Category Archives: Advertising

Better Ways for Marketing People to Get Paid

As Tim Williams, author of TAKE A STAND FOR YOUR BRAND explains on this week’s episode of BRANDING BUSINESS (hosted by Ryan Rieches of OC’s biggest branding firm RiechesBaird here on, “for people who are supposedly creative, we don’t spend much time considering alternative ways to get paid beyond some hourly rate….as if creative work and manual labor were somehow both the same”.

Hear his ideas on alternative ways in which ad agencies, marketing people and other creative talent can get paid that more closely matches their corporate contribution and the true value of their work.  Definitely a conversation starter.

How to you pay for creative ideas in your company?


A Simple Guide to Ad Exchanges

Courtesy of iMediaConnection

More and more online display inventory is being purchased via ad exchanges than ever before. On these platforms, advertisers utilize technology to bid on each and every ad impression in a real-time marketplace based on the value they put on the viewer. For example, retargeting has become a popular tactic as advertisers are able to tag (and then buy ads exposed to) users who have already shown interest in them by visiting their site. This technique has proven to be very effective, with higher than normal click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Currently, more than 400 billion global monthly impressions are up for bid to online marketers — that translates to about 150,000 ads each second during high internet traffic times!

Tap into new digital knowledge. Want to stay on top of the latest developments in using ad exchanges? Attend ad:tech San Francisco, April 11-13. Learn more.

Since the first banner ad was sold more than a decade and a half ago, it’s no big surprise that publishers have aggressively sought ways to increase revenue by optimizing their ad inventory. Because so much of online inventory goes unsold or dropped into remnant channels for a micro-fraction of what can be made from presold, premium inventory, ad exchanges were an organic evolution in the ecosystem. A successful model was already in place with paid search where advertisers bid in a real-time, auction environment for ad impressions. As with paid search, exchange ad inventory is optimized by capitalist equilibrium — some inventory is worth pennies, some is worth tens of dollars. Either way, ad price is determined by what the market is willing to pay.

Because most of the transaction is automated by technology, exchanges are very efficient for publishers to monetize previously unsold inventory without the need for robust sales teams, as well as for advertisers to buy direct inventory without middle men (such as ad networks) inflating costs. This has led some industry experts to predict that the market share of exchange vs. traditional online display buying methods will grow quickly in the next several years. In fact, this may have set off a revolution in which we will see more and more inventory moved to digital channels — it might not be all available in real-time, but the efficiencies of this model cannot be denied. It’s very possible that one day that any inventory that can be sold this way, will be sold this way… not just online, but TV, print, radio, etc.

The debates of the value of audience vs. context, technology vs. manual expertise, commoditization of inventory and its effect on our industry, etc., are already taking place in board rooms, industry conferences, and the blogosphere. As exciting as the new opportunity might be, there is resistance from the owners of the status quo, who will find their importance and market share drastically reduced by this evolution. As well, there is concern about the quality of this inventory and, as is always the case when targeting individual users, there will be privacy issues to take into account.

Regardless of the positive and negative context surrounding ad exchange buying, there still exists some mystery into how the technology actually works. Below is a top-level overview on how a publisher impression gets passed through the exchange value chain and ultimately gets served as an ad to the end user.

Note: This entire process happens in less than one-third of a second.

The publisher
An online user makes it to a publisher’s site via a link or direct URL typed into a browser. The page loads and swoosh…

The publisher ad server
…the site’s ad server recognizes that an ad box is on the page that needs to be filled. Publishers have a variety of choices on where to buy inventory. They can have in-house sales teams that work to presell their best (premium) inventory, ad networks that agree to help sell the inventory (either on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis), and, of course, ad exchanges, where advertisers can bid, in real time, for the impression.

So the first-party ad server may put the ad impression up for bid on the exchanges directly or through…

The publisher’s tools
…which can enable them to let the impression be handled by yield optimizers (such as Rubicon, Admeld, and PubMatic) that can help them maximize their site revenue. They can consult with optimization service teams to help set pricing, decide what kind of ad units should go on specific pages, make deals with ad networks and exchanges, etc. As well, these partners can offer propriety technology to facilitate and optimize ad sales.

If the publisher tool decides at this time that the best value for the impression is on an exchange, it will send the impression there.

