Tag Archives: Information Age

Surviving the Social Media Storm

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

To a native Atlantan, that statement deserves a line on its own. Once “Winter Weather Advisory” is heard, people flock to grocery stores to prepare for the worst. An innocent bystander unaware of how much snow was on the horizon may think that Atlanta was about to be hit with enough snow to collapse the Georgia Dome. Instead, we only got 5 inches. But again…

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

And I mention this because snow in Atlanta can be as foreign to Southerners as social media is to marketing executives with little experience online.

Grocery stores are mob scenes before it snows. People don’t know what they need or how much they need; they just know they want it. And the same can be said about social media. Many companies know about social media. They know they want to use it, but they don’t know what, or how, or why. Without a plan or a goal in mind, social media results will just fall flat.

Now that it’s 2011, more and more companies are finding the need to use social media. And yet, some still don’t know why.

My suggestion? Stop thinking about Social Media as MEDIA. It should really be called Online Interaction. Accounts are created to strengthen the communication with customers. Yet, companies are creating accounts without thinking of how to get the most benefit from it. A marketer would never say, “We need to be on TV,” without knowing what kind of ROI would justify spending that much money. Before jumping into the latest fad of Online Interaction, take a minute to map out the purpose for being online, be it to establish dialogue with those already engaged with the brand, or to provide customer service to those seeking it.

And, while trying to figure out the purpose, establish goals for what being online will accomplish. Is there a desire to have comments posted about what is posted? Will there be an opportunity to talk with the consumer in order to establish dialogue? If Web traffic is increased, what should these new visitors do on the company site that will result in a positive return for being online? Let this new online interaction be an open door to further the consumer experience.

Once the purpose and goals are set in place, share it with employees. Let employees talk about it on their own online accounts. If there is a strong purpose with clear goals in place, but poor promotion of the online existence, then results will be weak. This may sound silly, but an online interaction continuously feeds off of, just that, interaction online. And the more that fellow colleagues can develop, the better the results.

Establishing a strong presence online is an ongoing process. Companies cannot create an account and leave it, hoping that friends, followers, and fans will continue to build. This is done through a constant stream of discussion. Once that has been established on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), explore new ways to connect with the audience. The age of Social Media is only 6-7 years old, so the “right” way for a soft-drink company may not be the best way for a shoe company. By experimenting with different sites (GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, Friendstr, Groupon, etc.) the online interaction may prove even more suitable than Facebook.

Social Media isn’t new, and is always changing. But having a plan, setting goals ahead of time, and letting fellow employees participate will increase the results of social media efforts. And it won’t feel like you’re scrapping around like we do down South due to winter storm warnings.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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The Internet Summit—One point worth repeating

I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Internet Summit, held in Raleigh, N.C. Two days of wall-to-wall presentations and conversation on the future of the Web, social media, mobile marketing, online video, privacy, security, you name it and someone was talking about it.

One of the keynote speakers at an eye-opening 8 AM was Chip Perry, president and CEO of AutoTrader.com. AutoTrader.com generates over $500 million in revenue each year and has an eye-popping 3.5 million new and used vehicles listed. AutoTrader.com is part of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Manheim, a client of ours. In fact, Mr. Perry was asked by Manheim to launch AutoTrader.com and was its first employee, back in the day. The company is now considered to be the world’s largest online automotive marketplace, and Mr. Perry is recognized as a pioneer in the industry.

What I found the most fascinating about Mr. Perry’s presentation was one simple point. It was quite striking, especially in light of the venue and reason we had all gathered together.

He said, “Success is more about business fundamentals and common sense than it is about the Internet.”

The point should resonate with brands, businesses, and marketers in the throes of the technology tsunami. It’s easy to get caught up in your underwear over the latest widget, gadget, etc. The basics still remain the basics. Know your customers. Respond to their needs. Use technology as a tool, not as a strategy in and of itself.

– Chris Schlegel, Principal, Chief Creative Officer

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Compelling is a matter of respect. Advertisers should show some of it.

Ever gone out to dinner with someone who constantly cuts you off to talk about themselves? Ever work next to someone who bores you with what they did over the weekend while you’re trying to work? Or maybe you have a mother-in-law who continuously explains to you how things are supposed to be done while you’re trying to finish your chores. You probably get the feeling these people don’t really care what you think. And you’d most likely be right.

So why do advertisers interrupt and bore their audience with monotonous, dumbed-down messages? Some advertisers think the public is an idiot and they’re hopeless. Some are simply testing only for brand recall and a few copy points and feel this works for them. And most likely they don’t see it as their responsibility to entertain you.

I’d like to propose that it is an advertiser’s responsibility to provide a well-crafted, compelling message that not only informs but also entertains. There is enough visual and aural pollution in the world already. Walk down a commercial street and you’re most likely looking at ugly signs, litter, billboards and transit advertising, and listening to noisy cars, buses, and music coming from storefronts. The world is a very tough place to win attention. http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=56750

Back in 1970, in a famous book, sociologist Alvin Toffler warned of information overload (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_shock). Today, there is a lot more media in our lives, and the pace of change is rapid. Messages need to do more than break through clutter; they must stand out in a torrent of media, much of which is actually designed to be engaging.

