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Saturday, December 27, 2014

What Is Going On?

Last week, I put up a post entitled “It’s All So Fragile”, a decidedly downbeat commentary from two struggling ad agency principals. I did not expect much in the way of immediate readership or response as several holidays were upon us that are celebrated all over the world. When I went to check my e-mail, I was very surprised to see all kinds of comments from readers in several countries. A few scolded me for a less than optimistic report posted in the heart of their Christmas season. Some said it was true and a few said they knew who my anonymous agency people were (they were wrong). More telling were the comments of a number of readers who essentially said and I paraphrase--Okay, I see the same thing. What is going on?

I am often criticized for many things but one is that I often take a long view on many issues. So, when I look at the changes taking place in both advertising and conventional media, I do not get too upset. To me, what is going on is NORMAL.

Go back to the founding of our republic. When we broke from Britain and adopted our Constitution in 1789, George Washington became our first president. He presided over a nation that was preindustrial in nature--human muscle ably assisted by some animals was about as techie as we got. Some 90% of the people were involved in agriculture.

A few decades later, the Industrial Revolution began to raise its head. Steam engines started to pop up and then came the telegraph and railroads. Electricity and oil motors came on the scene and people had more mobility, warmth, and light. Finally, we emerged in to the third industrial era which I will call the computer age.

Every time the technological innovation came along in a big way, existing economic and social life became quite destabilized. That is simply what we are going through now. The pattern keeps repeating itself. Historically, each took 30-50 years to effect sweeping change. Remember that electricity was available in many American and European homes in the late 19th century but until the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) changed things, much of rural southern America did not have power at the flip of a switch.

So, is it different this time as many say? I would only say that it is different in the sense that the RATE OF CHANGE is much faster. Some 15 years ago, much of the world did not have access to a telephone. Today, mobile phones are found even in remote and primitive areas and not only provide calling but also access to video and the world wide web.

Sweeping changes in technology are disruptive. They do cause pain for people of a certain age who want to coast to retirement and to those whose jobs will become obsolete or marginalized in importance. Try to accentuate the positive. Think about the gains in communication and medicine and travel. Branding will not get easier given the enormous fragmentation of media but we will be able to see what works and what does not much more clearly than ever.
Today remains the most exciting time ever to work in advertising, marketing, or the media. You cannot turn back the clock. To a friend who recently described the digital world as the enemy, I can only conjure up the philosophy of the great Don Michael Corleone-- “Keep you friends close, but your enemies closer.”

To all who read the blog (123 countries represented this year) may I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com or add a comment on the blog.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's All So Fragile

In recent weeks, I have had conversations and exchanged a ton of e-mails with two agency owners. One runs a small shop while the other’s agency straddles the space between small and mid-sized. Both gentlemen have been around for a long time and have thrived through several economic downturns. All I will say to identify them is that they operate businesses far from New York City.

The fellow with the smaller shop is gregarious and openly describes himself as a “shameless self promoter.” He loves to sell and has a wonderful enthusiasm for all that he does. So, I was surprised, when hearing from him after Thanksgiving, how discouraged that he seemed to be. Here are some verbatim comments or quotes from e-mails over the last few weeks:

--When I met you at a 4A’s Media Conference a dozen years ago, you really annoyed me. I told you that my two anchor accounts were local banks that covered all of our rent, utilities and even employee health insurance. You looked at me with an almost Mona Lisa smile and suggested that I diversify more. Then you muttered something about a bank getting swallowed up every day in the United States due to mergers or buyouts. I was annoyed but when I got home I checked it out and you were right. And, of course, we lost both banks to buyouts within a few years. It took me five years of great effort to crawl out of that hole.

--I had a few car dealers that have been great for years. We had a rough time in 2009 as they did but we all survived. Lately, even that is slipping away. The son of our biggest dealer decided to join the family business after a few years in the financial world. I warned our staff to be polite as he would eventually take over the dealership. Each month we placed a fairly strong radio schedule locally for them. One day, our account executive came back and reported that “Junior” had told him they were trying something new and their would be no paid media next month. I got Dad on the line but he backed his son up 100%.  What Junior did was simple--he sent an e-mail or direct mail piece if he had no e-mail to every customer who had bought a car from the dealership in the last  three to six years. The offer was very,very good--no dealer hype. My account guy told Junior that it could not work without the lift that it would get from conventional media.

It worked great! According to the old man, SUV’s just flew off the lot. Two of my team bought cars from him! Dad was excited and wanted to do it again. Junior said no and suggested doing it two to three times per year at most with a fresh offer each time. Sales were not great when our radio buy went on the next month. They are now doing all kinds of e-mail blasts and even using Twitter successfully. We look like cave men compared to this kid who is simply doing basic 21st century blocking and tackling. Also, Junior has a buddy who designed the mailer for a few hundred bucks. So, we will not get any work there anymore. Even the crumbs are disappearing.

--We are at a point where we cannot pitch business where the key client decision-makers are young. I know that I have to turn over my team over the next 18 months. We are dinosaurs and if we do not reinvent ourselves, we will become extinct!

The second player has a bigger team and is in a larger metro area and has a staff that has embraced digital options fairly well. He was a copywriter in his early days and still sees himself as a creative type rather than an executive. Some of this comments were:

--We work our team hard but we just cannot keep up with the industry changes. Last week, we were at a pitch and asked about mobile advertising. We said we did quite a bit of it and had more on board for 2015. A young prospect started firing questions at our media and creative guys. He used terms that none of us had heard of before. We looked like country bumpkins. I really embarrassed a friend at the prospect company who fought to get us into the consideration list for the business.

--The opposite happened at a session the month before the mobile debacle. Our creative head began to present a storyboard to the prospects. Three of the people around the table started laughing. He stopped dead in his tracks and one of the guys said, “You really think TV makes sense for us. Really?”  We crawled out of the meeting.

--The media talks about the mega-shops and how well they are doing with their online trading desks. I just do not see how we fit in to the new world much longer. Radio just does not work anymore and TV pays out very poorly if at all. The only people who say they see our TV work are over 60. We do some local cable and they provide some attractive promotions but that is not enough to carry the day for us. We do not have a clue about the needed media mix between conventional and digital.

--I just do not know how I can keep the game going. Everything is so fragile.

These are good people who have given their lives to the advertising industry. They cannot be alone in their struggles.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Friday, December 12, 2014

Consumer Update

In the wildly exciting life that I live, I do my level best to keep track of demographic and consumer trends. Not quite two weeks ago, the Federal Reserve released new figures on consumer debt levels in the U.S. and I have decided to share them with you plus add a few comments.

Top line results were as follows:

Average Household Credit Card Debt--$15,608
Average Mortgage Debt--$154,847
Average Student Loan Debt--$32,397

Let us take a quick look at each category:

Credit Card Debt--Actually, if you include ALL households in the credit card debt universe, the average balance is about $7,200. Many, such as you and I, pay off their credit card balances each month. So, the $15.6k is for those who are carrying installment debt with credit cards. Some 47% use credit cards almost daily but have no balance and pay zero interest on them. Minimum payments, then, for those who have credit card debt, are over $300 per month.

There is a statistic that is even scarier than those above. When the Great Recession hit in 2008-2009, people saw that average credit card balances were declining. My knee jerk reaction was that scared citizens were cleaning up their personal balance sheets and paying down debt. Undoubtedly, many were. The real truth as we look at it several years later is that the decline in indebtedness was due more to defaults rather than restraints on spending.

Average Mortgage Debt--not a great deal to say here except that those who were underwater (mortgage balance higher than their home’s value) have often worked their way in to the black. The government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced this past week that they are now writing 3% downpayment mortgages again. This time, they say that documentation must be much tighter than in 2006-2008. A shift in policy such as this makes me nervous. Why not stick to the Canadian ironclad rule of 20% down or the mortgage will not be written?

Student Loan Debt--this is the fastest growing area of US debt. The average graduate starting out in the world has $32,400 in debt. Alarmingly, despite repeated media warnings, this total is up 9.6% from the prior year. And, approximately 32% of those who have student loans are late or have defaulted on them. Bankruptcy? Forget about it! If you declare bankruptcy congress has passed laws insuring that you must pay back the loans. Some will be 50 before they pay their loans off. I do not feel that it is the role of government to protect people from themselves yet given the age of people signing long term agreements more explanation and discussion is needed in my opinion.

Also, many of the loans are taken out by youngsters who take out loans to go to a community college. They borrow $16,000 and then fail out or drop out. Next stop is a minimum wage job at a 7-Eleven or fellow traveler. The debt will likely never be paid off and a 20 year old will have a financial millstone around his or her neck for life. Total student debt now stands at over $1.1 trillion.

So, where does this leave us? Some 70% of the US economy is (sadly) consumer driven.  Were everyone to pull in their horns all at once, the economy would be headed toward another Great Recession. There is a big buzz lately as the cost of a barrel of oil has dropped from $107 to around $60, as I write. The average American has approximately $100 per month extra to spend as long as oil stays low. Yet, if you look at Detroit sales in the last few months, SUV sales are up smartly. When oil inevitably goes up, they will be in a tighter spot than now. So, will people use this oil windfall to pay down some debt and re-liquify? Too good to be true. Also, historically, a big drop in the price of oil usually indicates a weakening economy. So, is the low cost at the pump merely a prelude of a weakening global economy?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Will Streaming Kill the Cable Bundle?

