Apr 29, 2008

10 Reasons I Still Read Newspapers Offline

I was having a conversation today (on Twitter. NB: People are starting to have actual conversations on Twitter these days) with Dave Title and Girl Riot about why I still like reading the print edition of newspapers, going so far as to have daily subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

It dovetailed nicely with a conversation I’d been having with Cam Beck over on MP Daily Fix about our joint fear that as newspapers continue to go out of business, the level, depth and diversity of news reporting will suffer, which is troubling because a democratic society depends on a free press.

But back to the more granular issue of reading the newspaper in its original form. Which may be a particular tic of mine and I don’t think it’s for everyone, but here are 10 Reasons I Still Read Newspapers Offline:

  1. There’s still something special about going out and getting the paper off the driveway in the morning. It’s like the day doesn’t officially start until someone brings the paper into the house.
  2. Online headlines are always the same size. But there’s something about a giant 72 point banner headline splashed across the front page that tells you that something of grave importance happened that day.
  3. The entire family can share the same newspaper over the breakfast table, trading sections with each other and passing the paper back and forth to share articles. Yes, you can email each other things and pass the laptop around, but it loses something in the translation.
  4. If you spill coffee on the Times, you’re out $1.50. Spill coffee on the MacBook and you’re out $1,500.
  5. There’s a serendipity to reading the newspaper. I often stumble upon articles I’d never have read based on the headline, but there was something (a picture, a phrase, a byline) that caught my eye and got me to read it.
  6. I can read the newspaper in places I can’t read my laptop. (The beach, a crowded train, an airplane, the thousands of places that don’t have free WiFi.)
  7. My Blackberry is great for checking basketball scores, but reading an entire newspaper article on the tiny screen is an exercise in frustration
  8. Pictures look much better in newsprint. They’re not as clear, but there’s something about the size of a big picture in the newspaper that gives it import.
  9. I like big full-page print ads. Well-done ones, anyway.
  10. When I read the newspaper, I'm just reading the newspaper. When I read it online, I'm much more likely to multi-task, click over to other sites and wind up missing a number of articles I'd intended to read.
Now this is not to say I never read newspapers online. I actually do. A lot. I just prefer reading them offline. One suggestion I'd like to offer up though, something that would make my life a lot easier, would be if the print edition of papers included an easy, snurl-like url at the beginning or end of every article so that you could share it with your friends without having to re-find it online.

Apr 27, 2008

On MP Daily Fix: The Right Time And Place: Reading vs Watching vs Talking

Rubicon Consulting came out with an interesting study earlier this month about the iPhone and how people are using it. There were a number of key findings you can read about there or on PSFK. But the one I want to focus on—because I see it happening more and more—is that people are carrying two phones.

Read the rest of the post here on MPDailyFix.com

Apr 25, 2008

It Takes Two (Or Why Changing Your Agency's Paradigm Also Means Changing Your Clients')

Many people, myself included, have been blogging about how agencies need to step up their game and expand what they do beyond the usual TV spot-print ad-banner-microsite paradigm.

But after reading this very thoughtful post from Paul Isakson, it hit me that we can’t really do any of this until our clients decide that they’re going to pay us for it.

I mean it’s all well and good to say that we need to look at user experience as a whole and that 20 minutes on an endless phone loop can undo $20 million worth of advertising and how clients need to incorporate design into every consumer touch point and all that. But if clients don’t want to hear that from us, and more importantly, don’t want to pay us for it, then we’re just howling at the moon.

I mean we can reinvent agencies all we want. Do away with traditional art director/copywriter creative departments as per Joe Jaffe’s recent suggestion. We just need to find someone who’s going to hire the resulting entity.

Because most clients aren’t set up that way. Bigger ones, anyway. They’re all about “hiring ‘best in class’ partners in every discipline.” Which may have worked 25 years ago, but now basically results in a bunch of overlapping vendors all stepping on each other’s toes and doing what they can to defend their own little piece of turf. So we can suggest changes in store design to our clients. But if they already have a store design agency, they’re not going to care what we think. Or want to pay us for it. (And if the idea does start to get traction, the store design agency sure isn’t going to be too happy about it and will do what it can to sabotage it.)

