Is it possible for agencies to embrace marketing “complexity”?

The ad business is going through a change not seen in 3 decades.

For 3 decades there were three chairs at the marketing table — agencies, brands and the media. All 3 parts technologically evolved in a symbiotic “one:many” model to grow the business. Agencies “produced once and ran many times”; brands (one) had a message to get out to many and each media property created its media content for many people.

But Internet was a fourth chair that came to the table. It started to dominate the other three chairs utterly disrupting the “one:many” efficient, profitable marketing model in favor of a “many:many” model brought on by social media and mobile technologies.

As technology continued to evolve much faster than the other chairs at the table, the result of this disequilibrium was first felt by the media which suffered a near fatal blow. Agencies, now are feeling the full brunt of this dynamic largely because the “complexity” of social media is taking more and more of the traditional ad budgets.

So while the business has gotten more complex, agencies are trapped in an old “one:many” business model and have no clear way to evolve. Clients do not pay often for agency’s’ technological learning curves (how many agency folks were at TechCrunch Disrupt for instance???). And agencies can not charge $10,000 for a bunch of twitter updates (if you want to sleep peacefully at night).

That’s why in this new scenario even agencies that want to embrace complexity — can not because the profitable “one:many” marketing business model does not support the “many:many” business model. Case in point. Digital media buying agencies are paid as a percentage of billings, but since there are few billings in social media — they do not create those types of programs for their clients. There is no incentive for a digital agency to develop a program with no/ low billings and high complexity – now is there?

So before agencies can embrace marketing complexity – we have to figure out how to make money at it. Talk about complex.

Judy Shapiro

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Where have all the authentic voices gone?

There’s a new project, Hum News I learned about that has me so excited. It is about bringing authentic news voices to regions of the world where the major news organizations do not go. In fact, the large 4 news services do not cover about 70% of the world’s population.  The facts are sobering:

  • The GEOGRAPHIC GAP – There are 237 countries/territories in the world. Yet, the 4 largest newsgathering and distribution organizations entrusted to supply content to 90% leave 116 countries ignored. (HUM Research- Associated Press, Thomson-Reuters, Bloomberg News & Dow Jones). This means that  two-thirds of the world’s population are without any authentic voice in the world’s media.
  • CHANGING POPULATION – Nearly half of the world’s population (3+ billion people) is under the age of 25 and over 85% of this group live in developing countries (World Population Foundation, 2008) which goes uncovered.
  • REDUCTION IN NEWS MEDIA ENTITIES RESOURCES/BUDGETS – News and journalism resources are decreasing, but demand for global coverage is exponentially increasing. (The State of the News Media.org, 2008)
  • WEB & MOBILE ACCESS – In 2009, over 1.5 billion people have access to the Internet up from 360 million in 2000. (Internet World Usage Statistics). By 2013, there will be 4.5 billion mobile users worldwide. (Parks Associates). Within these countries, 70% of the population is under the age of 25 and mobile devices and internet usage outpaces traditional content consumption by Western counterparts. The result of this growth in access is that the infrastructure barriers that held these countries back, are beginning to give these regions a huge voice to influence world opinion and consequently world events.
  • EMERGING MARKETS – Nations such as Algeria, Libya and Turkmenistan symbolize the globe’s new growth areas in terms of population; and countries such as Angola, Congo (Brazzaville) and Malawi represent the fastest growing economies in the world (UN.org). But here’s the clincher — 86% of the world’s population will be living in these emerging markets by 2050. (Population Media Foundation)

Today, news from these remote local regions is often inaccurate, biased and lacking in authentic voices. The ramification of the “information gap” is life altering. Let’s just cite a few recent examples to make my point dramatically.

1) Jonathan Gosier is the Director and System Architect of SwiftRiverat Ushahidi, who are  working on an open-source software platform that helps journalists and emergency response organizations sift through real-time information quickly, without sacrificing accuracy.

He wrote an article recently entitled: “Curators of the real-time web” describing the challenges a lack “on the ground” credentialed news coverage can bring:

“This past year in Kampala, Uganda, there were a series of deadly riots that occurred under the radar of international mainstream news for days. Yet it was a situation that affected millions of lives here. My peers and I relied upon Twitter and SMS for information. Later, when the mainstream news picked up on what was going on, they were often wrong or misleading in what they reported.

