Friday, December 19, 2008

Dude, where's my slide rule?

Take one part year end list-making tradition.

Mix heaping tablespoons of technology-driven innovation.

Add a pinch of recessionary pressure.

Stir vigorously--or beat relentlessly--your preference.

Bake half way and----and voila! The 2009 list of things on the path toward obsolescence.

Think of these soon to be relics not sadly, but with the fondness of a farewell said before a journey forward.

Play along. Add your own. It's hours of family fun!

In no particular order, here's a starter set:

-Film and film cameras
-Wireline telephones
-Incandescent light bulbs
-800x600 screen resolution
-Prime Time television
-CPM/online display advertising
-VCRs (anything really that plays or records to tape)
-Travel agents
-Printed Catalogs
-DVDs (sorry BluRay fans)
-Record companies
-Fax machines
-The US Postal Service
-General Motors
-Stock brokers
-Any phone that can't surf the web and text
-50% of all social networking sites
-The terms 'Social Marketing' and 'Social Media'

What's on your list?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Publicity + PR

[Today's post is by Laura Schmidt of the R+K's Public Relations practice]

I posted a couple of days ago (here) about the Diet Pepsi and Burger King ads (here) that are gaining a lot of publicity for their somewhat taboo approach to marketing. At the time, I promised to offer more insight into R+K’s point of view. Three points regarding publicity and PR – good and bad – for your consideration:

  1. PR is not publicity. Publicity, which generates consumer awareness, is only one function of public relations. A public relations campaign might include media relations, yes, but it also might solely be about public affairs, crisis communications, internal relations, events or message development and delivery.
  2. Publicity is about getting attention. PR is about influencing opinion. While a straight publicity stunt might gain public attention of a product, person, service, cause or organization, PR is meant to change public opinions and behaviors. At R+K, we dig deeper to identify credible insights and uncommon solutions to challenges that resonate with consumers, ultimately inspiring them to take action.
  3. Bad PR is bad PR. It’s a blessing and a curse, I suppose, that PR offers third-party credibility that other marketing approaches don’t. Why? It’s great for your brand or organization when you generate legitimate exposure among important, influential audiences. But your PR efforts can easily backfire when those same credible sources question, discount or attack you.

Need more food for thought? Check out our consumer education and advocacy Web site at

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The selfish gene: self-reference in the AdAge

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, published a book in 1976 called The Selfish Gene. In an oversimplification of his point of view, the idea is that genes are a means unto themselves (rather than being merely players in supporting the evolution of the organism that employs them).

Sometimes, according to Dawkins, genes even act in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of the organism (think genetically induced diseases for instance).

What does this have to do with marketing? Or advertising? Or the interwebs?

Traditional advertising is a selfish approach to marketing. It not that it presumes to know what others want or need...that's not selfish, it's arrogant. It's that traditional approaches to advertising interrupt and demand that attention be rendered unto it.

Once upon a time when time seemed less scarce, when mass media was the only option, and before media consumers were themselves media producers, selfish advertising worked. It worked for it's own interests.

The environment has changed. Customers and prospects are all selfish, sometimes in a very public way. I'm not talking about people being uncaring or without charity. Quite the contrary. I'm talking about the selfishness of individual choices and self expression in the marketplace.

Consumers (not a term, I trust, most of us would choose to define our interests) have always been's just that in the always-on, democratized media environment today, selfish advertising doesn't stand a chance against the infinite choices in self interest a person now has.

When an environment changes, organisms must adapt to survive. The same holds true for marketers. They must be cognizant that selfish prospects want to decide what's good for themselves. A marketer who takes an unselfish approach to engaging self-interested prospects might just find a way to survive...and thrive.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Word of mouth goes to the dogs

Playing on recognizable relationship stereotypes from across generations, JCPenney has unleashed a long form word of mouth video...just in time for the holidays.

Though there are surely countless numbers of those who won't get it, won't like it, and won't see themselves as the target, the vid plays the foil to the more classically romantic 'Diamonds Are Forever' and the insipid 'He Went to Jared' campaigns using humor, fast moving storyline, and believable actors.

