Saturday, December 26, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
“Optimization Algorithm”; too many companies used this term this year. Companies came out of the woodwork to help us “optimize” our campaigns with an automated solution on a special proprietary, mathematical formula that no-one else had, but not many were able to deliver on the promise they made. That’s not to say they won’t figure it out in 2010, but in 2009 this was an easily over-hyped, over-used term.
Another term that was tossed around and used to describe just about everything was “platform”. In 2009 everyone wanted to be a platform. No one wanted to a service and absolutely no one wanted to be a website. Being a website was soooo 2002. Being a platform was everyone’s desire, with sites like Facebook leading the charge and a nation of emulators following behind. In 2010 I hope that people will be comfortable with themselves and realize that if you’re a website, or a service, that it’s not so bad. You don’t have to be a platform to be considered a success!
Another overused buzzword in 2009 was “Data”. Now, data is not a buzzword in and of itself, but the overuse of the term made it so ubiquitous as to be annoying. Everyone had “new data” that would improve targeting or “new data” that would provide unique insights. The fact is that new data is only as useful as the old data is ineffective. What that means is that if you build a better mousetrap, but the old mousetrap that everyone uses is working fine, then nobody is going to buy the new mousetrap. In 2010 I’m certain that data will be of continued importance, but I hope that companies will take the time to determine exactly what to do with the data and shoot for impactful usage, not iterative, incremental improvements. Use the data for better ad delivery as well as targeting based on recency, not just to give us deeper demographic information.
“Apps” were all the rage in 2009, and they look to be even more so in 2010, but as Apps continue to play a role, the cream will rise to the top. The challenge has been made and the gauntlet has been thrown and the development of apps is getting better. No more stick figures fighting; its high resolution, detailed graphics. It’s about useful apps, no more expensive red blinking lights.
The term “recession” was thrown around in 2009 as a reason for everyone’s unhappiness, but that is a term that I won’t allow in 2010. The term “recovery” is going to get overused as well, but the fact is that we drive our own success. Our efforts in this business as well as in others is what drives the growth of the economy and the more effort we put in and the more jobs we create, the better things are going to get. There may be 10% unemployment because a number of jobs have been cut over the last 18 months, but our industry is a place where those jobs can be re-created and its up to us to make it happen.
In 2010 I want the buzzwords to be related to positive steps in our business. I want the buzzwords to be “increased shareholder value” and “competitive job environment”. I want to see 2010 begin the decade as the decade of growth, but managed growth this time (no bubbles). I think it can happen, and all because of people like you.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
At first pass this sounds like a really simple question and you’d expect the answer to be just as simple, but it’s not. Back during Web 1.0 this was an obvious problem because the Internet hadn’t yet reached the mass audience penetration. Back then you would be hitting the 30-40% of the audience that was online and you’d be hitting them with lots of frequency and with under-developed creative executions. No matter what you bought; Excite, Webcrawler, Netscape, Yahoo or Pathfinder, you’d be hitting the same “smallish” group of users.
Around 2000-2001, otherwise recognized as the birth period of Web 2.0, audience penetration started to become a non-factor as it inched closer to 70% of the US (even more in some other countries), but the medium was still maturing and the percentage of heavy internet users was small and they would typically garner the majority of the attention against your online campaigns. You could buy the homepage of Yahoo and reach a large audience, but it would be the same audience every couple of days.
Now at the close of 2009, and as we enter into a new decade and the birth of Web 3.0, this question becomes interesting again. The mass audience is here. The creative units are impactful. The integration of video and the mass adoption of social media make for an attractive mix of possibilities for advertisers and I don’t really think you can say that a brand could spend too much online. There are single placements that will drive large reach in a short period of time, rivaling and exceeding that of any prime time television show. There are more ways to target an audience and reduce waste than there are with any other medium. There are more unique, targeted content opportunities and the creative impact is far higher than anything in the past. You can create customized solutions with short-term runs or you can go deep with a partner and create content that will live the length of the year, and possibly beyond. Most consumers go to the web for information that will influence purchase decisions (a recent stat said that 74% of US consumers go to the web for information on buying electronics). Social media brings true brand evangelism to the forefront and gets as close to true word of mouth marketing as one vehicle can possibly achieve. And the scope of possibilities in search alone will bankrupt some ad budgets just trying to maintain proper position for a 100% share of voice. Put simply, no brand is having trouble spending their budgets online.
No; this question is a no-brainer now. The Internet can take the budget and be very effective, but what is difficult to grasp is just how much work it would be to spend that money correctly.
Spending $10MM online requires more time and attention than it does to spend $10MM in television. You can spend that much in TV with 4 people, but online it will likely take 10-12 people, and that is the lesson we’ve learned over the last few years. Spending the money means being accountable and being accountable takes time and attention, unlike in TV when spending the money just requires a phone call. TV is not an accountable medium, and the old adage of “I know half of my advertising is working, I just don’t know which half” is where that comes from.
