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Planning/Consumer Insights

Why Was the 4As San Fran Planning Conference Canceled?


Nancy Hill, CEO of the 4As, sent an e-mail to people who were set to attend the 4As Planning Conference in San Francisco, saying the event has been canceled. These are “difficult economic times,” Hill notes in the first line. “Given the new budget reality that we’re all facing, it seems appropriate for our Planning Conference to take a hiatus until next year…”

We checked with a 4As rep. who told us straight up that there weren’t enough registrations to warrant going ahead with the event.

“[4As] weren’t getting the registrations that we hoped for (and for many, travelling [sic] all the way to California was cost prohibitive), so we decided to put the conference on hiatus this year, and re-launch next year, bigger and badder.”

A source writes to tell us that a few years back, the planning conference fell on the same day as PSFK’s New York City Conference, and that most of the folks who might’ve gone to the 4As chose instead to go to New York. So there’s that.

Well, whatever the case, sooner or later the conference circuit was going to feel the pain thanks to our economy. And being that the event was slated for August, it’s not really surprising. They had SXSW, Cannes, Advertising Week and a number of other major events to content with. Yeah, this is a big deal for planners, but the money is drying up.

Not to worry though, as “The Summer of Planning,” which is “a bunch of smaller (and less expensive) live events, Webinars and real-time blogs” will be rolled out by the 4As in the next couple of weeks. More on that later.

Shh…. Rumors From The 4A Leadership Conference

Op-Ed: What Social Media Revolution? By Gareth Kay


What Social Media Revolution?
By Gareth Kay is the Head Of Planning at Modernista!

Well, that headline might start a frenzy in the blogosphere and get some of those self-appointed social media experts tweeting away that here lies more proof that ad people don’t get it. But there, I said it. There hasn’t been, and I would argue won’t be, a social media revolution.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe that communication needs to be a two-way conversation not a narcissistic monologue, and that people aren’t passive consumers waiting to be penetrated by marketing messages. Social media has helped prove the power of human conversation, and our innate social nature for anyone who had forgotten or doubted it.

But all this talk of social media got me thinking that perhaps, yet again, we are looking at this from the wrong end of the telescope, focusing on the delivery mechanism not the underlying issue.

Rather than focusing on social media shouldn’t we be focusing on social ideas? This may sound a little trite, but I think it’s important. Rather than (again) using communications as a sticking plaster to cover real fundamental issues a business faces, it forces us to confront what it is that we need to do at a more fundamental level.

It means ideas that are inherently open, generous and want to include you. It means developing communication that lets you join the dots and complete the story rather than telling you what to do (in the same way at every point of contact). It means thinking about what it is that people like to do and working back from there to figure out what it is we can do as a brand to be useful, helpful or entertaining rather than starting from what we think first. It means listening. It means having many little conversations not one shouting match. It means thinking less about what we do (as a brand or its owners or advisors) and more about what it is that people do to what we do.

So, what are some examples of social ideas? Fallon London’s Tate Tracks campaign for the Tate Modern in the UK that got a spectrum of musicians to write an original piece of music inspired by a piece of art in the gallery that was initially only able to be heard in the museum on a listening post next to the piece of art that inspired the music before being released online. It was an idea that got teenagers to visit the museum.

The new to New York fashion store Top Shop offers Style Advisor, a free style consultation that helps you try some different looks you may have previously thought simply weren’t you. Nike’s Run London and Nike+ turned the once individual pursuit of running into a community. And how about Google, the Guardian and others freely opening up their APIs for others to play with them?

Thinking about social ideas, not social media is important because it makes us think about a fundamentally different outcome, not simply a different media choice or tactic. And this may hopefully stop the industry slipping back in to some of its bad habits of the past. Maybe we can even get rid of some of the horrible language we use: ‘talking to’ ‘consumers’ who we have ‘targeted’ with a specific ‘message’ in this long running ‘campaign’. It’s pretty bizarre when you say it like that how we think brands and communication work.

So, let’s stop obsessing about social media and worry instead about what’s important. While social media channels fade in and out of social significance (was it only two or three years ago that Second Life was the channel we were all talking about), social ideas are timeless in their power. There’s two types of ideas in the world – social ideas and anti-social ideas. And it’s plain to me that those ideas that contribute positively culture are the ones that are going to help build business.

More: Op-Ed: Agency downsizing. The silent victims. By Steve Landsberg – a founding partner of Grok.

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Plan This Why Dontcha?

