167172306When it comes to marketing in today’s digital and social world, I believe coming up with ideas is the easy part. There, I said it, and I have no doubt I’ll get pummeled by many of my colleagues for making that statement.

I doubt anyone would disagree that in the advertising industry, we love to celebrate creative thinking. But we must remember that creative thinking goes nowhere without people who can bring ideas to life. And that’s getting harder every day as technology gets a stronger foothold in the marketing world.

A 2013 Harvard Business Review article titled “Closing the Chasm between Strategy and Execution” got me thinking about how the “chasm” applies to advertising. And while I don’t say this lightly, the truth is, with the digital ecosystem being so complex and continuously evolving, finding talent with the skills to deliver flawless execution is much harder to come by these days than a creative mind to dream up the idea.

Mapping out the customer journey is a painstaking and methodical process, and I’m not talking about the old “Attract-Engage-Convert” model. I’m talking about the complex and convoluted path the consumer takes today, and the detailed planning we have to do for every step of it. For which device should we optimize? Where does the data live? How do we analyze the data? Are we following the rules of every social platform and exploring how to use each to our advantage? What technology do we use and why? What are the potential effects of those decisions? The list goes on and continues to grow every day, and people who can not only navigate these waters, but can also lead within them are invaluable.

But I have to say, they are hard to find these days.

So what is a marketing executive to do? Here is what I think: (more…)

I have a confession to make. I don’t usually watch the Super Bowl. I don’t even care about football. (This is about the time I usually get weird looks from people.) But this year, the powers-that-be at Brunner requested that my colleague, Maria Bowers, and I watch the “big game.” As you can imagine (considering we work for an ad agency), they didn’t want us to watch for the hard-hitting, yard-measuring, rules-lawyering action, but rather for the advertisements. And, with Maria sitting in the creative department and me being on the technology team, they specifically picked the two of us knowing that we would have very different perspectives on what we saw. So, while the rest of you were busy getting beer and competing over who could eat the spiciest chicken wing, we were hard at work watching television and searching for stuff on the Internet. (Did I mention that I love my job?) Here are our observations about a few of the many advertisers who laid down $4 million in a bid to win over consumers.


show-us-your-heinzKyle: For their first Super Bowl (I mean “Big Game” – wouldn’t want any legal reprisals for a simple blog post) ad in 16 years, Heinz tries their hand at successfully executing the buzz-word that I like the least: “viral marketing.” They opened up showusyourheinz.com, which encourages fans of the ketchup masters to take photos of themselves with the product and submit them for the opportunity to win a prize. This is pretty standard fare for an online contest, but I found the connection to the television commercial to be tenuous. (more…)


What do Chicken Little and Twitter have in common? They both have a knack for prematurely stating apocalyptic doom.

I say this with much love for Twitter, as I’m an avid user who devours the 140-character nuggets on my feed. And I’m still awed by the role Twitter played in the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

So I guess what I’m irked with is not Twitter the medium; but rather, the over-reaction to how much negative impact will befall someone whose misstep lights up Twitter. Ugh, hearing “the Twitterverse is gonna explode” is nails on a chalkboard to me.

I was reminded of this by Bob Costas’ comments this week, calling Olympic snowboarding events “jackass stuff.” Well, that didn’t sit well with the rad, winter-sports crowd. Naturally, within an hour of his declaration, Bob Costas was trending on Twitter. And not in a good way. Irate fans of snowboarding pelted him with icy disses. (more…)

facebook-algorithm1One of the best articles I have read on Facebook’s News Feed algorithm change yesterday was published by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. Facebook made the change to deemphasize memes and prioritize “high quality articles.” Too many Buzzfeed lists and too much Upworthy tearjerker content hitting feeds. Why? According to Klein:

But hitting “like” isn’t the same thing as actually enjoying the content. And collectively, everyone “liking” and sharing this stuff to show that they love babies and believe in gay marriage and oppose bullying and appreciate Will Ferrell and all the rest of it could mean news feeds fill with content that users don’t actually want to see so much of.

There is something critically important for clients and their agencies to consider when developing Facebook content-we are at the mercy of Facebook engineers. As Klein reminds us:

Facebook can tell the difference between content people automatically share and content that they actually watch, or comment on, or otherwise seem to engage with. So if and when Facebook begins to ratchet back on this new wave of viral content it can do so in ways that separate the really manipulative posts from the ones people actually enjoy.

It’s about engagement, Stupid. We should focus more on content users will truly engage with (read, watch or comment on) rather than content designed simply with a sharing objective. We must remember that if the content is crafted with engagement in mind then it will ultimately be shared. In fact, this is how we should be thinking about brand content for Facebook in the first place.


A few months ago, Yahoo! announced the acquisition of the social media platform Tumblr. At the time, investors questioned the $1.1 billion purchase of what some saw as essentially a fanboy picture-sharing site with a trickling revenue stream.

But what struck me was the immediate response from the Tumblr user community. They erupted with a barrage of snark, mostly aimed at Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer in the form of sophomoric GIFs and LOL memes. But layered in the predictable outrage and threats of user boycotts was something else. These people were hurt. They were betrayed; jilted by a brand with whom they had a deep relationship that dates back to, oh, 2006 or so.

