Madison Ave Insights

A Look at the European Advertising Landscape

Posted in Advertising, Digital, Marketing

UntitledEven if (or maybe because) your last exposure to European advertising was a heavy metal cough drop commercial from Finland, you may be wondering how things are going over there across the pond. In general, I think the answer is, “Things could be better, but they were a lot worse.”

Ad spending is a kind of economic indicator. When a business, or a sector, or an entire economy heads south, ad spending is one of the first things to get cut. The European Union (EU) has been slower out of the Great Recession than the United States and ad spending didn’t return to growth until 2013, and even then it only grew by only 2.3% in 2014, according to a report by eMarketer.

Other trends follow a similar path. 4G mobile broadband availability doubled in Western Europe in 2014. And while smartphone usage in Europe lags behind the United States by a few percentage points, it’s expected to surpass ours by 2017. So it’s no surprise that digital budgets accounted for almost a third of European ad spending last year.

But while Europe, like the United States, is seeing a huge growth in digital advertising, Europeans tend to be much more protective of their privacy than Americans. As in the United States, ad agencies and advertisers have been largely – and successfully – self-regulating. But the search engines, ISPs and mobile carriers that collect and sell much of the data that allow for targeted digital advertising are not.

These and other issues were hot topics of conversation at this year’s Advertising Week Europe, which is being held from March 23 – 27.  I moderated a panel of industry leaders entitled, “Crossing the Atlantic” that discussed the impact of globalization and how, more than ever, agencies are expanding across the Atlantic.

The Way I See It

  • It’s easy to think of Madison Avenue as the heart of the global advertising world, but is it? What about Europe, Japan, China, and Latin America and the other rising ad creatives.
  • Europe and the United States face similar changes: a more diverse, tech-savvy millennial generation, an increasingly fractured media landscape through which to reach them and the rise of the importance of information.

The Way the Industry Sees It

Kathleen Headshot

 

I sat down with Kathleen Saxton, Founder of The Lighthouse Company, a bespoke headhunting firm based in London and New York, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly global ad industry.

Q
For the past six years you’ve been surveying C-suite executives in the media and communications industry. What trends are you seeing in the needs of agencies for senior talent, and how do those needs differ between the United States and U.K.?
A
There is a universal truth in what is needed across both markets as we emerge from recessionary times. Over the last 5 years we have seen a pattern in agencies who were looking to secure their business for the tough times and relying on the safe hands of the leadership styles of Chief Operating Officers, whereas, we’re now seeing a greater need and desire for a more dynamic and charismatic leadership style on both sides of the Atlantic.  Given the scale of advertising and media accounts in the United States, it’s quite apparent that having the right client leads in place can often have more influence on an agency’s success than the domestic country management. Conversely in the U.K., while client directors are still incredibly important, agency leadership from senior executives tends to drive success. In many ways, this makes the U.K. market easier to navigate as a headhunter and indeed for candidates making choices about where they want to work.

Q
What’s driving those trends? Is there a particular problem agencies are trying to solve? “I need the right person who can do X?
A
The biggest challenge that agencies are facing (according to our New World Talent Survey undertaken in January 2015) is that they are not as attractive places to work as they once were. The long hours, constant pitching, client turnover and squeezing of fees, particularly in the network agencies, are all impacting how talented individuals choose to spend their professional time.  There is equally an overriding macro issue of how agencies work to retain and attract brilliant talent. As you can imagine, this is particularly challenging when many media owners and technology companies are dangling numerous carrots in front of the best candidates; whether that’s financial incentives, creative freedom or simply fresh and exciting challenges.
Q
What about the needs of individual creative leaders looking for more interesting or rewarding positions? How have their needs evolved, and do those needs differ depending on which side of the pond they’re on?
A
I fundamentally don’t believe that the needs of creative leaders differ on each side of the pond. They all tend to want to be professionally liberated and independent in an organization that desires and rewards their entrepreneurship. We’ve seen some of the best Executive Creative Directors coming out of the bigger networks, like Droga for example, to set up a shop that reflects their own working philosophies.  As agency outputs have become more commoditized, and the Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer influence has grown in strength, I believe that the creative leaders who will succeed will be the ones who can embrace both the passion for their craft and the pressures of efficient and digital delivery for their clients.
Q
In what other ways have you seen globalization change the ways agencies operate?
A
In a truly positive move for our industry, collaboration across disciplines and indeed agencies is more prevalent than ever. Take for example the Havas Villages; these create an almost ‘full-service plus’ environment to meet the broadest possible needs of their clients.  It’s become even more important to not be too introspective. Today, some of the best work at Cannes comes from outside the major territories that are deemed to be at the forefront of creativity. Agencies need to be, and in many cases are, celebrating the great work that comes from every corner of their network, sharing and learning in the globally connected world. At the end of the day, if teams of surgeons can virtually operate on someone in another country, then surely our industry can definitely collaborate creatively across geographic territories too.
Q
What’s the most interesting thing in your office?
A
The most interesting thing in our office is also the most striking! In fact, that thing is actually over 300 candidate photographs that adorn our office walls within beautiful golden gilt frames. Having the faces of those people that we represent, and have successfully placed, is a fantastic reminder of why everyone in The Lighthouse Company brings their heart and soul to work every day.

Regulators Continue Their Focus On Disclosures

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Regulatory

FTC2014 marked a year of significant change in the marketing communications industry.  To help understand these changes, Davis & Gilbert produced our 2014 Lessons Learned/2015 Practical Advice, where our lawyers highlight major developments in the marketing communications industry, and offer tips and best practices for marketers and their agencies in 2015.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you a few pieces I authored on the topics of: FTC – Regulatory and State, Emerging Hardware – Robots, Drones and Connected Devices, and the NAD. To view the full 2014 Lessons Learned/2015 Practical Advice document, click here.

 FTC – Regulatory and State:

The regulatory landscape in 2014 was marked by a continued focus on the importance of clear, conspicuous and transparent disclosures, whether relating to sweepstakes and promotions, endorsements and testimonials, advertising claims or privacy practices, with a particular emphasis on making appropriate disclosures in social media and across mobile applications and platforms.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been closely monitoring the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.  Home Security Company ADT settled FTC claims that the company misrepresented paid endorsements from safety and technology experts as independent reviews.

