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Posts Tagged ‘Engagement’

Last week, Gene Liebel, a managing partner at Huge, wrote a terrific piece for Mediaweek that took a skeptic’s view of engagement as the ‘metric du jour’ for success in digital projects.  As someone who has a turnkey presentation titled “Engagement is the New Black,” I read Gene’s article with a decidedly vested interest.  What was most interesting is that he doesn’t discount the importance of engagement; he simply doesn’t believe it is an accurate indicator of the ultimate metric of in-market success.  He considers engagement more of a ‘side effect’ and offers very strong cautionary arguments for anyone who would make it the end goal.

Actually, This Is NOT How It Works

Actually, This Is NOT How It Works

Possibly the strongest point he makes–and one that’s not surprising coming from a User Experience expert–is how optimizing an e-commerce web site to make finding products easier will actually reduce page views and time on site, both of which are key measures of engagement.  At the same time, that type of optimization will increase a site’s conversion rate dramatically as visitors find what they need more quickly.  So even though engagement falls, sales increase–a powerful argument against making engagement your end goal.  Liebel contends consumers rarely invest time ‘engaging’ with brands anyway; when consumers visit sites, they have specific, practical needs–whether that’s information or purchasing.  Staying on a site longer does not necessarily correlate to deeper engagement–it could just indicate that consumers must dig deeper to accomplish what they want–a strong negative.

What he’s really arguing for–just like so many other leaders in the field today–is a better measure of value.  In a difficult economy that continues to squeeze marketing budgets, we need to arm our client partners first with programs that work and then with solid proof that those programs work.  As data points continue to improve (Google claims 85% of all media will be trackable by 2012), we will need new measures of our programs’ in-market effects.  More importantly, we will need multi-dimensional measures; today’s socially-networked world of mass-channel opinion requires a new measure of the combined impact of both paid and earned media, and how that drives sales.

Sales may be the ultimate metric for brands, but accountability remains the ultimate metric for agencies.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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So I was quoted in the latest issue of Newsweek

And I’m trying to be cool about it, but this kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday.  I considered spending the morning riding the El around the Loop with the issue open on my lap, saying things a bit too loudly like “Now here’s an interesting point of view” or “This fellow seems to have something to say…”

The Big Story Is On Page 29

The Big Story Is On Page 29

It’s flattering to be asked for commentary by a national magazine, but it’s also an inevitable compromise: you talk to a journalist for twenty minutes or so and from all that, they select a single sentence that supports the point they need to make.  It’s not that they misquote you; it’s simply that the story you hope to tell rarely matches the story they are telling.

Under the headline “Turn This Lemon Into Lemonade”, Newsweek writer Matthew Phillips asks six advertising people for their perspectives on the challenge of selling GM and Chrysler cars today.  My quote reads “Show me plants shutting down, let me hear from the workers…  That story’s powerful.”  I definitely said that; the sad reality that America has shifted from manufacturing to service sector jobs bums me out and the long list of sins by boneheaded corporate and union management that led us here is soul-suckingly demoralizing.

But the larger point I’d hoped to make was that Detroit doesn’t need another ad right now–and certainly not more over-produced anthems like the “Reinvention” spot currently airing.  This kind of clever speechifying, as much as it approaches a mea culpa admission of errors, still feels like more of the same: the requisite slowly-building rock track, the irrelevant NHL and NFL clips, the timelapse of seedlings sprouting, the barn raisings and sweaty-brow moppings–all of it reeks of yet another round of highly-polished obfuscation.

But as tough as things currently are, somewhere among GM’s 235,000 employees good people have great ideas and workable plans to change things: to improve fuel economy and engine reliability, to streamline production and lower mistakes, to ratchet up aesthetics and bend metal into forms that make pulses pound again.  Those stories need to be told, specifically and with rich detail.  We need to know what GM is doing right now, today, this moment, to change their fortunes and set their ship right.  These stories don’t require massive film crews and Panavision cameras to tell; in fact, they are far more effective without them.  The honesty of documentary storytelling focused on sharing a constant stream of new stories would be far more effective than a few super slick generalizations.

Detroit does still need the massive reach of compelling television commercials to get their story out–but they should be producing great television commercials that not only turn heads on air but drive people to deeper, more complete engagement online with opportunities to weigh in and share their own opinions.  Things like new car designs excite people–GM and Chrysler should share those and invite responses from the public, conducting polls and encouraging debate.

What Detroit needs now more than anything else is transparency.  The time of an all-controlling, monolithic monopoly has passed; that mentality simply can’t sustain in today’s information-saturated culture.  Moreover, truly leveraging modern manufacturing requires sharing and openness–unless Detroit starts to encourage their secondary suppliers to bring their own technologies to the task of improving performance, their cars will remain deeply compromised.  Detroit management simply must get over their outdated need to control all aspects of production.  That scene of the barn raising in their current spot brings to mind a very relevant Amish expression: “Many hands make light work.”  Detroit can get further faster by changing from a vendor to a partner mentality, but they’ll have to do that quickly before they drive those smaller partners out of business.

