Aug 29, 2008

McCain's Brilliant Maneuver

While NYC liberals scratch their heads over McCain's choice of Sarah Palin-- or rub their hands with glee, since she is someone they would never vote for, I am blown away by the absolute brilliance of his choice. (From a strategic POV, anyway.)

The GOP had two possible plans of attack: (1) play up Obama's lack of experience or (2) play up his alleged elitism. Clearly, with the choice of Palin, they have chosen to go with the latter.

You could not find a better candidate for this strategy than Sarah Palin. She is Wal-Mart America come to life. 44 years old (younger than both Obamas), she already has five children. The youngest has Down's Syndrome. The oldest is in the military-- not college. And since her oldest is 19, that means she had him when she was 25. (Michelle was 36, by contrast, when her first child was born, putting her very out of step with the blue collar demo.)

Palin is from Alaska, that most blue collar of states. She was a small city mayor and former beauty pageant contestant. A graduate of the University of Idaho-- not Princeton, Columbia & Harvard Law School.

I mean her kids even have the sort of names -- Trig, Willow, Track-- that are regularly pilloried on upscale East Coast mommy boards like Urban Baby and YouBe Mom as (I kid you not) "WalMart names."

Blue collar women in swing states will look at her and likely see themselves. The GOP can use her to paint the Obamas as the sort of Whole Foods-shopping, arugula-eating, Ivy League education-spouting liberals who are completely out of touch with mainstream America, who have no idea how to relate to the common folk: the 2008 version of Adlai Stevenson.

Now mind you, I'm not saying that any of this is true, or claiming that the Obamas are the least bit elitist: I'm just laying out the probable tactic and noting how well the choice of Palin fits into it. How it all plays out is still anyone's guess.

Conventions '08 Marketer's Chat Up

Christina Kerley ("CK") has put together a panel discussion of sorts over on MP Daily Fix where six of us give our (wildly divergent) opinions of Obama's speech last night from a marketing perspective. Panelists include Cam Beck, Stephen Denny, Ann Handley, Drew McClellan, CK and myself.

McCain will get the same treatment next week.

Read it here.

Aug 28, 2008

My SXSW Dream Team

And no, I'm not just talking about the all-star line-up I've got going for the Your Brand Is Not My Friend panel.

Here, with just 36 hours to go before the voting ends, are some other panels I'd like to see happen (in alphabetical order):

Baseball Stats: The Key To Measuring Online Engagement with Ian Schafer
Big Spaceship: Digital Creative Agency with Michael Lebowitz
EA Dead Space - A Transmedia Marketing Case Study with Ian Schafer
Embracing Your Customer Evangelists Online with Mack Collier
Going Viral: Beating the House by Upping the Odds with David Berkowitz
Manners for the Modern Brand with Dion Hughes & Valeria Moltoni
Micro-Interactions in a 2.0 World with David Armano

If you're going to vote for any (or all) of these, you'll need to register first, which you can do here.

Voting ends tomorrow, Friday August 29th, 2008

Aug 27, 2008

Adweek Again

Adweek is running my column on The Real Digital Revolution on their site today.

Here's the intro and the link:

The real digital revolution has nothing to do with advertising or marketing. In fact, it's the mortal enemy of both.

Because the real digital revolution is about consumer empowerment, the ability to research and learn about products and services and make decisions independently from, and in spite of, any sort of advertising messages.

Read the rest...

Aug 26, 2008

Blanche DuBois and the Great Conundrum of Social Media

"I have always relied on the kindness of strangers" is one of the most famous lines in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire.

Spoken by his heroine Blance DuBois, it's exactly what we too often ask brands to do in the social media arena. Take the whole AMC/Mad Men/Twitter exercise. Now that AMC is letting the faux Sterling Cooperites run with their characters, they are taking a leap of faith that the people playing those characters will act in a way that portrays the brand in a positive light and won't offend anyone.

It's a smart decsion on their part, because the last thing these avid fans would want to do is to hurt the show. They've also proven themselves to be fairly tame and true to character over the past several days.

