Archive for October, 2009

Poll: What type of mobile phone do you have?

It seems the focus of the mobile marketing discussion has changed from SMS campaigns to apps in the blink of an eye. We want to know if you, as readers and marketers, are keeping up with new technology. Tell us what you’ve got!

“I Can See Clearly Now:” My Perspective in the Agency-Client Relationship

Greg PedoneOn a recent flight for a business trip I had five hours to take some time to think because I was unplugged, no phone calls and no emails (I have to admit it was a nice change).  As I began to unwind and eat my peanuts, I started to think about the holidays approaching and the new year.  In 2010, I will begin my third year on the agency side of marketing after spending fifteen years on the client side.  My experience on both sides has given me a valuable perspective of how to maximize the relationship for all parties involved.  Like any relationship, it will evolve over time and that evolution depends on the actions and commitments of both parties involved.  To start, it depends on what lens you are looking through.  But at the end of the day, no matter if you are on the client or agency side, your main priority is to do what is right for the consumer.

Throughout my client-side experience I always welcomed and treated our agencies as part of our team and a true partner.  I witnessed others who would treat their agencies as more of a vendor that was brought on to do a certain task.  They seemed to want to control the agency and make sure the agency knew they were the boss.  That always amazes me because you never can get the best work from an agency if you don’t treat them with respect and allow them to get immersed in your brand, your culture and your business.  Agencies are brought in because they have a particular expertise that provides value to the brand such as advertising, promotions, branding or direct marketing.  Like strong leaders, successful clients recognize where they need help and delegate responsibilities to the right agency.

My first two years on the agency side (a.k.a. “The Dark Side”) have opened my eyes to a whole new world, one which requires patience, persistence and a jovial personality.  As the marketing world continues to evolve, agencies try to stay ahead of the curve to help inform their clients of the next best thing since sliced bread. Our updated perspective comes from how and where we apply those fundamentals to this new media environment and consumer-centric culture.  From the agency side, I think we can all get better at providing more value to our clients than just delivering on what is asked of us.  We need to keep up to date not only on our clients but their competitors and their industry at large.  We owe it to our clients to manage their expectations appropriately and push back when necessary.

Now let’s talk about what really matters for this relationship between a client and agency to be successful.  At the end of the day it’s all about doing what’s right for the consumer.  Sometimes clients talk too much about “our brand,” while agencies focus on “our experience.”  Both clients and agencies need to take a step back and realize that they are both working for the consumer.  As a parent with two girls in grammar school, I like using the analogy of the relationship between me, the teacher and my daughter (the student).  At the end of the day, both the teacher and I need to partner to help my daughter (the student) succeed.  This is the same type of partnership clients and agencies must have to do what’s right for their consumer.  So the best vision of the consumer comes from the depth perception achieved by looking at them through the brand’s eye and the agency’s eye together.

Jackie RobinsonAnd remember; let’s keep our work all in perspective as there are more pressing issues in our lives and our world today.  As we are in the midst of the baseball playoffs, I thought this quote from the great Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie Robinson, was appropriate:

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Blogs & Social Media Bring Change to 30-year Old FTC Regulations


The Federal Trade Commission announced this week that it is changing its regulations regarding sponsored testimonials online, and not surprisingly, the web has been a buzz ever since. The original FTC ruling about sponsored endorsements from 1980 is designed to protect consumers against fraudulent advertising and applies to television, radio, print and later, email. Beginning December 1, 2009, the scope of this regulation will be expanded to also include blogs and social media platforms. Why is this such big news? Well, the proposed changes will affect four important and vocal parties involved in the marketing process; consumers, bloggers, celebrities and companies, by making sure that any paid endorsements online are made known to the public. While that’s a significant change, the ruling spotlights an issue that will have a widespread impact on our industry.The fact that the U.S. government is imposing regulations on blogs and social media means that it now considers both to be legitimate channels of mass communications. If you’re reading this blog post, you certainly get the importance of the social web, but this is a wakeup call for marketers still unsure of the validity of this channel.

What this means for brands & bloggers
In a phrase, no more under the table pay for play, everything will be out in the open. It is not an uncommon practice for companies to send influential bloggers free product (or cash, trips, etc.) in return for a positive review on their blog. However, the blogger is currently under no obligation to tell the readers about the transaction, although some do. Under the expanded FTC guidelines, bloggers and social media users must disclose any paid relationship with a company (this includes freebies, not just money) so that consumers are aware. The same situation applies when brands reach out to social media users to post sponsored content on sites like Facebook and Twitter. It should be noted that sponsored blogging/posting is still allowed, so long as it is indicated as such, just like the accepted practices of marketing through traditional media channels

Another new issue addressed by the FTC is the practice of creating entirely fabricated blogs and personalities so that a brand can falsely feed advertising content through the voice of a supposed customer. Now, companies will not be allowed to mimic user-created sites to mask advertising messages from their audience.

