How to Develop the Right Communications Strategy for a Conversation Economy.

Posted by truecreek on October 28, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

Great article from Ad Age.

By Marsha Lindsay:

What does the worldwide, technologically enabled drive for conversations mean for marketers? It means you’re no longer marketing products or services — you’re marketing conversations. It means marketing-communication planning should be driven by a conversation strategy.

The right conversation strategy answers two big questions: What meaningful content will attract sufficient conversations with the right people? And, how will you jump-start conversations and keep them alive?

When people are starved for time and already engaged in many conversations, jump-starting new and meaningful conversations is the big challenge of marketing today. Just building a website, writing a blog or posting videos on YouTube doesn’t mean sufficient numbers to impact ROI will find them organically, much less take the time and energy to converse with you. By definition a conversation requires others to be present and participate — otherwise you’re talking to yourself. Perhaps therapeutic, but no way to make a living.

Even if people know there’s an opportunity to have a conversation with you — on Twitter or your blog, for instance — you can’t expect them to engage given all the other demands on their time. You’ll need a strategy that both gets them to know you exist and care so much that you exist, they’ll become intrigued about conversing with you. This requires a strategy that integrates search optimization, media, message and contributions of content from consumers.

The right strategy begins with the end in mind: What message can work across multiple platforms and be scaled so quickly and broadly it can drive sufficient revenues to support a business model?

Very few companies have the luxury to let conversations build slowly over time. And no business can afford to risk a high-waste and low-impact effort. More often than not, high-impact campaigns with reasonable returns don’t materialize solely from online ads and social media. Traditional media must be a major component of the mix.

Stefan Olander, Nike’s global director of brand connections, noted at Lindsay, Stone & Briggs’ Brandworks University 2009 that many of Nike’s online campaigns received overwhelming response at launch. Colleagues at Nike were excited about the prospect of dropping expensive traditional media campaigns in favor of these successful digital campaigns. Olander reminded them that, despite how well-known the Nike brand is, to optimize online conversations they still must jump-start initiatives with traditional media.

That’s because traditional media can do what social media cannot: aggressively interject messages into people’s lives in a socially acceptable way. Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation indicates that messages delivered by TV may, in fact, be the fastest and most cost-efficient means to jump-start productive conversations in the digital and real worlds.

Experts at the World Advertising Research Center have also studied what it takes to optimize engagement in a conversation economy. They recommend this media priority:

  1. Mainstream media.
  2. Open networks such as blogs and websites.
  3. Closed networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

A multimedia mix framed to spark conversations requires a compelling message concept that can work across a multimedia platform. Its foundation has to be far more than a one-time promotion or product attribute; it must be a message strategy that connects brand meaning with search habits and accommodates ongoing contributions that can range from casual conversations to consumer-generated content.

This is a tall order, but not impossible. That’s because the solution can be found in the motivations of the conversationalists themselves. Some psychologists say that people subconsciously come to a conversation with a desire to be changed by them. This makes sense. Conversation is mankind’s natural search engine.

Before Marketers Ask for Trust, Perhaps They Should Apologize.

Posted by truecreek on May 27, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Jonah Bloom

There are many ads today from our imperiled banks, insurance companies and automakers telling us that we can still trust them and should still buy their products. But there’s one word consumers haven’t heard much that might serve these companies better than their current dirges: sorry.

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That thought came to mind as a rash of “We’re sorry” ads broke out recently across the pond in the U.K. As a native of Britain, I should note that being sorry is our national pastime. (My parents, who are always profoundly apologetic, often on my behalf, fondly recall the time I briefly knocked out my 10-year-old self by walking into a parking meter and came to fuzzily apologizing to said inanimate object.) I’ve often wondered whether this propensity has anything to do with some deep-seated national guilt at the many atrocities committed by our former empire.

Regardless of its origins, these days it manifests itself in nothing more serious than an underwear manufacturer apologizing for charging bigger-breasted women more for bigger bras. Yes, Marks & Spencer recently ran a national campaign apologizing for this. The headline, of course: “We boobed.”

This mea culpa hit more or less at the same time London’s Evening Standard newspaper, relaunching under new ownership, ran a major outdoor campaign saying sorry: “Sorry for Losing Touch,” “Sorry for Being Negative,” and so on.

Sunny Delight also decided to confess its sins. It’s running ads in a number of U.K. women’s weeklies, with the wording: “Britain’s mums told us where to stick the artificial ingredients. And it wasn’t in the bottle.” The drink has been relaunched as a healthful option.

