From Personalization To Collaboration…The Key To Connecting With Customers

July 7, 2010

Today’s marketers live in an age of volatility and transition. Instantaneous transactions, multiple touch points, and the merging of offline with online have combined with a multitude of media outlets (including social media) to create ever-savvier audiences that are harder to find and keep. (Source: Business Week survey Sept. 2009)

For those of us who have been involved with direct marketing for more years than we care to remember, the “Holy Grail” was always the goal of personalization. That meant everything from testing closed face envelopes to highly targeted copy/content aimed at establishing relevance and attracting the interest of our consumer or customer.

Amidst this fast moving environment powered by technology, today’s marketer enjoys a rich menu of options for reaching the customer. In return the marketer receives a vast amount of data from which they need to be able to capture the meaning, implication, and importance of that data. Personalization alone is no longer sufficient. Today there are two other concepts that are even more critical to achieving success.

I came across a Business Week survey from September 2009 titled “From Collaboration to Personalization”. Hence the inspiration for my post however, I felt that from my perspective it worked better turning it upside down. The survey outlines three pillars critical to success and I could not agree more. They are: Collaboration, Multichannel Marketing and Personalization.

Collaboration: (Collaboration has both internal and external resonance)

Internally, the opportunity for collaboration exists between marketing teams that transact with all relevant marketing functions stemming from online and offline activity. Without collaboration, marketers may potentially employ both online and offline data and still be unable to serve customers fully. When internal departments and their functions do not exchange customer information, marketers are unable to craft a unified view of individual customers, and thus cannot target them with tailored information, offers, and products.

Externally, collaboration is about the way a marketer coordinates the online and offline customer experiences and data. Many companies today keep what should be “team” functions separated in silos, both internally and externally. Failure to coordinate marketing across silos results in an inability to fully enable multichannel marketing, which in turn prevents an effective personalization strategy. 

Multichannel Marketing:

Multichannel marketing is the act of bringing together online and offline data and functions. By weaving together the functions and consolidating information gleaned from combining multiple marketing activities, marketers can set in motion the actions that lead to full personalization. Only when multichannel marketing is employed will a company be able to personalize and target customers.


Personalization is rooted in the concept that the “customer is king,” and utilizes multichannel data to target customers with products and services specific to them based on their behavior. It requires a 360-degree view of a customer’s behavior so as to provide the most complete marketer-to-customer experience. The full concept depends on an integrated approach (collaboration), which in turn depends on multichannel marketing, without which personalization cannot be attained, and all of which depend on employing the most innovative technology available.

The survey asked Marketers, “Which statement best describes marketing accountability as it relates to activities in 2010?

46% of respondents said that it was about effectiveness.

41% said it was about optimization.

39% said it was about communications strategy.

Despite this apparent focus on effectiveness, optimization and communications strategy, at present only 58% of marketers’ report that they use technology to measure and compare all channels’ performance in one view. To my mind, this appears to be a very rich new business opportunity for agencies that can truly provide a unified approach, supported by all the necessary tools, capabilities and knowledge!

Rx For Agencies Suffering From Digital, Direct, PR and Social Media Confusion Or Disorientation

January 25, 2010

Reduction in the role of channel specialists. Today, interactive marketers want agencies to keep them ahead of the curve. But for most agencies, this means little more than just providing executional help in digital channels.

“As marketers seek interactivity, agencies that subsist will forgo their role as channel specialists and dedicate themselves instead to determining how to change the relationship marketers have with their end customers”.    Source: Shar Van Boskirk, Forrester Research, Jan 12, 2010

The opportunity is clear. Forget about continuing to structure your agency in silos like brand, direct, digital and social marketing, and start to think about People2People marketing. If you can integrate your marketing efforts and succeed in motivating customers not only to interact with you, but to share their personal networks with you, you will have created a powerful channel for your brand in the marketplace.

Click on the link below to view or download the full presentation.

View more presentations from Clive Maclean.

The Top Four New Business Trends for 2010

January 19, 2010

As the advertising world slams the door on a very difficult 2009, advertising agencies are looking ahead to 2010, hoping to deliver stronger growth in the sector. What lies ahead? Nobody really knows – However here are four key trends that in my opinion are sure to make waves in the marketplace!

The End of the Digital/Traditional Agency Divide.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the imaginary line dividing traditional and digital agencies will not completely disappear. But 2010 will see the distinction blur to the point of being meaningless. The Great Race, as Forrester Research calls it, pits digital shops looking to hone their branding chops against traditional agencies adding tech skills. This will in turn lead to more digital agencies competing for (and sometimes winning) through-the-line assignments, plus more clients will be willing to choose a lead agency based on which of its roster shops comes to the table with the best idea.

