Posts tagged “advertising

The World on Your Doorstep

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Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

Recently I interviewed a new grad from one of the public universities in the Dallas area. Of particular interest, this individual told me that the first comm class of every morning started with a current events quiz. The purpose of this exercise is to prompt students to read a physical newspaper every morning, since that’s probably the best way to gain a broad overview of what’s happening in the world – and to score well on the morning quiz!

Some might say this exercise is a relic of times gone by, especially in light of research indicating that half of Americans get their news from Facebook and 10% of Americans think Facebook is actually a news outlet. Anything that gets students – and adults – reading and learning about issues in the world around them is a good thing, but I wonder what we’re losing in terms of knowledge with the decline of print media.

There are advantages to online news consumption, of course:

  • There’s the immediacy factor. When news happens, boom, it’s right there in multimedia, so we read, see and hear about it, not only from news sources, but from those in our social networks.
  • The presentation of news online also offers outlets the ability to incorporate interactive graphics to help explain the story in a way that amplifies – or even replaces – the narrative.
  • There’s the general notion of a news encounter. We’re online, scrolling through our Facebook feeds, and interspersed with a photo of a friend’s lunch are news items that we might not otherwise have scanned.
  • There’s the consumption of news itself. With so few Americans subscribing to news – either in print or online – the availability of information provides access to news that individuals otherwise might not seek out.
  • And of course there’s an environmental benefit, with less paper being used to produce a print product with an extremely short life span.

But what do we lose with the move away from print?

  • We lose the pass-by effect that comes with reading a physical newspaper. We may not read every article, but by flipping through the pages, we’re taking in all the headlines as we evaluate what we want to know more about. So even without reading a story, we’re gaining topline knowledge of key issues or items considered important or relevant enough to put in print.
  • We also lose a depth of information. With all the events occurring around the world, we shortchange ourselves by not delving deep enough into the facts, implications and analyses. The convenience of a snapshot in our Facebook feeds can never compensate for that level of detail.
  • Encountering news – a benefit of online news consumption – also is not the same as following news. Stories and events often play themselves over time, revealing new layers and nuances that help us form opinions.
  • And finally, as the success metrics for media have become more focused on eyeballs and click-throughs, media are presenting stories online with which consumers have the propensity to engage. Sometimes, what consumers want to read, and what they should read, are vastly different.

Knowledge is cumulative. It builds over time through repeated exposure to facts and opinions, and we build our understanding through context and various points of view. A well-written article – whether in print or online – teaches you something. It might present something familiar from an unfamiliar angle.

At the end of the day, I’m not giving up my newspapers, although after the morning read, I’m constantly online, consuming news from these same outlets in their digital counterparts. News outlets deliver the world on your doorstep, so open the door and start reading!

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Starting with a Clean Slate

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Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

There are two parts to our business: The issues-driven and reputation-focused work that is largely directed by external factors, and the marketing-driven work that can have a much longer lead time. Summer hasn’t even officially started, but we’re already well under way in planning marketing-related for activities to support the year-end holidays, and even preliminary 2018 planning. One of the big questions in our business is: How do you come up with ideas?

I recently came across two articles that addressed the ideation issue, coming at it from two different perspectives. The first article suggests that busy people need a “Shultz Hour.” Of course, that needs a bit of explanation. George Shultz, who was secretary of state in the ‘80s, carved out an hour each week to sit in his office with the door closed, with a pad of paper and pen, and thought about the strategic aspects of his job. He instructed his assistant to interrupt him only if one of two people called:  The president. And perhaps equally importantly, his wife.

Shultz worked in an era before the interruptions and distractions of email, smartphones, Twitter and the like, but I’ve always been a firm believer in carving out some “alone time” to think about a creative problem or strategic issue, whether in my office, while exercising, or even if I’m just doing chores around the house.

The second article suggests a less conceptual approach to generating ideas:  Washing your hands. A group of psychologists conducted a study in which individuals were instructed to focus on a goal, and then to wash their hands. After the physical act of washing their hands, they were more easily reoriented toward a subsequent goal. The physical cleansing created a psychological separation from the previous activity, enabling the individuals to focus more clearly on a new goal.

In many ways, we’re merchants of ideas. Whether great ideas come from dedicated reflection time – or from clean hands! – it’s less about the source and more about the results. What tips do you have for generating ideas?


For Old Times’ Sake

Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

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To the delight of some and the chagrin of others, TV viewers will soon be treated to reboots of “Twin Peaks,” “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne,” a trio of shows that enjoyed their heydays 20 years or so ago. Yes, nostalgia is back.

And manufacturers and marketers are following suit. From turntables and vinyl records, flip-phones and Oreos with “fireworks” (basically Pop Rocks), companies are tapping into consumers’ craving for the familiar. Why now?

According to research, people lean in to nostalgia when they’re feeling anxious about the present, and about the future. The past is safe, it was familiar, and what we see in the rear-view mirror tends to be rosy, whether that was the reality or not. We fill our rooms with mid-century modern, our pantries with Twinkies, and our tables with deviled eggs.

