Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Digital Landscape: No Longer Truly Predictive, No Longer Purely Online

There has been a lot of exciting talk about 2010 and where digital marketing is headed. No doubt there are some very good insights being shared from a lot of very bright people.

But as marketers, I think we all tend to get caught up in predicting things like channel adoption, how to somehow reengineer ad content, and in figuring out ways to deliver the “soft-sell”.

The reality is that all of the variables around engagement as well as conversion — actually, building relationships — are all attributable to culture, first and foremost. And while we can make predictions about human behavior, we’re still figuring out the nuances of how communities share information and content. We know that people now sell products and services to other people, but what what we don’t have a firm grasp on just yet is why.

But that’s where things are getting quite interesting.

Take a social utility such as Facebook, for example. We’re seeing tremendous growth in adoption, yet profound shifts in retention, and a noticeable decline in attention. This means that people are yearning for experiences they can’t get anywhere else (or those they can get anywhere), and are not interested in being herded into a corner to find them. They also crave ubiquity — this means less time spent in a particular location, engaging with content we think they care about. Blogs for one, are taking a huge hit in this regard simply because people are starting to figure out that they don’t need to visit a destination site to get the information or content they need.

Consumptive behaviors and user archetypes are constantly changing, and these aren't purely functions of 'digital' or 'analog', 'online' or 'offline', but rather experience extraction, creation and recreation. And these aren’t things we can predict, but rather things we must adapt to.

As Griffin Farley puts it so brilliantly on his blog: “Plan not for the people you reach, but the people they reach.”

As for being smarter about developing and selecting ads, what all of this data tells us in sum is that no one really cares about ad-like objects... and if that means disguising ads as entertainment, then so be it, but the reverse is not likely, at least not anymore.

Or, you can simply create a conversation and then determine what your messaging can be as the result of a collaborative experience. Here’s an example of a happy medium we’re developing through a platform we call AdTalker (and no, we’re not afraid to share this because the idea isn’t entirely new, but the backend data framework – the secret sauce – certainly is ;):

The larger point is that all of the real-world intelligence we have available at our fingertips is actually reopening the doors of self-actualization, because we are now seeking  action, not just alignment with our personal value systems. The social web of the last few years has validated much of our beliefs, and now it is formalizing more viscerally in the way we build our social graphs and in how communities band together. We are witnessing a profound shift in consciousness, and this is not something that I think any of us could’ve predicted or even imagined, at least not to this extent.

Perhaps now we should be really focusing on things like:

  • adaptive analytics — how we move with markets, not just channels or inventory
  • publishing versus messaging — creating, enabling and propagating conversations & experiences
  • thinking of mobile (or mobility) as more than just a platform — geotilities as the regular instigators of physical connectivity
  • socializing the more 'traditional' forms of media through these stronger content offerings and extensions (OOH, print, radio & TV)
  • living a more enriched life -- (you fill in these blanks ;)

Going forward, do not fear technology, because even though it has leapt ahead of our thinking for a good many years, it now depends on our evolution as people. Technology, after all, cannot create experiences, it can only enhance them and help make them more accessible.

People are pixels. People are media. Fathom that, and then entertain the possibilities, because now, we can all play a significant role in this evolution.

<div style="width:425px;text-align:left" id="__ss_2668124"><a style="font:14px Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif;display:block;margin:12px 0 3px 0;text-decoration:underline;" href="" title="Technology Integration: Adaptive Versus Disruptive Engagement">Technology Integration: Adaptive Versus Disruptive Engagement</a></object><div style="font-size:11px;font-family:tahoma,arial;height:26px;padding-top:2px;">View more <a style="text-decoration:underline;" href="">documents</a> from <a style="text-decoration:underline;" href="">Gunther Sonnenfeld</a>.</div></div>

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jon Samsel » Blog Archive » 30 Ad Agencies Ranked By Heardable Score

My friend and colleague Jon Samsel, SVP of Interactive Marketing at BofA, played around with Heardable tool in private BETA and wrote a nice piece on his findings earlier this month, including a bit on how some of the top global agencies rank based on their Heardable score.

It's interesting that this list should come out now, considering all the recent talk about how agencies should practice what they preach, particularly in their social communications efforts.

To reiterate, Heardable scans more than 20 on-site and 20 off-site variables (meaning outside of the main site but across the digital landscape) to provide a holistic purview of a brand's online visibility. We look at the primary areas of portability, shareability, measurability, sociability, actionability and searchability to assess a brand's score, as well as how it might compare to others in a particular category.

One other important thing to note is that while we start the process by scanning in a URL, we look at a brand's website as a conduit for its overall presence, meaning that in today's consumer environment, content must be syndicated and hyper-targeted to individuals and groups as they share and consume, when they share and consume. In this way, brands have effectively become publishers, and people follow good content (as well as engage with it), so those who serve up the best stuff in the best of ways will capture loyalty... plain and simple ;)

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Talent imitates, genius steals: Myth of the Near Future

This film from Faris Yakob, in my humble opinion, really sums up the hypersocial relationship between brands, technology and entertainment in a simple, thought-provoking and powerfully contextual way. And of course, uses a nice narrative to do so ;)

And speaking of narrative, also note how Faris describes the use of transmedia elements as an integral part of one's social identity (that transcends one's presence online or offline, and certainly blurs the line between the two...), what I believe is a key distinction between transmedia development and integrated or branded content development.

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A Glance at Online Brand Visibility Within the Automotive Category

As a lead strategist on the Toyota national account (I'm a hired gun for the Omnicom agency, RAPP), I can tell you that the Heardable platform (wide BETA release to come in late January) has been invaluable in helping to prove out the importance of online visibility. In fact, not only does the Heardable score reflect the constant need for the Toyota brand (and its various portfolio brands) to uphold and manage its online reputation, but in using our comparative analysis tool, we can see exactly how the competition might be gaining ground, when, why, and how often.

The good news is that the brand is taking very active steps (and following our advice) to improve its content base. The great irony that we must all realize as digital marketers is that beyond technologies themselves, lies a vibrant, yearning and demanding culture, one dictating that brand relevance comes in the form of compelling and engaging content. In other words, we have plenty of delivery systems to choose from, but if our words aren't strong, then it doesn't matter what we proclaim to be or do as brands.

I've been running a comparative analysis on Toyota versus the 4 primary U.S. market competitors since the beginning of November, and the brand overall seems to be holding on fairly strong, despite the fact that its content offerings are disjointed... to put it mildly. The following are some cursory screenshots of the results.

You’ll notice in this next section that Honda and Nissan are not very far behind, and both have a much stronger social presence online than Toyota does. The takeaway there is that Toyota, as the biggest car manufacturer in the world, has more cars on the street than the other guys, which means that there is more content by default being indexed into searches.

