31 October 2012

Consumers, Shoppers and/or People

Consumer or Shopper?
Words mean things.  When you have a choice among two or three words to describe something, the word you choose directs your meaning.  We have a lot of choices in the advertising industry.  Media or Channels.  Media agnostic or Media neutral.  Creative or Content.  Then there’s Consumers and Shoppers.

Consumers and Shoppers

For decades, most advertising people referred to their client’s customers as “consumers”.  There were exceptions, like the mobile phone maker who sold handsets to retailers so they could sell to “end users”.  Of course, every company defines their own target, like the QSR chain who wanted more SHUs (Super Heavy Users) or the brewer who really understood KBDs (Key Beer Drinkers).  The industry generic term, however, was “consumers”.

Not many years ago, the rise of shopper marketing created an industry trend seeking to distinguish “consumers” from “shoppers”.  The thought was that “consumers” see your advertising, but by the time they reach the store, they are “shoppers”, prone to forget what you told them once they see a special offer, display or demonstration.  The store was a medium and its audience was shoppers. 

Mobile Changes All That

We used to distinguish between Consumers and Shoppers but that’s no longer helpful because it’s no longer a distinction.  The shopping process starts at home, when the Consumer sees your advertising and starts researching or even shopping online.  If a trip to the store is involved, the research may even continue at shelf.  The advent of Near Field Communication is going to propel that behavior.

In other words, a Consumer becomes a Shopper much earlier in the purchase process.  (We could go a step further and say that a Shopper was always a Consumer in the end.)

Why It Matters
  • Marketing has to be integrated just like the purchase cycle.  In the early days of IMC, marketers and agencies made matching luggage, and in more recent years discovered channel planning.  Often, though, we were artificially connecting the channels.  The mobile device makes that connection more genuine than ever.
  • Mobile’s influence will always exceed its budget.  There’s a lot of industry discussion about how Mobile’s enormous usage “deserves” a much greater percentage of the marketing budget.  I would argue for Mobile’s cost-efficiency:  You spend less because it’s targeted to people who ask for the messages.
  • Consumers, Shoppers and/or People.  Consumer insights and Shopper insights all come from people.  It does little good to segregate consumer insights from shopper insights because it's all part of the same, continuous purchase cycle.  You have to understand the whole consumer.

Or the whole person.  As a creative director once asked me:  Why can’t we just call them “people”?

23 October 2012

Advertising Jumps the Shark, Gets Back on Track

Does content deliver advertising or does advertising deliver content?

Joe Mandese at MediaPost has the answer for you, in a piece headlined “Advertising Jumps The Shark: Becomes Conduit For Content”.  

But first let’s get through that headline.

Jumping the Shark

Numerous readers pointed out in the comments section that the headline misused the term “jump the shark”.  Any student of pop culture knows the story:  On the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, Fonzie water skis over a shark, a moment now seen as the point where the show lost its original purpose – a fond look back at the 1950s – and got just plain silly.

Let’s first admit that the advertising industry has jumped the shark many more times than Fonzie, before or since.  We’ve jumped the shark via pointless line extensions, bad strategies, failed campaigns and poor planning.  Mea culpa.

Conduit for Content

In this case, the alleged shark jump is the launch of a new digital advertising platform that pulls existing Internet content into online ads.  It seems like a simple concept – link ads and content – but there’s a bit more involved.

The platform’s purveyor, Kontera, claims to be able to identify the most relevant content and serve it in web display, social and mobile ads.  That’s a bit more complicated than a shark jump – and more revolutionary.

3 Reasons Why it Matters

Mandese’s right, this is an important development the entire advertising industry should watch.

1.  It makes advertising useful, informative and/or entertaining.  These are the three things audiences seek in any medium.  For some reason we’ve been relearning that lesson the hard way in the digital advertising world.  In this case, Kontera claims to be supplying content that’s already popular, and hence should make ads more relevant.
2.     It adds sanity to online advertising.  Most web display advertising is the opposite of shooting fish in a barrel – more a minnow in the ocean.  You run ads that get clicked at infinitesimally low rates, paying only for those very small results.  Matching truly relevant content to truly relevant ads could significantly shift the equation of supply and demand.
3.     It challenges the distribution model.  Whether on TV, online or in-store, content normally is a means of distributing advertising.  That is, a :30-spot interrupts the program you were watching.  Kontera allows advertisers to buy ad space and use it to distribute all kinds of content.  Extrapolating that beyond web display ads, you can see how it would change journalism, entertainment and information in general.

Fond Look Back at the 1950s

If you read further down in the comments section of Mandese’s article, you’ll see an arcane conversation between him and me about whether it was also true in the 1950s that “advertising (was) a means for distributing content,” much like Kontera.  My point is that Radio and TV shows of the period, like soap operas and Texaco Star Theater, were also examples of brands delivering content.  (Mandese disagreed.)

It doesn’t really matter.  The only thing it proves is that for the past fifty years we’ve been force-feeding audiences our advertising when they wanted to see their content.  Up to now web display ads have followed that same model.

If, as an industry, we succeed in reversing that, and make advertising a means for distributing content, we won’t be jumping the shark.  We’ll be back on track.

05 October 2012

When Plural is Really Anti-Social

Today's post is brought to you by the letter "S"

Just like 70 million other people, we watched the U.S. presidential debate this past Wednesday night.  I caught the first half hour on NPR while driving home, and joined Mrs. Ad Majorem watching the rest on ABC News.  Before leaving work I checked Twitter to see what hashtags would be in circulation, because of course I expected to participate in the national conversation. 

A #debate about #debates

My unscientific sample of tweeps, political consultants and other citizens led me to believe that #debate would be the default hashtag for most people.  Some put #Debate2012 or some variation.  Others with an agenda put hashtags supporting their candidate.  But #debate seemed like a good one.

Watching on TV, however, I noticed that ABC was encouraging the hashtag #debates – the plural.  Why not just #debate?  You’ve only got 140 characters, why use one of them on a vestigial “S”? 

Look at that S-car go!

It turns out that ABC News was following Twitter's lead.  According to a Twitter blog post, they declared #debates as the official hashtag.

It had never occurred to me to check and see what Twitter was pushing.  My normal procedure is to check and see what people are doing.  

It's not hard to imagine that Twitter has an internal team working on this series of debates:  producers, editors, journalists and social media experts.  They may be “the debates group” or they may just tell people, “We work on coverage of the debates.”  Sitting around the conference room table, it would be easy to agree on #debates as a hashtag.  

The Twitterverse looked at it differently, however.  No one watching at home was thinking about a series of debates.  This was the big night everyone in the U.S. had anticipated for weeks.  The social media commentary was about what happened that very night.

Put another way, I don't think anyone imagined #SaveBigBird.  

Maybe Twitter wanted something trackable.  I give them credit for not using #TwitterDebates -- you know, something “branded”.  Still, pushing an "official" hashtag reflects the mindset of an Old Media company used to broadcasting and big numbers.  Social Media works differently.  The relevant measure might be share of conversation, or the number of conversations in which they participated.

Watch and Learn

In the end this is a mental exercise.  Watch what is happening around you, and game it out.  Learn from what others do.  In this case the lesson is:  Not even Twitter can control its own conversation.  Try to swim with the tide, perhaps influence it, but don't imagine you can control or measure it according to some standard of Ye Olde Marketing.