Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I met my "frenemy"

WPP's Martin Sorrell uses a great expression to describe companies with whom we both compete and collaborate -- the "frenemy."

I met one today.  Spot Runner.

Spot Runner can create TV commercials for a fraction of the cost of a large agency and then geo-target the commercial to the right audience in the right location.  Their customers tend to be small local and regional businesses that cannot afford TV using traditional means, or orphaned brands within large consumer product companies.  The entire transaction is done through Spot Runner's website.  (Yes, we're in an era where the client/agency relationship can be described as a transaction.)

The collaborative opportunities within the frenemy relationship are using Spot Runner to support local dealers and franchisees with one-off tactical promotions, or perhaps for test marketing ideas before investing in a large-scale campaign.  

Will Spot Runner put advertising agencies out of business?  Thankfully just the really awful ones.  Not to be overly Darwinian, but the herd could be thinned a bit

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Something a little more important than brands

Several items collided in my head today and made me think how desperately we need to solve our country's energy crisis.

Our clients at United are grappling with the impact of oil at $133 a barrel.  My colleagues in the auto business are grappling with the impact of gas spiraling well over $4 a gallon.  And our clients at Applied Materials, who are now deeply involved in applying nanotechnology to help make generating solar energy more affordable, are grappling with the massive capex bets their customers need to make in order to effectively scale solar into a viable solution.

Solving our dependence on oil is not just an economic imperative, it is increasingly a national security imperative.

We need a serious and concerted effort that joins government and business behind a noble and important goal -- energy independence.  In 1962 President Kennedy rallied the country to go to the moon, and in so doing created a space program that went well beyond putting a man on the moon -- it served as a catalyst for many parts of our society including science, engineering, medicine, computers and education.  Hell, we even got Tang out of the deal.

What if we did the same for clean-tech.  A forceful call to action for government, businesses and universities to invest and collaborate around a single goal -- a safer, more economical, more secure and cleaner country.  

What are we waiting for?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Don't let this happen to your brand.

Very funny video from The Onion depicting a Blockbuster as a living museum for tourists curious to learn how people used to rent videos in the old days.

Blockbuster used to be cool.  But that was before VoD, Netflix and iTunes.

How easy it is for an innovator to become yesterday's news -- or today's punch line.  This is why I firmly believe in the need for brands to innovate in good times and in recessionary times.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

TV is dead. Long live TV.

In early 2001 I gave a speech entitled "The Future of Advertising" at a chapter meeting of the American Marketing Association.  (I know, I know...even Nostradamus would have been embarrassed to use that title.)

I'm in the way-back machine because some recent headlines reminded me of something I talked about that day:  the advent of addressable TV advertising.  I spoke breathlessly about interactive TV (remember Wink?) and some emerging chatter about addressable TV.  My instincts may have been right but my timing was way off.

Seven years later that chatter about addressable TV advertising is now a full-fledged dialogue.  New companies such as Invidi Technologies can now provide cable operators with the tools to target specific commercials to specific viewers.  Industry initiatives such as Project Canoe, a consortium of cable operators, are working to create a universal model to deliver, price and measure addressable advertising.  The future is coming.  Any day now.

What's behind this recent momentum toward addressable TV advertising?

First, the moon and stars are finally aligning.  Like the Web, TV is now a digital medium.  Let that sink in for a moment and it becomes apparent that it is time to rethink its potential.  Combine its new digital delivery platform with the fact that viewership, while increasingly fragmented, is stable and large and we have a significant opportunity to reinvent TV advertising.

Second, the cable operators have a significant economic incentive to innovate.  They currently capture only $5 billion of the $70 billion marketers invest in TV advertising.

Third, and perhaps the most powerful driver of change, is pure fear.  And to cable operators fear is spelled g-o-o-g-l-e.  The folks who brought targeted advertising to the Web with AdWords are now exploring the potential to bring targeted buying and pricing to TV through a test with EchoStar's Dish Network.

Marketers and agencies should actively support these initiatives.  Addressable advertising will give us the ability to continue tapping TV's unmatched power to brand through sight, sound and motion with much greater precision and metrics.  Sounds like a win-win.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What's your brand narrative?

I've posted before on how great brands have a sense of true north -- a compelling point of view that shapes their beliefs and actions and keep them moving forward with an infectious sense of momentum.

I want to expand on that and add another dimension -- great brands also know what they oppose. Three brands illustrate this point.

Harley Davidson's new campaign, "screw it, let's ride", is a powerful manifesto for the brand. This campaign found a way to link Harley's defy authority ethos to today's zeitgeist of war, recession and slippery politicians. The campaign and website unite a community in a crusade against fear.

The Dove "Real Beauty" campaign shook the cosmetic world a few years back by standing up for individual self-esteem and exhorting people to question and defy the pretense of media-defined beauty.

For over two decades Apple has been on a crusade in celebration of creativity by demonizing grey conformity. This was set in motion in its epic "1984" spot, continued through its "Think Different" positioning and still exists today in its cheeky "Mac vs. PC" campaign.

What all three brands have in common is an appreciation of narrative. In any great story a protagonist must also have an antagonist. Every hero's journey involves overcoming challenges and adversaries, whether they be dragons, tyrants or competitors.

So what's the lesson for marketers?  Create a compelling story, not just a strategy. Go beyond defining what you stand for; decide what you oppose.  The most passionate causes tend to be in pursuit of both -- an ideal that inspires and a status quo that must be vanquished.  It is the yin and yang of these two forces that trumpets a call to arms.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Google "google" for a smart innovation strategy.

In my previous post on strategic innovation I wrote about the mistake many companies make putting innovation on the back burner during a recession.  In a difficult economic climate strategic innovation is often viewed as a luxury.  Smart companies, on the other hand, view innovation as a growth strategy, and these companies never place growth on the back burner.

This interview with Google's CEO Eric Schmidt reinforces this point and sheds light on Google's innovative approach to innovation.  He nails a huge idea -- i.e., innovation is a culture, not just a strategic process.