Background: 15 years digital experience. Lycos Gamesville (once the stickiest sit on the web) & Lycos Network. Prizemeister. Created the Prizemeister persona and integrated offline events and promotions with the world’s first largest massively multi-playered online gaming network. Developed the first digital version of The Price is Right for Freemantle Media, worked with Hasbro & Lifesavers to develop interactive components to their offline brands. Monster.com said I had one of the top 10 coolest jobs on the internet. Relo’d to Arizona in 2003, worked with the world’s largest cruise lines. Worked at Sitewire from 2005-20010 on Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Cap Grille, Sears, Discount Tire, Cox Communications, Fry’s Food & Drug, iGo and more. Won 4 AMA Spectrum awards for Vampire Power Sucks. Then in 2010…
Out of The Darkly came The Lightly. In 2010 I partnered with a traditional/branding agency called The Darkly Agency. The Darkly has been growing a client roster of edgy start-ups and elusive brands and was doing some fantastic traditional work with corporate culture, brand identity and traditional and print media. They needed digital help – and thus was born The Lightly Agency. The Lightly Agency is a full service digital agency that takes the pretty and visually engaging brands and translates that online. We start with strategy and business objectives and do everything form site builds to copy, search engine optimization, social media integration, PR and naturally, measurement and analytics to prove our value.As the guy straddling both a traditional agency and a digital agency, I’m often in a position to play “arbiter of integration”. I have one business partner who is completely about brand and print and another who is 150% digital and metrics. As best practices from both disciplines often conflict, I often find myself in the role of mediator – calling out time out on both, pointing out common ground between both, bringing the conversation back to meeting client objectives, AND fostering compromise between the two sides of the house. It’s not an “all or nothin’ game here. In the end it’s always about doing right by the client and meeting their needs and objectives, so disciplines aside, we need to be able to see things holistically, from another's point of view and very often - -compromise to get the best results.
Most of you are probably familiar with the London transit system’s “Mind the gap” campaign. Introduced in 1969 as a warning to train passengers to beware of the gap between the station platform and the train door -- mind the gap has grabbed the attention of the populace and represented for me, the chasm that still exists between traditional and digital media specialists. The gap exists, but how can we overcome this and build bridges between the two groups? How do we eschew “us against them” mentality and avoid the plight of digital being a “plug & play” afterthought in the planning process? How can you be a superstar and really standout and shine within a traditional environment? This is what we’ll discuss today.
Fear of the unknown. It’s a terribly strong emotion and droves all people (not just Mr.Menkin’s “inferior man” ) to some bizarre, irrational and unnatural behaviors at times. As part of the human condition, we learn thru trial and error. As children we learn that when we touch the hot stove, we get burnt. Our engrained need for self-preservation often precludes us from taking risks, trying new things and fosters apathy and mediocrity. This is true of dining out at the same places over and over again, to fear of new technologies and media platforms.
For the majority of the 20th century we had slow and consistent technological growth from newspapers & print to radio, TV, home computing to cellular phones and more. Each subsequent development had the previous reigning technology shaking in their boots and pundits projecting the death of each industry. But here we are in the 21st century and each one of these still exists and is used, read, listened to and watched by millions daily. Admittedly there may be a slow demise of the daily newspaper, but it’s not dead yet. It’s simply reinventing itself and making inroads to adapt to the technology platforms to which consumers have shifted their behavior – perhaps a little too little and a little too late, many newspaper execs kept their heads in the sand and tried to ignore the tech boom that was happening all around them. Broadcast television made its public debut at the New York World's Fair in 1939, dramatically changing the way people live, work, and spend their free time. But it did not kill radio or the newspaper industry. People simply shifted their behaviors and they splintered into more diverse methods of delivery and consumption.
Cooperation is the key to successful integrated campaigns, but we have to overcome the gap; build alliances and bridges to make that happen. Typically the key making that happen is through understanding and trust. And as we all know, trust is not given easily, especially from business people who’ve been successfully using and perfecting specific methodologies and techniques for decades, like Madison Avenue had done with print, radio and TV.
As everybody knows, you never want to see or show a chart that looks like this in a business meeting (unless of course it belongs to your competition). But when established businesses start seeing a downtrend, what do they do? They panic. And then they go on the offensive. This increases the gap and doesn’t help anyone in the long run. We saw this with the music industry when iTunes came out. Instead of adapting and embracing the new technologies and learning to work WITH consumers based on their shifting behaviors, they went on the offensive and attacked. Ultimately they lost time, share of wallet and profits with this reaction.
