Fallon: What we Can Learn From Butch Vig & Rick Rubin

Great post from Chad Koehnen (Planner at Fallon) about "Smart" vs. inspiring. He comes down in favor of inspiring, not surprisingly. It's a great read, and especially helpful for brands trying to understand how to get the kind of creativity they need today. Good quote: 

Here’s a little secret that Planners would be advantaged to learn: Nobody (real people) truly cares about smart. That’s not to say it isn’t important, but it’s an input, not an output. Therefore, the only evaluation of smart should be through the work it inspires. People don’t care about what Producer Butch Vig told Nirvana during the making of Nevermind. People just care about how “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sounds like the perfect angsty, balls out, cymbal-crashing soundtrack to their life.

Whether it be Music Producing or Account Planning, smart is only as good as the interesting, hilarious, touching, persuasive, rocking, and beautiful product it inspires.

I also like this one (which i might put on a T-shirt): 

 Or more specifically, it’s a Planner’s job to fight on the side of people who love to consume amazing shit.

Wanted: A Turnkey Solution to test display ads (Fast, Iterative Learning w/Real Dollars)

I realize this post may open the floodgates of email from the gajillions of readers of this blog, but the "lazyweb" could solve a  problem i've been wondering about. (And note, this is my personal page, and it in no way reflects the opinions or positions of my employer and is not a solicitation of a proposal) 

The Setup:

A lot of the brands i come into contact with are classic, big, mass-market brands. They focus mostly on TV or some sort of instore promotion as a way to grow their top-line sales. As a result, they put tremendous amounts of time and energy into getting their advertising message perfect. This creates a planning cycle that often starts 18 months or so before the :30 second spot airs. 

As these brands move to online advertising, their planning cycles aren't really changing that much. Digital gets planned along with the tv, the creative is often linked explicitly to the tv in the name of "integration", and therefore the digital creative is often planned at least 8-10 months before it "runs". And, a similiar amount of energy/time/planning goes into getting the digital message (the words, the visuals, the consumer "target", the tone, the call-to-action) perfect before they launch. Its' like we're planning our banners like we plan our TV spots. 

Note: It's going to seem counterintuitive to many of us, but the majority of these campaigns focus only on awareness. That is, they aren't concerned about a click, or any sort of action. These are mass-reach, impression driving campaigns, not CPA/CPC, response based campaigns. 

The Challenge: 

We should be able to plan and execute our digital display ads so much faster and cheaper. The growth of exchanges and the proliferation of ad networks has created a flood of cheap, not-quite-free banner space (see: Mediamath, contextweb.com or, for better, higher quality contextual placement Brand.net). There are amazing tools out there that make it easy to do data-driven targeting of the creative unit. There are crazy powerful tools that make it easy to dynamically create, in real-time, creative units from a library of images, messages, and other creative elements (see: Teracent, X+1). And, there's a growing supply of providers who can match up in display impressions w/back office sales data (at least for the industry i work in).

With all this data, all this display space, all this measurement, why isn't there a product that brands can buy that enables them to do the following: 

  • Have a known period of "testing" (like two months)
  • Put a known amount of working dollars into the market (not much money, mind you)
  • Have a set of two to four consumer "targets" to test
  • Have a set of two to four different creative messages to test
  • Have a known result to test against (in this case, cash register rings in the store, not clicks, necessarily)

The goal: Come out of a 1 to 2 month test, with a higher degree of confidence that they've got an advertising message that will drive instore sales with a specific consumer segment. And, all this by putting a significantly smaller proportion of the annual marketing budget (like a fraction) to work, before the bulk of it is committed.

The desired outcome: Risk management for the main campaign; a higher confidence in the combination of message, media placement and consumer target. And, do this in a way where the brand doesn't have to work that hard at it, where it's NOT a big production, and where the brand can learn fast. 

The need: 

This has got to be productized, like something a brand could (almost) buy with a few clicks. This should be something that a brand could buy, a) in a turnkey way b) for a known amount of money c) with a known amount of "working" dollars required. This would be delivered as a service, with some support from the vendor in designing, producing and executing the program. It would be delivered in a standardized window (e.g. 1 month of planning, 1-2 months of testing, 1 month of analysis) with known/consistent deliverables (that would enable cross test comparisons)

There's got to be a productized version of this out there somewhere.

No brand would be interested in:

  • Some technology that the internal/external IT group or agency group can use
  • Smarter ways to buy media
  • Buying media directly from exchanges and or networks
  • Brands won't want to hear about your dynamic, real-time, multivariate testing capability. they'll want this to work automagically
  • Dynamic optimization
  • Your agency creative, strategy or production services
  • Campaign management tools
  • CPC tools or SEM mgmt tools
  • Any sort of customized project from some agency

They'd be looking for a turnkey solution that can be bought off the shelf. There's got to be something like this out there….But i've looked, and i can't find it. 

