Friday, October 22, 2010

MEDIAPOST: That Sense Of Overwhelm? It’s Not Just You.

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re swimming in the deep end? Are there days when you just can’t get moving because there’s so much to do that you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, you’re not alone; this feeling is something most people experience on a fairly regular basis.

There is unfortunately no silver bullet when it comes to overcoming this feeling, but there are a couple of small steps you can to try to deal with things in a way that helps.

The first step is one that you’ve probably forgotten about. Start by sitting down to set some personal goals. You probably did this when you started your career, but not for a number of years, now. In many cases you may have even achieved those personal goals and you never thought it necessary to revisit them. Setting personal goals, ones that can be achieved in a 3-5 year cycle, are very important because they give you somewhere to go. They create a sense of direction and can provide context for evaluating the ideas and opportunities that arise in a way that is constructive and beneficial to you. When you have goals set, you’ve laid out a roadmap with some milestones along the way and when something new pops into focus, you can determine whether it fits with the direction you want your life and career to be going. I know it sounds a bit “new age”, and since I live in California I rightly deserve to be poked fun at, but goal setting is an integral part of your life. Setting goals for a 3-5 year cycle are also important because that’s not a lifetime away. Those goals are close, and you can aim for success without having to wait forever to see the outcome.

Of course, some people will say, “5 years is a long time, how do I balance each day of the week”? Day in and day out can be tough, but one of the best ways to not get overwhelmed here is to break your day down to digestible chunks. Everyone has a to-do list and in most cases those lists are endless, with hundreds of items scratched down in poor penmanship. One little trick is to take 3 items from the list, place them on a post-it note on your computer and agree that you’re day won’t be done until those three items are complete. What that does is give you something to center your day. It gives you something to come back to when you get distracted and it gives you focus for the 8-12 hours in front of you. Having a short list of immediate to-do’s means the large list won’t overwhelm you. It also creates space in your day, allowing you to feel a sense of accomplishment when something on the short list is completed.

Of course that short list can be a burden when you factor in distraction, so the simplest way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to limit the opportunity for distractions. Believe it or not, the majority of distractions are your own fault because you allow yourself to be distracted. Sometimes it can be as simple as closing the door, turning off the phone, or shutting down your email for an hour. Maybe it means setting aside 30 minutes for “fun stuff”, and following that time with 60 minutes of work. By breaking the day down in to 30 and 60-minute components, you can achieve more than if you try and tackle the day in 3, 4, or 8 hour shifts. If you ask novelists how they write their books they’ll tend to tell you it’s a series of these digestible writing periods (followed, of course, by the 5 day sequestered periods where they have to hit a deadline, but that’s because writers are famous procrastinators).

That sense of overwhelm can be replaced with a sense of accomplishment if you manage your day the right way, suited to how you work. A series of daily accomplishments can string together a very positive few weeks and before you know it you’re getting things done in an effective and efficient manner!

At least, that’s what my therapist tells me ;-)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 12: It’s Family Day At The Digital Influentials

That’s right, this edition is dedicated to the family. Now that my son is a year and a half, I find myself looking to find more ways to entertain him (code for “what do I do with him when I’m really tired”). The web is supposedly a good place, if you know where to look!

I started with the big guys, like Disney, Nick and Sesame Street (all of which are great) but I also uncovered a number of other places to go and see. Some won’t be applicable till he gets a bit older, and some are perfect for right now! Of course, it’s not always about fun; some of the things I uncovered were just practical for keeping the rest of the family involved as well!

So with that, allow me to introduce to you a number of new sites and services that may fit the needs of your family today!

Do you have this unmatched desire to take all of your Facebook photos, Flickr photos and any other photos and make a printed photobook? If so, then check out PIXABLE ( I feel like I found this site before, but I know I’ve been tasked by this exact effort for my grandmother so she can see more pics of the family, so maybe I’ll share it with you as well! Make a keepsake for those loved ones who don’t like the computer, or just in case your computer crashes. Pixable is your real world partner for picture distribution.

Most of those photos are of your kids and your family (which is why Grandma wants them), and so is the content of EVERLOOP ( On Everloop. Teens and tweens are given a safe space to create, collaborate and connect in any way they want. You, as a parent, can feel safe and secure knowing your kids are in a safe environment, unlike some of the other not-so-kid-friendly stuff you can see online.

Speaking of social networking for kids, you can also check out YOURSPHERE ( It’s another social network for kids, where parental consent is needed to join. It brings the web down to a safe, close-knit environment where you can feel good about what your kids are doing and who they’re doing it with.

If you want to make sure your kids are even safer when they’re online, check out KIDZUI ( KidZui provides a safe, fun browser for kids that’s chock full of games and is curated by teachers and parents. It’s a virtual PTA for your kids when they’re online.

And if you’re looking a little younger and social networking just isn’t the goal right now, then check out all the fun and games at CACKLEBERRIES ( The site is billed as the safest place for kids 3-8 years old. The founders put up a little message about why they launched the company and the cartoon characters are cute, so why not give it a shot!

The iPhone and the iPad are wonderful resources as well (as my friend calls them, the nannies). If you have little kids, you can’t live without PEEKABOO BARN and PEEKABOO WILD. If you’re kids are a bit older, try SF WITH KIDS as a resource for finding fun things to do with your kids in SF.

That’s it for now. This one is short because I have to get back to playing with my son!!

See you soon!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Facebook; This Is Your Chance To Make Me Look Stupid

I feel like I keep picking on Facebook, but its such a big target these days! To be fair though, this is an open shot for Facebook to make me look stupid.

I read through a bunch of the articles and press coverage for last week’s big announcements regarding Facebook Groups and the new ability to port my personal data to other platforms, but somewhere along the way I missed the point. I don’t see why journalists had to drive down or fly over or go visit the Facebook offices for a series of seemingly “ho-hum” announcements.

When press people are asked to go see Apple, they get cool new gadgets announced, or new operating systems. When Google calls the press to their home, it’s for new products being released or new technology that consumers can get excited over. For Facebook to call a meeting and tell the world they’re playing nice with others and allowing users to create Groups (which feels like Lists but open to others) just doesn’t seem to carry that much weight in my book. Maybe I’m wrong (it has happened before).

I understand that companies can now create more targeted groups of users to select and share messaging with. It’s the equivalent of a Facebook VIP badge for a brand, but they can do that with their CRM efforts already, so this doesn’t feel mind-blowingly awesome to me.

It feels like Facebook is making an attempt to not be considered the “Rainman” of its day (for all of you familiar with the old school publishing platform that AOL used back when it was a different beast than the open platform we know and love today). It doesn’t want to be a closed network, though it does want to be the hub of all networks. It’s their version of open-sourcing your data, with your permission of course. If they had tried to make this announcement one year ago the privacy and permission component may have been different but they’ve learned their lessons and have integrated that knowledge here.

