Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sometimes You Just Need to Press the Flesh

With all due respect to social media, and despite the constant threat of H1N1, I plan to spend this Thanksgiving holiday weekend going mano a mano with human beings.

I plan to look deep into the eyes of family, friends and neighbors.

I plan to shake hands, pump fists, hug shoulders, kiss cheeks and pat heads.

I plan to talk and sing and laugh and maybe even cry.

I plan to get up close and personal.

I plan to sit with my loved ones and share a long meal.

I plan to drink a little wine and tell a few stories.

I plan to nod off on the couch while watching football with my son.

I plan to wake up and go for a walk with anyone who will join me.

I plan to think about my dad and all the relatives and friends who are no longer with us.

I plan to be thankful for this wonderful life I have.

Be be forewarned, I plan to be social without all the media - no texting, no iPhone video games, no tweeting, no Facebook posting, no blogging, no email, no photo-taking and no cell phone calling. So if you want to see me this weekend or talk to me or listen to me, you have to come and see me. In person.

You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Wind of Change is Blowing. Well, Something Blows.

" 'Ello, 'ello, 'ello? Admiral's right: 'eavy weather brewin' at Number 17, and no mistake!"
-Burt (Mary Poppins)

As you read this post, the FDA is actively taking testimony from leading Web companies and pharmaceutical interests about what they'd like to see in "a brave new world of digital drug ads."

According to a Los Angeles Times story, "we're going to need an entirely new FDA division dedicated solely to surfing the Web and policing all that digital content -- and that won't be cheap." The story goes on to say: "It will be up to federal officials to strike the right balance between digital commerce and keeping people safe."

Speaking only for myself, these ideas - leaving it up to the Feds and creating a new FDA division - do not get me excited, unless by excited you mean scare me half to death. And it frustrates me to think, are we really so uncontrollable as an industry? Are we so driven by greed that we will take the chance of letting the government step in?

The answer of course is yes. Greed continues to fuel our nation's economy. Just check the latest numbers on the bonuses Goldman Sachs is awarding to its employees; they have already set aside $16 billion for staff bonuses and expect to add another $7 billion before the end of the year. Meanwhile, they expect us to be overjoyed by the $500 million initiative to help small businesses directly and through universities. Here's an idea, keep the $500 million for bonuses and invest the $23 billion in small businesses.

Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, CNN is reporting that "three marketing firms and hundreds of their online partners made more than $1.4 billion using misleading sales tactics, according to a report issued Tuesday by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D., W.Va.)." According to the report: "The three [online marketing] firms previously have settled lawsuits brought by consumers or by states on behalf of consumers, and recently made changes to their marketing practices. Lawmakers suggested that may not be enough and that legislation may be needed."

Awesome. More government intervention. More laws and regulations. Apparently the World Wide Web, much like the Wild, Wild West will require Federal troops to get tamed. Wouldn't it be nice if we could clean up our own mess and self-regulate instead of pushing the limits and forcing the government to step in? LOL, I'm so funny.

"I'd like to make one thing quite clear: I never explain anything."
-Mary Poppins

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2010 Marketing: Go Cheap or Go Home?

For as long as I can remember, publicity (a primary tool in the public relations toolbox) has been positioned and/or referred to as an efficient, if not inexpensive way to promote a product or service or organization or person.

In fact, this common misconception has led to the popularization of the term "free publicity." To illustrate, I conducted a quick Google search of the term and found endless references, such as these recent news stories:

Associated Press (Nov. 10):

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," almost certain to be the year's best-selling video game, has also become its most notorious. That's because of a prerelease leak showing a terrorist raid on an airport — exactly the sort of thing that's guaranteed to rile up anti-violence watchdogs and generate free publicity.

NBC New York (Nov. 10):

Calvin Klein's latest racy billboard in SoHo is stopping traffic, raising eyebrows and again earning the designer a little free publicity.

Detroit News (Nov. 5):

Fox News Channel is on a roll. A smackdown with the White House has handed the cable news network loads of free publicity, as well as raw meat for its commentators.

Well you get the idea, but it is most definitely the wrong idea. In point of fact, it is an idiotic idea perpetuated by morons who just do not understand the business. As my father often warned me, there is no such thing as a free lunch... and there is no such thing as free publicity.

But that is not even the point of this post. Because I am hyper sensitive to the idea of doing anything on the cheap (I am a big believer in the philosophy that we get what we pay for) my attention is always attracted to the mention of all things free, cheap and low-cost. And guess what I've been hearing a lot about lately? In the world of marketing, the new "free publicity" is social media.

Cape Cod News (Nov. 10):

It doesn't hurt that social media offer a very low-cost way of getting a message out. "We're kind of making it into a shining example of how to do a thing like this on zero budget," said Beth Dunn, a Massachusetts-based marketing consultant.

Restaurants & Institutions Magazine (Oct. 09):

Given its low cost of use compared with traditional marketing vehicles such as print, television and radio, social-media marketing can be a good fit for foodservice operations of all sizes, whether the goal is to drive traffic and sales or strengthen brand awareness and loyalty.

Mashable (Nov. 5):

Facebook offers exceptional, low cost marketing opportunities for small business.

Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada and on and on.

If you are looking for quality work that leads to quality results, you will find that social media marketing, like publicity, is neither free nor low-cost. It can be affordable and it most definitely can be valuable, but if it is advertised as cheap, I suggest you run - not walk - from the marketer selling you this line of bull stuff.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If I Were A Client...

You know that Beyonce song, "If I were a boy"?

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about clients and the decisions they make, as well as the decisions they don't make. Having been on the agency side my entire career tends to put me at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding what goes on behind closed doors on the client side. On the other hand, having worked with hundreds of clients in dozens of industries in markets around the globe has also given me a very unique perspective.

Naturally what I am most interested in knowing is what compels a client to hire one agency over another or to not hire an agency when they really need one or to hire an agency when they really don't need one. These are things I am more than curious about, but not yet obsessed with; I want to get to the bottom of them, but I can still sleep just fine at night if I do not know the answers.

In an effort to get at the answers in a scientific way, we (Sweeney) are planning to conduct a formal survey among marketing professionals who are responsible for making such decisions. I promise to make all the results public (even to other agencies) upon completion.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the perspective of one corporate marketing professional
whose opinion I respect more highly than most. His background is balanced and impeccable, having worked on both the agency and the corporate side... having worked with the world's smallest and largest marketing agencies... having worked with local, national and international corporations... and having worked with consumer, business, industrial and institutional clients.

During a recent conversation, I wondered aloud what agencies should communicate to prospective clients, not feeling entirely certain about what clients want. Here is his response:

I loathe agencies telling me how wacky and fun and creative they are. I don't care. What I care about is your ability to solve my problem. And the ability to do it well and on time and on budget. I don't care that you have a pool table in the creative department.

[For the record, Sweeney does not own a pool table or a ping pong table or a foosball table or a pinball machine or a climbing wall. Any pictures you may have seen of me or my employees in a ball pit were clearly taken at Chuck E. Cheese during normal lunch hours.]