Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer 2013 marcom news: the data haves and have nots

Following events in the ad / PR world at the end of July 2013 has been exciting and enlightening. And a bit disconcerting for anyone concerned, at least in the short term, about the viability of smaller marcom enterprises, especially including non-profit and advocacy organizations. The emerging marcom digital divide is growing wider than ever. Big data favors big enterprise. And creativity and human insight seem increasingly like a quaint cottage industry.

2013 Summer Story Line Number 1: The Promise of Big Data. From the earliest public reports of the expected combination of Publicis and the Omnicom Group (POG), such as in The New York Times, July 27th report, there has been the acknowledgement that the creation of POG is not entirely about traditionally understood advertising services. The Times’ Tanzina Vega noted on July 27th, “. . . antitrust concerns could be eased if the new company positions itself less as a conglomerate of ad agencies and more of a data company competing with businesses like I.B.M. and Facebook . . .” That same message is clear in AdAge’s August 4th post by Abbey Klaasen, in which she writes “Ninety percent of the world’s data have been generated in the past two years . . . And increasingly those data are generated by digital interactions tracked for the primary, if not sole, purpose of selling goods or services. This data-intensive world has ushered in competitors that aren’t ad agencies but giant technology and consulting firms, like IBM, Oracle and Accenture.”

From this perspective, POG isn’t at all about your grandfather’s advertising. It’s about the brave new world of data that monitors and algorithms that reveal patterns – for the organizations big enough, resourced enough to derive benefit. (Of course, all this is being reported against the wider background news about the travails of Edward Snowden and the media-hyped reportage and speculation about what the National Security Agency may know – or not know – about us all.)

2013 Summer Story Line Number 2: Small is Beautiful (and, Hopefully, Still Relevant). One reaction to the POG announcement has come loud-and-clear from the “smaller” ad and PR agencies. On the advertising side we’ve had Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden & Kennedy, speaking on at the AdAge 2013 fourth annual Small Agency Conference, saying that “the ad giants are ‘wobbling like drunkards’ and called for indie shops to sharpen their swords.” Wieden’s speech has been widely discussed and picked up, such as in Will Burns’ Forbes.com July 30th post.

On the public relations side, Art Stevens, managing partner at Stevens Gould Pincus, wrote on July 28th at CommPRO.biz about his conviction that the “smaller, more nimble agencies” will be the beneficiary of clients’ distrust of the new marcom “behemoth.” However, the PR, response reveals more than a little consternation. The Holmes Report’s July 30th post by Aarti Shah raises the question, “Is PR an “Afterthought”? And even Stevens’ optimistic view of the opportunity for non-behemoth PR firms has a telling comment: Stevens asks “. . . will they [clients] be happier with smaller agencies with worldwide capabilities?” And just how many “smaller” PR agencies really have worldwide capabilities?

2013 Summer Story Line Number 3: The End of Measurement; The Emergence of Insight. Simultaneous with the global turmoil (and relish) over POG, Katie Paine made the official announcement that she was leaving News Group International in a July 26th post of The Measurement Standard. In Paine’s more personal insight provided at her personal blog, KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog, on July 29th, she presented a context for her departure from News Group International as an indicator of a broader trend in PR/media research: “When I started in the industry there was me and a couple of other people talking about PR measurement. Now there are some 350 companies providing some form of social or traditional media analysis. We used to think that just having data was enough. Now we have more data any anyone knows what to do with.”

I cannot foresee better than anyone else (and lots of anyones are writing about it) how the POG merger will shake out. But it seems clear to me that the implications – the inevitability – of dealing with data about transactions and communications surrounding transactions is the core challenge for the future of marcom services. Like POG or not. The argument for small agencies is attractive (like the American small family farm?) – but when clients are monitoring response to alternative creative executions, in real time, and changing media buys immediately for maximum return, it suggests different definitions of “nimble.” Katie Paine’s experience is revealing: in many ways, she’s won the battle – her corner of the industry has accepted the premise that she fought for, and the bigger data, technology companies have gobbled up the business.

The emergent digital divide in marcom services is technological and financial and social. Dan Wieden and Katie Paine are still going to do OK; because of their long-established personal credentials, they will still be sought after by deeper-pocketed clients to plan and guide marcom initiatives. But what are the options for small enterprises (clients) and truly small marcom businesses – that don’t today have either the big data clout of POG or IBM or the guru status of Wieden and Paine?

The emerging divide in marcom services has always been implicit in the industry, but it is starker than ever. It is between the would-be-decision-makers who have evidence (methodically sound, according to state-of-the-art capabilities) versus the would-be-decision-makers who are still stuck flying by the seat of their pants. Smaller marcom businesses – and, much more importantly for the economy and the country-- smaller enterprises and non-profit organizations, are a long way from benefiting from the promise of big data.

With so much information that can now be had – the gap between the data Haves and Have Nots may well be the defining factor, and marcom battleground, for the foreseeable future.

This post was published at
CommPRO.biz on August 6, 2013




Monday, July 15, 2013

Doubt. Discern. Decide.

Bronze monument of Kaibara Ekken (1630-1714)
at his gravesite in the Kinryu-Temple,
Fukuoka City, Japan
My newest enthusiasm -- and my newest discovery of the writer of textscapes -- is the early 18th century Japanese botanist and Neo-Confucianist philosopher, Kaibara Ekken (also known as Atsunobu and also occasionally referred to as the Aristotle of Japan.) Kaibara upholds a reformist Confucianism -- harking back (in his mind) to Confucius and Mencius rather than to the more familiar (in his era) Song Dynasty Confucians. Most strikingly, Kaibara argues that the full realization of Qi, or the material force of life, is never just through contemplation (inwardness), as he understands Taoism and Buddhism; for Kaibara, full realization of life must also come through engagement in public life and relationships of all kinds.