What are some considerations when tapping into nostalgia?

  • Nostalgia should be an entry point, not an end point. Leveraged correctly, nostalgia is an anchor to the past that grabs attention quickly due to its familiarity, but with a modern overlay. Think the VW New Beetle, introduced in the late ‘90s with a design that drew heavy inspiration from the original Beetle from the earlier part of the century. Think, too, the rebooted TV shows, which presumably will embody a more current take on characters that viewers came to know well during the first incarnation of their respective series.
  • Nostalgia is different for each generation. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, the return of the iconic flip phone will likely resonate with Boomers, but for later generations, this might be an entirely new product that they haven’t seen before. Similarly, in our multicultural society, some retro-inspired products will have little meaning beyond the traditional core group to which they were initially marketed.
  • Nostalgia plays well on social media. While the overall notion of nostalgia correlates to traditional media, some brands are melding old and new media to strengthen consumer engagement. With the popular #TBT (Throwback Thursday) hashtag, auto makers Dodge and BMW have had success attracting eyeballs with photos of classic cars from their lineups through the decades.
  • Nostalgia won’t save a brand. Remember Radio Shack’s 2014 Super Bowl ad featuring pop culture icons from the 1980s? It was lauded as one of the best ads that year, but where is Radio Shack now? More recently, the 1990s hit Pokemon made a resurgence by adding augmented reality and creating Pokemon GO!, which burst onto today’s pop culture scene. But it’s rapid rise was matched by an equally rapid decline.

Like all good programs, a campaign rooted in nostalgia needs to be timely and relevant in order to be effective. So while the future of marketing might not be tethered to the past, a well-timed and carefully executed stroll down memory lane might bring a smile to consumers’ faces and stronger engagement to your brand. (But please, let’s leave parachute pants in the past!)

 


New Pros Meet Old Pros

As we get ready to welcome new summer interns and new pros into the workplace, the advice in this Ad Age article penned by one of our agency principals is worth reading again.

http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/classroom-office-expectation-meets-reality/305654/

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From the Classroom to the Office: Where Expectation Meets Reality

What Agencies and Marketers Can Learn from Young Professionals

By . Published on August 31, 2016

Recently I had the opportunity to query some young professionals who are about a year into their careers, asking them about their perceptions and expectations as they approached graduation and after they entered the communications and marketing professions.

These young pros — all now in agency settings, both big and small and from all regions of the country — made some surprising comments about the transition from the classroom to the office. Their comments may be hiding some insight into the way that universities and employers can do a better job of preparing and onboarding these new professionals.

Overall, young pros didn’t seem to fully understand what was waiting for them in the professional world — work traits, managerial expectations and the actual type of work — aspects of the job that those of us in the field for a few years or more take for granted. Their comments tended to center around three areas:

1. Pace of the job. Not surprisingly, the majority of the new pros remarked about how stressful the job is. Several students said they didn’t expect the pace of the job to be so “incredibly fast,” and how “you have to shift gears frequently and in different directions.” One remarked, “We thought we worked hard when we were in college, but it’s nothing compared to what we have to do in the real world.” Another noted the difficulty in balancing multiple clients along with the need to constantly prioritize and re-prioritize.

2. Expectations of quality. Young pros said they weren’t prepared for the level of quality required in an agency setting. “I’ve really learned the importance of the term ‘client-ready.’ For example, while you’re in school, you can get a few things wrong and still get an A or a B, but at the agency, when you’re going to present something to a client, every detail must be perfect.” They also were surprised by the variety of writing styles required for different clients and different situations. “I thought I was a really good writer coming out of school, but I realize that my writing style was great for doing college assignments but not particularly well suited for the real world.”

What lessons can we learn from these comments?

First, agencies, corporate communications departments and universities should consider closer partnerships. Together, we can work to bridge the divide between what students believe their future professional career holds and the hard and soft skills needed to succeed. For example, we know of one local agency that recently accepted a marketing professor as a summer intern, giving him current on-the-job experience to take back to the classroom.

Second, agencies and corporate departments should ensure their orientation programs focus not just on the skills of the profession, but also on how to juggle multiple clients, priorities and — importantly — personalities. Our agency, for example, takes on a pro bono project during each intern period, guiding interns through the account management process in a way that would not be possible with an ongoing account.

And finally, agencies and corporate departments should take another look at their intern programs, and see if there are ways to make them more valuable. Nearly every student agreed on the importance of at least one internship before getting a first job, but many said they found internships to be siloed, gaining experience in only one or two aspects of the business instead of a more rounded experience through exposure across the organization.

The maturity and drive to succeed of new grads entering the profession is encouraging. Now it’s up to those of us in the workplace to guide their transition and growth.

 


One for the Ages

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Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

Marketing is a young man’s game. Or so we’ve heard. We’ve also heard, “With age comes wisdom.” How to balance these divergent points of view?