So how do we accomplish this thing that desperately needs to be accomplished? In bits and pieces, I’m afraid. We need to find those companies who don’t have what I called “The Armies Of ‘No’” in place, companies who are willing to make marketing a priority and move beyond the outdated structures. We need to keep showing our clients ideas beyond our usual scope, knowing that they will likely be met with rejection (at best) or scorn (at worst) because we need to show them that their agency—whether it’s a digital shop or a traditional one—can give them the thinking they need. And we need to stop acting like vendors and start acting like partners. Because ultimately, that’s going to lead to greater profits.

It’s not an easy path, but at the risk of sounding like a “Successories” poster, nothing that’s worth it ever is.

Apr 23, 2008

Bumrushing the Nielsen Ratings

One of the primary rules of customer service is never take back something your customers have gotten used to having. Whether that something is a bowl of mints at the cash register, an allowance of two free suitcases per airline traveler or free access to a show via the internet.

It’s a rule more and more companies are violating in their rush to increase profits and to stave off what they see as an internet model that demands they give away content for free.

What they’re forgetting though is that they’re not getting those customers or viewers back. They’re likely losing them forever and creating bad word-of-mouth in the process. And bad word-of-mouth is not something you want in this time of The Real Digital Revolution, where bad news spreads like wildfire.

The most recent example of this sort of thinking is the CW’s decision to pull its much buzzed about show “The Gossip Girl” off the internet. Which, as someone pointed out, is like trying to remove the milk from your coffee. (You can read an excellent account of the full story on ianschafer.com.)

What surprises me is that the CW—or anyone else, for that matter—hasn’t tried to do a “Bumrush the Charts” type play on the Nielsen ratings. I mean you’ve got a show that has a lot of buzz and an audience of die-hard fans who are savvy enough to understand the effect of low ratings. So organize them, via social media vehicles, so that they all tune in to the show when it’s first broadcast live, thus boosting the ratings.

A move like that would have two very beneficial effects: (a) it would unite the viewers of the show against a common “enemy” and create a stronger community going forwards, a community others will want to join and (b it would point out the absurdity of relying on a rating system that doesn’t take alternative viewing options and timeshifting into account more fully.

Oh, and it would get a whole lot of press coverage. The benefits of which every network executive should be able to recognize.

Apr 22, 2008

Recognizing Our Differences: Agency Website Design Redux

Adweek’s Brian Morrissey has been reviewing a spate of new agency websites (Modernista!, Barbarian Group, Grey) over at Adfreak. His post’s been getting a lot of commentary and it got me to thinking that in looking at agency sites, if we're going to start with usability and function, the biggest distinction we need to make in that regards is the size and/or renown of the agency.

That's because people visit the sites of agencies they are familiar with for very different reasons than they visit the sites of agencies they've never heard of.

I'd posit the main reasons people visit the sites of well-known or large agencies are:

  1. To learn the address and/or phone number of a particular office.
  2. To bone up on the agency and their clients before an interview.

To that end, those two pieces of information need to be readily accessible. Grey's site fails on that account since a potential junior account exec interviewing for a post in the New York office would not easily be able to find out what accounts the NY office has. (To be fair, this is an issue with many large agency sites.)

So if those are the two primary pieces of information an external audience is looking for, the other critical audience for the site is going to be the internal one: because let's face it, who's really going to spend a lot of time with an agency site other than the people who already work there. To that end, the Barbarian site seems well designed and the (very robust) content seems like it would be of interest to the people on staff. If the content continues to be interesting and relevant, then I suspect it can also be a good recruiting tool.

Ditto, Modernista!'s site-- the "cool factor" of the site will boost internal morale and definitely makes for a good recruiting tool, something Lance Jensen, who founded the agency, has stated was precisely the point.

Now this is all well and good for agencies people are already familiar with, whose reputations precede them and where the decision to include them in an RFP is in no way going to be influenced by the design and content of their website.

But what about smaller agencies, shops whose websites are likely to be everyone’s first encounter with them?

These sites need to be a bit more functional in nature. They need to emphasize things like case studies, because they can’t assume a potential client or potential hire is well aware of all the work they’ve done and the website may be the agency's one and only opportunity to make a good impression.

