Monthly Archives: September 2009

Bogusky, the Tim Burton of advertising, gives career advice

If you work in advertising you know Alex Bogusky as an icon, chief of Crispin Porter + Bogusky who does aggressive things with hamburgers. Bogusky dreams up campaigns with a disturbing psychological bent designed to yank the media. He has cool hair, a motorcycle with a rack for a mountain bike on the back, and draws the kind of love-hate idolatry that only an industry obsessed with eating its young can muster. If you see an ad that gives you a nightmare, but a warm fuzzy nightmare like you’re almost drowning and kind of enjoying it, CP+B probably did it. We’re reluctant to write about him for fear it looks like we’re kissing his ass.

Yet … Bogusky just posted the best career advice we’ve ever read. Check it here. A snippet:

Be honest. Be respectful. Be good. Set positive goals for yourself that can benefit lots of people. You’ll have lots of support because what’s good for you is good for them. Some people think they have to knock somebody else to get into a top spot. I’ve known people that thought they needed to knock me down to get up the ladder. It rarely works that way because there is infinite room for success and you’ll just get distracted from your true goals.

Don’t exaggerate. Don’t complicate. Very humble versions of success can lead to a wonderful life adventure. You don’t have to make it seem grand for it to become grand as it becomes reality.

Simplify. I think two sentences should be enough to hold your life’s professional dream.

It’s beautiful stuff. Via Darryl Ohrt.

Windows 7 party was so bad, you linked to it. Suckas.

This is complicated so pay close attention. Microsoft just gamed you, bloggers. Yes, Redmond distributed a video that comically showed nerds hosting a “Windows 7 Launch Party.” And like fish snapping to the bait, bloggers began reposting the video while laughing at it, saying Windows 7 was uncool. Windows 7. Windows 7. And the links spread. The bad Windows 7 viral went viral. Microsoft was uncool, out of touch, with Windows 7. Windows 7. Within weeks the video scored 638,000 views on YouTube, mostly among the influential tech set. NPR picked up the story. And millions of Americans are now thinking about Windows 7.

Microsoft knows there is no ad placement better than the one that creates scandal. Windows 7. Very. Well. Played.

Advertising is still in your space

This summer while guest posting over at Brandflakes for Breakfast we riffed on Robert Sommer’s 1969 theory of personal space. One of his key concepts was humans have three fields for receiving communication – intimate, near your face or ears; personal, about an arm’s length away; and social, inbound from about 10 feet. Now if you think about the communication devices in your life – mobile phones, laptop computers, and big-screen TVs – they fit nicely into each range. People have a need for each level of communication, likely embedded in our genes from ancestors who whispered secrets, talked face to face, or entertained from the campfire.

This is worth noting as some, like Bob Garfield, predict the end of advertising. Computer banner ads may be replacing newsprint in the personal space, but consumers still watch more than 5 hours of live television a day in the social space. Mobile may be ascendant in the intimate space, but the ads there don’t work well due to limited inventory and consumer modality. The Chikita network recently tracked 93 million impressions and found cell phone ads had a click-through rate only half that of the already horrific banner ad CTRs (0.48% vs. 0.83%). The sexy iPhone, with arguably the best screen for mobile web browsing, had the worst CTRs of all — 0.30%. But so what? Advertising never fit well into lovers’ whispering messages, either.

Campfires live on

The point is we all have a need to be passive occasionally, and as we allow cable television to wash over us, there remain plenty of slots for paid advertising. DVRs are nibbling away at this, but beware stats that tell you 1 in 4 homes have them, because they overstate commercial skipping. Nielsen reports consumers only watch DVR-recorded programming, on average, about 15 minutes per day. The total time spent viewing commercials or paid sponsorships from various screens? Sixty-one minutes. And we keep improving the entertainment tools for our social space; next up, 3-D television is coming to a basement near you soon.

Advertising is alive and well, especially in the social space of inbound entertainment. We’ll riff more on this in an upcoming ad column.

Dare we say it? Social media measurement defined.

