Breast implants wont hide the fact that you’re not very creative

And neither will a really fat media budget… but we’ll get to that…

Two days after returning from the AdAge Digital Conference, I’m still stuck on the Earned vs. Paid Media discussion that kicked off the event.

It all started with Fred Wilson’s opening keynote which proclaimed:

paidvearned1

In case you’re new to the “paid” vs. “earned” debate, here’s a handy little diagram from David Armano, VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass:

Nifty, eh? And applicable not just to digital media but to ALL media (IMHO).

But what’s really interesting isn’t the rising trend toward earned and away from paid [a hotly debated issue!], but the bizarre skewing of creativity vs. spending within the two models (also from Fred’s presentation which can be downloaded here):

tvearned

Is it me or does it appear the Paid Media approach is um… a little bit o’ cheating? A la “Just in case I’m not creative enough… I’ll BUY enough visibility to hammer the goddamn message home.”

WTF????!!!!

So all this thinking was percolating in my teeny weeny brain when Simon Clift, CMO of Unilever stated rather bluntly (and probably to the great horror of his media planners):

I’m convinced fat media budgets help make people lazy, and we’ve thought about [whether we] should cut media budgets on some specific projects in order to force people to come up with ideas.”

It’s no secret that the very best, most compelling “case studies” in marketing, advertising, and PR are those that succeeded in spite of tiny [or non-existent] media budgets—not because of them.

Yet the model that our industry was built on demands—and most certainly relies—on EXPOSURE, REACH, EYEBALLS, IMPRESSIONS [insert synonym of choice] doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.

I’m sorry, people, but that’s so 1999.

Which is why, true to character, I shall now throw down the proverbial gauntlet:

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A JOB IN MARKETING, ADVERTISING, OR PR 5 YEARS FROM NOW, PLEASE STOP COUNTING ON A FAT MEDIA BUDGET TO COMPENSATE FOR YOUR LACK OF CREATIVITY.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news (or do I? Jury’s still out…), but better be honest now than sorry later.

Earned media is here. It’s aggressive. And it has no respect for its elders.

So instead of fighting it, why not give it a big ole hug?

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The end of advertising as we know it?

laptoptv

I guess this is “old news,” as the data I’m about to share comes from a 2007 IBM Global Business Services study (aptly titled “The end of advertising as we know it”)—but perhaps that makes it even more compelling. Here goes:

71% of the 2400 consumers surveyed across five countries said they spend >2 hours/day on the Internet—not including work-related activities. In other words, almost 3/4 of this global sample spends several hours DAILY of their precious leisure-time online. [side note: do any of these people have children? Because if they do, what business do they have with 2 whole hours of daily leisure time?! I don’t get it.]

Meanwhile, 48% of the folks surveyed said they spend >2 hours/day watching TV.

In 2009, I’d bet my britches that the gap between those numbers has only grown larger with web use (fueled by time-intensive destinations like Facebook, YouTube, MMOs, virtual worlds, etc.), iPhone apps, on-demand TV, TiVo, DVR… and more(!) encroaching at a relentless pace on the Grandaddy of all advertising mediums.

The question is, as a brand, agency, or marketing professional… what are you doing about it?

Three heads in the sand

The “pretend it’s not happening” approach, while popular, is ill-advised. The music industry tried it a few years back when digital music first appeared on the scene. Now they’re hemorrhaging money and market share and being outsmarted by downstream vendors who responded to the shift toward digital.

[sigh]

Please don’t follow in doomed footsteps.

Even if I’m totally wrong about the increased gap (and we all know, the Genius is rarelyif ever—wrong), you can’t hide from the fact that you’ve still got a few disruptive forces that aint going nowhere, notime soon. Namely:

1. Consumers want control.
And not just of what they watch but how they watch it—and interact with it—as well as how they filter what they view, including ads.

And young people? They’re not having any of the “I WILL YELL LOUDLY AT YOU TILL YOU BUY SOMETHING” strategy of old. By next year, young Americans will outnumber Baby Boomers and make the shift toward digital (which they were BORN using, wanting, understanding, and expecting) a fait accompli.

I do hope you’re ready.

2. “Impact” is the new “Reach”.
Admit it. You’ve grown used to a world where “Reach” was the Holy Grail of marketing. For years, it’s been all about “impressions”, the idea being that the more eyeballs you snared, the more sales would result.

Now that the drugs have worn off, many marketers are dealing with a nasty hangover called “REALITY”. Just because you show up at a party looking wicked hot and flirt with EVERY guy, doesn’t mean you’ll go home with a ring on your finger. Get my drift? Same logic applies to the “spray and pray” philosophy of Old Marketing.

