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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Sort of 2016 Media Forecast

In recent weeks, I have received a number of requests from readers and friends to put together a 2016 Media Forecast. I was very hesitant as I do not see the next year with much clarity. The economic world, among others, is in great flux. After years of explosive growth, emerging markets are taking a rest. The low cost of oil is affecting Russia and Brazil significantly and many do not see the supply overload righting itself until 2017. The muscular US dollar will likely only rise as interest rates inch up in 2016, and, as a result, American exports will suffer. Friends who are uber-bullish about the stock market seem to ignore that part of the relative strength has been companies simply buying back their shares rather than investing in innovation, personnel, or capital equipment. An old friend told me to go ahead with a forecast saying, “Don, you have been on this forecasting beat for 40 years; you must know something.” He is correct. What I know is what I do not know. And, I have never been more uncomfortable as I look ahead to 2016.

This year, I decided an interesting tact would be to avoid going to my “old reliables.” These are people whom I have known forever and whose judgement I respect. Instead, I went to an ENTIRE new crew of contributors for a forecast. Candidly, I have been disappointed. There were too many remarks that were self serving. I received comments along the lines of “my medium is in tough shape. But my station (magazine, newspaper) will prance through 2016 smiling.” Others said that, “in 2016, we may have a brokered GOP convention. Think how much ad spend we will get in my state after decades of virtually nothing.” Finally, “you worry too much. Things are going to get better each quarter.”

Let me share a few things that I have often used as benchmarks for economic activity. They may not get much press but they have been my ultimate checklist over the years.

1) The Labor Participation Rate--the talking heads on TV talk about the relatively low unemployment rate. Yes, employment has slowly improved over the last few years. At the same time, my acid test, the Labor Participation Rate, is terrible. One group says that it is the lowest since 1977 while another group says that it is at the lowest level ever. Why split hairs? It stinks. One is only considered to be unemployed if he or she is actively seeking employment. If you are discouraged and stop searching for gainful employment, you are no longer considered unemployed.
2) Caterpillar (CAT)--the fortunes of the Illinois based company with the distinctive yellow backhoes and other earth moving equipment is a simplistic touchstone for me of global economic health. If CAT is not getting new orders, then ground is not being broken both in the U.S. and around the world. Right now, Caterpillar appears to be struggling. That is not a good sign for economic activity.
3) Trucking--most goods in the U.S. still move by truck. If the action slows as it has, that is not a good barometer of a vibrant economy picture.

Oversimplified? You bet! Scary. You bet?

Okay, here are a few fearless forecasts for 2016:

1) Digital will continue to grow at a double digit pace.
2) Social media will likely have a majority of its action in mobile vs. laptop. Not by much but a clear winner.
3) Mobile will continue to invade our lives but growth as an ad medium may be short of expectations.
4) Conventional media will continue to weaken due to what I have dubbed “internal deterioration.” Yes, TV could be up a few percentage points overall and radio in many markets will hold steady but their share of the ad pie will get smaller despite headlines touting increased spending for elections and Olympics. Newspaper and magazines will continue to decline.
5) Outside the U.S., the rate of growth will slow a bit as China softens (still growing but at slower pace), and Russia and Brazil and other natural resource dependent countries struggle. Europe will move forward a bit in most countries.

A sleeper. You have all heard of cord-cutting--some people give up on cable or satellite and make do with Netflix, Hulu, You Tube and other options. This year, you may hear about cord-nevers. These are young people who have never had a mainstream TV service and see no reason to get one. They tend to be well educated and increasingly affluent. How will you reach them? Hint--Big Data will help.

Toothless comments? Perhaps. Yet 2016 strikes me as being a year of murkiness and contradictions.

Here is wishing all of us a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016 despite the headwinds that I see ahead.

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Endowment Effect in Television Advertising

Those of you who have studied Consumer Behavior, Psychology, or Behavioral Economics are undoubtedly familiar with what is known as “The Endowment Effect.”  Quite simply, it occurs when a person or persons ascribe more value to things merely because they own them.

A few examples might include when a couple decides to sell their home. Their realtor may give them an estimate based on similar homes in the same zip code but the owners insist that their home is special and deserves to be premium priced. Used cars are another great example. A seller explains that his/her old car is a “cream puff” that was beautifully maintained and has mysteriously low mileage. Selling something on e-bay? The odds are good that the owner believes her collectible is going to fetch a top price after a lively bidding war.

Over the last few years, I have come to believe that, in television advertising, the endowment effect, is beginning to wane. Historically, literally going back 60 years, media planners and negotiators always took the attitude that one “pays more to get more.” In other words, you paid a higher cost per rating point for a spot with a 15 rating than one with a three rating. The appeal was that the 15 rating reached a larger unduplicated audience so you were willing to pay a premium, often significant, to get that substantial audience all at once. The Super Bowl remains an outstanding example of this principle as it consistently delivers 44-45% of US TV households each year, and importantly, commercial attentiveness is higher for The Super Bowl than any other TV event.

The problem is that today there are few things out there that even deliver a fourth of The Super Bowl’s audience. And, commercial avoidance via DVR’s, Netflix, Hulu, or simply using the remote, is at an all time high and gaining ground. So, even if one buy’s one of today’s top rated primetime show (assume an eight rating), many will tape the show and edit out commercials as they watch it. The advertiser has paid a premium for the large audience but what are they really getting in terms of attentiveness?

Separately, there is the issue of sports programming. Sports has always been premium priced on a cost per potential eye ball basis. While it varies by telecast and quality of the audience, let us use a 20% premium as a benchmark for advertising in a sports vehicle.  Today, some people tape football games and play them back. The average game has 12-13 minutes of action. Do people dutifully watch commercials or listen to sometimes inane commentary when playing a game back? It would appear to be highly unlikely. On fall Saturdays when college games are broadcast, it is not unusual to have seven games playing simultaneously. Hardcore pigskin fans can jump from game to game during commercial breaks lessening the impact of advertising dollars placed in specific games.

Some have commented to me that my point is well made but it is all relative. In the 1980’s, General Hospital on ABC Daytime was a soap opera that delivered a 20 household rating and was often used by buyers as a primetime surrogate depending on the product advertised. Simultaneously, some late news (WPVI in Philadelphia, for example) also delivered killer numbers that could bring buys in nicely. Today, an eight is the new 20. I see their point but there does not seem to be a lowering of the premium over ordinary fare consistent with the precipitous drop in ratings.

Now, I fully understand that TV costs are determined by the law of supply and demand. So, if media negotiators continue to bid up the prices of a handful of selected shows with either strong numbers or attractive demographics, that is simply the way the market works. Yet, when will it end or slow down? We all know that TV does not work as well as it used to not so many years ago. Measurement of a host of digital options is getting better and better so a shift away from TV may start to pick up speed and soon.

Agency media people continue to give certain aspects of TV an endowment effect that remains on steroids despite crumbling measured delivery and attentiveness. Something has to give.

