22 December 2009

Twitter vs. LinkedIn

Thanks to many of you who follow me on Twitter for participating in an experiment the past day or so: to see the effect on Ad Majorem’s traffic by mentioning content only on Twitter.

I’ve been wondering about Twitter. When I first joined in April 2007, nobody else was using it. By the time I launched this blog just three months ago, Twitter was all the microblogging rage.

Yet LinkedIn has generated most of the blog’s traffic. In a way this is logical since LinkedIn and this blog are both devoted to business topics. Most of my contacts on LinkedIn would have an interest. The blog's content by nature will be more relevant to that audience.

Then again, many of my friends on Twitter have some connection to marketing and advertising, too. So why weren’t my tweets having the same effect as my LinkedIn status updates? To understand this a little better, I've stopped posting updates to LinkedIn for the past two days and used only Twitter.


Do not try this at work. Most social media strategies do not rely on a single platform to start a dialogue with your target. In my case this is a low-risk experiment since it's just Steve's personal blog and not some new media venture funded with venture capital.

So what happened?

Overall traffic was about the same the past two days. LinkedIn's percentage of visits went down, but still accounted for 21.6% of visits based on leads posted last week. Twitter is on an upward slope, but still only 18.5% of visits. On the other hand, Twitter was the leader in pages per visit (1.44) and new visitors (61.1%). The biggest source of visits is still Direct Traffic -- people who come to the site by entering the URL or perhaps having it bookmarked -- holding steady at about 32.9% of visits.

Content matters

To start this experiment, I asked people to retweet a very generic notice: “a blog all about #marketing and #advertising”. Even though many of you retweeted it, the results weren't anything special. The same day, without any special effort, I tweeted something a little more intriguing: “The product we advertised will polish the award we won for advertising it.” The results were a little more intriguing, too: lots of retweets, strong pageviews, and new followers on the blog as well as on Twitter. Why? Content matters. If the content is pedestrian, not even retweets will generate interest. If the content is interesting, however, it will generate interest – and retweets. No big news there. Some rules of Ye Olde Marketing still apply in the New Media Universe.

I’m going to continue using the Twitter-only system for the next couple of weeks and see what happens. This will be a test of my copywriting ability. If you like what you read and think others would, too, then please retweet. Otherwise just move on to whatever the Muppets are singing this week.

A big "thank you" to those who have helped so far. Please continue the karma by following these kind souls: @adlandjones, @TheYaffeGroup, @MargotMHorn, @robbiew, @joshi_mridul, @maedrolet, @robbdotcom, @saman325, @eermm, @mjulius4, @lilmissjen, @DrumsForAds, @Absatzlehre, @michaelleander, and of course my corporate masters @Draftfcb.

21 December 2009

An award that we will polish with Windex

Draftfcb won first place for Innovative Marketing Communications at the Chicago Creative Club "No Show" Awards this past fall. The winning program was an experiential street demonstration for Windex. You can see it here on YouTube or just watch it below. We were praised at the time for doing something interesting with the most ordinary of household products.

Last week we received the actual award. In a nice little irony to close out the year, the award came in the form of... a block of glass.

Yes, we will polish it with Windex.

18 December 2009

3 keys to (continued) survival in 2010

At the beginning of 2009, we all knew a tough year lay ahead. We won’t repeat it all here except to say: housing bubble bursts --> credit market freezes --> financial institutions fail --> stock market crashes --> budgets get cut.

There is one more effect, actually. “Marketers seek results.” After budget cuts, every dollar must show a result. We’ve written about this here, here and here.

Ad Majorem is all about embracing the changes and challenges of modern marketing. The “modern” part is often the trickiest.

No one has all the answers, however, so don’t expect this of yourself.

Instead, here is some advice extracted from what Arthur Ashe, the great U.S. tennis pro once said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

1. Start where you are

It’s human nature to reflect upon a year gone by. We knew 2009 would be tough, and it was. Where does it leave me? What have I learned? These are simple questions, but not easy ones. The hard part is taking the time and having the courage to assess these questions, look ourselves in the mirror and honestly understand our individual situations.

For example, you may have a client who is more attentive to cost savings than ever before. You may have a customer who wants to remove your products from the shelf. A new product launch may not be going well. Writing these things down on a list often helps me face them more honestly. “The truth will set you free” – if you’re willing to face it.

Catalogue the good stuff, too. We won a new account (let’s ensure their first 90 days are so good they never look back). We hired an outstanding SEO expert (let’s put her to work on that new client).

2. Use what you have

There are two thoughts here that complement one another.

The first is to play your position. What are you charged with doing and delivering? Make sure you nail those objectives and let nothing distract you. For example, you may make TV commercials for a living and hear pundits deride these as Ye Olde Media. Consider that many consumers watch TV commercials on broadcast, cable, digital or mobile media. More than that, if a client is paying you to make a TV commercial, make sure it is the best dang TV commercial you can possibly deliver.

The second thought is to deliver added value beyond what’s expected. Chances are that you have smart, capable co-workers who can be part of a team that produces something of added value. To extend the above example of an agency that makes TV commercials for a client, the team can deliver a retail extension or a partnership with one of the broadcasters to feature the product more prominently. Other avenues may be a new product idea, a new claim or demo or an emerging media application. If you know your consumer and your client’s business well enough, you’ll generate good ideas.