The party is over, folks. And the rulers (those funny things you measure stuff with) have come out.

Well… maybe not rulers per se. We’re all still trying to wrestle that nasty Metrics Monster to the ground. Oddly, I think he likes the wrestling and is growing fond of a good Full Nelson. [Dear God, it’s the drugs talking again…!]

Ahem.

Fact: Virtually all of us are enduring the joys of recession-mandated “rectal exams” in the form of account reviews, lowered credit limits, tighter budgets, and greater demand for true ROI. Impressions, clicks, even those new-fangled “engagement” metrics aren’t cutting it. The question is how did those impressions, clicks, and “engaged” consumers translate into increased brand awareness, positive word-of-mouth/mouse, and purchases downstream? If you haven’t figured out how to measure that yet, you’d better hop to it. Quick.

2/3 of the advertising executives IBM polled expect 20% of advertising revenue to shift from impression-based to impact-based formats within three years.

Yep. P.S. that research was published 2 years ago.

And last but not least,
3. The Consumer is also the Creator.
Thanks to technology, consumers have been empowered not just to choose their own destiny—but to create it. In the same way that we’ve seen the rise of “Reality TV” over the past several years, so User Generated Content is becoming The Dominant Force online. IBM’s previously referenced survey, for example, already showed in 2007 that UGC sites are the top destination for viewing online video content.

Look out, Mad Ave!

Which leads me back to my earlier question: Time’s are changin’. The masses are moving from one screen to another… to many. As a brand, agency, or marketing professional… what are you doing about it?

What the f**k is Twitter?

A lot of folks still don’t “get” Twitter. [And Twitter, meanwhile, still doesn’t “get” revenue… but that’s another story.] But personally, the Genius L.O.V.E.S. it.

Crowd-sourcing, networking, buzz marketing, and pure entertainment are the top 4 reasons that I personally heart the #1 micro-blogging tool. Here’s another one:

twitter

True story.

Earlier this week, I discovered a very nice, comprehensive deck put together by the folks at Ogilvy [I know, surprised me, too!] called Twitter for Business. You might also want to check out this post for some excellent tips on getting personal value out of Twitter; and this post on how not to let corporate lawyers f**k up a good Twitter thang.

Unless you plan to go off the grid sometime soon, I wholeheartedly suggest you take the time to at least edu-macate yourself. And if/when you do start tweetin’, be sure to say hello.

The Holy Grail of Marketing

Golden goblet

In the past, I’ve been more than a little outspoken about the potential impact of social media as a marketing and brand-building tool. And I’ve taken my fair share of abuse from traditional marketers who’ve accused me of being stupid, drunk, insane, or all of the above (love you guys!)—but I stood my ground.

Today, I’m here to tell you not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

First of all, babies don’t like that.

Second, while the value and impact of social media as a tool for connecting with current and prospective customers continues to gain momentum (and validation!), there’s still something to be said for taking a strategic, integrated approach to building and maintaining your brand.

The truth? Some tools are better than others. For some audiences. And some products. Sometimes.

And sometimes you won’t know which marketing program will get you the best result—until you’ve tried and either failed or succeeded.

Products change. Times change. People change. Technology changes. Your job? Keep on your toes and always, always be improving.

But Genius, do you still think traditional advertising is f**ked?

Yes. And no.

Yes, it’s under threat like never before.

No, it’s not going to go away completely. Rather, it will EVOLVE. So, get ready.

My point? There aint no silver bullets, people. If you’re looking for the Holy Grail of Marketing, stop. Social Media is awesome, but it’s not going to cure cancer. And it aint going to save you from recession-induced “downsizing” if you don’t know your marketing basics from your butt crack.

So let’s review. The Basics (Genius-Style):

  • Know your audience. Don’t assume, because we all know what happens when you ass-u-me. Actually get to know them. Social media is an excellent tool for that, by the way!
  • Set clear, measurable goals. “Generate more revenue” is not a measurable goal. Just sayin’.
  • Be strategic first; tactical second. If this statement makes no sense to you, go to amazon.com and buy yourself a copy of Marketing for Dummies. Please.
  • Don’t think “marketing”; think “entertainment”. Think “value”. We’re over-saturated,  over-multi-tasked, and over-tired of being marketed to. The only chance in hell you stand of making an impact through marketing is by weaving real value into the marketing itself. Entertainment value, competitive value, social value, functional value, expressive value… any or all of the above will do.
  • Plan. Yes, plan! In writing! So other native-speakers can understand it! YAY!
  • Test. Live and breathe data. If it works—do it again. Do it bigger, better, faster. If it doesn’t—cut bait.
  • Never, ever, EVER sacrifice design. Don’t even get me started on this one.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just try not to make the same old ones.
  • Give people something to talk about. Often.

