Saturday, 28 March 2009

The New ATL

[Note for Millennials: ATL is 'above the line' media, an ancient, but still used, advertising agency term for the expensive and therefore extremely profitable media billed at a 17.5% mark-up which are impossible to measure ROI (return on investment) on, like TV, radio, print and outdoor -- versus BTL (below the line) media like promotions/contests, in-store signage, pamphlets and couponing (with most of which impact on sales COULD be measured, so were therefore looked down upon by the advertising spin-doctors as irrelevant and too 'boring' to be considered to be a real part of a brand's advertising media mix).]

There's a lot of debate swirling around out there about where the big bucks are eventually going to shift as the masses (the masses of marketing folks, that is) finally start figuring out THE FIRST GREAT REVELATION: that Mobile access to the Internet and the Net itself, are just channels, like broadcast TV or satellite radio -- channels for content/programming that people are interested in. The SECOND GREAT REVELATION being that (yes, I'm oversimplifying) all the other over-hyped, flash-in-the-pan experiments that are part of the evolution of human behaviour in the newly digital world (Twitter, Skype, eMail, SecondLife, blogging, IMing, Google Earth & LBS, social sites like Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, etc. and 'organizing in the cloud', plus the dozens more coming), are all just tactics, not new 'channels'.

What strikes me as a breath-taking lack of foresight is that, now 10 full years after the publication of "The Experience Economy" (Pine & Gilmore), Nielsen and all the other major media spend trackers are ignoring the new ATL, the channel that has already won the largest and fastest growing percentage-change-vs.-year-ago score of any new media on 'purchase intent' due to its run-away effectiveness at deepening brand relationships, impact on intention to buy, influence on WOM and long-lasting memorability. I'm talking about something that most traditionalists (some would call them blind ostriches) refuse to see is a type of medium: experiential marketing (XM), until recently often mislabelled as event marketing (EM), which is really a slightly different 'beast'. XM is simply face-to-face, buyer-seller interaction that leads to a sale.

XM is the new ATL, especially when married to 'interactive/social' (yes, I CAN lump them together, see paragraph #1). In the coming decade HUGE sums of marketing dollars will be shifted from TV to XM, with a large portion going to both new ROI metrics that will be developed to measure/prove its effectiveness and another large portion being spent on online video advertising (which will NOT be endlessly repeated :30 TV spots, but will be advertorial/instructional and fun/warm & fuzzy podcast-like clips) to support the XM efforts that are taking place out in the marketplace, in the street and in-store. Let's face it, online advertising is MOST effective when it ties in directly to something you are interested in buying and have had some exposure to in real life. When the interactivity of online efforts tie back to an actual, REAL experience with a product, the seeds of brand-building and long term loyalty are sown.

The age of thousands upon thousands of wannabe film directors flying to Cannes to pat themselves on the back over how engaging and entertaining their 'short films' are was already over about the time the get-rich-quick investors bailed out of Internet stocks back in 2001. The TV advertising business model was 'push marketing' at its extreme and really would never have existed had the consumer always been in charge. The key, fundamental difference that will guide online video vs. TV is 'no repetition' -- no one wants to see your very clever/funny :30 more than once or twice -- and they never did.

Even today, decades after XM began, first in marketplaces with "Snake Oil Salesmen", then with blue-haired ladies giving out samples in grocery stores, then at events and consumer shows with guys like "Vince, the SHAM WOW! Showman", NO legitimate major organization is measuring XM spending with the major Fortune 500 marketing firms. The Event View 2009 Survey (now sponsored by George P. Johnson, MPI Foundation & Event Marketing Institute) is the closest thing we have to a tracking device, but it only shifted from solely EM to XM this year and STILL only surveys firms (although some are very big) that tend to use events/trade shows as their primary marketing tool.

P&G actually got in bed with many of its competitors to help fund Nielsen's new PRISM in-store effectiveness/spending tracking tool (recently, and sadly, suspended), but no one is focusing on XM yet, proving only that it is still not yet 'on the radar', but you 'heard it here first', experiential marketing (again, working hand-in-hand with interactive) is 'the new ATL'. Its just that mainstream marketers have not picked up on it yet. Be the first brand on your block to 'lead from the front' and 'own' XM -- yes, it's more expensive per consumer impression than TV, that's because it works 1,000 times more effectively to turn consumers into loyal buyers (but don’t quote me on that figure!).

For a more thorough treatise (longer...) on the future of marketing, read this more recent post:

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Is the Focus Group Dead, or Just Given Too Much Credence?

Comment on re: article: Listen Up, Marketers: The Focus Group Is Dead

With regard to Focus Groups (FGs), I think debating "dead" vs. "valuable tool" misses the subtlety of the issue. It's all about using the "human nature filter" to gauge what tool to use and how much decision-making weight to ascribe to the results.

