a look at the regulations regarding explicit alcohol advertising to minors:

‘Beverage alcohol products should not be advertised or marketed in any manner directed or primarily appealing to persons below the legal purchase age…Beverage alcohol advertising and marketing should be placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print, and internet/
digital communications only where at least 70 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be above the legal purchase age (determined by using reliable, up to-date audience composition data)…Beverage alcohol products should not be advertised or promoted by any person who is below the legal purchase age or who is made to appear to be below the legal purchase age. To help ensure that individuals in beverage alcohol advertising are and appear to be above the legal purchase age, models and actors employed should be a minimum of 25 years old, substantiated by proper identification and should reasonably appear to be 21 years of age and older.’

(from the Distilled Spirits Council Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing, 2009)

Although this promo for Skins is not an explicit ‘advertisement’ for alcohol consumption/sales, the promo [show] does implicity promote underage drinking and alcohol use.  Looking at the regulations pertaining to alcohol advertising, this promo alone (can you imagine the actual show?) breaks several regulations.

Should implicit advertising/content like this be held to the same standards as explicit advertising?

I certainly don’t have the (professional or end-all-to-be-all) answer to this question, but I will say that I personally think implicit advertising should be held to the same standards as explicit advertising.  I may be opening up a can of worms with my definition of ‘advertising’ and the notion that ‘advertising is all around,’ but I think as advertisers (in the traditional sense) adapt to changing consumer behaviors/consumer touchpoints with new advertising methods, we’re going to have to keep a close eye on standards and regulations.  And that goes for implicit advertisers too and other content creators– after all, we’re all in the business of personal branding.  You hold yourself to some sort of standard, right? Shouldn’t content creators/advertisers?

Your thoughts on explicit vs. implicit advertising?


10 Jan

*keep it simple and sincere.

(c’mon, did you really think I’d call you stupid- you are, after all, reading my blog!)

Simple question, hard answer: What makes advertising great?

I’m not even going to attempt to put a bucket answer on such a subjective question, but I will throw my two cents in as to what I think makes advertising great: a positive return, a change from pre-advertisement conditions. And that positive return can manifest as  an  increase in sales, an increased brand awareness, a positive shift in brand perception, etc. etc. etc.  (the return will be determined by the original intent of the advertising)

And the best way to get a positive return from advertising efforts?  I think it’s keeping things simple and sincere.

Simplicity- Bottom line, what does the consumer want/need? And how do we shape our message to best meet these needs?  I think if we work backwards– by really deconstructing and dissecting what consumers need, (thank you research) we can craft a message that is concise and simple.  The advertisement itself doesn’t need to be simple- it can still be bursting with creativity- but the message can’t get lost for the creative’s sake.

Sincerity- At the end of the day, we’re all consumers.  We know how we like to be talked to- so keeping that in mind, why don’t we, as advertisers, talk to our consumers as if we’re talking to ourselves- with sincerity.  Remember the golden rule we all learned in kindergarten- ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’- yep, that’s how I think we should approach advertising.  If you don’t like to be yelled at, don’t yell at your consumers.  If you don’t like to be mislead by false promises, don’t mislead your consumers.  If you don’t like to be treated like a unaware fool, don’t treat your consumers like unaware fools.   Sounds like a simple enough concept, but I think sometimes the glitz and glamour of what a product/service could be (and what we wish it was) gets in the way of what it actually is, and sincerity is lost on consumers.

Simplicity and sincerity- concepts that are easier said than done- but when executed, give us best fighting chance to reach/connect with our consumers and get that positive return.  And why easier said than done?  Because it takes work- finding out what the consumer really wants will take time and research.  It’s easier to create a flashy ad void of  real message than a meaningful ad that will truly connect with consumers.  Proof? How many bad advertisements have you seen lately?

A great example of simplicity and sincerity working together for a positive return: Domino’s Pizza recent campaign.  The message was simple- we know our pizza hasn’t been the best, but we’ve changed it now and it’s better.  The message was also sincere- we know our pizza wasn’t the best because we listened to our customers.  We’ve taken that feedback and changed our ingredients.

And the positive return? Well I think Domino’s probably reaped a few- namely, a positive shift in brand perception and an  increase in sales and revenue. (learned from attending the AdAge IDEA conference)  Domino’s started with what the consumer wanted/needed- a better pizza- and then crafted the message to best meet that need.  And then Domino’s was truly sincere about the campaign- facing their criticism head on and making necessary changes.