Apologizing in ads isn’t new. Under fire, it’s crisis 101. In the auto industry, we’ve seen many variations, from Renault apologizing to the French people for its various missteps in the early ’90s to various apologies alongside product recalls to GM’s semi-apologetic “Road to Redemption” campaign.

Yet despite a mountain of evidence that American people feel they’ve been let down by car companies, banks, insurers and, indeed, corporate America as a whole, we haven’t heard a whole lot of sorry.

Doug Wojcieszak, author of an apology-strategy book called “Sorry Works!” and founder of a company by the same name, says it’s not a cultural thing, and that, in fact, sorry works in the U.S. “It works very well here because of our immigrant culture. Many of us screwed up elsewhere, that’s why we’re here. Americans get mistakes — they just don’t get or like coverups.”

Perhaps the problem is CEOs and lawyers don’t want to admit culpability for anything that’s gone wrong. But even that doesn’t stand up as an excuse, according to Mr. Wojcieszak. Most of his work has been in the litigation minefield of health care, where he’s building a growing body of evidence that failure to apologize is often a key factor in malpractice becoming a lawsuit, and, conversely, that apologies defuse more potential legal situations than they create. “Even senior health-care executives are starting to understand that apologizing actually takes away the urge to litigate,” he says.

Of course, as any savvy marketer, or properly-adjusted human being, knows, there are two conditions that have to be met for contrition to mean anything. You have to mean it, and you have to be able to show meaningful ways in which you’re changing whatever it was you’re apologizing for.

But assuming that many of the people at America’s bailed-out banks and automakers probably are pretty sorry about way they mismanaged their businesses about now, I can’t help thinking that it’d be a valuable start for a bunch of companies generally regarded as having been too arrogant to see the mistakes they were making to share their regrets with the public.

17 Ways to Use Twitter.

Posted by truecreek on May 21, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Maki

I’ve signed up for a Twitter account a long time ago and used it sporadically because it never really did appeal to me. Last week I decided to give it another chance and installed Snitter, a desktop application for Twitter.

I started using it actively and gradually developed an avid interest. I think Twitter is a manageable process that can be adopted for all types of lifestyles, busy or inactive. You’ll just need to integrate it within your normal workflow. It’s addictive but once you understand how to use it, it’ll be a very effective tool indeed.

Having read a great deal of other articles on Twitter, I decided a do a quick summary of all the ways you can use Twitter for both your professional or personal life. Some of these methods go beyond the use of Twitter as a lifestreaming device:

1. Personal Branding. Twitter is a social media platform you can use to build your personal brand. It has the primary benefit of developing a casual persona and establishes you as a social personality that is connected and approachable. As Twitter adoption increases, new users will be drawn towards well established Twitter personas.

2. Get Feedback. Need an alternative perspective on how a website looks or the right course of action to take?   Blast out a message asking for advice and you’ll receive replies from other users. This collective intelligence can be used as fodder for articles or projects.

3. Hire People. Need a good logo designer, marketer or programmer? Send out a message asking for recommendations. This is a very quick and easy way to hire freelancers or even companies based on familiar recommendations.

4. Direct traffic. Twitter can be used to get traffic to your websites or the sites of friends. If you ask your friends to tweet about it, the message will spread faster and further as other active users pick it up. There is a viral nature to all types of news, even on a site like Twitter.

5. Read News. Twitter users often link to useful sites or articles and can be a source of scoops and alternative news. You can also subscribe to Twitter feeds for specific websites/conferences, which allows you to receive and view content quickly. This is very useful for active social news participants.

6. Make New Friends. Like any other social network, Twitter has a built-in function for you to befriend and track the messages of other users. This is an easy way for you connect with people outside of your usual circle. Make an effort to add active users you find interesting. A Twitter acquaintance can be developed into a long lasting friendship.

7. Network for benefits. Twitter can be used as a socializing platform for you to interact with other like-minded people, especially those in the same industry. It can be used to establish consistent and deeper relationships for future benefits such as testimonials or peer recommendations.

8. Use it as a ToDo list. Use Twitter to record down what you need to do while you are away from the computer. Mark the tweet as a favorite to file it for referencing. Another alternative is to use an Online task management service that is synced with Twitter. One example is Remember The Milk.

9. Business Management. Twitter can be used as a company intranet that connects employees to one another. Workers can liaise with each other when working on group projects. Particularly useful when certain workers go out often in the field. Updates could be set to private for security reasons.

10. Notify Your Customers. Set up a Twitter feed for the specific purpose of notifying customers when new products come in. Customers can subscribe via mobile or RSS for instant notification. Twitter can also be used to provide mini-updates for one-on-one clients.