So once again I ask, what’s the big deal? Facebook is too large to be surpassed by a competitor at this point, barring some very unfortunate outage that takes them offline for a month. A worm-type virus that scares all the users away from their daily news feed rituals could have an impact, but otherwise it would be hard to say that a user porting their data over to some other social platform is much of a threat, because Facebook is still the central location of that data and once it’s been ported, it can become out-dated. That data has to maintain a component of recency for it to be truly valuable, and recency comes from the amount of daily traffic that Facebook generates for each of its gazillions of users.

Of course, the one thing missing in this discussion is Microsoft. Is Microsoft going to get involved in this data-porting scenario? Microsoft has been eerily quiet over the last 12 months, since making their investment in Facebook. What are they planning to do with that data and are Microsoft and Facebook finding ways to get more integrated into the PC desktop? Could Apple be far behind at trying to find ways to integrate Facebook directly into their operating system as well? I’m pretty sure we won’t see any Android/Facebook integration any time soon, but once again I could be wrong!

So this is the chance for Facebook to make me look stupid and prove me wrong. Tell me what is so important about this news and provide me with a real world, average-Joe example of what this benefit is to me, the user.

I’m also really looking forward to your responses – maybe you can prove me wrong and help me figure out what’s the big deal?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Are The Expectations For Mobile Too High?

Last week I attended OMMA Global in New York and I listened to a number of panels and presentations regarding mobile; it’s effectiveness, it’s reach and other pertinent facts. I came out of all of the sessions asking the same question; are our expectations for mobile possibly too high?

Let me clarify first that I am a big believer in mobile as a consumer medium. I constantly utilize my iPhone and my iPad and I can say confidently they are an integral part of my life. I can also say confidently that for the last ten years mobile has been “two years away” from the “promised land” (whatever that is). I’m starting to think our expectations for what the platform can be are not fair and there are too many companies trying to pin their entire business models on the hopes that mobile will sustain them all.

Mobile is a deeply personal medium. I get it. Marketing messages that can invade the mobile environment and resonate with the audience can also be deeply effective. I get it. The problem is that the messages literally have to “invade” and “resonate”, which are two things at odds when it comes to mobile.

The majority of the mobile advertising and marketing opportunities are invasive, and by the sheer nature of being invasive they’re not welcome by the consumer. When you broadcast or display a message that’s not welcome, you’re automatically starting from a position further away from the starting line. You have a more difficult road to weave to break through when you drop an ad unit in someone else’s app that has no contextual relevancy and is only there because of so-called demographic targeting. Say what you will for contextual relevancy, but it works for billions of dollars in paid media. There are certainly apps which get past this quandary by being self-selected by the consumer and the ads integrated into the experience try to maintain relevance. These can be more effective, but you’re typically still dealing with a space which is far smaller than even the smallest online ad for a standard website (even text ads on Google are larger than the majority of graphical ads on your smart-phone). Even if you hold your phone six inches from your face, these ads are just not as impactful. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that such a deeply personal medium means that when a consumer uses it, they’re most likely ultra-focused on a task at hand and they don’t pay as close attention to the ads and marketing messages. Those are some steep hurdles to jump. Almost sisyphysian for some.

I know there’s data to prove me wrong on this, but the data and research I see is typically based on one small snapshot of a mobile campaign in a vacuum and not integrated with the rest of the media mix. That doesn’t tell the whole story.

While I believe mobile is a tool, I believe it is a tool for consumer retention and messaging to your existing audience. I do not personally believe that it is a good acquisition vehicle, nor is it a good introductory vehicle for generating initial awareness. I feel mobile should be positioned as a secondary vehicle for marketers who are already engaging with their consumers and are looking for additional frequency, and ways to stay top-of-mind. To that end, I would want to see more research dedicated to mobile as a CRM and secondary frequency vehicle. I know there are mobile marketing companies rising up every day (and many of you email me at least once a week) but what I’m looking for is a mobile marketing company that integrates their offerings into other forms of media. Mobile is not a stand-alone vehicle. It requires partnership with other media vehicles to be truly effective. Mobile is an extension of print, it is an extension of TV and it is certainly an extension of out-of-home media. When it comes to online, mobile is a sub-segment of the greater picture because any device that can be un-tethered from your desk is considered mobile, and therefore cannot be planned or implemented all by it-self.

I’ve written pieces like this before, and I’m sure I’ll write them again. For mobile to meet our expectations as a medium, we need to make sure the expectations are accurate, achievable and fair. My fear is there are a plethora of companies launching in the mobile space and not being set-up to succeed because they aren’t setting the bar at a realistic level to jump.

You may agree or you may not, so let me know on the Spin Board!

Friday, October 1, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Time For Facebook to Face The Music

Last week Facebook made some minor news by announcing they would be discontinuing their conversion-tracking tool for performance advertising. I was a bit surprised by how few people read between the lines of this announcement; the fact that the only reason Facebook would discontinue this effort must be they found their users don’t convert!

I’ve run a number of Facebook ad buys for brands, driving consumers to follow or like the brand and those are stellar in their performance. I’ve also had clients run campaigns to drive conversion to other off-Facebook activity such as coupons and CRM registrations and surprisingly these campaigns have worked really well, but if Facebook saw that kind of positive performance across the board don’t you think they’d keep the tool alive and start promoting the results? It’s also a tad bit funny because it’s a brilliant PR move to announce they’re shuttering the service the same week that Mark Zuckerberg announces he’s giving $100MM to Newark schools because no-one wants to blast the guy while he’s helping kids with their education needs. I guess that makes me the bad guy (oh well).

Facebook’s challenge is they want to be something more than they are. Facebook has carved out an incredible place in the eco-system of the Internet; simply put, they own social media. There is no other portal, site or platform that can compare from a gross user perspective nor from the depth of which they’re ingrained in the daily life of the average Internet user (other than Google, but in a different way). People complain that Facebook is “too big” or that it is “too powerful” but that’s what mass brand advertisers want! They want big. They want influential. They want powerful! Facebook needs to understand that they may not be a performance buying opportunity but very may well have the world’s largest brand platform ever created! Facebook can build a brand (and so can Mark Zuckerberg).

I call this out because it’s not a bad thing. There are lots of ways that performance marketers can use the web to drive actionable, immediate results. Facebook is not one of them (Google owns that realm). There is data to suggest that a Facebook user is valuable and a number of these have been published. On the low end, Adam Ostrow, on Mashable, puts the value at $1.40 per user. Others put it far higher. From my humble perspective it is significantly more valuable. Where else can a user express their desire to hear from a brand or service on a regular basis, possibly even every single day, and not get annoyed? Even if you factor in some level of annoyance, and assume a 10% attrition rate of users who unlike your brand, the value is far higher than $1.40. Does that mean the platform is going to drive an immediate conversion to a customer somewhere else? Not really. Does it imply that the platform can be significantly more influential than a traditional email blast or standard ad campaign and have stronger, long-term results? Yes!

