Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

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“Nothing Left To Do But Smile”

My dad loved Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. Jerry sang it best, when he said, “Nothing left to do, but smile.” I think my dad, would have agreed. He passed away at 12:13 AM on September 11, 2018, after suffering a brain stem stroke, following open heart surgery. My brother and I were there with him, in the room, when we finally left us. It’s a surreal experience to watch your dad slip away. But, I’m glad he’s no longer on machines that were artificially giving us the false representation of life. There were only 3 things, my dad habitually reminded me, when it came to his passing:

  1. Don’t let me become a vegetable, connected to machines.
  2. Make sure you cremate me. When I go, I want to just fade away. Spread my ashes at Washington Square Park.
  3. At the end, that’s when you can finally have all my f!$%ing vinyl.

We agree on #1 and #2. Except, when I go, sprinkle me off the BROOKLYN Bridge. As for #3, the man had an amazing vinyl collection. We’re talking first pressings of the White Album, The Wall and Born in the USA. He refused to give me a single record and would playfully remind me, only when he’s not there to play them, will I get my hands on them. I loved him for his simplicity, consistency, and facetiousness.

My Dad, Robert Kmiec.

My dad was never much of a religious man. As a scientist, I think it always bothered him that you couldn’t prove the existence of a higher power. And yet, the dreamer in him, always acknowledged it was possible that there was an afterlife.

I started writing this in 2013. I knew it would be incredibly difficult to put into words what I wanted to say about my dad. Having spent the past few days finishing this, I’m glad I started it 5 years ago.

I want to tell you about my dad. He was my best friend. My dad once remarked fathers should not have to bury their children. He was right. But, just because the natural order is that a son should bury his father, doesn’t mean this is easy.

I wish I knew my dad before life got in the way. Before a car loan. Before a mortgage. Before life wore him down and turned him into a semi-recluse. I wish I knew him as the confident young man who walked into the small shop where my mom worked and sweet talked her into a first date…using Peanut M&Ms as a conversation piece.

I wish my kids knew my dad, the way I knew my dad growing up. I wish my son could have thrown a baseball with him, while he explained the physics of a curve ball. I wish my daughter could have posed tough questions, requiring lengthy, rich explanations that were bound to spark further curiosity. I just wish there was more time.

My dad was many things.

A Teacher
He taught me how to ride a bike. He taught me to catch a ball. He taught me to be a father.

A Contrarian
He so enjoyed taking an opposing position, if only to inspire better discussion and dialogue. He knew exactly what to say to make my mom’s blood boil. And he’d do it with a smirk.

A Romantic
For all of his sarcasm and wit, the man loved a good love story. When love would make you do something stupid, he was the first person to look the other way. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants.

A Movie Enthusiast
He loved a good movie, especially those full of symbolism. His ability to quote a movie and tie it into a life lesson was uncanny. And it stuck with you. I can’t begin to count the number of times he quoted ‘The Natural’. He’d tell me, “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail.” I remind my own son of that wisdom, on a routine basis.

Above all, he taught me how to live. When life would punch me in the gut, he knew what to say. If work was complicated, he found a way to make it simple. When my kids would make me crazy, he made me appreciate that madness. I would not be me, without him.

Some of the best moments in my life were spent on my drives home, talking with my dad on the phone. For years it was a nearly every day occurrence. Then we stopped. I really wish we hadn’t.

As we celebrate his all too short and complicated life, think back to a moment; I’m sure we all have one, where my dad said something so profound, it made you pause. It made you hesitate. It made you think just a little bit longer and a little bit deeper. He had such a knack for that.

Our lives are all a bit emptier because he’s no longer with us. But, even in death, he’s still teaching us. We get one body, take care of it. We get one life, fill it with memories.

At iMedia Summit Old Challenges Become New For Marketers

I love iMedia Summit. It’s on my must attend list, every year. Great locations, great content and great people, make for a valuable experience.

At this year’s summit, it was clear we’re getting closer and closer to dropping “digital” from titles and org structures. We are on the precipice of people across all industries accepting, it’s less about digital marketing and more about marketing in a digital world.