That public engagement requires a full, active, and aggressive examination of the world around us and all of our received knowledge.  He argues, in a sense, for the necessity to "make it (whatever -- your culture, your state, your religion) your own."  His great dictum / advice is that we must all "doubt, discern, and then decide."

The Preface to his The Record of Great Doubts is an inspiration.

"An earlier Confucian said, 'In learning it is regrettable if we do not have doubts. If we doubt there will be advancement and consequently we will learn. Beginning students can not understand every aspect of what they study. Accordingly, it is essential to have doubts in pursuing the way of learning. Indeed, doubts should be respected, for without them one won't make progress.' As Zhu Xi said, 'It is important for those who do not usually doubt to have doubts, and it is necessary for those who have doubts to resolve them.' He also noted that 'if our doubt is great, our progress will be significant; if our doubt is small, our progress will be insignificant. If we don't have doubts we won't progress.'

"In my humble opinion, after one studies one begins to doubt; after one doubts one starts to raise questions; after one questions one begins to reflect; and after one reflects one finally understands. The way of learning should follow this pattern. For example, the learning process can be compared to walking down a road. If we walk for a while without stopping, we will inevitably come to pa point where the road divides and we won't know which way to go. At this point we will have doubts and, being confused, we will be unable to proceed. Thus we just ask for directions. Yet if we don't walk on the path, how will we have doubts? Presumably, it is because we proceed along the road without stopping that we have doubts and questions Indeed, for this reason the ancient scholars combined the idea of learning and questioning.

"From the age of fourteen or fifteen, I set my mind on the learning of the sages. From my youth I have read the books of the Song Confucians and have devoted myself to their teachings. For a long time I took them as the greatest models. I have also had great doubts but, lacking sufficient understanding, I have not been able to dispel them, or did I have an enlightened teacher whom I could question. Now, as I have become older, I have even less ability to resolve my perplexities. For more than thirty years I have continued to ponder deeply, but it is my greatest regret that I still harbor doubts within myself and cannot fully comprehend certain teachings. For the present I will describe my misgivings here in the hope of being enlightened by more knowledgeable scholars. How can I possibly claim that my ideas alone are correct and defined my own views against those of scholars of earlier generations?"

Kaibara Atsunobu [Ekken]
Written at the vernal equinox, 1713
(He was eighty-four years old, about a year before his death.)

Translation from The Philosophy of Qi: The Record of Great Doubts, by Mary Evelyn Tucker (Columbia University Press, 2012).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Whither content marketing -- or how the latest battle between advertising and public relations is remaking how we all think about institutional communications

Advertising and PR agencies are just fated to fight each other, continually, for “territory” (a.k.a. clients’ money — a.k.a. a credible, exclusive claim to a communications tactic, channel, or technology). The battleground of the moment is, of course, content marketing (a.k.a. branded content, a.k.a. native advertising, etc.)

Such a plethora of a.k.a.’s suggests something inconclusive is in the works.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced June 6th that a little definition is in order. Susan Borst, IAB’s Director of Industry Initiatives, blogged about IAB’s new Native Advertising Task Force (over 50 member companies and over 60 individual participants) with its aim “to establish a framework for the native advertising space by putting forth a prospectus that clearly lays out today’s ‘native’ landscape.” And, IAB also kicked off a Content Marketing Task Force (with 25+ member companies and about the same number of individual participants). (Ad Week picked up on the ironies of IAB’s attempts “to bring some clarity to the Babel-like confusion” by noting that “it’s unclear if the latter [Content Marketing Task Force] is a cousin to or umbrella of the first [Native Advertising Task Force].” Cousin — umbrella — we can’t even get our metaphors on the same page.

By the way — no PR firms on either IAB task force.

IAB obviously hadn’t read Forrester Research’s Laura Ramos’ blog from May 6th: “The Role of PR in Content Marketing and Thought Leadership.” Ramos calls out the argument for PR to lead the content marketing charge: “. . . the advantages of PR to stimulate conversation, engage in two-way interactions, and develop interesting story lines that involve the intended audience are a natural fit for creating great marketing in this new digital world.” Ramos gives kudos to Richard Edelman’s evolving stance, most recently sketched out in his April 30th 6 A.M. blog post, “The New Look of Public Relations — A Dissenting View.” in which he discusses his agency’s intent to “expand the remit of the public relations business . . . to take full advantage of the inherent advantages of PR, which are credibility, speed, two-way interaction and continuous story creation.”

Edelman had set many PR people buzzing (some grumbling) earlier, back on January 7th, with his 6 A.M. blog post, “Paid Media — A Change of Heart,” in which he gingerly, but “unafraid,” embraced the brave new world of paid content: “I can assure you that Edelman will be at the bleeding edge of aiming for the right thing, unafraid of the wrong thing.” (The “right thing” he refers to there, that he is edge-bleeding towards, is “‘own-able’ insight” that is to be “co-produce[d] content with media companies.”) (PRNewser’s report made this sound a bit like going over to the Dark Side: “Edelman Switches Sides, Joins the ‘Paid Content’ Team.”)

Presumably, all this doesn’t mean PR is going the way of Buzzfeed. (Does it?) In the meantime, however, you’ll find the PR trades, the tip sheets, the boot camps and webinars are now providing non-stop, fully confident advice about how surely PR people can succeed wtth content marketing (I guess PR is ahead of the IAB after all, since advertising is only at the point of forming task forces?).

This is the point at which the blogger (wisely, humbly) must write, “Time will tell.” But a last reflection: this current battle between advertising and PR for ownership of content marketing is coalescing as a stand-off between Money/Scale vs. Righteousness (the much greater resources and infrastructure of advertising vs. the moral/authenticity claim of public relations). Was it ever so? Or is there some hint at a synthesis of a new institutional communications function that both demonstrably works and can have sustainable integrity?

