Within two years 50 percent of American employees will work remotely or via mobile.
Wireless will be soon the dominant channel for tracking investments and conducting online trades
Mobile advertising will grow 50 percent in 2011 to over $1 billion
4G will put all of our vending machines and appliances online
Application developers are thrilled with iAd performance and revenues
The biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-up companies will be for those who develop better battery lives
One percent of AT&T customers use 40 percent of its data services
I spent this morning at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s (MTLC) Mobility Summit. The theme, no surprise, was ubiquitous connectivity. Thanks to mobile in its current state we are all connected all the time. Connected to news, information, each other. And with 4G coming we’ll be connected in even less time. Though we’ll pay the price. One speaker alleged that, “If we leave our 4G on, we use up our $90.00 a month worth of data in the first 40 minutes of the month.” Gulp. Not sure I want to see what the rest of the month is going to cost.
Costs aside however, it’s clear that mobile is not only what’s next, it’s a race to see who figures it out first. The service providers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint – along with the Cisco’s and Akemai’s labor furiously to make 4G a reality and to enlarge the last mile of pipe. Emerging location-based platforms struggle to get their revenue models right. New start-ups with tools and applications for everything from analytics to social aggregation to mobile community building, battle it out for access to venture capital. Meanwhile brands and advertisers search for the marketing mix that might make sense, evaluating and experimenting with mobile banners, contextual offers, iAds, rich media executions, custom apps and QR codes.
What’s interesting at a “summit” like is to see all the different perspectives. To the providers it’s all about technology, capacity and speed. To investors it’s about revenue models, growth and exit strategies. To platforms it’s about user experiences and downloads.
But if you’re a marketer, you have to think about all of that. Technology creates new opportunities for content, video and applications. If subscription costs affect the rate of adoption you have to decide whether to invest simply in basic ads (the CTRs are often better) or to build more robust experiences for a smaller community. And the user experiences in which you do invest — from apps, to utility, to context, to the accessibility of your mobile friendly website – not only have to be great, they need to be considered in light of everything else you do.
In poking around yesterday, I noticed that while numerous retailers have entered into mobile with coupons, LBS offers, and functional apps, others haven’t even converted their websites to be mobile friendly.
That might be the first place to start.
Interested in more?
When it comes to self-criticism, advertising tends to be an industry that loves exaggeration, speculation and especially self-flagellation. We beat ourselves up – or tolerate being berated by others — on a pretty regular basis. Among the many predictions we’ve endured in recent years: The end of advertising as we know it; Agencies just don’t get it; The Chaos Scenario; and most recently Fast Company’s Mayhem on Madison Avenue.
The latter, which hit the newsstands last week (though appeared in digital form 10 days earlier) basically suggested that all those dinosaurs who’ve been bringing you the :30 TV spot stand somewhere between too slow to evolve and the edge of extinction. (Note that Mullen was included among those who’ve transformed themselves enough to count as evolved.)
This week, however, we have a very different story. Playing the contrarian, Bloomberg Businessweek suggests that the “lumbering advertising behemoths have advantages over smaller, cutting-edge firms.”
Writer Felix Gillette, after his obligatory references to MadMen, multiple-martini lunches and expense account dinners at Nobu (can’t have an ad agency article without recallying all of that cliche’d imagery for the thousandth time) eventually gets around to disputing the claim that the big, dumb agencies are dead. Instead he insists that the big, dumb agencies are actually kicking the butts of all the little digital shops with funny names. (That would be Big Spaceship, Blue Barracuda, glueisobar, et. al.)
The poster boy for the article is BBDO NA’s chairman and CCO David Lubars. Throughout a long career, Lubars has produced great advertising work: from his early days in Providence when we ran the Keds business, to an LA stint on Apple, to his time at Fallon where he launched the seminal BMW Films.
So maybe he’s not only entitled but correct when he claims in the Bloomberg story that the little hot shops, who are thumping their chests and declaring the end of mass marketing and the death of the Big Dumb Agencies, do so as a business posture, an attitude for journalists, and a sales pitch to clients. “They don’t believe a word of it,” he says.
Lubars goes on to talk about all the digital work being done at BBDO while the agency still manages to win best Superbowl spot.
One thing both Fast Company and Bloomberg do agree on is that we are in the midst of turbulent times. Digital shops strive to develop better creative ideas. Giant ad agencies throw money at technical talent in order to compete with the funny-named agencies. And no less than Google, Apple and Facebook, along with a slew of hybrids — from the likes of PSFK to multiple new retail platforms – all have their own opinions of where the industry is going.