As part of the settlement, ADT agreed to clearly and prominently disclose any paid endorser’s “material connections” to the brand in its future advertising.  As part of “Operation Steer Clear” – a nationwide crackdown on deceptive automobile advertising – the FTC entered into settlement agreements with ten automobile dealerships.  According to the FTC’s complaints, the dealerships made a variety of misrepresentations in their advertisements with respect to material terms such as automobile purchase prices, monthly financing requirements, up-front lease payments and credit-related terms.  The settlement agreements reiterated the requirement that all automobile advertisements must include the federally mandated lease and financing advertising disclosures.

The FTC has also been keeping a close eye on digital and mobile media companies’ disclosure and privacy practices.  For instance, the FTC recently settled a case with a mobile application development company over allegations that the company misled consumers by providing a privacy policy that did not accurately reflect its app’s use of personal data and geolocation data.  Similarly, the Attorney General of Maryland entered into a settlement agreement with Snapchat, Inc., over allegations that Snapchat misled consumers by representing that messages sent through its app were temporary when Snapchat users actually could save and take screenshots of the messages they received, which had not been disclosed to consumers.

 The Way I See It:

  • As online and digital technologies continue to expand and diversify, agencies, brands and publishers will need to be cognizant of the FTC’s guidance regarding disclosures and the agency’s recent enforcement history.
  • Marketers and their agencies should ensure that social media influencers and contest entrants disclose material connections when endorsing company products.  Moreover, companies should make certain that clear and prominent disclosures accompany all paid endorsements.
  • Companies also should ensure that their data security promises are backed up by strong data security practices – especially across mobile platforms – and that applications have privacy policies in place that clearly describe how they collect, use and share consumer data.

NAD Recommends Changes to Online Travel Agency’s Search Engine Marketing Claims

Posted in Advertising, Marketing

UntitledThe Council of Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that, as a result of a complaint filed by Expedia, two online travel sites change several aspects of their search engine marketing (SEM) to avoid misleading consumers.  While SEM is a common and long-standing practice, the NAD’s decision emphasizes that there are still emerging issues that companies engaged in this type of marketing should observe.

Expedia’s Challenges

Expedia filed a challenge with the NAD alleging that the SEM practices of Fareportal Inc., the operator of travel sites CheapOair.com and OneTravel.com, were misleading.

First, Expedia challenged Fareportal’s practice of advertising what appeared to be low fares from a specific origin to a destination identified in a consumer search query, but that actually were less expensive flights from a different origin. For example, if a consumer searched on Google or another search engine for “flights from Miami to Houston,” a resulting Fareportal ad might state “Houston $149 Airfares” even if that fare was for a flight from an originating city other than Miami. Expedia contended that this practice was misleading.

Second, Expedia challenged certain “discounts” and “savings” claims made in Fareportal’s SEM advertising, such as Fareportal’s claim that consumers could “Save up to $15 OFF fees.” Expedia argued that these offers were misleading because Fareportal failed to disclose that the discounts were actually a “reduction” on its otherwise high booking fees, and contended that it was inadequate for Fareportal to explain the terms of these offers on its websites’ landing pages. In support of its argument, Expedia cited The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Dot Com Disclosures, which provide that “if a particular platform does not provide an opportunity to make clear and conspicuous disclosures, then that platform should not be used to disseminate advertisements that require disclosures.”

Finally, Expedia challenged Fareportal’s “Best Price Guarantee,” arguing that Fareportal did not offer the “best price,” but only a refund if consumers could locate a lower price, and that Fareportal did not note the material limits and conditions in “immediate proximity” to its guarantee.

NAD’s Decision

The NAD determined that a consumer who searches for a flight between a specific origin and destination and then is served an ad with a price to the searched destination could reasonably conclude that the advertised price is for a flight from the searched origin to the searched destination. Accordingly, the NAD recommended that Fareportal discontinue displaying specific prices for flights to a destination in response to consumer searches when the specified price is not available for the origin and destination searched. With respect to Expedia’s challenge to Fareportal’s ads for fee “discounts” and “savings,” the NAD recommended that Fareportal “more clearly and conspicuously disclose that the discount is limited to the cost of the booking fee.”

Finally, the NAD noted that Fareportal’s “Best Price Guarantee,” which provides a guarantee to consumers who find a lower fare within 24 hours after booking with Fareportal, gave Fareportal, not the consumer, the option of refunding the price difference or refunding the entire ticket price. The NAD explained that airfare prices can change quickly in the online travel market, and that an offer to refund a consumer’s ticket price may not provide the consumer with the benefit of the guarantee, which is the ability to purchase a lower priced ticket. Therefore, the NAD recommended that Fareportal discontinue its “Best Price Guarantee” claim or modify its terms so that consumers, at their option, can receive either a full refund or require Fareportal to match the lower price.

The Way I See It:

  • The NAD’s decision is a reminder to advertisers and agencies that SEM advertising campaigns, as with other advertising, should avoid the potential for consumer confusion, or risk being challenged by competitors or others.
  • Given the FTC’s continued focus on clear and conspicuous online disclosures, when a reasonable interpretation of a specific SEM advertising claim can be found to be misleading, the advertiser may have crossed the line.

Fast Food that Will Not Derail Your Diet – b.good and Feel Good

Posted in Advertising, Direct Marketing, Marketing

To understand b.good, the healthy sandwich and salad shop that has taken the northeast by storm, we’re going to need to hop into the DeLorean, and go back to 1987 – when the founders met. b.good’s co-founders, Jon Olinto and Anthony Ackil, met in the sixth grade, and formed a fast friendship. After countless shared burgers – and years later – the duo teamed up to create something that they felt was missing from the marketplace.  They set out to create a line of restaurants where the food was made by real people, not factories.  In fact, burgers share the menu with kale and quinoa bowls and seasonal salads, and are all made with ingredients sourced from local farmers who use sustainable farming practices.