This post was also
published at
CommPRO.biz,
July 8, 2013



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The science beneath the art of communications -- update, Spring 2013

Paul Holmes’ May 3rd blog, “10 Ways to Design the PR Agency of the Future,” (recently summarized here at IPR Conversations by Alyssa Hubbell on June 26th) challenged PR to put “big data at the center” and to provide “insight to drive meaningful creativity.” The scope of that challenge is hard to overstate, and it is a challenge that is not yet being met by other parts of the marketing communications and communications research industries.

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) sponsored its annual Audience Measurement Conference, “Measuring the Unmeasured,” June 10-11, 2013 in New York for an upbeat crowd. Presentations were dominated by the major suppliers of the industry – Arbitron, comScore, GfK, Nielsen and a handful of others. Some distinguished, major advertisers (including AT&T, Bank of America, Diageo, Facebook) showcased impressive media research initiatives, and some of the leading media companies made appearances (ABC, NBC, Turner).

The explicit theme of the conference was that we live in a multi-platform world; consumer impact is never achieved through one channel, but by inputs (messages) from multiple sources or -- as it was most often characterized – screens (broadcast and cable TV, desktops, and mobile – both smartphones and tablets). The unspoken implicit perspective was that only screens (and occasionally radio) really matter anymore. That’s a fundamentally problematic unspoken proposition in a multi-channel, integrated communications ecosystem, but probably reflective of the roots and habits of the ARF members.

The confident vibe at the conference was probably rooted in the emerging sense from this ad research community that ‘We’ve got this under control.’ This same ARF conference in 2012 had for its theme, “The Measurement Crisis” – a far cry from the more self-assured theme, this year, of “Measuring the Unmeasured.”

You could hardly avoid the sense of social / digital / mobile media as having been tamed, after all, by the intrepid ad research community. ‘It took us some time. We were kind of shaken last year this time. But we marshaled our wits. We partnered with other companies – a bit of “united we stand; divided we fall.” We got a handle on this. We corralled all this pesky new consumer behavior and changing technologies into our methodological frameworks. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we pulled through.’ This cheekiness is well earned, as was particularly evident in some genuinely arresting case studies presented by ESPN, AT&T, Colgate-Palmolive, Facebook, and others.

But the ad research community doesn’t recognize how much more of the Unmeasured they haven’t measured yet. Most of the presentations – insightful and worthwhile – still see digital and social primarily for pushing out crafted, calculated messages, essentially as ad placement channels.

In this peculiarly screen-centric world of the ARF, there is surprisingly scant acknowledgement that those people at the receiving end of the screen sometimes talk back, and often talk to each other. It was ironic then that just a few days after the ARF conference, Ad Week published a report about data compiled by Zefr that provides a shockingly different perspective: “Of CoverGirl’s 251 million total views on YouTube, 249 million (or 99 percent) are from fan-created videos . . . 92 percent of Oreo’s views and 99 percent of Revlon’s views come from fan content.” It turns out that for many brands, and it seems increasingly more brands, creation and control of the brands are in the hands of the consumer: the screen-centric world turns out to work both directions after all.

By putting all that methodological sophistication and resources into a legacy sales channel (one-way communication) model, the ARF mindset is spending itself into decreasing relevance at least as fast, and much more expensively, as the PR industry. Accenture’s report on a global survey of 400+ CMOs at $1+ billion companies, “Turbulence for the CMO: Charting a Path for the Seamless Customer Experience” asserts that marketing communications budgets are increasing – by 20% or more annually – but that spend is not going to either the ad or the PR agencies. The CMOs in Accenture’s sample are spending on digital interaction and engagement: so, advertising, take heed – future dollars are not to be found in more efficient message delivery through this year’s most fashionable screen device.

And public relations, also take note: Accenture’s CMOs are rarely retaining PR agencies for any digital / social services. Less than 10% of any of these companies are working with PR agencies for social media monitoring, web analytics, customer insights, or even content management. PR agencies are clearly at the back of the pack behind specialized digital agencies and data-based marketing services, ad agencies, systems integrators (e.g., Infosys, IBM) and traditional management consultants (e.g., McKinsey).

It’s odd. Ad agencies, with lots of resources and methodological sophistication, are missing the same boat as are the PR agencies – which mostly do not have that kind of data and research fire power.

At the ARF conference I chatted with a friend, who should remain anonymous. The friend is the senior research and strategy executive at a global player ad agency, an agency every reader of this blog would know. My friend says, “This data, this comparative analysis of channels, is amazing – but it doesn’t tell me what to do! I can know how to coordinate my mobile, print, and TV buys for maximum reach – but I still don’t have any guidance about strategy or content.” Our conversation continued with long ruminations and how, practically, we should be putting big data at the center of our enterprise in order to provide the insights that drives meaningful creativity – and about the “science beneath the art of advertising and public relations.”

This post also appeared
July 2, 2013
on the Research Conversations blog
at the
Institute for Public Relations

A textscape writer of exquisite mind

William Dampier
For your summer reading, you cannot do better than A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier by Diana and Michael Preston (Berkeley Books, 2004).  Not because this biography is a great biography (I think it's not, for whatever my opinion is worth).  But William Dampier is an amazing historical figure ---

Just consider:

Dampier was one of the first (if not the first) "managers" (ship captains) of  enterprises that encircled the globe three times -- not for fun: but for profit, power, for understanding the world.  (Oops -- sorry, I forgot to mention -- in the 17th century.)  (This means: he was captain or had some other senior authority on expeditions of exploration / politics / theft (piracy) for a period of over 30 years.  From the time he was in his twenties into his sixties.). (Please note, AARP: this guy in the 17th century broke all records, etc., in his 20s and in his 60s.)