Now of course, this poses a curious debate over the value of online conversation. If you look at the Toyota diagnostics, you’ll see that the brand still has no text, audio or video feeds on its main page (; we also don’t detect any analytics packages, but upon second glance at examining the code, we found Google Analytics embeds. One of the things we like to point out with our tool is that if critical feature sets such as shareability, measurability or portability are not detected through a scan, then it’s likely that the brand is not doing a great job of making this information known or accessible. The bottom line is that it’s only a matter of time before one of these other brands gets ahead in the race... That is, if we can’t get this new, market-relevant content developed and syndicated asap.

Theoretically speaking, all of this suggests that if a dominate brand can generate equity in the marketplace by virtue of its ongoing advertising efforts, and of course, by putting out solid product, it can sustain its place in the market only for a limited time.

But we all know that Being Heardable, and more importantly, optimizing brand visibility, is about going the extra mile (pun intended). And that’s what we all live for.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

How Transmedia Could've Helped Us Avoid the Financial Crisis

Gretchen Morgensen and Louise Story wrote a terrific piece in the New York Times this past week (Thursday, Dec. 24th) on how the global banks, namely Goldman Sachs, forecasted the implosion of mortgage-related securities, created a marketplace for C.D.O.’s (Collateralized Debt Obligations), and then made bets against them from which they profited handsomely.

Sylvain R. Raynes, a structured finance expert, described it well: “When you buy protection against an event you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”

Well, in this case, you can replace the word “arson” with collusion or fraud and you’ve pretty much distilled the situation down to a tee. Sound familiar? We’ve seen it before, in scenarios ranging from the Michael Milken/Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond fiasco, to Enron’s energy grid collusion scandal. But this, of course, quite possibly, and single-handedly, catalyzed the collapse of all the world’s financial markets.

And here’s the really scary part. Goldman Sachs knew about this as early as 2006, and started packaging and trading its toxic product as early as October of 2007. The bank had a solid two-year window with which to create a wildly profitable business for itself, while people lost their homes because they had to ultimately make good on crappy debt, and trading institutions made a run on other reputable banks (such as Bear Stearns), who eventually couldn’t hold themselves up under the weight of bad securities and rapidly depleting liquidity... Which also meant that the people who lost their homes had no backup options (and of course, the U.S. Government issued bailout money to Goldman, of which it also profited handsomely from... But that’s another topic for discussion altogether).

As we know, in today’s world, two years is a lifetime of opportunity. But history doesn’t have to keep repeating itself.

So imagine this. Imagine that as things started to unspool and the signs were revealing themselves, we could create a platform whereby anyone affected had a voice, a real voice, and they could inspire others could tell their stories as well. Even further, what if Tetsuya Ishikawa, one of the key players on the inside of this whole mess, felt compelled enough and supported enough to speak out and effectively stop the bank’s terrible run on the global market?

It turns out Ishikawa did write about this, but well after the fact. Another guy, a Deutsche bank employee, actually issued T-shirts to memorialize the experience.

Ishikawa’s book could’ve just as easily become a graphic novel or a multimedia piece in which bankers, homeowners and lending institutions (at least those who were forced to defer to their integrity) would contribute to an ongoing narrative about financial responsibility, and, one that would actually provide peer-to-peer lending options for those in crisis. Major banks and financial services companies, such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America or Charles Schwab, could’ve ‘sponsored’ the narrative, even running campaigns inside or alongside of it, promoting relevant, solutions-oriented programs.

Beyond that, the ‘mortgage-lending phenomenon’ could’ve just as easily translated into a documentary-style narrative, in which local communities would tell their unique stories and even sell these as properties to TV Networks or IPTV content hubs or publishing houses... Or all of the above. Where could those profits have gone? Back into the communities and local banks, as well as new opportunities to build infrastructure. You see where I’m going with this.

For those of you who might think this is far-fetched, or that hindsight is merely 20/20, in the book, Groundswell, Forrester pointed to a great case study of how a French bank, Credit Mutuel, enlisted the help of the community to deal with the country’s own recessionary period by giving people a direct purview into what it’s like to be a lender/credit institution. Granted, the context was considerably smaller that the one we are talking about here, but if my memory serves me correctly, this wonderful ‘little’ example of content, context & community happened right around 2006 or 2007.

The larger point is that US & Global banking brands should take careful note: we may not be able to reverse the damage done (at least not in the shorter term), but we can take a strong position and align ourselves much more closely with consumers who need the mental, spiritual and financial support. It’s about time that all of us marketers took a real and resounding stance.

As for men like Lewis Sachs (who oversaw C.D.O.’s before becoming a US Treasury advisor) and John Paulson (whose company made millions from the market collapse), Karma will likely give them a swift kick in the ass, if it hasn’t already.

An interesting aside regarding Karma, Goldman may lose millions as a result of an ex-programmer who stole and redistributed its proprietary trading software.

That said, nothing can make up for what has happened. And destroying Goldman is not the answer. But transforming perspective is.

This is the power of transmedia. This is our immediate future.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Transmedia Equation, Part 1: Top-Down Development with Jeff Gomez

In this great JawboneTV article, Jeff talks about the distinct differences between cross-platform integration and developing transmedia narratives from the 'ground up' so that they can affect mass media and weave themselves into (or extract themselves from) culture at large as true phenomena. We really hope that we see (and will be encouraging) more agencies, studios and gaming companies pursue the types of synergies that will create and help facilitate this development cycle.

On another note, Jeff will be helping Brendan Howley and me on our Canada IFTF (Institute For The Future) initiative that seeks to create an educational transmedia platform that can build infrastructure at the local level and potentially scale out to regional and/or national executions. Backed by the University of Waterloo and RIM, the platform is also intended to become an active (and dynamic) part of the school's new media curriculum.

Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Transmedia Task Forces (Part 2)

Back in June, I wrote a post on transmedia task forces <> that reinforced the idea of merging agency functions so that qualitatively informed ideas would drive the creative process and provide the most optimal results for clients.

Again, this concept is nothing new, but in looking at the dynamics of transmedia initiatives and the amazing potential they have for generating ideas that actively extract meaning from culture at large, proximity is one thing that is top of mind. This means that ideation is not just a function of streamlining communication, but also a function of physical activation within a working environment. In other words, when you look at behavioral studies on how people develop and exchange intellectual capital, you notice that a lot of ideas fall by the wayside by the mere fact that they have to travel a considerable distance... which, in relative terms, could be across a long hallway or on the other side of a floor or building. As we all know, accessibility is everything.

Shops like Mother <> , Anomaly <>  and Big Spaceship <> have created and used community workspaces for some time now. For less 'progressive' agencies, this is a more daunting prospect given that people are not only naturally averse to change, but they also feel naked without a fixed workspace. This is completely understandable, and so perhaps in the effort to get people thinking beyond their comfort zone, we need to consider bringing some of these physical dynamics directly to them.

The agency I currently work with (RAPP, Los Angeles) is doing a terrific job of taking this challenge head on. Not only is the agency blending disciplines and erasing the lines between 'traditional' and 'non-traditional', but it is redefining itself as an innovator by actually reinventing its own physical workspace dynamics.