3. Do what you can

Look around your organization. What other resources does it provide to you as an employee, manager or leader? What does it offer to clients or prospects? Many of us take a quick glance and complain that the company hasn’t made this or that investment, or that “no one” wants to push the envelope. Is “no one” really stopping you?

When Draft and FCB merged three years ago we suddenly had a long list of capabilities. The list was so long that nobody wrote it down. I walked around the newly combined hallways of Draftfcb, interviewed colleagues old and new, took notes, and eventually compiled that list. It was impressive (and we have filled it out a little more in the past three years).

The point here is not to have a long list of resources, but to fully assess the possibilities. Dream a little bit. Where can we take this business?

At minimum this kind of exercise develops your peripheral vision. In a time of change it is critical to understand what goes on around us. If we don’t know what’s possible, we’ll never make it a reality.

Start where you are: Honestly assess your situation going into 2010. Use what you have: Play your position – and add value. Do what you can: Push the envelope – stay abreast of the new possibilities that constantly arise in today’s changing and challenging marketing environment.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Feliz Navidad -- and have a happy, prosperous, change-embracing New Year in 2010.

17 December 2009

Congratulations to a Renaissance Practitioner

Tina's job at Draftfcb is Global Retail and Promotions Officer, which means she is responsible for keeping those disciplines strong at our through-the-line agency. You know she's doing a great job because we've been named #1 agency by PROMO Magazine two years in a row. She's a terrific specialist.

She's also a terrific generalist. One of the things I really appreciate about Tina is her teamwork and understanding as we employ the Draftfcb model. She understands not only the strength of retail and promotions, but the role of these disciplines. This requires good peripheral vision about what her other colleagues are doing. She's a Renaissance Practitioner.

Felicidades, Tina!

16 December 2009

The world is spinning out of control...

This blog embraces the changes and challenges of modern marketing, which are legion. Here are two quick ones from the past 24 hours of marketing news.

DVR time-shifting. This article on AdAge.com reports a new study on which shows are the most "time-shifted", thanks to DVRs ("TiVo" to some of us). The study from Horizon Media counted eleven shows that are regularly watched up to seven days after they air.

Radio ratings. This morning's NYTimes.com reports that Nielsen's new Portable People Meters bring new accuracy to radio ratings. The author seems very interested in the findings that adult men listen to Celine Dion and that classical radio fans are a bit hypocritical.

These aren't just changes in technology, they are changes in how we measure the effectiveness of what we do.

TV is a popular medium, but how does it drive sales?

Yesterday Deloitte released a new study finding that TV is the most popular medium in the U.S., with 34% saying so, an increase from last year. The Internet came in second. (You can download the study here.) This is a timely follow-up to the previous post and discussion about TV's popularity among teenagers.

Speaking of research, we spent the morning yesterday reviewing the latest copy test results for a long-running TV campaign. It was a fun meeting because we scored incredibly well, giving us confidence for the day when we unleash this advertising on the marketplace.

The most successful TV commercials leave the consumer able to do two things. (1) Recall the brand name along with the commercial itself. (2) Retell the story line along with the product itself.

Many will tell you that TV advertising should inform, entertain, incite, et cetera, and those are all true depending on exactly what you sell. None of them matter, though, unless the audience remembers the brand name and understands the product being sold. (It helps if you are selling something relevant to the audience, but that's a story for another day.)

14 December 2009

TV is dead -- long live TV

It's fashionable in marketing to declare the death of TV. The problem is, people keep watching TV, so we can hardly say the medium is dead.

The latest news on this front was reported the other day in a New York Times article titled "TV Still Has a Hold on Teenagers". The basis of the report was a Forrester study of media use by European teenagers that found them using TV more than any other medium. The Internet and other media are used less.

Also noteworthy is the apparent conclusion that all media do not add up to 100% of a teen's waking hours. In a startling recognition of human nature, a Forrester analyst is quoted saying "real-world social interaction with friends remain important for online teens."
How, then, do they seem to use so much media? Multitasking. As noted here before, our research shows this time and again.

To be sure, TV's business model is under threat. On one extreme, Fox considered cancelling the popular series "24" because production costs exceed ad revenue; on the other extreme, NBC's Jay Leno Show will make a profit even though low audience numbers mean low ad revenue because production costs are so low.

TV will be different in the future; it has to be. We already have so many ways to reach consumers via TV, and there are many more TV-like media available, such as pre-roll and digital out-of-home. The next decade will bring twice as many changes, and we'll all still be watching, just like the baby on The Tubes' album cover pictured above.

11 December 2009

The Three Ds of modern marketing

There are Three Ds of modern marketing you dare not ignore: Digital, Direct and Data.

Yesterday's post about the "constant process" of online media ("Digital" to some of us), got me thinking about the Three Ds, which have been a recurring theme lately in my daily work.

The "constant process" of Digital means that you don't just launch a campaign and see what happens. You launch, measure and optimize.

This is exactly the same with Direct, the second "D". When I was an AE at Leo Burnett we proposed to our client an inbound telemarketing program ("an 800 number" to some of us). Burnett's direct marketing department was new, and we had hired an incredible talent in Tom Collinger, now a professor at Northwestern University. His words to the client stick with me to this day: "If you launch a program like this, it's a commitment. You never really turn it off."