He was a naturalist whose observations and writings were internationally recognized as authoritative. Invented (of a sorts) the concepts of species and sub-species that was directly influential on Darwin (according to Darwin). He was a member of the Royal Society.

A hydrologist ( weather and currents and ) whose writings were consulted and authoritative two hundred years after his death.

Dampier was also, during some of his voyages, a pirate.  As well as an authorized and as a not-so-authorized agent of his government.  He was a speculator.  But he was an investor and speculator not sitting behind his Bloomberg terminal, but out there on the oceans chasing, literally the edge (not of the envelope, but) of the known world.

He was the author of several books which were massive best-sellers and influential (for the age). His writings were accepted as authoritative by the Royal Society and he is also widely acknowledged as a primary "source" for Daniel Defoe's and Jonathan Swift's fictions.

Dampier was brilliant, humane, and progressive  -- for his era, not racist, tolerant, open-minded regarding the peoples he encountered in South America, Asia, and Africa.  He was kind of an environmentalist.

He was also not a Saint: He was apparently sometimes a drunk (though he met a fairly high standard definition of a functioning alcoholic), personally abusive, and dictatorial to his staff/crew/fellow ship officers who weren't as smart as he was -- no tolerance at all for bad behavior (as he defined it).  He abandoned his wife (though conscientiously protected and provided for her financially) and did not father children (as far as we know).

Not a Royal or a Cambridge swell.  He went around the world --  not as a passenger -- but as an explorer and guide -- at a time when the concept of going around the world was almost unthinkable. He was a leading botanical / geographical / meteorological scientist of his time.  He was a best-selling author.  There is nothing like him today.

Dampier seems to be one of those guys like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin who are unbelievably talented and accomplished. But Dampier out-does Jefferson in Franklin in his physical bravado (he was, after all, for some years, literally a pirate of the Caribbean.)  He captains sailing expeditions (of trade, exploration/education, and piracy) at the farthest reaches of the known world (Jefferson and Franklin didn't get further than Paris -- not that I blame them.)

I don't want to say that William Dampier is a hero or model . . . but if you want to gain insight into the greatest experiences that humans can have (along with the Everest-climbers etc.) -- check out William Dampier.

Dampier's books were textscapes of the first order. He wrote about things that had never been written about before.  He wrote about things that advanced scientific knowledge for 200 years after his death. He wrote as he lived -- at the farthest boundaries of the known world: geographically, scientifically, personally/psychologically.  (It makes what I did over last weekend seem a little pale. . . . )



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Paul Holmes' challenge for PR (communications) agencies of the future.

Paul Holmes
CEO, The Holmes Report
Editor-in-Chief, the Holmes Report
Paul Holmes at The Holmes Report blogged in May about the "10 Ways to Design the PR Agency of the Future." (Let's hope this is Paul in his role as Oracle, more than his role as Gadfly.)

It does not take a very deep-dive analysis into the PR agency industry to agree with Paul: ". . . many of them [PR agencies] have failed to integrate new ideas, new technologies and new media, into the way they do business-- often treating changes that ought to disrupt existing models as if they can simply be bolted on to the old model."

Every PR agency I know of, today, claims to "do" social media, but the vast majority of them have just bolted "social media" on (Paul's terminology) to their old model of doing business. (It's so obvious -- they've just added a Social tab to the website navigation bar which otherwise reads as it did in 2004).

Paul writes, ". . . many of the world's largest agencies, and a surprising number of midsized firms, continue to operate as if little has changed. Their infrastructure is a legacy from a different age, they have the same practice areas . . . , the same geographic structures, the same silos that served them (not always well) a decade or more ago."

Accenture's report
on 400+ seniormarketing execs:
"Turbulence for the CMO:Charting a Path
for theSeamless Customer Experience"
Keep that thought of Paul's in mind, and consider this: Accenture's report, "Turbulence for the CMO: Charting a Path for the Seamless Customer Experience" (April 2013), based on its 2012 CMO Insights survey (online survey across 10 countries with 405 senior execs who are "key marketing decision makers in their companies," most companies with revenues of at least US$1 billion).

These corporate decision makers were asked what types of external agencies they retain to lead critical marketing functions. Twenty-three functions were tested ranging from the business oriented (such as managing ROI), to web and social media (such as SEO, eMail marketing), data (marketing analytics, web analytics, customer data), paid media (paid search, media mix optimization, media/advertising optimization) and highest level strategy (brand strategy development, multi-channel campaign management, content management).

PR agencies are reported as being used for managing any of these functions by no more than 9% of the companies.  The agencies most often cited are the specialized digital agencies and data-based marketing services. Followed by ad agencies. Followed by systems integrators (Infosys, IBM, etc.). Followed by traditional management consultants (e.g., McKinsey).  Followed by, of yeah, PR agencies.

What does the following suggest to you about PR agencies' reputation among CMOs in the 21st century? Only 7% of the companies rely on PR agencies for social media monitoring. Only 5% of the companies rely on PR firms for web analytics.  Only 3% of companies rely on PR agencies for customer insights/analytics.  Only 6% of companies rely on PR agencies for content management.

No wonder Paul Holmes says the top three imperatives for PR agencies have to be:

1. Big data at the center
2. Insight to drive meaningful creativity
3. Understanding the human brain

(And, of course, there are seven more recommendations after that.  See the blog.)

The Accenture report outlines a "new CMO agenda":  1. Fundamentally change the marketing operating model. 2. Build new skills. 3. Get aligned with the right partners. 4. Drive digital orientation through the enterprise (and this last item does not mean Tweeting.)

My colleagues and I on the faculty of City College of New York's new Master's in Branding + Integrated Communications -- working, with great anticipation and enthusiasm, with the class of 2015 (our first -- classes starting in September) -- feel the urgency of taking Paul's and Accenture's insights very seriously.  We know our graduates will do just fine; the Accenture-surveyed CMOs expect 25% increase in budgets for digitally oriented marketing functions. The open question is whether much of "legacy" PR -- and advertising -- agency sector will be the places where these grads forge the successes of their careers.