Below is a floorplan of the entire office:

All the offices within the floorplan have been rearranged so that people from 'opposite disciplines' can share space and actually collaborate, even if they're not working on the same accounts and/or at the same time. For example, the head of the strategy & enablement group shares a space with the ECD.

Agencies have always extracted meaning from culture (or redefined culture) to create new ideas. The difference here, however, is in building an environment where anyone and everyone is stimulated, and, one in which fictional or non-fictional elements of a narrative can actually be disseminated and adopted across entire groups of people.

I've added elements to the floorplan to illustrate areas where transmedia development can be harnessed and nurtured. The red-bordered orange areas are the cultural hubs, where an entertainment context drives conversation around social, political, environmental or educational themes. For example, “Cinema & Gaming” is one hub, “TV & IPTV”, “Graphic Novels”, “Mobile/Digital” and “Any” are other hubs. At first glance, these may appear as more silos, but we must remember that these elements are reflexive, and so the idea is to give the environment as a whole some structure based on content or contextual interest.

The blue areas are either conference rooms or shared office clusters where ideation can be discussed further and formalized at any given time. If a conference room is booked or an office cluster is occupied, the birthing areas – what you see in the turquoise stretches – can be utilized to declare ideas into existence and share them immediately with a co-worker, regardless of their title or role in the agency... Essentially, an ‘open office’ policy for creative ideation.

This also sends another interesting message to co-workers: that no one is above or below the creative process.

In fact, account people, analytics people and media planners are held to the same standard that experience architects, developers, strategists and art directors are. For one, it gives account leads an opportunity to embrace the work in a way that they can represent it altruistically, yet on their own terms. For another, it gives the 'thinkers' of the agency a better way of understanding the pains that account people and clients go through and make these considerations as they develop new ideas. This also cuts down on executive hubris and brings management more directly into the fold on some of the more intricate development being done inside the agency.

Hopefully, this type of thinking will be adopted across the entire agency network, and can be also be applied to studios, schools and other creative businesses.

I would love to hear your thoughts on ways we can expand this model, and adapt it to different working environments.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Calling All Marketers: Time to Pay It Forward (For Real)

“Objects of design and desire are never going to scratch the itch, in short. Only the moral imperative of self-actualization (because we no longer have to struggle to survive — the sheer nastiness of this global recession aside) will stand as the single most important driver in people’s lives. That’s our talisman as marketers.”

                                                                                                                - Brendan Howley, Novelist | Screenwriter | Activist | Partner, Fresh Baked Entertainment

We, as marketers, are sitting on a goldmine, a wealth of opportunity. Not the kind that will make us rich in a material sense (although I suppose it could as well), but in a way that can help us formalize our roles as individuals in this world.

You see, there are all these theories and declarations about ‘social media’ (which is an oxymoronic term, by the way), and how we can convert engagement into sales (which we can, but I digress, and so?).

We talk about digital as the new, new, new thing, even though many times its core functions are really no different than the way we’ve been behaving as slightly evolved apes for centuries... Pointing and clicking (grunting and f------).

We talk about ‘integrated’ solutions as though we’ve come up with a wiz-bang framework for manipulating the shit out of people without them knowing it (why, when we don’t have to?).

Inevitably, we can’t help but call into question what got us here, and where this is all going.

Why was ‘CRM’ ever considered a discipline at all, when relationships are all we really have in the first place? (It should have been called Customer Relationship Manipulation.)

Further, why is ‘cause marketing’ still considered a separate marketing discipline, when people are killing each other over natural resources? When children miss school because they have to walk miles just to fetch a bucket of water? Are we afraid to fully commit our brands to improving the world, even though we violate labor laws, pollute the environment, evade corporate taxes and STILL allow executives and board members to take home grossly inflated bonuses... Er, excuse me, ‘earn outs’?

Is this all some sort of joke... On us?

At the beginning and end of each day, there are billions of people out there ready and willing to join the conversation, and to fulfill on the promise of being better members of society. Of empowering culture at large. Yet when we invite them in, we most often exploit them and then leave them without a proper goodbye, or, with nothing to grab onto or ruminate over... Or very little, if anything, with which they can ACT.

We (as in most of us marketers) act like we’ve never been in a relationship before. As though a relationship will run itself and work itself out, find merit of its own accord, and magically acquire some sort of following in the process.

Marketing (and advertising) in a social sense — in a LIFE context — is about mobilizing thought in the form of meaningful action. It is about embracing the realities of life and recontextualizing them, through rigor, consequence, goodwill and, dare I say, enlightenment.

If you don’t believe me, then hark back to the golden era of our industry, when the likes of Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Hal Riney and Lee Clow told stories about the human condition... All expressed through a lens supported by a mattress, a wine cooler, a financial institution or a big, white box with keys that sat atop our desks. And yes, these were experiences that produced sales, but more importantly, they produced relationships that resulted in repeat sales.

Cutting back to present day, here are a couple of recent examples of how we can create experiences and pay them forward:

Clearly, we are only scratching the surface of our potential.

I created ‘CultureCasting’ as a bullshit term (in a sea of buzzwords, including my own) to prove a larger point that socializing media is about inspiring people to act. Further, it is meant to illustrate that people sell products and services to other people, by way of experiences that are meaningful. Period.

It’s time to pay it forward, folks. For real.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Transmedia Planning, Development & ROI (The New World Model)

Transmedia looks at narrative as a hypersocial activity in which a story can evolve across multiple platforms, manifesting in an array of products and various revenue streams.

Where ‘integrated marketing’ often seems to trip on itself by simply coloring content with the same brand palette rather than contextualizing and enriching it, transmedia picks up momentum and cultural relevance by creating and/or adopting advertising assets or ad-like objects as parts of a greater whole. In fact, ad campaigns can evolve as mutually exclusive parts of a transmedia story, since transmedia has the innate ability to promote itself and its constituent elements.

So, if we can look at advertising & marketing as a publishing practice, the possibilities seem unlimited because we can sell more media and sell more products and/or services, and we can do so in a compelling, engaging and even transformational way. This has already begun to happen, as evidenced by brands like Ikea, Army, Dodge, the NHL, Guinness, Red Bull and Levis, that are publishing richer, more dynamic, highly shareable and entertaining content.

Faris Yakob of McCann Erickson hatched the first transmedia planning model; to honor his work, I have created my own version of what the planning process might look like for agency folks, and is, as you might notice, a multi-disciplinary, fusion process:

I happen to believe very strongly that transmedia is a primary gateway for global change through creative, economic alternatives.  Transmedia already presents an economic incentive for media creators to lower their production costs by sharing assets. But if we go a step further, we can make this causal by creating peer-to-peer environments in which transmedia projects are funded by communities and proliferated by means of multi-community participation. This also means that in a marketplace where inventory and demand are greatly in flux, we can also make media (and respective products) more affordable to the creator and the consumer.

