After eight years, I've decided to shut down RandomCulture.com and start something new. Visit my new site at JohnKeehler.com. Thanks to all who've been reading and following me for so long... here's to eight more years!
One of the more interesting things I heard about during advertising week was this Clickz article from Christoper Heine covering a panel called "Do Agencies Need to Think Like Tech Companies?" If you've been reading this blog, you know I'm a big advocate that both agencies and startups could learn something from one another.
I latched in particular one some of the remarks made by Paul Gunning, CEO of TribalDDB that articulated some of the resistance agencies have to adopting a more agile approach, but one quote in particular got me thinking...
According to Gunning, startups "are really smart people, but they also got lucky.... We mitigate. We don't want risk."
Financially, this doesn't make sense. Agencies risk hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns that hang on single messages. Creative directors have been risking billions of advertising dollars on 30 seconds for years. By contrast, most startups in this "lean" era merely gamble the price of funding a small team.
The truth is that agencies take HUGE risks to affect small changes and startups take small risks for more disruptive changes. Would you rather spend $100 million to persuade people that you're more fun than they think you are, or spend $10 million to create something fun they can use for years?
Agencies mitigate risk primarily by sticking to what they believe still works. I think that's a risk in itself.
What's the best launch strategy for a startup?
Great discussion here, with the occainsional cop-out of "just do it." Definitely wish there was more marketing knowledge reflected. In fact, I think I may write an answer!
What are some interesting true stories about the writing of famous books?
Great answer about 100 Years of Solitude, in particular...
Does Facebook allow you to target ads by life stage?
Good insight on advanced ad targeting for Facebook's self-service ad platform.
The SXSW 2012 Panel Picker is live... my submission for this year once again centers around a topic I'm passionate about, the need for better relationships between the marketing and startup communities. My panel for this year is entitled "Marketing for Early-Stage Startup Founders."
The argument I'm often faced with from startup folks is that marketing expertise isn't needed until a company reaches a later stage of growth. In the early stages of a company, the founders have to wear many hats, one of which is marketing. This panel is designed to help provide marketing tools to startup founders that can help them make some critical decisions at an early stage in the life of their company that can pay off in huge dividends down the road. The things I'll talk about will include:
You may have read Chip Bayers' recent article in AdWeek, "Why Silicon Valley Can't Sell." It's a great read, and echoes many of the sentiments near and dear to my ongoing interest in the gap between the agency and startup worlds. There's a disparity between the time people are spending with digital media and the amount being invested in advertising... according to the article, this is a $60 billion gap.
I think the gap is widening... here's why.
Some brands are actually decreasing their online advertising spend because they don't believe in banners, or more "traditional" forms of digital marketing. This isn't particularly dramatic when you consider that most online ad dollars are actually going into search.
Yet if the dollars are really going where users are spending their time, they should be going into social media, and into mobile... not into search. The problem is that we have yet to create robust ad options in social. Instead, while Silicon Valley lags behind in creating new social ad format, the dollars that would be spend with them will increasingly going to shift away from advertising into the following:
Ad dollars will increasingly go into prodcution
Many brands have limited budgets and increasing technology needs. Why spend so much money on advertising you don't believe in when you can be building apps, and spend that money on maintaining them?
Ad dollars will increasingly go into staff
Somtimes the right investment in social media for a brand isn't in social advertising, but an investment in resources to activate their social community. I think we'll see brands trade dollars on the media plan for people in the social org chart.
Ad dollars will increasingly go into content
It costs money to create an engaging social presence. As brands have grown Facebook fan pages, they're realizing that the content demands are great. More money will flow from media budgets into the costs required to create video and editorial content.
Perhaps what this means in the long run is that advertising spending will incresingly become more digital, but that overall ad spending will shrink as dollars flow into these new priorities...
Earlier this week, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced that Twitter may not rely solely on ad revenues in the future. Rather, he suggested that Twitter might find a new model by taking a more active role in the transactions currently happening on the platform. He offered no details, and said that advertising will continue to be the dominant business model. Here are a few ideas of how Twitter could create an e-commerce business model:
Sell Cost-per-Acquisition Ads Twitter sells most of it's ads based on engagement, like followers gained, or retweets. Many advertisers, however, will sell based on the acquisition of customers, and charge a higher premium. Twitter could sell ads where advertisers only pay when an item is purchased.
