Monthly Archives: March 2012

April Fools’ Day Protection Mandated By Supreme Court

Though the fact that April 1st falls on a Sunday  this year diminishes some of the fun of April Fool’s Day – as most of us won’t be in our offices – there’s still a lot to look out for.  Consider this to be a friendly public service to make sure you don’t look the fool too easily.  As we don’t know what tricks are up some marketers’ sleeves, here’s a perfect opportunity to look back at some of the foolery from last year to help protect ourselves on this upcoming day of fools – as mandated by Justices Alito and Ginsburg…

Last year, London’s morning Metro promised to deliver the news and a snack.  I just don’t know how likely the custom of leaving issues on the Tube for others to pick up and read would continue. Kudos to Warner Bros. for getting the WILLY WONKA call-out.

Marmite tempted the taste buds with their supposed joining with Vaseline to offer some good old yeast extract lip therapy.  It makes me gag just thinking about it.

Some people were extremely saddened that this offer of Child Free sites was just an April Fool’s joke. I’m sure they would have had quite a few takers had it been for real.

Supposedly some people made this drink with lemon juice and milk and said it was good. I can’t imagine, but a hearty “Huzzah” to Captain Morgan for having some fun and the people who tried this with the implicit risk of projectile vomiting.

Luckily, the following offered new jobs for a hard-hit economy:

So, anybody who was incredibly smart with an encyclopaedic memory with the ability to type 34,000 words per minute who was struggling to find a job could have gotten this Autocompleter job at Google.

And because nobody can believe that something about dogs is not true, You’ve got to love the Hundstol dog high chair that IKEA was advertising.

April Fool’s Day is an underrated opportunity for brands and companies to have some fun. It’s a shame that it does not fall on a work day this year as a bunch of the fun will be diminished. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has not laid down the law as it pertains to fooling family members or housemates. Good luck.


Just Because the Inventory’s There, Should It Be Taken?

Throughout the recent iMedia Video Summit, there were many mentions about penetration, reach, targeting, disruption and scale, but the discussions about actual audience experiences or emotional connections were limited. The question  pertaining to what the user would get out of the impressions was usually answered with a reading of stats, samplings and other tidbits, but nothing conveying the emotional connection – no matter how hard that is to quantify.  Even in the section with the creatives shown, there were some cool looking things and some stats. But many didn’t marry the the impressions/penetration numbers with the user experience to enable us to delve deeper into what the benefit of the perfect storm of good placement and good creative. Just yesterday, there were a couple of announcements that related to the same ideal for mobile – additional inventory available for reaching consumers with the question of the user’s experience.  Because of the user experience related to these platforms, should these mobile bits of ad inventory be leveraged?

Ipsos recently posed the questions to consumers whether they would prefer to receive SMS messages to their mobile or emails to the in-box.  75% said they would prefer the latter.  It used to be more of a legal issue as people had to pay for each SMS message they received or sent.  Therefore, companies could find themselves in trouble as users were effectively paying to receive their spam.  Now that many mobile providers offer unlimited packages for text and then cap their access to data before charging more, some might think its better to send SMS messages.  The thing is, that while there might be a cost difference for the consumer in the free text/limited data model above, the real question comes down to user experience and preferences.  SMS is more intrusive and is the norm for getting communications from friends – not from businesses.

Courtesy of Conduit

Along the same lines, Conduit has announced their new product that allows for graphic – and even app – placements on mobile lock-screens.  Currently, they are just touting the availability for Android phones through a downloadable App.  The future could see opportunities to provide free phones in exchange for this type of inventory being locked to the phone.  Other than that, I would be hard-pressed to see there being a demand to download these just so one could have ads pushed to them whenever they go to unlock their screen.  The exception might be if the user can select something like a sports app that shows their team’s scores at the onset. Currently, the only thing similar for most people is when they see SMS messages easily.  That functionality is generally seen as a benefit to the user – will ads be felt in the same way?

In both, the consideration clearly needs to be focused on the end-user.  There may be situations that are perfect for serving out advertising using this type of inventory. It could just depend on what you’re pushing out. There might also be a high risk factor to turning people off.  Interestingly, in the Ipsos study, they found that there are some markets that would absolutely prefer to receive SMS messages rather than emails.

Ultimately, it’s not about how you put it out there.  It’s about your audience and how they would most want to accept the message. You might have the coolest or most beautiful execution ever, but if the audience perceives it as being too invasive, you’ve lost. Just because you’ve got some open space to tout some wares doesn’t mean that you should jump on it.



Consumers Connections as the Metric To Rule Them All – But What Is It?