By the way, by causes, I don’t necessarily mean philanthropic (although that is ideal), but rather initiatives that inspire people to act, such as what we continue to see as a result of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ initiative (and a great example of transmedia adoption within culture at large).

So if we apply this construct to content development, here’s what that process might look like:

Coming full circle, we now can get a picture of how media and campaigning can be leveraged through non-linear storytelling (or storymaking), and as you can see, this certainly does not have to disrupt our current media models, but instead lends many opportunities to enhance them (by providing adaptive means), as well as creates a greater ‘spread’ effect:

You might also notice that the media, content and product elements represented in the model are reflexive, meaning that they can ‘reproduce’ themselves, or, they can spawn new media or product vehicles by virtue of feedback and collaboration.

For more on transmedia, be sure to check out the work and groundbreaking perspectives shared by the pioneers of the movement such as Henry Jenkins (author of Convergence Culture), Stephen Dinehart and Jeff Gomez, as well as MIT Comparative Studies grads and maverick agency strategists, Ivan Askwith and Ilya Vedrashko.

You can also check out a presentation I recently gave at my Miami Ad School communications planning bootcamp on transmedia development:


...A cover story article I wrote a few months ago in iMedia Connection:

Here’s to now and the immediate future — let’s collaborate and see what we can create in the effort to transform our world.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

The Conversation Tree & Social Forestation

A friend of mine, Robert Murray, had a really beautiful way of describing the conversation dynamic and the importance of seeing conversations to their full potential, as told to him by a Ugandan friend of his named Derrick. It got me thinking about this in a context that might be quite powerful for any brand, agency, media company or content producer out there looking to better understand how to socialize media.

Derrick describes conversations as trees.

Derrick says that he is often late to meetings and social events because his prior engagement runs beyond the allotted time. The reason for this is that he always wants to give each and every conversation its due course, so that the next conversation can build from the previous one and real progress is made. In other words, so that the relationship is advanced and cultivated, and nothing is forgotten or lost between the current engagement and the next.

[**Side cultural note: While one might argue that being late is never a good thing, Derrick contends that a sincere apology along with a quick, “enlightened” summary of the previous conversation tends to realign the current dynamic.**]

The “root” of the analogy (pun intended) is that if you cut the trees branches off before they've had a chance to fully bloom, then the tree can grow outwardly, but not up. But if we nurture the branches to their full extent, then the tree can grow up to its full potential, and help grow more trees.

Naturally, leaves fall from branches, just as conversations may die off or fade away. But what we glean from those exchanges allows us to develop new perspectives and keep those branches (and trees) growing.

So here are the elements of growth (which are reflexive and cyclical), the “soil” being the social nutrition we provide to “the grove” which represents an ongoing narrative:

SEEDINGputting ideas into action
CULTIVATIONenabling ideas to develop
PROLIFERATIONideas spreading organically
REGENERATION when (leaves fall) insights are created, sparking new ideas

From a marketing perspective, when we thoughtfully create, enable, shape, adopt, adapt, and most importantly, cultivate content, we grow more branches.

When we thoughtfully buy, sell and barter media, or truly earn it, we grow more trees.

When we grow more trees, we create or tap into more communities of people.

The more communities we empower, the more opportunities there are for people to sell goods and services to other people (as opposed to brands having to sell goods and services to people).

So, Social Forestation would be described as

The process of fostering conversation by providing relevant nutrition, enabling communities to develop, grow and flourish.

Thank you, Robert and Derrick, for sharing your wisdom, and I hope that all of you can take something away from this that is unique to your own experiences.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Marketing... It's all Cause-Related (Or Causal)

Today a client had asked a group of us what we thought the social consumption habits of Gen Y would look like in the next year or so, and more specifically, around their brand. Our collective response was "What exactly do mean by 'social consumption', and, do you consider this media, platform or 'line' agnostic?"

The even better response would've been, "Ask us in a year from now to the day, because every day tells a different story". In other words, trends are starting to mean very little in the grand scheme of things (and this a topic for another conversation).

Naturally, we face some serious challenges with clients over this whole notion of what social media is (I find the term to be oxymoronic), how it is used and why, but the real question we should be asking is "What really drives us to connect, engage, and ultimately, purchase?"

With over 75 million captive users and growing, platforms like Facebook Causes have already shown us that brands are becoming more relevant in the world simply because they've embraced the fact that they need to help improve it. Stalwarts like Kelloggs, Nike and Aflac are setting a great new example for the rest of the marketing world in this regard.

Further, online environments like Wired to Care and Project Label are making brands way more accountable for their actions as well as their words.

But the reality we also face is that causes can potentially be played out and manipulated... just like trends. So perhaps we need to reestablish that causes or cause-related dynamics of an initiative or specific forms of outreach don't have to be philanthropic (at least by clinical definition), but rather what they are inherently... which is causal.

So what defines causal marketing?

Initially it is the birth of an idea, culled from market needs tied to (but not necessarily bound by) environmental, social, political and/or economic variables. This idea then engenders a sense of true purpose for the individual or group, and empowers them to adopt or create messages as currency, as well as spread it.

How do we go about doing it?

Identify a need state, establish a cause to act, and within that intersection is borne an idea that can manifest itself in any number of ways, all of which is a solution to a larger problem. And since market needs and world needs are almost inextricably linked, the larger problem resides within the larger context of the world, which means that our marketing solutions might actually mean something beyond a campaign or a crude media buy, or even better, outside of what all of our polished up historical data wants to tell us.

Perhaps this is what "social marketing" has intended to do all along, and our mistruths about the media associated with it have led the marketing majority to believe that this is still a push mechanism that rams direct sales vehicles down their throats through the veil of conversation.

Look, at the end of the day, people are media, so it's time we figured out ways to better motivate them, whether they're looking to buy a product or a service... or not.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank God for German Engineering... (#BMW #UltimateDrivingMachine)

There’s nothing like a freeway wreck to put life and product into more colorful perspective.

On my way down to work last Wednesday morning, I was decelerating at about 45 MPH behind a line of cars when a red truck suddenly came careening into me, first taking out my entire right side and busting out the passenger window, and then slamming into me once more, taking out the rear bumper and collapsing in the trunk. The truck was apparently hit by another SUV, and was sent spinning across three lanes before it got to me — what’s amazing is that it didn’t flip or take out any other cars along the way. The frightening part about the whole thing was the fact that the truck had actually pushed me sideways toward the line of cars in front of mine (while it continued to spin), and so the ability for me to course-correct the car ultimately saved my life, as I’m certain that I would have become a sardine had I not been able to do so. Another crucial factor was that the front air bags did not deploy despite some considerable jarring caused by a front panel that had come loose from the truck, allowing me to see and react accordingly — I was able to steer the car to safety on the outside emergency lane (next to the carpool lane), and away from traffic moving quickly all around us. And, despite being hit by a truck that was probably traveling 20-25 MPH faster than I was, my car’s computer system did not fail on me in this critical moment. Once the CHP arrived on the scene (mere minutes from the time of the crash), I was able to drive the car over to the right shoulder... There was no discernable damage to the suspension or the engine even thought the impact and subsequent stress on the alignment was substantial.