America doesn’t want our car industry to fail.  Sure many of us are angry and consider this crisis largely self-inflicted, but still, we want GM and Chrysler to be strong.  Whether or not the government proves to be the answer, radical reinvention will have to be part of the solution.  And that must start with the mindset first.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

 

PS:  I would like to thank all of the Element 79 contributors who kept collective-thinking fresh last week: Ryan, Lance, Kim, Todd, Amie and of course Brian, who was both incredibly generous and flattering in his comments and dead nuts right that I would have found a way to radically revise them had he shared his post in advance.

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We now work amidst a cavalcade of technological and social changes that actively assail the long-reliable notion of an aggregated audience for advertising messages.  Instead of simply worrying that some portion of the audience may leave to use the bathroom during their commercials, advertisers now face DVR’s, DVD’s, Hulu, hundreds of niche channels, and the ugly reality that in poll after poll, the number of respondents claiming to actively dislike or avoid advertising never dips below the mid sixties and frequently soars far higher.   TV viewers recognize advertising as the tax demanded for their free entertainment, but new technologies make it easier than ever to avoid them. Besides, who likes taxes?

Today's Audience Is Far From Captive

Today's Audience Is Far From Captive

Online advertising fares no better. Last year, the online pollsters at VIZU conducted a survey of 2000 internet users where 72% said they found advertising ‘annoying’ or ‘extremely annoying.’  Wow. Given the amount of free tools available to help people avoid our messages–RSS feeds, online aggregators–merely placing an ad means far less than it once did. And remember, this environment is a huge Brandfill: last year, advertisers threw up 3.6 trillion banner messages online. Written out, that’s 3,600,000,000,000.  In layman’s term, that’s a lot.

And as for print, well, we’ve been reading print’s obituary for the past five years now, although the stubborn cuss refuses to outright die.

As Howard Gossage, advertising’s own H.L. Mencken and a man who never once wrote a TV ad, was fond of saying “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads.  People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

When you can’t assume an audience, it forces you to adapt your strategy from informing first to engaging first.  Engagement must be the primary mission of advertising messages these days because now, more than ever before, the audience has options.

Be interesting first.  Being engaging is step one.  Without it, there is no step two.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The Madison Advertising Federation

The Madison Advertising Federation

 

I drove the 143 miles to Madison today through light flurries (!) to speak at a luncheon put on by the Madison Advertising Federation.  Perhaps not surprisingly, I discussed convergence and Element 79’s experiences as we, like every other marketing entity in America, struggle to master these emerging mediums.  Preparing the speech proved rather reassuring: considering how the market tags us as a TV shop, we have a number of highly successful viral and social networking programs to highlight–always a good reminder.  Yes, despite what the creative head of Akqa might contend in public panels, traditionally trained creatives can create powerful integrated programs so long as they insure their idea includes meaningful and relevant interactivity.  Do that, and you don’t have to apologize to anyone about your background.  Hell, in three years, those of us fortunate enough to still be working in this industry will look back at these times and think how quaint it was back when we made such a distinction between offline and online marketing: those are simply media, our true business is ideas.

But that’s what I walked in knowing.  I walked out knowing a number of new things, particularly after fielding questions at lunch and a subsequent breakout session…

1.  I like people from Wisconsin.  Who doesn’t like people who are honest, direct, and polite?

2.  I only spoke about video-based virals.  One woman questioned whether viral existed–or could exist–in other media as well.  When you think about it, chain letters, certain health tips and pop culture jokes could qualify as viral as well.  This is probably a better question for Paul Rand and his word-of-mouth experts at Zocalo Group (http://www.zocalogroup.com/).

3.  Everyone worries about shrinking ad budgets.  And reallocation of dollars away from their specialty.

4.  A lot of people work in business-to-business advertising and wonder how viral and digital can help their clients.  Given the specificity of the target, viral and social network solutions could be particularly powerful.  I referenced the classic story about Google (this excerpt taken from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20071101/help-wanted-meets-buy-it-now.html):  “The quintessential employer brand is Google. In 2004, the company posted obscure math problems on billboards in several major cities. Any enterprising math geek who could solve the equation was directed to Google’s hiring website. The billboards drew a lot of press attention as well as thousands of resumés.”  Speaking so selectively identifies individuals as members of a Godin-like tribe, and everyone likes to be on the inside.  Additionally, to establish themselves as a leader, doctors or lawyers could start blogging.

5.   Everyone, from agency types to designers to specialty in-house creatives, misses having media partners right down the hall.  Holding companies may have aggregate buying power, but they inadvertently destroyed knowledge centers.  Pity that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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