The exchanges
Currently, there are only a handful of “major” ad exchanges:
•AdECN (Microsoft)
•DoubleClick Ad Exchange (Google)
•Right Media (Yahoo… currently testing real-time bidding)

These media entities have direct deals with publishers, networks, or publisher tools to sell inventory on their open platforms. On its DoubleClick Ad Exchange, for example, Google has migrated inventory from its very successful AdSense program, which enables it to sell advertising this way on literally billions of web pages. Exchanges negotiate rates with the media providers and get paid to simply handle the transaction.

Advertisers and their agencies can elect to “get a seat” on these exchanges in order to be involved in the bidding marketplace. Exchanges have self-service, back-end platforms that media buyers can log into, set up and manage campaigns, and run analytics reports to analyze and then optimize their accounts without ever talking to a sales person.

However, many advertisers elect to not work with exchanges directly, and opt to use a demand-side platform (DSP) as their trading desk of choice.

The 10 Minute Guide to Digital-Out-Of-Home (DOOH)


Courtesy of IMediaConnection

So you think you know digital. But do you know digital out of home (DOOH)? Chances are that many of you are a little rusty on this segment of the industry. Several DOOH leaders told me that there is clearly a divide between those who know, understand, and utilize this space well, and those that don’t understand the space at all.

The number of people “in the know” is growing, but my suspicion is that there are plenty of iMedia Connection readers that would find an overview of this category valuable. Without further ado, here is a ten minute primer so that you can decide if DOOH might have value for you.

DOOH size and growth
No doubt about it, we all need to pay more attention to the size and growth of the DOOH segment of our industry. Take a look at these figures and think about them in the context of the size of the industry segments we talk endlessly about.

With greater than $3.5 billion in sales expected this year, it’s apparent that DOOH has a whole lot going on.

Category structure
Most industry observers break down the opportunities into four main buckets:

•Retail: The retail category encompasses in-store opportunities like PRN’s Walmart TV, grocery store checkout TV, and the like. The idea, of course, is to impact consumers at the point of sale. Sometimes these units work as broadcast screen only, while other units may offer deep interaction to help a consumer learn more about an item or choose the best product for them.

•Place-based: These screens appear in a variety of venues, particularly in captive audience environments where content can entertain consumers. Examples include in-taxi ads, ATMs, elevator screens, screens in bars/restaurants, and even in professional offices like dentists’ waiting rooms. Again, some work as broadcast units, other as interactive units.

•Outdoor: Think billboards, with sight and motion. You’ll typically find these in very high traffic areas like on main highways or places that attract millions of people, like Times Square.

Movie Theatres: Not the trailers, the ads that appear in the programming before a movie, or just before the coming attractions get started.

Targeting options
While many people think of out of home as a mass play, digital out of home has always offered a variety of targeting options from broad to highly defined population segments. Those options get better and more granular all the time. Some of the options available include:

  • Demographics: The broad range of DOOH venues makes it possible to deliver to a well defined demo. You can target by gender, age range, income, market, ethnicity, and more. While you are unlikely to get 100 percent composition, you can deliver a highly targeted campaign.
  • Venue: Naturally, there are a variety of venue targeting options. In-store vehicles let you reach consumers when they are most likely to be persuadable. Here there are options to target by class of trade (grocery, drug, mass, convenience store) or even by chain/chain and market. In-taxi media might be a powerful way for NY entertainment venues, for example, to drive awareness and purchase intent.
  • Location: This can range from a general location, like the Long Island suburbs, to a particular one, like medical offices. Additionally, digital outdoor also offers the option, pioneered by traditional OOH, of targeting by proximity, for example, within a certain number of miles from a Walmart.
  • Behavior/affinity: Adcentricity also reports that behavioral and insight targeting are also becoming much more common. Says their authoritative planning guide, “The practice of deep data based/rationalized targeting is growing daily to rationalize plans and justify solutions to the end client.” Interactive units surely play a key role in this regard.
  • Daypart: Many DOOH options offer the opportunity to schedule impressions and exposure by daypart. For example, a board might feature Minute Maid in the morning and MGD at night.

When to use DOOH
In order to best make use of DOOH, it’s important to think about it in the context of overall marketing objectives and tactics in use. In my view, DOOH should be thought of as part of an overall marketing solution — a supporting part.