But Mad Men is a popular TV show and the people in question are just play-acting. The situation gets stickier when you're talking about companies and people posing as company spokespeople (as in the Exxon case a few weeks back.) There, your best bet is to shut them down, even if they don't mean any harm, because there's nothing to be gained and much to be lost via an inadvertent slip of the tongue.

I don't know that there's any hard and fast rule on how to handle these situations. With Mad Men, I've seen people suggest that AMC should have created the characters themselves.


But that still wouldn't prevent an @ message aimed at one of the characters with content some group might take offense at. (Which, in my opinion, is a risk worth taking.)

Social media is a messy place where brands don't get to control what's being said of them. All they can really do is trust that the people who say they are fans really are and, like Blanche DuBois, rely on the kindness of strangers.

Aug 25, 2008

Mad Men All A-Twitter

So the entire cast of Mad Men is on Twitter this week.

And I mean the entire cast. Not just Don Draper and Peggy Olsen. But Joan Holloway. Pete Campbell. Sal Romano. Paul Kinsey. Roger Sterling. Betty Draper. Bertram Cooper. Bobbie Barrett. And someone named Bud Melman. Who isn't the recently deceased character from David Letterman but (I think) the Jewish guy from the mailroom that they trotted out in the first or second episode to show Rachel Menken, the department store heiress, that they did have actual Jews working at Sterling & Cooper. Bud tweets more than the other characters, serving as a one-man Greek chorus of sorts, and even has his own LinkedIn account.

Now there are two things that are noteworthy about this:

(a) the characters Twitter fairly frequently and in character, with references that play across the board (e.g. everyone will give their own take a on a big meeting that's going down.) They're also interacting with fans via "@" messages quite frequently, something many non-fictional adland characters could do more of.

(b) according to my sources, AMC has nothing to do with this. Or at least they didn't originally: they may have subsequently offered to aid and abet the perpetrators. (On the other hand, the internet has a strong tradition of "fan fiction" - user created stories featuring characters from popular movies and novels. This may just be the Twitter version thereof.)

Whatever the storyline behind the storyline may be, it's very entertaining and very well done. And since (as we know) entertainment properties are Prom King Brands, especially critically acclaimed ones like Mad Men, there's a whole lot of interest out there for this kind of thing. It's a great illustration of how social media can help bring a show-- or a brand-- to life and create a deeper, more meaningful relationship with fans.

UPDATE: (via comment from Phil Gilman) It seems Twitter has started to ban the various characters -- @don_draper and @peggyolsen for starters, as violations of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) possibly based on complaints from AMC.

Venture Beat blog has the complete story.

UPDATE 2: It seems Peggy Olsen is back (sort of) as @peggy_olsen who notes that "I worked hard. I did my job. But the boys at Twitter are just as churlish as the boys at Sterling Cooper. Such a pity that they're so petty." (also via Venture Beat)

Here's a screen shot of the suspended @don_draper account:
UPDATE 3: A Monteral-based blogger named Mario Parisé has come clean as @paul_kinsey in a post this morning. (Tuesday, August 26th) He says he is just a fan and not affiliated with the AMC network or any of the other Mad Men twitterers. If they were all just random people glomming on to the fun, that would be even more powerful in terms of demonstating the effectiveness of social media. (One could even say it was "viral." If one were predisposed to that sort of language.)

UPDATE 4: And as of this evening (still Tuesday, August 26th) both @don_draper and @peggyolsen are back up online. Seems that AMC's agency, Deep Focus, helped to convince them that letting these very popular characters run with it was their best move at this point.

Aug 20, 2008

NASCAR Blindness

Just four years ago, the playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman and all that) wondered “How can the polls be neck and neck when I don’t know one Bush supporter?” And so it’s been fairly amusing (to me, anyway) to listen to many of my adland friends react in horror and utter amazement to the news that John McCain is actually ahead in the polls. Or at least not all that far behind. (It depends on whose polls you listen to.) Because after all, no one they know actually supports McCain, and so who are all these people who are allegedly voting for him.

This reaction is a common symptom of something that greatly afflicts people in the advertising community: NASCAR Blindness. Which is the strongly held belief that if no one in your little bubble of upscale artsy BoBo friends is into something, then clearly no one else is.