The world of advertising is full of silly metrics, probably because many who work there are suppressed novelists or film producers who didn’t carry calculators in college. Alas, the problem of foolish marketing math has gotten more severe with the advent of social media, where you’ll find numerous numb-headed attempts to explain how to “measure” “engagement” for “ROI.”

Data guru Anna O’Brien got so ticked off by the hyperbole she created the chart above to explain exactly what goes into true measurement. She writes: “It hit me. Adding qualitative aspect to a previously primarily quant-based world has thrown some people so far for a loop that they are willing to accept complete gibberish as a viable marketing solution as long as it has words like ‘tweets’, ‘likes’, and ‘posts’ built into the equation.” O’Brien’s resulting post is a brilliant kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species hierarchy of the measurement universe, and she keenly draws the distinction between monitoring and true measurement.

Funnel. Return. Value.

We suggest the truth is even more simple: There are only 3 basic questions that need to be answered for measuring any marketing performance.

(1) Where is the customer in the marketing funnel? (Is your target moving through awareness, consideration, or action?)

(2) What is the ROI on the marketing investment? (Does the financial gain from your initiative outweigh the cost?)

(3) What is the resulting impact on customer valuation?
(Customers are your real asset base; is their lifetime value rising based on your marketing activity?)

Customers are your source of financial value. Everything in marketing manages customers’ inflow of value with those questions. Everything outside of marketing measures the outflow of organizational costs.

Yes, even Razorfish got it wrong

The problem with most social media measurement is it touches only a subset of (1) above: the awareness stage of the marketing funnel. You can track the number of mentions of a brand online, and rank the people talking by their level of influence, and evaluate whether the “sentiment” is positive or negative. But do all that, even with Razorfish’s lovely Social Influence Marketing score (see page 24 of Shiv Singh’s Fluent report), and all you get is a mood ring for how much customers love your product while they are talking about you. The vibe of awareness within the earliest stages of your marketing funnel tells you nothing, really, about whether they moved to action and bought something, the resulting ROI on campaign investment or long-term customer value.

That’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with measuring small sections of your entire value chain, and social media itself is primarily conversations that do not provide insight into consumers’ true actions. But remember that. Don’t get carried away by software that tells you X brand was mentioned 2,318 times yesterday, and that sentiment was up to 0.79. If you can put a number to something that helps you adjust marketing course for improved results tomorrow, then you know the measurement has value.

Footnote: We are a huge fan of Shiv Singh, one of the sharpest minds and clearest speakers in social media, and this post is not a knock on his insights. We just find the Razorfish social media score a narrow view of one way customer value flows into your organization, even within the confines of social media, and should be labeled as such. Hat tip to Anna O’Brien and the comments on her blog for inspiring this post.

Seth Godin makes a portal play for social media

Today there are at least 60 paid systems and 34 free tools to listen in on social media. Radian6, Techrigy/Alterian, Icerocket, ScoutLabs, even Google offer ways to track blogs, tweets and videos about your brand. Picking the right tools to manage all this is enough to scare any marketing director.

So Seth Godin has an idea — why not build a simple web portal for your brand that collects the top online chatter about your business, and gives you a forum to respond? And better yet, why not pay Seth Godin $400 a month to manage it? Godin has launched Brands in Public, a simplified view of consumer conversations about you, and an easy way for you to respond when crisis hits. The only challenge we see is how to get consumers to visit your Godin page to check responses; Godin says he is running the equivalent of $500,000 in house ads across the broader Squidoo network to promote it, but good luck with that. Still … it’s intriguing that Godin has made the dashboards public. If you are curious about any brand’s buzz in social media, you can hit the Brands in Public for a free peek. Heck, don’t tell Seth, but you could even use it for competitive research.

Want to look yourself? Here’s how Trader Joe’s is using it.

Image: Mare Bowe

Flash Forward to results: ABC cuts back on commercials

One of the more interesting defenses against consumers tuning out advertising is when advertisers cut back on the ads themselves. A few years back, Clear Channel was forced to retrench on the minutes of radio commercials per hour after it realized consumers were aghast at spot overload so switched the dial, hurting ratings. More recently launched its online video format with a similar less-is-more ad structure, with minimal paid interruptions.