Sponsored Shopping Tweets Sponsored Tweets are called out in your Twitter stream. Allow those selling goods a new "shopping" callout to identify an e-commerce related Tweet. Charge for the ability to stand out.
Tweet-to-Buy Allow people to enter payment and shipping info into Twitter or connect through a partner like Paypal or Square. Buy from verified merchants simply by Tweeting a specific keyword.
I do believe that Twitter is leaving a ton of revenue on the table right now, and that they've been slow to create their ad offering. Hopefully this is a signal that will change.
My last 9 years at The Richards Group have been a pleasure. That kind of tenure is an anomaly in an industry where relationships change so quickly. It's only appropriate that I am now joining R/GA, an agency that also reinvents itself in 9-year cycles. I'm excited to be a part of these new plans, which I'm sure you'll see reflected here.
Reinvention will be more than a new job. I will have a new family, a new city and new clients. It will also mean old friends and interests. I will be rethinking this blog and doing more making.
Thanks to all of you who've supported me. Here's to the next 9...
I help brands create digital strategies. What this really means is that I create a framework to help them make decisions about what they should be doing in digital. This framework is based on their goals, customers’ needs and opportunities in the category. I’m also always thinking about emerging uses of technology and how the brands my team represents can make better use.
I count myself guilty at times of being a “Digital Actuary.”
Actuaries try to predict the probability of outcomes, but it's based solely on an examination of the past, and their primary goal is to minimize risk. Many of us make sense of the world in the same way, looking at the past. However, a digital strategy that comes out of an "actuary" approach is inherently flawed in a few ways:
The future of digital cannot always be predicted by the past
Sometimes the digital future is easy to predict. Think about broadband. Ten years ago, we all knew that eventually everyone would have a broadband connection and this would change how we consumed media. Some chose to jump on this bandwagon too early, and others, like most of the music and movie industry, were too slow.
Some futures are much more difficult to predict. Think about the mobile industry. Even six short years ago, when the RAZR was king, no one could predict that the smartphones of today would have altered as drastically the way we communicate. The past is much sooner than it used it be, and less reliable.
Risk is how innovation in digital happens
Actuaries are all about minimizing risk, but risk is a key component in digital innovation. Risk in the digital age is a belief that people will try a new way of doing something. They will… we’ve seen it time and time again. If you’re a brand, stop thinking about your customers as people who won’t and start thinking about them as people who will.
Your risks must be calculated, but simply following a pattern from the past won’t result in anything new or noteworthy. There’s no easy answer. The only way to help create the digital future is to spend less time looking backwards and more time guessing forwards…
I'm an Apple fan. A diehard Apple fan. However, I think Microsoft deserves some credit for innovation. Namely, the Xbox Kinect. Apple brought us a game-changer taking touch gesture mainstream, but Microsoft's Kinect is the future of gesture.
It's easy to see this in a recent showcase by Fast Company of a new platform called KinectShop, an augmented reality shopping platform. See it in action below:
Clearly, there are applications well beyond gaming. If this kind of innovation can still come from within the walls of Microsoft, I think a little more credit is due.
I continue to find great topics from smart people on Quora. Here are a few of the most recent:
What are some warning signs to look for when dealing with VCs?
Great answers here from folks with lots of experience looking for investment
How is Trader Joe's wine so cheap?
Great answers about the origins of Two-Buck Chuck
What are the best poems of the 20th century?
How can you pick just one... find the greatest hits here
As a part of my annual visit to the University of Colorado's Advertising A2B intensive this year, I spoke with the students about building a foundation of "influences" to help keep them up to date on the evolving digital landscape. As a part of our time together, I put together a list of "starter influences" across a variety of different categories. Here is that list:
I'll be speaking next week at the Lakewood Theater on May 25th at the "Gary Vee in Big D" event. It was organized locally by some smart folks who used the power of Twitter to bring Gary Vaynerchuck to Dallas as a part of his tour to promote his new book "The Thank You Economy." I think the event is a great way to showcase some of the great digital work being done locally in Dallas and you're sure to run into a diverse group of folks from startups, brands and agencies.
