Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year, New Ideas

If you want to come up with some big ideas in 2008, but you don't know where to start, check out 100-Whats of Creativity, a free e-book from Don the Idea Guy.

Here's just one example...#49:

What if... the idea fails?

Would you start again or close up shop and go into another business?
Would you build on the existing concept or abandon it all together to pursue a completely new idea?

What does a failure say about the market for your product?
The project execution?
The personnel involved?

What will you have learned?
What lessons can you take to the next project?

What constitutes a failure?
Download #49 and the other 51 "Whats" here.

NFL playoff teams are set, but Super Ad is still up for grabs

The NFL regular season is over, but you still have until Jan. 6 to vote in the NFL’s “Superad: Who Wants it More?" contest. The winning player’s spot will run during Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, and one lucky fan will win a trip to the game. The contest represents a departure from the user-generated content trend, perhaps because of some of the parodies that rose out of other companies’ user-generated content campaigns. It appears that the NFL is playing it safe, getting its audience involved without risking damage to its brand.

SBB (beware of oncoming pun) “kicks off” Super Bowl ad coverage

The Super Bowl is such a big deal to the advertising world that it’s kind of like...well, the Super Bowl. With this in mind, SBB will provide a heapin’ helpin’ of Super Bowl posts in the coming weeks, to help you get ready for what advertisers around the nation will be forced to call “The Big Game” (we’ll explain tomorrow). And of course, we’ll recap all the Super spots and the ad world’s (here comes another pun) ad nauseam coverage of its Big Day. One prediction: the spot will suck (we’ll explain later).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

NeighborWorks: crisis communication at its best

The rules of crisis communication are often limited to what not to do, but you can also learn from the example of those who do it well. Today's Journal Gazette includes a great case study in how to work with the media to respond to a crisis communication situation: the page one, top-of-fold story about NeighborWorks. The organization's board president Jeff Vaughn and board member Rachel Blakeman both were cooperative with the media from the start and admitted where the organization was to blame, instead of stonewalling or offering up "no comment" as their only response. The result is a piece that, while certainly not positive for NeighborWorks, is fair and thorough. Anyone who knows Dan Stockman's work can appreciate his professionalism and willingness to dig deep when he's not given much to work with. Contrast today's piece with Dan's investigative work on the Olin B. and Desta Schwab Foundation, and you'll begin to see the value in being authentically cooperative and humble when your organization comes under scrutiny.

In the PR world, we call this "going ugly, early." But it's really just common sense. Working with a reporter to help them understand your side of the story, while difficult, puts your organization in a much better position than if you force the reporter to dig for information on his or her own.

Full disclosure: I have worked with NeighborWorks on crisis communication strategies in the past, but I was not involved in the story that ran today.

Congratulations, Jeff Krull

Congratulations to Allen County Public Library Director Jeff Krull upon being named the Journal Gazette's Citizen of the Year. Jeff has been instrumental in leading the ACPL to national prominence among library systems, and in making the ACPL one of the community's greatest resources for communicators of every kind.

If you don't visit one of the ACPL branches on a regular basis, you're missing out on one of the best things about living in Fort Wayne. And if you don't have a library card, click here to request one online.

SBB thinks Seth Godin is a genius, but...

this won't be going on the 2008 Christmas list.

Who's behind

Being a little bit of a productivity freak, I've taken notice of the TV spots for And knowing a stealth marketing campaign when I see one, I immediately started to wonder who was behind the site's faux news, faux awards and faux advice. If you read the fine print on the site's "Terms of Service," it appears to be the work of Southwest Airlines, which would make sense given their tongue-in-cheek approach to advertising. But if it is Southwest, what are they trying to accomplish with the site? Well, I have to agree with this thread at No-Name247 Blog!: chances are it has something to do with a business travel promotion, with the answer likely being revealed through a Super Bowl payoff spot.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

TVs coming to Borders—and everywhere else

Today’s Journal Gazette includes a story from Sherry Slater about TVs coming to a Borders near you:

[T]he company is installing…two TVs per store. They’ll be installed in the multimedia and periodicals sections.

“It’s really going to be concentrated in that one area,” [Borders spokeswoman Kolleen] O’Meara said.

Borders installed high-definition TVs in 60 stores in November and 250 more locations will receive screens by the end of February. All of the company’s more than 1,000 stores will be hooked up by Jan. 31, 2009. O’Meara wasn’t sure where the local store falls on the schedule.

“We are an entertainment destination,” O’Meara reminded me.

The content on the TVs at Borders will include interviews, musical performances, book discussions and cooking demonstrations. Some of the people featured include former President Clinton, British singer Joss Stone, author Khaled Hosseini and cookbook author Nigella Lawson.
Make no mistake, though: the primary purpose of these TVs will be to advertise products for sale at Borders. It’s part of a creeping trend that’s affecting the way we consume media: all television, all the time, wherever you are.