If you spend $10MM online you will know exactly what was working and what wasn’t, but for my money that’s a good thing. If I were going to spend $10MM on paid advertising, I would certainly want to know it worked, wouldn’t you?
So to answer the question; no-one gets accused of spending too much in online these days, but they get accused of under-valuing the execution and the analysis of these efforts, and that could be their downfall.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
At first pass these Demand Side Networks seem like a good idea; they allow for the agency to retain more control over the inventory their clients are purchasing and therefore steward their brands in an environment that can be risky at the very least. This is a strategic reason and one that I believe in whole-heartedly. Being something of an agency purist, I believe that strategy is what should drive the relationship between client and agency, not technology.
Unfortunately, many agencies are developing these solutions for revenue reasons. Many media buying shops have identified the volume of dollars they spend with the ad networks and have theorized that if they create the same solution, using existing ad exchange technology, that they can avoid passing these dollars along. In doing so they are gambling with their client’s dollars. Most of the ad networks, at least the reputable ones, have spent millions of dollars refining their algorithms and developing technology that makes their solutions work. In many cases they will happily open the kimono, so to speak, and share the breadth of this technology with you to prove a point; that this is simply not easy. The first dirty little secret on most of the demand side networks is that they are staffed by 2-3 employees working some spreadsheets and balancing loads to optimize inventory for their clients. This methodology simply can’t rival that of the investment in the scaled solutions offered in the marketplace. Trust me; I tried it and it simply doesn’t work that well.
The second little dirty secret is that many of the agencies building these solutions are including them on all their clients’ media buys and getting paid on both sides. When an agency buys media, they typically charge a media commission between 5-15% and many agencies are applying that commission to the media they buy on their own demand side network. This would be ok if it wasn’t for the fact that they are also making money on the arbitrage buying on the other end, which is the way these networks make their money in the first place. As an example, that means the agency can buy the inventory at $0.50, sell it to their client at $1.00 and keep the difference of $0.50. This would also be ok if they’re not charging commission on the media buy, thereby double dipping. If I were a media-buying client, I would demand in my contract that my agency not charge commission on any media run through their demand side solution. If they can achieve my objectives and make money through the arbitrage, that would be acceptable, but the client’s needs come first and that should be the driving decision for using that platform, not agency revenue desires.
And of course, what goes without saying is these advertising buys on the demand side networks should be held to the same if not higher, goals than the rest of the media buys. It’s arguable that they should be held to a higher metric since the agency does indeed have a stake and does have stronger control of the inventory.
So if your agency is creating and spending your money on a demand side network, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions and understand what their goals are with the platform. Ask to meet the team working on that solution and understand the technology behind the solution, but also understand that the solution is no different than the rest of the marketplace. There are other solutions that can work for you.
There is no silver bullet in online advertising and beyond search there are few scalable solutions that can rival ad networks and their targeting capabilities, so don’t overlook them. Just be sure to ask the right questions before you spending your dollars with any solution that presents itself.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Have you developed your core WTF strategy?
Your WTF strategy refers to “Website, Twitter Facebook” (what did you think I was talking about). These three components are the new hub for customer and audience interaction.
As an individual, who writes a lot about our business, I have to manage my website, my Twitter feed and my Facebook page proactively to ensure that I am distributing my messages properly. As a brand you have to manage the same components but with different objectives in place. For me as an individual, it’s a means of encouraging people to follow me so that I can amass a larger audience of readers for my Mediapost column (ten years and running now). For a brand it’s about creating a web of customer interaction that results in driving trial, sales or simply driving traffic to your site. For a publisher it’s a means of tapping into that wider audience whom you can monetize across multiple platforms, even expanding into print and other media.
The WTF strategy is a proactive plan for managing your outreach and managing your interaction with your target audience in multiple locations. It used to be that your website was the core of your target interaction, but that is no longer the case as we expand the role that social media plays and continue down the path towards a more distributed architecture for the web. These days you can choose to follow a brand via email registrations, but if you only offer email then you miss a number of opportunities. Brands expand into social media routinely, but in many cases they forget to tie all of these components together and create a unified editorial strategy. If you tackle this from an unorganized point of view, then you create inefficiencies and you create situations where you open yourself up to make mistakes.
Of course some people will look at this idea as elementary, but that’s the exact reason it gets overlooked daily. I can name on two hands the number of brands that are doing a good job of translating messaging across all of their consumer platforms; online and offline and within online, from their website to their social media presence and beyond. The problem is that feeling of ownership. The website can be moderated much more easily than a Facebook page and a Twitter feed can be shared and spread virally much easier than either of the previously mentioned components. Once items can be shared and commented on, brand managers lose faith. They lose faith in the very consumers that are engaging with the product, which if you break it down is actually a very sad statement. By losing faith you are basically saying that your consumers are smart enough to buy your product, but you don’t believe they are going to like it and speak positively about it.
