20 December 2010

3 keys to job survival for 2011

It’s December.

We’re all rushing to the holiday finish line, a swirling rush of activity. Some of us will keep working through Dec. 31st, nailing deadlines along the way. For some, it will feel like a crash and burn.

For others, it will be a crash and burn.

All of us should take the opportunity to stop and think about what we’ve accomplished in 2010 and what we want to accomplish in 2011. And then figure out how to get it done. Here are three steps you can take: Plan Big, Think Smart and Move Fast.

Plan Big

Whether your plan is to keep your job, change your job or get a job, it’s important to plan big. The end of year is a reflective time when you can dream a little bit and think about goals for 2011 that are ambitious and achievable. Last year at this time I made a 2010 plan big enough that it will continue into 2011.

Yes, I wish I had been able to check it off my list in 2010, but actually just having the goal has motivated me to do a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. This is especially important if you are in the group of people who want to keep your job – apathy and the routine are your enemies.

Think Smart

This step is about strategy, or more prosaically, how you are going to get things done. Some element of strategic thinking is involved here, especially if you have planned big. You will absolutely have to think things through. You also need two other simple elements: People and Time.

Advertising has always been about collaboration, and now more than ever when no one has all the answers. So think about People you can enlist to help achieve your goals. They won’t be “your” goals anymore, but that’s OK because you’ll still get credit as part of the team.

Time is the other element of Think Smart: You will need to literally schedule time for yourself to work toward your big plans, especially if you need to schedule time with others.

Move Fast

The most underrated job skill in the advertising business is execution – the ability to get things done fast. Some us think big, a few plan smart, and not enough move fast.

The image above is from the tail of Elvis Presley’s plane. It’s the motto of his crew, the letters TCB with a lightning bolt, meaning: “Taking Care of Business in a Flash.” (Lee Knight had a good post on this last year.)

If you really did Plan Big, sometimes people and things around you won’t Move Fast enough. Try to be patient, not frustrated. Certain tasks and steps along the way can go faster, and others can’t. Just stay focused on what you want to accomplish.

A Modest Proposal

No matter what level you are, I’d encourage you to consider goals for 2011 that will increase your experience in digital. Even if you work in a digital agency, you’ll need to rise above the day-to-day and learn new things because “digital” is changing so fast we may not even use that word by the end of 2011.

The key is to get experience. All of us can read about it, participate and even start a blog, which is all beneficial. Doing actual work in your company is even better.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Feliz Navidad -- and have a happy, prosperous, change-embracing New Year in 2011.

* Note: One year ago, we posted “3 keys to (continued) survival in 2010”. It was inspired by Arthur Ashe. Today's theme, "Plan Big, Think Smart, Move Fast" was a motto hanging on the wall of Hank Feeley, President of Leo Burnett International, who hired me into this business, and who practiced what he preached.

17 December 2010

Hyper Island: Burn the Ships

NEW YORK – This is the end of my three days on Hyper Island. We learned a lot about Digital strategies, tools and measurement, all of which were important, but none of them are the most important thing.

Hyper Island really isn’t about “Digital”, it’s about Change. As posted on Wednesday, we didn’t just increase knowledge, we increased our ability to embrace the changes going on in our industry. The change is so swift we can’t even predict the terminology we’ll use in 2011. (Coincidentally, the BBH Labs blog ran this headline just last night: “Digital, can we kill this word for good?”.)

The organizers and instructors here were superior Digital practitioners, but their real strength was being superior Change Agents. Change was the explicit topic at the beginning and the end of the three days, and a constant theme throughout.

“Digital” isn’t just a change for our industry, it’s a harbinger of change. The changes and challenges will keep coming and always cause discomfort. Rather than trying to feel comfortable, the smart strategy is to embrace discomfort. Stick to the mission, which is keeping up with the changes.

Burn the Ships

Hernán Cortés understood how wanting to stick with comfortable ways could distract people from a journey into unfamiliar territory. He led a group of Spanish ships to conquer the Aztec Empire. When they arrived at Veracruz, he burned the ships so his men would have no way of going back.

That’s the spirit we decided to carry back to the office on Monday. Yes, we will go back, but having metaphorically burned the ships, we won’t go back to the ways with which we’ve grown comfortable.

It was a great week. Thanks very much to the organizers, instructors, and of course my fellow shipmates.

16 December 2010

Hyper Island IV: A New Hope

NEW YORK -- We're finishing off the day at Hyper Island by splitting into groups and responding to briefs clearly intended for Digital Strategy. Even if they weren't "clearly" digital, we'd be creating digital strategies anyway because this is Hyper Island.

I admire the quality of thinking represented in each group's presentation. It's evident that most people come from the perspective of starting with a solid consumer insight and trying to bring business solutions to their clients. On actual digital strategies, we were uneven, but as one of our judges said, "What are you going to accomplish in 45 minutes?"

The point is that we are coming at these briefs differently than we would have two days ago.

On a related note, I'd like to think that one of the main themes of the day -- collaboration -- seeped into the exercise. I really enjoyed working with my team.

I'm a Believer

One last point if you'll indulge me. I despise the term "media agnostic" so much that if you enter it on Google, my blog post lambasting it is the first result.

We're two days into Hyper Island and not one person has uttered it publicly. That alone gives me hope.

Hyper Island III: Hype vs. Results

NEW YORK – This morning’s post touched on the effect digital strategy can have on brand equity. What other results should we watch?

This afternoon we’ve been looking at a range of digital programs and their results: Uniqlo, Old Spice, Kill Zone 2, Fun Theory and others. The results were reported in a number of ways: alleged sales lift, messages generated, downloads made, brand awareness, number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends, or the size of a community one builds.

Two quick observations:

Ultimately, Sales is what matters. All of the measures listed above are important, but if they do not grow the business, none of them matter.

Results can’t be put in silos. I’ve posted frequently about how various media can’t be planned in silos – and the same holds true for results. As Daniele Fiandaca told us, “It’s the combination of all the results.”

An example of both points was Kill Zone 2 in the U.K. The launch drove some six-figure participation numbers, which generated a ton of P.R. in gaming magazines, which drove the sales. The number of online participants alone did not tell the entire story.

Remember: Follow #HIMC on Twitter to listen in on our Hyper Island Master Class.

Hyper Island II: The Network

NEW YORK – Every day at Hyper Island starts with a “morning reflection”. You get a chance to stop, consider what you’ve learned and how to apply it. Then you share insights in group discussions. It’s mandatory to take a lot of notes, which I’m repurposing here as a blog post.

