Marketers promote, entertain, celebrate, and explain. In other words, they talk. But Dave Kerpen, cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and founder and CEO of its sibling company, Likeable Local, believes that a different skill is needed in a media landscape increasingly driven by social media – listening.  And by listening, Kerpen means more than just using social media channels to respond to consumer questions and complaints.  He sees listening via social media as a means to tell stories and engender authentic conversations with and among consumers and to promote conversations that strengthen and reward brand loyalty.

In a lot of ways, it’s the next step in the evolution of branding. Branding started with the idea that companies and products had actual identities and that consumers would affiliate with brands that enhanced or fit well with their own identities.  And – without invoking John Roberts and suggesting corporations are people – the next step seems to be making brands part of the consumer’s social circle, or at the very least, using the social circle to validate the brand.

Kerpen first made a splash in all media – not just social – when he and his then soon-to-be wife raised over $100,000 selling sponsorship rights to their wedding, which was hosted at the Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark. They then leveraged their notoriety to launch Likeable Media, a social media and word-of-mouth marketing company that is one of the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States.  Kerpen also authored two New York Times Best Sellers: Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business, and was also named the #1 LinkedIn Influencer of All Time last summer when his article, “11 Simple Concepts for Becoming a Better Leader” garnered 1.8 million views and 21,000 likes. The first concept on his list – listening.

The Way I See It

  • As much as things still keep changing – and will likely continue to keep changing – I see a growing maturation in the use of social media. Whether marketers are arriving at it through Dave Kerpen’s advice or their own observation, more and more brands are realizing the central nature of listening and storytelling to the way social media works.
  • I see consumers heavily relying on participation as a means of measuring trust. They want brands they can engage with and relate to. And they want that engagement validated by their own social networks.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Dave Kerpen, cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and founder and CEO of Likeable Local, to discuss listening, social media, and his most recent book, Likeable Leadership.

Two of the strongest themes in your writing and speaking are listening and storytelling. How are those two skills related?

I always say, “Listen first and never stop listening.” Listening is the single most important communication skill, and sometimes it’s harder than you think. Often when we think we’re listening, we’re just waiting to talk. Try shutting up and really listening to everyone: your customers, your fans, your employees, your husband or wife, your children, etc. You might be surprised at the valuable insight and stories you’ll hear when you do. The next step, of course, is to share those stories. No one remembers facts or statistics, but everyone remembers a great story. Practicing listening and storytelling will make you a better communicator and, ultimately, more likeable, and more successful.

What did you learn as you were “listening” to the stories you collected for the new book? Did anything surprise you?

I am constantly surprised by how much I learn when I just shut up and listen. People’s lives and stories are so fascinating to me, and there are always lessons to be learned. Last year, I wrote an article about my interaction with an older man on a flight to Boston. I chatted with him, asked him a few of questions, and listened … a lot. I had met Frank Lautenberg, the late United States Senator, who taught me, in just forty-five minutes, one of the most important lessons of my life: Career Highlights Won’t be on Your Tombstone. With a few questions and a lot of listening, you can literally change your life.

Continue Reading Likeable Applies the Lessons of Social Media to Branding

In just a few short years, DVRs and video-on-demand have dramatically altered how television is watched. In 2006, fewer than two percent of households owned a DVR. Now, more than half do. The use of DVRs has changed along with market-growing penetration. Instead of just being time-shifters, many viewers are effectively becoming collectors, stockpiling so many shows on their DVRs that they don’t have time to watch them all. As a result, they’re also watching shows later, at a time when it’s convenient to them.

As The New York Times reported recently, this fall’s television season saw a surge of viewers watching shows four to seven days after the initial air-date. Broadcasters and cable networks typically base their ad prices on so-called C3 ratings or the amount of viewership over the course of three days of delayed viewing, and view those later impressions as effectively uncompensated.

The Way I See It

  • I see people spending A LOT of time in front of a screen. According to a recent survey from eMarketers, adults in the U.S. spend four hours and thirty-one minutes in front of a television and an additional five hours and sixteen minutes in front of a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen every day.
  • I see some doors opening while others close. While most viewers fast forward through at least some of the commercials on their DVRs and services like Dish’s AutoHop continue to proliferate, many networks are creating apps that allow viewers to easily access their favorite shows on their phones or using dynamic ad insertions to update ads embedded in shows viewers’ access through video-on-demand services.
  • I see a growing integration of TV and social media as viewers use tablets and smartphones to engage with friends or networks while watching TV.
  • I see the very meaning of “watching TV” changing as viewers increasingly access programs from a variety of devices. While televisions still dominate living room viewing, a recent survey by Motorola shows that most bedroom TV viewing now takes place on a tablet.

