19 December 2011

TV Keeps Rising from the Dead

Today's business news brings the latest examples of why the death of TV is greatly exaggerated.

Apple, to no one's surprise, has been briefing media companies on the next evolution of its Internet-based TV services. Among the innovations: Wireless streaming of video content from TVs to mobile devices, and using devices like the iPhone as a remote control. Among the questions: Will Apple evolve its current set-top box, or actually manufacture what we now call TV sets? You can read the original reporting in today's Wall Street Journal.

Hulu, meanwhile, saw an audience increase of +23% in November vs. the same month last year. Adweek points out that the data, via comScore, comes on the heels of Hulu's fresh supply of content from The CW, Sony Pictures Television, and Univision. Greg Jarboe lists some other reasons in a good post today over on Search Engine Watch.

Social Television

In a post last week on the HBR Blog, one of David Armano's social media trends to watch in 2012 was Social Television. As predictions go, this one doesn't go very far out on a limb. We've already observed the intense cross-over between Social Media and TV in consumer media multitasking. Armano does point out new services such as Get Glue, which allows audiences to check in to TV shows much like Foursquare lets you check in to actual locations. (Or not.)

No More Zombies Wandering in the Vast Wasteland

Digital delivery of TV by the likes of Apple and Hulu makes TV Social -- and Social Television may make TV more of a connected experience. TV in its infancy was a family activity: one TV set per household meant everyone gathered for Ed Sullivan or Bonanza. Later, TV became more of an individual activity: multiple TV sets per household allowed each person to watch programs tailored to their own tastes. Could it be that Social Television brings back TV as a way to connect?

Not only does TV keep rising from the dead, it may wind up curing some zombies.

15 December 2011

Marketing and Public Relations Continue to Converge

Marketing and Public Relations continue to converge.

This week Johnson & Johnson promoted Michael Sneed to VP—Global Corporate Affairs. What’s significant about this news is that Sneed will oversee both Marketing and Public Relations, which in many companies are totally separate or even siloed from one another. J&J needs to coordinate them, however, given the backlash from recent recalls of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and some other products. In those crises J&J learned an object lesson on how Social Media is a big force driving the convergence of Marketing and Public Relations.

Don’t Wait for a Crisis

It shouldn’t take a crisis to make companies consider this approach. The very existence of Social Media can accelerate word-of-mouth conversation, whether it’s bad or good for a company, brand or product. Keeping Public Relations close to Marketing can help raise marketers’ sensitivity to what’s being said. Recently I met with one of our U.S. clients, a VP—Marketing, who has the corporate communications people in his department and right down the hall. (He may be an integration all-star because he also shares his own office with the VP—Sales.)

A Seat at the Table

In one of the articles about J&J’s Michael Sneed, there is a negative note. Although Sneed will report to J&J’s CEO, he will not be a member of the executive committee. I’m not going to rant about how Marketing needs to be in the center of things – although it crossed my mind. The bigger question is why a company that had to shut down the Tylenol factory, pay over a hundred million dollars in settlements and defend against numerous lawsuits didn’t learn enough from the experience to keep external communications front and center.

18 October 2011

100 Marketers in Search of Integration

Digital marketers are ready to help drive marketing integration.

That was a common theme at Peer Summit Chicago, a gathering of about 100 marketing professionals seeking to improve on what they do by hearing from and sharing with their peers. It was organized by Econsultancy, a London-based firm that counsels clients on media and marketing with an emphasis on digital issues. They also publish a lot of research, often working with partners like Adobe and Google, who also co-sponsored the event. You can read about Econsultancy here and Peer Summit here.

My role was to moderate three discussions on “Integrating Digital Marketing,” each time with about eight marketers, while a dozen or so other tables were discussing other topics like Mobile Commerce and Email Marketing. We talked openly, under the Chatham House Rule, so I’ll only report some general things, not for attribution.

“Digital” vs. “Traditional”

Across the three roundtable discussions we had a good mix of seniority, expertise, and industry. E-commerce directors for insurance and for heavy machinery, manager of all creative materials for a financial services giant, director of digital marketing for a risk management company, and a book publishing executive responsible for digital marketing including product development for all her company’s e-books. Apparently if you’re a digital specialist they give you all things digital.

And that was exactly the problem. Every single digital marketer felt siloed in their specialty. Almost all of them either envied or resented their “traditional” or “offline” counterparts because they get more budget and more attention. When one of the speakers said “TV is the only non-discretionary marketing expense” they all nodded. No one argued the point.

Four Ways Digital Marketers Can Break Down Silos

So how do you break down the silos? Here were just some of the things the digital marketers said they would put into practice back at their offices.

The solutions lie in People more than Process. There’s no benefit in trying to force collaboration via some IMC process mechanism. Instead, there was a huge perceived opportunity in simply building alliances with like minds in other disciplines, even/especially “traditional” marketers. It seems like simple advice – “just open the door at the base of the silo” – but few had tried it.

Consumer knowledge rules. In a bit of self-criticism, most participants admitted they didn’t know their own consumers, customers or end-users very well. Instead, they wind up serving only their internal customers such as a project manager or “traditional” marketer, putting themselves at a disadvantage. Each of them needed to change that; it’s axiomatic that any kind of marketer needs to understand their consumer. There are two opportunities for digital marketers. One is to simply do their own homework on consumers because most marketers don’t. The second is to use digital’s own tools to get close to the consumer, either by research or simply as a listening post.

Digital has an opportunity to lead via Knowledge Management. Consumer product marketers were keen to hear about the Knowledge Management function in many consulting firms. “You mean there people whose full-time jobs are to organize, store and retrieve the company’s knowledge base?” I cautioned the group that Knowledge Management, done well, winds up being the full-time job of a lot of people. Nevertheless, digital specialists have the tools to champion the cause in their organizations, thus getting them out of their silo.

Share your specialty. Digital marketers sometimes forget that “traditional” marketers are mystified, even intimidated, by SEM, SEO, Demand Side Platforms, HTML5, etc. A great starting point is to teach others about what you do, so they can see the value and the utility of digital media.

There were some other discussion points, but these were the main ones. It was clear, at least from three roundtable discussions, that digital still lives in a silo, dangerously underutilized. Hopefully we sent forth some evangelists for integration.

