Yearly Archives: 2012

A Creative Tipping Point.


There’s an interesting article in The New York Times today on the growth and viability of programmatic ad exchanges – algorithm based, bidding based systems that finely tune ads to consumer behavior.  A buyer of hiking boots might be found on a bowling site, for instance, rather than a bird watching site at a more effective price and click-through, so implies the analysis.

It’s science folks. 

Anyway, if online media is getting more predictive, tied to behaviors and data trails, then it stands to reason creative will follow. Here’s a prediction: advertising production is going to flip in the coming years.   The big TV shops from holding companies will have fewer creatives than will be found at didge shops.  Makers of shorty, bursty digital ads have long been seen as less glamorous than those who create high production videos and network :30s and that may not change.  But banners and towers and leaderboard and whatever is next will become more creative and effective – it’s evolution baby. And the need for more units, especially those tailored to the algorithm’s finding, will generate exponential leaps in the need for creative resources at digital shops.  Creative will never be algo based, though it will be tried. So the jobs won’t be replaced by the machine — not here. 

The tipping point for when creatives at digital shops outnumber those at the BBDOs, Ogilvys and Greys is coming.  I bet it will happen by 2016. Peace.

Coke Journey and Facebook Envy.


The Coca-Cola Corporation marketing story is simple but has many layers. The latest layer is the Coca-Cola Journey — a website built to engage, entertain and build loyalty among the family of Coca-Cola brand drinkers and enthusiasts. It’s a corporate website so you can find Minute Maid orange juice, Sprite and other family members represented. Coke learned through its Facebook experience that if it could dally with drinkers and they dallied back – the result would be nice lifts in traffic and presumably consumption. So Coke now fancies itself in the content business. Ding dong, Bud TV anyone?  A business goal, one might surmise, would be to draw users back from Facebook to the new Coke Journey site. Normally, I would applaud this activity, but not if it is going to change the business. Not if it promotes non-endemic brand experiences and cross-product ones at that.

You might say Coke is using only 5 or 6 full-time employees as content creators/curators – so how does that change the business?  I say these 5 or 6 may have large reach. And a few altered cells in the DNA can be a problem.

Were I running this show, I’d continue to host sites for each unique brand. I’d add the full-time content creators to each site, but make the content specific to each brand promise. Have them support the “motivation” behind each promise. If AOL and Yahoo! can’t get content creation to run on all cylinders, why would Coke be able to? This is another story of Facebook envy. Mr. Tripodi, I think you went a little bit off-piste with this journey. Peace.   

A Brand Test for CEOs.


Here’s one way to see if your company has a brand plan.  Summon department leaders and one random dept. employee into the conference room on a Monday morning. Ask each of them to create a PPT presentation describing the company mission in twelve pages — no more, no less. Make sure they explain what the company Is and what the company Does. (Here referred to as the Is-Does.)  Ask them to report back by 1 P.M., where sandwiches will be served and the work reviewed as a group.

As with any research, offer up that there are no right or wrong answers and grades will not be issued. 

Companies with strong brand cultures will share presentations containing similar organizational structure and language.  The other 92% will be a mash-up. What will they mash up?  Learnings from category-leading brands. Things they recall reading in the trade press and news.  A little bit of personal aspiration, maybe some lyrics from the company PR boiler plate and, likely, some CEO language. A doggy’s dinner as Fred Poppe might have said.

In companies with tight brand plans, every employee knows what business they’re in. They can articulate what products are sold, what customers care about and the business-winning goals. These are business fundies. This is strategy.  It’s worth sharing with employees.  

Try this brand plan test out and see what can be learned about from a few simple PPT sides. Peace.

Brand Planner’s Create Awe.


I once volunteered at the Fort Michilimackinac archeological excavation at  at the “tip of the mitt” in Michigan. (Not that Mitt.) For a week I sat on my heels and removed soil with a mason’s trowel and paint brush, centimeter by centimeter, marking the depth from a line tacked above each pit. I found a hand-made straight pin, the type you throw away when opening a new shirt — the “find” highlight of my week.

Most co-workers were locals and I remember leaving Michigan feeling I knew a lot more about the local community – certainly its history – than those who live there. All from digging in the dirt.  Sometimes we live places and don’t get it place in history, save for a few stories taught in school and a landmark sign or two. “Marconi broadcast the first radio signal from this lot.”

Brand planning is a lot like archeology: digging, uncovering, cleaning (archeologists have this tendency to lick their finds to remove dirt) and analyzing. Putting finds into context, then patterns and finally doing something smart with their work.  That’s what brand planners do. Both endeavors require taking what may seem mundane or prosaic and displaying it in ways that create awe, or near awe. If you are a market strategist and your selling insights do not move you,  then you are not a brand planner you’re a researcher.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Peace!

Brand Strategy vs. Tactics.