This post is also published at bic-ccny-info, the blog for the new Master's of Professional Studies degree at the City college of New York, Media and Communications Arts Department.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Think you're in control of your brand? Think again.

Swiffer dancing
Ad Week today published a feature about a study by Zefr that has to make "brand managers" re-think their job security. (These people should probably start thinking of their jobs as "brand collaborators.")

"Of CoverGirl's 251 million total views on YouTube, 249 million (or 99 percent) are from fan-created videos, according to data compiled by Zefr. We see a similar trend with other leading brands: 92 percent of Oreo's views and 99 percent of Revlon's views come from fan content. Sometimes, original fan videos go viral, causing lots of other fans to create their own version of the original video. Swiffer's commercial of a woman mopping her kitchen floor and breaking out into dance inspired a trend on YouTube. More than 150 people uploaded their own rendition of the 'Swiffer dance.'"

We first thought about consumer-generated video about a brand as being a threat (as in United Breaks Guitars with 12,129,137 views). But we're now finding that some consumers are equally motivated to post video appreciations (or at least good-natured ribbing) for their favorite brands.

The world probably hasn't changed. But we can see what's going on a lot more clearly. We have YouTube evidence that, indeed, consumers do build the brand -- often more so than do the brand managers, advertisers, and PR people.

It is ironic that this Ad Week story appeared just two days after the 2013 Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement Conference. The conference showcased many truly impressive research methodologies and strategies for measuring and evaluating the impact of screen-based media -- but with no focus, no attention, at all, to consumer-generated screen content. What can the analysis of CoverGirl's "official" screen-based media be worth, if those messages only account for 1% of the screen exposures? All the more reason for us to give more attention and thought to analytics that combine attention to social and paid media -- without putting them together, you could easily not have a clue what's really going on out there.

Going native in New York City

Native Plant Garden
New York Botanical Garden
The new Native Plant Garden at the New York Botanical Garden designed by Oehme van Sweden Landscape Architects opened in May.












Darrel Morrison
Designer, Native Flora Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's new Native Flora Garden, designed by Darrel Morrison, opens to the public today, May 13.

More reflections on going native in New York soon.




PR agency business model will change -- driven by analytics -- clients will demand it

Mark Stouse
VP, Global Communications
BMC Software
Mark Stouse, VP, Global Communications, at BMC Software, writes in the June 2013 PR Week, about changes in the PR agency business model that, he thinks, are coming:

"Agencies must be a lot picker about who they bring in. Clients want teams with more smarts and less on-the-job training. This change will drive a new financial model. Firms have not invested enough in analytics-driven programs, preferring to leverage their people's industry knowledge. We're in the era of big data. The trust gap between an educated guess and real insight is deepening. The consequences of getting caught on the wrong side will be huge.

"As part of a new model, agencies must integrate strong analytics capable of informing and maximizing a campaign's impact. Leveraging smaller, smarter, more powerful teams will be key to future success.

"Agency rates are tied to labor costs, which is no guarantor of value. Time and materials billing is a dead man walking. It is being swept aside by flat quarterly fees and piped into analytics."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New guidelines for social media measurement based on the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework

Angela Jeffrey
President, Angela Jeffrey & Associates LLC
Angela Jeffrey, president of Angela Jeffrey & Associates LLC / MeasurementMatch.com and member of the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission has published new, very user-friendly approach for social media measurement: Social Media Measurement: A Step-by-step Approach."

The document, published by the Institute for Public Relations, outlines an 8-step process (clear and sensible -- even your boss can understand it) that is based on the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework, a set of best practices for PR and communications practitioners and research suppliers that has evolved over the past few years following the adoption of The Barcelona Principles, a set of principles/standards for all PR measurement that was adopted at a conference in Barcelona in the spring of 2010 and subsequently widely promoted by AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of communication).

Slowly, but surely, real measurement and analysis are being integrated in the U.S. public relations practice -- much to the credit of people like Jeffrey and the advocacy initiatives of AMEC and the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission.

Before mid-summer heat: late spring fulfilled


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking measure of the measurers: the 2013 Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement Conference

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) sponsored its annual Audience Measurement Conference, “Measuring the Unmeasured,” June 10-11, 2013 in New York for an enthusiastic and optimistic crowd. Presentations were, as typical of such conferences, dominated by the major suppliers of the industry – Arbitron, comScore, GfK, Nielsen and a handful of others. Some distinguished, major advertisers (including AT&T, Bank of America, Diageo, Facebook) were present to showcase impressive media research initiatives, and some of the leading media companies made appearances (ABC, NBC, Turner). Ad agencies were notable only for how few attended, and PR people were missing in action. (All company lists are illustrative only; others attended.)

The demographics of the presenters and attendees are remarkable in light of the dominant theme (implicit and often explicit) of most of the conference: we live in a multi-platform world; consumer impact is never achieved through one channel, but by inputs (messages) from multiple sources or -- as it was most often characterized – Screens (broadcast and cable TV, desktops, and mobile – both smartphones and tablets). Intentionally or not, the unspoken dominating perspective was that only Screens (and occasionally radio) really matter anymore. That’s a fundamentally problematic unspoken proposition in a multi-channel, integrated communications ecosystem, but probably reflective of the roots and habits of the ARF members.

The focus on Screens also dominated the implied reference in the title of the conference to “the Unmeasured.” The vast majority of the content at the conference focused on how to identify, monitor, analyze, and assign value to Screens and the behaviors of people behind screens. The work being done in this area is without a moment’s doubt very impressive. Considering the concept of multiple Screens barely existed three years ago, the ARF community has jumped into this huge change in the environment and developed some fairly awesome initiatives to track, understand, and evaluate the impact of Screens on consumer markets.