To Media Realism readers all over the world, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Key to Success is Failure

For most of my adult life, I have read or heard people talk about positive thinking and how some people are just born winners. There is no question that positive thinking is a good thing but to me the greatest success often comes to people who have had some hard knocks, learned from it, and overcome the difficulty.

Like many New Englanders of my generation, my childhood hero was Red Sox great Ted Williams. Urban legend has it that in retirement, Ted one said that baseball “is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” Ted was right about baseball. If a guy hits .300 consistently for 10-15 years, he is a virtual lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

Actually, Ted was wrong that a .300 batting average would only make you a success in baseball. Ask any advertising agency executive about his or her new business batting average. Yes, many shops have hot streaks, but virtually no one bats .300 at new business over the long pull. If you are not talking about the three-four shops who make the cut for the creative or marketing shoot-out, then the average for everyone is much much lower than .300 as many do not make the cut at the RFP (Request for Proposal) stage.

How about the new rage in marketing--Targeting models employing Big Data?
Well, look at Groupon coupon redemptions. The number is something like six coupons out of 10,000 mailed out. Amazon does far better with their Zappos offers as they have a clear look at purchase history but still, despite the best targeting ever, the failure rate is staggering.

How about science? From the time I was able to read, I also was informed of the genius of Thomas Edison. Yet, Edison performed thousands and thousands of experiments before he had a breakthrough with electricity or movie cameras. He was quoted as saying that discovery was “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Know many investment millionaires? Most will tell you that most of their purchases lost money or were lackluster. A couple of 10 baggers (1,000% return) or one 100 bagger (10,000% return) put them on easy street.

How about those dealing with addiction? Most fail a few times before turning their lives around in re-hab. And, it is a verifiable fact that the majority of “overnight successes” in the entrepreneurial world may have struck gold on their third or fourth attempt.

Failure is so important in the business world. If you learn from your mistakes, you improve your chances significantly on your next effort. And, importantly, failure teaches you true humility which is the differentiating characteristic of many great leaders.

So, we all have failures and will continue to experience them. Analyze them and try and learn from them. Dust yourself off and get back in the game. Over the long pull, failure can be your friend.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Big Deal About Big Data

Over the last few years, unless you were in a very remote part of the marketing world, the term “Big Data” has become increasingly prominent. Just what is it? How important is it going forward in the discipline of Consumer Behavior and the world of Advertising and Marketing?

To me, Big Data is the legitimate heir to popular terms of the new century such as dot.com, social media, and wireless. It means a lot of data. No joke! That is it!

The issue to me is not that we have more data than ever before, a great deal more of it, but we have far more analyses. A tremendous amount more.

The driving force of this marketing or sales revolution is not the massive data itself. It is the AVAILABILITY of the information. To repeat, Big Data means more analyses, but, at the same time, it also means more bad analyses as well. In today’s world, there is no way to escape people crunching numbers (I have done it forever). And now, marketers and analysts have vastly more numbers to review.

Today, by employing Big Data, marketers, especially online players, know a great about their regular customers and they are constantly fine tuning their methods. A friend said that he is searching for the holy grail of communication--making the right offer to the right person at the right time.

How do they do it? To wildly oversimplify, they essentially get needed information two ways:

1) Loyalty cards--This is clearly the most direct way for a marketer to learn your shopping habits. Retailers “bribe you” in essence, by obtaining your personal data with rebates, gifts, or other benefits. The best example that I have ever found was a few years back when JPMorgan Chase issued an Amazon credit card. The carrot that they offered was that you received three reward points for every dollar purchased on Amazon with the Chase Amazon card. All other purchases received one point for each dollar spent with the card. With a powerful incentive in place, a large number of people put much of their expenditures on that one card and used Amazon more often. So, in crude terms, Amazon gets the platinum mine and you get the shaft. Only a few would think this. Most would say they get the benefits of a souped-up Amazon reward plan. A handful, generally very mature would worry about privacy. The younger demographic by a rate of 95% to 5% would opt for convenience over privacy. So, with the loyalty card Amazon has a rather clear view of your spending habits. They can customize offers to you and others like you to push you over the edge and grab a deal.

2) Loyal or Regular Customers--A retailer or company site will graze through your past shopping records and look for clues to your shopping behavior. If you come up without a clearcut profile, they will link you with customers who “look like” you in some way or share several demographic characteristics. This leap of faith is known as PROXY DATA and can include basics such as age, income, nine digit zip, education, subscriptions to selected magazines and even if you have a cat or a dog. The mountain of Proxy Data that is being built up almost defies description. Companies have massive databases that cover nearly 75% of all US Households. They peddle this information to many takers and slice it up in infinite variations. A few examples are:

1) The basics such as age, gender, education, income and ethnicity

2) Consumption data--What do this household spend on liquor, fine wine, even ice cream.  Ice Cream? A quick story. On Saturday, my wife sent me to a toney grocery store to pick up two items. As I passed the ice cream section, the marketer in me stopped. They had a brand unfamiliar to me that was selling for $7.25 cents a pint. I laughed to myself and wondered who would be buying ice cream priced at over $50 a gallon. An instant later, a very beautifully dressed woman said, “Excuse me, sir, may I get in to the freezer.” As she put two pints of the designer ice cream into her shopping cart, she smiled and told me that her daughter was home for Thanksgiving break and just loved this ice cream. I very quickly drew a demographic profile of the lovely mom.  Coincidentally, we checked out at almost the same time and left the store simultaneously. My hunch was correct. She hopped in to a new Land Rover and, as she drove away, I saw a sticker on the rear window for both Brown University and Williams College. With that, I could narrow her home to one of three zip codes. If I can do that by inspection, imagine what a marketer can do with a few dozen data points!

3) Lifestyle data--How often have you moved (average home stay is seven years in the US) and how long is your marriage and is it your first.

4) Neighborhood information--How long do people commute to work and how many own their dwellings

In 2008, when the economy appeared to be in shambles, the great Chris Anderson wrote a magazine article entitled “The End of Theory.” Anderson is the author of THE LONG TAIL (a book which I highly recommend) and is the former editor of WIRED Magazine. It was the first article that really brought the concept of Big Data into the mainstream. His thesis was that data would become so big and so complete that models to reach target prospects or even project sales forecasts would be obsolete.

To quote, the lead passage from his article we find: “This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear. Out of every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is that they do it and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.”

Now, that you have looked up the definitions of taxonomy and ontonology, let us continue.

If you study Consumer Behavior with any depth, you soon realize that the true causes for buying defy simple measurement. With so much data available, we may weigh various data points incorrectly and make unwarranted assumptions.

Big Data is wildly useful but it cannot tell you why fads occur or why all of us at one time or another make impulsive purchases. Statisticians refer to these as LATENT FACTORS as they cannot be seen or observed. Is Anderson totally right about the future of Big Data? I doubt it for one big reason. My favorite statistician, Kaiser Fung, put it beautifully when he wrote, “It is just hopeless to distill the kaleidoscope of human behavior in to a set of equations.”