11. Take Notes. Twitter provides you with an easy way to record important ideas or concepts you want to explore further. Include links relevant to ideas you want to explore. Note taking can also be done offline via mobile applications.

12. Event Updates. Businesses can use Twitter as a means to inform event participants and latest event happenings/changes. This is a hassle-free way of disseminating information, especially when you don’t have the means to set up a direct mobile link between you and the audience

13. Find Prospects. Twitter can be used as a means to find potential customers or clients online. Do a search for keywords related to your product on Twitter Search and then follow users. Tweet about topics parallel to your product and close prospects away from public channels by using direct messages or offline communications. Discretion and skill is needed in this area.

14. Provide Live coverage. Twitter’s message size limit prevents detailed coverage of events but it can allow you to provide real-time commentary which may help to spark further discussion or interest on the event as other Twitter users spread the message. Very useful for citizen journalism.

15. Time Management and Analysis. Twitter can simply be used to keep a detailed record of what you are doing every daily. This might be boring for others but this type of usage is useful when you want to analyze how you spend and manage your time.

16. Set Up Meetings. Twitter can help you organize impromptu meetups. For example, you can twitter a message while at a cafe, event or art gallery and arrange to meet fellow users at a specific spot. It’s an informal and casual way of arranging a meeting.

17. Acquire Votes. Send a link to your stories you’ve submitted in other social news sites like Digg. Sometimes your followers will vote up the stories because they agree with it. This allows you to acquire more support for your efforts on other social media websites.

What Are You Packing Into Your (Creative) Briefs? Your Creatives Want Clear, Tightly Written Objectives.

Posted by truecreek on May 19, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Howard Margulies

You are an advertiser, an account director, brand planner or an ad agency executive. And you have come to the conclusion that something is fundamentally wrong with your creative brief.

Your suspicion is confirmed by that gnawing sensation you feel in your gut when evaluating the advertising created in service of the deficient brief. The work feels indistinct or generic, crammed with information, yet devoid of a differentiating message; its tonality is either too quiet or patently overbearing in its desperate need for attention.

Blame must be assigned: It’s got to be the brief.

Changing an organization’s creative brief can be a politically charged, time-consuming ordeal; but that aside, choosing a new form is a fairly simple task. Put the words “creative brief” into Google, and with a little digging, you will encounter 117,000 links, many pitching their own idealized construct. Some forms are verbose, others elegantly concise. Choose one that feels right and run with it. Related: My doctor once observed that if a wide range of products exist to treat a medical condition, one might assume that none of them work notably better than another. What’s true for poison ivy is true for the creative brief. They will all sort of work, more or less.

Here are some guidelines for experimenting with a new, improved creative brief:

* Think simple. The more sophisticated the brief, the simpler it should be. The more glissandi and grace notes the piece has, the harder it is to play.

* More spaces to fill present a greater opportunity for bad poetry. Avoid theoretical definitions; keep the language at the 8th-grade level.

* Write in clear, declarative sentences.

* Test out the chosen version with products or services you know well. If you can get all the key ideas in, you’re good to go.

* Every fact or observation you add to the brief must be useful and actionable. If not, leave it out.

* Does the final brief say what you want it to mean?

* Write a couple of bad ads directly from your brief. What would the headline say? What would be the key visual? Is that the beating heart of your story?

The humbling reality is, regardless of the pedigree of the agency championing a particular style of creative brief, in practice it will fail to result in great advertising if the guidance it provides is merely factual, or unclear and unfocused. The format of your chosen creative brief may well be the least of your problems.

PROBLEM No. 1: Filling out the brief.

The very notion of “filling out” a creative brief should fill you with dread. Because if simply filling it out is the goal of the individual(s) tasked with its completion, it will not end well.

Too often, the creative brief is joylessly “filled out” as if it were the worksheet to an IRS 1040 Schedule C. Values are plugged into fields. Facts substituted for insights. Data dumped in a hierarchical, unfiltered lump. Keep in mind that at the end of this process, no matter how flawed or absent the thinking, it will look exactly like a creative brief.

When you write a creative brief, you’re not filling out a form. You’re crafting the story of your product and its reason to exist and thrive in the world. This is the first, and arguably the most important creative act of the entire process. And yet it’s often approached with all the delight of passing a kidney stone.

Believe it or not, your creatives want the freedom of a tightly written brief. They’re looking to you for inspiration. Man up. Make them care.

Peter Comber, creative director at Italy’s DWA, wants “clear objectives, and clear targets.” “Sell more,” he insists, is not an objective any more than “everyone” is a target audience.