It’s that final statement that creates the irony of the WTF strategy. If you are proactive and you create a strategy that allows you to make proper use of your Website, Twitter and Facebook then you should be able to stay on top of and manage the kinds of situations that might actually make you scream “WTF”.
Proactive strategy development is what most brands are lacking, especially in the area of social engagement. It’s too easy to look somewhere else and focus your attention on other aspects of your day then it is to tackle something entirely new. It’s analogous to the ostrich that sticks their head in the sand whenever it gets scared. The ostrich does not exactly represent the highest end of the evolutionary food chain and neither do you when you act that way.
Don’t be afraid to sit down and tackle an area that you may not be comfortable with. I think when you get down to the brass tacks of the issue you’ll see that the underlying strategy is no different than the rest of your media strategy. The tactics might require some expertise, but the strategy is going to feel far more familiar than you think.
Besides, wouldn’t you rather proactively create a WTF strategy than have to deal with the CYA of not having thought about it in advance? I would.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
What was most interesting in the article, and what I wanted to call out, was his observation that in today’s fast paced world, it is even more important for marketers to think quickly, develop ideas rapidly and implement them in an efficient, effective and economic manner so they may read the results and optimize quickly.
I couldn’t agree more with this fact.
The problem with the agency model in today’s world is that far too many agencies suffer from decades of process and it’s created process paralysis. Most agencies are unable to act quickly and shift their strategy on a dime because they have to review it in meetings and debate the merits of the shift before they ever bring these ideas to the clients. To be honest, too many agencies are muddled in self-doubt from years of being second-guessed and having their ideas shot down. Too many agencies are unwilling to go forward on a hunch, even if that hunch is based on years of experience and a rationale set of observations.
Of course the agencies are not completely to blame because the clients have almost as much at fault. Most marketers are representing public companies and companies who answer to shareholders and we’ve created a culture where mistakes are not tolerated. This is easily reflected in the average length of a CMO’s job being about 18 months; how can you effect change in 18 months and not make a mistake or two? What success can you truly see when you have no tolerance for risk and your ideas are diluted half-versions of how they were originally developed? How can you trust the hunch of your agency partners when you are not empowered to take any risk?
The agency model is going to evolve, and in many cases is already evolving, to become more nimble, more confident, and more fluidly structured around their clients business. We’re seeing it happen daily and more agencies are starting to follow suit. The best agencies are the ones where the ego is checked at the door and the objectives of the team are in lock-step with the objectives of the client. When process is reduced to the bare basics to get strong work out the door and profitability is a secondary concern to the client’s needs. Any smart business person will tell you that if you align with the client’s needs first and you achieve them, profitability will come as well. With good work comes good rewards!
But before I go too far down the rat-hole of complaining about agencies, let’s get back to the original message that Mr. Matthews was conveying which resonated with me; that everything is moving faster. Decisions need to be made faster. Ideas need to be vetted faster. Clients and agencies need to be sharing their thinking faster and the ideas that are launched need to be evaluated faster. The speed of the process behind the development of these campaigns must be faster because the world around them is faster as well. Marketing is a consumer-centric discipline, and consumers are moving at the speed of light compared to most agencies.
I agree that marketers and agencies are just as smart as they were in the past and I would probably even concede that they are potentially smarter, what with all the data they have at their fingertips, but the process for putting that intelligence into action is woefully outdated and I applaud people like Mr. Matthews for calling it out. If more agency people would awaken to this realization I think we would indeed witness the rebirth and renaissance of the agency model.
Don’t you agree?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This is the time of year when one tends to look inwards; to understand how they performed in the previous twelve months and determine their course of action for attacking the coming twelve and achieving success. This past year was a rough one, to say the least, but it was also an amazingly fulfilling one. On a personal level I got married and had a son; two of the most fulfilling experiences that anyone can ever have. On a professional level our business has continued to grow in the face of adversity while the world around me has witnessed one of the most difficult economic periods of the last 80+ years. I have friends who are out of work and I have colleagues who are fighting hard to make ends meet. I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of different kinds of businesses and I’ve decided that making predictions in a climate which is so tenuous and conservative could be a futile effort.
That being said, I have one sole prediction to make.
The coming year will continue to be a conservative one; with many companies focusing attention on what they do best, what works well for them, and trying to prove it. This brings me to the one single prediction I will make, which comes a result of introspection and years of experience in digital marketing. This year I predict that someone will finally bring a product to market that can prove the effect of online marketing on CPG purchases (awareness, consideration and intent) by measuring customer and/or shopper card data, leading to a renewed renaissance in online advertising that will bring it to the top position of paid advertising within 8 years (ahead of television).