What does this mean for the future of both Consumer Behavior as a marketing discipline and for the future of Integrated Marketing Communications? Plenty, but the impact of Big Data is not clearcut. One could make a safe bet that as logarithms improve marketers will depend more on online and mobile options to reach people. Traditional media has to struggle even more than they do today. Facebook may grow in stature as the word of mouth it provides re products and services will help while legacy media flounders.

Remember, that statistics are no substitute for judgement but unbiased analyses should be a great help to marketers going forward.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Network TV Security Blanket

Earlier this year, tracking services indicated that television as an advertising medium had declined in real terms for one quarter. This sparked a few headlines and some gloom and doom comments. Yet looking at the last few years, as newspaper, magazines and, to a lesser degree radio have faltered, TV has held is own in terms of dollar share of total advertising expenditures as internet and mobile spending has increased smartly.

For nearly a decade many pundits have been talking about the death of TV as an advertising medium. It definitely has not happened. I have felt that it inevitably will decline but that the fall off will take a very long time. Recently, I surveyed a number of agency people across the country as well as a handful of advertisers and their comments only reinforced my belief.

Each year, several people ask me whether this coming year will be the final bow for the network TV upfront marketplace. I always say no but, when pressed, refuse to forecast when it will become obsolete. People who put precision around such events remind me of the economic Cassandras who pen books entitled with catchy titles such as HOW TO BEAT THE CRASH THAT IS SURELY COMING. Every generation someone gets the timing right but much of that has to be luck.

Is advertiser supported TV in trouble? Yes and no. It is definitely changing and no longer packs the communications wallop that it had not that long ago. Here is a motley mix of comments that I received from agency professionals, a few retired media executives, some active and very anonymous broadcast sales executives, a digital media director, and a local cable trailblazer.

--Retired Network Sales Executive--“Of course, we are in a steady and permanent decline. Hell, even I am a Netflix junkie these days. My former colleagues are a scrappy bunch and they will be standing longer than many realize. They are doing a nice job of bringing new advertisers on air. Some of the tech guys should know better as they do not need us all that much.”

--Agency Media Strategist--“You once asked me how things were going in my shop as we evolved in to digital. I was annoyed with you but there is a “knife fight” (your term) going on each year among the network buyers and the planning team. We keep pulling network TV back in our initial plans and adding more digital. Clearly, we are winning but the haves, the old line negotiators, are not rolling over. We spend too much in all forms of TV but directionally things are getting better.”

--Agency Media Chief--“My big problem is a few of our biggest clients. Network TV is a security blanket to them. Off the record, we still do too much. I am trying to have my team wean them away from it. Several years have gone by and we are making progress. To me, network TV is not going to dry up and blow away. It is getting downscale and a lot older. That argument seems to work with our more traditional clients.”

--Sales Manager, Local Market (Network Affiliate)--“it comes down to two things, Don. We are taking clients that we never would have considered 10 years ago and are proud to get them. Also, we are licking our chops about the upcoming political season. This would never have happened years ago. And, as you and I have discussed the last decade, TV does not work nearly as well anymore. Our local news is awful but is still a station cash cow. Go figure.”

--Digital Media Director--“I try to move people along into more digital options. We are always recommending tests. I have avoided wars with the broadcast players at my agency and traditional clients. The smart old ones see what is happening and are riding it out until retirement. A lot of money is being wasted but it used to be worse.”

--Local cable sales star--“We are doing more and more with zoned buys and strong promotions. The little retailers love it and we have made TV affordable for them. It is a lot more work but we will prolong the life of our version of TV longer than most are betting.”

--Local TV sales chief--“Whenever I have a bad day, I tell myself, it could be worse. You  could be selling newspaper or radio (laughs). We have lost the under 30 crowd except for a few sporting events. Game over? No way. But, we cannot turn this ship around no matter what New York says.”

So, US TV is still a big force in advertising. Its influence is sagging and smart young people are going to work elsewhere according to my sources. Video usage will continue to grow but advertising avoidance should move in lockstep with it.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Disease of Short-Termism

In recent years, American business has increasingly ceased to look at the long term benefits of a strong and consistent approach to marketing and to advertising. When you ask people about it, most simply shrug. Those who talk to me about it are in one of two camps:

1) Things are changing so quickly with all the new platforms and media opportunities that people do not know what to do so they pull in their horns a bit too much.
2) The simple truth is that Wall Street runs America and not Main Street. Publicly traded companies will do anything to avoid missing Wall Street earnings estimates so many things suffer, particularly marketing and also, not insignificantly, honest accounting.

It might surprise many of you who know me that I tend to lean toward camp #2.

I have a long standing habit that amuses my wife but other people find to be more than mildly eccentric--I devour annual reports of companies from all over the globe. As I have gotten better at analyzing them, I notice that, increasingly, seemingly reputable companies are engaging in what I would categorize as accounting shenanigans. A CPA wrote to me recently, “I was up for a contract with a company somewhat larger than my usual client. The presentation went well and the prospect seem comfortable with my both me and my team. Then she asked, “How imaginative are you guys at managing earnings for your clients.” “I responded that we used every legitimate loophole to lower taxes but we never managed earnings. We were (politely) shown the door.”

A tax lawyer with international experience tells me that multi-nationals have a tough and bewildering job paying taxes in dozens of nations. He even added that the IRS often does not have the expertise to sort it all out. Given currency fluctuations and local taxes, the temptation is often great to move funds around or account for them in different years to avoid a “roller-coaster effect” of up and down earnings.

Years ago, I read an editorial from then Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley. One line will stay with me forever. He wrote, “True profits are represented by cash--a fact--rather than reported profit--an opinion.” One does not find such candor or clear thinking much these days.

Games are always being played. In recent years, more and more companies are doing huge buybacks of their stock. By decreasing the number of shares outstanding, earnings tend to rise. Even Warren Buffett admitted considering it for Berkshire Hathaway during the dark days of 2008-2009 but he found other ways to deploy his huge capital which he felt promised a better return. When your stock is clocked 50% yet earnings are holding up and the future looks solid, buying back shares in a great idea. Yet, CEO’s almost always believe that their shares are undervalued. I have seen a very prominent company continue to buy back its shares from a price of 110 down to 70. Surely, it may be a good buy at 70 but it definitely was not at 110. And, a few companies are even borrowing at today’s historically low interest rates to buy back some of their shares.

In 1974, I read a book by Robert Townsend, former president of Avis Rent A Car entitled UP THE ORGANIZATION (1970).  It was a wonderful primer for someone just entering the business world. He had a mini-chapter in it where he talked about telling the press when you thought you stock was priced too high. I am a business news junkie. NEVER have I ever seen or heard or anyone acting on Townsend’s suggestion. Not once in over 40 years!

So businesses answer to Wall Street and are worried almost exclusively about the next 90 days rather than the long term health of their brands. I remember vividly owning Kellogg’s share in the early 1980’s. Earnings were stagnant one year and the CEO wrote to us saying that with many new product introductions marketing expenses would be unusually large for the coming year and would effect earnings. I see nothing like that today. Not even close.