As I connected with marketers across a wide range of industries, there were 3 familiar themes that could not be ignored.

Talent: The conversation about digital talent has evolved. At one of my 1st summits, nearly 10 years ago, the conversation was about getting funding to hire someone…anyone…who could be that digital subject matter expert. While we’re definitely past those days, talent remains a thorn. Today though, it’s a thorn because we need new recruitment models to find the right talent, we need a better talent investment plan to retain talent and we need a better plan for creating leaders in organizations who have a deep and wide grasp of digital.

Content: It’s king, right? Every marketer I talked with identified different challenges in dealing with content. The most consistent pain points were how to produce enough content in a financially viable way, how to safely source and share content (legal and Pinterest apparently are still not good friends) and how to distribute content the right way. With respect to distribution, this is a battle waiting of happen in a very epic way. The old model that classical marketers still adopt where your cost to create content should not be greater than 15% of the media but, is dead and doesn’t apply to digital and social content. You will spend more than $100k to create enough quality content to support a $1M ad but across twitter and facebook. In digital, unlike TV, distribution is cheap, but the content is expensive.

New Operating Models: What should you be doing internally? What should your agency’s role be? When do you bring social in-house…and do you bring it all in-house? We need new models and approaches to building internal capabilities and for setting our partners up for success. This will require our partners to pivot quicker than they ever have before. They will need new offerings, new types of talent and different pricing approaches. We are in a sea of disruption that’s not going to calm down any time soon.

This year’s iMedia summit reaffirmed some thoughts I had and offered new perspective to think about as I lead our Social Media and Content efforts for Walgreens. It’s also fair to say, iMedia once again reminds me of why I’ve stayed in digital for 16 years…the pace of change isn’t for the weak and it’s bloody good fun to try and keep up.

The Next Chapter

I’m excited to announce that I will be joining The Campbell Soup Co. as the Global Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media. In this newly created role, I’ll be working alongside some of the smartest minds in the CPG space to transform Campbell into one of the most digitally fit organizations in the world.

Campbell is based in Camden, NJ, just outside of Philadelphia, which means, yes, the kid who was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey is coming back home to the East Coast. Bring on the pizza, bagels and soft pretzels!

Change is constant. Some people loathe change. I love it. Change brings about new opportunity. Change also offers reason to reflect. As I look forward to all that we can accomplish at Campbell’s, I’d be remiss if didn’t say…

Leaving Walgreens was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I can’t say enough about the leadership and the culture. Both, were key reasons why I joined the company and both are reasons we were able to create an award winning, best in class Social Media organization. If there’s one company that understands the value of social it’s Walgreens. I often say, social is a horizontal proposition, not a vertical fiefdom. Easy to say, much harder to do. Walgreens embraced that concept and afforded me the opportunity to lead our path toward realizing this end state. My only regret is that I won’t be there to see some amazing initiatives launch in the next few months. If you’re serious about social. If you want to “change the world” as one of team members often shares as his goal, Walgreens is where you should be looking. I wish my team, my colleagues and the organization all the best. Thank you for believing in me.

I plan to bring the same fire, passion, and commitment to innovation to Campbell that’s always fueled the successes of the past. As many of you know, being first has always been one of my key strategic pillars. Expect that to continue. Don’t look away, we’ll be planting several flags across the globe, at Campbell’s!

Happy 4th Of July – 2010

I always bust out this photo for the 4th of July.  It’s one of my all time favorite shots that I captured.  This was done “old school” on slide Film (Fuji Velvia 50) and a non-digital SLR (Nikon F5).  Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with recycling the past…especially when the colors are this vibrant!  Hope your 4th is as good as mine is going to be.

What I Learned At the iMedia 2009 Scottsdale Summit – Part II

Part I can be found here.