Networks are the Base Unit of Communication

I learned a lot on Day 1 but the one thing that most changed the way I think was the concept of Networks. Your Network is the list of people you choose to read, listen to, and interact with.

Our lecturer, Mark Comerford, said this: “Networks are the base unit of communication. If you don’t reach the Network, then you don’t reach me.”

That was a radical idea for me, not because of my experience with mass audiences, but because I made a mental shift some years ago from mass audiences to one-to-one communication. My newer paradigm has been that Digital, Data and Direct all work together, allowing us to engage people in ways relevant to them, and measure the results.

In a bit of self-analysis, I realized that I had seen each individual person as their own gatekeeper – and that is true, by the way. What I had been missing is the fact that each individual person relies on their Network to be a gatekeeper. The implication for marketers is to figure out how you are going to offer something of value to these Networks.

That value is what matters to the Network of people. The currency of the Network is stuff that’s interesting to its members.

What My Network Taught Me This Morning

After a few minutes of journaling, we sat in a circle – a Network, if you will – and shared our insights.

My good friend and colleague, Terry Corrigan, shared something that anyone coming from a traditional ad agency background, big or small, would want to hear.

Terry observed that “the digital space isn’t about selling, it’s about being useful.” Many of you know this. He went on to describe how “being useful” builds brand equity.

Many traditional agency people and their traditional clients think about brand equity as a function of the TV advertising. What we say, how it looks, what products we choose to advertise – all of these contribute significantly to a brand’s equity.

The same applies to digital programs. Best Buy’s Twelpforce and Zappos customer service build brand equity. Motrin’s ignorance of the space hurt their brand equity. Brand equity is your reputation.

This point is significant because many clients ask about the ROI of Social Media. Instead of dissembling because we don’t know how to calculate the ROI, we should make the impact on brand equity part of the answer.

Time again for lunch. You can follow our Hyper Island Master Class on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #HIMC.

15 December 2010

What is Hyper Island?

NEW YORK – This is the first of three days I’m spending at Hyper Island Master Class, a sort of boot camp for marketing and advertising people catching up on “Digital”. For more about Hyper Island, read the recent article in Fast Company, and a response of sorts published in Adweek.

Even having read about Hyper Island in advance, I didn’t know whether to expect a class in writing code for HTML5, or how to sign up for Twitter, or… well, I imagined a lot of possibilities.

Here is what I’ve gleaned so far, after the first morning’s agenda.

Change Management. While the curriculum features digital tools, case studies, best practices and important principles, the real topic of discussion is adapting to changes around us. This isn’t only a matter of increasing knowledge, it’s about increasing our ability to embrace the changes going on in our industry.

Communication is what’s changing. Digital is partly a range of media we must all learn, but its significance lies in the way it permits people to comment and connect much more rapidly than in the days of Ye Olde Marketing. Word of mouth has always been the most reliable form of marketing communication, and it’s more out of control than ever.

It’s not about how you sell something, it’s about what you sell. The old paradigm is “market what we can make”, creating ads with finely tuned messages, hoping for big awareness among a mass audience. What shatters this paradigm? Consumer experiences drive commentary far more authentic than what we can possibly say about our products or services, regardless of medium.

Time for lunch now. I’ll write more later. You can follow all the action on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #HIMC.

03 December 2010

Modern Retail is Full of Caveats, Part II

Earlier this week we posted about DecorMyEyes, an online seller of designer eyewear owned by Vitaly Borker. The New York Times reported how Borker purposely angered customers who complained, so they would complain online and drive up search engine rankings for his business. It seemed to be working.

You can't beat the Algorithm

Apparently, Google was not amused by all this, and announced Wednesday that they had adjusted their algorithm to screen out merchants that "provide an extremely poor user experience."

It was a good, but possibly unnecessary move, as Borker's strategy may not have actually worked in the first place. According to Search Engine Land, you can't rank well just by cultivating terrible reviews. Google, however, didn't take any chances.

30 November 2010


Has “disintermediation” become the newest overused word in the American business world? I seem to hear it a lot these days, and for advertising people at least, it’s probably a bad omen.

“Disintermediation” is an economics term for “the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain”. In the vernacular, it means “cutting out the middleman”. That’s why ad people should listen for this word.

The ways of ye olde marketing are going away slowly, and part of that is the supply chain, if you will, among advertisers, agencies and media owners. Almost four years ago you could read about “Google, Disintermediation and Agencies”.

Yesterday Adweek published an article about Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood talent agent, attempting to disintermediate ad agencies with his new venture, Lverage. The article mentions that talent agents tried this in 1998, but doesn't mention that in 2010 there are plenty of potential disintermediators out there, e.g., business consultants, comms planning shops, and data companies.

If you are a go-with-the-flow type of person, you’ll want to join the crowd using this word. If you are paying attention, however, you’ll want to avoid being the noun in a sentence somebody else uses where “disintermediate” is the verb.

28 November 2010

Modern Retail is Full of Caveats

Marketers today wrestle with how much power consumers have. Consumers can find your product at the lowest price possible, they can mercilessly criticize your product, and they can tune out your marketing altogether.

You might say caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) has been replaced by caveat venditor (let the seller beware). Two stories from today’s news teach us, however, that caveat emptor is a very contemporary phrase.

Caveat Emptor

The New York Times reports at length today on the fascinating and scary tale of DecorMyEyes, an online seller of designer eyewear. The owner, Vitaly Borker, discovered that customer complaints pushed his company to the top of organic search results. It wasn’t SEO. It wasn’t SEM. It was the complaints from people who tried to buy Lafont and Montblanc frames.

Sensing an opportunity, he purposely picked nasty Internet fights with those who complained. Traffic soared. Most of his sales are routine, straightforward – and profitable. Most of his time, however, is spent fighting, intimidating and threatening the customers who are not routine and straightforward. You don’t want to mess with this guy.

Caveat Lector

Walmart made some enemies of their own this weekend. In most of the United States they started their Black Friday sale at 12:01 a.m., but in Massachusetts the sale began at 4 a.m. Hundreds of Bay State shoppers starting lining up Thanksgiving night, expecting to be let in at midnight, and they weren’t happy (see local news coverage here and here).

