Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

There’s a difference between a news hook and newsjacking

When I used to do media relations for a university, I was — all modesty aside — pretty good with a news hook. When there was a disease outbreak, a political crisis, or whatever, I could find an expert in our faculty and get that person in front of microphones pretty darn quickly. I remember the big power outage in 2003. I got a call from a radio program doing crisis coverage asking if I had any experts in history of society before electricity. As it happened, I knew a great social historian who was both expert in that period of history and a good interview. I told the producer “Give me a minute”, hung up, found the prof’s home phone (everything was shut down), called him, and within 10 minutes, he was on live national radio talking about the changes that widespread electrification brought to Canadian society and what this power outage could teach us.

But there’s a material difference between finding a news hook and newsjacking. Newsjacking is an attempt by an organization to exploit an event for its own purposes. This can be done well. For example, when there was a power outage at the Super Bowl, Oreo had a spectacularly successful tweet out in mere minutes:

oreo

 

But that’s a best-case scenario.

How about:

  • A fashion house sending out a release and photos showing actor Amy Adams with one of its handbags. The photo was taken at Philip Seymour Hoffman’s funeral service.
  • Another fashion retailer using the unrest in Syria to create a “boots on the ground” themed tweet. (Two of three examples from this blog.)

Or, just this morning:

  • A PR company suggesting that the death of Robin Williams was an opportunity to talk about identity theft and pitching their client as an interview.

I guess it needs to be said. This is wrong. It’s tacky and tasteless and gross. So I’m going to suggest we do a couple of things.

  1. If you receive this sort of messaging, don’t use it. Don’t make it successful. Contact the company and tell them how offensive their action is. Tell them this will cause the opposite of their desired goal (whether that’s sales, media attention, or whatever). Don’t share their content. Don’t give it a life that it doesn’t deserve.
  2. If your company is being told it should do this, be very cautious. If the idea is related to some sort of tragic event, it’s almost impossible to think of a good reason to do it. Run it past some people not connected to the idea. See if it seems tacky or opportunistic. Err on the side of caution.

Communicators — we can be better than this. Please don’t do this.

Doing your own advertising? Some tips

There’s a pattern that computers and technology have made apparent over and over.

  • Pre-computers: music was recorded in expensive studios, controlled and distributed by labels. Post-computers: Computers come pre-loaded with free music recording software, and some of the music has gone on to great success.
  • Pre-computers: books were bought by publishing companies, printed on giant presses, distributed to bookstores. Post-computers: anyone (like my friend Sue, for example) can write an e-book (Produce: The Art of Creating Digital Content Using Professional Production Techniques)and take charge of distribution.
  • Pre-computers: making video required hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and highly-professional staff. A few television networks distributed programs and sold advertising. If you didn’t make it on those networks, you didn’t make it on TV. Post-computers: People with consumer-grade technology make videos and upload them to Youtube and other sites, making money from advertising and sometimes getting millions of hits.

Another example of this pattern is advertising. When your media choices were (more or less) daily newspapers, radio, and television, most businesses didn’t do their own advertising. That was done by agencies, or by the media outlet. And it was expensive!

Then, pay-per-click came along. Google AdWords, Facebook, etc. etc. Suddenly anyone could advertise, even with just a few dollars a day to spend. Which is great! Except… sometimes it isn’t.

I saw a sponsored post in my Facebook feed earlier this week. Somebody did something right, because it was for a new microbrewery in my hometown. Except … the ad copy said “opening Spring 2014.”  Problem #1: the brewery  was already open. Problem #2: It was July.

I don’t want to call out the business in question — they’re a small startup, and there’s no doubt they have a million things that they’re trying to do. What happened isn’t a capital crime. But it did point out something that I think happens quite a bit with small businesses and new businesses — their online advertising just gets a little bit out of control.

So I thought I’d give you a quick checklist for your online advertising.