And another campaign (albeit sadly not real, just a case study) that shows the ‘magic’ you can create by keeping advertising simple and sincere:

(John St.‘s shortlist video for strategy‘s Agency of the Year)

Don’t you just want to K.I.S.S. now?

(and get a positive return from your advertising efforts)

Can you do the Cann Cann?

21 Dec

If you can’t read through the blur, the important part of this .png is:

Contest #2: From now through December 31, send a tweet with the hashtag #mccann2011 and describe what you think the most important trend in advertising will be in 2011.  The author of the most insightful #mccann2011 tweet will win lunch with Mark Fallows, McCann NY’s Director of Creative Technology, and Alessandra Lariu, McCann NY’s Digital Group Creative Director.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, (or lets be honest, the opportunity for a free lunch) I thought I’d put my thinking cap on and try to win this bad boy.

So here goes- my prediction for the most important trend in advertising in 2011:

Increased personalization, made possible by continued innovations in research- which are enabled by advances in technology.

The need for increased personalization:

TV/web/mobile/magazine/newspaper/iPad/email/billboard/subway steps/bus wrap/taxi video screen/coffee cup holder/umbrella/pen… if you’re scratching your head and saying, geez, she left out xyz advertising surface, then I’ve effectively made my point.  We’re barraged by hundreds, if not thousands, of advertisements every single day- and as the number of consumer touchpoints (read: advertising space opportunities) continue to increase, so does the clutter.   The increasing number of consumer touchpoints (and the resulting clutter) is making it, in turn, increasingly harder for advertisers to reach and connect with their target consumers.

And it seems as if in an effort to cut through the clutter, advertisers are only barraging consumers with more and more advertisements, creating more clutter and dare I say- losing sight of what consumers really want?  If consumers are constantly bombarded with [an increasing number of] advertisements, how do advertisers convince consumers to buy their products over their competitors’ products?

Enter the need for personalization (and for some critical thinking), stemming from this very simple question:  Why do consumers really buy a product? From a very basic/macro level  perspective, I think consumers buy products based on need or want, which are personal and emotional decisions. But how exactly does need or want manifest in a purchase decision?

Let’s think through an example: I need a pair of pants.  Why? Society (and law) dictate that covering your bottom half is the appropriate thing to do while in public places.   But then this need of a pair of pants could be questioned- why not need a dress or a skirt?  Because pants will keep me warmer during the winter.  Ok need covered, moving on to want– I want to fulfill my law abiding covering my bottom-half needs by buying a pair of jeans.  Why jeans over slacks/leggings/sweatpants?  Because jeans are more comfortable.  Or because they are more flattering.  Or because they are less expensive than other options.  Or because I can wear them at work and at play.  Or because, because, because… once again I hope you’re scratching your head and saying, geez, she hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of why a consumer would buy a pair of pants.  But once again, that’s the point— consumers buy products for a variety of personal and emotional reasons.  And advertising is about trying to figure out those personal, emotional reasons- and we’re not all a size 2 with a great derriere.  So advertising needs to think smarter and more personal, rather than thinking larger.

I think 2010 saw a breakthrough in general advertiser thinking- from thinking the larger the reach the greater the return, to thinking of smarter ways to reach the people who are most likely to buy their products.  I think this shift was greatly enabled by advances and innovations in research, (oh no, the awful word!) made possible by advances and innovations in technology.   In 2011, I think advertisers will increasingly embrace these changes in research and harness the power of technology to create more personalized advertisements for their target consumers.

Advances/Innovations in research and technology that have been enabling/and are going to continue to enable personalization in 2011:

1.  Social media– 2010 was a big year for social media.  According to eMarketer, 73% of companies with 100+ employees used social media in their marketing mix in 2010.   I think this percentage will increase to (at least) the high 80s in 2011, as advertisers realize the benefits of social media.  Short list of benefits: social media is relatively inexpensive for an advertiser and enables a 2 way conversation with consumers.  (see my full list here)  This 2 way conversation creates the opportunity for advertisers to interact with consumers in real time and to talk directly with consumers.  Read: allows for advertisers to get personal.  Ironic, isn’t it– this innovation in technology mimics a really ‘old’ form of advertising- the door-to-door salesman- that allowed for personalized pitches to consumers.

