29 March 2012

This Is a Blog Post, Not a Foursquare Check-In

Need to see more of these
NEW YORK – I’m in the Capital of the World today, but you wouldn’t know it from my Foursquare profile. Regular readers know I quit Foursquare exactly one year ago.

I originally joined because I believe Foursquare is in the sweet spot intersecting mobile, social and retail. I stopped checking in because they never delivered on it.

As a business person, I’m rooting for them. As a consumer, I no longer saw the point. There was very little in the way of offers or enhancing the retail experience.

Hopefully that’s going to change. Keep an eye on American Express. Every time I read about some new program leveraging Foursquare, it seems American Express is behind it. They have a presence on Foursquare and there has been recent press coverage like this. Industry cognoscenti know about Amex’s broader social media strategy. and Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley’s address at SXSW.

If they can go beyond checking in for the sake of checking in, I’ll get back on Foursquare in a New York minute.

What about you? Are you using Foursquare? If so, are you using it as much as when you first joined?

26 March 2012

What Mad Men Teaches Us About Advertising in 2012


The Diversity Committee will see you now
I didn’t watch Mad Men last night. I’m living it today.

There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, mind you. That early 1960s era is of particular interest to me. On my desk is a small photo of my grandfather taken right about that time.

In addition, I believe history teaches us a lot. In the same way following world history makes us better citizens, following advertising history makes us better at what we do.

What we do is sell. And modern times are the best times to be doing just that. The last great upheaval in advertising was driven by television, but it only happened once. Digital technology drives new upheavals all the time. It’s happening so fast that few can keep up with it or understand it. Major CPG companies struggle; former Mad Men seem to understand. But as Matt Nelson of Tribal DDB put it, now is the golden era for advertising.

In a similar reflection, Duff Stewart of GSD&M said “a successful leader in advertising… today is defined by curiosity.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. (Well – I tried, here and here.) With such a menu of challenges and buffet of media options, more than ever we can say “it’s all advertising” and get to the task of selling in new ways. We have much to learn.

One thing Mad Men can teach us is how little progress we’ve made on diversity. There’s more diversity among media options than the employees who practice them. It’s the best time to be in advertising – but it could be better.

22 March 2012

Olive Garden Review a Rorschach Test for Marketers, Journalists



A small-town restaurant review went viral and promptly became a national Rorschach Test for marketers and journalists.

If you’re a card-carrying member of the MSM, Digerati, Technorati or just a Flack or a Huckster, you’ve read or heard about the quaint review of a local Olive Garden and how Gawker’s Emma Carmichael featured it in a snarky post. Clearly, Carmichael found it amusing that an octogenarian prairie journalist reviewed a chain restaurant.

The comments section under the Gawker piece is the Rorschach Test for marketers and journalists. Some say Gawker gave us a “rude, spiteful” example of Big City superiority complex. Others claim the review was laughable even if you hail from Grand Forks, North Dakota. It’s a lively discussion.

3 Reasons Marketers Should Really Care

We all stopped to look, just like passing an accident on the highway. But what’s the significance? Why should we care?

1. We’re living in our own little world. OK, I’m not really going out on a limb with that statement. We can smirk all we want about what the Grand Forks Herald publishes, but much of it would be alien to many of us. That’s troubling because we’re selling to an audience we don’t understand. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. We need to get out more. It’s worth noting that Gawker gleefully “reported” on a provincial Olive Garden review in 2008. (Is the idea file really that empty?)

2. Journalism has gone Pro-Am. It may seem na├»ve to review a chain restaurant, but Olive Garden in Grand Forks lies at the intersection of It Matters To People There and Newspapers Have To Fill Editorial Space. Media owners aren’t in the media business, they’re in the advertising business – content aids and abets the process of selling ad space.

3. What Viral Is. Marilyn Hegarty has been writing restaurant reviews for 30 years and this month the Internet finally caught up with her. Gawker essentially re-ran an article from four years ago and it took off….in our own little world. This was a popular story among marketers and journalists but Grand Forks and Sioux City may not have noticed.

Putting snark on top of snark, the Atlantic concluded “The Secret to Food-Writing Success: Review the Olive Garden.” My conclusion is different. Someone who doesn’t get out much decided to run a story that her publication had done before, featuring a sincere personal account that went viral on that someone’s ability to imbue it with irony. The audience in which it went viral was really just people like Emma Carmichael. Marilyn Hegarty by all accounts took it in stride.

This confounds those of us who work in modern communications, but it shouldn’t. For every Subservient Chicken there’s a Grand Forks Olive Garden that nobody in a black turtleneck could have created. Come on, colleagues. We’re smelling our own exhaust. Let’s get out a little.