Archive for June, 2007

The OMMA Video conference hit New York yesterday, as media and marketing executives from agencies, marketers and publishers all took in some of the learnings from those who are on the forefront of making it happen with digital video.

I moderated an interesting panel called: Getting the Bug: When Video Ads Go Viral. It was quite a discussion. Attempting to tap into the “YouTube” phenomenon, marketers have been trying very hard to make their campaigns achieve a viral effect, and have tasked their agencies with the same. But the crux of the issue comes down to “viral” as a tactic. We discussed how the focus should be on creating good, compelling, and entertaining content. If it resonates, it will “go viral”.  We used some cool examples, each having a diffrent story, approach, brand attribution, outreach program, and ultimate result:

Ray Ban / Never Hide
Diet Coke & Mentos (one of the earlier ones)
Human Skateboard / Sneaux Shoes
Criss Angel / Freak Your Mind

So what is the forumla for a marketing asset to go viral? It’s part creative, part marketing outreach, part riddle wrapped in an enigma? We discussed the fact that the current state f the viral video market is skewed towards the younger fragmented pop-culture segments – in other words, you’ll be waiting a long time for the viral AARP video. So where does this approach fits into the marketing plans of brands that reach different targets. It sort of doesn’t. Come on guys – we as marketers fit too many square pegs in round holes.

We touched on the subject of investment levels, measurement and the ultimate impact on branding and sales of a brand’s products. The net net here – keep investment levels sound, integrate with other activities, don’t bank solely on a video or other marketing asset being a viral phenomenon. Even if the content is great and is supported by outreach, it doesn’t guarantee hundreds of thousands or millions of views, or consumers engaging in blog chatter and conversations about the content. If the content is good – you will acheive some of this effect. Video sharing sites, blogs and other platforms that allow for collective experience are the new version of the “water cooler effect” of yesteryear. Focus on the content, the message, and the brand. Don’t try too hard, don’t over-invest. It’s either good or it’s not.


Fast Times at Digital High

Posted: June 19, 2007 in Uncategorized

I published the following article in MediaPost. It’s a good look at where things are moving. The Blur is on!

Digital media is on fire! In fact, if it’s news to you that our industry is in an uber-evolutionary state, then you’re in the wrong business. Marketers and agencies are obviously still trying to figure out how to harness the fruits of our digital evolutionary labor. But there’s just something so exciting about blazing new trails. I’ve been saying that the lines between marketing and media have been blurring for some time now. But we’re way beyond that – everything is blurring. It’s as if every time we stop to take the pulse of the landscape, it’s a new landscape, at least on a macro level. Media and technology, marketing and media, buyers and sellers, traditional media and new media – they are all blurring. The landscape itself is blurring past us, and technology and data continue to be the main differentiator between traditional and new media. The big media companies and agency holding companies are consolidating faster than we can keep up with. Google’s acquisition of Feedburner and of course more notably Doubleclick, Microsoft and aQuantive, WPP and 24/7, Yahoo and Right Media, Publicis and Digitas – and that’s just the last 60 days!  

What Does It All Mean?

The infrastructure associated with the consolidation is necessary to support the growing industry, but will it stifle innovation? I don’t think so. The question isn’t if there will be continued innovation, but where it will come from. In an industry that developed through the innovations of small, young, nimble and energetic companies, the recent maturation and multi-billion dollar consolidation has actually created a new generation of innovators. Innovation will take a two pronged evolutionary path itself, both within the large technologically rich and data infused entities that are emerging as our generation’s media giants, as well as throughout an industry still bursting with nimble and progressive independents vying for the next round of consumer attention and the associated profit potential. The climate is ripe for the new media behemoths to leverage their acquired technologies, data assets and marketing services to develop enhanced targeting, ad serving, analytics, and general efficiencies in the process of communicating with, engaging and influencing consumers. After all, they are positioned to grow from each percentage of the market they can acquire through these developments. Conversely, the smaller independent companies, who once dominated the landscape by breaking the old ground rules and establishing the new ones, will develop new technologies, tools and processes that plug into various aspects across the spectrum of what media is becoming, which is now also beginning to blur across the lines of traditional and digital channels. 

