Friday, October 31, 2008

Why mobile is the future of advertising

In this AdAge interview, Google Mobile Product Manager Summit Agarwal sums up why the mobile web is absolutely changing everything for marketers:

The phone is the ultimate ad vehicle. It's the first one ever in the history of the planet that people go to bed with. It's ubiquitous across the world, across demographics, across age groups.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Credibility, confidence, and preparation

A new series from Lifehacker this week: How to Present Yourself Powerfully. The first excerpt gives some great tips for improving your public speaking skills, but here's a simple summary of how to succeed as a presenter:

  • The ultimate goal is credibility, which you get from having
  • Confidence, which you can only get through
  • Preparation
Preparation certainly means knowing your subject matter, but it also means knowing your audience, the room set-up, the technology you're using--even knowing your own speaking voice. Like most things in life, there's no substitute for hard work. By putting in the time it takes to do it right, you'll gain the confidence you need to feel comfortable at the front of the room.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Your mobile audience: what's in it for them?

One of the biggest opportunities for today's marketers is the mobile web. The cell phone is the device with the most potential to encourage immediate action, since most users carrying it with them all the time and since it almost always commands the user's immediate attention. The problem, however, is that most people don't want ads on their phones. In fact, they're only going to get more adamant about not wanting ads after marketers start making the mistake of assuming they do.

So how can marketers communicate with customers in a way that is constructive and welcome?
The key is providing information that is useful to the consumer--on their terms, not yours. In a sense, it's like any other medium: by understanding what's in it for them, you'll do a much better job of being heard and engaging your audience.

What specific kinds of information can effectively be communicated via mobile? There are some great examples in
this AdAge column, but here are a few others that immediately come to mind:

  • Restaurant reservation confirmations, other service provider (doctors, dentists, stylyst) reminder. And giving customers the ability to make reservations/appointments via mobile web is a no brainer.
  • Weight loss encouragement and nutrition reminders sent right before breakfast, lunch, and dinner by weight management and fitness centers
  • Reminders about financial aid, registration, and other deadline from colleges and universities
The idea is to anticipate needs users will have while on the go. And as web users of all kinds become more task-oriented, more mobile will increasingly displace desktop computer use. That's great news if you have valuable information to share. If you don't, then it's time to start thinking about what you can do to change that. The best place to start? Ask your customers what kind of information--if any--they'd like to receive on the cell phone. If you've worked hard to earn their trust, they'll tell you. If you haven't, you need to work on that before expecting they'll give you permission to communicate with them via the mobile web.

Photo: sofa on stock.xchng

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Is online TV for real? You betcha.

Hard upon the heels of her Joe-the-Plumber -clogged visit to Memorial Coliseum, Sarah Palin is attracting even more attention elsewhere--online, on, for example. reports that while the live TV-viewing audience was SNL's largest in 14 years, it will soon be surpassed by the online viewing audience:

Two clips of the Alaska governor on "SNL," her fake press conference and appearance on "Weekend Update," have racked up 6.1 million views on Derivative versions such as those used in news coverage, as well as pirated versions of the clips, have been viewed another 2.85 million times on sites like YouTube, MySpace and Yahoo, according to web video measurement firm Visible Measures.

Combined, the videos have been viewed 8.85 million times since Sunday, an impressive number in four days. But that doesn't include what may be the biggest source of online viewing: NBCU and News Corp.'s joint venture

Neither Hulu nor NBC will provide Hulu's streaming numbers, but they're likely to be high. Hulu streamed four times as many videos (142 million) as (36 million) during September, according to Nielsen's Video Census. While it's possible a high percentage of viewers looking for "SNL" clips would go first to, it's also likely that Hulu counts for as many, if not more, views as NBC. The opening skit with Tina Fey holding a press conference as Sarah Palin, while the real VP nominee looked on, was the No. 3 most watched Hulu clip this week, while the clip of Amy Poehler's Palin rap sat at No. 2.

