Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MEDIAPOST: The Secret About Media Buying

Here’s a little secret about media buying. It’s one of the secrets that most media buyers don’t want you to hear because it could jeopardize the way they do business, but I think it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. You may be surprised to hear it and they may get upset with me for sharing, but I think the shock will subside and it will be beneficial for you to know.
Media buying is a relationship business.

There; I said it! The simple fact is there are lots of wonderful tools and services that provide media planners and buyers with detailed data reports on site traffic and volume, audience composition and past performance and each of these gets quite a lot of use, but it comes down predominantly to a relationship business. Relationships get your foot in the door and they get you an RFP. Relationships get you a meeting and they can even get you a test buy. Actual performance and service gets you the renewal, but that‘s the easiest part of the process. It’s getting past all the clutter and the drama associated with the initial recommendation that’s the greatest challenge and relationships are what get you to that point. It’s not easy to make a recommendation regarding a site or an opportunity that the client hasn’t heard of, but a strong relationship will get the planner to invest the time and push you through and after that it’s your job to deliver.

Media buyers have a hard job. They have to field hundreds of cold calls a month from companies, many of which tell the exact same story with different words. When you break down the stories being told and the pitches being prepared, it’s difficult for them to be unique and as a result most media planners become a bit jaded. There are two ways to break down the defenses of a jaded planner; be truly innovative or build a relationship. I can tell you a story of a rep that took the time many years ago to meet me in person and connect on a mutually enjoyed hobby (namely Pearl Jam) and ever since that time we built a great relationship and became good friends. I will always do business with that person no matter where we works or what he is doing and he knows it. That’s how you build a relationship; it was never done in an obviously “business” way. It was done in a casual, yet genuine manner with a mutual respect that grew over time and through interaction. The mind of a media buyer is not difficult; media buyers buy two things. They buy reach or they buy impact. Both of these can be found through any multiple of methods so in most cases the relationship is your primary point of differentiation. Building a working relationship is no different than any other relationship, which is why the best work relationships typically become friend relationships as well.

Many sales organizations understand this and they invest in their people. They build them up, they educate them, they promote them and they support their work in the field. These are the sales people who build relationships and these are the ones who are successful. The ones that promote a culture of the old “dial for dollars” motto are the same ones that churn and burn their talent and these are the ones destined to fail.

In many cases a company takes on the reputation of the people it hires to be in the field. If you hire the right people, this can be a great thing! A strong sales person with deep relationships in the marketplace and an up-to-date rolodex is the most valuable hire you will ever make. If a sales person can transition from one company to another and bring the relationships they have with them, this is a testament to the strength of those relationships and the inherent value of that sales person.

In our industry, it can be difficult to stay on top of people moving around. Too many companies churn their talent by overworking and underpaying them, hence the relationships are even more important because they’re based on the people and not just the company. You hear people talk about their ability to build a personal network of value, but these networks are based on relationships and the mutual respect that exists amongst groups of people.

My parents taught me that you treat others the way you want to be treated and if you forget that from time to time, then you apologize and you try again. No-one is perfect, but that’s part of building a strong relationship; letting others know that you aren’t perfect and that you don’t expect them to be perfect either. Media planners are far from perfect and sales people are as well, but that mutually beneficial relationship transcending any two companies is what drives this business. With new companies starting up all the time, those relationships are what get the ball rolling, so don’t overlook or abuse them because they are the greatest asset you have.
So the next time you make that call to an agency or a brand marketer and you’re asking for their business, take the time to inquire about them as a person before you start selling them as a prospect. The call might be longer and the sales process might get dragged out a little, but it will be worth it in the long run. Your value will increase and the relationship will last.

Don’t you agree?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Digital Influentials Volume 1, Issue 4: The Upside Of A Down Economy Is…

I read the news, I watch the news and I read magazines and websites concerning the news all the time and when it comes to the economy there’s one thing that everyone agrees on; that no-one has any idea what’s going to happen next but everyone is into saving money!

I firmly believe that this recession has re-educated us all; it’s resurrected our feelings of frugality. It has reawakened a general spirit of thriftiness while diminishing the state of liberal excess which we all enjoyed over the last decade, and to be honest that’s a good thing. Maybe we needed a wake-up call and we needed to be reminded that the future shouldn’t be a gamble or a wager. Your future can be saved for and planned for and it can be more solid than you think! Maybe the positive outcome of this recession is that many people are realizing their future lies in their own hands and that there are three ways to achieve success; work hard, save money and innovate when and wherever you can.