There are a number of companies that are doing wonderful things with data; tracking shopper card data, taking social media data, tying into credit card data and purchase behavior from other outside resources. Some companies can tell you if the online ads you ran drove incremental sales against new customers or drove incremental sales frequency among existing customers, but only against a limited set of customers and placements. All of these efforts are getting us closer to the holy grail of understanding the effects (in real time) of online exposure to actual sales and applying these across the digital media mix. Many of these companies are focused on banner and display advertising, but once these methodologies are worked out, they could and should be applied to social media, mobile, search and video efforts. The methodology is there; track exposure and interaction through anonymous cookie data and match it to loyalty cards, shopper card and Nielsen Homescan data on a non-personally identifiable basis to create a viable data set that proves the correlation between exposure and sales. These are typically on a finite, niche level right now, but I feel and sense that someone in 2010 will bring to market a viable, scalable solution for this across the industry. Of course this assumption is based on the current environment of government regulation, but if the government moves ahead with regulating online advertising then all of these companies get thrown right out the window and my prediction goes to the wolves.
The silver bullet will be for a data solution to tell me what affect my digital media mix had on sales by tracking post-purchase data. If you, as a partner, can tell me with a 95% confidence level what impact I had on sales, you will get my budget. If you can tell me, isolating offline and online activity, what lift my online dollars drove, you will be in the driver’s seat and you will get the lion’s share of my budget.
Many people are promising this data and there’s a race to finish line that is clearly in site, but I feel like 2010 will be the year because in the last 3 months I’ve met with a number of companies, many of which are eerily close to the solution, with eyes on the final outcome.
Data is the name of the game, and using that data from an analytics perspective is the first place to look, and optimization is the second place. That is my prediction, because if this prediction comes true, then all other media will be playing catch-up. If this prediction comes true then dollars will flow into online from other media, at least until we achieve the proper media mix to work with.
I know that each of you will have different predictions, but what do you think about this one? Do you agree or do you think I’m nuts? Let me know – comment in the Spin Board and share with me what you think!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
This week’s issue of the Digital Influentials newsletter finds me pining for the 80’s; when life was simpler and the Internet didn’t even exist. Those were the days when the phrase “kilroy was here” meant something and “love is a battlefield” ruled the airwaves! It could be that way once again, if you “don’t stop believin’” in the “power of love” (ok, ok – stop me if this is getting too cheesy). So with that, I deliver this week’s newsletter; and please know that (everything I do), I do it for you, the readers ;-)
Let’s “rock this town” kids!
If you’re looking to say something, but would rather “save it for later”, then check out TWEETLATER (http://www.socialoomph.com/). Tweetlater comes to us from Mark Silva, who is also a fan of the 80’s (we hope). TweetLater allows you to schedule tweets for a later date, like when you’re on vacation or when you know you won’t be available and you don’t want to leave your faithful hanging! Twittering can be a full time job, but at least this way you can get ahead of the curve a bit.
If you think “we got the beat” on that one, then just wait till you hear about AARDVARK (http://vark.com/). Aardvark is an IM crowd sourcing tool for getting the answer to just about any question. Do you want to know who played the Reverend in “footloose”? Ask away. Ever wanted to know how to avoid the noid? Just ask! The answers come to you via email, and you can sign up to answer questions that come to you via IM. It’s a unique little service and one that could certainly gain some traction cross-platform.
Looking to get away? Maybe take a “holiday”? Then check out SKY AUCTION (http://www.skyauction.com/) for more deals than you know what to do with. It’s another auction site for travel, which is certainly not a new idea, but the volume of opportunities is quite impressive. It makes you want to “walk like an Egyptian”, in a manner of speaking!
“Rock me Amadeus” (sorry, that just slipped out from nowhere).
From the world of the iPhone, check out GALAGA REMIX for some time wastin’ fun or dive head first into AWESOME 80’s PRO to relive those days of yore when you got your first Trapper Keeper. And for some humor, check out the YO MAMA joke app. It could be hours of fu… or not.
So with that I will bid a fond adieu, but “don’t you (forget about me)” when you find that new site or service of interest! Send it in to us so we can let other people know all about it! That is the kind of user interaction that reminds me of “what I like about you”.
Have a great one!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
How's that for the argument that TV is a better reach vehicle than the Internet.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The agency model is definitely getting hit hard. Let’s face it (and I’m not the first person to say it), it’s broken. The situation described above is a symptom of the problem, not a rationale for it. One primary component of the problem is that agencies can and do offer significant value, but very few clients are willing to actually pay for it. Most clients subscribe to the theory that they should be serviced “good, fast and cheap” but most agencies tell them to “pick two, you can’t have all three”. Many clients want to be innovative, but they rarely want to be the first brand to test something. Everyone wants innovation, but then they want a case study for how that innovative solution will help them drive their business. What’s funny is that if it is truly innovative, very few people have done it and I can be pretty sure there is no published case study on it.