It’s a business model that’s been fueling some impressive growth. While b.good currently has 16 stores in their hometown in Boston and throughout the Northeast, their plan is to add 23 more restaurants within the next five years. Of course, world domination was as much a part of the dream as real food that made consumers feel good. As co-founder Anthony Ackil said in an interview, “We set out wanting this business to be huge. We never wanted to open five restaurants. We never wanted 50. We want hundreds.”

The Way I See It

  • I see that b.good is successfully riding trends in the restaurant business.  They are capitalizing on the farm-to-table movement that resonates with consumers who want a closer connection to their food and the people who grow it and prepare it.
  • I see the brand also capitalizing on the “affordable luxury” trend, and offering consumers the option of a “better burger” that is also wallet friendly.  Consumers can still enjoy the American staple of a burger and fries for a reasonable price that’s also made from higher quality ingredients.
  • b.good has done a terrific job of tapping into their own origin story – boyhood friends who start a restaurant based on an uncle’s burger recipe – to create a business where staff, customers, and community are all part of an extended family.

The Way the Industry Sees It

 

I sat down with Jon Olinto, co-founder of b.good, to discuss conquering the world with healthy, sustainably prepared fast food.

 

Q
How has b.good changed since inception?
A
There has been a major shift with people’s relationship with fast-casual and people’s relationship with food in general has really evolved. The only way we could envision that 11 years ago when we started was we wanted to change the industry to make fast food real. We thought we had to change burgers, fries, salads and do it along those menu lines. Transform the food based on those products, and transform the experience and the way it was delivered. Now, what we are seeing lately is that the idea of serving a better burger – or creating a better burger and fries – is really oversaturated and doesn’t really play into our mission of making fast food real.  Over the last 18 months we’ve done some significant menu changes that stay true to the brand, but position ourselves a little differently to our customers. We have never seen such growth over this year, and we are going to be up 30 percent, which is unheard of especially for a company that has been around for 10 plus years.
Q
That’s great! What do you think led to the increased growth?
A
We attribute this to two things, timing was right and we were able to dial-in to what our customers wanted. We started menu changes about 18 months ago, and we were certainly a first mover at least in our markets.  We started pressing our own juice, created a whole new category on our menu (such as kale and quinoa bowls), and we expanded our salad menu. We shifted from milkshakes to smoothies, as well as repositioned ourselves with an item that was fresh as well as healthy. The menu change and the products created have changed our business. Keeping the momentum alive is a big priority for us now, and how to keep pushing our own unique definition of real food so we seize the leadership opportunity. The fact that we have burgers provides us with a widespread appeal, but also allows us the opportunity to serve a more widespread base of customers. The concept of real food and continuing to flesh this out is of the most interest to us right now.
Q
Thinking about the current restaurants, the customer base that you have, and your recent success –  do you attribute that to a new customer base, or are these returning customers? What are your demographics like?
A
One of the first menu changes we made was introducing our green smoothie, which instantly became a crowd favorite of both new and existing customers. That showed us that our existing customers wanted additional healthy items and there was clearly a desired from consumers for health conscious products. We were able to additionally service those who already loved b.good, and expanded the scope of who we were serving every day.  Our demographics have always skewed women, even when we thought we were a burger-centric concept. We’ve always had a wellness mission from the start – we have always served our burgers on whole wheat buns, salads were a big part of our menu, we’ve always had homemade veggie burgers, and offer sides such as crisp veggies. It various by market, but across the board we serve more women than men. I think most brands in our category would say the same.  Our competitors are not in the better burger category – we don’t compete with the “Shake Shacks,” or with those concepts. We compete with companies such as Chop’t, and those who share our same customer demographics and wellness mission.
Q
Looking at your old menu, verse the new menu that you just created, what is the scope of customers like?
A
Five years ago our top selling product was beef burgers hands down. Fast forward to today and our top seller is the kale quinoa bowl. We just open up a store in Raleigh, North Carolina and in the first week of sales there was so much balance in the mix.  It shows that we are able to really position ourselves in the market place.  It shows that customers don’t just look at us like we are a burger company that also sells healthy items. They look at us as a much more broad definition of real food. We don’t define ourselves as just one type of food – the great thing about b.good is we cater to essentially every customer all while ensuring that we deliver real food.
Q
From a marketing perspective, what do you relay upon?
A
We’ve used a lot of tactics such as social media, PR, and advertising. For us, the best approach is combining community based activities with digital. If you can do a community event that captures data such as activation that’s the sweet spot for us. For example, we have a loyalty program where you can use an app or key chain to redeem gifts and rewards that help us track who our customers are and what they like. A lot of our community based events utilize food trucks. The objectives being you get people to try the product and get people to sign up for the app at the event allowing us to collect data. Once a consumer activates the app, there is a free product on there for you, so we can measure conversion based on activity.
Q
The world is undeniably becoming more digital-friendly and apps have seemed to become a consumer’s best friend. Tell me a little about the b.good app?
A
We typically push out new product offers through our app. Consumer’s experiences are built around “best in class” apps such as Uber. We built our app years ago, and we knew that everything was moving to mobile. You can also pay at the store via our app. We’ve had mobile payment options up and running for about six months.
Q
Where do you see the restaurant industry heading – if you could take a guess, what does the future look like?
A
In store experiences are changing so quickly, and I predict that soon there will be no cashiers standing there what you want to order. I see their role changing to more of a host or a hostess – making sure everything is great, and making your experience more personal. Those that change the dining experience first, are going to be the frontrunners. The dining experience will change to become more personable and more human.
Q
What is the coolest object in your office?
A
Anthony and I have been best friends since we were little, and when we were in the 9th grade we started a landscaping company. Before I left for college, Anthony’s Mom framed our original ALM Landscaping flyer.  It reminds me of how special this is, and that I am able to do this with a guy that I grew up with.

From Springsteen to Restaurants to Louis C.K – Charitable Giving is Alive and Well

Posted in Marketing, Media

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sang New York, New York; Louis C.K riffed on rats doing it in the subway; and Bruce Springsteen auctioned off two guitars, a lasagna dinner and a motorcycle ride. That was just some of the goings-on at the 8th Annual Stand Up for Heroes charity show, which raised $6 million to help post-9/11 vets and their families.