17 October 2011

The Role of Creative Production

Exploding Growth in Media Formats Puts More Demand on Creative Production

It’s a cruel quirk of advertising lingo when financial terms creep into normal business practices and hijack their identity.

One such example is “below the line.” In the days of Ye Olde Marketing most agency invoices were simple calculations of a 15% commission. An accountant, faced with expenses that had to be billed as one-time fees, drew a line on the invoices and listed the non-commissionable items below it. The commission structure hardly exists anymore, but the important work of Digital and Promotion gets stuck with a moniker that connotes second-class status.

Production: "Non-Working?"

In a similar way, Media and Production expenses are defined on some budget documents as “Working” and “Non-Working.” Production is said to be “Non-Working.” More than a few agency producers have complained about this term, especially in an era of tight budgets. Anything called “Non-Working” is just begging to be reduced.

At the very same time in history that Production budgets are squeezed, its role is more important than ever. As a colleague succinctly put it the other day: Exploding growth in media formats puts more demand on creative production.

Production costs were predictable in the past. Each discipline, be it Advertising, Promotion or Direct Marketing, knew what kind of programs they could expect to do. The biggest variable was a higher cost for a more elaborate TV commercial, in-store display or mailer.

Two Kinds of Complexity

In modern times you see two kinds of added complexity. One is that there are many new channels of communication, or as my colleague put it, “media formats.” As we’ve posted before, even “TV” isn’t that simple because it entails various online versions on top of the standard broadcast :30.

The second kind of complexity is that if we truly start a project with a channel-neutral or media-neutral approach, we won’t know ahead of time what mix of old and new formats we’ll be producing.

How to Cope with Exploding Growth in Media Formats

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to cope with this new dynamic.

Consistent Brand Voice. If your brand reinvents itself every year or every quarter, you not only risk confusing your consumer, you make creative production less efficient. Even the most routine IMC program these days has many moving parts across Advertising, Retail and Digital. A consistent approach will make it easier to produce things on the fly. To be clear, the goal is not cookie-cutter creative, it’s running a tight strategic ship.

Plan ahead. A digital agency creative director joked to me once that IMC stands for “I already Made the Commercial.” Too often, TV artificially drives the process. Instead, use to your advantage the long lead times demanded by retailers. A good client-agency partnership will plan one year ahead of time for best synchronization of efforts.

Media neutral production. Starting a project with a consistent brand voice and one year of lead time is useless if you then just assign production silo by silo. How can the various specialists help one another? At some point each one has to tend to her own work, but starting everyone from the same place makes it easier to synchronize.

Be a cost-control maniac. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: That’s why God created Procurement. As marketers, however, we have a responsibility to deliver great work at a reasonable budget. Challenge yourself and your colleagues to find new ways to save money. (At some point in the near future we’ll elaborate on this point.)

Any other experiences, suggestions or questions?

14 October 2011

Disintermediation II

My presentation to BOLO 2011 is available on SlideShare. Click here to read or download it. The topic was "Disintermediation," or "cutting out the middleman." The presentation defines what it is -- and what it's not -- with some suggestions on how to prevent it. You may also want to read "Disintermediation," my post from last November.

13 October 2011

Small is Beautiful

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – The most exciting places in the agency world have less than 50 employees.

That was my strong takeaway from BOLO 2011, held here on Monday and Tuesday.

BOLO, a conference for the principals of small and midsize agencies, featured Scott Stratten (UnMarketing), Ron Baker (Pricing on Purpose), and Jay Baer (The NOW Revolution). It's run by Agencyside, a consultancy that helps nimble agencies stay competitive.

Here are some of my observations from BOLO:

Small is beautiful. While large agencies struggle with structure and duck their overhead, this group gets down to business pretty quickly. Yes, it's a challenge to make payroll and keep clients happy, but necessity is the mother of invention. There’s less time and effort wasted. Plus, learning travels faster when it can be shared across a tight team.

Technology is part of the culture. BOLO is focused on tech-driven media, so the attendees came ready to learn. But they also had lots to say. I was blown away by the work being done, and the willingness to experiment with technology. There was only a little bit of theory – and lots of practice. More than a few have contributed to TED.

Community is real. "Social Media" starts with the word "social" and that's clear to this group. The way they use SoMe to build business relationships rivals how they use it on behalf of their clients. This week I made a ton of new friends (look for some great #FF recommendations in my Twitter feed tomorrow). In addition, they contribute to their communities. One example was The League of Innovators, a “creative club” allowing local brains to bring ideas to life.

Talent is diverse. Big agencies have a (deserved) reputation for hiring the types of people they already have. The people I met this week included tech entrepreneurs, TV producers, and of course statisticians. Entering the agency world did not kill anyone’s curiosity; everyone was hungry to learn more. (“BOLO” stands for “Be On the Look Out.” I love that.)

I’m hoping to be there next year and recommend the same to you.

10 October 2011

Awesome Social Media

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – In this post I’m going to try and spread some awesome.

Not my own writing, but the great thoughts of Scott Stratten, the charmingly Canadian author of UnMarketing. Here were some of my favorite takeaways from his keynote address at the BOLO conference here.*

People spread Awesome – not Normal

This is a much pithier and more practical way to say that content is king (three overused words quickly losing meaning). If you’re going to post something on behalf of yourself, your company or your client, make it something awesome. Obvious advice? Sure, but do we always live by this principle?

Social Media ROI is Irrelevant

Stratten is equal parts insightful, funny and sarcastic and on this point those traits yielded an eloquent rant. In a more summarized way he made two points. (1) Social Media is really a form of Customer Relations. (2) Asking the ROI of Social Media is like asking the ROI of Customer Relations.

Brand Equity = Brand Reality

We’ve all discussed brand equity and written grand plans to describe what it should be. Stratten defines brand equity as what consumers think your brand is, not what you intend them to think it is. He told a wonderful story about how the Sous Chef at a Hilton did more for brand equity than any marketing plan.

Pick your Social Media Platform

With this last point comes practical advice and a personal aside.

