REPYou’re only as good as your first page of Google search results. That’s the reality of today’s business environment. Keeping a company’s online reputation as pristine as possible is a baseline for any sophisticated marketing strategy.

Need proof? The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 found that Internet search engines are now the most trusted source

Let’s say a senior at MIT is about to graduate with a double major in Computer Science and Comparative Media Studies. Career Services tells the student, “You can make six figures at a Manhattan consulting firm, or you can apply to ‘Venture for America.’ Oh, and if selected by Venture for America, you will be sent to a city in need of entrepreneurs. There you will make less than $40,000 a year working for a start-up.” Which would you choose as your first job?  Fortunately, in 2013, hundreds of America’s best and brightest college students chose the latter and applied for the seventy fellowships offered by Venture for America.

Venture for America is the brainchild of entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Yang saw the Ivy League-to-hedge fund/investment bank/consulting firm conveyor belt and thought, “What a waste of talent.” Venture for America re-allocates that talent to where it has the potential to do the most good. Specifically, start-up companies in mid-sized cities across the country that are trying to revitalize their local economies. Recent college graduates receive invaluable experience that they would likely not get at a large, established company, and the start-ups are provided with access to talent they otherwise probably would not have the resources to recruit.

Among the many interesting projects Venture for America has supported is “SocialProvidence,” a social media analytics and consulting company based in Rhode Island, that is supervised by executives from HavasPR, but is run day-to-day by two Venture for America fellows. One of SocialProvidence’s main selling points is that digital natives – like the two young men running the company – have a much more intuitive and accurate sense of what kinds of social media marketing techniques will be most effective.

The Way I See It

  • I see a growing intersection between start-up culture and community development. Some of that is driven by a consumer niche that wants to buy local products and have real relationships with the people whose businesses they patronize. But a lot of it is driven by the genuine desire of a certain class of entrepreneur to use their business as a way of building community.
  • I see a millennial generation that is really driven by a sense of connection. They want to feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves. Millennials are one of the reasons that community service has become such a big deal on college campuses. Venture for America has certainly tapped into that spirit.
  • I see entrepreneurship gaining in popularity among the youth of today, and not just in the sense of entrepreneur as business owner. But embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and building things, creating new ventures, and solving problems.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Venture for America CEO, Andrew Yang, to discuss entrepreneurship and his upcoming book, Smart People Should Build Things.

Before you started your own company, you were on the same Ivy League to law/finance/consulting path that you’re trying to knock your Venture for America Fellows out of. What shortcomings did you find in that path?

When I was graduating from college, law, finance, and consulting were the options that were presented to me – mainly because the consulting firms and financial services firms were recruiting heavily at Brown.  It just seemed natural to go down one of these paths on the road to success and prestige.  After becoming a corporate lawyer, I found that it wasn’t a great fit for me because of how narrow and specialized the role was, and that I didn’t enjoy acting as a document reader and deal facilitator.  These “prestige pathways” of finance, law and consulting, as I call them in the book, are still the options that are being presented to college seniors. The professional services firms have millions of dollars to spend recruiting talent on college campuses each year. The salaries and benefits that they can offer are certainly appealing. These kinds of resources are not available to early stage growth companies that are actually creating jobs in this country and are most in need of the nation’s best and brightest minds.

Your last business was a test prep company. What did you see in the students you were working with that made you think that maybe they were open to a different kind of opportunity?

When I was at Manhattan GMAT, I met hundreds of bankers and consultants who were preparing to enroll in business school. Many of them seemed a little lost, like I had been when I realized I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. They would talk about wanting to make a real impact in an organization, and I think they were going to business school often to reset and seek that kind of opportunity.  Our young people want to build things; they just aren’t being presented with the choice to do so. I started Venture for America because I believe that if we provide the path to entrepreneurship to smart, enterprising young people, they will embrace it.  And early returns suggest that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Continue Reading Building the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow: A Candid Discussion with the CEO of Venture for America, Andrew Yang

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

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released updated Dot Com Disclosure guidelines to fast forward to the present day and catch up with the technology consumers use more and more frequently – including smartphones, tablets, and social media. I previously gave you an overview of what the updated guidance means and how marketers need to approach the new FTC standards, and you’ve read “The Way I See It” on the updated guidelines.

I wanted to turn to an industry expert to discuss what the new FTC Dot Com Disclosure guidelines mean for advertising on various key platforms and what could be next for mobile and tech.

The Way the Industry Sees It:

I sat down with Jerry Karnick, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Verizon Wireless, to get his thoughts.

 We all seem to agree that the updated guidance was a necessity, but do you think the Dot Com Disclosures will help grow advertising potential on mobile and online platforms?

