Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Advertising

5 Reasons To Not Be Bullish On Snapchat


I like taking the contrarian point of view. I’ve yet to meet a better champion of the Devil’s Advocate. As Patton perfectly stated, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” I have found that there are 2 types of Devil’s Advocate players. The first, simply likes to disagree. They will always take the opposing point of view, just to feel the thrill that comes from a spirited debate. I know that person well. On more than a handful of occasions, I’ve seen that guy, staring right back at me, in the mirror. Now, the other type of Devil’s Advocate, is one who brings some type of data and insights to the discussion to back an opposing view. That’s the version I’m going to play today as I outline reasons you shouldn’t be bullish on Snapchat.

Before I get started, I think it’s important to get on the table that I’m saying Snapchat is a bad investment. I’m not saying don’t put your money there. I’m not saying, it will fail. There’s great value in playing the role of the Devil’s Advocate. As the CIA (yes, that CIA) states (pdf) in their training, The Devil’s Advocate’s “primary value is to serve as a check on a dominant mind-set that can develop over time among even the best analysts who have followed an issue and formed strong consensus that there is only one way of looking at their issue.” With seemingly a new “Snapchat is killing [insert competitor]” article, popping up every day, I thought this was a great time to introduce the Devil’s Advocate tool to provide some opposing views.

Bad Data For Advertisers

When Snapchat first launched, it required only an email address and a password. The core base of Snapchat’s power users were people who bought into the idea that anonymity and a self-destructing (as we saw from the repeated data breaches, not true) approach to content, created a safe space for them express themselves, without pressure. All you needed was an email address and a password to join. Realizing how bad of an idea this was from a future business potential standpoint, some time later, Snapchat started requiring a first name, last name, birthdate, username and a cell phone number. Better, but compare the rich data trove Facebook offers advertisers. It’s the equivalent of Snapchat bringing a paperclip to a gun fight. Beyond the core data in the registration flow, Snapchat can also track location. All of this, in theory, is pretty good, but not great. Data drives accountability and validation. You don’t necessarily need all the data in the world. Sometimes, you just need the right data.For example, Google, with their core paid search offering can track intent all the way through to direct purchase, despite not knowing your name, email address or birthdate. Today, the Snapchat is rudimentary, at best. They know that. It’s why they continue to increase the investment in their data stack. But, the more they ask of their users, the more the alienate the base…who bought in to Snapchat, for an ad-free and anonymous way to share.

The Fickle Nature Of Youth

Snapchat has a user base that 70%, under the age of 22. Their growth is from kids. The last thing kids want to do is be where their parents are. It’s a truth. As adults start joining Snapchat, kids will move to the next “it” platform. This is a cat and mouse games, kids have played with their parents, since the dawn of time. Snapchat needs the older audience to join. Need, I say. Why? Older people have actual money. They’re a more valuable marketing segment, because they’re also more trackable. They have credit cards, loyalty cards, etc. Those are important elements for matching ad impression data to purchase, to determine the value and impact of an advertiser’s dollars. Without that matchability, an ad campaign on Snapchat is the equivalent of taking a bunch of money, lighting it on fire and wondering if it drove sales. The blow back from the original customer base (aka young kids) is already happening in full force.

Kids don’t want to hang out with their parents; it’s simple as that. Balancing the need for adults and their money, while keeping the experience genuine for the core/original user base, is a difficult balance to maintain. When you consider that millennials use more apps and spend more time in apps, than any other consumer segment, there’s always another app vying for their interest. And, just as the youth was the first to MySpace, Facebook, Instagram and yes, Snapchat, they’re also the first to abandon that platform in the search for the next breakout platform…especially, when they’re parents start crowding their space.

Chasing Cheddar Ruins The Experience

Snapchat, at the end of the day, is a business. They have investors. They have employees. They need money to pay back investors and to keep paying employees. This is basic economics. So, how do you make money for an app that’s free? Well, that’s easy. The oldest rule in monetization for apps/platforms has always been, if you’re not paying for it, you are the product. That’s right, they make money, just like Facebook and every other social network, but selling information about its users to advertisers, who then pay Snapchat money to advertise. Again, not a new concept. But, here’s what happens, when you’re core group of customers (remember the young, under 22 year olds, who joined an add free app) start seeing ads.

Snapchat Users Hate Ads

Granted, every social platform goes through this cycle. The launch. They grow by focusing on the product. All the while, they’re harvesting user data and building an ad platform. Said platform is ready and they introduce ads. As they introduce ads, users say, they’ll leave. Most don’t. But, here’s the rub. Millennials “aren’t influenced at all by advertising. Only 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. Millennials believe that advertising is all spin and not authentic. That’s why they use Tivo to skip commercials regularly and avoid banner advertisements on Facebook and various news websites.” – That’s a big problem, if you’re a Snapchat advertiser.

