Tag Archives: ROI

Sound Strategy Can Leverage Fumbles Into Wins For Smart Companies

Fumble Recovery

Too often, sports fans get upset when their opponent wins by way of a fumble recovery or one good play that enables a close victory. They exhort, “they were lucky!’ Or, “it was just a lucky bounce.” But the real truth is that the opposing team was just well prepared.  How many times are there balls up in the air for people to pounce on – only to see the ball fumbled out of play? How many times have people been faced with an opportunity, but aren’t prepared to walk through the door and take it? How many times have companies had a chance to gain a huge client, but aren’t prepared to deliver the right proposal in the allotted time? Just like the fumble recovery, preparation and strategy are much stronger determinants of wins than luck.  Gord Hotchkiss nails this ideal directly in his post about strategy on MediaPost. The thing is, he still attributes the element of luck in relation to success when the real truth is that sound strategy allows companies to create the element of “luck” by acting quickly and decisively due to preparation.

The truth is, strategy has been prepared and looked at in the wrong way for quite a long time. They are often set in absolutes with no room for flexibility or agility. They are often created by people who are too close to the product or don’t have the time to take a step back and evaluate their place in the market appropriately. And, perhaps most importantly, they don’t place the intended audience at the core of their considerations.

Creating a strategy with an eye toward what the audience is looking for and allowing for flexibility provides a key foundation that enables all members of the team to fluidly evaluate what’s going on in the environment and make moves or decisions that are based on the strategic core. It also provides the insights for the correct questions to ask when trying to determine whether that bright shiny object is the right direction or a complete waste of resources.

Once a proper strategy has been set in place, the fun’s not over. The team has to be fully educated on the thoughts and ideology behind it so that they may act on it without hesitation. There needs to be a clear understanding how it fits within the company’s ideals and mission – for if it’s not clear, maybe you need to dig back into building the strategy. All of this leads into strong leadership that enables the team to best capitalize on opportunity.

Hotchkiss provides an extremely gratifying illustration of the ROI value in the following:

Let’s imagine that two companies, A & B, both launched this year with $10 million in sales. Over the next 20 years, both companies were subject to the same rhythms — positive and negative — of the marketplace. But, because of superior leadership and management, Company A was able to more effectively capitalize on opportunity, giving it a 14% advantage over Company B. In 2035, what would be the impact of that 14% edge?  It’s not insignificant. Company B would have grown in sales to $21 million, with growth of just over 100%. But Company A would have sales of almost $290 million. It would be almost 14 times the size of Company B!

Smart strategy (and strong leadership) doesn’t dissolve the need for luck, but it does provide that preparation and foundation for the leveraging of whatever comes your way to turn a possible fumble into a win.

JELL-O Takes Their Best Shot At 12.21.12

As it has become simpler (and quicker) to produce commercials and place them, we have begun to see many campaigns that are launching to coincide with specific events.  What might have once been considered a waste of money are now considered the norm – whether they are a waste of money or not.  With the ability to launch these micro-campaigns quickly and effectively, we’re seeing that it happens more in this “I want it now” society.  Add in to the mix that today might be the end of the world, and you’ve got a recipe for some fun.  That is, if the creative and placement is done right – as JELL-O seems to have done with their latest TV Spot.  Perhaps its the best JELL-O shot at saving us from the apocalypse?

The 60s spot is a fun one that offers up JELL-O brand pudding to the gods in order to save us from the end of the world. It seems that they did spend a bit of money – or at least found a solid vendor who could produce it on a tight budget. I saw it on ESPN last night and I guess you could say that the audience is ripe for chocolate pudding – if even in a nostalgic way.

While they did a funny commercial that has a short shelf life – much much shorter than the shelf life of the product they are selling – seems as though their press release went out on the 17th – they might not have prepared to leverage whatever media was bought.  They announced in the release that there will be a contest and that people should use the hash-tag #funpocalypse and they also announced the url, http://www.funpocalypse.org but that just goes through to the Facebook page.

I would have liked to see more integration into their main site or even just placement of #funpocalypse on the commercial.  There were a couple of people who searched for @unclejimsays – which was clearly shown within the spot. Unfortunately, it was not really managed by the company.


It is great to see these compelling bits of content coming out in support of products, but there is an acute risk of leaving value on the table by not extracting the most value from any campaign element. I look forward to seeing more of these fun, time-specific offerings, but hope that any campaign elements are dealt with holistically to make sure there is the best ROI possible.  Because, if you’re reading this on the 22nd of December or later, JELL-O was successful in keeping the apocalypse at bay – and businesses will have to continue turning a profit.


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.