And let’s not forget that traditional CRM has a cost attached to it while blasting out messages on Facebook does not. Until Facebook decides to start charging brands for messaging to consumers, this is still the single most effective way to engage a consumer who has expressed interest.

You also can reach targeted users, similar to your customers, and even those who are friends of your customers. That’s a powerful tool for developing your audience, though admittedly not in the first exposure. It takes (strike me down for saying this now) frequency to break through the clutter and get your target to listen and pay attention. Facebook provides that simply by the fact the audience comes back often, even daily. You may have to be more creative in how you use the platform, but banners and text ads and Facebook pages are only the beginning. With absolutely no inside knowledge, I can guarantee these will not be the only tools for mass brand advertisers on Facebook in the next 18 months.

So it comes as no surprise to me that Facebook shut down its conversion tracking system, but it will surprise me if Facebook doesn’t face the music and make a concerted push in the next few months to proclaim its value to brands. If they miss this opportunity, they shoot themselves in the foot in the long term. We now know that Facebook is not a place for direct response, performance based advertisers en masse. But that’s ok!

And yes, thank you Mark Zuckerberg for giving those kids a ray of hope in an otherwise cloudy environment (maybe that means I won’t be viewed as the bad guy for calling you out and maybe people won’t hate you after they see the David Fincher movie).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 11: Geeks Unite! The Geek Edition Is Here!

What do you think of when you think of the word “geek”? Many years ago the word conjured images ranging from pocket protectors and video games to 30-somethings living in their parent’s basement. Today the word applies to a far wider range of products and services because the geeks have taken over the world! Being a geek is no longer something to hide from. It’s a badge of strength and independence. At least that’s what the geeks I know keep telling me!

For real though, being a geek means that you’re passionate about something and not afraid to share it. Maybe its Star Wars, maybe it’s comic books or maybe it’s music like Pearl Jam (wait… I love all 3… I’M A GEEK)! Whatever it is, this edition is dedicated to you! Read on true believers!

You can’t start a discussion of geeks without first mentioning THINKGEEK ( ThinkGeek provides all the stuff you need to live the geek lifestyle. From a collection of your favorite nerdy t-shirts to a lifelike Tauntaun sleeping bag complete with removable innards. These guys have got what you want, and they’ve grown a nice sized business catering to this audience (umm, that’s you guys).

In case you can’t quite find exactly what you want from ThinkGeek, then check out X-TREME GEEK ( The site may not be as pretty, but these guys are doing something right! The site proves its own worthiness just by selling the Laser Airzooka, which blows a big blast of air at your target. Useful gadget that is (spoken in Yoda grammar)!

Maybe you don’t need a t-shirt to proclaim your kinship to the geek nation, you just want to live the life? Then you probably already know about HOW TO GEEK ( These guys are practically a roadmap for how to geek out. Sample article; how to change the boot-up screen on your Macbook (because that’s top on the list of things I have to do in my spare-time). Spend 10 minutes on this site and become the envy of your friends in the Sunday Dungeons & Dragons club.

You may not always consider alternative music the soundtrack of the geeks, but you can definitely geek out on it, which is where SHUFFLER ( comes into play. Shuffler is for music geeks what Pandora is for everyone else. It’s a virtual radio station that combs through music blogs to create streams of audio content, surfacing new music based on the marketplace. It’s cool from my opinion, which is the opinion of a music geek.

The last site this week is one near and dear to my geeky heart because I’m helping launch it (so please excuse the shameless self-promotion). Check out why LIFE DOESN’T SUCK ( as a place for you to be reminded of all the cool things in life that don’t suck. It’s not just a site for geeks, but it comes from a geeky place in our hearts.

If you own an iPhone or iPad, you might be a geek if you own these apps…

FREEBIRD – lets you show off your virtual lighter at concerts.

CRICKETS BUTTON – for when the conversation gets a little light.

LIGHTSABER – for dueling with a Sith Lord.

That’s it this week – enjoy the links and enjoy yourself and those around you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Simple Ways To Rethink Your Agency Business

“Maybe we’re coming at it from all the wrong ways.”

Have you ever uttered that sentence, or one like it? Have you ever had the nerve to completely deconstruct what you’re doing and admit that you might be doing it wrong? It takes nerve and it takes courage. It’s hard for someone to debunk their own internal mythology, the set of “tried and true” guidelines which have driven lives and careers to date, in order to start over but that’s just what’s being done now in the agency business.

The state of the business is forcing many people to deconstruct and rebuild their businesses. It’s not as dire as it sounds; ad spending is still strong and getting stronger, but the economy is questionable and no one knows what’s going to happen next. Some of the most successful businesses have been created in the most unsettling of economic times, and many people recognize the uncertainty as opportunity in disguise. If you can create a business and sustain revenues when business is down or if you can create new revenue streams where there previously was none, then your well positioned to be successful when business recovers.

As a result, many agencies are rethinking the ways they generate revenues. The old models are being rethought, and I thought I’d share some of what I’m hearing from the business.

First off, agencies need to be paid for thinking, not doing. Whether you call it strategy or planning, your intellectual capital is your most valued asset, but most of your revenue comes from execution. More and more agencies are rethinking this paradigm and rediscovering the value in the brains of the people they employ.

Secondly, performance is not a primary model for compensation, but it is a value for growth. Most agencies will not create work on spec anymore, and they require payment for their work, but they will sacrifice parts of their payments in performance kickers. These kickers are typically where the profit is found and if your agency is any good, they should be willing to put their money where their mouth is. Besides, if you succeed, they succeed. That’s where the strength of the relationship lies.

The third trend is that more agencies are getting into the brand business themselves. Agencies have long been the launching pad for many ideas, but those ideas were typically owned by their clients. Recently you see more agencies creating and owning their own IP. Agencies are creating brands. They’re creating soft drinks and websites and movies and music. They’re getting into their clients’ business in a way they never have before which leads me to the question of when will an agency pitch a brand client on a line extension that they could co-own or have a larger ownership stake in? What’s to stop Pepsi from launching Jalapeno Pepsi with their agency as an owner (other than an awful taste, of course)? Is that day so far away?

The pundits say the agency model is broken, but it’s only because they need something to write about. What’s most interesting to me is how you can find new ideas in these companies, that just require some thought and attention.

So don’t be afraid to question your own business and look for new ways to operate. It takes courage to start over, but rarely are the results less than you expected them to be.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MEDIAPOST: How To Make Ping Succeed!

I’m a 100% Apple convert. Over the last few years I ditched my PC in favor of a MacBook Pro and generally every device I buy has that little Apple logo on the back. That being said, I feel I need to be critical of the new launch of iTunes and it’s integration of Ping (Apple’s social music network), but only from the perspective of someone who wants to see it succeed. Consider it constructive criticism with a hint of gadgetry love.

