Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Can Amazon Save the Postal Service?

Our country's classic Postal carrier system has been losing ground - and lots of money - for years. Not too long ago, they tried to cut out Saturday delivery to trim budgets. Seemed like a pretty sound idea to me based on the extreme uptick in other forms of communications. Met with a myriad of protests (some from the union?), Saturday was back on the ticket.

But Amazon just announced what I think could be a possible savior for the PO - or at least a nice test-crutch for the holiday season. You guessed it - Sunday package delivery of products purchased through Amazon will be delivered by Postal carriers (even in the rain, sleet or snow!)

As someone who's into my AARP-eligible years, I have to admit, I'm encouraged to see this throw-back. Guess we'll wait and see how it goes and if they expand beyond LA and NY in the future.

But now that younger consumers are moving away from stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and doing more shopping on-line where every three-dimensional item they purchase needs a delivery mechanism, we just may see more of those little white trucks on the roads. Be careful out there since the PO is always the winner if there's a crash - or is that just an old rumor?


Friday, August 2, 2013

Thank You Howell Creative Group!

Without sounding like I’m giving a graduation speech, or taking a sad trip down memory lane, it can’t be overstated how great of an opportunity it is to spend a couple of months working for this company. If you don’t mind being passed a fast paced share of work then you’ll love what Tiffany has lined up for you. It has been a blast, and I’ve gained tons of experience in advertising. If all of that interests you then you should contact the company about an internship, and hopefully you’ll get a chance at a great opportunity like I did.

Now I’ll quickly take that trip down memory lane, and save whoever’s reading this from my rambling. I’d like to thank Kathy, Tiffany, Kelsey and everyone else at the company for the sense of welcome that they have demonstrated over the last three months. I felt like part of the team from day one, which makes contributing ideas and work infinitely easier. I’ve been continually impressed with the creative work being done in the office every day, and it’s great to have worked with people who love what they do, because that’s what’s most important about a career.  The company is in great hands, and is on the right track for great things to come.

I look forward to seeing more of the world with a touch of HCG on it, and wish everyone in the company the best of luck in their careers. I look forward to working alongside every one of you sometime in the future.  

See y’all soon,
Josh Wallace

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pre-Roll Ads Can Be Effective, They Just Need A Big Makeover

We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of playing a Youtube video for a group of people and have faced the grueling five-second wait until you can skip the pre-roll advertisement. Your group of friends could care less about an ad for a Craftsman table saw when they want to watch a video of the kung fu bear (Link). Even with targeted advertising, people still dislike pre-rolls because the ads get in the way of instant gratification. Companies and advertisers are continuously missing opportunities to make pre-rolls effective, and are wasting resources as viewers instantly skip over the ads without hesitation.

A Great Opportunity
Pre-roll ads give advertisers the opportunity for millions of people to view their product or brand, and are one of the fastest growing methods of advertising. Pre-rolls have great potential because the ads reach the people who are now devoting more and more time to watching online videos, and less time to watching television, while costing less than TV spots, too.

Low Performance
The big problem is that pre-rolls annoy the overwhelming majority of viewers, and if they’re not annoyed, they tolerate them. The way most pre-rolls are formatted now lead to very low click through rates, and incredible amounts of viewers who do skip the ads after the five-seconds are up. On a platform of video content that users seek out themselves, traditional advertising sticks out like a sore thumb, and it has the potential of rubbing off onto the products and brands it is promoting.

Get Creative
The solution to the problem then, is to drop everything you know about traditional advertising, and to develop completely new strategies for online video advertising, which operates in a different world. For example, if advertisers have five seconds to capture the attention of the viewer and give them a reason to not click the “Skip” button, why do they use an advertisement that is made with a balance of beginning, middle and end? The first five seconds of the pre-roll ad should be devoted to convincing the viewer that the advertisement is worth putting off the Youtube video for a couple more seconds. The horror movie Evil Dead executed that strategy perfectly with their conversion of their standard movie trailer into a pre-roll ad, which you can watch here (Link). (WARNING: Graphic Content).

Lastly, and most importantly, pre-roll ads should engage the viewer. The Internet is full of funny, cool, emotional and educational videos that people choose to watch. The key word is choose, and online ads should make the viewer want to watch more, not click "Skip." Users seek out videos because the content engages their interests on some level. Generally, things that are over saturated with commercial content and reek of advertising are not favorable with users. Effective pre-rolls must  break the mold of traditional advertising, and be used creatively to fit in with everything else on the Internet. When users start to seek out interesting advertisements to view is when advertisers will see positive results from those millions of impressions.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Big Deal With "Skinny"

The newest trend in restaurant cocktails involves slimming down everything but the profits.