It’s what lead advertisers to completely ignore NASCAR for so many years, dismissing it as some bizarre redneck affectation akin to eating squirrel meat and thereby missing the opportunity to bond with the millions of middle class fans who enjoy auto racing.

We see it now in the complete dismissal of MySpace as yesterday’s news. Which is yet more blindness to the actual size and passion of the audience that uses MySpace. Listen to digital (and other) creatives, and you’d think that the only reason people are still on MySpace is that they just haven’t bothered to migrate over to Facebook yet. Sort of the same way they haven’t all bothered to finish college and buy Subaru Foresters and Volvo XC70s yet, either.

But as cultural anthropologist Danah Boyd has pointed out, the split between MySpace and Facebook is a class-based one, and those on the lower end of the class divide tend to favor MySpace. Which doesn’t make it worthless or on its way out. It just makes it different. And those MySpace users (whose numbers more or less equal that of Facebook users) are every bit as into and passionate about MySpace as NASCAR fans are about NASCAR. Caveat emptor.

Ditto TV. Ad people and their friends don’t watch a lot of TV, and when they do, they watch it via On Demand, iTunes, DVRs and even DVDs. So the natural assumption is that no one else is watching TV either, that TV is dead and that the popularity of shows like American Idol, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives and Dancing With The Stars is some sort of fluke fueled by elderly Midwestern couples whose children don’t live close enough to actually show them how to use their Macbooks to get online. And yet, as Bob Hoffman pointed out the other day, TV viewership is actually up 7%.

NASCAR Blindness also causes us to ascribe our tastes and preferences to the rest of America. So we’re shocked when focus group participants in Des Moines don’t know that pinot grigio is a type of wine, let alone an Italian white one. Or when they need to see the word “next” adjacent to the right-facing arrow on a web page to figure out what it is they’re actually supposed to do with it.

Now the remedy for NASCAR Blindness is a relatively painless and simple one: listening. Which is one of the most underutilized tools in the marketer’s arsenal, but also one of the most valuable. And while it’s not our job to blandly recreate all that’s popular in American culture, we do need to bear in mind that when making a sale, it’s best to talk to your customer on his or her own terms.

Even if those terms include NASCAR.

Aug 18, 2008

Campaign 2008: Vote For "Your Brand Is Not My Friend" at SXSW

So SXSW (South by Southwest, for the uninitiated), arguably the world's premier internet marketing festival, is considering presenting a panel discussion based on my landmark "Your Brand Is Not My Friend" series.

It promises to be a really excellent discussion on a topic that really needs discussing. I've managed to wrangle up a pretty diverse crew, so you'll get to hear from a variety of viewpoints on top of which, none of the panelists are exactly shrinking violets.

The panel will be hosted by Brian Morrissey, the well-respected digital editor of Adweek. Brian stands out among his peers for his keen grasp of what's going on in the industry at large and in the digital space in particular. He also writes a blog called Internal PigDog, that's rapidly becoming a must-read for serious runners, so he's a participant as much as an observer.

Now for the panelists. (In alphabetical order by last name:)

Cam Beck, Experience Planner at Dallas-based Click Here. Cam, a former US Marine, brings his unique no-nonsense, customer-centric viewpoint to his work and to his popular blog ChaosScenario. He is also responsible for bringing this panel to life. (Since I'm way too disorganized to have ever gotten myself organized in time to propose it.)

Noah Brier, Head of Planning and Strategy at The Barbarian Group. Noah is one of the industry's best thinkers, as evidenced by his eponymous blog, His intellectual approach is tempered by a real-world, practical take on how technology affects us, a talent that served him well during his years at Naked.

Christina Kerley, (CK), Marketing Specialist at ckEpiphany, brings a fresh and unique voice to everything she does. A marketing specialist with an MBA and over 15 years experience, CK is a strong believer in authenticity and in companies doing the right thing as a means of achieving success. You can read her opinions on the very popular CK's Blog.