I’ve put together six use cases that illustrate a broad range of situations in which DOOH can play an important role. Consider the following:

  • Mass reach: DOOH can be great at this. From digital boards at key locations on highways, to a broad scale buy at the entrances of retail stores, DOOH can hit tens of millions of people in a week or less. I think it’s best to think of this as supporting media in a mass reach effort, because the more passive nature of the broadly targeted units likely make them less effective at telling a complete product story. But in-store TV, for example, would be great at reminding consumers of a new product they’ve seen on TV, putting the item top of mind as the consumer wanders the aisles. Similarly, a digital billboard on the 405 in LA could remind millions of a TV premiere or the like.
  • Addressing underdelivery: DOOH is particularly good at reaching consumer groups that tend to be harder to pinpoint with traditional and PC-based digital media. For example, Toyota spent heavily to introduce its entry level Yaris car to young people through cinema advertising. The creative helped make the messages particularly resonant with the well defined audience segment.
  • Situational awareness: Imagine you are a tourist visiting New York City. You see an ad for Sweeney Todd on the In-taxi TV. Odds are that you are more likely to buy a ticket, no? Or how about this: You are waiting in a doctor’s office for an appointment to discuss joint pain. An ad for Celebrex appears on the screen in the lobby. Again, you’re a lot more likely to “ask your doctor about Celebrex.” Or how about this one: You work in an office building. It’s lunchtime. As you ride down the elevator, Subway’s “$5-dollar foot long” offer appears on the in elevator TV. You’re that much more likely to go get that big sandwich, yes?
  • Promotion delivery: You can make offers available to consumers through interactive units AND display units. For example, a billboard might offer a short code to download a coupon. Or an interactive unit might offer the option of a QR code to deliver an offer to a smart phone.
  • Real and symbolic brand support: In-store TV or kiosks will help drive more brand sales. But they also are very marketable to retailers that you are serious about the success of that item. That you’re committed to drive velocity. This might be a great alternative for premium priced brands to pursue versus circulars and end-cap discounting.
  • Product immersion: Interactive units, in retail or in captive locations, can give consumers an opportunity to “go deep” in product information. Imagine your cough medicine has eight formulations. An interactive display can help the consumer find exactly the right set of benefits for them.
  • Naturally, the opportunities and situations in which DOOH can help support your efforts are quite broad. The important thing is to consider DOOH as you consider all of your other media options, because it may well provide an edge.

    Media costs cover a broad range, with many broad vehicles offering CPMs similar to good online media, and more highly targeted tools charging significantly more for their precision.

    Creative considerations
    Digital out of home units tend to be rather “forefront.” They have the motion characteristics that demand consumer attention, and often appear in “captive venues” where there are few other distractions. Indeed, that is part of their power. I am sure some will take issue with this article for not vilifying certain DOOH vehicles as “over the line.” I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s OK and what isn’t.

    In an era of consumer empowerment, it’s important to think carefully about value exchange when you plan a DOOH effort. What information or entertainment value are you offering the consumer in exchange for their “captive attention?”

    In my view, there are two things to consider:

    1. What inherent value does the specific channel offer the consumer? For example, PRN and WalMart are careful to maintain a strong edit to ad ratio in Walmart TV. Ads surround strong content including home, lifestyle and entertainment stories. When the medium has value, consumers are willing to tolerate advertising to support it. It’s the classic US media model.
    2. What tangible value does you execution offer the consumer? DOOH experts may disagree with this, but I believe that the consumer should be able to expect more value from a more intrusive medium. The less value the medium offers, the more value your execution needs to offer in order to be received positively by the consumer. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be effective to run a TV ad in an elevator, but rather that we are missing out on some of the promise of the medium by doing so. But at the same time, we need to consider cost/benefit of producing specific executions for media.

    Value can come in the form of information, lifestyle ideas, and entertainment. For example, that Toyota Yaris ad was clearly designed to reflect the high entertainment standards of the movie goer. No one wants to spend $8 to $12 to watch a “sale-a-bration” ad, but Toyota added value to the viewing experience with great action, storytelling, and production values.

    Interactivity is playing an increasingly significant role in DOOH. With the advent of larger displays, gesture control, multiuser touch screens, and other whiz bang technologies, consumers are getting more and more opportunities to become a part of the DOOH execution. Check out these two programs to get a sense of what I mean. The first is an InWindow Outdoor execution for PNC Bank.

    While historically these programs have been difficult to scale, that is slowly changing, and they continue to provide a create deal of buzz and news value when placed in the right locations.

    While such executions have their place in DOOH, many brands make the mistake of thinking about DOOH as “special occasion” media. As a result, they might consider a whiz bang program like this on rare occasions, but might overlook the work-a-day tools and tactics that are really driving the sales and growth in this industry. To think about DOOH solely in the context of these kinds of programs would be analogous to buying only site takeovers in online, without broad reach video, banners, or social programs to deliver a communications foundation.

