Archive for January, 2009

I had to report this video that I saw on TechCrunch today – thank you guys for making my day!

I remember being in elementary school and using a Tandy computer and a phone cup modem to logon to what eventually became the internet. Ah, those were the days….well, not really.

Maybe this was the report of the beginning of the newspaper industry’s fate being sealed, not to doom per se, but to a massive transition that those who ignored would be damned. From a 1981 KRON newscast in San Francisco.

“Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee, turning on your home computer to see the day’s newspaper. Well, it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem.”

Too many one liners in there to even attempt to pick a favorite!

If you didn’t see “Become A Master of The Internet” (1997),  it’s a another classic.

Hey sometimes we just need to laugh…Enjoy!

logo_mediapostThis is an article I wrote for MediaPost, published on Jan 26th

What an amazing moment in history we have witnessed.

I’m not referring to our first black president, the renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, nor the reclamation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society, but rather the precedent of such astronomical digital engagement focused around a single purpose. The proverbial water cooler effect was alive and kicking as live TV met social media for the first time ever via CNN’s live stream of President Barack Obama’s inauguration and an effective implementation of Facebook’s data portability product, Facebook Connect.

As media continues to fragment and marketing interaction becomes more personal, the Obama story represents a macro view of the forest that sometimes marketers and agencies tend to miss due to the intricacy of the trees.

The Basics: The Product, The Brand

During Obama’s campaign for the presidency, his team was praised for their use of digital media channels, particularly the incorporation of emerging channels like social media and mobile. I applaud the marketing team for their efforts, but remind you that it is brand Obama that fostered the community, engagement, energy and word of mouth, more so than the marketing vehicles.

That being said, the channels lent themselves to what brand Obama stands for — transparency, community, revitalization and unity. Sen. John McCain’s campaign utilized similar channels but they yielded different results, albeit the McCain campaign had seemingly differing prioritization of these channels and lacked the support of the younger demos fueling some of the social media participation. Generally, brand McCain simply represented something different than brand Obama.

Transparency

Everywhere we look, transparency is becoming an increasingly significant attribute. Consumers don’t want transparency, they demand it – from our politicians, from the businesses that represent the backbone of our economy, and from our marketing efforts. The ubiquitous requirement of transparency benefits all except those who have something to hide. You can’t run and you can’t hide. The social media ecosystem now represents a mechanism of enforcement, judge, jury and executioner. Especially in the down economy, you must be honest with yourself about your product, your business practices and operations. Fix what is truly broken. Surely we all agree with the old adage that perception is 90% of reality, and never before has reality been able to influence perception in the manner it does today.

Integration

“Obama Everywhere” was the header of the block of links leading to his presence within various social networks, but should have been the incorporated his presence in all channels. Now that Obama’s in office, the federal government has an integrated communications strategy that exceeds that of many marketers. Who would’ve thunk it? The consistent message of “change” and “revitalization” have been weaved across media platform and marketing discipline and are actualized to become more than just words.

The icing on the cake: The re-launch of WhiteHouse.gov at 12:01 p.m. on inauguration day. The welcoming message: “WhiteHouse.gov will be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history” complete with a new blog, email updates, and access to the Office of Public Liaison, which “seeks to embody the essence of the President’s movement for change through the meaningful engagement of citizens and their elected officials by the federal government.” The last time I visited WhiteHouse.gov was when my ISP asked me to check my internet connection. It’s now in my list of RSS feeds.

Mobility

During his campaign Obama utilized the mobile channel to engage and activate voters, many of whom were segmented on a local level. Text messages reminded you to get out and vote — heck, the selection of Sen. Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate was announced via SMS before any other channel. The iPhone app made rallying behind your candidate an interactive experience versus a stream of static messaging. Those who attended the inauguration in D.C. had the opportunity to receive SMS updates about which entrances to use, which routes had the least traffic, and even a reminder of the weather. Although the mobile efforts may not have done much to influence baby boomers in the mid-west at scale, it was one of the multi-faceted ways brand Obama reached those who favor the channel of their choice. When thinking about mobile, think about aspects of utility and activation.

