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!