Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm Moving to My Own Blogging Site is the new home for this blog.

After more than a year enjoying Blooger/Google as my host its time to have my own site and upgrade the funtionality of my bloging system. So now I'm a Go Daddy and Typepad blogger!

I hope you will continue to keep up with my take on real life advertising and marketing issues.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Versus Old Media Manipulation

Two closely placed stories in the Media & Marketing section of the Wall Street Journal point out the significant differences between old fashioned interrupt media and online opt-in media.

The February 15th advertising column celebrates a media scheduling innovation in which American Express ran three separate 30-second spots back to back during “60 Minutes” on CBS, “Lost” on ABC and “Law & Order on NBC.” In so doing they grabbed 90 consecutive seconds of attention from whoever was watching that commercial pod.

Radical huh?

Taking the classic TV “roadblock” (running the same spot at the same time on several stations/networks) and making it vertical gave AMEX the video equivalent of multi-page magazine spread. Net net – this breakthrough maneuver created a greater than normal shot at reaching and engaging target audiences.

That’s what it’s come to – when TV actually gets a homogeneous desirable group of viewers on one channel at one time you gotta leap all over them; at least those of them not in the bathroom, not in the kitchen or not using their Tivo.

Compare this amazing new wrinkle with the facing story on Daily Candy, a series of 11 daily, opt-in one-page newsletters aimed at fashion-forward younger women which was created by Dani Levi and sold in 2003 for 3.5 million to Bob Pittman of AOL and MTV fame. Now Bob is peddling this mini-empire as a targeted content play. It is expected to attract bids as high as $100 million.

Compare the massive run up in value of a highly targeted, vehicle where readers decide which content they want and when they want it versus the need to manipulate the biggest cumulative audiences on broadcast TV to get a little attention, awareness and recall.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Why Ad Agencies Can't Respond to John Stratton's Warning

Verizon Wireless CMO John Stratton went to Ad Age’s “Hollywood and Vine Conference and told the 400 ad agency poobahs what every client in American already knows -- the ad agency business is overwhelmingly focused on itself NOT on clients.
His eight point indictment explicitly articulated what many clients have been thinking for quite a while. His points were …

1. Your clients are absolutely in trouble and they are looking for you to save them.
2. What you've been selling for the last fifty years no longer works.
3. Major marketing money is going to be in motion in the next decade and no one really yet understands exactly where it will land, if it even will land, or if it will just disappear altogether.
4. Before they figure out where to put their money, your marketer clients will hire and fire agency after agency, seeking someone, anyone, who can tell them where they might go next.
CMO average tenure, already famously brief, will get even shorter as CEOs begin to recognize how much money they are blowing on antiquated media plans.
5. Your marketer clients are really seeking one thing and one thing only: An audience for the message they are trying to convey to the market place.
6. But your clients actually need more than just an audience. One of the consequences of the evolution of our media delivery systems over the last ten years is that the audience you do ultimately find is much less receptive to the message you're trying to send.
7. They are absolutely armed and ready to get to the content they want while avoiding the message you are trying to implant within it.
8. They need much more than an audience. They need an audience that cares about what they have to say. They need their message to be relevant to the audience they are saying it to.

Yet the real question is not whether agencies can hear the message. The real question is whether they can do anything about it. Consider these points that suggest that agencies are so far out of alignment that they will NEVER BE ABLE to answer Stratton’s clarion call.

1. Agencies have very thin subject matter expertise. They know damn little about the business and even less about the interior structures and processes of their client’s businesses. Long shut out from strategic councils and often only linked to the Marketing Communications department, they just don’t know how the client’s business works, what the levers are or how to influence the demand drivers or the dynamics of the supply chain.

2. Agencies are in their own way. Locked into bureaucratic and hidebound processes to conduct market research and produce TV commercials, they have little understanding of trade relations and even less understanding of relationship marketing techniques and the evolving new media used to communicate with a diverse, dispersed and distracted set of target audiences.

3. The holistic and integrated approach is a whole lot of bullshit. The TV and print guys rule. They give lip service to online and emerging media but they don’t get it. Adding an 800 number or a URL to an ad is still considered a slight to the creative team. The notion of sequencing, simulcasting or integrating messages or audience segments among media is a foreign idea which is perpetuated by siloed departments and competing units. Even at the holding company level, very few campaigns can bring a sophisticated, multi-channel campaign to life in a way that measurably impacts client’s business.