The Way the Industry Sees It

TargetCast has had great success as an agency helping its clients navigate these churning media waters.  I sat down with Audrey Siegel, TargetCast’s Agency President, to discuss how shifting viewing habits have changed how TV advertising is sold and used.

A lot of the discussion around changing viewing habits has been focused on viewers being able to skip or fast-forward through commercials, or view ads later, because of delayed viewing. Are there other, more subtle trends in viewer behavior that are getting overshadowed by these larger issues? If so, do they represent opportunities?

It is certainly true that increased consumer control over multiple aspects of their viewing behavior has forever changed the medium at its core.  The ability to time-shift viewing is really the tip of the iceberg.  We must now add to time-shifting the viewer’s ability to platform shift, to actually change the location of their viewing as well as the time in which they view a particular program.  In effect, dayparts are becoming intensely personal; “my primetime” supplants generic primetime.  The language around the nature of the viewing experience – at-home, lean-back, me time – must now recognize mobile as well as multiscreen viewing.  All of this viewing, ultimately, will be wrapped in the cloak of digitized delivery, of both ads and programming, and will open up television advertising opportunities for addressable messaging and dynamic creative versioning.  This ultimately will make our most mass medium most personal, promising greater viewer engagement and potentially greater brand engagement as a result.

How have changes in viewing habits altered our ability to track the effectiveness of the advertising that does get seen? What opportunities does that create?

Tracking the effectiveness of TV advertising has long been a promise unfulfilled.  We have settled for surrogates – such as program engagement, ad awareness, and commercial ratings – but in fact have not been able to directly connect television advertising with marketplace effectiveness in the most direct manner.  The increasing digitization of the video medium, as well as the multi-screen nature of program and ad delivery, brings us closer to the realization of effectiveness metrics.  In addition, as we build more complex multi-channel attribution tracking and modeling applications, we will better understand not only the effectiveness of one video channel, (television) but its impact on, and relationship with, other video elements (mobile, online) as well as other messaging channels (search, social).

Continue Reading Changing How We Watch Changes How We Sell

We’re all familiar with the classic product demonstrations in television commercials: who hasn’t seen re-enactments of the super-absorbent paper towel, or the dish detergent that cuts through grease with a single drop?

How do we define a demonstration?  Well, a demonstration is just that: a way for advertisers to show the product functioning as it actually would, as objective “proof” of performance.  As such, it is especially important that demonstrations actually consist of a true and accurate portrayal of the product.  When the FTC began bringing enforcement actions concerning advertising demonstrations in 1959, it encountered cases where products or props had been doctored, enhanced or replaced to achieve the desired performance, and the advertiser had not disclosed any modification.  Even if the product claim itself was not false, the issue was that the demonstration was false.   For example, in the early 1990s, Volvo ran an advertisement which showed a monster truck crushing other cars, except for a Volvo station wagon, in order to show that Volvo vehicles would provide superior safety in a collision.  However, the commercial was produced by weakening the competitor vehicles’ roofs and reinforcing the Volvo’s roof, and then subjecting the Volvo to less severe crushing by the truck – none of which was disclosed to consumers.  Subsequently, the FTC issued a consent order requiring Volvo to stop depicting demonstrations that involved undisclosed mock-ups or material alterations to products.

Continue Reading Brand Activation Association Marketing Law Conference: Demonstrations

This week, leading lawyers, legislatures and marketers attended the 35th Annual Brand Activation Association (BAA) Marketing Law Conference in Chicago. At BAA I gave a presentation titled, “Journey to the Center of Advertising Law: Knowledge, Insights, and Practical Tips on The Most Important 2013 Advertising Developments.” Over the next few days, I will share with you three video clips from my presentation. Let’s dive into the first one…

How do we determine “reasonable consumer” behavior?  This is an increasingly important question in a world where the consumer population comprises people with differing views, perspectives, education levels, and experiences.  The “reasonable consumer” is crucial in advertising law:  this person interprets advertising, determines what claims are actually being made, decides whether there are any implied claims, decides whether a statement is “puffery,” and helps courts decide whether advertising is ultimately misleading or deceptive.