So how can a brand compete? Two ways. With big, targeted, and expensive media buys. Or with smart, engaging content that people actually want to see. It’s obvious that there is a responsible choice here.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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Creative in the new age of measurement. It sure beats testing.

The digital age has added a new responsibility to the creative’s job. It used to be that we just had to be funny, smart, and on target. Now we have to be measurable, and we must create content with measurement in mind.

While this certainly sounds like an extra layer that can interfere with creating the best work possible, I’m actually for it when it’s employed correctly.  That’s right, a creative who’s for measurement.

Why in the heck would a creative embrace testing? Because now we can prove that the best creative is usually the most compelling and effective in the marketplace.

Back in the old days, creative measurement meant testing, and testing meant death by focus group. I’ve witnessed group dynamics ruin many perfectly good ideas.

Today, rather than spend their money on focus-group testing, a client can A/B test creative in the real world. And with the vastness of the digital space, clients can run with more than one idea and see which ones gain the most engagement.

Now, instead of reacting to what people say they will do in a monitored group situation, we actually know what they are doing and can react quickly with real-time information.

I see this as a boon for creative output and clients. Rather than argue about which creative is better, let’s put it to the test. I see this as an opportunity to produce more great work and prove its worth scientifically in the marketplace.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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A ‘Missed’ Opportunity?

I came across an article on the Media Post Web site entitled “Yet Without Information, We Are Nothing” about a study done at the University of Maryland where 200 students were asked to abstain from all forms of media for a 24 hour period.

The students were then asked to share their experience on private class Web sites. All in all, the 200 students wrote more than 110,000 words or, as the article states, “…about the same number of words as a 400-page novel.” (However, if you break it down, the average student only wrote about 550, words or roughly half the number of words in the entire article.)

Susan Moeller, a journalism professor at the university and the director of the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (What is the public’s agenda anyway? Did I miss something?), noted that “We were surprised by how many students admitted that they were ‘incredibly addicted’ to media… but we noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections. Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family.”

The article then goes on to say that “The absence of information, the feeling of not being connected to the world, was among the things that caused the most anxiety in students as they sought to learn about the role of media in their lives by completing an assignment that asked them to spend a day without using media.

“They cared about what was going on among their friends and families; they cared about what was going on in their community; they even cared about what was going on in the world at large. But most of all they cared about being cut off from that instantaneous flow of information that comes from all sides and does not seemed (sic) tied to any single device or application or news outlet.” (Italics added.)

I’m not sure I would have used the term “cared.” Caring implies a deep concern for or an empathy with a person or a cause. I think the term that should have been used was “missed.” They missed what was going on in their community. They missed what was going on in the world at large. They missed the interaction with their friends and family, if only because they felt it would somehow reassure them that they were connected to others.

This connection to others is a basic human need.  One that social media plays an important role in fulfilling. For those of you old enough, think “party line” on steroids.  The emerging technologies are redefining a number of things. Social media has helped extend the definition of the “family” unit since now outsiders can often see what family members are discussing and feel as if they’re part of the family “conversation.”  That can be both good and bad. But, again, it’s a connection.

I think the study was well intentioned, but I’m not really surprised by the results, which I feel were predictable. If you had asked me the result of a study of the reactions of college students to abstaining from any contact with media for a 24-hour period, I probably would have come up with a lot of the same conclusions.

I think a more relevant and better item for the “Public Agenda” would be a study of a cross section of the entire population sharing their stories about abstaining from all media forms for a 24-hour period. I’d expect the results from that would give us all a better insight into how to reach those of various ages.

— Dave Capano, Director of Media Services

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I Remember When Bluelines Were Blue…

Our agency recently hosted an open house for the Ad Club, so we had a wide array of industry folks visiting our office. In addition to doing some serious networking, I had the opportunity to visit with some of our younger Kilgies, and we did the normal shop talk thing you tend to do at these events.  I mentioned how we used to do “paste-up” and they looked at me like I had a third eye. Then I felt obligated to spend the next five minutes explaining how we did things before the digital age of advertising.  They did seem honestly interested for a few seconds…and then I lost them.  “No, we didn’t just press a button.”  Come on kids, humor the old guy!

I got my start in the retail grocery business sitting at a drawing table and laying out on tissue paper where I wanted the canned prunes to be in the weekly food ad.  I would then send the ad out to a type house and receive a series of long, smelly galleys of type. Run it through the machine to be waxed (not a beauty procedure!), and then I would cut out each individual item to be “pasted” onto a layout board.  Then someone shot it on a stat camera, and presto – there was the ad plus several painful X-acto blade cuts.  On Monday morning, when we saw that the competition beat us by a dime on those canned prunes, guess what?  We did it all over again!  And we did this whole process in a couple of days…what deadlines?

Exciting stuff, huh?  I’m glad things are so much easier now with all the great technical innovations we’ve made over the years. With the advent of the digital age, we’ve learned how to maximize our ability to make changes instantly in response to our client’s competitive marketplace.  This ever-changing ability makes our job more exciting and enables us to produce better work.

Sometimes, I get nostalgic for the old days of color keys, linos, t-squares, slicks and bluelines.  And yes, bluelines were blue. Look it up – online.

— Tim Kedzierski, Production Manager

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