Social Media Will Become Synonymous With Digital.

There is no doubt that Twitter became the Cinderella of 2009. In 2010 we will see social-media tools being treated as an integral component of the digital world as predicted by Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li :

“Social media will become “like air,” and be pretty much everywhere”.

That means publishers and marketers will use tools like Twitter and Facebook Connect to make experiences more social. More marketers will look at social as an integral part of their digital strategy, rather than a stand-alone area for experimentation.

 The Year Mobile Marketing Comes of Age

I know that I have written about this subject many times over the last year however, 2010 is certain to be the year when the mobile advertising market finally takes off.  According to a recent Adweek article, heavyweights Apple and Google are poised to face off in the key markets, with Google pouring its seemingly infinite resources into the development of the Android operating system.

The competition will open up new opportunities for marketers in the burgeoning app economy. The biggest push should come in location-based services, which hold the possibility of giving brands the chance to minutely target consumers.

Data Du Jour.

In 2010 we will continue to see exponential demand from marketers for data served up real time in a user friendly format. Agencies will be expected to have the ability to integrate data across all channels and from all sources. They will be looking for everything from data analytics, to web analytics to data modeling in support of personalized content delivery to advanced behavioral customer data and segmentation. 

A 2009 survey conducted by Unica revealed that 72% of marketers had no full time staff member devoted to data analytics. In 2010 they will solve this issue by either developing the capabilities in-house or source it from a capable agency partner.


Content Strategy Is Key To Social Media Success For Ad Agencies!

September 2, 2009

content is king 2 Exactly how does an ad agency ensure their social media initiatives are seen by the right people? According to Hallie Janssen of Advil Media, it would take you almost 14 years to view every video uploaded to YouTube. Add to that all the Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace and Twitter content and you end up with more content than anyone could ever hope to get through.

So, how do you cut through? The real question we need to be asking ourselves is just how good is our agency’s content, and does it take the prospect to a more meaningful place that facilitates a value exchange? If you want results from your social media strategy, you have to define what content you will use to continue to engage your audience beyond the initial contact.

Social media channels like Twitter provide tidbits of information in real time and great volume. What you are hoping for is that your tidbit will catch the right person’s eye and get them to investigate further. Sure, you can upload long format videos to YouTube and post lengthy dissertations on your Facebook or LinkedIn page, it’s just incredibly ineffective. The key is disseminating multiple concise and simple messages that in turn take your audience on a more meaningful experience on your blog site etc.

You may be interested to know that, while Facebook is the most popular consumer social media site, Twitter is more popular in the marketing world. A July 2009, study of Fortune 100 companies conducted by Burson Marsteller, found that more companies had a presence on Twitter (54%) than on Facebook (29%).

 Twitter is also beating out Facebook’s popularity among e-mail marketers. Email Data Source found that among the US e-mail campaigns it tracked, links to Twitter became more common than links to Facebook in March 2009. Twitter is the ultimate tool for disseminating short messages to a large target audience in real time.

The old adage “Content is King” still applies today. Your chances of being successful in your social media efforts will be determined by the quality and relevance of your content strategy. Will you send them to a good blog, a discussion forum on the issue, a white paper or even a microsite to learn more? Will you build these assets and most importantly will you keep them updated? Or will you redirect your prospect to a partner site for the content where you will have your call to action embedded?





Is Twitter A Viable Source For Ad Agency New Business?

August 31, 2009


According to ComScore Inc., Twitter attracted 21.2 million U.S. visitors in July, up 783,000 from the previous year. Right now only 26% of companies use social media for business purposes, but 70% have plans to jump in according to a recent Russell Herder Survey. However, just getting involved does not guarantee you success. Twitter is so new that it is almost impossible to predict what will succeed and what might be an embarrassing failure!

Twitter is still a relative black box and I am very skeptical of anyone who claims to know how to leverage Twitter in a business setting. According to Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Chief Creative Officer for Threadless, nobody has any idea of what they are doing on social media. “It’s just how comfortable your company is in taking risk. Some things pay off and some things don’t.”

What agency leaders have to get comfortable with is that to connect with your target clients on these new media like Twitter, you have to cede absolute control of your advertising message. A very uncomfortable feeling for agencies that have spent their whole lives perfecting one way conversations, versus generating open dialogues where consumers can be extremely blunt.

If you take a look what’s happening out there, there can be little doubt about Twitters ability to influence public perceptions and awareness. JetBlue’s recent Monthly Pass Promotion became a trending topic on Twitter just after it went live in market. According to Lindsey Petersen from JetBlue’s frequent flier program, they were “completely bombarded”. Less than 36 hours after launching the promotion they were concerned about having to pull the promotion due to a lack of seats.

