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Review of Suburgatory

Let’s see here. I have watched maybe bits and pieces of 4 episodes of this show so I am surely qualified to write the following in depth analysis of Suburgatory.

Precocious, world-weary, ostracized, street and school smart teenager who is also the narrator – check

Friend of teenager that is straight-laced and plays it by the rules – check

All other high school stereotypes begun in John Hughes films – check

Attractive single parent who is walking tight rope of being a friend or parent driven by guilt of divorce – check

Vain, shallow adult friends and potential love interest of single parent who say and do ridiculous things – check

Ex SNLers part of cast – check

Main missing component – mockumentary segments

Hilarity ensues.

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My Problem with Books about Digital and/or Social Media

I begin to read a book in some way related to digital or social media that seems to have an interesting or new premise and somewhere in the first few pages is a scenario that goes something like this:

Illustrative story about how a person, organization or business has used digital or social media to do amazing new things that it seems no one has ever done.

Now that everyone has everything in a device that fits in the palm of their hand that allows them to know anything they would ever want to or need to know about anything as well as share that unbelievable fount of knowledge along with their thoughts about said knowledge with everyone they know – and based on the illustrative story just shared – [insert ground breaking premise for book here].

And then usually this is followed with some historical reference to the fact that even before everyone had everything they needed in the palm of their hand this is more or less the way things always were – it’s just that now that everyone has everything in the palm of their hands that lets them know everything now and lets them share what they think about everything with all their friends things are faster/different/new/better (in a couple of books, worse) because [insert premise of book here].

And then I usually swear at myself for having bought the book, but rationalize it a bit because I used a device that fit in the palm of my hand to get the book which made it cheaper. So I use that device in the palm of my hand to peruse for a good novel or history book to get faster/differently/newer/better. And there really isn’t a historical reference for this that I can find since I would’ve been out more money or time otherwise.

Hmmm, may be a premise for a book in there.

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Additional or replacement social network? Me internalizing Google+

My initial thought on Google+ brought to mind my kids’ favorite cartoon – the evil Dr. Doofenshmertz on Phineas and Ferb.  I need a social media-stream-inator.  Something that will either truly and seamlessly join them all together, or destroy all but one.

After that, I thought perhaps Google+ can bring order to the chaos of my Facebook and Twitter mess.  Circles seem to more effectively allow me to sort out what Twitter’s lists didn’t necessarily do, and put more context around the hodge podge of friends that is my Facebook stream.  But do I want to start over?


Oh, yeah, Percolate can clean up my Twitter stream and let me know what I’m most interested in.  So do I just need to nuke Facebook?


Hmm, but didn’t I say I was going to nuke Facebook and just go Twitter a few years ago?  Or maybe just email lists again with a more true group of friends/colleagues based on true shared interests?


To that point, many shared interests I have with folks are professional.  So what about LinkedIn?  Would an “industry folks” circle suffice and knock another social net out of my life?  Or maybe I just need to BranchOut


Argh, I really do need a social media-stream-inator.


But then I realized I’d made some sort of prediction at the beginning of the year about how we’d be amazed, awestruck, etc. by new stuff, paradigms shifting and whatnot only to realize this is what we always do.


Made me feel a bit better, not as overwhelmed by it all, but, dammit, an effective social network is about scale, right?  So who really are my friends, where are they, and am I using the right social network with the right tools to get the most out of my network?


Now, hold on, I thought.  Is it scale or quality?  I mean email and IM are good, maybe a bit of Beluga and the new Gmail plug in suffice as long as I know what I’m interested in and I know who is interested in the same things…but I could miss something really important, new and/or earth-shattering (God forbid).


Blah.  I need a social media-stream-inator.  Or maybe just a cabin in the woods.