In such a scenario, the news outlets were either clueless, or useless to people like myself. Conversely, friends of mine who were chased down by military police as they tweeted absolutely earned my trust. In that situation, I followed the information sources that it made sense to monitor for that situation. Every scenario will be different, which is why a good distributed reputation system should be equally nuanced.”

The lack of trusted on the ground sources delayed aid and extended the misery of millions of people in this region.

2) “Outsiders” tend to portray the situation in Gaza often as desperate, as the recent news coverage of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade suggested. The blockade news story was pretty single minded from almost all news services; Gaza citizens lack in basic needs and these noble, heroic, brave humanitarians were running the blockade and carrying nothing more dangerous than chocolate. The storyline continued, these humanitarians were then brutally attacked by Israel resulting in 9 casualties.

This is the only story that got told around the world and the results were sadly predictable. There were riots across the world, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel and Israel is branded (again) as the aggressor.

Now I am making no comment on what the truth really is, but surely no thinking person can believe it is so one-sided? Nor can any thinking person not concede that the lack of authentic voices from within the region deeply distorts the truth making all of us vulnerable to media manipulation.

Think I am exaggerating? I wish I were. Just take a listen to a recent interview Helen Thomas, chief White House Correspondent for Hearst did at, no less Jewish Heritage Day at the White House. She very literally told Jews “to get the hell out of Palestine” because it is not their land and Jews should go back “home” – to Germany and Poland! This was so unbelievable that this Youtube video was played nearly a million times in just 3 days. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnALLK5g–I&feature=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh+div-1r-1-HM

Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for Thomas’ head, but the shock here was that a White Correspondent should have such a one sided view of the facts. How can Jews go back to Poland for heaven’s sake? Worse, how can she assert that “Palestine” belongs to Palestinians – Jews were there way before Palestinians? This episode most dramatically demonstrates how a lack of balance, credible news from within a region can lead to respected reporter to be blinded into a clearly biased view of facts on the ground. The consequences for everyone are dire.

So next time someone says to you; ”Ah the world really does not care about news in some remote place in the world.” The answer is; “Lack of trust in news and information is not a regional issue – but a global one.” The ramifications for all of us are very very personal – much more urgently than you think.

Judy Shapiro

“Look up in the sky – it’s a bird, it’s a plane. No it’s an iPad.”

I was listening to my 14 year old son discuss the relative merits of an iPad versus his iTouch with a buddy of his. Now my kid is Apple’d out – MAC, iPod, iTouch. No wonder he was intrigued by the iPad as all things Apple is inherently good in his world view.

“It makes no sense”, I hear my son saying”, “why would Apple want people to think of iPad as a computer – it would kill their other business”. He then declared; “To me, this is a bigger and better iTouch that I would use at home.”

His friend thought for a minute and replied simply; “Yeah, but Steve Jobs thinks this is the new way people will use computers. Maybe, Apple wants to be the Microsoft, Dell, AT&T and Google all wrapped up in one.”

At first I was surprised at the thoughtful way these kids were getting right to the business heart of the matter. What is an iPad anyway? More interestingly though, as a marketer, I was eager to ponder what implications the iPad’s “position” might have on its astonishing 1MM sell through.

Clearly, the physical sleekness of the device drove a big part of the sell through. Surprisingly though, the huge gap in how “Junior Consumer”  was interpreting iPad’s main function, a.k.a. hyper cool entertainment device versus Jobs’ declaration that this is “the most important thing he has ever worked on” usually spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R, but that seemed not to matter in this case.

This disconnect is amplified when one realizes that the iPad may well be the computing version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing because it becomes the gate/ portal and police of what services or apps or content comes out of that portal. I kinda hope my son’s friend was wrong and Apple is not interested in displacing other devices and services providers from Judy Consumer’s world. Uh – no – that’s not likely. So it seems to me that the shiny iPad Apple carries a time delayed poison within that will, ultimately, bind Judy Consumer to the Apple franchise with little hope of escape.