Skinny kicks up sales
Cocktails with the word “skinny” in their name have jumped a staggering 44% in the Q1 at the top 500 restaurant chains, and have more than doubled in each of the last three quarters, according to an industry study. Skinny has quickly become the “it” word in cocktails, popping up everywhere imaginable, but what is the buzz about?

What’s skinny?
Skinny refers to a cocktail that contains fewer calories. They often are made with mixers that have fewer calories, but still pack a punch of flavor. For example, a Red Lobster Lobsterita packs an astounding 890 calories per glass, while a Chili’s Skinny Margarita comes in at a mere 110 calories.

It’s not diet, it’s skinny
Diet implies sacrifice, where as skinny signifies aspirations and intent. Utilizing the term is a smart move especially since sacrificing drinks is the last thing restaurants want patrons to do. Cocktails have a higher margin than food, so using a name that implies guilt-free indulgence instead of sacrificing, is key. Admittedly, calorie counters like me feel at ease ordering these skinny drinks and won’t be afraid to go for a second round since they perceive less of an impact on their diet. More drinks equals more money for the business, and less calorie counting for those enjoying the tasty concoctions. Winning

In terms of marketing, the re-branding of diet drinks by removing the negative associations and using a lighter feeling word is brilliant, and judging by the bottom line, effective. The cost of the name change is minimal while delivering a revenue stream that is anything but skinny. Talk about “fat “results.

Read more on the subject at AdAge

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Netflix Knows What They're Doing, Come On!

Netflix has just written the book on word of mouth marketing with the recent campaign for its “semi-original” show “Arrested Development.” Here’s a hint: quality is key.

“Arrested Development” was abruptly cancelled by FOX in 2006, after just three seasons. The now cult classic was nominated for twenty-two Emmys, and took home six while it was aired. Netflix picked up the cancelled show and filmed Season 4 in 2013, which is now available to stream in its entirety.

The new season yielded three times the amount of initial streams than Netflix’s other previous high-profile release “House of Cards.” The company’s advertising campaign should be credited for the success.

For those that have never seen “Arrested Development”, it is a show about a wealthy family (the Bluths) that lost everything, and their son (Jason Bateman) who had to keep them all together. The show unravels as a masterpiece of intricately intertwined comedic genius. It is through the show’s natural quirkiness that Netflixs promotional campaign flourished, which sparked the interest of non-viewers by engaging Bluth lovers.

The campaign relied largely on the base of loyal fans that “Arrested Development” already had. The show has a large following of 18-30 year olds who began obsessively re-watching the show at the first hint of its return. It’s no surprise then, that a majority of the promotions were catered to the devoted fans, alluding to colors and symbols of the show that often left “outsiders” clueless, but intrigued. Brand advocates are one of the most important aspects of word of mouth marketing; the other is providing those advocates with something to talk about.

For example, few things stick out more in Times Square than a giant wooden banana stand. Even more surprising would be the line that extends from the stand as far as the eye can see. The Bluth’s frozen bananas dipped in chocolate are one of the many recurring jokes throughout the show, and fans flooded the stand once word of its presence got around. Anyone not in on the joke was quickly filled in about the stand, and about “Arrested Development,” by the hundreds of fans eager to talk about the return of their favorite show. The end message was communicated through the advocates to the non-viewers in a more personal and trustworthy way than Netflix could have, which has led to the initial number of streams.

The remainder of the campaign used the same hands off approach as the banana stand, as fans took to social media every time they came across something new from the Bluths. Netflix ran a successful campaign solely on the quality of their product, which should be a model for others.

Advocates are important for every company to have, especially as business has moved into a customer relationship oriented field. The key takeaway then, is that in order to gain customers as advocates, the end deliverable has to create value to the customer, so they have something they want to advocate. 

After all, I am talking about the new season of “Arrested Development” now, right?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's NOT Complicated. *Tiffany's been waiting to cover this campaign!*

McDonald’s losing Millennial audiences; suffering in sales of product to 20-somethings; major menu redo to gain market share. While a thoroughly interesting issue and story, one of which I’ve regarded curiously lately (see my retweet at R_TiffanyAnne) I knew in this issue of Ad Age I had to turn directly to the article on AT&T’s “Not Complicated” campaign, aka my favorite TV spots, perhaps, ever! Forget the major headline stuff this week, I want to know who made those spots, what was the inspiration and are those adorably rambling first-graders scripted or natural?

To quote one of my fav pigtailed stars from these spots, “I want more, I want more, I like it I want more.” In November we had the first chance to catch one of the “Not Complicated” spots where a group of four children and one straight-edged man help us understand the one-ups AT&T has over competitor’s wireless networks. As Ad Age put it, “the secret sauce was in the first-graders imaginations.” BBDO, Atlanta brainstormed a simple concept, with remarkable flexibility that enables producers to hone in on one clear message at a time, illustrated with a hilarious, surprisingly human effect.

