Tag Archives: Platforms

Tools For Maintaining The Brand Heat

One of the challenges any Marketing (and specifically the digital team) run into is the education of the entire staff about what’s new and exciting.  It’s even more challenging to move beyond the listing and explanation of platforms to how the brand is meant to utilize each. The Campbell’s soup team is getting some press for distributing its own “survival kit” for all things digital. The question remains whether it will be more than corporate subsidized access to digital content and platforms and actually convey specifically how the tools are used by the brand and benefit the company’s bottom line.

In a package that seemingly was built by the relatively new social agency, SocialDeviant on behalf of Campbell’s Head of Digital and Social, Adam Kmiec, a good amount of “stuff” to provide digital literacy to its staff. He even goes into further detail about the Digital Fitness Accelerator Kit on his blog.  What we may never see, but is suggested should be a guide that not only explains what these pieces do, but also some ideas about how they might be utilized in the extension of Campbell’s brand.

The stated reason for producing these kits – regardless of recipient – is to enable employees to have a deeper understanding of developments within the white-hot technology development space.  But, as that pace is so quick and the staff can be at different levels of digital proficiency, they would be best served by conveying theories, methodologies and strategies that can leverage marketing technology and platforms to ensure they are able to deftly maintain the heat around their brand.

Lacking Vision and Strategy, Everyone Witnessed the Hemmorhaging While Waiting For Others To Act

On the heels of Advertising Week and all of the feel-good excitement it generates, the feeling intensified that there’s too much mis-directed emphasis in digital media.  The reasons for this could be due to digital media’s “youth,” but I’m worried it’s based more on lack of vision or creativity. Far too often, the take-aways from large events or provider presentations are mired in technical/representational capabilities.  The buzz analysis emphasizes media’s reach via platforms, pushes, networks and the like. But reach and placement opportunity is only part of the equation – the thing that’s too often left out of the mix is how they could fit with a brand’s strategy.  No matter how cool the technology is or how many eyeballs are reached, if there’s not a clear plan for how the story connects with the eyeballs emotionally or what the end-user will do with this new-found information, all that advertisers are doing is filling pipeline just because it is there.

Image from Advertising Week 2012
(Courtesy of Hunt Mobile)

While we can focus on any part of the media environment to illustrate this, we can look at mobile. Yesterday I came across two pieces online to help convey the concern – CMO Council’s report on companies’ relationship with Mobile and David Gwozdz’ (CEO of Mojiva – a major global player in mobile advertising) recap of Advertising Week in the Huffington Post.

First off, I really like Mojiva and what they are able to do in the mobile space in many global markets via great targeting and interesting ad formats.  As such, I was interested in Gwozdz’ take on the conference.  Near the top of his recap, he astutely conveys the conference’s permeating message that “technology has to work collaboratively with creative,” but then numbers his top things heard/learned at the conference and all of them relate to mechanics.  They are definitely important, but what is missing are the opportunities to connect creatively and what needs to happen strategically to be able to count mobile as a success.  He does end on the note that what he listed (and the conference in general) was just a first step and I agree.

The concern is that judgements are being made by CMOs and other C-Level executives relating to mobile based on the possibilities, platforms and metrics, but those don’t always relate to any true strategies or even opportunities to genuinely connect in ways that are right for the medium. As with any new medium, it is a challenge to shift people to do things in ways they had not previously. The thing is, we should have learned from our growing pains with the advent of “New Media” years ago.  Everything was mentioned about the mechanics of reaching consumers but it was all in the jargon of other forms of media. Nobody was formulating campaigns to leverage the platform and its capabilities.  In mobile, there is a lot to be learned, but that learning curve will be longer as we try to just fill the hole with something that worked for other platforms.  Again, as we’ve learned with online advertising — not only do the same rules not apply, they keep evolving.

The one thing that can remain consistent regardless of platform is clear and cohesive strategy – which brings us to the report published by the CMO Council.

The survey of  250 companies’ chief marketer found that there is a general struggle with mobile.  Only 8% felt that they had advanced capabilities in the mobile channel.  The thing that struck me is — 26% of the respondents are currently building mobile apps and an extra 17% stated that they have a “good level” of competence in mobile marketing — yet only 16% currently have a mobile strategy in place. Of the 43% delving in mobile, only 16% bothered to devise a strategy first?

Once that caveat was established, it didn’t really matter that 43% of the respondents were unimpressed with their results in mobile or the fact that 69% are most interested in social media ads with 54% hot on paid media in mobile. It’s all irrelevant when there is no real strategy to base it on – it reverts back to the shiny object factor and executives’ chase after the hottest new thing.

This obviously doesn’t just relate to mobile media – it relates to every facet of the marketing puzzle. If companies skimp on the foundation of establishing a strategy and just pay for marketing based on what sounds cool or what is the shiny object du jour, there will certainly be a lot of money wasted.

