GPS Targeting Personalizes Bus Ads

A New York CBS news station is reporting that Manhattan buses are testing a new technology that allows for ads to changed based on the location of the bus.

The ads, which are more like TV commercials than traditional outdoor advertising, can also be made time-sensitive, showing breakfast items in the morning and beer at happy hour.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reports that ads could be seen on as many as 200 bus routes by early next year.

WCBS via Gizmodo


Apologies All Around , and the Launch of About.com Atlanta

I have absolutely been neglecting this blog this month. Truth be told, I've been completely buried in getting my new About.com Guide to Atlanta up and running. Those of you who live in Atlanta, please check out the new page on About.com, where I'll now be writing and managing all content. In addition to a blog updated frequently each week, you'll also find information on events, attractions, restaurants and nightlife, Atlanta neighborhoods and more.

Though I'm excited to have this new opportunity, I still look forward to sharing juicy marketing tidbits with everyone here.


Sprint's ReadyNow Commercial Somehow Works

I have said before I don't like commercials that seem insincere or commercials that aim to make the tech elite look like the "common man," but there's something about the new Sprint ReadyNow commercials that feels good. 

Dan Hesse, CEO of the wireless giant, sits in a diner and tells me he wants to help me embrace the power of technology. And I believe him. 

Where the plan could fall short is on the retail level. Now that people think they can go in to any Sprint store and get top-notch, personalized phone set-up, the company must follow through. The helpful spirit and tech expert persona must be reflected by every sales rep on the floor. Personally, I think this is one of the most difficult challenges any retailer faces - turning their employees from cash-slingers in to true brand advocates. 


Top Topics for 2009

So, public relations is a different monster than traditional advertising, but it's definitely a large piece of the branding puzzle.

Yesterday, MyEdcals, a top source for editorial calendars and story topics, released a list of what they believe will be the top story focuses of 2009, based on the over 100,000 opportunities they have in their database.

They are as follows:

1. Green…green anything!
From green technology to green construction, green is everywhere

2. Travel
Although “Green Travel” is part of travel, other travel subjects like domestic travel, family travel and luxury travel round out this ever popular group

3. Personal Finance
From 401(k)’s to how to save money on your heating bills, publications will be focused on personal finance as the economy slumps

4. Gift Guides
Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Holiday Gift guides- what to get someone who has everything or the techie looking for the next best gadget

5. Fitness
With each year we can be assured there will be thousands of story opportunities from dieting to the newest and greatest fitness trends

No earth-shattering surprises here, other than maybe gift guides. But to be honest, I hope that is accurate because every year around the holidays I search for gift ideas and I'm usually met with a lot of junk. I guess you could say travel is a bit surprising in the top 5, since everyone seems to be pitching the idea of "staycations" lately (in fact, did you know this week is ABC's declared "National Stay at Home Week," to tie in with thier fall premieres?).

Remember, this list is based on MyEdcal's available stories - so there is a good chance that it's somewhat skewed, but still interesting. Top marketers will be looking for creative ways to tie their offerings back to next year's hot topics. These ideas are going to be at the top of consumer conciousness and the themes can be applied to traditional marketing efforts as well as PR pitches.


LinkedIn to Launch Ad Network

To capitalize on high membership rates and a desirable audience profile, LinkedIn has announced the birth of its own ad network.

LinkedIn will launch the network, in conjunction with Collective Media, on Monday. The CPM (cost per thousand impressions) starts at an astoundingly high $30 at a time when most social networks are struggling to sell at rates of $1 CPM. Text ads are available at a lower cost. LinkedIn is able to demand higher rates because of their affluent and influential customer base. With an average household income of $110,000, 64 percent of LinkedIn members are male, the average age is 41, and 49 percent are business decision makers.

The network will utilize partner sites. LinkedIn browsers will be cookied upon visiting the site. Members will be grouped into different, targetable categories to serve up ads on partner websites. Users will, of course, be able to opt out.

A simpler way to avoid companies tracking your every move? Set your browser to periodically clear cookies.

More details and stats at TechCrunch.


New Microsoft Ads Missing the Mark, Dissing us "Real People"

I strongly agree with the TechCrunch analysis of the second Gates/Seinfeld Microsoft effort. These commercials are doing nothing but make Microsoft look more out of touch with what people want.

After the pairing was announced and the first commercial aired, I commented to friends that the ads really did nothing for me because as a 20-something consumer (who, yes, owns a Mac, but is not a total PC-hater), I feel very little connection to Seinfeld or Gates and I certainly don't want to be like them. In fact, these two guys are about as square as it gets, and really are just reinforcing the image that the Mac Guy ads have created for Microsoft.

From TechCrunch:

But…If Bill (and therefore Microsoft) is not already in touch with real people, then their products may not be, either. By spending time with real people, the logic flow suggests they’ll be able to build better products.

In other words, Microsoft is highlighting the fact that they are out of touch. But instead of saying they’ll mingle with real people to build better products, the message seems to be that the real people need to get with the program.

The full ad:


Getting to Know Gamma Women

A report from Meredith Corporation on Marketing Charts this week says that there are upwards of 55 million "Gamma women" out there. A Gamma woman is someone who influences a wide network of consumers and generates and disseminates new ideas and trends. Basically, an influencer who's a woman.

Meredith Corporation suggests that the Gamma women will bring about a new marketing model. Traditionally, marketing efforts have been geared toward an Alpha woman, who values status and tends to be materialistic. In contrast, Gamma women display the following characteristics:

  • Collaborative and inclusive
  • Feels empowered by information
  • Values relationships of all kinds
  • Defines success for herself
  • Individualistic and self-actualizing
  • Believes work should fit personal and family needs; not the other way around
  • Strives to be healthy and is comfortable in her own skin
  • Enjoys creative pursuits and opportunities for self-expression
  • Environmentally conscious
  • Faith and spirituality are important
  • Willing to share her time and talents
“Gammas are true brand advocates who are passionate and spread the word about what they like,” said Jack Griffin, president of Meredith Publishing. “It’s time for marketers to engage Gammas where they are already looking for social currency - talking with them versus talking at them.”