  1. Just because you’re not spending thousands of dollars (unless you are!) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be serious about it.
  2. It’s not like traditional media — you don’t want ot run one ad or a couple into the ground. Have multiple ads running.
  3. Response on online advertising drops off like a rock off a cliff. That’s part of the reason to have multiple ads running at any one time, and also a reason to have an inventory of ads that you can swap in and out.
  4. If you use a calendar, or a whiteboard, or whatever to keep a schedule, use it to note when your ads should be staritng and stopping. Also use whatever scheduling options you have in the advertising platform to “set and forget” ads, but have a backup.
  5. Most online advertising gives you a limited amount of wording to play with, and an image. Work hard on those words and images, because they’re your only chance at getting people’s attention. Because you can create many ads, you can play with images and copy.
  6. Regularly review the performance of your ads. Be strategic — and by that I mean ensure that your ads are pushing the viewer to some ACTION.

If you’re doing online ads and want to do a little more education, I’m happy to help as much as I can — although I am not an online advertising expert. If you want to go deeper into this, there’s a ton of great resources out there. For example, e-commerce company Shopify (an Ottawa success story, yay us!) has this great guide up on line.

And Brian Carter has two great books out that can help anyone use online advertising to their advantage:

The Like Economy,

and Facebook Marketing:


If you get through all that, you’d likely know more about this stuff than I would!

(Photo credit: cc-licenced image by Flickr user Marcin Wichary)

When leaders sell their profession short

I was shocked today to get pointed to a post on the Hootsuite blog by friend Kami Huyse. The post “What is the most sought-after selfie?” looked at recent famous selfies. What galled me was this paragraph:

2014 was the year of the first billion-dollar selfie. During the 2014 Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres snapped a group selfie, rumored to be sponsored by Samsung, with the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. She then uploaded the photo to her Twitter account and ended up getting millions of retweets from people around the globe. Maurice Levy, CEO of advertising firm Publicis, said that the Oscar selfie was worth between $800 million to $1 billion to its client Samsung.

I immediately shared some inappropriate words, then I left a comment on the post. But apparently I still have more to say.

Lévy is the CEO of a gigantic conglomerate of agencies lumped together as Publicis Groupe, and he was doing a talk at the MIPTV summit in April, just after the Academy Awards. Here’s the crucial quote:

The quote: “The earned media —  all the buzz which had been done around the Oscars — represents roughly a value between $800 million and a billion US dollars, because it has been mentioned all around the world, and the Samsung phone has been either mentioned or seen.”

M. Lévy has, no doubt, achieved great things. His group of companies generated $2.3 billion in revenue (US dollars) in the first quarter of 2014. Compared to me, he’s a top predator, and I’m an amoeba. So I am shocked to see a man of his stature, in his position, use a metric that has been so thoroughly discredited — Advertising Value Equivalency, or AVE.

AVEs have been around for a long time. And despite the efforts of many professional groups and individuals, they remain. Why are they problematic? I can’t state the reasons much better than this 2003 paper from the Institute for Pubic Relations. I’ll turn the paper’s objections into bullet points for brevity:

  • There’s no factual basis for assuming that an “editorial” mention is equivalent to an advertisement
  • The credibility of media varies from one topic and one outlet to the other. So using one “multiplier” is impossible
  • AVEs only measure what APPEARS, while PR folk often work to minimize coverage or not see something appear at all. This is not measurable by AVE
  • Advertisements depend on repetitive mentions to build awareness. “Earned media” cannot do the same
  • Not everything is relatable to advertising. If there are no ads on the front page of a magazine, what’s the value of a cover mention?
  • If a story tangentially mentions a brand or an organization, does the equivalency relate to the entire story or the portion of the story mentioning the specific brand?

In 2010, a coalition of leading communication organizations agreed upon what came to be known as the “Barcelona Principles.” Principle number five of the seven principles states: “AVEs are not the value of public relations.” Yet, according to PR News earlier this spring, the principles are not being adopted as quickly as might have been expected. Or hoped. And when you have people in the position of Maurice Lévy using these discredited and disavowed numbers, while it remains disappointing, it becomes less surprising.

The lesson for us here? I could simply and flippantly say “Don’t follow leaders.”  But there’s a slightly deeper lesson here. Even if you’re working with a “top agency”, even if you’re hiring “the best” — you owe it to yourself and your business to be ready to call BS on what they tell you. Don’t simply assume they know best, that their advice should be taken. If you can’t understand the strategy, or the method of evaluation; if you can’t relate the tactics to your business goals: speak up. Ask for better.