And here is a great agency example. A couple of months ago Barry Judge, CMO for BestBuy, Twittered after a meeting that he had just met with two people from Crispin Porter and that he thought that the agency was “the smartest agency on the planet”. The chatter that ensued from that tweet about Crispin was pretty amazing.

In my day to day discussions with various agencies, I find that:

  • Some feel that Twitter is waste of time because it is full of inane chatter between people that do not matter or have no influence.
  • Others are a little scared of it and to be quite frank are not sure how to get involved.
  • There are those who are involved but really do not use it seriously. They too send inane tweets and have no plan or strategy.
  • There are those few who are serious about Twitter. They have a plan, they are active, experimenting and making an effort to make it work. Some are even reporting some significant successes.

So, you can choose to sit on the sideline and wait for the “fad’ to pass, and maybe it won’t. Or, you can get involved, take some risks, experiment and find out for yourself if it works for you. You will never know until you try.





Ex Ad Agency Executive Demonstrates the Real Power Of Social Media.

August 20, 2009

If you were not convinced about both the power and effectiveness of social media before, I am sure that after reading this post you will be. Here is an example that demonstrates just how effective social media can be when used correctly.

70,000 Advertising professionals have already been laid off in the current recession. The worst I have experienced in nearly 30 years of being in the business. It has impacted both client and agency people alike and has reshaped our industry forever! If you just sit back and consider this statistic, it’s nothing less than mindboggling. Many are talented individuals with years of experience under their belt, and unfortunately, many will not be returning to our industry.

The recession has brought into question many of our values and priorities as individuals, consumers and employees. It’s caused many of us to move from materialistic to minimalistic and reassess what’s important to us and what is not. It’s driven significant changes in overall consumer behavior and impacted where and what they spend their money on. The recession is changing the way we do business and how we manage our businesses.

Most importantly it has forced many of us to reconsider our life’s purpose and what we ultimately want to achieve during it. We have all heard the truism, “When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  If you have not already heard, the movie “Lemonade” is going to be released sometime in September 2009. In essence, it’s a 30 minute documentary film that showcases the lives of former advertising professionals from the time they were fired through to how they used their dismissal as an opportunity to discover their dreams.

While I am certain that the movie itself will be of interest to you, the story behind it is even more fascinating.

  • It all started when a 37 year old copywriter from Arnold (Eric Proulx) was laid off during October 2008. (The third time in less than 10 years)
  • He started a blog called “Feed The Animals”, to serve as a venting ground and support system for other ad people who had been laid off.
  • After launch he decided to make a promotional video. The people and stories for the video all came from a call for submissions on Twitter.
  • He was going to conduct interviews himself using a handheld camera, however due to all the buzz, Picture Park, one of Boston’s largest commercial film companies sent a tweet offering their expertise.
  • Using Twitter, Proulx recruited an entire volunteer film crew.
  • He put an open letter on his blog and sent out a tweet that said “if @virginamerica got retweeted enough, maybe they’ll consider donating flights.” Not only did the airline come through, but A-level photographers also came through.
  • The film will be released free on the web even though that automatically disqualifies it from most documentary competitions.

Consistent with his overall approach, Proulx said, “I’d rather have a million laid-off viewers than 500 at a film festival!”

Two Thirds of Ad Agencies Have No Social Media strategy!

August 17, 2009

Social media strategy

In my recent national online survey of small to medium size ad agencies, a staggering 61% of respondents said that their agency did NOT have a social media strategy. This finding highlights just how poorly prepared ad agencies are from a digital perspective.

Right now, social media is probably the hottest topic of discussion and interest among both clients and agency alike. Most clients are looking for someone to help them make sense of the social media space, and how best to embrace it from a business perspective. They know that they should be involved but are just not sure how to approach it.

The agency world is well aware of this. Almost every agency I talk to or read about, is claiming to be either a social media expert or at least competent in the space. My question is how can all these agencies either be experts or competent practitioners, when almost two thirds of them have no social media strategy for their own agency? They appear to be talking the talk without walking the walk!

All a savvy client has to do to find out how adept a particular agency is at social media, is go online and take a look at what they are doing from an agency perspective. Social media is such a transparent medium that it does not take much effort at all to expose misleading claims. As I pointed out before in one of my earlier posts, if your agency is going to claim to be a social media expert, then make sure that you really are.

The bottom line is that whether your agency wants to provide social media services to clients or not, you still need a social media strategy to help market your own agency. Traditional methods and approaches are proving to be less and less effective every day. Agencies of all types need to start creating a following and providing client value through both listening and participation.

Michael Gass ( Michael Gass Consulting) is a true social media expert with an enviable track record. Not only is he an expert but he is also an industry authority on leveraging social marketing techniques to promote all types of agencies. His blog ( is probably one of the best, if not the best social media resource for agencies of all disciplines.