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Everything Right is Wrong Again

I had lunch today with an old – i.e. we did "online" business together in the last millennium – friend in the digital media industry today.  Aside from the nicety involved with catching up, we had an interesting chat about what we're seeing in the industry today which brought a circle around to some things we were seeing 10+ years ago.
The company he now works for could be considered a "network" as they sell their advertising solution across a broad range of sites that they don't own.  However, what he was excited about – and what I think is a good move for them and hopefully a trend to be seen in the industry forthwith since I'm aware of a few other digital media companies doing the same – was their move to invest in and develop "owned and operated" content sites.  Further, the O&O sites will be atalysts for conversation and, thus, more pointed and relevant content around the subject matter that the content sites are focused upon.  Relevant being the keyword there.
Earth shattering?  No.  But in a marketplace that has been perhaps unduly focused for a couple of years now on real time bidding against chunks of remnant inventory (call it what you will), it is refreshing to see a commitment to quality over quantity.  That's not to say there isn't room and/or need for exchanges (or networks for that matter) to deliver scale that can be finely cut as needed to deliver audiences and business results efficiently – and, of course, provide revenue opportunities to various parties trading in the inventory (who doesn't need to make a buck these days). 
But – and here's my point – if content is indeed king – as it has been stated over and over the past decade or more – millions (billions?) of eyeballs and the accompanying data that goes along with it perhaps needs to be just a prince of some sort.  More to the point, perhaps we should re-casts "content is king" to something more like, "the better your content, the better your data".  No?
We then meandered into discussing a stat we'd both heard that at some point soon (a year? two?) something like 70% (probably more) of a brand's content will be consumed outside of a brand's website (link intentionally not inserted, the fact check doesn't seem needed to continue on this storyline).  Frankly, I'd be surprised if that isn't already the case. 
Anyway, made us recollect about the good ol' days of the "AOL Keyword" tag that used to accompany so many "offline" media advertisements and the similarity to approach now all the rage.  I wonder if AOL ever tracked how much of a brand's content was consumed outside of the brand's website back in those days, or how people "engaged" inside the walled garden.  Would be interesting to see (once more, didn't seek to track down or insert link…just spit balling here, folks).
I won't recount our discussion of brand as publisher as I think where his company is heading is interesting and the right path.  Let's just say the following quote from a piece on today's AdAge sums it up nicely: "Just because the technology exists to allow you to broadcast to your customers doesn't mean that you should do it, because no models or new rules will make what you say true."

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2 Simple Predictions for the Cynical, Time-Starved, Attention-Deficit, and Lover of Run-On Sentences (not to mention parenthetical phrases and/or statements) Ad Professional

As those in the know in the ad industry have been predicting the key things that will evolve, change or simply finally actually happen that probably should’ve happened years ago (I’ve heard this isn’t just the year of mobile, but the year of the confluence of mobile, social and experiential or something like that), I’m electing to take a more introspective, unvarnished look at us – we knowers of knowledge, trackers of trendy and paramours of prognostication.  Allow me to guess how we, the ad professionals, will act in this new year…


Prediction #1

We will be amazed (read: myopic) by seemingly profound and new (read: more or less slightly tweaked) hardware, software, applications, websites, and whatnot now coming into our collective consciousness.  We will expound their virtues, rush to try them out, gush about paradigms shifting, and maybe even spend some of our own money to buy one or two of these things. 


At some later point, we will demand accountability for all this stuff, stating that the time for exploration and “test and learn” is over, these things need to prove their worth.  And we will demand that accountability at roughly the time we begin to hear what will be profound and new at CES 2012.  Hey, it’s tough to hold the old stuff in your head when you need to free up space to be properly amazed by and have enough exhalations to use in describing all the new stuff.


Prediction #2

We will have an epiphany that the buckets we classify media into shouldn’t be ever smaller based on new hardware that delivers media (Hey, where’s the Directorix of Advertising that Occurs on the Android Platform?  She needs to connect with the Grand Poobah of Platforms that Show Up on Tablets and Other Things Like Computers but Aren’t!), but larger (or at least simpler) based on how people actually use media to get things done – seeing how what’s being delivered is probably video, sound and/or textual content of some sort.