But consumers have changed the way in which they learn about products, and advertisers need to adapt the ways in which they reach out to and connect with consumers.   And this innovation in technology (that creates the opportunity for greater personalization) creates the opportunity for innovations in research. Social media creates a real time sounding board for advertisers- what do consumers really like about a product? Or really hate about a product?  What are they saying about competitors?  Advertisers can use this research (yes research- it’s data from a large, randomized sample, isn’t it?) to tweak their campaigns in other media- have consumers taken to facebook/twitter/myspace/blogs to say they love how your jeans really flatter their rear end?  And do traditional focus groups/web surveys substantiate this claim? (I think it’s best to use multiple sources for a more well-rounded understanding- so while I think social media is an innovation in research, I don’t think we need to discount any other forms of research either)  And does your current TV ad/print ad/radio ad, etc. advertise to consumers this rear-end enhancing benefit?  Whether the answer is yes or no, advertisers can use this research and tweak (not replace!) existing or future advertisements that take these findings into consideration.

Quick recap: Advances in technology (social media) enables advertisers to have a direct, real time conversation with their consumers (personalization).  This advance in technology also creates the opportunity for innovation in research methods- an unsourced, self populating focus group.

2. Hyper targeting- While hyper targeting isn’t new, technology is enabling new ways for advertisers to reach super niche audiences.  Hyper targeting allows advertisers to personalize their messages since the focus is on a much smaller audience.  And (eek!) like it or not, research and data collection are a large part of hyper targeting- using data to better direct your messages to a relevant audience.  And data collection through innovations in technology are affecting how advertisers can more effectively hyper target their audience.  For example, in television advertising, companies like TRA are ‘match[ing] household television ad exposures with the actual purchases of the products being advertised in that same household’ (via TRA) so advertisers can reach a more targeted audience.  How’s that for helping advertisers eliminate waste/reach viewers more likely to purchase their products– made possible by the innovation in research methods- connecting purchases to TV viewership.  And companies like Invidi are rolling out targeted TV ads by cross-referencing US census data and set top box data (Invidi).  Similar to how social media is redefining what ‘direct’ communication is, companies like Invidi are redefining the uses of US Census data- hey, that’s using the innovations in technology to advance research methods!

And on the Internet, data collection through tracking (think even as simple as Google Analytics) can give advertisers a better idea of what their consumer looks like- for example, what are other websites do their visitors go to- giving advertisers the opportunity to target consumers on these sites as well.  Or companies like Colligent, who aggregate data across social media networks to give advertisers a better idea of their consumers-  for example, fans of Levi jeans are most likely to be men ages 25-44, like to read ESPN, and spend the most time watching Border Wars. (read more about Colligent here)

Quick recap: Innovations in research, fueled by advances in technology, are giving advertisers a better idea of who their target consumer is- and not just who their customer is on the web or TV, but across multiple platforms.  These innovations in research and advances in technology are moving the idea of hyper targeting forward and allows for increased personalization.

3. Neuromarketing- ‘research [that] removes subjectivity and ambiguity by going right to measuring observable brain behavior. Respondent attention level, emotional engagement and memory storage are common metrics’ (from fastcompany).   Advances in technology have made neuromarketing possible- for example, Innerscope Research uses a chest strap to capture the biometric measurements, which neuroscientists then analyze to form an overall engagement score. (more about Innerscope here).  Neuromarketing gives advertisers data that shows what creative elements made viewers engage/disengage with the ad.  Advertisers can then take this data to create an advertisement that will better connect with their consumers on an emotional, personal level.  And if advertisers have defined a targeted, niche audience, they can use this data to create personalized messages that resonate on an emotional level- hmm, didn’t we talk about earlier how advertising and purchase decisions are really emotional decisions?

Quick recap:  Are you starting to notice a trend?  Once again, advances in technology have enabled innovations in research, which in turn, is helping advertisers personalize their messages for their target audience.

So there you have it- my prediction for the most important trend in advertising in 2011- Increased personalization: made possible by continued innovations in research, enabled by advances in technology.  Of course, social media, hyper targeting and neuroscience aren’t the only examples of how personalization will occur, but I think they are three great examples!

If you’re reading this and aren’t affiliated with McCann, that’s ok- like I said, I never turn down the opportunity for a free lunch- or for that matter, the chance for a great, creative discussion! 🙂



7 Dec

: a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. (thanks Twitter about us page!)