Continue Reading Brand Activation Association Marketing Law Conference – The Reasonable Consumer

The FCC has changed its rules to require “prior express written consent” in order to auto-send commercial calls or texts. Failure to comply can open violators up to private lawsuits, and to damages awards of up to $1,500 per violation.  So what should be done to avoid pricey violations?

First, there needs to be written 

2013 has certainly been a landmark year, and we have seen both social and financial gains dance across the headlines of various news publications. We watched as the S&P 500 hit an all-time closing high of 1,682.50 in July, and we watched history be made with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA.

While I still do not have access to a crystal ball, the fiscal outlook for 2013 will certainly determine a large portion of the way the growth within the Advertising Industry, among other industries, will play out.

The Way I See It

  • I see the industry continuing to evolve to adapt to changing consumer trends, marketer needs and media evolution.
  • I see the advertising industry continuing to be an important engine of business growth and job creation.
  • I see the advertising industry as the storytellers that allow marketers to better inform the public and help businesses promote their brands and sell their products and services.
  • I see the advertising business working hard to do with less, while attracting and retaining the best and most creative talent.
  • I see the advertising industry needing to be fairly and reasonably compensated to do all that I just said.

The Way The Industry Sees It

I sat down with Neal Grossman, Chief Compensation Officer of TBWA Worldwide and Chief Operating Officer of TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Los Angeles office, to discuss the economic outlook and agency forecast for the industry in the year ahead.

There has been a great deal of press lately surrounding advertisers extending their payment terms.  What are your thoughts on this?

I don’t see this as anything new or as the sign of a new trend.  Larger advertisers in particular have for years been looking for ways to extend payment terms.  Aside from media spend, agency fees and production represent a significant portion of their remaining marketing spend.  Agencies, however, are not able to, nor should they have to, act as banks for their clients.  In terms of agency fees, we don’t have much flexibility in the payment of our own costs.  80% of our costs (such as staff costs, rent, taxes, etc.) are paid within 30 days or less and less than 7% are paid after 60 days.  To accept extended payment terms effectively is accepting a reduction in the agency’s profit margin and for smaller agencies it can create significant cash flow issues.  With smaller agencies, it could even put them out of business.  With regard to production companies, they are similarly situated where a significant portion of their costs are talent related and costs that need to be paid up front.

A lot has been said about value compensation in recent years and most advertisers seem to equate that with implementing some form of pay-for-performance.  Does this address value compensation as agencies see it?

While the adoption of pay-for-performance has become more common place, it’s not been meaningful because there is often not a significant and achievable upside.  The criteria is often subjective and we’ve seen examples where it’s been used as an excuse not to pay the agency, where junior clients are given equal weighting as senior clients in their evaluations of the agency and where procurement criteria related to cost savings and process are weighted more heavily than marketing criteria.  Further, a common way pay-for-performance criteria are scaled uses a minimum threshold of “meets expectations” before any portion of the bonus is earned.  And yet, most people’s expectations are that work be “above average.”  So, the scales are biased to begin with because “meets expectations” (above average) as a beginning threshold for earning a bonus might not yield any bonus for above average work, and 100% of the bonus is often not achieved even when the marketing results are exceptional.  As a result, pay-for-performance is generally not material and won’t be accepted by agencies as a substitute for base compensation they feel is inadequate.

Continue Reading A Candid Conversation on the Economic Outlook & Agency Midyear Forecast with TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Neal Grossman

Spamming has taken a new form in this era of mobile phones and text messaging.  In addition to fighting the clutter in our e-mail inboxes, we are also faced with clutter on our cell phones.  In the words of the FTC, text message spam is a “triple threat.”  First, mobile spam often uses the promise of free gifts or product offers to get you to reveal personal information such as bank account, credit card, or Social Security information.  Alternatively, clicking on a link in a text message can lead to the installation of malware that collects information on your phone and sends it to a third party.  Second, the spam can lead to unwanted charges on your cell phone bill. Third, these unsolicited messages can slow your cell phone’s performance.