As of this writing, there’s no official explanation, but here’s my analysis. Walmart stepped up its game for Black Friday this year, announcing it would open the doors at 12:01 a.m. and “leaking” its flyer full of midnight door busters two weeks ago. The big national news headline: “Big Walmart Sale at Midnight!” The small print, including this article from the Boston Herald: “Starts 4 a.m. in Massachusetts.” Caveat lector (let the reader beware).

Caveat Venditor

In both of these cases there are lessons for marketers. The first is obvious, that the Internet has democratized information such that everything is available to everybody. The problem is that nobody digests everything. Therefore a lot of people in Massachusetts got the national news headline but not the local story.

Another lesson is to be careful of who you are dealing with online, especially if you are a business-to-business player. Borker’s eyewear business hurt some wholesalers who didn’t know his m.o. Search may be a science, but it can be abused by mad scientists.

Most of us are not mad scientists; we’re genuinely interested in having consumers love us, really love us. If your company or client doesn’t engage in dialogue with its consumers, the time is well past due.

24 November 2010

TSA's Recuitment Advertising

Much has been written about the latest TSA security procedures, including backscatter X-ray machines and, uh, pat downs. But this is a blog about modern marketing, so imagine my delight upon learning about TSA's recruitment advertising. I wonder what the brief looked like (snicker).

The ads are not exactly new news, having been reported by various news outlets last summer. Given the recent scrutiny, however, they're back in the public eye. A typical headline: "A Career Where X-Ray Vision and Federal Benefits Come Standard." (Travellers weren't amused.)

The latest development is the media plan, which includes the tops of pizza boxes and signs at gas pumps. You can see a series of photos on this radio station's website.

Does anyone know if TSA has an ad agency of any kind? All we could find was this 2009 press release about TSA and The Ad Council. One agency looked into it, came up empty, but thought to ask whether the ads produced a result. Does anyone know?

In any case, readers, our best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

19 November 2010

The Origin of lorem ipsum

I like to think of myself as a Renaissance Practitioner, but this is ridiculous.

According to Mike Keeler, an East Coast advertising executive, we practice a Renaissance Era tradition every time we use what I can no longer in good conscience call Greek text.

All art directors should read this, reprinted from Keeler's weekly quickSilver newsletter:

This essay is just a draft. If it were final, it wouldn't contain the well-known phrase, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit.

Say what? Okay, an explanation. In the advertising world, when graphic designers create a draft of a layout, they often use placeholder text for the real copy - which has not yet been written - and they almost always use a phrase which begins,
lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit. It's known as "Greek copy" which is odd since it's not Greek, it's Latin, sort of.

We wondered why they all use that same phrase. Turns out that, in the days before computers, a company called Letraset sold blocks of this copy on adhesive sheets to advertising agencies. There, a
lorem ipsum would cut the copy with an X-acto dolor sit amet and stick it on the consectetur for review by the adipisci velit.

And what does it mean exactly? According to the editors of desktop publishing magazine Before and After, "It's not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing. Its 'words' loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real."

Oh really? According to Richard McClintock, professor of Latin and the publications director at Hampden-Sydney College, he found it in a passage from a treatise on the theory of ethics written by Cicero in 45BC. Specifically,
Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit . . . ("There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain . . .").

Okay, fair enough, but why would Letraset have chosen THAT particular phrase? McClintock believes it was used by a medieval printer for one of the earliest metal type samples, and it just stuck. "What I find remarkable," he says, "is that this text has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since some printer in the 1500s took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book; it has survived not only four centuries of letter-by-letter resetting but even the leap into electronic typesetting, essentially unchanged."

Lorem ipsum! Over four hundred years of dolor sit amet without a change to a single consectetur or deletion of any adipisci velit!!

Actually, it's not really that surprising. It's just proof positive that, in advertising, there are no original ideas, just shameless plagiarizing of the classics.

12 November 2010

Direct Marketing will continue to influence advertising

Last night the Chicago Advertising Federation honored Howard Draft with its Silver Medal Award for lifetime achievement, which honors contributions to the local ad community as well as the community at large. The venue was a large dinner at The Drake Hotel and it was fantastic to see a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years.

Howard has obviously achieved a lot, including a series of agencies with his name on the door, which was a running joke throughout the evening’s remarks. It’s not all chest-pounding, though; Howard’s myriad agencies have been very successful. (Full disclosure: If you didn’t know, I work at Draftfcb.)

Direct Marketing in the Past

Most of Howard’s agencies were of the direct marketing variety. Back in the day, “Direct” had always been a little too scientific for most of the big ad agencies. Only David Ogilvy called it his “secret weapon”. The other agencies knew it was powerful, but as Rick Fizdale said last night, “What I knew about Direct could fit in a thimble.”

Fizdale, former Chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett, told the story of how he led an effort to acquire Kobs & Brady, the 1980s powerhouse Direct agency, and in the process met Howard for the first time. The acquisition didn’t happen, and I would never do justice to Fizdale’s version of the story, so I won’t try to retell it here.

One line of the speech is worth pointing out, however. Fizdale referred to “The advertising I practiced and the advertising (Howard) had mastered.” He was comparing traditional brand advertising and Direct Marketing, but what I loved about this line was how casually and naturally he declared both disciplines to be advertising.

Direct Marketing in the Future

Howard, in his acceptance speech, told how he failed to get a job at an ad agency when he was first starting out, and instead landed at a Direct agency. “I firmly believe,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here tonight if I hadn’t gone into direct marketing.”

This is true for a couple of reasons. One is that Direct allowed him to be the entrepreneurial guy he is, outside the stultifying structures of most traditional ad agencies. The other is that he prepared himself for the turn-of-the-century shift toward accountability in marketing. Direct had always been accountable.

This trend will continue, unabated, for as far as any of us dare predict. We’ve posted before about Direct, Digital and Data, and how you can’t have one without the others. The Digital Age is really the continuation of the Direct Age. Data gives us the ability – and the burden – to be accountable. In this way, Direct Marketing will continue to influence advertising.

11 November 2010

3 Reasons You Should Care About Shopper Marketing

This blog has always been about the complete range of ways to connect marketers and consumers. The definition of advertising includes all channels: broadcast media, promotion, direct, digital, word of mouth – everything.

Near the top of my list has always been Retail, with a bit of amazement that Digital seems to trump Retail in trade publications, at industry conferences and across the general buzz of Twitter feeds.

This week Retail won a moral victory. According to a Booz & Co. survey, major manufacturers expect Shopper Marketing to grow faster than digital, social and advertising. You can see two articles about it here and here, and the report is available here in PDF form.