While the NBA version is “ok” (however, my husband was most impressed by the star collection of athletes), “dizzy boy” wiggling his head while waving his hand – aka “multitasking message” – in front of an overly impressed moderator makes me laugh out loud every time I watch. So, was this tiny tike told to yabber-on about how much he could shake and wiggle, or was this a natural occurrence? “Guided improve” as I’ve come to understand. Scripts were prepared in case nothing was useable, but otherwise moderator Beck Bennett who is also part of comedy group Good Neighbor, guided foursomes of six-year-olds through whatever their imagination brought them while talking through topics like the importance of fast versus slow.

Each round of spots required shooting four or five different groups of kids a day, with two hours devoted to each group. Overly talkative kids were paired with attentive but not as “big energy” children as Ad Age specified, (we all understand how kids can go off subject). During editing if the spot felt too scripted or unnatural, it was ditched. The result is a series of comedy spots that have become a pop-culture phenomenon, drawing praise not just from the industry but from your buddy at the water cooler too.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Data's cool, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

Digital marketing mediums have been terrific in helping us gather all that terrific ROI info and stats. And I'm the first one to want to do everything in my power to get our client's tangible results or sales from the marketing communications we produce. After all, it's their very real, very hard-earned money that's being spent.

But there have been more than a few times these last few years when I dared to ask myself if we should be letting that data drive the process as though it's the end-all/be-all.

Does it sometimes feel like stats can be trusted as much as the rental car's GPS who left my husband and me at the end of a dark cul-de-sac in Connecticut a few years ago? I can still hear "her" voice saying that final sign-off after the myriad turning directions that just seemed wrong to my gut (the navigator) - "Please call an operator at 800... for help".

As creative thinkers, our job is to do our best to interpret the numbers with a balance of left and right brain. And you know what? Sometimes the right brain just has to win to really land on a key message or image that truly will resonate with targeted customers for the long haul. It may not make the numbers change overnight or cause a flood of "likes" immediately. But after a while, it makes an impression on the mind of the folks our clients are hoping to influence. It really does help them remember our client's service or product when that customer is actually ready to buy what they offer.

And that's a key in business-to-business marketing - which is a lot of what we do. It's serendipity if the targeted buyer is ready to do a complete overhaul of their plant's conveyor system or move their corporate headquarters on the days they see the campaigns or websites. But more than likely, if it's on their mind when they do see our work, the message will resonate.  And our clients will be remembered when it's time to say "go".

Adam Kleinberg who runs an interactive ad agency (translation - has access to lots of data) recently dared to share this type of message in Advertising Age. Check it out. http://adage.com/article/guest-columnists/data-driven-creative-equals-mediocre-creative/239960/

Can I get an "amen"?
Or do you think I'm off-target?

But be prepared - if you think I'm off, then I expect to see the data to prove it!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thank you for the Internship Experience

To Everyone at Howell Creative Group,

This October, I proudly became part of Howell Creative Group as a part-time intern. The reason that I chose Howell was that I was taking Advertising & Marketing Communications class for my Marketing major, and that I was hoping to get more hands-on experience in marketing/advertising. Now that I am approaching the end of my internship, I would say that this experience with Howell is incredibly valuable to me.

First of all, I love the workplace. Howell is not a huge agency, but it feels like a family. At the beginning of my internship, my director Tiffany explained to me in details about the work style here, and introduced me to the current and past projects. With her instruction, I quickly got an overall idea of whom we work with, what kind of job we do, and how we treat our work and our clients in a caring and professional manner. Also, Howell has a cute way of giving back to the community, which is to send toys on the clients’ behalf to charity organizations. When I saw the collection of toys on the top shelf that were sent out in the past decade, I knew that I came to the right place.

The people you work with are always a crucial aspect of a job. During the past two months, I had the opportunity to interact with everyone at work; Tiffany even designed a Scavenger Hunt in order to prepare me to get familiar with the agency and the people. As a green hand in the agency, I had questions about almost everything, yet people are very nice and patient to clarify and provide extra help, especially Kelsey :)

The most important thing is that I gained great experience in my areas of interest by working on real tasks for the clients. For the first time, I learned about how to design and place an ad on social media platforms, and had a chance to do it on my own. I went on a short business trip with Kathy and sat in face-to-face and virtual client meetings. I provided copywriting for marketing materials, participated in preparing for client pitches, and executed initiatives for the benefit of the client’s business. With Tiffany’s advice and the exposure to professional work samples, I also got inspiration to create high quality work for my advertising projects. However, I could not have made so much progress if not for the generous help and trust that I receive at Howell.

The two months with you has flown by fast. In the end, I would like to thank everyone for your assistance and friendliness. It has been a wonderful time with you, and added so much to my professional experience and capability. I wish you all a happy holiday, and hope to see you again soon!