In her story, Slater refers to her own discomfort about the idea of TVs in a bookstore, and she quotes a local bookstore customer who thinks of the TVs as “a nuisance”:
Fort Wayne-based attorney [Tom Markle] thinks of bookstores as quiet places, similar to libraries.

“What would people think if you put TVs in a library?” he asked.
But guess what, Tom? The main branch of the Allen County Public Library already has multiple TVs—in the atrium, and in the second-floor young adults area, for example. No, they don’t infringe upon areas reserved for quiet reading, but neither do those at Borders. As Slater reports:
Everywhere I look in this imagined nightmare, another row of TV screens lurks, destroying my previously pleasant mood.

Borders spokeswoman… O’Meara assured me it’s not going to be like that.

“We want to keep the nooks and crannies of the store quiet for those who like to browse for books,” she said.
Borders is just one of the places you can expect to find TVs in the near future. Earlier this month I met with a company new to Fort Wayne called The Neoti Broadcast Network. Neoti installs TVs in restaurants and other locales, with screens split between a TV signal (CNN, ESPN, etc.) and advertising for local products and services. The goal? To incorporate advertising into a medium that audiences are growing increasingly comfortable with: the out-of-home television. Their gamble? Your eyes will go where the TVs are, so those TVs may as well include a perpetual string of ads.

I think they’re likely to succeed, primarily because as much as we grumble about TVs encroaching on our formerly commercial-free spaces, we can’t turn our eyes away. As a result, we’re going to continue to see more TVs in public spaces. And as TiVo and other devices make in-home advertising easier to avoid, advertising will represent an increasing share of the content shown on out-of-home TVs.

SBB's 1st Resume Post

Yesterday, SBB invited readers to post a link to a marketing resume or job posting. Today, we're happy to post our first resume from a job seeker, Julianne. Julianne says she's "eager to add a clear sales and marketing position to [her] career," and in fact has "created a skills-based resume highlighting [her] marketing and sales experience," which can be viewed here.

Julianne also has a website where potential employers can view samples of her work, and a blog documenting her search. From a communication standpoint, using these tools is an excellent way to differentiate yourself as a candidate. Good luck, Julianne!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another free e-book from Seth Godin

SBB can't say enough good things about Seth Godin, and here's just the latest reason: his new e-book about web site traffic. If you like what you read here or in Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it), be sure to check out his blog.

If you feel guilty about getting all this great Godin stuff for free, buy his new book, Meatball Sundae. If it's anything like the other stuff he's written, it will be money well spent.

Link to your resume or job offer on SBB

If you're looking for a job in marketing in Fort Wayne, or looking for someone to fill a marketing position at your Fort Wayne company, SoundBite Back is here to help. Send a brief description of the job or a link to more information, or link to your resume, and we'll post it here.

SBB will only post communication, marketing, and advertising jobs/resumes at its discretion. We reserve the right to decline submissions without notice or explanation.

Canididates buying up Iowa TV inventory, but gambling on new media to cut costs

Advertising Age reports on the presidential hopefuls buying TV space at "unprecedented levels." Unless Bayh latches on to someone as a #2, it's very unlikely that we'll see this level of activity in Indiana. But with all the talk of how new media is changing campaigns, TV is still getting the lion's share of the budget.

Still, the campaigns are getting smarter about extending their spots beyond TV. The Wall Street Journal reports on the limited buys made by campaigns running negative spots, gambling that the news media and viewers will take them viral:

Thousands of people saw or heard part of a recent advertisement that criticized Hillary Clinton for not standing up to Republican attacks. The total ad buy: $2,500...

“We just sent out a press release and lots of people called us,” said Glenn Hurowitz, the president of Democratic Courage, which ran the spot. “It was pretty easy.” By the time Hurowitz and his group decided to put it on cable channels, they didn’t need to spend much.

Man behind Marty Panel ads dies

Yesterday's News-Sentinel reported on the death of Bill Bosworth Thomas, the founder of Panel Mart and the man behind a 20-year ad campaign featuring a puppet named Marty Panel. I never saw the ads, but his son makes him sound like a fun guy:

“When I was a teenager trying to impress girls, he'd always pop around the corner as Marty Panel saying, ‘Hey, what are you kids doing there,'” said Mike Thomas, who noted his father was making jokes and laughing with his family the afternoon before his death.
Obit and memorial service info here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dollars and AdSense: Prominent Blogger Pulls Google Ads

Google withstood a lot of criticism in 2007, including the mixed bag that is its pending deal with DoubleClick. And last week, as the year closed, it took one last jab, as personal finance blog The Simple Dollar dumped Google's AdSense service, despite it being the site 's primary source of revenue. TSD author Trent Hamm cited an increasing frustration with AdSense content as the reason for the change:

this automated bidding system allows anyone to bid, and I don’t have much control over who does the bidding. The end result was that the site would have ads from payday loan places, credit card brokerages, shady subprime lenders, and such...