I have a bit of an odd relationship with technology.  On one hand, I’m quite the laggard.  Oh I’m geeked out by the latest and greatest, but I’ll never own the newest and greatest gadget (my current computer is going on it’s 5th year).  And on the other hand, I’m completely fascinated by technology, and couldn’t be a bigger tech-evangelist WHEN it comes to seeing how the intersection of the traditional/’old school’ and technology helps to move various industries forward.  (Recent examples I’m just blown away by: Art more readily available to everyone via the iPad, professors using twitter in classroom discussion to enhance the learning experience, and Animal Planet’s charity drive with donations directly linked to program viewership).  I guess you could say I’m not going to be impressed by technology just for technology’s sake– it’s gotta be cool and beneficial for me to be really interested.

Think of technology as cool vs. beneficial as a traditional cost/benefit analysis (remember, I’m a total research nerd).  And technology for technology’s sake just isn’t cut it in a cost/benefit analysis.   Sure, I’d love a new computer or iPad (or just a new powercord at this point), but I can’t justify the purchase.  Why?  The expense far outweighs the practical benefits.  The functions I need a computer for- Excel, Powerpoint, Internet Browsing- can all be done relatively well on my old clunker.  I just don’t need a better one.  Besides looking great and perhaps not catching on fire (true story, my current computer has caught on fire and is somehow still fully functional), the cost would far outweigh the practical benefits for me at this point in my life.  A new computer wouldn’t move me forward in any way other than ‘cool’ factor.  Of course, if I decide to become, say, a graphic designer, the cost/benefit ratio will change and I will need more functionality.  That shiny new computer and new technology capabilities changes from just being ‘cool’ to ‘cool’ and ‘beneficial’— the technology jackpot in my opinion.

So what technology is topping my list as ‘cool’ and ‘beneficial?’  TWITTER.  And in the larger scheme of things, SOCIAL MEDIA.

Why I think Twitter is ‘cool:’

1.  It’s Easy and Convenient. Say something in 140 characters? Done in the blink of an eye.  Create lists so I can follow all the headlines I want in one place? Done in an instant.  Want to tweet from your computer? Your phone? Your iPad? Shoot, you could even tweet from the bathroom! Twitter is just so easy to use, it’s hard not to be impressed.

2.  It’s Free. Yep, in the world of overpriced gadgets and gizmos, Twitter is 100% free.  Even if you don’t own a computer or a cell phone, there’s always a public library/work computer to use.  I have access to all this great information for absolutely nothing.

3.  It Allows for Tremendous Access and for Network Expansion. On what other platform can I communicate directly and as easily with a top marketing exec or with someone from a different country? And for free? And in real time? And here’s the shocker– the response rate is great and Twitter actually allows for a true two-way real time conversation.  There’s no way that I would meet even half of the people I follow in mere months if I was trying to track them down in person or by phone, email, etc.  And going back to the ease point– it’s easy for someone to shoot off a quick 140 character response.  It’s harder to find an extra 15 min in the day to talk to someone.

So there’s the ‘cool’ factor recapped.  But how can this ‘coolness’ benefit the advertising industry (personally I think Twitter has huge potential for almost every industry, but just for modeling purposes lets stick to advertising)?  Let’s wrap all the ‘coolness‘ factors together–Twitter is easy, convenient, free, and a ‘networking’ tool… hmm networking you say?

Why I think Twitter/social media can be beneficial to the advertising industry:

Networking is the key to why I think Twitter/social media is beneficial to the advertising industry.  Twitter’s networking capability is an example of how the intersection of the traditional (networking, ie people connecting with people) with technology (Internet) can move the advertising industry forward.  We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly busier/faster/more cluttered, which in turn is making it harder and harder for advertisers to really connect with consumers– and for consumers to feel like a part of the conversation.  But Twitter is a ‘cool‘ and ‘beneficial‘ technology that provides advertisers with an easy, convenient, and real time network to (re)connect with consumers–

–So why are advertisers so resistant to including Twitter and social media as a viable and valuable advertising tool?  Isn’t the idea of advertising to engage and connect with consumers?  Here’s a great platform that gives advertisers the opportunity to have a one-on-one, two way conversation with their consumers, coupled with the fact that Twitter is easy to use, convenient, and free.  And the ironic part of it all? Twitter (and modeled to social media) broken down to the basics, taken from the about us section of Twitter: a real-time information network that connects you (whether it be on the advertiser end or the consumer end) to [information/people/the world around you]. That’s actually a really old, traditional concept- people connecting with other people.  So really, the joke’s on the advertiser if they continue to resist the change- since Twitter and social media is just the intersection of the traditional with technology.  The benefits of Twitter/social media far outweigh the costs- why not??