What this means for consumers
In keeping with the FTC’s mission, the reason for all of these new rules is to protect the consumer. Consumers have to most to gain from these new changes, the more transparency there is in product related blogging and posting, the more educated they will be. Similar to the “paid actor” disclosures seen on television commercials, it will be much easier to distinguish a paid blog post, wall post or tweet from an actual opinion.

What this means for marketers
This is not bad news. The same regulations already apply to television, radio, print and email and marketers have been abiding for almost 30 years. Marketers now will have to be smarter and more creative with their social media marketing campaigns as well. As good marketers, we should always want our consumers to be well-informed about our products and services. The proposed FTC regulation is intended to level the ethical playing field and weed out those who are abusing these channels. Many brands will continue to thrive in our online social space, the point is to be here and do it right. Those marketers still skeptical about Web 2.0 applications need to recognize, as the government has, that social media and blogging are maturing into viable and impactful communications channels.

Poll: Do you engage with brands more on Facebook or Twitter?

Social Media Hastens the Adoption Cycle & Twitter vs. Facebook for Marketers

I’m on my way home from some successful meetings in Austin, Texas and finally find a moment to catch up on some trade tidbits, in this case, from IAB Smartbrief, and wouldn’t you know, there’s not one, but two items worth pausing to consider. The first calls out Nielsen’s recent survey that “Time spent by users on social media, as well as marketers’ spending in the segment, have posted strong growth over the past year.” Now isn’t that sort offacebook & twitter usage a “duh” moment, especially if you’re paying any attention to that space, either as a user or a marketer? And it’s my guess, that if you’ve found your way to this blog, then you’re paying attention. Nielsen is simply validating what we’ve seen and experienced, but I do think that in this report, there lies the revelation of a new trend.

In great part, traditional marketers have historically been slow to adopt new channels for their marketing…well, at least slower than the pace of consumers adopting that same channel. Why? Quite sensibly, they are looking to spend their money “where the eyeballs are.” So the migration of marketing spending from radio to television (in the 50s) network TV to cable, from offline to online, from DM to email all happened after the wave of household penetration of each medium had achieved a majority. However, in each case, the migration happened faster than the one before it. (Are we moving at a faster pace? Nah, that’s just your imagination…). The term Web 2.0 was coined in 2005 (?), and yes, you can find articles each year between then and now that tout it as “the next big thing”. The fact is, until last year, the critical mass of the population had not discovered this mutation of its beloved web, and it’s liberating addiction (there’s an oxymoron for you…). What strikes me about this latest digital (r)evolution is that marketers are getting there quicker.

“Users logged 17% of their online time on social networks and blogs in August, compared to 6% for the same month in 2008, and ad outlays in such venues over the same period jumped 119% to $108 million, according to Nielsen.”

That’s an 11% increase in consumer activity in this arena vs. a 119% increase in advertiser involvement. Hmmm. Is that the marketing treadmill I feel speeding up?

The second article talks about consumer receptivity to marketing messages. It seems that consumers are more prone to interact with marketers on Twitter than they are on Facebook, (or any other social network, for that matter). This time, Interpret tell us that;

“Nearly one in four Twitter users surveyed had either reviewed or rated products online in August vs. 12% for users of other social nets…” (That means TWICE as likely to enter the conversation on Twitter),

“and one in five Twitterers were apt to look at company profiles or click on ads or sponsored links, compared to 11% and 9%, respectively, of non-Twitter users.” (Again, that looks like 20% vs. about 10%, or TWICE as likely.)

If you remember, some of the earliest marketing stories about Twitter spoke of brands like JetBlue and Comcast and Zappos responding to consumer complaints via twitter, in what must have shocked those twitterer as a truly personal and timely concern on the part of the brand. Could it be that brands were getting to the party early? Are these actually marketing success stories that predate the population of users on Twitter reaching critical mass? It’s just a thought on my part, but maybe consumers got there after the twitter landscape had been painted as an arena for brands to converse with their users. That might account for consumers’ predisposition to this channel as one through which the ears of the marketers can be reached. Frustrated? Got a complaint? Not happy with a trusted brand’s ad? Just tweet it and see what happens.