Michael Lebowitz, Founder & CEO of Big Spaceship is one of the ad industry's leading lights. Big Spaceship is widely recognized as a creative leader in the digital space and Michael has been particularly vocal about the need to recognize the changing paradigm in the industry as digital advertising moves beyond banners and the way that effects both creative output and creative credit.

Ian Schafer, Founder & CEO of Deep Focus, is another industry luminary. His outspoken speaking style (also on display in his blog has made him a favorite at conferences. His strong advocacy of social media and the need for clients to recognize the importance of longer, deeper engagements has made Deep Focus-- already a creative powerhouse-- one of the industry leaders in the social media space as well.

Oh, and of course that Alan Wolk guy will be on the panel too.

Since 30% of the decision as to which panels are chosen comes from SXSW's audience participation vote, I'm asking my readers to help out and send us to Austin. Here's how to vote:

1. First you need to register to vote here.
2. Once that's done, you can vote for the panel here.

It's quick and easy and you won't be getting spammed because of it.

Thanks for your support and I can promise you that if elected, I will continue to work for the good of all people worldwide. That, and put on a helluva show down in Austin.

Spread the word. Tell your friends.

TV's Last Gasp?

Like most people in my psycho/socioeconomic group, I’ve managed to configure my life so as to avoid TV commercials. I watch most TV either via DVR, OnDemand or iTunes. And, other than the Super Bowl, the live sporting events I watch tend to be full of either local car dealer ads or repeat messages from the same 3 advertisers. Besides which, the commercials, which come during halftime or time-outs, are inevitably good reasons to check my email, go to the kitchen or something else.

So it’s been curious, these past few weeks, to find myself, along with millions of others, watching the Olympics and the full slate of commercials that go along with them. There’s not much avoiding them and so it’s a good thing that many of them are actually quite entertaining. And if I were an advertiser, I’d note that this is a great way to finally get people like me to pay attention to their million dollar productions.

Now that people I know are actually all watching commercials again, it’s been interesting to see which ones they like. It’s the whole “Not Everyone Is An Upscale Urban Thirtysomething White Male Hipster” theory in action. I’ve been loving the Nike "Courage" spot that uses the song I’ve Got Soul, But I’m Not A Soldier both for the music and the message. But when I mentioned this to my 9 year old son and three of his similarly sports-obsessed 9 and 10 year old friends, I was met with quizzical looks. “The song is okay, but I don’t get what it means,” my son finally said, to a chorus of approving nods. Note to Nike: your message is completely missing the next generation of heavy users.

So what do they like? Well, this spot, from T-Mobile, about a brother and sister having a water fight while washing the family car, gets replayed over and over in our house and I’ve heard it mentioned favorably by adult friends as well. And yet clearly, this isn’t the sort of spot that cleans up in award shows. (Or sells many T-Mobile phones, I’d argue, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Overall, however, the Olympic commercials have been well-done and entertaining overall, from advertisers whose products and services people use and interact with in their daily lives.

My gut though tells me that what we’re looking at the future, not a return to the glory of the past. And that future is one where live TV is limited to news and sporting events and where once-every-four-years events like the Olympics are the sole survivors of a once robust TV-centric culture where everyone is watching the same thing at the same time.

Aug 13, 2008

6C Is A Perfectly Good Name For A Conference Room.

Over the past few years, my travels have taken me to a number of large ad agencies who’ve decided that the naming conventions for conference rooms needed to be made more “creative.”

So instead of Conference Room 6-C, you wind up with rooms called “Columbus Circle” or “Darrin Stevens” or “Tony The Tiger.” Which is fine in a smaller shop with just two or three conference rooms.

But in a big agency with 20 some odd conference rooms, it's just one big hassle. No matter how many floor charts the agency hands out.

No one can ever remember if “Darrin Stevens” is on 26 or 29. Ten minutes are wasted at the beginning of each meeting just trying to find the room. Receptionists spend much of their day directing traffic and are often clueless if the room in question isn’t on their particular floor.

What’s significant about this is that it’s the perfect example of a common mistake ad agencies make, both in the digital space and beyond: they try and make things clever and creative that don’t need to be clever and creative.

