Tag Archives: Optimization

How to Parlay Sweet Swine Beyond 15 Minutes of Fame

Now that we know the truth, we can sit in awe of one woman’s brilliance in jumping into a press opportunity. Mirlande Wilson made headlines after the MegaMillions lottery jumped over the $600M mark.  The 37-year-old fast-food worker from Maryland claimed to have one of the three winning lottery tickets.  Only, she didn’t know where it was. Typically, the media jumped all over it. Thus, Wilson found her 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol said we would all get. It’s too bad she didn’t know how to parlay that excitement beyond the 15 minutes (when the real lottery winners from Maryland showed up), but at least she has her Sweet Swine cap.

Courtesy FOX affiliate

We will quickly forget about Mrs. Wilson once the news cycle about the actual winners (three teachers and administrators in the Baltimore public school system) plays its course – but, hopefully we won’t forget what she has taught us. Ultimately, we can laud her carpe diem spirit as she jumped into the fray at the right time. Though let us learn from the ways in which she not only couldn’t leverage the popularity, she allowed others to swoop in for the good stuff – the marketing optimization.

When she appeared at her news conference, she seemed out of it, but dressed for the occasion donning a Sweet Swine Pork Rinds hat. Once a marketer out of Alabama saw that, he immediately picked up the sweetswineporkrinds.com url and began building on what Wilson started.  All of this without Wilson’s knowledge and, surely, not to her benefit.

To break it down into bite-sized tidbits, these are the places Wilson could have done differently after making the “positive” jump into the fray:

  • Come up with a bit more compelling and consistent story of why you can’t produce your winning ticket. Though this might not have mattered because the press still bought the excuse one that was equivalent to my “I forgot my homework” BS that I don’t think my teachers ever bought into, so I stopped using in junior high school. In reality, more creativity could have parlayed her 15 minutes into a reality show.
  • Be careful about how you present yourself at all times because you don’t know when the cameras are going to pop out – especially when you attend your own press conference… For benefits of doing this right, see the note above about a reality show.
  • When wearing an item that could be construed as marketing or product placement, make sure you have some connection to the back-end profits.  Don’t allow the profits you drive to go into another person’s hand without your own financial benefit.
  • If you absolutely must wear something that has words on it, at least check to see if there is a url available for it.  There is no reason that someone should be able to swoop in and register that url based on your hard-earned publicity.
  • Be thinking about your online or digital identity to prolong your “popularity”. Don’t allow the only items to be seen online to be pictures of you looking like you are completely out of it. At least have some destination that presents the real you – unless the real you is completely out of it.  In other words, be sure to invest in forms of presenting yourself the way you want to be seen. You might only get one chance to make that impression – make it count.

As you can see, there’s many things that companies and other individuals can learn from this.  I am sure that Mrs. Wilson can persevere and will still end up with an agent of some sort and a producing partner for a reality show. (I’ve seen smaller train wrecks waiting to happen in reality television.) Be prepared when taking that first step into the limelight because you may never get a second chance and that one chance has to count.

We do have to give props to Mrs. Wilson as the chances of getting that much international attention – by doing virtually nothing – have longer odds than actually winning the lottery.

Now, where can we get ourselves some of that tasty Sweet Swine Pork Rind?

Sony Wins With Tic-Tac Box Sized Ultrabook

Blowing everybody away this weekend, Sony unveiled their full-powered Ultrabook that is the size of a quarter.  I’ve mentioned here before how Intel has been trying to get the word out and Sony has done it majestically with its Vaio Q product. As stated in the post title, this product that is smaller than a Tic-Tac box is sure to make Sony a winner and bring Ultrabooks to the forefront of every consumer’s mind.

Something must have been happening this weekend for a number of technology companies to launch products with Q at its core. The other big one is the Quest option for Google’s Map product. Oddly launching on a Sunday, users were able to find a button for Quest in the upper right corner at maps.google.com after they entered the address.  By doing so, the service provides a wonderfully simple 8-bit chroma version of the map (of course, this is all in honoring the game, Quest).  As you can see in the map of my neighborhood, it does me a huge service by pointing out the things that are most important – a park, a diner and a mexican restaurant that has live music six nights a week… Oh yeah, and the schools that my daughter will not be attending for Elementary and Middle schools.