Stratten pointed out that some marketers have avoided Social Media, partly due to the mind-boggling multiplicity of options. What should I use or recommend to my client? Facebook? Twitter? His advice: Just pick one and get some experience so you can figure out how Social Media works. It’s sound advice, and a path I’ve followed as well, first with Twitter in 2007 and then with Ad Majorem two years ago.

The personal aside concerns my close friend and Phoenix-area lawyer, Steve Adelman, an expert in venue safety and security. If that topic interests you, then read about him here on his website. You can also visit his Facebook page, though I’d always wondered why he had one. We got together this evening and I learned that he, too, was doubting whether Facebook was right for his wildly successful law practice. He gets a much better result from SEO and from an email newsletter.

Did he make a mistake? No. He experimented. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, there’s everything right with it. The same applies to all of us. You can start by making a comment in the space below.

* Today and tomorrow I’m at the BOLO conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, a gathering of 200 leaders of small and midsize agencies. BOLO is run by Agencyside, a consultancy that helps these agencies stay competitive. I’ll be speaking here tomorrow.

13 September 2011

Blogs are Social Media, too

Following up on our last post about Social Media Burnout, here is another thought on the subject, specifically having to do with blogs.

Blogs, as we’ve reported in the past, keep showing up in the obituary column. Blogging is dead. Blogging is journalism, and journalism is dead. Social Media has replaced blogs.

Blogs were the first major form of Social Media

Blogging, lest we forget, isn't really journalism -- it's the first major form of social media. Remember that when Facebook and Twitter were ramping up with early adopters, we called them "microblogging" platforms. This is important to remember, because if blogging is really Social Media, then we shouldn't use it to broadcast, we should use it to connect.

One less reason to fear Social Media Burnout

Aim your blogging at connecting with your social media community, not winning over legions of followers. Remember, authenticity trumps ubiquity. By just being yourself, you’ll be less likely to burn out.

09 September 2011

5 Reasons Not to Fear Social Media Burnout

Have you experienced Social Media Burnout?

If so, you’re in good company. Three social media masterminds recently admitted it was all getting to be a bit much. Steve Rubel blogged that social media might be getting tiresome – and then deleted several years worth of blog posts to start anew on Tumblr. Edward Boches went on vacation, literally and figuratively – and enjoyed getting off the grid. Bob Garfield confessed over the weekend that he’s talked a good game but hardly ever posts, tweets or tumbles. “I follow people who ovulate more than I tweet,” Garfield wrote, adding in some of the creep factor we’ve come to expect from social media.

All of these industry notables – each of whom I respect deeply – feel the pressure to post, tweet and blog on a constant basis. Maybe you’ve had the same feeling, even if it isn’t full-blown Social Media Burnout.

There is a cure.

“Hi, I’m Steve and I’m a…..”

I’ve felt the same pressure myself. Recently I’ve gone through some light periods on Twitter, and regular readers of Ad Majorem know this is my first post in a while. My Klout score has declined to around 50. Should I kvetch, worry, or otherwise vex myself? I’ve been pretty busy this year with important business, and the balance of the year doesn’t look much better. Would it be so bad if lightened up?

5 Reasons Not to fear Social Media Burnout

Stay committed, I tell myself. Here’s why.

1. Social Media is far from mature. Not only is Social Media not going away, it hasn’t even gotten started. Facebook of course has the most users, but usage penetration for Twitter and other platforms is still low, with many of the users coming from the opinion leader, creative class, leading edge crowd. Google+ may or may not reach a billion users, but it has certainly changed the game with its new features. The future growth will come not from signing up more users, but from inspiring even more innovative and useful features across the social web.

2. New features and platforms will continue to facilitate human interaction. What we now call “social media” is really just the digitally fueled accelerant of what we used to call “word of mouth.” Word of mouth is not a medium, it is something that happens among people. Advertising has always sought to influence it. Social Media can only facilitate it – and allow us to monitor and measure what people are saying, which we couldn’t do when those conversations took place over the backyard fence.

3. Learning is constant. I grew tired long ago of hearing that “change is the only constant” because it’s so obvious and really not that new of an idea. Change happens faster than it used to, however, which means that learning opportunities have multiplied exponentially. Social Media is the hottest hot-bed of learning because it is the literal intersection of psychology and technology. If I drop off the grid, I lose chances to learn and stay sharp.

4. Authenticity trumps ubiquity. The important thing about anyone’s participation in social media is that we contribute to the discussion. Large numbers of likes, followers or fans will always impress us, but they’re not as relevant in social media. You and I must be ourselves and add our perspective. Our networks – our friends, colleagues, whatever – will respond to authenticity, not ubiquity.

5. Corporations are still betting on Social Media. In an era when budgets are tight and results are hard to measure, no one is giving up on social media. Quite the opposite. A Duke University survey of 249 CMOs finds that social media budgets are expected to increase their share of marketing budgets over the next five years.

So, fear not. Stay social, be yourself, and keep an open mind.

28 July 2011

Consumers, not Marketers, make IMC possible

On the way to work this morning, my daughter noticed that just as we passed the billboard for Potbelly’s new Grilled Chicken & Cheddar sandwich, we also heard a radio commercial for the same product.

To her, it was coincidence. To you and me, it was Integrated Marketing Communications.

Actually, it was both.

Best Laid Plans

IMC is hard work. Not only must we find a simple idea that can work across different channels, we must decide which combination of channels will drive the client’s business.

The old-school, matching-luggage, spider-chart view of IMC is that if we surround the consumer with enough identical messages, we get a force multiplier that drives effectiveness.

It doesn’t work that way.

Only Consumers can put it together for themselves

We’ve made the point before that IMC is just a fancy acronym for “Marketing”. It makes sense that any marketing plan consisting of multiple channels should be coordinated so as to maximize the investment. The conceit of IMC is that consumers see the same spider chart we do.

That’s impossible. Not even in our best laid plans could we hope that most of the audience sees all the messages. Different people will see different combinations. Social Media makes this more true than ever. Ultimately each consumer will put it together for themselves.

Our goal isn’t for consumers to see the spider chart, or appreciate our IMC prowess, but to change their hearts and minds enough that the client sells more product.

Did we buy the Grilled Chicken & Cheddar Sandwich?