After 20 years of contracting, observing, and moderating FGs from the Strat-Planning perspective, it became clear that you only get a specific type of person who will agree to show up for them. Yes, the "$50 & M&Ms" crowd, at about 90%, and within that group what I'd call the "FG Professional": people with a lot of time on their hands and the desire to lord it over a group with forceful opinions about whatever the subject of the day is.

I've seen FGs work well with largely untapped demographics, like 50+ male beer drinkers who've never been approached to sit in on a FG before. On the other hand, I've seen the same "typical housewives" show up for at least 4 vastly different categories of product clearly having lied about their past attendance in order to expound (and collect $50) at as many as possible. If you go into the FG knowing that this is the reality and figure out how to get past it can mean getting reasonably reliable filtered, 'directional only' results.

WIth regard to the knee-jerk reaction of many firms to the instantaneous and visceral reaction of the blogosphere to any change being made to their products, this same "human nature filter" really needs to be applied. Anonymous or not, the mere opportunity to have a chance to have one's opinion read is simply too ego-satisfying for most to resist (look at all of us posting our comments here!). It's the old adage of only being empowered to say no.

The best advice would be to NOT change your marketing plans to satisfy the modern day equivalent of the "little old lady from Pasadena" (who was the only one with the time and determination to make the effort to track down the appropriate number to call and place it), but rather to have "online operators standing by" to engage the bloggers and get to the roots of the issue -- many of them only want to be validated and will move on to the next flaming rant about something else tomorrow.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The "Goof-Off Expense Scale"

Comment made to AdAge article:  Link

Phil, as usual, I like your take on things. These days productivity and efficiency have been usurped by socializing and 'positive vibe' in the workplace, and small agencies lead these kind of cultural changes. The changes will only be exacerbated by the arrival of 'Millennials' onto the scene, the oldest of whom are either just 24, or as old as 29 today, depending on how you slice things. If 'Gen X' was the 'Me Generation, these young people are the 'Collaborative Generation' and expect to work as a group and 'give back' in their leisure AND work time.

Having worked for many years in both private and open-office settings, I have to say I believe what Jeremy is saying as it's accepted that it takes fully 15-20 minutes to become fully engrossed in a project, hence only a fully uninterrupted environment is going to lead to top productivity, whether we're talking about an individual trying to concentrate, or a group trying to get through an agenda without distractions. Unfortunately the demand for 'cost savings' from shareholders has steam-rolled over recognition that productivity and efficiency should trump other things -- the open office milieu is the status quo today.

To Bob's POV: "Here's a novel idea: Get the work done, no matter how long or how little time it takes," I'd only add the suggestion that, at some point, management bring up with the team the 'Goof-Off Expense Scale'. My employees said the amount of time spent on 100% personal pursuits online was 'negligible' and 'doesn't effect my productivity', so I did an analysis of how many seconds were spent opening, interacting with and closing windows for IM, social sites, downloads, etc. during any random hour of the day and demonstrated to them that it added up to about 12 minutes of every hour, or 20% of their work week.

In slow times your people might need online distractions to keep from getting bored and it might even provide creative inspiration and new skill-set building, but unless they're committed, universally, to applying Bob's 'novel idea' through the busy times, putting in an additional 20% per week out of their personal time without complaint, their salaries should be adjusted downwards to accommodate for this new intrusion of personal time into their company-paid time. Up to 90% of the interruptions that come through on smartphones are personal (depending on the individual), not business-related, so the same applies there.

Sometimes a good defense of your bottom line means a good offense that includes open and frank discussions about what makes an agency shine -- not just creative inspiration but the hours (i.e. minutes and seconds) spent against cranking out agency work, including white papers and recos.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Ad Industry's Holy Grail, Part 2

What I explained in a presentation to Ogilvy and Mather about a year ago about the fact that the Holy Grail of our industry, FULLY addressable advertising, is already here and ready to work, but no one, anywhere, has tried it.

The key points to initiate fully addressable advertising are:

1. Smartphone ubiquity.
2. Millennials being open to being behaviourally and LBS targeted.
3. Someone actually trying an web-based, mobile-linked experiment with it.

Today this:
What If Gen Y Wants to Be Behaviorally Targeted?
3 Minute Ad Age: March 5, 2009
Produced by Hoag Levins

Are Gen Y-ers really different from the rest of us when it comes to online privacy?

NEW YORK ( -- Talk of restricting behavioral-targeting practices is heavy in the air these days. But what if Generation Y -- the first demographic to grow up totally immersed in the digital life -- actually wants to be behaviorally targeted by marketers? Speaking at the recent OMMA Behavioral conference, Forrester Research's Emily Riley made a strong case for this idea. She even suggests the creation of a web portal that would enable Gen Y-ers to post their wants in an organized manner -- so appropriate marketers could more quickly and efficiently respond to them."
Let's see who jumps on this TRILLION DOLLAR revenue stream first!
For a more detailed post re: the holy grail: The Ad Industry's Holy Grail, Part 1


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