Your thoughts- what else can advertisers do with the intersection of the traditional with technology?  What other technologies are ”cool’ and ‘beneficial’ that could move the advertising industry forward?

Update: This nerd just can’t get enough– an example of an advertiser that GETS IT: Gatorade –> ‘The company recently created the Gatorade Mission Control Center inside of its Chicago headquarters, a room that sits in the middle of the marketing department and could best be thought of as a war room for monitoring the brand in real-time across social media.’ (from mashable, full article here)

Let’s get digital, digital

1 Dec

(Best read to the tune of Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’)

The One Community recently named the 10 winners of ‘The Best of the Digital Decade: Digital Advertising that Defined an Era, 2000-2010′ and I am in AWE of the campaigns.  Let me repeat, in jaw dropping, let me wipe my chin off the floor, did they really just do that…AWE.

The winners:

1. SUBSERVIENT CHICKEN, 2004, for Burger King, by Crispin Porter & Bogusky

2. THE HIRE (aka BMW Films), 2001-2, for BMW, by Fallon Worldwide

3.  NIKE PLUS, 2006, for Nike, by R/GA

4. UNIQLOCK, 2007, for Uniqlo, by Projector

5. WHOPPER SACRIFICE, 2009, for Burger King, by Crispin Porter & Bogusky

6. CHALKBOT, 2009, for the Livestrong Foundation and Nike, by Wieden & Kennedy

7. DREAM KITCHENS, 2005, for Ikea, by Forsman & Bodenfors

8. ECO DRIVE, 2008, for Fiat, by AKQA

9. HBO VOYEUR, 2007, for HBO, by two agencies, the BBDO New York division of the Omnicon Group and Big Spaceship

10. DOVE EVOLUTION, 2006, for the Dove brand, by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

(videos and descriptions of the top 10 here)

If those 10 campaigns don’t impress you, I’m not quite sure what will.  The campaigns ooze creativity, innovation, uniqueness, and pizazz (excuse me if my breathless adoration of these campaigns affects my writing skills and use of adjectives).  And most importantly, these campaigns make me EXCITED.  Yes it’s nerdy but true, but they make me EXCITED about what great advertising can be (and that’s all advertising, not just digital advertising!) and EXCITED about what’s to come as technology and ideas continue to develop.  And hey, maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll just have a bright, shiny idea to add to the conversation!

Taking some deep breaths and calming down, I made a few observations about why I thought these campaigns were just brilliant:

1.  It’s not about ‘talking to’  consumers, it’s about talking ‘with’ consumers.  And it’s about giving the consumer more control than the advertiser. The campaigns engage consumers as if the consumer and advertiser were in a two-way, mutual, and friendly conversation.  The campaigns invite the consumer to build their own personal experience with the campaign, making the campaign engaging and relevant.

(ie, viewers tell the subservient chicken exactly what to do, those affected by cancer/supportive of the livestrong community are the ones controlling the tweets of the chalkbot, viewers control their sensory experiences with the HBO Voyeur campaign and IKEA kitchens…)

2.  It’s OK to take risks and break boundaries.  Controversy and backlash can be a good thing and can create buzz.  And it’s about being transparent so consumers can trust your brand. The campaigns made a splash because they were different- whether it be mainly to creativity that broke through the clutter, or honesty that made consumers do a doubletake, or backlash from a campaign that actually gained more impressions than the campaign itself.

(ie, Dove, a beauty products company exposing the industry’s way to create glamorous beauty photo shoots, Fiat widget allowing drivers to see exactly how their driving affects the environment, expanding the mission of the livestrong community/cancer awareness with personal sentiments on the world stage, IKEA giving consumers a 360 view of what their kitchens could look like, Burger King using Facebook for the opposite of Facebook’s purpose– by deleting friends for a Whopper…)

3.  It’s not about completely new technology/invention, it’s more about re purposing existing technology. The campaigns and the teams behind the campaigns were able to see the world through a different lens and incorporate existing technology/concepts with new technology to create the ‘wow’ factor in the campaigns.  Consumers need to be able to relate to the campaign, and if everything is new, that may be hard to get that connection.  Most of the campaigns didn’t reinvent the wheel, just took apart the wheel and re purposed it to better reach their consumers.   You have to understand where technology is now and what consumers want now in order to be able to create the successful ‘next best thing.’