If we look at some of the best success stories in marketing and advertising, they come in the form of “integrated campaigns”, when & where the best attributes of each medium are leveraged toward one, consistent goal. Case in point; in 2000, after two consecutive decreases in response, the US Census contracted Young & Rubicam and a host of specialized niche agencies to execute an integrated campaign with a single message “This is your future. Don’t leave it blank”. More than 250 TV, radio, print, outdoor, and Internet ads in 17 languages were created to reach 99 percent of all US residents. The Results: - For the first time in census history, the mail response rate increased over the previous census, from 65 to 67% - The Census ad campaign was ranked the second most effective campaign according to AdTrack, a USA TODAY consumer poll. - The Census Bureau ranked 53rd in spending among all advertisers for the first half of 2000.The point here is that they effectively integrated all channels available to them to move the needle on results for their client.
Perhaps you’ve seen this campaign recently. The first time I saw one of these ads was in a propaganda style publication put out by the US Postal Service (now there’s an industry that is desperately trying to innovate but just doesn’t seem to get it). At first I was taken aback by an ad they included denouncing social media and showed a piece paper with social media sites on it crumpled up and laying in the trash. Not a cool approach. However, as I’ve increasingly seen and read these ads for Magazines; The Power of Print, I like the tact they’re taking. They’re showing how the two media work in tandem and fuel each other’s growth. That’s how you need to think to be a digital superstar. You need to look outside of your walled garden of geek, and embrace both existing and new media to their fullest capability.But how do you play nice in the sandbox with traditionalists and how do you prove that digital can be a superstar? We’ll talk now about a few things I’ve encountered that address this.
One of the best ways to overcome fear of the unknown is to try something new yourself. When we’re afraid of something new, we simply don’t like it or want to think about it because we don’t know what it will be like, we’re afraid we’ll mess it up or wont do it right, or our hard-wired brains simply say “I can’t. I won’t. I don’t like it.” Case in point – have you ever had to get a child to eat broccoli? Or like my Mom with sushi. She didn’t know how to use chopsticks and was afraid that everyone in the restaurant would laugh at her. But when someone took the time to show her how to use them, she realized she loves sushi. A colleague of mine had the arduous task of teaching a 60-somethng year-old client how to use Twitter. This woman has been successful in business for decades but didn’t understand how to Tweet. After one hour of sit-down, personal instruction – the woman came away a Tweet-fiend. Now she tweets daily, boasts a premier profile with more than 4000 followers. Twitter is now an unparalleled business communication tool for her.People need to understand something to see the true value in it and overcome their fear. That closes the gap.
How many of you have a smartphone? How about a tablet device? How many of you have downloaded branded apps? Naturally I would expect this many hands in a room full of early adopters and agency folks, but by our own nature, we tend to be ahead of the curve and on top of the latest trends….especially those of us responsible for digital media. Now how many of you can raise your hands and say the same for one of your parents? Ahem. Let me tell you a story about a client I had at a national brand I’d worked with for years on the agency side. My team and I had a great grasp of the client’s brand, it’s audience, their business objectives…etc. In planning we kept pitching the client on a branded smartphone app. He made a face like he was sucking on a penny. He resisted. Knowing he was very visual and very data driven we pitched it again in a beautiful deck with comps, mock-ups and tons of industry data showing consumer usage, 3rd party predictive modeling, competitor insights -- the works. No dice. He wasn’t buying it and kept saying things like, “I dunno. I don’t think the company’s ready for it yet”. As it turns out do you know what the real source of resistance was? NEXT SLIDE
He didn’t have a smartphone himself. The poor guy was still using an old Blackberry because that’s what his company supplied him with. He had never downloaded an app in his life. He didn’t know or understand the point of doing so. Sure, he read and heard about apps all the time in industry rags like eMarketer and AdAge but he made the fatal flaw that many business people make. And that’s thinking that you are like everyone else.Until he got a smartphone and started using it and downloading apps himself -- he just couldn’t get his mind wrapped around what all the fuss was about. In hindsight, I should have asked him what kind of phone he had at the onset and bought him a flipping iPhone if that would have closed the deal. But hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?My point here again, is that in order to close the gap and build bridges, sometimes it takes an investment of time, education or training to get people to see and understand the value in a particular platform….even if the rest of the world is shouting about it.