And, of course, I know this is all for April Fool’s Day – I recounted some from last year in my post on Friday.  The thing is, there are some strong opportunities to market products and have an eye on the future with some of the pieces that were joked about.  The Google piece above was just one of MANY things the Google folks offered up – April Fools has seemingly become their most holy of holidays. The Quest piece is what seems to have gotten the most buzz (I was sent something about it by 10s of people directly and its been written about everywhere) but they have also done things like offer: every single movie ever on DVD to your door (from YouTube); change the weather to serve your needs; auto-driving NASCAR race-cars; tracking traffic to your sites from other planets;

and, the Googlers from Oz announced their new Google street cam placed on Kangaroos’ heads. Of course, this would never fly in the States because some boneheaded legislator would find something wrong about it – and that wrong bit would have nothing to do with cruelty to animals.

But let’s get to the good stuff.  And by good stuff, I mean things that could leverage the fun to possible sales instead of just something to take up excess free time on the job. In the UK, Firebox.com has announced the availability for pre-order on Personalized Fireworks.

They even go so far as to offer the following caveat:

Please Note:

  • Best viewed from a distance of 10km
  • Make sure the box is facing in the right direction and check all commercial flight patterns before lighting the fuse
  • Once lit, retreat to a safe distance of 200m
  • Display last approximately 5 seconds
  • In some cultures may lead to idolatry

It really gets me that I have to check all commercial flight patterns and that there is not a chance in hell that I will be able to get 200m away, let alone get to the requisite 10km for optimum viewing.  But, in all seriousness, I bring this up because their product page is surrounded by all the products that they really do offer.  Yes, their product is funny and they certainly had some fun with it, but they are able to then leverage the traffic to drive awareness and, hopefully, sales at the same time.

Also in the UK, mobile provider O2 announced a new phone with a humongous battery that would last for 1,000 hours of talk time and 92 days of stand-by. Sadly, the phones are not that comfortable when kept in your pocket –

but the key thing here is that O2 does actually have a product named On and On.  If someone were to look for that, it would show up on the home page of O2 as their unlimited package.  Again, a good example of something that could drive to more business.

Toshiba got some buzz for its response to Apple and their Patent prowess.  In order to move away from the rectangular tablet, they devised a “Shapes” line where the tablets are anything but rectangular.

I look at this as something that could get people thinking about the future possibilities for technology.  So, even though it might not lead to other sales, it does something for the better good, beyond making a joke.

There are probably hundreds more of these things that appeared at larger or greater scales. If Intel and Sony were smart, they would look to parlay any interest in this obvious joke product of the Sony Vaio Q to illustrate that the Ultrabook product is still quite sweet.  Again, leveraging these things against actual product sales is all about keeping the conversation going – unless, of course the conversation veers to a funny recent post on the Sony Vaio Q YouTube page that laments, “WOW THAT WOULD REALLY SUCK FOR WATCHING PORN.”

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.

Crayola Sadly Not Giving Everything Imaginable in Marketing

What first started as a story about a children’s product that blends packaged goods and online enhancement to provide a shining example of using all resources to create a spectacular product, changed to confusion when I started researching further.  Believe me, the excitement began when I saw the Crayola Story Studio spot last night – giving me a clear idea of what I was going to write today – and then changed entirely when I saw how horribly the product was represented in Crayola’s own digital marketing.  This is definitely not an attempt to damn the company, but more of an exercise to learn from what was done right and what was done horribly wrong.

Let’s begin with the commercial spot.  The spot in itself was disruptive because it had an atypical placement.  Because of that, it caught my eye while I was forwarding through commercials on the DVR.  Running during one of the home-buying shows on HGTV, the spot about a new product that uses facial recognition software on the internet to “comic-book-ize” the child’s face and then inserts it into a comic book for the child to color in.  What you buy in the store is effectively the kit with the paper, binder and access code.  Everything is then printed on that paper through your home printer and away you go.

I was excited by the product because it seemed like a phenomenal way to bridge the physical and digital to bring a fun product to the home. There have been other attempts to bridge the realms, but they usually don’t fulfill their promise and then seem superfluous or lame.  This one had the promise of being so much more.  As stated above, I was impressed with the placement because it was not booked during the typical programming that is packed with toy products.  The placement was smart placement because the programming was about moving into new houses either to start a family or gain room to grow the family.  As such, they are reaching the people who can actually make the purchase rather than hitting the nag factor. 