A Quickly Eroding Premium

To me though, what offers the most pause for being bullish is how quickly the Snapchat ad product went from being an insanely priced premium offering to being reduced, reduced and reduced again. The drop, inside of 2 years, from $750,000 to $100,000, is staggering. Glass half full people will say that the cost was reduced as the platform has scaled and now moved to an API offering, which means you can use a 3rd party platform or DSP to purchase media. Ok, let’s go with that. I will accept that. However, the minute Snapchat moves to a biddable inventory world, two things will happen. First, my point about lack of great data will become more apparent. When you can buy on age, gender, interest, device and an infinite set of options on Facebook (as an example) and can only buy on a limited set of targeting criteria in Snapchat, the data disparity becomes crystal clear. Second, DSPs are all about performance. That’s the reason you use them. DSPs also typically scale across platforms. For example, Brand Networks, one of the approved Snapchat DSPs, can also buy media across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others. That means, as a marketer, you’ll have comparative data for performance. Said, differently, when someone asks where you should spend your next $1, the data will be even clearer.

Voodoo Math And A Lack Of Standards

As discussed above you need clean data as a baseline. Part of clean data is standardization. For example, if I asked you, do you weigh more than me? An easy way to determine the answer would be for both us to get weighed on a scale. But, if you used one type of scale and I used a different scale, we would have far too big of a variable, to trust the answer. But, if we both used the same scale, we’ve eliminated a critical variable. When marketers buy ads, it’s no different. The IAB, love them or hate them, has standards for every type of ad format out there. For example, how to measure an impression, what a click is and what counts as a video view. Really, I’m serious. Go check it out (pdf). Now, the IAB is pretty clear about what a video view is. They say, “a video ad is viewable when at least 50 percent of the ad’s pixels are visible on a screen for at least two consecutive seconds.” That’s pretty clear, right? Now, if you want to exceed the benchmark, more power to you. For example, YouTube counts a video view as being 30 seconds. Yes, 30. That’s 15X above the standard. Facebook and Instagram use a 3 second threshold. That’s 50% more than the IAB’s guidance. Why is this important? Think about your own mobile habits. How many times have you accidentally clicked an ad or started a video? More than you can recall, right? Well, those mistakes, shouldn’t count as a view. With Snapchat, they charge, on a $0.XX per view. When you market $0.03 per view, that sounds cheap, right? But, to get to scale (say 10 million users), where you want each person to see something 3X, that’s a $900,000 investment. Not chump change. But, if you’re a Snapchat user, you know how easily it is to click on something accidentally, you also know how quickly you can skip through snaps. By not even hitting the IAB standard of 2 seconds, you can’t compare apples to apples, let alone apples to oranges. Standards, matter.

I have no idea if any of the above means, Snapchat won’t be successful. But, part of evaluating any new partner, technology (eg Virtual Reality) or tool, is playing the role of the Devil’s Advocate. Taking the time to do that, is what helps ensure you don’t fall victim to Shiny Object Syndrome.

Something that’s really hard to do, especially if you have a passion for innovation, is to balance what might great for the business with makes a platform really cool for the user. The business might want more ads and more targeting, but doing so impacts the user experience. That’s the tight rope any company walks as they look for ways to drive revenue.

The other thing that’s far too easy to do is to point at the faults, without recognizing the upside. The sunk cost in failing can often times be more beneficial than waiting for everyone else to have learned, experimented and optimized from day 1.

That said, if you’re in the driver’s seat, in your organization, you have a responsibility to ask the tough questions, poke holes, understand the risks, generate agreement in why you’re going to do something and then drive accountability.

Is Facebook Failing Marketers?

Earlier this week, Forrester published a report that basically told marketers they were wasting their time, if they were investing in Facebook. Specifically, Nate Elliot, the principal analyst for the report, stated:

Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity

That’s a pretty bold statement. To truly dissect this, I think we need to start at the beginning. As with any research, garbage in equals garbage out. I don’t know who Forrester connected with for their survey, but I do know they didn’t speak me me, nor did they connect with 8 of my colleagues leading digital for fortune 150 companies. That, alone, is reason to pause and not simply take the survey results at face value.