Direct, like Digital, is an ongoing process. The whole purpose is to establish a relationship that makes your brand or product line meaningful enough to a consumer that they will continue to receive and respond to your messages. Increasingly they will send messages of their own, which also have to be measured.

Both Digital and Direct depend on Data, the third "D". The measurement and optimization is all performed based on how consumers respond to your message, and that response is more measurable than ever. As Lester Wunderman recently (under)stated: "The science of data has really built (the direct marketing) business."

Not only must we recognize these Three Ds of modern marketing, we are practically compelled to use them in combination. It would be inadvisable to run a Direct program without Digital and impossible to run one without Data.

These couldn't be a Venn Diagram because the circles would be right on top of one another. I prefer to think of these Three Ds as a 6-4-2 double play combination in baseball, like Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance.

Whatever the right analogy is, these are certainly the right combination. Historically, marketing has been based on events that we execute, that succeed or fail, and that teach us lessons to apply next time. In the modern era we can learn those lessons in real time and adjust accordingly, driving up the sales curve as we go.

10 December 2009

Online Media is a Process, not an Event

The above headline is my revision to a statement by Seth Godin that generated some Twitter buzz today. Seth wrote: "The reason social media is so difficult for most organizations: It's a process not an event." That's a concise and brilliant thought.

If I may edit a little, the same observation applies to all online media. Online Media is a process, not an event.

The diagram above illustrates this point. Traditional media requires a marketer and an agency to plan, buy and execute. Online media -- and yes, social media -- requires steps beyond execution.

Those added steps are to measure, optimize and revise. It's a constant process. That "constant process" is the difficult part for most organizations, because it requires a sustained effort throughout the marketing timeline and beyond. You don't just launch and then watch the sales roll in (or not).

I've provided a bit more explanation of what the "constant process" entails in this presentation on SlideShare. Even so, it's just the start. My next post will elaborate on what comes next.

02 December 2009

"Oh -- were we supposed to prove the results of what we did?"

Measurement and accountability are favorite topics of mine because they are the keys to the future of our business. Technology now permits us to know a lot more about the results of what we do.

Even so, it seems many executives don’t want to know the results. Perhaps they don’t trust the mysterious black box marketing mix analyses that impugned their efforts in the past. Perhaps the idea of understanding an algorithm (or even spelling the word) is intimidating or boring. Or maybe it’s just a lack of familiarity with the methods old and new we can all use to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

We’d all better get familiar fast. Even if we provide the smartest strategy and the greatest creative, it won’t mean much without analytics. As described in the short history of advertising, there are plenty of consultants who are willing to fill the void.

The good news is that we have a lot of options for measurement. Here are just three, plucked from the news this week alone.

1. It’s possible to measure TV advertising’s effect.

Let’s start with some fuzzy math. Or, in the words of Lucas Donat, “fuzzy analytics”. Donat wrote this week about a method of measuring TV advertising’s effect on sales. It’s very simple math: establish a baseline that estimates what sales would be if you did not advertise for the time period in question. What’s the baseline? That's the fuzzy part. You are making a 21st Century dart throw, a guesstimate. Why not? You have to start somewhere. As Donat explains, you must attend to this model over time and learn its rhythms, constantly measuring your actual sales curve to understand the marketplace effect.

This is very old-school, but it is absolutely acceptable math. Years ago when I worked on McDonald’s we used this model every single month to understand whether Two Big Macs for $2 was driving a sufficient lift in transactions to justify the lower average check we expected from the discount. Step one, under the tutelage of McStatistician Larry Knodle, was to establish a baseline. We treated these monthly case studies very seriously, and referred back to them for the planning of each new program. You’ve never known accountability, by the way, until you’ve explained store sales and profit to a committee of QSR franchisees.

2. David Ogilvy’s “secret weapon” should now be standard equipment.

I didn't mention that Lucas “here’s-how-to-measure-TV” Donat is actually a direct marketing guru, and one imagines he is well-schooled and experienced in all of the measurement tools of that trade. Draftfcb, my employer, is the result of a merger between an ad agency and the world’s premier direct marketing agency. I love the way my colleagues from the former Draft think about measurement; it’s a product of decades measuring their work in direct marketing. Before the merger, direct marketing was something I only read about. A great example was “Ogilvy on Advertising”, David Oglivy’s 1983 survey of the craft, which included a chapter titled “Direct mail, my first love and secret weapon”. It’s either quaint or prophetic that in just the third paragraph he mentions “computers” as a major advancement in the discipline.

On that note, I highly recommend this article in DMNews that summarizes how direct marketing has been transformed in the past 30 years by technology. It is a wonderful, concise retelling of the ways direct marketing has come in to its own. There are lots of quotes from bold-faced names in the industry. Howard Draft remembers the 1980s as a time when "we started to play around with quantitative media analysis." A quote from Lester Wunderman says it all: “The science of data has really built our business.” Interestingly, the article never mentions the words “measurement” or “accountability”.

3. Isn’t Digital supposed to be measurable?

This morning there was an article about IRI, Dynamic Logic, ComScore and X+1 teaming up to offer “CPGConnects”, which would go beyond the marketing mix analyses mentioned above. (The article helpfully notes that MMAs are “CPG’s ROI of choice”.) This new venture would analyze consumer purchase data that could be used to plan more effective online campaigns. Part of the news here is that CPGConnects would tie purchase data to consumer segments such as loyalists and switchers, and see how these individual segments respond. An intriguing example was the diagnosis of a packaged-goods brand campaign that attributed sales lift to incremental purchases by existing customers, as opposed to bringing in new buyers.