Now big broadcast boy ABC is cutting back as well, reducing television commercials in its premiere episodes and not starting most spots until 15 minutes into the show. Jeff Bader, ABC Entertainment’s scheduling chief, told the Los Angeles Times “you hope the longer you keep them at the start of the show, the more likely they are to stick to it.” The gripping “Flash Forward,” which premieres this Thursday night, may go as long as 18 minutes before a commercial break.

A history of polluted networks

The tragedy of the commons is something marketers typically fail to think about until it’s too late. Telemarketing was the first victim, becoming so obnoxious that consumers eventually rebelled with the Do Not Call lists, almost killing the industry. Email spam became a joke with filters blocking most messages and a response rate something like 1 in 12.5 million. Now social media risks the same network counter-reaction: paid messages in blogs and tweets — not advertising, but paid opinions in which people profess to write what they want about a brand while being paid to do it — are coming from companies such as Izea, and we predict new filters will arise to block out the confusion. If such fuzzy sponsorships go too far, the utility of the network will be diminished, and all users, including marketers, may suffer the consequences.

Want proof? Try to set up a telemarketing program today, and let us know how well it works.

What advertisers fail to realize is we all need a healthy ecosystem for any communication to work. It’s not easy showing restraint, because you’re betting the lost revenue of today will be replaced by more viewers, and more resulting ad sales, tomorrow. But if advertising is kept inside its box, clearly marked with limits on how much time it consumes, consumers in turn will be more likely to pay attention and respond. As media planners, we find the ABC strategy intriguing … because the marketing messages that do get included are likely to break through.

Dear Batgirl, are memes fading?

We miss Batgirl. You see, when we were kids in the 1970s (yes, we admit it), Batman reruns on TV were big after school, just as in primetime Happy Days was the big thing on TV. We went “pow” in the schoolyard fighting like Robin. Schoolkids would come in after a showing of the Fonz recounting the latest hip saying. After one Happy Days episode, where naive teenager Richie helped a geeky relative get cool by catching pennies falling off his elbow, we spent the better part of a week’s recess trying to grab 30 or 40 coins. (OK, to try this, put your right arm straight up; bend your forearm back over your shoulder; your forearm should now be horizontal with the ground, with your elbow in front of you about eye level; now stack a series of coins above your elbow, then rapidly swing your arm forward and try to catch the coins in mid-air before they pass your waist and hit the ground…)

You get it. That was a meme.

We see fewer and fewer memes, or cultural viruses, coming from mass media. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Saturday Night Live on NBC was one launching pad for cultural pass-alongs, and hip comedians could get everyone saying the same things on Mondays. The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, Stuart Smally, all were comic riffs that people for some reason wanted to emulate. Alas, memes, those cultural ideas spread from one person to another like early Christianity or healthcare death panels, are getting harder to propagate with the fragmentation of media. While every ad agency in the land professes to help you build viral campaigns, we often wonder if “viral” has become totally randomized. Like the H1N1 Swine Flu, communication viruses mutate randomly until they eventually create the perfect version to become embedded in the culture of the moment. Because consumers themselves are creating so much content, their missives are just as likely to grab culture’s attention as anything a media conglomerate dreams up.

The bell curve front matches the back

If you work in marketing, sales or advertising, you’re in the business of memes, whether you know it or not. Your job is to influence people by spreading ideas, and yes you hope that they send those ideas on to others — that’s a meme. Alas, compounding the problem for marketers seeking to seed fads or needs or desires is that the lifespan of communal ideas is becoming truncated. Studies have shown that plotting the rise and fall of a viral phenomenon over time is equally as steep on the uptick as it is in the downswing. The Beatles gradually became a sensation and endured for decades. Skittles came and went in a week. If something suddenly becomes popular, it is just as likely to fade quickly. Culture, like the human body’s autoimmune system, can even reject memes if they seem too foreign; a dispassionate observer might argue Fox News’ and conservatives’ harsh rejection of plans to extend health insurance to 46 million citizens are a culture’s autoimmune system defense to a foreign object: an ethnic president from Chicago trying to expand urban support systems onto rural America. The issue of healthcare reform crested suddenly and unexpectedly this summer in the press, and just as quickly counter-forces drove the issue down in the polls. It wasn’t right or wrong; health care was just a meme that rose too high too fast, and fell off the logical popular cliff on the backside.

