Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

It’s easy to believe that since print survived radio and television it will survive the Internet. After listening to Barry Dawson, I’m not so sure. Or to take a more nuanced approach, I’m not sure it will continue to influence the culture and the economy to the extent it has since Gutenberg invented movable type more than 500 years ago.

Certainly print works better for some content and some eyes, but not news. Its immediacy seeks out the fastest and most flexible medium, and digital tools deliver. Combine original content, new distribution channels and innovative marketing and you have a potentially profitable business, as well as an alternative to ink.

Barry DawsonThat brings us to Dawson, a resident of the West End of Monroe County, a rural area of the Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania. Long inhabited by the descendants of German and Dutch settlers, the area best known for woodlands and resorts continues to transition to a bedroom community for metropolitan New York and New Jersey. Several papers, radio and television stations cover the region but shifts in the economy and the culture have gutted their newsrooms.

Enter the digital entrepreneur. Dawson grew up in the West End, moved to North Carolina and returned to take a job in radio promotion with a pair of stations in the nearby Lehigh Valley. He has local knowledge, knows how to bypass channel surfers by embedding commercial messages in programs and lives on his mobile phone. Combining those assets, he bought a police scanner, became a reluctant reporter and launched and He also integrated his site with accounts at Facebook and other networks as a way to drive traffic and measure results.

Dawson believes that with its speed to market, digital news will eventually replace printed news. It’s a natural fit. Blending content and commerce creates a viable business model. Only time and his bank account will prove him right. Meanwhile, here are five conclusions I’ve drawn from his venture:

  1. Digital trumps print for speed and relevance
  2. Mobile devices trump PCs for optimum news delivery
  3. Micro content beats state, national and international news for gaining followers
  4. In our attention-deficit culture, product integration trumps advertising
  5. For marketers, digital offers the precise measurement of the effectiveness of the ad spend.

Where do you find your news? And do you think print and the people who produce it will dwindle in importance?

3 Steps to Creating Social Networks

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
3 Steps to Creating Social Networks

I’d just finished writing a social media strategy for a rather large healthcare company when my client asked: how are we going to implement this?

One step at a time.

A week later I think we have a solid plan for launching the network, first with employees, then with their customers and prospects. While developing those tactics I’ve come to a few conclusions—three to be exact.

  1. Promote the network. If you build it, will anyone show? Not unless you publicize it. Actively connect to, follow or like the key opinion leaders and media in your industry. And don’t rule out help from the other marketing disciplines—media planning, web development, public relations and direct marketing. Depending on your industry, an integrated, balanced campaign can drive traffic more effectively than an all-digital approach.
  2. Create your own content. Once you’ve attracted an audience you’ll need to work to keep visitors engaged. Providing original content, and allowing visitors to add their own material, will give them a reason to return.
  3. Measure the results. Whether you’re working with for-profit or non-profit organizations, buy-in is essential. Senior management looks for progress over time. Define realistic metrics and deliver them.

Jeff Widmer is a PR and social media strategist.

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Ghosts in the Machine

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
Ghosts in the Machine

This holiday season, get ready for the blitz. We’re not talking football. We’re talking tech.

The National Retail Federation is projecting 2012 holiday sales will rise 4.1% from 2011 levels. A good portion of that will go to consumer electronics. Researchers at Booz & Co. expect a 4% rise in consumer purchases of downloadable gifts such as digital music, movies and books.

The shopping season is already off to a fast start. Amazon reported Thanksgiving holiday sales of its Kindle e-reader products doubled over the same time last year. And Apple alone may soak up a lot of holiday spending. Writing at, Chuck Jones predicts sales of updated iPads and iPad minis should boost the company’s December quarter revenues by 19% year over year.

Sales enabled by technology continue to rise. Online retailers predict a record $43.4 billion in holiday sales this season as shoppers increasingly rely on social networks and mobile devices, according to Bloomberg. It estimates Internet sales will grow 17 percent over last year, or more than 10 percent of U.S. retail spending, excluding gas, food and cars.

What does that mean for those of us looking for gifts this Hanukkah and Christmas? Besides the usual smartphones, video games and big-screen TVs, expect to see a lot of so-called labor-saving devices.

Amazon is selling a wireless child locator shaped like a Teddy bear for $28.99. For the man cave, Sharper Image is promoting a Pac Man Arcade Machine for $2,999, with free shipping. And for people who like to drink, Bed Bath & Beyond offers a carbonator that turns water into soda for $129.99 and a cordless wine bottle opener for $29.99. Too bad they can’t turn water into wine. It would fit with the birthday celebration.