4. They think the whole game is the message. They don’t get the notion that advertising and marketing is about throughput – finding, engaging, qualifying and incenting likely customers to buy. If a commercial tests well or the placement gets decent ratings they are done. Bringing customers through the pipeline is outside their worldview.

5. They measure the wrong things. Clients want to know what they got for their marketing spending. If they spend $10 they want to know if they got $100 in business in return. Agencies don’t have access to the data or expertise to count and measure the impact of their work. Instead, agencies want to talk ratings and recall scores. But don’t ask about the efficiency of their processes or how much it costs to create an ad with 30 words of copy and a photo.

6. They can’t make money any other way. Agencies are locked into production processes, project management procedures and cost elements that prevent them from changing. Having been hammered into commodity pricing and benchmarked to death during 3 years of recession, agencies can’t afford to find or hire the new expertise they need to survive. The people who run agencies still think they are living in the Oglivy and Bernback era. In fact most of them came up during that period and have been befuddled ever since. And frankly the kind of people they need would never be caught dead working in a traditional ad agency where a few egos rule the roost, where there is zero training or career development, where technology is several generations back and where there are few players with advanced degrees or specialized skills.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blow Up Your Own Marketing Plans!

Marketing exists to identify, speak to, connect with and prepare prospects to buy. Everything a marketing department does -- from creating the logo and the brand promise to the ads, e-mails, collateral and t-shirts is designed to achieve this goal. Yet too often marketers fall in love with the marketing programs and under deliver qualified sales leads .

Why ? Two good reasons.

First many marketers don’t have the data to see what is going on. They are devoted to their newsletters, their webcasts, their roadshows or their white papers which they fought tooth and nail to create, fund and coordinate internally. They don’t have access to the sales pipeline or don’t carefully mine the CRM system to see what is working and what is not.

In some cases they measure satisfaction with the tools but don’t measure how these tools drive prospects through the pipeline. They know which webcast was liked the best, but they don’t know how many of the webcast viewers turned into closed deals or when.

Consider the example of a marketing team that built an information portal aimed at their target prospects. They assumed that there was a hunger for information about their sector and they figured that if their brand provided this information, prospects would be more open to buying from them.

Over 2 years they invested time, people and cash heavily in collecting, editing and displaying every bit of content they could find. They built a huge content archive and a database of 200,000 names and invited them by e-mail to visit the portal every month. In a year they delivered 2.4 million targeted impressions beckoning prospects to drink from their font of information.

Recently someone crunched the numbers. In 2005 less than 2000 of the 200,000 came to portal and read something. Fewer than 200 came back 3 times or more. And nobody knows if any of the 2000 were customers, were promising prospects or had anything to do with the organization’s salespeople. Now there’s anxiety in marketingland and the team is reluctant to change or abandon the portal they fought so hard to create and maintain.

Second, it is so hard to get anything done in a large corporation and the emotional investment is so great that marketers become prisoners of their programs. Getting an idea through a matrixed bureaucracy requires enormous effort, time, adrenaline, patience and political finesse. Nobody whose been through the process is about to blow up their end product and head back into the fray willingly.

A different team of marketers developed a sophisticated scoring system to filter, rank and interact with web visitors. They developed a credible marketing program and drove 60,000 leads into their pipeline based on the scoring model. They presented these results to the board and everyone got a bonus.

Then someone began to go through the numbers. Half of all the leads that were identified by the scoring model turned to dust in the tele-qualification process. Another 15 percent turned to dust early in the first real interaction with salespeople. The program was onto something but it was far less effective than advertised upward. Nobody was willing to spill the beans or jeopardize their new-found status and few were willing to re-jigger the model which they'd touted so heavily.

Yet if marketers are going to successfully fight for more resources and fight for greater visibility in the corporate decision -making process, continuous process improvement has to be their mantra. Marketers have to become more mercenary in assessing and editing the programs and ideas they bring forward.

It’s about the end result. It’s not about how cleaver, elegant or unusual the marketing tactic is. And with the growing use of CRM and automated marketing services, it is becoming easier and easier to understand and measure throughput.

A relevant metaphor is Ariel Sharon, the comatose Israeli prime minister, known for quickly abandoning tactics in service to a larger strategy. Sharon never fell in love with the trees but he consistently focused on the forest.