Why you should care about Shopper Marketing

There are at least three reasons why advertising people should care about Shopper Marketing.

1. Your clients care about it. If you advertise a product sold at retail, think about the fact that your clients have clients, companies like Walmart, Kroger and Dollar General. Like you, those retailers want to sell a lot of your clients’ products. They also want to drive traffic to their own stores and increase the cash register ring for each customer. All of this is Shopper Marketing. Most advertising sells only the product; Shopper Marketing achieves objectives for the retailer as well as the customer. It’s not just a matter of shelf talkers and floor signage, it’s a strategic approach that approaches consumers when they are really shoppers. The Booz & Co. survey predicts that as Shopper Marketing rises, trade spending will decline. I’m not so optimistic, but if it happens, then retail will become more strategic and much less about pay-to-play.

2. Your competition is using it. If you’re a great advertising person, you’re helping your client identify a clear consumer insight, develop a compelling strategy, write a smart channel plan, and produce creative that’s memorable and persuasive. If it works, your target consumer will go and buy the product. What happens, however, if on the way to the shelf she sees some other offer or information that leads her to buy a competitive product? You will have been outmaneuvered. This is a wide battleground: Shopper Marketing vet Chip Hoyt points out that "the shelf" isn't just in a store, it can be at home or on the go.

3. Consumers take it seriously. It sounds trite but the store, however you define it, really is a medium and consumers engage with it. My colleague Jim Lucas observes that 110 million U.S. households make an average of 120 store trips a year, which means 13.2 billion chances to sell. Especially in a tough economy, consumers will read the circulars, cut the coupons and stop to see the end-aisle displays. In addition, one of the points made in the Booz & Co. study is how consumers research their options before making a purchase, using product information or pricing available on the Internet. Aha! I knew it. Digital does play a role! Yes, it does. If you work in a digital agency, you should be especially mindful of Shopper Marketing.

Take time to learn

Shopper Marketing has a place in the marketing mix just like any other channel. Take the time to learn about it so it doesn’t become a strategic blind spot. We’ve suggested some resources in the past (here, here and here).

29 October 2010

Have you allowed raisinets in your brand's portfolio?

I hate raisinets. You should, too.

This post isn’t really about Raisinets-with-a-capital-R, the candy. It’s about products that distract from the portfolio management of your brand.

What’s a raisinet?

I had a senior client who praised one of his top managers for “eliminating all the raisinets that consumed his time and attention.” The raisinets were newer SKUs, launched in the preceding couple of years to much fanfare and advertising investment, ultimately contributing only a small percentage of the brand’s total sales.

Everyone has tried a raisinet

We’ve all launched, inherited, managed or seen a raisinet. They are products somewhere beyond a line extension, restage or flanker, but not quite a new innovation. Numerous brands have launched SKUs that were consistent with brand equity but were virtually the same thing offered to the consumer by an existing product in the portfolio. Some are way overboard, like P&G’s Febreze Scent Stories, the hybrid CD player and home fragancer. Some stories have happier endings; Nabisco wisely turned down amaretto-flavored Oreos. You can acquire raisinets, as Crocs did when they bought high-end fashion footwear lines.

Don’t open a box of raisinets

In fairness many of the raisinets in your job are much harder to identify. They always seem like a good idea at the time. Large retailers get excited about new products that could drive store traffic. Management likes the sales volume the new item could bring. Marketing wants to launch something and it’s gonna be HUGE!!!

Raisinets go stale quickly

Sometimes they are huge right when they launch, but they go stale quickly because they aren’t very strategic. The retailer, the boss and the marketer all move on to something else. I’m watching one of these situations right now. A company invested in the launch of a product, then ignored it this year, and sales are declining every week.

Portfolio management

Good stewards of a brand’s portfolio don’t fall for the raisinets, and if they do, act quickly to eliminate them. I’m not referring to streamlining for the sake of efficiency. Portfolio management means knowing your consumer, identifying the segments as she sees them, and picking the products that most contribute to sales, share and brand equity.

Some call it marketing

These sound like basic principles any marketer can endorse, but in reality they take disciplined analysis and focused effort. If you make this effort, you will develop a firm sense of priorities nearly impervious to raisinets.

13 October 2010

Gigantic Venn Diagram and the Rube Goldberg Machine

This past week I had lunch with a client for whom we are handling a multi-channel project including advertising, digital and retail, plus a collaboration with their public relations agency. We talked about the complexity of projects that juggle many strategies and much execution.

Gigantic Venn Diagram

We’ve mentioned the Gigantic Venn Diagram before (here, here and here) so it’s worth defining the term.

The Gigantic Venn Diagram is the complete range of channels available to marketers today. Every conceivable broadcast medium, digital application, retail program, PR initiative – it’s impossible to even list everything because new channels emerge every week.

Moreover, the Gigantic Venn Diagram is dynamic. Not only are new channels emerging, they are converging and moving in relationship to one another. Like any Venn diagram, the circles overlap, but in different combinations each time.

The overlap, in fact, is different from brand to brand, from project to project, depending on the strategy demanded by the business objective. You should never have the same diagram twice.

Making sense of the Gigantic Venn Diagram is the key challenge of any marketer today. It’s also known as channel planning, or in some places “comms planning”. You must have a well-defined business objective, a clear consumer insight, and a channel-neutral mindset.

Rube Goldberg Machine

Let’s say you’ve succeeded at writing a modern channel plan. Your Gigantic Venn Diagram will be the blueprint for a Rube Goldberg Machine. If you didn’t know, Rube Goldberg was an inventor who built contraptions of impossible complexity. Real-life examples include a popular Honda commercial and the children’s game “Mouse Trap”. My real-life examples are marketing programs that attempt to drive awareness, entice with sampling, engage online, and a host of other things that will sell more products.

All Rube Goldberg machines are tricky. Making the parts work together is a complex task of turning many strategies into much execution. It’s hard to draw Gigantic Venn Diagrams and build Rube Goldberg Machines, and not many teams succeed at both. The most spectacular failure in recent memory was the short-lived Enfatico, a one-stop agency consisting of different WPP resources created especially for Dell. A new example is Travelocity hiring the Publicis combo of Razorfish, Zenith and Leo Burnett. Also new and intriguing is Ruth, the new integrated services boutique of PR giant Edelman.

Can One Agency Really Do It All?

We addressed this question in a recent post (“Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client?”) and also started a few LinkedIn and Twitter discussions to gain wider input. There seemed to be two camps: optimists and pessimists. Count me among the optimists, mainly because I’ve seen the magic of channel-neutral planning.