Now that’s not to say that the website needs to be deadly dull and boring. Just that its design needs to accommodate a different user with a different usability need. It’s got to work a lot harder than a site for a well known agency does. Which just makes designing it a different sort of challenge. Things like people and work and location and phone number are still important. It's just the hierarchy that's changed.

If anyone has any suggestions for small/not very well known agency sites that work, I hope you'll share them. Especially if they don't fall into the traps I wrote about here.

Real Time NBA Playoff Scores: Now On The Toad Stool

Just another valuable service for my readers who want to read the latest updates and get the latest scores without the hassle of clicking over to another page. (Scores are in the right hand column underneath the Blog Archive.)

UPDATE: May 2009: They're back.

Apr 21, 2008

Cuban’s Dilemma

Sports blogging may be even more popular than ad blogging and the preponderance of sports bloggers has brought up the issue of who exactly is a journalist and thus qualifies for access to the locker room for post-game interviews.

Now for those of you who don’t follow sports, this sort of access is key since many very important facts/slip-ups/secrets emerge during the pre and post game interviews. Plus the players are actually showering. (I’ll just leave that one alone.)

The issue came to a fore when the inimitable Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team (and fellow blogger) decided to allow all bloggers into the Mavs locker room: literally anyone with a Blogger or Typepad account. Now this wasn’t an act of generosity as much as a protest against what he felt was mistreatment by bloggers writing for mainstream sports publications and newspapers and (secondarily, I’d reckon) the overflow crowd of journalists in the locker room since “official” bloggers were added to the mix.

It’s an interesting issue though, one I’ve opined on before in a different context: where do we draw the line? At what point do we need to separate the experts from the amateurs and how do we do that? If everyone is a journalist, then how does everyone get access to an event where space is limited by the laws of physics (e.g. SXSW)? And more importantly: how do we find the worthwhile voices in a sea of fairly banal ones.

It’s something I think will need to be dealt with, likely by the marketplace itself: not everyone can write; those who can write well constitute an even smaller subset. Eventually there will be some sort of shakeout, where certain voices rise to the top. How this will come about is anyone’s guess, but I can see it happening one of two ways: Natural selection, where the most popular blogs create their own little universe, ignoring the less talented voices, relying on readers to point out worthwhile newcomers. Now that’s a variation of where we’re heading now and the downsides are (a) groupthink and (b) an inability to deal with what I’ll call Cuban’s Dilemma—how do you “officially” cull the ranks?

And that’s where I think choice (b) comes into play: the rise of independent “best of” aggregators, who function like a more sophisticated online version of Reader’s Digest or (for those of you in Brooklyn and Berkeley) the Utne Reader. It would be up to an event’s organizers as to which of these aggregators they put their faith in, but the aggregators would provide a list of the 10 or 50 or 500 bloggers they’d grant access to.

All of which goes against the whole notion of total accessibility online and the notion that everyone has a right to offer their opinion and have it heard in the marketplace of ideas. It’s where that notion collides with the laws of physics though, that a solution is needed. Because though it often feels as if we “live” online, the fact remains that most of what we do occurs live, in the physical world, and that world has space limits that need to be accommodated.

Apr 18, 2008

Three (Not-so) Newcomers

Just wanted to call your attention to three new(ish) ad bloggers who are well worth reading.

daily (ad)biz is written by a late 20something copywriter (and Minnesota transplant) at a New York agency who is trying to make sense of the business. He's a smart guy with an original voice who sees the hypocrisy in so much of the business and isn't afraid to mention it. He's also a great source of some of the really fresh new work that's being done. What's more, he cites me frequently in his posts and really, what greater proof of genius is there ;)

AdBroad is a copywriter-of-a-certain age, who's been working in the biz since the 1970s and has great perspective on all the changes that have occurred over the past decades. She's also a long-time freelancer here in NYC and her thoughts and observations on agency culture are frequently hilarious and always insightful.

DearJaneSample is a young account executive working for a boutique agency in Toronto. Jane doesn't want to be a creative and sounds like she's an excellent AE, the kind you wish you had on every account. She's wickedly funny, and not easily intimidated by the political machinations that constantly go on around her.