    Are DOOH media right for you? How the heck would I know? But it is safe to say that they warrant serious consideration by a larger number of brands. DOOH is growing like a weed because it is powerful, proven, and affordable. That’s a combination a lot of brands might find very valuable indeed. With expected sales this year of more than $3.5 billion, it’s quite possible that your competitors are already utilizing it to create competitive advantage.

    I’m indebted to two key sources of information and data for this piece:

    I hope this piece provided a useful overview for you to consider as you devise future strategies and tactical programs for your brand.

    Jim Nichols is senior partner, strategist at Catalyst S+F.

Related Articles

The Agency of the Future


By Uwe Hook  Courtesy of IMediaConnection

A few weeks ago, news broke that ZenithOptimedia U.K. will be going through a restructuring. There are rumors that Starcom MediaVest Group might also shuffle things around in the U.K. And this is just the beginning: Every week we learn about marketing professionals coming and going, departments being dissolved, departments being merged or created. In addition, new agency models are coming to life, from the crowd-sourced to the brand innovation studio for the 21st century.

What will it take for agencies to prosper in the new marketing reality?
As the marketing industry continues to mature, and as new channels and platforms need our attention each and every day, it’s imperative for us to contemplate the structure of the agency of the future. Our livelihood will depend on it because not being ready for the demands of the future will likely lead to the demise of your agency.

Office mansion or garage? Neither.
Just this month, Bloomberg and Fast Company painted a black and white picture of the future of advertising agencies. Bloomberg believes in big agencies:

“The little hot shops, says Lubars, who are thumping their chests and declaring the end of mass marketing and the death of the Big Dumb Agencies, do so as a business posture, an attitude for journalists, and a sales pitch to clients. ‘They don’t believe a word of it,’ he says.

“What he sees instead is an evolution, firms heading to the same place from different directions. Technologically able marketers are trying to scale up into full-service agencies; and full-service agencies are mastering the new channels and a world with 6 billion individual markets. ‘They’re racing to figure out what an idea is,’ says Lubars. ‘We’re racing towards technology. It’s easier to pick up the technology. That’s why we got there first… They are desperate to take down the agencies that are doing it now.'”

Meanwhile, Fast Company predicts Armageddon for holding companies:

“In its fight for survival, the advertising industry is at war with itself. Generalists are competing with specialists. Interactive shops are vying to become full-service agencies, while traditional shops are yearning to become digitally integrated. ‘The Great Race,’ as Forrester Research dubbed it in March, drives a more intense competition over an already shrinking pie, and there won’t be room for everyone. En route to the center, agencies are chasing one another to the bottom. ‘I spoke to a high-level CMO the other day,’ says Profero’s Reitkopf. ‘She said, ‘I work with a holding company’s promotions company, its social-marketing company, its response-marketing company. Every time we’re in the room together, it’s fine, but the minute I walk out to get a cup of coffee, someone will follow me and tell me they can do what the other agencies do for cheaper.’ Adds Harley CMO Richer: ‘Agency networks supposedly combine all these experts together on your behalf, but it only really happens when the business is at risk of walking out the door. Before then, these creative entities are locked off in separate P&Ls. They’re not built to solve clients’ problems, they’re built to satisfy individual P&Ls.’

“That may be a vision for the industry as a whole. With all the defections of top agency talent over the past year — Alex Bogusky from Crispin, Gerry Graf from Saatchi, Kevin Roddy from BBH — it’s easy to imagine a new advertising ecosystem of pods built around industry stars who have left their lumbering institutions behind. The holding companies will still exist, but around them could emerge a chaotic pattern of startups, independent talent, and connectors who thrive with minimum overhead. That kind of industry would be a fraction of the size of the current one. It would create opportunities for the most talented and hurt everyone else. It would be harder work, with fewer assistants and fewer million-dollar paydays. But this smaller business would be aloft on its new creative potential rather than sinking under the weight of its past.”

As usual, the truth is somewhere in between: The likely solution is that successful agencies of the future will have a core group of professionals. This core group will accommodate both the size of the brand and the scope of engagement. Account management will continue to be crucial for client retention and, more importantly, better understanding the heart and soul of the brand. Small agencies often have challenges becoming part of the organization, while bigger agencies often see account management as being account servants. The core group will consist of highly paid professionals from all facets of life to serve the brand better and deliver real value based on insights.