In the case of my daughter, who loves grilled cheese, we saw the billboard and heard the radio commercial. I dropped her off at her job as a day camp counselor at Chicago’s museum campus this morning, and this afternoon I brought her back to the office so I could attend an important meeting. Later I’ll take her out for a sandwich – at Jimmy John’s. Why not Potbelly? Because the radio and the billboard can’t compensate for the fact that there isn’t a Potbelly’s near my office.

30 June 2011

AAF AdCamp teaches about Advertising -- and Diversity

Last week we hosted a group of high school students participating in the AAF AdCamp program. Part of their two-week program entails visiting large ad agencies in Chicago. (Contrary to reports in the Pretend Trade Press, we have several such companies here.)

My role was to give them an overview of the agency, but inevitably the session turned into an overview of the agency business today. It was a bright group and they asked a lot of questions. Some of these questions were requests for career advice.

The majority of the questions, though, sought insight into what happens inside of an agency. “You talked about collaboration – what are some of the best ways to collaborate?” “What is the difference between a campaign and a creative idea?” “Are you allowed to handle two clients that sell the same kind of product?” “How many projects does a team handle at one time?”

One entrepreneurial soul asked, “I’m starting a t-shirt design company -- what's your advice on how to properly market to consumers and classmates?”

Discussing collaboration, one girl asked, “How do you get noticed as an individual if everyone is working together as a group?”

So what advice did I give them?

Regular readers won’t be surprised to know that students heard, among other points, two main pieces of advice. One is to be a good generalist. The other is to pay attention to channel-planning as well as creative.

The group was diverse, which made me happy. I pointed out to them that the agency business needs to be much more diverse, not only because it’s important to society, but because diversity affects the work we do. If you appreciate the diversity of the people around you, your mind will be open to new creative possibilities. That’s critical in a business where change is constant, and in a society whose motto is E pluribus unum.

29 June 2011

What is Klout Perks?

I feel so dirty.

A couple of weeks ago, Klout contacted me via Twitter, asking if I would accept a package from TNT promoting their new series, Franklin & Bash.

Sure, why not? It was a leather folio with a legal pad inside (pictured above), plus a DVD of the show. What was I going to do, blog about it?

Oh. Wait…

What is Klout Perks?

Klout is a social media analytics company that has popularized the Klout Score, a measure of overall online influence. They recently launched a new version which you can see here. My own Klout Score currently stands at 55, and I’m influential about retail, social media, advertising, and six other topics.

Klout Perks is a program where marketers can send swag to influential social media users, hoping they’ll tell the rest of their network about a product, service, or – in this case – TV show.

No, really, this blog post is about Klout Perks, not Franklin & Bash. Honest!

Do Klout Perks work?

It’s a little early to declare whether Klout Perks are an effective marketing tool because the program started a year ago, and just recently was featured on Klout's blog. One early result is that a lot of bloggers are writing about their experience. Will it take hold?

Here’s what Klout needs to do to ensure the success of Perks:

Think like a direct marketer. The first batch of clients is pretty diverse, including an automaker, a QSR, and of course Franklin & Bash. (Darn! There I go again.) Each client will have a different experience based on what they’re promoting and possibly the way they’re promoting it. The quality of the swag will matter in how much buzz they generate. Klout is a sophisticated analytics company, but some old-school direct mail techniques may help them diagnose what works and what doesn’t, such as comparing Offer A and Offer B, testing and tweaking their messages, etc.

Make it easy for influencers to influence. Blogger Mack Collier points out that his Klout Perks package contained no digital content to promote the TV show they sent him. All we got were souvenirs. He and I both had to take pictures of what we got in order to write our blog posts. Other than that, all I can do is direct you to the website for Franklin & Bash. (Grrr…)

Worry about acceptability as much as ethics. Klout provides an Influencer Code of Ethics and Disclosure. That’s helpful, but influencers are influential because they’re on solid social ground, not solid legal ground. Would I be embarrassed to shamelessly promote Franklin & Bash on TNT? Would you be embarrassed to receive a tweet from me about it?

I’ll be honest: I didn’t even watch the DVD they sent me, because Franklin & Bash doesn’t look like my kind of TV show. Nevertheless I appreciated the opportunity to participate in another attempt to mix marketing with word-of-mouth.

Hat tip: Thanks to Josh Brusin of Chicago Foodies for taking today's photo.

27 June 2011

Foursquare: Ready to think outside the box?

I quit Foursquare, cold turkey, on March 28th. This after a year and a half, 22 badges, and dozens of mayorships, including my client’s headquarters. Since quitting I’ve had an email about every two or three weeks telling me I’ve been ousted as Mayor of one place or another.

My biggest Foursquare accomplishment was the mayorship of a large metropolitan ad agency. Competition was fierce; it seemed like all 1,300 employees were playing Foursquare.

A couple of these colleagues even invented a fun Foursquare app, called HeatTracker, which you can read about here.

So why did I quit?

The thrill was gone. Or, rather, the thrill was merely a compulsive check in. Mrs. Ad Majorem was getting annoyed and Ad Majorem, Jr., age 4, was reminding me to check in almost everywhere we went. I realized that I was checking in for the sake of checking in.

Originally I started using Foursquare in an effort to keep up with the latest in social media. It seemed like an idea that could actually be monetized. Retailers could offer deals to regular customers who checked in on Foursquare.

Except very few did.

Check In and then Check Out

Foursquare had a couple of hopeful headlines in the news last week.

On Wednesday, Foursquare and American Express announced a deal where cardholders who check in can enjoy discounts when they check out. It’s limited to certain establishments, but Amex is hoping to appeal to consumers under 35, which isn’t their typical demographic.

Then on Friday, venture capitalists invested $50 million in Foursquare, which certainly seems to validate the Amex deal.

On Second Thought…

Maybe Foursquare will find its ideal business model. I hope so, if only because it will help other social media ventures to crack the code. The concept seems right even if no one has really leveraged it yet.

I may not be checking in on my mobile phone, but will definitely keep an eye on them.

24 June 2011

Hulu, dancing

Last week we met with some people from Hulu and in this post I’d like to share a couple of thoughts. Some of these musings continue the point that Digital didn’t kill TV, it propelled it.

