Category Archives: Advertising Agencies

HBR – The Social Media Bubble: Opinion

Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab, recently posted a thought piece in the Harvard Business Review .

In general, Haque hypothesizes that Social Media doesn’t really connect people but instead, creates the semblance of relationships. Haque states, Social Media is ” largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.”  He goes on to say “Today, ‘social’ media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.”  Here are my own observations relating to some of Haque’s supporting points.

Truth: If we take social media at face value, the number of friends in the world has gone up a hundredfold. But have we seen an accompanying rise in trust? I’d argue no.

Agreed. In fact the word ‘friend’ is used very loosely in the social media vernacular. To me, a friend is someone that I know and trust. Most of us have about 5 real friends in our lives whom we trust implicitly. The rest are aquaintances, people that we are tied to loosely via circumstance like work, associations, clubs or…Facebook and Twitter. What we have seen a rise in is conversation amongst relative strangers under the pretense of ‘friending’. Caveat Eggshell.

Disempowerment:  If social tools were creating real economic gains, we’d expect to see a substitution effect. They’d replace — disintermediate — yesterday’s gatekeepers. Yet, increasingly, they are empowering gatekeepers.

It’s been notable that service providers such as PR agencies, advertising agencies and media consultancies have been vying for ownership of social media within the advertiser domain re. client side of business. They advocate the social media imperative, are evangelical in their style of persuasion and purport to offer social media “ROI”. They fall short by ignoring the element of accountability – something ingrained in traditional media. There is however, substitution in the form of reallocating traditional media dollars to digital. In this regard though, the financial equation is incomplete: digital is cheaper but the material business benefits are elusive. Quantified returns, in management accounting terms, are a work in progress.

Value: The ultimate proof’s in the pudding. If the “relationships” created on today’s Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. .. I can swap bits with pseudo-strangers at any number of sites. “Friends” like that are a commodity — not a valuable, unique good.

This is a tough one. Social Media is increasingly seen as a near free channel or pipe to deliver content, customer service and promotional offers. It’s also cheap in the sense that it has the capacity to diminish the value of fact-based, expert content while simultaneously encouraging the rise of ill-founded, non fact-based crowdsourced opinion. In this context, success is all too often gauged in purely quantitative terms (# of fans or followers) rather than say, degree of loyalty/willingness to recommend. In a similar vein, it is problematic to prove that people are who they say they are in the world of social networks, as many use avatars to represent themselves. If something is a known unknown then how does one ascribe value? 

There also exists an element of social media that is redundant, maybe superfluous, in terms its effect (non-effect?) on consumers. For many brands, the franchise is well entrenched (Tide, McDonald’s, BMW, Wal-Mart and of course, Apple) and the principles of The Discipline of Market Leaders are in place. These same brands already have meaningful relationships and established trust with consumers pre-Internet. Social Media is not about to change this any time soon, though to some, it may appear that way.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

(Cross-posted at Cloud Ave and reprinted by IBM Business Insight Blog)

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Digital Dumping: It’s Time for Real Accountability

[Note: This guest post was originally featured in the ACA (Association of Canadian Advertisers) newsletter “Driving Marketing Success”. Reprinted by permission.]

Talk with anyone about what’s important for advertisers on the net, and after the obligatory deference to social media the conversation quickly turns to something more familiar, something marketers feel comfortable with: tried-and-true video.

When this recession hit last year, we all wondered what media would be hit the hardest. TV? Newspapers? What we didn’t wonder is what would be hit the least. That surely would be the Internet. Online spending for sure would be spared the axe, and in fact, if any medium could show growth during a recession it most likely would be online.

It didn’t happen, though. eMarketer reported recently that total online spending in the U.S. (Canadian figures were not available) will be down 2.9% for 2009. But have a look specifically at online video. It is the bright spot with a projected growth rate for 2009 of – wait for it – 43%! In a recessionary year. And here’s the kicker: eMarketer projects that online video will have roughly 40% growth rates each year for the next five years.

Add to this a New York Times report that online news is attracting $50 per thousand viewers for video pre-rolls, and a recent Advertising Age report that consumer packaged goods have embraced online video, and you have to conclude that something big is happening here.