You see, sometimes things just need to be clear.

This is a recurring battle I’ve fought my entire career against other creatives who've insisted on making every bit of information as obtuse and poke-you-in-the-ribs clever as possible. So that even if a print ad already had a really clever headline and visual combo along with a witty line or two of body copy, they’d insist that the phone number be upside down, in Roman numerals, or both because of the misguided notion that “everything can be an avenue for creativity.”

The possibilities for abuse on the web are ripe too: witness the flash intros that agencies want to introduce for just about every single page of a website—even the “Contact Us” page. (“Yeah, so then this phone comes spinning on, kind of like an iPhone or something and then you see the buttons get pushed and like an email address pops up that says I' and it’s like you’re sending email and then that spins…” )

We've all been in that meeting.

Letting well enough alone is a lesson ad agencies will have to learn if they’re to succeed in the days after The Real Digital Revolution. They’ll have to let go of the fear that their only value to a client is to provide something intangible called “creativity” and come to understand that their value is in providing creative strategy.

Creative strategy is all about clarity and ease of use and what the customer wants to hear. And is only about being clever when being clever is what’s called for.


Aug 12, 2008

False Personas and the Lessons of The Tonight Show

Beth Harte has an interesting post up about attending a conference where a company that created false internet personas was pitching its wares. The notion being that it’s a much smarter move in the social media space to create a false persona you can control than to risk having a live one who may quit or (worse) embarrass you.

She was rightly skeptical of the whole notion, and I couldn’t agree more.

Putting a fake persona out there tells people you don’t trust them. That you think they’re going to turn on you first chance they get. And that you think you can neatly package them into little boxes: “I know who you are. You’re a stressed-out working mom who feels that she’s not doing enough for her kids.”

Well maybe, but chances are I’m a lot more than that and consumers, as many before me have pointed out, do not like to be told “this is who you are.”

It’s condescending and it's offensive.

There’s also this idea that people can’t deal with change. That if your blogger or Twitterer leaves the company that this somehow derails your entire social media effort.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Look at The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson reigned over late night TV for three full decades. I mean I’m not sure most people even knew it was called The Tonight Show, since everyone just referred to it as “Johnny Carson.” (And he had taken over the helm from Jack Paar) When Carson retired, everyone was sure that the Tonight Show was over, that America wouldn’t accept his replacement Jay Leno. And while Leno wasn’t Carson, he quickly found his own voice and following and is now onto his sixteenth year as host.

The same logic holds in a corporate social media setting. No one is irreplaceable. Your customers will accept that people leave and new people take their place. You’ve just got to:

  1. Prepare them for it. Let your customers know you’re making a change as early as possible so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.
  2. Transition. If possible, let the outgoing person introduce the new one. Maybe a few guest spots, the way Johnny did for Jay.
  3. Acknowledge. Once the original person is gone, don’t pretend they never existed. They did. Don’t snap at customers for bringing them up or even comparing the new person unfavorably. Change is never easy. But people will accept it.
  4. Keep Perspective. The Tonight Show played an important part in people’s lives. They considered Johnny Carson to be a friend. Your customers don’t feel that strongly about your corporate blog or Twitter effort. They may (or more accurately, they should) like the person they’re interacting with. But, as the saying goes, Your Brand Is Not My Friend™.

Aug 10, 2008

Phone Tag Gets It

I had tipped the Social Path's David Griner off about a very cool app called Phone Tag for his "Cool Tool Of The Week" feature.

Even cooler: the first comment on his post was someone from Phone Tag, thanking Griner for the (generally positive) post and offering a free 30-day trial to his readers.

Clearly, someone at Phone Tag gets the positive spin value of responses like that and of giving early adapters and evangelists the tools and ammunition they need to keep spreading the brand love.

Very smart.

Phone Tag, which I credit Jason Heller and Ian Schafer for turning me on to, is indeed a very cool little app: For less than 40 cents a call, Phone Tag will transcribe your voicemails and email them to you, along with a .wav file of the actual voicemail. It's incredibly useful when you're in long meetings and other places where taking a call or listening to your voicemail would be rude, but surreptitiously scrolling through your Blackberry or iPhone perfectly acceptable. I've found it to be pretty accurate in its ability to transcribe correctly and quite prompt in its delivery.