And if you’re a communicator — find a way to help push our industry out of the bad habits that we’ve developed. We can do better. And we know how.

Using online ads? Prepare for backlash

Interesting example of one of the pitfalls of online advertising passed by on my newsfeed. Ottawa realtor Tracy Arnett had used Facebook’s new promoted posts feature on Facebook. Available since May, this new feature allows a specific post to be pushed into people’s newsfeeds (this is different from Facebook ads, which appear in the sidebar of a Facebook profile). The one I saw advertised a condominium apartment.

But what really caught my eye was the first comment on the post. Take a look:

A screenshot of Tracy Arnett Facebook advertisement

 

To the credit of the realtor, she responded exceptionally well. Apologize for the offense, explain calmly and carefully why it happened, offer a solution.

When I went to the realtor’s Facebook page, I noted the following messages as well:

Arnett Facebook page screen capture

But it points out to businesses using new social media options for advertising such as sponsored posts on social networks that they may well tick off people who see them. Be prepared to receive angry — even intemperate — feedback, and to respond in a measured and factual manner. Imagine if the realtor had responded by saying “Look, if you don’t like it just hit ignore, okay? It’s not my problem”!

And in fact, depending on the type of advertising you’re planning on doing and the nature of your business or organization, the potential for negative responses might well dissuade you from doing such advertising. Proceed carefully!

Is your business going out on “dates?” Then why not get dressed up?

Yesterday, I saw a great post called “The First Rule of Branding” from former Algonquin College colleague Lisa Haggis, who’s now on her own as a branding consultant. My two-sentence summary of her post: “Customers want to love you. Don’t turn them off.”

And then this morning, I was meeting with friend and colleague Meredith Luce, a local graphic designer (and, as a side note, one of my favorite performers in all the world), and we were talking about businesses and design, when she said, “Sometimes it’s like hearing a friend is going out on a hot date and you look at her and say, ‘You’re going out dressed like that?? At least invest in a mirror.‘”

I burst out laughing. But what she had said, and what Lisa had written, were stuck in my head enough that I needed to write this.

As a business, the “frilly stuff”, like graphic design or customer experience, might seem unnecessary. As Lisa wrote in her post,

“People will evaluate your brand as a whole, not as individual experiences… exceptions – that one off-topic blog post, cheap marketing collateral, or a contradictory offering – will throw off the whole experience.” 

Whether it’s media relations, sales, graphic design, social media — when you’re in business, you’re always going out on dates. Hopefully,  those dates develop into relationships (I’m not getting into polygamy or polyamory metaphors, please and thank you). You should be thinking:

But if you go out with your metaphorical fly unzipped or your pantyhose tucked into your skirt… you could end up like this:

Don’t leave a glaring hole in your customer experience. For that matter, don’t leave a subtle one either.

If PR isn’t about substance, why bother?

I saw a very disappointing infographic this morning, via Dave Forde’s PR in Canada site. Produced by the Max Borges Agency, it chronicles the history of public relations. I was interested to scan it. And so I did. I invite you to do the same:

 

Okay. Notice something?

We have

  • Ben Franklin.
  • Tom Paine.
  • Ivy Lee advising John D. Rockefeller.
  • Edward Bernays advising Coolidge on foreign affairs.

And what do we have representing the last 13 years, the 2000s?

As entertaining as these entries are, are they telling us something? I think they are. PR practitioners should look at this and ask themselves on what side they fall. Are they contributing substance, or are they simply carrying out stunts? Are they using the tools of communication at their disposal (obviously including the suite of tools that make up “social media”) to make change, to influence people on important issues, or is it about a cookie or a taco?

And if we’re seeking to summarize our contributions to society, are those the best examples we can find?  What about the role of Twitter in the Iranian demonstrations? What about the ability of people to organize using social media to create events like Twestival? What about the Tylenol crisis? I could go on.

If public relations is to be considered a serious discipline, doesn’t it makes sense that we take on serious work, and talk about serious issues? And talk about them in public? Sometimes I think I oughtta find a new career.