If you currently do not have an agency social media strategy, do not know how to begin or where to start, and need a turnkey solution that will get you up and running in the shortest time possible, talk to Michael. You will not regret your decision to do so.


Ad Agency New Business – Build A Community, Not A Target Market.

August 7, 2009

Social media community

From the customers perspective there is a huge difference between being part of a target list of prospective customers and part of a community. Guess which approach is the most effective when it comes to ad agency new business development?

Advertising, whether it be delivered through traditional media, direct marketing or even online channels, relies on predetermined messages pushed out to those individuals who we believe could be likely customer prospects. On the other hand, online communities are based around members who choose to be part of that community and have a reason to engage and participate. A very simple analogy can be taken from the world of sport. One is a spectator and the other a participant sport.

The same principals apply to ad agency new business development. You can choose to continue doing what you have always done or, you can seek out new ways to develop deeper opportunities and involvement with your key prospects. I am not suggesting that you abandon all of the traditional tried and tested new business methods. They should all be considered as components of your new business development program. However when you do all the talking, you miss out on what a community has to offer.

Your goal should be to genuinely involve your audience, get them engaged and allow them to contribute. Encourage them not only to help you generate the optimum content, but create it too. The result will ultimately be a prospect that has a higher predisposition to buy from you versus having to be sold.

Before you go off and rush into creating your social media following, please consider this. There is a fine balance between trying to drive customers to the social media environments and messages that you have created, versus becoming a meaningful part of their social media environments.

Here are a few quick ideas about how to go about building your community through social media:

  • Look beyond your specific services and expertise and identify what your agency is about and demonstrate your passion. All agencies claim to have the same services and capabilities. “We are a full service agency”. What does that mean? You will find it more effective to have them rally around you and your passion, versus your products and services.
  • Avoid the monologue and promote dialog and engagement. You cannot allow your voice/message to dominate the conversation. Provide a forum for your customers to contribute and encourage them to do so.
  • Be cogniscent of the need for balance. It is more important for you to insert your message into the conversation where the customer is already participating, as it is to create your own forums and channels and invite them in.



An Ad Agency Nightmare. The Day The Media Died!

August 6, 2009

madison avenue blues

I recently wrote a post describing how the Magicians of Madison Avenue have become obsolete. This video tells the story far more poetically than I ever could. 

Just after writing that post, I came across this video on you tube. It is probably one of the most insightful and funny parodies ever produced about the advertising and media business. At the same time, it is also carries with it a very strong message…A wake-up call for everybody in the marketing communications and media industry.

The video puts into perspective the real impact that technology has had on our business and illustrates just how slow many of us have been to adapt or at least embrace it. No one is left unscathed in the process.

We have all heard the proverbial phrase that dates back to the 19th century, “less is more”. In this instance I am going to say less and let the video tell you more about the story.

Enjoy. I know that I did.




Wow! What an Innovative Agency New Business Growth Strategy!

July 16, 2009

IMC2Interactive Agency IMC2 has put $500,000 into what it calls “The Social Media Innovation Fund.” Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! Not only does this demonstrate how serious they are about the social-media space, it also will allow them to attract additional business from both new and existing clients. Not to mention build an enviable agency social media portfolio at the same time.

All agencies spend a significant amount of money trying to develop new business opportunities. In a pitch environment it is not unusual for an agency to invest anything from $100,000 to $500,000 in agency time and effort in a single pitch, with only a 1/5 chance of winning it. As I have said before, new business strain is one of the largest cost overheads for any agency.

IMC2 has cleverly set up this fund in the amount of $500, 000. In reality, no more than their normal investment in single pitch for a marquee client. When you take into consideration that by far the largest costs associated with social media are internal billable agency hours, and you have a very low cost low risk offer from the agencies perspective

  Even more ingenious is the way they are allocating the funds – by matching up to $50,000 against what a marketer spends on a social media project that “creates brand impact and showcases our thought leadership and offerings”.  In other words, it will only be allocated against projects that the agency considers worth of supporting, and that will help build their portfolio.

Wow, now the agency is a partner and enjoys joint decision making responsibility on the project alongside the client. If IMC2 allocate all $500,000 of their fund, that will have generated a minimum of $1 million dollars in innovative showcase work for them. And if all that’s not enough, IMC2 have also made it a condition that the client agree to allow the work to be promoted via case studies and agency PR efforts.

In an environment where all you read about is clients cutting back on their budgets, this is a great idea to give clients like that a reason to approach IMC2 and in the process not only hire a great agency but also double their social media project budget.

I know I am sitting here thinking that I wish I had done that.