As for me, I have a sore neck and an apprehension about getting on the freeway again anytime soon, but other than that, I am just happy to be alive.

I am very grateful to BMW for creating what I can attest to as truly being the Ultimate Driving Machine. As for those of you who plan on commuting anywhere during the holidays, PLEASE BE CAREFUL out there... It’s scary on the road, and even the most conscientious and defensive drivers are at risk.

Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pop Culture Engineering

I just got back from South Beach where I taught a communications bootcamp at the prestigious Miami Ad School, in which we covered topics ranging from social media, to transmedia planning |development and technology integration. Each class (3 hour sessions over 3 days) had anywhere from 10-15 people in attendance, and the really nice part about the small group size was that we had representation from Austria, Colombia, Peru and various places around the States, as well as friends such as ex-Razorfish master developer, Robert Murray, making for a breadth of perspective. I always maintain that we are all students in the advertising, technology and media game, and so this experience was conversational more than anything, and there is no doubt that I took away as much from the students as they did from me. I look forward to participating in future courses on “Pop Culture Engineering” as well as visiting the other great locations the school has on offer.

Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Monday, November 16, 2009

From Macro Media To Micro Media

What’s the association between these three macro trends – the decline in newspaper revenue, the increase in journalism school enrollment, and the decline in ratings for mass market advertising channels like broadcast television?

We’re seeing a huge downturn in newspaper revenue and readership - and at the same time a big increase in journalism school enrollment. Even given the expected increase in post-graduate school enrollment that comes with a recession, why choose journalism when the historic career path out of journalism programs is being decimated?

The answer is in the flow of advertising dollars, and, related, in shifting behavior by viewers and consumers. It is getting more and more difficult for large advertisers to make big media buys and reach a mass audience with a single message – and segmenting buys and tailoring messages by demo, behavior, intent will be a competitive advantage going forward.

So twenty years ago, I could spend 5 million dollars for 100 thirty second spots on prime-time, and be confident that I was reaching ten to twenty million people. Or I could buy a full page ad in the local metro paper and be confident that I was reaching a significant percentage of the local population.

Now, I still need to spend that marketing and advertising budget, and I still need to reach those people. But even if people are watching prime-time network shows, they’re on their laptops, or they’re fast-forwarding through commercials. Even if people are still getting the local paper, they’re spending less time with it.

The reality is that people are self-segmenting into smaller addressable groups. They’re finding the news they want, the entertainment they want, and the information they want – and because of the explosion of content and sources, they’re finding the voices and presentation that they’re most comfortable with.

So how do I spend that 5 million dollars in this new media landscape? Who will tailor my message and present it effectively to hundreds or thousands of addressable groups, all self-segmented by interest or voice? Yes, automation has a place, but ultimately marketing and advertising are communication, and communication happens between people.

The market for people able to bridge that gap will be a growth industry for years to come. It is certainly not traditional journalism, but it’s not traditional marketing either.

Advertisers will spend money here because they must. And as in everything in life, quality matters – good content, consistent voice, engaged viewers/readers/consumers – these will be the markers that advertisers will look for. So getting trained to provide this certainly makes sense.

Bottom line – brand advertisers still need to make large media buys to compete effectively, and as audiences fragment and self-segment, we will need many more media properties that serve both audiences and advertisers. Going through a graduate journalism program is not a bad way to acquire some skills and contacts that will be required to manage and create content for these media properties.

Interesting times!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adapt or Die! Pt. 2: Agency Hubris

[image taken from Amalgamated's website...]

A new colleague of mine, Ana Andjelic, a freelance strategist and Ph.D. Laureate in Digital Branding, wrote a really controversial (and what I considered to be thoughtful) piece this week in AdAge on Why Digital Agencies Aren't Ready to Lead. The article raised some serious questions about how agencies deal with client needs, and the ensuing thread pointed to the fact that the holes in the agency model are more glaringly apparent than ever before. Particularly interesting was that many of the respondents chose to attack Ana personally, mostly under the pretense that they knew more than her given their agency backgrounds.

Here was my initial response:

I can't say that I share the same negative sentiment of others in this thread regarding your post - I think you raise some great points, but I would add that perhaps these issues are systemic across all agencies within the landscape.

Particular to 'digital', I think Sapient has done an excellent job of adopting and implementing a model that focuses on business solutions for clients, and much of this is predicated on a strong fundamental understanding of brand marketing functions, as well as operational dynamics that can affect a company's ability to reach audiences and drive sales. Basically, Sapient acts as a management consulting outfit that has the ability to translate business needs into multi-disciplinary marketing functions, all of which are data-driven and mostly built on ideas that are agnostic as well as scalable.

In general, it seems that 'digital' agencies need to consider (among many other things) three primary drivers:

- The development and deployment of 'adaptive' versus 'disruptive' technologies; as Nick Law puts it, the difference between 'fitting in' and trying to 'break through'.

- How these technologies become a part of business offerings for the longer term, and in a bigger context, how they provide cultural value.

- How experiences are no longer restricted to 'offline' or 'online' functions, but rather ideas that can live anywhere and indefinitely (think of utility in this sense).

By the time I had posted my comment (it was the tenth), I went back later to discover that 40 more comments were made in the thread, most of which were aimed at how 'wrong' Ana was, and how unqualified she was to author the post. AdAge editor Jonah Bloom even got into the mix, supporting the publication's decision to feature her insights.

Here was my second response:

Seriously, folks, Jonah takes a solid stance -- the point of these posts is to create a discourse, as well as enable all of us to weed out fact from fiction.

Ana may not be right; in fact, many of her points may prove to be wrong once put out to pasture, but isn't this a good thing? Put it this way, would you rather have an article talk at you, or, would you rather have one light a fire under your ass and get you to speak out? (like you have here...)

On the topic of 'agency hubris', some of you, honestly, need to step down from your ivory tower. I work with plenty of people who came out of big agency environments and they'll tell you that after spending years within the ranks and in the trenches, they have relatively little to show for it. I personally stayed on the independent side, and eventually went out on my own, so that I could actually create and build stuff and not be encumbered by some of the bullsh-- being slung around in this thread.

What makes you an 'expert' on something like digital (which is a term for debate in its own right) isn't so much where you come from, where you sit, or how many 'campaigns' you've done, but what you are doing RIGHT NOW.

The harsh reality of this digital landscape is that you either adapt or you die, it's that simple... and ultimately the point of Ana's post.

