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Op-Ed Rebuttal: Why Experience Marketing Will Never Die


Well, touché. In case you need a refresher, less than a month ago, we received our usual monthly op-ed from Huge, this time from Andrew Kessler, founder/CEO of Togather, a startup out of Huge Labs. Kessler, whose Togather operation serves as a platform that helps clients deploy event marketing programs with “the same control and measurability of a digital ad buy,” seemed to have sounded the death knell for experience marketing. Well, someone has taken issue, namely Eric Murphy, former VP of marketing/promotions at RCA Records who’s now head of his own experiential/music marketing agency, Pop2Life. Murphy has taken some issue with Kessler’s piece as you’ll see below. Carry on, sir.

“The ‘experience marketing’ trend is close to extinction.” -Andrew Kessler, founder/CEO of Togather

I’ll be honest. When I first caught wind of Kessler’s Op-Ed piece, I wanted to punch him in the face. After all, he was basically labeling the very thing that’s made my agency successful a joke … a waste of time and money. Or more specifically, nothing more
than a “dazzling physical installation,” heavy on pointless, big-budget items like “colored lights, a giant logo,” lots of “freebie swag,” and little more to measure success than a fuzzy count of gift bags and “total impressions.”

So I put on a Jason mask™, gathered a few key clients, and headed over to Kessler’s house with a truck full of colored lights and giant logos.

Just kidding.

Actually, I channeled that initial surge of outrage into some deeper thinking about how and why someone as intelligent and successful as Andrew Kessler would conclude that the best possible outcome of experience marketing was “a large crowd … lots of
product interest … [and] photo albums of smiling fans.” (Which frankly is what a lot of brands hope to accomplish with the majority of their marketing efforts, experiential or otherwise. More on that later.)

To be fair, Kessler posed some worthwhile questions regarding the value and impact of experience marketing campaigns:

-”Are we providing the right kind of value to give us a return on brand favorability?

-”What kind of action did this drive?

-”Can we deliver an experience that also lives beyond the actual event?”

All of these are excellent questions. Every marketer worth their weight in swag should apply them to every marketing investment they make. Still, proclaiming the pending extinction of a species [of marketing] that, when done right, checks off all four boxes of the ubiquitous “AIDA” acronym (Awareness | Interest | Desire | Action)  with a big fat marker seems … well … a bit un-evolved.

Here’s why.

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Op-Ed: Three Simple—Yet Impactful—Takeaways From A SXSW Free Agent

davidtrahanAfter attending SXSWi for three straight years, we skipped the 2014 installment, so we decided to pass the mic to someone who was actually on the grounds and could provide some thoughts on this year’s event. Ladies and gents, meet David Trahan (@brooklyknight), a senior strategist at New York-based MRY. In case you were wondering, he specializes in brand strategy, digital, and consumer behavior and nerds out over airplanes, politics, and architecture. Take it away, sir.

SXSW was a playground for me. I won the trip as part of an internal MRY contest to send three employees to SXSW. I had the luxury of doing whatever I wanted (including sleeping in) with no formal responsibilities such as client schmoozing or attending certain sessions. I used this freedom as an opportunity to not only listen to panelists, but to observe the behaviors of SXSW goers and how they reacted to panels, brand installations, start-ups, and parties. I also ended SXSW as a part of the “The Story of SXSWi 2014: Eye of the Beholder” session recapping trends from SXSW 2014.

My key takeaways are as follows:

1. Curiosity > Information

Inspiring curiosity is the ultimate form of empowerment. You know the saying: give a man a fish, teach a man to fish… What I learned at SXSW is that there’s more bounty in inspiring that man to learn how to fish on his own rather than teaching him yourself. It not only instills in him a greater sense of ownership, but it allows for discovery of new fishing techniques since he wasn’t taught someone else’s way of doing things. Marketers often say they want to empower consumers, and their method of doing so becomes tools and information. Those are nice, but do they inspire? That is, do they encourage curiosity that leads to action and discovery?

This is why many of the “how to” panels got bad word-of-mouth reviews. They were just telling people how to do what they already know, focusing on the seller’s technique and not the buyer’s imagination.

As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “To feel knowledge makes you take ownership of knowledge.”