For a more indepth look at the 5 Profiles of Gamma women, read the full article here.


The Future is Now: New E-Newspaper Reader Goes to Market

A few months back I referenced the Minority Report-esque "electronic newspaper" in a blog about the future of news.

It seems today we come one step closer to this futuristic dream- Plastic Logic announced it's e-news reader which mimics the look of a real newspaper. The reader uses the same technology behind Amazon's Kindle and similar readers, but in a much larger size, equal to a piece of copier paper. The device can be updated via a wireless link and stores hundreds of pages of information.

The reader goes on sale early next year. Plastic Logic is expected to present more information, including the price and planned news organization partnerships, at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Electronic readers offer the opportunity to collect more information on subscribers, leading to targeted advertising campaigns. They also hold the promise of a greener news industry and would significantly reduce operating costs for news providers.


Consumers Look for Bargains Online

With the slowing economy, spenders are more likely to carefully research purchases, often turning to the internet to score the best deals.

New research by a team from the UK found that:

  • Price remains the major influencer, with 64% citing this as the most important factor when making an online purchase over the next 12 months.
  • 62% of respondents said they are now more likely to consult reviews written by other web shoppers before buying.
  • Most (69%) search by product name when looking to purchase online, with brand names the next most searched for (43%).
  • Women are more inclined to reduce overall spending during the economic downturn, but they are more likely to consult online reviews than men (64% vs. 58%).
  • When comparing the different age groups, it is the “silver surfers” (age 55+), many of whom have paid off mortgages or enjoy higher disposable income, who are the least concerned about the economic situation: 43% said the economy would not affect their spending.
  • They are followed by the 16-24 age bracket: 37% wouldn’t change their spending levels.
image via Flickr


Coupons Make a Comeback

Hard times call for Sundays spent clipping coupons from your local paper.

A Prospectiv study published by Brandweek indicates that 72% of consumers are using more coupons today than they were six months ago. 81% of those polled admit to using coupons at the grocery store.

Most consumers are getting their coupons for newspapers and magazines, but there was some interest in receiving them via direct mail (39%) or email (26%). In fact, though newspapers are a popular way to obtaining coupons now, only 14% of those polled indicated it was their preferred method for future coupon clipping.

Good news for online advertisers (and for trees):

80% of participants said they would be very likely or likely to increase their use of coupons if they could be tailored to their interests and delivered online.

Popeyes Launches National Rebranding Campaign

This week fried chicken food chain Popeyes is launching its first national television buy. The campaign will feature the tagline "Louisiana Fast," as the chain attempts to sell the image of home-cooked classics in a fast food environment.

Commercials will feature interviews with "real customers," and stress the value and quality of new menu items. Apparently Popeyes claims to marinate many of their chicken dishes for up to 12 hours, making "fast food" and oxymoron.

The campaign will feature a new logo and a "Big Value" menu to go along with the "unscripted" commercials.

Notice my skepticism, especially regarding the commercials. Somehow, I don't think people will buy in to the idea that Popeyes is that much different than KFC, Mrs. Winners or any of the other chicken chains serving low-priced comfort food.

Image via Atlanta Business Chronicle


Digital Advertising Recognizes Your Demographics and Product Choices

New technology called ad targeting is on it's way to your favorite local stores.

Soon, in-store promotions will be based on products the you picked off a shelf, and it's not too long before you'll see ads based on what you look like.

Dunkin Donuts is currently testing the ads in two Buffalo, NY locations. In the morning ads will feature breakfast items at the cash register and lunch items at the pick up station, hoping to prompt a return visit.

But the real 'Big Brother' technology is being tested in Germany, where Proctor and Gamble have inserted radio-based ID tags in key products. If a consumer chooses a product from the shelf, a targeted advertising message is served up on an eye-level, digital screen in front of them. For example, if you choose a shampoo, the screen will suggest complimentary P&G styling products. Convenient, yet creepy.

YCD Multimedia, who provides the digital screens for Dunkin' Donuts, is working to quickly roll-out facial-recognition technologies that can classify people into certain demographic groups by identifying their approximate age and their sex. This technology would use face shape to serve up ads relevant to your identified demographic.

Another interesting application is inventory management. Israeli coffee chain Aroma Espresso Bar is using the screens to encourage consumers to purchase items that they may have overstocked and perishable goods. If there is a large amount of pastries that will go stale that night, for instance, a manager will switch ads on the screen to promote them, says Gali Goldwaser, marketing manager for Aroma.


Seinfeld and Gates to Take on Mac Ads in New Microsoft Campaign

Yesterday Microsoft rocked the blog-o-sphere with the announcement of a $300 million advertising campaign starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.

Microsoft is hoping to revamp their rep, or at least get a little love, in the wake of the popular Mac campaign depicting Window's users as, well, square. Not that Gates and Seinfeld are the coolest cats, but hey, they are mighty successful.

Seinfeld will reportedly get $10 million for the endorsement.

According to FBLA, other major stars, including Stephen Colbert and Sarah Silverman, may also be involved in the project. Right now, this can't be confirmed.


Competitive Advantage: American Airlines Brings Wireless to the Skies

Today American Airlines will activate it's in-flight wireless services, available through Aircell. The charge will be $12.95 and is available to passengars on Boeing 767-200 flights between New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

"Today the days of being cut off from the rest of the world while in the air become history," said Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell LLC, the company providing Internet services for American and other airlines.

Though several other airlines are testing wireless services (in 2005, United vowed to be the first to offer in-flight wireless), American Airlines is the first domestic carrier to bring the service live.

Is the availability of wireless enough to convince you to make American your airline of choice?


TV Still the Main Source of News in America

Despite the rise in popularity of blogs and online news feeds, Americans are still getting most of their news through the good, ol' fashioned TV set.

The unsurprising results of a Pew Research Center's biannual survey, released Sunday, show that younger Americans trend toward online news, while older citizens op for the traditional television broadcasts.

According to Pew, there is now a sizable group of a more engaged, sophisticated and well-off people, called "integrators," that use both traditional and online sources to get their news - accounting for 23% of the surveyed group.