The article also notes that scale will be a challenge for CPGConnects, as in: most CPG digital campaigns are way smaller than the broadcast advertising budgets. This will change quickly in the next five years as ad messages are delivered digitally (pre-roll, digital OOH, etc.).

I remember reading an interview with Coke CMO Joe Tripodi a few years ago, when he was in the same role at Allstate Insurance, in which he bemoaned the lack of uniform metrics for digital campaigns. It’s true that Dynamic Logic and DART offer different ways to measure what your online campaigns are doing. In my view that’s a good thing, because at this early point in the History of Internet Advertising we need more than one reference point to measure the results of what we do.

18 November 2009

How TV fits into IMC

My two previous posts about a successful TV commercial and the broad reach of Radio generated some commentary on LinkedIn and Twitter. Some of the chatter was skeptical: TV? Radio? Really?

Yes, really. That's why I posted. There seems to be an unhealthy skepticism toward broadcast media. To be sure their business models are in question. The ground is shifting underneath them just like it is for all of us. (Over the weekend there were a couple of more articles on this subject: The Wall Street Journal examined the Comcast-NBC Universal deal and the self-proclaimed Newspaper of Record pondered "An Unsteady Future for Broadcast".)

Even so, TV and Radio were never the best or only media an advertiser could use. They each have their own strengths: For example TV reaches large audiences very quickly, which is important if you're launching a new CPG product. That's powerful but an advertiser must close the sale at the shelf, so it's advisable to complement broadcast media with an FSI or a shopper marketing program.

With that, it's time to check in on our two IMC projects, one where we handled all media for a client, and another where we worked with multiple agencies.

You may recall that we were in the process of getting to a channel-neutral plan. We ultimately decided that TV was necessary to build awareness quickly, but in this case we built the TV plan around a strong retail plan that invites consumers to see and try the product. Likewise we used Radio to build awareness of retailer events ("shopper marketing" in some dictionaries). We can summarize the role of TV as less like a megaphone and more like the flute played by the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

We left off with this project also on the verge of a channel-neutral plan. In this case TV will played a more traditional awareness-building role, but the magic of working together with all of our client's agencies is that we had good peripheral vision on what everyone else recommended and did. It's only a small part of the deal that our messages were consistent across all media. The real benefit is that each medium played off the others in real time, like on a basketball court. TV, then, was planned in conjunction with all other activity.

What's the right role for broadcast?

My point is that TV and Radio should never be the default position for a marketer; nor should they be eschewed. The right role for all media -- broadcast, retail, digital, social -- should derive from insightful consumer and business analysis. Then, figure out how they all work best together.

16 November 2009

The golden age of wireless

Radio will always be special to me because I was a local reporter and announcer before entering corporate life.

Over the years radio itself went corporate as thousands of stations were bought by the likes of Clear Channel and Infinity. At the same time many have predicted the medium will die at the hands of the iPod, satellite or Internet radio.

This just in: Radio lives.

According to an article yesterday in MediaPost, a recent study of media usage confirms that radio is actually thriving in several ways. The study, funded by Nielsen and conducted jointly by the Ball State Center for Media Design and the Council of Research Excellence, measures a wide range of media usage by American consumers. Radio is second only to television in terms of reach, even in the 18-34 age demographic. To be sure, this demo uses their iPods a lot, but radio doesn't seem to suffer. You can click here for a roundup of their findings.

The only caveat I'd offer is that our own agency's research consistently finds that younger adults consume several media simultaneously. Not sure if this new study accounts for that effect, but on balance it seems as if we are still in the golden age of wireless.

TV + IMC = Marketplace Success

The above headline may be kind of a "duh" for most of you, but parts of the blogosphere seem to regard TV and IMC as completely incompatible, where TV is ancient history and IMC is the path to a glorious, channel-neutral future. (Read: "TV is dead.")

This project also entailed a cross-agency IMC effort that any marketer would envy. TV was merely part of the glorious, channel-neutral plan.

Congratulations to the entire team at SCJ and all of their agencies.

09 November 2009

Brevity takes a lot of work

NEW YORK -- My agency's chief creative officer observes "This isn't the Information Age, it's the Too Much Information Age." We are all overwhelmed with too much information, and many of us exacerbate the problem by passing along too much of it ourselves.

In agency life, creative briefs are a prime example of TMI. Whether the assignment is a shelf talker, a direct mailer or a :30 TV spot, we often brief the creatives in a way that isn't... brief.

To be sure, there may be a lot of information required to write a brief. Our job as agency executives is to synthesize all that information into a powerful, insightful strategy that gets to the heart of the matter.

That's why I loved the poster you see above, which I saw today on a wall in Draftfcb New York. The longer you think, the shorter the presentation.

(This is akin to the oft-quoted statement, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead," attributed variously to Mark Twain, Blaise Pascal and others.)

Next time you have to write something, take the time to make it short. Brevity takes a lot of work.