Several weeks ago, HBO announced that it would launch a “stand-alone, over the top HBO service in the United States” during calendar year, 2015. Essentially, you could watch HBO for five dollars a month streaming on to one of your devices without the expense of a cable subscription. The press had a field day with the announcement and I received dozens of e-mails about it and the possible implications for the cable industry. I thought that it was wise to wait a few weeks and think about the issue and also talk and e-mail a number of media analysts about it.

For years, in passing, a few dozen individuals have told me that the only reason that they subscribed to cable was HBO. I always would nod and smile but also observed that sometimes the programs that they discussed were on Showtime or in Mad Men’s case, AMC, not a premium channel. Additionally, they also mentioned some over the air series that they liked and sports would often play a part in the discussion.

So, if a free standing HBO is offered, will cable get hit with a million plus defections in 2015 solely do to the HBO gambit? I am a bit skeptical. Each month, many thousands of people “cut the cord” and abandon cable. They use some mix of Roku, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and even You Tube to fulfill their video needs. Some do it as they truly do not watch much TV and others do it out of economic necessity.

In the November 9, 2014, edition of the Sunday New York Times, there was an excellent article entitled “TV Shrinks to Fit.” The article illustrates how many members of the wired generation do not even own TV’s. They lead busy lives and still love TV. Yet, they watch it on a device. The group is very well educated, many earn very good money, but a television or cable subscription does not fit in to their lives. Interestingly, the majority tend to be women. Young men still have TV’s, often with a large screen, so they can watch sporting events.

So my theory, and I do not have a lot of allies in this regard, is that HBO will actually pick up substantial numbers of these internet savvy upscale young women who never had cable in the first place (see Media Realism, “Does Zero TV Signal The Winds of Change for US Television, May 16, 2013).

As many of you know, I also do some lecturing to college students. Many men expressed great enthusiasm about the rumor that ESPN was considering a stand-alone product delivering all of their platforms via a streaming alternative for approximately 30 dollars. “I would dump cable in a New York minute,” a young Brooklynite told me. When I suggested that the NFL would no longer be available to them, a few young men said they would stick with cable and as, one put it, “continue to get ripped off.” One enterprising fellow said he would cut the cord, go the ESPN streaming route and show up at buddies apartments on game day. “If I bring a six pack of good beer, they will welcome me,” the personable young fellow said.

Many said they would spring for the CBS five dollar streaming deal but backed out to a man when I told them that CBS Sunday and Thursday football was excluded.

So, the Cassandras are not thinking this issue through in my opinion. When could stand alone streaming alternatives really hurt cable? To me, it would hit if many channels aped the HBO offering successfully. If ESPN follows suit (for far more than $5) and is joined by other players, consumer behavior may truly shift. Viewers could cobble together their dream team of HBO, ESPN, NFL, Netflix, Hulu and God knows what and save substantial money over their current cable package. As someone told me yesterday, “I pay for 250+ channels and I only watch six. Buying channels a la carte has real appeal to me. I get my news online. Most of cable is a waste to me.”

It will be great fun to see how this unfolds in the next 24-36 months. As I often say--expect to be surprised.

To my American readers, may I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Blue State Basket of Wal-Mart Goods

For the last several years I have taught a course in Consumer Behavior at a local university. It is fascinating for me as the content needs constant updating and it often leads me in to Behavioral Economics which is a special interest of mine and a rapidly growing discipline.

Each semester I do a lecture about Wal-Mart and then have a class discussion about the company’s impact on retail and even on American life. Also, I do a market “basket of goods” comparing buying a list of products at Wal-Mart and then at other chains and grocery stores.

This fall I decided to put a little twist in the basket of goods. It did not contain my normal middle American selections. This time I compared Wal-Mart prices for goods that were not mainstream but were available at the retail giant and all of the competitors in my sample. These goods are considered expensive by those of moderate income yet all are found at Wal-Mart.

My market basket of goods contained items such as Kind cereals, high end toothpaste, expensive soaps and soups, fruit juice, Lindt chocolate, and “healthy” Granola bars. In previous “basket of goods” Wal-Mart always won vs. the best of the competition by 12-15% (sometimes a competitor would have an individual product for less. No sales items were allowed in the analysis). For this upmarket compilation, it was more like 25% savings at Wal-Mart!

The sample was Wal-Mart, Target, two prominent drug chains, a national grocery chain and two local, high end grocery stores. Across the board, Wal-Mart trounced all competitors. Yardley soap was 99 cents per bar while competitors came in at $1.69+. Kind Cereal was $4.78 which was close to one chain but the local grocery stores had it at $7.36. Toothpaste at Wal-Mart was at least a dollar less expensive than anywhere else. They even sold high end Rembrandt at an excellent price (when I was young there was Colgate, Crest, Gleem, Ipana, and Pepsodent. At one drug chain, I counted 54 different varieties of dental creme). Soups were 30 cents lower relative to everyone else. Expensive chocolate is available at Wal-Mart and averages a dollar to a $1.20 less than all competitors. A 60 ounce container of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice was only $2.98 but as high as $4.56 at a local grocery store.

Why do I bring this up? None of these products are bought in large quantities by struggling Americans. The upscale must be going to Wal-Mart more than they are willing to admit. The prices are clearly excellent. If these items were not selling, Wal-Mart would drop them and fast.

The financial press discuss how Wal-Mart is struggling a bit as they are losing some high end and younger customers to Amazon. At the other extreme, the very low end income customers are moving to Dollar General as Wal-Mart is perceived as too expensive. In fact, a new study has been released which has demonstrated that Dollar General is less expensive than Wal-mart. Next spring, when I do my next Wal-Mart analysis, I will include Dollar General in the mix with a more conventional “basket of goods” than I had this time.

Demographers often say that people who live in “blue” cities and states vote progressive politically and go to Thai restaurants, drive a Volvo or a Prius,  patronize green stores and farm to table restaurants, and they tend to look down their noses at the Wal-Mart nation. It seems, given my basket of goods this time around in a deep “blue” state, that many sneak in to Wal-Mart and get some high end products at excellent prices.

If you want to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Some Dismal Demographic Data

With this post, I am going to do something that I have never done before in Media Realism. I am going to revisit and expand on a post that I put up only a few weeks ago. The post was “Median Income Woes” and first appeared on September 24, 2014.

Essentially, I talked about recently published U.S. income data from the Social Security administration. Since then, and with a few encouraging e-mails from readers, I made a deep dive into the report. What I found was surprising and, may I add, deeply disturbing.

After I looked at the numbers, I checked and double-checked them. Searching across the web, I found a few media outlets and bloggers who picked up certain telling statistics from the report. So, all the stats and factoids that you will see may not totally surprise you. I will bet that you will not be familiar with all of them.

The talking heads on CNN and CNBC keep telling us that the economy is on the mend although all admit that we are experiencing the slowest recovery in measured history from the “Great Recession” of 2008-2009. Where are they misleading us? The key appears to be that they are ignoring basic statistics. They talk of average rather than median income which really distorts what is going on in this country.

So, fasten your seat belts. Let us look at what is really going on.

Here goes:

--The “average” yearly wage in the United States for 2013 was $43,041. If you take inflation into the equation, wages declined from the previous year even if you take the often criticized Federal government estimates as your benchmark. In fact, some have calculated that average wage is $500-600 below the 2007 level. Also, an average includes all wage earners and distorts the data. The 17 hedge fund managers who made over a billion dollars last year and the thousands of executives who made millions in 2013 all pull the average wage up somewhat.

--Let us look at median income, which to me is a far more meaningful statistic. To refresh your memory from Statistics 101, an average is a mean which takes ALL incomes and does a straight calculation dividing total income by total workers. The median is far more subtle. It is the 50th percentile. In other words, approximately half of people are above the median and half are below. The influence of high and ultra high earners are taken out of the statistic. According to the Social Security data, median pay for 2013 was $28,031. Have you heard anyone in the media discuss that? How about the 535 members of Congress or the White House  spin doctors? Look at the spread between median income ($28,031) and average income ($43,041). The high income earners (top 10%) are pulling up the average income data and they are doing it significantly.

--So, if $28,031 was the median that means 50% of Americans made less than that. Digging a bit deeper, it gets worse.

--Some 39% of US workers took home less than $20,000 in 2013

--A staggering 63% of workers made less than $40,000 last year

--And sadly, 72% of us made less than $50,000 in 2013

Remember, the above data comes from the Social Security Administration report. It is not from some political group manipulating the data for their own purposes.

Most consumer analysts say that it takes $50,000 to provide a middle class lifestyle for the quintessential family of four. So, if 72% make less than that, a single breadwinner no longer cuts it anywhere in the U.S. Median household income is about $53,000 as I write. Adjusted for inflation, that is no higher than it was 30 years ago. Both man and wife work because there is no choice.