You all should check it out.

Aug 7, 2008

Context Is To Chicken As Content Is To Egg

Matt van Hoven, the new(ish) Agency Spy, wrote a very nice piece yesterday and quoted me extensively. Me, Nick Law from RGA and Chuck Porter from Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, that is. (Talk about your unlikely trios.)

Anyway, here's a tease with a link to read the rest over on MediaBistro.

The clip above seeks to answer the question of which is more important: Context or Content. It's the sort of question that tends to get lost in rhetoric, but whoever answers it will have the fundamentals of advertising in 2008 figured out. Unless of course, they want to survive through The Real Digital Revolution.

We took the insights with a grain of salt, but wanted to share them with you, as well as the thoughts of Alan Wolk, another guy you should be paying attention to — or at least reading.

In the video, CP+B Chairman Chuck Porter said storytelling is the method "smart marketers" are using to reach their audiences. Rather than saying, "let's make a TV commercial," they're looking for that "really interesting idea" that will engage the audience.

"It's really become much more about story telling," said Porter.


Aug 6, 2008

Kids Still Love TV. (Ice cream too)

There’s been a lot of talk about the recent revelation that the average network TV viewer is 50 years old. Mostly of the “see—TV is dead, only old people watch it anymore” variety.

But my experience is that it’s not dead—far from it—it’s just fragmented. Because those numbers you keep reading about are just for the Big 5 networks—not for all television networks. And the truth is, kids don’t watch network TV anymore. They watch Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

Think about it: when was the last time you saw a “family” type show on network television? You know, something like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family or even The Cosby Show? Most of network TV today is given over to bawdy reality shows and what I call “leer-coms” – adult situation comedies that (largely thanks to network censorship) are 22 minutes worth of leering, winking and innuendo.

Kids do not like leer-coms. They don’t get the humor and thus don’t find them the least bit entertaining. (Even well done versions of the genre, like Friends and Seinfeld, are beyond the taste level of your average 10 year-old.)

But flip on over to the marketing machines that are the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and you’ll find entire blocks of very popular programming aimed solely at the kid and tween demographics. From Hannah Montana to Drake and Josh, these are the shows today’s kids will look back on as the TV utopia of their youth. 25 years ago, these shows would have been on network TV. But thanks to fragmentation and the profusion of 1000+ channel cable boxes and households with multiple TV sets, kids and tweens now have their own channels and their own programming. Which is sad, in a way, because it's just one more thing that's no longer part of a shared national culture.

But not only are kids watching these shows to the exclusion of network TV, they're buying their CDs and going to their movies.

Because as much as these kids are the true “digital natives,” they still like to kick back and let someone else do all the work in terms of entertaining them. And because, just like when we were their age, showing up at school with the ability to discuss popular sitcoms still has valuable social currency.

Now how they watch these shows has changed- everything is DVR’d and time-shifted and a show like Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody might be on as many as 3 times a day.

But they’re still watching. And TV is far from dead.

"The Aesthetics of Viral" on MP Daily Fix

There’s been a whole lot written about why calling an online video “viral” doesn’t make it such—Scott Monty did an excellent take on it a few weeks back.

But what I wanted to point out here is that those videos that do go “viral” often aren’t what the ad industry’s narrow aesthetic would define as “good.”....

Read the rest here

Aug 4, 2008

One Size Does Not Fit All

The more I look at how The Real Digital Revolution has affected our relationship with advertising, the more I’ve come to realize how important it is to realize that the social media tools we recommend are very much dependent on the type of product we’re marketing. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “social media” is a checklist of Facebook apps, blogs, widgets and “viral” videos. But it's not that simple. The interactions we want to have with familiar packaged goods products are very different than the interactions we want to have with products that are new to us. Both call for very different social media solutions.

To wit: If I am looking to buy anything from a camera to a car to a new pair of running shoes, I’m going to want information about that product, information on which I can base my purchase decision. Now that information can be anything from price to color to image to functionality to customer reviews. But it all falls under he category of things I didn’t previously know and want to be educated about.

