December 2010

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Partly Cloudy

So I go to Best Buy yesterday and purchase a new PC.  Toshiba Satellite, a suped -up version of its predecessor. It has an Intel i3 processor which should hold me for a while.  Hopelessly (as my carpenter used to say.)  As exciting as it is having upgraded to Windows 7 and Office 2010 Pro, there are still quite a few things to worry about.  How do I export then import my contacts from old Outlook to new (big problem, as the translator won’t work), how do I move my bookmarks over (.pst file or something), how do I get my old software over (McAfee anti-virus, Snag-It, etc.), and then learn a new keyboard and where the delete key is, etc?   Oy.

But here’s where the cloud comes in. Once we put all out shtuff in the cloud, these laptop, PC and Mac change-overs should be quite seamless.  I haven’t even thought about getting my iTunes over – but the cloud will presumably back all that up and allow the devices to quickly cut-over.  That’s going to be cool for half-wayers like me.  I know technology but I’m a guy and don’t read directions.  Not innately techy, I have to work at it.  The wifus does all the tech heavy-lifting. If we need to escalate we call the boy.  Off at school, twenty something tech friend gets the call at $20 an hour.

I’m pumped to learn Microsoft OneNote and to have up-to-date versions of PPT, Word and Outlook.  I’m not pumped to relearn everything…but soon the cloud will help. The cloud will facilitate ease-of-use and access to the latest and greatest service tweaks. Usability will be a byproduct of the cloud and though it may cost a shekel or two, I can’t wait. Peace cloud.

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Spidey Gonna Fly.

Spiderman is a play running on Broadway created by Julie Taymor (a Lion King contributor), Bono and the Edge of U2.  It has been in the press lately for many things negative.  Though it hasn’t officially opened, it’s been playing to packed houses and making some money.  There is a lot of flying on wires above the stage and, no doubt, some good music written by Bono – but so far negs outweigh the positives thanks to a number of broken bones, concussions and a report today that the leading bug lady has decided to quit.  It may all sound like bad news…but it’s certainly news.  And Spidey is in the papers daily. 

The advance reviews haven’t been great, but it’s a unique play and one that kids will love.  With a great song or three, this baby should take off.  And with a little danger, a la the flying scenes, a constant promise, the rows and seats should be filled for months if not years.

Bono, Taymor, Broadway, danger, big music – these are things that make for successful entertainment.  Sight unseen, I’m thinking big win.  Peace!

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Here’s a question I often think about — the answer for which will have grave impact on the future of social media.  Did social media as a business toolset evolve the way it did because of its unique technological place in the world, or because it was fueled by the recession?  Did businesses believe it a low-cost way to generate sales, increase loyalty and reduce marketing spend…while staying active?

Mary Meeker’s most recent report on the web talks about the “Ferocious pace of change.”  The marketing uptake on social media went from zero or 80 (percent) in a very short order. I loves me some social media.  It has helped build my business. But it’s a tool. An exciting new tool, but a tool none the less. Some are using it as a strategy.  Had the economy been strong, would the market have adopted SoMe as quickly?

Holiday shopping is back up it was reported today.  Good news for retailers, economy, and the government (taxes).  Let’s just see if those 200 social media agencies that popped up in NYC/Brooklyn the last two years have the ballast to make through to 2012?  Thoughts? 

Peace it up for the holidays!

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Keshin…To Go.

Eric Keshin was groomed to take over McCann-Erickson.  A rising star at the company for years, he was one of John Dooner’s chosen ones. Eric ran the AT&T Business business while in his twenties and the agency powers knew enough to step out of his way. He was a quite a force of nature.

Eric built his career being decisive — never wavering when asked a question. He loved McCann…bled “Truth Well Told” blue.  And the haters who never worked there or worked in the creative dept. and could find a way to criticize a child’s finger painting, well, they will have their say. Go ahead, snark away– but McCann rocked the ad world for a number of years and Eric Keshole (as I affectionately used to call him on the softball field) was the orchestra’s key instrument.

“He’s big, he’s blue…”

I was an account manager under Eric on AT&T and Lucent. He hired me. He fired me. Both deserved. But I left McCann a much better ad guy and marketer — one who knew how to analyze business problems, when to conduct research, how to read consumers and truly listen to the market.  I also learned how to question authority and clients. And I learned to love my brands… at McCann.

If this seems almost obituary-like, it’s not. Eric will land somewhere. Just as Jim Heekin did. And when he lands it will be with a thud. A thud of money. Eric has changed markets with his decisions. Eric is no problem solver – anyone can do that. He’s an opportunity creator. I know it killed him to leave McCann. As his power waned, so waned IPG’s stock. He’s no Frenchman and though WPP would be smart to grab him, smart money is on Miles Nadal and MDC Partners.  And the gloves will be off. Peace! Or not.

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Whither advertising.

Here’s a little marketing something to think about – and we have Google to thank for it.  Google has digitized over 5.2 million books in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian – all published between 1500 and 2008.  That data repository accounts for 500 billion words, one million of which are unique to the English lexicon. The tools that will let users and academicians study and map word usage is tres cool.  But that’s not the point.

Were Google to take all of the words ever used in advertising over the last 100 years and map them, we’d see something quite interesting. Lots of “sale,” “quality” and “tailored to meet your needs.”  I mean lots. These words make up a song that has really burned out consumers’ minds.   The algorithm allows us to click to “sale, “quality” and “tailored to meet our needs,” so we really need to select our ad copy and creative carefully.  

The revolution is not that advertising sucks, it’s that advertising needs to evolve. It needs to be in the hands of the artful.  The business must change for the better.  The application of technology and art in new and rational ways is our future.  Words are important, but they need to be applied with pictures, video, song, pod and cast in ways never before seen. Should be a fun ride. Peace.