The success of points to three important trends for marketers and other communication-watchers:
  • Audiences are learning that there's no sense in investing 30 minutes in a show when you can watch the best bits in a fraction of the time. Shorter is better.
  • The size of the audience gravitating to online viewing is only going to increase, so keep an eye on what you're being asked to pay for broadcast and cable air time.
  • Also pay close attention to content that's timely, and line up your advertising accordingly. Palin is a phenomenon, but a week from Wednesday she may start to be forgotten altogether. Get on the bandwagon as soon as you can, but bail out before the wheels start to fall off.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cutting Through the Clutter

In today's communication environment, one of the biggest challenges is getting your message to stand out. To cut through the clutter, you can't just raise the volume: you need to target your audience very precisely and create a message that immediately catches their attention without resorting to gimmicks or shock value.

As consumers have more and more options for tuning out advertising, communicating a marketing message becomes even more of a challenge. But it's not impossible, as this article in Monday's Wall Street Journal demonstrates. A sample:

Can the marketing stimulus be delivered at a time when the customer has few other distractions?

Marketing messages should target customers at times when they are unoccupied, perhaps even actively seeking some sort of information to process. Consider, for example, an airplane on the landing path into an airport. Sitting upright, with in-flight entertainment and electronic devices switched off, passengers have little to do but to look out of the window and wait for the aircraft to land.

Seeking to capitalize on this opportunity, London-based Ad-Air Group PLC places advertisements flat on the ground over an area as large as five acres alongside flight paths in and out of the world's busiest airports. Depending on their landing approach, passengers are provided with an unrestricted view of an ad for more than 10 seconds.

Read the other four questions and consider how your organization can cut through the clutter instead of just adding more noise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Real Bad Realtor Ads

Want to inject a little awful into your Friday? Well, look no further than Keepin' It Realtor, "a showcase for the world’s finest real estate creative." Because in a bad housing market, there's no better way to stand out than by superimprosing your head on the body of a lamb.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Social networking jumps the shark...or maybe the pig

I'm a big believer in both bacon and niche social networks. But Bacon Lovers' Talk is too much, even for me. Anytime you see the phrase "Join the Bacon Community!" it's time to close the browser.

Free Seth Godin download from

For a limited time, is offering a free download of Tribes, a new audio book from uber guru Seth Godin. A companion casebook is also available as a PDF, also at no cost.

Hat tip: PR Squared

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The changing science of media measurement

Measuring media consumption habits is becoming more and more difficult as people interact with content in divergent ways. If you watch The Office on Hulu, for example, you might not be counted as viewer under the traditional Nielsen model. And that makes it difficult for advertisers to judge the true value of any given medium or time slot.

A new technology, however, is trying to change all that by measuring consumer response to ads across multiple media. And they're doing it, as the Wall Street Journal reports, using the communication tool that is becoming the Holy Grail of all media--the cell phone.

[Integrated Media Measurement] embeds its software into the cellphones of the company's 4,900 panelists. The software picks up audio from an ad or a TV show and converts it into its own digital code that is then uploaded into an IMMI database, which includes codes for media content such as TV shows, commercials, movies and songs.

IMMI's database then figures out what the cellphone was exposed to by matching the code. Cellphone conversations and background noise are filtered out by the software, IMMI says, since there is no "match" in the IMMI database.

To get a handle on the effectiveness of a given ad, IMMI's data can show, for example, when a panel member is exposed to a movie trailer on TV and whether that same consumer later goes to see the movie. Similarly, IMMI data can show if a panelist watching a promo for a TV program will later watch the show, either on TV or online. IMMI thinks it can expand that idea from films and TV shows to consumer products like shampoo or toothpaste. It is testing its technology with a national grocery store chain.

Anyone who buys ads on mass media will want to keep an eye on new trends in measurement since the resulting numbers dictate the cost of airtime. On thing's certain: as we consume multiple media simultaneously and in nontraditional settings--even on our cell phones themselves--measuring consumption will become less of an exact science and more of an educated guess.