Forrester Survey Results

Beyond that though, if this “research” had come out 2 years ago, I’d probably be nodding my head. Facebook hadn’t yet solved for mobile, they were constantly making wide sweeping changes to the “feed” algorithm, the Facebook Insights platform wasn’t sophisticated and it was tough, unless you were an Ecommerce company, to connect Facebook efforts to actual sales. Heck, Timeline had just been announced and was slowly starting to roll out.

But, that was 2 years ago. Today’s Facebook is not the Facebook of yesterday. The majority of those challenges no longer exist. For example the partnership with DataLogix enables CPG companies, like us, to understand the impact of our efforts, at the cash register. While Facebook’s team, approach, model, partners and products have matured rapidly, unfortunately the thinking by marketers hasn’t evolved at the same pace. In my opinion, too many organizations are treating Facebook like a direct mail platform. There was a time we were guilty of trying to manage Facebook and social media, as a whole, like we’d managed other more familiar marketing channels. We learned. We evolved. We’ve gotten better. It’s clear, today, Facebook isn’t designed for a spray and pray or blast away approach. Today it’s more scalpel than axe. But, that takes work. It takes effort. And it certainly takes a willingness to rapidly test and learn.

While we can’t share exact results, I can say our results and experience with Facebook, don’t mirror the results from the survey. Our organization’s commitment to getting closer to the consumer and iterative learning through experimentation grounded in insights are helping us make Facebook and other social platforms a business driving part of our integrated consumer plans.

Facebook isn’t “failing” marketers. But, it’s possible those paneled, have an unrealistic viewpoint of what Facebook can do for their organizations. The greatest tension in the ROI discussion always comes from what you expect your efforts to generate and what they actually generate. Before we point the finger at Facebook, or any other partner, we must first look inward and ask ourselves, did we give the organization a fighting chance to succeed? If you expect a $50,000 Facebook fan acquisition test campaign to out perform a $10,000,000 TV campaign, I’d think Facebook was failing me too.

Perhaps, Facebook isn’t failing us, but we, as a marketing community, are failing Facebook.

Don’t We Deserve A Better Video Experience From Marketers?

It’s 2013. We’re nearing 2014. Today, we can start watching a movie on Netflix on our iPad, pause it, pick it up on our iPhone at the exact same spot, 2 hours later, and then complete the movie from the confines of our couch, later that evening, via our AppleTV. Impressive, right?

Earlier this year, from Sydney, Australia I used Apple’s FaceTime to video chat with my daughter back home in Minneapolis. That’s technology, in the video space, working hard to deliver an amazing consumer experience.

Despite the growth and innovation of consumer video experiences, the branded video content and video advertising categories continue to struggle with both growth and traction with consumers. It would be easy to point the finger at the myriad of video formats marketers need to plan against, lack of measurement standardization or the overall fragmentation of the web. But, I think the lack of progress in digital video stems from 2 critical challenges.

  1. Infrastructure: In 2012, I wrote about how the increased focus by mobile providers to throttle data usage or increase the cost for data usage would hold the industry back. It has. When you have a choice between watching a great, funny, entertaining video or refreshing your Facebook stream 10X a day, it’s rare you’ll choose the video. Mobile data is life and you don’t want to reach the end of your life quickly.
  2. Quality Content: The reality is, the majority of video content from manufacturers isn’t interesting enough to earn the right on to a user’s screen. The last time a brand created content that was so good, you’d pay to watch it, was BMW Films. Since then, marketers have been copying that formula to try and drive success. On the whole it hasn’t worked because the content still pales in comparison to the content BMW presented in 2002. Yes, I said 2002. Video content from 11 years ago is better than the majority of video content being produced today. Then again, we’re a culture that thinks Old School was a better movie than Animal House.

As a marketer you could wait for the infrastructure to evolve. But, the reality is, infrastructure always evolves. I think your better bet is focusing on creating the type of desirable content that transcends infrastructure, data caps, screen sizes, platforms and languages. It also, wouldn’t hurt to stop advertising a 60 second pre-roll in front of a 15 second piece of content on YouTube.

*These thoughts were included in the recent CMO.com Wants to Know Article.

#Hashtags Are Now The Language That Binds Us

In 2009 I singled out a major problem with twitter…hashtags. That same problem exists today. You and I could be both watching the Grammy’s and tweeting about it. You might be using the hashtag #grammys and I might be using #grammys13. People following each hashtag will be seeing 2 very different conversations, although both hashtags are talking about the same topic.