Will Twitter’s new ad model work for marketers?


by Michael Estrin, IMediaConnection

A few years ago when Twitter was in its infancy, company officials kept the m-word (monetization) at arm’s length. Brand marketers, agency social media gurus, and anyone with an email address were all welcome to set up an account and start pinging away in 140 character bursts. But the idea that Twitter could be — or would be — a paid media platform was something the company just didn’t talk about.

Still, without formal ad opportunities, some brands got Twitter almost right away. Others, it seems, are still wondering what happened. Over at Twitter, times have changed. In late September, The New York Times reported that the company was rolling out a new advertising model. There are no homepage takeovers or glitzy rich media banners (yet), but Twitter is now offering advertisers the opportunity to buy followers and insert themselves into trends.

“Twitter suggests accounts that people should follow, based on their interests, and will use the same algorithm to suggest accounts that advertisers pay to promote,” the Times article stated.

Advertisers pay based on an interaction with the Twitter post. An interaction occurs when a user clicks on the link, forwards the post, or replies to it. The Times cited Dick Costolo (Twitter’s then-COO, now the company’s CEO), who said people have been clicking these ads at a rate of about 5 percent. So far, about 40 companies have paid to advertise on Twitter. Next year, Twitter says it plans to open up the platform to a wider group of advertisers with a system akin to Google’s AdSense. Right now the idea of advertising on Twitter is still relatively new, so we asked some leading social media experts to weigh in on the topic, and what this means for marketers.

Awareness at 140 characters per second
If it’s happening now, it’s happening on Twitter. Like it or not, that’s become a truism of our world. Want the latest information on political strife in Iran? You’ve got to go to Twitter. Want to know what everyone thought about the “Mad Men” season finale? Twitter. Chilean miners? You guessed it — Twitter.

Twitter’s title as the go-to destination for the most up-to-date information in an increasingly buzz-driven world is, from a marketing perspective, an absolute gold mine. What brand wouldn’t want the opportunity to influence customers inside a clearing house for hot information, trends, and ideas? So when you talk about the opportunity to raise your brand’s awareness in terms of “promoted tweets” or — even better — “promoted trends,” you really can’t beat Twitter right now, says Patrick Boegel, director of media integration at Media Logic. But there’s a catch, and it could be a big one.

“Beyond tapping into awareness, [Twitter’s] impact might be questionable,” Boegel says. “There are two parts to the equation. First, finding a topic: Twitter recognizes as having enough activity to be a promoted trend. Secondly, whether or not users are logged into Twitter via the web, a Twitter app, or a third-party application. If a user is on Tweetdeck for desktop, great promoted trends are still visible, but on a mobile app such as Seesmic for Android it is not there. For the average advertiser in the entertainment world, that’s not a big deal. But if you’re attempting to purchase more than topical awareness, you may be losing valuable portions of the Twitter user base simply because of how they access the service.”

While Twitter has been combating this fragmentation by trying to get users to come back to the site or use its mobile app, another potential pitfall also lurks on the awareness front, Boegel says.

“Users’ first reactions tend to be curiosity, but when we step outside of our marketing hats and try to be objective as consumers of information on the other side, we all know it becomes easy to put on the blinders and tune information out,” Boegel explains. “If you are in a larger, nationally available or ‘several major cities’ event-based business, the success potential and reach is certainly huge right now. A year from now, my guess is that first-wave marketers will have to work twice as hard to achieve the same results they are seeing in the initial stages.”

Is it worth your money?
There’s no question that a lot of people use Twitter, and there’s no question that Twitter has a tremendous ability to take a message viral. But Aaron Shapiro, CEO of HUGE, says he isn’t certain that Twitter ads will really deliver value to marketers, even though he sees the platform as a fundamental part of social media strategy for all of his clients.

“The Twitter ad packages currently presented are not going to give clients the most bang for their buck,” Shapiro says. “We equate promoted tweets with banner blindness. Once the gimmick wears off, it becomes that much harder for consumers to click. Twitter is an amazing marketing platform exactly because it is a free tool. The most successful Twitter campaigns have not been through ad spends but through creative marketing ideas, from offering discount codes, exclusive products, customization, or engaging content. We’ve found that our clients have much greater success and sustainable results investing $100K on an ‘ideas’ campaign than on a one-day Twitter trend promotion.”

Are you thinking of your buy in the right way?
If you’re buying followers on Twitter, it’s easy to say that you’re buying just that — followers. That is, you’re buying the ability to put your message in front of somebody, and hopefully influence them on an ongoing basis, or at least as long as your campaign lasts.

But what exactly does that mean? The answer depends on how you think about the media buy. And according to Jim Spinello, SVP of marketing and communications at rEvolution, it means using Twitter as a foothold for making a connection.

