Month: May 2010

Who Will Capture the Flag? The Convergence of Digital, Traditional, Media & PR Agencies

A recent “AdWeek” article observed that, “digitally centric agencies like R/GA are adding more traditional brand-building capabilities while TBWA and BBDO are trying to apply digital to their orgs.”

This article prompted a student of business to pose the following question on LinkedIn: “Who has it harder traditional agencies or digital ones?”

This was my response:

Full service, traditional agencies have longer histories and potentially tighter relationships with major advertisers. Digital agencies have deeper and wider technical skills and experience, e.g., building a rich media site or social media campaign. It will be very interesting to see how things play out, and I think, as I write this and look at the names you have listed above, it may be a case by case situation, i.e., some digital agencies are strong enough to make the transition, and some creative agencies are forward looking enough to make inroads.

One thing that I think both benefits and limits digital agencies is that many of these agencies grew out of the direct agencies of the large media conglomerates. While test and learn, measurement and optimization are important, and while digital realms provide a bevy of data to work with, that kind of mindset can be limiting as the interactive space becomes more and more “upper funnel” – with more opportunities for branding and truly breakthrough creative thinking.

All that said, what is happening on the ground right now is that
(a) creative agencies are seeking to hire talent with interactive backgrounds, particularly from top digital agencies and
(b) both digital and traditional agencies are expanding and changing out their strategy teams. Several major agencies have new strategy heads as of the beginning of 2010.

Who’s the Boss? Why Facebook Can’t Get Its Head Around Our Privacy Concerns

I’ve seen it before. Technology companies that don’t understand the customer mindset. Coming from a packaged goods background, I am trained to see my consumer as my most important constituency. But coming from a technology background, Mark Zuckerberg seems to have greater empathy for developers than users.

Last month, Facebook hosted a day of presentations, talks and break out sessions known as F8. As someone in the digital community, I tuned in for a streamed recording of Zuckerberg’s keynote speech, which outlined the dramatic changes that Facebook was introducing to the world including the open graph protocol, greater sharing of data with partner sites and changes in privacy policies. It was an inspiring talk. At the end of it, he spoke about how medical students see opportunities in the world to save people, lawyers see opportunities to bring fairness to the world, and programmers want to make the world a better place. It’s a bit late at night, so I’ll have to go back to the tape to see whether I’ve summarized this appropriately, but I recall being inspired by his can-do, why-not, I’m an engineer attitude.

My next thought was the following: This has been an informative and well-produced little presentation. I watched it because I’m a digital junkie, but, what about the other 400 million people who use Facebook? How many of them watched this? And even if they did, would they have understood it? Open graph protocol???? I don’t think so. So, I was waiting to see how Facebook would communicate these innovations to its… customers, its users, not its third party developers and programmers, but the folks who give him the data and attention and time that is so valuable to everyone else. Nada. I did not see any plan to do so.

Then I logged into my Facebook account. As you can imagine, when I logged in, I was there for a specific reason. Perhaps I wanted to post something on my wall, or check my inbox or read comments to my profile. As soon as I arrived at the home page, I was met by a huge block of text and choices. It told me that my “likes” would be something-or-othered and I could decide what I wanted to share and not and… well, I didn’t have time for it. Click this, unclick that, and I went on my merry way.

Had I not watched the video, I would have been taken completely off guard. As it was, I was thrown off course, but had enough of a backdrop to be cautious about what I did and didn’t check. I do recall going to Twitter and expressing concern about whether my name would be posted on the websites of brands I “liked.” The Twitter community assured me there was nothing to worry about and went about tweeting about this interesting open graph protocol.

Tune in a week later, and the world has gone amok. Diaspora* is having hundreds of thousands of dollars offered to them to be the David to Zuckerberg’s Goliath. Public figures like Baratunde Thurston are publicly closing out their Facebook accounts and asking friends to unfriend them. And Zuckerberg is taking his story to the Washington Post to let us know he “hears us”… but that we really shouldn’t be so concerned.

And therein lies the problem. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t think like a consumer. And certainly not like the mainstream consumers that have come to Facebook of late. He thinks like a Gen Y, 20-something programmer. He’s never taken a marketing class; he never even finished his Harvard Core Curriculum requirements.

This, as I am waywardly getting to, is my point. Seeing the consumer as the constituent does not always come naturally. Several years ago, I served as interim marketing head for an up and coming website. The year before I arrived, revenue was $40 million. The year I got there, $70 million. And they were on track for $100 million. But they were somehow a little stuck. The content on their site was written by a group of contributors I will call “Coaches.” These people are compensated by the website based on the traffic and ad revenue they generate. This group was, up until I arrived, considered to be the company’s customer. What about the users, I asked? What about the advertisers? Ah, that was where I could provide insight to this technology-driven organization.

