A few years ago, when Facebook engagement ads were just taking off, Kevin Colleran, at the time still working for the social media behemoth (he was employee number 10 and its first sales executive; now a venture capitalist, what else?) told me that the way to make your Facebook ads really effective was to give the network three or four versions and let Facebook test them in a real environment. That way Facebook could virtually guarantee the efficacy of your brand message.
He mentioned that you’d be surprised what performed best. For example, you may have thought that videos would drive deeper engagement and you’d be wrong. You could hypothesize anything, in fact, but why bother when it was so easy to get proof of what worked simply by trying a few options.
I asked Kevin how many agencies took Facebook up on the offer and he answered hardly any. Unless they were a direct response firm, it just wasn’t in their DNA. So Facebook would themselves initiative comparisons for brands in order to prove the value.
This week Wired had a great piece on A/B testing and how it has become the “open secret of high-stakes web development.” It’s the formula by which almost all of Silicon Valley (maybe not Apple) improves its online products. Real time focus group testing in real life environments.
It’s really just a technique that derives from classic direct marketing. Beat the control. In the days of envelopes and stamps, however it took multiple tries and that could take many months a you had to conceive, write, print, mail, analyze data and try again.
On the web, of course, the process takes but a few hours. Change a color, an image or a headline and the impact on action taken could be significant. You may never know why, but that’s not the point.
Yet many ad agencies now getting into the digital business – creating websites, apps, online experiences and more – remain averse to A/B testing, or at least unaware of its potential. Why? For no other reason than the old linear process by which we made advertising – strategy, concept, approval, production, distribution – remains embedded in muscle memory. Or even more likely, because most ad agencies, along with plenty of companies in other industries, still practice HiPPO decision making; the highest paid person’s opinion determines what to do.
But read the Wired piece. Consider not only the dramatic improvements that A/B testing can yield – as well as the frequency with which the HiPPO’s are wrong – and you certainly conclude the strategy has a place in anything we ever do online. Ads, websites, apps, social engagement.
Maybe I should have done two versions of this post to see which one gets the most traffic.
Your thoughts? Are you using A/B testing for any of your online initiatives? Why not give it a try?
As part of its upcoming Women’s Leadership Forum, the Ad Club of Boston asked a group of us to write blog posts about women we admire. I could have written a traditional blog post about the many women who have in one way or another left lasting impressions on me. But since I’ve been working with my friends at Springpad, I thought it might be more fun to create my blog post in the form of a notebook. Take a look.
Typically I don’t use this blog to stump for Mullen or Springpad. But in this case I’ll make an exception, given that while I may be the CMO at Springpad, I’m also an enthusiastic user, excited about a single platform that lets me create and share such a wide array of data types. Even for this one little notebook I was able to combine photographs (from my own library as well as the web); notes, videos, playlists, books, blog posts and more. What’s even cooler is that I could augment a single “spring” with multiple media, adding additional content and information about each person included. Readers and viewers can simply check the list, peruse the images or discover more about each of the women from books, films and music that I’ve attached.
For me, smart, digital, social notebooks work perfectly for collecting, preserving and sharing content over time. They’re persistent, searchable and even collaborative should I want to invite others to create with me.
So far I’m using Springpad to plan vacations, organize curricula, start my summer reading collection, save content on new interests, and collaborate with others who share my passions. What about you? Are you using the new Springpad?
It’s finally here, Springpad 3.0. We’ve completely redesigned the platform. While Springpad has always been an incredibly useful app for the 3 million people who count on its utility to save, organize and easily access everything from recipes to wish lists, it’s now a social experience that lets users share content, discover interests and even collaborate on notebooks.
We’re pretty excited. You can still use Springpad to quickly and easily “spring” content in any form — recipes, books, movies, products, links, notes, tasks — but now you can “publish” your content, search by category, create communities around hashtags and isolate your friends based on their specific areas of expertise. Springpad just got a whole lot more useful.
No doubt our community of users will surprise and inspire us with uses beyond what we’ve imagined — organizing book clubs, collaborating on design projects, plannning family vacations, sharing best of lists, creating cookbooks, co-curating resources — but I thought I’d share 10 things that we can all get out of the new Springpad starting today.
Free yourself from the stream
One of my favorite things about Springpad is its persistence. If you spring something, it doesn’t disappear in the stream like it does on Twitter. It’s always there. In a notebook that is easy to find, search, access. Same goes for a friend’s content. Let’s say someone you follow on Twitter posts a link to a new restaurant in San Francisco. Within a matter of seconds it’s gone. You may have seen it, but a month from now when you’re in the Bay Area and wish you could remember it you’re out of luck. But if she had “sprung” it to a notebook, there it is. In her “San Francisco Foodie Spots” notebook. Instantly findable and usable. Give a +1 to the concept of persistence.