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Solutions for a smarter planet is IBM’s ad campaign and has been for couple of years. If you watch the TV the message is clear: Look at data more closely, do something smart with it and we will see a better planet. The TV ads suggest (methinks) more efficient energy consumption in cities, better food prices thanks to global climate monitoring, etc.

The print, on the other hand, gets much more granular with lots of tech copy with promises of improvements in healthcare, manufacturing, blah, blah.  Half pretty to look at, with buried datapoints to prove the stories, the campaign’s real goal is to seed the “solutions for a smarter planet” idea.

Earnings Reports

So (the digerati all start their sentences with “so”), I’m reading the business section today and notice that Oracle and Accenture sales and profits are up. Oracle shares are near a 10-year high. Businesses are spending again the article proclaims. Then I read another story suggesting General Mills profits are down. The culprit?  Higher commodity prices and aggressive discounting. Are those not things a smarter planet is supposed to address? 

So what’s what? Machines are selling again. Database software is selling again. We are ensconced in datapalooza yet not really affecting the supply chain the way we might. In other words, we’re not doing “something smart” with the data yet. Similarly, Radian6 has built a great business allowing companies to monitor conversations in the ether. But unless listeners do something smart with that info, they won’t have smarter companies. That’s the way to a smarter planet. Even hunter gatherers know to eat what they gather (something smart).  Dial up the machines, dial up the software but let’s invest in some people smarts ya’ll!  Peace!

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I say Best Buy, you say what?  “Lot’s or products.” (Good) “Low prices” (A core value.) “Twelpforce and Twitter.” (Oooh, sorry.)  That’s right.  Best Buy and CMO Barry Judge have been in the spotlight and awards show klieg lights for months due to its so-called leadership in social media.   Best Buy used to was (Southernism) all about being the best buy.  Well they took their eye off the brand prize, found technology, and have now lost market share in laptops, TVs and videogame software in the quarter just reported.

I looove social media, but it’s not a brand strategy. It’s a media strategy and a marketing tactics. Had Mr. Judge focused more of his efforts on ways to provide a more competitively priced product than Walmart, Target and Amazon, the klieg lights would still be shining.

Alas.  Peace!

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There are hints in the press that Yahoo might be broken up. There’s also talk that if big things don’t happen soon, Carol Bartz will be out in a year. Can anyone imagine the internet era without Yahoo? 

When was the last time you went to Yahoo to look at something? When was the last time someone sent you a link to Yahoo to see a video, or read a story or view a picture?  I go all the time to check my Fantasy Football stuff, but that’s about it. Yahoo Fantasy Sports is probably Yahoo’s biggest asset; they do some nice video programming (Charissa Thompson is a star in waiting.).

But Yahoo still seems rudderless.  I know it wants to be in the content business but it’s not buying any properties that I can tell. In this area it is losing to AOL, who seems to be spending wisely on content… TechCruch, for instance.

Carol Bartz is keeping her head down. Elisa Steele, CMO and Penny Baldwin, SVP Integrated Branding are also sub rosa when it comes to the plan forward. The latter two should be helping form the product, and I’m not seeing it.  I’m seeing some tilling of the field but not a lot of growth.  Yahoo needs an idea! Peace.

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So I’m at the Jet game yesterday – my first time at the new Meadowlands stadium.  Were I dreaming I’d have though myself at the old Meadowlands stadium with a skim coat of concrete and a few more pork sandwich stations.  The Jets looked the same as I remember from back in the day, but there was one really cool new thing about the stadium: the video monitors.  I’m like a quarter mile away form the screen and the hi-def was amazing. Hair follicle amazing. It was pretty hard to take your eyes of the screen and watch the game on the field. (They never replayed the Santonio drop though and, so, still have some editing policy to deal with — but that’s a story for another day.) 

I had to leave the game early in the 4th quarter because my ride needed to pick up his son at baseball practice – feakin’ kids – and on the train from the stadium we sat near some dudes with HTC EVOs (or some such) phones…on the Sprint network.  They were streaming the end of the game.  A little freezy, a little jumpy, but live. “The Jet’s are on the 20!”  My eyes aren’t the best but let me tell you shrinking a football game to the size of a postage stamp is not optimal.  You can’t read the graphics, the yard markers or even the helmets, but whoever was providing the game on this hacked channel was showing us the future. 

So in one day I saw both ends of the video spectrum.  The world’s best and the world’s worst.  Perfecting the world’s worst will be the battle.  Smart phones the battle field.  Peace!

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I miss Howard Stern, having developed a taste for him while commuting 20 miles a day to an office not far from the Roosevelt, NY town where he grew up.  He made me laugh and he talked about things many people thought but never mentioned. When Mr. Stern went to Sirius satellite radio from terrestrial radio I was let down, but not so much that I anteed up a fee for his vocal services. Yesterday it was announced Stern would sign on to Sirius for another 5 years.  The Sirius stock, valued at less than $2, moved up $.07 on the news.

It was rumored that iTunes was in the running to pick up Mr. Stern. Now that’s something to think about — Apple getting into the content creation business.  Or should we say, furthering it content resale business? I suspect it was more of the latter.  Stern has enough money and clout to get his own studio, equipment, lawyers and accountants to pull off the show by himself.  In effect, in a deal with iTunes he would using them as a form of PayPal to collect the dough.  But Stern opted out. Too much work and too much future.    

It will be fascinating to see what iTunes turns into in 10 years. And I’m guessing it won’t be tunes. iTunes may become a competitor to YouTube, to television (network and cable), print and radio.  The only question is whether or not there will be an ad-supported business model. iTunes will change everything – even more than it already has. Stern could have helped. Peace.

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