Friday, 8 January 2010


Beware The Bottom-Feeders: When Procurement Turns Thinkers Into Executors 

Article by Alan Schulman, Friday, January 8, 2010

It doesn't take many ‘creatives’ (in “Ad” speak) to argue the short sightedness of allowing clients to drive down, or discount, the value of developing bigger (and longer-term) brand-building ideas.  After all, what are ideas, if not the cultural currency that differentiates one brand from another?   Ultimately, we agency folk are not only "agents" - but we are all fundamentally in the IDEA business.

What's astounding is the value (or lack thereof) that clients seemingly place on the power and cultural currency of BIG Ideas.  Witness 2009.  Having already rolled over the media services operations and account service functions being provided by their agency partners -- asking for everything from money back, to blended hourly rates that can barely afford a $50K FTE -- the question is, do they really think they've won?  What did they win?  Another half of an FTE?   Or a mid-level media supervisor holding down the responsibilities of an account director?  It makes this creative wonder if they know the difference between thinkers and executors?

But if it's simply executors Clients want, it's executors they shall have (witness any Top Five Global Ad Agency).  A few smart CMO’s have finally realized that the strategic and creative business is no place for Six Sigma.  Rather, it's where ideas are born, nurtured, shepherded and communicated until the customer starts talking -- and buying. Sadly however, as long as short-term, top-line revenue growth continues to drive stock prices up, public agencies will be forced to negotiate the value of their people and their ideas down to ensure the tonnage of dollars continues to flow.

As an industry, who among us will be brave enough to stand up and clarify that we are ultimately in the IDEA business -- not just the billings tonnage and stock price business?  In this climate of procurement driving poetry in motion, it looks bleak for ultimate value of great ideas. 

Perhaps we put ourselves here.  Buy/sell technology platforms have crossed the chasm from Silicon Valley, purportedly making media planning and buying more efficient, agencies and digital media networks have become seduced by scale rather than by skill.  The embracing of these platforms of scale under the guise of efficiency ultimately leads to only one place -- the commoditization of media inventory and the devaluation of strategic thinking and ideas.  Happy 2010. 

Article by Alan Schulman, Friday, January 8, 2010
Alan Schulman is Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of U. DIG > The Digital Innovations Group. He is a member of the Creative Versioning Professionals and his creative agency develops new ad units for new and emerging media platforms. 
Contact him here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Ideally acts as the “hub” of all digital activities linking and integrating with all third-party sites and applications (i.e. “spokes”). It should also:

  • Extend the ability to capture and share information, understand current and future user needs, calculate lifetime value, improve the customer experience, and provide customers with relevant messaging in their preferred channel.
  • Extend an ‘active’ versus ‘passive’ dialog (i.e. Gives your customers a voice.)
  • Note: The web acts as the one (and only) ubiquitous channel to ALL other media (TV, Radio, Print, et al.) Not TV versus interactive, Not Radio versus interactive, Not Print or Billboard versus interactive.  Rather, what can be achieved when ALL mass media drives-to-Web.  
  • Note:  This vision extends the brand relationship to a 1:1) 1:1 marketing is a simple, powerful concept: promoting your products to individuals in a way that reflects an understanding of each person's individual preferences,
  • Build a participatory community while allowing for user segmented paths (which would address all constituents versus only primary target),
  • Extend your brand your consumers are migrating to (i.e. online.) Fish where the fish are.

 Integrated Pillar programs into existing platforms

  • Firstly, to clarify, building a micro-site costs essentially the same amount as setting up a traditional website.  Maintaining a micro-site however requires additional budget and resources.  While some companies create multiple micro-sites that point to the main site in an effort to rank higher on search engines, having a larger site with a lot of updated content has proven more successful - as all links and site activity are attributed to the domain as a whole.  The big trouble with micro-sites is that they typically inherit none of the trust, authority, ranking power, consideration, etc. that search engines give to established, well-linked properties. 

What is the correct balance of functionality and emotional messaging (Form versus function)?

  • The form should complement the function---serving to attract visitors, increasing the satisfaction by prompting an emotional response. A site that lacks form will seem dull and drab and not entice users for a prolonged initial visit to experience the site functionality.
  • The functional elements of a site are what ultimately bring value to the user experience.
  • The reality is that the most aesthetically pleasing sites are not designed to rank well in search engines, and the best ranking sites are typically not the best looking.
  • The goal of the developer is to meld the design and functionality such that they are inseparable to the user. Form and function should have a symbiotic relationship that makes user experience the priority; as this will determine visitor retention rate and the duration of their stay. 