In 2009, sponsored tweets didn’t exist. It’s existence today and use by companies softened the “chaos of hashtags.” But, the real game changer was the integration of hashtags into mainstream media, like TV shows. If you’ve somehow missed this, turn on American Idol, look at the lower right hand corner and you’ll see a prominently placed hashtag. That hashtag is telling all the people watching to centralize their conversation on twitter against that hashtag. Smart. But, that only helped close the gap; it didn’t eliminate it.

I think the big effort to close the gap came from Nike. No surprise there. Nike is one of the few organizations with the ability to see around the corner, tap into everyday culture and push the bounds of marketing. On January 1, 2013, after being woefully dormant on social media, they came to the party in a big way with their #makeitcount campaign. The hashtag was used in print, tv and of course twitter. But, in the first steps of its kind, it was also used in Instagram. Since launching, Nike’s account rocketed to the top of the most followed Instagram account. More importantly #makeitcount permeated society and became a way people from all walks of life could share their athletic efforts…however big or small.

There’s a general rule in marketing, when Nike does it, the evolution of marketing advances, but people will say, “yeah, but that’s Nike. We’re not Nike.” So the next thing that needs to happen is for P&G or Coke to do whatever Nike did. For whatever reason, that’s the validation we seem to need as a marketing community, before we try something different. Well, if Nike was the first shoe to drop, here’s the other foot:

Coke #showyourheart

Yes, you’re reading that right. It’s a hashtag on packaging. What? Yep, a hashtag on packaging. The hashtag is part of a pretty amazing campaign from Coke, called #showyourheart. It would seem that Coke is really on trend here, especially with Facebook’s very recent announcement that they will begin using hashtags as a way to search their social graph.

Admittedly, as a marketer who likes to push boundaries, I’m jealous of this effort from Coke. I think it’s smart, on trend, a bit edgy and different. That’s why we got into marketing right? Well, besides to drive the business. You get my point. What Coke did wasn’t just smart, it was cost efficient. It’s almost zero cost to change the printing plate to allow for the inclusion of a hashtag. Even if you didn’t want to go that BIG with the inclusion, you could simply replace the URL on the back of the can, box, pouch, bag, etc. with the hashtag…as an experiment. Folks, this is real time test and learn…at almost no cost. It’s certainly a less costly investment than Oreo’s Super Bowl ad with the Instagram hashtag call to action. For those of you who only paid attention to their “dunk in the dark” tweet, yes Oreo had a Super Bowl ad 🙂

In 4 years, hashtags have gone from something geeky to something that’s nearly commonplace language. What we’re seeing with Coke is the tip of the iceberg. With Coke and Nike invested, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else jumps into the pond. My advice, get there fast, while it’s still new, fresh, different and likely to generate an action. The minute it becomes too mainstream you’ll see conversion rates decrease as consumers are overwhelmed with options. Also, don’t stop at hashtags. We’ve seen the evolution of digital calls to action go from “AOL keyword {insert keyword} to URLs to Facebook icons to, now, hashtags. Something else will replace it.

The big lesson here is look for ways to bind your marketing efforts together. If you want to call it, integrating “paid, owned and earned,” have at it. Personally, I think those are bad labels, but if it’s what you need to think about integrating your efforts, great. At the intersection of culture and communication is the opportunity to stretch your dollars and make your marketing all the more effective.

Get your track shoes on. It’s going to accelerate and change fast. #hashtagsarenowthelanguagethatbindsus

The First Real-Time Super Bowl

Tonight, I watched the Super Bowl in Florida, during the iMedia Brand Summit. That basically means, I got to watch the Super Bowl with 200+ marketers. It’s a very different viewing experience than watching with your friends and family who aren’t involved in marketing, advertising, technology, digital or social media. I’ll let Mashable and every other major publication cover the lessons learned, best ads vs worst ads, winners vs losers, etc. They’re much better at it than I am. That said, I wanted to touch on 3 very quick observations.

