Archive for the ‘media’ Category

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….

We know what you think!

A friend of mine sent me a link to an interesting company who have recently won a marketing innovation award, called Neurofocus.

This technology of scanning brain patterns is not new and I recall hearing about it several years ago, based on the interesting results of studying subliminal messages as part of an academic study.

For obvious reasons this is both fascinating and completely scary. Being able to predict what messages will be most effective in creating reactions and response offers huge potential to the advertising, branding and marketing communities (not to say sales). It’s especially intriguing to think about reactions to messages that are not necessarily driven by logical thought patterns but our emotional ones (the ones we have so much trouble controlling that is).

Like all new advances there are two sides to this. In adults one feels this is perhaps somewhat less contentious – we are all free thinking and emotionally stable right? But what about other groups like kids. Groups that are driven far more by emotional reactions and who are less able to adjust for those subtle nuances being produced by brain induced research? Should this technology be banned in it’s application to those groups and who’s going to police it (I should state here and now that I am not a fan of deliberate advertising and targeting to anyone under the age of 16).I have absolutely no faith in our industry to self regulate.

Like I say fascinating stuff and without doubt open to producing some spectacular results when applied correctly to the industry in which we operate. However just as the original research showed, use of subliminal content and brain reactions need to be carefully managed before things get out of hand.

Does the industry have the courage to say no?

If the report in the recent Advertising Age is true then the media and advertising industry needs to take a good hard look at itself. And frankly it’s going to need to get itself a set of “chicken nuggets” large enough to avoid being held to ransom.

In case you have not heard, some of the biggest advertisers in the market including GM and Budweiser owners Anheuser-Busch are insisting they be given 70 or even 120 days to pay bills related to advertising activities.

In an industry that is already reeling from reduced spending levels, such an attitude is effectively blackmailing any supplier who might be in the unfortunate position to have to rely on this business to survive. It’s a shifting of credit from banks (who know better than to subsidize these giants) to the small companies across the industry. It’s classic corporate bullying of the very worst kind.

This will result in only one thing – faster and more complete destruction of the industry. No agency can survive on 70 days credit – especially since that’s almost never the reality and payments almost always arrive later than the stipulated time. Even large media owners will suffer severe cash flow issues if enough giant advertisers pull the same stunt.

Obviously there are ways to reduce exposure to this. Firstly it is a refusal to accept these terms. If you have succeeded in being viewed as more than just another commodity, then many client contacts will fight tooth and nail to get you supported, as we oursleves have seen in many contract negotiations. Secondly it is possible to insist that the advertiser takes responsibility for paying media invoices directly (thus enabling the media owners to say no to the business or accept floating the campaign themselves). Thirdly it is to walk away from the business and look for more sustainable accounts elsewhere.

As someone who runs a small business and strives everyday to be honest with suppliers and staff, there’s something inherently despicable about companies that advertize brand attributes about positive behaviour, play on the heart strings of the American spirit and portray themselves as bringing positive influence into peoples lives when behind the scenes they are prepared to screw an entire segment of small companies. Survival at the expense of others should not be acceptable and they should be called on it (well done to Ad Age for publicizing this).

As you can see I’m not buying it…

Mixing media and politics

This is a subject I could probably write about all day. I have often been told that here in the US it’s high risk to talk about religion or politics – but what’s a good blog without some controversy !!

So here’s the scene. I’m talking campaign tactics with one of our many creative partners who have a target of senior business decision makers and wanted to consider a variety of media formats. As the conversation turned to TV, I naturally named some stations I’d suggest we consider….

“CNN, MSNBC, Fox News “…

“Oh no” countered my creative friend “I don’t want to support them”

“me neither but they do offer up a strong profile”

And so here’s the dilema for media folks. Sometimes we are faced with using media vehicles we ourselves don’t subscribe to or even support. This is true whatever political side this takes. And it’s a tough call. In most cases there are viable alternatives which means we could justify the choices we make even though we know the real reason is our feeling of discomfort with the content rather than the audience. And yes supporting media with advertising dollars does support the message they promote so I don’t subscribe to the “it should only be about the audience” argument.

But who’s call is it and also are we always consistent? In my own case I’m not. Just a few months ago we recemmended a radio buy using right wing talk radio because the target audience was exactly who we needed to reach (concerned older consumers who would look at an online security product to protect their online banking proceedures). In this case the campaign success required me to “suck it up”.

