Kiccup: The Birth of a Baby…Product

site backdrop 2 - no arrows - footer croppedAs any new dad will tell you, that first year is a tough one.  Lots of changes, lots of compromises, not a lot of payback and even less sleep.  But then the walking starts, you get those first few words, a little personality and things get better….until you have another one and you’re right back in the soup.

So that’s where I was in February of 2012.  My oldest was about 2 ½ and my youngest was about 7 months.  It had been a long time since I was conscious of having much “fun”.  I was at a birthday party for the son of some good friends.  Their son was 2 and there were a bunch of other kids around the same age for my oldest to play with.  He was off entertaining himself with the other kids.  1 down.

The 7-month-old was strapped to my chest in a BabyBjörn®1.

(A quick aside:  Both of our boys loved the ‘Björn…once they could face outward.  Facing inward not so much, but as soon as they were old enough to turn around and see what was going on they were happy.   I loved the ‘Björn also; it kept me mobile, my hands free, the baby happy and I am big enough that the weight of the little one wasn’t uncomfortable even for long stretches.  There was just one little problem…)

I was talking with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while, hearing some great stories.  I had a beer in my hand.  Both kids were taken care of so I could actually focus on the conversation.  For the first time in as long as I could remember, I was actually having fun!  My little one was having a great time also.  Each time someone laughed, he giggled, waved his arms and kicked his legs vigorously…pounding me in the balls with his feet.  Aaaaah, fatherhood.

This happened often, unfortunately, and I am far from the only one so afflicted.  It’s a major problem with the ‘Björn; the forward-facing body position keeps the little one entertained for long periods, but for too many dads it’s really rough on the old “family jewels”.  I did a quick straw poll at the party and about half the dads there had shared the same painful experience.  I knew a bunch of other dads who had as well.  Many had actually stopped using the ‘Björn because of it.

After I left the party, I Googled for a solution and came up empty.  I was pretty surprised.  With a problem this acute and widely experienced, I expected that someone would have solved it already.  Not so.  As it happened, I had left my job a couple weeks before the birthday party so had some free time.   Opportunity was knocking and I had the bandwidth to answer.

I got connected with David Gonzalez and Bruce Eng at Sozo Design and within a few months we had a design that was simple, effective and unobtrusive.  After a focused project with Master-McNeil, the new product had a name and The Kiccup was born!   It took a while to iron out sourcing and distribution logistics, but now we’re ready to go.  We couldn’t be more excited to officially launch the product and our new online store!

The Kiccup is the perfect solution to a painful problem – and the perfect gift for a new dad.  We hope you enjoy the product and that it works as well for you as it did for me.

Here’s to more hands-free, pain-free, happy baby time for dad!

1 BabyBjörn is a registered trademark of BabyBjörn AB, which is unaffiliated with Kiccup, Inc.


Dogs eating the dog food

For those of you that missed our joint presentation with Del Monte at Ad Tech San Francisco yesterday AM, here are the slides Doug Chavez and I presented.

The top line is that $200K of media drove $1.5M of incremental offline sales for Del Monte’s Kibbles’n’Bits brand.   That’s an additional 2.2 million pounds of dog food sold due to this campaign alone.  That much dog food would fill a bumper-to-bumper caravan of semi-trailers stretching from the Empire State Building to the Bryant Park Hotel – more than a half mile.

Tangible evidence indeed that’s Media Futures Platform delivers tremendous results for many of the world’s largest marketers.

Creativity *and* scale is the objective

The discussion during my IAB MIXX panel last week reminded me of a recent article by Tod Sacerdoti of Brightroll.  Tod’s high-level point was that there is too much relative focus in online advertising on the sizzle vs. the steak, which creates a variety of downstream problems.

Tod took some lumps in the comments, but he was and is right on with this piece.  There’s way too much time spent today selling shiny objects vs. selling scalable, repeatable results.  I have written on this previously in the context of BT, but I see it over and over.

The interesting thing from the panel was that my ostensible adversary in the “debate”, Calle Sjönell from BBH New York, and I actually agreed strenuously on a) the need for and b) the possibility of *both* creativity and scale.  Both sizzle and steak.

One specific example Calle gave was Apple’s iAd initiative.  iAd offers an extremely compelling creative environment, but one that is highly prescribed.  Controls for the ad must be in certain places and do certain things.  The ad itself has fixed sizes and specifications.  The creativity (to paraphrase) is in using the box provided creatively, not in coming up with a new box every time.

One could argue that iAd itself is a shiny object at this point, but Calle’s message was clear.  For the truly innovative, the specs of the box don’t matter.  It’s what’s in the box that matters.  E.g., you don’t need 35 seconds to make a compelling TV spot or as Tod points out, you don’t need Superman flying across your webpage to influence attitudes and/or drive offline sales.

