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15 posts from September 2008

09/12/2008 Internet killed the Propaganda Star? Not.

Seth Godin got me thinking with his post “Spin” about the current political campaign.

I always believed that the Web would end the Propaganda Age. To me, this age began with modern 20th century mass communication. Fascists and dictators started and developed the new mass propaganda in the 30’s and 40’s (Hitler and Stalin). Democracies refined and finessed it (“Duck and Cover”). The free market ultimately exploited it (The 30 second spot of the 60’s).Propaganda2

In the past, democracies protected themselves against propaganda by a strong 4th estate in news journalists. Communist countries had no such luck. I’m reminded of the old Soviet joke: In Pravda there is no Tass (“News”); in Tass there is no Pravda (“Truth”).

Today our news journalists seem more like entertainers, coveting the advertising dollars to keep them afloat.

While propaganda isn’t going out the window, the Web and the information age were supposed to provide enough knowledge to make us powerful enough to defend ourselves against it. By empowering and engaging individual people, we would be strong enough collectively to fight back. I think this has happened on the commercial side of life. Discussion boards, blogs, personal reviews and even Twitter have given consumers a truer picture of products, services and everyday life. We now have a vast network to consult with for every purchase or decision imaginable. What a dream come true!

But a look at the current political season shows that propaganda is alive and well. The Big Lie machine developed in the 30’s has reared its ugly head throughout the first part of this century. While we get heroes like John Stewart fighting against this, the major broadcasters continue to chase the money and regurgitate the propaganda.

Right now the Web doesn’t seem like it’s enough to combat this, unfortunately. Whether that’s due to micro fragmentation or something else is the big question.

Is the Web incapable of harnessing mass movement because at its core it’s a personal, one-to-one experience? Is engagement only possible online to move small crowds, but not large ones?

Why should an unknown person influence what car I buy but not whom I vote for?

Right now, it feels pretty depressing.

09/11/2008 Stowe is a winner

SilverJust got an email from Jeff Wise, Director of PR at Stowe Mountain Resort. They received a Magellan Award from Travel Weekly for last year’s “I Found It” online campaign.

Awards are always fun, but it’s even more fun when the client enters the work for an award, rather than the agency producing it.

So here’s a rousing congratulations to Mike, Jeff, Sean and the rest of the marketing group at Stowe. This is a marketing group that gets it. They’ve made the shift to digital marketing and have the business results to show what a smart move that is. I was lucky to work with them as they understood and got excited about the digital space, more so than some agency people do.

This was part of the work I did for them over the past two years while at KSV. The campaign was a microsite posing as a banner. I was responsible for strategy, creative direction and, gulp, project management. Corey Machanic did the great art direction and Anna Goldsmith wrote the copy.

You can see the banner here.

So for those of you out in the interactive and digital world, frustrated at the pace that marketers will shift to digital, I give you a true winner: Stowe Mountain Resort


09/10/2008 A Microsoft TV Ad – Not that there’s anything wrong with that

The Web is awash and agog at the new Microsoft TV commercial starring Bill Gates with co-star Jerry Seinfeld. Or vice versa. Some hate it, some love it, and some don’t get it.

Face it: watching Jerry Seinfeld is never boring. I used to think the same thing about Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the cool agency behind the new ad campaign.

But for all their coolness and cult of Alex, for all of their alternative media and online focus, what CPB ended up delivering was same old, same old. I mean, what’s up in Colorado?

A TV commercial? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but where’s the customer engagement, the personalization, the conversation?

Use the biggest star you can find and see if his shine can rub off on Bill Gates? How traditional. From this group, with a deep-pocketed client, I was hoping and expecting something more along the lines of Subservient Chicken.

Personally, I’ll take Ms. Dewey over Jerry any day. One of the better Microsoft campaigns. Much more fun and engaging, with results, too.

Maybe CPB thinks they’ll see a slew of user-generated content like the I’m A Mac ad has generated on YouTube, like this one for a WII and this one for comic books. Don’t hold your breath.

Right now, CPB seems to be happy that their generating buzz and conversation. I wonder if generating and measuring negative comments was one of the business goals of the campaign. Doesn’t Microsoft already have enough of that?

A huge, missed opportunity to change the top down CONTROL of Microsoft and deliver more KAOS and personal engagement.

For you Seinfeld fanatics: Didn’t Jerry’s apartment always have one Mac or another in the corner on the desk?

09/09/2008 What Marketers Want

According to a new report from Sapient marketers want agencies to have a greater depth in the digital space. Is this really a surprise? It seems to me that this had been on the wish list for a while now.

While agencies don’t seem to have changed that fast, perhaps the marketers have started to. In other words, marketing directors seem to be more precise in what they’re looking for. Interestingly enough, the people in this survey already had a significant amount of their marketing dollars online.

Some of the desired items include: more knowledge of the digital space, more pull (read conversion) tactics, online communities. What I find most fascinating is that #10 on the list, below design, strategy and branding is analytics. That is, making sure the tactics actually worked and grew the business.

What does this say about marketers? That results are secondary? That hiring a firm with a chief digital officer is better, smarter or easier than hiring a firm that brings in the bacon, online? [Note: Having been a “chief digital officer” at an agency, I know how that can work successfully. But it’s still not as good as business results].

Idris Mootee in his recent blog post doesn’t think that traditional agencies will ever get this and sees a brain drain happening in the opposite direction.

The question for marketers is: Isn’t it better to hire a firm that can deliver on 1-6 and 10 as their primary focus, and augment that with specialists who can deliver on 7-9 rather than vice versa?

The opportunity is ripe for digital firms who understand the customer and who can speak brand and marketing. Just like AKQA and EVB are doing

It seems that that is truly what marketers want.

09/08/2008 KAOS vs. Control

Confession #1: The Get Smart TV show is one of my all-time favorites.
Confession #2: I haven’t seen the movie.

That classic TV show has nothing to do with Digital Marketing. But the spoof on the spy agencies, KAOS vs. Control, has everything to do with the digital and online space. Except now the rolls are reversed. Because, for once, the market forces and interactive folks are rooting for KAOS while the status quo folks are fighting vainly to keep in Control.

Alan Wolk had an interesting take on this in an Adweek article about “The Real Digital Revolution.”

The reason the digital space is so exciting to us is the opportunity and challenge to give up the control and power in communications while still being effective. We’re giving this up to real people: customers, prospects, and naysayers. What we see happening is probably the best thing ever for consumers: Real life experience from people using the products and services we’re shopping for.

I haven’t bought one piece of consumer electronics, TV, camera, camcorder, refrigerator; you name it, without going online first to check out reviews. Even marketing directors still funneling money into traditional media find their own personal behaviors have changed drastically.

The problem for companies and traditional agencies is that they HATE giving up control. It’s scary and threatening for them, to a degree that would surprise us. Yet some companies get it and flourish. Look at what Apple and Dell have done to their support sections online. They’ve let the customers take control AND they’re involved in the conversation as well.

Here’s the challenge over the next few years as digital media and delivery takes over the traditional space: As a brand, company or agency, are you brave enough to relinquish control?

I have only one piece of advice to these groups: Get Smart.

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