  1. It’s 2012 and not much as changed when it comes to “TV” and digital calls to action. Since circa 1997 digital folks have been begging their clients and traditional creative teams to include a URL in the ad. The traditional thinkers obliged around 2000 by putting the URL in the last frame and in 2 pt font (something a bit larger than legal lines in ads). The argument for not including it throughout the entire commercial or in a larger font is generally something esoteric like, “we don’t want to interrupt the viewing experience” or “adding the URL at the very end is the perfect bookend to the commercial; they’ll be more apt to take action when it’s the last thing they see.” Both are hogwash. It’s 2013 and URLs, when they’re included, are still on the last frame and are still barely above a 2 pt font size. When they weren’t included, hashtags were. Roughly 50% of marketers chose a hashtag to be included in their ads. Awesome. Makes sense, given all the 2nd screen usage during the game. But, 2013 is just like 2000. Yes, hashtags were included, but they were included in the very last frame and in small font sizes. Sigh. As an industry, we still haven’t evolved.
  2. Including paid search to surround your Super Bowl marketing efforts, was something overlooked by many advertisers, 10 years ago. In my favorite example of how much of a mistake it was to forget about pad search during the Super Bowl, check out this post from AdAge about Ford and GM, from 2006. Yes, even 7 years ago, we were still making the same mistakes. This year, I’d say most marketers had paid search accounted for. But, they traded their former misses in SEM with not being tuned in to the real-time needs in social. Here’s a great example of what Oreo, Walgreens and Audi (in my opinion the best presence during the Super Bowl across all touch-points) did during the Super Bowl…when the lights went out. It’s impressive for a multitude of reasons, but to me, what impresses the most, is how well there organizations must be wired to move that quickly. Speed, in social, wins. It always has. But, today, it’s not just speed, in social. It’s speed in everything you do in marketing.
  3. Marketers get more amped about the intricacies of what a brand did or didn’t do during the Super Bowl. The average consumer, in my humble opinion, doesn’t seem to care. When I looked at my own person social feeds on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. it was clear that those talking about the ads the most were marketers, not “regular” people. The regular people were talking about the game, the half-time show and occasionally talked about the ads. When they did talk about the ads, it was generally a simple statement that made it clear they either liked or didn’t like the ad. It makes you think for a second, why do we listen to the arm-chair advice from other marketers, when it’s our consumers who we’re trying to connect with?

I think this was the first real-time and multi-screen Super Bowl. We saw it in the ads, the calls to action, the speed in brand responses and how consumers voiced their thoughts. The bar is higher than it’s ever been. If you’re going to spend roughly $4 million dollars on a Super Bowl ad, you need to think about the real total cost to cover social media monitoring, real-time content, the supporting digital elements, etc. Stepping on to the biggest stage isn’t just the media cost and the cost to produce the spot. There’s so much more. Consider that fact when you plan out, not just next year’s Super Bowl campaign, but frankly, every campaign you do.

5 Things I Think About Digital In 2013

Crystal Ball

Before we turn the crystal ball on and look toward 2013, let’s see how I did in predicting what would happen in 2012. After all, if you’re going to go on record about something, you should be held accountable for your words.