Of course, the clients are not all to blame on this. The agencies tend to over-promise, under-deliver and are not staffed according to the level of intelligent work they profess to offer. There are some exceptions to the rule, but in creative shops as well as in media shops you find there are a finite number of the “brilliant” characters who are driving the lion’s share of the strategic work. These are the road-warriors; the people on a first name basis with the counter people at the customer service desk at the airport. These are the people who leave their bags and a change of clothes with the bell desk at their favorite hotels, knowing full well they’ll be back in a week. These are the folks that drive the majority of the strategic vision for agencies and these people are highly stressed, overworked and probably a little malnourished. These people are the “A-team” that pitches your business, but the agencies have them on the road so much that they can rarely find the time to sit still and add intelligent thought to the companies they’ve pitched and won. What’s more, the majority of the client budgets get pushed to tactical execution rather than to covering the time of these people, so the clients don’t get what they were looking for. This is the agency-side quandary and this is something we need to fix.
In the old days an agency relationship with a brand lasted a very long time. In many cases the brand and their agency partners worked together for so long that they saw each other’s kids go off to college. They had a relationship that ran deeper than 40+ hours a week and they knew each other on a personal level. They were committed to one another and they offered each other the chance to make mistakes, knowing full well that mistakes were acceptable because you have to “break a few eggs to make an omelet”. It was that sense of empowerment that helped create a mutually beneficial relationship. In today’s environment the agency/brand relationship is fickle and all too often it sits on the shoulders of people who are under-trained, overworked and unable to handle the level of strategic vision that is required to make the relationship work. They are not trained to do the kind of work necessary and the model is devolving so training is getting thrown right out the window. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!
So what do we do about it?
Maybe it’s a Jerry Maguire moment here; fewer clients and deeper relationships. Maybe its unbundling; working with best of breed shops to take advantage of the commodization of media buying and creative execution. Maybe it’s focusing your strongest talent on your strongest clients? Maybe it’s all three.
Yes – I think it’s all three.
For the agency of the future to continue to grow and excel they need focus and for the agency of the future to work the clients need to be committed and they need to empower their partners. The partners need to be encouraged to take calculated risks and they need to have the freedom to make a mistake. You can’t win without taking a shot, and sometimes when you take a shot you can miss, but you have to be empowered to take that risk. On the agency side of the coin, they need to focus the right people on the businesses where they were promised and put out their best work, not the work that enables them to get by.
Your partners work hard on the work they deliver to you and they deserve attention and more than five minutes of feedback. The clients need to default to best intentions and work with their partners as partners, not as vendors. The agency needs to staff right and it needs to put the caliber of people on business that it deserves. An agency should be strategic and provide what’s best for the client first, even if it means less revenue in the short term, but a happier, longer lasting relationship with the client for the long haul. A client should ask their agency if they are the most important client for that shop. If the shop is big, then they should ask their account team, “Am I your most important client”? The answer should be yes and it shouldn’t be rhetoric. I know that every client I work on is important to me; it’s my reputation on the line and it’s my intelligence that is being applied to the business. If I don’t take the work seriously, who will?
These may sound obvious and even a bit idealistic, but isn’t that why you got into this business in the first place? Didn’t you get into advertising and marketing to be creative, to solve problems and impact brands that you see every day? I know I did – and I have hunch you did too.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Welcome to the feel-good issue of the Digital Influentials newsletter!
This time around we decided to focus our attention on the altruistic side of our nature and find some of the best, most upbeat, digital ways to save the world! You may or may not be surprised just how easy it is to save the world using digital media. If you go to Google and type in “save the world” there are more than 229,000,000 results. Conversely, if you go to Google and type in “how to ruin your day” there are only 7,960,000 results. Based on this simple qualitative survey, I think things are looking pretty good!
First, let’s get started with WORLD OF GOOD (http://worldofgood.ebay.com/), as delivered to you by eBay. If you use World of Good to shop for products they will guarantee that you find the most eco-friendly, ethically sourced items and thereby drive positive global trade. No tariffs or taxes; just people creating things for other people. My favorite item thus far is the solar-powered flashlight. The idea is great; use the sun to charge the batteries and your flashlight will run all night.
If you tend to take a more dramatic approach to saving the world, then join up with the CARROTMOB (http://carrotmob.org/). The mission is simple; they organize groups of consumers to support environmentally-friendly companies and businesses. On a local level, this can drive a business to success and is a more positive tactic than a boycott. Boycotts by their nature are dismal; they punish bad habits rather than reward positive thinking. It’s the power of positive thinking in action!
