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.