So, the recovery is largely a fraud if you look at middle America. The “Great Recession” is still going on for million of Americans.

If this keeps up, the middle class is toast. Implications for advertising are profound. People are running hard to survive. Some 25% of apartment dwellers do not have enough savings to cover two months rent. A stunning 40% are in severe trouble if there car needs serious repairs even though the average car on the road is now 11 years old and some malfunction with the vehicles is inevitable.

Yes, even the struggling have a smartphone. That is used by many to say that people are doing okay. May I suggest that you visit a depressed area as I have very recently? Everyone does not live as we do in advertising, marketing or communications. If you want to be a marketer in 2014-2015 America, take a hard look at the REAL America.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Cure For Burnout?

I first heard the term burnout in the early 1980’s. Someone had left our agency and her boss wrote a note saying about her, “Totally burned out. Leaving the business.” Today, a week does not go by when I do not receive an e-mail or in a conversation have someone use the term. Some people even say it about themselves.

Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger is credited with coining the term back in the 1970s. The standard definition usually is something such as “long term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Reporters Bianchi, Schonfeld and Laurent projected that 90% of workers who are “burned out” meet diagnostic criteria for depression.

I sent the burnout question to about a dozen members of my Media Realism panel. You had to be over 50 and in the advertising or communications business for more than 25 years to be asked to weigh in on the issue.

Most people felt that it was growing but I did get some interesting answers and a few hard nosed ones. Highlights, all quoted with permission, were:

1) “The people who say that they are burned out always tended to be the lazy people who were not bad enough to fire but never really great performers. Now that we all have to work a lot harder in the ad business, they say that they are burned out. Well, they certainly are not exhausted. They never worked a week like I do every week and have for 40 years.”
2) “A lot of the alleged burnout cases around me are people who cannot keep up with the changes. The business has passed them by and they hide behind burnout. After a drink, some will tell me that they just want to survive 5 or 10 more years and then retire. Somehow they think that the clock is going to stop. What irks me, and I am 59, is that this is arguably the most exciting time ever to be in advertising or media. My regret is that I will be gone soon and miss all the fun. One woman told me the other day that she wished we were back in the day when she only had to buy three stations in a market. I am not sure if these people are depressed. They, to me, suffer from lack of engagement. Change is scary, sure. But there is no alternative to it, none”.
3) Lastly, a very thoughtful executive gave me his cure for burnout. “Don, I have, as you know, changed jobs and companies every 5-7 years for the last 35. It is the perfect tonic for creeping burnout. The challenge is to prove yourself in a new arena and with new clients and customers. You never get in to what you used to describe to me as “a comfortable rut.” Also, when you start a new job, all of your ideas seem fresh to your new associates. I knew it was time to leave a job when associates would tell me that they knew what I was going to say about an issue before I opened my mouth. When you start a new position, for the first couple of years, you are not so predictable. You also learn a lot when you change your group of cronies. I have always loved getting a different perspective on things. A change in venue does that in spades.”

My last friend from item #3 has an interesting perspective. Fortunately, he lives in a big city, New York, where he can change jobs without uprooting his family. If you are in a Baltimore or Burlington or Salt Lake City, it might not be so easy to leave an agency or media property and find a similar or better job across town.

Clearly, depression is a big problem in 2014 America. Yet, are some people using it as an excuse as some of my panel members seem to feel? And, is leaving your present job the solution in many cases to reinvigorate your career?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Has Online Video Finally Arrived?

On October 6th, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL published an interview with Daryl Simm, the CEO of Omnicom’s Media operations. He is ultimately responsible for the spending of approximately $55 billion in media across the world.

In the interview he noted that his firm is currently advising their client base to place some 10-25% of their TV dollars in online video.

When I read it, I immediately sent it out to a few friends who responded pleasantly with comments such as: “Wow” or “It’s about time” or “We are already doing that.” Over the next few days, the tide turned and my e-mail box filled up with angry comments largely from local broadcasters.

The passionate remarks included, “Why can’t he just shut up” or “who cares what he thinks, the stuff never works.”

I do not think many of the angry people read the interview. He was quite measured. The Journal reported that Mr. Simm “said that cable and broadcast network owners are getting a significant portion of that money back, since their programming still makes up a large share of the premium online market.”

Mr. Simm also went on to say that, “We look at delivering against segments of an audience. If you are trying to increase your reach against light TV viewers, the answer is to move a significant part of the video budget to online video. We council the client depending on what businesses they are in.”

A few people said a hard and fast percentage is a bad idea. I agree but 10-25% is a pretty big range. He is clearly stating that individual analysis is required depending on the account and its target.

Being longer in the tooth than most of you, I remember when Ted Bates way back in the early 1980’s published their 5% solution. What they were saying was that to hedge your bets and get the total audience for many brands, you should put 5% of TV buys on WTBS, then known as a Superstation. Many in the media scoffed and said all TBS had was Atlanta Braves games and Gomer Pyle reruns. But, did you notice that within a couple of years, cable took off as an advertising medium and then, a decade later, local cable finally got the recognition that it deserved?

Online video may not garner 10-25% of TV budgets next year or even in 2016. The die, however, is cast.

Also, did you notice that today You Tube announced that their Google Preferred ad space is sold out? Coincidence? Hmmm.

Still another train is leaving the media station. Do not get left behind, my friends.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moving The Goalposts

The term “moving the goalposts” is a metaphor for something that is changed while in progress. It originated in Britain but is frequently used in the United States when the rules of the game or measurement metrics are changed.

I first became aware of it as a young adult reading claims of the East German government for industrial output (yes, I led a wildly exciting youth). They were so ridiculous that I knew that someone was cooking the books.

In the United States, they move so gradually that you have to watch carefully or you will miss them or dismiss them. It first hit me in the early1980’s when Social Security increases were adjusted to reflect a “more realistic” cost of living for recipients. They took mortgage interest rates out of the calculation saying that few recipients were in the market for a mortgage. On hearing, I nodded and moved on.

Then, coming off the terrible 1982 recession, the Reagan administration suddenly blended the 1.5 million Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine personnel on active duty with the civilian work force. Presto! The unemployment rate fell--some say by as much as two percent.

A decade later, the Clinton administration upped the ante big time. The moved goalpost was also unemployment figures. If you were so discouraged that you gave up looking for work, you were no longer counted as unemployed. If you wanted full time work but could only work part time, you were not in the unemployment figure. And, full time work was now 21 hours per week even though benefits had to be paid at 30 hours per week.

The Core Consumer Price Index no longer includes food or energy costs. Actually, it has not for years. What? Nope. Food and energy price swings are considered too volatile and short term. Recently (2012), the Core CPI has been replaced and even a stat geek like me is having a hard time sorting out the new formula.

So, are our government statisticians a bunch of liars? No. I am sure the staffers are very careful about the calculations. Are they forced to manipulate statistics and data by policymakers? Yes! When the criteria change, the formulae change.

It is hard to tell whether the economy is really improving when “the goalposts are moved.”  Interestingly, people on both sides of the political and economic spectrum share their annoyance with governmental adjustments. Jim Sinclair, a “gloom & doomer” and passionate gold bug and Chris Hedges, a strident left wing journalist, both swear by John Williams’ Shadowstats. Williams once had a job analyzing government statistics and decided to publish his own as the “official” numbers in his view were so divorced from reality.

Critics say this cozy arrangement has lots of benefits. The government pays less in pension adjustments and social security and private companies can pay less in wages by claiming that the cost of living has hardly budged. Our Social Security time bomb has a slightly longer fuse and business can drop more to the bottom line by citing government cost of living stats at raise time.

While preparing this, a panel member suggested that a similar scam is going on with the Nielsen +7 audience measurement (actual viewing plus playbacks for the next week). I thought that was a bit unkind as a broadcaster or cable entity has the right to charge for their entire audience. He countered that most of the people playing back a program days later would edit out the commercials as they went along. He also said that prices were driven not by audience size but supply and demand so the Nielsen +7 was another example of a “moving a goalpost.”  His point was certainly well made.

Mark Twain once said that, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  The great humorist was on to something.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Useful Life of Legacy Media Properties

There is an old axiom that makes the list of most personal finance rules. It is simply, “Don’t finance anything for longer than its useful life.”  Practically speaking, they are saying do not borrow money for vacations or clothes or anything else that is consumed quickly or depreciates fast. A 30 year loan on a house is okay if the interest rate is reasonable as the house may last 100 years. A four year car loan is also okay as the car should last much longer (the new seven year loans could be problematic).

Recently, I had a lively e-mail exchange with a retired broadcaster and asked if he would be interested in buying a TV or radio station. He responded, “Don, I only borrow if the item has a useful life. Today, I do not know what that would be for a local TV or radio property.”

Intrigued, I began asking around. No one was as succinct as my e-mail buddy, but they tended to agree with his assessment. A TV executive said, “ I was asked by a local business man if I would like to form a group to buy a local TV station (not mine). I started laughing and he was annoyed. Look, I told him. We have all worked hard the last six years in this market and billing remains lower than it was in 2007. How long can TV last as an effective TV medium? I don’t know. I do know that we cannot continue here as a viable business if we see revenue dropping almost every year for a decade.”