Okay, what does this have to do with advertising and media? A lot.

An agency chief wrote to me to say that he provided a five year plan to his biggest client showing how they should increase spending across many platforms for the next 24 months and then ease up as two of their brands could become “cash cows” for the company. The client smiled and said no five year plans. They call up and want quick promotions or some carpet bombing couponing effort in print, online, and mobile but no one, client side, is in to the long term establishment of company brands. He put it nicely when he said, “These guys are all smiles and nod vigorously when we talk of brand-building but they never open their wallets when the time comes.”

A marketing director whom I respect says, “ You have to understand the reality. My CEO gets compensated for good stock performance. So, he buys back shares when he has excess cash. Sometimes his timing is good, sometimes not. And, he is manic about quarterly earnings. His long term is 90 days. He is not a bad guy or a crook. All he does is reflect the culture of the times which is dominated by Wall Street.”

If you think this is bad, talk to senior executives at media companies. A few comments from some old pros:

--“It is a cliche but still true. Many companies cut the ad budget when there is the first sign of trouble. They get away with it, FOR A WHILE. Earnings float along okay and then bam. They have to buy market share back. It is hard for us to plan.”

--“I have a very seasoned sales team. They warn me when clients are cutting back with no rational reason. My CEO does not care and give me the old chestnut about our debt service. We scramble like hell to get new clients on board. And, if people knew how inexpensive and effective lots of social media is, we would be finished.”

So, will things change? Will Wall Street loosen its grip? Will earnings be straightforward again? Will companies stop giving guidance to analysts and or will they refuse to turn somersaults to hit their numbers?

I would say that it is unlikely. A century ago, Upton Sinclair, the great journalist, put it well--“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.”

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Customer Equity-Mindset

About 17 years ago, I was meeting with a client. As we talked, he answered several questions from customers and very quickly sorted out problems that staffers brought to him on the fly. I complimented him on how he moved through his day as he asked me a barrage of media questions and I told him that I was especially impressed with the way he fielded questions and complaints from customers.

“Don, it is simple,” he said. “I have a Customer-Equity Mindset.” With that, I began to laugh and he did, too. “That is a pretty fancy term”, I said. “What is it exactly?” He answered--“Customer Equity is the present value of anticipated lifetime revenues that current and prospective customers generate, minus, of course, the costs to retain and acquire those customers.” Reduced to uncontrollable laughter but intrigued, I asked where he heard that. With a big smile he told me that it was from a HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW article that he had read a year ago. He remains the only fast food maven that I have ever met who not only read but memorized segments of the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. The conversation that we had regarding it has stuck with me vividly all these years.

What my client explained was that by adopting a Customer Equity Mindset his whole approach to business changed and his success soared.  His interpretation went like this: “Customers are the source of my firm’s revenues. Also, they drive my expenses and investments in plant and equipment. So, every time I increase Customer Equity I increase the value of my company.”

How to do it? Simple stuff but always worth repeating: Keep your customers especially the good ones longer. Grow revenue from present customers, and work to acquire new customers who can ad value, improve customer retention procedures and LISTEN to everyone especially the complainers. If you do that you can improve products, services and goodwill.

He actually did training about a Customer-Equity Mindset. His 17 year olds behind the counter were drilled on the nuts and bolts of it. He told me that if one could make it permeate throughout the organization, sales had to go up and you would hang on to existing customers. He loved new customers but always made sure he did not lose many especially when a new competitor threatened. What he was fostering is what others have called “Loyalty Based Management.” There was great trust built with employees and with his customer base.

In the rush to get to this quarter’s or years profits, many ad agencies and broadcasters seem to neglect this issue. And the siren’s call of new business, while vital to any enterprise, should not overshadow your existing base.

My client was not a dreamer. He took a concept and made it his corporate mantra. Do you really have a Customer-Equity Mindset?

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sleepless Ad Agency Staffers

Several weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to both selected Media Realism readers and ad agency contacts asking them the age old question, “What keeps you up at night?”  Some of the responses were light hearted and included: “My teenage sons, my nasty boss, and my idiot clients.” Interestingly, no one said, “Nothing” makes them sleep deprived. Surprisingly, one person sent me an e-mail that I found particularly poignant. With his permission, I will share parts of it with you.

“When you met me 25 years ago, I thought that I was going to be the next David Ogilvy (you probably thought I was obnoxious). I was going to write brilliant long copy with spectacular headlines and my spreads would appear in the best magazines. You warned me even then (bravo to you), that things were changing. Obviously, things did not turn out as I expected.”

“I am now in my early 50’s and will be facing two big college tuition bills very soon. To put it simply, I am frightened. I feel that I am slowly fading into irrelevance. Some of my colleagues are finished as they have shown an unwillingness to adapt. I am not one of them but I am a realist. When I read that by 2020, many advertisers will be putting the plurality of their advertising into mobile, it gives me pause. That may never happen but what if it does? What do you need an aging writer who earns six figures for when the mobile message is truncated and is there solely to elicit direct response? I have had a great run despite some disappointments but do I realistically have 10 more years?”

“Technology is great but is rapidly washing away our old processes, modes of work and even some markets. I do not feel that advertising is doomed but it will require an entire new skill set by practitioners and very soon. Tech may overtake creativity and Big Data will drive sales far more than conventional media.”

When I showed these edited comments to others, some say my friend is an alarmist. A few said that he articulated their sentiments quite precisely. These people came from media, creative, account management and agency ownership.

Perhaps, British writer Samuel Johnson (1719-1784) put it best with the acid comment: “Nothing concentrates one’s mind like a date with the hangman’s noose".

As always, I would love to hear your opinions on this topic.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

An Ad Man For All Seasons?

It is hard to believe but it has been approximately seven full years since America was hit with an economic downturn that we now refer to as “The Great Recession.” The downdraft tested many companies, people, and portfolios. Recently, I talked to a seasoned ad man about the recession and its affect on ad agencies.

He went through the usual delineation of issues that many struggled through but then said that he knew a number of agency chiefs who could survive easily through anything. As we talked, I had to disagree. Survive yes, but prosper and grow all the time was something that I am quite unfamiliar with in this business.

To me, business professor Don Hambrick of Penn State nailed it when he wrote, “An executive who is well suited to leading a firm during one period may be ill suited for the next period.” Many chiefs can look effective when the wind is at their backs. Can they adapt to more challenging circumstances?

Ambassador Joseph Kennedy is widely credited with coining the now proverb, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I have witnessed agency leaders who seemed bored or a bit disengaged during good or middling times, yet rise to the occasion when their shop has its back to the wall. Suddenly, they make tough decisions, stay hands on and drum up significant new business in very trying environments.