For this week’s column we dedicate our words to the companies and ideas we’ve uncovered that are accomplishing at least two of those paths to success at one time; they are innovating in a way that can save money. Whether it’s a consumer product that delivers coupons or it’s an industry idea that saves time, which translates to saving money, we salute the best and brightest ideas of the week, so let’s show them off!!

Are you looking for ways to save money on some new jeans from Gap or some flowers for your loving wife? RETAIL ME NOT ( is a search engine that uncovers coupon codes; it saves you time while saving you money! Just type in a category of product and let it pull together all the deals it can locate.

Of course, the most obvious place to look to save money is at the grocery store, so if you’re looking to find deals and apply them directly to your shopper card then look no further than AOL SHORTCUTS ( Shortcuts provides you a marketplace of coupons that when “clipped” are applied directly to your shopper savings card (for those of us in San Francisco, that’s mostly going to be Safeway). No more printing and clipping, just clicking and saving!

Saving money is the new black and everyone’s doing it, but one of the best places to do it is on your mobile phone, so our usual focus on applications for the iPhone becomes VERY important this week as we highlight just a few of the apps that are saving lots of people lots of money!

PRICECHECKAH is a tool that allows you to enter in a UPC or ISBN code on a product or book and it will tell you what the price is on a number of other retailers; online or off. Don’t get suckered in to buying something for too high a price when you know you can get it cheaper somewhere else! The app ain’t free, but anything that’s worth something rarely is (to quote a very wise man).

COUPON SHERPA guides you through the mountains of deals to find what you want for a price you want to pay. Just enter your location and peruse the deals that are popping up around you. It even will give you directions to the store with the best deals (if you ask it nicely).

If you have kids then you know that going out to dinner can get pricey, unless you have the KIDS EAT FREE app. Enter in your location and find out where you can go for a less expensive dinner than usual. It’s just that easy!

That’s it for this week – have fun saving time and saving money!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MEDIAPOST: Ad Crack: Gotta Get Your Fix!

From my Mediapost Online Spin this week...

Have you ever been in this situation; you spend hours, days and weeks developing your client’s online strategy and the strategy is about building the brand through awareness and impact, but when that first performance report is delivered and the initial click-through rate is low the strategy magically transforms immediately from a long term brand play to a short term “improve the click rate” campaign?

If you’ve ever experienced this situation then you’ve been a victim of the Ad Crack Addict!

The addict is a difficult role to deal with; we know that. We also know that “crack is whack” (for those of you who remember, that’s what they said in the 80’s). Ad Crack is whack, too! It happens when we plan a strategy and delineate metrics with which to judge the success of a campaign, but that first report shows poor CTR and the last 15 years worth of online advertising history and experience takes over causing people to start freakin’ out. It’s not a criticism as much as it’s an observation of human nature. Humans are creatures of habit and we need to break the habit of relying on immediate click through as a measure of gauging success. We need to get ourselves weaned off of the ad crack of CTR, but we also need to recognize that this is not a cold-turkey, overnight addiction that we can break. It takes time, it takes attention and it takes willpower; along with a strong rationale and a basis in strategic thinking.

I moderated a panel at OMMA Metrics in San Francisco recently and the wrap up of the panel was summed up in one sentence (and I quote the panelists on this one); “Click through rates are not dead yet, but they certainly do smell funny”. Most serious digital advertisers understand that CTR is not the primary metric anymore, but the problem is there’s no immediate industry metric to put in its place. There are a host of metrics that advertisers are using and their focus is dependent on what they’re trying to achieve with a campaign. The needs of each marketer are different and therefore the primary metrics used to define engagement are different for each marketer. The term of the day may be “engagement”, but the definition of the term is a case-by-case occurrence. You need to define it for yourself; no-one can do it for you.

The solution to fighting the addiction to CTR lies in the service of your client’s business. Call it an intervention if you will in order to continue the theme. To be successful in this business and provide a strong service for your clients, you need to provide strategic rationale for what the primary metrics will be and maintain focus in the face of the ad crack addict. As soon as the first report shows up, you need to battle the instinctual reaction to focus on CTR. You can do this by one of two ways; either you deal with it head on or you remove CTR altogether (avoidance may not typically be a good strategy, but in some cases you need to remove yourself from a situation in order to fight an addiction).