The Talent Pool

Moving in synch with the break-neck pace of the growth and progression of how consumers are engaging with content, brands and commerce requires the need for specialized talent to develop and manage marketers’ responses to these trends. There has never been a better time to be in the market for a digital media or marketing position. It seems like we have begun to overcome the talent shortage created by the down-market in the early part of the decade, when many flocked outside of the industry due to massive downsizing after the dot com bubble burst. The current expanded talent pool has started to accrue the experience and necessary skills and mindset to fill the void in the middle of the market. It feels like just a year to eighteen months ago there were very few appropriately aligned recruits for any roles other than entry-level or senior-level positions. The pleasant change has also created a new spurt of interviews and career shifting, which is engrained in today’s talent market. Firms who can retain top talent by creating exciting and progressive environments will trump all others in this regard. Nobody said it would be easy!  

The Generational Divide

Does today’s executive understand tomorrow’s digital consumer? Does today’s executive understand tomorrow’s employee? Tomorrow’s consumer and employee have become today’s consumer and employee very quickly.  As the first phase of online veterans have been making their way into senior-level client and agency side marketing roles, the sophistication level of the initiatives are improving, and data and technology are being leveraged as the key assets that they always have been. The perceptual restrictions or limitations that prevented industry leading clients from embracing emerging channels and truly following consumer trends in the past are waning fast. Although studies still highlight the disparity between the pace of evolution of the very technology developed to service us and streamline our communication and productivity, and the pace of adoption and ability en-masse to efficiently use these tools, today’s consumer and employee keep up with the pace quite well. In other words – we are prepared for the blurring of everything, bring it on!  

I was talking to a recruiter yesterday regarding the current state of the talent market in the NY digital media industry. Of course, that’s been an increasingly interesting conversation over the last year or so due to the state of the market. The consolidation from many smaller companies that essentially built this industry on innovation, drive and entrepreneurial, to larger resourced and infra-structured agencies has had both positive and negative ramifications. The traditional agency structure is totally defunct, but that’s a story for another day. Competition for the limited true talent out there, and the required salary packages that result from the supply to demand ratio in a growing market have created a talent marketplace where mediocre people can demand fairly stiff packages, and the real talent can earn a nice living. But I digress…

We got into discussing the concept of entrepreneurial, a staple line item on every job description from most large marketing and media agencies. What is being entrepreneurial in a large corporate structure? Seems like a oxymoron to me. But then again, marketing folks are quick to develop new definitions and lexicons on an as-needed basis, so I guess it should not surprise anyone. If there is a bigger misnomer for describing the self sufficient and often unrewarded hard work that is expected of agency personnel, I wouldn’t know what it is. Now of course I get what agencies are looking for here – we use this term ourselves. It refers to some of the qualities of being entrepreneurial, with little to none of the risk and in all actuality, little to none of the reward.

The Miriam Webster definition of entrepreneurial: “One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Wikipedia adds: “Most commonly, the term applies to someone who creates system to offer a product or service in order to obtain certain profit”.

So where does this fit into the corporate agency structure? Or have we as marketers created a dual definition of entrepreneurial?

Just food for thought on a rainy Wednesday morning…

 The folks at MediaPost put on some solid conferences. I’ve been writing and speaking for MediaPost for several years now. The hot topic of the year is VIDEO, and this entire conference on June 28th in NYC is dedicated to it.