He built and then dismantled settlements, invaded and then withdrew from Lebanon, swung far right then zigzagged back to the center each time dumping programs he himself constructed and advocated. And while the jury of history is still out, most Israelis believe he has advanced their cause and protected their security better than anyone.

In a measured universe, marketers have to keep their eye on the ultimate measurement – closed deals. They must track their contributions against that metric. The most successful marketers will be the ones who keep their eyes firmly on the sales prize and regularly blow up their own tactics.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New PR Tactics for the Word-Of-Mouth World

Bloggers are opinion leaders. They can influence brand awareness, set customer expectations and reward or punish service delivery or lapses. I buy these arguments. What I’m not sure about is how to address them to get the best spin for my clients.

In one instance, I searched Technorati, Ice Rocket, Sphere and Google’s Beta Blog Search tool to identify people blogging in our category, industry or product category. I built a list of 65 people and personally e-mailed each of them. I wrote a straightforward e-mail identifying myself as a representative of the company, soliciting their opinions and offering a free product trial. Five responded. Three took the trial. Nobody wrote a syllable about our product.

The next time I sent the same universe a press release announcing a product innovation. The release resonated with several trade papers and consumer reporters. My “press” mailing yielded several inquiries, a small wire service story and three product reviews in desirable specialty magazines. The bloggers remained on radio silence.

Since then I’ve been mulling the problem – how do you reach out to and influence bloggers who can in turn influence your customers and prospects?

Then I read an essay by Andy Sernovitz on iMedia Connection which opened my eyes to a radically different approach to these citizen journalists. He essentially argues that you need to join their party rather than invite them to yours. Like journalists, bloggers set their own agenda. Those seeking to influence the agenda have to intersect it on its own terms. Influencing their posts and their audience requires following their threads, commenting on their posts and presenting your product or your point of view in their context.

You still have to be forthright, upfront and clear about who you are and who you represent. You cannot disguise yourself or pretend to be an uninterested civilian inserting product or brand references. But it’s about aligning what you are pushing with what they are thinking, talking and writing about.

Sounds right doesn’t it? I’ll give a whirl and report back.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Google Threatens to Change Media Buying Forever

Google’s purchase of dMark Broadcasting will bust open the media world. Attaching the AdSense easy-to-use interface and auction engine to the inventory of America’s 8000 radio stations will put local advertisers on a par with national players, disintermediate all the mediocre media buying shops and force the big media buyers to circle the wagons and take aggressive, proactive steps to protect their TV buying cash cow.

The simplicity of the move is elegant. Think about the value of Google’s functionality. AdSense helps almost anyone get their arms around a dizzying array of details. It takes 20 minutes to learn how to use it and the navigation is intuitive. The dashboard is easy to read and easy to change. Sites, audiences, sizes, creative, prices, placement and yield are all easily and sequentially managed and displayed. The details of radio buying are equally confusing.

But it’s a no-brainer to manage format, audience demographics, daypart, length or creative execution. [DF1] And while the Google interface won’t necessarily handle production or promotions, it could easily cut out the middle man for thousands of retailers and small businesspeople who could benefit from radio advertising.

Keep your eyes on the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Advertising Bureau to see if the radio industry is for or against this development. Radio guys can truly benefit from this development but every so often they cut off their noses to spite their face. It’s a fair bet that they will initially reject Google as a show of loyalty to their longstanding reps.

But the writing is clearly on the wall. Google has a way to make sense of a billion little media details. You can make your own strategy and price decisions. You can track results in real-time and adjust on the fly. And if you don’t want to do it, a very junior person can in minutes per day. Who needs a middle man to take a cut and annoy you along the way?

And if Google can manage radio – notoriously hard to keep track of and labor intensive even for sophisticated media buying firms with extensive relationships and high-powered software tools, just imagine what they can do with cable or local broadcast TV?

Jeff Lanctot of AvenueA/Razorfish kicked off the pre-emptive defense in today’s Wall Street Journal by saying “ The traditional media world is a very relationship-driven marketplace. You’re supplanting personal relationships and replacing them with technology and that’s a pretty daunting task.”

Right. But only if you are a media buying firm like AvenueA with a practice to protect.
Stay tuned. It’s about to get interesting.
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