  1. “We’re going to see a great deal more consolidation in the social services and software space a la Radian6 and Salesforce. This will lead to fewer options, less innovation, but greater adoption by corporate organizations.” Nailed this. From the acquisitions of Buddy Media (SalesForce), Vitrue (Oracle) and Wildfire (Google) to the partnerships between SymphonyIRI and Visible Technologies, the social media software world get very small.
  2. “The 3 social platforms I’m doubling down on are Get Glue, Pinterest and Google+. They have the right intersection of features, natural consumer behavior, and simplicity to generate scale and enterprise adoption.” Depending on how you look at it, I was right on 1 or 2 of these. Pinterest became a huge player. No one would question that. The world remains divided on Google+, but I’m taking it as correct prediction, given the linking Google is doing between Google+ and search. Get Glue was a bit of a swing and a miss, though the recent merger between them and Viggle, shows why I was betting hard on social TV. The right prediction would have been Nielsen’s partnership with Twitter.
  3. “Conversely, 3 platforms that have gotten a lot of attention, but I’m not bullish on for the enterprise are tumblr, Path (though personally, I love it) and Oink.  They’re all too niche or lack many of the necessary features needed by the enterprise to justify interest, dollars and adoption.” Nailed this. Oink disbanded. Path hasn’t grown. Tumblr, is still not widely adopted, if for not other reason than they don’t seem interested in working with clients to shape the platform for the enterprise.
  4. “More and more organizations will hire “heads” or “leaders” of social to help them take advantage of the space. This will be good for the industry. These heads will hopefully bring balance by eliminating hype and keeping people who thrive on hype, honest.  Additionally, I’ve seen other prognosticators indicating an end of the “Social Media Strategist” role and I couldn’t disagree more.  While, that role may eventually change, morph, and probably fold into the “Marketing” or “Digital/Interactive” role, make no mistake companies like buckets and definitions. Social still being new, will lend itself to being put into manageable buckets by organizations. Those manageable buckets require titles and organizational structures that clearly define boundaries.” Nailed this 100%. Everyone is hiring or has hired heads of social, even if companies have no idea what to do with their new hires.
  5. “Facebook is going to see serious backlash from marketers. They will no longer be able to simply rely on the fact that they are the biggest social network out there. The lack of data transparency, real analytics and their constantly changing platform that’s skewed toward making your purchase ads to create visibility, will lead marketers to consider, “what is my Facebook exit strategy?”” Total homerun on this. It wasn’t just marketers though. When Facebook went public they street even offered some backlash.
  6. “We’re going to see a large number of companies launch in the social insights space. Our problem isn’t having enough data. If anything we have too much data.  What we lack are insights from the data.  Companies like Crimson Hexagon are in a great position to take advantage of this trend.” Nailed it, though I wish I had used the word “big data” since, that’s basically what these companies are claiming to solve for.
  7. “There will be an unfortunate amount of companies trying to socialize everything. This will lead to poor user experiences, bad marketing and jump the shark moments like GM/Chevy crowd sourcing their Super Bowl spot.” Yep, predicted very accurately. From Wal-Marts Black Friday partnership with Facebook to McDonald’s using Hashtags in commercials, we have seen the socialization of just about all areas of marketing communications.
  8. “There will be a backlash similar to what we observed in 2001, where companies will no longer accept half-baked and poorly thought out strategies.  If you will, we’ll see serious curbing of of social ideas for social sake…or to check a box. There will be great rigor being applied to the evaluation of ideas.  Those companies speaking in a language of likes, followers and impressions are destined to earn raised eyebrows and clenched pocketbooks.” Tough to judge this one. There isn’t an official scorecard/evaluation of this prediction, but given the number of agencies like Victor and Spoils that couldn’t make it as standalone buzzword throwers, and were either acquired (like V&S) or simply folded up shop, I feel good about this prediction and I’m calling it a correct prediction.
  9. “The social media “old boys club” will finally see real cracks. It will no longer be acceptable for social media thought leaders to simply pat one another on the back. As competition increases in this space, it will become counter productive to not call BS and hold others accountable for what they say, think and write.” We saw this one come out in full fashion, especially as companies hired heads of social and digital, who were very seasoned. There were more questions about social media “gurus” than there were compliments. What did this lead to? Well, MANY, of these folks who were part of the old boys club, ended up joining larger companies. Speculation would be they plateaued and/or realized they were not going to be successful on their own.
  10. “We will see a major class action lawsuit or congressional inquiry into the privacy, or rather, the lack their of of social networks. Facebook will draw the lion’s share of attention, but companies like foursquare, Google, twitter and others will also come under fire.  People…the customers…the members will take back their privacy.” Happened. Happened. Happened again. The most recent version of this was the lawsuit brought upon Instagram after Instagram chained their TOS.

Last year, I predicted 10 things I thought would happen in Social Media. Given my success rate was 90%+, I’m not pushing my luck in looking toward 2013, so I’m going with 5 predictions. Here’s the 5 things I think I think about digital in 2013:

  1. We’re going to see less emphasis on hiring heads of social and digital and more emphasis on hiring heads of analytics and insights. Now, let me clarify this one. Many companies have a Chief Information Officer or a SVP of Insights. Few companies have a head/lead who is focused on taking structured and unstructured data and turning it into meaningful insights. We’ve heard the word “Data Scientist” thrown around in the last year. We’ve also heard “big data.” These two phrases are generally linked. Unfortunately, usually the role of understanding the data is ignored, outsourced or left to software. Companies who really want to know if what they’re doing is working and who want to invest smarter, will start looking for their own Jonah Hill character from the story Moneyball. Get ready to see lots of active recruiting for Chief/Lead/Principle Data Scientist.
  2. We will see a run of acquisitions by older/established organizations on startups or young organizations. What do I mean? We’re going to see something like Nielsen buying Viggle/Get Glue or Wal-Mart pulling another Kosmix purchase. You’ll see this also in the product space. For example, I think you’ll see someone like Gillette purchase Dollar Shave Club or Pepsi purchase Soda Stream or USA Today purchase Pulse.
  3. There will be too many companies trying to solve the “social TV” question. They will all offer different metrics. The lack of standardization will cause a big problem and set us back. At the end of 2013 or the start of 2014 we’ll see one clear winner.
  4. Twitter will file for IPO. Simple as that.
  5. Facebook will become less friend and more frenemy. To soften their transition toward frenemy, they will offer a tiered structure/classification that will essentially become a pay for access/feature model. Lots of words, I know. Here’s a good example of what I think might happen. Facebook will offer a premium Page Analytics platform that’s only available to brands/companies that have pages with X number of “Likes” or who pay Y dollars a month. In the case of needing X Likes, this is in essence pay for access, because many brands will need to launch Like acquisition campaigns to get the requisite number of Likes needed. You may see something like a fee for API calls to for Facebook Connect or paying X dollars a month will net you premium account management support.