In addition to the Boss’s “guitars n’ lasagna” package, this year’s Stand Up for Heroes featured some other new fundraising wrinkles.

One was Dine Out for Heroes, an initiative led by Peter and Penny Glazier of the Glazier Group of restaurants, in which more than 200 participating restaurants donated a dollar for every meal they served on the day of the show.

The other was the first-ever use of “Cause Flash,” a new digital platform that aggregates the social media accounts of celebrities to rally their followers to social action. During Stand Up for Heroes, Conan O’Brien, Sting, Billy Joel and other celebrities reached more than 50 million people.

Stand Up for Heroes is the primary fundraiser for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, whose mission is to provide support for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ABC news correspondent Bob Woodruff created the foundation after his recovery from a traumatic brain injury caused by a roadside bomb while he was reporting from Iraq.

The Way I See It

  • Ever since the days of the Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy, celebrities have been leveraging their name recognition to support causes they believe in. I see brands continuing to work with celebrities to leverage off celebrities popularity and credibility to garner brand exposure.
  • The Bob Woodruff Foundation is one of the most effective charitable organizations out there. It has a clear mission—supporting the needs of post 9/11 vets and their families—and an efficient organization. A full 87 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to programming, and the Foundation uses that money to support more than 90 different veterans’ organizations that have been carefully vetted and selected from more than 40,000.
  • I see charitable giving remaining an important focus for brands and organizations. In addition to events, I see mobile and online giving continuing to be an increasing part of the philanthropic landscape.

The Way the Industry Sees It

 

I sat down with Bob Jeffrey, Chairman and CEO of JWT Worldwide and a member of the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s Board of Directors to talk about fundraising.

 

Q
Tell me about your involvement with the Woodruff Foundation. Why is it an organization you choose to be a part of, and by extension, JWT chooses to be a part of?
A
Bob and Lee Woodruff are great friends of mine but beyond my appreciation for them and what the Woodruff Foundation achieves, our founder, James Walter Thompson, was a Marine and JWT has partnered with the USMC for more than 65 years. Throughout our history we have aligned with and even served with some our nation’s heroes. I strongly believe that it’s about the warrior not the war and the Woodruff Foundation really allows us to show our gratitude to the warriors.
Q
Tell me about this year’s Stand Up for Heroes? What goals did Woodruff set for it, and how did it go about meeting them?
A
The goal every year is to make a positive impact on the lives of post-9/11 injured service members, veterans and their families. With Stand Up For Heroes, the Woodruff Foundation hits the mark every time by bringing together entertainment icons and brand partnerships that really help to raise much-needed funds for injured heroes.
Q
Bob Woodruff’s experience in Iraq gives him a very direct connection to the veterans his foundation is trying to help. There’s good brand alignment there, if you will. Are there other examples of celebrities whose charitable work is particularly effective—or whose personal charities are particularly credible—because the causes they espouse fit their personal brand?
A
When any celebrity lends their voice or image to a cause, it has a positive effect. A Rutgers study last year showed that celebrity endorsements lead to increases in charitable donations from the public. And when people see that these public figures have personal experiences with the cause they’re rallying around, it makes people connect with that person and that cause even more. Brand endorsements have the same effect. Macy’s is in its seventh year of the Believe campaign with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Macy’s is a family brand and a brand that is big on holidays. Their effort to spread holiday cheer to children with life-threatening medical conditions makes sense for the brand and I think that’s what makes it particularly effective.
Q
What’s the coolest thing in your office?
A
Our photography collection. When I came on as CEO, I had a creative vision for J. Walter Thompson that was all about making pioneering creative work. We overhauled our New York headquarters to transform it from a place that looked like an insurance office into a modern, invigorated environment. The space demanded courageous international art to go with it. So we sold off the old collection of Modern Masters and replaced it with a collection of astounding photographs by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei Alex Prager, Sophie Calle, David LaChapelle, Robin Rhode and Sebastião Salgado. It is a permanent collection of world-class contemporary global photography that is evocative, challenging, and pioneering. Exhibiting these inspiring photographs on our walls stimulates discussion and promotes creativity. I walk by these photographs every day, and each time I do, I discover something new.

SoulCycle is Spinning Its Way Across the Country

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Media

Candlelight, loud music, and the chance for a potential celebrity sighting – it sounds a bit like a nightclub, or at the very least a trendy bar. While all of the above are nightlife commonalities, they are also a key factor in the success of SoulCycle – an intense, full-body workout done on a stationary bike.  The brand has turned “spin class” into one of the most successful fitness trends around, generating a cult-like following among its devotees, which include Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Charlize Theron just to name a few. In addition, celebs such as Lena Dunham and Oprah have even held SoulCycle birthday parties.

SoulCycle has set itself apart from other fitness trends in a few, key ways. The brand creates a hard-to-get product. Most gyms and fitness programs sell its clients monthly or yearly subscriptions. SoulCycle sells individual classes (which can also be purchased in bulk) and markets them like concert tickets.  Registration opens up at noon every Monday, and most classes quickly sell out due to coveted instructors and music-themed classes.

SoulCycle has also partnered with up-scale brands to position itself in the minds of its consumers. The candles that light the studios are from high-end home furnishings brand Jonathan Adler; luxury Manhattan nail salon TenOverTen makes a nail polish in the same yellow as SoulCycle’s bikes; and Lululemon even created custom SoulCycle leggings for riders to purchase. In addition to the chic “Soul” branded workout apparel, the brand sells accessories such as iPhone cases and towels.

With no signs of slowing down, today there are thirty locations nationwide. The company plans to open fifty to sixty studios worldwide by 2015. In addition, SoulCycle is also heavily into worthy-cause marketing. Its charity rides are on track to raise $2 million.

The Way I See It

  • I see that SoulCycle has built itself an extraordinarily loyal fan base through the need-to-be-there vibe of a great party with the discipline of a fitness boot camp, and expanded the following by offering branded gear and clothing. By pairing the cult favorite fitness class with “Soul” apparel, the brand continues to engage its community.
  • Experience-driven exercise regimens like SoulCycle and CrossFit have tapped into the twin desires of wanting to stay (or get) fit and wanting to be part of a community. The result is that its product – the workout experience – is more lasting and effective, and its customers become fiercely loyal brand ambassadors.