Still, it depends on what you mean by “all”. If we mean one agency handles channel planning or comms planning, yes, there are several agencies that can do that. If we mean one agency draws the Gigantic Venn Diagram and builds the Rube Goldberg Machine – well, then the field narrows considerably.

26 September 2010

Blogs are maturing as a marketing channel

Are blogs dead? No, they are maturing and for that reason are an opportunity for marketers.

Economist: the growth of blogs has stalled

A recent analysis by The Economist suggests that the growth of blogs has stalled as many bloggers move to Facebook and Twitter. Some people are more comfortable “microblogging” in 140 characters than writing a blog post. As evidence, the article points to abandoned blogs that haven’t been updated in years.

The question is whether migration to microblogging is a permanent trend. The Economist didn’t convince me. Some of their evidence was questionable: an advertising sales company specializing in blogs grew tenfold during 2004-2008 and then “only” 17% since then. Most of us would gladly accept 17% growth in these economic times.

Ad Majorem: blogs are maturing

My own theory is that blogs are maturing. Facebook and Twitter are attracting people who would start a blog if that was their only option. Former bloggers are switching because they express themselves just as well via microblogging. There never was a vast population of people with the patience and perseverance to blog day after day. People who are meant to blog will continue blogging. A great example is Don Dodge, who claimed last week “I will never give up blogging.”

In the same post, however, he made a good case for the decline of RSS readers, which is how many readers learn about fresh blog content. For example, Ask.com will close Bloglines on October 1st, signaling the end of an era for the blogosphere. Another big change is that Six Apart, the blog company behind TypePad and other services, is being acquired by Video Egg.

Blogs are maturing and their role is changing. Social Media are not cannibalizing blogs, they are serving a different market for self-expression and they are supplanting RSS readers as a way to promote blog content.

What are the implications for Marketing? (“Marketing”, it’s very important to say, includes public relations, especially in this case. For a passionate view on this from a dyed-in-the-wool blogger, click here.)

Blogs are the ultimate vertical medium

In the days of Ye Olde Marketing we sometimes called magazines a “vertical medium” because an advertiser could reach very narrow, specialized target audiences via special-interest titles. Those still exist, of course, and blogs play a similar role. The Economist acknowledged this point as well.

To take this idea a bit further, let’s not lose sight of the fact that blogs help drive word-of-mouth for our clients’ products. A positive review by an influential mommy blogger can accelerate sales for a new product launch, simply by driving word-of-mouth.

A little to the side from marketing, blogs can promote free speech. In China, 70 million bloggers help promote views counter to those of the authoritarian government. We’ve seen the same thing in Cuba.

You’re probably not even reading this post right now….

Hopefully you agree that blogs are alive, well, and maturing. Perhaps you’ll consider their role in your marketing plans for 2011.

19 September 2010

Ad Majorem celebrates 1 year of The Big Picture

This blog is one year old. Thank you, readers: clients, agents, students, generalists, specialists, Renaissance Practitioners, accountability aficionados, media mavens, Mad Men and Women, retailers, digerati, and others who have been reading Ad Majorem. In particular I'd like to thank the 116 of you who signed up as "followers" of this blog. I sincerely appreciate that you took an interest and took the time.

The Big Picture

Ad Majorem has more or less stayed true to its original purpose of chronicling the changes and challenges of modern marketing. The top five most popular posts in Year One were about iPad advertising, being a generalist, global campaigns, "media neutral", and job survival.

To put it simply, Ad Majorem tries to see The Big Picture, which in marketing and advertising today is a Gigantic Venn Diagram of ways to engage consumers who choose the messages they receive as well as the products they buy.

This means Ad Majorem isn't a one stop source for the latest in digital, retail or advertising. Instead it is a one stop source for the latest in how all those channels work together.

Ultimately we aren't interested in marketing solutions, but business solutions. Measurement and accountability will continue as important themes here.

Thanks again for reading!

16 September 2010

Channel Neutral vs. Channel Chaos

TORONTO – Today in Canada we spent the afternoon discussing channel-neutral planning.

The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Canada and beyond

This story really started yesterday in Chicago, however, when we were working on a U.S. assignment. The client wanted us to get a brand “back on the air” after several years by virtue of a new product launch. The assumption was broadcast advertising. Thinking it over, the team saw for this product that TV advertising alone would only drive awareness, perhaps missing opportunities to engage the consumer much closer to the purchase decision.

A colleague who spent much of his career in the Middle East observed how this kind of channel-neutral thinking comes much more naturally outside the U.S. “This is how we always worked in Saudi Arabia,” he said. I’ve had exactly the same experience working in or with countries all over the world. Clients and agencies tend to be less divided into departmental silos, so teamwork comes more naturally.

This same integrated dynamic applies to Canada, where the channel-neutral mindset has always been strong.

Channel-neutral meets Channel Chaos

Having a mindset isn’t enough, though, because the choice of channels is complicated. In the days of Ye Olde Marketing, we had mass media, retail and perhaps direct mail or public relations. In the year 2010, we have so many options that some analysis is required, and that’s what brought me to Toronto today. How do you sort through it all?

The basic principles are simple but not always easy. Know your target. Understand what triggers a purchase. Identify what considerations ensue. Envision the moment of purchase. Figure out how to reinforce loyalty and ensure a repeat customer. You may have this down to a formula; in my QSR days our mantra was “bring ‘em in, trade ‘em up, keep ‘em coming back.”

Still, the choices available for engaging consumers at each part of this story are mind-boggling. Ironically, the efficient size of organizations that reduces departmental silos also reduces the available data and research you can use to analyze this process. Just like in the old days you must make some assumptions. In an age of data and research, this can be frustrating.

Channel Chaos meets Channel Control

There are a number of software developments in the market, in beta-testing or in development that will help us sort through these choices, so stay tuned. Today there was an interesting Adweek article about what IBM has been up to this summer. I’m not sure if it’s the wave of the future but it’s exactly the kind of tool that could help us all turn Channel Chaos into Channel Control.

10 September 2010

Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client?

Can one agency really do it all for a client?

It depends on what you mean by “all”.

Almost any agency today, unless dedicated to a single discipline, will claim they can “do it all”. As Dan Goldgeier points out, this is often a questionable claim. Few agencies have literally every discipline right at hand. Many claim they can “do it all” with resources somewhere in their holding company. Let’s assume for a moment you can honestly claim to “have it all” either in-house, via corporate siblings, or by hiring free-lancers. Advertising, digital, retail, public relations – everything.

