Sunday, February 28, 2010

My March reading list and a Raving Fan's book review.

March is looking like a holy terror of a month, but I'm hoping to pound some serious paper by the time we're out like a lamb. Please note that despite my love for the digital realm, I still require paper pages to be able to dive in properly.

You'll notice that the top of the stack is a *gasp* business book, Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik. The horrors! It was a recommendation as part of an agency deep dive on empathy, and is actually supposed to be quite good. My esteemed colleague Steve Schildwachter dubbed it "a business book I actually enjoyed."

I'm right there with ya, Steve; I have grumbled and skimmed my way through many a tedious business book. The sweet ain't as sweet without the sour, and as such, I think it's all the terrible (and oh my, there are so, so many) business books out there that make the awesome ones all the more notable.

My favorite business book of all time, advertising or otherwise, hands down no contest, go pick up a copy right now if you care about your job, is Raving Fans, by Kenneth Blanchard and Sheldon Bowes. I read Raving Fans for a CRM class I took in my final semester at Marquette (MARK 159, for my MU peeps). The gist: in order to be successful, businesses cannot afford to not take excellent care of their consumers. I won't ruin the story because I really want you to read it, but let's take a quick look at the three key takeaways. I found them fascinating because they draw a pretty obvious parallel between happiness in business and happiness in life. Marketing is a study in the psychology of buying and selling, yes? There should be humanity in marketing theory. So, let's take a look.

Principle #1: Decide what you want.
Define a vision. Decide what you want and will be able to deliver. Set up objectives for delivery. You can't be everything to everyone, and your business won't satisfy every consumer. Decide what YOU want to do. This will help you find your most profitable and best-fitting customer relationships. Or regular relationships. Friendships, even.

Principle #2: Discover what the customer wants.
This one's a two-parter: empathize and listen. Determine who your potential consumers are, and learn as much as possible about them. Ask them what they want. Some of them will want what you have, and some won't. Keep and cultivate the former; allow the latter to go. You're not right for them. It's okay. Move on. Stick with the people who are right for you, and look to number 3 as to how to treat them like gold.

Principle #3: Deliver the Vision Plus 1.
Delivering the vision focuses on consistency; Plus 1 addresses the need to over-deliver. A business should be flexible enough to constantly be monitoring their consumer relationships to see how they can exceed expectations one extra percent at a time.  It's looking just past the vision to the changing needs of the consumer. By doing so instead of grabbing blindly at lofty goals, your business can flawlessly execute small adaptations that lead to big change. And, by working on yourself and your personal relationships one digestible bit at a time, you can work towards goals that improve your life and relationships.

Do what you can do, listen to the people you're doing it for, and do it the best you possibly can, and better. Keep listening and adapting to your audience for continued improvement. That's what it takes to build raving fans. None of this stuff is rocket science. And, despite the fact that it seems to speak directly to social media strategy, the book was written in 1993. Business relationships, customer relationships, digital relationships; they're all just human relationships. It's the human element of the customer relationship that makes a customer feel valued; people love to feel like their voices are being heard. And all you can do is be yourself and do your best, in business, in life, what-have-you.

It's something like 100 pages and written like a story about a fairy godmother and three wishes/truths, etcetera. I promise you can handle it. Even more so, I think you'll love it. Buy it for your fancy book-reading-computy device if you must, but check it out.

See? Business books can be fun. And, look how much we learned! I'll be back post-Wired to Care with my thoughts. I'm hoping it gives Raving Fans a run for its money.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crowdsourced campaign, crowdsourced creative.

While I was a-treadmilling it tonight in the gym, this crafty spot for the Pepsi Refresh project caught my eye.

I know the whole crowdsourced creative bit has been done. But, I think it works really well here. The entire idea of the campaign is crowdsourcing, why not reflect that in the creative? Beautifully done and perfectly appropriate, I think.