Graphic from the Wall Street Journal/NBC Universal

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ZenHabits' "New Rules" for productivity at work

Still doing the same old thing and getting the same old results? This post from ZenHabits will change the way you look at on the job productivity--and it might just result in you working fewer hours, not more. A sample:

4. Don’t multi-task — multi-project and single-task.

Old school: Multi-tasking is productive. Juggling tasks shows how productive you are, says old school productivity. I’ve written enough about multi-tasking for you to know where I stand on that.

Productivity 2.0: Multi-project and single-task. While I won’t go on once again about single-tasking — focusing on one task at a time to be more effective — I will say that multi-projecting has its uses. Let’s say you’re working on Task 1 of Project A — you should single-task while working on Task 1. But when it’s done, you might need to wait for a response from your boss before moving on to Task 2. In that case, while you’re waiting, you can work on Task 1 of Project B, single-tasking while doing that. When you’re done with that, you might need to hear back from a client before moving on to the next task of Project B — in which case you can either return to Project A if your boss responded, or move on to Project C. Single-task while working on any one task, but working on different projects to make your time more efficient can be a useful skill.

Go read the other 7 and then get busy getting less busy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Brands that thrive in a down economy

What brands do well when the economy takes a downturn? According to this Brandweek article, a few obvious ones like discount retailers and repair services. But there are also some surprises:

[C]onsumers are willing to spend on some forms of escapism. Entertainment can expect to fare well during a downturn, experts say. The weekend after a $700 billion bailout was passed by Congress, theatergoers flocked to the malls, sending the weekend gross for the top dozen flicks to $95.4 million, up 41.5% from the same period a year ago, per Media by Numbers, Encino, Calif.

"The conventional wisdom is that an economic downturn helps the movie business," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, Los Angeles. "They find escapism for a relatively small amount of money."

Then there's beer. It seems only logical that watching the Dow plummet into the abyss would drive some to drink. The U.S. beer industry is expected to post its second consecutive year of case sales gains, per the Beverage Information Group's 2008 Beer Handbook.
Another interesting side effect of a down economy is an increase in enrollment at two-year and vocational colleges. This only seems logical, however, if the school is know for affordability and outcomes, since potential enrollees will be especially focused on getting a return on their investment.

Brands that benefit from hard times, however, shouldn't celebrate too hard: after all, what goes up must come down:
Wal-Mart, which seemed to be losing brand power only a year ago, today is poised to reap the rewards of consumers who are looking to save some cash. In September, as same-store sales for Kohl's and Nordstrom fell 5.5% and 9.6%, respectively, Wal-Mart's rose 2.4%. Author and branding expert Rob Frankel thinks the retailer's gains will closely mirror the economy: "Wal-Mart is the brand that reminds people they are poor. Nobody shops at Wal-Mart because they want to; they shop there because they have to. The minute the economy recovers, Wal-Mart's sales will drop like a brick."
What's the lesson in all this? Be true to your brand promise, regardless of short-term changes in market conditions or trends. Because if you change your identity too often, you'll end up with no identity whatsoever--and that's a formula for failure in even the best economy.

Illustration: svilen001 on stock.xchng

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Obamamercial planned for Oct. 29; first of its kind since '92

The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama campaign will run a 30-minute ad on Oct. 29. The spot, which will appear in prime time on NBC and CBS, is the first 30-min. candidate infomercial since Ross Perot 's in 1992. One of the more interesting aspects of this news from an advertising perspective is the cost for the airtime, which--while undisclosed--is clearly significant.

