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I did some advertising for AT&T Network Systems a number of years ago, introducing Systemax CAT 5 computer cable into Asia.  We converted some U.S. ads for local use having IDG Computerworld in-country offices translate them into local languages.  Having worked in B2B advertising for many years, with little success other than an occasional readership award and bingo card report I was thoroughly surprised when people across Thailand picked up their phones and ordered beaucoup feet of cable.  

It was like Sears Roebuck catalog time. The markets were so young.  Local companies needed cable, didn’t know where to get it, and we provided a location and phone number.

In the United States, the advertising market is so mature, so filled with messaging, it’s hard to find the pent-up demand. X, the LA punk band, sings “Now there are seven kinds of Coke, 500 kinds of cigarettes. This freedom of choice in the USA drives everybody crazy.”

Competition in the modern world is rampant. Advertising isn’t just about access anymore, it’s about creating awareness, then interest, trial, and preference. And as technology and service become more in vogue it’s about education. No wonder it’s hard to do advertising well.

That’s why brand strategy is so critical. It feeds and focuses the advertising beast.



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So there’s this question bubbling over in social networking and social media that’s on the minds of engineers, entrepreneurs, demographers and account/brand/communications planners: What’s a friend and what’s a community?

The internet and the social web have flattened the world to the degree that language has allowed. (Language, a major usability problem.)  Let’s say you like the punk rock band X but your best friends don’t — you might have to go outside for X soul mates. To Des Moines, Jakarta, or just across the tracks.  These X-ophiles may be your people. Share your love. Be potential  friends.  But now they are just part of an un-gerrymandered community.

Google+ is working on this, allowing circles of people with common interests to become connected. But Pandora and Spotify are trying to do this with music, Artspace.com is trying to do it with art, Ology.com with millennials, and the list goes on and on.  For every topic there is an entrepreneurial with an idea and an answer.  And a VC behind them to feed the frenzy.  And I love it. I loved exchanging punk rock stories with a 20 something in Qatar. It wasn’t creepy, it was awesome.  The kid wasn’t a friend. The kid was part of a community of interest. Danah Boyd, the future CEO of Microsoft, is right about the web; it is an amazing tool, with the ability to harness and free all our positive and negative human energies. But the goods far outweigh the bads.

The debate and commercial applications surrounding what is a friend and what is a community will continue.  And evolve. Marketers and publishers who figure out the different and the byplay will build powerful, powerful things. You friend in the ether, Steve.  Peace!

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Here’s the problem with digital music.  It’s music.  And music consumption is being replaced by the internet and messaging. 

Daily book readership, as a percentage of leisure time spent, took a major hit when the radio came around. Radio listenership diminished with the advent of TV.  TV is fluctuating but as baby boomers go asunder it, too, will take a back seat to the growth of whatever is next.  Even today, if you look closely at ear buds they’re tethered to people staring at the screens (video) not to people with with eyes closed, boppin’ to music.

I don’t listen to much music anymore, unless I’m in a bar. Or when Pearl Jam or X come around.  I go to see Hot Tuna (Jorma and Jack) every year but friends orchestrate that.  A road trip to Williamsburg to see someone new like Justin Townes Earle is worthy, but I stumbled upon him by accident.  The radio really sucks.  Pandora is cool, perhaps the only thing that can save music, but the model is wrong. iTunes has sold 10 billion songs since 2003, but made negligible money (on the songs) doing so.  Music in the advertising  business used to be very important.  Now, most music on TV and radio ads is created by the algorithm.

The music business has been mismanaged and mislead. It will come back — but Lady Gaga at $.99 a song will not do it. And it will never be where it once was.  As art become replaced by engineering, we lose our humanity note by note. The roots backlash will help the arts but it could get ugly.   Peace.

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