Hulu’s competition is a Gigantic Venn Diagram

At first you might imagine that Hulu’s main competition is Netflix. Indeed, Hulu recently closed a deal with Miramax to compete more directly with VOD providers. But as their presentation continued, names came up like YouTube (duh) and Facebook (where you can watch The Dark Knight). Additionally Hulu competed on the turf of traditional TV during the recently concluded upfront negotiations.

This list of direct and adjacent competitors adds up to a Gigantic Venn Diagram, which makes sense because while the delivery methods differ, all provide video programming (and video advertising).

Screens everywhere

Hulu recognizes this proliferation of screens and the fact that it’s probably impossible to keep up with every single new screen or device. So their mission statement is screen-neutral and consumer focused. They’re not about online video but “helping people find, discover and consume media.”

Said another way, they’re in the entertainment business just as much as they’re in technology, distribution or programming.

Choose your ad

Hulu is testing a new option for video advertising, which is to give consumers the choice of which ad to see. If you’ve used Hulu, you know that commercials interrupt programming at certain intervals. If you see an automobile ad but you’re not in the market, you can click one of the other images and watch a different message from another advertiser.

Ostensibly this helps advertisers put messages with the most receptive consumers. I predict there will be another effect: Consumers choosing ads they want to see, purely for entertainment value.

Will Hulu survive?

None of the above guarantees Hulu’s future. Originally a joint venture among NBC Universal, News Corporation, Walt Disney and some venture capitalists, it may or may not be turning a profit. This past week Hulu received a takeover offer. Some speculated the whole thing was a ruse.

Whether Hulu dives, survives or thrives, it will be only one chapter in the continuing proliferation of TV programming – and yes, TV advertising.

02 June 2011

Marketing Silos

In the fields of marketing communications and organizational behavior, there is nothing more sinister than the silo.

Silos prevent cooperation and coordination. Silos signify self-interest and turf battles. Silos are a comfortable place to hide while we practice our specialties, oblivious to opportunities for working with others.

The Truth About Silos

The silo metaphor borrows equally from the Agricultural Revolution and the Information Age. The agricultural reference is a structure for storing bulk materials, usually grain harvested on a farm. An information silo, according to Wikipedia, “is a management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related management systems.”

Silos can be dangerous. “It may be fun,” advises an OSU fact sheet, “to jump in the grain or even bury yourself, but this kind of play is very dangerous. Flowing grain acts like quicksand. Once you start to sink it is impossible for you to dig your way to the top. As you dig, the grain keeps shifting under your feet, pushing you deeper towards the bottom.” Shudder.

Marketing Silos are Surrounded by a Barnyard Full of Manure

One of our clients recently ran a program in a medium we do not handle. Our creative director, always passionate about the client’s business, called me this morning to say “it’s not consistent with the brand voice,” and “it’s not relevant to our consumer.” He was right, because this work was done in a silo.

Silos are surrounded by a barnyard full of manure. That barnyard actually reinforces the silo mentality. We can stay in our silos instead of venturing out of comfort zones into something messy and complicated like interpersonal communication. Or a big pile of…. manure.

Connecting the Silos

Last year Evan Rosen wrote a column with good, practical advice for encouraging collaboration. My only quibble was with the title, “Smashing Silos”. The revolutionary tone is appropriate, but the prescription to me is more like “Connecting Silos”. We’ll always need specialists, and they’ll always need a place to put their grain.

Silos aren’t inherently bad unless we stay inside them. As modern marketers, we not only need to know our specialties, but get out of them and see the bigger picture.

(If you liked this post you may also like this one or that one.)

29 May 2011

3 Reasons You Should Care About the BzzAgent Acquisition

Last week Boston-based BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth marketer with extensive analytical capabilities, was acquired by dunnhumby, a direct-response marketer, also with extensive analytical capabilities, that in turn is also owned by U.K. retailing giant Tesco. (American readers should know that dunnhumby works extensively in the U.S. with Kroger.)

Bzz you should notice

I’ve worked directly with BzzAgent, and it’s always been a great experience. The starting point of their capabilities is a network of some 800,000 Bzz agents, consumers who receive product samples from manufacturers hoping to generate positive word-of-mouth. Just search on Twitter for #ImaBzzAgent, #BzzAgent or @BzzAgent to see the conversation they drive. As their CEO Dave Balter has pointed out to me in the past, BzzAgent is more than a network of “advocates,” they truly understand social media and analytics.

To oversimplify a bit, BzzAgent is great at driving consumers toward brands, and dunnhumby is great at closing the sale at a particular retailer – which is also known as shopper marketing. This is a powerful model for manufacturers and retailers alike.

3 reasons you should care about the BzzAgent acquisition

1. Shopper Marketing holds Social Media accountable. As Balter put it in an interview last week, social media “is still in the world of ‘likes’ and clicks, but substantial budgets just don’t come from that. Shopper marketing, on the other hand, is the ultimate measurement vehicle. It’s a thousand percent about ROI.” Yesterday someone posted on Ad Majorem that social media is just media, not necessarily an advertising vehicle, and they’re right if no one knows its effect on sales.

2. The path to purchase still ends at bricks and mortar. I’ve posted before that Social = Mobile. If you accept that premise, and observe that shoppers carry mobile devices into stores, we can also say Social = Retail. Apple and Google mobile platforms offer plenty of apps for looking up product information. Twitter is a secondary market for online coupon offers. At some point the cash register rings and its usually at a physical store.

3. There’s a trend forming. Not only did dunnhumby acquire BzzAgent but Walmart acquired Kosmix, which for lack of a better term we’ll call a “social commerce” platform. Read more about Kosmix here, here and here. And then there’s Groupon, which is also a blend of social media, shopper marketing and e-commerce. In short, retailers are figuring out how to harness the power of the Internet.

Perhaps now someone will figure out foursquare’s reason for being.

27 May 2011

Are Social Media and SEM really "advertising"?

In an early post, you can read that “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.”

Today we’re going to debate that statement a little.

Is Social Media advertising?

On The Social Graf blog, Erik Sass noted yesterday that in recent IPOs for LinkedIn and Zynga, advertising revenue was not a big factor. LinkedIn makes almost half of its money from headhunting and job-finding services; Zynga makes 80-90% of its revenue by selling virtual goods. Does this mean “advertising takes a back seat”?