The Marketing Magic As Seen In A Rock

When reading Christopher Knight’s Culture Monster piece in this past Sunday’s LA Times, I was struck by more than just the points he made about a “levitating” rock and the responses it is invoking.  The main components are permanent installation Levitated Mass by artist Michael Heizer (a 340-ton granite boulder perched above a 15-foot deep slot), the concerns of money spent ($10 Million) and the question of what constitutes art. I feel that the whole conversation pointed to a larger concern relating to people’s general inclinations when internalizing anything. Well, really, it might be more about how so little is internalized. While not getting all touchy-feely about how amazing a sunset is, or how much wonder can be found in a flower or the bee fluttering about it, there is a sense of our rushed lives leaving us unable (or unwilling) to appreciate the nuances of anything. In fact, much of marketing is the art of making products/experiences/ideas seem so obviously perfect that consumers have no idea why they would choose anything else. As we toe the line between being disruptive to the point of jarring and normal to infer that our product is the normal, natural and the perfect solution for what ails us, we are forever conflicted about whether we should be the rock or the magical levitation.

LEVITATED MASS by Michael Heizer at LACMA
Image: © Michael Heizer.


How often do we launch a marketing program that is grueling in its planning, exquisite in its execution and terrific in its ROI and KPIs – yet the response from the c-level or publications is ho-hum?  Or, conversely, how many times has something been slapped together at the last-minute with wonky execution and ho-hum measurables – yet the experience was so disruptive that it was lauded by senior executives and publishing pundits? Though it’s never so cut and dry as the examples above, we’ve all been a part of examples that take bits from each side.

In the case of Levitated Mass, who knows how many people will just look at it and not even thing of it as anything more than a garden rock?  Will people consider the whole story about Heizer’s conception of the installation some three decades ago and only recently finding the perfect “rock” in Southern California – or the crazy “parade” as the boulder made its way through the streets of a major metropolis? Ultimately, none of that really matters as the true test would be if people are actually moved when the come in contact with the installation.

That same test holds true for marketing – it can’t be about the big disruptive execution or the subtle representation of what a product does or can do for a consumer – it has to be about moving people and making a connection.

We’ve certainly seen some fantastic marketing product executions over the years – some have driven sales and some might have just garnered buzz and awards. Unfortunately, we’ve also come across some executions that are barely noticeable and, at most, only generate a shaking of the head with the questioning of, “So what?”

As opposed to marketing, art has time to build appreciation or importance. With some campaigns, there’s just a matter of days or weeks of life. In this case, there may need to be some consideration of the beautiful sunset or flower as the right mix of disruption and connection is required.  Disruption without connection doesn’t do much good in the long run. We know that people will probably never care about what went into marketing programs – nor should they.  They should only be concerned with how much they were connected with it.

Knowing that we would be naive to think that the marketing or business world is as ideal as this, we’ve got to sometimes take a step back, open our eyes and smell the flowers. In the end, it is about more than a rock.  It doesn’t need to matter about cost (with fiscal prudence assumed, of course), the way it was conceived or the route it took to get to its end state – all that matters is whether the “magical” connection was made with the intended audience. Everything else works itself out – at some point…

A Case Where Media Spend Is Not All About The Numbers

Flurry, a mobile advertising and analytics firm, just came out with a report exploring the disparities between the amount of time being spent on ad platforms and the amount of money spent on them. They noted that the largest disparity between the two was in Mobile – where 23% of users’ time was spent there with only 1% of U.S. ad dollars.  Comparing that to Print media, where 29% of ad dollars meet only 6% of time is spent, then it would seem that things are off-kilter.  While there could stand to be some shifting upward in Mobile spend percentages, looking to align the percentages of time spent with dollars spent on numbers alone in your media planning could leave you dangling in the wind.

Flurry’s VP of Marketing, Peter Farago stated in the company’s blog post that they “believe the main reason for this disparity (in Mobile) is that the mobile app platform has emerged so rapidly over such a short period of time. …Madison Avenue and brands have yet to adjust to an unprecedented adoption of apps by consumers.” That may be part of the issue, but it misses a number of other key factors:

  • The way in which people interact with the different media platforms is as much a piece of the puzzle as the time they spend using them. We all know that viewers expect a certain form of advertising when they are engaging with TV, Print and even Radio.  When looking at the Web, it seems that there is still not yet full stability in advertising engagements and Mobile is considered to most media planners to still be the Wild West.
  • With the above, some media platforms have standards that are easy to understand and convey to both upper management and clients.
  • While TV has gone through some changes with the advent of DVRs and the ability to skip ads, there is still structure there and the historical arguments come into play.  In the case of Radio and Print, the numbers are dwindling, but advertisers still have a clear idea of the context in which they will be viewed.  And most importantly, they know that there will be a decent opportunity for the ads to be seen or heard by those who are consuming those types of media. in all three of these, there is a higher percentage of ad spend than time spent.
  • Ad spend on Web is closer to alignment of time spent (22%) to ad spend (16%) and that is likely due to time in the marketplace as well as normalization of not only contextual placements but reporting.  That will continue to evolve and shift (e.g. current trend from standard ads to video) and we will most likely see the spend percentages rise above the time percentages in the next year or two.
  • Ultimately, the costs for these media placements are not normalized and cannot be compared as apples to apples. Therefore, the numbers may be “illogically” skewed for some time to come.

