The Revolution will not be Televised

We are in the midst of a period of extreme change which is directly affecting everyone in the advertising business. Faced with advertisers moving their budgets from traditional brand advertising into online the response from many in the ad business has been categorical denial. The reality is that things are changing and changing extremely quickly- so quickly in fact that even those of us working in smaller agencies in vertical markets have to wake up and change the way we look at everything.

This extremely compelling opinion piece in Ad Age is, in my opinion, the most important thing I’ve come across in the last few years- though it is long I think it is very important to take the time to read it and digest the ideas and facts he recites.

One example:

“Agencies make money making spots and ads and buying the media for them. Barring a wholesale acquisition and divestiture, much of the nitty-gritty of digital marketing would have to be outsourced. And, with that, control of roughly half of what once was the ad budget. For instance, listen carefully to Jan Leth, executive creative director of OgilvyInteractive North America, as he tells a funny little story about an agency assignment for Six Flags.

“They had a promotion for their 45th anniversary. They wanted to give away 45,000 tickets for opening day to drive traffic. So we got a brief to do whatever: ads, microsite, whatever. But our interactive creative director just went off and posted it on Craigslist. Five hours later, 45,000 tickets were spoken for.

“No photo shoot. No after-shoot drinks at Shutters,” he adds, with faux regret. Then, with somewhat less irony: “Now, the trick is, how do you get paid?” “

We’re moving into a world of transactional marketing in which we will be measured by performance at every step. Traditional media is doing very poorly and there will be a wave of newspaper and local broadcast failures in the near future. This will result in a gap in our ability to reach audiences as online media is temporarily incapable of providing enough impressions to match the available dollars. This, in turn, will increase the costs, accelerating the growth of the Googles and online media companies across the board.

My takeaway? We will be running the agency assuming the distinct probability that print and broadcast, both local and national, will become almost irrelevant to our clients in the very near future.
Draconian? Maybe, but I don’t think so because this represents a huge opportunity for those who understand the change and go for it.

Technorati's State of the Blog World

Technorati, the blog search engine has published its annual state of the blog world which includes multiple graphs and a lot of both textual and visual information.

Here’s some facts:

“In summary:

70 million weblogs
About 120,000 new weblogs each day, or…
1.4 new blogs every second
3000-7000 new splogs (fake, or spam blogs) created every day
Peak of 11,000 splogs per day last December
1.5 million posts per day, or…
17 posts per second
Growing from 35 to 75 million blogs took 320 days
22 blogs among the top 100 blogs among the top 100 sources linked to in Q4 2006 – up from 12 in the prior quarter
Japanese the #1 blogging language at 37%
English second at 33%
Chinese third at 8%
Italian fourth at 3%
Farsi a newcomer in the top 10 at 1%
English the most even in postings around-the-clock
Tracking 230 million posts with tags or categories
35% of all February 2007 posts used tags
2.5 million blogs posted at least one tagged post in February”

If anyone still thinks this is a fad or only something that techies do, they might want to reconsider…

We’re seeing more and more requests from clients for ways to improve their business communications with blogs. One primary recurring theme is the replacement of email newsletters with blogs and feeds, meaning they can post and their customers can subscribe to those subjects they are interested in- in real time. This helps create a dialogue that is extremely relevant, unlike newsletters which are often outdated by the time they are delivered. Blogs are also very easy to set up and manage.

Google Test to Eventually Open National Broadcast Media to Any Business

This is going to be huge, IMHO. Because they are working with Echostar (a satellite network) they can get real time stats on how many ads were actually viewed based on info from 4 million set top boxes- no more crappy Nielsen stats. Once an advertiser knows the numbers they can calculate their bids and up the ante, knowing they are getting real eyeballs.
Another reason to ramp up quickly on everything Google.
It will be a few years before this really hits but it could radically change the TV industry and it will make entry into national and regional TV buys accessible to any business- just like Google Adwords. Bid, test, refine and make money.

Too Many Choices: Navigating complex information

100 slide PPT decks.
Web pages with 100 links on a single page.
Blogrolls with 75 blogs.
A del.icio.us page with hundreds of tags.
An offer in an ad with Offer A, Offer B, and Offer C.

We are inundated with choice and we’ve been trained to believe this is preferable to having less choices. But is this true? When we design web architecture, for example, we’re often reworking sites that have been around for years. They have had pages and links added here and there, over time, by a variety of people with a variety of skills. Often the original vision, if there was one, has been lost. The result is an improbable confusion of choices and a greatly increased likelihood that the visitor will bail out rather than wade into the information quagmire. So how do you fix this?

Who hasn’t presented PowerPoint decks that are too long? After all, we have a lot of valuable input, strategic insight and industry knowledge. Shouldn’t we make sure we deliver all of it?

I can go on, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear in the design world: With a bewildering number of choices everywhere we turn, it has become vital that we get better at delivering information, at the level of complexity that is appropriate for the circumstances.

So we find a way to parse the choices, create hierarchies and sub-groups and only display the top levels. If it’s a web site the vistor can select their category and dig as far as they want. If it’s a presentation, present the top level ideas and let the discussion take you to the details. Know your strategy and use it as a tool, not a report.

As marketers and advertising creators, we are partially responsible for the thousands of messages each of us is exposed to daily. These numbers will only rise. To stand out and deliver an extremely compelling message we need to become experts at simplification and information design.

Here’s PresentationZen on too much choice (watch the video if you can find a few minutes- it’s enlightening to say the least- 175 salad dressing choices!).
Guy Kawasaki on PPT (ten slides, max)

Video, Flash and 160mph winds

LivesConnectedAs an internal experiment in data organization and flash and video integration, a fellow AAAA member, Peter Mayer Advertising, located in New Orleans, LA, developed an interview-style video journal website documenting the experiences of every single one of their 44 employees during the disastrous hurricane season of 2005. The project titled LivesConnected has garnered heavy attention after having been recently featured in the site of the week section of CommArts.com.

What’s particularly interesting about this project and what makes it worth writing about is the extent to which the video content is cross-referenced and cross-pollinated. Not only can the site’s visitors browse interview clips by employee names, which are presented upon entering the site in a simple capital-X-shaped interface, but they can also select from a list of tags associated with each clip and watch other people discuss similar topics. For example, if you’re watching Jennifer B. talk about how she felt as Lake Pontchartrain burst into her living room, and you suddenly wonder what some of the other employees’ reactions to the swift-rising flood waters were, you can select from several people whose clip shares the “Flooded Home” tag and immediately skip to that portion of their interview. Kind of like a blog works.

None of the technical aspects of the site are that difficult to wrap your head around, but nonetheless, it’s a highly sophisticated example of combining video, flash and the partial functionality of a blog to offer up insight into the lives and personalities of a company’s employees. I suggest you check it out.

The Official Blog of Martino Flynn