Archive for the ‘media buying’ Category

Going Green – coming of age?

You cannot expect us to be based in Berkeley, California and not have an interest in the green space. It’s part of the DNA of the region and infused within the local culture.

With this in mind it was nice to attend this weeks Going Green 2009 event and get an update on how this sector of the market is developing. The Going Green event is predominately an opportunity for green tech companies to network with potential investors and for industry experts to discuss the issues driving new innovation and change.

Two sessions were particularly interesting to me – “Terrawatts of Solar” and “Urban Development”. The solar experts discussed the issues around industrial scale delivery of solar for grid electricity and highlighted the issues blocking this. Incredibly second to financing and ROI (which is a huge obstacle) the next one they noted was “environmentalists”. Ironic I thought that legal protests from those protecting habitats would delay a technology that could save the planet!

The “urban” panel drew attention to the difficulties of executing on major renovation/modernization projects like Boston’s “Big Dig”, Seattle’s tunnel project and London’s Cross Link Railway. Most noted that going underground was in most cases the only option left without massive disruption to existing infrastructure, while again the cost and political will was always a challenge especially for publicly funded and managed projects. In many cases providing an infrastructure upgrade necessary to facilitate the “greening” of a city (less traffic, more pedestrian areas, more mass transit, bike lanes, etc) simply are never going to get the financial support. Money it seems is the stumbling block to so many green initiatives.

Finally a very important theme came through about who controls the future of green tech success.

The US is simply a terrible industrial environment to realize the change needed to help green tech succeed. Let me qualify that – in terms of innovation it’s all happening here and to an extent in Europe too. But and it’s a big BUT – the commitment required to actually realize the technology and bring it to market only exists in one market – China. The economy and commitment in that market is geared towards the long term. We all know green innovations and change pay off long term but US culture now thinks short term, quarter to quarter and so to thrive, green tech must utilize China’s phenomenal industrial might. The downside of this…an ever faster leaching of intellectual value from the US to China and even greater reliance on one economy to provide long term global solutions.

Bottom line – the world needs a strong US/China relationship, perhaps more now than ever before. Only then will green tech really come of age.

NOTE – Just Media have handled media campaigns for Solar City – targeting residential customers and encouraging installation of solar systems for the home; Applied Materials – running a global campaign promoting Applied’s solar manufacturing equipment and San Francisco Environmental – promoting recycling habits amongst city residents and business.

Wow what a ride!

I was staggered to see that my last blog post was back in May. In some ways that reflects the internal shift in focus required by all during what was some massive upheavals within both the media industry and our own company. It’s nice to finally come up for air.

I guess everyone who works in this industry has felt the effects. Layoffs have been abundant in media companies and across the board we have witnessed adjusted business models, pricing structures, staff skill sets and services. Ultimately organizations have been forced to reflect upon their own best practices. Change has been the most common theme over the last 6 months.

Just Media was no different. We lost two key staff members – long term employees who we miss greatly. But when client spends drop – in some cases by 90%, any organization needs to adjust to survive. Thankfully we are now back hiring again and able to take advantage of some great talent to boost our teams expertise. Adding new blood is a fantastic way to re-energize – new ideas, different experiences and fresh thinking – challenging the conventional thinking and creating new angles to attack and deliver upon existing client goals.

Client wise it’s also been a roller coaster ride. Early signs in 2009 showed big budget cuts and the inevitable shift of dollars to ROI and lead gen – almost to the exclusion of all other media activity. That’s tough for all. Small budgets as we all know don’t take less time to manage. I lost count of projects that got planned only to get cut at the last minute when quarterly figures didn’t match expectations. That frustrates everyone – clients and agency – everyone feels like they are stuck in the mud with wheels spinning.

However in the last few months things have changed. We have picked up some major wins – Hitachi Data Systems, Trinet HR services, Juniper Networks, Webroot and Stephens Bank – and whats interesting is that ALL are asking for assistance to develop strategies, plan and run branding and awareness campaigns. A return to true marketing perhaps?

So as analysts predict an end to the recession, companies appear now to be rushing to claim market and mind share from competitors. All realize the window for this is short and anyone who is sleeping now will miss one of those rare post recession openings to win and win big….

Maybe the real ride is only just beginning – buckle up….

Google gets a dose of media reality

I sometimes joke with the Just Media team that media planning could be done by a bunch of trained monkeys. It’s one of the reasons clients are always trying to pay us peanuts for our services!

Indeed in this modern economy of cost cutting and service justification it’s often the impression that agencies like ours that only do media planning and buying (no creative work) are a luxury item that can be replaced, in many cases by clients doing the work themselves. Well for once I have to send my thanks to Google for proving to all that it’s simply not possible to replace hard working media professionals with automated systems and algorithms.

The news Google has pulled out of trying to sell traditional media like print and radio was somewhat of a surprise to me I have to say. I was quietly concerned that potential cost savings offered by media bidding models would attract significant attention and dollars out of the hands of professional buyers, like us. I thought, foolishly it seems, that human input into this process was so devalued by many that a new “agency” model was being created – indeed that was the stated goal.