If all this strikes you as commercialized corruption of the holiday, you’re not alone. Charles Schultz expressed the sentiment 47 years ago with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” As for the rest of us, some will light candles. Some will assemble the crèche and head to church. Others will give quiet thanks for good friends, family and health, realizing that in this holiday season, gratitude is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Take this job and chart it

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Take this job and chart it

What’s the best job in the world? Software engineer, according to, which ranked 200 jobs based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. (The firm used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies.) The worst job? Lumberjack.

Rounding out the top five were actuary, human resources manager, dental hygienist and financial planner. Rounding out the bottom five were reporter (newspaper), oil rig worker, enlisted military soldier and dairy farmer. I’ve worked as a reporter. CareerCast might be on to something. (For a snapshot see the graphic in the Wall Street Journal.)

Looking at my new profession (writing, marketing and social media strategy), online advertising manager came in at number eight, web developer at 15, public relations executive at 70 and advertising account executive at 98. Authors logged in at 113, just slightly above nuclear decontamination technician (115) on the hit parade. (Maybe the common element is “The Simpsons.”) Others in the allied professions did ever worse: publication editors (118), film and video editors (121), advertising salespersons (136), photographers (147), photojournalists (166) and broadcasters (191).

Ah, glamor.

The check is in the post

Monday, April 9th, 2012
The check is in the post

Starting a business? Start it right on social networks.

With earned publicity increasingly hard to find and start-up ad budgets small, social media looks like a sure-fire way to promote a business on the cheap. Social networks can help new owners build their trade but the model is different from the top-down, broadcast marketing of traditional media. And while many sites are free to join, the time and effort you’ll need could run up your costs.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Needleman interviewed a few start-up owners for their take on using social media. Their conclusions?

  • Join social networking sites as a consumer first.
  • Get familiar with the tenor of the conversation on each site.
  • Secure your business name on the sites in which you’re interested.
  • Make sure your business is fully functioning before joining.
  • Talk with visitors, friends and followers rather than at them.
  • Engage your audience with contests, surveys and social offers.

One more tip that wasn’t in the article: don’t ignore traditional media and methods. While a press release isn’t the same as a conversation it could start one.

Across the digital divide

Monday, March 26th, 2012
Across the digital divide

The stakes continue to rise for print publications.

Last week came news that for every dollar publications earn on their digital editions they lose ten times that amount in print advertising revenue. A new survey out today suggests that gulf will only continue to widen.

Fifty-nine percent of U.S. marketers plan to spend more on social media display ads in the coming year, according to a study by Advertiser Perceptions. Some 31% expect to spend more on ad networks/exchanges and 15% plan to spend more on agency trading desks. An 80% increase in the mobile space will lead an overall increase of 43% ad spending, eMarketer reports.

Whether the shift is good or bad is a moot point. It is what it is. The eyeballs have moved to digital. Print needs to migrate, too.

The way we were, in ads

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
The way we were, in ads

As a kid Jay Paull loved advertising so much he tore ads from publications. Over the years he’s collected quite a few. To share that vast treasure trove of nostalgia he has created Vintage Print Advertisements, a website for a collection that dates to a time before his time—the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.

The site features an ad of the day, a search function and a list of categories from art to travel. They include the usual suspects like patent medicines and corsets and a few for practical but unusual items like Heap’s Patent Earth Closet, a private toilet and water closet for invalids promoted in 1892.

The ads are part of a privately owned collection and are not for sale.

Detroit Jewel Gas Range 1899

As Paull writes on the website, “Whether you are a historian, an academic, in the advertising industry, a student, or have general interest about a specific aspect of Americana such as food and beverage products, furniture and home products, transportation, clothing styles, music, magazines and newspapers, jewelry, travel, photography, or medicinal products, you will find the site’s rich content of importance.”

And the award for best product performance goes to . . .

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
And the award for best product performance goes to . . .

Marketers are boldly going where no advertisers have gone before — subtly into the minds of viewers.

With an explosion of media and devices designed to bypass commercials, marketers are integrating their products into the fabric of movies, TV shows and social media sites. That’s not news. It’s the escalation and arrogance that’s taken this contemporary version of the 1960’s subliminal advertising to new heights.

