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.)