Is your work decent? Ask yourself. UPDATED

I rarely blog in anger. But my blood is boiling right now.

I got pointed this morning to a blog post by a UK copywriter.

She called out Hyundai, and its ad agency Innocean, for this ad:

In case this is pulled, the idea is this: Man tapes up his car windows, seals himself in the garage, and feeds his Hyundai’s exhaust into the car. But it’s so green, he can’t complete the act of suicide. 

Copybot writer Holly Brockwells was upset by this for two reasons. One, it’s offensive. Two, her father killed himself in just this way when she was a child.

I, too, am a survivor of suicide in my family. And I can’t tell you how angry and upset I am that someone would not only conceive of this ad, but then go through all the steps necessary to COMPLETE it.

I’m not going to go through all the reasons why this is so offensive and hurtful. You’re all smart enough to know why already. So some advice: whatever your work is within the world of communications and PR and social media, ask yourself a question:

Is what I’m doing or saying decent?

If the answer’s no, STOP.

UPDATE: Hyundai has issued a terse apology for the ad: “We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate European video featuring a Hyundai. Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.” Note that they are distancing themselves from it being a Hyundai ad. I have reached out to Hyundai’s media team asking questions about this. This National Post story suggests Hyundai wasn’t involved in making the ad.

Bad Science blogger Ben Goldacre says this ad could actually increase suicide rates by this method.

UPDATE 2: I have a response from Hyundai USA’s corporate comms folks and a statement from Hyundai Europe.

“Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral ad.

The ad was created by an affiliate advertising agency, Innocean Europe, without Hyundai’s request or approval. It runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused.

More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy.”

I have an email out to Hyundai Europe and to Innocean with questions. I will update when I have more.

UPDATE:

Hyundai Europe provided the following response:

Dear Bob,
in response to your note I like to provide you the following statement -
“Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive ad depicting a suicide attempt in one of our vehicles.

The ad was created by an affiliate advertising agency, Innocean Europe, without Hyundai’s request or approval. Nevertheless, it runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused.

More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy”

I hope this helps and you will understand we are not commenting beyond this. Thank you.

Regards
Andreas
UPPITY UPDATE:
In Mitch Joel’s post about this fiasco, finally evidence that Innocean is actually not an “affiliate”, but … a subsidiary of Hyundai. Which makes their responses seem nauseatingly disingenuous.
UPPITYEST DATE:
I just received the following only partially responsive email from Innocean:

Dear Bob Ledrew,

In regards to the recent film “Pipe Job” which has caused controversy in the media recently, firstly we write to confirm that the film was produced by INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe GmbH without the approval of our Client, Hyundai Motor Company.

The film was designed to creatively dramatize the technical strength of the vehicle featured and posted just in Youtube of INNOCEAN Europe. Clearly we misjudged consumer sentiment and INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe has already issued a formal statement of apology.

INNOCEAN Worldwide deeply apologizes for this incident and would like to express our sincere apology to everyone for any distress caused.

we will endeavor to learn from this unfortunate incident and will continue to work with added vigor to become the Company that better understands consumers, human and worldwide.

Regards,Peter Kwan
Sr. Manager
PR Team / INNOCEAN Worldwide Global HQ

I’m responding with further questions.

After this release I need a drink

I’m a major lover of whisky. In fact, for part of this weekend, I was rhapsodizing about the interesting whisky selection at a new LCBO store in my neighbourhood to all and sundry.

However, as a PR guy, this news release from giant whisky brand Johnnie Walker put me in need of a drink.

JOHNNIE WALKER® LAUNCHES BOLD NEW ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

by Pat Roberts

Where Flavour Is King’ showcases products’ credentials rooted in the big, bold flavours of Johnnie Walker whisky

Johnnie Walker, the world’s number one Blended Scotch Whisky, is this week launching a new global advertising campaign. Entitled ‘Where Flavour Is King’, the campaign focuses on the array of rich and intense flavours that are found in each blend of Johnnie Walker whisky.