If you have a few minutes and you’re considering volunteering, check out EXTRAORDINARIES (http://www.beextra.org/) as a place to start! They are a platform for creating and managing micro-volunteer opportunities. Maybe you have 10 minutes in your day, and maybe you have 2 hours. No matter what you have, they can connect you with worthwhile opportunities from tagging pictures to building web pages or doing research. These are things you can do from home and they have an impact on the world. Its not every day that you can find such an easy to use platform, so definitely check them out!
If you want to raise money and donate it to a worthwhile cause, then try using CREATE A FUND (http://www.createafund.com/index.php?route=home). They seem to have created and offer a simple way to crowd-fund an idea or an organization. Individuals can donate $25 or more and the aggregate can really be quite large! The masses have the money, so let them put it to good use!
And in the same positive vein as pay-it-forward comes KINDED (http://www.kinded.com/). Kinded provides a simple way to create a card and practice random acts of kindness for the people around you. When you perform the random act of kindness, hand that person the card and its their turn to map it and pass along the kindness. The cynical among us will probably not trust these random acts, but maybe it can work. When you’re feeling down, you tend to act negative but a random act of kindness can change your whole day!
On the iPhone platform, because saving the world is not a stationary action, you should check out the GO GREEN app for helpful ways to save the planet and iRECYCLE to find local recycling centers near you. And even though I know it’s not really “green”, check out the GREEN SCREEN STUDIO app to edit your pics and drop them into new and familiar settings!
That’s it for this edition – now go out and save the world!!
Monday, October 19, 2009
RESTON, VA, August 17, 2009 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, in partnership with dunnhumbyUSA, an international leader in building sales and brand value for consumer goods and retail companies, today released the results of an early series of studies it has conducted into the effectiveness of online advertising in building retail sales of consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, revealing that the Internet can be as effective an advertising medium as television advertising. Over the course of twelve weeks, online ad campaigns with an average reach of 40 percent of their target segment successfully grew retail sales of the advertised brands by an average of 9 percent. This compares to an average lift of 8 percent for TV advertising as measured by Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) and published in their seminal research paper “How Advertising Works.”
Thursday, October 15, 2009
If you read the news you can become very confused about state of the economy.
According to some sources, things are looking up (see the stock market) and according to just as many others, things don’t look too good (see the impending wave of mortgage resets in real estate). Who do we trust and whose opinions do we value? If you ask me, you need to avoid the big picture and look at the smaller picture. Though we do live in a global economy, I think the world is fast becoming an environment of micro-economies that may depend on one another. That being said, we do also retain some independence and what concerns me most is where advertising and marketing are headed.
For insight into the world of advertising and marketing, we can take two paths. First we can examine the categories of spend, like TV, Print and Digital. The second path is to look at the areas where these businesses have thrived in the past and where the growth is expected to come, namely New York and San Francisco.
If you check in with the New York folks, things aren’t looking too good (though that could be due to an innate pessimism that grips almost all New Yorkers like the blustery wind of winter as it whips around the east side). TV suffered a little in this year’s up-fronts, but the scatter market seems to be doing very well. Magazines and Newspapers continue to slide with companies like Conde Nast announcing cuts (though they’re in very little threat of going under as a medium and a retraction was always inevitable). The Digital industry is continuing to grow, but not at the clip of previous years, which was also inevitable because the pace would have out-passed the potential audience. What’s also interesting is that if you speak to the marketers with budgets, they are unanimously spending more time looking at ways to reach consumers without relying on “traditional” digital paid placements like search and display. They are looking into owned media and earned media; things like micro-sites and social media presence that extend the brand without a required payment to some third-party for targeted exposure. These marketers seem to understand that while budgets may have been cut, the opportunity still exists to speak with your target and if you can maintain that conversation, then your money will be spent even more efficiently on the paid side of the fence.
This deep dive into the micro-climate can be evidenced by the opinions and insights gained from speaking to people in San Francisco even more than any other city. The San Francisco ad market collapsed when the bubble burst and it never fully recovered. For years agencies have been shutting down and losing clients to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and the Bay Area has reverted back to a creative and technology-oriented community. It’s become a community that praises innovation and impact over big dollar budgets and mass marketing ideas. VC’s are indeed funding innovation and companies here tend to look for the brighter side (maybe it’s the California sunshine or the proximity to all that year-round outdoor activity that increases oxygen levels and feeds intelligent optimism).
The digital marketing business continues to innovate all the time, and with this innovation is coming a shift from being dependent on advertising as a monetization model. This is a concept that Madison Avenue doesn’t like to hear, but if you look at challenger brands through history you will see that they took an existing model and attempted to make it better. The web has always been about free content for the consumer as well as a means of fostering interaction between people and that seems to be the stake that many companies are driving deeper into the ground. The idea that advertising cannot fuel the growth any further and that we need to challenge the existing ways of thinking. From the perspective of a traditional marketer, that challenge is being made by asking the simple question, “Is this working”.