First off, I’m shocked at how few people are talking about Ping, which leads me to believe there’s not much to talk about. Those of us with Apple-envy tend to hope that anything new coming from Apple will be a groundbreaking achievement but Ping let’s you down a bit. Ping suffers from the same problem that most social music networks face; not enough content of interest and not enough critical mass.

I spent some time playing with Ping to see the value it provides and unfortunately I found nothing new. The integration is simple, with “Like” and “Post” buttons built into the album pages and a simple news feed of artists and people you follow. Those features are “table stakes” when it comes to social functionality, but I still don’t see the value offered by the platform. Critical mass for a social network is what drives new users and increased usage. Limited reach translates to limited value, and that’s been the summary equation that’s doomed so many social music networks to date!

I’ve played in this space. Back in the day when I was at IUMA, we grew because we offered something no-one else had; new music from unsigned artists. Along came MySpace Music, Imeem, Mog, Playlist and a host of other social music networks or services. Some have died, some are dying and some are plugged into life support. None has achieved the promise of the platform, and if Apple doesn’t address some of its glaring omissions it could find itself in the same fate.

A few ideas…

1. Integrate with Facebook. Dear Apple; we know you don’t like Google very much these days, so why not open the platform just a bit and integrate into Facebook (that would upset them). That’s the news feed where people are and that’s the place where your updates will find a life. Allow me to publish my “likes” and “posts” for my network there to see, and they’ll come back to you in droves. Trying to build inside your own walled garden won’t work, and this is one area you could actually open up without sacrificing quality.

2. Publish my playlists to the web (errr. Facebook). I know this is going to sound repetitive, but allowing me to publish my playlists to the web in a streaming fashion, and potentially into Facebook via apps, will create an opportunity for me to surface music to my friends. I see more and more posts on Facebook about music, and no way to connect the dots. If you become the source for that information, you will continue to increase your dominance in the online music market. That means sales.

3. Learn the term “affiliate program”. The best way to make money selling music is to let your most avid fans sell the music for you. If a friend recommends music to me, and I trust their tastes, I buy it. If you incentivized me as a user with either an affiliate fee or store credit based on sales generated from my recommendations, I’d be all over it. If I publish a “like” and that drives 10 sales, isn’t it worth rewarding me for a percentage? If I drive 1,000 sales, it certainly is.

These are just three simple ideas, and ones that wouldn’t take a lot of time to implement. You have to do all of this before Google rolls out their music service later this year. It’s a strategic block of the marketplace, and a way to stay top of mind when it comes time to purchase new music for just about anyone!

So here’s to Apple hopefully listening to the little guy (I’m only 5’ 6” after all). Best of luck Steve!

Friday, September 10, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Join The “Cult Of Looking Up”!

The next time you’re walking down the street, take a moment to realize how much of your day is spent looking down. Then, take a look around and observe this same behavior in the masses around you.

I realized this the other day when I was in a cab in San Francisco. It was a beautiful, hot (which is rare) day in SF and I didn’t notice it for a few minutes because I was too busy looking down. I was engaged with the screen of my iPhone, checking email, checking Facebook, checking the digital status of my life and in doing so I was missing the moment. In that one single moment I realized that the present was passing me by!

Upon realizing this phenomenon I decided to get out of the cab and walk to my destination. When I hopped out and began to walk I noticed at least half the people on the street were either looking down at their phones, looking at books while they walked, or simply looking down at the street in front of them. An epiphany washed over me as it became clear to me that we spent too much of our time looking down and not enough time looking up! I now it sounds cheesy but I think our outlook on life is influenced heavily by the fact that we spend so much time looking down and we miss out on the beauty that is the now. By looking down that day I was missing the beautiful sunshine and the interesting people walking by me on the street. By looking down I was missing out on so much and it affected me!

I’ve read all the studies and the research that says multi-tasking is bad and that it has a negative effect on our ability to be focused and effective but more importantly I think you need to enjoy where you are at this exact moment and you need to take it all in. When you’re walking down the street, you should look up, or at the very least look forward. If you’re a marketer, you need to see the world for what it’s worth. If you’re a sales person, you need to see the people around you. If you’re a writer you need to find inspiration in the world that’s laid out in front of you. If you’re looking down, you can’t possibly do any of that!

So this week I want to start a movement. I want to encourage you to abandon the Cult Of Looking Down! I want you to start looking up, and start enjoying the day that’s laid out in front of you. Join “The Cult Of Looking Up!”

Start simply by putting your phone in your pocket and looking up when you walk down the street. When you’re in a cab, look out the window. Look up! Enjoy the day for what it is and I can bet you’ll start being a little bit more “up-beat”! Start looking up in a simple way and maybe your day, and everything in it, will also start to look up!

And if you’re really so inclined, check out the Facebook page for The Cult Of Looking Up! There’s no content, and no reason to be there other than to make a statement. I launched it just to see how many people will agree that they should be looking up once in awhile!

And don’t forget to tell other people around you that they need to look up! Maybe, just maybe, a little movement like this will get people smiling a little bit more in their day!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Inconvenient Truth… About Consumer Privacy

The last few weeks have seen a lot of press surrounding the issues of privacy and consumer safety. It’s a relatively cyclical discussion that seems to be raised every 2-3 years, but its gaining steam now that the government is getting more involved. I’m not one to talk politics nor am I one to sit and here and tell you that everything is acceptable in regards to Internet standards for consumer privacy, but I do want to put some of this discussion in perspective.

The last thing anyone should ever do is defend a policy by pointing fingers at someone else and saying, “but they’re worse”, however in this case I think it’s time to do a little finger pointing. My wife was recently sharing with me some of the “fine print” on the automotive financing bill we get monthly. We own an American car, financed by an American car company so you would assume their privacy policy is in line with simple standards for American consumer privacy. If that is the case, then some of these facts may be somewhat shocking. Here are a few of the highlights, taken word for word, from that recent bill…

“Financial companies choose how they share your personal information. Federal law gives consumers the right to limit some not all sharing.”

“The types of personal information we collect and share depend on the product or service you have with us. This information can include: Social Security number and income, payment history and purchase history, credit history and assets”.

“Reasons we share your personal information – for our everyday business purposes, for our marketing purposes, for joint marketing with other companies, for our affiliates’ everyday business purposes, for our affiliates to market to you. Can you limit this sharing? No.”

Those statements are rather broad in my opinion. The sharing of my Social Security number, name and personal financial history with an affiliate for their everyday business purposes, regardless of my permission, opens a doorway for my personal information to be released outside of acceptable terms. Unfortunately, I have no control over this and if their affiliates’ do not have a similar policy in place then all of a sudden my information is available. And no mention is given as to the method for sharing this data, which is inevitably done through digital means. Just this year I’ve had my mail stolen twice, and my credit card number changed four times because of fraudulent charges made to it. In two of those cases, the credit card company admitted they had a security breach. If that is the case, then whom do you trust?

