Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Two POVs on the Future of Advertising

Your perspective on the future of advertising depends on if you are buying or selling. Everyone expects to have more control over the messages, the channels, the timing and the impact of communications in a two-way, on-demand world. But then expectations diverge.


For marketers the future is a relentless series of refinements and calibrations in targeting, frequency and measurement. It begins by aiming relevant messages at those with a high propensity to buy. Based on response, the message, the medium, the timing and the offer are refined and retransmitted using the intelligent network and an array of media channels.

Highly targeted, cost-efficient communication is driven by a contact strategy, which orchestrates the content of messages and the delivery sequence through various channels for maximum impact in the shortest possible time. Rich in information and technology, marketers are eager to pick and automate their shots.

Databases drive the bus. We know who you are; we know what you want and how you become aware of your needs. We know how you research your options, how you factor prices versus benefits and how you define your own personal buying cycle. Based on this knowledge we craft an intensely personal series of messages and offers designed to engage, influence and persuade you at each inflection point. We are pushing messages at you using the intelligent network to facilitate and process your response.


Consumers of the future will have a passing resemblance to us. They will want new and innovative things. They will be irrationally loyal to the brands of their childhood. They will always love the music of their high school years. They will struggle to balance high-tech and high touch to work through the competing demands of work and home during the 24 hours in each day.

Opinion leaders, movie stars and trendsetters will influence them. So will friends, relatives and neighbors. Access to the Internet and private Internets will be available everywhere.

Personal communication devices will consolidate the functionality of watches, phones, e-mail, internet browsers, Google, cameras, encyclopedias, maps, GPS, restaurant and travel guides, English and foreign language dictionaries, keys and both ATM and credit cards into sizes, colors and shapes that will be fashion accessories. It will be easy to change devices and easy to move all your personal content from one device to the next.

Consumers will rate and review all brands like they do now on eBay or Amazon and they will insist on 24/7 customer service by phone, fax, online and by wireless devices with one-call resolution. No brand will escape from comparison-shopping in real-time across borders or currencies. Everyone from doctors and dentists to retail stores to plumbers, roofers and electricians will have prices, performance and reviews posted online.

Most consumers will expect brands to know them, to remember them, to store their purchase histories and to automatically replenish household items or routine supplies. Some will rely on brands y to remind them of service needs or check-ups. They will insist that those who collect data deliver real benefits in return. Radio silence or wasting a customer’s time will be brand suicide.

Future consumers will be persuaded to adopt new products by convenience and sleek design. They will consume foods, nutrients, products and pharmaceuticals that affect their moods, repair or optimize body performance and extend youth. They will want to fit in, look good and be like everyone else in their socio-economic, psycho demographic cohort.

Their tastes, influences and interests will change as they age and will be directly affected by education, disposable income and peers. There will always be a sizable segment that is price-driven. And there will be a growing segment that rejects cascading technology and yearns for a simpler lifestyle at a slower pace.

Today’s consumer is bombarded with 3000 commercial messages per day. The consumer of the future will be bombarded with even more messages but will expect to be in control of them, use them simultaneously and deploy a more powerful array of filters to carefully opt-in and opt-out.

Consumers will determine how, where and by which channels messages reach them. Many will be available to their preferred or favorite sources 24/7/365. Others will not. Many will change their content and channel preferences frequently. Others, mostly older people, will set them once and stick with them.

The future of advertising will be about getting on and staying on their inclusion lists. Imagine a never-ending game of musical chairs. If you are on lists in significant numbers you thrive. If you’re not, you die.

Business Week's Blog Hype

Hype about bloggers and the blogsphere has reached the cover of Business Week.
The land rush is on, as the conventional wisdom becomes “get in on the ground floor of this incredible new phenomenon because if you don’t you’ll be nowhere without a blog.” And while this venerable publication acknowledges that blogging, or grass roots media has more long term potential than immediate promise, they never really spell out the fact that there is an awful lot of crap in blogs.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Verizon's Micro-Targeting Miss

Micro-targeting starts with the idea that birds of a feather flock together, but recognizes that often it’s a small flock. The savvy marketer seeks to get inside the confines of a zip code to understand patterns of ethnic or social dispersion. But finding a micro-target is much more of an art than a science, since the available data runs out quickly. Good news for privacy advocates and bad news for marketers and government spy agencies.