Some analysts go even further and say that some firms grow at times because they seem to be near perfect fits to the current marketplace. Management and staff are not exceptional but rather are at the right place at the right time. Remember when the internet first started to gain real traction as an advertising medium? Some shops had big gains as they had keyed on the emerging platforms early on. A few years later some early mobile players had similar success. Were they that good or was it simply that in the valley of the blind men, the one eyed man is King and the competition was playing catch up?

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that these people were mediocre. Sometimes success is due to many factors not the least of which is a bit of luck. Granted, there are some people who are excellent forecasters and seem to see what is happening a bit earlier than the rest of the pack. Some 90+%, however, see the trend after it is clearly in place.

Life, business, and the free market are all full of bumps in the road. Leaders react to them differently. Few, if any, perform well through all of them.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Is All Research Cooked?

Several weeks ago, I began work on this post. I sent feelers out to a number of people asking if they thought research reports in broadcast and advertising were often manipulated. As I finished a draft of the post and was waiting for a few more responses from my panel members, the Volkswagen scandal broke. So, I deliberately delayed putting this post up until the smoke had cleared a bit.

Mark Twain set the tone for questioning research when he said in the 19th century: “There are three kinds of lies--lies, damned lies and statistics.” Most people say that a clever analyst or executive can spin data in such a way that even poor performance can look much better than it really is.

Responses to my query often had the tone that, “Yes, you can always find a way to lie with statistics.” Now, some of that is not as heinous as you might think. Most of us have been or are in situations where you have to put your best foot forward when research goes against you. A magazine may have a declining audience and circulation but the average income of the remaining readers may have risen smartly. Or, a cable channel that is not growing finds that it does well against certain demographic groups that are highly attractive to advertisers. Where the wheels come off is where people want the research to mirror their pre-existing notions of their brand or media property.

Decades ago, I was an earnest young media analyst who was sent alone to a fairly important client to give a state of the media world presentation. We had no power-points  in those days but I did have a slick deck of acetates and after several rehearsals I faced the music with Mr. Big. The presentation went well and the clients asked many questions and there were frequent nods and smiles as I worked my way through the material. The boss, the marketing chief, told me that he would like to keep slides #2, #17, #31 and the final one. I said of course but wouldn’t you rather take the entire deck. He smiled, said no, and told me that I had a done a very thorough job. Later I found out that he had recommended a course of action to his president and used my four slides to back it up. Of course, by selecting those four slides, and only those four, he had rigged the deck in favor of what he wanted to execute for his brand.

Another time, a year or so later, a client asked me the purpose of research. I said what I still say today--”The purpose of all research is to reduce uncertainty. There is always risk with a new brand and we can never eliminate it but solid research is an important hedge as you begin to market a brand that you are betting millions on.” He seemed to agree and then asked the same question to a contemporary of mine who was the research director of the company. The young fellow said, “Research is the search for truth, sir.” The boss started laughing so hard that he spit his coffee out on the conference table. “That’s rich, son,” was his reply as the young fellow scurried for napkins to clean up the mess.

A year later, the young guy had lost his innocence. I sat in on a research presentation from an outside company. When he was done, the marketing chief thanked the presenter who left. He asked me what I thought and I related how some of it mirrored what was going in media at the time. The young fellow said, “Boss, what do you want me to say in your executive summary to the board?” Somehow, the search for truth was no longer a goal. Both of the players have died so I do not feel horrible telling the story for the first time. Yet, the nagging issue is how much of this type of behavior goes on?

Some of my kitchen cabinet weighed in:

“I don’t think everyone is lying. But, all of us at times try to position things favorably either about our brands or what communications tools to use. It is VERY hard not to have some baggage with you.”

“The big companies are the worst. Remember, 30-40 years ago when the tobacco companies would commission studies saying that smoking was not bad for you? And, I am sure as more evidence comes out about corn syrup that food and cola companies will commission research that will mysteriously exonerate them.”

“When I worked in radio, even if we got killed in an Arbitron ratings sweep, we could always find a few ways to spin the numbers to make the station appear to be first in a few things. Were we crooked? Not really."

A few people wrote that they wonder why some marketing chief and CEO’s even bother to do research. Some get furious looking at customer verbatims about poor service and say, “Impossible. Our customers all love us.” Their attitude often strikes me as “don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up.”

When is research the straightest? Some tell me it is when one company is considering buying another. They look carefully for accounting tricks, maybe do customer research, and are brutally honest about how good the company’s product(s) are relative to competition. Once the purchase is made, suddenly key people want to protect themselves or push a specific agenda regardless of what the research is telling them.

So, is all research cooked? No, but much of it is shaded or manipulated a bit.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stockholm Syndrome at Ad Agencies?

Recently, someone whom I know casually wrote to me and asked me to draft a post on the presence of Stockholm Syndrome at Advertising Agencies. I wanted to dismiss the idea as absurd but I sent out a few feelers and was more than a bit surprised at the reactions that I received.

To recap for those who have not heard the term in a while, Stockholm Syndrome is generally defined as “a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with their captors.”

Reviewing the working definition, I again thought that the concept was ridiculous when applied to ad shops. After all, employees at ad agencies are not captives. People can quit, move to another agency, another state, or leave the industry. My mail, however, said otherwise.

Here are a few comments from people whom I value and trust:

“The problem definitely exists and I am certain that it is present in a number of American  businesses. In recent years, I have seem a number of people who are overworked and underpaid defend their superior even when their treatment has been rough or belittling. Today, more people seem to be happy to remain employed and put up with a lot of grief and actually defend the supervisor or executive who treats them badly.”

“Don, the Great Recession was frightening and many of us are scarred by it. When we saw some shops closing and friends getting fired left and right, it was a severe blow. You know how I was always in the CEO’s face lobbying for more money? In 2008-2009, I kept my head down and worked like crazy. When some of the staff would go out for beers, I got annoyed when they attacked our chief. I made some comments to defend him and then stopped going. There was no raise for five years although he did give small bonuses to us starting in 2011. We were thrilled! Now, I ask for a raise each year but I am far more low key than before. The boss is a sarcastic bastard and sometimes is mean. Yet I defend him sometimes and so do others on the team.”

“We have several people on board who seem to have the scent of Stockholm Syndrome. They are treated I think very unfairly but they never mention the thought of leaving. It disturbs me. They are not stars but are very serviceable employees. I think that they are being exploited. The way she speaks to them is really shabby.”

“Some of my peers are indeed captives. They work in a city where there is no where else to go. We almost went under during the big downturn and our recovery has been slow. One guy will have a hard time selling his house and the other is afraid to move from his hometown. I will be gone in a few months if my plans gel. Honestly, I did not see this issue clearly until I made the decision to leave. I was defending my jerk of a boss to my wife for a couple of years. No more.”

“Stockholm Syndrome! Give me a break! The weak economy and the rapid shift to digital has hurt a lot of us at small and mid-sized shops but there have always been people who put up with a lot just to keep their jobs. My son was reading Dickens for school and we discussed the character Uriah Heep  in David Copperfield who always said how humble he was. He was just a yes man and so are the people who some say have Stockholm Syndrome. These people are afraid and know that they have not kept up with the changes and neither has their agency. Many are not that young. The boss is nervous too and takes it out on defenseless staffers who cannot and will not fight back verbally.”