Dallas Baker, creative director of Freed Advertising, wants a brief “to connect [him] with the target on a level [he] wouldn’t otherwise understand … to be taken into a brand and … the challenge that lies ahead.”

It all comes down to this: Are you telling the right story to the right audience? The right story is not merely true, but motivating to any given audience. Often inarguable, self-evident truths are ladled into a creative brief under the guise of insight. This will not go unnoticed.

Your creative teams may dress like slackers, but they have been genetically bred to sniff out a con job. Oh, they may not immediately realize that your core leverageable insight is not really very insightful or leverageable. But know this: After they work with the brief for a while, they will arrive at that conclusion.

The creatives will scour the brief for a declarative message (anything!) delivered with clarity, something they can sink their teeth into. Finding none, in utter desperation, they will reach into their advertising bag of tricks and their instinctive knowledge of consumer motivators to create a marginally interesting way of stating the painfully obvious.

But ultimately, the smoke will clear and the creative work will not stand up to scrutiny. They will come to you for clarification, and you will be frustrated by their inability to crack the code. Be gentle with them.

It’s not the format of the brief, but the story it tells.

PROBLEM No. 2: How will you know when you have written a good brief?

Brevity goes a long way to winning over some of your creative comrades. Creative legend Jackie End’s litmus test for a good brief is “when you can read it without missing lunch and dinner.”

Steve Capp, chief creative officer of Unit 7, has observed that if your brief is too long, “someone didn’t spend enough time on it.”

Surely, when your creatives begin to nod, rather than nod off, you know you’re on the right track. But how do you know you have nailed it?

It’s been suggested that you’ll know you’re onto something big when you can pitch the story in under 30 seconds. Can you deliver an elevator speech for your product? Are you writing it to be read?

Dave Dresden, director of International Promotions at Warner Bros., suggests that “actually speaking the words out loud … lets one sense the potential for an ‘a-ha’ insight.” Distance yourself from the brief, if you can. If you were hearing the ideas for the first time, would you buy in?

In a privately published 1998 monograph, “What’s A Good Brief? The Leo Burnett Way,” a “good creative brief” was defined as “brief and single minded … logical and rooted in a compelling truth … [incorporating] a powerful human insight.” That opinion was echoed by several ad veterans I polled for this article.

Rich Solomon, creative director at C2Creative, senses that a brief is leading into fertile territory “when concepts start to come immediately after reading a single-minded benefit statement.”

DWA’s Comber thinks the clearest evidence of a solid brief is that when he’s “reading it the first time, he reaches for a pen and paper.”

Greg DiNoto, CEO of DiNoto Inc., knows when he’s in good hands “when a brief is dense, when it commits … and [he] can immediately and intuitively sense the truth in it.”

DiNoto has it exactly right. When writing a brief, you must fully commit to an idea:

* This is the time to fall on the sword. Commit!

* Refrain from peppering the brief with ideas; a little bit of this or that. Layering ideas in a painterly way is dishonest. Commit!

* Say one thing, and say it clearly.

* Don’t try to outshine the creatives, don’t let your cleverness show; keep the language simple and clear.

* Anything resembling a tagline should be deleted.

* Support, amplify, clarify, stay on message.

If you have doubts that you have chosen the right path, find another. The universe has an infinite supply of paths; choose one.

It is a faulty assumption to believe that a killer ad campaign was the product of an unusually imaginative creative brief. Quite the opposite is more likely to be true. It is also not inevitable that any given campaign would result from any given brief. This is a deterministic function of the zeitgeist, the talents and disposition of the creative teams, the openness and receptivity of the target audience, and the ability of an agency and client to celebrate the power of a great idea and run with it.

The Goodby, Silverstein & Partners award-winning “Got Milk?” campaign was based on a powerful, single-minded insight: People wait until they’re out of milk to realize that they need to buy more. The campaign’s scenarios were highly entertaining, but the core message was: “Milk enhances the enjoyment of many foods. Don’t wait until you’re out. Buy some today.” In Goodby’s hands, advertising history was made. At another shop, the spots might’ve sounded like infomercials for the ShamWow!

A truly motivating insight is a secret bit of knowledge that you have about your target audience that you can exploit to make them do your bidding. Don’t squander it.

Study the great advertising of the world. Dissect and reverse engineer it. But don’t fall into the trap of equating the creativity or memorability of a campaign with the writing style found in the brief that got them there.

* Keep your creative briefs free of clever turns of phrase, taglines, or ad-speak.

* Fill your brief with brilliant market analysis and motivational insights into your target audience.

* And most of all, write with clarity.