The role of Online Media in the Communications Plan

  • The role of online media is two-fold.  The first (in combination with detailed segmentation and media planning) is to ensure that the appropriate message (or offer) is served to the right person at the right time. 
  • The second is to entice, invite, and usher the online user to additional content.  Both online and offline media impressions create awareness and equity.  The primary difference however is that one is passive (and static) and the other is active (and dynamic.) 

 Shotgun or sniper rifle

  • While static (non-interactive) media by definition must address a much wider target audience (typically primary-only), online media can be served to a unique user (1:1) based upon any number of variables.
  • All online media should therefore be carefully architected to extend a clear value-proposition that will resonate with the intended audience - whenever and wherever users are most receptive to a brand’s message.   
  • Note: Online media can also be optimized in real-time based upon a number of primary and secondary variables, allowing brands to become far more targeted and nimble; effectively lowering lead acquisition costs and extending much higher return on investment.


GOLD - McCann Erickson – “Things that make you go o!”
McCann Erickson has touched every aspect that the judges would expect to find. This is a campaign that genuinely sets standards for the industry and from which others can learn. 

View the Case Study


Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) ran a personalized mobile video advertising campaign to promote its X1 Series to a younger demographic in China. The BMW brand believes it empowers people to express their individuality and personality - and the carmaker wanted its X1 marketing message to do the same.  The personalized videos, or technically advertisements, were designed to have an impact so that viewers would show and share with their friends and create a viral buzz around the campaign (with the idea of BMW qualifying and sending the user a personalized holiday greeting.)

Why Mobile?  In this case, the mobile device is the primary Internet access tool in China and it is the most relevant medium for the demographic target. There are roughly 165 million high-speed, 3G mobile broadband subscribers in China and these are extremely active mobile Internet users.  In fact, 58 percent of Chinese mobile Web users post Web 2.0 content via their handsets, compared with 41 percent of those in the United States, according to Phonevalley. 

Personalizaton is key

The messages, distributed Dec. 21-24 in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, targeted individual customers with a holiday greeting that was uniquely tailored to each recipient.  For the campaign Clip in Touch, whose platform provides a means of sending advertising campaigns via MMS, enabled a targeted campaign with sight, sound and motion that BMW’s audience can personalize and make their very own.  The technology for the campaign’s targeting and personalization was provided by Israel-based, Clip in Touch.  Initial response to the campaign has been very positive, generating more test-drives in a three-day period than at any time this year. The uniqueness comes in allowing users to personalize, edit and add their own voice, video and text to any advertising campaign.

BMW GETS mobile
In Germany this past April, a BMW launched a mobile campaign specifically to sell more winter tires - and is said to have achieved a 30 percent conversion rate.  BMW Germany wanted to remind its customers that snow tires are more of a necessity, rather than a luxury, especially during the winters in Germany. The luxury carmaker targeted owners of BMWs, urging them to visit a local dealership and buy a set of tires (see story). 

BMW Z4 Roadster Launch
BMW turned to mobile to launch its new BMW Z4 Roadster as well. The German company introduced the Z4 Roadster to auto enthusiasts with a new application for the iPhone. The car was launched a few days ago at the Geneva Auto Show (see story).

The carmaker also ran a mobile campaign on the Nokia Media Network to promote some of its popular luxury vehicles to consumers in Spain (see story).

Also, BMW's mobile advertising campaign for the new BMW 1 Series Coupe resulted in a 67 percent increase in traffic to the brand's WAP site for Britain (see story).

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Monday, 4 January 2010


Facebook users know that you can give your friends virtual gifts, but for the first time, there are gifts that can be redeemed in real life for real products.  Mars Snackfood UK is the first marketer to use this product through an application called Celebrate. When users buy each other a virtual candy bar using PayPal, the recipient also receives a a voucher ID code on their cell phone which can be scanned in stores to redeem the real thing.

“We are very excited to be involved with this new ground-breaking initiative with Facebook,” said Sara Miles of Mars Snackfood UK.  “It will drive traffic and incremental confectionery sales to our PayPoint retail partners in a way that is at the forefront of the digital revolution, whilst offering our consumers a different way of sending confectionery gifts to friends and family,” she said.

“As the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds are being increasingly blurred, our award-winning technology platform M BAR GO will allow users to buy each other sweets at the touch of a few buttons,” said Marc Lewis, founder and chairman of The Light Agency, the company who created the mobile voucher technology.  I never understood the purpose of paying a dollar to buy your friends a computer graphic of a cupcake or even to send a free icon like a “naughty list” around Christmas, but this gift makes sense."