The Take Away: The Un-Campaign

Brand Obama led less of a campaign and created more of a movement. Although “hope” and “dreams” may work for political speeches, they do not present the foundation of a solid marketing strategy. Most brands have not achieved the level of equity as brand Obama, but all brands have advocates. Energizing brand advocates and listening to the market at large are universal principles of brand marketing that have been around since the dawn of marketing time. The tools and channels have evolved, and will continue to do so.

Social media has reached a point where the energy of brand advocates (or detractors for that matter) creates a constant undertone, unattached to the parameters of your marketing campaigns. It is no longer optional to monitor the social media ecosystem and modify your marketing, PR and product development efforts based on this undertone. Prospective brand consumers have access to the collective at all times. Are you doing what you can to understand what consumers feel about your brand? Does the reality of what your brand stands for meet your desire of its perception? Remember, your brand is what consumers say and think it is.

video_iconI could not agree more that the industry needs a new video standard. Amen to that. I interact with enough senior agency folks to know that we all want a new standard. So I’m not quite sure how the new effort from Publicis’ VivaKi launched without the collective support and participation of any of the other holding companies. To that I say “Really? You couldn’t rally the support from any of the other agencies?”. That in and of itself could possibly put a damper on things. VivaKi managed to incorporate participation from some of the industry’s top online video publishers (AOL, Broadband Enterprises, CBS, Discovery, Hulu, Microsoft, and Yahoo, and a handful of VivaKi clients who will be testing new permutations of video units throughout the year with the intention of rolling out what VivaKi hopes to dub as a new standard by year end (thus allowing enough time for publishers to package it with the 2010 up-fronts). Of course, VivaKi clients will then have first  dibs on the new units.

Although in my humble opinion, the partial collaboration doesn’t wreak of a process that standards will emerge from, it should shake things up a bit, and I’m glad to see someone doing it (albeit I would have rather seen a collective of active agencies pool their collective thoughts together on this versus just VivaKi).

I’ve been preaching this for at least 3 years now. The online video model should focus on harnessing some of the unique attributes of digital media. Currently it replicates the TV model. I’m hoping to see the new formats include all of the following:

From the consumer’s perspective:

– Interactivity & Interoperability: Video as an experience not solely a message

– Relevancy: Improve the segmentation of content and the ability for consumers to find specific video via improved search functionality and recommendation engines

From the industry’s perspective:

– Interactivity: marketers need the ability to engage the consumer and provide the necessary depth of experience consumers have become accustomed to online

– Addressability & Improved Targeting: current targeting parameters for video are pretty weak, this is a major area that needs imrovement – delivering different content and ads on the fly to specific consumer segments

– Evolution Of Ad Serving  For Video: if agencies had the ability to serve video themselves, they would have more control over on-the-fly changes and the benefit of  immediacy of data for analysis

– Portability & Syndicatability:Video content providers and publishers with a need for more video content would benefit from a standardized method for dynamically serving these new video experiences, sans the restrictions of one video player versus another

New Metrics? Not So Fast…
You’ll notice that I did not mention common or new metrics. We have a slough of metrics already, such as levels and duration of engagement, increases in branding effectiveness and DR metrics that can and should be applied based on the client’s goals. If anything, we need more data on the correlation between advertising metrics and market impact (this is true for other aspects of online media as well). For example – what is the interrelationship between engagement percentage, duration of engagement, reach and impact on influence, brand preference and purchase intent (and over time, market share)? Ultimately every marketing investment is being compared to every other option available, so we must look at the overall ability of channels, formats and options to influence the target, not just the subset of engagement (or worse yet, response)… and this must be analyzed in the context of a media mix.