(ie, Winning creative combos: Running+Music+network= Nike Plus; Chalk+Robot+network= Chalkbot; Friends+Fast Food+Facebook=Whopper Sacrifice; Music+Storyboard+network=HBO Voyeur; Chicken Suit+Fearless individual+webcam/network= Subservient Chicken)

4.  It’s about ideas being (seemingly) absolutely ridiculous… but actually not at all. All of the campaigns were probably laughed at when first introduced and dismissed as ludicrious, impossible, or insane.  But then some pushy creatives/teams got the head honchos to pay attention, and THEN.IT.WORKED.  Tradition was thrown to the wind and the companies allowed their ad campaigns to step out on a limb.  (probably with a little good market research first 🙂 )  You can’t be afraid to fail, you just have to take a deep breath and move forward.

(ie, Scenario One: ‘You want me to advertise Burger King by having some guy dress up in a chicken costume? How exactly does a chicken looking like a fool relate to selling Burger King?’ Scenario Two: ‘But I don’t understand- a robot that’s connected to a network? And how exactly do you plan to just go out there and write on roads- surely there’s a law against that.’ And Scenario Three: ‘We’re a beauty company.  Our products make people beautiful, and you want to expose what really happens at photo shoots… and that by using our products chances are you aren’t really going to look like that?’)

Innovation, engagement, a little bit of foolishness, and lots of creativity and determination- not a bad way to approach an ad campaign! (Or for that matter, life!) These are the type of campaigns that are moving the industry forward- and why a campaign like Subservient Chicken is still in the top 10 of the decade list even though it burst onto the scene in 2004.  The digital sphere is far more developed now (hello social media?) than it was in 2004, but advertisers still haven’t fully embraced the idea– it’s time to get digital! (digital)

Inspired by the ads and my learnings, I challenged myself to take the principles and think of the next great (digital) ad campaign.  And drumroll, please…

A campaign to raise money for public arts education.

The concept:

– Student art displayed and on sale in ‘galleries.’ Only these galleries aren’t in a museum or office building or school, they’re on the streets.  And the ‘galleries’ are white ‘canvases’ (actually screens) strategically placed around various cities, digitally showcasing students’ work.  The bottom of each screen reads like a typical PSA: ‘Donate to public arts education.  Buy this piece of artwork by texting xxx-xxx-xxxx and you’re helping ensure our children are getting a quality arts education.’ (ahem, not a copywriter but you get the point) The message is accompanied by a price tag for the art (nominal) and a phone number- the viewer just has to text the number to purchase the art (similar to texting campaigns for relief funds, billed right to your next cell phone bill.  And the artwork would be shipped to the address on the cell phone bill)

– The digital aspect: Students would create art in their classrooms and upload their work (through scanners, etc) to a central website.  The website would then digitally transmit the images to the various screens around the country, rotating them out once bought.

– Challenges: To work the program would probably have to be coupled with a major art event– free museum night in NY, a major art auction at Sothebys/Christies, outside of a huge art fair (Armory Show, Basel, etc)… and may only work in major cities with major arts outlets.  ‘Canvases’ would need to have some sort of electrical outlet since they are screens connected to a network, and there would have to be a traditional PR campaign so students would know to submit artwork.

Lots of challenges, but it’s- innovative, engaging, creative and a little foolish so it might just work!

Maybe my favorite deeplocal (creators of Chalkbot) can help me figure it out!

Blurring the Lines

24 Nov

Blurring the lines... TV alone seems static now (photo from FCC.gov)

Well done, FOX, well done.

From the article, “Fox to Use Hulu Inventory for Advertiser ‘Make-Goods'” in the November 23 issue of AdAge MediaWorks:

‘Fox has secured agreements with about a dozen advertisers to supply them with inventory from online-video site Hulu to make up for ratings shortfalls on its broadcast network, according to the News Corp. network’s top ad-sales executive. The move is the latest signal that marketers are growing more comfortable with the idea that consumers who watch TV via the web are comparable to a more traditional TV audience.’

(Read the entire article here)

Simply put, an impression is an impression and a viewer is a viewer.  I couldn’t agree more with FOX’s strategy of all of its available assets to meet an advertiser’s guaranteed delivery– except maybe to make it a part of the initial sell rather than as an option in a make-good situation.  Just think for a minute– how do you consume media? How many of us just watch TV? Or just use the Internet? Or just use our phones?  Or ‘just use‘ one media vehicle for that matter?  I’m going to make a wild assumption here (and please correct me if I’m wrong)– not many of us ‘just useone thing anymore to consume media.  Now it’s more of a question of what we’re not using to consume media.  Our ever increasing connectivity to media across an ever increasing number of platforms gives advertisers so many more ways in which to reach us– it almost seems foolish for an advertiser not to have simultaneous campaigns running across multiple platforms.  Why not reach your audience in every way they consume media?