Express your interests
Sure Pinterest lets you post the stuff you care about, find inspiring or hope to own/do someday. But Springpad lets you do the same with more than images. You can spring notes, events, products, links, white papers, Slideshare decks. It offers a very clean and flexible way to organize and present your interests. It’s not only a great way for you to segment your life, but to let other people see you in a new, clearer light.
Make better decisions
One of the coolest things about Springpad is that it enhances everything you save with useful data. Spring a product and the app brings you all the prices on the web. Save a movie and it tells you where and when it’s playing, whether in the theater or on Netflix. Clip a restaurant and you get menus and maps. All of which helps you buy at the best price, get to the show on time, or decide what you want to eat for dinner. The whole idea is to turn interests into action.
Collaborate on anything
Obviously you can make notebooks private or public. But you can also co-curate notebooks with friends or colleagues whose taste and judgment you respect. I’ve got collaborators on my Stay Fit, Ride More notebook as well as on my Industry Trends notebook. In fact the latter has four contributors. Imagine how useful that feature would be for a bride-to-be and her Mom planning a wedding. Or parents and their teenage son organizing college applications and visits. Or an interior designer and her clients working on a renovation. Since you can clip, save, and comment on anything — products, images, links — notebooks become dynamic and interactive.
Discover more of what you love
Once we get more people on Springpad we’ll have an incredibly efficient social search engine. But even while the numbers are a long way from Facebook or Google, what makes Springpad search useful now is the ability to scour categories that matter to you and then filter the results by people whose judgment you trust. Just take a look at the Spotlight section under Explore, or the popular notebooks below it. I guarantee you’ll find something of interest.
Share your expertise
Are you a teacher? Blogger? Digital strategist? Gardener? Designer? Why limit your content creation to a lecture, a blog or links on Twitter. You can populate Springpad notebooks with both your own stuff as well as material from other sources, getting credit both as a content creator and a curator. Add the persistence mentioned above and the fact that it can drive traffic your way and it’s a perfect complement to the other initiatives.
Make a plan
I’m using Springpad right now to plan a vacation to LA and San Francisco. In this case my private notebook has everything from hotels and restaurant reservations to confirmation emails, maps, flight information, contacts and a calendar. I add stuff as it comes in via email or as I find it online, and not only do I have it all in one place, I can take it with me on a lap top a tablet or smartphone. Trying to find may way to Universal Studios? My notebook not only has my tickets, it includes maps and directions.
Follow notebooks, not people
This was a big part of my presentation at SxSW. I have a lot of friends on Facebook and Twitter for that matter who post stuff I have no interest in whatsoever. I don’t care about Alison’sFunniest Animals on the Internet, but I am interested in her Books for Work notebook. So I simply follow the former and not the latter. The content rather than the whole person. This is the interest graph at its best.
Find people you trust
Consequently Springpad will ultimately connect you to people whose opinions you trust. Foodies, oenophiles, book critics, cyclists, beer critics, chefs. As you find people based on the quality of their content and the relevance of what they share, you end up with better go-to sources and more reliable recommendations.
There are lots of ways to put your personal brand on the web. But what’s cool about Springpad is that it lets you present yourself, your content, your interests all in one place with more dimension. Wouldn’t you like to get a job candidate to send you a notebook that contains their content, portfolio, blog, favorite books, news coverage, recommendations, etc all in one place that you can access in whatever order you want?
For me, the new Springpad is a better way to filter the web, organize your own interests, discover great stuff from reliable sources, and more easily turn interests into action.
Hope you’ll join me and our growing community on Springpad. Create some great notebooks. And discover even better ones. Let me know what you think.
(Note: As mentioned before, I now work half time at Mullen as chief innovation officer, but part of the agency’s approach to innovation is to learn from the startup community, hence I am also at Springpad as chief marketing officer, brand evangelist and, of course, notebook maker.)
Tonight I had dinner at a lovely little Mediterranean place in Tampa. Despite being located in a strip mall — you have to get used to things like that in Florida — the Carmel Cafe had a warm feel, soft lighting, better than decent food, and iPad menus. The latter featured an app that according to the restaurant was custom developed for them and is among the “very best restaurant iPad apps out there.” Not that I’ve used many of the others, but this one truly did offer a carefully thought out user experience.
Using the app, you could scan all the items on the menu, from starters and flatbreads, to salads and larger dishes. You could scroll through the entire menu visually or use a search column to access items by category — wines, salads, pasta, fish, meat. There were even listings to direct you toward gluten free items as well as any listing that contained nuts. Accurate images gave you a peek at every dish offered. And one button let you add it to your orders where they remained stored until you hit a send button alerting the kitchen of your request and adding the price to an easily accessible running tab.
Carmel Cafe’s promise is that you’ll get your dish within five minutes of ordering, so you enjoy total control over the tapas-like experience. Order items as you want them rather than in advance. And never end up with too much food on the table at once. Better yet, the app lets you check your total order and running tab at any time. When it comes time to pay, you settle up directly from the iPad. You can split the bill as many ways as you desire, choose from a range of percentages for a gratuity and simply enter your credit card number to complete the transaction.