The Way the Industry Sees It

 

I sat down with Gabby Etrog Cohen, SoulCycle’s Vice President, Public Relations and Brand Strategy to talk about its branding and marketing efforts.

 

Q
SoulCycle started out as a storefront with a yellow painted rickshaw out front and is now one of the hottest fitness brands in the country. Some of that’s obviously the experience, but some of that is marketing. What’s SoulCycle’s approach to advertising and marketing? How do you get the word out?
A
It is a mix of word of mouth, digital marketing, and relationships. We do not advertise.
Q
How has that approach changed as you’ve expanded out of the New York market into places like Washington, D.C. or California?
A
Certainly we have had to try different tactics but our product is SO experiential, once riders try a class, they become our greatest brand ambassadors.
Q
Pack. Tribe. Crew. Posse. Cult. Gang. Community. These are all words that discuss the brand’s mantra that SoulCycle is more than a class, it’s a community.  How have you leveraged this mentality to attract and retain your clientele?
A
Truly, it is a community of riders who support each other on and off the bike. It is so much more than just an exercise class.
Q
How do video content and social media engagement on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook play into your marketing efforts?
A
They are a natural extension of our rider community.
Q
Though David Beckham, Tom Cruise, and Jake Gyllenhaal have all been known to hop on a SoulCycle bike, your clientele is mostly female. What are you doing to attract more men to SoulCycle?
A
We have a ton of male riders at SoulCycle, but it is certainly a growing market for us. This November we launched a program in support of the Movember Foundation – the leading global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health by raising awareness for men’s health issue – specifically  prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental illness.  To support Movember, SoulCycle launched an aptly named #NoMoExcuses initiative. As part of the campaign, SoulCycle offered all first time male riders a complimentary class at any SoulCycle studio across the country during the entire month of November. Through a social media campaign, SoulCycle also posted a photo lineup of bros along with typical excuses to skip exercising. The SOUL community was called to action to tag their male friends and colleagues on the image of the bro with the same excuse they’ve heard them use to get out of working out. Once tagged, a challenge was initiated for the tagged bro to take a SoulCycle class, and get moving! As an incentive and to support the challenge, SoulCycle invited all male riders to take their first class free at all 32 studios across the country. The SoulCycle community was also able to challenge a bro to ride by entering their email address on the www.SoulCycle/NoMoExcuses.com landing page. Once submitted, the bro received an email from SoulCycle saying that they have been challenged to take their first SoulCycle class by another rider (whose name will also appear in the email). SoulCycle then invited the bro to take a SoulCycle class for free.
Q
What is the coolest object in your office?
A
It is a tie between the paper mache face of my dog from my amazing mother-in-law, or my publicist Barbie from my friend Amy.

VIZIO Turns a Medium into a Community

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Media, Social Media

Social media can be challenging with its many channels and niche audiences. Where does a brand start? And how do brands tie their efforts together? VIZIO, the nation’s largest seller of flat panel televisions, answered these questions by creating its own social network, called Fandemonium.

By leveraging a sponsorship begun in 2010, VIZIO first launched Fandemonium at the 2013 Rose Bowl game; encouraging fans to cheer and jeer plays for a chance have their pictures displayed on the stadium jumbotron.  Fandemonium participation – including store check-ins as well as viewing and writing product reviews – is rewarded with points that members can redeem from VIZIO, or one of its Fandemonium partners, which include Hulu, Netflix, and ESPN.

The genius behind Fandemonium is that, while VIZIO used college football as a platform to launch the program, it’s not about sports. It’s about being a fan of media and entertainment generally. And by creating this broad, participatory audience, VIZIO has been able to tap into this audience for subsequent promotions related to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other holidays.

The Way I See It

  • I see that brand loyalty is about lifestyle. Regardless of the medium brands are using – web, social, or traditional advertising – establishing brand loyalty is all about connecting with what’s important to consumers, whether it’s college football or consumer’s favorite things about Mom or Dad.
  • Once you’ve established a reason to connect, it’s about meeting the customers where they are. While VIZIO created its own social network, it acts as hub for the brand’s Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube postings, so customer can engage with VIZIO where and when they want to.

The Way the Industry Sees It

 

I sat down with Lily Knowles, Vice President of Product Marketing from VIZIO to discuss Fandemonium and social media marketing.

 