Apr 17, 2008

Toad Stool in Campaign magazine

Click on the picture to download your own commemorative PDF of the actual page.

So Ben from LunarBBDO just left a comment informing me that I’m quoted extensively in this week’s Campaign magazine – the leading UK ad trade journal.

You can see it here.

It's my "Clicking Through The Internet" post- about half of it. Very happy to see it picked up.

Apr 16, 2008

New Post on BeyondMadisonAvenue

  • Via ScampBlog comes this spot from Fallon’s UK office for Budweiser. The one thing that jumps out immediately is that it’s a :60 (when was the last time you saw a :60 in the US that wasn’t a launch spot for a major brand.)

    Read the rest here

    Apr 15, 2008

    12 Ways To Improve Your Twitter Experience*

    *or at the very least, mine.

    Following up on the success of my "10 Things I Hate About Twitter" post:
    1. Do not post “Good morning Twitter peeps!” the second you wake up. Or some even more annoying variation like “Yo Tweeps!” (The latter is especially true if you are white, upper middle class and/or a graduate of an Ivy League college.)
    2. In fact, white people should studiously avoid tweeting words like “Peeps!” “Yo!” “Da Boyz!” and other misguided attempts at urban Black slang. Remember how your dad sounded when he said “awesome!” Exactly.
    3. If you mistype, do not bother to correct your grammar or spelling in a follow up tweet. No one is judging you.
    4. Tweeting that you’ve reached a new milestone in the number of people following you is always in poor taste.
    5. Please limit tweets promoting your recent blog posts to no more than two a day.
    6. Twitter has a direct message function. Please use it for private conversations, e.g. “@johndoe: You left your socks in my apartment last night.”
    7. If you think it's boring, chances are I will too.
    8. Live posting from SXSW is one thing. Live posting from your dinner with your college buddies, quite another.
    9. It’s not a contest. You don’t get extra points for posting the most obscure link of the day.
    10. Twittering about twittering about Twitter is a lot like those stoned 9th grade conversations about “what if the earth is really just like a speck of dust in some giant universe?”
    11. Twitter is not a mobile version of weather.com or Expedia. If I want hourly weather reports or flight updates, I have other options.
    12. Idolizing rock stars is normal behavior in our society. Idolizing internet stars is just creepy. Refrain from words like “genius” “brilliant” and “Seth” and you should be cured in no time.
    Hat tip to Adweek's Brian Morrissey for suggesting the post and adding some tips of his own.

    Apr 14, 2008

    Now On MP Daily Fix: The Rebirth of Barbie

    One of the more interesting side effects of having a daughter is that after years of Thomas the Tank Engine, Jay Jay the Jet Plane and the New Jersey Nets, I’ve had to learn the names of an entirely new set of characters. And despite her vilification over the past decade or two, who do I find right up there along with Polly Pocket, the Disney Princesses and My Little Ponies...? None other than Barbie.

    Read the rest of my new post now over at MP Daily Fix

    Apr 13, 2008

    Sunday Story: Old School Meme

    So last week, two friends of mine, David Armano and David Griner, each found themselves riding on the swell of a story that was riding the media wave, rolling from one publication to the next. Armano had written a list of parody "Web 3.0" buzzwords (which started as a Twitter thread and became a blog post) and links to it have wound up just about everywhere, including USA Today. Griner, a blogger for AdFreak, was interviewed by ABC News about RickRolling and his quotes are now popping up in the UK newspaper The Times.

    The power of seemingly insignificant stories like these to sweep through the media has precedent in the pre-internet era. To wit: Years ago, a good friend of mine, Justin Martin (who went on to become a prominent journalist and author of the seminal biography of Alan Greenspan) had an unusual living arrangement: he rented an apartment in Manhattan from a man who used it as an art studio during the day. Since the artist was a retired executive for whom art was a hobby, the arrangement worked out on both ends, though Martin did have to keep the apartment fairly neat.

    Well, a friend who was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal did an article about the unusual arrangement. Which was picked up by a few other newspapers around the U.S. A few weeks later, however, Martin came home to find a Japanese TV crew parked in front of his apartment. They were there to do a segment on him and needed him and the artist to re-enact a few scenes for the camera, which took the better part of the following day. (So much for authenticity.)