Don’t get me wrong: I love social media. I’d rather give up chocolate than Twitter. I can hardly restrain myself from getting on my soapbox when the question, “What the f**k is social media?” is asked.

At the same time, I don’t believe in “One Size Fits All” marketing. And as a Genius—and a female one at that—you KNOW I’m always right.

At least we agree on something. 😉

Obsessed with Social Media… A Year Later.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The following blog post was written just over a year ago (November 8, 2007, to be exact), during a time when the economy was not yet in the crapper and this thing called “social media” was still rather nebulous for most. And since I’m too busy to write something new a lot has changed in the last 365 days, I thought it would be just chummy to revisit my obsession… which you may have guessed has hardly waned.

Being a Genius and all, it’s not surprising, really, that the words I wrote a year ago are even more true today. The coolest part? Those numbers I posted re Facebook etc—they’ve more than doubled—and show no sign of slowing down.

God, I love it when I’m right.

***

Is it just me or is the social media bubble expanding faster than Kirstie Allie’s waistline?

Between the buzz around Facebook’s recent $15 billion valuation, the hype about their much-anticipated advertising platform, and the steady stream of “one-of-a-kind” social media companies popping up daily, it does feel a bit like we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid.

Heck, even Oprah and Martha Stewart have hopped on the bandwagon.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry Venture Capitalist throwing their money at the next-best social media monolith, it’s easy to lose site of the fact that we’re not just in the thick of an investment-frenzy; we’re part of a revolution.

Social Media = Democracy
The internet is—in a very real way—becoming democratized (at last!). Not only can you reach virtually anyone, anywhere or get information about anything online these days… but you can actually participate! Have a voice! Share all of your [boring, ridiculous, unnecessary… or in my case, totally brilliant] opinions about everything from the HDTV you just purchased to the color of the lint you just found in your bellybutton.

It’s democracy in it’s purest form: everyone truly has a voice. No longer can we blame “the media” for drowning us in propaganda or tricking us into poor choices. (Instead, we can blame our friends, colleagues, and the self-proclaimed experts and “bonafide geniuses” whose blogs we foolishly read.) Where once you had to be famous, infamous, or very well connected to get in the public eye… now, you just need a live internet connection and a desire to express yourself.

Wrote a book? Self-publish it!

Took a picture? Post it on Flickr!

Aspiring filmmaker, actress, or musician? Whip up a sample video and pop it on You Tube!

Pissed off about the crap PC you bought and the even crappier Vista operating system that came with it? Post your raving mad feedback on Microsoft’s website!

Sure, everyone has a voice. But is anyone listening?
As the social media phenomenon gains momentum, so do the possibilities. The question is… beyond our own vanity and relentless desire to be entertained, is there any real purpose to all this “interaction”? Does anybody really care to watch, read, and listen to all this User Generated Noise?

Yes, yes, and undeniably YES!

Side note: I would assume that our sick fascination with reality TV is also responsible for fueling our fascination with social media (guilty!). If I were a geneticist, I’d place my bets on a single gene being responsible for both of these guilty pleasures—and probably for all the neck-craning that happens when we drive by car wrecks, too. But I digress…

Our appetite for new venues in which to assert our brilliance, our uniqueness, and our popularity is virtually boundless:

  • 50 million Facebook users
  • 3500 photos added to Flickr per minute
  • 55 million YouTube users (11.6 million of these are over the age of 55)
  • 713,00 daily active users of the iLike application on Facebook, which allows users to share, rate, and recommend music. Another 15 million registered users on iLike.com

Apparently, we have a lot of opinions and we’re not shy about sharing them. How very American.

Social media will save the world… Now what?
Even if I’m wrong about what drives our interest in both contributing to and consuming the social media bubble (though being a genius, I am very rarely wrong), this much is indisputable: it’s not going away.

If you’re a smart marketer (and let’s face it—most of you aren’t), you’ll get on the ball lickety split and formulate a solid strategy for leveraging this growing phenomena… bearing in mind, of course, that the rules ain’t the same old rules that have made you the fat, lazy dinosaur that you are.

For starters, forget about “positioning” or “packaging” or any of the other P’s you learned about in Marketing School. Social media scoffs at these! The power of User Generated Content embraces a more democratic set of values: like sharing, engagement, authenticity and community.

I’d love to tell you more, but I haven’t updated my Facebook status in at least an hour and my Photobucket upload is almost done…

More social media “hype”

No time to share much Genius today… too much excitement around the TechCrunch article highlighting Viximo‘s turnkey virtual goods solution as a “massive monetization opportunity” and the growing excitement around the launch of our first iPhone apps.

But I couldn’t resist sharing some fresh data in support of all the recent “social media hype”.