If Calle’s award-winning creative mind can work happily and effectively within a fixed canvass, then I would submit that others should be able to as well, which would have tremendous benefits to the industry at large.  Standardized web advertising is now capable of phenomenal scale.  Getting better at combining that scale with creativity, rather than arguing for one or the other, should be the priority.

Digital Marketing: Is it Time to Forget Measurement?

The following is a re-post from my guest blog column published today in AdAge. It ties in very nicely with coverage on measurement coming out of the IAB Annual Meeting, including my previous boss, Wenda Harris Millard’s keynote and this piece by AdAge’s Abbey Klaassen

Digital Marketing: Is it Time to Forget Measurement?

Why Online Advertising is Hindered by its Biggest Strength

In several recent pieces I have written about the opportunities and limitations of measurement in online media, particularly for branding. If you read those articles, the title of this byline might seem strange. For the rest of you, this title might seem like downright heresy. Please, read on before you call the exorcist.

The internet wasn’t always the multibillion dollar industry that it is today. Less than 15 years ago, most websites we know today didn’t exist. The relatively few that did were searching for business models. Some went with a subscription model, at least for a while (most notably AOL), while most content-focused sites honed in on advertising as the main source of revenue. As they did, they faced a huge challenge: how could they sell advertising against more established media with what then was an extremely short list of assets.

Recall the internet circa 1996, the year one of the biggest and best known content sites, Yahoo, went public: bandwidth was narrow, content was thin, audiences were small, creative was primitive. However, the internet did excel in one area: it was awash with data. Page views, time spent, clicks, conversions — a treasure trove of new metrics, along with some “old” ones that hadn’t been as readily available with other media.

I was recently talking this over with my former boss from Yahoo, Wenda Harris Millard, and she added that the measurability of this new medium also tapped into a broader theme in the advertising business at the time — growing dissatisfaction with measurement of traditional media. So, quite rationally, the internet advertising value proposition focused on measurement.

As the industry grew — faster than any media in history — more sophisticated targeting (behavioral, retargeting, “hyper-targeting”) and measurement (“engagement,” “search lift”) capabilities were developed. The focus on measurement evolved and became more ingrained, almost to the point of being the unquestioned orthodoxy. It was as if the core benefit of the internet vs. other media was measurement. Period.

Therefore, to sell more ads you need more measurement. (Two secondary factors, customization and short lead-times, also received significant emphasis—but those are topics for another day.)

The reason for my provocative headline is this: if today, in February 2009, we started with a blank PowerPoint slide and asked the same question that was asked some 15 years ago — how do we sell ads against more established media — would we select the same strategy? I think the answer is no.

Consider the “balance sheet” of the Internet now compared to then. Assets have grown tremendously: bandwidth is broad, content is deep and compelling; audiences are huge; sight sound and motion have entered the creative mix, through rich media and video. And the balance sheets of the other major consumer media have accumulated significant liabilities: print is facing declining circulation and, especially in newspapers, a rapidly aging demographic; radio ad sales are off sharply, while at the same time the once-promising satellite radio subscription model has proved endlessly unprofitable; TV, after getting past the “fragmentation” issue that was the obsession of the 1990s, has been covered by the huge black storm cloud that is DVR penetration. In 2008, 29% of all US households used DVRs, according to Barclay’s Capital — and that number is forecast to double by 2012 and reach nearly 80% by 2016. Those of us with DVRs watch dramatically fewer commercials. It’s just a fact.

So, if we were starting fresh in today’s environment, I would simply argue that we wouldn’t (and thus shouldn’t) lead with measurement. The measurement pitch has obviously worked extremely well for direct response; about 30% of DR-focused measured media spend is now online. But 95% of brand spending, or more than $100 billion, is still offline. For those budgets, I think our collective pitch should be more like “Your audience moved. Your marketing needs to follow them. Let us show you how the internet can deliver the same quality, scalability and value as TV.” Measurement should still be an important part of the story — we’d be foolish to ignore all the opportunities there — but I submit that it should be the sizzle not the steak.

That’s one of my missions at as stakeholders in the biggest, most powerful consumer media today, how do we provide the world’s leading brand advertisers the quality, scale and value of TV, the prior generation’s No. 1 consumer mass media? By making the critical, powerful, yet fragmented content environment of the internet more consistent and more buyable. And more measurable, of course — but measurable by the criteria and metrics brands have developed over decades to evaluate efficacy of 100s of billions of dollars of spend.

When we as an industry can do this, we can finally move large brand budgets online, following the audiences that are already there. This shift will in turn provide financial support for publishers to develop yet deeper, richer, more engaging online content experiences.

Some of you may still want to call the exorcist, but for the rest of you, let’s get to work.

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