A radio executive put it this way: “I get so tired of industry wide averages. Okay, so radio is up 1% or maybe 2% nationally. That is an average. If a sunbelt market or a cluster of them is up 8%, good for them. But my podunk mountain time zone market is down almost every year. Do I want to put my savings plus that of some trusted friends in a wasting asset? We try hard but billing is shrinking. Some larger market guys can grow some with solid online sales. We get little response there. Our young sales folks work hard but earn very little. The game has changed.”

A lively radio guy told a great story that may contain some exaggeration. It went like this: “We have a kid who grew up here who made a couple hundred million in Silicon Valley. He loved sports but was just terrible at it. A local lawyer said we should approach him and get him to buy my station which has been a dog for several years. He could even go on air when he felt like it but control his own sports format. I thought it was crazy but I approached his dad whom I know slightly. He laughed in my face. “My son would like to own a major league franchise but he is not a billionaire yet. What he will do is bet a few million per year on start-ups or launch his own creation. He can fail 30 straight times for the rest of his life and still leave my grandchildren a bundle. I will not tell him about this local idea.” It was hard to argue with that!”

Broadcasting used to be a great business. Now, especially in large or growing markets it remains a really good business. Yet, the game is changing as digital takes over and commercial avoidance grows especially among the young. Why go in to big debt or any debt in markets with a weak economy or declining demographics? There may be no one to sell the property to several years from now as the baby boomers age and even they abandon legacy media.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Median Income Woes

In the last week, two different government agencies released income data. The Census Bureau provided a report on “income and poverty data for 2013.” Many, if not most of the reports that I saw in the press trumpeted the datum that the poverty level had dropped from 14% to 13.5%. Some in the political arena stressed that this was one more indicator that our economy was on the mend.

Maybe so. At the same time, Don Cole, the crusty curmudgeon, is not so sure. When I dug into the data, I saw that median household income (the 50% percentile) is still where it was 15 years ago. It is stuck at $52,000.  That is not progress. I had a few allies. Annie Lowery of NEW YORK MAGAZINE wrote, “We peaked in the late 1990’s.”

One issue that I have harped on over recent years is that those of us who work in advertising, marketing, or communications tend to live very comfortable lives. The people that we work and socialize with tend to be very affluent. As we age, we get free of basic money worries and some of us get rich.

I heard a stranger say the same thing to me recently. Showing up at a golf course, my playing partners got confused and did not post for our tee time. The starter paired me up with another group and I was put in a golf car with a pleasant gentlemen from Oregon. When you spend four and a half hours with someone the talk often strays from golf.

He told me after a while that he was a low level millionaire who runs a small insurance office. Here is a close paraphrase of some of his comments: “I was at a dinner party recently and looked around the table. All of my friends were easily worth a lot more than I. One has to have a net worth of $25 million. We discussed our children, trips we would take, and a few mentioned how great things were now that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had cracked 17,000. I explained that a buoyant Dow was great for all of us but many people, including most of my customers, were not affected. I told them they would be shocked if they knew how many of my car insurance customers were on food stamps and how many adults had aging blue collar parents paying their premiums for them. Finally, I talked about a young man who visited me that week up to his ears in debt. He wanted to buy a big Dodge Ram pickup truck. I advised him to buy a used truck but he went ahead and got the new one. If gas prices go up he will not be able to fill his tank. And, I bet $1,000 that he will miss an insurance premium this year.”

This gentlemen, although affluent, is in touch with what is going on. The middle class is shrinking. The Pew Survey, a study that I really respect, has illustrated that two decades ago, some 60% of Americans fell in to that sweet spot of middle income. Now, it is down to 45%. Forget what the pundits on CNBC say, the middle class is getting squeezed and there is no relief in sight.

There is one key thing about median income that is rarely mentioned. Demographically, median income has to decline in the years ahead. It is a virtual demographic certainty. Each day, 10,000 Americans turn 65. As these baby boomers retire, their incomes will drop. Median income has to go down. Their purchasing power may not be affected all that much as they will spend less on clothes, lunches, dry cleaning and automobiles and 40% have no mortgage. Yet, the median income will decline.

Separately, the Federal Reserve, a quasi-independent government agency, released their Survey of Consumer Finances--2013, about 10 days ago. Sifting through the turgid prose, I found a statistic that made me feel very sad. Household income for those under 35 years old is at $35,509. Adjusted for inflation, this is the lowest report since 1989. That was 25 years ago!

All of this has to have a profound affect on marketing and advertising in the years to come. Most of you who read this are in the top 10% of American income. A handful are in the infamous 1%. Congratulations! Try to get in touch like my Oregonian acquaintance on the golf course.

Forget your circle of friends. How do you market to people who are struggling? For them, the American dream has become a nightmare.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com or post a comment on the blog site.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mobile, The New Out of Home Medium

These days mobile advertising is hot. The growth rate of mobile is a bit hard to track but it appears to be clobbering all other media types year to year. In spite of that, some advertisers and some small to mid-sized agencies are afraid to take the plunge. Others say that they tried it a few years ago, it did not work, so they have written it off as a consideration for 2015 media plans.

To me, part of the reason that people failed is that they did not know how to use mobile. Yet, they will need to and very soon. Facebook has reported that the average person uses their phone 100+ times per day (when I watch my students before and after class, it has to be higher for an under 30 demographic). This is where they are spending their time even when they are allegedly watching TV. No one leaves their home without their phone. They may forget ID or even a wallet but phones are now as ubiquitous as car keys. Missing people who are heavy mobile users is increasingly creating a big hole in any advertiser’s reach potential.

So mobile is now very clearly, to me, an out of home medium. We need to recognize it as such. Advertisers large and small are using it very successfully. For example, I was in a small local restaurant a few months ago and they had a five digit text code on tent cards on each table. You could review the service and the owner would get instant feed-back. If you participated, you were given a 20% coupon for a future meal. This was a great way for a  small player to get inexpensive research and promote at the same time. Others are adding mobile activation to menus or even small ads in suburban newspapers.

A friend in Texas sent me an e-mail recently that was fascinating. “I took my two sons to a Rangers game at the Ballpark at Arlington. The game plan was that it was going to be an expensive afternoon. I was prepared to buy a Rangers jersey for each of the boys favorite player. Well, we went up twice to get the jerseys and the line was long and the boys told me that they were missing the game. Then, as an ad guy, it hit me. They had my e-mail and phone number as I had bought the tickets on line. Why did they not have an app where they could reach me in the stadium and I could order the jerseys between innings without leaving our seats?” I found my friend’s comments interesting.

The next day I was reading Michael Dru Kelley’s new book, ALL THUMBS, Mobile Marketing That Works (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).  He had a remarkably similar story about taking his son and friends to a concert and discussed how a two way exchange with concert goers would be great for the sponsor.

It would seem that mobile could be a great sales or marketing tool at many live venues. Been to a ball game lately? How many people are busy with their phones during a game? It is stunning to watch.

How about putting simple codes on old fashioned billboards? Or, with geo-targeting getting feedback on a great or poor retail experience. Those who participate get a  nice % off coupon and the few disgruntled customers get quick feedback which may turn a customer around a great deal.

For years, media planners have boasted that they craft strategies that reach people on the go. If mobile is not a real part of that mix, they have to be regarded as primitives today.

If you would like to reach Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Spot TV And The 2014 Elections

The past few months have not been kind to most forms of television advertising. Even the fabled “upfront” market in network TV was weaker this time around with some clients switching to more digital options with video online ads and others simply holding back money to allocate at the last moment.

The local TV market has been interesting. There are some parts of the country that are doing just fine. The energy boom in the plains states and stretching down to Texas has insulated them from the soft marketplace and a few pockets in the Southeast have done nicely as well. Many markets (Nielsen DMA’s) are down double digits from last year and station managers and sales executives scoff when they hear signs that the economy is recovering slowly but surely.

Well, some markets are about to get a much needed shot in the arm. Between now and election day on November 4th, some $2 billion dollars is about to be injected into local marketplaces for Senate and House of Representatives races alone. The problem with that is that the money will not be spread out evenly.

Only 35-40 of the House seats are really strongly competitive races so the impact of heavy spending will not be felt nationally. The U.S. Senate, which could conceivably return to the Republicans, are the races where the big bucks are being spent. Right now, the Democrats have a precarious hold on five seats that could go either way in two months. They are in Alaska, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Should the GOP run the table on those five races, they would almost certainly take back the U.S. Senate. Even Mitch McConnell, minority leader from Kentucky, faces a stiff reelection bid in the Bluegrass State.

Here are a few verbatim comments that I received from broadcasters across the country:

-- “Business stinks right now. We do not even have a Senate seat up this year so our political billing will be modest. Station ownership is putting real pressure on me. There is little that I can do until confidence returns.”

-- “I am way down for the year but I do have a juicy battleground Senate race. That will bail me out for the fourth quarter. Years ago, we considered political advertising a royal pain. Now, I admit I pray for it every other year.”