Q
You had great success with the “BCS Fan Throwdown” and now with your “Win it For Mom” and “This One’s for Dad” promotions. What’s the connection between this kind of social media story-telling and watching TV?
A
We are always looking for ways to continue to engage our fans across our social media channels and we feel it’s important to reward our fans who go above and beyond in one way or another. For our BCS Fan Throwdown, we saw a natural connection between watching football, along with our sponsorship of the BCS National Championship and sought a clever way to engage with our fans are passionate about not only VIZIO, but also their favorite college football teams. For Mother’s and Father’s Day, we chose to look for the special stories that rewarded parents who have gone above and beyond for their families. These beautifully simple promotions served as goodwill outreach and also gave us the opportunity to work closely with one of our retail partners (Walmart) to award deserving families with the ultimate Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts.
Q
You’re sustaining your VIZIO Fandemonium membership through other non-football related promotions. How do VIZIO Fandemonium members differ from your rank and file Twitter and Facebook followers? What benefits do they get, and how does VIZIO benefit from that depth of participation in the brand?
A
VIZIO Fandemonium is a way for us to reward our fans who engage with us on a deeper level than simply following our brand on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. VIZIO Fandemonium members have access to exclusive rewards such as Netflix gift subscriptions, autographed items from VIZIO brand ambassadors and even VIZIO products such as TVs and Sound Bars. In addition, VIZIO Fandemonium members get access to several exclusive VIZIO sweepstakes for being a valued member of our community. We seek to provide the members with the opportunity to win the kind of unique experiences that fans of any type (sports, movies, etc.) will enjoy. VIZIO benefits from this depth of participation, because we have more direct access to our fans through exclusive VIZIO Fandemonium emails. In addition, through VIZIO Fandemonium, we are able to establish relevant connections between Fandem members who share the same passion point – to help accelerate discovery of related social streams that one might not find otherwise. We will be doing this again around college football this fall, and are exploring ways to extend this to other genres.
Q
What other social and mobile media tactics have you tried that you’ve found particularly successful?
A
Supporting our customers via social media has been a huge priority this year. We know sometimes our customers have questions and need answers about our products. More and more customers are coming to us via social media for those answers. We have a dedicated social support team that makes sure we answer all questions and comments as best and quickly as possible. VIZIO’s primary goal with social media is to serve customers and ensure an outstanding experience with our products. Also, in the past, we have coordinated several Twitter Chats with our app partners and even with our Chief Technology Officer, Matt McRae. We’ve had a lot of successful engagement from fans during these 30 to 60 minute chats. We’ve also set these up with several of our VIZIO TVP award nominated athletes including Giovani Bernard and two-time TVP winner, Russell Wilson. On the mobile side, this year we developed the VIZIO Showroom App, which allows a customer to use their iPad, iPhone or Android device along with a 8.5 x 11 Printed Marker provided by VIZIO to help visualize what a new VIZIO product would look like in a space in their home.
Q
Considering the target market of VIZIO television purchasers, how you use social and mobile media advertising?
A
While we do not use social media advertising on a regular basis, occasionally, in order to target a certain audience we have found that Facebook ads are helpful due to their highly targeted nature and ability to capture people where they already are on the internet, browsing Facebook.
Q
What is the coolest object in your office?
A
The coolest object at VIZIO HQ is our 120” Reference Series television, which we had on display at CES earlier this year. We look forward to releasing more information about the Reference series later this year.

Detroit Punches Back

Posted in Advertising, Marketing

One of the biggest news stories of the last year occurred on December 3, 2013, when the city of Detroit became the largest municipality in the United States to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  A decades-long economic decline saddled Detroit with $18 billion in debt, high crime rates, extensive urban blight and, it would seem, a problem marketing itself to potential visitors.

But Detroit is one hard city to knock out.  (It is the home of Joe Louis, after all.)  From the Model T to Kid Rock, the Motor City has contributed enormously to the manufacturing, musical, and cultural life of our nation, giving it an enduring appeal.  The only northern city to have hosted two Super Bowls, Detroit plays annual host to marquee events such as the annual North American International Auto Show, and has one of the best theater scenes in the country.  Throw in three casinos, hydroplane races on the Detroit river, and loveable local fare have a Coney dog while you’re in town and there are a whole lot of reasons to make a trip.

Perhaps most curiously, at the same time that Detroit’s bankruptcy is playing out, the city is undergoing an undeniable resurgence.  Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans, has not only invested mightily in city real estate, but has led a movement in which employers are relocating thousands of jobs to the downtown core.  Neighborhoods like Midtown and Corktown are bustling with energy, development projects, and attractive new restaurants not to mention hipsters.  It truly is a pivotal moment in the history of a proud city, and one that offers plenty of lessons for urban tourism marketers.

 The Way I See It

  • I see events that make the rich history of the city relevant today like the Woodward Dream Cruise, in which classic car owners cruise Detroit’s main drag before crowds of one million people as an ideal avenue to introduce tourists to the appeal of the city.
  • I see the current revitalization of Detroit as an ideal time for new brands like Shinola to build on the city’s manufacturing heritage and use it to their benefit in marketing.
  • I see Detroit’s image as a positive, not a negative.  Everyone loves a hard-fighting underdog (remember Avis’s “We Try Harder” campaign?), and despite the city’s economic challenges, I think today’s conventions and tourists are more eager than ever to experience unique, authentic locales rich in arts and entertainment.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Renee Monforton, Director of Communications with the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, to hear more about the fascinating task rich with challenges and opportunities in marketing the city of Detroit.

 

Q
How has the bankruptcy of Detroit affected your approach to marketing the city to conventions and other tourists?
A
The bankruptcy has actually served as an opportunity to tell the correct Detroit story while the eyes of the world are watching our city. Simultaneous with the bankruptcy, which is largely a city government issue and hasn’t impacted any services or amenities to visitors, another story is being written.  The story is that there has been more private investment in Detroit in two short years than in any time in decades.  More than 15,000 new employees have come downtown in the past two years and the city that was downtrodden a decade ago has now a 100 percent residential occupancy rate.  The city is undergoing an amazing transformation, truly earning its title as “America’s Great Comeback City,” the theme of our latest advertising campaign.  That’s the story we are now getting the opportunity to tell.
Q
What’s the top reason that visitors want to experience Detroit? Also, let’s talk about the city recently remodeled its convention center.  How important has that effort been in attracting conventions to the city, and what amenities are they most interested in?
A
Detroit has a multitude of events and world class attractions that lure more than fifteen million visitors a year. The five main attributes of our destination for tourism are cars, culture, gaming, music and sports – we have unmatched opportunities on those fronts.  And on the meetings side, our $279 million renovation of the Cobo Convention Center has served as a major catalyst for new convention business. Everything there has been upgraded: from the facility, to the labor agreements to the customer service.  And as a result, we more than doubled the number of citywide conventions we are hosting from 2013 to 2014.
Q
The “Pure Michigan” campaign has been very successful, but some might associate it more with Michigan’s lakes and northern destination cities.  Has Detroit been able to leverage that campaign to its benefit?
A
Absolutely.  Detroit is a partner on the Pure Michigan campaign.  We have two Pure Michigan television spots in rotation in national markets that have served us very well and have driven thousands of new visitors to our website.  Pure Michigan has done a lot to change the perception of Michigan as a state and when visitors come to this state, chances are they will take the time to visit its largest city.
Q
What are the biggest misconceptions about Detroit, and how do you seek to correct them?
A
The belief that Detroit is ugly and crime ridden are probably the biggest misconceptions about Detroit.  Like most other large urban areas, Detroit has had its challenges but leaders in government, corporate and public sectors have stepped up in a big way to tackle those challenges and they have.  Many initiatives to highlight green spaces, clean the city and reduce crime have been in place and have made a huge difference.  We always say, “if you haven’t been to Detroit lately, you haven’t been to Detroit.”   The perception and reality of Detroit do not match at all.  Visitors are always pleasantly surprised and amazed by our city when they actually come here.
Q
How does the city’s proximity to Canada play into your marketing efforts, if at all?
A
It’s huge.  We have partnered with our neighbors in Windsor, Ontario on many campaigns over the years surrounding the unique “Two Nation Vacation” experience we can offer visitors.  For example, we have partnered on African American Heritage initiatives.  Detroit was the last stop on the Underground Railroad before slaves fled to Canada and we’ve built tourism experiences around that historical event.  Windsor and Detroit have four casinos and we’ve jointly marketed those in the past as well as our gorgeous riverfront opportunities.  The tourism assets Windsor and Detroit offer are very complimentary to the other and together offer a rich vacation or convention experience.
Q
What is the coolest object in your office?
A
I can only narrow that down to three.  I have a framed magazine article touting Detroit’s success in flawlessly hosting Super Bowl XL in 2006; a unique bid package that we presented and that landed us the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting (the “Super Bowl” of conventions) for next year.  And my personal favorite is from my Alma Mater, my Michigan State University Spartan troll.  Go Green!