“I think Stockholm Syndrome is an exaggeration. BUT, as things improve I think some executives are taking advantage of people’s fears. My CEO and CFO were talking the other day and I overheard them laughing saying that, “The poor fool hasn’t asked for a raise in 8 years.” I was not meant to hear the comment but I was deeply disturbed.”

What do you think? Is this phenomenon true everywhere or is it more prevalent in 2015 advertising agencies.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

American Marketing Arrogance

Last year, I took a great trip through Italy and, after other family members went back to work, my wife and I headed for Venice. It was in May prior to tourist season so the weather was great but the crowds were not oppressive.

One day after breakfast, we strolled from the hotel and were headed for a vaporetto (water taxi). As we passed a bakery, we stopped and decided which of the luscious treats that we might buy. In the bakery, I spotted a distinguished looking man holding court with a few cronies. Imperially trim, he had on a perfectly cut Milanese suit and a shirt with the distinctive Turnbull & Asser collar that I can spot from a mile away. Also, in one hand he had an Italian pastry and, in the other a flute of prosecco. To myself, I thought, that guy knows how to live. It was about 10:45 in the morning.

The next day we passed the same bakery at roughly the same time and saw him again with two new companions. He was impeccably turned out and was also again munching on a sweet and had a prosecco in hand as well. The following morning we had to leave the unique floating city but passed by the bakery on the way to the vaporetto to take us back to our rental car. He was not there and I assumed he was stuck in a boring meeting as many of us are apt to be at 11 am. As our vaporetto was taking off, I saw the Dapper Dan hop on to the back of the water bus. He was carrying a slim attache case and seem to know several people on board and engaged in some very animated conversations punctuated by lots of laughter. A few stops later I looked up and noticed that he was gone.

I found it striking in many ways. It is a big world out there with about 7.1 billion people. Of the 200 countries on earth, each has a distinct culture. And, within many countries there are unique places such as Venice and unusual individuals such as the mystery man I have described.

Americans can learn something from this. No, I am not going to say that we waste our lives chasing money or conforming to corporate straightjackets. It is simply that as marketers we must step outside ourselves as Americans and remember that few people think, act or live as we do. There are many paths up the mountain to happiness. This is a huge advantage from my viewpoint that the advertising holding companies have over domestic shops. They have seasoned people on the ground all over the globe. These pros are familiar with local likes, dislikes and taboos. I recently had a conversation with a marketer who said that he was going to roll his successful US advertising campaign to 22 countries next year. He felt customizing it locally was an unnecessary expenditure. When I used my Venetian lawyer (financier, realtor, playboy?) as an example of how others think and live differently, he said, “The guy sounds like a drunk to me if he is drinking that soon in the day.” I wish my acquaintance well but his type of American marketing arrogance usually ends badly.

It is a big world out there. Take note, adapt to it, and revel in it!

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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Is America a Plutocracy?

I am going to use a $10 word in today’s post as I am seeing it used more and more often these days. The word is Plutocracy along with fellow traveler Plutonomy. Webster defines it as a society that is controlled by a wealthy few.

While I had sometimes seen the word as an economics history student a long time ago, I first considered it seriously 10 years ago when three Citigroup analysts--Niall Macleod, Ajay Kapur, and Narendra Singh released a research report to their high wealth clients. In it, they described the United States as a Plutonomy. To sum up their position I quote them--“Plutonomies have occurred before in 16th century Spain, in 17th century Holland, the Gilded Age and The Roaring Twenties in the U.S. What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.”

Ten years later, can you honestly say that these conditions have gone away? The analysts at Citigroup also said that the very wealthy few, while clearly small in number, account for a large slice of income and consumption. They also said the rich minority is “swelling from globalized enclaves in the emerging world.”

Now, those of you who have read this blog for a time know that I have always stated that income inequality will always exist in a free economy. It has to be that way. Some work harder, others are smarter and some are luckier than the average person. Capitalism rewards those who outperform.

Looking ahead the highly regarded Boston Consulting Group (BCG) put out a report last summer that was optimistic about the U.S. economy for the immediate future. They said that the sub-millionaires (many of us) would grow their wealth by a compounded 3.7% per year until 2019. Those with $100 million plus in liquid assets (15,000 people worldwide) will likely see a compound growth rate of 9.1%. Is there anything immoral about this? Absolutely not if the money was earned honestly and taxes were paid.

To those of us who are marketers and not asleep at the switch, it is obvious that a two tier market has emerged that is far sharper than a few decades ago. High priced items such as single malt scotch and luxury cars are doing well while more mundane or everyday products have sluggish growth. I have noticed how mid-level clothing has not gone up much in price in recent years but the quality has declined significantly. No one seems to grumble.

The Citigroup team closed their memorable report by reminding people (in 2005!) that we had one person, one vote in the U.S. They warned that labor might someday fight back and there would be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the already rich. I have yet to see it in a big way as Donald Trump’s poll numbers continue strong as I write. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has struck a responsive chord with those who feel disenfranchised in our Plutocratic society and is polling surprisingly well.

The real chatter that I hear today, even from educated people, is about the upcoming NFL season. So, we could be a Plutonomy but few people seem to know it or care.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cutting Expenses at Advertising Agencies

It is no surprise to many of us that most new businesses fail. Many blame the economy, changing consumer tastes, brutal competition, too much government regulation and a host of other issues. In conversation recently with someone whom I respect, another variable came up and we hashed it out rather thoroughly. One of the reasons so many businesses, particularly smaller ad agencies and marketing firms are failing or struggling is simply failing to control expenses properly.

We shared some war stories about how we witnessed waste over the years both in places we worked, visited, or where we knew many insiders. On balance, my friend stated that he felt that many smaller to mid-sized ad agencies have the equivalent of an account that bills $2-4 million dollars in paid media if they simply had a better handle on expenses. Here are a few things that popped up plus some comments that a few agency principals shared with us:

1) Some CEO’s say the best way to cut expenses is to always cut staff. When you package up benefits on top of salaries, the savings are clearcut and take effect quickly after severance is paid. This is hard to argue with except that when times get tough, top management often seems to terminate some high level and highly paid employees that can be the glue that is holding the shop together. They can get to a desired number quickly that way. Over the last few years, several old pros have told me that they are down to a few senior staffers and a bunch of low paid kids. They have no bench anymore and everyone is overworked and clients suffer as they continually cut corners on both service and analysis.
2) One CEO says that he has painted himself in a corner regarding expenses. “Nowadays, I almost always cut staff when things get tight. What I learned is that if I give up a perk to the team, it is permanent. If someone gets a car allowance (increasingly rare) or the whole team is off an extra week at Christmas, it is impossible to rescind it without really bad feelings emerging. I try to be more careful about travel and entertainment but I know we waste money there. When it was back to the wall time in 2008-2009, we did some short term belt tightening and everyone understood as they were really scared, but as soon as we picked up a new account things got a bit sloppy again.”
3) A creative head put it this way--“Look, we could save some money by nickel and diming things to death. But part of the charm of working at an ad agency is that things are looser than a bank or an insurance company. We don’t look at the small expenses all that much.” My friend just shook his head and wanted to bet me $1000 that this firm would go under in five years. Time will tell but the creative director seems to be in la-la land.
4) I once suggested to a CEO that waste was rampant. He smiled and said, “I could really put the hammer down if I wanted in this office but I won’t do it unless things get desperate. Don’t you like nice meals when traveling? I know you use your frequent flier miles for your kids.” He then admitted that he was going to let a few quality people go in the next few weeks. Clearly, it was his bat and ball, not mine, but I was amazed.
5) Also, word gets out among the staff about what they can get away with regarding expenses. Once, when reviewing an expense report, I saw magazines, a bottle of aspirin and airport VIP parking on a trip a team member took. When I redlined the items, she said, “The people in production do this on shoots, why can’t I?” My friend said that you just have to be reasonable about travel expenses and be consistent. Everyone can only rent certain types of vehicles, and stay at certain hotels was ground zero. From there, put some reasonable guidelines in place. The $200 bottles of wine should show up only at large client request--most of them do not have that refined a palate.
6) A #2 at a mid-sized agency weighed in as follows--“My boss once told me to always book first class travel; I was told that I was entitled to it. I responded that I was upgraded to first 95% of the time because I am a frequent flyer (platinum status). Why pay for it? Over the course of the year, I could save the company thousands. If you did the same thing with a few other people, you could save a job or two, hire someone you need or pay us all a larger bonus at year end. He was not buying. Finally, when things got tight after a client loss, all of us were flying coach. As it happened, I, the “road king”, was upgraded to first class on a new business trip and no one else was. I looked my fearless leader in the face and said, “Let’s trade seats. I do not need the legroom you do.” He was genuinely grateful and accepted both my seat and my savings argument. A year later he told me we had saved nearly a quarter of a million dollars by buying coach tickets for senior management. I  personally delivered the biggest savings and I still almost always had a first class or business class upgrade.”
7) Finally, an agency president whom I have never met but who comments frequently on Media Realism had a sports analogy which was interesting. “When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team. I was not very good and neither was our team. Our coach had us do endless defensive drills. We probably spent 80% of practice working on our defense. Years later, at a reunion, I asked him why he did that. He told me that there were nights when we would shoot 60+% from the floor and others when we hit 30% of the time. He could not control that. If we played good defense every night, we would win some games and keep others close. I take the same approach to my business. When the economy sours, we lose some business. Or, a client gets bought or a new Chief Marketing Officer comes in and we lose an account. I am powerless over that. What I can do, day in and day out, is control my expenses. So, I key on that and it has helped us through some bad times and made the good times even better.”

Are you exhibiting tight cost controls? Unless faced with bankruptcy, the changes do not have to be draconian. Warren Buffett calls his corporate jet, “The Indefensible.” America’s favorite folksy billionaire is a tightwad when it comes to business expenses. Perhaps we should all listen to him a bit more.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Advertising Agency Holding Companies

For some time, several readers from a number of companies have asked me to comment on Advertising Agency Holding Companies. I put people off as this blog focused more on issues facing the mid-sized and smaller shops and how they are dealing (or not) with the rapid changes in the media landscape. Yet the requests kept coming and a number of people wrote or talked with me about how their world had changed since they went to work for a holding company agency or were principals in a fair sized shop that was bought out by one of them. As you might expect, some loved it (usually due to the big financial payout) but others hated their diminished role and total loss of control.

Today, four major holding companies control the majority of advertising and soon perhaps marketing activity globally. They are Omnicom, WPP, Publicas and Interpublic. Each owns dozens of agencies and they operate in many of the 200+ countries around the world and all are publicly traded. They grew by buying up other agencies and getting economies of scale in media and finance. Also, they could often handle conflicting businesses as the agency partners in their groups operated fairly autonomously.

So, here is an update. I caution readers to note that my cross section of observers is not  necessarily a well drawn sample. All, however, have lived it or are still involved with a holding company.

A management rep who has worked at two holding companies had this to say--“People can complain all day and will. What the holding companies bring to the party is financial sophistication and muscle. I worked at a company with offices in nearly a hundred countries. They were foreign currency experts, great hedgers, and they had a global outlook. Intuitive marketers, no way! Yet one of the firms that I worked with reminded me of Nestle or Exxon Mobil. They could thrive in any environment given their deep diversification.”

A friend who is a creative chief but sharp eyed observer of the industry says: “From a mid-sized agency standpoint, when we have a pitch against a big agency, they have a capacity to throw fifty teams at a project when I have one or two. But that isn't as much about a holding company as it is just big agencies. Are there any big agencies that aren't part of a holding company?”

“The money comment is dead on. They can pretty much make or break an agency if they want to. Once you are owned by one and have to meet their numbers, it certainly changes how you do anything at the end of the year because you have to do work that produces. In that way, the holding companies are a bit ahead of the game when it comes to doing what's next, because they are solely focused on the profit of the business”.

“So when I see a holding company being experimental with something (like they were with digital agencies about 15 years ago) then I get interested. They certainly have a great perspective on the business because they can see what all of their clients are doing, where they are spending their money, and whether something is turning into a solid business practice or if it's just a trend that will fade. They also have the money to play in a lot of different arenas where smaller places have to really focus on one or two core practices or they will spread themselves too thin”.

A deeply experienced agency owner who worked for a few holding companies weighed is as follows: “Most small shops that sold were for CEO’s and cronies to get a guaranteed pay day--then they realize what was said in the brochures ain’t quite what they expected so they walk away or grumble away their contract time and then leave unhappy staffers who came with them looking for other jobs.” He also added that you need to “hire an agency you think can move faster than you and will fill you with thinking that is better than yours.”

A man in his 80’s who sold his shop nearly 25 years ago said, “I was just lucky. We got out when I had a health scare. I was able to get thousands of thousands of shares of a publicly traded shop that is now part of a holding company. Today my dividends alone cover my needs and guarantee my grandchildren’s future. But, I was not treated well after the takeover. No one wanted the advice of a hick.”

From the midwestern U.S., a friend writes: “Every agency that I have ever worked at had a distinct culture. Some were unpleasant, a few were wonderful. When you become part of a holding company, much of the charm goes away. You have to drop the platinum bars off in New York or London or Paris each quarter. Nothing else matters.”

An agency owner who would like to retire or sell his shop says: “I was born maybe 20 years too late (laughs). Back in the day, I would have sold to DDB or Ogilvy in a heartbeat. Today, the mega-shops do not want or need agencies of my size. And, they can buy speciality companies. If someone makes a breakthrough in mobile or some other emerging medium, one of the holding companies can scoop them up with an irresistible offer. Then they are #1 or #2 in that arena. You have been honest in your blog the last few years about we mid-sized players faking it. In truth, we can compete with ideas and energy and fast turnaround but NOT in technology.”