“If your advertising model is to buy, place, and move on, then Twitter is probably not the right investment,” Spinello says. “Any buy on Twitter must be an engaged buy. It’s not like buying a banner ad or broadcast commercial. Buying on Twitter is all about creating a dialogue and continuing the conversation.”

Spinello’s advice: Think of a buy on Twitter as a sponsorship.

“Buying on a platform like Twitter could be thought of in terms of buying a traditional sponsorship,” Spinello says. “There’s the cost of entry, but you have to invest/spend to activate your buy in order for it to be worth the initial investment.”Of course “activating” your buy means that after the initial media spend, you have to ask: Then what? What will you do with these followers? Will you offer them a real world opportunity? Will you engage them in a conversation that exceeds a 140-character limit?

The point, according to Spinello, is that an ad on Twitter can bring people to your brand, but what you do after that will determine the real value of the exchange.

Don’t ignore the audience
Twitter is not Facebook, but there is an obvious comparison here if we’re talking about “flipping the switch” from zero advertising to some paid media. I’m not going to go into the details of the ongoing hiccups as Facebook tries to sell both its users and advertisers on ads and the data collection that makes those ads relevant. But I will say that the last round was just plain weird, at least as it played it in my News Feed. On the one hand, I saw posts from friends who don’t work in digital. I consider these friends to be smart, informed people. They were sharing — on Facebook and with no sense of irony! — angry comments about the “revelation” that advertisers were using their personal information to target them with more relevant ads. Articles by surprised reporters in dozens of well-respected newspapers seemed to fuel this latest awareness as well. But of course, on the other hand, I also have a lot of friends who work in digital. They too replied to this story with a collective — so what? Actually, the response was a little more like, “And this is news, how?”

For a variety of reasons, Facebook hasn’t been able to successfully explain to users that there is advertising on the site, and that it is often informed by what the user does on the site, and what the user tells the site. Like it or not, this seemingly simple misunderstanding represents a big disconnect, and it’s that disconnect brands should be cautious of when they “flip the switch” on Twitter, says Chris Pitre, a social marketing strategist at IDEA.

“Clients should tread extremely carefully when integrating paid advertising into a highly conversational medium with a known low tolerance for spam and heavy promoting,” Pitre says. “Clients that would be interested in advertising on Twitter would have to first know their audience and their audience’s preference and perception of Twitter advertising. Pending those findings, I’d find a less obtrusive way to enter the client’s brand on conversations happening on Twitter.”

That said, Pitre isn’t sour on Twitter at all. In fact, he’s all in favor of a smart execution that leverages Twitter’s unique capabilities.

“For example, if the ad could be personalized to the user querying Twitter and act as a way to continue a natural conversation between the brand and the user, that would be a smarter way of integrating the ad,” Pitre says.

Although, he adds, “I’m not sure if Twitter plans on allowing for certain levels of customization and personalization within [its ad platform], but I could imagine things getting exciting there, if not hotly debated among industry pundits.”

But for Pitre, the big takeaway is that a brand should have a very solid understanding of how its target audience perceives advertising on Twitter before the brand starts paying for followers.

It’s A Twitter world
While pundits can debate whether Twitter ads will work for marketers (or perhaps, how best to make them work for marketers), the reality is that marketers need to take note of the digital sand shifting below their feet. Reacting to Twitter’s recent redesign, which has been a big part of bringing ads to the platform, Chris Ebbesen, imc² strategy director, blogged that “the splinternet is inevitable.”

Tech jargon aside, Ebbesen’s point is that if the internet as we know it is becoming a series of “walled gardens”(a popular topic on the pages of Wired these days), then marketers need to be ready.

“They have to follow their customers into these new gardens, but when they do, they have to adapt their approach for that medium,” Ebbesen says. “Facebook and Twitter are collaborative in nature: a bunch of people talking to each other, trading content and ideas as a form of social currency. Marketers have to think about the engine of these mediums and optimize their strategies and ideas to fuel that engine. They have to shift toward creating ideas and stories that are told across different devices and platforms, with each ‘chapter’ of the story being engineered to take advantage of the medium’s unique value offering. They have to provide social currency to be exchanged between friends.”

In concrete terms, Ebbesen says that should mean an end to the practice of repurposing content and messaging (if you still believe there’s a difference) across multiple platforms. Instead, marketing is going to have to get a lot more granular.