“Have it all” versus “Do it all”

Even if it you “have it all” there are still three overarching keys to “doing it all”:

Media-neutrality. This is a central topic on this blog so it hurt a bit when Goldgeier wrote: “Listen for a line like this: ‘We begin with the idea. We’re media neutral.’ More often than not, it’s bull.” He's right, though: few agencies have a true media-neutral perspective. Clients can hire almost any collection of agencies and get the various disciplines they think they need. They can't, however, write separate budgets for advertising, retail and digital, expecting them to magically fit together. Someone, either a sole agency or a lead agency, has to oversee a media-neutral strategy.

Mindset. Media-neutrality comes from a mindset that if everything starts with the consumer, we will combine all the disciplines in an optimal mix tailored to the client’s business needs. Perhaps we should call this an “open mindset” because my experience is that we must be open to where the data and the insights lead us. For the team to achieve this kind of open-mindedness, it needs great generalists as well as great specialists. If all you have is specialists, the work is likely to get bogged down in media-specific thinking.

Money. Teams of agencies have a hard time sharing projects because each one has its own profit pressure. It’s important for a single-agency team, working on a single assignment for a single client, to have a common P&L. This centralized accounting structure makes the whole team equally responsible for the result. Similarly, the client may want to consider media-neutral compensation. For example, if they normally pay a commission on media for TV advertising and an hourly fee for retail, maybe a unified fee structure is in order.

Why ask one agency to do it all?

I’ve come to the conclusion that one-agency-doing-it-all won’t be an industry standard. To Goldgeier’s point, very few agencies really have the resources. Fewer still are structured in such a way that they are truly media-neutral, have the right mindset, and can overcome money problems.

So why would you ask one agency to do it all?

Partnership. If you are one of the few clients today with a strong agency partnership focused on solving business problems, congratulations. Ask as much of that partner as you dare. If they care about your business, know your consumer and can outfox your competition, they’re a great partner.

Effectiveness. Having multiple outside partners fighting over budgets won’t solve much. Having a single, trusted partner will give you the best combination of an outside sounding board and a fair arbiter of how to allocate your budget among the many different media available today.

Efficiency. One creative resource at the helm means that you stand a better chance of getting a single, consumer-relevant, media-neutral idea that can be executed across channels. This will make your overall budget work harder because the messages will be synchronized.

This isn’t just theory, it’s my experience. Please use the comments section to tell me about yours.

08 September 2010

Shop Small Stores

This past weekend while shopping for ballet supplies with Mrs. Ad Majorem, we visited Allegro Dance Boutique in Evanston, Illinois. At the checkout counter they had buttons with the advice to "Shop Small Stores". There was also information about the 3/50 Project, which I knew nothing about.

The 3/50 Project is an alliance consisting of small, local retailers encouraging shoppers to patronize at least three independent stores to the tune of at least $50 a month. The website starts with the question "What three independently owned businesses would you miss if they disappeared?"

It's a timely message in a down economy. They leverage this sentiment further by claiming that every $100 spent locally returns $68 to "the community" via taxes, payroll and other expenditures.

Retail meets SoMe...again

This alliance is more like a movement, and provides yet another example of how Retail and Social Media intersect. By "social media" we really mean "word of mouth", which in the 21st Century is propelled by technology more so than a conversation across the fence between neighbors.

Still, there's an undeniably passionate, personal feel to the 3/50 Project you can't get from a Walmart greeter or the Starbucks barista who knows what you always order. The "movement" was sparked by a retail consultant, but it sustains itself on the energy of small enterprises on a mission.

The (endlessly clickable) Shallows

Here's an epilogue to yesterday's review of The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.

Later in the day we were running through an important social media campaign for a valued client. The creative director presented the work as a series of screen shots on boards.

It wasn't intended this way, but there was roughly one presentation board for each link or object a consumer could click. When the creative director finished, we had boards lining every rail.

It wasn't a big room, but the long line of images was an impressive visual display of the endlessly clickable options available to consumers with short attention spans.

07 September 2010

Book Review: The Shallows

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
By Nicholas Carr
W. W. Norton & Co., 276 pages

Nicholas Carr’s new book, The Shallows, explains his theory that the Internet, like all forms of media before it, affects our brains by changing how we think and communicate. In the specific case of the Internet, this effect is to shorten our attention span.

Casting all irony aside, I will now blog about it, in hopes you will have the patience to read an entire book review. Ready? Here goes.

While Carr does believe Internet use reduces the attention span, he actually has a more elaborate thesis: Throughout history, humankind has created many tools, measures and media, all of which literally changed the way we live, usually bringing some advancement to civilization. The human brain adapts to each of these advancements. Neurologists have proven the brain to be plastic in nature, operating according to the routines by which we live. This principle explains muscle memory, addiction, and how we communicate.

The Shallows lasts ten chapters, with the charming irony that Carr interrupts some of the chapter transitions with “a digression”, perhaps to underline his overall point that few of us can stay on track anymore. Nevertheless he stays on track, starting with a personal perspective, then plunging deep into the science of neurology, followed by the history of communication media, and finally tying the two together to show that the Internet, like all media before it, influences our ways of thinking. It’s a compelling case.

This book is thick with science and history, all presented as the engaging story of our journey through oral traditions, cuneiform, papyrus, paper, books and the Internet. Carr sees the benefits of all these media. He embraces the Internet, pointing out how it not only stores information efficiently, but has developed our skills at locating the right information. We may not remember the Dewey Decimal System, because we don’t have to -- and that’s the danger. Carr quotes more than once a caution expressed by Socrates that writing down texts, instead of memorizing them, was “a recipe not for memory, but for reminder.”

Carr is neither Luddite nor Cassandra. Most of the books’ press coverage pursued a “bad Internet” storyline, but in reality Carr sees “the Net” (as he calls it) as simply another invention that’s not only a product of our brains but an influencer of how we use them. In that way the story is a bleak one for bibliophiles. A key finding is that just a decade and a half of Internet usage has reduced our ability to digest long-form literature such as an essay or a book. More than that, Carr laments in a personal observation, “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away at my capacity for concentration and contemplation.” There’s a kind of resistance-is-futile feel to this and other passages of the book.