Most importantly, the sell is subtle...and it comes at the end in an unobtrusive reference that fits within a narrative designed around human relationships.

Produced by Saatchi + Saatchi New York, the video is, of course, on YouTube (see below). But it also resides on it's own promotional URL

The site allows one to send someone to the virtual doghouse for prior behavior, to learn how to get out of the doghouse should you find yourself there already, and most forward a message by email to those significant others who may be in need of holiday reminders that no bad gift deed shall go unpunished.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

May I see your papers please?

Last week I flew out of ORD...on time no less.

Big deal, you say, so do 77 Million other people a year (though of course they don;t all leave on time)!

And this would be no special trip (they all are) except that I flew out after using an electronic boarding pass on my mobile device.

American Airlines launched a mobile boarding pass application the week of 11/23 that enables travellers originating out of OHare, LAX and LGA to download a boarding pass to their mobile device (full details here).

The way it works is that you recieve a message on your mobile device. The message enables you to download a data matrix image (A GS1 data matrix I beleive. see below). At the airport security screening station, you hold your mobile device screen over a scanner. The image you downloaded is scanned and confirms you as, if not trustworthy, at least in possession of a valid boarding pass. The TSA agent still wants to see your id of course, but no obscure symbols are marked on your device screen.

At the gate, you hold your mobile phone in front of the scanner that the gate agent uses for those possessing paper passes and...voila...aboard you go.

Boarding passes are small pieces of paper...which is precisely why the mobile device presents an advantage. No small piece of paper to misplace. Not world changing, but an incremental improvement that foreshadows completely electronic identification.

Why not a driver's license on my device? Or a passport? Based on a biometric key like retina scan or fingerprint, it would certainly seem at least as secure as our current paper-based approaches.

Here's my pass

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Accounting for reach: the IAB goes dictionary

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (henceforth, IAB) has released a set of Online Audience Reach Measurement standards for public comment (here).

One might ask what took so long...then again, it is easy to forget that the explosion in approaches to audience measurement--commensurate with widespread adoption of the web and broadband--is fairly recent by historical advertising standards.

The IAB puts it's intent thusly:

"This document is intended principally to guide the definition and application of measures that are to be used for commercial, revenue-generation purposes, and not necessarily those that may be developed and used for other internal or related non-commercial uses."

In other words (mine), now that the traditional media buying entities have accepted online advertising with vigor, we need to ensure that there are some common definitions around what publishers represent and what an online ad buyer can buy...definitions that accommodate the way they are used to buying traditional media.

In some ways I suppose this is an inevitable outcome of the promise of measurement online colliding with the reality of media planning offline. Offline media planning and buying has been all about identifying under of over indexing against spartan human descriptions like age, gender and race (an oversimplification I know, but also a point of understanding I hope).

So codifying definitions of reach and the ways in which they are measured is certainly to be applauded by those entrusted with buying media the old way. How one defines unique visitors, time spent on site, page views and the more obscure implications of technologies like flash, ajax or server-side applications can all result in widely varying estimates of reach.

Advertisers, publishers and everyone involved in the planning, buying and followthrough of online advertising will benefit from transparency and standardization. When a publisher reports that they have 80% reach among a target audience online, the IAB guidelines should help advertisers and their agents make a decision with some certainty that they understand where the 80% came from. It should help them evaluate CPM-based ad rates with more precision.

If you are a reach and frequency fan, then these are good for you.

It is not apparent, though, how any of this addresses the larger issues of pay-for-performance, engagement, user control, or return on investment. If you are focussed on engaging a smaller, long tail audience more intensely, then these guidelines won;t do your bidding.

These guidelines may help in developing unique, campaign-specific metrics aligned with real business objectives: cost reduction, sales, and service aligned with customer value are but a few examples...but these types of goals will require more than is contained in any set of advertising measures.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The end of slideshows: A world premiere

Tired of trying to make powerpoint move? Not sure you have the creative genetics to make your photogallery project groove?