For the sake of all media – publishers, technology firms, brands, planners and agencies need to step up and fully increase their chops in the strategy and storytelling departments.  It needs to be a collaborative process.  Planners can’t absolve themselves of all creative responsibility. Brands can’t leave it to agencies to fully develop product strategies. Technology firms and publishers can’t figure that clients will easily connect the dots between the ways the shiny object could connect correctly with the consumer. A clear and consistent strategy enables all the parties to up their game and create successful campaigns. That strong strategy also allows others to gain insight into the original vision.

For all players, if you’re not going to formulate a dynamic strategy that energizes the brand, enables those working on it and allows for format flexibility, all you’ll be left with is a bunch of data that doesn’t mean much and even more opportunity (costs/revenue) flowing out the door.

While it sort of makes sense for publishers and technologists to emphasize mechanics, the lack of marketing vision creates an obstacle that doesn’t need to be there. It places too much burden on the clients to figure out how the platform helps them. Conversely, marketers need to build the marketing and media strategy that provide the vision to immediately determine whether a technology or platform works or not.  If they don’t fit your strategy, there’s no easier way to move along until you find just the right platform for connecting with your consumers.

Until the emphasis on strategy and the vision it helps to convey becomes commonplace within companies of all kinds, resources will continue to be hemmorhaged with diminishing chances for ROI.

It Sucks When You Stop Showing Up To The Party And Nobody Cares

After a ten-day blackout of Viacom-owned cable networks on DirecTV, the sides finally announced this morning that they have come to an agreement. It may be a while before it is absolutely clear what the real impact of this standoff was. During the blackout, there were measurable elements that fluctuated but the real ramifications could be much more than ratings or stock prices. It wasn’t surprising that Viacom took the position that they were in the driver’s seat or that DirecTV engaged in a publicity campaign to ensure that its viewers believed that the negotiating stance was there for the consumer.  What was enlightening was the general ho-hum response by the general public and the nod to what the future holds – both in entertainment outlets and negotiating tactics – as the multitude of choices in channels and consumption platforms is not just a cliché but a reality.

Courtesy Deadline.com

First off, what I found interesting is that the DirecTV subscribers are not in Viacom’s wheelhouse demo. From a non-scientific analysis, it would seem that the majority of the people who are paying for DirecTV are not the ones who are the target for much of Viacom’s offerings. The assumption is that the kids are interested in the Nickelodeon and MTV channels and they aren’t paying the bills. But that’s obviously not entirely true as the bigger issue for Viacom is that there are so many ways to consume the content. They went so far as to remove the online episodes of the grown-up or bill-payer shows (such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show), only to make those available days later. But, there’s not much new product in the summer to drive demand or viewership. My kid loves a Nick Jr. show, but there were enough episodes in the DVR that she had no idea there was a blackout – let alone have any clue what it means.

Besides the opportunities that consumers have to find content elsewhere – (DirecTV has a whole array of extras that allows viewers to watch content through YouTube and similar online outlets on the TV) how can the sold advertising be allowed to not be shown? The quick-response viewership decline that Deadline pointed out – “Live, full day ratings in the target demos for its channels were down 27% in the week that ended July vs the same week last year – the previous week, before the loss of DirecTV, they were -14%” – only tells half the story. If advertisers are able to, they’ll capture how much of an effect the loss in advertising had on their actual sales.  Perhaps the biggest losers are studios who are trying to promote their films to the key movie-going demo watching Viacom’s channels. But, again, the timing is bad – I don’t know that the demand for the next Batman film is lessened because DirecTV viewers couldn’t see the spots on a few of the many more outlets they access regularly.

The worst by-product of this for Viacom, and perhaps even DirecTV, is that the absence of something provides an opportunity for people to find alternatives. The timing of DirecTV’s addition of Disney Jr during the blackout opened up eyes to the possibility of an alternative for any child who couldn’t get their Nick Jr fix. If the loss was to something outside of the media environment, can anyone be so sure that they will come back?

I’ve been in Paris during a strike by the Metro and museum workers. My feet killed me from so much walking and I ate very well as an alternative to museums, but there is no doubt I would be returning once the trains were running.  Disruption in access to a few channels leads to much less discomfort than the loss of transportation. Viacom and other content providers and carriers should keep that in mind as they threaten tactics like this in the future.

The hardball tactic is fine from a negotiation standpoint – with its true business value debated. But, the risk to the ultimate bottom line of consumer’s interest is a different story that nobody can ill-afford to take lightly. Because, if you’re not around, there’s no certainty that anyone will really care.