As the article in AdAge pointed out, ‘The move is the latest signal that marketers are growing more comfortable with the idea that consumers who watch TV via the web are comparable to a more traditional TV audience.’  Thinking outside of just TV and web, should advertisers start thinking of ‘media’ buys rather than TV/digital/VOD/mobile buys?  If media consumption isn’t occurring in isolated silos (TV only, web only, etc), media buying shouldn’t be occurring in isolated silos.  Shouldn’t a media buy mirror consumption habits and take advantage of all the assets a company has to offer?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no expert in logistics/operations, but I’ve tried to think of a few benefits/obstacles/solutions for an advertiser to switch to a ‘media’ buy rather than siloed TV only/Web only, etc buys:

1.  If we were to buy TV and web together, that’s a lot more work for our creative teams since we’d have to create different ads. Not necessarily true- Nielsen data suggests that repurposed TV ads running on the web perform just as well or even better than original web ads, so there wouldn’t be a ‘need’ to create entirely new ads.  Nielsen data also suggests that an ad campaign running across TV and web simultaneously vs. TV only or web only (frequency held at a constant) actually sees an increase in engagement and purchase intent…. meaning the ads work together for the benefit of the advertiser.  Ah, synergy!

2.  What about mix?  How to factor in web/mobile/VOD impressions into the traditional mix seen in a TV only buy?  What about CPMs? Once again, I’m no expert, but you determine the mix an advertiser will receive (% of ads in prime, late, daytime, etc.) based on what it will take to get to the guaranteed impressions for the deal.  Here’s where research could come in handy- how many impressions does your website typically get in a 2 week period? A 4 week period? (repeat for other traditional flight times you use)  What about VOD/mobile or any other sellable assets your company has?  Based on research and historical estimates, planners could then build plans that have a mix across all platforms– say 60% TV mix (and within that, mix for dayparts), 20% online mix, 15% VOD mix, and 5% mobile.  We currently build estimates for TV impressions based on historical performance (thank research!), so why not extend the same philosophy to our other media platforms?  You’re not going to ‘just’ decide to give an advertiser a 20% web mix if you can’t deliver- just like you’re not going to promise an advertiser 1 million impressions if historical performance suggests you’ll deliver 500K.  But these other platforms do deliver impressions, and too often these impression are left on the table- why not monetize them?  And to further this point, and to point out the AdAge article again- ‘consumers who watch TV via the web are comparable to a more traditional TV audience.’  Bingo– an impression is an impression, whether it be on TV, web, phone, etc.   If you have the ad capability and they deliver impressions, why not take advantage?

Now to tackle the question of calculating a new CPM to encompass all the platforms for one integrated ‘media’ buy.  Once again, I’m no expert, but in my media math 101 book, CPM is simply ‘cost per thousand.’ So you have a thousand web, a thousand TV, and a thousand VOD viewers… and if it’s becoming clear (and will continue to do so with improved research), that audiences across platforms are more similar than not, can’t we apply the same math across all platforms? As in, this is the ‘x’ cost Advertiser ‘A’ to buy 1 million impressions across ‘Just Allie’ media (assuming I make it big and have more than just this little blog :))

3.  From the sales point of view- c’mon, there’s no incentive to sell web, mobile, or VOD.  Why would I focus on these smaller properties when I can get a lot more commission from my TV sell? Well, unlike now where the bigger deals (and bigger commissions) are for TV deals, new deals would just be ‘media’ deals.  A $1 million dollar deal across multiple platforms=$1 million dollar deal on just TV.  Last time I checked, $1 million dollar deal was a $1 million dollar deal (same as an impression is an impression and a viewer is a viewer).

Now I know it’s not that simple, but I like to look at life from the most basic point of view and then think of (and try to squash) any obstacles.  Here’s my basic breakdown, summarized even further:

Media companies (big or small) have multiple platforms in which to reach viewers.  Research shows that these consumers are increasingly consuming media across multiple platforms, not just TV.  TV alone doesn’t deliver impressions- ads on web, VOD, mobile, etc. also deliver impressions.  An impression is an impression and a viewer is a viewer. (Since when did 1+1 not equal 2?) Leverage all assets and monetize all possible impressions, not just the TV impressions– good for the advertiser (as noted earlier, Nielsen suggests a simultaneous multi-platform campaign increases engagement and purchase intent) and good for the media company (nothing left on the table).  If research shows you can reach that same desired consumer (remember hyper-targeting) across all platforms, why would an advertiser not want to hit its target across all possible platforms?