It was actually rather sweet. In a millennial hipster sort of way. And it made me feel nostalgic about brands that I used to love.

I was loyal. They reciprocated that loyalty. And each relationship was special, in its own way. Until that relationship ended.

We parted for various reasons. For a few (Doc Martens, Ben&Jerry’s), I can honestly say, “It wasn’t you … it was me.”  But most of the times the break-up was a result of betrayal. Budweiser, my hometown beer and one-time client, abandoned us for a new sugar daddy in Belgium. Levi’s made me feel cheap and used. Even my beloved Apple has strayed, falling into the “friends with benefits” category of relationships.

So the question is, are consumers capable of brand love anymore? (more…)

Successful brand connections today are social by design. They often start with a platform, or ecosystem of platforms, in mind. They have great content ideas at the core, not just a singular idea or “key visual.” Sure, relevance is key (duh), but they’re also nimble, integrated and highly measurable at the outset. Oh, and supported with paid media to give it scale.

Still, brand leaders (in all categories) hesitate to go all in. Some are fearful, others still revert back on the myriad myths associated with “social.” Time to bust those myths for good:


MYTH: Social media is only for brand advocacy

FACT: Social enables relevant connections at every stage of the consumer journey (and KPIs are different for each social marketing activity!).

MYTH: Social is for millennials

FACT: Nearly all adults, regardless of age, affluence or race is engaged in one or more social platforms. Incidentally, Facebook is losing the interest of millennials, as social media participation increases elsewhere across all demos. (more…)

clint_hurdleClint Hurdle, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is also a great brand manager. You’ve probably heard about the daily inspirations he sends to his players to keep them energized and positive. http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9726637/pirates-manager-clint-hurdle-inspiring-others-daily

But I also admire him for his courage to stick to what is working.  In the “First Pitch” game day publication, Clint talks about the challenges of continuing to play the same type of game as they run out of games.  He says we need to remember that the game we played all season is what got us to the post-season for the first time in 20 years.  I see those same challenges in marketing strategy.  Far too often, marketers give into the pressures and sense of urgency by abandoning what got them to their position.  They change their strategy dramatically and end up trying to be something they aren’t to satisfy a time crunch.  Expiring patents, release of new models and competitive innovations are just a few of the reasons we use for abandoning what drove our success. (more…)

crayon-boxAs a kid, were you ever frustrated with a box of eight crayons? Your creativity was limited, and every picture ended up looking somewhat similar. For decades, media planning didn’t change a whole lot-you were pretty much limited to television, magazines, newspaper, and outdoor. You may have changed dayparts or bought an unusual ad size, but you were still working with the same handful of options for all of your clients.

As corporations face increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI and accountability for every dollar spent, they often reduce, or at best, maintain their marketing budgets. At the same time, those dollars are up against the growing strain of clutter and customized media consumption. Add to that the challenge of proving impact when you don’t have an ecommerce function or an offer for each form or media that you can track.

Interestingly, many of the same advertising options that have made message delivery more complex can also be the answer to your problems. If you can prove the audience is there, and you are willing to stretch a bit out of the traditional media comfort zone, digital media offers the other 100-plus “colors” you need to effectively transform your media picture. Specifically, digital can help you actively engage highly targeted audiences and deliver multiple messages without spreading your impressions too thin. (more…)


It’s not easy being a creative in an ad agency today. Ick, that sentence I just typed makes me sound cranky; like I’m one of those “nobody understands my genius” creatives. Not to worry; this isn’t one of those rants. Just a little helpful advice I’ve recently put together after 21 years in the business. (Yes, my career is now old enough to have a drink.)

Advertising agencies have become more integrated, with members of every discipline working side-by-side on campaigns. Which means more and more people have ideas for executions of the brands you work on. Making it open season on what we as creatives bring to the table. Namely, ideas. Writers and art directors once exclusively owned all the thinking when a campaign consisted of TV, radio, point-of-sale and outdoor. Standard practice was for creative to go away for a couple of weeks and come back with ads and soak up the praise from everybody else who was in awe of us heroic storytellers. All hail the great and powerful creatives. (more…)

The Business Case for Mobile First

For consumers, a mobile device is increasingly the “first screen.” It’s the the first media powered-up in the morning and the last shut down before bed. And for 91% of smartphone owners, their device is within a 3-foot reach 24 hours a day.

2013 signals a sea change in digital: more people will access the internet through a mobile device this year than through a PC. For more background, read Forrester’s 2013 Mobile Trends for Marketers.

What’s Your Brand’s Mobile Competency?

Mobile enables consumer connections at home, in the store, and on the go. Plus, it offers opportunities for deeper engagement by harnessing location, social media and the personal creativity of your consumer.

There is no perfect formula for selecting mobile channels. But you can chart your course by answering these questions, which will help you frame an approach to mobile that maps to business objectives and consumer behaviors.


Ready to get started? Answer these 10 critical questions after the jump.