The question is not whether Social Media is advertising or is putting it in the back seat. They have a symbiotic relationship; great advertising has always driven positive word-of-mouth. The only difference today is that social media has turbocharged word-of-mouth. Maurice Levy of Publicis tripped over this dynamic the other day when he said “Recommendation and endorsement from a friend is sometimes more powerful than the greatest ad.” No, not "sometimes" – always more powerful than the greatest ad.

Word-of-mouth is advertising – advertising we can only hope to influence, never control.

Is SEM advertising?

Meanwhile, over on AdAge’s DigitalNext column, Josh Shatkin-Margolis says we should “Stop Pretending That Search Engine Marketing is Advertising”. He actually made a great distinction in his second paragraph: “SEM is the worst form of advertising, but bear in mind that it is the best form of targeting.” True enough. No one will claim that unclicked search copy is effective. Cheap? Yes, as in “the impressions are free.” You get what you pay for.

Yet is there any reason a consumer would not call this advertising just because it neither promises nor delivers a memorable, persuasive message? I don’t think so. We’re splitting hairs with some of these discussions.

Another headline this week proclaimed that “Google Passes Yahoo in Online Display Advertising”. So are we going to say that Google’s online display is advertising, while the search copy just pixels away is not?

What is advertising? What isn’t?

A wise colleague, now retired, used to say, “Everybody’s selling something, boitshick.” This is true of both search and display. Social Media, too, although it’s a little different because we are counting on consumers to help us do the selling. To those consumers, however, it’s all advertising.

24 May 2011

Stumbled Upon by StumbleUpon

This morning’s Ad Majorem site data included an extra couple of hundred visits, all reading a book review of The Shallows from last September. The source was StumbleUpon, a personalized aggregator of web content, or as Wikipedia clarifies, “a discovery engine (a form of web search engine) that finds and recommends web content to its users.” I’m now one of those users, and you can follow my stumbling via Twitter or on StumbleUpon itself.

So what did I stumble upon?

A trusted colleague, Michael Leis, describes StumbleUpon as a fantastic and small community, and that it was a fellow “stumbler” who convinced him to try Twitter some years ago. (Read Michael’s “5 things I’ve learned about Social Media, StumbleUpon Style”.)

Notice that I didn’t write “a fantastic but small community”. The magic of social media is not the size of one's network, but its relevance. I’ve selected a few topics of personal interest and am sure I’ll find relevant content from like-minded stumblers.

Automatic for the Tweeple

Several friends on Twitter also use StumbleUpon, so I tweeted them this morning for more insight. Open government advocate John Moore and Social Media strategist Victor Canada both called StumbleUpon “my favorite bookmarking site.”

I still haven’t figured out why a lot of people suddenly stumbled upon my 8-month old post, but I’m glad they did, because I got a new resource out of it.

13 May 2011

The Changing Role of TV

50 years ago this week, FCC Chairman Newton Minow called TV a “vast wasteland”.

Today, we can argue if TV is a wasteland but there’s no question it’s a vast – and shifting – territory.

The Death of TV has been Greatly Exaggerated

It’s been fashionable in recent years to say that TV, and in particular the 30-second commercial, is dead. Yet people watch a lot of it, which means advertisers still pay for it and producers keep filling it up with content. Supposedly Digital was putting an end to this cycle but so far the billions of hours of video content available online look more like a wasteland than the five hundred channels of TV available to many households. (Attention, digerati, please keep reading before you flame me in the comments section.)

TV Renaissance

In fact the demand for TV content is stronger than ever because TV isn’t just an appliance in your living room anymore. You can watch TV content on any number of devices, and TV advertising in the form of things like pre-roll video and DOOH displays. Jerry Seinfeld, who just launched a new website, observed: "Why would I talk to a TV executive at this point, and ask them what they think? If I have this idea for a TV show, I can just put it up on the Internet." On top of all this, let’s not forget that traditional TV sets offer not only hundreds of channels but the ability to watch programs anytime via the use of DVRs.

Expansion of TV complicates planning, measurement

Regular readers know about the Gigantic Venn Diagram, which is the collection of all available marketing channels across Advertising, Retail and Digital. TV is almost a Gigantic Venn Diagram unto itself, which means it’s impossible to have a TV media plan considering only TV. The confounding thing is that viewership is also a Gigantic Venn Diagram because people are using more than one media at a given time. During the Super Bowl all my Twitter feeds were moving fast with commentary about the game and its commercials. (Mrs. Ad Majorem watches Dancing With The Stars on two screens at once.)

Supply and Demand

Part of the “TV is dead” narrative has been resentment over continually rising prices for TV advertising. In the U.S., two years of recession are now followed by double-digit price increases. We expect the same in Asia and Latin America. “How can this be,” people ask, “when viewership is down and marketers have so many other options?” Three reasons. One, viewership isn’t down – in fact it’s expanding. Two, TV still offers a familiar ratings system – advertisers understand what they’re buying. Three, many of the biggest marketers still depend heavily on high awareness and TV is actually the most cost-efficient way to reach large audiences.

TV is not King

TV is not king; more like a ceremonial monarch with a big bank account, a lot of influence, and an unclear future. While TV is strong culturally and economically, digital media continue to rise in relevance. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that digital ad rates are also up in double-digits. Social Media will force the development of interactive TV. Mobile threatens TV in another important way, taking away part of TV’s broadcast spectrum.

What should you do?

Keep experimenting. Stay abreast of the changes. Continue to take a true channel-neutral approach and use TV in a way that will achieve your own business goals. As we said in a previous post, “How TV fits into IMC”, TV should never be the default position, but neither should it be eschewed. Don’t let labels hold you back. If you shift TV dollars to pre-roll, you can plausibly say you’re “going digital” and that you’re looking at TV expansively.

22 April 2011

Change vs. Progress

“Now that we have progress so rapid that it can be observed from year to year, no one calls it progress. People call it change, and rather than yearn for it, they brace themselves against its force.”
-- Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now*

We live in a time of such constant Change that sometimes we see only the Change and not the Progress it brings.