Whether that means advertisers will be keen to buy ads on Twitter down the road is likely an open question. But whether it’s paid ads or free media, the message from Twitter to marketers is that the time has come to get serious about big ideas in 140-character packages.

The Power of Customers’ Mindset

By Kelly Goldsmith, Jing Xu and Ravi Dhar

MITSloan Management Review

Are your customers in a concrete or abstract mindset as they think about purchasing your product? The answer can affect how much they buy.

Every day consumers make purchase decisions by choosing among large sets of related products available for sale in the aisles of stores. What factors might systematically affect how consumers make decisions among an array of products? Our research explores one aspect of that question.

As most marketers realize, not all shoppers are created equal. Within the same store, one may be searching for a specific product to meet an immediate need, while others may simply be browsing. Just as they can have different goals when they enter a store, individual consumers may approach purchase decisions with different mindsets that can affect how they shop. In social psychology, a mindset is defined as a set of cognitive processes and judgmental criteria that, once activated, can carry over to unrelated tasks and decisions. In other words, if you get a consumer thinking a certain way, that way
of thinking — that mindset — can influence his or her subsequent shopping behavior.

In particular, social psychologists have identified two distinct mindsets that are relevant to how consumers make decisions when choosing among large sets of related products: abstract and concrete. An abstract mindset encourages people to think in a more broad and general way. Consumers in an abstract mindset who face an array of related products will focus more on the shared product attributes associated with an overarching purpose — for example, the general category of hair care or car maintenance. Conversely, a concrete mindset draws attention to lower-level details and attributes associated with execution or usage; consumers in a concrete mindset will thus focus on factors that differentiate between products.

In our research, we examined how abstract versus concrete mindsets affected consumers’ purchase decisions. (The research results are described in detail in a working paper called “The Role of Abstract and Concrete Mindsets on the Purchase of Products from Adjacent Categories.”) In a series of experiments, we found that mindset matters. When consumers must decide whether or not to make purchases from a variety of related but different product categories — such as toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss in an array of oral care products — an abstract mindset increases the number of products consumers select. But the reverse occurs when consumers choose among products that are similar enough that consumers could substitute one for another — such as a variety of beverages. In those cases, a concrete mindset increases the number of products consumers want to buy.

In the experiments, we first used exercises that prior research has suggested should help establish an abstract or a concrete mindset — such as asking some participants to write about a year from now (an assignment likely to induce an abstract mindset) while others were asked to write about tomorrow (which is likely to induce a concrete mindset). We then compared the purchase intent — and in some experiments, actual purchases — of consumers in an abstract versus concrete mindset. We found that it is not a question of one mindset being better than the other at increasing consumers’ likelihood of purchase. Instead, the effect of concrete and abstract mindsets varied with the type of product arrays from which consumers were choosing.

Specifically, when faced with a choice among different types of products that relate to the same overarching goal — for example, the various kinds of products available in the oral care aisle — having an abstract mindset, rather than a concrete one, increased the number of products purchased. This presumably occurred because an abstract mindset draws attention to the higher-level purpose — in this case, oral care — which in turn increased consumers’ interest in all means serving that goal — toothbrush, floss, etc. — and thereby increased the total number of products consumers wanted to purchase.

However, when consumers chose among products that were similar enough to be substituted for one another — such as an array of beverages — an abstract mindset decreased interest in purchasing additional products when compared to a concrete mindset. That is because an abstract mindset leads to a focus on the higher-level goal — such as satisfying one’s thirst — and, presumably, to the fact that one beverage is sufficient to satisfy that abstract goal. Conversely, consumers with a concrete mindset focused on the differentiating factors between products — and were thus likely to select a greater number of substitutable products than their abstract-focused counterparts did.

These findings have two clear and straightforward implications for managers: To increase sales, companies should consider matching or manipulating the mindset of the consumer.

Matching the Mindset. The nature of the retailer or the types of products offered may naturally promote a more abstract or concrete mindset upon which businesses can capitalize. In some cases, consumers may tend to approach a retailer planning to make purchases for distant future use; for example, consumers may be evaluating furniture that will be delivered in a number of weeks. The literature on abstract versus concrete mindsets suggests that when consumers consider products for distant future use, they may naturally be in a more abstract mindset than consumers who are evaluating products for immediate consumption. Our research suggests that retailers who recognize that their products may promote distant future considerations (and thus a more abstract mindset) may increase sales if they organize their product offerings in a way that highlights their products’ relationship to a common higher-order goal. For example, a furniture retailer might group products in a way that showcases how different types of furniture all share the benefit of adding comfort and warmth. Conversely, for retailers such as snack vendors who recognize that their products promote fairly immediate use and hence a more concrete mindset, grouping similar, substitutable snack products together should help maximize consumers’ purchase rates.