Do you know what this is? It’s a trick pony. And there’s only one of them. Don’t be “that guy”
Too often we hear unsubstantiated war cries of “we need a blog!” or “we need a Facebook page”. I have to ask you to stop, and ask why. What are you trying to accomplish? Jumping right to a specific technology or platform before defining audience and client objectives is NEVER the right way to go. No matter how new, cool or exciting the platform may be. Without the proper planning and metrics for success, you will fail and your opinion will not be valued within the agency if sound like a broken record.
We live in a highly fractured media environment. People spend their time in all sorts of ways online and off and as a core principle of marketing you know you need to be in front of the right eyes at the right time. That means having a presence in many places at once. This creates complexity and difficulty in keeping a brand and messaging consistent across multiple channels. For example, when you say “social media” that is a loaded term comprising hundreds of thousands of websites, networks, tools, technologies and platforms. Narrowing something down to even “social networking” can mean many things from Twitter and microblogs, to Foursquare and LBS’s, to Facebook and LinkedIn, YouTube, Wikipedia and more.
For this reason alone, you can’t be a platform evangelist and only know and push Facebook. If every plan that you produce includes Facebook, you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket. You’re being a platform evangelist. Yes, there are more than half a billion people on Facebook, but not every platform is appropriate in every situation. To really succeed with digital media we are required, by its very nature, to be generalists. We need to know and understand many different channels, platforms, options and audiences.This is why I like to begin every plan with understanding the brands objectives and their target audience. Then dig into that audience and get to understand who they are, how they think, what their behaviors are, where they prefer to spend time and how I can strategically reach them. Use third party tools to research your target audience during planning and make sure you’re speaking on their terms to their needs and wants to really make the brand resonate.
Think again of all the different ways to reach an audience, both digital and traditional. Collaborate with your traditional media planners across the cube wall and discuss ideas as to how you can work in tandem with them, rather than in a silo. Ask them for their ideas on how and when your two disciplines meet and merge and how you can cross leverage both. There’s an old adage that “opinions are like “noses” – everyone has one”. People LOVE to be asked their opinion of something. It’s a conversation starter and fosters collaboration, which leads to building trust and closing that gap between traditional and digital. Look at our friend Martha here. If she were a one-trick pony, she'd never have the money or success she does by sticking to one sole form of media.
Here’s a tip: Sure you know a lot about many different forms of digital media, but there’s just so much out there, nobody can be an expert in everything, yet we need to have working knowledge of so many different aspects of the web to be effective “digital generalists”. Make yourself a goals calendar to try something new each month. By the end of the first week of the month make sure you’ve signed up for a new site. By mid month make sure you've completed your profile. By the end of the month make sure you’ve tried out some new functionality and/or made some contacts. Go and sign up for Yelp and start yelping. Or join Foursquare and start checking in when you go places. Join a new LinkedIn group and participate in discussions. Download a new app. Set up an event on Facebook. Edit a Wikipedia page. Learn FBML. If you create a system of goals for yourself and every month you learn something new, you’ll not only broaden your horizons, you’ll discover new ways of doing things and be able to bring new insights and opportunities to your clients.
I’ve seen it a million times and I’m guilty of it myself. As digitalists, we have our own vernacular for things. Each online community has their own terms for things, memes and slang. “OMG, did you friend her?” “Can you believe what she posted on my wall”? “RT: Lolzcat, FTW” “ I’m going to SEO their site with an OPR and throw in some PPC for good measure”. WTF?
Each digital discipline has it’s own vocabulary, but we must always remember who our audience is, who we’re speaking to. You wouldn’t speak to your best friend’s parents the same way you would to yours, your best friend, your co-workers or a client.The best way to make someone gloss over, start checking their text messages or to lose a pitch (internal or external) is to heavy up on geekspeak. Yes, we know you know your industry – but save the vernacular for the BOLO happy hour or the SES conference floor.Best advice -- avoid acronyms at all costs.
So now that I just told you to avoid acronyms, I’m going to teach you a new one: PoMoSo. It stands for Post Modern Society. In the mid-1990’s a wise man told me that “we live in a post modern society and nothing is new”. That idea intrigued me and stuck with me. I challenged him and said sure, we have the Internet and all these modern advances in technology. But at the root of it, he was right. Most of the advances in technology are just that – advances, enhancements that create greater ease of use, convenience or speed. But much of what is available to us today in digital form has been around for years, decades or more…in some way, shape or form.