Yet another iMedia Summit has come and gone and I think they did a really nice job.  This one was the Video Summit and there was more than enough in the way of presentation and provocation to push the conversations along about media and digital video content. Shelley Palmer was the chief instigator as he pushed for people to think and make choices one way or the other about how this is all going to work – sometimes he pushed too hard, but his insights were welcome throughout.  It seemed clear that the biggest hurdle for all players – traditional media planners, digital media planners, publishers, brands, technologists and developers – is the navigation from where we are in the way of monetizing digital video content to where we think it can be.  What exacerbates the challenge is the never-ending search for the metric that clearly works for both television and digital distribution. With that search, the problem remains that powerful storytelling and true connections with consumers is oft skipped over by technologies and program mechanics – leaving everyone questioning what metric will rule them all.

Jen Dawson (TubeMogul), Felix Gomez (Pointroll), Jonathan Tavss (Scarlet Strategic)

iMedia tried something new this time by offering a track specifically for creatives and production companies to explore the tricks of the trade and, countered against the media-heavy elements of the rest of the summit, the creative samples were refreshing.  Though there could have stood to be more creative attendees, it was a strong first-go. I do wish that there was more interplay between creatives and planners as way to extend the conversation about what the possibilities may be. It ended up feeling like the creatives were excluded at a certain point and that was a shame – especially as one of the presentations in the In-Focus track showcased a strong partnership between Moxie’s media and creative teams worked closely to produce a very compelling campaign for Verizon.  Showcasing that stuff to everyone could have gotten the juices flowing about solutions other than what planners already know and the tendency to stick with that known commodity.

Both Palmer and Intel’s Futurist, Brian David Johnson beseeched everyone to envision a great future and make it happen. I agree whole-heartedly with what they said, but opportunities to get the imagination going could have been done through programming that led to more sharing and problem solving.  Whether it was by way of presenting some of the In-Focus track sections to the entire community or programming round-table sessions –like what iMedia has done at their Breakthrough summits in the past — people could have been prodded more completely to be creative and then see where that lead us.

But, in the end, the fact that there is an environment where people can share thoughts and ideas without too much preening or jockeying within a social context, these iMedia Summits are invaluable.  Hopefully, they will continue to grow and evolve.  As this was the first Video-specific summit, I look forward to seeing the evolution of both the medium and its programming in the future.  It can’t do anything but further itself into the conversation as the powers that be are pushing digital content further into the stratosphere that is usually reserved for television.

I’ve already conveyed my concerns about not staking digital as strong and specific, yet different beast and present it as such to the media community – and I brought it up at the conference as well. But, we can all hope that the similarities and differences are carefully and clearly communicated and understood by the influencers and the decision makers. Again, the type of interaction and communication that is offered at these summits can go a long way toward that becoming a reality.

Groupon Deals Lead To Bad Reviews?

Besides the possible new customers, transactions and, hopefully, loyalty that might come from doing Groupon deals, there’s another by-product that businesses should consider. That by-product is the reviews left on social media sites. I just came across a study that was done by a Boston University computer sciences associate professor, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale and a Harvard University computer science professor and the study is thorough but not pretty. John Byers (BU), Georgios Zervas (Yale) and Michael Mitzenmacher (Harvard) researched a huge amount of data over a six month period and they found that the reviews that could be tied to the Groupon deals were not as strong as those that weren’t.

They monitored 16,692 deals over six months in 20 cities and also collected data on Facebook, Living Social and Yelp and found that those who used the word “Groupon” or “coupon” gave “strikingly lower rating scores.”

It got me thinking further about the connotations that might come from a business running a deal on Groupon – is it now being considered an act of desperation to drive revenue by consumers? Do they feel that they are getting cut-rate services for the cut-rate costs of those services or experiences? Perhaps businesses need to think deeply about whether they want to risk consumers thinking they are struggling as opposed to just marketing their product. Or, could it be that their staff is providing a different experience for those who are coming in with Groupon certificates? If the experience is not the same, than you have absolutely negated your entire reason for offering the deal in the first place.

Whichever way you look at it, this is just one more consideration that needs to be made when determining whether your business should be offering Groupon deals. Be sure to weigh how you are representing your business in relation to Groupon – or any other deal site – to make sure that your original intentions don’t backfire.

Wanted: Strong Guidance In Slicing the Digital Video Pie

The first night of iMedia’s Video Everywhere Summit was a mess – and that’s not because of the organizers.  The mess was actually a welcome change to the norm at these types of things.  The problem was the “norm” that the mess was illustrating.  Vindico’s President, Matt Timothy, got everyone in the room to simultaneously throw “stress cubes” toward the front of the room near the beginning of his presentation.  He didn’t have to ask twice and the amount of cubes that missed the garbage cans signified what the video model is for television advertising.  In that model there’s not a real way to evaluate how many impressions were wasted (the many cubes on the floor) and how many hit their target (the few in the cans.)  He then asked everyone to do the repeat the exercise, but this time the attendees were asked to throw them randomly around the room.  This version exemplified what online video advertising impressions are like – with a lot of information going back and forth in two-way communication.  The key is tapping into that information and formulating better ways to connect with people.  All in, the example illustrated that there is so many ways we can slice the digital video distribution data pie, but there are too many people who are still looking for the cutter to slice it with.

