Thursday, April 29, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The People-Driven Business Manifesto

This past week I was reminded of what drives this business; the people.

Some people will have you believe that technology is what drives this business, but they’d be wrong. People drive this business, and let me explain why.

On one side we have the people that make this business run. They are the self-proclaimed old-timers and veterans. The inner-circle. The core people, by my estimation about 350 deep, who’ve been involved in the business since 1994-1995 and who remain to this day the life blood of the industry. The relationships between these people are some of the strongest relationships that I have ever seen. There’s a mutual respect and a passionate desire to see great things happen. There’s a pride of knowing when this business accounted for just $10MM in advertising dollars and an innate excitement to see success. This core group of people also represents an amazing network of connections that will get you within 2 degrees of every power player in the business. These people are incredibly generous with their time and if you know these people then you know they are invaluable to the industry’s success.

Of course, this business is really quite large and so we have to recognize the second layer of people in this business; the innovators. Not to say the core aren’t innovative, but these are the people who saw an opportunity and jumped in with both feet first! These are the young entrepreneurs. These are the web 2.0 and web 3.0 founders. They are the recent digerati. The people who came with an idea, possibly were mentored by the veterans, but most likely weren’t because they only needed an idea and some direction. These are the people whose ideas have shaped the direction and provided the momentum for the unbelievable growth this business has taken. These are the folks that started Google and MySpace and Facebook and any of the thousands of other consumer facing platforms that are changing the game today. These people are connected in one way or another, and they also have a passion, though more for their company or the category they represent and less for the industry as a whole.

The most important group though, and the one that tends to get overlooked, are the users. These are the people that say yes or no to new inventions. These are the people that can make or break a new idea. These are the people that have clicked on our ads, “fan’d” or “like’d” our brands. These are the people who’ve watched our videos, visited our sites and engaged with our campaigns and these are the people you need to be thanking because without them we have nothing. When all else fails and you forget what you should be doing, remember that it is “always about the audience” and you can always find your way.

The reason I point out these three groups of people is that I sometimes get sad that the newcomers to this business don’t know the history of this business. And I know that people tend to overlook the users. The people who come into this business now may never know the history of what created their jobs or the people that came before them and were integral in shaping the world they now represent. I wish I could have met the man or woman who created the ATM machine or the cell-phone. I wish I could tell them the impact they’ve had on my life. I feel lucky in that I’ve met many of the people who shaped the Internet business, and many of them I’m lucky enough to call friends and colleagues, but there are so many more I wish I could speak with.

So the next time you attend a conference or the next time you read a column that inspires an idea, reach out to that person and let them know you appreciate what they have to say. The next time you look into a company, find out where that company came from and why it was started. Take a few minutes to reach out to someone you don’t know and ask them about their experiences so we can all come to realize, as an industry, just how far things have come and learn from the past to ensure the success of the future.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Social Media Is Not Really About Media At All

I think it’s very possible that we have this whole social media thing wrong.

We, as an industry, spend oodles of time focusing on social media and trying to unearth the special ways to “crack the code” of motivating consumers. I attend conferences with “social media” in the headlines and I even help program content at these events, trying to identify how marketers can use social media properly, but the fact is that social media is just media, plain and simple. The real issue lies not within the media, but within the creative so maybe we should be referring to the wave of interest as “social creative” rather than “social media”.

Social media, no matter how you slice and dice it, is just media. Media is nothing more than a distribution platform for messaging and social media is not really that new when you break it down. Facebook and MySpace may be very large sites, but they are still just media vehicles. What is of real value is how you harness the power of the audience itself and create or utilize buzz. That is something done by the power of creative, not by the location of the placement on the page.

The creative story that needs to unfold is the interesting component of social and I feel as though it gets overlooked. I recently engaged in an exercise for a client where we hypothesized how to change the perception of the brand and the strategy was to utilize social media placements to do it. The vehicles that you choose are limited by the paradigm of social media, though it’s a large one, and it really came down to developing a strong creative concept that spoke to the needs of the brand and then utilizing social media as a distribution vehicle for that message. The distribution was two fold; balancing paid media with earned media. One of the things we uncovered was the earned media component, which is typically a barometer for the performance of the effort, is truly driven by the accessibility and intrigue of the creative. The media placements are secondary in that kind of an effort, but as an industry I feel as though we focus our attention on the distribution because the creative is subjective and difficult to discuss one way or the other.