If all you see is Change, the typical human response is to resist, or as Brand puts it, “brace against its force.” (If you’d like to know more about Stewart Brand, click here, and you’ll also learn that this quote is actually ancient 20th Century wisdom from his book published in 1999. That seems like eons ago but the quote is more relevant than ever.)

If, however, you look at Change and see the Progress it brings, you won’t brace against it, but embrace it. It’s a choice that you must address introspectively: are you going to be fearful or courageous? If Change is inevitable, do you really have any other choice?

It’s better to be courageous, of course. That doesn’t mean we should be foolhardy, embracing Change just for the sake of Change, or just simply “go with the flow”. Our pursuit of Progress should be neither foolhardy nor passive. Rather, we should always use a mixture of curiosity and caution.

Change is only Progress if you’re looking for it. It takes work. You have to stay on top of the trends. You have to see how they apply to your own or your client’s business. You have to be willing to try some new things, and be able to convince your colleagues to try them, too. That’s where the caution comes in. Some of these bets will fail. If you stop and think about a new way of working, you’ll reduce the risk of failure and increase the chance of learning.

How are you doing on your goals for 2011?

We’re about a third into the calendar year. How are you doing on your goals for 2011? Maybe you set some goals or made some resolutions. There’s a very good chance you anticipated 2011 would be a year of Change and planned accordingly.

So far, would you say you’ve experienced only Change, or Progress as well? The difference is up to you.

*Hat tip: Ross McLean, who used this quotation in his presentation at SXSW.

06 March 2011

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

The marketing and advertising world is constantly changing, and so is the way you advance through it.

Recently my business partner and I met with some human resources folks to talk about how our people are faring on the job. Sure, we spent time on performance evaluation, but the real purpose is people development. Nothing enthuses me more than seeing everyone perform up to their full level of potential.

We used to develop people by making them into great specialists, i.e., great advertising people. This meant we taught them to know the client’s business, their competition, their consumer, and of course the ins and outs of how to develop great advertising.

These days the conversation is less about how to make people better specialists, and more about how to make them better generalists. You still have to know the client’s business, but also the ins and outs of advertising, retail and digital.

Put another way, advancement is not so much a straight line through one discipline, but tacking like a sailboat across various disciplines. We will always need specialists, but it’s the generalists who will advance the farthest in agencies of the future.

Some people embrace this approach naturally, teaching themselves about shopper marketing or social media; others purposely change jobs to gain experience. Sadly, some people put their heads in the sand and ignore or even criticize different channels.

My own perspective is that I’d be bored doing the same thing, the same way, for more than a couple of years. I’m grateful that my current job brings new challenges every day, and the chance to try a new way of marketing my clients’ products and services.

The course to growth and advancement

These are some of the buoys in the water that can mark your path to growth and advancement:

Advertising. Yes, advertising. Companies still spend billions of dollars on it. Television is still the fastest way to build awareness of a message, and it’s adapting to a digital world with time-shifting, pre-roll and on-demand programming. A good agency executive gets familiar with all of it.

Retail. Most agency people don’t take the time to understand Retail, whether it’s promotion or shopper marketing. You will perish for lack of knowledge because retailers are gaining so much of your clients’ marketing budgets and this discipline has become much more strategic in the past decade.

Digital. For all the industry trade press coverage of “digital”, the people with practical experience are still a narrow subculture. Your agency may have hired some brand-name experts but you only benefit if you’re working on a digital assignment. You can study Digital but there’s no substitute for experience.

Channel planning. You can only be a true generalist if you know how to combine everything in a way that will drive your client’s business. This seems obvious but it amazes me how seldom it actually gets done, and even then it is not usually done from a true consumer perspective. Just a few years ago, the easy, almost lazy thing to do was draw up a spider chart and “surround the consumer” with as many “touchpoints” as possible. That never really worked.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

You’ve become a generalist. You understand Advertising, Retail, Digital and Channel Planning. In one of these you’re a specialist. This is how you get ahead in advertising.

Where you work is also part of the equation. Your agency or consultancy may be held back by a traditional view, antiquated organizational structure, lack of capability in specific disciplines, or the lack of a media department that years ago was spun off into a separate agency. The biggest restraint, however, is when an agency loses its ability to know the client’s business, their competition, their consumer, and how to provide business solutions.

The “agency” only loses its ability to the extent its employees lose it. You can control your own development. Familiarize yourself with other disciplines, be a great generalist, but never lose sight of the need to be able to solve a client’s business problems. The path onward and upward isn’t a straight line anymore. You’ll have to be patient and continually improve yourself.

03 March 2011

#IMCchat is now bi-weekly

There was another great edition of #IMCchat on Twitter last evening, thanks to moderators Beth Harte and Anna Barcelos. At the end of the session they announced that #IMCchat will now run bi-weekly, so if you want to participate, mark your calendar for Wednesday 16 March at 7:00 p.m. Central U.S. time.

01 March 2011

What is IMC?

IMC, or Integrated Marketing Communications, has more than few definitions. Here’s mine: it’s Marketing.

The words “Integrated” and “Communications” are redundant

Any marketer who doesn’t integrate their various marketing communications, in even the smallest way, is so hopelessly siloed they will never survive. There’s simply no excuse in the year 2011 for developing separately your advertising, retail and digital programs. Even in a siloed organization most people acknowledge the need to work across disciplines. Even the most specialized agency acknowledges the need to cooperate with their clients’ other partners.

Thus the word “integrated” is redundant because all marketing must be integrated. I would argue, too, that “marketing” implies some kind of communications, so that word is also redundant.

IMC is just a fancy acronym for Marketing

I confess to having used the term myself, here, here, here and here. In each case the context was a program where we made a specific, dedicated effort to align all the disciplines and deliver for a client a truly integrated marketing program. This effort required a lot of heavy lifting strategically as well as during execution, not to mention the challenge of keeping all the various constituencies moving in the same direction. It’s hard work, especially if you have to wrangle a group of agencies.

We need hard work, because aligning the disciplines doesn’t come naturally. In the days of Ye Olde Marketing, advertising was relatively simple, retail was far less sophisticated, and digital didn’t exist. Today all those disciplines demand attention, so we need specific, dedicated efforts that change our behavior and help make IMC – uh, modern marketing, come naturally.