Carr also captures a debate between Determinists, who say out technology affects our history, and Instrumentalists, who say our history affects our technology. Carr seems to side with the Determinists, based on his analysis of science and history. Science tells us the brain is “plastic”, forming neural pathways based on how we employ it most frequently. History tells us that we have always molded our brains with each new technology, including the map, the clock and the printing press. It’s worth remembering how revolutionary books were as the Renaissance dawned: “To read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention to a single, static object.”

Pursuing the Determinist angle, Carr's examination of the Internet focuses on linked text and its cascading cross-references. Reading a page in a physical book leads merely to the next page. Reading a page on the Internet can lead to hundreds of other pages with just one or two clicks. Chapter 7, “The Juggler’s Brain”, explores how Internet multitasking erodes comprehension. You can access all sorts of data but not all at one time. The software you’re using to read this review isn’t called a “browser” for nothing.

Google comes in for some criticism in The Shallows for its über-quantitative culture. Google’s very business model is based on the number of choices people make, so the more links we click, the more data we feed to the beast. It occurred to me while reading this passage that SEM is like direct marketing on Red Bull. Instead of sending in a single BRC, the consumer votes early and often, every time they click.

Why this matters to Marketers

How does The Shallows matter to marketers? I see two implications.

The first implication is how we train ourselves as professionals. The Internet isn’t detrimental unless it becomes our exclusive way of working. The antidote to Carr’s dystopian view is a balanced use of various media, with a return to more contemplative experiences. Reading is solitary and the Internet is interconnected – you’re never alone with your thoughts. We need balance.

The second implication is that we are marketing to a consumer population that increasingly lacks this kind of balance. The advent of social media will drive short attention spans. How can we engage consumers in an environment like this? It won’t be easy. We can only do so much to influence society, but just going with the flow doesn’t do much good. Balance your messages.

I’m glad you stayed with me to the end of this book review. You probably realize that I recommend reading The Shallows, preferably the physical book. You may not have realized that in tribute to the book, this review contained no hypertext links whatsoever.

30 August 2010

We will always need Specialists

One of my four major agenda items, any given day of my career, is people development. In recent times the main task of people development has been to develop Renaissance Practitioners. Said differently, my task is to turn great specialists into great generalists.

Are you a Specialist or a Generalist?

Great specialists only see their own part of the marketing plan. Great generalists can play their position well and see how their work fits into the overall marketing solution we provide to a client. This way we provide business solutions, not just “digital solutions” or “retail solutions”.

SoMe specialist vs. SoMe generalist

Today I read two articles that show how Social Media, the industry specialty of the moment, is evolving in ways that should interest specialists and generalists alike:

A blogger at Sysomos, a business software company, opined today that while SoMe is a small slice of overall advertising investment, it will someday “rule the advertising roost”, eclipsing all known media except outdoor. Maybe so. Veteran ad people know that the #1 advertising medium cited by consumers as “most reliable” has always been “word of mouth”. SoMe is word of mouth in a publishable form.

Meanwhile, a “social media strategist” at Digitas Health laments her job title because it makes her sound too much like a specialist. “Social media,” says Sarah Larcker, “should really be viewed as an integrated part of the holistic strategy for a brand, not its own independent realm.” Sarah is an excellent example of a specialist-generalist.

We will always need Specialists

There’s no doubt that what we currently call SoMe will continue to be a major force in modern marketing. Everyone’s challenge is exactly what Sarah Larcker proposes, to make SoMe a strategic tool rather than a tactical silo.

We will always need specialists, however. Technology continues to develop daily and someone has to be on top of the changes – it’s a full-time job. New media will continue to evolve and we need specialists to show us how it can work.

The question is how much of a generalist do you aspire to be? You may always have your specialty, but having a big-picture perspective will keep your skills relevant.

29 August 2010

Automatic Advertising

As computers moved from computing to other intellectual tasks, people have wondered when computers would achieve artificial intelligence and take over tasks only humans could do, such as develop advertisements.

OK, maybe “develop advertisements” isn’t as high on the list of possibilities as writing great literature or curing cancer, but this is a blog devoted to modern marketing so please stick with me for a moment.

Automatic Advertising

Some recent news stories raise the specter of computer-generated, automatic advertising:

BETC Euro RSCG in Paris has, according to the New York Times, “developed software that can produce elementary advertisements.” It’s called CAI, for Creative Artificial Intelligence. Apparently the software requires you to answer questions such as you would consider when writing a creative brief and voila, hundreds of samples result. Industry veterans in the audience are thinking right now, “What if the brief is poorly written?” The New York Times skips over this point.

PlaceLocal, a startup that provides a similar service to local merchants seeking nearby customers, is even more automated. For example, a pizza restaurant need only provide its location, phone number, web address, et cetera, and PlaceLocal creates a simplified ad to run in local media. The program was developed by Paper G, an advertising technology company. This service strikes me as perfect for small business people who can’t hire someone to place ads for them.

It’s also perfect for local newspapers which can better monetize their web operations instead of pounding the pavement to sell ads in their print editions. That leads me to my next point.

Automatic Media

Both of these developments focus on developing an advertisement, but neither of them really addresses the best medium where the messages should be placed. Where’s the automatic media planning software? In modern marketing, finding the right place to invest the media budget is a much more interesting question than in the past. Back in the days of Ye Olde Marketing we had just a few vehicles to consider.

Today there are many choices. To be sure, there is software to help you navigate the options – Compose, for example. It’s not a substitute for decision-making, though. You use the technology to help you analyze, and then you decide based on everything you know. Similarly, after creating ads with Euro’s CAI software, someone probably decides which ad is the best (or if the brief needs to be rewritten).

Automatic for the People

Crowdsourcing is a phenomenon combining both technology and humanity. Many of you have seen or read about the various crowdsourcing experiments for Mountain Dew under the banner of their DEWmocracy project. Many of these projects sought consumer input in developing the right creative, but a recent experiment sought specific input as to what media vehicles are right for the brand. That’s worth watching.

It’s always important to determine what the right creative message looks like, but part of that determination process is writing a channel plan. A copywriter can hardly write the best print ad if she thinks she’s writing a TV commercial.

26 August 2010

Take 2: Define "advertising" in one sentence

In April we reported on a LinkedIn discussion where 200 respondents each tried to define “advertising” in one sentence. There was no consensus other than advertising has many definitions.

In the past week or so, someone restarted the conversation and we now have more than 360 responses. Talk about a long tail.

The absolute latest industry thinking

Here were some of the more interesting recent responses:

Bill Murphy, paraphrasing Claude Hopkins: “Advertising is salesmanship in print – the only purpose of advertising is to make sales.”