Finding Your Cheese in the Marketing Law Maze

Posted in Advertising, Marketing

Today’s marketing and advertising landscape may be more laden with legal tripwires, regulatory mines, sharp corners, and dead ends than ever before. Technology is definitely evolving in real time, new laws are creating a tangled web of regulation, and consumers are savvier and more in control than ever.

Fortunately, the 36th Annual BAA / PMA Marketing Law Conference – themed Navigating the Marketing Law Maze – is here to help you find that elusive piece of cheese at the end. Taking place November 5 – 7, 2014 at the Windy City’s Downtown Chicago Marriott, the conference is built for inside and outside counsel, marketing executives and the increasingly eclectic mix of professionals caught at the crowded intersection of compliance and consumer outreach.

The BAA, or Brand Activation Association, is the organization formerly known as the PMA, or Promotional Marketing Association. In July of 2014, the BAA joined the ANA (Association of National Advertisers), giving the new organization more firepower than ever before to help its members understand what motivates consumer behavior and activates brand responses.

It takes change to know change, and after emerging stronger from its own internal evolution, the BAA has readied an agenda full of experts and thought leaders to educate attendees on what’s new in disciplines ranging from social and digital media to big data, privacy, intellectual property, and more.

The Way I See It

  • I see that the BAA has embraced change within its organization, smartly pivoting to reflect the rapid change of the marketing and advertising verticals it represents. After a rebrand and merger with ANA, BAA has emerged better equipped to serve its members.
  • I see that keeping abreast of the latest technologies and regulatory turns is more complicated than ever, and that trying to do so on your own can be daunting, if not overwhelming. I believe this makes attending the BAA / PMA Marketing Law Conference more than a “nice to have” opportunity to network with peers and meet vendors. It’s a critical content download that equips attendees with actionable knowledge and resources, including a 1,800-page conference workbook and flash drive, as well as a Law & Forms guide with sample contracts and new rules to know.
  • I see the BAA / PMA Marketing Law Conference has valuable, approachable insights for folks at all points of the marketing and advertising law learning curve. Don’t feel that you’re too junior or too senior to attend.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Bonnie Carlson, the President & CEO of BAA, to preview the upcoming Marketing Law Conference and discuss how her organization is dealing with change – both internally and throughout the industries she serves.

 

Q
The BAA has changed and grown a lot over the past two years I don’t need to tell you. But on the heels of a rebrand just a few years ago, how is the ANA merger impacting the BAA, its membership, and most importantly, this year’s Marketing Law Conference?
A
The ANA merger is having a profound impact on BAA’s ability to provide additional benefits to its members.  Part of the reason for this is ANA’s willingness to manage many back-end functions for BAA, yet allowing us to keep our headcount to reinvest in additional services / products for our members.  ANA’s mantra is all about exceeding members’ expectations by providing a quality experience.  One example for the legal members is the Dierson Law Books, those authoritative two-volume sets of books on the marketing laws of all 50 states that have always been available for members-only at a price of $795 and that will, for the first time, be available to members on a searchable, electronic subscription basis for free.  A second example is a one-day legal conference on the business side of law that will be hosted by MasterCard next spring for ANA and BAA members-only for free.
Q
Navigating the Marketing Law Maze is the theme of this year’s conference. How much of the content and what specifically will attendees have access to that will help them make their way through this metaphorical maze? In other words, what is an example of a concrete tactic an attendee would walk away with to navigate a specific compliance challenge?
A
Attendees at this year’s Law Conference will be able to uncover what land mines might exist in the Marketing Law Maze through insightful legal and business presentations, whether they be in native advertising or real time marketing, and a myriad of other topics. Attendees will also receive a 1800+ page reference binder to consult throughout the year.
Q
You’re bringing in more than 100 speakers this year, including some pretty big names: Carine Roman, Head of Global Advertising Operations for LinkedIn; and Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection for the Federal Trade Commission. Is there a speaker someone who may not have the same name recognition – who’s floating a bit under the radar and is someone who attendees should absolutely consider seeing?
A
We’re excited about the 120+ speakers at this year’s conference.  It’s important for the attendees to hear from speakers like Jessica Rich on the regulatory side, who can provide insight on policy and enforcement, to see what has the attention of the FTC.  In addition, Carine Roman, speaking for a leader in social media like LinkedIn, can provide the same kind of peek into what’s keeping the social media marketers up at night.
Q
What’s the biggest low-hanging fruit opportunity you see out there that companies simply aren’t grabbing when it comes to managing consumer engagement in accordance with applicable regulations?
A
Marketers have always been focused on making the sale – the first (or zero) moment of truth – and all the advertising and promotion that motivates that sale.  With consumers in control now, so much more needs to be focused on what the consumer has to say after the sale, via reviews, blogs, social media, repurchase of the product, and ultimately making that consumer a loyal advocate for the brand.  A big contributor to the positive experience – and one I think marketers don’t think about enough – is customer service, with attention from employees and everyone who touches the brand.
Q
What is the coolest object in your office?
A
The coolest object in my office may be a large painting I did with one of the BAA staff in 2009 – signed by him and me – that looks a little like a Jackson Pollock painting.  He and I went to Home Depot, bought canvas and a lot of spray paints, and made “art work” for the office.  Most people took theirs home; mine fills one wall of my office.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies Has the 411 on the Latest Regulatory Issues

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Regulatory

Brands and the agencies that help market them have full plates. Just keeping up with the way technology has changed, and how brands communicate with customers is, to say the least, a full time job. But, there are so many things that affect businesses, not the least of which is how government regulation can either help or hinder what we do.