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Op-Ed: To Drone or Not to Drone, That is the Question


The increasing use of drones by media companies is one of the topics we’ll be discussing at the TVNewser Show April 29. This post’s author, attorney C. Andrew Keisner, will be among the guests discussing the issue.

From advertising of real estate and car dealerships to filming Hollywood blockbusters to media coverage of sporting events, examples of advertising & media companies using light-weight UAVs, or Drones, is all around. However, when it comes to using such light-weight UAVs in the United States, the legal risks are frequently misunderstood. And although a recent judge’s decision rejecting a $10,000 fine imposed by the FAA is a welcome outcome for UAV operators and the advertising & media companies that engage them, there are still several risks that advertising & media companies should address before engaging a UAV operator to capture aerial footage.

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Op-Ed: Filling in the $7.5 Billion Gap – What Marketers Want to See in a Twitter Redesign

Twitter-Logo-300x293We’re jumping back into the op-ed game with a debut entry from Jack Holt, a former strategic planner at the likes of Akamai and Broadwing who currently serves as co-founder/CEO of of Austin/SF-based brand research firm, Mattr. Below, the Austin-based Holt talks, you guessed it, Twitter redesign. Take it away, sir and if you care to follow Holt on Twitter, you can find him here.

As a social media platform, could anything be better than $665 million in revenue? Surprisingly, yes. You could have Facebook’s $8 billion.

But instead of taking Facebook’s approach to cashing in, Twitter has fallen behind, leaving marketers everywhere rushing to understand the value of a follower, a retweet, and a hashtag — and finding nothing.

Have you heard the expression “better abused than ignored”? Well, marketers have one big, fat, totally rational fear of the latter — or, more specifically, silence. After all, only 29 percent of tweets get a reaction of any kind.

If you’re struggling to find an effective Twitter advertising strategy, you’re in good company. Brands big and small are fretting over what to tweet or post, and Twitter’s losing cash as a result. So how can Twitter kick-start 2014 to make up the difference? By catering its application updates to what marketers want to see.

#WSTD: What Should Twitter Do?

The most recent update to Twitter was disappointingly aesthetic. From a usability standpoint, Twitter has significantly reduced the size of and moved the tweet text box, lowering that activity’s weight on the page. And, by adding an icon action to enter a tweet on the top right corner, they’ve increased the call to action a bit, but it’s still not nearly as visually heavy as it was before.

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Op-Ed: It’s the End of ‘Experience Marketing’ As We Know It


And so, the cast of contributors from the Huge family continues to rotate as we now welcome Andrew Kessler to the fold. Kessler is the founder/CEO of Togather, a startup out of Huge Labs that serves as a platform that helps clients like Barnes & Noble and Red Bull deploy event marketing programs with the same control and measurability of a digital ad buy. As the headline mentions, Kessler makes his AgencySpy debut by discussing whether it’s to sound the death knell for what’s known as experience marketing. Take it away, sir.

The “experience marketing” trend is close to extinction.

A sponsored pop-up/installation/lounge/whatever made sense as an “organic” brand experience — before the domination of digital. But today anything that would feel at home in Times Square doesn’t fulfill the new authentic standards for branded content.

Specifically, I’m talking about the big-budget consumer-facing events with colored lights, a giant logo, and, if you’re lucky, a fun stunt. In years of agency work, I’ve been a part of too many to count, and the result was always:

- A large crowd…but not the right audience
- Lots of product interest…but only about the freebie swag, and
- Photo albums of smiling fans…but no metrics or demographic data

Sure, our clients could claim a big success because a whole town could be counted as “impressions” and gift bags eventually ran out. But nobody was asking:

- Is this a useful exercise?
- Are we providing the right kind of value to give us a return on brand favorability?
- Are we just repeating a visibility stunt that has a negligible effect on ROI?

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Op-Ed: The Evolution of the Community Manager


We’ll try to take a quick breather from the Super Bowl madness and provide this op-ed from Natalie Marsan, media director/community management at MRY. As you can gather, community management is the topic at hand and we will let our newest scribe drop some science.

Community Management is no longer a job title. It is a discipline. In fact, it is a new discipline born out of disruption. So, four years into Community Management Appreciation Day, where does this discipline fit in the industry? What does the career ladder look like? Why should you care?

