Digital vs. Traditional

By Dorn Martell

I think it’s time to put the Digital vs. Traditional debate to bed once and for all. Today there is much hype surrounding anything with a digital label, but I think its time has passed and it is as silly as putting “.com” in your company name or hanging a sign that says COLOR TV outside your hotel. Truth is everything we do now is digital – even traditional media. Printing is done on digital presses, radio is sent as WAV or Mp3 files and almost all moving images are captured and finished in a digital format. Digital is nothing more than a delivery system for ideas. And good ideas are still rare in any format.

The picture is still worth a thousand words and maybe more than a couple million pixels. More photos are being taken and distributed through digital channels than ever before. But the ones that resonate have a special quality: beauty, timeliness, humor, emotion. These are the same qualities that artists have tried to deliver since the beginning of time and the rules haven’t changed. There is a huge argument in the digital world that consumers don’t care about quality images due to social media and consumer generated content. Well, I thought the Dominos experiment of using “Non-professional” photography for their pizza was a disaster. The pizza wasn’t enhanced – it looked like dog barf.

Branded content and native ads in the digital space are also really nothing new, they’re just in a digital format. “The King Biscuit Flour Hour” was an awesome venue to hear bands like Deep Purple or Uriah Heep back in the 70’s. It was following a branded content format that had been around since the beginning of broadcast. Target has done some cool branded content on-line that allows you to buy merchandise featured in it’s episodes. That’s branded content meets product placement; nice, but only as good as the content is watchable. “Native ad” is the new digital buzzword for advertorials…sorry, that’s all it is. Pay for an ad and we’ll write an article. Quid Pro Quo pure and simple. Whether it’s Art in America offering to review your gallery show if you buy a full page ad or Buzz Feed or Mashable inserting paid content into a seemingly organic newsfeed. It really is the exact same thing. Some advertorials are good and engaging and some are so obviously one-sided and self-serving that they lack legitimacy.

Our philosophy is that ideas should be generated in a technology neutral setting. The concept may end up as a TV spot, a viral video, pre-roll or a banner. The idea may be a great poster in Penn Station in NY. Or we may deliver a web banner to a northern market that is triggered as the temperature dips below a certain threshold. We’ll use social media to support our brands but we also advise our clients that there are risks and rewards for engaging in public dialogue with their customers and to manage their expectations about building brands using one leg of the stool.

So are we a digital agency? Of course. But we won’t hang it on our shingle any more than we will put “Air conditioning” as part of our list of attributes. It should be assumed…no?

Confrontainment, Conflict and Anti-Social Media.

By Dorn Martell

It’s an epidemic.

From the howling of radio hosts and talking heads to the heckling of the President, our entertainment and dialogue has somehow degenerated into an ugly, counterproductive, screaming match. Reality TV like Big Brother, America’s Next Top Model, The Surreal Life, The Apprentice and others have become more of a showcase for the ugliness of personal conflict than they are about the original premise. I was so disappointed by the History Channel’s “Expedition Africa”, a reality show tracing Stanley’s route across the Congo. Instead of a show about history, African culture and the legacy of Stanley and Livingstone, it became a show that should have been re-named “Everyone hates Pasquale” (the bush guide) because all it showed was people arguing about nothing. This mentality has transformed our political system into a self-destructive hate-fest. It has mutated personal communications into a “cage grudge match” and has transformed a great deal of social media into a school yard argument.

Follow threads on YouTube, FaceBook and even LinkedIn and you will find that some of the most popular threads are nothing more than an on-line argument. As companies look for the holy grail of ad platforms and get heavier into social media, they will find there is a huge risk when you ask “What do you guys think of our new pizza?” Inevitably someone will post “I think your pizza sucks, loser.” Try to comment about a band, a sports team, a work of art or anything on healthcare, guns, the environment, religion or gay rights and see what kind of immature and inappropriate responses you will get.

As we strive to create a dialogue with our customers we must be aware that the internet is a lot like a bar. Some people can handle the freedom and conduct themselves properly while others are there to pick fights, hit on girls and make asses of themselves. That’s why bars have bouncers. Is this the answer in social media? Will every discussion require a moderator who is filtering content in real time? And at that point, what will be the value of an “open forum”? Do we need bouncers on the floor of the Senate to keep elected officials from throwing chairs and chanting “Jerry, Jerry”? Polls show that Americans are getting quite fed up with this tone. Many people have opted-out of social media because it was getting “creepy”. And talk about creepy I have one word ChatRoulette.

Will social media be the greatest source of dialogue in history or will it be the ultimate forum for bullies and perverts? I guess it is what we allow it to be and our programming, politics and personal interactions will be governed by what we opt-in to or out of.

The End of Cold Calling

by Mark Slatko

I’m posting this article by Tim Williams on the death of cold calling, written a year ago. It’s a great article and has never been more relevant (he also wrote an article called “Evolve or die”). Interesting to note that his “multi-dimensional publicity plan” for agencies to market themselves doesn’t include Twitter. This is because, again, the article was written a year ago when Twitter was still an infant. I’m sure his list would have evolved to include Twitter today. The toolbox for agencies to market themselves has never been more full.