The general issue with Internet privacy, and the use of cookies to collect information, is that some groups consider this usage of data to be an invasion of privacy, but the fact is that most (and I agree that we are talking about most) Internet companies are gathering non-PII (personally identifiable information). They are gathering anonymous data on behavior that enables ad targeting and the delivery of tailored content. These companies are not gathering and sharing your Social Security number, income, payment history, credit history, assets or your name and address. If consumers are up in arms regarding the usage of your general Internet data, why aren’t they up in arms regarding the use of your PII by traditional companies? What about your credit card company? What about the grocery store loyalty card you swipe to get a percentage off your purchases? What about those “anonymous” companies that buy and sell everything about you to the highest bidder, under supposed regulation of the government? Has anyone asked what their policies are?

There does need to be some regulation regarding the fringe companies that are using malware to gather and share personally identifiable information but the majority of ethical, responsible companies need not be thrown out with the bathwater. Self-regulation on the part of the industry and a responsible plan for monitoring and purging irresponsible companies and tactics should be put in place to ensure that consumer’s rights are not being taken advantage of. Responsible Internet companies should be rewarded and recognized for taking into consideration the rights of the consumer, and the consumers should be made aware of all the ways their information is utilized by all manner of companies. Credit fraud and identity theft are not new crimes, and our industry should not be given all the blame for these issues arising.

Consumer privacy is indeed a big deal and an issue that requires attention, but I hope that the responsible parties address the issue on a grander scale and reward the companies that are acting in a responsible manner with the consumer in mind.

If you care about the issue, be sure to speak to your local congressman or congresswoman, address it in your blogs or just simply respond on the Spin Board!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 10: Cewebrity Stalking Is On The Rise!

Remember all the news about how the web is wrought with tools, cookies and services that invade your privacy? Well, maybe privacy is over-rated! After all, with so many tools and services out there to provide you with ways to follow, emulate and report out on your everyday actions who needs privacy! The web, as a self-publishing platform, is the ultimate in ego. It allows anyone, at anytime, to broadcast anything to anyone. Basically privacy is a thing of the past if you’re a netizen of the present.

It all started when average people started building websites, then blogs and then everything went crazy with the development of Gawker Stalker ( Gawker made stalking readily accessible for the average American, and celebrities were immediately being followed everywhere. But then came Twitter and the rest of the social media revolution and all of a sudden celebrities began telling people where they were and what they were doing, so stalking became sooo 1999. Now it’s called “following”. This issue, we decided to have some fun and find out all the ways people are finding to digitally “follow/stalk” their favorite people in their favorite activities outside the world of celebrity. It’s the cewebrity stalking edition of the Digital Influentials!

Maybe you own a new up and coming social media tool and you’re looking for VC funding? Then review VENTUREMAPS ( VentureMaps allows you to uncover the investors in your area, or other areas of the US. You can get right down to the name of the people that you should be pinging, and it’s an interesting way to do so. Consider this a VC-stalker-starter!

Maybe entrepreneurialship (yes – I made up that word) isn’t you’re thing and you just want to make money the old fashioned way – by investing it. Then check out KACHING ( Kaching provides you with a way to follow and connect with investment managers about how to make money in the market. You can monitor the actual trades of professional money managers, and mimic their moves, thereby creating wealth (if they’re any good). It’s a social application for stalking money managers – sounds like fun, huh? I can already see the final scenes of American Psycho in my head.

If you’re an aspiring musician, but don’t know where to begin, start your day with BREAKOUTBAND ( BreakOutBand is a social tool for creating music with other musicians regardless of location, age or any other defining facts. You can start a band online, and gain traction using social media. It’s an interesting way of creating your art virtually, though not quite stalking I guess. It does feel a little similar in a way I just can’t describe.

Maybe you need to know how many people are stalking you (errrr, following you) in the Twitterverse? Then check out TWITTERCOUNTER ( Twittercounter provides a tool for tracking your impact, graphing the growth of your followers and measuring re-tweets from your username, all in a simple, easy to use fashion. I entered my info and realized that not enough people are stalking me! Now if I could just tweet something of value, I might see the hockey stick graph that I wish I could see (and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at ctreff)!

If you know how many people follow you, and want to know what impact you have, then check out the tools available from PEER INDEX ( Peer Index provides you with an index based on authority, activity and audience, giving you an idea of where you stand in the influence eco-system. It may not help your digital ego to see that you rank so far down the list, but for those of who are goal oriented, it’s a fun set of data to review! See the impact you have on the stalker community.

In the world of iPhone and iPad apps, none get much cooler than the two that I wanted to point out this week. First off, and as no surprise, check out FLIPBOARD for the iPad. FlipBoard turns your social media stream into a magazine, making it far easier and more fun to review Twitter and Facebook than in the standard manner. It’s not a stalker tool, but even stalker’s have down time right??

For the iPhone, the must have app is TUNEWIKI. Tune Wiki acts as a music player, much like your iPod, but it displays the words while you listen (which is something you can do while waiting outside your stalker-obsession’s apartment building). For the first time in my life, I know the words to Yellow Ledbetter and it makes sense!

That’s it for this week. Oh, and please be sure to realize that the opinions expressed in this column do not condone or approve of stalking in any way. If you are a stalker, you are a freak and you should probably get a life ;-)

Talk to you in a couple of weeks!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Trend-Spotting In The Wild

When I was a student at Syracuse, one of my professors said something that stuck with me. They said if you want to be good (great) at advertising and marketing, then become a true student of popular culture. That statement resonated with me and has shaped how I view media, from the perspective of a consumer as well as that of a marketer. To this day, when my wife and I go to sleep she reads Business Week and Fortune while I read Rolling Stone, Spin and Entertainment Weekly – that’s my line into the world of “what’s going on” because I’m simply not hip anymore. It’s where I start my regular trend-spotting exercise.

Trend-spotting is an interesting component of our business. Trend-spotting is the science of identifying where things are headed in popular culture before they get there. It’s actually unfair of me to call it a science when it’s just as much art as anything else. Trend-spotters are the ultimate professors of popular culture, but the web is a powerful tool in that arsenal and just about anyone can be an amateur trend-spotter. If you get good at it, it can have a significant impact from a strategic perspective, and positively inform your client’s business for years to come.

A great place to start is with search. Search is an active database of trends in action. Google Trends is the most logical place to start, and Bing has it’s own trends platform, but there are a host of other tools like TrendyBing that give you access to the 30,000 foot view of what’s going on in search. Reading search trends gives you insight into what people are trying to uncover and the topics that are garnering their attention at the current moment. Trending these searches over time will help you identify fads, failures and long-term directions that may affect your creative messaging. One of the best ways to maintain resonance with your target audience is to be topical, so integrating data and insights from search is a great place to start.