While not a prediction, something I would like to see happen is Apple buy Sprint, create their own cellular network, stop offering iPhones on Verizon and AT&T and then really take it to Samsung. It’s doubtful, but it would be awesome to see happen. If 2012 was a predictor of my own prognostication, I’ll nail at least 4 out of 5 of these predictions. We’ll see how I did, come next December.

The Evolution Of Super Bowl Advertising

My New York Giants are in the Super Bowl. They’ll be playing Sunday against the New England Patriots; the team I loathe the most. I’ll be in Florida at the iMedia Marketers Summit. And yes, while I’ll be tuning in to watch the game…to root for my Giants, I’ll be tuning in as much, if not more for the ads.  The stage that is the Super Bowl is a marketer’s dream. Your idea, your creative, your hard work is on display for all the world to see.  Creative Directors get geeked out on the idea of having a Super Bowl ad to include in their “reel.” That’s how this business works. We’re all about ego. Me included. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to work on two spots that made it to the Super Bowl. They were proud moments.

As a marketer, it’s been interesting to watch Super Bowl ads evolve into Super Bowl campaigns. Campaign, you might ask? Sure. We have seen the Super Bowl “ad” morph into an ad that has a web site dedicated to the campaign, paid search (if you’re a smart company) to help people find your ad, pre-launching/seeding of the ad ahead of the Super Bow, the solicitation of customer feedback, the gaming of the USA Today Ad Meter and oh so much more. As technology has evolved and user behavior changed (eg 3 screens) advertisers have swung, hit and missed. Last year, I wrote a post titled, “10 Mistakes 2011 Super Bowl Advertisers Will Make” and in looking at it this morning, I think advertisers are destined to make at least 5 of them. Which 5? Glad you asked:

  1. The call to action (URL, SMS, etc.) will be too small and come at the end of the ad
  2. Paid search to drive people, interested in the ad or who remember the ad, won’t be bought
  3. There will be too much emphasis on Facebook
  4. Mobile optimized sites will be forgotten…instead Flash heavy experiences will be used
  5. Proper load balancing for their hosting environment won’t be implemented – this will mean someone’s site will go down and people wanting to get an offer won’t be able to

Our consumers have gotten smarter, but have the advertisers?  This year should be an interesting test for marketers. We’ll have a combination of elements converging to make for one heck of a cocktail. Real time social media monitoring will be used to gauge consumer feedback, mobile will become a big player, monetizing across 3 screens will be critical, and oh so much more.  The Super Bowl places your work under a microscope.  Consumers, analysts, pundits, your own employees and more provide their often unsolicited thoughts, opinions and feedback.  When you spend $3M for just the air time, it’s too be expected.

The question I often ask is why do marketers use the Super Bowl as a lab? Sure, you could have done consumer concept testing beforehand, but when you invest nearly 5M (airtime and production) for 1 day, that work better be top notch and deliver.  In 2010, I think Google really hit the nail on the head and showed how to rethink the concept of Super Bowl Advertising.  They ran a spot called “Parisian Love.”

That spot wasn’t a new spot. In fact it had been out in the wild on the web for several months. Google created several of these videos and ran the best performing one on the biggest stage. Now, that’s smart…use data and insights to determine which commercial to run.  Why aren’t we using more data driven insights?  Why are we still saving our “best” for the Super Bowl instead of giving our “best” throughout the year? It’s a fair question when you consider how much data is readily available for us, as marketers, to leverage.

I’m hoping this is the year Super Bowl advertising evolves…grows up…and becomes something more than than a stage for ego driven Creative Directors and Chief Marketing Officers to demonstrate they know how to spend lots of money really fast.

10 Mistakes 2011 Super Bowl Advertisers Will Make

The Super Bowl is nearly upon us.  Ok, it’s 3 months away and that can seem far.  But, in the world of advertising agencies and marketers, it’s right around the corner.  Ads are in production, marketing plans are in place, media buys are being finalized and pundits like myself are getting ready to analyze the work.  We’re going to see a lot of ads.  We’re going to see a lot of brands spending $3 million for those precious 30 seconds of time.  At $100,000 per second you’d think all the i’s would be dotted and the t’s crossed, but Super Bowl advertising often lacks hubris.  It’s the time for the agency to make a push for their awards and a time for marketers/brands to “stick out.”  We are seduced by the sexiness of the Super Bowl spot.  That seduction often blinds us…and year after year, advertisers make the same mistakes even though those mistakes are covered in Super Bowl ad coverage recaps the day after.