For those who don't know, the Pepsi Refresh Project, if I may, is a mostly-digital campaign in which Pepsi's designated Super Bowl 2010 ad dollars were instead siphoned into a fund for community grants. People submitted their ideas to be funded, and the public votes for which ideas are most fund-worthy. It's a genuinely interesting idea, and it's heartwarming to see the crazy amount of participation on the part of the community. I know crowd-sourced campaigns are supposed to be kind of passé, but, I'm not entirely convinced. This project really touches my heart. And, the idea of giving the mass comm premium to the masses is very interesting as well.

Of course, there is a question of ROI - I am curious to know whether Pepsi had the same sales goals for the Refresh campaign that they would have had given a Super Bowl strategy. And naturally, I am dying to know if they hit their goals. Still a work in progress, but if anyone has any info on how this is doing, please share!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Data-love and training optimization.

This week, I bit the bullet and signed my life away on the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

As promised by all my seasoned marathoner buddies, running a half only makes you want to run a full. I wish it was called something other than a half-marathon... it almost feels like half an accomplishment. So ridiculous, considering three years ago, I couldn't run a mile. Anyhow, I'll be running my brains out on October 10, and you all will be subject to my training updates along the way. I apologize in advance. I'm crazy.

I've hated and successfully avoided running my whole life. Until recently! So, why the crazy?

I'm no Feltron, but a good portion of my recent success in running can be linked directly back to the start of my dailymile membership. I know it's supposed to be a networking site, but I could care less about the social aspect (sorry dailymile). For me, it's motivating as a data catalyst.

Something about being able to map out my running stats is a real spark plug for me. And, not just because I can see the holes in my week and feel like a worthless bum when I don't run. Not because I know other people can see when I don't run. Media kids love data, right? We love to optimize? I had a near panic attack when I thought I lost my TI83+ last week. I only have this one little website, but I strive to optimize my posting schedule, tags, titles, etc., based on my Google Analytics data; I get the same rush out of optimizing my training based on dailymile data.

It's motivating to know that in the months where I ran at least 4 days a week, I was more likely to feel good or great about my runs. It's motivating to see that in the weeks where I incorporated strength training into my weekday workouts, I was able to feel great for longer runs on weekends. It's motivating to track miles I've put on my shoes and guesstimate when I'll need new ones. And, it's incredibly motivating to look back over the months and see how far I've come. It's also just plain useful information.Your body is a machine, you know? It's fun to tinker with the inputs.

Training schedules are really helpful for big runs, and I'll certainly be using one as I train for the marathon. But when you get down to it, a training schedule can't help you determine on which days of the week you should swim to get the most out of that week's miles. You can't massage a schedule and try to determine what is linking together the feeling-blah days, figure out what's bothering your knee. A schedule doesn't send you weekly newsletters to remind you to keep kicking ass. Just like every website feels a bit different and needs custom optimization, so do you and your feet. You're special. Like a snowflake. And it's really helpful, at least to me, to treat my training that way.

There are tons of sites out there like dailymile that help you add some optimization into your training. I highly recommend social fitness tracking to any of my nerd friends who could use a good kick in the pants in re: their currently pathetic data.

Plus, look at the pretty charts!

Happy training!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lady-targeted man-items: reprise.

The other day, I wrote about the hilarious work W+K put out recently for Old Spice Body Wash, questioning the gender targeting. Who was this spot written for, and why?

Questions answered, and how! Leo LaPorte of TWiT interviewed Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of W+K, the creative team behind the concept. Spoiler: they were targeting men AND women, because sales data shows that the woman does the buying in this category (ha!). Boy, do I love being right. Oh, and it's all one shot.

Maybe I just found the video enjoyable because I never really get out of my media cave, but still, I think it's worth a watch. It's kind of long, so if you didn't make it all the way through, allow me to quote my favorite bit:

In re: is working in advertising like Mad Men?

"Oh, it's just like Mad Men, but since we're creatives, we get to dress like hobos." -Eric

So true. In media too, guy, in media too.