So what does all this mean and why am I writing about it? My point is that change is good and change may be what we need to feed the economy. Change is driven by innovation and the digital media business has continued to grow because of innovation. Advertising and marketing in general are examples of a business that is stalling because it has either pushed back on or not embraced change. The digital marketing business is a micro-climate underneath that overall umbrella that bucks the trend and has proven successful. As a case study, I can see the value, can’t you?
What will be a strong indicator of the future and what will drive the recovery is innovation and the willingness to accept new ways of thinking while we abandon the crutches of previous years (with crutch number one being the idea that all advertising revolves around TV). Companies that make up the market need to focus on innovation. Real estate needs to find ways to innovate. Innovation is what drives optimism; new ways to solve old challenges.
San Francisco has been a great example of this for many years, and hopefully the rest of the country can learn from this. If so, then the general California optimism could infect the rest of the world and success will be inevitable!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The truest words ever spoken on film come from Lester Bangs’ character in Almost Famous;
‘The only true currency in this bankrupt world... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.”
I was intimidated by the “cool kids” when I was growing up until I learned to accept myself and grow into my own skin. It took some time though. They would be dressed in whatever-they-were-wearing at the time and I would feel slightly off. They would be doing whatever-they-did-at-the-time and I would be playing Dungeons and Dragons at the library with friends; but I was ok with that. I’m here to profess publicly that I’m just not cool! I know; this may come as a surprise to some, but I am actually somewhat of a dork. J
Of course now that I’m older, it’s cool not to be cool. It’s actually become cool to be a dork (at least that’s what I keep telling myself). You don’t have to be popular with millions of friends on Facebook in order to know what’s going on in the world. You don’t need to be the Mayor of Four Square to know what everyone is doing on the web! No need for a social network of thousands of people when I have technology to tell me what’s cool and what’s popular!
One way to find out what’s popular on the web is to check out the hotlist supplied by one of my clients (full disclosure), WOWD (http://www.wowd.com/wowd-beta.jsp). Wowd is a tool for searching and sorting the web based on popularity and/or freshness and all personal objectivity aside, I’m really excited about this one. It requires a small download and is actually in private beta right now, but if you use the following link, you can get in (courtesy of me) with a special key; http://www.wowd.com/?key=jb08a7tqgz5y0u.
Another way to know “what’s hot” on the web is to check out where you went or where your friends went with BACKFLIP (http://www.backflip.com). BackFlip is a service that creates your own personal web history and directory, much like a My Yahoo or an iGoogle, as well as share pages with friends and search your own pages with your own customized search engine. For those of us who tend to forget where we were, BackFlip provides a handy little service. Just drag a page into your BackFlip and it’s yours forever!
Maybe they can’t tell you what’s hot or what’s cool, but they can sure keep you organized over at EVERNOTE (http://www.evernote.com/). I tend to be very forgetful, but the Evernote tagline is “Remember Everything”, so I was instantly drawn to them. They provide a tool that allows you to take snapshots of business cards, images and links to whatever you find “cool” and take notes, grab web pages and create clipping files for articles, all online! It’s your very own personal organizer, all wrapped into the web. Now that’s cool!
If you’re looking to discover what’s hot, check out LUNCH.COM (http://www.lunch.com/) and peruse the Similarity Network they’ve created. Just by filling out a few boxes and some basic questions about what you like, they hook you up with people of a like-mind and then you can discover what those people are into! It’s simple and easy and worth a couple of your minutes.
And for one more place to go and share or discover what’s hot or cool in your world, check out HOME-TWEET-HOME (http://www.hometweethome.com/home.asp). Using the wall you can get a quick snapshot of what others are doing on such popular sites as Twitter, Google Trends, and more. It’s a very unique interface that keeps rolling and rolling along. Check out what they can show you and customize it to your own personal needs.
In the world of the iPhone apps, check out DIGGLE to get your Digg fix on your phone.
And don’t forget to send me what you think might be cool or hot so we can share it with the rest of the group!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I have officially entered a new phase of my life; the Daddy-phase (and I love it)! I am no longer in the core 18-34 single male demo (actually a couple of years past it as evidenced by the growing volume of grey hairs on my head) and I’m now part of a family household with “1+” children and it makes an amazing impact on how you view the web!