Neither network officials nor Obama campaign aides would discuss the cost of the television time. An analysis of advertising rates shows that the price of the commercial time alone between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night would be about $1 million. It was unclear whether the networks were charging the campaign for only that commercial time or for the entire half hour, which would cost significantly more.
If nothing else, it's clear that the Obama campaign is in good financial shape as the campaign heads into the home stretch. Whether the 30-min. message will change anyone's mind is another matter, but it's always easier to script your own story than to let the media tell it for you--especially as all the undecideds start to decide.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Good advice for tough times

What's the one thing you can control in a challenging economy? Well, it's not your employment, but you can control your employability. There's never been a better time to be--or get--really good at your job, and there's never been a better time to improve your level of productivity.

Here's the catch: improvement--true improvement--means you'll have to spend more time on things you're not doing right now. You'll have to read. Study. Learn new things. So where do you find the time? Seth Godin offers some ideas:

Delete 120 minutes a day of 'spare time' from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.
What if you had two hours a day to invest in yourself? What would you do with that time if your career depended on it?

And if you're not spending that time doing the things you want, what would you do with an extra two hours if your
happiness depended upon it?

Improving your productivity, you see, isn't just about working more hours. It's about getting more done in the hours you're at work so you have more time for the things you love to do. The good news is that even in a down economy, you still get 24 hours in every day--not more, but not less, either--at a time when it probably seems like you're getting less of everything. How you spend those hours matters more, though, since waste becomes more conspicuous when others don't have time or money to spare. That should be all the motivation you need.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Alert the media

Shrinking newsroom staff is dramatically affecting the number of camera crews available from any given media outlet, and that means it's harder than ever to secure coverage for your event.

So how do you maximize your chances of getting air time? Well, start by using a media alert--not a release--to generate interest. Unlike releases, alerts leave a little to the imagination and instead provide only enough information to pique the media's interest. Since you don't give everything away, media are more likely to attend to make the story their own and secure their own footage. There are no guarantees, of course, but a professional, complete media alert is less likely to get lost in the shuffle since it commands a higher sense of urgency than a release.

How do you structure your media alert to provide enough--but not too much--information? Here are the key things to focus on:

- Include a media contact name, phone number, and email address. Be sure that this is someone who can answer calls promptly and who, for continuity, will be at the media event.

- Just say "Photo/B-Roll Opportunity" in the headline. That will send a signal to the assignment editor that this isn't just another news release.

- Create a subhead that sums up the event and what's in it for any media who attend

- Break up the rest of the alert into four sections:

  • "Who": The people participating in your media event. Lead with those most likely to draw cameras (elected officials, celebrities, etc.). Don't assume the media will know who they are, however--include their title of a brief description of who they are
  • "What": This is the meatiest section. Describe what's going to happen and why it's important (from a news value standpoint--NOT why it's important to your organization). Be complete but concise--not more than a paragraph or two.
  • "When": Be specific--day, date, time (and if it's for national/regional media, include time zone).
  • "Where": Again, be specific. Provide an address and room number/name. It doesn't help you if a camera gets to the building but misses the ribbon cutting because they didn't know where to find you.
Keep the whole thing to one page. The goal is to make it glanceable and to provide just enough information, but not too much. If you find yourself tempted to include a quote from a spokesperson, you're trying too hard.

Preparing a media alert doesn't preclude you from writing a release, too, but you'll only send the release after the event to accommodate cameras that couldn't get there. Use the two hand-in-hand, and you'll make the most of your chances to get coverage.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Newspaper ad revenue sinks to a new low

A story in last week's Editor & Publisher delivers more bad news for the newspaper industry:

Total advertising revenue for the newspaper industry is expected to decline 11.5% to $40.1 billion this year, according to the Newspaper Association of America.


The loss of dollars in 2008, which if the NAA proves to be correct will be the largest decline the industry has seen since the association started tracking results 58 years ago, is due to plunges in print advertising.
With these kind of numbers, expect to see more of this. Who isn't ready to move their paper paperless? Publishers that have made significant, recent investments in printing presses. Know any that fit that description?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

SoundBite Back back on Monday

Finally getting time to write some new posts, so I'll relaunch on Monday, a month after my unplanned hiatus. As always, I look forward to your comments and ideas.