The format at this summit was a little different. Day 1 had a neat wrinkle. The summit attendees got to hear from and comments on 5 startup companies focused on real time information and data. It was kinda like a mini TechCrunch50. This was definitely a cool experience and something I hope they keep in the summit format. We heard from:

Bazaar Labs: They currently offer a product called flixup that’s basically twitter + Rotten Tomatoes. In near real time you can get the pulse of your friends/connections and the community at large regarding movies. It’s an interesting idea that’s ripe for contextual ads. They also offer a feature where you can predict the success of future movies based on the performance of previous movies. I have to imagine studios have something similar that goes like this: Michael Bay + Explosions + Save The World = X Million 🙂 As cool as the product is, I think they’re missing the middle part of the business model. Predicting the future is neat, but how about being able to see other movies in theater and available for purchase (e.g. DVD)…then within the app being able to buy them. I’ll be watching this app and company closely.

Networked Insights: They offer a product called SocialSense that’s focused on making sense of all the crazy social media chatter that’s out there. They believe that social channels provide the best and largest real time group for research. In today’s business environment speed wins and frankly the old ways of doing research are very slow. He gave an example of two recent redesigns for recipe sites that were done by General Mills and Kraft. One of the sites (he wouldn’t say which) launched first and while not as pretty of well designed offered amazing utility. The other site was a high usability testing scorer. But, they were late to market because they focused on flawless and perfect execution. Guess what? Speed win. Site 1 has over a million users. Site two has less than 50,000. Ouch. Follow and connect with @dneely40 for more information about their company.

AdHatchery: AdHatchery.com hasn’t launched yet, but will be soon. The presenter was great and really highlighted the problems we have in the industry between publishers (sellers) and agencies (buyers). The sales process sucks. It’s riddled with phone calls, emails, and follow ups. It’s a waste of time frankly. AdHatchery is trying to make the process between buyers and sellers simpler, easier, faster, and more transparent. So imagine a concept like LinkedIn where you can post your client’s needs. Then publishers, any publishers, can bid and offer proposals specific to that RFP or business problem. The advertiser can easily evaluate the options, provide feedback, and then close a deal quickly. More importantly, there’s a community based feedback feature where you can rate/review the sales contact who provided the RFP. This is very cool. If implemented well, this could be the type of tool that can shine a light on crappy sales contacts and hopefully shun them into being better. We can only hope…

HitPost: They believe everyone is either an armchair spots announcer/pundit or can be one. Their platform (which works across all mediums and devices) Hitpost.com enables this to happen. The tool works similar to flixup, but it’s clearly designed around sports fans. People are already doing this. If you watch a live twitter feed of a sports game you’ll see exactly what I mean. HitPost ties it all together across all networks. I see a lot of promise in this one.

Track Simple: I honestly have no idea what these guys do, but I want to buy it. The presentation given was simply one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. It was classic Obama. The presenter spoke so well you had no choice, but to say, “ummmm yeah I’ll take one.” I’m actually hoping to follow up with these guys tonight. If I learn more I’ll update this post.

In short, there’s no shortage of ideas and everyone is focusing on the real time web.

What I Learned At the iMedia 2009 Scottsdale Summit – Part I

As I’ve talked about it previous posts the iMedia summits are the best collection of forward looking interactive marketers and innovators. I look forward to attending their summits every year. From Saturday December 5 through Wednesday December 9 at the Camelback Inn I got to share ideas, meet some great people, and of course learn a hell of a lot.

The first part of Day 1 was focused on agencies discussing and aggregating the problems we’re seeing in the industry. The group was broken into 4 topical areas. I lead a discussion on “things agencies should be focusing on, but aren’t.” The feedback and input from the group was amazing, somewhat eye opening, and reassuring. I say reassuring, because everyone across the country is having the same problems. It’s not an east coast thing, or a small agency thing, or a digital agency thing. It doesn’t matter where your based on the type of company you work at, we’re all in the same boat. Here’s a high level recap of the situation:

  • Clients are often uninvolved and uneducated. They don’t take the time to learn interactive and then get frustrated when their vision is either unachievable or too costly. On the flip side, agencies rarely spend the right time or take the right approach to educating their clients.
  • We lack consistency in metrics (how and what), process, terminology.
  • Part of the reason interactive agencies generally find themselves in project-based relationships instead of AOR ones is they focus on the next project and don’t make the upfront investment to understand a client’s business, needs, struggles, problems, etc. But, at the same time, most clients don’t see the value in interactive AOR relationships because they view interactive as a “production” or “execution” driven medium…not a strategic one.
  • There’s a HUGE speed/cost Perception Problem. Just because it can be done quickly doesn’t mean it can be done cheaply. A client doesn’t blink at a $1 million TV budget, but would laugh you out of the room if you presented a $1 million web site budget. Funny, in 1999 you could demand $2 million for a site and a client would say, “sure.” Why has this shift happened?
  • Results based compensation is a major opportunity, but requires serious up front alignment on how to measure results. Too many agencies are getting burned because they believe they’ve delivered the performance based on measurement system X, while the client disagrees because of what measurement system Y says.
  • We still have a dearth of strong interactive talent and we often hire to fill the title. It’s better to look at the roles you need and hire slowly.
  • Amazing, but there’s still challenges with data standardization. There’s simply too many data points, too many ways to measure those data points, and noone leading it. This is a major opportunity for someone to make sense of this jumbled mess of spaghetti.
  • “Digital Can’t Be a PS.” This was probably one of my favorite quotes. It’s clear clients aren’t listening to the experts, reading the real data indicating shifts in consumer behavior, and still make digital an add on. I know it’s true, but I still can’t believe it.
  • Data vs. Insights. Agencies provide a lot of data, but very little actionable insights. Providing a spreadsheet with information isn’t good enough.
  • There’s a ugh stigma with the concept of unbillable time. Ubillable doesn’t mean the time you spend isn’t worthwhile. It doesn’t mean the time you spend isn’t actionable or tied to a specific client. All it means is you can’t bill for it yet…but as we focus on cutting down on unbillable time we’re nickel and dim-ing clients and not bringing forward new and innovative ideas.
  • We give away the ideas all the time and someone else undercuts on pricing. How do we make sure we’re being fairly compensated for our ideas? Ultimately aren’t we in the business of ideas?
  • There’s very little leadership in the innovation area. At best we look 6 months out. This seems to tie back to the unbillable time problem and lack of talent.
  • We need a common language to pull from that we use consistently. Is it interactive or digital? Is it CRM or 1 to 1? etc.

I’ll be adding posts as the summit continues.

Happy Birthday To Me

Another year in the books.  Thought I’d treat myself to something memorable.

I even had room for it in the box.

Although now that all the spaces are full, I might have to get a bigger box.

Happy 4th Of July – 2009

Every year I look for a better photo to post. An every year I end up posting the same photo.  I took this years ago with my Nikon F5 and Fuji Velvia 50.  While I’ve enjoyed shooting digital, I have to admit, when I see photos like this it makes me long for the warmth and contrast of slide film.

Happy 4th of July.  I hope you all are enjoying some great food and drinks with friends and family.

What I Learned At The iMedia 2009 Austin Summit

Every year I leave the iMedia summit amazed and impressed with the people and companies in our industry. This year’s summit in Austin, TX was no different. Over the course of 4 days I absorbed enough information to make my head hurt…in a good way. it would take me days to condense everything that was covered into a post. With that in mind, here’s the top 10 things I’m taking away from the summit.

