Tag Archives: advertising age

A fun activity for Christmas if you’ve failed to board the social media train so far — enroll in SMUG

Two-thousand-and-nine will go down as the year when social media and marketing finally moved beyond the fishbowl of early adopters and entered the marketing mainstream.

I first started getting involved with social media in lurker mode — that is, subscribing to blogs, listening to podcasts, digesting the emerging literature on the topic, but not personally writing or commenting — toward the end of 2006.  As my interest and knowledge grew and I began to breach the topic with colleagues and clients, no one knew what the heck I was talking about.  Even at the beginning of 2008, when I began this blog, there still wasn’t a whole lot of attention being paid to social media by mainstream marketers or the press.

In the meantime, every other article in Advertising Age touches on some dimension of social media, CNN and other traditional media outlets invite you to follow them on Twitter, my clients are experimenting and creating social media staff positions, Ford’s Scott Monty, who was virtually unknown outside the social media fishbowl three years ago, is a marketing superstar, and even my 86 year old mom is on Facebook.  If there’s anyone left in the marketing community who hasn’t at least thought there is something definitely HAPPENING out there, he or she must be living under that proverbial rock.

Okay — but what if you’ve come late to the train?  You’ve recognized something is going on, but for whatever reason — you’ve been buried under the weight of your anachronistic to-do list, your boss has his head in the sand (or worse places) when it comes to social, or 2009 was the year you finally got to the final round of American Idol — you just haven’t had the time to look into it.

Here’s what you do.  Go to SMUG — Social Media University Global.  SMUG — an unfortunate acronym, as there is nothing smug about it — was created by Lee Aese.  Lee is the manager for Syndications and Social Media for the Mayo Clinic and has been a pioneering innovator in the application of social media strategies in health care.  (I have written previously about the Mayo Clinic’s social media efforts here.)

Enroll in the SMUG curriculum.  That sounds kind of old fashioned and boring, but it’s anything but.  The SMUG curriculum consists of Lee’s own clear and concise explanations of social media strategies and tools, as well as links to articles, blog posts, etc. relevant to the topic at hand, authored by others active in the space.  Add to that a good dose of charm and humor that Lee brings to the party and you’ll find that getting up to speed on the new world of social media and marketing can be an awful lot of fun.  Best of all, it’s free.

So in between the figgy pudding, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and your annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, why not log in to SMUG this holiday season and give yourself a gift that will truly last the whole year long and beyond.

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The Chaos Scenario — Chicken Little was right!

In his current episode of the podcast Jaffe Juice, Joseph Jaffe talks to Bob Garfield about his latest in a series of Ad Age articles on the death of media and advertising as we know it (“Future May Be Brighter, but It’s Apocalypse Now,” Advertising Age Online, March 23, 2009).  In this most recent piece on what Bob has called The Chaos Scenario, he presents growing evidence that the business model of traditional media, based on content creation funded by advertising revenues, is coming undone faster than anyone may have imagined.

The written word is a wonderful thing, but actually to hear Bob discuss and elaborate upon his perspectives in the interview is an eye opener.  Those of us who think about social media already know a lot of this, but to listen to the man who still reviews the Superbowl commercials every year predict the demise of the 30″ TV commercial really makes an impression.  You can’t help but feel Chicken Little was right.  The sky really is falling.  (And in a few years I may be out of a job!)

Here are some of the key points that stuck in my mind:

The old advertising model is dying, if not already dead, because it’s built upon  two pillars that are crumbling:

1) Good content is scarce, 2) You can force people to look at advertising in exchange for that content.

YouTube has already taken a big bite out of the first pillar, and the adaption of TiVo and DVR’s is eating away at the second one.

Still, consumer generated content alone will never replace professionally produced content like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy.  And while newspapers in their current form are clinging to life, there will always be demand and a need for objective, well-researched reporting and journalistic excellence.  Indeed a democratic society depends upon it.  Gen Y’ers may ascribe to the philosophy that content should be free, but it isn’t.  Or at least much good content isn’t.  Talented directors and serious journalists also have to eat, buy clothes and support families.

Right now it’s easy enough to say good content should be free because there’s still plenty of it around that you can get for free, even as the revenue sources and models that fund the production of it are drying up.   But imagine a day when there are no newspapers like The New York Times, no magazines like The New Yorker, and nothing on TV except low-cost production reality shows.  If that day ever comes, people will be starved for something better.  And they’ll pay for better fare in one currency or another.  But it will no longer be by subjecting themselves to advertising that bores and irritates them.