Taking the above into consideration, there is still a major consideration for Mobile.  When you figure that most use of mobile is done on Apps and mobile websites that do not offer Mobile-specific advertising options, there would definitely be a disparity in the numbers.  Additionally, as mobile advertising is still relatively new, the media program costs are often heavily discounted to either get in the advertiser’s door or provide proof of concept.  With those offerings, there needs to be strong analytical follow-up to derive stronger (and more costly) programs.  As of now, we’re still too early to be able to do that – even if there was enough real advertising inventory to relate directly to the time spent meter.

The report did point to other interesting facts that could lead to a strong future in mobile media with the strongest one being that Upper Middle Class consumers aged 25 – 34 are the most likely to interact with mobile ads.

There is definitely a future in mobile advertising and the chasm between time spent and ad dollars spent will surely come more closely aligned. The smart bet is on more than just the numbers, but the context. The strongest contextual applications will play out in the coming years and the best option is to be ready to pounce when it arrives to generate the best return on any Mobile media spend investment.

One Video Does Not A Success Make – A Strong Campaign Does

In the rush to place video online, many companies and their planners are quick to take video elements from TV and just slap them into online inventory. Seemingly without a care about the platform and what its users relate to or interact with, the easy solution is usually just to place an on-air spot online and it is usually a wasted opportunity.  While most video placements are of the pre-roll variety, it is so easy to tune out those versions of what’s on TV.  It may be cost-effective from a production standpoint, but it ends up just ticking a box if you only use your TV ads to fill that space.  In these cases, it’s not about video alone to create successful campaigns – it’s about strong campaigns to help guide video creation for effective placement and ROI.

Kraft just launched a new campaign for their Wheat Thins product that exemplifies the strength in creating a whole campaign and then allowing for different video creatives for different placement.  They are using the umbrella theme of “Do What You Do” to inform one on-air spot that features characters from the animated TV show, FAMILY GUY,  debating the pronunciation of Wheat Thins and online only “pep talks” from a mustachioed man calling himself “The Do-Minatrix.”  Time will tell whether the online versions resonate with consumers, but there are a number of reasons – in this case and others – that creating different creatives for different platforms tied to the same campaign is smart.

It remains heavily dependent on the planning and creative execution, but exploring platform specific executions should be in play.  In the case of Kraft, I think they’ve got a very funny spot with the FAMILY GUY characters.  But, the broadcast/cable placements could make or break it.  Luckily, the FG fans are active and there’s a good chance they will be directing friends to the video on YouTube, thereby negating the specific need to really do online spends.

I’m not entirely sold on the messaging of the Do-Minatrix pieces (created by the agency, AKQA) and whether their use of new year’s resolutions will tie the consumer to Wheat Thins as it really is about the Do What You Do campaign with only graphic callouts.  If a person doesn’t know about the larger campaign, will it make sense?  At least the creative was certainly done in such a way that will capture the attention of online users so even if users don’t get auto-sound (in display placements), their attention will be grabbed and they will hopefully turn the audio on. 

As far as it can be seen through what was reported, they are mainly placing the Do-Minatrix videos on their Facebook page – which has over 400K users.  If they only place them on their Facebook and YouTube, it won’t be as effective as it could be.  While a nice diversion for their existing fans, they have already drunk the proverbial punch.  They might not have had to do so many iterations just to keep their fans happy.

An interesting component of this campaign is the fact that the Do What You Do idea was originated by the social activity of Wheat Thin customers who were sharing what they were doing while imbibing the product.  Effectively, Kraft is taking what the fans are giving them, putting a spin on it and getting it right back out to them in a fresh (and hopefully entertaining) way.

With how easy and cost-effective it is these days to get multiple web-ready videos from numerous sources – as seen by providers such as Poptent or Playkast – cost is no longer an excuse and it then comes down to placement.  With a solid campaign theme and structure, the pieces come into place that much more easily. 

All in, the platforms need to be looked at strategically to formulate whether they need specific creative or can re-use on-air creative.  Will the campaigns be bombs if they just use existing content? Of course not.  But they could be so much bigger – especially if you have a clear campaign theme and objective.  Be sure not to optimize your creative, planning and platforms to get the best ROI out of your video campaigns.

