29 March 2010

Apple and Google

Recently I've posted positive things about Apple's marketing and Google's advertising.

You may have read that their mutual relationship is a bit strained at the moment.

You may not have read a pair of amusing and informative posts by Chris Matyszczyk, a creative director and CNET blogger. One criticizes Google's advertising for the Nexus One. The other wonders who called who for a semi-publicized cup of coffee, Steve Jobs or Eric Schmidt.

If you have a moment, both posts are worth a read because both companies will continue to loom large for the advertising industry.

Party like it's 1963

Here's a sobering news item for those of you who wish this business would go back to the Mad Men era: Newspaper advertising revenue is the same today as it was in 1963, almost a half century ago.

Tick Tock

The New York Times media blog recently reported that ad revenue was at 1986 levels. Last week this data point was corrected by the Columbia Journalism Review, which adjusted for inflation, setting the clock back to 1963. The two articles together represent a good summary of the sources of newspaper ad revenue today. It's not a pretty picture. (Hat tip: John McQuaid.)

Rendezvous with Destiny

Despite the bleak outlook, nobody should yearn for the days of Ye Olde Marketing. Consumers, whether they are your readers, target audience, heavy user, shopper, lo que sea, are moving on, yearning for the future.

25 March 2010

None of us are "media agnostic"

You’ve heard the word “agnostic” at work, in the trade press or in the marketing classroom, as in “media agnostic” or “channel agnostic”.

These terms refer to communications planning that favors no medium, channel or discipline over another – until a proper analysis or strategic exercise helps determine the best ways to engage the right consumer.

The above definition is a common-sense way to decide your marketing budget, but common sense rarely prevails. It is insane that in the 21st Century marketing budgets are artificially siloed or pre-allocated to trade spending, deal-making, promotion or advertising. None of us wants to be seen as insane so we use terms like “media agnostic” to signal that we would never pre-assign the budget to TV or sales promotion or whatever.

“Agnostic” is the wrong term to use, not only because it’s inaccurate but because it distracts us from an opportunity to stop the insanity described above.

It’s the wrong word

“Agnostic” in modern English usage connotes a doubt or skepticism about the existence of God. This dictionary definition is pretty close to the actual etymology of the word. “Agnostic” was coined in 1860 by English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley to define his own disbelief and disagreement with all things spiritual. This would be counter to the Gnostics, an early 1st Century religious group that to Huxley represented any and all claims to spiritual knowledge. There is a continuing scholarly debate about the Gnostics and their beliefs, but we won’t go into that here.

Simply put, agnosticism is not the opposite of Gnosticism, but the opposite of spiritual belief. The opposite of belief is doubt. Agnosticism is doubt.

So, all you “media agnostics” out there: Do you doubt the existence of media? Of course not, but you may doubt the relevance of my argument so far. Everyone knows what I mean by “agnostic”, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that words can lead us astray

This is a practical concern, not an academic pursuit. A vaguely philosophical-sounding term covers up a vital planning discipline. Some may think if their philosophy is “agnostic” then they need not do the strategic heavy lifting to find the right mix of channels for each particular assignment. In other words, if we are open to any and all media, we’ll never find the right one(s) for any given assignment. Thus we sound smarter but we miss the opportunity to describe and do something truly revolutionary.

In the words of Ahmad Islam: “I am definitely not agnostic. I have no doubt that there is a best fit media or media mix to address most client challenges and ensure business objectives are met.”

Try “channel neutral”

So if not “agnostic”, what word would capture the opportunity we have to do something truly revolutionary? My own usual phrase is “channel-neutral” but perhaps you can suggest others.

18 March 2010

Great Creative + Lotsa Luck = Viral Success

We were shocked -- shocked! -- to see this headline today: "Strong Creative Drives Viral Success".

Who knew? To read the article, click here, but here's our perspective:

Millward Brown is a trustworthy source. The headline is a "duh" but you can be sure it's backed up by bulletproof research. I love the Millward Brown people that work with my clients.

Screens are screens. MB's analysis sounded exactly like their analyses of what drives strong television advertising. Many people declare or predict the death of 30-second TV commercials. TV commercials aren't dead, they're just moving to other media, mainly digital.

Luck is the second biggest driver of viral success. Even great creative is no guarantee of success. A colleague once told me "viral is not a strategy, it's an outcome." Saying you're doing a viral ad is like saying you'll go to Vegas and come back a million dollars richer.

The Millward Brown study acknowledges this. "We see there are certain principles that make an ad go viral," says Ann Green, senior vice president of marketing solutions for Millward Brown. "But there will always be ads that have these characteristics that don't catch on and vice versa."