Ana Placinta, with a nod to branding: “Advertising is when a crispy brown beer becomes the Guinness beer.”

Al Shultz, pointing out a fundamental task: “Advertising is differentiating your product/service from everyone else’s.”

Anthony Butler, who understands channel planning: “The right message to the right customer at the right time.”

Damian Jozane, who understands common sense: “Advertising is finding what people know, but nobody has said.”

What is your definition of “advertising” in one sentence?

My answer appears in the LinkedIn discussion and in my last post on this subject. What is your definition of “advertising” in one sentence?

Please use the space below to add your thoughts. Maybe we’ll keep it to less than 100 answers.

20 August 2010

Who "owns" Mobile around the world?

Yesterday's post suggested that "Who owns Mobile?" is the wrong question for turf-conscious agency people. It's better to focus on learning about Mobile, because clients will ask "Who knows Mobile?" Who can give me a business solution?

In the other words, learn the territory instead of trying to grab it.

By the way -- it's a global territory.

Roaming charges

A colleague used to joke that any self-proclaimed mobile expert was required to say, at least once a day in a meeting, "The U.S. mobile market is in the Stone Age compared to what they have in Hong Kong."

It's no joke. Mobile has evolved in different ways and to different degrees all over the world. Many Africans depend on mobile services to do their banking. Britons driving into London can pay the commuting tax on their mobile phones.

It's 4G, comrade

The Economist reports this week that Yota, a Russian start up, has laid 3,000 km of its own fiber-optic lines to start a 4G network. Yes, 4G is coming (see the chart above).

You may also want to read this Economist article about the mobile market in South-East Asia.

Learn the territory

Yesterday's post advised: learn the territory. Today's corollary lesson is: learn the global territory. That way when clients ask "Who knows Mobile?" you can answer them with confidence.

19 August 2010

A Note to Readers

Two recent posts on Ad Majorem strayed a bit from our usual subject matter -- the changes and challenges of modern marketing -- into more general territory about Internet regulation.

To be sure, Internet regulation intersects with modern marketing. The Internet governs many aspects of 21st Century life, including marketing, and regulation has been discussed here before.

Still, this blog doesn't take sides politically. On the subject of Net Neutrality, for example, I invited a collaborative discussion which turned into a small political kerfuffle.

A bit of Internet research showed me that Net Neutrality has become a partisan issue of our times: Red vs. Blue, MoveOn.org vs. Tea Party, Newt Gingrich vs. Al Franken.

A related finding was that in place of thorough, inductive discussion there is a lot of back-and-forth argument and even name-calling. I'll stay out of that debate until it calms down.

The question I'd like to ask you, dear reader, is: Any advice? Anything you want to see addressed on this blog? Is there a subject you want me to drop? I'd love to have your opinion.

Thanks very much.

Who "owns" Mobile?

Smartphones will eclipse feature phones as a percentage of the U.S. mobile device population by the end of 2011. Clients are discovering smartphone apps that offer an opportunity to engage and continue consumer relationships. Agencies each want to be the one to help their clients leverage these apps. All kinds of agencies: traditional, new breed, media and of course digital.

Which agencies own Mobile?

First we ought to properly frame the question. An AdAge.com article this week took the view that "creative agencies" and "media agencies" are fighting over the right to "own" Mobile. Apparently they put digital agencies into the "creative" category, which is fine as far as it goes.

It doesn't go far enough, however. Missing from the discussion is retail. Some promotion and shopper marketing agencies are starting to create mobile apps for their clients, and retailers themselves are developing programs in which their vendors - uh, partners - can buy into - uh, participate. One example described in Tuesday's NYTimes.com is Shopkick, currently backed by Macy's and four other retailers.

The gigantic Venn diagram

The landscape of agencies, clients and retailers is more complicated than just "creative" and "media" agencies. This shouldn't surprise us in an era where all available marketing channels form a gigantic Venn diagram that shifts and overlaps in new ways every week. We've observed this before (here and here) and in a way it's the point of this blog.

Asking who owns mobile is like asking who owns television: the agency who develops a 30" commercial, the agency who plans or buys, the network or station, the program developer or the cable service provider.

It's the same with mobile. Someone has to decide there's an opportunity to engage consumers via a mobile device. Someone has to develop the app or ad. Someone has to figure out the way to engage the consumer, which in some cases will be a display media buy and other cases something resembling word of mouth marketing.

Mobile survival guide

There are two implications here:

Who knows Mobile? Clients won’t ask which agency owns Mobile, they’ll ask who knows Mobile. If you’re an agency person, worry less about whether you should handle Mobile and more about whether you’re prepared to handle it.

Mobile is not a silo. This actually applies to all disciplines, but you can’t treat Mobile or anything else as its own discipline. It has to be considered as a strategic option from the beginning, and made part of the plan if and only if the business solution demands it. Planned that way, it will work well together with advertising, digital and retail.

05 August 2010

"Net Neutrality"

Following Wednesday's post about the role of government at the intersection of Marketing and the Internet comes the latest news about "net neutrality".

Net Neutrality

The actual term is "network neutrality", a concept where all Internet access would be treated equally. All access to all content would be available at the same speed. There's a complete article on Wikipedia describing it fully. In any case, it sounds like an appealing concept, doesn't it?

Not so fast...

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission tried to enforce net neutrality last year, but the courts ruled that the Internet falls outside their jurisdiction. The FCC regulates broadcast communications only, not even cable television, while the Internet counts as an "information service".

You get what you pay for

The opposite of net neutrality is a tiered system, where Internet users would pay their service providers a premium to access certain content faster. This would depend on an arrangement among Internet service providers such as Verizon, content providers and users willing to pay more.

The latest news

Since the FCC is powerless (for now) to enforce net neutrality, those who own the networks are starting to arrange tiered systems. This week the New York Times reported that Google and Verizon are close to such a deal; today Google and Verizon denied it, saying they were continuing to talk to the government. The FCC says that the talks are on hold for the moment.

What's my position on net neutrality?

No one can say how this will play out. The starry-eyed idealist in me wants to believe in net neutrality because it sounds fair and equal. Yet the Internet is not a government program, it's a commercial enterprise. Said differently, it's publishing.

If net neutrality had been applied to newspapers and magazines, then every consumer would have paid the same price for each magazine they received, no matter how premium the content or how many pages it required.

You may perceive that I haven't decided what I think about this. Please use the comments section to sway me to one side or the other.