Oh, and also, the dreamboat actor, Isaiah Mustafa, is on Twitter. And look! He's real!

Give him some follow Friday love!

Happy Friday!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Big games, big branding.

I spent much of the long weekend Snuggie'd on the couch, cider in paw, immersed in moguls, short track, biathlon and all the other wonderfully weird spandexy sports that make up the winter Olympics. How very cultured and seasonal of me, no? In other news, I have decided that I am interested in giving ski jumping a whirl, seeing as my knees are already shot. Is this something I can try out for funsies at Devil's Head? I think there's a future for me as a gold medalist here. And, I think I'll move to/jump for Australia, since you seem to be able to move around and join whatever team you like, and per my count, they tend to have the slickest outfits. And I would like to hang out with Dale Begg-Smith. Just saying.

In discussing the Super Bowl, I mentioned the question of big branding messaging as opposed to promotional or call-to-action. Beautiful stuff for the Olympics thus far, but it seems that the majority of the Olympic ad spend has been of a similar vein. Abstract big branding with no promotional element, no call to action.

Striking work for GE, who seem to have pumped tons of cash into creative as well as TRPs. Panasonic Toughbook, Procter and Gamble, even car companies. It's refreshing to see the spend, but kind of strange to see the execution, no? In the case of GE and Toughbook, are these even consumer-facing products or objectives? And P&G with no product push makes me toss and turn at night. So, so very strange. As with the Super Bowl, the Olympics are a really fantastic stage to test some consumer interaction and blow it up creatively. I'm kind of surprised that I've yet to see it. Perhaps I'm jaded from working on CPG for too long, but I'm curious as to how these companies are measuring Olympic success. Sales seem too far-removed.

I have yet to find a channel holding all the Olympic spots - in fact, I'm having a heck of a time finding a lot of these spots in general, so I apologize for the lack of links/examples. Please let me know if you know where they're hiding. PS, that's another fail on the part of these advertisers. If you're going to be interesting, help me help you spread your content. Sigh.

Must go, the snowboard-cross people are going four at a time and taking each other out left and right. Must. Watch. I'll leave you with my favorite spot thus far: The Human Chain, another standard yet awesome product of Nike W+K. Happy Olympics, and happy big branding to you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Making shoes, and making things.

I have some unbelievably smart friends (you're probably one of them). Isn't life grand, being surrounded by incredible people? I think so.

In college, one of my best friends (and my favorite person on the planet to argue with) was a very smart cookie named Kyle, from Maine. Earlier this morning, my Facebook news feed helped me to stumble across this article in the Lewiston, ME Sun Journal. The article is about Kyle, his dad, and the re-institution of their company, Rancourt & Co. Shoecrafters, as an independent business from under Wisconsin shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds. If you're into shoe-making, the article is kind of riveting, and overall very well-written; I encourage you to check it out.

An excerpt:

"Rancourt & Co. makes men's shoes by hand for customers such as Ralph Lauren, high-end retailers in Tokyo and Japan and a retail group in South Africa, Michael Rancourt said.

"We buy raw materials from around the world, bring them here to Lewiston and then we cut them, stitch them and hand-finish." he said.

He envisions the company staying unique, and its volume small, but searching out new markets. His son, Kyle, 25, is interested in trying lines that reach out to consumers younger than the traditional mid-30s to mid-60s demographic."

photo credit: Lewiston Sun Journal

As an update, Kyle later informed me of the following:

"The thing that makes me the proudest about what we are doing is that we are manufacturing in the United States! That is so rare today, the people we employ are craftsmen/women, their skills should not go to waste. So we need help from everyone so that American craftspeople and American small business can survive."

Nice work, sir. Seriously, smart guy. I'm not surprised at his success, but it definitely made my heart swell up a bit to see yet another of my friends rocking it out.

It also reminded me how jealous I am of people who make things for a living. I mean, look at him. He's creating things with leather! Leather!!! Don't get me wrong, I super love advertising (obviously), but sometimes I feel like it would be so satisfying to be able to touch, smell, and see the fruits of my labor.