Beyond search, there are a host of digital tools and publications that you can peruse, but one of them (which not everyone likes but I find fascinating) is Cool Hunting. I used to read their site, but they came up with an iPad app that I find far easier for my puny little brain to comprehend. I find publications like Cool Hunting to be interesting because they integrate the best of fashion, design, architecture and music together and highlight products and occurrences that align with what’s “cool”. One of the most overlooked tools of the trend-spotter can be other trend-spotters in the marketplace. There are very few people who can see it all before it comes, so why not rely on the aggregate of the information to allow the best to surface. After all, your goal as a marketer is not to be first, but to understand what impact these changes should have on your messaging.

Of course you can only go so far by reading magazines, perusing publications and tracking search. You have to do some of the work for yourself. Transforming your own daily life into that of a trend-spotter can be an onerous task, bordering on the impossible. It’s not feasible to be 100% self-aware and an objective third party all at the same time. These two states of mind are combative; but what you can do is follow some basic advice and open your mind a bit:

1. Be aware of the world around you and look at people. People watching is one of the greatest ways to spot trends, but in doing so you have to turn off that cynical, natural human inclination to judge. You need to just observe and take notes.

2. Get out… out of the office, out of your house. Get out of your comfort zone and try to engage with different kinds of people, places and things. Try to observe new places and new avenues for learning and attempt to see the inputs that shape others outside of your typical surroundings.

3. Listen to yourself. Pay close attention to what excites you, what interests you and try to observe your own habits. A great way to do this is go through an average day and keep a running log of what you do, when you do it and how you do it. You’ll be surprised at some of the things you come across.

4. Attend conferences, but attend conferences from other industries that may seem interesting to you. See what’s new, see what’s interesting and most importantly, see how others are viewing their own business.

5. The last piece of advice, the one that I read in an article and really liked, is try and spot trends then assume the exact opposite of that trend. It’s a standard brainstorming exercise to pick up certain messaging and then apply polarized thinking, and it works here as well. Identify a trend, then see what happens if everyone acted in the exact opposite manner.

Trend-spotting is an art, and it is a science. Many companies invest millions of dollars a year into this engaging area of our business, but creative thinking requires that everyone can be a little bit of a trend-spotter in their own, unique way. Go out today and try it and you’ll see the strategies you develop may be fresher, more exciting and potentially more effective as well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Online Advertisers Take The Summer Off

When was the last time you were in a record store? I used to go once a week. It was fun for me to browse the new releases, peruse the bins of my favorite artists and plow through the used CD’s to see if there was anything that I wanted to pick up. Times change though and that behavior has become as anachronistic as the pocket watch (and yes – I still like pocket watches).

The record industry has experienced more dramatic change in the last 10 years than almost any other category of consumer product. Don’t be confused by that statement because the music industry is indeed a very well defined consumer product, but the advent of digital media has created an entire generation of people that may well never set foot into a record store. A record store, for millions upon millions of people, was an experience in and of itself. It was a way to spend time, and a way to discover new music. Just last week I was dropping off a friend of mine when I was reminded of a song I wanted him to hear. When I played it for him, he mentioned that he hadn’t yet purchased that deluxe edition box set where the song originates from because he didn’t know where to go anymore! The joke was that just when he could have and should have gone to a record store, he didn’t even know where one was anymore.

Numerous articles have been written about how the music industry is dying, but that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m actually here to raise awareness of the fact that it’s potentially better than ever. From my perspective, the industry is now set to experience a rebirth and a reinvigoration because I feel as though the stars have aligned, but the industry part is getting cut out and the artists are the ones to make the money!

Just look at the way we consume music now. Yes, it’s primarily digital and that means lesser sound quality and a less tactile experience, but that also means the art can come through in many new ways. Artists have the ability to create more immersive cover art than ever before and that can lend value to the experience. Why not create a virtual album cover that is digital video and 3-D rendered while being web based? When you browse through iTunes or Amazon, the primary ways that music is being purchased these days, you can catch the attention of the user with intensely visual artwork if you know how to do it. When you release songs as teasers online, the accompanying assets (video, graphical, flash, audio) are easily shared and passed along by fans and users of all kinds. Remixes and expanded versions are eaten up by online users and interactivity with your art further increases viral consumption. You used to make a mix and pass it along to your friends, now you can pass it along directly and with the right tools you can keep track of that virality!

Music discovery has never been so easy as it is now, with sites and services like Pandora and Spotify. It’s easy to uncover new music, recommend music and “try out” new music before you buy. It’s also easy to unearth rarities and classics from long-forgotten artists allowing them to reach a new audience altogether. And don’t even forget the ease with which users create content, and in that content they can easily integrate music. That music becomes exposed to a new audience and new fans are born!

Your browser and social media are the best record store you could ever hope for. Your friends are the new record store clerks and these services are a revenue stream that never existed before. I know the margins may not be as high as they were, but as the famous words were once spoken, “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”. The labels were fat, drunk and stupid and now they’re paying the price, but the artists are in far more control now than they ever were before.

Which brings me to the last point. The artistry is resurrecting. Some of the new albums from The Gaslight Anthem, The National and Arcade Fire are making me feel good about music again. Even pop albums from Katy Perry and a host of other artists make me feel there is creativity back in the business. So jump back in, feet first, and see what you think. Support the artists who are doing it right and let’s watch what happens!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 9: I Was So Hungry I Almost Ate This Column!

This issue of the Digital Influentials is dedicated to that one common denominator which unites us all! It’s the single, solitary, unifying factor that brings us all together, regardless of race, religion or appetite. It’s all about food!!

No matter what the state of the economy or the temperature or the state of international politics (which I can almost assuredly say is never a fun topic), people gotta eat! Surprisingly the food category is one that is generating lots of innovations in the digital space, so this issue we decided to highlight the various sites and services we discovered that either helped us save money or discover new ways to prep and eat food!

Foodies and average joe’s alike go to the web in droves to search for everything food related. From “what to make for dinner” to a “gourmet meal for 25 people” you can find just about everything. There are articles, videos, pictures (some refer to this as food porn), blogs and more that can help you turn on your cravings and satisfy your tastes. Grocery shopping is a booming category as more data shows that consumers go to the web to prep their grocery lists and research their meals for the week. Let’s dive into some of what we found on our wild and wonderful route through the week!

Looking for a recipe that will twist your ears back and set your nose on fire? Then look no further than YUMMLY ( Yummly is a next generation recipe search engine that catalogs more recipes than you could ever possibly imagine cooking, and people who know and love food created the site! They know the ingredients and they know what you mean to do with them, so check ‘em out!

When was the last time you were stuck in the store not knowing which product to buy? It was probably yesterday, but if AISLEBUYER ( has its way it’ll never happen again! Aisle Buyer allows consumers to scan barcodes while in the store and unlock product reviews and information right while they’re in the store. You can even go that extra mile and buy from your phone, without waiting in line! Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?

Want to watch videos of your favorite cooking personalities, but you don’t want to watch TV? Then check out IN YOUR KITCHEN ( It’s video after video of succulent morsels being prepared by inquisitive culinary professionals! These folks love what they do and they want to do it for you, so take your laptop into the kitchen and cook with the best!