This morning, the straw that broke the camel’s back appeared: an ad featuring a scantily clad woman advocating a payday loan site showed up. The ad bothered me a lot - it is literally the opposite of the message that I’m trying to talk about on this site.

Hamm should be applauded for making what had to be a difficult decision. ("It was like quitting a high paying job because of ethics and taking a much, much lower paying job," he says.) As the Google/DoubleClick merger moves closer to reality, both advertisers and bloggers like Hamm should keep a close eye on Google to see if it can stand by its "don't be evil" mantra. That's an easy claim to make when you're two guys in a garage. It's much harder to pull off when you're approaching monopoly status.

Hat Tip: Rachel Blakeman of

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More on interruption vs. engagement

The other day, I was researching online advertising options for a client. Most of what I was presented with depended upon interruption of some sort, with ads morphing to become larger/longer and obscuring news content. This screen shot of a Kentucky Lottery ad shows just one example:

The idea here, obviously, is to make the ads more prominent. But much like the previously discussed video ads, they're so invasive that the result is a negative net effect on the advertiser’s brand. At worst, these ads seem like a bait-and-switch tactic where the reader is promised news and information, and instead is force-fed ad content.

This approach seems no better than the universally-reviled and presumed-dead pop-up ad. You’d think media outlets would have learned from the backlash that pop-ups engendered, but it seems like interruption is enjoying new life online. In his list of Top 10 media trends for the new year, for example, Didit vice president of industry relations Mark Simon predicts that more ads will try to shove news content aside in 2008:

In the last six months, online display ads seem to have reverted to their ugly circa-2000 selves, with pop-unders, pop-overs, takeovers and other intrusive behavior that would have been unthinkable a year ago. Now, we're told that "widgets" are soon going to be added to this smorgasbord of intrusive interactivity. So much for the "relevance revolution" of a few years back; instead, look for 2008 to become the "irrelevance renaissance" in adware.

What can online media outlets offer instead of ads that interrupt? How about ads that are relevant to the news they appear with, so that they’re more likely to meet the audience’s needs? How about ads that are creative in content instead of “creative” in their capacity to get in the way? How about ads with a specific, relevant offer that encourages intentional click-throughs (instead of the unintentional click-throughs that are bound to happen with ads dancing all over the page)?

Think it’s impossible to make money by making your ads less intrusive? Here's one little company that figured out how to do just that, and made a few bucks along the way.

Old media gets more expensive, less efficient

Monday’s New York Post highlights a trend affecting advertisers looking to reach eyeballs and ears in almost every “old” media venue: they’re paying more for less.

Although it seems counterintuitive, it's the law of supply and demand. As the TV audience shrinks, advertisers have to buy more ads to reach their target number of viewers. But that increased demand for ad slots creates scarcity, which in turn leads to rate hikes.

Pair this with print ad costs rising as subscription rates drop, it’s easy to see why advertisers are looking for new ways to reach their audiences.

Ideas to avoid in 2008

Fortune rolls out 2007's biggest "Misadventures in Advertising" as part of its "101 Dumbest Moments in Business" retrospective. And Collateral Damage puts together its "Top 10 Advertising Blunders." A good reminder of what not to do as you put the finishing touches on your 2008 budget.

Hat tip: AdFreak

Monday, December 24, 2007

How to fill your billboard with water (no water required)

Awesome use of outdoor by the World Wildlife Fund. Wow.

Vid length: 39 sec.
Hat tip: Billboardom

WOM growing, but Trout has his doubts

Good overview of the state of word of mouth advertising in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Word of mouth, sometimes referred to as buzz marketing or viral marketing, was the fastest-growing slice of the $254 billion marketing industry last year, and is expected to account for more than $1 billion of ad spending in 2007 [sic], according to a report by PQ Media of Stamford, Conn., an alternative media researcher. That number is forecast to reach $3.7 billion by 2011, fueled in part by the eruption of blogs and the increasing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook.
Industry guru Jack Trout is a little less than impressed, however:
"Word of mouth has always been nirvana -- obviously, having a third party say you're terrific is better than saying you're terrific yourself. ... But my sense is that it's still a work in progress."

Trout furnished a pair of recent high-profile flops to illustrate his skepticism. One was Pontiac's decision to give away its new G6 model on "Oprah," an effort that generated significant awareness, but "didn't sell a damn thing."
The story also included a surprise for anyone who's followed the debate about advertising's declining levels of credibility in the eyes of today's skeptical consumer: while they appear to be significantly less credible than word-of-mouth, newspaper ads scored much better on the trustworthiness scale than I would have guessed:
A recent survey by A.C. Nielsen found that 78 percent of respondents viewed recommendations from other consumers as trustworthy. That compares with 63 percent for newspaper ads, the second most-trusted medium…
I myself am one of those skeptical consumers, so I have doubts about Nielsen's numbers. But I'm sure the Post-Intelligencer was happy to print them.

