Predictions: from trash to treasure


Usually, year end “what’s next in marketing” predictions are a bunch of BS. Last November, I was asked to contribute thoughts to a roundup of The best ads of 2015. Here’s what I wrote:

“My favorite advertisement of 2015 was the New York Times declaring that it’s not dead yet. Its promotion with Google Cardboard, MINI, and GE to launch the NYT virtual reality application was a pioneering step forward for a brand built in a different era. Enough with emoji, femvertising, and consumer generated everything. NYT VR is an idea that moves people forward in a medium built for now.

Unfortunately, my thoughts didn’t make it past the cutting room floor, perhaps because I didn’t choose a 30-second spot. However, The New York Times just won a Cannes Lions Grand Prix award in the Mobile category for its VR efforts. The entire marketing world should’ve seen this coming.

Marketers and their agencies need to start thinking differently about a lot of issues — including diversity, renumeration, and what’s “best” — before the answers become too obvious to miss. There’s always next year, right?

The Next Decade of Social Media

On Stage at Cannes Lions

Last week, I shared some thoughts on the next decade of social media at the 2015 Cannes Lions festival. The key points are highlighted in this Guardian article:

  1. Gone
  2. Shoppable
  3. Snackable
  4. Automated
  5. Connective
  6. Filtered
  7. Integrated
  8. Chinese
  9. Subcutaneous
  10. Empowering

More coverage of the talk is available in these write-ups:

More images from my week in Cannes:

Do we have an obligation to Like?

Every survey that I’ve seen in the past five+ years talking about sources of consumer trust always show recommendations from a friend as the highest rated. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages report is the latest, finding that 84% of respondents across 58 countries rate word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family as the most trustworthy source of input.

Recently, Google updated its Terms of Service to indicate that user data might be used in conjunction with ads, called shared endorsements. Facebook has a similar product called social ads. You can opt out of these associations…but should you?

Consumers dislike advertising for two main reasons: irrelevance and interruption. Placing ads within the context of search takes care of the latter. When we +1 and Like brands, that addresses the former — friends typically share mutual interests and with endorsement, there’s trust added to relevance.

So before you revolt and opt out of having your profile associated with ads on social networks, consider what help you’d like to get from your friends — and what you’ll give them in return.



How far would you campaign for “real beauty?”

All around the United States, it’s school picture time. A friend of mine uploaded this to Facebook and commented that her school is offering to retouch photos for $10. In my school district, the option only costs $5.

We applaud marketers – Dove, Nike – for promoting the use of more “realistic” models in advertising. But is there any depth to this activism or is it just more “snakes on a plane” online chatter?

Maybe this is just a harmless offer to boost school revenue. Or maybe campaigning for real beauty is really just skin deep.



Instagrammers doth protest the T’s & C’s too much, methinks.

Instagram pic earns Austin designer her own billboard

Now, the image [Jasmine Mikulski] shot is a billboard off IH-35, perched atop the Whip In near the Woodland Ave. exit. It was put up by Ben & Jerry’s, which hosted a contest to find the best Instagram photos expressing the hashtag “#CapturingEuphoria.”

Though she didn’t win any money…she’s enjoying the attention from having her photo blown up as a giant ad.

“It’s local advertising with a local person. I think it was a really, really great use of social media,” she said.

— “Instagram pic earns Austin designer her own billboard,”, 1/15/2013

Is #RoyalWedding an early warning sign?

TechCrunch reports on "The Pitfall Of Twitter’s Promoted Trends."

Long before social media had reached critical mass, advertisers were reluctant to place ads on MySpace. The main concern of big brands was their new high performance shoe or high paid celebrity endorsement banner being placed next to a schlocky user profile. Brands got over it because MySpace traffic kept growing and the eyeballs were tough to pass up.

Now, Twitter finds itself in a position similar to MySpace in 2006. Traffic is growing rapidly and daily ad rates are rising. Advertisers and media buyers can't seem to pass up this opportunity, in some cases employing worst practices:

Running ads promoting a time-sensitive event that's already completed:

Banner ad

Buying ads on terms having nothing to do with a brand:

Promoted Tweet

Running a high risk of hashtag brandjacking as conversation flow shifts in real-time: 


In paid search, brand investments in contextual ads were eventually protected by algorithm. Hockey stick growth doesn't last forever and advertiser interest will plateau quickly unless the platform provides better experience. Twitter needs to find ways to protect advertiser interests or risk heading down the path to MySpace.