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Adidas, the #2 athletic footwear maker, is branching out into new arenas; creating films for social-networking sites as part of its annual spring marketing campaign and collaborating with hip fashion label Diesel in time for New York Fashion week.

As part of its overall “Celebrate Originality,” global brand message, beginning this week, Adidas will begin to debut four original films on popular online sites Facebook and YouTube. The first is about the company’s founder, Adi Dassler, and chronicles how his shoe evolved from a sports shoe to popular everyday footwear. Adidas will also host a community page on Facebook with a variety of information and applications.

While the marketing spending is undisclosed, it is believed to be “the biggest” campaign the company has done in its 49-year history. “There are two key pillars to the campaign,” said Hermann Deininger, chief marketing officer of the adidas sport style division. “One is retail and the second is digital.” Adidas will reformat some of its 80 worldwide stores into an “atelier” concept, allowing visitors to design their own shoes and send pictures and videos to a large wall within the store.

On another front, Adidas is pairing with Italian jeans maker Diesel to create four styles of jeans called “adidas Originals Denim by Diesel.” The line, which includes two men’s and two women’s jeans in four different washes, was shown at Fashion Week in New York on Sunday. The jeans will be available exclusively at adidas stores and retail for $160 to $210. This is Adidas’ first foray into completely non-sports product segment.

John Shanley, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, said the campaign fits in with a trend of merging fashion and athletics trends. “I think it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Casualwear is where most of the business is done (in the athletic sector). Technical or performance products are a relatively small part of the overall market.”

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Mazda tried their hand at engaging with younger generations through the use of Facebook in a recent concept car design contest.  The Mazda Design Challenge asked Facebook users to help design the 2018 Mazda3, the manufacturer’s best international selling vehicle.

To wrap up the challenge, Franz von Holzhausen, director of Mazda Design and his team, along with contest winner, will create a clay concept car live at the upcoming LA Auto Show.  To enter, contestants submitted a 150-word description of their vision of the 2018 MAZDA3 and an optional sketch drawing. The Mazda Design team then judged each entry, choosing 10 semi-finalists.

Five finalists were chosen by the Facebook community, and each of the five finalists were paired with a Mazda designer to hone their concept, which was then judged and voted on in a second round by fellow Facebook members.

"The Mazda Design Challenge brought in a flood of cool, unique design ideas. The winning design concept is a fresh new way to look at the design of a vehicle," said von Holzhausen. "This competition was a tremendous success, and this entire process was really beneficial to my team and me to understand what design means to our target buyers. Now the hard part comes -- to see if we can actually build a full concept car on the show stand in 10 days and in full view of show goers."

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Coca-Cola has launched CokeTag, a Facebook application that allows anyone to promote themselves and their interests via a convenient DIY portable application.  Coca-Cola describes CokeTag as a “personal, customizable widget for individuals, bands, bloggers, artists, and companies to share links to content they want to promote and drive traffic to anywhere on the Web.”

You can bundle links to on- and off-Facebook content in a convenient package, which is associated with and accessible from your Profile or Fan Pages and shared via Facebook private messages or Wall posts. Sharing viral or interesting links becomes easy via highly targeted personal networks for friends and fans.

You can bundle links to on- and off-Facebook content in a convenient package, which is associated with and accessible from your Profile or Fan Pages and shared via Facebook private messages or Wall posts. Sharing viral or interesting links becomes easy via highly targeted personal networks for friends and fans.

The CokeTag application features a self-service editor that allows you to control both the content and skin. Several levels of expandable menus enable easy navigation to specific content, while a built-in click tracker lets the creator know every time someone looks at their CokeTag and which links they visit.

Current Facebook distribution options includes: 1) Create and post your CokeTag on your personal profile page, 2) Create and post a CokeTag to any Facebook Fan Page you administer, 3) Grab and post any CokeTag that you discover on to your own personal profile, 4) Send a CokeTag as Facebook e-mail attachment, 5) Post a CokeTag as a Facebook Wall post.

Currently in beta form, CokeTag is the result of a partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and Linkstorm, an advertising technology company pioneering a new approach to social networking, online marketing and publishing. Initially built for Facebook, CokeTag will later be available across OpenSocial sites (MySpace, Bebo, etc.) and eventually to all Blogging platforms and everywhere on the Internet.

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