The Model & The Media Mix
The media industry has come come a long way and yet we never have been able to definitely develop media mix models that are universally accepted – why? Because there is no such universality. But furthermore there is little industry-level research on the correlation between various advertising metrics and the true influence within a market. The GRP/TRP has been used as a surrogate for the inter-relationship between reach & frequency and market impact, but this metric is predicated on the replication of historical performance and has not evolved to include the unique attributes of digital media so therefore it is not a standard used online. Hence so many career marketers and traditional media folks pulling the hair out of their heads trying to figure out how to integrate the canary in the coal mine.

The Moral Of This Online Video Story
We must focus on mapping the features and requirements of online video standards to the unique attributes of the medium itself, while evolving the consumer experience. Specifically, we must provide engaging and relevant experiences with the ubiquity of text, the interoperability of functionality beyond video, the discoverability and contextual relevancy of search, and the portability of RSS, we then have a platform that has aligned with the trends of online consumer behavior. Increased consumption will follow, and advertisers will follow the light.

What do you think about the next generation of online video standards?

Over the last 5 years or so I have been keeping an eye on the growth of the internet is international markets, particularly in Asia. comScore issued a press release today that sums it up quite well. First, as of December 2008 the internet reaches over 1 billion people globally. The majority (41%) of the internet users globally are in the Asia Pacific region, and China specifically had been on a trajectory to surpass the US for sometime now. Notice how the main search engine in China Baidu.com, sometimes referred to as “China’s Google”, and Tencent, a network of Chinese internet properties and services, has earned their spots as two of the top 15 properties in the world – yes globally.

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Surely it will come as no surprise that Google is by far the largest site in the world, with 77% reach against the global online audience.  It is  important to point out that three of the top 10 properties are social media sites – Wikipedia, Facebook, and MySpace (represented via Fox Interactive numbers) are included in the top 10, and this has been the case for some time now.

We often don’t see the forest for the trees…
The trends of Amazon and eBay maintaining such dominance over the years proves that the web’s ability to fuel commerce will only continue to grow (no surprises there). Apple and Adobe’s place as a top global internet powerhouses proves that technology, and experiential services can trump media & content plays for consumers’ mindshare and time (which are both limited). The leading social media properties moving up the list reflects the power of relevant collective and participatory experiences. The fact that two of the top global properties are Chinese in a world where Chinese is not a global language indicates the size of the opportunity in this market if you have the wherewithal to expand and operate there. China has the largest population on earth and with an evolving culture and economy it was only a matter of time before the internet population surpassed all others. The BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are hot. To a degree the internet has made global borders irrelevant. Business culture, ideas and innovation, if not actual commerce, pass unabated from country to country. The ability to expand your business into emerging markets can be hampered by entrepreneurs in these markets spotting the trends and launching similar products and services. Have you thought that far ahead? Does it matter to your business? Is this part of your strategic planning?

I’d love to hear your stories of BRIC expansion!

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Jan 20, 2009. What an amazing moment in history. Our first black president, renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, and recuperation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society. Oh yeah – and the online coverage and engagement were astronomical.

Watching today’s history unfold for me was a unique experience. I had to go to the hospital for some testing, and was sitting in the waiting room as Obama gave his inauguration speech. We all huddled around the TV and watched one of the best (if not the best) political speeches in my lifetime. It reminded me of some of the powerfully emotional and motivating speeches from before my time, from a breed of politician all but extinct until this campaign and election. I also had my mobile phone handy Tweeting, blogging (in fact, I stated this post on my mobile phone) and scanning the reactions from others – what would turn out to be millions of others. CNN’s Live coverage via the first really kick ass Facebook Connect integration, topped 1.5 million Obama-related status updates during the inauguration day coverage. Watching live TV on Facebook and discussing it with your friends – truly triumphant!

Additionally:

– Obama’s page on Facebook has over 4 million fans.

– CNN.com itself streamed over 21million streams of the inauguration, and generated over 136 million page view.

– At exactly noon, the Obama administration relaunched WhiteHouse.gov, right on schedule.