06 November 2009

Understanding Twitter

Recently a colleague expressed confusion over the various methods of communicating on Twitter: tweets, replies, mentions, direct messages, et cetera.

Be confused no more.

Last month on TwiTip, a blog dedicated to the ins and outs of using Twitter, there were two posts that defined these various terms. For Part 1, click here, and for Part 2, click here.

My sense is that someone will need to post on this topic again in the next few months, as Twitter evolves and the number of savvy users increases. One key trend to watch is whether Twitter keeps its identity as a true representation of the wisdom of crowds or if it's overrun by more, uh... managed communication (e.g. spammers). A friend recently observed that his account has been plagued by much more of the latter.
UPDATED 8 NOVEMBER 2009: The Groundswell blog had an interesting case study on using Twitter as a research method. Click here to see it.

03 November 2009

The basis of all great advertising

The basis of all great advertising is great writing.

No, this is not an ode to long-form print of days gone by, or a paean to 4-page direct mail copy.

This is a clarion call to simple, clear strategies, and strong, powerful ideas. These are fruits of our labor that depend on the written word. Sometimes we can express strategies or ideas with an image, but never without a coherent description or an insightful analysis. None of this ever happens without great writing. Better said: None of this ever happens without clear writing.

Clear writing and clear thinking go together. When coaching my colleagues on how to express a strategy, idea or recommendation, I am only partly concerned about syntax and grammar. The real issue, usually, is: Do you understand what you are trying to communicate? If not, think again before writing again.

Almost every single great creative director I've worked with, regardless of discipline, insists on a clear strategy. If you don't give them one, they sense it intuitively and call you out. As they should. Their work depends on a clear strategy, clearly written. If it is not written clearly, chances are it is not a clear strategy.

The importance of clear writing came to mind this morning as I read this op-ed piece about the fiftieth anniversary of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. If you don't know about this book, it is a failure of our education system. If you haven't read it, even in a long time, read it again. Buy it here.

P.S. -- This is not all super-serious stuff. For a little fun with great writing, you can read Stephen King's On Writing and check out the blog Mighty Red Pen.

29 October 2009

Is "Agency" a bad word?

There was a nice roundup in yesterday's New York Times on the various agency start-ups in the Big Apple these days.

Wait. Did I say "agency"? That might have been a bad word.

The article quotes NY adman Brett Shevack as saying: "What's important is to lose the mentality of 'agency of record' and adopt the mentality of 'catalyst of record'." The article helpfully clarifies that this means "serve marketers as a force for change rather than as a supplier of the status quo".

Here we see the pervasive stereotype of today's ad agencies as backward, traditional, almost Luddite institutions, robotically producing 30-second TV commercials. (Sadly, there are some people and places in the industry where this stereotype is true.)

The word "agency" seems to be out of fashion. Last year a university professor told a large conference that the word "agency" means "the state of serving as an official and authorized delegate or agent". He helpfully clarified that "all agencies did was place the media for a commission and then provide the creative for free." This is factual, but incomplete.

If you check this definition of the word "agency", you will see not only the professor's definition but this one: "a business that serves other businesses". I like this definition better because it applies to agency models old, new and evolving.

To live up to this particular definition -- and Shevack's "catalyst of record" -- an agency of any model must learn the client's business, identify the consumer insight, set a clear business objective, and then help the client achieve it with strong creative in a channel-neutral plan.

If we all do that, "agency" will be a good word again.

28 October 2009

Three lawyers walk into a blog about advertising...

It seems lawyers and the law kept popping up in my world this week. Yes, lawyers. Those people who water down our claims and tone down our prose.

Carla Michelotti and the CAF. Carla (pictured here) is the general counsel at Leo Burnett and an effective, tireless advocate for commercial speech. She's a key player in the AAAA, ABA, IAA and other industry groups. She is also one of the most ethical people in business today. For all this and more, the Chicago Advertising Federation yesterday gave her the Silver Medal Award for outstanding contribution to the industry. The event was a fitting tribute with speeches by industry leaders past and present. On a personal note, Carla also saved my Super Bowl spot from a legal technicality. Thank you, Carla, for saving our spot and giving many other people the means of saving theirs.

Trademarks and IMC. Regular readers know that we've been working on a multi-agency IMC project. As part of the process we make sure our selling language is accurate and ownable. One of the lawyers we work with observed that messages in one channel may have a slightly different legal interpretation in another so we should be careful to compare notes with our partners in other disciplines.

Argentina's new law governing media. As a former Argentine resident, I follow all news about my former home, especially when it concerns our industry. The current government passed a law restricting media ownership and airing of foreign-made advertising. Two Argentine journalists explained on AdAge.com this week how these aren't just legislative developments; they force advertisers to rethink media strategy.

The rule of law is important and in the United States we often take it for granted. Lawyers remind us what we have and how to use it.

27 October 2009

If you can't stand the heat...

McDonald's pulls out of Iceland, closing their three restaurants in the economically beleaguered country, according to this report from Financial Times. The collapsed economy is only part of the story -- the other part is that most ingredients must be imported from Germany, driving up the retail prices to unaffordable levels. This is not consistent with the "V" in McDonald's strategy of QSCV. On that point alone maybe this was an overdue decision.
UPDATED 28 OCTOBER 2009: The McDonald's pullout from Iceland inspired this WSJ editorial about the dangers of currency devaluation.