Animoto is feeling you. Boldly proclaiming "the end of slideshows" Animoto provides a web-hosted application that takes your tired, poor, huddled images and turns them into shining beacons of slideshow movie creativity...with optional DVD quality no less.

The secret sauce (so they say) is that Animoto analyzes your images and then applies algorithms created by real life creative geniuses (directors) to devise a one-of-a-kind movie--complete with transitions, effects and edits all based on your images. And there's more!

Got an ear for a tune? You can upload your own Emmy-winning musical score, or just plain tune, or you can select from Animoto's pre-licensed music (available in a variety of styles from classical to hiphop to, well let's just call it electronic metal).

I created a demo video using random images from my computer (I was curious how Animoto's algorithm would treat them). The entire process to create my 23-second masterpiece took a grand total of 275 seconds (not counting Animoto's rendering time of 5 minutes...which was plenty of time to delete the holiday spam in my inbox).

So what?

Though the output reflects the input mostly, it also reflects an improved end to the one that requires more time or money than you have.

By embedding the expertise of video professionals in software, Animoto creates a tool that gets a job done: all without a battle of wills over creative control. It certainly won't replace professionals in those situations that require them...but it will make a lot of amateurs look a lot better...and like so many other applications of cheap computing, client expectations of cost and complexity will be influenced by consumer tools like Animoto.

And unlike iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or other consumer tools for stringing together the pretties, the hosted application approach of Animoto means it can be done without a wire and without software.

And without further hesitation, I bring you the world premiere of the Animoto collaboration entitled...Demo*

*Bonus points for anyone who can identify with reasonable accuracy more than 5 of the 9 images in this visually stunting movie.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cars, banks and ad performance: The Sporting News

The Hollywood Reporter (no, I don't usually visit, but this is research!) has an article about a report on ad spending among financial services firms: down 10% this year through 3 quarters.

Of course that's overall. Ad spending by formerly fat cats like Bank of America (the #3 financial services ad spender), is down 30% this year...shareholders can only wish the stock price was doing as well (BAC down 70%).  Financial Services firms and the other major beleaguered industry, Automakers, represent two of the big three TV advertiser categories (consumer goods being number 3). 

Automakers have reduced TV spending in 12 consecutive quarters. Even supposing they successfully lobby for taxpayer money, it's hard to imagine those funds will be put to use paying advertising bills.   

So what?

Financial services and Autos represent the two biggest spenders in televised sports (10% of all sports advertising according to Steve Lanzano of ad group MPG North America). Should spending on sports wane, then inventory becomes available. And with any commodity whose supply exceeds demand, prices will drop (see here for a take on ad deflation).

It may be that sports sponsorships and advertising will become affordable for second tier defined as those who have cash. 

It might also be that those with now-scarce cash for advertising demand something more for their money than their name on a 'sponsored by' screen: namely, they may demand performance. 

A recession in ad spending may move all industries once and for all toward performance based models of advertising...the kind direct response marketers have lived with for years.  

How many Buicks did GM sell because of Tiger Wood's celebrity? How many leads did the stunning ad during the Master's generate? In the future, one might expect that question to be answered by a marketing executive in front of his shareholders, in front of the campaign...not by a CEO in front of Congress after the money is gone. 

It would be only sporting:  advertisers pay not just to have their ads show up, but like the athletes they are underwriting, for actually performing. That's a game that's not limited to professional sports.

All grown up now: The Mac OS gets viral

After years of proclaiming a virus-free computing environment, Apple quietly announces its recommendation that Mac users get antivirus software (see the Apple Support forum here).

Or perhaps, just a sophisticated way of generating sales from the Apple store in a down environment?

UPDATED 12/3...apparently Apple has removed the referenced posting to the support page. A spokesperson claims "it was old and outdated information." Computer security experts ask why they wouldn't update the information it rather than removing it.  Especially since Apple's share of the market has grown slightly. Full controversy here.