One of the kick-off presentations by Artie Bulgrin, SVP Research + Analytics at ESPN, was illustrative of much of what was presented across the two days. ESPN is undertaking a significant on-going to initiative to track ESPN consumers across five platforms: TV, PCs, smartphones, tablets, and radio (See ESPN announcement.) Bulgrin and his team have put together an array of the leading research industry providers for a custom-built methodology to answer ESPN’s 5-platform questions. Throughout the conference, one example after another highlighted major advertisers putting together collaborations of research suppliers to custom-build data sets that can help develop insights into how consumers are using, and being influenced, by the Screens.

The confidence and cheerfulness of the conference was probably rooted in the emerging sense from this ad research community that ‘We’ve got this under control.’ This same ARF conference in 2012 had for its theme, “The Measurement Crisis” – a far cry from the more self-assured (a little swagger?) 2013 theme of “Measuring the Unmeasured.”

You could hardly avoid the sense of social / digital / mobile media as having been tamed, after all, by the persevering and intrepid ad research community. ‘It took us some time. We were kind of shaken last year this time. But we marshaled our wits and our resources. We partnered with other companies – a bit of “united we stand; divided we fall.” But we got a handle on this. We corralled all this pesky new consumer behavior and changing technologies into our methodological frameworks. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we pulled through.’

This cheekiness is well earned, as was particularly evident in the arresting case studies presented, not only by ESPN, but by AT&T, Bank of America, Colgate-Palmolive, Facebook, and others. But the ad research community doesn’t recognize how much more of the Unmeasured they haven’t measured yet. Most of the presentations – insightful and worthwhile – still see digital and social primarily as channels for pushing out crafted, calculated messages, essentially as ad placement channels. Despite the lip service to engagement, there was virtually no discussion of what it actually means to engage (not just to send out minutely, exactly tailored messages and creative variants to exactly the right targeted people). Virtually no consideration of real online discussion or customer relationship management. One exception was the presentation from MotiveQuest, which – in the process of showcasing its Advocacy Index product – at least acknowledged the impact of (uncontrolled, independent, un-paid) brand enthusiasts.

A few side panels addressed the ‘unmeasured’ Hispanic market; one session at the end of the second day addressed local media (again, only Screens and radio). Those topics were clearly sidebars to the big story of the conference. Even more striking, there was not even a nod (pro forma or even dismissively or patronizingly) to any kind of earned media (public relations), non-screen word-of-mouth, or public events (for example – industry trade shows to cite the in-your-face example). The world of Measuring the Unmeasured is a peculiarly Screen-centric world. (But the ARF is the ARF, after all, and it’s rather beside the point to belabor it. When you go to the PR research conferences, you’d rarely get an acknowledgement that paid media has any impact.)

(Integrated marketing or integrated communications is not being integrated at the level of the ARF or the PR research community. More often you find that CMO or CEO perspective coming from the consultants and technology analysts. A blog post by Tobias Lee, CMO Thomson Reuters, Tax & Accounting Division, at COM.com serves as just one example of where integrated communications thinking is really present: “Critical to marketing today is integration across functional departments, such as sales, marketing, and customer service, and also across marketing mediums . . . with the right people, processes, and centralized technology, integrating your marketing efforts in the age of the social Web becomes much more feasible.” The consulting and tech firms are also stepping up with the real integrated or CMO perspective with products, just for one example, such as IBM’s enterprise marketing management suite for customer analytics and multi-, cross-channel campaign management.)

The really discordant, if entertaining, note at Measuring the Unmeasured, however, was the keynote speech. Bob Garfield, MediaPost columnist, NPR’s On the Media co-host, long-time former Advertising Age columnist, and author, most recently of Can’t Buy Me Like (Portfolio, 2013; co-authored with Doug Levy) delivered the Tuesday luncheon speech with good humor, color, and charm. And he essentially told the audience that their whole enterprise, their business and their industry, research-driven consumer advertising, is anachronistic and doomed (at least in the form that we all know it).

If the ARF concept of “social” is weak, Garfield’s concept of “social” is strong. One anecdote after another, in Can’t Buy Me Like, and in his keynote speech, called into the question the ultimate (and future) efficacy of advertising in effectively pushing messages out to receivers (by any Screen). He concluded his speech with a Santander Bank anecdote (recounted in detail in Chapter 10, Bank and Trust, of Can’t Buy Me Like) in which he claims that some funny-cute YouTube baby/kitten videos distributed courtesy of Santander had more positive consumer impact than three strategically conceived, professionally produced advertisements (read the book and decide for yourself).

Garfield, by implication, threw down the gauntlet: ‘Sorry. No, ad research community, you haven’t tamed social/digital media and brought it under your control. “Social” is about authenticity (real, not a researched, calculated and created, positioning of authenticity).’ Garfield’s challenge did not shorten the line of ad researchers, copy of Can’t Buy Me Like in hand, who waited over an hour for Garfield’s autograph.

This post is also published at commPRO.biz
June 11, 2013








Saturday, June 8, 2013

Whither content marketing -- or how the latest battle between advertising and public relations is remaking how we all think about institutional communications

Advertising and PR agencies are just fated to fight each other, continually, for "territory" (a.k.a. clients' money -- a.k.a. a credible, exclusive claim to a communications tactic, channel, or technology). The battleground of the moment is, of course, content marketing (a.k.a. branded content, a.k.a. native advertising, etc.)