22 October 2009

The power of the shelf

Much has been written about the rise and rise of retailers: the slotting fees they charge manufacturers, their influence over marketing of CPG products, and more recently the budgets devoted to Shopper Marketing.

Over the years I’ve watched this trend and appreciated the power of the shelf. On two previous CPG assignments I helped develop really powerful TV advertising that fell flat in the market because my client’s product wasn’t adequately distributed or merchandised (their version of the story, not mine).

Some of you manage only advertising, some only retail, some both and some neither. But all of you must keep in touch with what happens “on the street”.

Yesterday I spent the day with my clients checking stores in a medium-sized Midwestern city. Three things struck me.

The Reality of the shelf. Strategy back at the office means little if your product is not placed or merchandised well. This is very obvious, but admit it – how often do you really get out of that office and make a point of seeing what shoppers really see? My client and I had been discussing a portfolio management issue and based on what we saw in a dozen Food, Mass and DIY stores, both of us had our perspective changed at least a little.

The Clarity if the shelf. Many marketing questions are hard to answer from a spreadsheet. Under the luminescence of 400-watt halide lighting, however, it all becomes so clear. Yesterday I realized our pricing might be backwards and a contemplated new product launch has two existing products in its frame of reference I really hadn’t considered thoroughly enough.

The Power of Collaboration. Our traveling team was a mix of marketers, salespeople, data analysts, a researcher and yours truly. Discussing issues in the store and away from the office really drove new thinking.

I'll write a lot more about retail and shopper marketing in future posts. For now, see the above photo -- a cold and flu program at Kroger that offered real value to consumers. An excellent example of shopper marketing -- nicely done.

Get out on the street and see the power of the shelf.

19 October 2009

Who provides social media?

The other day's question about who "owns" social media* leads to a related question.

Who provides social media?

This question came to mind upon reading an article in this morning's Adweek. The reporter describes a pitch for VSP, the eye-care insurer, where the client sought "social media" services from a range of public relations and digital agencies. VSP ended up hiring the Lewis PR agency and the EVB digital agency, who worked together. "There wasn't one agency or partner that satisfied all our needs," explained the client.

My favorite part of the article was the head of another digital agency describing the overlap of many agencies in the social media space: "It's like this gigantic Venn diagram where you can't make out the circles anymore."

Is that bad? I don't think so. In the same way that a world with three TV networks was served by traditional ad agencies, a world with a billion eyes reporting a billion things through a billion sources to a billion readers can be served by... a lot of different kinds of agencies.

In other words, technology has democratized not only the media business, but the agency business. In the old days an agency needed sufficient technological resources to actually make a TV commercial. The technology isn't as expensive in social media, so we wind up with many more providers.

A big caution here: We must not confuse technology with strategy. In the old days some agencies who had the technology made some really bad advertising. In the same way some modern agencies have the technology but don't necessarily have the smarts to use them effectively, i.e. to build their clients' businesses.

Conversely, some agencies and individuals have the smarts without the technology. They are capable of directing those who have the technology in a very strategic way.

These dynamics benefit clients because they can choose among many providers. The key is to choose provider(s) who understand the client's business and can fashion an effective social media strategy.

* Answer: Users, not any one agency.

09 October 2009

Who "owns" Social Media -- ad agencies, PR firms, or digital shops?

This week the PRinciples blog featured an incredibly smart social media play by Draftfcb Vienna. (The agency needed to hire a new accountant). The blogger, a grad student, wondered if "PR or advertising should 'own' social media." This is not a new question; many in the industry are asking it.

My answer: all marketing firms should utilize social media when it makes sense for their clients' business. Would you ever confine the use of television to a single type of marketing firm? No -- ad agencies make TV commercials and PR firms make VNRs and B-roll. The same applies to social media. Different firms will use them in different ways. Writing as a mild-mannered executive for a great metropolitan ad agency, I'm happy to say I've worked on projects with most of the major PR firms in town and almost always find them to be creative, smart and professional.

The only quibble I have with the post on PRinciples is the assertion that ad agencies refer to social media as "digital media". No; we call it social media. I suppose it is a subset of digital media but these categorizations miss the point.

The strength of our ideas is limited only by the channels we imagine can carry them.

Lastly, none of us in the industry "owns" social media. More than any other channel, social media is driven by the people who use it. And that ain't us.

05 October 2009

The invention of truth

Ricky Gervais just released a new movie, “The Invention of Lying”, based in a society like ours – except that nobody lies. Everyone speaks the truth, no matter how brutal. The New York Times review points out that even the ad slogans are straightforward: Coke is “Very famous” and Pepsi is “When they don’t have Coke”.

Many believe that advertisements lie or at least stretch the truth. Some do. That’s unfortunate because most of us toil away under the supervision of our God-given consciences, our co-workers, or a lawyer from client, agency or media owner who vets our every claim. That’s a pretty good dose of truth serum.

Marketing at its best is “the invention of truth”. That means we learn everything we can about what we are selling and figure out the best way to sell it. Often this means a message about the product that its manufacturer never envisioned. The message should be true and powerful – a combination more effective than any lie could pretend.

Truth sells and lies fade away. Nothing kills a bad product faster than good - or untruthful – advertising.

02 October 2009

A morning dip into social media

I get into the office early, when it's quiet. It's a great time to write without distraction and formulate my sinister plans for the business.