When developing a social media strategy you need to start with the creative concept. The creative concept must take into account the target audience (as all effective campaigns must do) and then look at social media as a tool for one of two things. You are either going to provide a hub for consumer interaction or you’ll create a series of spokes for transferring the message outwards through the network. This “hub and spoke” model is how you generate reach in social media. You create strong consumer touch-points on a one-to-one basis and then arm those consumers, who have hopefully had a positive experience with your brand, with the ammunition to distribute virally on your behalf.

The hubs for this model are either the established presence (what I call the WTF; Website, Twitter, Facebook strategy) or paid media. The spokes are what are driven by creative and take into account interaction and pass-along tools with messaging and content that stimulates that sort of action. The creative concept here fits into a bigger picture and provides the reason for social activity in general. Without the creative concept and the stimulus for the user, you just end up with a paid media buy and a standard ad unit, neither of which exploits the inherent strength of social media.

The social media user is a person, and that person responds to creative messaging more than they respond to placements and location. The creative message is what drives the discussion and the distribution model is what fosters its growth. I hope that in the coming weeks this message will resonate and I will see more discourse around the marriage of media and creative in social media, and maybe even someone will take up the term “social creative” and run with it.

Do you agree with my assessment? Let me know on the Spin Board!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 5: Change Is In The Air

For most of the people reading this column, it’s Spring. Spring brings with it a sense of hope and optimism and the feeling that change is in the air. This Spring seems to have that feeling in spades as the economy is (knock on wood) starting to recover and the iPad is all the rage, ushering in a whole new world of publishing possibilities. It’s too early in my eyes to say that the iPad will be the herald of a future unlike anything else we’ve seen, but it will definitely create new opportunities for those intelligent folks willing to spend the time thinking about it.

In the meantime we’ll just continue to peruse the rest of the web to find ideas and services and destinations that provide us with something new. One of the things I’ve learned over the last few years is that when you evaluate new ideas, you tend to look at three things. First off, is the idea definable; meaning can you easily define what you’re trying to do. The second important criteria is whether it’s defensible; can it be defended against copy cats and imitators who spring up almost overnight. The last thing, and one that people tend to overlook, is whether the idea provides a solution for an existing challenge or if it is a solution looking for a challenge. The fact is that you may create a better mousetrap, all lined in aluminum uni-body design, but if the old mousetrap is doing well and no-one is looking for a new design then it’ll fail.

The companies and ideas below are the ones we discovered over the last few weeks that fit the mold of all three criteria. Let me know what you think!

Is your ear the “ear of the masses”? Can you pick out the best artists before all your friends? If so, check out MUSYCK ( For years my friends and I prided ourselves on being ahead of the musical curve, but now that I’m a daddy it’s a bit harder (the local scene trudges on without me). For the “me” of my youth, I’d have been all over this site which allows you to find new artists and share them with your friends/network, and get paid for doing it. Talk about easy money (thanks to Eric Porres for pointing them out)!

Speaking of your local scene, maybe you don’t have time to track all the “goings-on” of everyday life in your hood? Then check out FWIX ( Fwix helps you aggregate all of your local news into one easy to use interface. Stephen Comfort says the iPad version is fantastic, so as soon as my iPad comes I’ll have to check it out!

Sometimes, keeping up with the news means keeping up with your twitter feed, but staring at lines of text can be mind-numbing, so check out TWITTER FOUNTAIN ( The Fountain comes to us from Doug Chavez, who immediately loved the interface and presentation of rolling items related to specific content. I have to agree – it’s a peaceful way to monitor the world, isn’t it? It may not be a radically new way of reading Twitter, but it’s pretty and that goes for something?

Speaking of Twitter, ever wondered who is de-following you? Then wonder no more; check out QWITTER ( Qwitter tells you who’s stopped following you and when, giving you useful insight into when your posts are annoying (just in case you needed some help with figuring that out). If you over-post, you can lose followers, so maybe you should check it out (you know who you are).

And just in case you’re looking for ways to raise money, check out KICKSTARTER ( as a way to raise some funds! Kickstarter helps artists, film-makers, entrepreneurs and just about anyone raise money. Maybe you’re a local band trying to break through the scene? Maybe you’re the next Twitter? Maybe you are a clothing designer? Whatever you are, try to get funding here.

In about 2 weeks my iPad’ll be here, so then we’ll broaden the discussion of apps to include that wonderful new world, but this week its just one app to talk about… VOICE BAND. Use Voice Band to create all sorts of new music with just your voice (I love it when the name is clear and easy to remember). It’s fun and it could just be the way you get big, in your local scene, raise money and become a phenom promoting yourself on Twitter for the masses (how’s that for tying it all together). At least until followers start quitting you.