Four good examples of social media campaigns

Earlier this month, I led judging in the social media strategy category for the 4A’s 2010 Jay Chiat Awards. A couple years ago, I assembled a list of 300+ social media marketing examples with help from dozens of contributors. This time I requested the help of some friends to judge the fourteen entries: David Armano, Joseph Jaffe, and Jeremiah Owyang.

We decided on four award winners in our category. While the voting wasn’t unanimous, one thing we all did agree on was that even the best entries were reflective of campaigns rather than sustainable strategy. On the worst end, some entries were nothing more than a Facebook group or Twitter account.

Here are the winners and some brief notes on the entries.


  • McKinney//Travelocity: “Gnome on Chatroulette” – a clever way to tie a brand into a timely cultural phenomenon. Over 40 days and nights, the Roaming Gnome generated 350,000 impressions on site, engaged in 40 conversations, and generated over 19 million total media impressions for the brand.  
  • Saatchi & Saatchi LA//Toyota Sienna: “How Mom & Dad Got Their Swagger Back” – although I’m in the target demographic (I think), I will still never buy a minivan…but I can respect the execution. The Swagger Wagon YouTube video has generated almost 7 million views and has successfully ignited consumer participation – only 3% of views have been driven by advertising.


  • Team Detroit//Ford Fiesta: “Fiesta Movement” – a campaign that most people in the social media industry have heard of, where 100 cars were loaned to 100 influencers for a year. The campaign was cited as part of Ford being named Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year. It created plenty of buzz: 31,000 pieces of original Fiesta content and 10,000 online vehicle reservations – but the jury’s still out on efficacy towards the end goal of increasing sales.  

Honorable Mention

  • RPA//Honda: “Friending Honda” – curious that three out of the four winning campaigns were for auto manufacturers. Honda launched an integrated media campaign supported by an interesting Facebook presence. The campaign increased fans from 15k to 422k, generating over 3,500 dealer quote requests. Clearly driven more by main brand idea than social strategy, but it worked.

Congratulations to these winners. Looking forward to tighter cross-channel integration, solid business goals, and meaningful measurement next year!


2010 Jay Chiat Awards: Call For Entries

This is a brief and long overdue post…I’m honored to be participating in the AAAA’s 2010 Jay Chiat Awards as chair of the social media strategy category.

Assisting me with judging the category are some people you may know:

I’ve been following the social business/media/computing space for a while and a few years ago published a big list of examples and opened up a related wiki. In today’s market, there are thousands of initiatives underway and agency partners providing assistance. I’m hopeful that we’ll discover and discuss a new set of case studies from forward-thinking brands.

The entry deadline is technically today, but I’m sure exceptions could be made for late entrants who want to throw a hat into the ring.

I’ll keep you updated as the process moves along.

Thanks – and please pass along to your favorite brand/agency person who deserves a shot at winning the award for social media strategy of the year!

Promoted Tweets: A Necessary Evil

Twitter’s much anticipated advertising platform launched yesterday. The analysis has been measured but mostly leans positive…I suspect that in most cases, industry watchers know that it’s crazy to bet against Twitter. (Of course.) But my friends at Forrester, Edelman, and Altimeter don’t seem to be “making the call,” so I’ll go ahead and say it: marketers should wait and watch before participating in promoted tweets. Why? Keep reading.

Over a decade ago, I read an interview featuring Tim Koogle at Yahoo!, discussing the site’s advertising model. He said something along the lines of: we place the ads in a consistent place on each page, in a consistent size, so users know what do expect. You know what? That made the ads easier to ignore. Guess what? Promoted Tweets occupy a consistent, easily ignored position on a search page.

A few key reasons to support a bearish position on Promoted Tweets:

  • Advertising on social networks has a poor track record. Remember Beacon? Google display ads on MySpace? Microsoft ads on Facebook?
  • Consumers love to hate advertising. Content and service providers will never be able to support their businesses based on consumer payments alone – they require commercial subsidization. Watch for clutter, irrelevance, and interruption to take root.
  • Return on investment. Are Promoted Tweets really the next best place to invest your advertising budget? If you haven’t exhausted the potential of measurable initiatives like search and email marketing, why bother with an experiment?

Can anyone blame Twitter for monetizing the platform? Of course not – they’ve got to perform up to expectations for the hundreds of millions of dollars invested. But I think the smart marketers will watch bleeding edge brands run their experiments now and learn from the successes and failures. For Twitter, Promoted Tweets are a necessary evil to turn this question mark into a star (think growth-share matrix).