Comcast Break A Leg Four Color Print

Posted by truecreek on April 20, 2009 under The Work | Be the First to Comment

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Huge Bump in Surfing the Web By Phone.

Posted by truecreek on April 6, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Heidi Dawley
Mar 19, 2009

Mobile internet may have taken time to find its footing with consumers, but now it is powering along, gaining users at a fast clip.

What’s more it has moved beyond just an occasional toy for a rapidly increasing group of people.

The number of people who access news and information on the internet on a daily basis more than doubled in the last year, rising to 22.4 million in January from 10.8 million in the same month in 2008, according to a new study from ComScore.

“It is now more than a novelty. It is something that is a utility,” says Mark Donovan, senior vice president for mobile at comScore.

The transformation for mobile stems directly from improved web technology and a dramatic improvement in content.

In many ways the change is similar to what happened with internet access via the PC some years ago. In the early days, when dial-up ruled and content was limited, people might surf a bit each month. It was still a novelty. It became a daily habit as more content became available and fast internet connections gained over dial-up.

“You saw how the computer became knitted into the fabric of their lives. That’s now happening with the mobile phone,” says Donovan.

Another factor is handsets that are handier for surfing, but as comScore points out, it’s not just smartphones like Apple’s iPhone. It found that 70 percent of people accessing mobile internet content were using phones with lesser features.

The big draw for mobile surfers is news and information. ComScore found that the number of mobile users who visited such sites on a daily basis has more than doubled, rising 107 percent, to 22.4 million, by January as compared the prior January.

But the fastest-growing category in terms of the number of daily users is social networks and blogs. The number accessing these sites was up 427 percent to 9.2 million.

The third-biggest category was financial services, trading stocks, and accessing bank accounts and the like. That was up 188 percent, to 3.2 million daily users. This is also a category that Donovan believes is likely to continue growing rapidly.

For advertisers the rapid shift to accessing the web via mobile phones makes this area far more appealing, says Donovan.

“We have shown that mobile is sizable audience, it is frequently used by 35 percent daily. Plus a big portion of those people are additive, in that advertiser wouldn’t get them by just advertising on the PC web,” he says.

He is referring to some previous comScore research that showed that light PC internet users are 30 percent more likely to be using the mobile internet. So mobile is a key way to reach them.

What’s more, the people who are surfing from their phones are a nice sweet spot for advertising, believes Donovan. They tend to be men ages 18-35, who are highly connected and highly distracted. The mobile phone is their connection to the digital world.

And Now, Another Opinion. Americans Spend Eight Hours a Day on Screens.

Posted by truecreek on March 28, 2009 under More Dam News | Read the First Comment

Adult Americans spend an average of more than eight hours a day in front of screens — televisions, computer monitors, cellphones or other devices, according to a new study.

The study also found that live television in the home continues to attract the greatest amount of viewing time with the average American spending slightly more than five hours a day in front of the tube.

The figure drops to 210 minutes a day of average TV viewing time among 18-24 year olds but rises to 420 minutes a day among those aged 65 and older.

The “Video Consumer Mapping” study was conducted by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design (CMD) and Sequent Partners for the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE).

For the year-long study, observers recorded the exposure of 350 subjects to four categories of screens: traditional television, computers, mobile devices and other screens such as store displays, movie screens and even GPS navigation units.

The study found the average amount of screen time for all age groups was “strikingly similar” at more than eight-and-a-half hours although the type of devices and duration used by the respective groups throughout the day varied.

It found that people aged 45 to 54 averaged the most daily screen time at just over nine-and-a-half hours.

The study did not include anyone under the age of 18.

Among other finds:

— computer video consumption tends to be quite small with an average time of just over two minutes a day.

— Adults spend an average of 6.5 minutes a day with videogame consoles with the number rising to 26 minutes a day among those aged 18-24

— Adults spend an average 142 minutes a day in front of computer screens

— Adults spend an average 20 minutes a day engaged with mobile devices with the highest usage — 43 minutes a day — among the 18-24 age group

“What differentiates this study from all other attempts to measure video exposure at the consumer level is its scale, the range of media covered and the fact that it is focused on consumers first and the media second,” said Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research for Ball State’s CMD.

“It’s not a study about TV or the Web or any other medium — it’s about how, where, how often and for how long consumers are exposed to all media.”

Do Some Good: Create Newspaper Ads.

Posted by truecreek on March 26, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

newspaperI love newspaper.  Always have.  It’s just a wonderful creative medium that allows clients to not only project their brand image in a tasteful manner, but it allows for the communication of additional points of importance without destroying the creative at hand.  It’s artwork.  And it can really work for the client.  Martin’s Mike Hughes thinks the same.