Have a great week everyone!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Inferiority Complex of Magazines

Magazines have a problem, but it’s not what you might think. Magazines are suffering from an inferiority complex but even more so from a lack of creativity.

I love magazines and I always have and no element of technology is going to make me change my opinion. I subscribe to and/or purchase about 30 publications, either weekly or monthly. I love the tactile feel of magazines and I love the passive, lean-back, relaxing way they provide me with information without the requirement of a battery or an Internet connection. I love the smell of a newsstand. I love the feel of paper between my fingers. Technology owns me just about everywhere else; all my music is now digital, all my TV is digital. With the iPad I’m certain my book consumption will be going digital. I even recently cancelled my subscription to the Sunday New York Times in recognition that I’d be shifting all my newspaper consumption to digital, but magazines will never go away for me.

So why do they have to run ads, in magazines, to try and get me to keep reading?

No – I’m not making this up. I opened up my latest issue of Entertainment Weekly to find a two-page spread that wreaked of desperation (and poor targeting) by pleading with me from some falsified emotional stance to continue reading magazines. “Dear Agency” that placed that media buy; why would you put the ad in a magazine? Isn’t that like preaching to the converted, at least a little bit? If you feel the need to place a desperate plea for my attention, at least run the spot on the web where your converted masses are headed.

Of course, the inferiority complex of magazines compared to digital media is not the point, it’s a symptom of the problem. Magazines lack a sense of creativity. Times have indeed changed, but magazines aren’t changing with it. Why aren’t magazines all 100% printed on recycled paper? Why didn’t magazines offer extended content online to supplement their print counterparts? Why don’t magazines test some form of paid access model, which is where they’re headed with the iPad anyways? Why don’t magazines find some way to get rid of the BRC (that silly card that always, yes always, falls out of the magazine and certainly creates more hassle and annoyance than they do convert to subscribers)? Why doesn’t the magazine business become more innovative? At the very least, why doesn’t the magazine business stop worrying about the future and embrace it a bit, and try to find a way to thrive in a world where not everything will be connected the web (yes – I said it, not everything will be connected to the web)?

Why doesn’t the magazine business find a new way of distributing their product in locations where digital access is an issue? Why don’t they start selling magazines like they sell popcorn in the baseball parks – with strolling vendors? Why not reach people in the places where they’re most likely to read magazines – on the train, on the plane, on the bus?

And if you’re going to run ads to get me to stay, why not put your money where your true audience might be, not in your own very own magazines where the people who’ve already left are least likely to see you?

Take a cue from the music business; don’t fight technology. Embrace it, but don’t abandon your core – your core is not going to die, even though it may decrease a bit. Don’t fight the future, find a way to work with it. Create your iPad apps and your Kindle apps but encourage me to want to use your printed, environmentally friendly versions where I know they’ll be most appropriate? And remind me what it’s like to sit in bed, curled up under the covers, with a crumpled piece of paper in my hands, and the magazine falling on my chest as a drift slowly to sleep from a long and arduous day filled with great people, great ideas and great content. That’s how you keep my attention.

Good luck mags! I’ll be rooting for you!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Defining Engagement Ain’t That Hard

I don’t get it.

Why is it so difficult for everyone in our industry to develop a measurement for Engagement? Our business has so much data available; it’s not a matter of finding the data, it’s just a matter of finding the right data that you can work with.

The simple fact is people are overcomplicating the issue. Engagement is an arbitrary term that the industry is looking to standardize but you can’t standardize it because it’s tied to individual brand objectives. The broad term “engagement” refers to any metric that measures involvement, whether it is interactions, actions, time spent or other. It’s a transitional metric that provides a bridge between exposure and end-actions like sales. Sales are typically the goal of any and all marketing, but sales data can be hard to come by, especially as an outside partner. In the absence of that data we rely on proxies. In traditional media we look at Reach, Frequency of exposure and brand metrics like awareness, consideration and intent. In digital media we look at all those same metrics, but we add the engagement metrics. The industry can create a bucket of metrics that fall under the umbrella of “engagement”, but they cannot be standardized because each brand will be different.