New York, the immigrant Mecca offers a particularly good example. For instance, everybody knows that the Upper West Side of Manhattan, zip codes 10023-10025 and parts of southern 10027 represent a concentration of Jews that rivals Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in both numbers and in the nuances of practice and orthodoxy.

Similarly you can find ethnic outposts through New York City. Arabs live in Brooklyn Heights concentrated around the axis of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street. Greeks live in Astoria. Poles concentrate in Greenpoint, Irish in Hell’s Kitchen and Bay Ridge and Italians live in Bensonhurst, Caroll Gardens and “Little Italy.” Koreans have colonized Flushing in the way the Chinese took root in the Lower East Side, a century before them.

The Russians turned Brighton Beach into “Little Odessa” twenty years ago and there are still German enclaves in Yorkville and in Upper Manhattan, gay enclaves in Chelsea and even a Swedish community in Bay Ridge in view of the Verrazanno Bridge. Spanish speakers … Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Guatemalans, Peruvians, etc. each have multi-block enclaves dispersed in several boroughs. Many of these communities are so strong and have such close ties to their homelands that Latin American politicians routinely campaign in New York City neighborhoods.

In the old days, a native of any of these countries could live in these communities and not really need to speak English. They could find people who lived, acted, dressed, believed and thought the way they did. And they could find familiar foods, spices, clothes and customs. To some extent this is still true, though things are changing rapidly. Ideally a marketer seeking to penetrate these discrete markets can find media to zero-in on these audiences and communicate pointed messages (often in a foreign language) that will provoke awareness, recognition and response.

But even this isn’t as easy as it seems because translating this understanding into media that will provide effective credible reach is a bitch. Several factors complicate the process, first is Americanization. Classic ethnic names no longer are predictors of ethnicity. Not all names ending in a vowel are Italians or Portuguese. You can long longer assume all names ending in “es” or “ez” are Spanish or that names ending in “ski” are Polish or “ian” are Armenian. And not every Cohen is a Jew.

Generational differences in language preference and media use make the marketers’ task even more difficult. An immigrant grandparent still speaks and reads only Russian gets news and information from Russian language newspapers, TV and radio. An adult child speaks Spanglish at work and prefers Spanish at home defaulting to TV Novellas every night on Telemundo or Univision for entertainment and Noticias 1 for news. Yet a grandchild, often living in the same home, is fully bilingual generally preferring English media but carefully reading Latina magazine at the nail salon.

Geography, language, education, country of origin, generation are the starting variables which then must be mixed with attitudes, sensibilities, income, peer influences, birth order and media use patterns to begin an effective media planning process. You can not crunch numbers to get the answer. You need a specialist who can mix science with art to understand and truly capture the micro-target you want to reach.

The misses generally outnumber the hits. And even so-called multicultural agencies often don’t have the breadth of knowledge and insight to do the job right. In some cases the mistakes are simultaneously funny and maddening.

Verizon’s current “Call Home” outdoor campaign is a great example. Some marketing nimrod put ads on bus shelters throughout the Upper West Side touting low cost calls to Warsaw. The copy suggests that a plate of pirogies is cheaper than a call home. Who knows how this message got matched to this geography.

But the reality is this is a perfect micro-targeting mismatch. The people who see these messages are those who fled Poland, were in concentration camps on Polish soil or are their children and grandchildren. The people walking bye and standing in these shelters have, at best, an ambivalence and, at worst, an enmity toward Poland and Poles. They are no more likely to phone Warsaw than they are likely to eat pirogies, a food they associate with historic anti-Semitism, oppression by neighbors and extermination.

In this case, micro-targeting was intended to resonate with and motivate an ethnic population on its home turf. This campaign will have the exact opposite effect yielding a very warm and fuzzy feeling about Verizon, the growing insensitive colossus.
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