Monday, December 24, 2007

Seasons Best

A happy christmas to all! Special thoughts go out to the Murphy family at this time of year. We miss you Murph.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Turning the Corner...

I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm, but I have to admit that following some digestion and analysis, it's encouraging to see recent developments in digital media taking hold as legitimate marketing strategies for 2008 and beyond. I have a very high bar for accepting the latest and greatest beyond fad status, and our industry is indeed susceptible to premature judgements largely due to the technology-fueled innovation. But recent events, even those producing negative reactions (i.e. Facebook's Beacon, the Writer's strike), only serve to emphasize that the shift to digital media consumption can no longer be ignored by the parties which have made token investments in the platform. My attempt at a look ahead for next years is as follows:

Over the past few years, I've often asked the question: "What does it take?" for major marketers, traditional media and agencies/PR firms to NOT dismiss digital as a rounding error. "What don't they understand?" For some of the larger publishers, it may be too late even for panicking - a 40% drop in your share price within 12 months will do that - because moving at Internet speed just is not in their DNA. The next phase of valiant, yet inevitable online flailings by the local print and broadcast gatekeepers probably won't happen until '09. The obligatory expectation to salvage '08 through Campaign and Olympic dollars will keep the denial alive for another year. While the agency holding companies, to score some semblance of relevancy, are knee deep in getting healthy in the online channel, whatever the cost. For those digital specialty firms weighing offers from suitors dangling ridiculous multiples, happy holidays.

I've tended to give Consumer packaged Goods companies a pass for one simple fact: they can't sell their wares directly online. As much as many of us in the business have expected CPG's to monetize their digital efforts in indirect ways, by design or default, it hasn't happened. Some recent activity borders on the cartoonish, stengthening the belief that there really isn't much of a reason to go to a toothpaste, cookie or soft drink Web site. But that's not to say that these big spenders can't package up the best nuggets and let them be shared across the Web. As the use of social networks expands to all demographics, I believe CPG's will start to embrace Widgets as vehicles for trackable Word of Mouth brand endorsement online, simply because the numbers are too large to disavow. The plummeting performances of FSI's and TV, coupled with the advanced viral analytics of Widget campaigns, will force CPG's to make a significant commitment to digital marketing in '08.

Sadly there is still too much fiefdom building by amateurs who own the online P&L - the 20-year Direct Mail or Call-Center vet, the ceremonially appointed print exec, or the back-end operations manager looking to round out a resume. Especially on the Marketer side, this problem is rampant. I can't really fault the people stepping into these roles - I applaud their ambition and recognition of a changing business landscape. No, the worst transgression is letting this ignorance continue. It's an admission by senior management that the Web really isn't that important to the company. Most hypocritically for firms that actually sell Internet-based services, would this on-the-job training be allowed if the roles were reversed? Could a Web designer, for example, be expected to run TeleSales in his spare time? Hire some professionals who have done it before and give them the reins.

Here's to a great 2008!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A little perspective

Please forgive my lack of posting for almost 3 weeks. I just started consulting for a start-up, so it's been a little hectic.

Conveniently, following the OMMA show in September, the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) held its annual meeting late last week in Phoenix.

What strikes me in looking at the 2 events is the long-standing claim by traditional marketers of the lack of digital talent. Really? Does this position still hold water? Could the CMO's in Phoenix not find one or two suitable people at OMMA who might be experienced in behavioral targeting, social media or widget-based advertising? I guess all of those people working at Facebook, Tremor Media or Omniture couldn't possibly bring any value to the ANA membership.

Bottom line, there is not a lack of digital talent, rather a lack of opportunities with traditional marketers for digital talent to be put into positions to enact genuine change. And since nature abhors a vacuum, the next generation of brilliant marketers are forging their own paths with start-up ventures, not with organizations still dropping 80% of their ad budgets into TV, newspaper and DM.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Off to NYC

On Tuesday, Sept. 25th, I'll be in New York to attend the OMMA and Mixx conferences as part of Advertising Week. It will be a chance to catch up with old friends in the digital marketing business, network with some new connections and learn what the leaders in our space are doing to stay ahead of the pack. I'll share my observations here and potentially on

Going into the events, especially as media budgets are now being set for '08, I'm curious to match the level of the discourse to the attendees. In the past, I've always made a point to determine how many corporate decision-makers actually go to these shows. For the most part, it's been mimimal participation from this group. Yet this year has a different energy in the air. The massive changes in the digital media environment, both in the types of new offerings available (widgets, expanded social network opportunities, beyond pre-roll video, etc.) and property ownership switches (too many to rattle off) demand more first-hand involvement from SVP's and CMO's, vs. reliance on filtered re-caps from agency or staff surrogates.

We shall see.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just Stop

For the second time in nine months, I was courted by one of the major PR firms in Washington, DC to lead and build a Digital practice (needing a "visionary" as one of the execs told me, "someone to teach us Greek" said another) only to be told it was going with someone more "tactically focused," i.e. cheaper.