MTV’s Large-Scale Light That We Should All Pounce On

MTV and MoMA (specifically their PS1 imprint) have gone retro with some great “new” programming that will hopefully do wonders for the arts in general.  In partnership with non-profit public arts group, Creative Time, they are bringing back a show from the ’80s that celebrates the video art form. The Art Breaks programming consists for 30 second interstitials that will air on MTV shedding a light on the urban art scene, among others. What first began in 1985 will begin anew.  I know I saw them when they first came out and had no idea who Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or Kenny Scharff when they were shown in Art Breaks on MTV in my mid teens, but there was certainly no other way I was going to be able to experience them otherwise.  Even while I attended arts schools, these artists weren’t celebrated in schools – yet these artists were the ones who were resonating with me. Those early experiences played a heavy part in my art appreciation now – and certainly play themselves out in my current love of collecting art. This sort of contextual promotion of the arts on a large-scale is absolutely needed and the model MTV provides should be pounced upon as often as possible by brands and media outlets.

Image from Original MTV Art Break series clip featuring Basquiat

With schools reducing expenditures for arts classes and experiences when they are needed most, somebody must jump into the fray or else our future is in major trouble. If you don’t think that’s the case, take a look at the state of the arts over the past few decades when government money has dwindled and appreciation for the arts has been made available only to ever smaller groups of students.  There is an increasing limit on new and provocative works of art, film or theatre.  Different forms of imagination are being pushed to the wayside with a growing “normalness” all around. As a sign of the times, there are many people who are great at the technical aspects of business, but not so great at the imaginative parts and the amounts of companies that take off exponentially are dwindling. But those existing companies can do much to address it. Even sports entities can get into the act – just look at what Leroy Neiman did (and still does) in joining the sports realm and art. He was able to do it through magazines, like Playboy, that were the zenith at the time.  Others can do the same if given the opportunity on big enough platforms today.

Even Apple – who has so much in their reserves – should be doing more to contextually bring the arts to the masses.  Perhaps instead of providing dividends (or as much as they might be providing) they should be providing financial resources that enable kids and young adults to have more experiences that raise the level of imagination.  In the least, Brands should be looking to do their part by marrying the arts and their products in ways that make sense.

There have been instances in the past where brands might have done something with the arts on a smaller scale.  Some examples are a program Hot Wheels did with Gallery 1988, or hotels bringing art into the mix (but you would hope the guests are already attuned to what is out there), or even what Disney is doing with artists for their Vinylmation Figures line, it may not be enough.  They are either hitting people in too pointed or niche of a way, or the luxury brands are hitting the people who, while a great benefit to society, are the people who are least in need.

There is a huge opportunity to generate arts awareness in products or advertising, but an even larger one is in the sponsorship of festivals or events.  But, I’m not talking about sponsorship just to get the name recognition.  There’s got to be some partnerships to promote arts awareness and education in general. By just sponsoring an event and not incorporating any of the outreach that would lead to a larger scale, it just doesn’t hold the power that more programs like Art Breaks on MTV would bring.

There are probably a slew of programs that I don’t even know about, but those should be lauded and celebrated. The incorporation of young artist designs on Volcom shirts are great, but they are few and far in between. The same could be said about the partnership with Levi’s Jeans support of ART IN THE STREETS at MOCA.  Its good, but not enough.

We’re all missing out in the long run if there is nothing to drive interest in the arts among the masses – and the 13-24 demo is a perfect place to aim for.  Does it do the best thing for the brands who execute the programs? That will depend on who is doing it and what the context is. But there are certainly creative ways to make it a win-win.  In ever-smaller circles, much emphasis is being placed on the value of art by the likes of Damian Hirst/Warhol/Gaugin, the sales of performances of the dance masterpieces by Ailey/Tharp/Joffrey, or the resonant brilliance of Glass/Handel/Shostakovich, but the true value of expanding the reach of the arts like these and more goes far beyond a sale.  It goes to the very core of our society not turning into IDIOCRACY. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, you should.

The classic meaning of the Patrons of the Arts is almost gone and the void is ripe for filling by the brands and mediums that have the reach like no others.  It’s time to step up and grasp the change for the benefit of our future. If MTV is, we all should…

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.

The Countdown Begins With Brands Flailing For Tabs

I’m sort of reminded of the Y2K excitement when people are now talking about the fact that the whole Facebook interface changes for good – across the board – in a matter of weeks.  It’s not that we didn’t know that the Timeline structure would be pushed to everyone, it’s just the effect it has on Facebook Pages. There is so much darn branded content that needs to be wholly redone to work within the new layout.  If you’re a brand that has one – or even a dozen – FB pages (and a number of tabs) then it shouldn’t be a problem.  But, if you have hundreds or even thousands of pages with bunches of tabs, you could be in trouble.