And so… at the risk of further alienating the readers who told me “social media is a crock” earlier this month, called me “warped,” and threatened to bite me (you KNOW who you are!)… I present you with these tasty nuggets:

  • 3/4 of US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other (compared with just 56% in 2007). On average, they spend one hour per week using these tools; however, 19% [and growing] are averaging 7 HOURS PER WEEK. [source: Forrester Research, October 2008]
  • 75% of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have undertaken some kind of online social-networking initiative for marketing or customer relations purposes in the next year. [source: Gartner, October 2008]

But don’t take it from me, take a peek at Shiv Singh‘s (former colleague and current VP, Social Media, Razorfish) presentation deck from the recent Publisher’s Summit, which dives deeper into what marketers should know as the social media landscape shifts [and evolves!] around them.

When you’re done with that, hop over to Pete Kim’s blog (also a former colleague from Razorfish. Coincidence???) where he’s curating The Mother of All Lists of corporate SMM efforts (not to be confused with corporate S&M efforts. That’s a different blog). I suspect that curating this list will become a full-time job for a team of many in the not-too-distant future.

But then, I’ve been drinking “seriously poisoned Kool-Aid.” Ahem.

If you’ve arrived here quite by accident and are feeling cold, confused, and alone, I might suggest you start at the beginning—with a quickie tutorial on just what the f*ck this whole social media thing is (brought to you by Yours Truly).

Or, you could continue to bury your head in the sand. Your choice, tots!

You want me to blog about you? Okay, sure.

In response to the weekly deluge of soft (and sometimes hard) product pitches that the Genius has been receiving lately, I’ve decided to once again whore myself out for the Greater Good. No, not the old fashioned way, dirtball.

What I mean is this:

Rather than saying “no” to virtually every request I get to “review” a product or “comment” on a brand, I am going to start saying yes, effective immediately, to those products/services/brands that agree to donate $100 to Doctors Without Borders (one of my most beloved nonprofit organizations).

I’m calling it the “Blog About Me” Program (clever, no?)

Why would a company pay $100 to have me blog about them?

ARE YOU KIDDING????

One blogger can reach more people with one post than the weekend edition of USA Today.

Now I’m not claiming to be more influential than USA Today, but, as I’ve pointed out previously… I’m kind of a big deal. People know me. My apartment smells of rich mahogany… and I have many leather-bound books.

Ok, but seriously. The Network Effect is HUGE.

According to LinkedIn, I’m connected to nearly 6,000,000. And while they don’t all read my blog, a good number do. Add in my connections on Twitter and Facebook (the other 2 social media tools that I use most frequently), and you’ve got access to virtually everyone on the planet. Even Kevin Bacon ;).

So what exactly does that $100 “buy” you?

Doctors Without Borders says that $100 buys infection-fighting antibiotics to treat nearly 40 wounded children. Or vaccinations for 100 people against meningitis, measles, polio, or other deadly epidemics.  Or two high-energy meals a day for nearly 500 children.

And that same $100 guarantees that I will spend time getting to know your product/company, and then… I’ll blog about it. I’ll Tweet about it. I’ll share it with my friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I might even send out a good ole fashioned email, if that sort of ‘old school’ communication is warranted.

In other words, $100 ensures that conversations will be started. They’ll travel. And in the meantime, you’ll be making a tax-deductible contribution to an extremely worthy cause.

Geez, when I put it that way, $100 seems like a go**amn bargain! Sign me up >>

A Few Words of Warning & One Disclaimer
Sorry, the lawyers insisted.

1. Lest there be any concerns about my profiting from this activity, I’ve set up the whole ‘donation thing’ via Firstgiving.com. The money you donate goes straight from your bank account to theirs. At the conclusion of this program, Firstgiving will send a check for 100% of the proceeds minus a nominal transaction processing fee, directly to each organization. Read more about Firstgiving here.

2. Lest there be any concerns about my objectivity in reviewing your product/service etc, allow me to assure you: I WON’T BE. This aint Consumer Reports, people, this is The Secret Diary of a Bonafide Marketing Genius. I tell it like I see it. If your product sucks, I’ll say so. Which leads me to my next point…

3. If your product sucks, I suggest you improve it before sending it my way. I will be merciless. I will poke fun. I promise. On the other hand, if your product kicks a**, I will sing its praises. Either way, the only thing I can promise you for sure is that I. Will. Be. Relentless. Either way, you will SO get your money’s worth.

4. The opinions expressed on this blog are SOLELY THE GENIUS’. They do not reflect those of my clients, colleagues, employers, relatives, friends, neighbors, or state/federal representatives. At least not as far as I know.

And now… let the whoring begin!