As a planner, what real good am I to society? I was having lunch this week with a friend in the biz, discussing silly things about our jobs. He's a funny guy, and we were joking around, but it kind of hit me right in the chest when he made a comment about how useless we were, as ad professionals. "If the apocalypse comes and I survive," he said, "I have no real skills with which I could rebuild society. I can price the heck out of a center spread, but I can't stitch up a laceration. I can't even sew a button."

Is this why we have hobbies? To feel like we can contribute? My friend Clay wrote a post a while back about strategy and fulfillment that does a much more eloquent job of sounding out the issue than I have here. Basically, he asks the question as to whether strategy alone can ever be truly satisfying. And, I have to agree with him, that no, it can't. Perhaps I am verging on quarter-life crisis, but I am itching to join the ranks of my smart friends who have found a way to make their ideas tangible, be it through hobby or career. In the meantime, I am very happy and proud to be in such brilliant company.

Congratulations, Kyle, on all your success. You smell terrific. If any of my smart peeps want to collaborate on a shoe project, let me know and I'll see what I can hook up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lady-targeted man-items.

I've always thought that the idea of targeting women for man-items was a bit chauvinistic, stereotypical, what-have-you. Kind of a, men can't fend for themselves, women do the shopping and the homemaking sort of mentality. I have to say, as a media planner with experience on CPG brands, stereotypes exist for a reason. There generally/usually/almost always exists sales data, if not behavioral data, to support the stereotype, or no-one would keep targeting as such. But, I'm still not a huge fan.

I am going to give the below Old Spice ad a Get Out of Jail Free card, because it is absolutely hysterical. And, while it speaks to a woman, it plays up male humor. Win-win. I would love to see the programming list on this one - overtly female? Male? Both? I'm curious. Anyone work on Old Spice, care to comment?


A Media Planner's Guide to the Super Bowl.

Disclaimer: I did not work on any Super Bowl media plans this year, nor do I have any insider information about the Super Bowl plans of any Draftfcb clients.

Now a good 21 hours post-event, I feel the dust of disappointment over Super Bowl Sunday begin to settle a bit over my network of ad geeks. The disappointed (not creative enough! not funny enough! not integrated enough! not enough monkeys!) rabble of comments are beginning to fade into more of a discontented sigh as we return our noses to the grindstone and wait for next year's batch. I am going to take this moment of pause to talk Super Bowl media.

Super Bowl media is a HUGE topic that I've not really seen discussed much at all this year, in a year when the  media layout of the game struck me as particularly odd. It seems that media planners are underrepresented in my social circle. Maybe we tend to keep to ourselves? Maybe I avoid my own kind? No idea. Either way, I've not seen anyone touch on the topic of Super Bowl as it relates to media, so here goes.

The Super Bowl is an awesome platform - quite literally, traditional media's largest stage. In the days of mass mass mass!, the Super Bowl was the holy grail of media buys, the most efficient eyeballs for your dollar, hands down. And, despite the fact that the focus has shifted toward niche, targeted media, the Super Bowl is still probably your best bet for large-format awareness. As such, there's a delicate dance to be done around the planning and buying of Super Bowl spots, by the agencies and by the network. You can't just be throwing ads into pods all willy-nilly! No offense to my comrades out there, but this year, it seemed as though the media aspect of this grand media event was woefully overlooked.

Several things struck me as odd about this year's Super Bowl media layout:

1. It was front-heavy. 
It seemed as though all the real Super Bowl-y ads, the Anheuser-Busch and Doritos spots that exhibited strong fresh creative geared for a Super Bowl crowd, were exhausted in the first half of the game. Poor Denny's, Google and one random Miller High Life ad were left to claw for remaining awareness in the back half. Granted, the game did get interesting in the back half, but you can't always count on a battle of titans to be high-scoring, so this, to me, was a surprising move. Which is better, a barrage of high-impact spots in the beginning of the game, or awareness and reminder messaging throughout? In my humblest of opinions, I feel that Bud/Doritos would have done well to increase their presence in the second half. If you come in with a bang, I expect you to keep it up. You've got four quarters worth of time on your hands, and plenty of spots to choose from. The opportunity was there to lay this thing out beautifully, and it seems like the buyers and CBS just... didn't. But, that's just me.