With a familiar packaged goods item like Cheerios, there is no education. I know what Cheerios look like and taste like-- they’re the same Cheerios I’ve been eating for the past 40 some odd years. So unless you’ve got some new information for me, what you want to do is remind me that Cheerios exist and get some emotional connection going.

At some level, that frees up familiar packaged goods (FPGs) to be more creative in their social media executions. They’re creating an image (or reinforcing one.) Non-FPGs, on the other hand, need to head in the other direction and make sure that at least some of what they’re doing in social media works to complement what people are learning via Google by providing answers, links, explanations and follow-up.

So, for example, a brand like Hershey’s chocolate may decide to own Americana and base their campaign around a small-town, old time American theme (not advocating this, mind you, it’s just an easy example.) Now that can mean anything from sponsoring “I remember” message boards/Facebook apps where Boomers and Lost Gens can reminisce about their mid-century childhoods, to hosting a video series of the same on YouTube or Vimeo.

Which are all things a brand that’s not a familiar packaged good can do, but they also have to go the extra yard and make sure that they’re being the category expert, providing vehicles that their customers can use to learn more about the product- either from experts or from each other. So while a camera company can certainly host an amateur nature photography site, they’ll also want to keep someone on Twitter to handle any questions or issues that arise, maybe even have a question and answer page on their site to help educate and raise their "expert" status.

Subtle differences, no doubt, but as social media continues to expand, it pays to bear in mind that there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution and that the differences between the various social media tools are as distinct as those between say a TV and outdoor.

Aug 3, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

So in other ad blogger weekend news, Ben Kay, who wrote the most excellent LunarBBDO blog (aka "If This Is A Blog, Then What's Christmas") out of London, confirmed today that he has indeed decided to stop writing the blog.

For now, Kay wants to concentrate on a novel he's been working on, though he told me he may indeed revive LunarBBDO, which was a great take on the UK ad business, well-written and funny ("cheeky" I believe, is how the Brits would put it.)

The UK ad scene is interesting to watch because it's still very old media-centric and also because ads-- and the people who make them-- are more well know over there. Ben and Scamp can still do posts on "famous creatives." Which isn't something we can do over on these shores.

I wish Ben much luck with his novel-- I will keep you posted as to publication date when he sells it-- and he will be missed.

Plaid Nation Tour

Plaid Nation Tour - July 21, 2008 from Plaid Nation on Vimeo.

Plaid, the Connecticut based agency run by Darryl Brandflakes-For-Breakfast Ohrt, has just completed their annual summer Plaid Nation Tour. For those of you unfamiliar with this, Darryl and a crew (including Bill Green of MakeTheLogoBigger fame) take a bus trip for a week or so, visiting all sorts of interesting people along the way and documenting it all on camera. You can see the results on Vimeo (first video is above) or on the actual tour website.

This year’s tour is particularly worth checking out, since the guys meet up with and talk to a slew of interesting people, including Robert Scoble, Biz Stone (the CEO of Twitter and possessor of the absolute best CEO name ever—the Flintstonianness of it is just awesome) and Tony Hsieh, the Twitter-loving CEO of

The videos are really nicely done—I told Darryl he should try and shop them to one of the cable TV networks—and the longer interviews from the site are well worth watching too. I mean if nothing else, it lets you get to hear and see people you may only know from their online writing.

Aug 1, 2008

Worthy New Reads

David Griner, who writes for AdFreak, has started a social media blog called The Social Path. It's a very nicely done site that presents the seemingly complex world of social media in very user-friendly language, which, coupled with Griner's engaging writing style, makes it a fun read. Be sure to check out his "Cool Tool Of The Week" so you can stay ahead of the other kids.

The woman-formerly-known-as-SuperSpy over on AgencySpy has started a new blog called The Brief. It's not a gossip blog, but a clear-eyed look at the industry- both agencies and clients- with longer-form posts that provide both analysis and insight. Those were the sort of pieces that got her a following over on the original Agency Spy site and it's great to see them revived elsewhere.