OK – I admit – I am playing drama queen here. But it seems in maybe 5 years, our digital world will be defined by a few major players – maybe a handful – who will deliver all information, content, communications and commerce to us.

The “so what” of all this mega aggregation of services is that Judy Consumer will have fewer choices and higher prices. In the future world of information services wars, over time, Judy Consumer will lose out just like she ultimately did in the telecom wars of the past (I am battle hardened veteran of those wars). The final result being that, in fact, when choices go down, pricing goes up.

If iPad is meant to be the point of entry for a new way of computing that inextricably ties hardware to services – I worry (yes – I am a Jewish Mother and we worry.) I worry that it will be harder for competition to evolve and over time we know without competition, Judy Consumer pays more for less.

So I wonder – do you think the iPad is a merely step up from an iTouch as a hyper cool content consumption device or is the iPad Steve Jobs’ attempt at creating a new computing paradigm (hence explaining his sentiment that this is the most important thing he has ever done)?

I fear my son’s opinion on this matter is borne of youthful naïveté. I think I’ll go read Snow White again … at least that has a happy ending.

Judy Shapiro

“Judy Consumer” gets a new digital life partner

I was reading about Google TV which comes on the heels of all the iPad buzz which comes on the heels of the new Verizon Incredible launch and so on ….

All these efforts seem to transcend the desire to sell a device. It seems that these devices are designed to fight for the  digital fidelity of “Judy Consumer”. In essence, these companies want her to commit to a monogamous, long term relationship with them as the sole provider of all of her communications, commerce and content consumption.

These are pretty high stakes for “Judy Consumer” since it is not just about buying a product – it is about making a long term commitment.

My advice to “Judy Consumer” – proposals for a long term relationship may sound seductive but choose wisely – breaking up is not so easy to do.

Judy Shapiro

Is Mobile marketing’s new found popularity an investment bubble space waiting to burst?

I have been here before. The mobile space has always had its boom and bust cycles closely following the technology advancements in this technology segment. But despite the natural up’s and down’s in this space, I do believe the mobile segment is still poised for better growth as mobile computing begins to gain more penetration with the advance of the next gen networks and devices.

That’s the good news.  So what worries me?

I worry when I see so many companies jumping on the mobile app/ mobile marketing bandwagon. Within the last month alone, I have been asked to assess no less than 25 ventures, wannabe ventures or a guy in a garage who did an iphone app. I have looked at a bunch of new retail mobile apps, coupon delivery services, city guide apps and video based mobile services. That’s almost one venture a day and it even beats the pace I experienced when I was at Bell Labs New Ventures and new tech ideas where as plentiful as sand on a sea shore!

So that’s why I feel like a “mobile” bubble is forming that will be inevitably bust taking with it players who are too late or underfunded or just badly timed.

So while the potential for mobile marketing is tremendous – it has begun to take on the “gold rush” type of feel priming many people for disappointment.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Judy Shapiro

My top 10 New Year’s “un-resolutions” for 2010

We all know about our New Year’s resolutions. We make them with all good intentions to keep them. But we also know that what usually happens is that, inevitably, one by one our resolutions go by the way side. So I stopped making those New Year’s resolutions years ago because it seems to be a recipe for failure.

Instead, this year for a change, I have started to make “un-resolutions” – things I am determined NOT to do. Here’s my top 10 un-resolutions. Take care – this may become a new tradition.

1) I will not get seduced by any new digital marketing toy just because some industry pundit thinks it’s the coolest thing to hit the street. Nor will I believe every promise made by every new marketing technology company.

2) I will not abandon common sense in digital marketing and be blinded by digital agencies promises that their “new” campaigns will go viral and get the attention of millions of people. I will continue to listen to my gut and if it sounds to good to be true, I will let skepticism drive my decision.

3) I will not abandon newspaper, magazines, radio and other forms of traditional media if it is the right vehicle. No matter how sexy digital media may seem because of the perceived lower cost, I will continue to create integrated programs that weave together the best of both the traditional and digital worlds.