    But the best was yet to come.

    A few weeks after the Japanese TV crew left, Martin got a call from a reporter at The National Enquirer. Who asked a few seemingly innocent questions and promised that the story would the following week.

    It did. With a 72-point type headline "Naked Women Are At My Apartment All Day, But I Can't Be There!" (The artist, it seems, had painted a few nudes over the years.)

    Meme and fuzzy tails, indeed.

    Apr 11, 2008

    Zappos And The Great Twitter Give-Away

    So Zappos.com's CEO Tony Hsieh is on Twitter today promising a free pair of shoes to one of his Twitter followers at 9 PM today. It was an idea suggested by one of his Twitter followers, a guy named Pokai, who writes the blog Shiny, Happy People.

    He updated the deal a little while later to allow the winner to also give free shoes to 10 of his/her Twitter friends.

    This is just brilliant for so many reasons. Tony has been on Twitter for a while and actually uses it-- he tweets about his life, business things-- he has conversations with people on it, something certain other Twitter proponents don't.

    The shoe give-away is sure to get lots of press, even if just in the blogosphere, since it's the first corporate Twitter stunt (or at least the first that I'm aware of and I tend to know everything.)

    And it makes me like him and his company. Zappos is decidedly not a Prom King Brand™, but giving away shoes and using Twitter like that makes me think "hey, this guy gets it."

    Which is always a good thing because it makes me more prone to listen to him and to his company's message.

    (And if any of you guys win, I'm an 11 Narrow.)

    UPDATE: Check out Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's timely comment and offer to help out frequent commenter "Toad's Sixth Reader" with a customer service issue. Power of 2.0 at work.
    Hsieh is also continuing the give-away by selecting two Twitter followers to fly out to Las Vegas and tour Zappos' operations there.

    Apr 10, 2008

    Clicking Through The Internet

    “Clicking Through The Internet” is the name I give to the phenomenon whereby normally intelligent people at both digital and traditional agencies decide that people will find their cool new flash microsite without any sort of external driver. It’s as if the internet were a giant cable TV line-up or magazine and the consumer will be clicking through it, land on the microsite and magically become entranced.

    I mean seriously, I have heard, on numerous occasions, people refer to a site’s “stopping power” as if I would have landed upon it quite by accident and not on purpose.

    This delusion is leftover from pre-internet days when people would indeed be clicking through a cable line-up or flipping through a magazine and an entertaining and eye-catching advertisement was the only way to grab their attention. As such, it’s become so firmly embedded in the belief system of most agencies as to be virtually instinctual.

    But it’s a bad habit we desperately need to break.

    People only go to your website—anyone’s website—for a reason. And they go there on purpose. Not by accident. The website has to provide them with some manner of utility. Now “utility” (which is fast in danger of become adland’s most overused buzzword, right up there with “storytelling”) can take on many forms. It can mean a site like NikePlus or Domino’s Build-A-Pizza that lets you do something useful. A contest site where you go to try and win something. A special offer coupon. Even a site that has some sort of fun and unusual game of the sort that I can’t find in a superior form, unbranded, elsewhere on the web. (That last part is critical—again, too many ad agencies fall into the trap of creating inferior replicas of games that exist elsewhere and are shocked when nobody wants to play them.)

    However you create utility, there has to be something in there for me, your customer. Otherwise, why would I bother to go there? I mean I have to at least glance at your print ad in order to get to the next page of the article I’m reading. But there’s no equivalent online. I can ignore your site forever with no consequences.

    So that’s step one. Step two is actually promoting the site. You see again, most marketers and their agencies make the mistake of assuming that their customers are clairvoyant and will immediately intuit that they’ve built a special microsite.

    You know what? They’re not.

    Your site is not going to “go viral” either. (And don’t get me started on the ways that term is misunderstood.) You need to promote it. A few weeks back I posted a TV spot from the UK for the new VW site. It was all about why you would want to go to the site and what you could expect to find there. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about and ever since Web 1.0 went belly-up, we’ve been afraid to go there.

    Which is a huge mistake.