There seems to be a certain pent-up demand for video on the net, and all indications are that it is going to manifest big next year. Which begs a pretty important question, and one that marketers always get around to asking when substantial investments begin to accumulate: how do I know if I am getting what I paid for?

ACA members attending our recent New Media Committee meeting got a glimpse into this future, listening to a presentation by Anthony Rushton, Director of Telemetry plc of London, UK, on online video verification. Telemetry is a new entrant into the online infrastructure which provides a service for clients with a very important difference: independent, secure verification that ads were run.

Not to pick on Google, but don’t they actually own DoubleClick, the ad server they use? Where’s the incentive for them to apply rigorous due diligence? How do advertisers know they are getting exactly what they have ordered and paid for? By taking their word? That might have been okay for an industry in its infancy, but it’s not okay for a mature business.

Telemetry showed us screen captures from publishers that were running five small video ads on the same page, buried 10 pages down in the site, in order to fulfill their contract count. Did it ever come up in the sales negotiations that you would be sharing the screen with four other video advertisers at the same time!? I didn’t think so.

It’s been a long, long time since newspapers were accused of printing extra copies in order to get larger circulation figures to boost the price they could charge advertisers – and then dumping many of those copies in the alley.

But it looks like circulation dumping is alive and well and living in some of the digital alleyways of the Internet. Telemetry is careful to point out that not everyone is doing this, but it is happening out there. Campaign discrepancies can run as high as 30%, they point out.

That is just plain unacceptable.

– Bob Reaume
– Vice President, Policy & Research

Get access to Telemetry and other leading-edge thinkers in the field through the ACA’s new media committee.

Bob Reaume Bob Reaume’s 35-year career in advertising began in media at Ronalds-Reynolds Advertising in Toronto. Bob oversees the research required to support ACA’s many projects, especially those related to media. He also plays a pivotal role in supporting and developing various initiatives undertaken by ACA’s New Media, Broadcast and Print & Out-of-Home committees.

Marketing Research and the Rise of the Social Machines

I recently had the pleasure of providing a guest post for the AMA – American Marketing Association’s Marketing Research Conference held last week. These are times of transformation for an industry reputed to see the world through a rear-view mirror rather than drive marketing innovation. With this in mind, here are some further musings:
Mobile and the Generation ‘Effect’: Verizon just announced it is exiting the land line business by 2012. This gives credence to what some telecom industry analysts have been suggesting – the general public will have completely disconnected from land lines by 2020. Most consumers aged 16-29 currently do not have a landline subscription and are one of the most difficult target markets to contact for survey research. If you think your teenage son or daughter are hard to reach because of their preoccupation with mobile devices and the Internet, just imagine how mobile the world will be in 5, 10, 20 years. It’s quite possible that some market segments will only being reachable via a social site or mobile device; with portability or ‘go anywhere computing’ a term once coined by IBM, it will be difficult to ascertain whether or not the target respondent is actually based in a specific geographic location or physical market.

Brand Community Building: While some say “the consumer now controls the brand”, brands have commissioned companies such as Communispace to establish brand communities – online aggregations of consumers who have a specific loyalty, interest and adherence to a brand. Communispace has built over 300 online brand communities for clients such as HP, Kraft, Reebok, Starwood, and GSK. Brands use communities for direct feedback on product experience, innovation, service ideas, and value augmentation, allocating dollars that would normally go to marketing research budgets.

The complexity of business challenges will be augmented by the emergence of Owned Platforms. Owned Platforms, essentially a form of private label media, is moving the locus of brand management and control back to the brand. Procter & Gamble provides a great example of this with the multi-platform launch of Rouge Magazine www.rougemagazine.com. According to a recent report by WARC, P&G is also launching Supersavvyme,  a digital place for “savvy” mothers to gather. This Owned Platform will feature articles, blogs, discussion forum and special offers. In fact, P&G has put the ‘freemium’ concept on its ear by offering choc-a-block assortments of coupons and offers, a notable feature of the free Rouge quarterly.

