Whatever.

Pity the poor agency person pitching me. I have actually felt sorry for them at times, until they start their pitch and then I remember why agencies infuriate me.

You see, I spent a dozen years at an agency before jumping to the client side. I know all the agency speak phrases that are meant to pacify clients that ask too many questions. I’ve been reminded of those phrases lately because I have been hearing lots of these phrases in lots of agency pitches in the past four months.

I miss the days when agencies prepared real proposals (“pitches”) with real tactics and costs. I don’t think most of these creative directors even know what a storyboard is anymore. Pitches nowadays seem to be have the “same” vague, unclear promises such as one promise that came from a social media agency where they claimed that “our article will be seen by 60 million people with hundreds of back links back to your site”.

Oh my — such big promises. It would make any inexperienced marketer sign up. I would.  But when you pick apart what exactly will they do get this level of activity, well the vague plans become even vaguer.

“Ah” – you say – “but my big agency does campaign plans, strategies and analysis”. I bet they do. And I bet you have lots of great looking strategic documents with very little specific results to show for it. And worse, the cost actually makes you think twice every time you pick up the phone. Unfortunately, based on feedback from my friends at large companies like Siemens and Avaya, I know full well that big agencies simply move too slow, are too late in picking up new tech trends and cost too much. Pity – because Paltalk is exactly the type of client where agencies can do the most good.

So after hearing countless pitches, I have come to the conclusion that either agencies are too clever for me or they never encountered a client who is an “Industry veteran” (as Forbes described me when I started at Paltalk), who knows what she wants and knows that agencies should be able to deliver it. When I question proposals (gasp — how dare I), I keep getting a vague air of “Trust us … you can’t get it … you’re not cool … only we cool agency types can get it”. This attitude is what gets my blood boiling. To add insult to injury, they act like clients should be grateful that they (said agency) even agrees to service them at all!

So what’s to be done? I love this industry too much to leave well enough alone. I propose that agencies must do nothing less than change their business model and it involves evolving to mirror the business of marketing that clients have to confront today!

But how? Well, here are my top 10 things that agencies can start doing differently. They are specific and actionable. I propose them because in these tough economic times, agencies need to either evolve or many will die.

The Agency 10 Step Recovery Plan.

1) Never confuse desired outcome with what you will actually do.

Promising results is fine .. but be clear and specific how you intend to do it. Is it too much to ask for details so when you say, we will have a blog campaign, that you explain how much time will be spent on blog postings. Don’t just promise results and leave the details as a vague “whatever”.

2) Be honest.

Stuff happens in any campaign. But when things go wrong in digital campaigns it is too easy to blame the client’s infrastructure. At least come to the table about what happened but don’t just shrug and say “whatever” (yes an agency person actually said that to me recently when I asked them about a troubling stat.)

3) Know what you know and make sure your client understands that.

Too often in an effort to be efficient, clients ask agencies to stretch beyond their competence – to the frustration of all. Much of digital marketing is technologically challenging – so don’t set yourself up to fail. Passing on business short term will win credibility in the long term.

4) Don’t propose campaigns you know are highly unlikely to be technically feasible.

Ok – this is one of my pet peeves. I ask an agency pitch me on a program with a clear deadline. Yet they insist on presenting ideas that can not be executed within the time frame I have. When I ask why they presented this idea, the answer is often “so you can see our depth”. All I can think is “whatever”.

5) Think about the business end game.

Agencies always “talk the talk” but they actually rarely “walk the walk”. Remember, clients pay agencies to deliver tangible business results – not just to do cool interactive stuff that no one associates with your brand. I even had one large digital agency tell me that they thought creating a highly viral campaign with a strong branding component was not possible. The best viral stuff can not be branded, they said. Obviously, my reaction to this agency was thanks very much but “whatever”.  I kept looking.

6) Create a campaign that engages the entire interaction lifecyle.

For some reason, agencies seem to stop short in their campaigns as though their job is done once the person has clicked or registered or done whatever action the campaign required. I rarely see thinking beyond the direct call to action. I am suggesting that agencies need to consider the full lifecycle management of the prospect; even they don’t have responsibility for executing the full plan. It would be nice to see how the concept extends beyond the banner campaign.

7)  Be humble.

The arrogance of interactive agencies sometimes amuses me but mostly just irritates me, especially since there is often a startling lack of business results to show for their arrogance. Again, recent experience had one agency tell me that they wanted to advertise with a banner campaign an interactive viral promotion to encourage consumer usage of the viral interactive device. When I asked how could you “advertise” a viral campaign that relies on the unexpected nature of the “gag”, I was told I didn’t get it. Another “whatever” moment.