    People don’t separate their lives into online and offline components and your marketing shouldn’t either. If you’ve got a really great microsite, there’s nothing wrong with running a print ad to promote it. And by “promote it” I mean promote the actual site. A print ad for your brand with a throwaway line (if that) and website address at the bottom of the page isn’t going to do it. Everybody’s got a website. I need to know what’s in it for me if I go to yours. Which is a lot more utilitarian than the high-level branding messages agencies prefer doing (and award show judges prefer rewarding) but it’s the price of entry if you want people to start visiting your site.

    And the more people visit your site this time, the more money you’ll get from the client to build one next time out. You’ve just got to remember they’re not going to find it on their own.

    Apr 7, 2008

    Why We Twitter

    My buddy Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus (the people who brought you the hilarious "Interview with Ari Gold" promo for HBO's Entourage) came up with this great chart you see here to explain the value of Twitter.

    As more people talk about Twitter and it goes mainstream, there's going to be an acceptance curve that starts with initial skepticism and ends in full embrace.

    But I have yet to see something that explains it as neatly and succinctly as the above chart does. (That, or as I told Ian, he's found a really clever way to enable my Twitter addiction.)

    BS08: The Frontier Social

    So about 8 months ago (give or take) CK of CK's Blog, started telling me about something called "Blogger Social" and lecturing me on how important is was that I go to it.

    Now even at that point, I should have known to always trust CK. But the idea of spending a weekend with a bunch of people I barely knew who'd all be calling me "Toad" was about the last thing I wanted to do. So I kept hoping she'd drop it and every time she'd ask me about it, I'd just change the subject or pretend I didn't hear her or something.

    Until finally I gave in and actually mailed the check to Drew McLellan (about 2 weeks late, if I recall.)

    Smartest move I ever made.

    Thank you CK. For not letting me weasel out of it. This was one of the best weekends of my life. I met so many very cool, very smart, very unique people. (All of whom I will forever think of as "@johndoe" but that's another story.) Learned a whole lot. And realized just how much I love writing this blog and the contacts and conversations it brings.

    I'll let others-- the ones who actually had the foresight to bring cameras and recording devices and whatnot to the event-- describe the actual festivities (which were far more organized and professional than I'd ever imagined.)

    Though I will pass along one observation: I had at least a dozen different conversations there, the gist of which was "I feel like I'm out in the wilderness of Wyoming back in 1851, sending reports from the frontier out the folks back East." These are some pretty heady times we live in and it confirmed that this feeling isn't just in my head. (Or maybe we're all just delusional?)

    But mostly I wanted to use this post to thank CK. For finding me. For chatting me up to Ann Handley which lead to the gig on MP DailyFix. And mostly for talking me into the very wonderful thing called BS08.

    Thank you.

    Apr 3, 2008

    5 Reasons Why I Don’t Use An RSS Feed

    While I’ve signed up for and installed a number of RSS feeds, I’ve never actually used any of them.

    Not because they’re bad or evil or dumb or anything. It’s just that they don’t fit into the way I like to consume media. Here’s 5 reasons why:

    1. At some level, an RSS feed feels like you’ve ripped out articles from my favorite magazines and newspapers and stapled them all together. And that’s just disconcerting. I like to visit each site individually and experience the site as a whole, graphics and all. Sometimes I wind up re-reading something I’d skimmed over the first time. Or maybe I read all the comments on an article I’d read before there were comments.

    2. Different sites fit my mood at different times. It could be time of day, level of stress, degree of boredom. But like offline media, I get different types of satisfaction from different blogs and so I like to visit them when I choose.

    3. Some blogs are daily reads, others weekly. It’s nothing to do with the number of posts as much as with relevance. Blogs that have short news blips are easily read every day. Sites with longer thought pieces are often best read on weekends or evenings when I have time. And RSS feed gives them all the same sense of urgency.

    4. RSS reminds me of how much I’m missing. I don’t like to be constantly confronted with all the new posts I haven’t read yet—particularly on busy days. And with no RSS, I’m not. It reminds me of when I had a New Yorker subscription and every week there'd be an article I hadn't read and so I'd save the issue next to my bed until I had a stack about 3 feet high and constant guilt for not getting to them.