Lazyweb, any ideas? 



From Buzz to Something Real: The Peril of “Earned Media”

Like most marketers, we're trying to figure out just how real the promise of "earned media" is. Truly earned, positive exposure for your brand is almost unicorn-esque: it takes a fantastic product, a clearly articulated brand story, and a lot of elbow grease to get it started.But more and more, we're talking to brands about how "earned media" can be a powerful benefit from great marketing.

But, we're nowhere near close to being able to answer the legitimate questions we'll be getting from smart marketers about how to equate the value of earned media to the stuff we're hoping to displace. So, when marketers ask "what's the value of earned media", we don't have the tools to really answer that question.

We know, generally, that exposure for the brand that we don't have to actually pay for is good. But, can you put a media value on the amount of blog posts, tweets, mentions, comments, etc? How do we go from vague "buzz", to real, legitimate "media value" from the conversation?

(Yes, i know the whole question is kind of crass. But, it's still legitimate. More importantly, as paid media gets less effective/efficient, we'll need to understand how to prioritize our efforts in the social space. Which brings us back to how to value the conversations… )

Here's the nut that needs to be cracked:

* the promise of "earned" media is that it could, theoretically, replace "paid" media, if we could get our arms around it.

* to get our arms around it, we need to be able to track the activity over time and see real trends emerging from the data and, eventually, make connections in the data, leading to legitimate insights

* to track it, we need a consistent definition of "earned media", and a clear, consistent categorization of the forms that earned media takes, from blog posts, tweets, comments, "likes" etc.

* To measure it, we need to see the differences over time, and equate some sort of value to each of the instances we see it. Even if that value is relative (*this* is better than *that*) and not financially quantifiable. Ideally, we'd be able to identify some causal relationship between "earned" media and cash register rings. But, until then, we'll need some sort of objective way to rank/force rank the desirability of the forms earned media takes.

* all we have – right now – is an "impression" as the common media unit. We have to be able to do better than that.

So, what I guess I'm looking for is a tool that will help us track and categorize the "earned" media we're getting like we track our paid media. I've got all sorts of tools that show me activity, some that can show me sentiment, and one or two that can give me semantic insights in the deluge of text. But, how do i know how much it's worth? It's the unicorn tool, i'm afraid.

Me vs. the Stream: Design Rigor Still Matters at BBC

If you are a content provider (magazine, newspaper, TV channel), does the design of your brand and your content still matter? So many of the digital experiences we have today are mediated abstractions of the original and/or are driven by the device we consume it on. Think: we get our newsfeeds via RSS, read through our preferred reader (google reader, etc.), twitter updates in the Facebook stream, Facebook updates via text and email, NY Times stories on the blackberry. Does anyone see the content displayed as it was originally intended by the team of designers?

Design still matters at the BBC. Check out this really thoughtful, really detail and very impressive overview of the BBC's efforts to rationalize and maintain a wholistic visual design framework. It's an amazing story, really. Well worth the 15 minutes it will take to read through it and digest it.

As someone who is (now very) indirectly responsible for the visual design of some important content-driven digital platforms, I look at this with envy. I envy the time the designers had to be thoughtful, practical, intentional. I envy the trust the organization gave the designers, and i envy the power of persuasion that must have been employed to get the top of their house to believe so strongly in the value of an investment in a unified design language. 

I love deeply immersive, well organized and thought-through digital experiences (like, well, the BBC.com website and the BBC ipad reader), but i'm worried about our ability to truly deliver them as we move into the stream phase of the digital evolution. The "content" we used to experience as a whole experience is getting broken into it's components (text, images, video) and we're losing a lot of control over the experience (if we haven't completely lost it already). 

Question for designers: How much to invest in the "experience", when most of our content will get delivered via some device/reader/api/filter where we can't maintain control over the look/feel/design of our content.

Counterpoint: Invest more in the design of the "original" content and create a remarkably better experience, so those who see it in the second-generation, mediated form want to come back to the original. Frankie Goes to Hollywood's version of Born to Run was good, but the orginal source was better.

Ad Agencies: Take Notice – Bike Hero

YouTube – Bike Hero Is just plain fantastic. Not just because i love biking more than anything. And i love guitar hero. The best part is about 3:20 in, when the road actually flames up.

This has got to be some commercially done viral thing, because it just looks super complicated and its hard to imagine anyone would have the sustained interest required if this were a fun, gag-like thing to do.

I work with a lot of ad folks, and they need to pay attention to these. This is as much a commercial for Guitar Hero as it is for “funny” or “cool”. This was done with love, with humor, with a wink and a nod to the people how love guitar hero.

This is, in some very important ways (that i’ll eventually espouse here) the future of advertising. Content that strikes the perfect note with a core group of passionate people, something that is so good it gets shared. Thats the way to break through the clutter: be honest, be inspiring, be true. And, of course, be good.