8)  Be a technology leader to your client.

Delivering a traditional ad campaign is well understood by agencies and hence they often do a good job on these campaigns. Its all falls apart when the clients need integrated digital marketing campaigns. Then it gets messy. Very messy. Agencies do not integrate new technologies into their business model easily. Why? Because technology proficiency comes with depth, experience and time. Agency fee structures never ever supported this level of depth.

Clients always had to push agencies to adopt new technologies and nothing has changed. But clients need more guidance than ever – like what to do when PPC effectiveness really does start to decline. When will agencies finally step up to the plate and start leading their clients through the increasingly complex technology marketing game.

9) Clean house.

Start improving the level of skill and experience you hire to represent your agency. Stop hiring “children” who can talk the cool talk but who never lived through a tough business cycle. In the “old days” only the best MBAs from the best business schools were in account management. Real clients deserve real business smarts, not kids.

10) Execute!

Good ideas are nice … but execution is paramount. It is amazing how often campaigns are not to be completely executed. There are hitches, glitches and hiccups. Often, it is the result of a lack of homework and project management on the part of the agency. I find this the most baffling, largely because there is no excuse for it.

I am tired of feeling”whatever” when dealing with some marketing agencies. I want to be inspired. I want an agency to move me. And I have not found the right partner.

But take heart. I usually get what I want. I just have to work a bit harder at it.

Judy Shapiro

What’s the point?

                                 

I find myself in an usual business at a very unusual time.

 

After spending years working with technology leaders in telecommunications, software and security, I wanted to explore the expanding role of social networks in our everyday online worlds. So I went looking for opportunities in this new “cool” space. Not so easy given my decidedly lack of “coolness” (I haven’t seen “20 something” in a few decades). Yet nonetheless, in a sheer stroke of great luck and timing, I recently landed at Paltalk — the leader in social networking, about 4 months ago.

 

I settled in to learn about this space. I wanted to understand how can our networks provide us with the kind of verified information that our real world networks provide us all the time? How do we integrate the collective power of the Twitters and Facebooks and UTube’s into our everyday online activities? What’s the best way to stay transparent in our social networks, yet remain safe to prying digital eyes?

 

As all these new concepts were rolling around in my head in those first early weeks at Paltalk, the economic floor began to give way and everything changed. Day after day the bad news was rolling in – first the financial sector, then the business sector. The speed of the financial decline is breathtaking. And the awful ride is not over yet.

 

But business at Paltalk is good. In fact, just today, Jonathan Blum wrote an article entitled; A surprising winner in the downturn: consumer video conferencing, and Paltalk is the primary beneficiary of this trend. In fact, we seem to be the only highly profitable and financially healthy company in the social networking space.

 

Why you ask? I’ll share our secret – but be warned – it is a radical idea.

 

Our secret is that we spent 10 long hard years developing serious technology to deliver a well designed rich media, interactive real time communications platform. And then we did not just give it all away for free (though some of our best features like SuperIM are totally free). We reserved our highest quality video and audio technology for subscribers and subscriptions makes up the vast majority of our revenue. Unlike our competitors, we did not build a business model around ad revenue that, in hindsight, never materialized. Nope, we banked on people willing to pay for great quality. Gee – what a concept.

 

And now as I see an eerie déjà vu of tech bust of 2001 (only bigger), I wonder why we did we not learn our lesson? What’s the point of a just cool company like Twitter with no real business model beyond a vague allusion to some monetization strategy in the future.

 

The point is that “Cool” has no currency – I don’t care what the cool bloggers and reporters and VC’s think. Making money is cool today.

 

That’s the point!

 

Judy Shapiro

What’s face time?

    

Whoopi Goldberg had a funny special on Bravo a while ago about modern life as it is being experienced by those of us weaned on free love and then conscious parenting… She observed, rightly, that while our children are smarter than we are, we are raising a generation of “barbarians”. She was commenting on the fact that our children are proficient tweeters, and IM’ers and texters. But they have too little interactive with real people in the real world.

 

Enter face time.

 

I would bet that some enterprising young graduate student has already tracked how much less face time kids have today versus even just a generation ago. It is obvious – the only question is how much less face time do our kids today have versus even 20 years ago. I would bet the actual figure would horrify most of us.

 

Our kids spend more time in front of devices instead of spending time interacting with human beings. And they are the worse for it. It was Whoopi’s point and it is well worth noting.

 

So what to do? Instead of bemoaning the situation and throwing up your hands in surrender. Fight fire with fire. Use technology to solve the problem it created.

 

Enter video chat.