I know a number of agencies who won’t even show CTR to their clients if they are focused on branding and impact. They’ll show impressions and cost efficiency, and they’ll show time spent and interactions on the site or in the ad units, but they won’t show CTR. In other cases I know agencies and marketers who will show the CTR but place it in the back of the report, not highlighting it upfront or in the summary reports. In most other cases, CTR is prominently displayed, but the client service team maintains a maniacal focus on the awareness, consideration and intent-oriented metrics and won’t even talk to the CTR with their clients. All of these are strategies that can work at weaning the client off the ad crack which they so easily get addicted to and can lapse back into examining and considering.

The hardest thing in client service is to push back on the client. No-one likes to be told that they’re wrong and no-one likes to be told “no”, but it’s especially hard to put your client in that position. Sometimes it backfires and they get upset, but to provide a valuable service you have to be willing to stand up and fight for your ideas. When the client asks you to start optimizing the campaign in week one and improve the CTR, it can be difficult to push back and refuse, however if you maintain that focus on the strategy and execution of the strategy that was agreed to upfront, then you’re doing the service that your clients are paying you for. If you buckle and lapse back into a revised strategy without giving it its due course then you’re just enabling the ad crack to take hold and no-one will improve!

What strategies have you employed in the past to service your clients and maintain that focus on your initial strategy? I’m sure our readers would like to know, so please share with us on the Spin Board!

Officially Excited Now!

Pearl Jam - Backspacer Short

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Will These Guys Do It Different?

The announcement about Andreesen Horowitz, the new VC firm from Marc Andreesen, is a unique one. These guys appear to be tackling the business from a different perspective; spread the money around and trust the entrepreneur's with their own ideas. Its a laissez faire approach that may work well or it could not. The valley is in a shake-up, so the model is being challenged and these guys are certainly an intriguing pair to challenge it.

Lets hope they are successful. Read on for more about what they are doing here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NIMBY: Please Don't Mess With Online Advertising

This article from Jon Fine at Business Week points out a really great point that we need to pay attention to; that the government will hopefully not invade in our space and affect whether online advertising can place third party cookies on users.

This could be devastating. If you can do anything to help stop this, by speaking to your representatives, etc. you probably should be doing so right now.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Triumvirate: TV, Online Video and Social Media

From Mediapost's Online Spin on Wednesday!

There are two primary schools of thought in online marketing (at least if you ask me, there are). Which do you subscribe to?

The first school of thought is “The Basics”; the folks who do search, affiliates and general display. They do it efficiently and it works well at achieving core business objectives, but there’s not a lot of risk and there’s not a lot of reward beyond the forecasted expectations. The second school of thought is what I lovingly refer to as “The Triumvirate” and it refers to the domination of three primary vehicles that work exceptionally well when they are coordinated properly; TV, Online Video and Social.

When properly planned, these three vehicles are powerful. TV is, and will be for the foreseeable future, the primary medium with which to generate awareness with consumers, but online video and social media are becoming the primary outlet for consumer interaction and the strongest support vehicles that TV will ever have. According to a recent report from Nielsen that I was reading (A2/M2 Three Screen Report, 1st Quarter 2009) there are 284MM people watching TV at home in the US and 131MM people watching video online in the US. Of these users, they spend 153+ hours per month watching TV and about 3 hours watching video online, but the difference is that TV growth was only about 1.9% year over year while online video growth was closer to 53% year over year. This becomes very interesting when you also realize that people are starting to watch more long form video content online and get away from the “snacking” that was the previously dominant form of online video interaction. If you couple this with the growth of social media usage from 2008-2009, you end up with a very interesting strategy for launching and seeding messaging to an audience that is highly engaged with a dynamic form of media that achieves the sight, sound and motion of video with the social and viral components of online.

For the Triumvirate to work strategically you need to think of your messaging platform as a tripod, with TV, online video and social media as the legs. In the old days you could use TV alone to build your brand and convey your message, but TV is now just as cluttered an environment as the rest of the landscape due to fragmentation of stations and audience. TV cannot sustain an ad campaign solo anymore, and the tripod cannot stand with only one or two of the legs in place; you need all three. TV provides reach and impact. Online video provides additional reach, additional impact and a component of interactivity. Social media provides reach, it provides frequency and it provides an implicit approval from other consumers who support and follow a brand, as well as another opportunity for syndicating a message beyond a website and into mobile platforms. I would argue that in today’s environment a brand marketer could effectively generate an audience using ONLY these tools and foregoing search, display and other formats altogether if you have the nerve and the buy-in internally to give it a try.