-- “Okay, so I will finish the year fine due to a hot Senate race with record-breaking  spending and a reasonably tight Governor’s race. What do I do in the first quarter, 2015?”

-- “My station group told me to get political money. We are a one party state. I do not remember the last competitive race that we have had. The sure winners only spend token amounts and they are doing more on the internet this year.  Only a miracle will save me for this year.”

Looking ahead two years, campaign strategists with, by then, ever more improved targeting techniques will probably continue to cut back on TV usage. And fundamentally, more advertisers are pulling back on TV in general shifting to online options, which are often video, but not conventional or even local cable TV.

Things are changing. The biannual political bailout for local TV stations seems set for an irreversible decline.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Friday, August 29, 2014

Beyond TV Commercial Avoidance

For the last few years, every several months I have posted something about the topic of TV commercial avoidance. Essentially, the argument goes like this: TV is not working as effectively as an advertising medium as it did a decade ago.  Reasons appear to be that nearly half of viewers have a time shifting device and tend to skip commercials during replays, a huge group (varies by demographic) is using another device while viewing (laptop, smartphone, or tablet) and misses many or most commercials, and  video options such as Netflix and Hulu or Hulu+ eliminate many TV spots. I still get push back from some creatives at agencies and a few broadcasters who say that if one creates a better commercial people will flock to it. To me, this is a child’s dream in the world of 2014. May I suggest that you leave it to the children?

I think that over the last few years that I have said enough about commercial avoidance. It is here to stay and will only increase given usage patterns and the addiction to mobile devices especially among the young. So, the realists out there at advertisers, agencies and broadcasters need to accept it but not give up on their medium. The new goal of the ad industry should be to get people to PAUSE on TV spots. Yes, the avoidance or ad skipping will always be there. You have to accept that. Focus on using technology to make TV work better for you. Right now, most TV advertisers simply send viewers to a brand website or Facebook page. Many, if not most, are generic and do not really relate to the specific commercial or campaign they just witnessed.

With mobile being the growth medium of the next decade (more on that in upcoming posts), advertisers need to use their TV spots to engage with it. The key is what many have dubbed “mobile activation.” Instead of sending a TV viewer to a sterile brand website, put some creative calls to action in your mobile efforts linked to responses from your TV work. Also, some now have a text at the bottom of the TV screen that offer coupons or special offers that you can activate with your phone. You will find over time that mobile activation can target consumers much better in terms of likelihood to buy and also find those who respond quickly.  Others are putting their long form You Tube videos on mobile which people can see when they respond to the TV spot.

The technology will keep getting stronger and the opportunities are boundless. Clearly, TV is weaker than it has been in past years. So, stop fretting over commercial avoidance or denying it and use TV and mobile as complimentary vehicles.

Much more to come on mobile.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Monday, August 18, 2014

Inconsistent Consumer Behavior

In economics, you often see statements such as “assume the consumer acts rationally.” This is the underpinning of many articles and predictive models. If you observe behavior of consumers you will find that they do not often appear rational. Often people seem to be of two minds and say one thing and do another. A growing area of economic study is Behavioral Economics which accepts that people do not always act rationally with consumer decisions. The field is perhaps best described as where psychology and economics meet.

Here are a few examples that I have observed of inconsistent behavior:

1) Way back in 1971, I was finishing college and spent a summer handing out state motor vehicle inspections among other tasks at a service station. We were the largest venue in the county for inspections so some days were busy as I filled out the forms and handled billing. A woman dropped off her car one morning and said, “Do whatever is necessary to pass the inspection. Call me if anything else is wrong.” The mechanic went through the state checklist and the car was in fairly good shape. A turn signal was out plus it needed a PCV valve. When the lady came to pick up the car after work, I showed her the invoice and she exploded. “What is this PCV valve for $4.95? I did not ask for that.” I explained that it was a pollution control device and was required by state law. She slammed her purse on the desk but paid the freight and left in a huff. As she pulled away, I laughed out loud when I saw her bumper sticker which read, “We support a pollution solution.”  Fast forward 40 years. I am finishing a lecture about Public Relations fumbles and I use the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a case study for poor handling of a problem during early days of the crisis. A young fellow raised his hand and gave a long speech about how evil oil companies were. I smiled and said that someone must have liked them as several hundred million people around the world enjoyed using their products. He shook his head and said, “Everyone hates everything about them. They are thieves.”  That seemed like an opportune time to wrap up the class. It was evening and several of the youngsters, including the oil expert, walked with me to the parking garage. When I reached my car, the angry man said, “Prof, what is a man like you driving a tin can like that thing.” I told him that I actually owned two Priuses  and, that after several years, I was still getting 47-50 miles per gallon on each. He shook his head and headed up one floor above to get his car while I continued to chat with a few of his classmates. Two minutes later, my young friend came by in a 4 wheel drive pickup truck. He lowered the window and shouted out, “I get 12 miles to the gallon,” laughed, and drove off into the night.
    For years, I have seen people preach against climate change, pollution, or oil company excess yet live their lives quite differently.

2) Often people tell me that they hate the big box retailers and wish the days of the small local businesses would come back. Some say that they avoid Wal-Mart and Target. I asked one such person whether a certain book might be available at a local bookseller. “Are you crazy, Don? Get it on Amazon. It will be cheaper, you can beat the sales tax, and will be at your door in a few days.” What these people do not seem to understand is that every time they use Amazon, they undermine small local businesses who cannot buy in bulk and compete with Amazon. Additionally, Amazon even hurts Wal-Mart and Target.
 3) “I hate Wal-Mart”--if you travel even occasionally in progressive circles, it is the height of fashion to trash Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer. They are all that is evil  in American business in the minds of many people. They do not pay entry level people well, resist unions, and have problematic health care coverage for their associates. How did they get so big? It is pretty simple--they gave people what they wanted at a very attractive price. If people truly do not like Wal-Mart, the way to hurt them is to simply stop shopping there. It amuses me that some towns brag about how they have kept Wal-Mart out of their communities. Wait for the weekend, however, and the roads are clogged to the town a few miles away that has a Wal-Mart. Today, Wal-Mart is struggling as the truly downscale find it expensive and some have moved on to the Dollar Stores. Others are doing more shopping on Amazon and fellow on-line travelers and this is hurting Wal-Mart at the upper end of their demographic appeal. People may want Wal-Mart employees to be paid more and have better insurance but, at the same time, they also want the very low prices that it currently offers. Many do not understand that they cannot have both.

These are just three examples of the inconsistency or hypocrisy of many American consumers. If you are a marketer, be careful. Consumers do not always act rationally so  watch what they do instead of what they might say.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Friday, August 8, 2014

Revolution Now!

Several decades ago I was an earnest young undergraduate student majoring in Economics. My favorite courses were History of Economic Thought and Economic History. One branch of economics that fascinated me was Austrian Economics. No, it was not the study of the small middle European country but the school of thought did originate in Vienna. Essentially, the Austrian school favored a pure free market approach with as little governmental intervention as possible. Their 20th century leaders were Ludwig von Mises and nobel laureate F.A. Hayek, both educated in Vienna. In America, a more strident disciple emerged named Murray Rothbard who called himself an Anarcho-Capitalist.

What intrigued me was that they saw economic theory as largely QUALITATIVE. They dismissed mathematical models on the basis that human beings and the general market were too complicated. With several billion people out there, all with different hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, how can a model of an economy work and allocate resources properly? Also, planned economies such as socialist oriented command economies were doomed to failure. Mises called economics the study of human action and thus modeling was just not viable given behavioral issues.

Well, they were certainly right about socialism as capitalism won the battle by the 1990’s. In my career, I often thought of the Austrians when it came to media and marketing issues. People did scads of research yet most new products failed (and still do). Network programmers go through many levels of review and shoot pilot films yet approximately 70% of shows do not get renewed for a second season even though consumer testing is often extensive prior to the premiere. Each year, and 2014 was no exception, marketers and their agencies placed huge billion dollar bets in the upfront TV marketplace even though virtually all will admit that it is a (slowly) dying medium.

If you watch things carefully as many of you do, it is obvious that much of this failure is going to be lessened and soon due to our emerging era of Big Data. In the last week, several people wrote to me about the speed of change and what it meant. Two standouts were:

1) A senior media executive wrote “I had just been part of an “Addressable to the home” advertising experiment.  A client’s mailing list was matched with an MSO subscriber list resulting in a matched target group. The viewing data from that list was aggregated from actual STB data.  New ratings were created based on the value of those networks viewed and schedules were placed”.
2) A long time agency media maven said “Google and Apple along with Facebook are most likely the largest data gathering companies in the world. And, they are doing so to better target future revenue...with the greatest share from advertising. Google just recently purchased NEST, a programmable thermostat company. They are doing this so they can gather more info about your habits inside the home, as well as when you are reaching out to your home via your mobile device. This data ultimately will help them to sell more advertising”

There is no question that pin-point messaging is upon us. This has to improve marketing performance as clients as desperate for authentic accountability from their agencies and the media. There is definitely an element of “big brother” here and there will be some short term security risks with hackers breaking in to sensitive databases that can literally tell marketers where a prospect is.