Maybe the answer is in the question: It requires balance. As a society – and even as a profession – we’re quick to dismiss “older” workers. They’re not as fast. They’re out of touch with new technologies. They don’t present the image we want to portray.

And then someone comes along who not only proves us wrong, but blows these perceptions completely out of the water. Meet John Goodenough, recently profiled in the New York Times Sunday Review. His surname is a bit of a misnomer. He’s beyond “good enough.”

The batteries that power our laptops, phones, and even electric vehicles? He invented the technology. And he just filed a patent on a new kind of battery that has the potential to revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-powered vehicles. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 94?

The story of Mr. Goodenough should give us pause as an industry to re-consider our biases against middle-aged or older workers. It seems there are a few factors that stand out that suggest why this group of professionals can contribute in a way that may be different from young pros. Consider:

  • Knowledge is cumulative. We pick up much of our early professional learning in college, and then integrate that with real-world experience as we begin our careers. Our minds begin absorbing knowledge, but as we venture farther out into the world, our life experiences add to our knowledge, giving us a wider and deeper level of information on which to draw.
  • They think about things longer. Maybe the perception that middle-aged workers don’t move as fast as younger workers is a good thing. There’s more patience, and less of a rush to judgment. We think about things for greater periods of time, and we put things down and pick them up later, letting our minds work out potential solutions to problems or challenges, rather than running with the first answer. (Maybe that’s why we rarely see a 25-year-old judge?)
  • There’s an openness to new ideas.  As we gain more experience, our narrow vision slowly begins to widen, and we allow ourselves to take in convergent points of view and new ideas. It’s the natural course of evolution, but rather than a physical evolution, it’s a cognitive evolution.

Or maybe, as Mr. Goodenough posited, the real reason may be entirely different. In his own words: “You no longer worry about keeping your job.”

At the end of the day, a balanced workplace – with different generations bringing different experiences that lead to different ideas – should be the end game of what was typically thought of as the young man’s game. Are you game?

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Few Words to End the Week

Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

Madonna had it half right:  We are living in a material world, but we are also living in a branded world. And as we face Daylight Saving Time, more than a few companies face saving-their-brand-reputation time.

  • Who’s on first? Or more accurately, whose name is on first base? This week, I had to attend an event at a major sports stadium. In the past, it was easy to identify where it was: the Cowboys played in the football stadium, the Rangers played in the ballpark, etc. But I found myself stopping to pause to think about which stadium I needed to head to: the one with the phone company’s name or the airline’s name or the life insurer’s name or the soft drink’s name or the other phone company’s name? Have we reached a saturation point in venue branding? Some interesting thoughts in this article.
  • Who’s sorry now? Uber apologizes. PwC apologizes. Yahoo apologizes. The Associated Press apologizes. The corporate apology follows a typical trajectory, beginning with “regret.” It all sounds very canned and corporate – and perhaps sounding like it lacks real regret. As protectors of our clients’ (internal stakeholders or external clients) reputations, have we over-mastered the corporate apology? Maybe the candid language in these corporate apologies offers lessons moving forward.
  • Who’s thinking creatively now? Admit it: Every time a “holiday” approaches, you think about how you can leverage it from a marketing or communications perspective. In fact, some of what we consider to be our everyday rituals – cereal for breakfast anyone? – were born out of marketing campaigns. Take a look here.

Something to chew on … until next week.


The Long and Short of It

Rob Martin, Agency Principal and Managing Director of MM2 Public Relations

I recently overheard one of our account teams planning outreach to “long lead” media.  It got me thinking:  In a world with Twitter, Google News and a 24-hour news cycle, where the story of U.S. Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson can go from iPhone to CNN in a matter of minutes, where lead times seem to be getting shorter and shorter, is the concept of “long lead” media still relevant?  And is anyone paying attention?

I think the answer to both questions is “yes.”

The term “long leads” typically refers to magazines, and while there have been some tough times in that industry, I think there’s still a place for those that offer quality and appeal to consumer interests.  I subscribe to several magazines at home.  And the point is, in addition to the magazines’ long lead times in the production cycle, I have a personal long lead time when I’m reading and enjoying them.

It’s a different type of experience.  In contrast to rushing through various news sources in the office to get a sense of the day’s news, magazines are meant to be enjoyed in the comfort of home, when you have more time and the right mindset to think, react, re-read and reference other related and relevant stories elsewhere.  It’s sometimes a leisure-time activity that can be enjoyed on the weekend, on an airplane, or on a beach.  And the best magazines give you the in-depth content you may not have time to absorb at any other time or in any other place.

For marketers and others with a particular story to tell – or something to sell – they know that consumers may be in a more receptive mood when perusing their favorite magazines.  They have more time to think, understand and evaluate.  And they may be in the mood to compare and plan purchases.  I would say there’s definitely a need for this type of media outlet.

In a short-lead world, it’s comforting to know that long leads are still there for us.