As far as restaurant menu apps go, this one is among the most perfectly designed real time experiences that I’ve seen. It makes selection and ordering easier. With multiple iPads on the tables that seat large parties, it lets everyone easily organize and coordinate their orders. And by speeding up input to the kitchen it assures dishes get delivered with amazing alacrity.
But there’s another question. The novelty of the app, the clarity of the photos, the ability to aggregate orders before submitting them, and the attraction of the running tab — at least for the Woody Allen neurotics at the table — pretty much assures that there will be less actual conversation, social interaction and human contact than we might want with friends over the course of dinner. We already know what it’s like to have everyone at a restaurant table glancing at their iPhones, communicating with the people who aren’t there rather than those who are. Add to that a really interactive iPad menu and we have yet another reason to engage with a screen instead of a person.
An iPad menu even eliminates some of the welcome chatter we typically share with a really knowledgeable waiter who might be smarter about ingredients and preparations than whoever wrote the descriptions appearing on the app.
Truth be told, I really liked the iPad menu. It gave me a better view of food I was about to eat. It made it easier to order and try different wines by the glass. It assured me total control over the experience. And if I were I to be wondering how much money I was spending it kept me up to speed on that, too.
But I have to admit to having had a bit less conversation with my dinner companions that I might have if had we ordered the old fashioned way and weren’t constantly distracted by four big screens sitting on the table.
Digital dinners. I don’t think we’ll be seeing them as part of the Parisian four hour restaurant experience anytime soon. But here in America? It’s probably the next big thing.
What do you think? iPad menus? Or stick to the old fashioned printed versions?
When Victors & Spoils was first launched two-and-a-half years ago, the company had more detractors than fans. (Note, I was among the latter.) Much of the industry dismissed the idea that the model could ever replace the traditional agency/client relationships. The more vocal members of the creative community found all kinds of reasons to condemn the new company. The talent wouldn’t be as good. The whole idea of crowd sourcing would undermine the value of the creative person. The best people wouldn’t submit to this kind of process and platform.
Co-founder/CEO John Winsor and I had numerous conversations about why the critics were wrong. Great ideas can come from anywhere. Plenty of people would welcome the chance to have their ideas considered. (After all, how many of us encounter a daily dose of rejection already?) Clients had tired of paying for overhead and some of the excesses of the advertising industry. And since agencies could only sell the talent they had on staff, by definition they were limited in the number of ideas they could generate to solve a problem.
Clearly, John and his partners were a step ahead of the critics. From day one the agency met with success. Thousands of creatives from all over the world joined the community. And the agency’s pitch resonated with lots of clients. Dish, Discovery Channel, GAP, General Mills, Harley Davidson, Virgin America, Levi’s and a host of other brand name advertisers signed on.
And why not? They could get a slew of ideas — curated, filtered and on strategy — for a lot less money than they would pay in a typical retainer relationship.
From the very beginning I thought this was the perfect acquisition for a holding company. Think about it. Holding companies serve large global clients. They make the claim — sometimes actually true — that they can harness the collective the resources of multiple sister agencies to serve a client’s total needs. Yet they really don’t have a model, infrastructure or software platform for doing so. Ask anyone who has participated in a cross agency (there’s a more disparaging word for it) shoot out and they’ll tell you it’s among the more miserable experiences in which you could ever participate. In many cases it wastes time and resources. And for the individuals encouraged (if not forced) to participate it often results in nothing more than demoralization.
But with Victors & Spoils platform — the community, the software, the process — it could be so much more efficient. A holding company can tap into an existing community, create a new one, invite more people to participate with less time and effort, and effectively manage and evaluate more submissions. Add some incentives or gaming dynamics, make it easier for people to throw in ideas, and it’s likely that participants might even welcome the opportunity to help the company cause. Perhaps more importantly, clients might have a genuine reason to believe that multiple agencies could work together on their behalf.
Until now, most ad agencies have been threatened by Victors & Spoils. They’re perceived to undermine the value of individual creatives, diminish the role and impact of the creative director who hires and guides them, and convey to clients that there might be a better idea outside the walls of the agency.
But if, in the end, our job is to solve big problems, deliver the best and most effective idea, and leave no stone unturned in determining it, maybe we should all acknowledge that community, software, and yes, crowdsourcing techniques, are the way to go. Maybe not always, but certainly sometimes. Add to that the fact that we really only have two choices — resist progress or embrace it — and we have even more reason to welcome the innovation that V&S has pioneered over the last two years.
John Winsor, Claudia Batten and Evan Fry had the vision and the courage to try and change how ad agencies work. Looks like the big holding companies — at least one of them – is starting to believe they’re onto something.