In fairness to the pundits of the article and within Ana's thread, a gentleman with the alias of "copyboy1" brought these questions to harsh light:

Let's try this Ms. Andjelic. Please explain:

- How R/GA fits into your theory of digital agencies not being ready to lead.
- How a "traditional" Goodby agency "ends up doing the same thing over and over again."
- How agencies like Droga5 can produce great online and offline work consistently.
- How a traditional agency like Crispin is left "with little time to experiment" in the online space.
- How smaller digital shops like Attik can't handle branding and offline work.
- Why Marc Lucas, the ECD at Razorfish, is disputing your claims about the "Laundry Fairy" campaign directly on your Twitter account.

Bottom line: opinions are just the things we need to create a discourse around why and how the current agency model doesn't work, and the steps we can take to improve the industry.

What do you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Augmenting Reality & Satisfying Need States

Yes, it seems that media — what we have come to know as a singular discipline — is everywhere. Or at least, it has the possibility to be everywhere.

We have already reached the inflection point where consumption is a function of desire, rather than circumstance. “Offline” and “online” are mere terms to designate a monetary channel, in the most hopeful of terms.

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Are these experiences our own? Are we adapting to market need, human need, or are we disrupting consciousness?

Perhaps ads, or ad-like objects, have taken on a life of their own.

With the ability to create new worlds, micro-tag them, crowdsource them and geo-target them, who is really creating a discourse? If ideas live on as currency, are they still human, or are they simply manufactured states of being?

Are they simply images meant for manipulation, or true reflections of our soul?

Perhaps these are the questions we must leave to those who consume, when they consume.

As Einstein clairvoyantly stated, “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

It’s also not absurd to think that its countenance is perpetually uncertain.

We can only hope that the element of circumstance brings us to a place that is purposeful and unwieldy — after all, we must earn the privilege of discovery, no matter how trite it may seem in the moment.

Perhaps this is the power of media. And more importantly, the power we actualize in earning it.

Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Friday, October 30, 2009

Adapt or Die! Pt. 1: TV Everywhere (TV 2.0)

[image produced by Adam Goldberg, Principal & Creative Director of TRÜF]

This is part 1 of a series of posts that will attempt to support the notion of 'adaptive' versus 'disruptive' methodologies and media theories... I sincerely hope you find them engaging and helpful, as well as an opportunity to lend your perspective.

Recently, Optimedia's CEO, Antony Young, wrote a piece in AdAge challenging the TV everywhere model, and more specifically called out Hulu's content and distribution strategy. Mr. Young's piece -- in my opinion and that of many who spoke out in a rash of commentary -- was very myopic and self-serving; clearly as a media buyer he is threatened by the prospects, when in fact he should actually embrace them.

Here was my response to Mr. Young:

Interesting post, Antony. Your perspective is well articulated. My question to you is (and with all due respect), should the networks revisit their strategy, or should you?

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that this is an all-or-nothing proposition that should either embrace the traditional media model, or, the more 'chaotic' digital model. Yet there is plenty of research that shows a healthy, symbiotic relationship between viewership online, viewership offline and social participation. In other words, viewers are getting exclusive shorter form content they can watch online, that they are compelled to watch in longer form in their living room... and then talk about it before, during or after programming times. What this ultimately means is that viewers will tolerate advertising if it means they have access to new forms of entertaining content. This is not the death of TV, but rather, its rebirth.

If I understand the networks correctly, this is a way of holding audience retention across platforms, not a means for cannibalizing one channel against another.

There is no question that consumer demand must be managed, and in some cases, mitigated. However, people are still very willing to pay for premium content, and further, different kinds of premium content. If you think about it, what the networks are doing with Hulu isn't so different than the subscription model cable nets have used... so one might ask, if I know I can watch a movie a few months down the road for "free" (or a part of my sub), will this preclude me from going to a theater? Probably not.

On another note, it's interesting that you use newspaper publications as an example of digital eroding the traditional medium. While many publications have undergone a slow death, the fact remains that those who have been earlier adopters in the digital realm have been able to salvage their print businesses -- just look at pubs like the NY Times. And while less people are advertising in print and circulation is way down, this was an inevitability in marketplace shifts and economic variables, not a result of pubs going online.

At the end of the day, we do have to respond to consumer demand, and we can manage it, provided that we give people ample choices in their viewing experience.

Following this was another piece from Andrew Hampp on the everywhere model itself, and detailed in 8 distinct ways what the ad and subscription model might look like.

A gentleman by the name of "J Rosen" wrote what I thought was a thoughtful response, that articulated the delicate relationship between consumer choice and paid content:

I have mentioned in previous posts that the key to survival for content creators is to focus attention on giving the audience options and knowing who your audience is.

Hulu has done a fabulous job of maximizing the audience experience. They have brand safe content, a sleek functional design and have some of the most coveted content in the media world.

The Internet provides opportunities for companies like Hulu to set a precedent. Content IS NOT FREE. But that said, we as consumers deserve choices.

A balance can be struck to provide options for subscriptions, PPV or ad-supported consumption of digital media without having a minority of viewers subsidize the majority.

The Fair Market Value of a performance to an individual needs to be determined. This can only be done through advanced audience measurement. Until a process is in place to determine this value, distribution and pricing of content is simply a guess.

I have worked very hard to produce a process that strikes a balance of fairness for each of the constituents involved; the creators, the audience and marketers.

Perhaps with a little luck and persistence, I will soon have the opportunity to present my process to the powers that be.

The funny part about this is that Mr. Young did not respond to the thread generated by his own post, but did have the presence of mind to comment in this one, in which he acknowledged the viability of the TV Everywhere model... and then referred back to his own article.

This TV Everywhere model seems to offer a sound proposition for consumers, content developers, advertisers and the Networks alike.

The key is building a sound revenue model across all platforms.

I'm not sure Hulu is giving that to NBCU, FOX and Disney.

Antony Young
CEO, Optimedia

There are some insights to take away from these exchanges:

* Saddled by abject fear, hubris and management inertia, media companies have a tough time seeing the light in a multi-channel offering.

* Further, the complexity of content offerings and their distribution channels seems daunting to these companies in developing a transitional model.

* As J Rosen intimates, creators, audiences and marketers can and will exist in a symbiotic and harmonious way, it's just that media companies and agencies will have to 'monitor' and 'contribute' rather than try to 'control' this discourse.

* Ultimately, with better content, more channels and more dynamic forms of measurement, the revenue opportunities for brands and agencies alike will be tremendous, that is, if the agencies can adapt their models to consumer markets, as opposed to disrupting them.

What are your thoughts???

Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Fitting In' Versus 'Breaking Through' -- The Differences in Brand Relationships

Brands and agencies often talk about connecting with consumers as a means of disruption, or a way of cutting through all the media clutter.

However, R/GA’s Nick Law said it best: “Instead of asking ‘How do we break through?’, marketers should be asking ‘How do we fit in?’”