Other than the fact that the layout is changing (and that Facebook must be getting a lifetime supply of cupcakes with their sample of Magnolia Bakery on the Pages page), the main differences are in the control of the entry point and the amount of Tabs a brand can maintain.  Without being able to force people to either Like or enter an email upon first arriving at the page means that brands will now have to find a better way to get people to commit without their exploration seeming to need a gateway.  With the addition of 4 Favorites buttons that act more like navigation buttons, brands will have to put a little more thought into their presentation strategies. Will they use those to garner Likes or collect emails, or will those items be placed on the Wall for larger presence – which would also require closer management.  Brands can send users specifically to a Favorites tab page via a URL, but companies can no longer rely on that gateway upon entry.

The need to re-think or rework does present major challenges for those companies – like movie studios – who have hundreds (or thousands) of heavily designed pages up that they were hoping they could just leave up there forever. It now ends up they will be completely broken – and who knows what will happen to all those followers if the page owners decide to let the pages wither away…

On the good side, it seems like this major change will help to stop all the micro changes that the Facebook engineers unleashed on a seemingly bi-weekly schedule with no notice for the past few years.  Nothing created more headaches than waking up and seeing that your pages are broken and nobody was prepared (or paid) to update it.  The hope is that these more structured and formalized pages will make those micro-changes unnecessary.  Additionally, with the timeline, it will be easier to tell your corporate story by putting communications or newsletters on your pages and actually have them better reflect progression over time rather than a hodge-podge of items that might come if they weren’t anchored to an exact time. Additionally, the opportunity to push your creativity will be presented as the timeline will be more kind to graphic posts.

In the long run, it seems these changes will make population and content management more standardized.  This could make things a lot more easy and allow for companies to rely on Facebook as an even simpler way to even replace an unwieldy and expensive custom site.  I’m sure Facebook looked at the migration of companies from expensive sites to easy (and free) sites on platforms like WordPress caused them to take a deep look inward and provide their own solution.

Putting my user hat on, I’m very happy that I no longer have to Like something or submit my email address just to be able to see content for a possible vendor.  even from the marketing perspective, I would rather have unencumbered eyeballs on my content and then step up to the challenge of developing good incentives to have them Like my product or enter their email because they actually like what we’re about – not just because its what they’re about to see.

So, while many brand marketers may be flailing in the short-term to make things right with the transition, this could be the key to really providing stability and a strong presence for all who approach this new landscape smartly and strategically.

The Game of Cracking the Mobile Media

Yet another company has entered the scene promising points and chances to attain higher levels by interacting with advertisements – this time by former Apple exec Lars Albright and his company, SessionM.  There are a number of benefits for a consumer in the way of virtual goods, extra play or pride rewards by these types of programs.  Developers of games and apps can see a lift in engagement and retention among their users.  And, advertisers can look to connect with an audience in a still-developing realm of mobile media. But are these engagements nothing more than a toy, or will it make the difference for users? However it flushes out, somebody’s gotta crack the code on gamification in mobile media – and that might not necessarily be through points alone.

The offering of rewards for viewing ads or engaging with a brand on platforms and apps has seen an uptick in awareness and retention – enough so that there are more and more companies entering the fray.  SessionM was able to receive $6.7 Million in funding and was able to test their services with publishers like Viacom and Fox Sports, and advertisers that include Honda and Volvo.

The question is how long will this form of reward keep a user enthused enough to participate.  We know that advertising helps to make content available for free and we also know that mobile ad interaction rates continue to drop – though the engagement for those who do interact are quite high.  Perhaps the access to more content – or even the same level of content that consumers are used to for free will be enough to entice them to “play the game” and engage more fully with the advertising presented in the mobile space.

Courtesy of mobilestance.com

Last night, I was discussing the challenges in mobile media with some friends and we were wondering when the “Play to Pay” model will make its way into mobile.  This is the opposite of Pay-to-Play in the truest sense.  Effectively, the Play represents the interaction with advertising and Pay being the reduction of monthly charges for the user’s mobile usage.  We joked that an additional feature would be the allowance of subliminal messages during phone calls or while using any apps in exchange for free service.  Can you imagine being on a call with a friend and all the sudden having a robotic voice overlay your friend’s voice with something like “I can’t wait to see the movie, PROJECT X, how about you?” Besides completely screwing with your communication (and your mind) this solution could be beyond anything that people would be comfortable with. But, a less obtrusive solution could be just the key Telcos are looking for to get back into the monetization of mobile interaction beyond the existing data charges.

Could Telcos be too busy trying to scrape back pieces of the business Google and Apple cordoned off with their App stores instead of finding engaging ways to make a real positive difference in their customers’ pockets? Devising a model that is similar to the coffee-house wi-fi networks model that provides free access with the simple act of watching a video or reading the advertising copy could be that perfect mix of making more money AND passing some value to their consumers.  I imagine the model would be complex, but I’ve got to believe that actual reductions in money spent would be more enticing to consumers than getting another shiny badge or accessing another level of gameplay.