With few exceptions, it is illegal to send unsolicited commercial e-mail messages to wireless devices, unless the sender gets your permission first.  The FTC has taken an active interest in preventing this spamming from continuing.  In March 2013, the FTC filed eight different complaints in courts around the United States charging twenty-nine defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts.  The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, and Target, in exchange for providing sensitive personal information, applying for credit, or paying to subscribe to services.  The text message spamming network involved the individuals sending the spam, who got paid by website operators based on how many consumers entered information on each website, and website operators, who were paid by businesses that gained customers through the process.

In July 2013, the FTC continued its campaign against these spammers by filing another complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois naming another set of defendants in this network.  Cell phone companies as well as major big box retailers, fearing that this practice tarnishes their brands, have also warned their customers and provided avenues through which to lodge complaints.

 The Way I See It

  • I see that, while text message spamming was inevitable, it, unlike e-mail spamming, may have an end in sight since there are direct costs to the consumer from simply viewing the message, there are direct effects on cell phone service, and there are many ways for consumers to prevent this spamming from occurring (i.e., putting one’s number on the National Do Not Call Registry or submitting a complaint to a cell phone company, retailer, or the FTC).

  • Continue Reading “Canning the Spam” – The FTC on Mobile Spamming

Gatsby.  His name has been forever immortalized through the words of       F. Scott Fitzgerald.  For most of us, it conjures up memories from high school English classes, but now it’s being broadcast all over in ads and trailers for surrounding the film adaptation.  The Great Gatsby’s big movie turn got us thinking about how marketing strategies around blockbuster film adaptations impact book sales and play into the publishing industry.  Some of the biggest flicks to hit silver screens in the past few years have been adaptations from books – Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook. And of course, this practice is nothing new. Even Gone with the Wind is an adaptation of a book. So how do movie adaptations tie into marketing strategies to sell books?

The Way I See It

  • I see big-screen box office hits reinvigorating marketing of their book counterparts with the production of new editions of the book with covers to match the movie posters and new promo displays linked to the main characters from the movie to feature alongside book displays at retail stores – all timed around the release of the movie adaptation.
  • I see an opportunity for publishers to capitalize on the buzz around highly-anticipated new movie adaptations to implement a marketing and advertising strategy to drive sales of the associated books by reminding consumers that the movie was a book first.
  • With the popularity of certain themes at the movies – such as vampires, crime dramas, or futuristic fantasies – publishers can tie books with similar themes into the pop culture theme-of-the-moment by target marketing to key demographics or consumers composing the fan base.

The Way The Industry Sees It

I sat down with Rachel Coun, Executive Director of Marketing, Trade Books at Scholastic Inc., to discuss marketing strategies for books that become blockbusters.

How do marketing strategies for books change, if at all, with a new film adaptation hitting theatres? What factors play into whether and how a movie adaptation of a book will impact marketing of a book?

When a film adaptation comes out, we have the great opportunity to reach new people who are eager to see the film and have not read the book yet.  Plus, when the movie is based on the first book of a series, you are able to promote that next book in the series to the existing fans as well. Prior to its theatrical release, we advertised The Hunger Games on Facebook and popular movie and entertainment websites with “It started with a Book” messaging.  Once the film released, we added “And the Story Continues” to the copy line and linked the ad to all three books in the series.  In addition, we sent out an eBlast, with that same messaging, directly to people who purchased The Hunger Games movie tickets online.  We promoted The Hunger Games Movie Tie-In Book to both that new movie audience as well to existing Hunger Games fans.  This entailed retail displays featuring a movie image; placement on our Hunger Games Facebook page and Scholastic website; social media outreach via Facebook and Twitter; and advertising on Hunger Games fan sites that cater to both the book and film audience.  We also have worked with movie studios on cross-promotions that included movie tie-in book giveaways via on-air radio promotions and media events.

Are there any timing factors that impact how a movie version will play into sales of the book?

We release movie tie-in books a good six weeks prior to a film release to give a new audience time to read the book before the movie comes out as well as create energy among existing fans who are waiting to see the film.  The books still are promoted at retail for several weeks after the movie releases to bring new fans to the brand.