That’s why organizations like the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) are so important. Among its many roles, the 4A’s advocates for advertising and marketing agencies and the other businesses it supports on a wide variety of issues. Some of the biggest items on its current docket:

The deductibility of advertising spending: Tax law has traditionally treated advertising as a fully deductible cost of doing business. But, as part of conversations around reforming corporate tax rates, Congress is considering lowering the deductibility by fifty percent.

Protection against patent trolls: Legislation recently under consideration in Congress would curb the ability of shell companies to buy up dormant patents and pursue companies allegedly violating those patents for licensing fees just below what it would be worth to litigate. We’re talking about patents that can affect a wide range of business and marketing activities, for things like a store locator tool on a website.

Consumer privacy protection: The ability to track consumer behavior and target advertising based on that behavior has been part and parcel of the digital age since its inception. Of course, the National Security Agency has been at it, too, and its methods and goals are much more opaque than trying to identify a basket of consumers who might want to by a snow blower or a cupcake. Establishing policies that protect consumer privacy, and allay consumer fears without disrupting how digital advertising works, is a big concern of both industry and government.

The Way I See It

  • I see these being charged issues. Discussions of taxation and privacy can get very heated, and a lot of times voters, congressional representatives, and regulators feel an extra urgency to act. Unfortunately, because emotions sometimes get ahead of the understanding of the issues, actions can be more reactive then proactive.
  • I see this being a time of extreme congressional gridlock. The flip side to the reactivity I mentioned is often no action at all.

The Way the Industry Sees It

 

I sat down with Dick O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Government Relations at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, to discuss the regulatory issues it’s currently responding to.

 

 

Q
I know the regulatory landscape is constantly changing. What are the three top issues that 4A’s is currently focusing on? In addition, what is the 4A’s doing to advocate for ad agencies on these issues?
A
The most financially damaging threat we’re currently facing is a proposed change to the corporate tax code that would dilute the full deduction of advertising as a necessary business expense and, in the process, result in an increase in the cost of advertising of $169 billion over a ten year time frame. The most systemic threat we’re encountering is the proposed restriction of our use of big data to revolutionize how we target advertising. And, the last of the three hottest issues is actually an opportunity – we’re pressuring the government to place severe restrictions on patent trolls whose extortionate practices have become a serious problem for advertising agencies.  On each of these issues and others, 4A’s maintains a dedicated office in Washington that provides an early warning system of when an issue is moving into dangerous territory and that advocates at the White House, Congress, the regulators, the courts, and the states against any activity that would be detrimental to the best interests of the advertising agency business. I’m pleased to say that we’ve maintained a very strong track record in playing that role and in fending off unwarranted government regulation.
Q
What’s your current prediction for how these issues will resolve themselves?
A
There’s a temptation to believe that nothing significant will be enacted in the current state of paralysis in Washington, which would leave us home free for a while. It’s a real mistake to believe that. External events can make even this government come together and do something. For instance, the recent spotlight on corporate inversions may be what it takes to get the government to get serious about corporate tax reform which would put the change in ad deductibility in play. Or, the revelations by Edward Snowden and the high profile data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus may cause enough public anxiety to generate limits on how big data can be used even by advertisers. We could find ourselves going to battle stations on either, or both, of those issues next year. I believe we’ll prevail as we always have in the past, but I suspect it’d be a pretty rough work out.
Q
Are there other regulatory issues the 4A’s is focusing on? Why are they important?
A
The regulators, principally the FTC, are looking at a number of issues that could shape how advertising agencies will be able to benefit from the advances of the digital revolution – from new rules around native advertising to limits on our ability to segment audiences for fear we’d be discriminating against those groups not included in a target audience. That discrimination issue is particularly serious since it could undermine the principle of segmentation which has been a foundation principle of the advertising industry since its inception.
Q
To what degree are consumers – voters – a part of your target audience? What do they understand or misunderstand about the issues with which you’re dealing, particularly the privacy issue?
A
While our first, and most direct, audience are policy makers, we do focus on the public on certain issues as well. Privacy is a good case in point. The push among legislators and regulators to limit our ability to use big data for more precise targeting reflects a public anxiety about how much information advertisers have about an individual’s personal life. To the extent that the public can be educated about the lengths we go to in order to protect their data, that anxiety should be lessened and the pressure for regulation should be similarly lessened. For that reason, we’re now undertaking a serious consumer education campaign to set the record straight on how benign the use of data for marketing purposes is.
Q
Whether its voters or ad agencies, what are people worried about that they probably don’t need to be, and what are they not worried about that they should be?
A
There’s no contest on what the public shouldn’t be worried about – it’s the use of data for advertising targeting. That data is totally anonymized so an individual’s specific data isn’t even part of the equation. Conversely, the thing that all advertisers should be more worried about than they are is the dreadful state of political advertising. Most of the rules that govern the responsible use of product advertising don’t apply to political advertising. As a result the public is submerged in an ocean of negative, often marginally truthful, advertising that undermines their faith in the credibility of all types of advertising.
Q
What’s the coolest object in your office?
A
It’s a tie. There’s a picture of President George W. Bush giving me a personal tour of the Oval Office. He turned out to be a really nice guy – the opposite of his on-camera persona. The other object is a picture of my two grandsons (aged four and two) climbing all over me. That turned out to be even cooler than the Oval Office tour!