"Like Web-oriented news consumers, integrators are affluent and highly educated. However they are older, on average, than those who consider the Internet their main source of news," the survey said.

The survey also showed that the heaviest news viewers tend to be older and of a less affluent, accounting for the trend to seek out news on TV rather than online. Cable news is gaining popularity with TV viewers, with local broadcasts losing steam.

As expected, there has been an overall decline in the percentage of people who said they read a newspaper the day before [the survey], to 34 percent from 40 percent two years ago.

Those who rely on the internet for their news have a median age of 35 and make up the smallest percentage of the polled audience. However, when combined with the "integrators" who are trending toward online sources as well, this makes up a significant group for advertisers to pursue.

Are We (Marketers) to Blame for Our Own Unhappiness?

Just a thought from Seth Godin's blog... and here I thought it was the emo-pop music making us unhappy.

Destroying happiness

A journalist asked me, Most people have a better standard of living today than Louis XIV did in his day. So why are so many people unhappy?

What you have doesn't make you unhappy. What you want does.

And want is created by us, the marketers.

Marketers trying to grow market share will always work to make their non-customers unhappy.

It's interesting to note that marketers trying to maintain market share have a lot of work to do in reminding us that we're happy.


NBC Now Selling Reserve Supply of Olympic Advertising

According to AdvertisingAge, NBC has sold off $10 million dollars of Olympic advertising time in the first part of this week, indicating that they'd been holding back supplies in order to lure in potential advertisers with impressive viewer-ship numbers.

This added revenue is coming from both new and existing parties and tops off the $1 billion of ads NBC has already sold going in to the Games.

This year's Game have garnered 168 million viewers in the first five days, surpassing the numbers from Athens in 2004. The vast majority of these eyes have come from TV views, and NBC is battling criticism that they are slacking on streaming online coverage in order to force people to watch TV broadcasts, which bring in higher advertising revenues.

NBC says that commercial pods during the Olympics have been more frequent than a typical prime-time broadcast, but also shorter.


Olive Garden Concerned With Playboy Bunny Kendra's Rogue Endorsement

Kendra Wilkinson, one of Hugh Hefner's young girlfriends featured on the E! reality hit "The Girls Next Door," just happens to be a really big Olive Garden fan. She has been seen proudly waving doggy bags and heard raving about the endless breadsticks.

Most companies would welcome a bit of promotion on national television, right? It's like free product placement.

Well, apparently, Olive Garden, who has spent many years (and many dollars) building their family-oriented image, is not happy about being associated with a Playboy Bunny.

In 2008, Kendra, in cooperation with Playboy, held a national casting call for Olive Garden waitresses to be featured in a nude pictorial.

"Our position is that our team members as private citizens have freedom to participate," says Olive Garden spokesman Mara Frazier. "While we're not endorsing the initiative, we're not making choices for our employees."

Though Olive Garden has made no official moves to silence Wilkinson, they have expressed some discomfort with the association. According to The Wall Street Journal, Olive Garden has declined to comment on the issues, however, one official says the company has tried to walk a fine line with its response, maintaining the chain's wholesome image without alienating potential customers.


Airlines Look to Advertisers to Subsidize Rising Costs

CNN Money reports that major airlines are now so desperate for cash-flow that they are willing to sell advertising space on almost every part of the in-flight experience, from tray tables to airsick bags.

The appeal to advertisers is, of course, the idea that there's no escaping their ads as you sit on your 3-hour flight across the country.

"It's a captive audience, literally - and sometimes involuntarily - for an extended period of time, so there are certainly opportunities to make contact [with potential consumers] in-flight," said Michael Derchin, an airline analyst for FTN Midwest Securities.

Future flyers can expect to see more ads popping up on tray tables, boarding passes, airsick bags and of course, during your in-flight entertainment in the form of commercials or sponsored "networks." Those who've flown on Delta since July 15 may have already notcied advertising for destination-specific venues on their boarding passes.

I can't imagine anyone would pay much for advertising on an airsick bag - the bags are rarely used, and when they are it isn't exactly a pleasant association for the company's products. Perhaps if they did this, it would be required that the bags be placed on your seat so you'd see them upon boarding, instead of buried in the seat pocket.

image via flickr.

YouTube and Bloggers Reveal Apple iPhone 3G Speed is Nothing Like Commercials Claim

With some sarcasm, Gizmodo serves up a post featuring a YouTube video with a side-by-side comparison on the iPhone commercials and the actual iPhone operating speeds.

Not that Apple is having any trouble making sales on the phone, but it's interesting that with the power of the internet, it's almost impossible to engage in false advertising these days without getting called out on it.

As of the time of this posting, the video has already had 91,273 views. That's a lot of eyeballs.


Google Launches Insights for Search

This week Google announced the launch of Insights for Search, a free tool to help marketers plan keyword campaigns.

Users can now get in depth information on keyword combonations, frequency of searches, geographic origin of searches and patterns of popularity. One of the most valuable features the new tool offers is the ability to distingush intentions for common search terms, for example, was this person searching for "Apple: the company" from "apple: the fruit?"

Google emphasized the increased ability for geographic targeting as well. This example from the New York Times illustrates why this can be a powerful function:

The tool is aimed primarily at marketers, who may use it to devise and track advertising campaigns. A car company, for instance, could experiment with different versions of a television ad in Cleveland and Columbus, and check the number of resulting searches in each city to see which one is more effective. Or it could use the data to find out where users are searching most actively for “fuel efficiency” and aim ads for a gas-sipping vehicle there.

Google also expects that Insights for Search will be used by sectors other than marketing.

“We are also very interested in uses like the economic forecasting, finance, sociological studies, even in etymological studies to track how new words spread in the population,” said Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist.


Meet Me In Atlanta - You Might Even Learn Something

I will be attending the Online Marketing Summit in Atlanta next week. It should be an interesting event and a good chance to mingle with fellow marketers from around the southeast, as it's the only stop in this area on the OMS Summer Tour.

More information here.

Discover Card Shows Their Softer Side

Apparently, Discover Card has been telling us they care since 2006, but it's only in their recent commercials that I've really gotten the message.