Strong creative. I'll be darned.

11 March 2010

iPad's :30 in Oscars was not its first ad

There's been a lot of industry discussion this week about whether Apple's "first ad" for the new iPad device was a good one.

AdAge.com said it "won't go viral", Brandchannel had a mixed review, the blogosphere weighed in (here and here), etc. The typical statement in all reports was "Apple chose the ceremony to run its first ad for iPad." Not true!

The first ad came on 27 January

For two decades the industry and the academy have been saying "it's all advertising" - the TV spots, the billboards, the sandwich boards, and of course the digital stuff. I agree because this is how consumers see it.

Thus Apple's first iPad advertisement came on 27 January when Steve Jobs went on stage and told us all about it.

Psst... Apple is an Old School marketer!

The AdAge.com article naively called the TV ad "retro" since "it's all about driving viewers to Apple.com, and a potential sale; dissemination of the video itself is secondary." What? Sell actual product rather than attract fame for a bazillion YouTube hits?

Recently a marketing consultant who works for Apple told me that Steve Jobs believes the best advertising medium is...Television. This shouldn't be a surprise given that Apple has consistently won via TV ("1984" comes to mind). I also hear that Jobs is personally involved in the development of each Mac guy/PC guy TV commercial.

Apple's success model

I would add, strictly via observation, that Apple believes in two other things besides TV.

One is the absolute oldest and most reliable form of advertising, bar none: Word Of Mouth. The PR event they staged back on 27 January succeeded because it unleashed a torrent of free publicity. One could surmise that the "leaks" of product information out of China in the weeks-long lead up were planned. By the time we saw the TV ads on Sunday we knew what to expect.

The second thing Apple relies upon is the absolute oldest, most reliable form of sales, bar none: Retail. Have you ever been to an Apple store? Sure it is a monument to the brand that attracts many window shoppers, but it also attracts a lot of actual buyers. Mrs. Ad Majorem bought an iPhone this past year and was treated so well that she also bought a MacBook Pro. They go beyond just bricks-and-mortar retail, too: their digital media presence is kind of light other than a little enterprise called iTunes.

It's all about the sales

Steve Jobs started out sequencing 1s and 0s - and he knows how they sequence on a balance sheet, too.

10 March 2010

"Mad Men" from Mattel

Mattel announced this morning the launch of Barbie/Ken dolls based on the "Mad Men" TV series. You know, Don and Betty Draper, Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway.

You can read about this in the toy industry press, the New York Times, and of course in Advertising Age which helpfully points out that these are not meant to be voodoo dolls.

That's not to say they won't be manipulated in other ways. The Consumerist blog predicts "fans will be glad to know that just like in the show, the characters will be trapped inside plastic coffins and their movements determined by powerful external forces."

Tell me what you think, readers

Do you expect these dolls to wind up:

(a) on the bookshelves of industry executives

(b) in the toy boxes of industry executives' children

(c) listed on eBay and Craigslist long after Mad Men goes off the air

(d) Some combination of the above

Comment below -- no need to register!

07 March 2010

comScore makes another move into TV territory

Last month we posted about comScore acquiring ARS, the iconic TV copy test company.

Last week comScore hired former Arbitron exec Joan FitzGerald as VP-television sales and business development. That's not about testing TV creative, it's about who watches what on TV.

You can also read this article from AdAge.com.

The Moment of Truth

We're going to market right now with an integrated program. Last year the client hired us, and together we defined objectives, wrote a strategy and developed creative for a channel-neutral plan. Regular readers know I work for an agency with many capabilities under one roof, and this program shows what all we can do. None of that really matters, however.

What does matter: In-market results.

This past week I had two parallel conversations about cold, hard measurement and accountability. One was in the comment sections of some online articles about the rise of measurement in modern marketing. It seemed that many people didn't understand the difference between (a) financial metrics like a P&L, (b) planning metrics like copy testing, and (c) performance metrics like sales, share and ROI.

My clients aren't confused. The other conversation this week took place in their boardroom where we updated the CEO on our program. Financials? Check. Research? Check. Then: Are you going to hit the sales objective? That's what matters to them. In-market results.

It should matter to us all

We would all do well to embrace this most important moment of truth. Modern marketing offers us analytical tools to measure progress and figure out how to drive sales more effectively.

Dismissing these tools as the stuff of bean counters and copy testers is short-sighted and wrong. In-market results are the very reason we write strategies, channel plans and creative.