 I’ll be moderating a panel at 3PM entitled – Getting the Bug: When Video Ads Go Viral

Here is the abstract from OMMA’s website:

What happens when your creative takes on a life of its own online and becomes a viral phenomenon. Dove, Sony, Honda, VW and many others have enjoyed staggering reach when their TV creative and online video ad campaigns started generating their own fan base at YouTube and MySpace. Is this good for the brand? Can viral video advertising be created deliberately and reliably? Are there emerging arts for distribution, even optimization when it comes to viral video advertising? And when you get that coveted user-generated bug, how do you manage and encourage it? Are the inevitable user parodies good for the brand? What are the downsides? This panel will be composed of advertisers with direct experience in and around viral ad success.

Greg Verdino, Director of Emerging Channels, Digitas
David Coats, VP, Executive Creative Director, Slingshot
Brian McCarthy, VP Business Development, Revver
Moderator: Jason Heller, SVP, Managing Director, Horizon Interactive

This was a commentary piece I wrote for MediaPost. It was published a few weeks ago. I thought it would be appropriate to add here…For the record – I am not bashing emerging media, rather the opposite, as I am a strong proponent of emerging channels. But I speak to “the blur” that marketers have trouble keeping up with, and their desire to move faster than their ability allows, which often prevents getting the basics right. Enjoy!

TEN YEARS AGO, APPLE WAS going out of business, auctions were for the rich, and Google was merely a sound a baby made. You got phone numbers from the phone book, and driving directions from gas station attendants. Travel agents booked flights and earned commission for it. MTV and HBO were the places to watch videos and movies, viral referred to viruses and YouTube wasn’t even an idea yet. Let’s face it – the media landscape is changing faster than most marketers can keep up with.

So why do marketers always seem to try to latch onto the newest emerging channel or opportunities prior to perfecting their approaches to existing digital media?

It boggles my mind when a marketer considers focusing the majority of their efforts on mobile, podcasts, word of mouth, or virtual worlds, when they have not yet figured out how to properly market on targeted content sites, blogs or social networks, which all offer scale and levels of accountability.

I thought we all understood that there are no more silver bullets. Of course there are great opportunities within the emerging sub-channels, but at what opportunity cost? Existing digital media channels provide marketers with the opportunity to effectively engage targeted consumers, at scale, like never before – and the industry is eagerly listening to consumer and marketer feedback in a quest to improve the media offerings.

After all, as more major advertisers sit out of the upfront and continue to shift budgets digitally, it presents an unprecedented market opportunity. Publishers are beginning to realize that the pre-roll format needs an upgrade. Rich media offers us the ability to create marketing experiences that come to life and influence our targets.

Additionally, much of the recent industry consolidation and mergers will create new targeting capabilities and accountability that smart marketers will use to refine digital efforts to yield increasing effectiveness.

Digital budgets should be allocated to maximize impact within channels that balance reach, contextual relevancy, engagement and media cost. A pre-planned measurement approach will help systematically analyze the opportunities that are most effective, and the end result can yield a marketer-specific or product-specific model that can be applied to future buys within both existing as well as emerging channels.

The medium may sometimes be the message, but not in a vacuum.

All of the above being said, emerging channels do represent amazing opportunities for marketers who are properly invested in digital media and looking for new ways to reach, engage and influence consumers.

All emerging channels are ripe with accountability issues, but are effective at tapping into consumer trends. As consumers have gained some control over their media experiences, it is important to reach them when, where and in sync with how they consume media.

But let’s allow some of the sub-channels to fulfill a gestation period prior to riddling the channels with hype-driven marketing. Social media has already seen some of the consumer backlash due to us marketers flocking to the trend.

It’s an exciting time to be in the media profession, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As an industry, we unfortunately have a track record of doing so.

Welcome to THE  BLUR BLOG. Although I’ll struggle to find time to keep this blog as updated as I’d ideally like, I felt it was important to start a stream of consciousness – hopefully collective consciousness, as I invite you to chime in and explore, pontificate and banter about the marketing industry and its challenges. Maybe we can generate some insightful solutions to some of the new and old problems that are in desperate need of novel approaches. The lines between media and marketing are blurring like never before. It’s an exciting time to be in the marketing industry.