We’re always being sent or wandering across some wonderful culturally attuned links. Alas, we have no place to put them. Ah, yes! Time for a new category. Hey planners? This new link dump is just for you. Got a link to share? Send it to superspyin at gmail dot com.

- Britain’s big brother CCTV cameras have accidentally collected massive amounts of data on how people behave when violence is in the air. (link)

- The biological implications of ‘social networking.’ (PDF)

- Can African-Americans find their voice in cyberspace?: A conversation with Dayna Cunningham and Henry Jenkins. (link)

- Microsoft imagines the future (again). This time, the company fast forwards to 2019. (link)

- A completely unscientific (yet accurate) look at social sites. (link)

- Dmitry Orlov on the social collapse best practices in the video above. He’s charmingly awkward. Skip to 4 minutes and get right in the good stuff.

- Researchers at the University of California, Davis, mapped the brain activity of a group of students listening to music, and found that the region of the brain that supports and retrieves memories is also a hub linking memories, emotion, and familiar music. (link)

Steven Stoute & Jay-Z’s Translation Might Be A Muck Up

It’s alive! The website for Steven Stoute and Jay-Z’s advertising agency, Translation, is up and running. When the rapper was talking about the mission behind Translation, he said it would provide a better understanding into Black culuture. Great mission, but um, Jay? Got a question for you.

Your website is heavy flash with lots of street imagery. You ask all your staffers to name the city that they love best. Why? Why isn’t it the place you love best? Not all Blacks and minorities are living in a metropolis. Just because you are a minority, doesn’t mean you are urban. In fact, urban and Black are two words that desperately need to be separated. Argh.

How is it that even the Black folk manage to overlook that the Black population is diverse and will only continue to be even more so? Boggles my mind. Dear Mr. Stoute And Hova: May I suggest you do a little rebranding and live up to your own principles stated on the website – nuance? I also suggest reading Karyn Lacy’s Blue Chip Black as a starting point into understanding just one segment of the Black population you are overlooking. As a follow-up, check out the discussions of Black Nerd culture. And no, I’m not talking about Kayne, ok? Or just watch the video above about the Blacks that grew up in the suburbs in the 80s and their struggles. By the way, this rambling woman has over 9,000 views and comments of support.

If you need more, come back to me. I got a long list of reading materials. You’re high profile in the ad biz now. Make it work. Don’t let me down.

More: Diddy Compares Himself To Obama

Q & A With John Gerzema, Chief Insights Officer Young & Rubicam


John Gerzema is the Chief Insights Officer for Young & Rubicam and he is also the co-author of top selling business book, The Brand Bubble. He was kind enough to explain his theory behind the misevaluation of brands, why McDonald’s makes a good study and why agencies need to get in on the game.

1. In your book, you assert that despite rising valuations, that WSJ has overvalued brands. How can those playing the stock market determine who is actually worth their stock price? Is there an at home way to sort out the bloated brands from the properly evaluated?

“The brand bubble represents the growing disparity in the value that business and consumers apportion to brands. We found the multiples that markets place on brand valuations overstate actual consumer sentiment. In essence, Wall Street thinks brands are worth more than the consumers who buy them.

We reached this conclusion through extensive analysis, but in our book we detail an easy method that anyone can use to assess their brand’s value. First we want to understand if the brand has what we call energized differentiation – the consumer perception of motion, difference and direction. We measure this through BrandAsset Valuator, which strongly correlates to a brand’s pricing power, loyalty and contribution to financial return (e.g. The brand value is delivering, if not exceeding its expectations set by market valuations). To get people started, we’ve opened up our database for free on our website,”

Read more

Ken Roman: Name a Memorable American Car Campaign From the Last Decade


I sat down with former Ogilvy & Mather (it’s pronounced may-ther) CEO Ken Roman last week to talk about his new book, “The King of Madison Avenue,” (the first autobiography of David Ogilvy) and to pick his brain about the industry as he sees it. Mr. Roman sat in a desk at O&M for 26 years, so when he said the biggest problem facing the auto industry is their lackluster products, we listened.

Mr. Roman asked me to name an American automobile campaign that stuck out in my mind. Chevy’s “Like a Rock” and Ford’s “Built Ford Tough” were all that came to mind. “I take your point on Chevy,” he said, “but name something from the last decade.” I couldn’t.

Arguably, Ford Tough evokes strength, but it’s “Like a Rock” remade. Mr. Roman went on to say that compared to the rest of the world, American cars are unimaginative. We agree &#151 put a few American sedans next to one another, pull the badges, and try to name their maker.