As Community Management evolves, so must the roles within the discipline. If you can say ‘yes’ to any of the following statements, the likelihood that one community manager (CM) will be able to do the job is erroneous. An entire Community Management department might be in your business’s future.

●        Your brand has a large customer base and communities spread over multiple owned channels.

●        You service multiple markets, potentially in different regions of the world.

●        You are seeking new forms and innovative solutions for capturing customer insights, and you think social media is a likely place for gathering those insights.

●        You have diverse customer segmentations.

●        Your brand has a broad share of voice in your industry.

●        You think the future of customer service is more sophisticated than just solving issues as they emerge.

A Community Management department will include not only CM’s and a Director of Community, but most likely a senior CM and potentially a supervisor, as well. While the CM’s themselves have the unique position of being on the frontlines with customers, they also need to remain at ground level. More senior roles within the discipline will have the sensibility of a CM, but also the hindsight of what works and what doesn’t – as well as the luxury of the bigger picture perspective. The most senior team member will need to maintain a bird’s eye view of the health of a community, as well as where the brand stands in broader conversations online.

Ultimately, the most senior role ensures, or more accurately obsesses, that the community is driving value to the brand and that the brand is driving value to the community members. These CM leaders also:

●        Bring a strategic focus to the community management discipline; ensuring insights from the community are driving strategic decisions over time.

●        Set new standards and further enhance best practices uniquely tailored to their (or their client’s) business.

●        Draw out key insights from the highest-yielding content and trends in community voices and sentiment. Conceptualize and optimize content accordingly.

●        Ensure that relevant team members are getting the information they need, deciding on roles and responsibilities, and overseeing day-to-day operations. They keep a close watch on the frontline to make sure the entire team is adhering to strategy.

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Op-Ed: Will 2014 Be ‘The Biggest Year to Date?’


Well, that’s the gospel according to Ignacio Oreamuno, executive director of the ADC, who helps round out our December installments of industry observations, whether they be 2013 recaps or 2014 forecasts. Oreamuno opts for the latter in his brief entry, which you can read below. We might sneak in one more tomorrow on a short day to close out the year, but who knows. Anyways, take it away, sir.

2014 will be the biggest year to date, not just for ADC, but for the entire global industry. Most people contributing to this column will probably write about the way the industry will transform, but what I believe is important is the way we will transform the industry. It is time for the industry to move forward from the hole it is stuck in.

After traveling the world and meeting with hundreds of agency leaders, I predict a massive talent crisis at both the top level of agencies, as well as at the entry level. Disillusioned with an industry that has become lazy and used to making an ugly product, thousands will flee to jobs that feel more real and more productive. It’s hard to remain motivated to create advertising when we don’t like or want to consume advertising ourselves anymore. ADC is calling for a global rethink of our titles and tasks. Ironically, we believe that titles like ‘art director’ and ‘copywriter’ don’t reflect the future, are confusing and are hampering us by limiting what we think should make up our skill sets.

Structurally, I believe that the agency of the future is not a massive agency holding company or conglomerate, but rather small independent shops with very well-trained, well-paid individuals who are neither afraid to learn new techniques and technologies, nor to re-invent themselves. These small shops will have the power to say ‘no’ to creating the ugly advertising that simply pays the bills. They will be the ones responsible for improving the quality of the creative product around the world, and talent will flock to them searching for work environments with more substance and real competitive, creative environments.

ADC will be flexing 93 years of muscle this year, and no organization around the world will be doing more than us to help the industry navigate itself and its professionals to a prosperous future. That’s not a prediction, that’s a promise.


Op-Ed: Leave No Trace— Year of SnapChat

 virginiahugeVirgnia Alber-Glanstaetten, group director of planning at Huge, has returned with her monthly column for this here site, now discussing the year that’s been, most exclusively about the startup that we’ve admittedly never used. Take it away, Virginia.


For me, 2013 was the year of SnapChat. Let me qualify: not SnapChat as a platform or startup (though let’s acknowledge how innovative the product itself is, not to mention the guts—youthful bluster?—it took to turn down Facebook’s massive offer). No, I mean SnapChat as enabler of a major shift in user behavior this past year, which will have big implications for marketers.


When a client asked me recently what I’d be looking for in 2014, I realized how easy it is to focus on specific platforms or tools. Too often though, the hottest new service is really just a smart add-on. They don’t alter the overall picture. Big changes in the way people navigate the digital world, on the other hand, are tectonic, and SnapChat facilitated just such a big change.