Such a plethora of a.k.a.'s suggests something inconclusive is in the works.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced June 6th that a little definition is in order. Susan Borst, IAB's Director of Industry Initiatives, blogged about IAB's new Native Advertising Task Force (over 50 member companies and over 60 individual participants) with its aim "to establish a framework for the native advertising space by putting forth a prospectus that clearly lays out today's 'native' landscape." And, IAB also kicked off a Content Marketing Task Force (with 25+ member companies and about the same number of individual participants). (Ad Week picked up on the ironies of IAB's attempts "to bring some clarity to the Babel-like confusion" by noting that "it's unclear if the latter [Content Marketing Task Force] is a cousin to or umbrella of the first [Native Advertising Task Force]." Cousin -- umbrella -- we can't even get our metaphors on the same page.

By the way -- no PR firms on either IAB task force.

IAB obviously hadn't read Forrester Research's Laura Ramos' blog from May 6th: "The Role of PR in Content Marketing and Thought Leadership." Ramos calls out the argument for PR to lead the content marketing charge: ". . . the advantages of PR to stimulate conversation, engage in two-way interactions, and develop interesting story lines that involve the intended audience are a natural fit for creating great marketing in this new digital world." Ramos gives kudos to Richard Edelman's evolving stance, most recently sketched out in his April 30th 6 A.M. blog post, "The New Look of Public Relations -- A Dissenting View." in which he discusses his agency's intent to "expand the remit of the public relations business . . . to take full advantage of the inherent advantages of PR, which are credibility, speed, two-way interaction and continuous story creation."

Edelman had set many PR people buzzing (some grumbling) earlier, back on January 7th, with his 6 A.M. blog post, "Paid Media -- A Change of Heart," in which he gingerly, but "unafraid," embraced the brave new world of paid content: "I can assure you that Edelman will be at the bleeding edge of aiming for the right thing, unafraid of the wrong thing."  (The "right thing" he refers to there, that he is edge-bleeding towards,  is "'own-able' insight" that is to be "co-produce[d] content with media companies.") (PRNewser's report made this sound a bit like going over to the Dark Side: "Edelman Switches Sides, Joins the 'Paid Content' Team.")

Presumably, all this doesn't mean PR is going the way of Buzzfeed.  (Does it?) In the meantime, however, you'll find the PR trades, the tip sheets, the boot camps and webinars are now providing non-stop, fully confident advice about how surely PR people can succeed wtth content marketing (I guess PR is ahead of the IAB after all, since advertising is only at the point of  forming task forces?).

This is the point at which the blogger (wisely, humbly) must write, "Time will tell."  But a last reflection: this current battle between advertising and PR for ownership of content marketing is coalescing as a stand-off between Money/Scale  vs. Righteousness (the much greater resources and infrastructure of advertising vs. the moral/authenticity claim of public relations). Was it ever so? Or is there some hint at a synthesis of a new institutional communications function that both demonstrably works and can have sustainable integrity?



This post is also published at bic-ccny.info, the blog for the new Master's of Professional Studies degree at the City College of New York, Media and Communication Arts Department.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Textscape: "The programmed search for the correct environment"

Edward O. Wilson
Emeritus, Pelligrino University Professor
Entomology Department, Harvard University
Twice Pulitzer Prize Winner,
U.S. Medial of Science, International Prize for Biology,
Carl Sagan Award for Public Understanding of Science,
Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences,
Nierenberg Prize,
TED Prize
Our biologically and genetically rooted attraction to and benefits derived from perceptions of nature seem to be becoming an inescapable commonplace -- if not definitive shapers of public policy. In cleaning up the clutter of stacked books around my desk (and "managing" my Kindle) I recently read (or reread) several perspectives on Nature as textscape.

E. O. Wilson's The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006) takes on the no mean task of trying to convince a hypothetical traditionalist, conservative Christian "Pastor" about the imperative for everyone to work together to protect -- to save -- Nature from the human-made scourges of natural habitat loss, introductions of invasive species to non-native areas, pollution, human overpopulation, and over harvesting of plants and animals.

It's been six years since publication, and it seems likely that the purpose of the book probably has yet to be fulfilled.

The book does, however in Chapter 7, "Wild Nature and Human Nature," sum up Wilson's concept of biophilia -- its presence in our minds and societies and its positive, trustworthy impact (Wilson argues) on all our lives. (Wilson introduced his biophilia hypothesis in  Biophilia (Harvard University Press, 1984) based at least in part on Erich Fromm's use of the word as a psychological state of attraction to everything alive (The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, 1964)  For Wilson, his biophilia hypothesis, in a series of increasingly influential books, became a kind of beneficent collective unconscious, "something fundamental [that] moves beneath the surface of our conscious minds, something worth saving."  Wilson's biophilia is also a kind of mental software that ensures humanity's continued existence, if not always happiness: "The programmed search for the correct environment is a universal of animal species for the best of reasons--it is an imperative of survival and reproduction."

Esther M. Sternberg, M.D.
Director of Research
Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
University of Arizona at Tucson
Esther Sternberg's Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-being (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009) seems to cite many of Wilson's same sources, as she develops a biophilia thesis throughout the book.

At the brain level: ". . . when people view scenes that are universally preferred -- a beautiful vista, a sunset, a grove of trees -- the nerve cells in that opiate rich pathway [of the brain] become active. It is as if when you're looking at a beautiful scene, your own brain gives you a morphine high! Not only that, but as color, depth, and movement are added to the scene, more and more waves of nerve cells become active farther along this opiate-rich gradient."

And beyond those activated opiate-rich pathways, there is data about emotional and social impacts of a close experience of nature: "Researchers found that residents who by chance had been assigned to apartment units located near plots of green performed better on attention tests and coped better with major life problems than those whose apartments, though  identical to the others, were near barren areas. In their report, the researchers remarked how these findings attest to the power of nature . . . . the presence of a few trees and some grass outside a sixteen-story apartment building could have a measurable effect on its inhabitants' functioning."