A few examples: In February “American Idol” became the top TV show ranked by product placements when it delivered 102 instances of product appearances over the month, according to Advertising Age. Rounding out the top five are “The Biggest Loser,” “Gossip Girl,” “The Academy Awards” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” “The Academy Awards” squeezed in 57 brand appearances. Top brands for all TV placements included Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Cybex exercise equipment and Apple.

oscar_statueThere are several variations of product placement. There’s generic product integration, where characters smoke whether the act is germane to the plot or not. There’s product placement, where the product is a prop, like the case of Canadian Club, where the whiskey received hands on and on-screen exposure in at least four scenes of a recent episode of “Mad Men,” from characters handling a bottle to shots of the product sitting on a counter.

Then there intrusive product integration, such as the time when “Monk” character Adrian Monk told a squad room full of police not to worry about tracking a suspect because “I have a Dell and it’s fully loaded.”

Sports programs are famous for integration, from scoreboards branded by Gatorade to NASCAR racers covered with logos to commercial placements in EA Sports video games. The trend is spreading to social media, where product placement has come to Farmville among other games and sites.

It seems film has always included products as secondary characters. BrandChannel counted placements by 64 unique brands in “Iron Man 2.” It’s a marketing strategy that works, sometimes in reverse: the engagement ring worn by Bella in “Twilight: Eclipse” has become a real product.

You can see a montage of films with prominent product placement on YouTube.

And the winner for the most ubiquitous brand? Apple Computer, which won BrandChannel’s “2010 Award for Overall Product Placement” in its annual Brandcameo Product Placement Awards. (Runners up included Nike, Chevrolet and — no surprise to “Idol” viewers — Ford.) Apple products appeared in more number-one films in 2010 than any other brand — 10 of the top 33 films by box office receipts. In the past decade Apple products have starred in one third of all number-one movies — 112 of the 334 top-grossing films in the United States.

What, no Oscar for Steve Jobs?

Going mobile

Monday, December 6th, 2010
Going mobile

Print is on the move again.

Ever since Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland invented the barcode in 1949 business has worked to turn objects into information. The recession in advertising, the migration from print to digital media, consumer preference for mobile devices—all have accelerated the trend toward digitizing the physical world.

Enter the QR, or quick response, code. What looks like a stamp, a maze or a square hieroglyph is really a portal to a new world of information-rich advertising. QR codes allow people with cameras in their smartphones to load websites just by pointing the device at, say, a magazine ad that carries the code. They function like hyperlinks on websites, taking readers directly to the information they want.

It’s more than the latest online fad. The technology just might help authors connect with an elusive audience.

Specialty publications are among the first to adopt the technology. The October issue of This Old House is loaded with codes. And not only in the ads. The editors are using the little squares for contests, access to how-to videos and requests for literature—techniques authors might adopt to publicize their work and promote their brand.

Builder Buzz QR CodeTrade publications are embracing the technology, too. Last month Randall-Reilly’s trucking division sent an email to media buyers announcing a program to allow readers to “unlock access to multimedia content.” Consumer publications are also rolling out programs. A recent issue of People featured a QR code in an ad for Panasonic. Why not publish the codes in any printed collateral used to publicize your work? You can track the responses, analyze the data and reach out to new audiences with targeted messages on the device of their choice.

Our agency joined the movement last week when we designed a QR code for a social media platform I helped to create. Printed on postcards that we’ll distribute at a tradeshow next month, the code will lead smartphone users to a blog that highlights trends in the industries in which our clients compete.

Try it yourself. Download an app like QR Reader, hold your smartphone up to this screen and visit the site—all without having to key in a lengthy URL.

The very technology that threatened to destroy print is enabling it to reach new readers. As the economy recovers and mobile devices spread, writers can use that knowledge to turn dead wood into dynamic sources of data . . . and revenue.

Resistance is futile

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Resistance is futile

There’s a scene in the movie “Minority Report” where digital screens read the eyeballs of Tom Cruise’s character and serve up personal ads. A trio of articles this week shows that, as the Borg like to say in “Star Trek,” trying to escape the long arm of marketers has become futile.

ESPNTruck-USOpen-bStarting on June 17, ESPN will display its broadcast of golf’s U.S. Open on trucks near sports bars and festivals in New York and Chicago. At 14 ft. by 8 ft. those digital displays will be hard to miss.

Separately, the New York Times is reporting that Automated Media Services is testing a system that allows agencies to buy commercial time in stores. By placing the 3GTV displays near the items being sold, advertisers hope to reach consumers as they’re making a decision to buy.

And finally comes word that digital will surpass newspaper advertising in the United States by 2014. Digital ads are projected to increase to $34.4 billion while the print equivalent will drop to 22.3 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports. The channels of choice? Your computer and smart phone.

Guard your eyes.