Here are what the differences might look like:


  • rising up against the tide of consumer adoption, as opposed to riding along with it
  • pushing underlying messages more so than creating conversations, or better yet, building brand stories
  • looking at products as a consumer affinity, instead of value adds as a lifestyle choice
  • exhibiting hubris – thinking that your brand destinations will guarantee engagement
  • thinking of utility as a technology solution, not a cultural benefit
  • deferring to shock value, instead of social value
  • planning merely in terms of a campaign, instead of creating currency that can last indefinitely
  • capturing consumer attention, not building loyalty


  • thinking about all marketing functions as somehow cause-related
  • bringing a higher purpose to all brand interactions and purchase decisions
  • socializing all media efforts by creating experiences that can be shared, regardless of platform or channel
  • enabling people to adopt brand stories as their own, or, collaborating with them to create new ones
  • recognizing that people are loyal to information & content, not destinations
  • moving with market demand, not ad inventory demand
  • crowdsourcing product development & marketing outreach when necessary
  • not being afraid to fail in the process of developing new consumer insights

Please, by all means, add to the list!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Microfinance: Our Media (and Immediate) Future?

In examining the three “Es” of social change – economics, environment and empowerment - economics are of course the foundation for spawning new growth in local communities. And while we are at odds with how to get there, and have been for quite some time, it seems that we've gone the way of 'micro-thinking' in just about every digital discourse... from tags, to content, media packages and payment systems.

And now, microfinance.

Microfinance is not a movement that was born yesterday. In fact, for some two+ decades, it has been implemented in carefully small successes in usury and heifer pools within areas spanning from Bolivia to Bangladesh. The idea was hatched as developing areas around the globe would desperately seek relief funding from banks that simply wouldn't lend to the poor or communities in crisis. As with any commercial lender, the primary issue centered around not having a way to collateralize loans with an asset base, or subsidies that could be guaranteed to those represented in outside investment. So, the very simple solution has been to enlist individuals in lending smaller increments of hard cash to these communities, and mitigate, as well as allocate, the risk across these groups.

Pundits have often spoken about the inevitability of corruption - extortion and collusion among them - as well as the larger threat of socialist schemes percolating these communities as the surefire argument against the microfinance movement. But the reality is that this method of fund raising is actually bringing the prospect of an acutely balanced, healthy return to the privatization of our banking and lending systems, and when you consider the parity we are experiencing across our global markets, perhaps we are staring a revolutionary new form of capitalism right in the face.

Case in point: Platforms such as CommunityLend, Lending Club and Zopa have managed to sidestep banks and build rich enough capital pools to strengthen local economies, and in some cases, save individuals and families from financial distress. The peer-to-peer model has even been extended to mid-size investment banks, private equity groups and special interest lenders that have been developing scalable solutions for international relief funds, educational centers and social reform initiatives involving select U.S. companies and more active players abroad.

And here's where things get even more interesting.

Cut to a certain corner of the world - Ontario, Canada - where a so-called 'socialist' economic system has kept a steady stream of academic and technology talent belly-full and wistful in creating a new cultural value system for current and future generations. Discussions with several of my colleagues there have shed light on the thought that we can not only use microfinancing models to engage whole communities of people in affecting social, political, educational and environmental change, but that we can develop whole new ecosystems in the process.

'Ecosystem' is the operative word here - representing the ecological and economic aspects of tying culture, commerce and common interests all together. Sounds like a load of verbage, but when you think about the fact that central banks can be removed from the development process, again, we are sitting on something of great value and worldly influence.

Think about it. Hollywood studios can barely support the arts, let alone themselves in getting movies and TV shows made. The recession has nearly killed off the entire independent film market, and TV shows are only getting harder to produce as private investment from independent entities is shrinking by the day. To boot, entertainment properties on the whole are still fetching up decent upfront advertising dollars, but the ad business has been plagued by commoditization, and consumers are tired of being fed thousands of messages a day. And where technologies have been able to abate the hemorrhaging by providing the promise of conversation, we are still stuck with the challenge of how to keep those dialogues ongoing and how to tell better stories.

Notice a theme here that we touched upon earlier: parity. More importantly, there is a clear symbiosis between the elements of storytelling, media influence and culture... the coursing thread of which is clearly economic.

So what does this mean?

It means that a good idea can be invested in. It means that technologies can be built to host, cultivate and help spread good ideas. It means that communities can adopt and shape stories as their own. It means that higher learning institutions, research facilities and entertainment arts centers can be built. It means that endowment funds don't have to wait on quarterly contributions to be redistributed to those in need. It means that global non-profit organizations can employ top-shelf private sector talent to run their divisions like real businesses.

It means that on the media side of things, we can tell stories the way we want to, and that we can be platform agnostic if we so choose. It means that we can create new channels if we so choose, and that we don't have to find ourselves beholdent to media models that only serve the needs of holding companies and upper management.

It also means, coming full circle, that we can monetize on our own terms, as well as build infrastructure that can create jobs and new economic opportunities. As a people.

Even better, we can get governmental support, and corporate participation, precisely when and where it is needed. This is not a party plan, or a special interest play... this is literally the manifestation of by the people, for the people, of the people.

So here's an abridged blueprint of how this might work in what can be considered a transmedia capacity, and know that in certain parts of the world... it is already happening.

A narrative is built around a cultural, cause-related need - be it educational, social, environmental, political, or perhaps all of these combined.

Communities adopt the narrative and shape it as their own; in effect, they tell their own version, and supply their own story arcs or touch-points.

The microfinancing process begins; incremental payments are made and moderated by community designates, those trusted by peer groups and with reputable track records in their respective areas of trade or interest.

Brands are recruited into the development process and are invited into the conversation, using their own stories to empower the process, supply their product as utilities to support it, or to fund further development as passive investors.

Collaboration ensues at scale, allowing others with like interests to participate. Jobs are created, and more stories develop.

Technology tools are built or provided to formalize this job creation and syndicate these stories. A thread is created between the jobs or tasks at hand, and the stories from which they are told.

'Spread' occurs. Adoption happens on a larger scale. The model is replicated to other communities who have similar needs, or those that can lend support.

Government is empowered to regulate, and reaps the benefits of a higher tax base, all streaming from the private sector. It then has the ability, and discretion, to develop new programs tied to the transmedia narrative, or, create new ones using a similar model to the previous one.

Brands who have been involved in the ebb-and-flow of development can then purchase pieces of the narrative that most accurately represent market needs and specific consumer interests; these are new currencies that will take on strong economic and social value.

A new media marketplace has been building; now, these currencies have a proven value, a 'convertible shareability' of sorts that move with markets, as opposed to pushing against them.

Creative development resurges; new artists of all types and backgrounds emerge into the fold, inspired by commonality and challenged to exceed the latest quality standard. Their efforts are measured by their true merit, and they are well compensated for it, along with others who have participated in the process.

If you believe in our future, believe in this. It is very real, and the possibilities are virtually limitless.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might discover and create." -Albert Einstein

It's time to create.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where on Earth is the 'Multi' in Multicultural Advertising?