    5. My Twitter pals provide me with a constant stream of links throughout the day. Most of which I manage to at least skim. Right now, it’s a smaller stream than RSS, and if I’m not on Twitter for a few hours, the tweets are so far down the line I just don’t see them and there’s no sense of having missed anything. A far less stressful way to view things with the added benefit of having personal recommendations for the links from people I trust.

    Again, I’m not saying that RSS isn’t a useful thing- for most people I’m sure it is. Just explaining why I don’t use it.

    That South Park Episode

    The actual video

    The Boys Meet The Internet Stars

    Everyone's talking about it, but only The Toad Stool brings you the entire episode. From the they-won't-take-it-down-because-it's-legal official Viacom site.

    That's the sort of service and commitment our customers have come to expect from The Toad Stool and why they've helped push The Toad Stool past #200 on the AdAge Power 150 list.


    (And yes, if it wasn't obvious, I was being facetious.)

    Apr 2, 2008

    More Updates From The Real Digital Revolution

    One of the main tenets of the "The Real Digital Revolution" is that nothing kills a good ad faster than a bad website review of the product. So that all the charming, brand-enhancing advertising in the world won't do you a lick of good if I go online and find that no one (peers or experts) really likes the product.

    And since this theory holds doubly true for high-ticket items, I thought that this snippet of a review of the charming VW spot above from The Truth About Cars, was particularly telling:
    VW seems to have an extremely low opinion of its buyers. Then again, given VW’s poor reliability, high cost of maintenance and repair, and high price points, maybe VW knows exactly what it's doing.

    But that's sort of my point: if all the buzz online about VW the car is negative, no amount of positive buzz about VW, the commercial is going to help them sell cars.

    Thanks to Danny G. at the always excellent Adpulp for this story.

    Apr 1, 2008

    Learning From TV

    So the big scramble now is to try and find ways to measure the effectiveness of social media plays. But given the poor job the ad industry has done with measuring the effectiveness of TV commercials, serious caution is advised.

    TV and Social Media have a lot in common as advertising vehicles: both are primarily branding devices that result in a positive feeling about a product, service or company. In other words, no action is required beyond “love my brand.” The inability to know exactly how (and when) this love actually influences consumers has lead to the creation of an entire industry devoted to testing TV commercials. Though the techniques they use are questionable at best and generally lead to uninspired creative, few spots for major brands make it on the air without running the testing gauntlet. And ad agencies themselves are to blame: testing commercials creates revenue. The more spots you test, the more money the agency makes. All in the name of “learning.”

    Now those of you in the digital arena may be unaware of the amount of snake oil involved in testing TV spots, so let me give you a quick spin through one of the most popular methods: you and a group of your friends are invited to view what is billed as the preview of a new TV pilot. You are seated in a large movie theater-sized auditorium where you watch the show, which includes commercials. Afterwards, you are given a questionnaire that asks you about the commercials you saw. Not the show. The commercials.

    Now having observed a number of these, I can assure you that most people spend the commercial breaks chatting with their friends or retrieving a new piece of gum from their pocketbooks. They are decidedly not paying attention to the commercials.

    So what commercials do they remember? Ones that repeat the name of the product several dozen times. Loudly. To wit: my very first job in advertising was at a big traditional shop. And it was a rule that any commercial subject to testing needed to have the name of the product repeated a certain number of times throughout the spot as well as during the crucial first 5 seconds (after which time the consumer would presumably tune out.) Those were the spots that tested well.

    Now this seems pretty common-sensical: I mean if you’re not paying attention to what you’re watching because you’re in a movie theater-like auditorium talking to your friends and there’s a spot that screams “Yummy, Yummy Dannon Yogurt!” about two dozen times, you’re more likely to remember that spot than the charming and clever one you’d likely watch back in your living room, but which saved the mention of the product name for the end super title.

    The takeaway from this (and the people who run these testing services lovelovelove that word “takeaway”) is that as we move forward with developing social media metrics, we need to take care not to replicate the mistakes of TV metrics. We need to ensure that the methods we use do not reward the merely annoying and interruptive, but instead measure and reward the engaging and beloved. This is especially important in the social media space where consumers have to want to actually engage with you and where the relationship will be a lengthy and ongoing one.

    Because in social media, Your Brand Is Not My Friend.