What do you think?

UPDATE: Whitepaper from Nielsen/YuME: Share-shift Analysis, TV + Online Video: The Best of Both Worlds, February 2011

Excerpt: ‘Online video ad spending increased by 40%1 in 2010 as an increasing number of advertisers embraced the medium. Even with explosive growth and mass-market penetration, online video still represents only a small percentage of marketers’ overall media mix. Media planning across different media continues to be a challenge; but if video buying is planned holistically, independently of the screen on which it appears, the results are significant and compelling. YuMe set out to demonstrate that reallocating 5%, 10%, or 15% of a TV buy to online video can not only improve reach, effective reach, and frequency, but can also lower the overall campaign CPM. YuMe’s Online Video Share-shift Analysis proves that online video campaigns complement TV campaigns, and that the combined effect is more than the sum of its parts.’

What I’ve Learned from ‘Dancing With the Stars…’

21 Nov

… And how I think it’s applicable to advertising.

Love her or hate her, Bristol Palin is a force to be reckoned with on Dancing With the Stars.  She’s managed to stay on the show while much better dancers have been sent home, and the tabloids/entertainment tv only seem to be able to talk about her and Jennifer Grey.  She’s become the ‘face’ of Dancing With the Stars.

Why? Don’t a lot of people hate her/her association with extreme tea-party politics/her family?

Yes, but for as many people who dislike her/her family’s politics, that many people also love her.  She’s a polarizing figure, and that polarization has created an extremely loyal fan base.   And the fan base, not the dancing, is the most important aspect to the show- because its the votes that will get you through to the next round.   The strongest evidence to this fact?  Brandy, arguably one of the best dancers on the show, was sent home last week.  Brandy may have been the better dancer, but there was no real reason to love or hate her- so no real reason to become emotionally connected to her and vote for her.

Lesson learned: Extremity and polarization aren’t necessarily bad things.  True, you may not please the masses, but the people you do please sure do love you. They’re emotionally connected to you or your brand and become your biggest advocates.   (Bristol’s voters)

How does this apply to advertising?  I think extremity in advertising is the future of advertising- focus messaging on the people most likely to buy your product, and forget about reaching the masses.   The traditional thought with advertising is that the more people you’re able to reach, the better.  But to reach this  wide audience, you often have to dilute your message so it appeals to the majority/doesn’t offend anyone… and you end up with some pretty ‘vanilla’ messaging.   And ‘vanilla’ messaging doesn’t really create brand advocates.

What if advertisers instead chose to hyper-target and go after the people most likely to purchase their product?  You’ll lose some reach, but then again, you’ll lose some waste, too.   Research is improving every day and we’re getting better and better at being able to define an exact target consumer- we have a pretty good idea of how old consumers are, what their income levels are, what their beliefs are, where they live, and even where they shop.  If advertisers took the time to really research their consumers and find out who their biggest fans were and the people most likely to buy the bulk of their product, they could laser focus their messaging on this ‘extreme’ niche audience rather than the ‘vanilla’ masses.

Sure, this could lead to a little controversy and polarization.  But controversy makes headlines and makes people talk- my thought is, if you’re not doing something unethical, morally reprehensible, or against the law, controversy isn’t a bad thing.  Going back to the Bristol Palin analogy– controversy and polarization has only equaled success for her so far and further grown her ‘star’ status.

So my thought is this- with the constantly increasing clutter in the marketplace, advertisers need to start focusing more on their loyal customer base rather than on the masses.  If sales of a product is a measure of advertising success, and if these loyal customers are the ones actually buying the product anyway (hello 80/20 rule), then sales shouldn’t be affected terribly by decreasing reach.  Another benefit of a loyal customer base- they’re also your brand advocates- and are more likely to tell their friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. how great your product is and why they should buy it, too.  And it’s word of mouth, not advertising, that is considered one of the most influential/important  sources of information for someone considering making any type of purchase.

Now just to reverse decades worth of traditional thinking…  perhaps start by tuning in to Dancing With the Stars tomorrow night to see if Bristol Palin can actually win without an ounce of talent.  I’m willing to bet her extremely loyal fans (or brand advocates) could pull her through to a win…

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