2. It was dull.
A clever media buy enhances clever creative and makes for clever campaigns. It would have been inspiring to see some clever media buys at play here, but alas, no dice. No creative pod formatting, very few stories told in succession (GoDaddy? Denny's, kind of? can't think of any others), just straight-up ads plopped into pods. One of my favorite media tricks, bookending spots in a pod per creative message, went totally by the wayside. My friend Bud pointed out that nobody really used the captive audience as an opportunity to try a call to action, to integrate with other media forces at play. Coke: this was a real opportunity to be interactive, given your competitor has very publicly denounced Super Bowl spending to do so. Put up a fight, Coke! The only spot that capitalized on the content at hand was the Oprah/Letterman spot. Come on, people! You've already plunked down the money; this is an opportunity to use the largest traditional platform as a media playground, and no-one did in a way that blew me away. I may be totally out of line with this critique, as I am unsure of how Super Bowl media is bought - regulations could be totally different from a normal network buy. But it seems the buyers and the network waved the white flag on this one, and rolled over and died of normalcy. Sad day.

3. It was sloppy.
The and Dockers ads, both touting "no pants" as their creative gimmick, were run back to back. Give. Me. A break. This is the Super Bowl. People are watching. Pre-screen your ads, CBS! These two spots blurred together for me. Some friends of mine argued that this boosted awareness for both spots, but I remain unconvinced. I hope both advertisers are demanding hefty make-goods here.

I'm not generally one to criticize, so I hope I haven't turned off any readers with this little rant. As an eager little media planner, I guess I was hoping for some greatness, some real media cartwheels and loop-de-loops. Or at least a brilliant, clean execution of media on what may be the largest advertising day of the year. Maybe next year.

If you have any insight into the Super Bowl media strategy, I would love to hear from you, if you please.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Choir.

While the rest of you schmucks were biting your fingernails over Lost, I spent the evening at the Field Museum, bettering myself.

I'm just kidding. About Lost, that is. I certainly have my share of stupid television shows. If we all remember correctly, I attended the American Idol tour concert this summer, so who am I to tease?

Completely serious about the Field, though. About once a month or so, National Geographic holds a speaker series called Nat Geo Live at the Field. They bring in their photographers and videographers, what-have-you, to share a bit of their experiences with those who care to know. I've had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Everest, Peter Athans, as well as Paul Nicklen, polar photographer. Both fascinating men, breathtaking photography, incredible stories. I guess that sounds kind of silly and superfluous. Please don't take my word for it - click the links above and see if there's something going on near you that you might find interesting.

Tonight's speaker was Michael Davie, a documentary filmmaker with a focus on Africa. His talk spanned several topics, but what captivated me was a story about inmates in South Africa forming a prison choir and entering (dead serious) a prison choir competition. And they are AMAZING. Speaking of stupid television shows, I'm a total Gleek; seventeen of my 24 years have been spent in choir. I absolutely adore choral music, and being in choir has shaped my life in a large way. I suppose my life has been a cakewalk compared to those of these boys, but it still struck a chord to hear them talk about how choir and music changed their lives.

Take a peek at this video, which doesn't do the story the slightest bit of justice. If it piques your interest, perhaps check out the film; if not, ah well. To each his own.

Oh, and thanks, Mom, for always making me go to choir. Love you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Team CoCo, and the O Factor.

Cody:   By the way, Oprah is narrating the next generation of Planet Earth
Jen:     Oh yeah?
Cody:   Indeedy.
Jen:     I suppose she can do whatever she likes
Cody:  For all intents and purposes, she is Mother Earth now
Jen:     So true.