A cursory scroll down through this blog (example: textscape post on How Urban Parks Enhance Your Brain, post on July 17, 2012 and many preceding) traces my evolving (meandering) collection of perspectives on textscape / nature / epistemology (either as attempt at understanding or just entertaining analogy-making).

Next project (book to be cleared up from that stack on the floor): John Muir: Nature Writings.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Sketching the city

Sketch by Richard Alomar
posted on February 18, 2013
at urbansketchersnyc.blogspot.com
One of my professors at the Landscape Design MA program at Columbia University, Richard Alomar, is a world-class Urban Sketcher. His work is frequently profiled on the urban sketching blogs -- a great and interesting textscape phenomenon: nothing so ephemeral and spontaneous than sketching en plein air, but the topics/content being the contemporary urban environment and the publication / distribution channel being the web.

Lots of good stuff to sharpen your eye / insights regularly provided by a variety of sketchers' websites and blogs and the Facebook page.


Monticello

Textscape: "Anyone who creates a garden draws a map of their mind on the ground, whether consciously or not."  Wade Graham, American Eden (HarperCollins, 2011).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

City College of New York launches new Master's program -- preparing the next generation for the textscape


City College of New York hosted a hard launch luncheon on January 23, 2013 for its new Master’s degree in Branding + Integrated Communications (BIC). The event attracted over 70 guests from Manhattan advertising, branding, digital, PR, and research firms along with academics.  The biggest, established agencies were well represented – Y&R, McCann, Grey, GroupM, Landor, R/GA, Edelman, Ketchum, among others, but so were several emerging media services entrepreneurs who are thriving in the New Tech City.

This widely diverse (expertise, age, gender, ethnicity) group was not shy about offering advice – and warnings – to young professionals working in the shifting environment of integrated communications.

First of all, the discussion acknowledged some old, evolving conversations.

·         The old fuddy-duddies in the room were not the people harping on basic skills, perseverance, resilience, and discipline. It was the 30-something professionals who were making that pitch. The “basics” are as important as they ever were, as the pros not ten years into a career testified.

·         The great land-grab among agencies (particularly between advertising and PR agencies fighting for the social-media or the content-creation dollar) has been going on now for over a decade. It is still part of the landscape, but it is no longer the most interesting conversation. Marketing communications just is, already, integrated – the market/consumers integrated it for us by their behavior and media use. Those agencies and professionals who are spending much time preening about how social or integrated they are may be “thus protesting too much”: if you have to assert those creds too strenuously now in 2013, maybe it is a sign that you’ve already missed that boat.

·         Saul Steinberg’s view of America haunts marketing communications pros. That famous 1976 New Yorker cover could be re-drawn today; the only change would be that the Manhattanites in the foreground would be tweeting. The CCNY luncheon participants repeatedly warned young New York marketing communications professionals: “You are not America.” New media rules, but traditional communications and marketing channels have not gone away. If you really want to succeed, the work is not about out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new; the challenge is doing-the-right-thing for places that are not creative-class enclaves.

Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer,
GroupM Global (center)





Top line advice for the young integrated communications professional:




·         Prepare for the long game. Too many young communications professionals are finding their careers peaking before they turn thirty, because they enter the profession on the basis of their demographic and not on refined skills and examined thought and creative process. You might get a first job on being the social media whiz kid, but that is a formula with a blindingly fast built-in obsolescence.

·         Understand the whole marketing communications mix. You may not be an expert, today, in all the marketing services silos, but you need to know how they work and what they can contribute. Know where your skills and contributions fit in. The traditional channels of advertising, PR, social, IR, etc. all persist – but are evolved to be more interpenetrated and interdependent than ever.

·         One way or another, your career will be data driven, so decide whether you want to do some driving, too – or be left in the back seat. If you are more comfortable calling it “listening,” that is OK. If you are drawn to the Big Data approach to this conversation, all the better. In any case, the successful marketing communications professionals of all variations will have access to amazing and inspiring new levels of insight – but only for those who have gotten over their numeracy phobias. Not all marketing communications professionals have to be Nate Silver, but we need to work with the Nate Silvers on our team, and leaders will make sound decisions based on all that good, new data.

·         To be creative is to be strategic, to be informed, and to be useful. A typical comment: “’Kids’ come into the agency and do graphic and video work on their laptops that are way beyond what experienced pros could do just a few years ago. That’s great. And if you can’t do that stuff – you’re definitely at a disadvantage. But too often, there’s no strategy.”  The best creative people have always been strategic. In the future, all the surviving creatives will have to be.


Barri Rafferty, CEO North America,
Ketchum;
Bill Murray, COO
Public Relations Society of America
Such advice and insights – condensed from a couple of hours of enthusiasm and tuna salad wraps  – are, of course, the reason City College created its new graduate degree in Branding + Integrated Communications. Such thinking has also been behind the wide range of new, and newly re-configured, integrated communications graduate programs from Syracuse to Medill, to online programs from USC to West Virginia, to international programs such as at the American University of Paris and the London School of Business.

The Master’s degree may or may not be the “new Bachelor’s,” but clearly the traditional configuration of the undergrad degree in advertising or public relations or even mass communications is not doing justice to the current practice in this industry. While the industry welcomes the English or sociology major to entry level jobs, that liberal arts ideal of “learning how to think,” while necessary, may not be sufficient if there is not also a bit of “learning how to do.”

One unanticipated consequence of the emerging world of integrated communications, big data, and new media technologies is that reflections on our work are coalescing around a robust, cross-disciplinary intellectual enterprise that embraces human relations, behavioral and political economics, statistics, psychology, neuroscience, and aesthetics. Our work now has methodological rigor, historical precedents, and predictive power. The new graduate academic programs demonstrate that integrated communications has become the profession to which the twentieth-century practices of advertising and public relations once aspired.

This post is also published at
commPRO.biz, January 27. 2013