I was working with a company recently where the main deliverables were a marketing plan and brand plan.  One of the company’s other needs was a revised website.  The ability to deliver the brand plan — a brand strategy and three supporting brand planks — in the form of a website was new territory for the company. It was a break from the past where their mindset was to create easy navigation to the diverse and changing offerings of the company. Since the company was expanding into new markets and changing the composition of its product set, its brand meaning and value were not well known and misunderstood. Rather than create an information architecture, this company needed a clean Is-Does and a succinct brand organizing principle. In other words…a strategy.

Part of the assignment was to affect change in the social space. The company, with a good blogging culture, some really smart people and lots of deeds and stories to share, unfortunately gravitated toward Pasting rather than Posting. (Pasting is sending forth other people’s content, with a yay or a nay; Posting is creating original content.)  My admonition was to provide more analysis, and less curating…and to do so on brief.  This takes time. It takes thought and context.  But it’s what readers and users are looking for in their social – in their media.

Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group posted yesterday about a lack of strategy in social media. Though I haven’t always agreed with Ms. Li, I love that she studies and commits to points of view. Charlene is a thought-leader. A Poster. She is worth way more than the price of admission. Find influential Posters and follow them. Question them, exchange ideas with them — don’t “like” them. Peace.

Post-election Ramble.


(As if all my posts aren’t rambles. Hee hee.) 

The election is over.  The polemic and political bullshit should be put to rest for a while and the economy is moving in the right direction.   The craft economy has been growing the last couple of years during these very harsh financial times, affected a cultural change. What is the craft economy? It’s a mindset where people take pride cooking for their family rather than paying others to do so. It’s fixing gutters rather than hiring contractors. Knitting sweaters just to see what hand-made looks like. Putting less by the curb and refurbishing the old stuff. Some of this is influenced by the sustainability movement. As the country gets older demographically, roots become more important. We all get waste is bad.

As for the business economy, companies have cut to the bone; felt the bone, tendons and muscle. Sure companies have made some retrenchment mistakes, e.g., replace marketing blocking and tackling with low cost social marketing, free interns and search engine advertising.  But that’s settling down. The cottage industries that have grown up around social and digital are shaking out and will continue to be important (for other reasons) yet will shrink and make corporate marketing performance stronger.

With 35+% of the country impacted by Sandy (Can we please rename this piece-of-shit storm something other than “Superstorm Sandy?”  What are we 4th graders?), the masses have learned how blessed we really are for all the creature comforts we have—for what it means to be a neighbor.  When George, the cranky old German guy next door, turns into a huffing and puffing 84 year old in need, we are seeing life more selflessly.

Lastly, the country’s new-found focus on education, especially that of the K12 variety an exciting new technology overlay, will inch us away from poverty and toward a flatter country. These four things are a good perfect storm.

These are the words of the typist.  Now go in PEACE!    

Chest deep and sunny.


It was a little bit like the TV show Revolution out here this last week – without the pre-blackout flashbacks. Blackouts are still all over the south shore of LI, including my mom’s place in Bay Shore. No electricity is not non-trivial but it feels so when compared to salt water that pervades everything by the water’s edge.  If you live next door to a home with its carpet still tacked down you can smell/feel it. And though the sun has shined for 3 days there is dampness that just won’t go away.

The “vill,” as I like to call Babylon, has come together like a dookie. People in and out of the America Legion Hall have been cooking, cleaning, meals-on-wheels-ing, and volunteering like nothing I’ve seen before.  Clothes are stacked to the rafters.  And I’ve not even been to First Pres. or St. Joseph, where good’s work is also 24/7.

Mobile devices are helping save the day, but so are old school signs, hand painted and tacked to telephone poles. These signs, for some, are the only way people are learning of services. Many are still sitting on wet couches, on wet carpets, without power, waiting for the piles of wood, construction bags and furniture to recede, so they can ask for help…almost embarrassed to take an egg sandwich, from the many cars driving by. “We’re okay, go help someone else,” they say. I’ve been brought to tears, for no and every reason.

Never have I been prouder to live in Babylon. Every day is a new day. Every face a neighbor. And what is that on that blip on the weather map?  That forecast for tomorrow? A mosquito?  Keep your furniture high and your friends and neighbors higher.  (Not a pot reference. How dare you?!)  

Peace. Vote.

Closed for business.


Due to Hurricane Sandy, Whats the Idea? will be down for a bit.  We are safe. Peace!

Future Friday…Thoughts.


Mailboxes on homes will go the way of the public telephone booth.

Amazon will purchase a package delivery organization: FedEx, UPS or perhaps even the United State Postal Service.

20% of the U.S. GDP will goes through Apple.

A twenty year old will become president.

The functionality and user experience of TVs, PCs, pads and phones will all be the same…and  sync.

Peace? A smidgen more so.

(Anything to add?)