Long term, however, there will be no more comments such as the time honored, “I know that half of my advertising is waste--I just do not know which half.”

All of this spells trouble for what is left of mass media. And, attentiveness, even in high priced and high profile sports, is declining. A young media supervisor wrote to me recently saying that no one appeared to watch a single commercial during a party he attended where his alma mater while trying for a bowl bid. “Everyone was on their smartphone looking up better statistics than ESPN could provide. I even noticed this at baseball games this summer where it seemed thousands were on their Smartphones in the stadium. We are wedded to our devices even at live events.”

As usual, change will not happen overnight. The rate of change, however, has clearly sped up. The old guard of 50-65 year olds who think that the status quo will stay in place for several more years are living in a dream world. Big data is coming, faster than we thought even a year ago, and it appears that nothing can derail it.

Finally, if we can forecast Consumer Behavior with Big Data, maybe economic forecasting will get a lot sharper and my beloved Austrian economics will be proven wrong about 21st century modeling.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Are Apple and Google Media Companies?

Last week, I had a very lively e-mail exchange with a very seasoned broadcast executive. At one point, he asked me what organizations would be the leading media companies 10 years from now. My answer will not surprise you. I said that forecasting was always risky but “the two tech giants, Apple and Google, seem to be the prohibitive favorites.” His response floored me. “Don, those are not media companies. Google is an aggregator and a utility and Apple is a high tech device maker.” Trying to be understanding, I gently asked, “Did you mean which companies would be on top among the legacy media companies such as Disney, Comcast or Fox?” “No, I mean overall,” he responded.

Back and forth we went. My argument was that I can understand how you could look at Google as a utility just as some see cable TV as one. Yet, when over 90% of your revenue comes from advertising as it does with Google, it has to be considered as a media company.

To dismiss Apple as a “high tech device maker” was also questionable to me. Yes, they continue to score with their high end i-phone and their refreshed i-pad plus Apple TV is looming out there and appears ready to pounce.  The i-watch may debut in October and i-TV is also likely in 2015. The old boy (14 years younger than I!), was buying none of it. He did, however, permit me to quote him in this post.

Look to the future a bit, my friends. To me, both of these tech behemoths are natural platforms for a post-broadcast world. For the moment, Google organizes and manages content but does not produce much. That could change. They bought YouTube way back in October, 2006 and have yet to fully exploit its global potential. They could use it as a platform for a global TV network and advertising powerhouse if they wished. If they lost a few hundred million on the venture, they would barely notice.

Apple has a great eco-system for the future. A friend, who is a creative chief, told me his goal for 2015-16 is to work on more apps than ads. Rumors abound that Apple TV may soon be running all their apps on it. If mobile is the future of advertising as I believe it well may be, then Apple has the wind at its back.

Also, what about acquisitions? Both of these giants have untold billions of dollars in cash. Apple has used some to buy back shares and pay a dividend. Google is playing it closer to the vest although both companies have billions overseas that they cannot repatriate without strong tax consequences. Even then, either could snap up very large legacy media companies with existing cash. Why don’t they? They probably do not see the value in them as the media and advertising worlds continue to evolve.

So, what do you think? Who will emerge as the leaders a decade from now? Are these giants media companies or not?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Technology Will Triumph!

Every day it seems I receive “gloom and doom” direct mail pieces or e-mails from a wide variety of 21st century Cassandras. Oil will hit $200 a barrel by Christmas, the stock market will drop by 70%, World War III is imminent, the dollar will cease to be the world’s reserve currency (by next month), pollution will overtake us shortly, and mass starvation is right around the corner are some of the messages that I have received in recent months.

I generally toss the direct mail missiles into the shredder and delete the e-mails. Why do I keep getting them? It appears that someone with a profile somewhat similar to mine is responding.

Let’s face it. We live in a troubled world. Geo-political tensions abound, ignorance and injustice are widespread, leadership across the globe is suspect and many economies are fragile and debt grows and too much money appears to be printed. It is easy to see how the gloom and doom crowd draws response. Yet, to me, they forget one big thing--Technology.

No, technology will not help us find world peace but it will ease many problems in the years ahead. Just look at a few industries and see what is going on:

1) Energy--until 18 months ago, it looked as if we may be running out of oil across the world or at least oil that could be tapped consistently and safely. That is changing fast. The domestic oil boom is helping our balance of payments and creating good jobs. Technology is making a dirty business safer and less impactful on climate change. The Canadian oil sands were often attacked for their water usage. Now, new technologies allow the companies to recycle almost all of the water. Even coal may look better. A few companies are experimenting with CO2 capture systems in coal fired electricity generation, sending the CO2 to natural gas fracking sites where the CO2 will be propelled into reservoir rock and gas can be tapped. Lots will happen in natural gas and solar and wind power will not stand still either. A windmill today generates, on average, 100 times the power of one produced in 1980. People used to say that geology would trump demographics in energy production and long term shortages would occur. Today, many are stating that technology will trump geology and cleaner and abundant energy is on the way to us.
2) Medicine--when I look back on my life it is stunning to consider the advances that have occurred the last few decades. All of know people who are alive due to procedures and gains in medical technology that did not exist until recently.
3) Agriculture--this is going to be a boom area. It has to! With a billion more people coming on board our little planet in the next 15 years, we will need to feed them. Better fertilizers, use of water, and farmer training should translate to better crop yields.
4) Water--approximately half of the people on earth are currently hospitalized due to drinking bad water. Non-chemical purification techniques along with mineralization technologies with provide water that is clean and tastes great, too. The amazing health benefits will more than pay for an upgrading of infrastructure needs around the world.                                    
5) Media--our field will continue to evolve. The big area will be in what we now call mobile and specifically in applications. Our lives are made easier every day by mobile apps that help us shop, not get lost, send messages, research almost anything, and always stay in touch if we wish. Today, many advertisers boast of pin-point targeting. Well, they ain’t seen nothing yet. Imagine marketing 10 years from now when you can slash wasted audience from current levels and customize messaging far better than you can dream in 2014. The game will change but advertising and communication efficiency will soar.

So, do not get discouraged. Read the gloom and doomers; sometimes they say things that come true and the good ones make you think. Remember, always, however, that the human spirit will always be there and technology will move relentlessly toward a better life.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is America Finished?

Nearly half of Media Realism readers tend to be from outside the United States. Over the last five years, I have heard from readers in over 125 countries. I love to read the mail and respond to a great deal of it. Last week, I received a note from someone who lives in an emerging Asian country and comments directly to me several times a year. With his permission, I quote him verbatim: “I really enjoy reading Media Realism. You bring up topics that I do not see anywhere else. But, you need to stop posting so much on US centric issues. You and I both know that the United States is finished.”

He may know it but I certainly do not.  I will be devoting this post to stating that we could be on the verge of an exciting United States turnaround.

If you confronted many Americans with the comment “the United States is finished” you would often get an indignant response. People would conjure up Ronald Reagan’s famous speech where he talked of the shining city on the hill and America’s rendezvous with destiny. When Reagan made those comments back in 1980, it was pitch-perfect. The malaise of the Carter years had Americans discouraged. The upbeat candidate talked of our potential and tapped in to a yearning for imagination, innovation, and greatness. He won by a landslide and did it again in 1984 with a wonderful ad campaign highlighted by the “It’s morning in America” execution. Thirty years later, things are different. Our problems are deeper and institutions such as Congress are far more suspect than they were then. So, we need more than an inspirational message and leader. I believe we may have it.

Several things appear to me to be coming together. They are:

1) The Energy Advantage--Observers have often said that the 20th century was the American century and that was helped by low energy costs. Also, as a result, Americans became addicted to cheap energy, particularly oil.  Things got a bit tougher as Americans were importing up to $250 billion dollars a year in oil largely from the Middle East, Venezuela, and Nigeria, which were areas of the world not particularly friendly to US interests. In recent years, thanks to new technologies, we are now producing more oil domestically than we have in 30 years. Steadily, the balance of payments regarding energy is turning around and much of the money that leaves the U.S. goes to our friendly neighbor, Canada. New technological gains have allowed us to tap in to our vast holdings of natural gas and production is so strong that costs are very low (one-fourth of Western Europe and one-fifth of Japan). This energy renaissance is creating thousands of good paying ($70-100k) blue collar jobs which have been sadly missing in our economy over the last decade.  
2) The other benefit to the domestic energy boom is that it is helping our moribund manufacturing base.  We have all heard of offshoring where American companies moved operations offshore to take advantage of lower wages and lower taxes than they faced at home. Now, a trend is beginning that is known as “reshoring” where manufacturing is coming back to our shores. Some 15 years ago, a Chinese factory worker might get 90 cents per hour. Now, the average rate is over nine dollars per hour. With energy costs less in the U.S. and transportation a fraction of what it would cost to transfer finished goods to the U.S. markets, companies are often deciding it is easier and more economical to manufacture at home. This can be a big help to the unemployed in America. The only fly in the ointment is will the jobs be very low paying?  To stay at parity with Asian outposts, will domestic manufacturers keep wages down really low? One of the big problems of our slow motion recovery is that many of the new jobs created each month tend to be hovering around minimum wage.  (Also, and I know that I am a distinct minority on this issue, but I worry a bit about natural gas as our one fits all solution to environmental and economic issues. In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama said the following: “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years.” Relax. I am not going to attack the president or even the Department of Energy. What I will say is that I have been following natural resources and their equities for 42 years. From my early days of reading Canadian trade journal THE NORTHERN MINER to annual reports and press releases today, I am always amused by the somewhat breathless projections of natural resource experts. The unsolicited e-mails are even funnier. A sample of recent entries sound like-- “Bigger than the Bakken. America’s newest and largest energy field” or “A Gold Strike So Large It will catapult this junior to one of North America’s top 10 producers.” You get the idea. If the trend continues of companies shifting to natural gas to heat their plants and run their fleets plus utilities shifting to gas from dirty coal for their electricity generation (a good thing!), will we have enough gas for 100 years? Companies are furiously lobbying to get permission to export liquified natural gas to Asia and Europe. I thought that I was the only person worried about this until Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, voiced the same concern. Others say that exports will never be more than 10% of US production.). So natural gas, is for the moment, a game changer. It can help lower CO2 emissions as it burns cleaner than oil or coal and is quite plentiful. Some say it will be the bridge that will lead us to renewables in a few decades. Clearly, low cost gas will help manufacturing here. The gas boom is creating thousands of good paying jobs and makes home grown manufacturing more globally competitive.
3) Americans are still the world’s best marketers and, I would add, salespeople. We seem to tap in to what people want. Also, American Pop Culture travels well (see Media Realism, “The Triumph of American Pop Culture”, May 31, 2011) and the newly minted middle class around the world love American products. Author Daniel Gross has dubbed some products “Inports.” These are products produced by American companies overseas using local or non-American ingredients or components. So, Starbucks is exploding overseas. From the coffee to the cups to the pastries everything is produced outside the U.S. Profits, however, are repatriated home hence his term Inport.
4) People are finally seeing the importance of improving our infrastructure. Landing at grungy Kennedy airport some weeks back, I was struck by what a foreign tourist’s first impression of America might be compared to the efficient and state of the art airports that they came from at home. I vividly remember as a child President Eisenhower lobbying for the national highway system. It was positioned as a “defense highway system” so in case of foreign attack, thousands could escape an attack area quickly via the new superhighways. Well, the Soviets never bombed us but the infrastructure improvement was very real. Salespeople could cover hundreds of miles more in their territory. Contractors and tradesmen were not limited to their home cities any more and people in remote rural areas could get things shipped by truck almost as quickly as those in major cities. Would Wal-Mart have grown so large without the interstate highway system? The highways gave us an international leg up and increased business volume all over America. The Panama Canal is now getting a multi-billion dollar facelift and larger ships will be passing through it soon. Can all American ports handle the larger vessels or will they simply go to China or other nations who can accommodate them? Our state roads and bridges vary wildly in quality from place to place. Some are funded with gasoline taxes so we should not hold our breath regarding a quick fix there. Infrastructure is one place where government and business need to work together. If they will, it can sharpen our competitive edge significantly.
5) Tax and entitlement reform--you may say good luck on this one. I was excited when the Simpson-Bowles reforms were presented. If we could get a resolution on Social Security and Medicare that would protect our safety net for generations to come, businesses and individuals could plan better for the future. This would help us. We need a simpler, fairer tax code that does not punish success but squashes crony capitalism.

The first three points that I have outlined are happening and will make American stronger in the years to come. If we can resolve the issues around #4 and #5 then I am very confident that America’s best days are yet to come.

For a quick and easy read on the myth of America’s decline, may I suggest BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER by columnist Daniel Gross (Free Press, 2012)?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Monday, July 7, 2014

Storytelling vs. Statistics

Some months back, I gave a presentation to a fair sized audience of budding young professionals. The boss did not attend but sent an observer who sat in the back of the room and watched my dog and pony show very closely. I thought it went well and, as I was leaving, the management plant thanked me and said, “You are a wonderful storyteller. That is 90% of presenting.” As a guest, I merely said thank you but gently added that my stories all were linked to facts that I had presented in a few statistical charts in my show and tell.  She shook her head, smiled, and left. Later her boss told me what a success the session had been.

All of this is a preamble to something that I have observed over the last decade or so. An increasing number of people are making bad business decisions because storytelling seems to have overshadowed statistics or, dare I say, facts in decision-making.  Perhaps I am an exception. I have always considered myself something of a data junkie. Never have I resented tedious number crunching to get to the guts of a financial transaction, a media buy, or a forecast for a concept, a business, or even a country. And, if you know me at all, you realize that demographics often drive the bus.

Why do most new businesses fail? Why do most new products fail even from established marketers? To me, it is not lack of effort on the job or inept management. Much of it is a failure to look at the readily available facts or statistics that are in plain sight or can be researched for a bit of money.  A stunning number of people rely on storytelling as their compass. Their friends like it, they saw someone have success with it in another market or nation and they then make an enormous leap of faith based on hearsay or very limited amount of facts.

Your mind can play tricks on you if you become addicted to storytelling. More than once, I have passed out articles or books on a particular subject to colleagues or clients. And, several times people immediately handed them back saying, “Don, I will never read it. Just give me the headlines. I learn everything by talking to people.”

Well. I am a big advocate of business people talking to their customers and prospects and LISTENING. However, I have seen people bet millions on products or services where the timing is clearly wrong, or their chosen location cannot sustain a new player due to weakening demographics or a poor economy. Few of us want to tell a sincere person, especially a friend, that their idea really stinks.  So, if you merely talk to people, you are missing a lot and may be setting yourself up for failure.

Storytelling is important. It beats a ponderous power-point time after time in terms of audience attentiveness. Yet, the stories, to me, need to be tied to some statistical realities.

Finally, remember that con men are all great storytellers. Think about it.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com        

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Social Security And The Future of Marketing

As it has for several years, the United States Social Security System remains something of a political hot potato. Columnists often refer to it as “the third rail of American politics” meaning that if you touch it, you will die politically. Few in Washington have the guts to face the problems that the system faces (possible cutting of current benefits by 2034) even though the majority of young Americans in poll after poll do not believe that it will be there for them.

Reform may consist of raising the age of when you could collect and increasing the cap on income that could be taxed by social security. Combine that with some kind of means testing (multi-millionaires would see their benefits slashed) and the system could be saved in to perpetuity.

As a marketer, I have different issues with the program. According to the Social Security System itself, the monthly program payments account for 38% of the income for U.S. adults over 65. For couples, the figure is 22% and for single persons collecting a check, Social Security is 47% of their total income.

Dig a bit deeper and the numbers get scarier--a lot scarier. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) via their public policy institute recently released Social Security data by state. One chart floored me--it showed the percentage of people Age 65+ who relied on Social Security for at least 90% of their income.

Tennessee was on top at 32.7% followed by Mississippi at 30.8, Arkansas at 30.7, Georgia at 30.6 and Louisiana at 29.9%. Alaska appeared to be in the best shape at 14.5%. Again, statistics sometimes lie. Every Alaskan gets an oil payment each October from their Permanent Fund. Payouts can be as high as $3,269 in 2008 and were $900 in 2013. Yet the cost of living in Alaska is somewhat higher than most of the lower 48 states. So, they appear to be wealthy but, in terms of purchasing power, clearly they are not.

Also, each day some 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old so it is a safe bet that the number of people having Social Security as 90%+ of their income will only increase.

A reader wrote to me an hour ago saying that the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all time high. It did and almost closed at 17,000. That is great for all of you with seven figure 401k balances and significant passive income. Yet, for the average American, whose income has been stuck adjusted for inflation for more than 30 years, the Dow’s flirting with 17,000 is a meaningless statistic.

Marketers need to take note. America is getting older. Not as old as Europe, for sure, but far older than Asia ex Japan and Latin America. Increasingly, these people 65+ are going to be struggling. Financial decisions will revolve around food, prescription medicine or rent payments. For too many people, something will have to give.  The base for many products will have to erode. Are you or your clients prepared for this?

If you would like to contact Don Cole, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is Retail Dying in the U.S?

In recent weeks, I seem to be reading a surprising number of Cassandra style forecasts of the impending death of retail in the United States. Also, a few Media Realism readers have written to me echoing the same sentiment. All seemed to be using the same basic factoids to come to their gloomy conclusion. The list usually includes some combination of the following:

1) There are 100,000 shopping centers and strip malls in America.
2) They contain approximately 1 million stores.
3) The one million stores comprise 15 billion square feet of retail space.
4) The retail space works out to 47 square feet for every person living in the U.S.
5) Our per capita square footage devoted to retail is up to eight times that of other industrialized countries.
6) Over the last 20+ years the median household income has dropped from $56k to 51k but retail space per capita has jumped from 19 to 47 square feet.

I have checked and doubled checked the above numbers and most seem quite close to sources that I respect.

Most analysts that I read plus all of my readers who contacted me are forecasting a big shakeout in retail and a rough patch for the next few years for commercial real estate as more shopping centers have empty space and tenants negotiate harder on their leases.