Last week I downloaded the new HBO "Go" iPad app. I've long lamented the fact that while the rest of the world was allowing full episode streaming online, the paid premium networks hadn't found a solution. Now, however, HBO is making its entire catalog availble online and via iPhone and iPad if you're a subscriber.
HBO is making their ENTIRE catalog available. My current AT&T Uverse "On Demand" only offers a few of the latest episodes... that's it. I also can start watching entire HBO series without having to spend a ton of money on $1.99 episode downloads in the iTunes store.
While the HBO series are the quality programming that people care about, they also include movies, with a not-too-shabby selection.
The quality of the streaming is pretty good, and I've had little trouble with performance. There are also a few nifty features, like the ability to create a queue of shows or movies you want to watch.
Internet connection is required. This means that if you do want to watch something on a plane, you can't download it to watch while you're offline. I really hope that HBO figures this one out soon.
Apparently, not all HBO subscribers can access the service, only those who are subscribing through premium providers like AT&T, Charter, Time Warner, etc...
It's clear to me that these apps will drive subscriptions for HBO. More than a few people have told me, after seeing it that they would subscribe to have access. The problem is that it's hard to see the role of the cable companies moving forward. We pay for hundreds of channels we don't watch, and there are only a few worth the money. I don't think I'm alone in the feeling that if HBO offered direct subscription through digital, I'd join the growing ranks of cord-cutters.
Content is king again. Social media has taught us that you can build networks of people, but content is what engages them. Some of the best examples I've seen lately aren't of the bite-size variety, but much more robust. Suprisingly, some of the most engaging are new ways of looking at the written word. Here are two of them:
If you follow me on Twitter, you've heard me rave about Longreads. The premise of the site is simple, to aggregate the best long-form content on the web. Visitors to the site can sort content by the time it takes to read, from less than 15 minutes to more than an hour. New content is added daily from many of the best publishers of long-form content, like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Business Week and many, many more.
This most recent entry into the long-form content space provides an intriguing challenge to the traditional news publisher business model. It also has a simple premise, original long form content from notable authors. The first original to launch on Byliner is by Jon Krakauer, for the price of $2.99.
While newspapers are still focused on subscription models, Byliner provides an interesting micropayment model into the mix. The site has not fully launched yet, but those who question the business model should ask themselves: if you'll pay $0.99 for an iPhone app that makes fart noises, and $5.99 for a magazine, why wouldn't you pay $2.99 for a really in-depth, engaging piece on something you're actually interested in. Don't like the topic? You don't have to pay.
I think both of these sites are an indication of how important the production and curation of great content have become. As the web grows, so does the need for both.
Last week at the Web 2.0 conference, Wired founder Kevin Kelly presented a few digital trends in the form of verbs. The video of his keynote is worth watching.
I was particularly struck by one of the ideas as a primary challenge to advertising today, the idea of “flowing.” Kelly illustrates that "flowing" is the result of the evolution of the web from pages and links to a realtime web of status updates, check-ins and "streams."
The problem with most advertising efforts today is that many folks are still stuck in this outdated view of the web as pages and links. We’re no longer “surfing” a wave of information, we’re swimming in it.
What should advertising in this "stream” look like?
Be Relevant to the Stream
I think of the standard “push” model of advertising as a brand trying to “interrupt” or “divert” the flow of the stream rather than going along with it. The stream will require new formats that aren’t pages or links, or even ads. The new formats will look very much like the stream itself, and include media like video, photos, status updates and the like. Facebook pages are just the beginning.
Brands are now creating their own streams. Many brands are seeing success not by trying to interrupt a customer’s stream, but interact with them. This is also why content strategy is important. A brand's stream must hold its own with consumer content.
Streams aren't 9 to 5
Television runs on schedules, magazines come out monthly, but there’s no online schedule. Everything is on-demand, and advertising wasn’t built to work on that timetable. In the past, we had the luxury of getting an ad in front of someone, hoping that at some point in the near future, they’d remember our company and buy our goods. A real-time web will require real-time ads.
It's easy for advertisers to understand the web as pages. At least this was similar to the modular idea of creating single-page ads and inserting 30-second spots. The new web of streams is something very different. It’s only happened within the last few years, while our industry has still been playing catch-up with a model their customers are beginning to outgrow.
I don’t know what advertising in the flow will look like exactly, but if it’s done right, I don’t think it will look anything like the advertising we’re doing today.