First off, the web has transitioned from a purely personal entertainment and work-related information source to a babysitting tool. When I run out of things to do with my 5 month old boy I find myself moving to the web to occupy his attention. There are hosts of videos and websites at the touch of a mouse click to help me teach him the basics. The only frustration that I’ve encountered is how hard is it to find the old cartoons I loved as a kid. Are they no longer cool? Will my son like them or do I need to just move on and watch the new classics? I‘ve always considered myself something of a traditionalist when it comes to cartoons and Disney was always the home to my favorite characters, alongside the Cookie Monster and Curious George of course. I find it difficult to locate those old cartoons and the brand sites don’t make it easy so I have to spend my time trolling YouTube to locate the traditional classics that I loved and want to share with my son. It got me to thinking; maybe my old Mickey Mouse cartoons are out of vogue and it’s time to give my full attention to Hip Hop Harry, Bob the Builder and the gang from Toy Story (though I do have a fond place in my heart for those little guys, too). I’m not quite ready to give up my dreams of bonding with my boy, so YouTube it is, at least for a little while longer.
I also find myself thinking that the web is full of content not-so-safe for my little boy’s innocent ears and eyes. I started to research all of the tools for censoring and managing what he sees online. Did you know how many special browsers and plug-ins and applications there are for creating a safe-web environment for my boy? I hear about special web browsers for kids and special twitter plug-ins that allow me to manage who he follows and who follows him (though admittedly he won’t be on Twitter for some time and I don’t think it will be worth a billion dollars when he does use it). I feel there’s a whole new world of technology and gadgets which I need to understand, but I also feel as though there’s a world of scams out there designed to suck the money from my wallet. There are courses and books and programs to register for and all of them cost money! As if raising a kid wasn’t costly enough, now there’s a whole economy around scaring me into paying them to help me out! I wonder how my parents would have handled the web and whether their efforts would have made me safe.
The web has also become a social education tool for me, far beyond that of any parenting group or medical resource that my parents might have had at their disposal. Why read a big book when I can get what I need within 5 minutes! Is that rash on his leg normal? Check! Is it normal for my kid to want to put everything in his mouth and then make himself gag? Check! If my kid sits in the car seat, falls asleep and his head is in an awkward position will it fall off? Nope! All of these are standard questions apparently because a quick perusal of the Google search results returns the answers for every question I ask; word-for word. At the very least the web helps me to feel like my wife and I are not alone and that all of our stupid questions are not really that stupid after all! It seems as though everyone thinks about the very same things, which is solace in a world where the directions are foggy at best but the joy is in the journey, not the destination.
Being a father has quickly become my favorite hobby and the web has become an invaluable resource to help me make the most of these days and weeks and months. Of course, the entrepreneur in me will surely come up with ten new business ideas before my son is one year old; maybe I sense my son’s future nest-egg in the making!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
What’s worth a billion dollars?
A billion dollars is a lot of money. Last week Twitter raised more than just some eyebrows by raising money based on a $1 billion valuation; they also raised expectations for digital businesses and they raised the hopes of thousands of entrepreneurs everywhere who are looking to make a splash. The news was somewhat expected as the rumors had been flying for a couple of weeks now, but the news was still shocking. I for one thought those days of high valuations were gone, or at least on hold for a bit, so I feel I need to be the person to ask the simple question of what could possibly be worth a billion dollars? What could one do with a billion dollars and how does that compare to the eventual worth of a company like Twitter?
I understand that Twitter is an important company and that they are effectively changing the landscape of the internet as a result of the impact they’ve made on communication, conversational media and real time search, but I have trouble with that valuation. For $1billion you could buy 37million copies of the book “How to Make Money Online with eBay, Yahoo and Google” in paperback on Amazon. With a billion dollars you could teach 37million people how to make money, but Twitter still doesn’t have a revenue model.
For $1billion dollars you could also buy…
· Approximately 5 million iPhones. These devices allow you to communicate with anyone anywhere in the world, and they are not limited to 140 characters. Plus, as a bonus, you can actually use Twitter on them, so that could increase the user volume quickly!
· You could rent office space in downtown San Francisco to house about 30 people for about 14,000 months. That is far longer than the life expectancy of any company that I can think of, regardless of what area of technology they’re in. I wonder if Twitter will be in business that long?
· I could build a site and sign up for an affiliate program, most likely turn that billion dollars into something more positive, possibly with as much as a 30% positive ROI. As the saying goes, “It takes money to make money” and with a billion dollars I think I could make a lot of money! Maybe Twitter should just sign up for a bunch of affiliate programs and start promoting the ads in 140 character ad units throughout the platform!
· You could give 33 million people a foot massage. That would translate to a lot of very relaxed, really happy people. I don’t know if you can truly put a dollar value on that, but I think it would surpass giving $1billion to Twitter. At least all of those people would be happy and maybe that would translate to them doing better jobs at work!
All in all, I hope this valuation proves to be worth it for a number of reasons. If the valuation holds up, then we could continue to see value in technology that may even drive the economy further out of the depths of recession. Also, for more selfish reasons, if Twitter becomes as valuable as they would like then more people will need to know how to use the platform as a marketing tool, which means I get to keep working!
So, a toast to Twitter and may your future be as bright as the dollar signs on those checks!