Once had, said epiphany will quickly dissolve as we try to grok the meaning of a tablet that has most of the functionality of a mobile phone (not to mention being roughly the same size), a landline device that allows a person to text, and (GASP!) Internet that shows up on a TV screen.  How do we deal with these things?  Who can buy them?  Who can create things for them?  Who?  Somebody get the Imperial Leader of Stuff That’s Never Been Done Before!

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Procuring Value with People

Advertising has become many things, but at its heart and on every level, it’s a people business.


Audiences aren’t collections of behaviors and mindsets that technology has allowed us to gather up and aim our work at. Audiences are people seeking to do things with their most scarce resource – their time. Our #1 goal should be to help them get those things done and our most important investment is in their time – something that will never be a commodity.


Clients aren’t a portfolio of investment opportunities that serve just to provide scale, leverage or clout.  Clients are people who want to do what’s right by their various constituents – their customers, their shareholders, their employees – who are all people, too. If we act as partners in achieving our #1 goal, clients are happy people.


Media companies aren’t commodity traders looking to receive the dollars associated with leverage or clout. Media companies are stewards of people’s time. People choose to invest their time with media companies’ products and those choices become opportunities to invest client dollars to help people get things done – whether buying ads, building experiences or having conversations.


And those working in media at agencies – whether they use connections, communications, investment, activation or some other word to describe what they do – aren’t cogs in a machine facilitating leverage or clout via a portfolio of clients. Folks in media at agencies need to be laser-focused on delivering the intersection of what people are trying to do and how their client’s product or service helps those people get things done – whether that’s at scale or not.


Will technology take this industry in amazing new places that make markets operate more efficiently? Of course – I’ve been lucky enough to be close to a number of the people who have developed or are developing many of these tools. Will the need to report to bottom lines continue to increase? No doubt – and I much prefer managing a P&L vs. a budget. Am I excited about and engaged in the possibilities presented by these evolutions? Absolutely.


But of late, I’ve had many conversations with and messages from people who have been in this industry for a good amount of time, from all sides of the table – client, agency, sales – expressing disappointment in what has become of it. To be clear, these aren’t luddites pining for some golden age of three media to plan and buy and three martinis to have at lunch. These are smart people who have driven and thrived in dynamic media marketplaces. 


What they want is something all people want. Not to be purveyors, receivers or shepherds of scale, leverage or clout. What they want is something encapsulated nicely by words from one of our founders, Judy Trabulsi, on the wall at the entrance to our media department at GSD&M Idea City:


The Value of Relationships and the Relationship of Values


For an industry in flux, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important.  For the players who put people and relationships first, great work – and even profits – will follow.  

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People Love Content Not the Infrastructure that Delivers Content

I honestly don't care who may be nearer to right or nearer to wrong in this Fox / Cablevision thing.  Though it is nice to see the chairman of the FCC is a bit ticked by the whole thing through the lens of it's affect on people who'd like to get access to the stuff they're paying for and all.

I will simply put here again what I wrote a couple years ago and then brought back again about a month ago the last time a provider of content and a provider of all the stuff that delivers content were haggling over the stuff they always haggle over…

"New distribution of programming doesn’t run so well under old monetization systems. In the process of improving the infrastructure of media delivery, access providers and media companies did a short-sighted job of determining the value of the shifts in media usage that they caused by improving the infrastructure. They never developed a model that appropriately valued media usage that is more driven by people’s

schedules of desired use via two way cables than their schedules of distribution through one way cables.

So they are left to squabble over which antiquated levers and buttons they can pull and push to make a buck, ultimately, at the expense – in terms of money and, perhaps more importantly, time and convenience – of their most valuable assets: people who pay for access and are fans of programming (not pipes).

Kinda makes all the talk of “if the content is good, people will come” irrelevant, really. If the content is good and people come and no one makes sufficient money to produce more good content it really doesn’t matter."

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