People Eating Advertising?

There is a well-written and entertaining article on Grape Nuts in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It included a fantastic quote from Carin Gendell, senior brand manager for Grape Nuts in the ’80s. “Grape Nuts,” she says, “was people eating advertising.”. The same could be said of many, many foods today.

I have personally had discussions with more than one processed food company where they are viewing advertising as a raw material input to their finished product – much in the same way as grain, corn syrup or cardboard for that matter. While it’s not necessarily appetizing, it’s undeniably true and brings up an interesting point. Effective advertising has become as important an ingredient in many products as the raw materials from which the actual product itself is made. It’s important to note that Carin says “was” and not “is,” because Grape Nuts has lost share dramatically since those heydays – another important reminder of what can happen to a brand if it loses touch with its customers.

I am actually a big Grape Nuts fan – I happen to like “the rhythmic crunching that reverberates around your skull” – so I hope the current $5M campaign moves the needle.

Marketers To AdAge: Expect Brand Marketing Rebound

Ad Age: “Do you think we’re going to see a rebound in brand marketing in the second half of the year?”

Marketers: “Yes

While the timing of macro-economic recovery is uncertain, smart Brand marketers know that a recession is (1) a great time to gain share of voice and reach consumers with a message that will pay dividends long term and (2) a critical time not to lose share of voice to competitors, especially generics, because winning it back is not a sure thing and very painful to do. As competitors over-focus on the bottom of the purchase funnel, maintaining proper balance throughout the funnel can drive sales in the short term, while positioning a Brand to accelerate into the inevitable recovery.

Furthermore, research has repeatedly shown that Brands that cut spending in economic downturns lose share to competitors and private label products. Permanently. When times are tough, we all must focus more than ever on getting the most impact out of every dollar of spend. But dollars smartly used can go much farther in this economy, so make sure the revised plan doesn’t put you on a track to permanent market share declines, but rather at an advantage to your competitors now and for years to come.

Thoughts re: Today’s WSJ article on Yahoo!’s APT

Jessica Vascellaro’s WSJ article this morning on Yahoo!’s display ad platform, APT, caught my attention. The problem Yahoo! is trying to solve with APT – (quoting Jessica) “that it remains a big pain today for advertisers to buy display ads across multiple sites and for publishers who have lots of online advertising space to sell to find demand for it” – is exactly the problem we founded Brand.net to solve. Continue reading “Thoughts re: Today’s WSJ article on Yahoo!’s APT”

David Moore, Chairman of WPP’s 24/7 (Now B3), Says Content Quality Doesn’t Matter

I was catching up on content from last week’s Ad Age digital conference when I came across this clip.  Turner Executive Walker Jacobs begins by exploring some common themes with respect to tension between top publishers and networks, but the part that really caught my attention is the short exchange at the very end of the clip between prominent market analyst Henry Blodget and David Moore, Chairman of ad network 24/7 (now renamed B3 within WPP):

Moore: “It wouldn’t hurt us at all if every premium site out there never used us again.  We’d be fine.  We don’t need ‘em.”
Blodget: “So, to heck with quality content.”
Moore: “Quality, really, is in the eye of the beholder.”

I had to rewind the clip and watch a few times to make sure I understood what Mr. Moore was saying.  I was, frankly, a little shocked to hear that from a senior executive at  WPP, parent company of some of the premier agencies in online advertising, who represent many of the most iconic brand marketers on the planet –  AT&T, Unilever, Sprint, Macy’s, Campbell’s Soup and  Colgate Palmolive among them.   I’ve had the privilege to work with each of those brands in my past life with Greg Coleman and Wenda Millard at Yahoo!, and have worked again with many of them in my new life at Brand.net.   Throughout that decade of experience, these brands have consistently reinforced the critical importance of both the quality of execution and the quality of the content surrounding their ads.  In short, the eyes of these beholders have insisted on very high content quality standards.

Because of this, we only buy from top quality sites.  If every premium site out there never used us again, it would not be possible for us to meet our clients’ standards for top quality ad environments.   However, the way the web is evolving makes maintaining quality an ever more difficult challenge.  The common practice of intermingling professional edit and UGC on the same page means that even if we start with the best sites, there are some individual pages that can create problems (most often due to user comments).  This is why we assembled a top notch technical team that in partnership with IBM has delivered a market-leading page-level filtering capability we call SafeScreenSafeScreen allows us to deliver the best of the best to our clients, which is what they look to us to provide.  Starting with top quality sites and continuing to lead the market with page-level filtering capability, we take our commitment to quality seriously and we always will.  It’s who we are.  And it’s what top advertisers told us at Yahoo! and tell us at Brand.net they are looking for from a partner.