There's also time reserved for a quick tour of some Internet news sources and, increasingly, a survey of my vast social media empire (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al.).

Two things caught my eye this morning. One was a site, Twilk.com, that will create a Twitter background from the photos of your followers/followees. Why not? (See the image above.)

The other was an AdAge.com article about "an incident that puts out-of-office digital activities in the spotlight." Given that I am now a blogger, this seemed like a worthwhile read.

Apparently a Chicago ad man of some renown started a website critical of Chicago's Olympic bid. If you understand Chicago, you realize this wouldn't amuse the city's political, business and social leadership.

I don't know what will happen to this fellow, but regardless of your views on Chicago, politics, the Olympics, freedom of speech, etc., this struck me as a childish thing to do.

01 October 2009

Agency + Client = great IMC

My previous post explained how Agency + Agency + Agency = great IMC. Today's formula is Agency + Client = great IMC.

It's a pretty simple formula, unlike the sampling of IMC processes featured in the image to the right!

One of our clients allowed us to handle a "through the line" assignment. In other words we are handling all channels including digital, shopper marketing, traditional advertising, etc. (We don't offer public relations so the client's usual agency is helping us out there.) This makes it a pure agency/client partnership since we must manage everything together.

It's been a fun yet demanding project, only in part because of the full range of channels involved. The heaviest lift has been the strategic part, just as it is on any project. If you get the strategy right, the execution should flow pretty well. This principle applies even more on a full IMC program.

Here were some of the steps involved.

What does success look like? The client gave us a sales goal, but it's not practical to simply declare "we will sell x million dollars in Year I." We must leverage what's exciting and relevant about the product. In this particular case we realized from the start that consumers would need to be able to pick up the product and try it - just driving awareness with :30 TV spots or explaining the product in longer-form communication wouldn't suffice.

How will we measure success? Here again the sales goal wasn't enough. We needed to project how many people we could incite via product experience and how much we could rely on simple awareness methods. Here I must point out something about Draftfcb: much of the press coverage discusses the fact that we offer all services under one roof, but our real power is in the marriage of creativity and accountability. Our Customer Intelligence (analytics) department played a key role here.

What's the strategy? Let's face it, many of us write our strategies according to the disciplines we know best. A TV brief, a promo brief, a digital brief -- they all focus on their own discipline. We had to write a channel-neutral strategy if we wanted a channel-neutral creative platform and a channel-neutral communications plan. To that point, every stage of this journey I'm describing was managed together by a core team: a creative, a strategic planner, a media planner, a data analyst and an account person. We kept each other honest along the way. Experts in the various channels joined us later.

What's the creative platform? Or, to use a common term you read about, what's the Big Idea? We dedicated a team of creatives with experiences in different channels to work exclusively on this project for a full week. They created a dozen ideas, three of which we presented to the client, and one of which we all agreed was the most powerful.

What channels should we use? Another way to ask this might be: "We have a Big Idea but where do we put it?" We couldn't create a TV ad or even a shelf talker until we had established the right channels and the roles for each. Similar to our cross-agency project, it was critical to have a budget that was completely open with no percentages pre-assigned to ads, promos, etc. We had one big pile to allocate in the way we thought would have the most impact.

What happened next? It's still happening. The channel plan was 90% agreed upon in the past few weeks, enough that we could finish executing creative work. This afternoon we'll finalize the shopper marketing plan in a meeting with the brand manager and the sales director.

One last thing: thanks to my client for their strong participation in each of the steps described above. They and we loved the sense of partnership that came from creating something together.

29 September 2009

How multiple agencies produced an IMC program for their client

Yesterday we had the pleasure of co-presenting an IMC program to an important client.

“Co-presenting” means: us (the lead agency), the digital agency, the promotion agency, the shopper marketing marketing agency, and the public relations agency. That’s a lot of agencies. You’re probably thinking: What a disaster that must have been.

Actually it was a success. Together we showed them a single, simple idea that could drive the work of all the agencies, plus some examples of tactics showing how each agency would take the idea and run with it – all of us in the same direction.

How did we get to a successful meeting?

Strategic homework. Part of our job as the lead agency is to help the client develop new product ideas and understand the best way to sell them. This is a big responsibility requiring us to have deep knowledge of the consumer and the category in which we compete. You can’t just show up to a project – be it IMC or a single advertisement – and get to work.

Strong relationships and clear roles. Although we have a unique role in doing the strategic homework, we are part of a team supporting this client and we work assiduously to build team relationships. The client is paying for those resources, so why not leverage them? More than that we just believe everyone has something to contribute and should be respected on that basis. It’s important to note, however, that the resources can’t show up and cooperate without clear roles set by the client and accepted by the team. In this case, we led and the other agencies followed, in the same way team captains take the field with their teammates.

Know when to work together and when to work individually. Recently there was an article on how to conduct successful inter-agency brainstorms, and it was a painful read. We've all been there. The only thing the author left out was this piece of advice: Don’t do inter-agency brainstorms. In the project we presented yesterday, there were occasional touch points – some face-to-face, some via conference call – where we hashed out strategic direction. We would then go away and work, regrouping later to share what we had created. Because the strategy was sound and our relationships strong, the ideas followed – and so did the sense of cooperation.