I do. Advertising through online and mobile platforms is here to stay, and the new Dot Com Disclosures recognize and embrace that reality. Of equal importance, the new Dot Com Disclosures also provide advertisers with added clarity on what is required, while continuing to allow advertisers the necessary flexibility to meet those obligations. With the guidance provided by the new Dot Com Disclosures, more and more reputable advertisers will have increased comfort advertising on these platforms, especially on the small screens available in the mobile arena. At the same time those advertisers won’t have to worry that their ads, which include the disclosures necessary to ensure the ad is neither false or misleading, will be less appealing than the ads of other online or mobile advertisers that may not have otherwise included the necessary disclosures, either at all or in proximity to the main advertising message.

With smartphones and tablets, the majority of issues presented by the old Dot Com Disclosures were how to present disclosures in the new space constraints. For the mobile industry, does the new guidance meet these concerns and are there any significant new issues that are raised?

The new Dot Com Disclosures provide the necessary clarity about whether and how the traditional advertising rules will apply in the mobile space. What they don’t do – nor, of course, could they – is increase the size of the screen. The industry will continue to wrestle with space constraints. But, now that there is clarity on what is required, it will be up to all of us to find new and creative ways to design ads in ways to ensure the necessary information is communicated effectively and the overall message conveyed to consumers is not misleading.

Continue Reading A Conversation With Verizon’s Jerry Karnick On The FTC’s Updated Dot Com Disclosure Guidelines

Consumer Electronics Show. South by Southwest. Auto shows. Comic-Con. E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). Multiple industries rely on annual trade shows to unveil new products and interact with not just the trade, but with consumers. It’s something like a professional show-and-tell, with major brands and companies offering new product demonstrations and announcing their latest innovations that set them apart from industry competitors and attempt to attract consumers. With developments in digital, social media, and mobile, the importance of live, in-person displays and face-to-face consumer engagement has not faded for the industry and some may even argue, it’s become even more important. Brands can often rely on the hype surrounding conventions and trade shows to boost sales, brand recognition, and loyalty, and companies can also tap in to what consumers want at these shows to inform future research and development. Take Sony Computer Entertainment, for instance. A true innovator for decades and a company that bridges a variety of sectors to unveil new products, entertainment, and updated consumer favorites, Sony’s panels and booths at industry shows are often the most-anticipated and best-attended. So how important are trade shows for Sony Computer Entertainment and what can we learn from the popular tech brand’s trade show tactics?

The Way I See It

  • I see trade shows offering the industry a rare opportunity to market and advertise in a way that truly puts the features and capabilities of their products on display. Mainstream ads and commercials for products like gaming consoles are often more creative than product and feature-driven, so trade shows around the U.S. put the newest features on display.
  • I see trade shows for most industries filled with consumers who are “industry-junkies” of sorts, allowing brands and companies to get more technical and high-level in their displays and presentations.
  • I see trade shows playing an important role in building momentum, creating excitement and motivating industry players and consumers.
  • I see trade shows now reaching wider audiences, thanks to videos of product announcements and presentations being posted on YouTube and other social networks, or even live-streamed by brands. The Consumer Electronics Show in January is the most important stage for technology and entertainment, and many brands strategically connect live-presentations with social and digital media so that consumers who cannot attend in-person still feel that they’re a part of it.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Guy Longworth, Senior Vice President, PlayStation Brand Marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, to discuss the gaming and tech giant’s recent memorable trade show performances and how important trade shows are to the company.

At CES in January, Sony came out hot and received a great amount of praise. Everyone was talking about Sony’s impressive booth and all of the goods on display, including the PlayStation 3 console and PlayStation Vita. How important is your physical presence at a trade show and, without giving away any secrets, how do you strategize about what to include and how to display the items?

Trade shows are an important component in our marketing mix. They provide an excellent venue for us to showcase products and to launch new initiatives. We benefit from considerable PR, which we would find it difficult to replace without the focus of a show. We spend considerable time determining clear objectives for each trade show with a focus on the future product pipeline which informs our decision making process in terms of what is included and how it is displayed.

In your opinion, is the real value of successful runs at trade shows, including E3 and CES, for building brand reputation and hype or for introducing new products to make consumers race to stores to buy? Obviously, brand reputation leads to sales in the long-run, but what’s the value, from a marketing perspective, of unveiling a product that customers won’t be able to purchase for a good amount of time?

The gaming industry is the largest segment of the entertainment industry, which thrives on “what’s next” and has a successful history of building excitement and momentum for new platforms, games, and services by announcing them early. Securing pre-orders and building purchase intention are critical elements of any marketing campaign and trade shows provide an excellent platform to launch new products.