 

You heard me. For those of you who think it is not for them – think again and get over it. Our highly mobile kids need to be with us even if they are not with us. Video chat has become so easy, that most anyone can figure it out. There are a few ways to do this, including a free video chat software from a company called Paltalk. With this software (and a webcam) you can see your kids and they can see you. In fact up to 10 of you can see each at once. Go get it and get on with it.

 

Face time – delivered technology style.

 

Judy Shapiro  

What if?

            

As I explore the in’s and out’s of the business of social networking given my work at Paltalk, I have concurrently, unknowingly, also began an exploration on the meaning of nothing less than – everything.

 

Exploring the dynamics of social networking causes one to become philosophical about everything because social networks reflect every endeavor of the human spirit. Within a short span, I read three wonderful books, God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The Courtier and the Heretic by Matthew Stewart and Dalai Lama’s work – the Universe in a Single Atom – the convergence of science and spirituality.

 

These books explore how great thinkers understood the essence of life and our relationship with the universe. Are we accidental cosmic tourists? Is the notion a personal God “improbable” as Mr. Dawkins suggests? Is God merely the combined “substance” (the term Spinoza used) of all there is?

 

Before I knew it, these two threads wound themselves around each other and begun to form a new shape in my mind. Social networks will become the filter of how we will see the world. It will shape what we think, what we believe. To understand our world, we will look to our social networks.

 

And that evokes some interesting what if’s.

 

What if…

* We could create the different kinds of social networks in our online world as we have in the real world

* We could manage our fabric of networks fluidly to be most useful

* We could authenticate different networks to be trusted for different things.  

* We could leverage the collective intelligence of authenticated networks to help us transform the generic web into a personal web

* We could use our social networks as our eyes and ears into the digital universe

 

Hmm – more reading to do J.

 

Judy (burning the midnight oil) Shapiro

What’s cool?

      

My insightful 13 year old recently noted that being cool is not really important once you leave high school. I was surprised at the maturity of the thought and he was right. The work world values smarts and hard work and results. And for those of us who remember when there was NO internet (I can hear the gasps now), business success was what counted — not being cool. And success meant a few simple things.

 

1.       Your product/ company made sales

2.       Your product/ company made profits

3.       The product/ company is well received in the marketplace

 

But then the Internet happened. And some of the most successful businesses out there were started and nurtured by kids for whom being “cool” was still relevant. And here’s the interesting part. Many of these companies, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, became big because they gave us new ways to become cool and maintain our cool-dom. This gives cool a new level of influence that could, by sheer association, build a profitable business.

 

Cool has emerged as the new business requirement. Or has it?   

 

I don’t think so. Mark my words. Kinda like the tulip bust in Amsterdam in the 17th century – I believe that “cool” bubble will burst, especially in the social marketing world. What will ultimately count again, and soon, are the businesses that deliver. Not whether they are just cool.

 

Paltalk is a potent example of the new type of cool. We have spent 10 years building a really great audio and video chat software product. We have created a business model that is the envy of our rivals in that we are highly profitable. In fact, I wager that we may be the only one in this sector that is profitable.

 

But experts in the social marketing field sector believe that tech companies can be “made” almost exclusively if they can get the support of the some of newer “cool” bloggers who yield massive influence. Indeed, these veterans caution me, “They won’t talk to Paltalk, it’s not the cool new thing.”

 

It challenged me and on some level infuriated me. Why would these “cool” influencers not talk to the company who practically started the social networking segment and is making money at it? How much cooler does it get than that!  

 

So I decided to launch my un-cool campaign with these high tech influencers identified by Forbes (see below). It is striking that many of the “cool arbiters” are actually in the 35+ age demo’s. That gives me hope. They will “get” that while spotting the cool new trend is “cool”, nowadays making is as cool as it gets.

 

Catch the new cool wave. Wish me luck.

 

Judy Shapiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS – FYI … see attached list from Forbes entitled, “Web celeb 25”.   

http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/29/web-celebrities-internet-technology-webceleb09_0129_land.html

 

 

The Web Celeb 25

1Perez Hilton

2Michael Arrington

3Kevin Rose

4Frank Warren

5Cory Doctorow

6Pete Cashmore

7Beppe Grillo

8Heather Armstrong

9Guy Kawasaki

10Jason Calacanis

11Robert Scoble

12Will Leitch

13Jeff Jarvis

14Wil Wheaton

15Nate Silver

16Om Malik

17Matt Drudge

18Owen Thomas

19Dave Winer

20Seth Godin

21Brian Lam

22Mark Frauenfelder

23Steve Rubel

24John C. Dvorak

25Leo Laporte

A rose by any other name…

           

It never fails to amaze me how often people believe that the current “new” new thing has never been done before. For instance, I am amazed at how much music my kids listen to that are remixed versions of “old” songs.