A year or so later, I worked with the website of a major travel and tourism commission. When I visited the site, I looked at it from a consumer point of view and was disappointed. Then I looked at it from an advertiser point of view and was disappointed. Who did the commission see as their customer? Answer: The hospitality industry and destination marketing organizations. Because these organizations were the ones who funded the tourism commission. Hence, if I visited the site and searched for information about ski resorts, I might be served with minutes from the ski resort marketing association annual meeting. Shocking to me, but it made total sense to the client – because we had different ideas as to who the key stakeholder was.

What Facebook seems to be lacking is a true and intuitive understanding of the consumer. The consumer that is the user – not the developer, not even the advertiser, but the individual members of the Facebook community. The four hundred million… people.

Link me In – LinkedIn Tips for Job Search and Business Promotion

This evening I am sitting on a discussion panel about social media and, particularly, LinkedIn. Last night I jotted down some thoughts with respect to some of the preliminary questions posed to me and thought I might share them here for those who will not be making it to Paramus this evening – though I encourage you to do so if you can as (a) I will surely refine my answers (b) there are two other panelists and a moderator, (c) there will be a Q&A session (d) there will be networking and food for a low price.

As I said, these thoughts are rough and preliminary, and I hope to improve upon them when I find myself in a “procrastinatory” mood. I welcome your thoughts, input, disagreement, personal examples, corroboration and so forth:


How do I make my profile standout?

  • Be true to yourself. I see my LinkedIn profile as part of my overall communication plan. So highlight the things you want to emphasize. I would also recommend that you include any “Brand Names” and “key words” that might be of interest to those you want to “attract.” There are a number of people, including recruiters and HR managers, who use LinkedIn as a search engine. It’s similar to the way things used to be with job sites like CareerBuilder. However, this is better, in my opinion, because you are not obviously, actively looking, so it puts you on more equal footing.
  • Include descriptions of your work, not just listings of companies, titles and dates
  • Include links to relevant websites, e.g., if you have a personal or biz website, if you have a blog, if you have a Twitter feed.
  • Have a nice, professional photo.
  • Update things periodically so that your contacts get “updates.” Keeps you top of mind. Use the status update, but use it strategically and cautiously.

Should I make more than one profile?

  • No, it will just complicate your life, and it will confuse people. This is what makes LinkedIn tricky, but embraces it as a puzzle to solve.

What are some profile mistakes I should avoid?

  • Poor quality or unprofessional photo
  • Twitter feed – don’t overwhelm me
  • Incoherent overview of what you do – for consultants – don’t give me a list
  • [I have a personal example of something I tried but found to be suboptimal – demonstrating that here, as in most digital environments, there is an opportunity to test and change.]

How do I expand my network?

  • LinkedIn is a tool to manage your network, so basic networking rules still apply, and I would encourage getting to know people face to face before connecting with them on LinkedIn. When you meet someone at an event that you want to connect to, take their card and connect to them in the next 24 hours to 7 days.
  • Groups. Join some relevant groups, and join in on the conversations
  • Go through the lists that LinkedIn gives you of people from your jobs or schools that are on LinkedIn. Check back periodically. Once you’ve exhausted that, take a look at the people that LinkedIn recommends to you.
  • Go through your non-LinkedIn “Rolodex” and periodically invite people to connect. Consider “refreshing” people’s memories, as needed, e.g., “you may recall that we met at the Bergen County Networking Event.”

How do I request references?

  • Probably best to prime the pump outside of LinkedIn, e.g., via email or phone or in person. Then send the invite; make it easy for them.
  • Technically: go to edit mode of your profile, go to relevant job, and click on “request recommendation.” The person has to be a LinkedIn connection.
  • Think strategically about how many you want. Try to get people from different perspectives, but especially senior people. Ask people who can sincerely write about you.
  • Sometimes people will ask you what they should say. Find out whether they want a few bullet points or an actual draft. [interested in what others have to say about this.]

How do I find companies that may not be advertising new jobs?

  • Search for people at those companies, including people in HR. Create jobs. Network with people and sell them on what you could potentially do. Set up informational interviews.
  • Follow companies… (a new feature)
  • Check out company pages.

What can/should I learn about a company before an interview?

  • Find out who you are meeting with and check out their LinkedIn profile – take a look at who you know in common – take at look at people’s blogs, company websites and twitter feeds. Be cautious about speaking to people who know the interviewer in common – make sure you’re not giving away a lead.
  • I still like Hoover’s
  • Set up Google alerts

Should I link my LinkedIn profile to my blog, Facebook and Twitter?

  • Blog: depends on the blog; if your blog is something you want potential employers to see, i.e., professional and/or shows off something you want to showcase, then link to it – use the link at the top of your profile – otherwise, no
  • Facebook: no
  • Twitter: include your twitter name if, as above, you want potential employers to see it, i.e., it’s professional

Should I accept all connection requests?