Ask any agency principal what he or she dislikes and avoids the most and the answer will almost always be the same: cold calling new business prospects. Not only is this the most dreaded activity among C-level agency executives, it’s also among the least effective.

Cold calling has always produced only modest results and today’s avoidance-enabling technology only makes it easier for prospects to hide from your phone calls and ignore your e-mails. I routinely hear from agency principals how traditional new business prospecting methods are becoming less and less effective.

Hard to reach

The dynamics that make it more difficult to reach a client’s prospective customers are the same forces that make it harder for agencies to reach their own prospective customers: media proliferation, multi-tasking, message overload, and short attention spans.

If you feel guilty for not spending enough time cold calling and cold e-mailing, here’s a really good excuse to stop: it doesn’t work.

A better alternative

Management genius Peter Drucker preached that a good marketing program makes sales irrelevant. Says Drucker, “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” The aim of marketing is to make a product so relevant and compelling that it literally sells itself.

If you think this is mere hyperbole, consider the outrageously successful iPhone. Can you imagine ever seeing an iPhone salesman? Instead, eager customers are lined up in front of Apple and AT&T stores for hours.

If agencies spent more time and energy on making and marketing a relevant, differentiated “product” (their own agency), they could spend a lot less time and energy trying to sell it.

A multi-dimensional approach

Witness the hyper-successful Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Not only have they devoted themselves to making a differentiated product, but they have invested considerable time and money marketing the CP+B brand to the business community. Getting mounds of press – both offline and online – is the result of a concerted effort by a dedicated team of PR professionals whose only client is the agency.

Most of the agencies that constantly kick themselves for not devoting enough effort to “prospecting” are the same ones that have devoted below-average resources to marketing their own brand. That’s no coincidence.

In addition to focusing on the business press, entering the awards shows, and joining business organizations, the most progressive agencies have also engaged in an online conversation with both their peers and prospects. In place of a traditional PR plan, you need a multi-dimensional publicity plan that includes:

Search engine optimization (SEO) program
Postings and comments on relevant blogs
Search engine marketing (SEM) program based on keywords
Letters to the editor
(both offline and online)
Landing pages (based on owned URL’s)
Paid and reciprocal links
Listings in both paid and complimentary online directories
Wikipedia entry
Membership in relevant online professional networks
Facebook page
Participation in professional online forums
YouTube channel

The only limit is the amount of creativity you apply to marketing your own brand. So stop thinking sales and start thinking marketing, which starts with how your firm is positioned in the marketplace. Trade the time and money you spend “selling” your brand and invest it instead in differentiating and marketing your brand and you’ll get a much better return on your investment.

– Tim Williams, Ignition Consulting Group

66% of companies are Using Social Media in 2009

Nearly two out of three companies are Using Social Media in 2009.

As marketers embrace new media platforms, social media and viral videos have seen the largest jump in ranking, according to a survey done by the ANA (Association of National Advertisers), BtoB Magazine and in partnership with marketing services firm ‘mktg.’ The survey had the following findings:

  • 66 percent of marketers utilized social media in 2009, as compared to 20 percent in 2007
  • Fifty percent employ viral videos, up from only 25 percent in 2007
  • 55 percent of respondents funded new media formats by shifting funds from their traditional media budget, while 48 percent shifted funds from other marketing communications budgets. Twenty-six percent of marketers created an incremental budget.
  • The top concerns for marketers when considering newer media platforms are the inability to prove ROI (45 percent) and having metrics to properly allocate the mix of traditional and digital media (43 percent)
  • Among social networks being embraced by all marketers, the top sites used are:
    • Facebook (74 percent)
    • YouTube (65 percent)
    • Twitter (63 percent)
    • LinkedIn (60 percent)

Fortune 100 CEO’s and Social Media

by Gio Gutierrez

UberCEO recently did a study with the headline “It’s Official: Fortune 100 CEOs Are Social Media Slackers.” It goes on to analyze the social-media habits of CEOs at large companies and concluded, shockingly, that they don’t use social media much. They looked at Fortune’s 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs to determine how many were using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, or had a blog. The results show a miserable level of engagement. Here are the topline results:

  • Only two CEOs have Twitter accounts
  • 13 CEOs have LinkedIn profiles, and of those only three have more than 10 connections
  • 81% of CEOs don’t have a personal Facebook page
  • Three quarters of the CEOs have some kind of Wikipedia entry, but nearly a third of those have limited or outdated information
  • Not one Fortune 100 CEO has a blog

I’m surprised but then again… I’m not surprised. Too many CEOs think there are more important things to do besides identify with and build an audience for themselves and their company. I also suspect the reasons CEO’s aren’t using social media is because of fear and lack of knowledge seeing that the CEO’s that stood out of the pack are all from technology companies – Michael Dell (Dell), Gregory Spierkel (Ingram Micro) and John Chambers (Cisco).