Why do I bring this up? Because it’s key to a communication technique I’ve employed hundreds of time when speaking with clients, colleagues or laypeople who are unfamiliar with my space or profession. Your goal should always be “to be understood”. Very often analogies enable people to understand a technological concept in context with something they’re already familiar with.An example of this I’ve used many times in explaining search to people is the old “AAA” or “1” strategy. The objective with Yellow Pages was to be the first results that came up. Same is true of search engines. But for the print yellow pages, a strategy for success was to =name your company with alpha numeric prefixes that would assure you premium placement in the print listings. The same strategy does not apply to search engine optimization, yet people understand this analogy of “coming up first” in listings, which helped me explain why showing up at the top of a results page makes sense.
Your goal is to be understood by your audience – to sell your ideas. Often an analogy can put a complex digital technology, behavior or action into context by making an association with an established standard.
One of the biggest advantages you have as a digital marketer is all of that data available to you. With older forms of media we had approximated systems of measuring things. Very complex elaborate systems were developed to try to quantify things like “Effective Reach Points” and “market penetration”. Today, with digital marketing our biggest asset is the ability to track just about anything and everything someone does online, make inferences form actual user data and precisely pinpoint targets down to the person and their peer group.
Because there is so much we can track online, we also need to weed thru what’s important to the client and what’s not. If you overburden a client with too much data, they’re going to get that “geekspeak glossover” in their eyes and you’ve lost them. Some metrics may be paramount for internal agency management of a campaign, yet barley matter to the client. Don’t report unnecessary statistics to make yourself look good or productive. Focus on what matters most to the client’s business.For example, when I take my car into the dealership when the engine light comes on for the most part I don’t care or even need to know what makes the light come on. I just want it to work and to know how much it’ll cost me.The same is true for clients. Approach your reporting by answering the question, “What does it mean for my business?”. Now think like your client. If impressions and clicks and click-trough rate don’t matter – then don’t bother reporting it. You’re wasting your time and theirs. Show them the money. Show them how many reservations you drove that month, how many gift certificates or widgets you sold. Show them what makes sense to them and be done with it.
With most digital means we can very precisely calculate ROI, which is an absolute for most marketers and businesses today. The power of this data is precisely what fuels the shift in advertising from traditional to digital --especially in light of the slashed marketing budgets experienced by many during the economic downturn. Brands and companies weren't spending dollars unnecessarily and if you can show exactly what you did with their dollars, you are golden.Now granted, there are intangible digital expenses. Just like the CFO of a company cannot quantify the value of landscaping outside of the office, it’s a necessary business expense. But when we’re talking about digital advertizing and web metrics, the numbers are the proof in the pudding that should help propel you to stardom within your agency. When you can show a client a 20:1 return on pay-per-click campaign, or 500 new Facebook fans equated to an additional $5,000 in revenue that month, you’re writing your ticket to stardom.
As I mentioned in the previous section, data is key to selling your ideas and plans. One of the best ways to document your success is to plan for your it during the planning process. Case Studies and Success Stories shouldn’t be the driving factor in your planning – meeting your clients’ objectives should be, but in my experience, often times the success story is an afterthought…something companies scramble for when they’re launching anew website in the frantic race to create site content and showcase their ability. Here’s some advice for you:
Read this article by Barbara Weaver-Smith of The Whale Hunters on the agencyside LinkedIn Group:http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=202889571&gid=1848002&type=news&item=202889571&articleURL=http://www.agencyside.net/2010/09/creating-and-using-case-studies-for-sales-success/&urlhash=IfYv&goback=.gde_1848002_news_202889571
Superior interpersonal skills -- #1 alwaysArbitration skills (learn to compromise and understand what’s a deal-breaker and what’s not)Collaboration skills (invite the best of all worlds and leverage it for your success)Balancing skills (integrate with other forms of media, straddle cross-channel)Educational skills (educate those around you – help them to understand the how & why)Engagement skills (ask opinions of others)Listening skills (listen to clients ,colleagues and honestly consider their responses Technical skills (use and understand many forms of media)Presentation skills (understand your audience and always speak to them on their level)Analytic skills (understand what metrics make sense for your client and don’t overburden them with mind-numbing stats)Planning skills (plan for success and plan to document that success)
mind the gap: how digital specialists steward growth & innovation