Sometimes the best place for foodies online is where they can check out the best pictures of food, so when you’re finished perusing your food porn with Flickr and PhotoBucket, check out PINTEREST ( Pinterest is a social image-tagging site that allows users to “pin” a picture from any page of the web to their pinboard. Some of the most beautiful pages are the ones dedicated to food. Check out the pictures of cupcakes and pasta dishes and you’ll leave with your mouth watering and your eyes drooling (yes – I got that backwards on purpose).

Maybe you don’t have enough time to watch a show or peruse pictures? Then look in your inbox for TASTING TABLE ( Tasting Table is a free daily email dedicated to the best in dining, cooking and drinking. It’s focused on a few select areas, but chances are high that if you’re reading this email, you’re covered!

As for the Apple-related world of iPhones and iPads (because who better than a company named after a tasty, healthy snack), check out the EPICURIOUS app for recipes and cooking suggestions, or check out any of the shopping planner tools like GROCERY IQ, SHOPPER or GREEN GROCER. All of them will save you time, money, or both!

That’s it for this week. I have to close up the laptop and get me a snack. My tummy is grumbling something fierce! Have a great week!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

MEDIAPOST: What Does It Mean To Be A True “Partner”?

What does it mean to truly be a partner?

This is a question that I’ve been thinking about over the last few weeks and it has stylistically impacted a number of my recent columns. It’s come up on discussion threads, in some email lists and it’s been bantered about in the comments section, so let’s address it head on.

The antithesis of a partner is a vendor, and there is a simple point of differentiation. A partner is a valued relationship. A vendor is an order-taker. A partner is someone who adds value beyond the exact words of a contract, where a vendor does exactly what they’re told and nothing more. A partner is willing to say “no” and willing to fight for ideas and engage in intelligent discourse. A vendor fears conflict and does what they’re asked, even if they don’t believe it’s the right thing to do.

Many people ask me what’s wrong with the marketing services business, because there is definitely something wrong with much of it. My two cents is that too many companies and too many people are vendors and not enough of them are true partners.

In the days of “Mad Men”, or what some refer to as the glory days of advertising, agencies were partners and those relationships lasted a very long time. Agencies would call “BS” on their clients and would fight for what they believed in. Clients would engage in a healthy debate and the two sides would try to convince the other side of their POV. In the end we’d see a rationalized, well-thought out effort that would drive appreciable lifts in business.

Today, there are too many “yes-people” in this business.

It feels like people fear conflict and change, which is funny because this business is built on these two cornerstones. Conflict and change breed innovation and whether you’re trying to reinvent a brand or a category, you need innovation. People are also afraid to make mistakes, and our climate is one that doesn’t tolerate mistakes very easily. Mistakes are what develop ideas! You have to be encouraged to make mistakes and learn from them, because no one ever gets it right on the first try! Mistakes, conflict and change; these three words are important to the growth and creativity of ideas and they are currently missing from the marketing services world.

Yes-people live their lives worrying about mistakes, conflict and change. They’re terrified of making mistakes, they avoid conflict in any way possible and change unsettles them so they try to maintain the status quo. What great ideas have ever emerged from that kind of environment? What great developments or great strides forward have ever emerged from that mindset?

To mend the problems with the business, we need to embrace mistakes, conflict and change. We also need to end the nickel-and-dime tyranny of the post-procurement age where agencies are held to the letter of the contract and negotiated to within an inch of their lives. On the flip side, agencies need to branch out and provide insights with out holding out their hands every single time. Agencies need to take responsibility and offer intelligence without expecting an immediate response in the form of a check, but rather as a deposit in the emotional bank account of the relationship itself.

We need to recreate an environment where ideas are applauded and partners are encouraged to fight for their ideas without fear of repercussions. I don’t mean that every agency should turn into an arrogant, fascist regime but I think that they need to learn to stick up for themselves and their ideas. Clients need to see the value in their partners and engage in the discussion, and they need to be clear about who the decision makers are, engaging them early and often. Some blame Wall Street for the fear of public opinion, but I don’t believe it anymore. I think the responsibility lies within our teams and ourselves as only we can impact the relationships of those around us. Like the saying goes (sort of), you have to affect every relationship one client at a time.

Don’t you agree?

Friday, July 23, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Have You Hugged Your Agency Today?

Have you hugged your agency partners today?

OK – admittedly that sounds a little extreme, but the question is intended to be exaggerated to highlight the state of agency/client relationships these days.
In the old days, the agency/client relationship was long lasting, quite deep and very effective. These days the average agency/client relationship is four years. Is that because the agencies are full of overworked, under-experienced, over-compensated braggarts? In most cases, no.

For the most part, regardless of the issues facing the agencies, the agencies are full of hard working, well-intentioned innovative minds. To be an agency careerist is hard, and it’s full of challenges from many sides. Your competition is always coming after your business and the ethics of business aren’t always top of mind. Agencies undercut on price and they come after your best people. Being in an agency and pouring your heart and soul into the work of your clients can be a pretty thankless job, but those of us who’ve chosen this path know why we love it!

Being an agency person allows you to explore creativity and data all at the same time. It allows you to learn on an ongoing basis. It allows you to be innovative and it allows you to be a problem solver. The nature of the agency world is one of facing challenges head on almost daily, and creating solutions. Identifying a challenge and knowing that you can overcome them and succeed is what drives us. That’s the kind of thinking that gets agency people excited!

Of course, many of us will tell you that the agency business would be utterly amazing if it wasn’t for the clients. I jest (a little), but the fact is that most clients don’t value their agencies and they don’t take into account the human component of the work that’s delivered day in and day out, under intense conditions, in amazingly quick cycles. Rarely if ever does the agency develop the ideas they bring to you in the car ride over to the client’s offices. Most of those ideas were developed over painstaking hours and days and through any combination of late nights, frenetic brainstorms and emotional bloodletting. And nothing hurts worse than when a client shoots down your strategic vision in a matter of minutes for reasons like “they don’t like the color” or “but that’s what I read our competition is doing in AdWeek”.

By no means am I arguing that your agency partners get it right all of the time. Intelligent discourse is what truly creates great work, in both creative and media. What you should be striving for is that intelligent discourse, not just discourse for the sake of the meeting. When you select an agency, you select them because you believe they have the talent and the experience to bring value to your business, and that is what they do (for the most part, when compensated in the right way). Being a good partner means that you challenge one another and you try to make each other better. And you check your ego at the door. Being a good partner means that you value your partner’s strengths and you work through your partner’s weaknesses, knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s the same in any relationship and it should be the same in business.

My hope is that if agencies and clients can create the right kind of relationship early, in the compensation structure, then they can create a truly mutually beneficial relationship that lasts for many years. Both sides should be willing to invest time and they should never nickel and dime their partners. Both sides should get to know the other from a personal view. They should value the experience they bring to the table and they should understand that decisions are made based on all the information, not just your gut or some innate desire to have power in the relationship. They should have an implied understanding that if they go the extra mile for one another, that they’ll have each other’s back and that kind of relationship can go on for years and years.