Social Media Monitoring (SMM) Platforms: Five years ago the marketing research industry scoffed at such listening platforms. The biggest objection I heard was that social media monitoring “wasn’t market research.”  This would have been like saying that digital advertising wasn’t true advertising since it did not use traditional creative, media and pricing models. SMM Platforms will continue to grow in terms of capabilities, scope, cost and business applications. Back in 2003 there were less that a dozen viable SMMs in business; today there are over 50, at that is just in the US alone — and clients are buying their services with monies previously allocated to traditional survey-based research.

Many of the world’s largest and most well known brands are going digital in a large way – Coca-Cola, Ford, Dell and Lufthansa, are already there and leading the way; many others are migrating in that direction. In response, agency networks are reshuffling the deck. WPP, Omnicom, Publicis for example have acquired significant digital capabilities.  All are using social media applications to ‘sense and respond’ to customer requirements at times bypassing traditional marketing research as the need for “real time/on demand” consumer feedback grows.

These challenges also touch many related professional services including business intelligence and management consulting. Taking an ‘Outside-In view’, that of our the client, similar challenges exist at the functional and execution levels. The silver lining for marketing research in all this is the opportunity to take an active role in providing a foreword view for the brand. This means being a catalyst in the convergence of digital technology and marketing and placing innovation and invention at the forefront – Ted Morris ©4ScreenMedia

Crowdsourcing: Spoils of a Pyrrhic Victory

Call it the Vegemite effect but you have to wonder when you read press and blog statements such as “…one of the biggest ever crowdsource fails” or “the creative industry embraces crowdsourcing”, (emphasis mine).

Then there are those who think the barbarians are actually at the gate. In a story about “Dewmocracy”, Pepsi’s trial outsourcing of creative to a shop that is selected in part, by consumers, raises alarms for the creative community. Whether or not this will be successful (by what measure, we’ll have to wait and see), the hand wringing seems to be a function of the issue of agency fees, suggesting crowdsourcing and agency fee structures as undergoing ‘experimentation’ as the quality of some creative is being eclipsed by the fees being charged for business value delivered.

Experimentation indeed. Just because one or two agencies decide to build a business model around crowdsourcing (yet to make a rupee of profit) or Mars goes looking for 18-34 year old males to submit videos starring a Snickers bar, it’s all very, very notional at this stage.
 
Most poignant was Dorritos, who, according to a recent story in AdWeek, was spending money to create awareness but really looking to repurpose adspend dollars. So it’s not really about saving money, it’s about something we’re all familiar with – focus groups. Well, crowdsourcing is about employing one big undifferentiated mass without paying a lot in return for a bunch of ideas that may or may not hit the mark – like being at a advertising roulette table.

Is this simply a case of those with crumbling business models hoping for some magic potion to lift their business out of this advertising depression or are some of us simply overdosing on the nectar of all things social media?

At the end of all this, don’t be surprised if some prolific texting GenY brand manager stands up and says “We need to segment and do some target marketing”. Hard and costly lessons have already been learned: Kraft went back to opinion polling to seek out the ideas of a target consumer market as “Vegemite 2.0” was the laughing stock of the Aussie morning breakfast consumer, thanks to the well-intentioned ideas of the undifferentiated masses.

So before we champion the arrival of crowdsourcing on the advertising world let us heed the words of the Greek King Epirus, who defeated Roman armies at Asculum, in 280 B.C. “One more such victory and we are lost.”

Marketing Research RIP:

[Note: This post was originally featured by the American Marketing Association Marketing Research Conference “Making Business Sense of What’s Next”.  This post was  in response to the question, “What will marketing research look like in the year 2029”.]

These are times of transformation for industry that is reputed to see the world through a rear-view mirror rather than drive marketing innovation.  This current recession or depression is a good time to us to rethink, retool and re-launch. So here are a few things to think about when going to your next client meeting:

Mobile and the Generation ‘Effect’: Verizon just announced that it is getting out of the land line business by 2012. Telecom industry analysts have suggested that the general public will have completely disconnected from land lines by 2020. Most consumers aged 16-29 currently do not have a landline subscription and are one of the most difficult target markets to contact for survey research. If you think your teenage son or daughter are hard to reach because of their preoccupation with mobile devices and the Internet, just imaging how mobile the world will be in 20 years. Focus groups won’t be held in a stuffy room with one-way mirrors, fancy sandwiches and a drone of a moderator.