– An Obama administration run SMS program provided valuable info to the 2 million+ fans who attended the inauguration

– Our executive government understands integrated communication and is also part of  the proverbial conversation. Kudos all around.

Folks, the water cooler has come to the internet! Live television met social media in a truly impactful way and the implications are far reaching. There’s a huge revenue model in there somewhere, and surely we have watched history unfold in more ways than one.

4Yesterday (and in some instances today, after the show aired) a significant number of AT&T subscribers received text messages promoting American Idol without opting in for the message. How did this happen? Well the only way it could happen – the one entity with access to the subscribers spammed us.

The SMS read: AT&T Free Msg: Get ready for American Idol! AI 8 starts this Tues (1/13) at 8pm on FOX. Check out AT&T’s official AI web site from your PC – http://www.att.com/idol for the latest info on our $1MM sweepstakes, test your AI IQ by playing the trivia game, and much more. Reply stop to end mktg msgs. (Resounding sound of millions of pissed off people texting STOP follows).

How much backlash and how quickly? Well here we are less than 24 hours later…

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From the NY Times article:

“Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, said the message was meant as a friendly reminder. “We want people to watch the show and participate,” Mr. Siegel said. He added, “It makes perfect sense to use texting to tell people about a show built on texting.”

“Mr. Siegel said the message went to subscribers who had voted for “Idol” singers in the past, and other “heavy texters.” He said the message could not be classified as spam because it was free and because it allowed people to decline future missives.

“It’s clearly marked in the message what you need to do if you don’t want to participate,” he said. “It couldn’t be more open and transparent.”

Really? It couldn’t be more transparent? How about not spamming your customers just because you are the only one with access to them and allowing them to opt-in as is required for all other messages?

Although I expect the backlash to continue (the carriers are the gateway to our mobile consumers and have also been seen as one of the hindrances of scale in the past, although not so much anymore), I also expect a healthy amount of conversation about the growth of mobile marketing. The silver lining, maybe.

yelpFile this under ugly…

Recently a lawsuit was brought against a consumer who felt he got ripped off by his chiropractor and posted a negative review on Yelp. While the outcome of this suit can set precedents for the future tonality of blog posts and negative reviews, there is a bigger issue here for us marketers to learn from. Businesses need to finally learn that social media reflects reality, and cease and desist letters and lawsuits are not the tools to use to solve your problems. What used to be little problems pre-social media turn into major bouts of damage control today. One truth of course that has not changed,  is that businesses can afford more legal services than the average consumer, and these types of cases can often be looked at as bullying for settlement (incidentally this case was quickly settled, but the details are not disclosed). This case has a few gray areas, but generally a consumer is being sued because he expressed his opinions about a vendor who he felt was not honest. He has a right to fell that way and a right to voice his opinion about it. I think the issue in the case is exactly how he voiced his opinion about it, but that is not the point here.

Evolution Of The Need For Damage Control
While the case is pending, the original post was removed, but can be  accessed via the StandForSpeech.com website created by Christopher Norberg as a result of the suit. Although the original post is gone, there are now hundreds if not thousands of conversations and blog posts about the situation (as this post). Even some mainstream media picked up the story. The slough of review and comments on Yelp show both sides of the story, but seriously, I can’t imagine even the good reviews convincing anyone searching for Dr. Beigel’s background  to ever do business with him.   Especially when they are intersperesed with comments like:

“I have never seen Dr. Biegel, but you can bet I would never see anyone who would sue someone where it concerns free speech.  Shame on you.”

“God awful practice! From his treatment to his obscenely high and unjustified pricing, you are going to come out of here hurting physically AND financially.
His service was rushed and his treatment did nothing but generate more pain. To top things off, his billing practices add insult to (literal) injury.
AVOID THIS CHIROPRACTOR.”