The Triumvirate is the core of a strategy that can be effective, provided you have understanding of the audience and their motivations and have developed creative that resonates with them. Unlike search and even display, creative MUST be on target here. In search and display, you have more flexibility to change messaging at the drop of a hat, so you have more forgiveness regarding the creative. Online video can be changed out, but once something is launched in the social media world, it can become viral so you need to be well thought-out and on target in order to be effective. Once it’s out there, it’s no longer yours to control so you need to get it right!

Of course, I would always recommend that you look at The Basics and The Triumvirate together as differing stages of the strategy; with one providing a baseline and the other providing opportunity for growth and expansion. When you’re planning a digital effort, you want to know what will work and create a line item for what may provide extra “oomph” for your campaign. If you create a plan that utilizes both of these in unison, you can get a stronger return for your marketing spend.

Do you agree and do you have any examples that you can share? If so, let us know by posting your response on the Spin Board!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Digital Influentials Volume 1, Issue 3: Oh, Where Does The Time Go?

As the dog days of summer roll on I find myself wondering, “Where does all the time go”? It feels as though there’s never enough time in the day and never enough days in the week to get everything done that needs to be done. Even now, as I sit and type out this column at 12:30pm, I find myself thinking ahead to tomorrow and all the to-do’s that lie ahead of me when the sun rises again.

Of course, all work and no play makes Cory a dull boy so we all have to find time to balance the sweet with the salty and this week’s column is dedicated to that balance. It’s dedicated to the balance between work and fun (which we all tend to forget about sometimes). Between competing ideals and to the spirit of summer that lies in all of us; the soul of the child yearning for a lazy day listening to music, watching a ball game and preparing to head back to school.

If your childhood was anything like mine, it was spent riding my bike, playing baseball, listening to music and hanging with friends. I’d read Rolling Stone to see what was up with my favorite bands while sitting under a tree, but now we have the web and sites like NEXT BIG SOUND ( to see what’s going on. Next Big Sound is a tool for researching and tracking fan interaction with artists and it delivers the information in a Quantcast/Compete style interface. Just type in your favorite artists and see what the buzz around them is on sites like Facebook, MySpace, iMeem and others (all of which are great ways to bide your time on a Saturday afternoon). For those of you in the music industry, this could become an invaluable tool for tracking online buzz!

Summer was always a time to find ways to express yourself, and as you grow older you find ways to do the same at work. If you’re a brand, and you’re involved in social media, check out SPROUTBUILDER ( Sprout Builder provides a set of tools and services to author and launch social media applications, or widgets as some people still refer to them. These applications create buzz and they distribute your message through rich media engagement where your audience is located. They drive in-bound links and they create remote awareness and are an invaluable way of expressing yourself wherever your potential audience might be.

Some people go shopping in their downtime, but nowadays everyone’s looking for the right deals. Well, search no more because Shannon Light found us GROUPON ( Group On provides “collective buying power” by offering deals that are triggered by a specific volume of customers, driven by social interaction. You visit the site and sign up for a deal being offered and if the minimum requirements for the deal are met, you can take advantage of it! A restaurant may offer a $30 discount if 10 people accept the deal, so share the deal on your Facebook page and get 9 of your friends involved. It’s a killer idea and a great way to save money while supporting local businesses.

As summertime rolls to an end, some people go back to school and some people go to conferences! Conferences show the value of networking and are a working man’s “back to school” because they get you back in the swing of things quickly. If you’re looking to attend a conference and increase your network, regardless of the industry you work in, check out CONFERENCE HOUND ( Conference Hound helps you identify and keep track of the various events you should be attending, whether it’s marketing or muscle cars, there’s a conference for you!

Of course some people look at summer time as an opportunity to broaden their minds and learn something new. I am not a politician, so I’m not condoning anything on this site, but check out DIRT ( and maybe you can learn about a different point of view. Dirt’s motto is “dig deeper” and it provides a forum for conservatives and liberals to air their opinions and engage with others, so any forum for free speech and discussion should be supported, hence its inclusion in this week’s Digital Influentials column. After all, what’s more influential than free speech, right?

On the iPhone front this week and in the spirit of competition that drives Major League Baseball all summer long, we take a look at the boys of summer as they head into the home stretch. BASEBALL SUPERSTAR allows you to play a full game all your own and is one of the top rated games for the iPhone. YANKS BASEBALL LIVE is a great app for keeping track of the Yankees, and BOSTON SOX BASEBALL is a tool for Red Sox Nation (whoever they may be). And don’t forget CAMERA ZOOM, top paid app in the iTunes Store right now, which allows you to get those summer snap shots to remember when the snow is falling and the summer is just a memory.

Have a great week everyone and enjoy the final days of August!

Thanks for reading!!