However the reality is it’s actually getting harder than ever to be in this business. The knowledge required is so much greater than just 15 years ago when I started on the agency side (where I moved for ad sales). Obviously the web has lead to much of that – it’s a media vehicle with almost unlimited options and the ability to combine pretty much every other media type within it (print, radio, TV, events, face to face meeting, out of home – all is replicated in the digital world). However as we have seen even radio, a media format that offers so many similarities with online as regards buying (small standardized ad units, solid audience demographics, calculated values of spot rate based on target reached) it’s really not that simple. Especially complex is the evaluation of the performance metrics so beloved by Google algorithms and also the “human effect” of bias ingrained in most radio advertisers who like to speculate on what times and stations their target is listening rather than using simple mathematics to calculate a reach/impression/value matrix that builds a plan based on desired response.

So thank you Google – for once you have helped prove we still do have a place in this world and that my team is not in any immediate danger of being replaced by chimps and gibbons.

Ad spends to drop in 2009 but should yours?

The parent company of Just Media’s London office, Aegis Media, have just announced their 2009 media ad spend predication’s. Global decline was predicted as being down by 5.8% while in the US this figure was predicted to fall by 9.8%.

For an industry that creaks and groans as soon as it is not experiencing year on year increases or 2-3% this data may appear to be a disaster but lets look at this more realistically.

Media rates have softened and it’s entirely possible that much of this decline can be absorbed by cost reductions in strongly negotiated media buys. So any company who actually does slash a budget by 10% is probably going to net out with almost as much media as before.

Also a 10% decline in budgets means that for every marketer who is slashing their budget significantly (you perhaps?) there are others who are seeing the opportunity to grab market share of voice and actually increase activity. Also historically we know that those that do slash hard, also tend to be the most conservative and the slowest to come back.

Within the tech sector and indeed our own client base we have seen this pattern emerge. Some clients have reacted to market pressures by slashing back on spend and consolidating all activity into lead gen programs – completely abandoning significant outbound awareness marketing programs. Others are seizing the opportunity afforded by softer rates to buy stronger integrated campaigns which include a balanced mix of above the line components such as print ads, advertorials and targeted banner creative with direct contact strategies or lead development through content syndication, small personal events programs and virtual and web events.

While I fully understand the natural reaction within executives is to look at instant cost reduction (I am a CEO after all) I can only hope that marketing professionals in tech companies are not bowing to pressures and making decisions that will in the long term prove to be counter intuitive.

This is not the first recession we have seen and it’s won’t be the last. Ever noticed the pattern that those who emerge the strongest each time are the companies who didn’t disappear off the face of the planet and stop talking to their customers?

Automated media buying…is this the future?

I just sat down and reviewed the new website from our friends at Techweb which is designed to assist in the media planning process for IT marketing professionals. As I play with the tools and consume some of the content provided I cannot help but think that here are the fledgling components that may revolutionize the way media is bought in the not too distant future.

The site http://createyournextcustomer.com/ is a media resource centre with a twist. In addition to all the usual demographic information and research (always useful), is a small application or widget that allows the user to select his campaign type, target audience and preferred media mix. After microseconds of contemplation out pops a recommended media mix suggestion drawn from the portfolio of Techweb’s impressive product list.

My initial reaction was mixed. There’s really not much in this tool beyond providing a “quick n dirty” media shopping list. Currently the next step of engagement requires getting in contact with a sales rep – so no change there. The suggestions made are hardly ground breaking either – simply some very obvious product selects which play into the publishers bucketed content approach.

However, for all it’s obvious limitations at this point, it’s a fun tool that may help the publisher facilitate decisions for the marketer who’s pressed for time or lacking in imagination. Most importantly it encourages engagement from buyers, which if achieved, is a significant competitive advantage.

But lets think a little into the future here. Imagine for one minute that after buying the suggested media mix (via the sites secure account feature), I run my campaign and upload the performance metrics back into the sites “campaign management tool”. This tool using the newly developed “media marketing algorithm” then optimizes the media suggestions by combining my specific data with that from hundred of similar campaigns. Predictive modelling then churns away in the background and out pops my optimized media suggestions for the next campaign.

Wash, rinse, repeat….

Within three/four campaigns the system has accumulated enough information to effectively be turned to ‘auto media’ function which simply debits my company account and sends me regular reminders as to which creative needs to be sent in and when my team needs to turn up to host the pre-booked events.

Impossible?

I don’t think so. Many campaigns with lead goals are already being managed based on simple linear metric analysis and even awareness campaigns, as we have shown with our campaign research, can be measured for effectiveness using hard statistics. It’s not too hard to imagine models being produced for each campaign type by clever mathematicians.

So well done to Techweb for giving us a glimpse into a very interesting future with automated media buying practices and automatically optimized budget management. I’m sure the unemployed sales reps and media planners will enjoy the extra time they can spend at the bar talking about “the good old days”!

Hopefully I’ll have retired by then.