By Mike Hughes

It’s time the advertising industry did something important.

For our own self-interest — and for the common good — we need to start paying attention to newspapers again.

To begin with, it would be good for our business. For our own selfish reasons, we need a medium that targets the well-informed. We need a medium that lets us tell our whole story — and not just the 30-second version. With each passing month, we need more media that target people where they live. We need more media that let marketers build a brand and ask for the business. We need more media that let writers, art directors, photographers and illustrators practice their crafts.

We need a medium with the immediacy and importance of newspapers. Lee Clow says, “Newspaper is a special medium. It’s urgent, not yesterday or tomorrow but today. Sitting with a newspaper and a cup of coffee in the morning will always be one of the most intimate media experiences there is.”

Online or in print, we need newspapers. There are no substitutes. Magazines, TV channels and websites don’t do the same things. Not even close.

Our industry needs newspapers — but just as important, so does humankind. The world needs the kind of journalism practiced by newspapers when they’re at their best. The local investigative pieces. The foreign correspondence. The war reporting. Without them, news goes unreported. Viewpoints are narrowed. Governments can run amok.

That kind of reporting is expensive, and right now no one knows how it will get paid for in the coming years. With newspapers cutting costs every day, who will pay to man a substantial bureau in Baghdad? Who will spend the money to report the atrocities in Africa? Who will find the resources to blow the whistle on the next Watergate?

Even at their best, magazines, TV channels and websites don’t come close to giving us that kind of reporting.

Of course, humankind’s problem isn’t necessarily the advertising industry’s problem. If online and print newspapers weren’t proven effective, no one would say our industry needs to address this important problem.

But decades worth of evidence — including evidence gathered in 2009 — points to the uncommon efficacy of newspaper advertising. You know how excited our industry gets about the Super Bowl? Well, every single day of the year, more American adults read a printed newspaper than watch the big game once a year. And in 22 of the top 25 markets, the local-newspaper site is the No. 1 local site in town. And the newspaper-website audience has grown 80% in the past five years.

So why aren’t we creating more newspaper advertising? Part of the answer is undoubtedly fashion. Twenty-five years ago, an advertising campaign usually meant “TV and some print. Maybe radio.” That was the fashion then. Say “campaign” to ad people today, and their minds leap to “TV and digital.” We say we’re media-agnostic, but our behavior often says something else entirely. How many agencies aren’t selling newspaper advertising to their clients as hard as they should? How many advertisers are overlooking the medium that still has unsurpassed credibility with its audience? It’s time for a wake-up call.

No less an authority than Jeff Goodby reminds us that far from being out-of-fashion, a good newspaper ad is actual art. “The art is the part that gets people to look. Show outrageous things that don’t belong there. Shock people with a new logic,” he says. “If we all do this, it will become very difficult to find which newspaper page we want to wrap the fish in.

“I will like that day.”

Let me be clear here. I don’t think the newspaper industry is going to die anytime soon. With some well-publicized exceptions, most papers are surviving the economy’s near collapse. They might be holding on by their fingernails, but at least they’re holding on.

But if the newspaper business is going to give us the content our industry feeds on — and if it’s going to give us the journalism the world needs — newspapers need to be robust.

If we don’t give them a fair shot at our budgets, they might never be healthy enough to do the job we want them to do.

And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Study Probes Online Power of Hispanic Consumers.

Posted by truecreek on March 20, 2009 under More Dam News, Research | Read the First Comment

COM2-spreads.2.inddBy Mark Dolliver.

NEW YORK Not so long ago, a report on Hispanic Americans’ Internet usage would likely have been focusing on a “digital divide,” with Hispanic and other minorities lagging far behind the general population in online access and activity. The title of a Scarborough Research report released today, “The Power of the Hispanic Consumer Online,” gives a quick hint at how times have changed. The report finds Hispanic Internet users to be “avid downloaders of digital content,” thanks in part to a broadband adoption rate mirroring that of the nation’s overall online population.

Scarborough says 54 percent of Hispanic adults are online, vs. 69 percent of total U.S. adults. (If anything, the gap is likely to be narrower now, as the national data for the report were gathered between February 2007 and March 2008.) Among Hispanics who are online, 68 percent have a broadband connection in their household, as do 71 percent of U.S. Internet users in general.