Juxtapose that by placing a BMW, Audi/VW, Honda et cetera in a similar array and the task is much easier. And we haven’t sat down in the cabin yet.

Other issues with American autos include pricing, gas mileage and presumed reliability and the big three have nothing short of a mountain to drive over. We’re not convinced Chevy’s Volt is up to the task.

And sure, the companies are trying to address these problems. But Toyota’s Corolla has been saving gas since the dawn of the company. Include Nissan, Mitsubishi, Fiat, Kia, Hyundai, MG, Peugot, Mini, SmartCar and any number of foreign autos in that list, too.

The big three’s challenge is to grow their market beyond the loyalists without losing the “dependability” factor they all ride on. Tiny tinker-toy autos are a hard sell to big truck Americans, but to get back on track their cars must reflect America’s changing needs. Wait, they need to be ahead of our needs. Do you want to drive a rock?

A good product sells itself &#151 at least that’s what the Sham Wow! guy keeps saying. Today, Sham Wow! is the Big Idea, and your paper towel companies are the big three. The old-guard v. new thinking game is going to the smart thinkers, the doers and our homemade cars just aren’t cutting it. Damn that’s depressing.

More:Should the Big 3 Sell Cars for “Nothing” to Resolve Cash Needs?

19 Things Advertising Can Look Forward To In 2009


The problem right now? A crisis of confidence. The markets is still in a slump and really, what is there to look forward to in 2009? AdAge has assembled a list of 19 things for you to find a little solace in as we head into the new year of business. “Ad Age decided to go digging for some areas that might provide opportunities for the marketing and media industries to not only survive, but even thrive in 2009.” It’s a nice list. I would include Muslim Marketing and Gaming, but that’s me. Do you think they left anything off?

1. Washington
2. Package Goods
4. Beer
5. Online Video
6. Hispanics
7. E-Books
8. Public Relations
9. Cable TV, Marketing Consultancy
10. Digital Out Of Home
11. Mobile
12. Pet Care
13. Marketing Analytics
14. CBS
15. Luxury Recycling
16. China
17. Package and Fast Food
18. Online Coupons
19. Gun Sales

More:Square Pegs: Innovating Advertising Agency Hiring Practices In A Recession
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Get Objectified: Gary Hustwit’s New Documentary

Objectified is a new documentary from Gary Hustwit who was also responsible for the cult-film fave of 2008, Helvetica.

Objectified focuses on industrial design and delves deep into “personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability. It’s about our relationship to mass-produced objects and, by extension, the people who design them.” Watch the trailer above and get excited for its early 2009 release.

More: Oh Boy, Your Packaging is The Same as Theirs!

Hey NYers! Got Old Electronics? Scrap Your Crap This Weekend in Union Square

Did you know that 70 percent of the toxins found in trash dumps come from discarded consumer electronics? Neither did we. But here’s your chance to totally redeem yourself. Rather than dumping your old electronics in the trash, bring them to Union Square this weekend (or other such events in your neck of the woods!) for proper disposal at Comedy Central’s ‘Address the Mess’ scrap-your-crap event.

It’s free, and best of all, you can nab some good fresh produce from the farmer’s market too! Win win, we say; unless you’re against a clean environment. End stumping. OH yeah, get there after 10 a.m. or before 4 p.m. and you’re good to go.


More:Bottled Water: Not Only Wasteful, also Contaminated!

Reading List: Numerati: What’s Your Number?

The Numerati, written by Stephen Baker, is a must read. The title is an in-depth account of the market segmented world we now live in – a place where its all about the numbers and “behavioral clues” for brands, as well as governments. From NYT’s review:

“Baker offers an anecdote about a firm called Umbria helping a cellphone company that’s decided to charge more for Bluetooth data connections, a move that “sent bloggers into a fury.” Umbria, which studies bloggers and divides them into tribes, concluded that all the spleen-venting was coming from the “power users,” whereas “the fashionistas, the music lovers, the cheapskates” did not care. “With this intelligence,” Baker writes, the company could placate the power users by offering them “free” service (while raising the prices on headsets) and “continue charging everyone else.”

As PSFK noted about this type of number crunching: “This kind of personal information has been available to anyone who wanted it for a long time, but with the increasing amount of time that we now spend online, the details of who we are based on this activity is getting easier to extract.”

On internet Big Brother? Are you out there?

More: Reading List: The Happy Soul Industry