  • No. Be discriminating. I would like to think that, even though I have 700 connections, I could say who each person is, even though it may take some research, e.g., spotlight, notes, address book or need to jog my memory by seeing who we know in common, etc.
  • Do not connect to anyone you have not met or had substantive exchange with via phone or email.
  • Be somewhat cautious about recruiters – they want access to your Rolodex. Think about whether they can be valuable to you.

Is it recommended that a job seeker use the Q&A section?

  • Q&A – now called Answers – is not very commonly used anymore. I would focus on Groups.


What’s the best way to promote a business on LinkedIn?

  • Create and maintain company profile
  • Use status updates, events, get involved in Groups
  • As above, tweak your profile to stay on people’s update feeds
  • Create a blog if you have the time and it’s relevant; link to it. Same with Twitter.
  • Encourage employees to use LinkedIn
  • Create alumni groups
  • Monitor LinkedIn to stay on top of trends and hear what’s being said about your company, competitors and your sector

How do we promote a small business? (versus a large business)

  • Same as above.

How do we use LinkedIn for local business promotion?

  • I think there are some hyper local functions being added
  • Join local groups (such as Bergen County LinkedIn and Meetup groups)
  • Connect to important people in your geo

Can I advertise on LinkedIn?

  • Yes. There is a link at the bottom of the page called “advertising.” There are options for large & small budgets. I think it’s like Google. Pay per click and also banner pops.

Can I use LinkedIn for competitive info?

  • Yes. First of all, track down people who used to work at competitive companies and network with them…
  • Follow the companies

Should we link our blog/Facebook/Twitter to LinkedIn?

  • Same as above: blog if it’s professional. Facebook Fan page if it’s professional. Twitter if it’s professional. But not automatic feeds. I hate that.

Should we accept all connection requests?

  • Nope – same as above. Your business is yourself when it comes to social media. It’s all about authenticity and transparency, so it’s hard to draw a line.

Should we create a LinkedIn Company Profile? Pros/Cons

  • Yes, it’s quick and easy. No downside, and you can see who is following you. Set it up. You can always add to it later.

Disaggregation & Correlation Optimization – How Print Media Can Be Saved

Print publishers need to start looking at their business in a new way. Rather than maintaining the print versions of their magazine and newspaper publications as they are, and then deciding what form of walled garden, paywall, metered, micropayment and/or freemium model to implement online, they need to unbundle and redesign what they offer – which is news and information, not a printed magazine or electronic replication with enhancements.

Right now, a consumer has no choice in what they get in terms of a print publication. There is basically one version. You may read only a few sections of the New York Times but, too bad, you get it all, and now you need to deal with disposing of and/or recycling what you don’t read or need. It’s like saying to a shopper at Costco: I know you came in for diapers, but you also get motor oil with that purchase – for free – because they are bundled together. Well, that motor oil just makes the “bundle” worth less to me. I’d rather have the diapers alone or, perhaps, bundle them with pureed vegetables.

So it is with published content. I might like to have a print copy of the Sunday Arts & Leisure and Style sections as well as daily podcasts of the front page and daily e-mail news alerts about anything having to do with social media. So disaggregate what you offer and rebundle it in a way that is valuable to me. I might be willing to pay more for that combination than I currently pay for the printed publication.

Now I understand that the NYT may not want to create hundreds of thousands of customized product combinations. However, it may be the case that most people who read the Arts & Leisure section also follow social media. Through correlation and cluster analysis, I can get a sense of what individual elements tend to “go together” and then create a portfolio of options that appeal to different consumer segments. Remember that phrase, “consumer segmentation?” Personally I think it is one of the most powerful concepts that can be garnered from a $100,000 MBA education. I’m emphasizing it to you for free! So please don’t waste it.

While the New York Times does not seem to have used this disaggregation & correlation optimization approach in designing their new tiered/metered content approach, I’m getting the sense that some other print publications (I won’t mention them by name) may be exploring this kind of more sophisticated pricing. I think this could be the answer to much of what ails traditional media – from newspapers & magazines to books to interactive television. Executives have to be willing to take apart their current assumptions and create something that is bigger than the whole. As mentioned in previous blogs, I think that Flatworld Knowledge has done some interesting things in this space. And, based on a pricing strategy engagement I completed – with my colleagues at Abbey Road Associates – for a major equity research company, they also are tapping into the power of this kind of analysis.

Don’t miss out. It’s powerful stuff. Not easy, not to be done without expert pricing supervision but well worth the effort.

If you’d like to learn more about how Triple Play can help you with this type of pricing strategy development, send me a note via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook or leave a comment for me here.