Easy come, easy go

So how do you get memes going? Here’s an interesting test if you are a marketer about to hire an agency to give you a social media “viral” campaign. Ask your agency, which is bragging about number of impressions and scope of “engagement” from its last viral successes, to plot the timeline of its past campaigns. Was it months? Weeks? Days? Hmm.

Add it up and we have fewer central cultural communication Petri dishes to seed memes; fragmented media which randomizes what gets transmitted; masses of consumers creating their own content just as likely to go viral; and shortened attention spans meaning even if your meme does succeed, it is likely to quickly fade. It’s not easy to bend culture to your will. The only solution we see is to continue to experiment, and to allow the masses of consumers who now have control over media tools the power to manipulate and play with your idea. Like a virus mutating, eventually something will form that takes creation tension too far until society goes boom. All of which reminds us that we miss Batgirl.

Corporations in swimsuits: Are you faking social media?

Digital strategist Jordan Julien got us thinking about “synthetic authenticity,” the risk large corporations face as they try to engage customers in social media. The problem, Jordan says, is social media tools were built for individual people to interact with each other, but suddenly faceless entities — big brands with big names — are entering the space.

This creates a cognitive dissonance that can erode trust. Say you lob a question at Nike Plus on Twitter and get a response. Who wrote it? Do you trust their opinion? Is it a real person’s thought, or a brand spinning its own future sales?

Jordan suggests one solution is to add real faces to your corporate persona. Instead of trying to make a brand act human, put real humans in charge. Earlier this year Mashable listed its favorite 40 companies on Twitter; the list is worth reviewing to see how “human” they act. Here is Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas responding to a guest:

OK, that’s a start. Luxor gives us an attractive woman in a swimsuit chatting about hot dogs. But the most authentic brands online are the ones that give us real people’s names. Surprisingly, the auto industry has been leading this charge. Scott Monty at Ford gets press, but here’s Adam Denison, PR guy for Chevy, offering a human connection:

What? A Chevy marketing executive is asking for help building PowerPoint? Exactly. Suddenly the big auto brand seems like a potential colleague, a guy looking for advice. While Adam uses Twitter to answer questions about Camaros and promote his brand, he also chats about Mormon missionaries, crows about BYU football, hints he is an avid golfer, and wades into debates about Swine Flu. You know. A quirky, opinionated, helpful real human being. If we ever considered a Chevy, we’d reach out to him instantly.

Yes, it’s a risk to let real people become the touchpoints between the brand you’ve carefully crafted for decades and the consumers who use it. But the bigger risk is you blow it, eroding trust from an audience that will tune you out. If even giant IBM can have Twitter streams authored by real people, so can you.

Graphic: The Jordan Rules

An end to the Hot Waitress Index

Our favorite economist Jodi Beggs points out many “indicators” of recession are sexist, the result of male-skewing humor from the men who dominate the dismal economic science. We’ve had the skirt-length indicator, lipstick measures, and our favorite, the Hot Waitress Index — you know, the idea that pretty women lose jobs in real estate or sales when bubbles collapse and so are forced to serve food at the local bar. The prettier your waitress, the worse the economy.

Sexist stereotyping? You bet. So the Puma sports brand is playfully fighting back with the PUMA Index, a stock ticker for cell phones showing models — male or female — who take off their clothes when the Dow goes down. Sure, you can pick a girl, but the default image on the app is a buff guy cranking weights, ready to drop his jeans. Economists, hope for a rally.

Image: Scott Eklund