So if you have a meeting today, take a second to appreciate your agency. You don’t have to engage in a group hug, but simply ask them why they did what they did and say thank you for the hard work.

What have you seen that’s worked and was successful at creating a long lasting relationship between agency and client? Share your thoughts on the Spin Board – I know at least 1,000 people that really want to hear it!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 8: Show THEM The Money!

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise immortalized the phrase, “Show Me The Money” in one of Cameron Crowe’s timeless masterpieces, Jerry Maguire. That scene has been used in various iterations for many different purposes since it was first spoken, but today I wanted to you use it by featuring some of the businesses that are doing an excellent job of getting consumers to spend their well-earned dough. This is the shopping-centric issue of The Digital Influentials!

Consumers spend money. That’s a fact. The economy will fluctuate. It will rise and fall and ebb and flow, but the constant is that people are consumers and consumers spend money. Our entire culture is based on capitalism and the flow of consumer goods. When you watch TV and a celebrity wears a brand, that brand sees a bump in sales. If Oprah says something good about your brand, you’re off to the races. The development of a brand takes time, but it’s the brand that sells products.

The sites we uncovered the past few weeks are utterly amazing in their ability to influence consumers, push products, build and/or translate brands and generate revenue! They all perform special services, each slightly different from the rest, and they’re all generating buzz, harnessing the power of social media, and achieving success in an environment where even the most consumery of consumers are keeping a close eye on their wallets and purses. Let’s see how they’re doing it, shall we?

First off, you can’t mention shopping today without mentioning THE GILT GROUP ( Gilt offers a series of invitation only (invitation through referrals) sales for well-recognized brands and the stuff they have is great. There are daily specials, weekly specials and specials that you may have missed because they were “after hours”. I was referred and started buying in just 4 days, and I know others are too!

If you like the idea of a “personal shopper” then you’ll love SHOP IT TO ME ( Just enter your favorite designers, your size, and the service will rummage through the web, uncovering sales and sites that have what you might want. It makes recommendations and facilitates your buying! Pretty influential, isn’t it?

Speaking of deals, have you been on Twitter lately? If you have and you like to shop, then check out CHEAP TWEET ( Cheap Tweet is a simple aggregator of deals and sales through the twitter feed. There are lots of companies offering closeout prices for inventory on Twitter and taking advantage of the immediacy of the space. Now you can too!

Sometimes the best way to save money, rather than spend it, is to share. That’s the basis for NEIGHBORGOODS ( I know this may seem a bit off subject because this issue is all about spending, but what if you could try out a product by sharing it with someone in your neighborhood before you bought it? What about going in as a group and buying a big-ticket item together? That’s sort of the basis behind this site, which turns your immediate neighborhood into an active social network for sharing real world goods!

Speaking of group buying (and just in case you live under a rock), be sure to check out GROUPON ( and HOMERUN ( Each comes at the category a little differently, but there’s almost no more buzzed-about section of the web than what these two companies are doing right now.

In the fun and exciting world of iPhones and iPads, don’t forget to check out the GILT app, the SHOPPING.COM app, the AMAZON app and the PRICEGRABBER app, to see what deals are available and products you’ll find useful. Shopping at your (literal) fingertips!

Now stop reading this column and get out there to stimulate the economy, would ya’?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Avoiding The Place Where Good Ideas Go To Die

Success in business comes from a combination of luck, talent and timing. In fact it’s my personal opinion, and one that I’ve used for a very, very long time, that success in life comes from a combination of luck, talent and timing. If you can coordinate 2 of 3 of these in the same place, at the same time, for an extended period, then good things can happen.

Of course the antithesis of this philosophy can be process.

The phrases “process paralysis” and “death by committee” are universally known and equally frustrating to me, because I’ve personally witnessed too many good ideas go into a meeting and never come out. I’m certainly person who relies on structure, but I also know when a good idea steps up and smacks you in the face that you need to move quickly. You need to make decisions and you need to take a shot. As Wayne Gretzky once famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Truer words were never uttered in any line of work.

Of course, I will caveat that I don’t advocate jumping in without a net. I firmly believe in stating a case, justifying it with a well thought-out and substantiated rationale, and making a logical test, but these things can be done quickly and they don’t need to be killed in committee! Some of the most successful campaigns I’ve ever worked on were the ones born out of a simple creative idea, sold through quickly, and tested with a simple, clearly stated goal in mind.

To help you avoid the dreaded death by committee, here are some tips for how to prepare an idea and get the most out of the room, hopefully enabling you to achieve success with your ideas:

1. Follow the pseudo-scientific method: Observation, Hypothesis, Action

It’s not the exact scientific method that PhD’s and doctors use, but its close enough. Start out by making an observation that everyone in the room will recognize. Keep it simple and concise. Then, form a hypothesis for what you’re looking to test, and recommend a simple course of action that will allow you to see results via definable, measurable actions.

2. State your case clearly, and stop talking.

The worst thing you can do when pitching an idea is keep talking. You need to speak clearly, with confidence and conviction, to present your idea. You have to make sense, and get to the point, then allow it to sink in. Let the room process your idea, and allow them to ask questions. Let them make your case for you. Let them guide the flow of the discussion. The power of a period and a pause in your sentence can never be over-stated, so make good use of it.

3. Prepare your support information.

Try to anticipate the questions your audience will ask and answer them in advance. Practice your pitch with someone you trust and let them ask the questions they anticipate you will be asked. That will help you to prep the responses you’ll need in advance.

4. Prep the decision makers before you enter the room.

Too many people forget that you should be making the case before you enter the room. All good lobbyists do it; they know the outcome of the vote before the vote even takes place. It’s simple politics, and it works. You seed the idea to the key decision makers in advance, letting them know that you value their opinion. Get their feedback, and integrate it into the idea. Know what their reactions will be before you make the pitch.

5. (This one is sneaky) Put the right people in the room.

Yes – this is sneaky. Be sure you know who will be in the room, and don’t invite the wrong people. There are the born “devil’s advocate” people and the “homeostasis” people who only exist to find balance, meaning argue your ideas. These are the people who don’t applaud change, and are risk avoidance specialists. If you can avoid having these people being a part of the decision making team, you should try it. If they have to be involved, spend special time with them in advance and get them on-board before you put the idea to a vote.

I know some of these sound a bit sketchy (sort of loading the deck, if you will), but they’re not. They simply allow you to put yourself in a position to make a move and live with the consequences while also fully thinking through your ideas. If you aren’t willing to live with the results and admit defeat if it comes, then you shouldn’t be pitching your ideas in the first place. If you believe in what you’re saying, and you have confidence in the outcome, then put yourself out there and see what you can do! Success rarely rewards the man (or woman) who doesn’t take a chance.