“Why are you suing someone for posting their opinion to a site?  Yelp makes it very clear that people posting to their site are posting their personal opinions and experiences. The cruel irony you’re going to find is that refuting this one negative post, you’re now getting an unimaginable amount of bad press.  Way more than the one post ever solicited.  ”

“Shame Shame Shame.  Suing over a review.  If Dr. Beigel knew anything about yelpers, it would be that we have brains in our heads.  One negative review out of many 5 star reviews would have struck me as an oddity and I would have likely gone anyway.  Not now!  I have a feeling that many others are feeling the same way and will steer clear.”

Not all the comments are bad, in fact there are plenty of positive comments about Dr. Biegel:

“I just felt I had to defend Dr. Biegel after having seen his suit in the news. I wanted to say that I had NO problem with his billing practices. Unfortunately, the treatment itself was useless, and actually aggravated my pain, so I don’t feel that I can give him more than 2 stars. But I do want to say that the costs/insurance were very upfront, and I’m sure he did the best that he could.”

“I’ve known Doctor Biegel for many years and I’ve rarely met a more honest and forthright person. I trust him completely. The assertion that Dr. Biegel is suing this guy because of a bad review is simply wrong. This guy is being sued because he made false claims accusing Dr. Biegel of committing insurance fraud. That’s called ‘libel’ not a ‘bad review’.  Look it up.”

Of course of the reviews that came as a result of this entire fiasco it is impossible to decipher truth from passionate frustration. But when browsing earlier comments and reviews, it seems like the Dr. Biegel had far more positive reviews sprinkled with a negative one or two here and there.  As of this post, there were 56 reviews.  Most of the negative reviews were a result of the lawsuit, not as a result of the doctor’s service or practices. Proof that the suit is going to hurt the good doctor more than the negative review did in the first place. There’s a message to marketers in this madness.

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The positive reviews like…

“Thanks Dr. Biegel for fixing my back problem!  I owe my pain-free days and restful nights to you!  I heard you charge more than other places, but the service is all around great so I don’t mind letting my insurance pick up the extra cost.  I love walking into your office knowing that I can relax and enjoy my adjustment.”

…are now being upstaged by the controversy and the negative reviews that are associated with what was not the best course of action to deal with the situation.

So, Why Am I Posting This?
Yes I care about the free speech issue, but that is not the point of this post. Legal prowess and deep pockets or not, a marketer has many avenues of putting out social media fires prior to the level of escalation we see in this case. Consumers will make those feelings heard. If you provide a quality product and good service, the community will often come to your aid and defend you against the intermittent backlash from the odd customer who slips through the cracks and has a poor experience. It happens to the best company, you can’t please everybody all the time. You can also participate in the community, listen and learn from customers, earn their respect, and engage them appropriately – both the positive and negative. Respond, don’t react. In this instance, I have no idea how transparent the doctor was about pricing ahead of time, nor the effort the doctor made to reach out to Norberg to try and amicably resolve the issue (the statement below may shed a little light here), but like all relationships, business or personal, a lack of communication is often the culprit.

The Verdict here was a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed. All we can do is interpret from Norberg’s post-settlement post on Yelp:

“A misunderstanding between both parties led us to act out of hand. I chose to ignore Dr. Biegel’s initial request to discuss my posting. In hindsight, I should have remained open to his concerns. Both Dr. Biegel and I strongly believe in a person’s right to express their opinions in a public forum. We both encourage the Internet community to act responsibly.”

Who Won?
Unfortunately, nobody but the lawyers.  Biegel’s claim that the post was libelous and caused him to suffer “loss of reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings,” as well as “injury to his business and profession,”, sort of pales in comparison to the amount of damage that the suit itself and all the negative press has caused. A philosopher would throw the case out on those grounds alone. The legal expense and stress on Norberg must be fairly extensive. Was the settlement a blow to bloggers and reviewers? I don’t think so. I think there were some gray areas in the language Norberg used, and ultimately neither party wanted to drag this case out any further. But let it be known that lawsuit  won’t stop consumers from sharing our thoughts, feelings and opinions about the products, services and practices of the companies with whom we do business.

So what do you think? Was Norberg being libelous or just expressing his opnion? What do you think about the settlement?