Though I think what they are trying to do is pretty cool, I'm not sure I buy it. I just have a hard time believing that a CREDIT company legitimately wants me to pay down my debt, thereby not having to pay them any more interest. Though they do counter this a bit by reassuring me that it's that we are "a nation of consumers."

So, even though Discover Card does have a lot of innovative features like great cash back programs, a hearty online interface with many options for personalization and a Pay-On-Time bonus that actually -gasp- refunds you interest if you make six consecutive on-time payments, all I see is a commercial that seems to convey a fake sentiment.

It is the same feeling I get when I know anti-smoking ads are sponsored by tobacco manufacturers. It just doesn't sit right.

Image via discovercard.com


The Skinny on Marketing to Women

Despite the worldwide trend of using (relatively) healthier looking models in runway shows and advertising campaigns, a new study published in Advertising Age suggests females still prefer stick-thin women to hawk fashion and beauty products.

The study, conducted at Villanova University, presented the puzzling conclusion that ads featuring thin models made women feel worse about themselves but better about the brands featured.

The 194 female college students aged 18-24 interviewed for the study felt more negative about their own sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition after seeing thin models and were also four times more likely to say no to Oreos offered to study participants than those who had yet to view the images.

Despite the fact that these ads made the study participants feel worse about themselves, the women expressed that they would rather buy the products featured in the ads with thin models than in the campaigns featuring more "normal" women (sorry Dove!).

The subject requires further research, since recent studies from University of Sussex and University of West England showed conflicting results, concluding that ads featuring ultra-thin models do negatively impact self esteem, but in fact don't sell products better than ads featuring more realistic models.

Though I can't say I approve, I can definitely see the logic that using thinner women would lead to higher sales. It's simple and it's essentially the same technique used in the heyday of tobacco advertising. For the slow learners:

Women want to be beautiful. Society (not JUST advertising) tells us that thin is beautiful. Women see thin woman using Product X. Women buy Product X to be more like the glamorous model depicted. Women buy more and more of Product X (and Y and Z) in order to continue the neverending quest for perfection.


Marketers, Meet 'Generation V'

Below is a recent piece from Marketing Charts, introducing us to a new generation of consumers - one that is not bound by age or social class - but it strictly behaviorally based.

‘Generation V’ Defies Traditional Demographics

The online behavior, attitudes and interests of people from all walks of life are blending together online, cutting across generations and traditional demographics and giving rise to a new online group called “Generation Virtual” (Generation V), according to research by Gartner, which coined the term.

Unlike previous generations, Generation V is not defined by age, gender, social class or geography. Instead, it is based on achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights.

Marketers will ultimately need a separate marketing strategy to reach this generation, according to Gartner.

Within the Generation V community, Gartner defines four levels of engagement - creators, contributors, opportunists, and lurkers - related to the extent to which customers engage with other customers and the level of engagement that businesses and other organizations must have to enable them:

Findings about these Generation V segments:

  • Up to 3% will be creators, providing original content. They can be advocates that promote products and services.
  • Between 3% and 10% will be contributors who add to the conversation, but don’t initiate it. They can recommend products and services as customers move through a buying process, looking for purchasing advice.
  • Between 10% and 20% will be opportunists, who can further contributions regarding purchasing decisions. Opportunists can add value to a conversation that’s taking place while walking through a considered purchase.
  • Approximately 80% will be lurkers, essentially spectators, who reap the rewards of online community input but absorb only what is being communicated. They can still implicitly contribute and indirectly validate value from the rest of the community. All users start out as lurkers.

To address the different needs of these groups, Gartner recommends that marketing organizations segment and support all four engagement levels in the community with appropriate technology and establish goals with plans for determining return on investment (ROI).

“Companies should plan to segment all four levels in the community - each has significant business value,” said Adam Sarner, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Differentiation exists between sectors and industries. Marketers with strong brands attract more creators. Certain industries, such as insurance, draw more lurkers.”

via Marketing Charts


Godin Reminds Marketers to be Innovative and Ever-Present

Seth Godin wrote a thought-provoking piece on the dilemma of a dentist -

My tooth doesn't hurt, says Godin. That's not something you think about very often, is it? (Not my tooth, your tooth).When you have a toothache, on the other hand, it's all you think about.

Point being, for many businesses that may be need-based, it can be challenging to remain top-of-mind, and even more difficult to draw people to your business in the meantime.

The solution? Don't worry, Godin provides it:

  • Build your brand by finding a cost-effective way to gently be in [the consumers] face so that when a toothache shows up (in whatever form that takes) you're the obvious choice.
  • Create new products and services that build engagement and possibly revenue among members of the population that aren't in pain. That, of course, is why teeth whitening services are so smart. You can sell to people who didn't know they had a problem until they met you.
Ironically, this challenge to marketers also reminds me of a challenge many of us with a PR focus face every day - when your company is in crisis, you are the first place they turn (there's that toothache again!). However, when things are going well, the PR department is often the on the top of the list for budget cuts, due to the struggle to tie your powers of influence back to the bottom line.

Read the full post here.

TiVo Says Viewers Still Tune In for 'Relevant Ads'

TiVo's first report from data collected by it's second-by-second analysis tool, PowerWatch, reveal that viewers aren't skipping through all the ads with the handy fast-forward feature - apparently consumers are still giving a moment of their precious time to ads they see relevant to their own lives.

I don't know about you, but on my DVR, I stop for nothing.

Results show that everyone is time shifting, regardless of demographic segment - with 66% of ads being skipped during prime time viewing. Aggregate data for all networks and all time slots concludes that about half of ads are skipped, overall.

The PowerWatch report also shows that all TiVo users skip about the same number of ads - regardless of how long they've been using the service. Though everyone is moving at about the same pace, the type of content skipped varies greatly by demographic - and it trends much in the way that you'd expect. For example, homes with children under 12 viewed 22% more toy and game ads than other groups and adults over 50 viewed 15% more political ads.

"If you have an ad that is relevant, you are more likely to pay attention," said Todd Juenger, vp, gm, audience research and measurement, TiVo. "Commercial skipping is not as random as some people think and there are clear differences by demographic group."