With that said, here’s 10 mistakes I guarantee you will be made:

  1. The call to action (URL, SMS, etc.) will be too small and come at the end of the ad
  2. Paid search to drive people, interested in the ad or who remember the ad, won’t be bought
  3. The ads won’t be uploaded to youTube or be made easily shareable
  4. There will be too much emphasis on Facebook
  5. Mobile optimized sites will be forgotten…instead Flash heavy experiences will be used
  6. For new products, proper blog seeding won’t be executed – creating a sea of emptiness for organic search results
  7. Proper load balancing for their hosting environment won’t be implemented – this will mean someone’s site will go down and people wanting to get an offer won’t be able to
  8. A celebrity will be used in the ad and that celebrity will end up getting into “trouble” shortly thereafter – causing the brand/marketer to apologize and/or pull the ad
  9. Social media listening platforms and strategies won’t be in place to provide real time sentiment analysis or a starting point for relationship building with “fans”
  10. The same ad will be used for pre-roll and online advertising, despite the fact, data exists to prove that doing this is not as successful as using video content developed specifically for the web

Remember this post.  Bookmark it.  File it away.  Then, after the Super Bowl revisit it and let’s see if I was right.

If You Believe In The Web, You Need To Believe In Pepsi

In case you haven’t heard, Pepsi is going to forego their traditional massive spending during the Super Bowl.  Since 1987 Pepsi has pumped more than $140 million dollars into Super Bowl advertising…and yet still remains the #2 player, behind Coke.  This year, instead they’re going to shift their strategy to a year long marketing platform that’s centered around the Pepsi Refresh Everything site.  Per the WSJ, Pepsi says it will spend 60% more on online ads in 2010 than it did this year. It will be relying largely on Web ads and public relations to market its Pepsi brand because, it says, that’s the best way to reach younger audiences— Pepsi’s primary target—and to keep consumers involved with its brand.”

Wait a second.  So Pepsi is going to invest their money in channels that are better aligned with their target audience?  It really makes me wonder, why this wasn’t being done previously.  But, that’s another story for another day.

Teresa Lindeman of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette does a great job of covering the situation here.  My high level point of view is covered in the article.  In this post, I want to dig a little deeper.   This is huge.  This is game changing.  If you’re in the marketing and advertising business you should be paying serious attention to what Pepsi is doing.  And if you’re in the interactive space (eg digital agency, digital strategist, interactive media planning/buying, etc.) you need to be not only paying attention, you NEED to believe in what Pepsi is doing.  You NEED to root for Pepsi.  Even if you drink Coke or your client is RC Cola, you need to root for Pepsi to succeed.

Why?  Because, what Pepsi is doing has never been done before.  They’ve traded TV (the old, the traditional, the standard) for the web (social, interactive media, social, etc.).  They didn’t augment.  No, this is a straight up trade.  With a straight up trade, we’ll literally be able to look back on this decision and determine if it was a great idea or a bad idea.  If you’re one of those traditional, stodgy, old media supporters you should be concerned.  If you’re a new media, social preaching, the web is where it’s at person, you should be concerned.

If Pepsi succeeds, the infusion of capital and support for interactive will skyrocket.  The wheels will be greased.  The room will be warm.  Brand managers and marketers will be leaning forward and very receptive to all the things they’ve ignored or challenged for years.  Pepsi’s success would prove that interactive can scale, move the needle, be measurable, and drive business objectives.  We won’t be on the outside looking in anymore.  We won’t be struggling to “sell” clients and decision makers on the value of interactive.  People who have for years roadblocked the investment into interactive will come under scrutiny, be replaced, or need to change their tune pretty damn quickly.

But, if Pepsi fails.  If Pepsi misses. If they lose share.  If Pepsi leadership acknowledges this was a mistake.  If any of those things happen, the old guard will have won.  They will be able to point to Pepsi as the case study that proves interactive is a supporting player, not a lead horse.  Budgets will be re-re-allocated back to traditional media.  The traction made by marketers like me with clients will be undone and it will be like starting from ground zero.  CMOs will have no reason to invest in interactive.

This is a pivotal point in the evolution of interactive.  Pepsi’s success or failure will be a measuring stick for years to come.  If you’re tired of churning out FSIs, cutting 30s, and producing seemingly mindless unemotional “hard working” ads you have to believe in Pepsi and be rooting for them to win.

I’ll be watching the game, but I’ll be watching Pepsi even more closely.