What You Want and What You Get In Digital Video Advertising

Lately, the analytics about digital video ad challenges and projections have become hot with both Casale Media and Break Media releasing their research on the subject.  Break Media just released their report based on the growth projections for video ads and video ad networks in general, while Casale Media released theirs a couple months ago from the planning angle and challenges as a whole.  Both completed their surveys in partnership with Advertiser Perceptions, but each end product was tailored to their standing as a publisher/network (Break) and Agency (Casale.)  ROI was also the intense concern discussed in both. What the findings pointed to was a disconnect between what video ads are most capable of and what is expected.  What you want and what you get in digital video advertising is not always clear.

Here’s the disconnect:  Advertisers responded in Casale’s report that the overwhelmingly most important function of digital video advertising is to increase or build awareness of brands, products/services and provide more detail about the same. They then responded in Break’s report that the highest measurements for video success were click-through rate, product sales and visits to the brand website.  Brand awareness was fourth – just above video completion.

So, before going into any specifics, the most important reasons for the video ads was the fourth-highest barometer of successful attributes.  Of course there’s going to be a challenge in measuring ROI or reaching the ROI milestones when you’re not even measuring the effectiveness based on the strength of video ads in the first place.

Courtesy of Casale Media

Some of those faults in logic – which lead to the confusion are:

  • Break’s report specifies that the overwhelming preference is for Pre-Roll placements – meaning that the video must be viewed in its entirety before the user can view the video they actually selected. If your key measurable is video completion, then this is good for you.  If you want a click-through, this placement doesn’t fit.  When was the last time you clicked out of something prior to getting to your chosen destination (video) due to an ad – no matter how good it is?  I can’t remember one occasion, personally.
  • There is no mention of run-time for those video ads.  The product and its goals would weigh heavily as a determining factor whether you go for a 15 or a 30.  Some networks won’t even let advertisers run 30s, so that pre-planning is crucial.
  • There is a discussion point related to success as driving sales with no mention of those markers or what the call to action might be.  With media providers increasing their technological options, the opportunity to test stronger calls to action or incentives differs this form of media from all others. If an exact correlation to driving sales is needed, those incentives are required – or the media mix needs to leave out other sales drivers so that you can judge your ROI.  The problem is that you might not end up with the strongest campaign possible.
  •  One of the challenges was the lack of consistent pricing model options other than CPM (Cost Per Thousands) and CPC (Cost Per Click) or even CPV (Cost Per View) across the board.  Of course, the one that advertisers wish they had the most was CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) while that was offered the least of the models presented.  I understand that CPA would be great because it would provide a direct correlation to sales, but if the overall thinking is that video ads are for brand awareness, this is off base.  And, even if you can get a publisher or network to serve your video on a CPA basis, it would effectively over-saturate the market with your ads to generate the revenue it would need – thus possibly making your brand or product a disliked one.

Video advertising has many other nuances, but it definitely cannot be considered in a vaccuum in most cases.  Break’s report focuses briefly on where the video ad dollars will be taken from and the best worthwhile number was 38% representing ad budget growth.  The highest number was actually 45% for online display, but that’s essentially irrelevant unless you’re relating it to mobile spending as video ad executions are not mutually excluded from traditional online display formats.

If video ads are best utilized as awareness generators – which I think they are in 9 cases out of 10 – they need to be thought about and planned for in the context of the rest of the media mix.  Its ROI should also be derived more similarly to existing media platforms like television, out-of-home and print (and social media to an extent) since they all play a part in bring the consumer to the purchase or product relationship.

I think much of the confusion and barriers to use (or justification of ROI) stem from the inherent knowledge that digital can physically enable users to interact in ways they can’t with other media, but doesn’t reflect human nature and whether users actually respond in those ways.  Take into account that we are still talking about linear video experiences that are placed in between content that people are navigating to and from.  Just like people watch television commercials in order to get to the other side to see their program continue, the same goes for people who are navigating the internet or their mobile devices. There might be some great content that will drive further engagement or make the video their actual destination (and, hopefully derive the click or transaction) but advertisers and their planners are setting themselves up for disappointment if they are relying entirely on videos and their limited measurements as the key to success.

These issues are not limited to digital video ads.  They are prevalent across the board in digital media and will be so until there is a paradigm shift in how we address ROI and its relation to all other forms of paid and earned media.  Until then, we will continue to respond to the exciting headlines about numbers and penetration with no real meat while some smart marketers build an atmosphere within their companies that takes all of the variables into account to provide what you want –  a measurable and meaningful ROI.