In Scarborough’s polling, 42 percent of Hispanic Internet users (vs. 35 percent of Internet users in general) reported downloading some sort of digital content in the 30 days before being questioned. And what have they been downloading? As with the total online population, Hispanic Internet users are most likely to be latching onto music. Thirty-two percent of wired Hispanics reported having done so in the previous 30 days, vs. 24 percent of Internet users in general. Seventeen percent of online Hispanics (and 14 percent of all wired respondents) reported downloading something in the catchall “other video” category within that period.

Fewer Hispanic respondents said they’d downloaded audio clips (11 percent), movies (9 percent), TV programs (8 percent), video games (6 percent) or podcasts (3 percent) within that 30-day period. Aside from podcasts, the incidence of downloading in each category was slightly lower among Internet users in general than it was for the study’s Hispanic respondents. Scarborough (a joint venture between Arbitron and AdweekMedia parent The Nielsen Co.) notes that younger Hispanic adults were, as you’d expect, more likely than their elders to have downloaded digital content in the previous 30 days, with 51 percent of the 18-34-year-olds saying they’d done so.

Another section of the report notes that mobile devices are “an important point of Internet entry” for Hispanic adults. Among Hispanic cell-phone subscribers, 55 percent use it for text messaging, 28 percent for picture messaging, 22 percent for instant messaging, 15 percent for downloading video games, 15 percent for e-mail and 11 percent for “other” Internet usage. Here again, the polling finds Hispanic respondents more likely than cell-phone users in general to use the device in these ways.

When it comes to buying online, Scarborough found Hispanic Internet users lagging behind the total online population — but not by much. Sixty-two percent of online Hispanic adults reported having made at least one online purchase in the previous 12 months, vs. 70 percent of Internet users in general. Among those who did make such purchases, the average spent in the previous 12 months was $762 for Hispanic respondents and $861 for Internet users generally.

The report also took a look at some metro areas that have disproportionate numbers of Hispanic adults. Among the findings about these markets: The incidence of broadband access among online Hispanics was particularly high in Miami (76 percent), San Francisco (75 percent) and New York (72 percent). The incidence of past-30-day downloading among Hispanic Internet users was highest in Phoenix (60 percent). The average amount of online spending, among Hispanics who’d made any online purchase in the prior 12 months, was highest in New York (at $883), San Francisco ($879) and Phoenix ($831).

Time for a Data Diet? Deciding What Customer Information to Keep — and What to Toss

Posted by truecreek on March 19, 2009 under More Dam News | Read the First Comment

From Knowledge@Wharton:

Heartland Payment Systems, a credit card processor, may have had up to 100 million records exposed to malicious hackers. Payment processors CheckFree and RBS Worldpay, and employment site Monster.com have all reported data breaches in recent months, as have universities and government agencies. Experts at Wharton say that personal data is increasingly a liability for companies, and suggest that part of the solution may be minimizing the customer information these companies keep.

Indeed, according to Wharton marketing professors Eric Bradlow and Peter Fader companies should deploy a technique called “data minimization.” The concept: Keep the customer data a company needs for competitive advantage and purge the rest. “I think there is a fear and paranoia among companies that … if they don’t keep every little piece of information on a customer, they [can’t function],” says Bradlow. “Companies continue to squirrel away data for a rainy day. We’re not saying throw data away meaninglessly, but use what you need for forecasting and get rid of the rest.”

The problem with the data hoarding approach is that companies can’t use most of the information they keep, adds Fader. Meanwhile, they become data pack rats, chasing an illusory dream of one-to-one marketing, which he says “is a myth. The best thing to do is aggregate information so companies can predict something like, ‘Among all people who bought five times or more, how many times are they likely to buy in the next year?'”

Fader and Bradlow discussed data minimization concepts when they presented papers at the recent Wharton Information Security Best Practices Conference. Their papers illustrate how companies can still predict customer behavior even if they minimize the customer data they keep.

However, data minimization isn’t a panacea, argues Wharton operations and information management professor Eric Clemons. Some industries — such as insurance or credit card companies — may need to collect detailed customer data for competitive advantage. Meanwhile, companies that serve as pack rats for customer data are focusing on installing better defenses and procedures to protect information.

“The dominant argument of the day is that more data improves the accuracy of targeting,” says Andrea Matwyshyn, a legal studies and business ethics professor at Wharton. “But there are additional risks associated with storing that information. More may not always be better.”

Indeed, the cost of a data breach in 2008 was $202 per compromised record, up 2.5% from $197 per record in 2007, according to the Ponemon Institute, a Michigan group that researches and consults on privacy and information security issues. Ponemon’s estimates are based on interviews with companies that have suffered breaches to customer records that include credit card numbers and, in some cases, personally identifiable information. Following a data breach, companies often must hire security consultants, engage legal counsel and offer credit monitoring services to affected customers. The Institute also found that companies will lose customers in the year following a data breach. For example, health care and financial firms lost 6.5% and 5.5% of customers, respectively, after such incidents.