With its here-today-gone-in-seconds visual messaging service, SnapChat managed to introduce impermanence back into our lives. In the last few years, that once timeless concept had become pretty quaint. We got used to everything being saved, and most of it shared (even if unshared, we learned that Facebook is probably looking at our unpublished updates and selling that data). Of course, the NSA swept up every last byte. Everything—every dumb drunk photo, stupid tweet, half-baked thought—was on our permanent record.


Enter SnapChat. Suddenly, there is no publicly available record of your unfortunate love confession to your cat. Or any number of indiscretions. Or just silly, ephemeral moments—you know, life. It allows us to live in the moment, and it restores “moments” to being momentary.


Now, there’s a big asterisk, of course—Already we know people  are finding any number of ways around the fleetingness of SnapChat, whether through screenshots or hacks. And of course, the company itself might decide to make things a little more lasting as it seeks to monetize. But the larger phenomenon remains intact: users have responded enthusiastically to a digital experience fundamentally different from every other social experience to date.


From a marketer’s perspective, these developments present a big challenges in how to engage users in newer, less predictable and engageable environments. Just as we seemed to be hitting our stride in reaching people on existing platforms in smart and targeted way. We better figure it out. We’re just going to see more and more fragmentation in social media and norms. I’m not surprised.  How, when and where we socialize is a constant evolutionary process—but at the core—our need to sometimes forget or ignore or just leave experiences in the past remains rather primal. It’s how memory works after all. Props to Snapchat and younger generations for remembering that…what you did last night, can stay just where it was, last night.

Op-Ed: So, What Does MRY Think About 2014?


As part of our ongoing trend/observation series from agency folks, we bit and below is what various folks at MRY,  the digital/social agency formerly known as Mr. Youth that of course aligned with LBi early this year, have to say what they expect from the industry in 2014. They’ve weighed in on everything from overall social media strategy and brand storytelling, to big data and even Pinterest’s evolving commerce structure. At this point, it’s all speculation, but they make some interesting projections for the New Year. We’re getting the distinct impression that the ongoing debate between advertisers and privacy advocates is poised to rear its ugly head again. Anyone else?


Matt Britton, CEO: Honing Brand Social Media Strategy


“We try to challenge our clients to have a presence everywhere, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to social media strategy. In 2014, it will be crucial for brands to focus on where their audiences are spending the most time and to innovate within that space. As mobile use continues to flourish, it will be important to target growing platforms—such as Vine—that are more conducive to fast-paced, mobile engagement.”

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Op-Ed: D&G’s Colin Jeffery Talks 2013/14 Faves, Trends

colinjeffreyAs we roll into December, let us continue the gathering of industry folks’ observations on the year that was/the year that will be. Up now is a quick and painless 2013 recap/2014 what lies ahead piece from Colin Jeffery, executive creative director at El Segundo, CA-based David&Goliath. No need for any further preamble, just take it away, sir.

Trends by their very nature are familiar and formulaic. The work that really stood out to me went against category trends or formulas. Here are a few of my favorites. “Dumb Ways to Die” – It did not feel like any PSA campaign we’ve ever seen before. Nike “Find  Your Greatness” – This commercial made greatness accessible and redefined it’s meaning. Southern Comfort’s “Whatever’s Comfortable” – Instead of using beautiful bikini clad women to sell spirits they opted for an overweight greasy dude. Incredible.

Here are a few trends.

2013 seemed cluttered with product demonstrations and stunts.

We saw lots of tech brands opting for simple product demonstrations, often throwing in a side-by-side comparison and overtly bashing the competition for good measure.

We also saw a lot of product demos turned into hi-tech stunts. Cutting-edge technology connected to the featured product that then emits a cool sound or visual or something.

There’s a continuing trend in the gaming category. When the COD “There’s a soldier in all of us” commercial came out a few years ago, it felt fresh and a welcome change from all the game footage commercials. Since, it seems like almost every first shooter gaming commercial is trying to do the same. Lots of 20-somethings running around in combat gear, blowing things up to a great sound track.

One more thing, why does every anthem ad have a scene with someone holding a hand held flare? What’s up with that?

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