4) I will not give up my attachment to email marketing. Sorry folks – but email marketing, well done, drives real business results. If your email campaign did not work – either you had a bad list or an inadequate call-to-action or maybe your agency did not know what they were doing.

5)  I will not be fooled into thinking that the ad market is going to rebound in 2010. Nope. The ad market will continue to be buffeted by the tides of an evolving economic landscape and by consumers’ ever fickle attraction to new tech toys like mobile devices.  These trends will continue to dampen ad revenue for publishers for some time to come.

6) I will not get excited about cloud computing – at least not yet. I do see how it is going to dominate in the next 5 years – but there are real security problems to solve before everyone can get into the clouds. Conversely, I do get excited by all types of ASP offers as that is a steady business model that offers real value to consumers.

7) I will not blindly follow Google as they chow down every tech industry from telecom to digital publishing. Ever one loves to love Google. Me too. But that does not mean that I have to support every initiative as Google relentlessly marches toward digital dominance. In the process, they stifle competition and kill real innovation by companies who deserve to succeed. Now here’s my one New Year’s prediction (for 2012) – I predict that Google will have to break themselves up to avoid the growing recognition that Google is really a monopoly, albeit a new kind.

8 ) I will not diminish my slavish devotion to data driven marketing no matter what new platforms come out that can behaviorally target any audience any way I wish. I know I know – the BT folks can slice and dice an audience so many ways that it makes a marketer salivate. But unless I can see, touch and feel the data – I will pass for now.

9)  I will not start following every Tom, Dick and Jane to gain more Twitter followers. OK, so I only have about 175 folks following me but at least I know they read what I tweet. Quality – not quantity is what drives social media.

10) And my final un-resolution. I will not try appear to be “30 something” just because I love digital marketing. I know that the average age of people in digital marketing tends to be 27 – but my depth in this space has yielded real world, hard won recognition. And while I am at it, will not submit to peer pressure to use more “hair product” than one can find in a Duane Reade store so I can appear suitably young as a digital marketer. What you see (grey hair and all) is what you get 🙂

There you have it. My top 10 un-resolutions for 2010. If you have your list – feel free to share it here.

Judy Shapiro

Blackberry – my technology line in the sand

I feel like Don Quixote from Man of La Mancha – tilting at windmills.  And I know, that sooner or later, the windmill will win (for those of you who never read the play – hint – it does not end so well for Don.)

But for now, I have drawn this technology line in the sand and have not procured the requisite Blackberry. My reasons for resisting this technology are numerous despite the clear and compelling benefits:

  • I am not that important that I need to be reached within 20 seconds. As it is, I check email with a frequency that is akin to an addiction anyway. If there is a real emergency, then my ever ready cell phone is my safety net.
  • It seems that a Blackberry seems to give permission for people to be rude, as in, “I am so important that instead of listening to you in this meeting, I will check to my Blackberry to see if someone more important than you have contacted me”.  I dunno – it seems the self grandiose nature of this is rather irksome.
  • You can not give good direction to a team using a Blackberry. The best you can use a Blackberry for is a; “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know” or I will get back to you later” type of answers – nothing more. It makes me crazy when I see junior managers trying to tap out a cohesive and meaningful set of directions using Blackberry. Please, please stop it. It does not work, but I see the seduction of it. With our trusted Blackberry you can answer quickly and you can mark that item off your “to do” list. It may be efficient for you – but I can guarantee you that your team probably has no idea what you wanted.
  • Finally, as it is, too much of my day is spent fielding people trying to reach me. I resist being that in contact with everyone for so much of my day. ‘Nuf said.

So there you have it. My list of why I won’t get a Blackberry. I say this with some irony, since some of the reasons I gave above were not dissimilar to the reasons I may have given about 10 years ago when I resisted getting a cell phone. Obviously, that line in the sand was crossed within months and I suspect this one will be too.

While I don’t know how long this line in the sand will hold (and I am unfortunately not optimistic), I intend to hold the line as valiantly as Don Quixote. A quote in the play comes to mind and seems pertinent; “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all – -to see life as it is and not as it should be.” I know Blackberry makes total sense … but I choose “madness”. At least for now.

Judy Shapiro

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