Community Building: While some say “the consumer now controls the brand”, brands have commissioned companies like www.communispace.com to establish brand communities – online aggregations of consumers who have a specific loyalty, interest and adherence to a brand. Communispace has built over 300 online brand communities since for clients such as HP, Kraft, Reebok, Starwood and GSK. Brands use communities for direct feedback on product experience, innovation, service ideas and value augmentation allocating dollars that would normally go to marketing research budgets.

Social Media Monitoring Platforms:  Five years ago the marketing research industry scoffed at such listening platforms. I can say that from first hand experience having held a corporate development role for a technology startup that was looking to the MR industry for capital. The biggest objection that I heard was that social media monitoring ‘wasn’t market research’. While I never suggested that it was, social media monitoring is a way to passively listen and quantify brand conversations that consumers choose to undertake and post on the Internet. This would have been like saying that digital advertising wasn’t true advertising since it did not use traditional creative, media and pricing models. Aptly, Digitas recently referred to the Internet as ‘one large focus group”. Indeed.

Some early adopters, notably TNS/Kantar, Nielsen and J.D. Power & Associates took the early lead in making acquisitions. In turn they gained competitive advantage in being able to meet emerging client requirements: provide a capability to monitor and understand the nature of online consumer content, coined as WOM – Word of Mouth. WOM was coined by WOMMA, Word Of Mouth Marketing Association. WOMMA was founded by Andy Sernovitz, www.damniwish.com  one of the nation’s most influential marketing and social media observers. Public Relations agencies, consultancies and OEM’s are also partnering with companies like www.radian6.com and www.sysomos.com  in order to have their own capability to monitor brands and emerging consumer trends.

Big Brands/ Big Digital Branding: Pepsi, Ford, Dell, NCR, General Mills are going digital or at least migrating in that direction when it comes to online consumer engagement. Ford for example, invests heavily in social media to manage, monitor, measure and position Ford as the most “social” automotive manufacturer. Pepsi for their part is using various social media platforms to engage consumers while Dell and Marriott are generating revenues from social media platforms. All are using social media to ‘sense and respond’ to customer requirements at time bypassing traditional marketing research as the need to ‘real time/on demand’ consumer feedback grows.

Advertising Agency networks: WPP for example now has a portfolio that is roughly 50% digital. The WPP network is in the process of consolidating the back offices of it four major traditional ad agencies that are, one, unnamed WPP executive was known to have said “dying profitably”.  As more advertising dollars go Digital so are the dollars allocated away from traditional marketing research – the Social Media listening industry has been pegged at $150M according for Forrester. That’s up from $0 in 2003. Publicis, MDC, Ominicom, Havas have all stocked up on digital companies in the past 3 years.

Marketing Research:  By contrast the market research industry has been consolidating for the past 10 years to the point where the top 10 global MR firms own about a 40% share of revenues. In the past 3 years, revenues have barely kept up with inflation and have actually declined in 2008 along with the drop in ad spend. In fact, according to the 2008 Honomicl50 report, with the exception of 2004, the US MR industry has not kept up with the rate of inflation since 2001 – the dawn of social media.

Our current economic recession has also seen some client companies completely eliminated their entire global MR spend – and you know who they are. There are exceptions: Comscore has grown 400% in the past 5 years according to Inside Research. Comscore focuses on measuring in the digital world. Makes sense as digital ad spend will rise by 9% next year, according to GroupM and mobile will rise by 19%. By contrast, traditional ad spend in seeing drops of 23-35% in the US, depending on the industry sector – not good for the MR industry. Moreover, WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell sees digital has having a 20% share of marketing budgets by 2014. Haven’t heard the same about marketing research.

Food for thought or a call to action for the industry? You decide. As Yogi Berra aptly put it, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”. The clock is ticking…

 Ted Morris ©4SceensMedia  Oct. 3, 2009