Oprah Winfrey, you are a pretty cool cat. Can I say that?

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of being part of the studio audience on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Unfortunately our cameras and phones were confiscated before we were allowed inside the building, so you'll have to take my word for it. The kinds of opportunities that working in advertising has put in front of me never cease to amaze me, and I was pretty stoked to be able to cross this one off of my bucket list.

Oprah interviewed Jay Leno in regards to the NBC late night lineup showdown, and the results were pretty much what I had anticipated. Seeing as Jay doesn't have ownership of the Tonight Show, the whole debacle was really a bad misstep on the part of NBC affiliates in an attempt to help two shows, both suffering in the ratings, that was handled poorly by NBC executives. It didn't really have much to do with Conan or Leno at all. After the interview, Oprah stayed around first to get audience opinions on the matter, and then to chit-chat. You can check out the video here (I'm pretty sure I'm not in it).

Two things about this whole experience stood out in my mind as particularly notable. I apologize in advance for making an outline, but that's just the kind of girl I am.

1. Oprah said that she felt inclined to do the interview with Jay because she had run a poll on her website and found that 96% of those polled were on Team CoCo. Ninety-six percent! This blew my mind, and the reasons for that are as such:

A. When has a poll shown 96% of people having the same opinion on ANYTHING, ever? Conan, please consider running for president. Apparently, you've got it in the bag.

B. Despite the fact that I am an ardent Conan supporter and longtime viewer, it never made sense to me that anyone was on any team at all. Team NBC, if anyone, is to blame. But, instead of fact-checking, or pausing for a hot minute to consider that maybe NBC execs are the ones who should be in the hot-seat, people jumped on the crucifixion bandwagon like a bunch of rabble-rousers. We Americans love to crucify our celebrities, even relatively boring ones. Fascinating!

C. As I just mentioned, I am a longtime VIEWER of Conan's shows, since high school, at least. 96% of people polled decided that they were Conan supporters. Had they been Conan viewers, this whole mess would have been avoided, and I would still be happily falling asleep to Conesies. Maybe even the Cactus Chef Playing We Didn't Start the Fire on the Flute. A very large portion of that 96% are not very good fans at all. For shame.

2. Oprah. Is. Awesome. I guess that seems obvious, right? But, perhaps not. The woman is as famous, rich, and powerful as it gets. She has the potential to be a total jerk, which would be heartbreaking for me. But, never fear, she was not.

A. She's smart. She did a great job moderating the studio audience (not always the sharpest knives in the drawer) when they started getting rabble-y, reminding them politely that this was merely a media-created sensation around a business decision. She also spoke about the scenario from her own standpoint as a media personality, as well as a business owner (imagine that - Oprah thinks of herself as a business owner). She rationalized Jay's thoughts, and provided her own viewpoints on what she might have done in his shoes (walked away five years ago, when NBC told him he was being let go). She explained why it's advantageous to own yourself as a talent, and to have ownership over your show. Listening to her talk about how she manages her brand was really something.

B. She's nice. Oprah was down-to-earth and wonderfully witty. She spoke anecdotally, like we were old drinking buddies. She cracked jokes and laughed at herself for having a cold and doing the show with a kleenex in hand, making sure to Purell anyone she touched. She thanked us kindly for coming, and maybe I'm just naive, but I felt like she really meant it. Sigh.

I guess my point is, it's really cool to find out that celebrities really are good people. I mean, they're just people, right? Perhaps the media could calm down and give them a rest every now and then. Jay and Conan aren't 15 year old girls, they're men who want to keep their jobs. And even Oprah, who is always getting such harsh criticism about her weight - girl is busy! I don't have all that much time to work out, and what am I doing? Not running a media empire, that's for sure. Seems ridiculous, the way we sensationalize this stuff. Ah, well.

The Oprah Show is in its final season, so if you're interested in participating, better jump on the ticket bandwagon! I would recommend it most highly.