We’re not done yet. The same client who established clear relationships was courageous enough not to preassign his marketing budget to the various channels (advertising, in-store, digital, etc.). That means I’ll be posting soon about channel-neutral planning, one of my favorite subjects.

24 September 2009

The History of the Ad Agency Business -- in one easy power point slide!*

Yes, that’s right: the history of the ad agency business in one easy power point slide. You can find it here on SlideShare. Open it in “Notes” view because the presentation itself is only visuals and the “Notes” are more or less my commentary whenever I present this to a live audience. Please feel free to share, use or improve upon it – just don’t try to claim authorship. In other words, socialize, don’t plagiarize.

* OK – it is a single slide, but it is also a “build” slide, so click and enjoy.

23 September 2009

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Whether you’re a brand manager, creative director, media planner or whatever, I argue that you can be both. If you are, then we can call you a “Renaissance Practitioner”.

My definition of a Renaissance Practitioner: A 21st Century marketing executive with experience in, knowledge of, or appreciation for the complete range of channels available. This person specializes in some channels and becomes a true generalist by working with other specialists on a team. Renaissance practitioners always work outside their comfort zone.

This is an obvious riff on the historical term “Renaissance Man”, which applied to people of that era who gained mastery, accomplishment or experience in a range of a dozen or so areas such as sport, language, science and so forth. To become a Renaissance Man was not the result of merely dabbling in different areas, and the same principle holds true for a Renaissance Practitioner.

You don’t get a diploma when you achieve this status. In fact you never really “achieve” this status; it is a journey not a destination. Here are some practical things to keep in mind.

Study hard. It is important to maintain a solid understanding of the various disciplines that can build your business, from the technicalities of digital media to the personal connections of experiential to the mass reach potential of television. Take the time to read and talk to discipline experts.
Be curious. You never finish studying. Many disciplines are evolving. “Shopper Marketing” has had more than one definition over the past three years. On top of that, new disciplines arise: I joined Twitter in April 2007 and no one knew what it was back then.
Know your consumer. You’re knowledgeable. You’re up to date. So what? None of what you know about the latest channels means anything unless you know your own consumer. This applies to any marketing or advertising executive. I’ll write more about this topic.
Be open to the right answer. If you nail the above points, you may arrive at a surprising answer. For decades we have supplied one of our clients with TV, Radio and Print. Last year we took a fresh look at the business and realized we had overlooked a digital solution. Even though we have extensive digital capabilities, we called a sister agency that happens to have the digital AOR assignment for the same client.
This leads to a final thought: business partnership. Renaissance Practitioners can better serve their clients with the right solutions for their business.

22 September 2009

Media Mavens vs. Spinoffs

Congratulations to my friend and colleague, Bob Bernstein, for being named a 2009 Media Maven.

One of the telling parts of the tribute: "(Draftfcb) never followed the media spinoff trend, a development that has helped them better align their creative messages with the places they put them."


Felicidades, Bob!

21 September 2009

"I don't know which half of my ad budget I'm wasting -- and I don't WANT to know!"

One of the enduring tales of 20th Century advertising was the client who said: "I know I am wasting half my advertising budget; I just don't know which half."

Direct marketers always knew what was wasted and what was working because their entire business model was based on sales performance.

According to this article from AdAge.com, a lot of modern marketers, including ones with strong direct marketing operations, still insist on wasting money.

Natalie Zmuda reports that despite incredible advances in our ability to analyze data, most marketers eschew the heavy lifting required to sift through the ones and zeroes and properly address their customers -- even/especially their best customers.

We have a similarly recalcitrant client and we've been bugging them for a while about this exact subject. It's good to know we aren't alone, but we will call them again today so we don't miss out on a couple of upcoming opportunities.

18 September 2009

What is Ad Majorem?

Thank you for visiting my blog, Ad Majorem. It’s a view from within a large agency, and how an executive there embraces the changes and challenges of modern marketing and advertising.

The title, Ad Majorem, is part of a familiar Latin phrase and loosely translates to English as “to the greater”. In other words, this time of change is actually an opportunity for better advertising: stronger consumer insights, more powerful ideas, channel-neutral marketing plans, and accountability so we know what sells and what doesn’t.

The “ad” in Ad Majorem means all marketing communications, from social media to direct mail to Internet gaming to television commercials. To most consumer audiences all of these are advertising. My professional experience in these channels allows me to provide a perspective that is part specialist, part generalist.

This is not the umpteenth blog devoted to emerging media and the exciting world of digital. The topic here is how to move clients' businesses forward regardless of media.

There is much talk that large ad agencies are in trouble today, in part because they do not recognize the need to change their business model from the old, familiar, mass media model. I will write about this situation since I work in a large agency, but the content should prove interesting for advertisers themselves, students, career hopefuls, critics, and of course my colleagues at agencies large and small.

Don’t come here for dirt, fear or loathing. The closest I’ll come to that is self-criticism of the marketing business. Occasionally I’ll stray into a review of a campaign but only for the purpose of discussing the overall state of the industry.

Please comment. Otherwise this wouldn’t be an honest look at an industry where communication with consumers should be two-way, not just one-way.

This brings me to Ad Majorem’s reason for being: To keep myself honest on embracing the challenges and changes of modern marketing. My hope is that you, too, will derive some professional growth from it.