Continue Reading Trade Shows in the Digital Age: A Discussion with Sony Computer Entertainment

On Tuesday night, I attended a fascinating event at The ADVERTISING Club called AD THINK, which is bridging the gap between tech startups and the advertising world.  As the event’s host, founder and partner of Evol8tion Joseph Jaffe, put it – we have seen a lack of creativity in digital advertising and with all of the creativity streaming from the high-tech startup boom, several stellar startups have emerged to bridge the gap between Madison Ave and Mountainview.  The event, which was standing-room only and will be the first in a series, brought five cutting-edge startup founders to deliver presentations on their products and attempt to woo a panel of experts who know a thing or two about successful startups, ad land, and how creativity and tech can work hand-in-hand.  The panel included: Brian Cohen, Chairman of New York Angels and the first investor in Pinterest; Andreas Dahlqvist, Deputy CCO of Global & Vice Chairman of NY for McCann Erickson; Nihal Mehta, Founder and CEO of Local Response (in 2001, he founded an agency dedicated solely to mobile – way ahead of his time); and Catherine Schenquerman, Digital Advertising Head of JetBlue Airways.

Even though I could talk about the all-star panel for a while, let’s talk about the startups – the true stars of the evening.  I was blown away by the creativity of each of these tech companies, and the potential that these startups have for the future of advertising and marketing.  The main theme among them was something we’ve talked about before: bringing data and creative together, as well as using data and analytics to improve and drive creative content for digital and mobile advertising.  I’m excited to see what’s next for each of these companies.

  • One of the founders of social intelligence company Bottlenose presented the analytics tools the platform offers brands, which, among other things, can correlate the volume of trending topics and conversations surrounding a brand on social media with key indicators (i.e., stock price, sales, website visits, Nielsen ratings, etc.) to uncover who and what on social media are driving important activities.
  • The founder of started by saying, “E-mail is dead.”  We’ve heard it before, but his technology is actually using data gathered from e-mail marketing to help brands determine what to say and when to say it in order to achieve objectives from their e-mail marketing.  This could really bring e-mail back to life.
  • Continue Reading At the Intersection of Tech and Advertising

Back in October, I talked here on Madison Ave Insights about the FTC’s just-released Green Guides and what they would mean for marketers moving forward. The FTC moved against unfounded and overused “environmentally friendly” and “green” claims in marketing for a range of products. The standards as established challenge the use of unqualified general environmental benefit claims and asks advertisers to scientifically prove specific green claims.

One industry with a focus on the environment that needs to adapt to both the demands of the marketplace and the restrictions of the regulators is the automotive industry. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, consumers saw the latest model introductions from the automobile industry – domestic and foreign – that presented consumers with each company’s take on the best options for price, performance, versatility, fuel economy and being green.

So what’s next for the auto industry in terms of the future – both the future of the environmental and continued explosion of digital?

The Way I See It

  • Automakers see a double edge sword – a marketing and sales benefit from better fuel economy, but at a higher cost to engineer and build vehicles that consumers will want and can afford. They are facing new regulations requiring them to increase fleet-wide average fuel use to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
  • I see the cycle of government pushing the industry and the industry reacting to the push to be a dangerous paradigm in the current political climate. I see the need for industry to move forward independent of government prodding by satisfying consumer demand with products that are innovative and revolutionary.
  • I see automakers, both current and new, pushing forward with battery-powered, electric cars and pushing the envelope with new retail standards and business strategy. I see electric cars as being a true “environmental” automobile.
  • I see the automotive industry continuing its comeback and becoming even more important as major advertisers.
  • I see the need for breathtaking creative, brilliant strategy and greater use of digital, social media and mobile.

The Way The Industry Sees It

I sat down with Joel Ewanick, President and Managing Director of Global Auto Systems. Currently Joel is involved in several projects most noteworthy is as Special Advisor to the CEO of Fisker. Until last summer, Joel was the Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer of General Motors and prior to that Joel was Vice President of Marketing for Hyundai Motor America. In addition, he is best known for being the guy behind Hyundai Assurance. I asked Joel to discuss what’s next for environmental marketing and how the auto industry is evolving with the times.

Why is having an environmental strategy to the automotive sector important?  How does an automotive company present a credible environmental position?