Even with the additional data that can be culled from video campaigns – and the optimization that can come from that – the “norm” referred to above is that there is still a lot that is left on the table.  Perhaps it’s because there is too much confusion about the data, or that clients and planners just don’t have the vision to see what’s possible.  In many instances, we’re running into an issue of the chicken or the egg.  We’re not trying things because the client or their agency doesn’t deliver creative executions that would effectively enable the research, or the vendors aren’t presenting examples of solutions to the challenges the clients might not even know they have.

Many brands or advertisers are still looking for the click-through as signifiers as success, but that doesn’t work completely in the realm of video.  When you look at what companies like Vindico can do with the data, those who only look at click-through are just drinking the punch and not getting all they could be through digital video media.  In the image above, the slide is showcasing the point that those who click-through the video (represented by gray blocks) are not interacting with the brand/content as strongly as those who visit the site within 30 days of viewing a banner (red blocks.)  It’s not to say that click-throughs are bad, but they are only part of the picture. The straight click-through that might have really been an errant click while trying to close the unit result in much less interaction on the back-end. Again, this requires more knowledge on the client side and more education from the media agencies (and vendors) who are booking these media solutions.

Vindico is one of numerous video ad serving companies and they offer the support and knowledge to be able to optimize not only impressions and interaction but creative. In reality, the ad serving companies really need to become the de-facto educators for marketers and media planners about what the possibilities are. Whether through partnerships with creative vendors or just visionaries who can clearly convey what is possible, they need to be actively presenting solutions because we can’t just rely on clients or planners to package it the right way for success on their own.

The last slide of Matt’s deck had a few things of importance regarding buying video media.  The one that stuck out to me was Storytelling Innovation.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Video is the strongest storytelling format. The digital platforms only increase those storytelling mechanics through interaction. I also see huge opportunities innovation, but am frustrated because we go back to the chicken or the egg conundrum.  When I asked Matt in front of everyone to elaborate on those wonderful buzzwords – Storytelling Innovation – he did a little dance.  I understand the dancing a bit because of client sensitivities in presenting specific examples. In the end, he squeezed out a little bit of the essence by talking about branching opportunities, iterative messaging and interactivity.

After the presentation, somebody came up to me and intimated that it isn’t the job of someone like Matt to provide the examples of Storytelling Innovation – that it was up to creative agencies or media planners or the clients themselves to do that.  I whole-heartedly disagree.  Even if there were some mapped out samples with fictitious products to prove some past successes or even dreamed ones, the examples have to be drawn out.  Sadly, media planners are not built to envision those types of things and I would argue that even creatives and marketing executives don’t have a strong enough vision for matching technical capabilities with innovative storytelling.

With all of the successes that I have had in the past, I was only able to get them launched because the providers talked about possible solutions that led me to believe they could pull it off in partnership with my vendors.  I was able to crystallize the stories (and the mechanics behind them) and sell them within the company because of that shared knowledge.  If the providers don’t do a good enough job of laying the kernels of imagination and innovation in digital video media — hell, even just the basics of what can be tracked — we’ll all be destined to forever be collectively looking for that thing to slice the video pie with.

The Frugal Gourmet of Marketing for HUNGER GAMES

In case you didn’t know, the much-anticipated film, THE HUNGER GAMES, opens today. And the buzz is not just about the film but how well its been marketed at a reported cost that is less than half of the recent blockbusters. Though Jeff Smith (of Frugal Gourmet cookbook and cooking show fame) had nothing to do with it – he sadly passed away four years before the source material was ever written – the smart and to-the-point marketing of the film is spot on and wasn’t done by accident.

To those who are not YA (young adults), the story is reminiscent of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, THE RUNNING MAN.  In both instances, the contestants are meant to fight for their survival live before a television audience. The thing that THE HUNGER GAMES has behind it is a 25 million copies-and-counting series of books that has become a phenomenon in less than four years.

The mention of Jeff Smith and his PBS TV show are also a nod to the old-school film marketing that was done for this title.  Smith was around before the food channels on cable and had to carve out a space with compelling story and press. Lionsgate got it right at the beginning when they made a big to-do about the casting announcement of the heroine, Katniss Everdeen and the other main characters.  They knew they did a solid job of casting talent, so it was cool to allow the buzz and arguments to take place across the web. Could they have known how well the acting would be reviewed when the film was released?  Of course not, but the social media action more than paid for itself.