 

The marketing world too seems to suffer from idea amnesia. So often people get enamored with new ideas that they think are leading edge and never done before. For instance, people think “neural marketing” is something new. Nope. When I was working with P&G or Gillette we called it subliminal advertising.  We were all quite well trained in the use of these techniques and I became a master of marketing mind games. So in today’s conversation about neural marketing, the only thing that is “new” is the sophistication of the technology that can be used to track responses.

 

But I reserve my keenest ire for the new crop of marketers who proclaim the novelty and relevancy of social marketing. I sometimes imagine myself speaking at a tech Web 2.0 conference surrounded by a sea of 20 something’s who feel confident and smug believing that social marketing was created by them and therefore belonged firmly in their domain. Sorry to disillusion you all – but social networking is just a technology definition for what those of us who were in marketing before there was an Internet – would call affinity marketing. You know, “birds of a feather” – that was how we described it to clients. The idea was simple in theory but quite difficult to execute 20 years ago. Today technology has vastly improved the depth and breadth of how we can create groups, but the concepts and strategy that drive these programs are well established.   

 

So remember, embrace the next best thing … but you may want to see who has been there before. A little experience goes a long way.

 

Judy Shapiro  

Trust Me!

         

Nothing evokes more distrust than someone asking you to “Trust me”.

 

Yet that is what the Internet asks us to do every day! We must conduct confidential transactions online – yet we often have no way to verify the authenticity of the site. We want to share our lives with our trusted network of friends, yet we worry that in our transparency and our tweets to our colleagues, we risk our very identity to the bad guys. How do we balance our desire to go online with our need to know that we can trust sites, information and communications?

 

Can we ever hope that the Internet of today becomes the Trusted Internet of tomorrow?

 

These are questions we all confront as we conduct more of our lives online. Join two leading tech titans, visionary Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo and noted Internet commentator Henry Blodget as they discuss live on the Paltalk Network their ideas on the future of the Internet in a three part series entitled, “Are we the crash dummies of the new Internet age?”   

 

This live, interactive Internet event gives Melih and Henry a chance to share their thoughts with each and with the audience on a range of subjects organized in three parts. The first program, airing February 10 at 3 pm (EST), will cover, The Internet Today: Like Cars before Seatbelts. This talk will address the truth about where we are today and how the criminal elements may very well take over the Internet. The second program, scheduled for March 3 at 3 pm (EST) will focus on how much should we reveal about ourselves online. This show, entitled “Your Digital Identity – Establish it or lose it”  will discuss how do we continue to live online without risking ourselves. Lastly, the third program, entitled, Transforming the Web into Your Web, airing March 19 at 3 pm (EST) will challenge us to address how we navigate through an increasingly complex Internet while leveraging new powerful tools, such as our social networks, to carve out a personal web for each one of us. 

 

LIVE SHOW DATES & TIMES (Eastern Standard Time):

Tues 2/10, 3:00 PM

Tues 3/3 , 3:00 PM 

Thurs 3/19, (TBD) 

 

For more information about this groundbreaking series, please visit  http://TechNow.Paltalk.com.

Show link is: http://TechNow.Paltalk.com/CrashDummies

 

About Melih Abdulhayoglu
CEO and Chief Security Architect of Comodo

 

Melih Abdulhayoglu created Comodo in 1998 with a bold vision of making the Trusted Internet a reality for all. His innovations have challenged some of the largest corporations and his pioneering business model earned him Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2008 Award in the Information Technology Software Category for New Jersey.  

 

Melih has led the industry in new digital security technologies for large enterprises, computer manufacturers and governmental organizations worldwide. This success has resulted in Comodo Certificate Authority, becoming the 2nd largest CA worldwide and Comodo’s award winning desktop security solutions are now one of most popular in the market today.

 

To learn more about the Trusted Internet, please visit http://www.comodo.com/corporate/manifesto.html

 

 

About Henry Blodget

CEO of Silicon Alley Insider

 

Silicon Alley is an online business media company based in New York. Prior to founding SAI in  May, 2007, Henry was CEO of Cherry Hill Research, an Internet research and consulting firm.

 

From 1994-2001, Henry was an investment banker at Prudential Securities and an equity analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. and Merrill  Lynch. As a Managing Director at Merrill, he ran the firm’s global Internet research practice and was the top-ranked Internet analyst on Wall Street. Blodget’s first book, The Wall Street Self-Defense Manual: A Consumer’s Guide to Intelligent Investing, was published in January 2007.

 

I hope you can join me for the pivotal live event. Bring your webcams :)

Judy Shapiro

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