All of this amounts to some good news for advertisers - even though the likelihood of someone viewing you ad has been cut in half, chances are the people who ARE pausing to take in your creative genius are precisely the audience you'd handpick if given the opportunity.

Unfortunately for you, you're still paying the cost for all those indifferent eyes. Perhaps TiVo should begin reimbursing you for decreased reach.


PBR: The Anti-Establishment Icon Sleeping with 'The Man'

Check out this piece in Atlanta's Creative Loafing, discussing the irony of PBR's backhanded (albeit successful) branding strategy.

The Trouble with Tweens: MTV Struggles to Reach Elusive Audience

Today's teens and tweens (ages 8-12) are constantly on-the-go. Between cell phones, YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, video games and iPhones, it's increasingly hard for marketers to know where to turn to target tomorrow's core customers. This group of sophisticated spenders is not going to be reached with the Toys "R" Us catalogs and Saturday morning cartoons their predecessors thrived on.

While earlier groups of teens were known as the 'MTV Generation,' referring to their lack of attention span and attraction to flashy, fast-paced content, this generation seems to be rebelling against traditional teen-magnet MTV. What used to be a sure-fire way to reach young minds is now losing ground, according to Wired's analysis of Viacom's Q2 earnings reports.

To help combat this problem, MarketingVox has put together a collection of tips on seeking out and reeling in the tween audience. According to their piece, 33.3 million teens were in the US in 2003, with discretionary spending power (allowances, gifts, earnings from odd jobs) totaling $42.3 billion and was projected to increase by 1.7 percent year over year.

Top motivating factors for tweens?

  • The need to belong
  • The desire for power
  • More freedom from parents (but not too much. That parents approve of their choices is still important to them)
  • The desire to have fun — sensory stimulation is crucial to a product's success
Check out the rest of the MarekitngVox How-To for more tips on targeting tweens.

Image: National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign


Retailers Rely on Star Power for Fall

Companies have been using celebrity faces to sell products since the early 1900s', when cigarette packets were bought just as often for the famous baseball cards as for the product inside. Today, you can't sit through a commercial break without seeing familiar famous faces appear, often more than once.

With celebrities acting both as representatives for products and as owners of their own lines, capitalizing on another's success is an everyday occurrence for big brands like Pepsi, Neutrogena and others. This fall, expect popular retailers to increase their focus on celebrity sellers, hoping to bring in the back-to-school spenders.

Advertising Age provides a run-down of some of the bigger players, expanded here:

KOHL'S - Avril Lavigne is will be partnering with Kohl's this year, joining Daisy Fuentes, Vera Wang, Tony Hawk, Lenny Kravitz, Hayden Panettiere, Vanessa Carlton, the Plain White T's and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

SEARS - Welcomes LL Cool J to launch of his apparel line for juniors, young men and children. Sears also features Ty Pennington's furniture collection and High School Musical star, Vanessa Hudgens, will star in their back-to-school ad campaign.

WAL-MART - Father-son team Master P and Romeo join sisters Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, continuing the tradition of family lines at Wal-Mart. P. Miller Designs is set to launch its P. Miller and Miller Peaches lines, featuring cheap-and-chic clothing. Country star Taylor Swift is present in the Wal-Mart aisles this fall, showing off LEI Jeans.

- Reality-TV star Kimora Lee Simmons is introducing Fabulosity, a line of urban sportswear for juniors. It will be part of Penney's "Breakfast Club" back-to-school campaign, which launches July 18. She joins designers Chris Madden and Nicole Miller.

- Kristin Davis has announced a partnership with Belk, proving SJP isn't the only "Sex and the City" star with fashion sense. The "flirty and "feminine" line will retail for $38-$240 this fall.

Tommy Hilfiger will join the star-studded case of Macy's commercials this year, which in the past have featured Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, Jessica Simpson and Usher. Beginning this fall, the designer men's and women's sportswear collections will be carried exclusively at Macy's. The store will also carry DKNY's new 'Edie Rose' line, designed by starlet Rachel Bilson.

More celebrity lines and partnerships for Fall:

  • Jessica Simpson will add dresses to her growing collection.
  • Eve will re-launch Fetish at select retailers.
  • Reality-star Heidi Montag will continue her partnership with west coast retailer Anchor Blue.
  • Lindsay Lohan is selling her new leggings line exclusively at Intuition.
  • Paris Hilton has designed a line for Dollhouse clothing.


Know Your Roots: Mad Men Season 2 Premieres Tonight

Mad Men, the dramatic AMC series chronicling the life and times of an advertising agency in the golden age of ads - the 1960's - returns tonight for a second season. 

Tune in to see agency partner Don Draper woo his clients with the finesse we all wish we had. 

AdRants was lucky enough to score an interview with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who reflected on the evolution of ad agencies since the 60's. Read it here


It's a McDonalds Morning - Product Placement on the News

Avid TV viewers are no stranger to product placement on their favorite shows - especially reality TV fans, who encounter the Bluefly accessories wall (Project Runway), a caravan of Ford Escapes (The Biggest Loser) or the ever-present Coca-Cola cup (American Idol).

But what about during your local news?

For the past few weeks, KVVU, a Fox affiliate out of Las Vegas, has featured morning news anchors with cups of McDonald's iced coffee on their desks as they report local happenings. This 6-month partnership is intended to drum up additional advertising revenue for the station.

The station promises that they will continue to truthfully represent news items - including items that may negatively reflect on McDonald's practices or products. Additionally, if a negative story did occur, it's likely that the cups would be removed from the set.

KVVU is owned by Meredith Corporation, who is actively seeking out product placement opportunities on other morning shows in Atlanta and Hartford, Conn. McDonald's also has product placement deals with several other news networks around the country.

The three major network morning shows, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” and NBC’s “Today” do not endorse or participate in product placement deals, citing company ethics.

Image via Fox 5


Fortune 500 Companies Not Surfing the Blog Wave

The July 2008 issue of PR Week reports the surprising finding that a recent survey of Fortune 500 companies shows that only 15% maintain active blogs. 