At that point, the plan was for the post to be about the product with an aside about the marketing.  The research changed all that… 

For simplicity or clarity, here’s the list of the issues:

  • The mention of the product on the Crayola.com homepage is sort of hidden – granted, that is because of the Halloween season.  There should be more of a product presence than the rotating images in the center of the page. There is also a great video posted on the page conveying their mission statement that makes me want to bombard the world with crayola products to ensure world peace and a better life – but that too is sort of lost in the architecture.
  • When trying to find the product through the other navigation, I was not able to find it.  It could be because I’m used to large and clear product listings – especially in relation to kids products. Again, a lot of the confusion could be due to design and layout.
  • When googling what my memory of the product was from the commercial, the closest I got was the company’s press release page – where all releases were in chronological order beginning with releases from March of 2000.  Most listings are in reverse chronological order…
  • By entering “personalized” in the Crayola site search box, the product did not come up.
  • When I did find the site about the product, they did not leverage the available video to convey what the product is.
  • If you got to the Story Studio page, it had very basic information and effectively was a dead-end if you didn’t already have the code.  In the least, it should have had a link to their store to purchase.
  • In crayolastore.com, they were highlighting Halloween products at the top, but didn’t even put the Story Studio product in the new arrivals section at the bottom.

The takeaway from all of this is that the product seems pretty cool and they did smart media planning – at least with that one spot – but they are making a big business error in how the product is supported online.  As consumers are first seeing the product on-air, they are still going online to find more information. Companies need to make sure the products they are supporting in one form of media are also supported across all other relevant platforms.  The official site and store site – regardless of design or architecture – are absolutely relevant platforms and need to reflect the media flights.  If seasonality gets in the way of that clarity, something’s got to give.

In the end, Crayola is effectively letting the steam out of the campaign and diluting the opportunity to really gauge ROI.  For something as new as this – buying a product that must be completed via a computer and web-connection – all opportunities for the consumer to bail have to be removed.  Crayola didn’t do that.  As such, even those people who were interested in the product based on the spot might never convert to purchase because it seemed too complex or hard to find.

Hopefully, Crayola can rectify the situation and have a successful product because that could lead to more of those types of products – bolstering the continued demand for packaged goods rather than just digital.

Worst case scenario is that Crayola does not even follow through on its own tag line and Give Everything Imaginable…

Is Further Media Fragmentation Really Needed?

Aegis announced at the end of last week the formation of a new agency, Isobar Mobile.  Focusing first on the UK and then looking to expand to their other markets, it seems that they are looking to make a splash with a mobile unit to co-exist with their Isobar, Carat and Vizeum and iProspect groups.  They intimate that the group will be working closely with the existing media groups, but at first glance it seems to be otherwise.

One of the trickier components in media planning is the fact that there are often different agency teams planning for traditional and digital even if they are owned by the same company.  With the best of intentions, the groups try to communicate strategy and analysis, but then there are still pieces that are not congruent and opportunities for optimization are lost.

Perhaps its a pipe-dream, but the traditional and digital media teams should be coming even closer together so that all media can be planned more holistically prior to being presented to the client.  In many cases, it is the client who must piece things together to reach optimization.  And too much is left to chance that key integrations are brought to the surface by publishers themselves.

By setting up an extra group that is separate from the other teams, it just provides more chance for lost opportunities due to challenges in communication and timing.  Adding to the challenge is the uncertainty of, “who actually covers what?”  In the case of Aegis, they say the mobile group will handle “everything from mobile and multi-device apps to mobile internet, NFC, mobile advertising, social media and digital installations”. There’s a number of items in there that are screaming for confusion when the digital team is presenting multi-device, social or installation plans, the traditional team is presenting mobile internet as it relates to publisher print, NFC for out of home or installation plans – and that doesn’t even consider the company’s PR team who might be coming in with any or all of the above…

It is definitely too soon to jump on what Aegis is doing as a losing cause – but perhaps a cautionary note is in order.  What might have been better positioned as having mobile specialists placed within the existing teams with one or two “overseers” who can work on the larger initiatives and filter that down to the embedded mobile specialists, is seemingly now another group with its own P&L and possible need for power grabs and wins of its own accord.  Perhaps it will work – and I hope it does (as I have enjoyed working with many people in the Aegis family) – but it will take a lot of work on all parts internally and externally (client-side).