Before we even got close to the release, they were focused on story and environment.  Even in their one-sheets, they recognized that it’s all about character and not big explosions or other stereotypical key art executions for this target audience.  By doing this, it stayed true to its core for fans and did not turn off larger audiences.  To be honest, the interest grown by the stately  marketing from the get-go makes it easier to palate the silly looking wig that Stanley Tucci’s character wears when seeing it in a clip Jennifer Lawrence showed on Letterman.

Looking at the other elements, they are releasing a soundtrack with all new material from big-name artists on Universal Records.  There’s a new music video out from Taylor Swift for the film’s “Safe & Sound.” They have a huge base on Facebook and and hundreds of thousands following @TheHungerGames on Twitter. Their web site presence is also huge with exploratory sites and introductions to the fictional country of Panem. There’s plenty of clips and interviews that convey the characters and what went into drawing those characters out in performance.  They have created an online personalization tool – where users can create Panem citizenship cards – but I was surprised at the low 800K number relative to the buzz for this film.  With what they’ve done, they’ve essentially been able to not venture too far into the silliness of some of the story that would really make it like THE RUNNING MAN by always bringing it back to character and story.

There have been a handful of other simple marketing products that might have been further embellished by digital, but the mainstay of the campaign for this futuristic film harkens to a time in the past. They distributed 80,000 posters, did promotional finger nail paint, had ticket give-aways and the magazine coverage is intense.

That print coverage will help in places that are often overlooked in the big film marketing of today – the small towns.  Having just spent the past few days in rural Southern Ohio, it became obviously clear that big billboards just don’t matter because they just don’t exist like they do in the big cities.  They also don’t have cinemas on every corner where you can see the key art.

What they have more than anything else is convenience stores with walls of magazines and most of them were highlighting the characters and subject matter of this film. It was hard to miss them and they weren’t just appearing on stands as the title drew near.  The title has been on magazine covers for months. It is those middle-America viewers who might only see the coverage in the store that will help this film possibly break records – some pundits are saying opening weekend will pass the $100 million mark.

There are certainly those who proudly state that they were able to manage huge endeavors with huge budgets, but the really special wins are those that are huge on a small or smart budget. THE HUNGER GAMES seems to be one that is headed in the right direction – and if Jeff Smith were around today and actually cared about marketing of these types of movies, I’m sure the progenitor of Frugal Gourmet will be proud.

The Digital Media Environment Might Be Shown Under The Wrong Light

I get it, but I don’t.  It’s been such a long time where new media/digital media/digital content has been trying to say how different they are from a traditional media opportunity perspective – with some degree of success or failure, depending on how you look at it. Now,  the digital players might be confusing things even more by trying to emulate the traditional media model of television upfronts. I get why the collective of outlets like Hulu, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo! and YouTube would think Digital Content NewFronts is a perfect solution for selling a lion-share of inventory in a fashion people are used to, but it frames digital media in a way that it really isn’t. It seems that no matter how much work is put into differentiating digital from traditional media – by emulating the media-selling platform of a different medium, the industry might err in showing the content in the wrong light.

Television UpFronts have been happening in May for quite some time – where networks unveil their coming seasons and brands and buyers get “pizzaz-zed” at the start the negotiation for a hefty bit of the available inventory. It is quite the feeding frenzy with much of the ad space getting booked in lump sums.  The deals are definitely based on demos and a clearly understood media platform.

The NewFronts will happen for the first time its year and is quite proud that they are taking a cue from the television world. on the site, it says that “Attendees are invited to roll up their sleeves and participate. Form relationships. Eye and act on the possibilities. Make sponsorship agreements.” Which is all fine and dandy, but there is a much higher complexity in the media planning for digital content.  With the data and tracking that is available, it isn’t just about the people you can reach – its about how they interact and what they do after that interaction.

Again, I understand why the powers would want to emulate something that is already known, but that leads people to think that they are effectively the same – which they are not.  Yes.  There are some video networks that are now getting stronger viewership than some small cable outlets, but the scale for the digital content is smaller in most parts, but more dynamic in others.

When a sword can be slammed into the ground that this digital is something different and should be taken seriously, the emulation of an existing media model seems to soften the blow.  Will there be some success and great press releases to come out of this? I’m sure there will be — we have been executing some of those larger UpFront types of deals with major publishers on behalf of studios  for a couple of years.  But, I don’t think a big song and dance will do the trick.

It always seemed odd to have a theatre full of media professionals sitting in a crowd in a huge theatre with TV shows projected on the big screen that they would ordinarily watch with a few people – at most – on a small screen.  And, from this, they would determine what is going to be a winner and what is going to be a bust.  The same issue could be the case here but with an even larger disparity between the presentation experience and the real-life experience of watching these videos.

They talk about moving from beneath the fluorescent lights into something bigger and brighter.  I just hope they find a way to shed the right light on the content and not get mired in a picture that is not their own.