So who’s right? Fast Company? Or Bloomberg? Will the big agencies adapt fast enough and prevail? Or will the smaller, more nimble digital shops with UX and engagement in their DNA win out in the long run.
Hard to say. One thing is certain, however. Given the fact that no other industry in the world seems to inspire more discussion, debate and analysis as the advertising industry, we can be certain the conversation isn’t over. Like the Energizer bunny, it keeps going and going.
This week The Economist announced a new campaign, “Where do you stand?” The campaign poses provocative statements on posters: Prisoners should/should not be allowed to vote. Drugs should/should not be legalized. Trading human organs should/should not be allowed.
Each poster includes a few key facts around each issue that make committing a lot harder than you might initially think. For example, in favor of selling human organs it declares:
There is a desperate shortage of organs. Around 1000 people die each year in Britain waiting for a transplant.
In 1988, Iran changed the law to allow people to sell their kidneys. Within three years, the country no longer had a waiting list for kidney transplants.
Banning the sale of organs drives the trade underground. That makes transplants riskier for both donors and recipients.
It then asks you to text your answer to the designated number in return for a free copy of The Economist. Presumably the magazine will aggregate answers and publish results.
In many ways the new campaign is brilliant. It demonstrates the thought provoking nature of The Economist, turns you into a participant rather than a reader, and gets you to actually think in the process.
While the posters primary call to action is to text your answers, it’s also cool that the magazine has created a new Facebook page where the debate can take place on line.
(Note that I have modified this post from the original. When I had initially checked The Economist Facebook page there was no mention of the campaign. Nor did it appear on their site. But shortly after this post went live, suggesting that The Economist had missed an opportunity by not extending the conversation to Facebook and elsewhere, I received a note from Jamie Credland, a marketer for The Economist who corrected me. Gotta love social media.)
If the initial news announcement in The Guardian is correct, the campaign runs for a mere two weeks. I find that a bit perplexing as it seems this is an idea with a much longer life.
But on the positive side we have a traditional medium and an advertiser that realizes a reader isn’t simply a reader but a participant, content generator and distribution channel. I’m willing to bet that The Economist will see the debate and dialog continue long after the posters come down and that this will not only be the beginning of another great campaign from the magazine that brought us the great red and white posters of the past, it may be something we see copied elsewhere.
So, is this the new advertising? Where do you stand?
Here are some links that I’ve been able to find so far. Perhaps there will be more to come from The Economist and its agency AMV BBDO. If you find out anything else, please share.
The posters in Campaign
Story in The Guardian
The agency behind it: AMV BBDO
Faris’s Blog: Talent Imitates, Genius Steals
I want to like this video. I really do. It’s a pitch-perfect parody of the new integrated social media campaign. A fictitious ad agency launches a fictitious car, the Zebra, with a cockamamie campaign that includes: opening an actual zoo; crowdsourcing its inhabitants; inviting consumers to engage via Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social networks; launching an online TV network called Zoo TV; and spreading viral memes in numerous physical environments before realizing the absurdity of the whole thing and deciding instead to run a print campaign. In newspapers.
If it weren’t so pathetic it would be hysterical. Here once again is another example of the newspaper industry — in this case the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri — reminding us that it has failed miserably to convey the virtues of its medium to readers and advertisers. So in hopes of delaying its inevitable demise, and having nothing persuasive to proffer readers regarding its merits, it settles for a less than convincing swipe at the very media that are bringing newspapers to their knees.
What’s interesting, for those of us who’ve been around a while, is that it’s also a bit derivative of the famous Neil French XO Beer campaign. In 1993, as an April Fools’ joke, and to prove the efficacy of newspaper advertising at the time, The Straits Times engaged French, who skillfully conceived a phony campaign for a beer that supposedly got you “pissed quicker than any other.” The purpose of the fake campaign was simply to demonstrate that newspaper ads worked. And in 1993 they worked pretty well. Ads like the one above, showing a guy in the men’s room passed out from drinking XO, generated so much interest in the beer that liquor stores had to fend off eager customers. When the campaign was revealed to be a hoax, it came with the claim that only newspaper advertising could create so much demand so quickly.
Unfortunately, the Zebra video, a modern version of the fake initiative, pales in comparison. Sour grapes don’t work quite as well as high alcohol content hops.
If the rate at which newspapers continue to shut down is any indication, recent campaigns — whether they criticize the competition (even with tongue in cheek) like the video above, or make declarations that are so far from believable they appear futile (like the ad to the left) — are completely and totally ineffective.