Having an “environmental strategy” cannot be skin deep, it needs to run through the organization like blood through your veins and become a part of the company DNA. It needs to be a total commitment. If a company does not embrace an environmental position, it will be seen as a marketing gimmick – the “sexy” subject of the day, it’s pandering to the consumers. Eventually the consumer sees through it and calls it what it is, “greenwashing.” If a company genuinely cares about the environment, it should demonstrate it in products, offerings, and actions. It starts in the board room, from the top! A commitment from the companies’ executive management, if not – the accounting for such a commitment will eventually derail the programs. It doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time, research, and constant development – from raw material sourcing, to manufacturing, through the sales process, ownership and full circle to the recycling of the automobile at the end of its life. It all needs to be taken into account. As in any industry, there are leaders and there are followers, those who embrace a true commitment to certain technologies no matter the time and cost because it’s the right thing to do. They will reap rewards in decades to come. Fuel Cell technology is a perfect case. Some companies are demonstrating a total commitment to the technology and are in it for the long haul; while others have started but then backed off because the return on investment may be a decade away. These companies are not dedicated or committed, they will be followers.

The auto industry has new fuel efficiency standards to meet.  Do you think this regulation will change the current “fuel economy” advertising strategies?  Will the fuel efficiency standards make the importance of fuel economy claims less powerful?

What will make the claims powerful is the cost of gasoline.  If we continue to experience significant increases in gas prices, like here in California, where gas is at $4.15 to $4.25, consumers will continue to flock to more fuel efficient brands, like Hyundai. If prices stabilize, it will still be important, but it will likely over time become another given, a commoditized feature in all automobiles, like safety.  Volvo and Mercedes Benz owned safety, but through legislation, all cars are basically safe.  It is now a given.  Eventually this could happen with MPG as new technologies emerge.  In the end consumers will look for value, and gasoline, for the foreseeable future, is part of that value equation.

Continue Reading The New Auto Industry: Friend of the Environment and Tech Star

Data, data, data.  Advertising Week was buzzing with chatter about data – its importance for the advertising industry, future implications, how to improve and maximize data, privacy and security issues… The list goes on.  So it was only appropriate for Ogilvy & Mather North America Chief Creative Officer Steve Simpson’s keynote address at the National Advertising Division’s annual conference on Monday of Advertising Week to be focused on big data.  Adweek reporter Katy Bachman put it well in summing up the key takeaway from Steve’s address: “In the age of big data, advertisers need to get their act together when it comes to online privacy.”

The Way I See It

  • I see a boom in online behavioral advertising and interest-based advertising, which has given rise to the need for stricter consumer data protection standards for the industry.
  • I see a number of challenges and potential pitfalls that advertising agencies and brands need to be cautious of in order to be able to reap the benefits of all of the data that is becoming available.
  • I see the need for increased transparency across the industry in order to educate consumers about privacy policies and the data that is being collected from them.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Simpson, Ogilvy & Mather North America Chief Creative Officer, after Advertising Week to further discuss his NAD keynote address and his thoughts on data, privacy, creative, and more.

During your keynote, you said that this is a “massive creative issue.” Can you elaborate on this point? What steps should the advertising industry take to address this creative issue?

For marketers, privacy is an ethical issue, it’s a legal and regulatory issue, but it’s also a respect issue. This is to say, the new issues are the old issues.  It could be argued that the old days of one-way communication didn’t respect the consumer in the broadness of the messaging or bluntness of the media.  It intruded on your time with messages for products or services in which you often had no interest and for which you had no use. But the difference was the consumer knew what was what: the rules of the game were well known, transparent, and pretty much invariable.  The message was honest about its intent and succeeded by the power of its proposition or the force of its charm.  And when you turned the TV off, the TV didn’t rise from its stand, follow you about, and note all your doings.  It stayed shut off, because the “off” switch was a simple unambiguous technological act: “off” meant “off,” it didn’t mean “not apparently on, but watching you all day to see how you like it.”  While many in the industry declare with dewy eyes and a catch in the voice that the “consumer is now in control,” they are telling only half of the truth.  Because while the consumer can with high dudgeon tell a company exactly how to make a product better according to his own exacting personal standards—“Who’s in control now, you corporate hacks!!!!”—ending his tweet or review with a flurry of exclamation points, and moves on—he doesn’t move on, because the company he’s engaged isn’t ready to move on from him, but is only beginning to track him relentlessly in return for his “valuable inputs and collaboration.”

You said that if an advertiser is not respectful of its consumers’ privacy concerns that the job to be done by advertising, and the role of the creative director for that account, is very difficult.  Can you explain what you mean?

If consumers feel that marketers have relied solely on technology to track and target them, without openness and transparency, or without their knowledge or consent, then we have put the consumer into a state of alarm, resentment and even active resistance to our message.  Hence, the “massive creative issue.” What kind of ad can we create that is so wonderful it can overcome this?  Dear consumer, you feel violated—ready for a funny ad?

Continue Reading Data: A Creative Director’s Perspective