I think it’s actually a matter of laziness. Too many people are looking for someone else to solve the challenge for them. The challenge is “how do we define engagement in a way that is accurate” by creating a true, relational proxy for sales. You measure engagement in hopes to provide a close-to-real-time measure that you can optimize against and that will provide an idea of the impact for your marketing on driving sales. The industry can’t tell you what that is, you need to develop a formula and figure it out for yourself. You need to invest in analytics to understand the various data points that you have available and examine the correlations of these different data points over time. You develop an observation, you formulate a hypothesis and you either prove or disprove your ideas. The industry can provide guidance, but it can’t do the work for you.

Engagement is a blanket term for individual metrics that you establish, test and utilize going forward. They are strategic in nature and they evolve over time as your business objectives evolve as well. The ideal situation is that you and your partners have a “data summit” to evaluate all the metrics you have available and begin to identify the correlations. Maybe time spent on the site is relative to sales? Maybe interaction rates are relative to inbound inquiries, which is relative to sales. Maybe ad-spend is relative to new visitors, which is relative to search volume on your site, which is relative to visits to the FAQ page, which is relative to sales. It can be a simple model or a complex model, but there is certainly a model that exists for your business. Unless your business operates on pure Chaos Theory (which I truly doubt is the case, no matter what it feels like in the middle of the week), there is a model that will work. It just requires time, analysis and some more time.

Patience is not exactly my strongest virtue, but on this one issue I find peace because I like the numbers. The numbers rarely lie, which is why I like media so much. The numbers can certainly be manipulated but a good marketer can always cut to the important numbers and those tell a story. They describe a path and they show you what your consumers are saying.

If you can hear what they are saying, and if you can see the path they are taking, then defining engagement based on the metrics they leave behind ain’t gonna be that hard!

The Marketing Landscape

Saturday, April 3, 2010

MEDIAPOST: More Than Just A Line Item

How does online become more than just a line item on a flowchart?

To this day, if you ask marketers to show you an example of their media flowchart for the year they will almost undoubtedly show you a page that has a single line item on it for either “digital” or “online”. That’s akin to having a line item for “advertising” and if you think about it, underneath that single line item is a host of tactics that will achieve your objectives while living out their lives in a sea of anonymity. Would you want your efforts to go so unrecognized?

But seriously, the line item for Online should certainly be broken out and integrated into the overall mix. Online is not a line item on a flowchart and I would argue that it is actually a line item supporting every other allocation in that media mix. The role that online plays is to support and weave together other media. From a strategic perspective, it provides for interaction and engagement that cannot be found anywhere else. There is an element of online that speaks directly to every other format of media and that is how it should be integrated into the mix.

For example, if a marketer were evaluating TV, why wouldn’t they consider online video as a support vehicle for that effort? For marketers looking at print, contextual display is a strong vehicle to look at in competition or support. If you’re a marketer that focused on direct mail or direct response TV, then in digital your corresponding tactics might be CPA display, eCRM or behavioral targeting and re-targeting. These tactics are all proven very effective and in many cases more cost effective than their traditional counterparts, so they deserve to broken out as a separate line.

Of course, there are also allocations to search and mobile and other digital components that do not have an offline counterpart, but they still deserve to be broken out separately because they are all unique in their tactical role and the outcome of each is different. When you bunch all of these tactics together as a single line item you make it harder to explain their role and the marketer will not see the value. Search, for example, is a year-round effort that immediately drives interested parties to your product. Search is not typically a flighted effort because it always works, no matter what time of year. When you’re not in search you give your competitors an advantage. When a user searches for a product or service and you aren’t there, you create a missed opportunity for your brand that translates to you possibly being excluded from the consideration set. Conversely, your competitors who are spending in that area are now in consideration where they may not have been before.

The biggest line item that should be broken out, outside of search, is social media. At this point I think it would be hard to find a marketer that doesn’t realize the value of social media (though I’m quite certain you can find a whole bunch who are not yet engaged for fear of the “lack of control” in that space). Social media requires allocation of budgets that are not necessarily paid media; they may include earned value and the establishment of presence. These elements may not be something that all media planners are used to seeing, so they don’t know where to put it. Does it go into production? Does it go into PR? Does it break out as its own line item? I would vote for the latter, personally. My feeling is that any element that can be explained on its own two feet should be broken out.

I know that creating a media recommendation in today’s economy is far more difficult than it was in the days of “Mad Men”, but that complexity shouldn’t be hidden under a single line item on a flowchart. The complexity should be explained so everyone can understand what all of the components actually are and how they work together.

Are your flowcharts still breaking out a sole line item for “Online”?