A Men's Health article even Fort Wayne can respect

Men's Health articles are usually about abs, sex, and Fort Wayne's collective stupidity. This month's issue, however, also includes a great article about Google's Douglas Merrill and the relationship between organization and effective communication:

What’s almost disarming about Merrill—unlike other big-time execs—is that while he’s talking to you, he doesn’t glance at his email or eyeball his blinking phone. Instead, he looks you in the eye. He’s focused. He’s there.

That’s not just an impression; it’s his modus operandi.

“The whole point of organization for me is to clear my head in order to be in the moment,” he explains. “The less stuff that’s rattling around in my brain, the more I can focus on whatever I’m doing.”

This is a guy who "chairs about 60 meetings per week, travels 25% of the year, and manages about 1,000 people." So if he can put everything aside when meeting with someone face-to-face, the rest of us probably can, too.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Barbies on the grille and branding

Today’s Frank Gray JG column about Barbies on the grille brings up an interesting point about the customer experience and branding:

The problem is that McNeely usually parks in a spot at the top of the ramp entering the garage. “When you go up the ramp, it’s right there,” where everyone entering the garage sees it. “It’s the first impression you get when you come into the building.”
Now, Is it silly that people would be offended by a bunch of naked Barbies strapped to the grille of a Dodge truck? Probably. But you have to give the National City garage managers some credit for recognizing how something seemingly small can lead to a negative net customer experience. Another brand that gets this? As the blog On Product Management points out, Disney:
First of all, strange as it sounds, I can’t sing enough praises about the parking garage at Disneyland. Yes, you read that right. Disney has made even the mundane task of parking, ruthlessly efficient. Disney staff direct incoming vehicles into successive rows of empty parking spots. Contrast this to other parks, where, like in a shopping mall, you hunt up and down rows for an open spot.
A lot of organizations mistakenly believe that the brand experience begins only after the customer enters their door. The ones who do it exceptionally well, like Disney, recognize that it truly begins a lot earlier. And when your entire product is a parking garage, maybe it’s not entirely wrong to keep your customers’ first impression in mind.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

BPOTS on interruption vs. engagement

Sometime soon, SBB will post about the demise of “interruption” marketing and the rise of “engagement” marketing, but I'll start by saying that I agree with Be Part of the Solution on this one.

We're outnumbered

Why is television the most effective form of mass media advertising? This might have something to do with it.

Book of the Month: Buzzmarketing

SBB's first book of the month is Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff, by Mark Hughes. Mark was one of the guys who convinced the town of Halfway, Orgeon to change its name to, Oregon. But my favorite idea from Buzzmarketing is one that he didn't sell: a thought-bubble-shaped blimp that would have floated over Mount Rushmore.

It's no one's Oldsmobile

Earlier this month I attended a seminar in Chicago conducted by Mark Schnurman of Filament Inc. One of Mark’s many great observations centered on the difference between advertising that builds awareness and advertising that moves the numbers (in share or dollars). One example: the “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign. Memorable? Sure. Did it move the numbers? Not enough to prevent Oldsmobile from going out of business shortly after the campaign ran. To paraphrase Mark, if it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile, and it’s not your Oldsmobile, then it’s no one’s Oldsmobile. And if it doesn’t improve share or dollars, it hasn’t succeeded, even if “awareness” has grown.

More from Rob Walker of Slate.

Better PowerPoint Slides

Want to improve your presentation skills? Seth Godin has some really great (beware of oncoming pun) PowerPointers for you in Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it) (no purchase necessary...just click on the "Get it" button). His ideas are yours for free, but you’ll need to be willing to make some big changes to the way you approach your presentations, and be willing to think beyond the templates bestowed upon you by the benevolent Mr. Gates.

See Godin’s approach in action here.

Hi. Thanks for stopping by.

Hi. Thanks for stopping by. SoundBite Back (SBB) is a communications, marketing and advertising blog built around these ideas:

1. You already have enough to read, so SBB better be good

2. You don't have a lot of time, so SBB better be a fast read

3. You want great marketing ideas, and SBB has a few to share

4. You want to get your message across, and SBB can help you do just that

5. Advertising still works, but today it has to work harder than ever...SBB will explain why and what you can do about it

6. There are some great tools out there that help you communicate more effectively and more efficiently...we'll point you to a few

7. And there are a lot of people already saying great things about all of the above, so SBB will unabashedly point you their way

We'll also try to stay specific to Fort Wayne whenever possible, unless something is so universal that it applies eveywhere.

Your comments are welcome. Thanks again for visiting.