Interestingly, no one seems to be mentioning on line shopping which would strike me as the biggest threat to brick and mortar retail. When I talk with local broadcasters (not local cable players who often deal in portions of markets), they are having a hard time getting long time retail spenders to maintain budgets consistently.  Some blame it on the struggles of suburban, middle class families while others say that online shopping is largely to blame.

There is no question that retail has always been a tough game and it will get even more difficult. The square footage figures cited above indicate that in certain parts of the country there is definitely some over-saturation of retail outlets.

When people dismiss problems and talk of Whole Foods, Michael Kors, Tiffany and Nordstrom they forget that upscale retailers take up only about 1% of total retail square footage in the country. And, their yield per square foot has to be much higher than the vast majority of players.

So, we have a glut of retail space. And, players in retail need to do even more careful risk assessment than ever. Will these issues disappear if the economy starts to consistently deliver 4%+ growth quarter after quarter?

Probably not as the shopping experience is shifting. Some people think that retail will dry up and blow away as on line shopping gets stronger (on line consistently has grown at double digits in recent years regardless of the strength of the economy). Many, however, still love to “touch and feel” items before they buy them. While on line players facilitate returns, it still remains a time consuming nuisance.

And, customization is morphing in to new shopping experiences. Do not be surprised if within a decade, you can visit a retail outlet and pick out or design attributes of a running shoe, for example. Exact measurements will be taken and, in a few days, you will have shoes exactly as you wanted them and they will fit PERFECTLY. Due to tech gains, the price differential may not be significantly higher than off the shelf entries.

As I am fond of saying, markets always go to extremes. So, it appears that retail was overbuilt. Retail like media will evolve a lot in the next 20 years. And, it is a sure bet that retail will use less conventional media than ever to support their locations.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Starting Salaries in Advertising

Around this time of year, you invariably see articles in the media about starting salaries for recent college graduates across a wide variety of disciplines. Also, without fail, I hear from people saying that actual entry level salaries in advertising appear to be much lower than the reported figures. This year has been no exception.

Historically, advertising agencies paid starvation wages to newcomers. How come? An old acquaintance who serves as Chief Administrative Officer (not her real title) at her shop put it bluntly: “You know as well as I that most people are not suited to the advertising business. It always seems that roughly one-third hate it and quit in the first year, another third cannot do it so we ask them to leave, and finally, the remainder tend to be keepers. So why invest much money in a recruit when the odds are one in three or less that he or she will have staying power? It may seem harsh but with rising costs of benefits, particularly healthcare, we do not pay well at first.”

Another straight talker put it this way: “When the recession hit us in 2008-2009, we got clobbered. We laid off a ton of staffers and I vowed never to be exposed that badly again. So, when we began to staff up in 2009, I made sure that we paid each new employee $5,000 less than we did in 2007. There are no shortages of people applying here and we have not raised the starting salary yet. Honestly, the only problem is that we occasionally get spoiled brats who are heavily subsidized by upper middle class parents. One young lady drives a luxury car in each day and our creative director thinks that she earns far more than she really does. So, we do not have much diversity in terms of backgrounds, but we never pay too much and do not feel bad if someone does not work out. Are we exploiting them? I don’t worry about it as we give these kids a chance when others do not."

A small market CEO writes, “I have not had a raise since 2007. A young kid was here four months and told me he needed a raise to buy a new car. I tried to explain that his means of transportation was not my responsibility. He did not get it and left a few weeks later for a job outside of advertising paying $1500 more. Good riddance!”

In some markets, the cost of living requires better starting pay although New York and other major city rents force newcomers to live with two or three others to make ends meet. Also, many say that real stars go to Silicon Valley or Wall Street and the quality of advertising newcomers is not nearly as strong as it was several decades ago.

Virtually, everyone whom I spoke to or e-mailed admitted that stars do get paid well once they have proven themselves. A few confessed that they wait several years before they loosen their purse strings especially if they are in a small to mid-sized market where changing jobs and staying in advertising inevitably requires a move to another city.

I see both sides of this issue. With many shops facing financial challenges, it does not seem as if we will get a big change soon.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Earthquake or Blip on the Screen?

This past week, two of the world’s largest advertisers, made announcements regarding their digital efforts:

1) Procter & Gamble, arguably the world’s largest advertiser, disclosed that going forward 70-75% of their U.S. digital activity will be done programatically and in-house.

 2) Separately, fast food giant, McDonald’s announced that it is opening a digital office on Market Street in San Francisco so that they will be better able to recruit digital talent. Their digital chief described the move as “a way for us to be more plugged in to the flow of ideas.”

To me, this is heady stuff. Of the agency people whom I canvassed, many seemed to be  yawning. Yet, what is happening? It seems clear that both huge players in the ad world are bypassing their agencies and going direct to the source to optimize activity in the burgeoning digital space.

One agency chief dismissed that echoing his long held sentiment that his small team at a mid-sized shop “was cutting edge and on top of all changes in the digital world. My folks also have a great relationship with Google.” I gently responded that they may have a great relationship with the Google SALES TEAM. The McDonald’s initiative sounds as if they will raid, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Oracle and fellow travelers and get people who know where the bodies are buried in key companies and have a handle on what they may be coming up in the near future. Also, they can push the envelope better than any agency team can of what might be done that has never been tried before. These companies will also  have an edge over competitors in our new era of Big Data.

Am I overreacting? What do you think?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pricing Digital Creative Services

Joseph Alois Schumpeter was an economist who studied in Vienna and London. I would put him in the top five of all economists in history along with Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek. He popularized the term “creative destruction” in economic and political circles. After a failed early marriage and living beyond his means in London, a friend wangled a job for him managing the estate of an Egyptian princess living in Cairo. He jumped at the lucrative position and was quite successful. It turns out that the prior trustees had been stealing the princess blind. By simply taking his precise contractual fee, Schumpeter was able to lower rents for the tenants of the princess to their great delight yet still managed to double her annual income. Once things were set up his time was largely his own and he drafted his first book, THE THEORY OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. His reputation spread and soon he was called back to Vienna as a professor.

Why tell this story? Well, it reminds me a bit of what has been happening over the last 15 years in the digital advertising arena. Some years back, when the internet was just getting rolling as an advertising medium, a new player showed up at a large client that I handled. He was not too smooth and people said that he was not the sharpest tool in the shed regarding marketing or media. I tried to be a bit kinder than that as he seemed to simply use different terms for certain items than we did and when any one used a standard term he would often blurt out “what’s that” which had some people stifling laughs. After a while I noticed how he seemed to have an inordinate interest on the cost of all creative jobs, copying and anything that could be remotely defined as “digital.” When he asked what a job cost he would write it down and sometimes smile and other times frown but he would not comment.

I bumped in to him once by accident at a social gathering two weeks before we were to begin negotiations for a multi-year contract renewal. He told me that we had better lower fees for certain jobs or we would be on very thin ice. I got him a drink and he opened up to me. He essentially said, “You have always treated me with respect but your associates do not. Yes, I have had five jobs in the last eight years. In that time, I have dealt with seven agencies and I monitor fees closely. You guys charge way too much on certain items. I am not the marketing director but you are not going to rip us off any longer.”

The next day I reported back to the CEO and we did some digging. Yes, we were overcharging for some items but, after checking with other shops around the country, we were virtually giving other tasks away. We slashed prices on the sensitive items and obtained the contract renewal. The client moved on a year or so later and I doubt his boss had a clue about how much his lieutenant had saved the company.

Were we really price gouging? I talked to some people recently and a common thread ran through their comments. One CEO who retired in the last few years weighed in as follows: “Don, when digital began we were clueless. We did not know what to charge. So, we took some guesses and found we were high in some places and low in others. When new young designers came on board, we got a handle on what others were charging. Still, we got stung by boutiques who could do a job overnight for a third of what we charged. As young talent moved client side, we had to adjust quickly as they had contacts all over. My successor is a great guy and ethical. He asked me how to bill attempts at viral videos.  Charging by the number of hours would not work so he puts two young creatives on the job who work nights and weekends as they love the assignment. Their batting average stinks. They are way below the Mendoza line (this is a baseball term attributed to George Brett describing a hitter in a slump with a batting average below .200 which was the normal average of infielder Mario Mendoza). Now, there appears to be some niche shops who know how to make them work with some consistency. How do we price something we know will likely not work?”

Another mid-sized CEO takes a different approach. “While no two compensation agreements are alike, we try to do a flat fee for all agency services allowing us to make what we think is a fair profit. We may lose our shirt on some tasks but, overall, the clients know we are playing things straight with them. By doing this, we are learning a lot about new platforms. If we charged a la carte, I am sure that we would be bushwhacked by some boutiques. We are not that big, but we cannot respond as a three person shop can that is truly cutting edge”.

So, the young lions at the boutiques who work quickly and know shortcuts and tricks are beating the small and medium sized shops badly and charging way less. They are the Schumpeters of our new century in terms of providing better service for less money. With scores more changes coming on board on scads of new platforms, traditional agencies who claim to be digitally savvy are in a tight spot.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com