Now I'm not sure that the position in either instance was an ideal fit, and all of us who are veterans in the online space have "tail wagging the dog" war stories. But it occurred to me that even in 2007, my recent experience is all too familiar, and perhaps I can help reduce, if not eliminate, these pesky scenarios.

First, it's all right to come clean, in fact, it would be refreshing. Spare us the charade and own up - we know you really don't want to do this. Admit that you're too scared, unwilling or out of touch to embrace Digital channels as major components of your businesses. But please, I beg you please, do us all a favor and stop blathering in your jargon-filled speeches, poorly designed Web sites and cookie-cutter press releases about your commitment to Digital marketing and media when you are in no way willing to invest in the disciplines. It's not a secret that you don't want to hire legitimate talent or re-assign budget to upgrade your technological capabilities. Focus on playing caretaker to your dying conventional practices, which haven't changed for decades. Just get out of the way and please discontinue doing the following:

For Senior Management in Traditional Media -

  • Stop awarding your Digital Executive positions to toe-the-line internal cronies who have spent the past 20 years strictly on the traditional side.

  • Stop prefacing every idea about pursuing a Digital initiative with the question: "But what will this do to the mother ship?"

  • Stop telling us you're working on becoming "truly platform agnostic" when you have no appreciation for the speed at which you need to move.

  • Stop disavowing the insights of Jeff Jarvis and Dave Morgan.

For Advertising Agencies & PR Firms -

  • Stop interviewing Digital leaders to join your company when all you only have the stomach and budget for is a non-threatening, junior-level department of one that you expect to perform miracles immediately.

  • Stop believing you can extend the classic bait-and-switch tactic of trying to land new business then staffing the account - when it comes to Digital the reverse is true.

  • Stop limiting your considerations for planning, executing and measuring Digital campaign performance because you can't grasp the value of providing best in class reporting.

  • Stop listening to Joseph Jaffe.

For Corporate Marketing Departments -

  • Stop treating the Digital channels, in which your prospects and customers are spending more time, as a moonlighting gig for your traditional marcom and media personnel.

  • Stop allowing inept Web Operations gatekeepers to dictate your online branding and user experience environment; this isn't a space for amateurs looking for on-the-job training.

  • Stop enabling the heroin-like addiction to bloated, unaccountable Direct Mail expenditure, as performance continues to plummet, because "I just know it works".

  • Stop ignoring the guidance of Bob Garfield.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How much do lemmings go for these days?

Great piece in WSJ today on whether the blizzard (not flurry) of online ad "solutions" acquisitions will actually pay off.

I contend WPP's purchase of 24/7 Real Media (for an unbelievabe $649 million) will be far and away the most disastrous of these deals. A buy-side owner now hyping in-house sell-side products is inherently flawed and screams conflict of interest.

From the article: "WPP executives say 24/7 Real Media should continue to expand quickly by selling services to WPP's existing clients."

So how does that pitch go? "Listen, I know you're happy with Atlas for ad serving, ValueClick for network inventory and iCrossing for SEM, but dump all that and use our new toys for the sake of convenience."

Just sprinting off the cliff...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Leaking Oil?

The spin Yahoo is attaching to its purchase of BlueLithium puzzles me. My expectation was that BL's primary value was as a nice extension to the RightMedia exchange and YPN (Yahoo Publisher Network), with a baseline price established by the Tacoda sale to AOL. But the release yesterday emphasized that BL extends Yahoo's "...ability to deliver powerful data analytics, advanced targeting and innovative media buying strategies to our customers," i.e. behavioral targeting. All good, but wasn't SmartAds supposed to do this?

So I have to ask:
  • If you're an advertiser, does BlueLithium replace SmartAds, or will you be presented 2 BT platforms when Yahoo comes calling?
  • If you're a Yahoo shareholder, does this move make sense or smack of desperation at the halfway point of the 100-day turnaround?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Summer Wind...

It's been a roller-coaster spring and summer. Professionally, I went through an arduous yet rewarding engagement with Comcast as Director, E-Commerce & Online Marketing. What was originally positioned as a permanent role transitioned into a consulting gig. That issue aside, and despite 6 months of a daily commute from Washington, DC to Philly, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

More importantly, I lost one of my best friends and the best man at our wedding, Peter Murphy. I miss him terribly, not just because I knew him since Day 1 Freshman year at Georgetown, but because Murph lived life to the fullest, and he represented everything a good husband and great dad should be. If there are any lessons to be learned from his passing, they are to embrace your passions and never get cheated when pursuing your dreams.

Rest in peace Murph.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Quality Time

This past month of August I've been spending some much needed time with my wife and daughters. I will be returning to the working world in the very near future. This is a very exciting time in the media/marketing field. For those of you who need a solid springboard from the beach or pool back into the post Labor Day madness, I highly recommend David Verklin's book: "Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here". I'm writing a review of the book for