We are observing a sea change — a major upheaval on a par with the industrial revolution and other historical movements that changed society forever.

I think this is true.  And as Bob points out, it will effect every part of society, not just marketing and communications.  The power has truly shifted from the top of the pyramid, to the bottom — the crowd, thanks to the digital and social media revolution that is enabling people to connect and wield collective power like never before.

People are still interested in products and brands.  They’re just not interested in advertising.

I don’t completely agree with this.  People are not interested in advertising for products in which they have no interest.  I have argued elsewhere on this blog that the 30″ commercial is actually a very efficient tool to learn quickly about a product and its benefits.  The problem is an ineffective distribution system that places too many commercials in front of the wrong people.

I do agree that advertising in future will be a small part of a rich pallet of consumer-brand interactions, enabled by the internet and social media, that shifts the relationship between the brand and the consumer from one-way telling and selling to collaboration, dialogue and partnership.

The Chaos Scenario — soon to be a new book and a platform for conversation.

the-chaos-scenario2Bob will soon be packaging his thinking into a suprisingly old media form — a book.  He’s also created a web site — www.thechaosscenario.net — that he promises will be more than just an online promotion for the book, but a place for people to come together and share thinking on the topic.  It’s not active yet, but you can already go and sign up to receive updates as the project progresses.  I for one will be watching, listening and participating.

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January 20th, 2009 — the inauguration of a new kind of marketing

In a recent post on Advertising Age online, Sam Levin describes a development on Facebook relating to tagging photos with friends’ names.  In order to promote a cause, candidate, event or what have you, a Facebook user tags that photo with the names of “influential” Facebook friends.  The photo then shows up in the feeds of all the friends of that influencer, tagged with his or her name, indicating — falsely — a connection or implicit endorsement between the influencer and the cause.  Understand? (It took me a while.)  What’s important is that the photo isn’t of the influential Facebook user, it relates to the cause.  And, as someone else tags the user’s name to the photo, the implied endorsement is false.  I guess you could call it deceptive testimonial advertising, Facebook style.

Mr. Levin goes on to say that this could be “a really terrific idea for someone looking to broadly push a message” and suggests the possibility of a marketing campaign working in this way.  In a follow up post to comments objecting to the practice as misleading, Mr. Levin responds that this is simply a “re-purposing of a channel intended for one thing towards another end, but regardless of value judgment, any online communication platform is an exercise in design defining the way information is transacted.  Systems will always be adopted for the most profitable ends possible, just as water flows downhill.”  He goes on to say that “Social networks, just like email before them, are going to have to contend with the fact that through their constructions they open themselves up for use in ways they do not intend (which may or may not be sub-optimal for their user base).”

This assessment is disturbing:

1) It implies that any use of a medium, regardless of how deceptive, is justified if it provides profit to the media provider and enables marketers to achieve business objectives.

2) It encourages marketers to continue to use the old communications model of “pushing” commercial messages in front of people whether they want to hear them or not, rather than applying the marketer’s  energy to find innovative models that work with, not against, the new dynamics of social media to empower communications and conversations.

3) It’s the kind of thinking that make people mistrust marketing — and rightly so.  Sure, baiting people with a friend’s tag to get them to click on a photo that connects them to a marketing message may create a brand impression, but is a brand impression that tricks a person into receiving it under false pretenses an effective one?  Especially when social media offers so many ways that can motivate people to opt in to hearing your message?  I don’t think so.

Which brings me – in case you were wondering — to the title of this post.  During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama talked about the end of “politics as usual.”  Americans, he said, were tired of the deceptive, misleading and shallow tactics of the Washington establishment, which they recognized to be  more about each party’s hunger for political power, than about addressing the challenges facing the nation and helping secure a better future for its citizens and the world.

I think the country is hoping that come January 20th, 2009, we will witness not just the inauguration of a new president, but of a new era of honesty, transparency and mutual respect in politics.  Is it to idealistic to hope the same for marketing and communications?

Okay — comparing misleading tags on Facebook photos to past evils in Washington may be a stretch.  But the practice Mr. Levin suggests is symptomatic of a much wider array of marketing practices, supported by billions of dollars, that often manipulate the truth, mislead consumers, and bash them into submission with commercial messages in the hope of making a sale.  Social media enables marketing  and communications that, like the political tone many of us hope for, are grounded in honesty, transparency and mutual respect between the brand and consumers.  Don’t we have more to gain by pursuing new communications practices that are empowered by the tools and the spirit of communities like Facebook, rather than manipulating those communities to try and preserve the old model of one-way, push communications?

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