So, a word to our premium site partners:  we *do* need you, we *will* need you, and we will continue to work with you on issues that matter to both of us,  including the need to constructively avoid channel conflict.  I am tired of glorified link farms supported by belly fat ads.  Let’s bring quality advertisers to quality content and watch the web thrive.

Cutting Spending Hurts Brands Long Term

Great article in Ad Age today.  Brands that cut spending in economic downturns lose share to private label products.  Permanently.  Some exceptionally smart marketers (P&G, L’Oreal) were identified as bucking the budget cutting trend last quarter, but the trend itself means that too many brands were pulling back on these critical ongoing investments.  When times are tough, we all must focus more than ever on getting the most impact out of every dollar of spend.  However, making cuts today that are proven to lead to permanent market share declines is exactly the sort of short-term thinking that got us into “this economy” in the first place.  At least Wall Street can blame the Fed…

How Big is Your Ad Network?

Over the weekend, I read an interesting iMedia post from last Thursday.  The author directly and convincingly challenges the importance that many seem to place on the comScore unique reach numbers as a basis of comparison for ad networks.  I have been thinking about this for a while and I agree that raw reach on comScore is a very narrow gauge at best and extremely flawed at worst.  Of all of his ideas, I think the most interesting is rating networks by renewal rate.  I think the important high-level point there is to include a notion of quality, which has been sorely lacking in all of these measurements.  In evaluating and comparing networks, is 1M uniques reached in below the fold placements on second tier social network sites the same as 1M uniques reached in branded, contextually relevant women’s lifestyle content?  Is 1M uniques reached for P&G on the first of many campaigns the same as 1M uniques reached for a predatory debt consolidation company who cancelled halfway through the campaign and never came back?  For some perhaps, but for most of the Ad Age 100 the answer to both questions is “no”.  I would also echo the author’s point about the overlap among networks.  Overlap affects the aggregate reach & frequency of a campaign, so unless a marketer is running a  CPA campaign they need to push their media partners for reach commitments on a campaign by campaign basis.  As the author points out, the overall reach of a network should be much less important to a marketer than the network’s reach on that marketer’s campaign.  Smooth, complete delivery with tightly managed frequency should be the expectation on every campaign.  High quality campaigns running in high quality inventory with high quality execution – now that’s a good basis for comparison.

Tropicana

Cinderella, those masters of 80’s hair metal, had their biggest hit with “You don’t know what you got (until it’s gone)”.

As much as I have tried to suppress those dark days for music, I couldn’t help but hum a few bars to myself as I read today’s Ad Age story about the negative impact of Tropicana’s recent packaging overhaul. Continue reading “Tropicana”

Notes From This Morning’s IAB Webinar

I sat in on the “IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Year End 2008” briefing this AM. It was a good high-level check-in on the state of the market and I particularly enjoyed the commentary by Professor Peter Fader of Wharton. To paraphrase some of his comments:

Because you can see immediate payoffs from performance-based advertising, it gives you comfort. But that doesn’t mean you’re not getting good payoffs on brand-building or other less direct forms of marketing. Companies should not overly focus on the short-term. The impact of advertising is slow and cumulative, with brand effects show up over the long term. Even attaching electrodes to peoples brains isn’t going to change this, so marketers need to be patient and incorporate longer-term thinking.

Similar to my comments in this byline and good advice for sure.

Go Humans Go!

I LOVE this campaign.  Exactly what folks need to hear right now.  How can you not feel good seeing that beatific Quaker?  He wants you to tune out the panic, eat a good, healthy breakfast and go be part of the solution.  He knows you can do it and he’s got your back.  Great concept, great creative.  What’s the CPA on all that outdoor they bought?   I don’t know, but I have had Quaker Oatmeal 3 times in the last 5 days  – and I don’t even eat breakfast.  I like mine with raisins and brown sugar.

Inspiration from Detroit

There was a great article in Ad Age today about Ford focusing on the top of the funnel to gain share in the current market and improve their long-term competitive position.  Ford and other forward-thinking marketers realize today’s market conditions are temporary, but their brands are long-term assets.  Maintaining proper balance throughout the purchase funnel even during this critical, challenging time can build significant equity in a brand as competitors over-focus on the bottom of the funnel.  As Ford has shown, increasing brand equity can yield measurable benefits now even while positioning a brand to accelerate into the inevitable recovery.

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