From its origins in 1820, the Johnnie Walker label has always been committed to its quest to blend whiskies of exceptional flavour, refusing to compromise on quality. This dedicated attitude to finding exotic and exciting tastes takes the product on a special journey of distillation, maturation and blending, to produce the ultimate, unrivalled blend. The flavours, derived solely from the simplest ingredients of barley, water and peat, are mythically transformed through distillation and years of maturation in charred wood casks before being unleashed through the craft of the master blender.” 

You can’t be serious. I don’t give a *@#%@# that you are doing a new advertising campaign.

Make good booze. Tell me about that. This is a far cry from the amazing short film that JW did a few years ago with the wonderful Robert Carlyle:

Now THAT makes me REALLY want a whisky.

SMB 101 Post #9: Using free tools for measurement

Ad Budget

Hopefully, you know more about your advertising effectiveness than John Wanamaker did.

One of the classic quotes from the world of business is attributed to John Wanamaker:

 Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

I’m guessing this is a familiar refrain for many business owners. It’s easy to spend money on advertising, whether it’s in the community paper, the local daily, radio, or online. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gauge that you could use to measure the effectiveness of that advertising?

But before I give you a few tips, a couple of theoretical points to address. First, it can take multiple exposures to a message before people will act on it — or even notice it. This is called, in the business, “effective frequency.” So don’t think that you can simply run an ad, and based on that one exposure, people will flock to your business.

Second, advertising plays a different role for businesses at different stages of their lives. Al Ries, a renowned brand strategist, characterizes it this way: “PR creates brands; advertising defends brands.” So if you’re a new business, you might be focusing your efforts more on the PR side. If you’re an established, mature business, advertising may be taking a more prominent role.

So once you have a strategy in place and understand the role advertising plays in it… how can you tell if you’re wasting your money? There are some simple things you can do:

  1. Track online. QR (Quick Response) codes are those square barcodes you see on ads, posters, and the like. If you use QR codes in your advertising, you can track how many times those codes are scanned. Even if you don’t use the QR codes, utilities like bit.ly offer similar abilities to track clicks (By the way, bit.ly will generate QR codes that you can use too). And plan out what your call to action will be. Don’t just send people to your website — create a specific page to point them to. Then you will know by traffic if your message is getting through.
  2. A/B testing is your friend. This may sound a bit intimidating. But the concept is simple. Don’t just run one ad. Run two, with a variation in imagery, copy, and the like. Then use the tracking tools mentioned in tip 1 to look at which one is performing better. The easiest place to do this is online, using platforms like Facebook Adverts or Google Adwords, but you can do similar things with other forms of media, like print or direct mail. And it’s particularly important to do this when using Facebook ads, which according to online marketing smart guy Brian Carter, “burn out” far more quickly than other forms of advertising.
  3. USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. All of this stuff is only cool if you use it. Tracking the impact of your ads, measuring A/B results — you need to dedicate the time necessary to understand what the numbers are telling you.
If you are out of your depth on this, think about hiring someone to help build or run a monitoring system for you. But it is possible to do this on your own. Every step you take along this path is an improvement over doing nothing.
(This is post number nine in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

SMB 101 Post #7: Thinking about shelf-life

There are as many different social media tools out there as you can imagine. If you don’t believe me, check out the “conversation prism” that Brian Solis created:

The Conversation prism (Brian Solis)

Confused yet? Good. That’s what keeps people like me in business!

When you’re engaging with your audiences using one or more of these tools, one thing to keep in mind is the timeframe for your message. I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to a podcast (WTF with Marc Maron, if you must know). The podcast was great, but there was a sponsor who was pushing a  Christmas special. (I’m writing this in June).

Different social media have different shelf lives. Twitter is (arguably) ephemeral. It’s here, then it’s gone. Facebook pages, less so. Blogs, semi-permanent. Things like podcasts live on forever; despite the fact that my Stephen King podcast is currently on hiatus, I still see thousands of downloads each month.

So when you’re working out strategies for social media, keep in mind that each tool will have its own sense of time. Why advertise for Mother’s Day when people will still be hitting that note in November? Key your messages to take into account the shelf life of the medium.

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY. I would have taken some pictures inside, but I was afraid someone would shoot me.

(This is post number seven in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

(PS: Sorry for the late post; I should have pre-written for the Friday, but I didn’t, and I was driving to Boston yesterday. With a quick stop here.)