At the same time we planned another campaign targeting consumers who might install solar panels and it was great pleasure that I could place media buys into public radio and liberal radio stations. Even up the score so to speak.

OK so you probably summize that I’m a bit of a lefty (part of that famous left wing media bias eh !). Actually I’m not really, but then in a country with only two parties it’s hard to not fall into one camp or the other…

And that my friends is really my biggest problem with media and politics….where’s the hghly analytical middle ground that I can support ??? Where’s the good old fashioned “unbiased anti political establishment media” that questions all our leaders and really holds them accountable. Don’t see to much of that these days and we are all the worse off for it.

Managing bandwidths

One of the joys of being CEO is looking into the proverbial crystal ball and planning staffing levels on accounts with limited information on future activity.

One thing we do know is that our business – now over 50% dedicated to managing online and lead gen programs – has shifted dramatically in terms of man hours required to run succesful campaigns. This change from even two years ago, when over 70% of our business was managing traditional print, out of home or radio campaigns, has led to very different work flow patterns. Whereas traditional media buying was front loaded, pre-buy, in terms of planning, execution and time investment – online media is weighted more heavily in terms of optimization, reporting, campaign management and analytics – mostly post-buy services.

The big problem for the CEO is gauging staffing levels on accounts where spends are migrating. One client this year shifted from 80/20 print to online to 35/75 towards online. Not only does this shift change the staffing needs it also requires different skill sets.

Another consideration is the nature of the buys. Many online campaigns are short and sharp. Briefs come in and plans go live in days rather than weeks. They stop just a quickly. The teams need to be agile but can be quiet for weeks and then slammed – especially at the end of each quarter when last minute budgets flow in from all sides.

Over the last 12 months we have added several new staff members all concentrating on online services but it’s still a nightmare trying to juggle staff bandwidths to match workflow. It’s not going to get any easier in 2008…

Do I get any sympathy?….as one of my team told me just last week – “that’s why you get paid the big bucks….”

bugger – no sympathy there then !

Online mind games

I spend hours every day on the web. Like most people I enjoy the many facets of this new media delivery platform…and as a result my mind is engaged in a whole variety of ways. Think about it for one second:

Am I really in the same frame of mind when I’m writing email to my friends via my hotmail account as I am when I’m reading political stories in my online newspaper The Guardian . How about when I’m reading about my favourite English football team on blogs, or checking out the weather, or buying a book or, heaven forbid, doing some research for work. Add in the fact that I can now listen to the radio, watch a video or move into creative mode – well like now – and it’s literallly almost limitless the way this media can work different areas on my brain.

All very well..but what about the advertising. In most places I see the same old banners running, advertising low rate mortgages, anti spam solutions and any number of holiday destinations I’d be lucky to get home alive from.

In my business we try to reach people in certain frames of mind (normally just before they decide to buy something they didn’t know they wanted or needed) however on the web the delivery of the message is often designed to run homogeonously across multiple sites. Also we judge performance across the range of sites without adding in any factor as to how well we have succeeded in embedding the message into the targets mind. Something just does not feel right with that.

Recent research we have done shows online is less effective at leaving awareness signals in the targets brain than say traditional print media (by far a more one dimensional media vehicle). One wonders though to what extent is this a function of media or of the mind.

Mind you when it comes to the web do we really mind at all ?

Day 1

I have often been told I have opinions and that I should, rather than rant at the odd poor client or salesperson, do something more and write them down. Well now thanks to some prompting by my buddy Dan Ortega (VP Marcoms at Astoria Software) I’m plunging into the wild world of online blogging. It’s kinda ironic that I have chosen Google’s blogging service, given that I am at some point bound to fling dirt at them, however I’ve always been happy being my own biggest hypocrit so might as well start how I mean to continue.

So let’s see just where this goes. Even money says this dies a fast death as work, wife and kids eat my time. Low odds that this might just allow me a venue to spout off about media issues and my thoughts and views and a huge longshot that anyone ever reads it apart from me.

Hell, I guess as a media CEO I can always make it a point of order for my team to read anything I write up here so at least I get some traffic and continue to inflate my already monsterous ego….!!!

Let the fun begin

Dick