  1. Real Estate Is King: It’s not enough to have a cool app or a great site. In fact, the best apps are the ones based on an existing community. Why? Because they extend the community from the mother ship and in doing so introduce a whole new set of people to the community.
  2. Visual Expression Of Data Is Critical: Sure, you can have the MOST data, but if nobody can make sense of it, what value is there? I sat through a presentation from Trulia. They realized everybody had the same basic information, but no company had cracked the code on a great user experience. Their focus was on the end user; not collecting more real estate listings than the competition.
  3. Display Ads Are Not Dead: In fact with enhancements like Yahoo! Smart Ads we could start to see a resurgence of banners. The beauty of the Smart Ad is that the ads are essentially built on the fly for each user based on a preset bank of assets and algorithm. In other words, we’re not showing the same ad to every single person.
  4. There’s No Silver Bullet For ROI: We can measure just about anything online, but for the most part we’re measuring it in isolation. The holy grail of measurement would be a system that can cut across digital, TV, print, outdoor, etc.; however, there really isn’t a system in place that can do that for every client at scale. The key to measuring on the web is to define the end result and start determining what you can measure between the web and that end result.
  5. People On Twitter Are Real People: I know it sounds far fetched. But, seriously, over the course of 4 days I traded a lot of tweets with fellow summit attendees. That lead to me meeting to really cool people, Adam Kleinberg and Steve Smith. Steve, totally helped me out of a bind. Using the #imediasummit tag I tweeted on Tuesday that I was in need of a blank CD. Steve was scanning the stream, saw my tweet, and offered to bring me one. He over delivered and gave me 2.
  6. Content and Stories: What really gets people interested in what you have to say as a brand is great content and compelling stories. You can’t have one without the other. Nike has known this for years. It’s what makes their work so outstanding. However, and granted I’m biased, there’s no better example of content + story than BMW FIlms. If we really want our consumers to seek us out we need to up the quality of our content and our story telling.
  7. Mobile Is Kinda Big: I’ve been hearing that mobile is big for a few years now. As an interactive marketer, I’m supposed to love the bright shiny objects. I started to get religion on mobile 2 years ago when data showed consumers sent 363 billion text messages. However, most companies have been slow to invest in mobile. Here’s what I can tell you. Back in 1997/8 people questioned the need for a web site, now you’d be thrown out on your ear if your company didn’t have one. Playing catch up online is a costly proposition and I get the feeling playing catchup in mobile will be even more costly.
  8. “Viral” Doesn’t Have To Happen By Chance: If you really want something to take off you need a smart distribution plan. Companies like Digital Broadcasting Group excel in making sure your video content is seen by people beyond YouTube. It’s not hat YouTube isn’t big or important. It’s clearly a dominant player. However, companies continue to think that all they need to do to make something go “viral” is upload a video to YouTube.
  9. Talent Remains A Problem: I heard it repeatedly from all my agency counter parts. As clients invest more in digital, agencies are desperately trying to find and retain top talent. But, it’s not easy, because there’s just not a lot of outstanding digital talent out there. Most seemed to agree that there was an over saturated market of average talent. But, clients don’t want average, they want the best…even if they don’t know how to use the best to their full potential.
  10. No One Has It Figured Out: Companies have case studies. They have 1 or 2 shining examples of a flawless program/campaign. But, there isn’t a single company hitting it out of the park every single time. Those that have speak to 3 things: right client, right team, and right time. You need a client that’s willing to let magic happen. You’ve got to a have a team capable of delivering magic. And, the timing has to to be right; for example a twitter program 3 years ago would have failed. It takes all of those elements and a little bit of luck.

That’s it. Good stuff as usual from iMedia. If you’ve never attended a summit I highly recommend you find a way to attend a future one.

iMedia Agency Summit 2009

I’m thrilled to be attending another iMedia summit.  Kevin Doohan first introduced me to iMedia roughly 4 years ago. Since attending my first summit, I’ve been a fixture at these summits; generally trying to attend at least 1 summit a year.

iMedia is probably the premier event for interactive marketers. The events are invite only, attendance is limited, the locations are amazing, and the content top notch. It blows away other conferences like AdTech.

The thing I like the most about iMedia is that it’s a truly humbling experience. I always find myself leaving the summits thinking, “damn, I still have so much more to learn and so much further to go.” It’s the humility that keeps me hungry and wanting to be better. As I’ve mentioned; I’m work in progress.

Spending 3 days away from the office is rather complex. You’re employer and senior leadership have to recognize the value in you attending. Equally as important is the trust you have to have in your team to over achieve while you’re out of the office. It’s a delicate balance – because to get the most out of the summit, you really need to be immersed 24/7 in the summit’s content (that includes the people).

I’m really excited about getting to meet some new people; I always find a handful of people that become long time colleagues, friends, and sounding boards. One of things you quickly realize after attending a summit is that we’re ALL in this together. We all have the same challenges. And, we all need some help. The number of outstanding interactive marketers is small. It’s a tiny, small knit community. I’m looking forward to meeting new and old members of that fraternity at the iMedia Agency Summit in Austin, TX.

I’ll be live tweeting many of the sessions. If you weren’t able to attend the summit, but want to get a flavor for what’s being discussed, follow my tweets.

Texas, here I come.