Not so suprising was the top 4 Fortune 500 industries that are blogging: Computers, Office Equipment ; Network and Other Communications Equipment; Semiconductors and Other Electrical Components (Intel, AMD, etc.); and Internet Services and Retailing.

Seems to me that there is a lot more opportunity to give people a look inside your company - and simply to tell your side of the story. These companies are missing out on a vital part of today's marketing culture - and relationships with Gen Y and Millennials are sure to suffer for it. This is the time that today's giants of industry need to be connecting with consumers on a personal level and fostering relationships with the future spenders in America. 

The study also found that it's larger companies that are doing most of the blogging - with 32% of the Fortune 50 blogging. This is disappointing, since blogging is one of the cheapest available marketing techniques and smaller organizations could easily take advantage of this accessible trend. 


Incognito Advertising - Kanye West for Absolut Vodka

Absolut Vodka's new viral campaign featuring Kanye West is creating buzz in the marketing world... hopefully it will succeed in creating the same buzz among consumers.

The ads feature tiny tablets that, upon consumption, will help the Average Joe transform in to hip-hop superstar Kanye West. Subway posters and mock infomercials touting the tablets don't even mention the Absolut product. Intrigued parties will find that a visit to the advertised website, BeKanyeNow, will quickly redirect them to Absolut's Kanye-centric homepage.

This ultimate (or should I say Absolut) form of viral marketing causes consumers to take action in order to find out what the Kanye campaign is all about, thereby creating an instant connection with the brand's message. It results in people actually seeking out informaiton about the vodka instead of just passing by one more white-noise ad on the subway.

View the Be Kanye infomercial.

Image via nysun.com.


Recommended Reading

I know this is not an industry-related book. But the truth is, we could all learn a lesson from David Sedaris. He's taken short anecdotes from his life - some of them unique, but some of them mundane - and created a series of New York Bestsellers. If Sedaris can write such a captivating account of quitting smoking or his childhood babysitters, surely us marketers can take a page from his book and put a creative twist on our writing next time we're asked to draft a press release about something less-than-newsworthy.

Get it here: When You Are Engulfed in Flames


The Web is Hazardous for Hotheads

The number one thing I miss about my past days as an AOL user: the now-defunct "unsend" feature. AOL made it easy to take back mistakes - so long as the recipient hadn't opened the email yet. I wish all aspects of the web had an "unsend" feature.

I bet this guy does too (see comments from Roy Russo). Reading about marketing automation and technology is part of my daily routine to keep abreast of the industry. Today I came across this chain of comments showed us how NOT to comment on a blog, as the CEO of LoopFuse slams the blogger for her review, giving her even more ammunition.

It is hard not to respond when you feel you (or your company) are being misrepresented, but as momma always said, "If you can't say something nice," well, you know the rest.

If you absolutely must defend yourself, better to handle it gracefully, as Lisa Garza of The Next Food Network Star did here. Well, somewhat gracefully at least.


Marketing To Women : G23

The Wall Street Journal looks in to the world of agencies specializing in marketing to women on the heels of the launch of Omnicom's G23, a new consultancy dedicated the subject. The name G23 was chosen for "Group" and "23," pair of chromosomes that carries the sex differences between women and men. The G23 board is comprised entirely of women.

According to the article:

"Agencies and agency companies are increasing their efforts to help clients aim pitches at women. The work is parallel to efforts to improve life inside agencies for women and appoint more women to executive jobs."

With women controlling 75% of spending in today's market, agencies are struggling to come up with innovative ways reach women without dumbing down their advertising or simply throwing a coat of pink paint over it.

Pictured: The founding partners of G23


Do As I Say, Not As I Do

As every blogger probably knows, there usually comes a time when life gets in the way of your blog. Such has been the case with me, as our sales team has been selling faster than I can service new clients, I've taken on freelance projects and I've moved across the city. I hope to be back at you next week with fresh content.

That being said - don't let this happen to you! Constant updates are key to building your audience and keeping them hooked, not to mention they really help your search rankings.


Are You Recession Ready?

A recent report from the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index shows a continued downward trend in May and now stands at 57.2 (1985=100), down from 62.8 in April - and a 16-year low (Oct. 1992, 54.6).

"Weakening business and job conditions coupled with growing pessimism about the short-term future have further depleted consumers' confidence in the overall state of the economy, said Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. Consumers' inflation expectations, fueled by increasing prices at the pump, are now at an all-time high and are likely to rise further in the months ahead."

Check out these articles for ideas on how companies are making the best of a bad situation:
Wooing Customers in a Slowing Economy - Tips from Tourism Marketers
Empowering Employees as Customers Look to Haggle
Using Loyalty Programs to Boost Sagging Sales
Advertising Heads Online
What Tactic is Most Recession Proof?


Dare to Think Differently

One of my weekly MarketingProfs emails this week featured Dita von Teese discussing building a personal brand. Though Ms. von Teese was branding herself, her advice can just as easily be applied to any business - find a niche or an untapped corner of the market, position yourself there and work to be the best.

Says von Teese, "I think that the most important thing—and the point that a lot of people miss—is they're trying so hard to follow a formula, and to fit in to what's the right thing, and you can see it everywhere. They see success. They say, 'That's how you become successful.' But, to me, I always looked at it a different way. I wanted to fill a void, I wanted to be different. That was going to be the secret to my success. And I looked at the people that I think are very, very successful throughout history, and they all had something different, that was maybe a little bit risqué, and they were very individual. And those are the people that stand the test of time. Not just ordinary beauty, or trying to fit in. You have to have something more. And I was always willing to take a chance and believe in what I did."

For more on how Dita von Teese crafted herself in to an icon, watch the video here.


Open Mouth, Insert Foot

In the past week, a lot of controversy has surrounded Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, since master re-toucher Pascal Dangin revealed that he worked his magic on the ads.

Should an advertising campaign celebrating real women be allowed to use the same re-touching technology they are fighting against?