Meanwhile, the industry’s last remaining crutch, the Sunday circular, which generates significant revenue, isn’t long for this world either. As soon as retailers crack the digital code for how to replace this anachronistic marketing medium — and they’re all working on it, given that their customers spend more time online than in the pages of a newspaper — there will be even fewer reasons to advertise in newspapers.
Newspapers would be better off figuring out how to take what they do have to offer – quality content, reportage, celebrity reporters, objectivity, and a commitment to truth – and finding a way to make those qualities relevant.
Hey, here’s an idea. Perhaps the newspaper industry needs to embrace social media. Maybe it needs a campaign just like the one it made fun of in the Zebra video. Certainly wouldn’t be worse than what they’ve been doing, which from what I can tell is basically nothing more than praying.
I stopped in at my local bookseller today to pick up a copy of Ian McEwan’s Solar. Despite owning a Kindle and an iPad, I still enjoy holding a real book, admiring perfectly kerned type (in this case a digital version of Bembo, originally designed by the Bolognese Renaissance type cutter Francesco Griffo) and feeling the pages as I turn them.
Plus, for some odd sentimental reason, I remain dedicated to supporting local bookstores in hopes that my loyalty will save our downtowns from yet another Starbucks, CVS or chain of some kind. (Yes, I know it’s a futile effort, but one has to try.)
I asked how business was and got “eh” for an answer. A reply that suggested the cash register definitely wasn’t getting enough of a workout.
Having just read a number of pieces about publishers’ recent negotiations with Amazon and Apple, having observed the jaw-dropping reaction of kids turning book pages on an iPad, and believing that it’s only a matter of time before a generation of digital natives grows up and introduces their kids to Make Way for Ducklings on a digital screen, I suggested that local bookstores, even those woven into the fabric of a community, were facing an uphill battle.
“Nah, books will never go away,” the manager responded a bit defensively. “I’ve tried the Kindle and it’s just not the same.”
I asked if he’d experienced books on an iPad but he hadn’t. “Well you should see what it’s like to turn pages on that device,” I replied. “It’s pretty cool.”
“Maybe, but I still don’t think books will go away. We have parents in here all the time introducing their children to books. The tradition won’t die.”
Not one to pass up a good debate, I suggested that was only because most parents were probably over 35, and digital or not, they grew up with books as their primary medium for reading.
“But what happens when everyone under 25 reaches parenting age, having consumed most of their media on a screen, and introduces their kids to digital books, complete with interactive games, mixed media, sound and more?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I still don’t think books will go away.”
The manager uttered that same sentence, unconvincingly I might add, at least four times during our conversation. But never once could he back it up with any reasons as to why he might be right.
The assumption held by the bookstore manager — that physical books, along with their most dedicated advocates, the local bookseller were too important to disappear — reminded me of Clay Shirky’s recent SxSW talk about abundance breaking more things than scarcity.
Shirky is fond of telling the tale of how 15th century scribes, honored and revered for their rare skills, were instantly made obsolete by the printing press. If Amazon and its Kindle along with Apple and the iPad aren’t the epitome of abundance today, then I don’t know what is.
The sad thing for books and local bookstores is that they’re both victims of a publishing industry that remains hopelessly archaic. As I reminded my bookseller, I’ve probably bought 50 Knopf titles in the last 10 years, yet the publisher has no idea who I am, what I read, the volume of books I consume, or what’s on my library shelves.
Amazon on the other hand knows a lot. As does Apple and iTunes. Enough to make recommendations, add my information to their clouds of content, and even predict my future consumption. Meanwhile publishers think that bookstores, rather than readers, are their customers.
If you read between the lines of Ken Auletta’s New Yorker piece this week, publishers are as defensive as my local bookstore. They believe that their talent –for identifying, nurturing, and supporting those needy authors who have to be constantly encouraged and coddled in order to finish a book — is indispensable.
But what’s stopping Amazon from hiring the best editors themselves, signing authors to better contracts, and taking publishers right out of the picture? I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon eventually puts both publishers and bookstores out of business while the two insular industries are busy proclaiming their invincibility instead of pursuing innovation.
Ironic to think that booksellers and publishers — both of whom are literate, intelligent, and well-read — can be so good at seeing the writing on the page and so bad at seeing the writing on the wall.
I hope that physical books and the local bookstore are around for a long time. But I’m putting my money on Amazon and Apple. What about you?