Manipulating the Mindset. While matching the mindset may be an effective strategy for retailers whose goods naturally promote a distinct mindset, for many retailers the variety of products they offer is such that no clear mindset predominates. For these retailers, manipulating consumers’ mindset as they view specific sets of products may be one effective way to increase purchase rates.

Imagine a retailer offering a large set of related but different products in an oral care aisle. Our findings suggest that, to increase sales, that retailer should consider promoting a more abstract mindset as consumers make their product considerations. For example, managers could implement promotions highlighting the individual products’ relatedness to the overarching, higher-level purpose (i.e., oral care, as opposed to simply clean teeth) in order to increase consumers’ propensity to purchase more types of oral-care products. Conversely, for a retailer offering a large set of substitutable products, such as drinks in a beverage aisle, the opposite suggestion holds. In-store communications promoting a more concrete mindset — by stressing the individual and unique benefits of various products — could be used to increase total sales.

While we believe our work suggests important practical implications for retailers, future research is necessary to fully explore and understand the observed effects. We hope that the current research will prompt future inquiry into this area.


Making Advertising Relevant To Boomers


Courtesy of Matt Thornhill and Media Post Publications

In a national study called “The New Generation Gap Study” done for TV Land in 2007, consumers of all ages were asked if they agreed with the statement: “If it is done right, advertising definitely influences my purchases.”Some 55% of younger adults, those under age 45, said they agreed. But so, too, did 55% of Boomers. (Wow, only 55% agreed to that? Well, that must mean John Wanamaker really was speaking the truth when he allegedly said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”)

Nonetheless, we’ll take this as good news: Advertising can influence purchases.

The bad news is that, in study after study, Boomers tell us most advertising is not even intended for them. Last summer, Google and Nielsen fielded a national study among adults of all ages to learn more about online activity and media usage. They asked if we wanted to include any questions in the survey to update information we had published in our book, Boomer Consumer, in 2007.

Two questions we added to the study were about the intended target of advertising. Sure enough, Boomers told us the vast majority of advertising they see on TV or on the Internet is intended for “someone younger than I.”

Our question: Advertisers communicate with consumers in a variety of ways. In general, who would you say most advertising is intended for?  

Google/Nielsen Consumer Study,
Summer 2010
On the
Someone YOUNGER than I 79% 84%
Someone MY AGE 19% 15%
Someone OLDER than I 3% 2%

As you have read here, this is a demographic cohort that spends over $2 trillion annually on consumer goods and services. Yet, 8 out of 10 Boomers tell us they think the advertising they see — presumably on shows they watch and Web sites they visit — is intended for younger consumers.

It’s no wonder the average tenure for a chief marketing officer is less than two years. Heads certainly need to roll if advertising dollars are so poorly deployed.

Make it Relevant

The fix for this problem is easy to spot, but perhaps difficult to pull off. First, you don’t have to double your advertising budget and develop a completely separate marketing program to reach Boomers. All you have to do is make your current programs relevant to consumers across all age groups and generations.

That means look for ways to make your product, packaging, pricing, messaging and distribution relevant for more than simply your traditional advertising or marketing sweet spot — adults 25-54, or moms with young kids. Take a look at your advertising over the last several years. Do you always show the “ideal” target consumer enjoying your product or service? Do that year in and year out, and you will effectively communicate that is the only person who should use your product.

Instead, use messaging techniques that cut across age groups or generations. We work with clients to find the attributes and benefits that are universal — appealing to a broad range of consumers and relevant to all.

Two examples: There is universal appeal in the Dove brand’s Campaign for Real Beauty approach, and it is relevant for women of all ages. The new Old Spice campaign may appear to be for young, virile men, but the underlying message that this brand is for a “man’s man” is universal.

The goal is advertising that isn’t targeting young adults or Boomers, but more consumers.

Boomer Project founder/president Matt Thornhill is an authority on marketing to today’s Boomer Consumer. He has appeared on NBC, CBS and CNBC, in “BusinessWeek,” “Time,” “Newsweek” and “The New York Times” and countless others. Matt is also the co-author of the business book “Boomer Consumer.” Boomer Project is a marketing research and consulting firm and has done work for Johnson & Johnson, Lincoln Financial, Samsung, Hershey’s Foods and Home Instead Senior Care. Reach him here.