Originally revealed in Advertising Age, quotes from Dangin seemed to imply that the women themselves were touched up, saying 'Do you know how much retouching was on that? But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone's skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.'" Now, Dangin is recanting, saying that he only retouched the set and lighting, not the women themselves, and is in fact saying he never worked on the campaign in question - just a later Dove campaign launched in 2007.

Either way - the blow against Dove's integrity could be a tough one for consumers to swallow. I doubt they will see a major drop in sales, but there could be a decline in "brand love" for this fem-friendly brand.


The Lost Art of Letter Writing

A mini vacation and busy days at the office have been keeping me away from this blog lately, but today I am back.

And I am back to rant. Just briefly, I promise.

Maybe it's because I had a fantastically strict public relations writing professor, or maybe it's just because I read a lot, but I judge people based on their writing. Maybe more critically than I do on most other aspects of personality - and especially in business transactions, as I rarely have the occasion to meet my clients face-to-face in my current position.

Almost every day I receive emails from my clients that are not only improper business etiquette, but also flat out rude. There is something about the internet, social networking and chat rooms that has given people the impression that they no longer have to be professional in emails.

I was recently passed a client from my sales team to launch a new account. As usual, I contacted the person about setting up an initial call. I gave an explanation of services and offered a number of times I would be available to meet, within two days. This person, whom I had never met or even spoken to, responded with the following: "The sooner the better. Talk soon."

And that was all. To me, this kind of communication is just not acceptable. Just because email is fast and easy, does not mean you should not treat it as you would any other professional correspondence. Please, people, use complete sentences. Be mindful of your audience. And for God's sake, use appropriate punctuation.

In a related post on my corporate blog, I discussed a few other points of email etiquette that may be of interest.


Email Marketing Made Easy - And Fun!

Today I stumbled across a FANTASTIC email marketing tool... Mad Mimi.

This is the simplest, prettiest, most user friendly email builder I've seen. It feels more like creating a blog post than crafting a business email or newsletter. With a moderate price point, and a free version for casual users, Mad Mimi is sure to hit a sweet spot in the market.

This tool actually has me racking my brain for reasons that I might need to send out fancy emails to family and friends.

Don't Listen to the Voices in Your Head

Advertising has moved to a new realm... invading your thought. So next time you think you hear voices in your head... it may just be Coke telling you that you're thirsty.

Companies are beginning to use hypersonic sound - a targeted beam that causes anyone who crosses it's path to hear a message in their mind.


Clive Thompson writes about his first encounter with this futuristic advertising medium in this month's Wired. He writes:

"Trolling down the street in Manhattan, I suddenly hear a woman's voice.

'Who's there? Who's there?' she whispers. I look around but can't figure out where it's coming from. It seems to emanate from inside my skull.

Was I going nuts? Nope. I had simply encountered a new advertising medium: hypersonic sound. It broadcasts audio in a focused beam, so that only a person standing directly in its path hears the message. In this case, the cable channel A&E was using the technology to promote a show about, naturally, the paranormal."

Yes, it's pretty cool... fascinating, actually. But is this new invasion of our thoughts ethical? Or even legal? Thompson also examines the greater world of emerging brain technologies... leaving us feeling that we're losing our grasp on what may be our only true sanctuary... our own minds.


The Future of the Newspaper

One of the more memorable scenes in the futuristic film Minority Report features Tom Cruise reading a newspaper that changes in real-time - and shows a news report about him.

Now with smart phones dominating the market and newer products like the Kindle coming in to use, that future doesn't seem so far-fetched.

Today at the Associated Press' annual meeting, the news giant announced the Mobile News Network, a service that delivers news formatted for the iPhone and other cellular handsets. Accoring to Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley:

“The Mobile News Network will provide a national platform for smart phone users to access local content from brands they trust. Members can participate by providing local news that will appear alongside their logos. Importantly, the network also offers a new outlet for members to sell local advertising to the mobile audience.”

This is certainly an interesting opportunity for selling advertising and for those with news to share, but it's one more sign that the traditional newspaper is slowly declining in relevance.


On the Streets: Interesting Cross-Promotions

It always interests me to see how brands chose to work together to reach their target audiences. I've seen a few interesting cross promotions lately...

One that makes sense...

Bravo TV and Crunch Fitness
Crunch is hosting a new set of fitness classes (at select locations) based on the show Step Up and Dance. My guess is that this show appeals to a lot of 18-49-year-old women who are also interesting in slimming down and toning up in new, fun ways. I get it.

One one that puzzles me...

Peroni and free bakery bread
Though I was not able to find any details about this promotion online, I'll have to snap a picture next time I'm in my local Publix. Walking though the beer aisle, I spotted a sign that advertises a free loaf of bread from the bakery with purchase of Peroni. This looked to be a Peroni promotion, not a Publix-based promotion. Perhaps drinking Peroni while eating bread is traditional? If it is, I can't find evidence that says so (and Google never lies).

Perhaps it's a recession technique... I imagine it something like this:

Peroni Exec #1: Oh, no, with the economy, people can't afford to buy our fancy beer. They have to spend money on essentials like bread and milk.

Peroni Exec #2: I know, we'll give them bread WITH the beer, so they can still afford to buy beer!

Both: Perfecto!

I'm not sure who this promotion benefits, but it's certainly baffling.


You Might Be A Spammer If...

This entry was actually written for one of my blogs at work, which are typically more B2B or product related, however, I think this topic applies to all of us in marketing.

Everyone gets spam. I even consider a lot of the emails I somehow, someway opted-in to a million years ago a form of spam. I have quite a few clients who I consider "spammers," but of course, they don't think so. That means you - yes, you - may be considered a spammer and not even know it. So, please enjoy...

No one wants to be labeled a spammer, but the reality is sometimes your customers might consider your messages spam, even when you consider them permission-based marketing. So here are some tips on keeping yourself on the "nice list" and preventing customers from hitting the dreaded unsubscribe link.

Give the People What They Ask For
Make sure it's clear what they are getting when customers or prospects sign up for your list. If they ask for your monthly newsletter, send them a monthly newsletter. Do not let that monthly newsletter turn in to a weekly (or daily, yikes!) newsletter. Companies should fully disclose the type of content the list provides and the frequency of the mailings.