Fader and Bradlow argue that companies are taking on undue risk to their reputations by hoarding data with little business benefits. While companies generally disclose what data they keep in little-read privacy statements, consumers can still be surprised when breaches occur. “Companies are actively collecting data without realizing the work involved,” says Fader. “And given how companies are stretched thin, they can’t manage the data correctly. Keeping detailed data is a blessing and a curse.”

What to Keep?

The real challenge for companies is assessing what customer information they need to retain, says Fader, who adds that firms may be keeping an excessive amount of data because they can’t pinpoint what they actually want. “Data minimization involves more than just the data. You can’t minimize data until you know what to do with it. What data elements do you need to predict customer behavior?”

The inability to answer those tough questions, says Bradlow, could be one reason why companies default to storing as much data as possible — not the best strategy when it’s clear that many companies don’t know what to do with this data even when they have it.

Fader and Bradlow recommend a simple approach to data minimization. First, companies should figure out what information they need to track consumer behavior. Then, aggregate that information — including, for example, grocery bills, shopping frequencies and e-commerce sales for a retailer — over a defined period such as two to four months. With that aggregated information, a company can create histograms — graphical representations of aggregated data –and throw away original data.

Fader suggests that histograms offer accuracy rates close to individual targeting — without the risk. Purging individual information lowers costs because companies don’t have to secure information in transit, store and analyze data, and navigate a bevy of regulations across the globe. “Maintaining data warehousing is costly because the minute you keep data, you have to protect it,” says Bradlow. “Most firms realize they can’t do one-to-one targeting so why not only keep data that’s relevant?”

According to Matwyshyn, the discussion by Fader and Bradlow was an eye opener for privacy and legal experts at the Wharton security conference. What remains to be seen is whether privacy experts, marketers and security professionals can agree that data minimization is an important step. “The key is that there is discussion on the issue,” says Matwyshyn. “Marketers and privacy experts may not be as far apart as people presume.”

Fader and Bradlow acknowledge that the argument for data minimization is only just beginning. For data minimization to become the norm, a company’s management, privacy officers, legal counsel and marketing team will have to reach consensus on customer data collection. Legal and privacy experts are likely to support data minimization, while marketers will argue for keeping all the data they can collect.

Poaching Profitable Customers

In addition, data minimization practices will vary by industry. Clemons says that data can be a competitive advantage for many companies. For instance, Capital One used customer data to better segment its most profitable customers and poach similar ones from larger rivals. In this example, customer information led to varied pricing models — such as interest rates that varied by customer credit ratings — that maximized the profit from the top decile, or 10%, of customers. “Under the uniform pricing models of the mid 1990s, the top decile of customers produces 150 times more profit than average,” says Clemons. “Capital One found a way to attract the best customers away from other issuers.”

In a co-authored study, Clemons found that Capital One used what it calls an information-based strategy that allows the company to try varying approaches based on differences between itself and rivals. This strategy allowed Capital One to deploy a mass customization model. That model also generated returns, says Clemons. Capital One sustained double-digit returns on equity and double-digit increases in sales and profit growth due to its approach.

Clemons argues that storing customer data in bulk could lead to new pricing strategies. He agrees that one-to-one marketing is illusory at best, but a move to precision pricing — or figuring out exactly what an individual customer will pay — may warrant being a data pack rat. “I am not talking about pursuing some sort of illusory one-to-one marketing relationship with customers,” says Clemons. “I’m talking about making the transition to precision pricing, which does indeed require understanding your customer.”

Meanwhile, there’s another conundrum companies face: Data purged today could be valuable tomorrow. “Ten years ago, one of my clients wanted to purge his database. It was an insurance company, but once you purge your database, you know no more about your customers than a new entrant,” says Clemons. “That was okay under existing pricing models, but after any form of insurance deregulation, the information they were purging would have been enormously valuable.”

Ultimately, the choice to follow data minimization practices boils down to one question: What will a company do with the data?

“If you are collecting data just for its own purposes, follow a minimization approach,” suggests Matwyshyn. “If a company is doing something else with data, like selling it, then there’s no incentive to minimize the risk.”

Bradlow says data minimization has the potential to be one of the key security tools used by companies, even if it remains largely an academic concept today. “Security professionals will buy [data minimization]. Next, you have to convince the marketing world and begin giving talks outside the ivory tower. I think firms will start buying in.”