Continue Reading Box-Office Hits to Best-Sellers: Scholastic Inc. Shares Marketing Strategies Around Film Adaptations

I talk here on Madison Ave Insights a good amount about digital, social media, and mobile advertising trends and developments, and how they are changing the industry.  Advertisers are shifting dollars from traditional print and television to online media outlets and novel platforms – that is no question.  However, televisions are still in nearly every home in America, tuned to leading sitcoms, special programming, news, and sports.  So, how do advertisers determine which programs are worth allocating ad dollars to in order to reach target audiences?  Cue Sweeps periods.

The Way I See It

  • I see Sweeps, which are a data-collection periods used to determine local viewing information and provide a basis for scheduling programs – what gets renewed and what gets cancelled – and making advertising decisions for local television stations and cable systems, as a sort of precursor to the type of data-collection processes that advertisers are able to initiate online and on mobile.
  • I see many arguing that Sweeps are an outdated process and one that are no longer relevant in the age of new consumer data and because viewers can be determined through other aspects, especially given the new “second screen” trend of using social media to discuss TV programming while watching.

The Way The Industry Sees It

I sat down with Matt Seiler, CEO of Mediabrands, Interpublic’s media-buying division, to discuss the upcoming annual Sweeps periods and the relevance for the advertising and entertainment industries.

How and when did the Sweeps process begin? How have they evolved over the years to remain effective?

The concept of sweep periods are almost as old as television measurement itself. Nielsen began sending out viewing paper diaries in 1954 to capture demographic information, a practice that continues today in the smaller TV markets—almost sixty years later. Because the data is only collected at certain times of the year, networks and stations tend to heavy up on first-run and special programming in order to influence the ratings. This is especially mind-boggling when you consider that top and mid-tier markets are being measured electronically, fifty-two weeks per year. In terms of evolution over the years, there’s been virtually none, and better measurement of local television is something we strongly believe in. To Nielsen’s credit, they are currently exploring different forms of improved electronic measurement in smaller markets and we are involved in several committees to help guide the process.

How important are the Sweeps periods and data collected for advertisers in terms of allocating spend? Are there other factors that impact that decision as well?

To our dismay, it is still a significant consideration for our local investment staff because of the nature of the measurement. However, it is hardly the only factor involved in their decision-making, as we leverage all of the data at our disposal to help us buy smarter.

Continue Reading Television Sweeps Periods: Still relevant or outdated?

A few weeks ago, Chester Cheetah, the beloved “spokescat” for Cheetos, joined Twitter as @ChesterCheetah with a campaign to reach 50K followers.  And when he does, “a family gets a kitten.”  Chester Cheetah is just the latest of many brand mascots that have taken social media by storm in recent years.  Furthermore, digital media is allowing brands to create more developed story lines and detailed backgrounds for their mascots, resulting in consumers becoming more drawn to the characters, and, of course, to the brand and product they represent.  The insurance industry has made quite a splash with its brand mascots, including the GEICO Gecko and Allstate’s “Mayhem,” launching YouTube channels and earning verified Twitter accounts (i.e., celebrity status).  Creating such humorous and quirky characters allows insurance companies to engage with consumers and help them better understand the complex insurance offerings, while also staking a claim in the competitive insurance landscape.

Take Progressive’s “Flo,” the now infamous female insurance broker who dominates the company’s commercials.  Known for her humor and larger-than-life personality, Flo is the same way on Twitter – posting witty one-liners and tips on insurance topics of interest, things making the news, and Progressive Insurance offerings and updates.  She has over 19K followers on Twitter and more than 5 million “likes” on Facebook; Progressive’s Facebook page only has 58,000 “likes”.  Flo is featured in many YouTube videos and has led social games and giveaways through Facebook and Twitter.

The Way I See It

  • I see online and social media allowing brands to further develop characters and brand mascots to be more than just the face of the brand, but standalone, likeable characters.  They have colored histories, interests, and well-defined traits.  Brands have found success in fully developing their mascots, as consumers are more likely to engage with and like more complex characters.
  • I see companies taking risks with brand mascots on social media, as it allows them to test how consumers respond to initiatives without making too much of an investment.  For instance, M&M’s sassy Ms. Brown held a live video chat with Facebook fans and even has her own Pandora music-streaming channel, both of which take the traditional social media campaign one step further.

  • Continue Reading Brand Mascots Come to Life on Social Media