Don't Assume They Are Interested
Addresses should only be used for the list they signed up for. Just because you have a prospect's email address doesn't mean you should add it to every mailing list you use. It is more appropriate to include information about other offerings that may interest your readers and provide a link to a preference center, where they can manage their own list subscriptions.

Buying Lists Can't Buy Happy Prospects
Obtain all your lists and a legitimate manor through prospecting, conferences or other ways of building contacts. It is not advisable to purchase lists, since those people did not request your emails, and therefore, did not give permission to begin a relationship with your company.

Better Safe Than Sorry
It's unlikely that someone would provide you with an email address that is not their own, but you can never be too careful. It's easy to set up an auto-responder message or send an email asking people to take the step of verifying their email address in order to be added to your list. Requiring a subscriber to take action to be added to a list is known as closed loop confirmation.

And if All Else Fails...
Make sure you have a clear, simple way for your readers to unsubscribe from your message. This will ensure that you're in compliance with CAN-SPAM regulations and help prevent ISPs from blacklisting your content. Stick to your word - when you say a customer is unsubscribed, all correspondence should halt immediately.

via Pardot


Images! Get Your Free Images!

Seth Godin posted a handy tip (especially handy for us bloggers) about finding royalty free images on the internet... Flickr.

They have a great selection of images for public use. You can find just about anything you need.

Like this:

Or this:

Just use the advanced search function and select Creative Commons Commercial license.

In a world where all royalty free images used to be cheesy "lifestyle" shots, it's good to know you can get quality shots to use for your website, presentations or other needs.


Marketing to Women: Yahoo! Shine

Being a young, modern woman, I am of course appalled on a daily basis on how women are portrayed and the techniques advertising uses to try to convince us they have a "female friendly" product that I can relate to.

However, what irks me even more than women enjoying low-fat yogurt in a bikini is when products try to disguise themselves as forward thinking and blasting stereotypes, while at the same time, perpetuating them.

Today was the launch of Yahoo! Shine, a new social networking community geared toward women. Brandon Holley, the editor who seems to have a diverse background and a level head, writes in Yahoo's Yodel Anecdotal blog...

"What you won’t find on Shine: Advice on how to please your man and diets that urge you to “lose 10 pound fast!” What you will find on Shine: Why buying an expensive “It Bag” is a waste of money; how to make a meal in 30 minutes and how to make a face mask out of last night’s 30-minute meal (okay not really, but you get the idea); how to de-stress at your desk; sharp, opinionated takes on the news; and finally, that you aren’t alone in your “Dancing with the Stars” obsession."

Hmm... is it just me, or does what you won't find sound not too different from what you will find?

Upon visiting the homepage for Shine, I scrolled down and was greeted with a picture of a woman chowing down on a large chocolate bar, followed by an article titled "25 big-picture tasks to keep in mind at spring cleaning time." Somehow, that doesn't seem much more sophisticated then the topics they promise to avoid.

But hey, cleaning and chocolate is what women really care about, right? Thanks for the breath of fresh air...

Real Estate Agents: The Real Spin Artists

For a long time, us in the PR and Marketing field have gotten a bad rep for being spin artists. We prefer to see it as presenting a strong argument for our team - we're not lying, we're just stating it as we believe it to be true. This does not account for the fact that we (or our employer) may in fact be slightly delusional, but let's set that aside for the moment.

When you work in the business of pitching, you develop a healthy dose of skepticism, along with a strong radar for detecting when you, yourself, are being pitched. You also get pretty good at predicting "the sell" when you know you're headed in to the lion's den.

And such was the case as I ventured over to West Midtown to look at a new apartment complex. West Midtown is generally considered to be an "up and coming," "transitional" neighborhood. I use quotes here because these are exactly the words I expected to hear come from the leasing agent's mouth as we discussed the property, and more importantly, the price.

I wish I could say he surprised me and told it like it is - 'Listen, you're on the edge of a very dangerous neighborhood, you'll probably hate living near train tracks, but we've jacked up the price because we have a great saltwater pool.' Instead I got his version of spin - 'This is a really artsy neighborhood. You can take dance classes right across the street and there's five-star dining steps away.'

It happens to everyone in the real estate market, buying or renting. And these agents are very good at their jobs. I can attest, because 24 hours later I'm still thinking about putting a deposit down on that apartment - car jack-ings and all. After all, who wouldn't want to get in on the ground floor of somewhere so "up and coming." Sigh. They've beat me at my own game.


Recommended Reading

I like to read, and not always about marketing. But from time to time I'll try to recommend some of the industry-related reading I've picked up.

Why We Buy was a really insightful read - and interesting enough to keep me paging through it on my vacation in Los Angeles - something that should have been far more compelling than reading something about marketing. I couldn't wait to see what Underhill would say next.

Now, when I shop, I notice a lot of the subtleties talked about in this book, from the width of the aisles to the placement of shopping baskets. Retailers have really taken notice of Underhill's reasearch. And for good reason.

I strongly believe that this book should be required for marketing students and veterans alike.

Get it here: Amazon

But You Already Knew That...

Marketing is a societal process which discerns consumers' wants, focusing on a procduct or service to fulfill those wants, attempting to move the consumers toward the products or services offered. Marketing is fundamental to any businesses growth. The marketing teams (marketers) are tasked to create consumer awareness of the products or services through marketing techniques. Unless it pays due attention to its products and services and consumers' demographics and desires, a business will not usually prosper over time.

Or so says the all-knowing Wikipedia.

When I Grow Up I Want to Manipulate Your Mind

Ever since I got over my dream of wanting to be an actress or a ballerina or one of many other childhood ideals, I wanted to work in marketing.

Why? Because I was fascinated by the science and technique behind creating desires, selling a dream, telling people what they want.

Well, here I am, forging a career in the marketing world, and even after it's been demystified by years of college, mindless internships and a lot of writers block, I'm still amazed at the techniques I see being used every day.

This blog is a collection of my marketing musings as well as an opportunity to give props to others who are doing a bang-up job planting the seed of desire in all of us.

blog template by suckmylolly.com : header hand photo by Aaron Murphy