In the larger picture, the sad thing is that one of the obstacles to digital becoming truly mainstream or the driving factor of a media plan is that it has been considered a separate component from traditional media.  This certainly isn’t always the case, but for the most part, the agency teams doing the media planning for traditional are separate from the digital ones.  Opportunities for optimization, integration and just executing that “perfect” campaign are lost because of this.  By further separating digital into online and then mobile adds further to the challenges.  I would even posit that by doing just that, the effectiveness of the “traditional” digital teams are handicapped.

Rather than adding more groups, layers and possible confusion, we should be looking into ways we can integrate more fully and seamlessly.  Not only will we be able to enjoy smarter and more successful campaigns, but effective ones affecting workload, pride and growth.


The Structure of Opportunities and Wonder

Last night was the latest installment of KCRW’s World Music Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. Every year, there are six shows in this series as part of the larger Hollywood Bowl season and every show provides the opportunity for something special.  Last night’s show celebrating Global Soul attempted to be just that.  Varying from the norm of a few acts with a clear headliner set, this show was curated by Ricky Minor of THE TONIGHT SHOW and AMERICAN IDOL and it featured far more than a few acts with the headliner being Stevie Wonder.  The reason why I’m writing about it here is not completely because of how the show went, but what it offered and the lessons that can be culled from it.

It was immediately evident at the start that this was going to be an abnormal show.  Minor came out and talked about his vision a little bit, did an impromptu welcome of Wonder to the stage – where Wonder talked for a short bit – and then the show began.  Each performer came out and performed two to three songs backed by Minor’s phenomenal band.  In some cases, the band didn’t get to rehearse with the performers for more than a short period – one of the performers didn’t arrive from Africa until earlier in the afternoon – and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference as the only thing that seemed to take away from their great sound was a power outage.  Effectively, with this band and the array of performers he recruited, Minor set up the evening with a structure where the possibility was set for magic to happen.

Many times, expectations are set coming into a show like this and when things veer from the norm, they can obviously be welcomed or dismissed.  Some of the things that were great about the night were also part of the bad things – with performers only doing 2-3 songs, the best ones couldn’t go on long enough.  Examples of that were Charles Bradley, Janelle Monáe and Wonder.  It seemed that Minor tried to pack so much into the show that it didn’t really have any opportunity to breathe.  There were definite sparks that could have set the night on fire, but they were extinguished before they could get going.

Most people had probably never heard of Charles Bradley – he has just released his first album at the age of 62 – but his spirit was infectious leading to one of the few standing ovations of the evening.  Janelle Monáe had performed in the KCRW series last year as one of the openers for Grace Jones, but it seemed she took notes from Jones and her command of the stage and challenging Bowl dynamics belied her diminutive frame. Stevie Wonder came out and set off into his personal recollections of soul through his life and performed seemingly impromptu covers of those songs.  I could have listened to him do that for hours, but as quickly as that started, he segued into his hit, Superstitious, leading everyone to believe he was going to work through a number of his hits.  Unfortunately, that was the only one.  The tone changed when everyone came back on stage, including the YOLA youth symphony, to cover Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?.  There was so much going on with the kids in the back and a seeming power struggle between the opening performers to trade vocal riffs with Wonder, it just took away from the “soul” or emotionality of the event.

So, throughout the evening, it was an ebb and flow whether it was a success or not.  I recognize that it is only a show, but it does have a correlation to business.  Some of the best companies set a foundation or structure for effective and optimized business, but also allow for some innovation and improvisation as part of that structure.  But that is only part of the equation – guiding that spark once it begins is the key.  Just saying that you support innovation and experimentation and then letting things end abruptly at the origination phase is actually counter-productive.  In the case of the show, it manifested itself in starts-and-stops and stilted flow.  In the case of business, it manifests itself in lost opportunities and stilted morale – or even worse, loss of talent.

There are absolutely reasons for everything.  Minor did a great job in setting the stage, but there was too little room left to allow for things to really take off.  Business leaders should provide the structure for basic business PLUS innovation and growth AND be ready for it so they can help lead that opportunity to reach its full potential.  If anything, the show proved that having an air-tight plan is not the whole measure of success.