Stop calling it IMC

The risk in continuing to use the term “IMC” is that some marketers and some agencies will treat only some marketing as “integrated” – which means that other kinds of marketing are what, exactly? Disparate? Traditional? Antiquated? It starts to sound like Ye Olde Marketing.

I’m not starting to a campaign to extinguish the term “IMC”. I’m merely advising caution in using it.

Join #IMCchat Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. Central U.S. time

Just a reminder that tomorrow night is another edition of #IMCchat, which we posted about recently.

18 February 2011


Every Wednesday evening (7 p.m. Central Time in the U.S.) there is an hour of chat on Twitter about Integrated Marketing Communications. The moderators pose a question or topic for discussion and industry professionals give their points of view. You can follow it via the hashtag #IMCchat.

Better still, you can participate. It’s an open forum. On Wednesday I commuted home via train during that hour and spent the time on my smartphone taking part in #IMCchat. You can read the transcript here.

Forums like this can expand your horizons. One example this week was a familiar topic, consumer insight, being discussed in ways I hadn’t considered, from the point of view of PR experts and freelance writers.

Another good line of discussion centered on Six Sigma, the manufacturing efficiency process. I was interested because my agency has used its principles for project management in highly complex situations. The discussion explored whether Six Sigma is a way for manufacturing to be more consumer-centric.

I find in these discussions that fresh points of view challenge my own assumptions, and I wind up contributing to the conversation in ways I might not have before. That’s part of the process of self-improvement we all must undertake in the marketing business today. It’s not enough to do a better job at what we know, but to do a better job learning about things we don’t know.

22 January 2011

The Blurry Line Between Public Relations and Marketing

I continue to be fascinated by the blurry line between Public Relations and Marketing. Social Media is to blame.

The Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing

For most of my career, PR was something I saw only when working with my client’s corporate communications people on corporate image advertising or usage standards for the company logo. I knew their work was important, but I rarely had to consider it in my own plans. The client that most coordinated PR and Marketing was McDonald’s.

Social Media brings Public Relations and Marketing together

In the past couple of years, however, a lot changed. Social Media forced advertisers to share the megaphone with ordinary consumers. If you think that Social Media is automatically the province of a digital or ad agency, you’re overlooking the role of PR agencies, who understand how to field hot grounders from the general public. You’ve seen a lot of examples play out on Twitter. In fact, some of my favorite people to follow are PR execs such as Steve Rubel of Edelman.

What’s ahead in 2011

I’d recommend two recent articles if you’d like to dig into this topic a little deeper. The Economist had a long article last month describing the history of PR and its increased relevance today. Ronn Torossian, head of 5WPR, also published an article last month, but with a forward view, predicting five challenges for the industry in 2011. (I also posted on this topic in 2009.)

Practical advice for Publicists and Marketers

One naysayer commented on Torossian’s article, questioning the increased role of PR in corporate decision-making. Perhaps we can question whether Torossian’s vision will become real in 2011, but things seem to be headed in the direction he predicts. The key for PR people is to better understand corporate marketing objectives and strategies. The key for Marketers is to better understand how PR can help them connect with consumers.

20 January 2011

Parents and Children, Then and Now

The recent "Your Mom Hates This" campaign for EA's Dead Space 2 (TV spot here, website here, photo at right) is driving some buzz ahead of the video game's release date next week.

It reminded me a little of the campaign 20 years ago from Wrigley's Amurol division for Bubble Tape. You can see two of the spots on YouTube, here and here.

All of us can appreciate that parent-child relationships range from respect to rebellion. When respect is the norm, there is harmony; when rebellion is the norm, there is trouble.

Does this campaign push rebellion? I'll let you be the judge. If you are interested in thinking about it a little more, read this unexpected commentary from a game reviewer who's also a mom. She liked Dead Space 2, but she didn't like stereotypes.

14 January 2011

"Where do you want to be in 5 years?"

I have a standard question when helping employees plan their careers and when interviewing prospective employees: “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

The answer shows how self-aware a person is, how well they’ve planned ahead, and importantly their capacity to dream a little bit. Some of the answers are very specific, like a job title or a function. Some are lofty, like having achieved something exceptional. Others are developmental, like having learned a new skill or discipline.

It occurred to me last night that this question may be unfair. Our business is changing so quickly that it’s hard to plan five years ahead. So now I’m going to ask, “Where do you want to be in 3 years?” If the answer is about next year, and has substance, I’ll gladly accept it.

You can still dream big about next year or even this year. Rapid change in our business also means that new opportunities arise all the time, and we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace them.

Kevin Carroll, Katalyst

If you want some inspiration, check out Kevin Carroll, self-proclaimed Katalyst. He addressed the annual meeting of Draftfcb Chicago last night and really inspired me. He publishes a blog and you can follow him on Twitter. That's his picture above.

03 January 2011

Vox Populi

Here are the most-read posts on Ad Majorem, subject by subject:

Channel-neutral planning
1. None of us are “media agnostic”
2. Are you a Specialist or a Generalist?
3. Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client?

1. Online Media is a process, not an event
2. Who “owns” Mobile?
3. Hyper Island: Burn the Ships

1. Reducing Assortment II
2. Reducing Assortment
3. “The changing media landscape” …of Retail

1. iPad’s :30 in Oscars was not its first ad
2. The basis of all great advertising
3. TV is dead – long live TV

1. Should ad agencies and media agencies re-bundle?
2. The History of the Ad Agency Business – in one easy power point slide!*
3. What does the future look like?

Results and Accountability
1. “Oh – were we supposed to prove the results of what we did?”
2. “I don’t know which half of my ad budget I’m wasting – and I don’t WANT to know!”
3. How to know “which half of my advertising budget is wasted”

1. Global assignments are complex, so keep ‘em simple
2. Canada and its consumers
3. Why Global Brands matter

Professional Development
1. 3 keys to (continued) survival in 2010
2. 3 keys to job survival for 2011
3. Why Diversity is important in Marketing, and how you can help achieve it in the workplace

Bubbling Under: 3 posts that didn’t make the lists above
1. 3 reasons you should care about Shopper Marketing
2. Hyper Island II: The Network
3. Have you allowed raisinets in your brand’s portfolio?