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