The power and influence of advertising, marketing and media never ceases to amaze me. In fact, what's even more amazing (or appalling, depending on how you look at it) is the fact that many of us can work our way through the days of the week not fully realizing this power or even exploring all the ways to harness it.

But those are the inherent challenges of working in a business where the bottom line can often drive us to forget the very reasons why we're here. The social web has introduced a great new way to remind us of why we're here, and the importance of making our decisions - whether personal or professional - count for something.

And then there's this thing called 'Multicultural Advertising'.

By definition, 'multicultural' means two things:

1. Of, or relating to, or including several cultures;

2. Of, or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interaction in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

Let's take a peek at what some of the top global brands have produced in the way of 'multicultural advertising'. Since I’m a digital guy and I believe this where the most progress or harm can currently be made, we’ll focus on websites.

In the spirit of the new FTC guidelines, quick disclosure: I was not paid by anyone to express the opinions you see in this post. However, when you see some of this so-called ‘advertising work’, you might be incensed enough to call the FTC yourself and have some of these brands sanctioned and put under review for unethical, and questionably illegal, marketing practices. I’ll go even farther out on a limb and say that I’m not sure that some of this stuff is even constitutional.

Let's start with one of the industry's more popular (and unsurprisingly controversial) efforts from McDonald's, called "365 Black".

As you can see, this is a real gem of brand innovation. Where do we possibly begin? Well, let’s start with the fact that if I am ‘black’, I get to be ‘black’ 365 days of the year. Well isn’t that progressive. But most importantly, the mighty Bodhi, or Baobab tree, tells me never to forget my roots. Wow. Truly inspirational, especially since the tree’s silhouette so brilliantly resembles an afro.

Now let’s move onto the wondrous 365 Black homepage that is “deeply rooted in the community” (trademark).

Gee, I didn’t know that cultural IP – you know, the stuff that you share every day – could be copyrighted. But have no fear, cuz you can have a “Flavor Battle” with your homies. How dope is that, yo? Spin some fresh shit and you get a quarta pounda! And don’t forget that Dwele got a lot new fans, you know, homies, after he started working with McDonald’s. I just can’t believe none of my ‘black’ friends are doing this.

Oh, and for you Far East types, the McDee offering gets even better with ‘MyinspirAsian’.

Dude — Dollar Menu Money Origami! Really??? And since so many Asians are lacking in real career opportunities, now they can take workshops that teach them how to make paper dragons, fly kites and spin wool. What a godsend! And if that’s not enough, you can shock your friends by mastering NEW Asian phrases, not to mention you can download event photos, cuz, you know, Asians like to take lots of pictures and share them with each other.

Hey, I’m lovin’ it. Let’s just call this new movement exactly for what it is: McOriental. Or just plain McTarded.

Moving on, here’s another gem of brand wizardry soon to come from American Airlines, called Black Atlas.

First of all, Nelson George, what the f&*# are you thinking? Do you really need the extra money to whore yourself and your ethnicity out to a brand that actually thinks that there is a unique and extraordinary travel experience to be shared exclusively through ‘sophisticated’ African-American (kudos for not saying ‘black’) travelers? And just what is the ‘black experience’? Are we talkin’ Soul Plane? Oh, I forgot, this is for the elite.

And to AA, might I ask, what exactly are the criteria for ‘sophisticated’ African-American travelers? That seems pretty inane, considering that not only excludes a large portion of the African-American population, but a large portion of the population in general. Oh, and in the hopes that something of merit might be explained away prior to Black Atlas’s launch, I read a PR posting on

Hmmm. Nice headline. A wealth of information here. All the respective marcom agencies really thought this one out. Did anyone get the memo that there are hundreds of ‘Web sites’ out there, you know, things called social networks where people of all races, colors and creeds can share content, and if they want to join a common interest group, for say, travelers, they can? One really popular social site is called Facebook.

To make matters worse, the post had one comment, coming from an understandably jaded ‘black’ person:

He nails it right on the head: “I wonder what their motive is?” Ain’t that the truth. It sure as hell isn’t meant to inspire advocacy. I’m even willing to bet that not one African-American was even involved in the development of this priceless idea. I say priceless because, thankfully, this site probably won’t make AA a red cent. Or is that a ‘black’ cent?

I checked out least two dozen other ‘multicultural’ sites and discovered similar travesties. That said, not all of them are offensive. This effort from General Mills is at least a thoughtful attempt at treating a definable community as a part of the cultural mainstream.

No exploding pinatas here, or overweight senoritas cooking enchiladas for families of fifteen or more. In fact, the site would rather tell you how to reduce your cholesterol and provide expert advice on nutrition. This is a site that chooses to look at people for who they are: General Mills consumers, and family people that care about quality product and a better quality of life. They even have the decency to say what a rich life this is. Seems they are talking about culture at large. Fathom that.

If you run a Google search on 'multicultural advertising', you'll see a whole slew of marketing agencies, organizations, non-profit groups and educational entities listed right there on page 1 and 2. Yet not one of them seems to be influencing the majority of messaging and content on offer both online and off. Apparently, from various sources that I know, groups like the AHAA (The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies) have been battling these issues for years, and have had to contend with the fact that ‘general’ marketing efforts eat up most ad budgets, leaving the ‘multicultural’ marketing groups in the lurch... Or simply fighting for the scraps.

Sounds logical, given how screwed up the system can be. However, money doesn’t have to be an excuse for poor strategy and creative execution. For one, building websites is far less cost prohibitive than it was only two or three years ago. For another, the social web affords us plenty of opportunities to spread messages and build real currency. In other words, there shouldn’t be any excuses. Not anymore.

Now, I'll also let it be known that I don't officially work as a 'multicultural marketer', but it seems to me that multicultural work should do three primary things:

1. Expose cultural mores and defy ethnic stereotypes.
2. Establish points of commonality and build mutual respect.
3. Embrace individuality, while buffering against group ambiguity.

Actually, this sounds a lot like what I do. When we socialize media, we set out to do exactly these three things. Further, when we run technographic, psychographic and/or ethnographic studies, we quickly realize that, in many environments, common interests often supersede age, economics and ethnicity.

So why then are specific ethnic communities targeted on their own?

Why are they targeted so poorly?

Most importantly, we are these efforts exclusionary?

Granted, we don't live in a perfect world. We also don't always share physical spaces with people who are different from us, or interact with them in the real world, in the ways that we probably should. But isn't the point of responsible advertising and marketing to change or influence these social dynamics in positive ways?

I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not going to raise my children according to a world that knowingly chooses to identify people by their race, color, creed or sexuality. Some may argue with me on this, but as a person of mixed ethnicity and heritage (Native American, German Jew and Irish Catholic), I believe racism only exists if we choose to recognize it. And it seems to be pervasive in a lot of the advertising we currently see.

Time to wake up, folks. Time to take a stand. Cultural wealth and integrity is a shared responsibility, plain and simple.

Posted via email from goonth's posterous