A few people mentioned that companies often choose a mega-shop as they want to be perceived as a global company. Once, I pitched to hold a piece of business with a few colleagues against a mega-shop. We fought like hell for it. Our holding company competition arrived with a map of the world stuck with flags in it. The pitchman said they were the biggest and the best. We lost the business, as the main client, an international player, loved the identification with the giant. Years later, after a punishing trip, I was stalking through the Atlanta airport eager to get to my car. I was stopped by a man who looked vaguely familiar. “Are you Don Cole,” he asked. He introduced himself and said he was in the room the day we lost our account. His boss was eager to deal with the global giants. He then said they never saw the slick pitchman again and he would not return phone calls. Off the record, he said even his boss said he had made a terrible mistake. I am not sure if nearly as much of this goes on as in the past but they can promise one stop shopping across emerging media types that smaller guys cannot match. And, they do have people on the ground all over the place so you are less likely to stumble and use wrong verbiage, colors or even packaging when operating abroad.

A feisty buying service player says the big guys need to watch out with their programmatic buying. “If they are not transparent with how much they are making, it will come back and bite them. Arrogance generally does not work long term.”

A marketing chief writes, “I tell young people to go work at a holding company. They are an excellent training ground and have resources that are amazing. Then I suggest that they go client side or to a mid-sized agency that still does good work where they can make a difference and have a life.”

A tough minded realist who is a junior partner at a relatively large agency says: “These guys know that Integrated Marketing Communications is slowing taking hold. For some companies, advertising was 85% of marketing spend a decade ago. Now, it has shifted across the board into promotion, PR, mobile, online, etc. So, they buy companies across the marketing arena. As the advertising portion of the marketing pie shrinks, and, it will, they pick up revenue in all disciplines that are picking up the slack.”

From the West Coast, a financial analyst says, “The only thing that can stop these guys is if the Big Data players such as Google and a few others go directly to big clients and offer their services. Will that happen? I just don’t know.”

So, the future for the holding companies will be cyclical and tied to the vagaries of the global economy. They are here to stay. Something is lost when the bean-counters take over a creative industry. As we move to more mobile and abbreviated means of communication, it appears that classic creative will increasingly take a back seat to social media and other media yet to emerge. And, the big will likely get even larger.

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

The American Difference

Very recently, I have returned from a very pleasant vacation in Northern New England. One day, in the far north at a golf outing, I was paired up with an international business man. I assumed that with the 4 1/2 hours around the course and perhaps a beer afterwards, I would have a good discussion with the fellow about international business conditions.

It did not turn out that way. I threw him a softball on the 3rd tee about the future of the dollar. He exploded and I paraphrase, “Who cares. Both the dollar and America are finished. Kaput!” He then went on a vulgar rant about how more than half of Americans are on the dole and the few people like him who were holding things together were fed up. It was the Mitt Romney 47% statement from the 2012 Presidential campaign but wildly exaggerated and in really bad taste.

I gently brought him in to my world of demographics and refuted his inaccurate and reckless statements. He became quiet but I noticed with fiendish pleasure how his backswing was way too fast on the next several holes and he lost at least one ball on each hole in the woods or the water.

Finally, he seemed to calm down and asked me why America would survive. I agreed that we had problems, big problems, but not nearly as severe as he painted them. Also, compared to the rest of the world, we were in far better RELATIVE shape. I then talked briefly to him about one important aspect of the American culture--our entrepreneurs.

American business people are resilient. Most entrepreneurs fail before they hit a business idea that works. It is not unusual for a man or woman to fail 3-5 times before their ship comes in with a winner. Economist Fred Gotheil put it beautifully when he wrote--“Unfaltering persistence defines the entrepreneur no less than creative energy.” Compare that to other cultures. Japan has been on an economic decline for close to 25 years. Part of it is due to the refusal of the culture to accept failure. Many zombie companies still exist there year after year as the banks refuse to foreclose despite inarguable evidence of mal-investment that needs to be swept away permanently. They also have zombie employees especially at large companies. I vividly recall a WALL STREET JOURNAL article from several years back describing how some employees at Japanese firms spent up to 10 years virtually doing nothing prior to retirement. Some stayed in reading rooms all day. It was more important for management to save face and guarantee lifetime employment rather than do what was right for the long term interest of the company. Couple this cultural issue with a rapidly aging population and things look grim in the long haul for the original Asian Tiger.

A few weeks earlier, I had received an e-mail from a French communications executive who essentially told we Americans to count our blessings. With a few slight edits, he said--“You Americans are so funny to me. I love to speak with American business people but all of you complain about regulation in your country. My friend, you do not know what regulation really is. I have employees, Don, that you once described as “zombies.” It is almost impossible for me to make someone redundant. The government rules make it very hard to remove people. I have smug staffers who do little and know I am not going to do much about it. I am told, in America, you can tell an agency staffer
 ‘things are not working out’ and they are gone that day. Is that true? Amazing!”

In the U.S., 30% of new businesses fail within two years. In the first five years of an enterprise, the odds are 50% that it will fail. Yet, there are no shortage of entrepreneurs who are opening a new restaurant, service business or even an ad agency. Many, of course, have failed before but are giving their venture a renewed sense of dedication and energy.

After the financial crisis of 2008-2009, I was worried about this country. Former Federal Reserve Chairman’s comment that if “a financial institution was too big to fail, it was too big” still rings true to me.

Yet, the angry comments I heard on my vacation do not resonate with me at all. There are still millions of Americans (many fairly new immigrants) who have an entrepreneurial spirit that will not be snuffed out. To me, they remain our best hope for the future.

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Truth-Tellers in Ad Agencies?

In recent years, management observers have often talked about the importance of having a “Truth-Teller” or two in your organization or one whom you can call on frequently. A “Truth-Teller” is not a whistle-blower which describes someone who complains to the press or a government agency about the misdeeds of a corporation. Rather, a “Truth-Teller” is often an eccentric who has a great look at the future. They cannot tell you when some drastic change will happen but they will warn you about it. Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison might be famous examples. On a smaller scale, they can point out flaws in an organization that will hurt long term prospects. Truth-Tellers have been described by management guru Larry Downes as “the canary in the coal mine of your industry.”

I polled some ad agency executives and a few clients and tech people and asked about Truth-Tellers. The responses were interesting so I will share a few with you:

1) Small Tech Firm Owner--“Oh, yes, we have a Truth-Teller. The guy worked for us some years  back. He drove us crazy but was brilliant. We simply could not grow the company fast enough to keep his interest. He went out his own and made millions with a start-up. We have stayed friendly and when he is not sorting out options as a minor Venture Capitalist, he stops by, observes, and tells it like it is. His biggest issue is that our staff is not inquisitive enough. Over the last few years, he has saved us from making some big mistakes.”
2) Medium sized ad agency CEO--“My staff is devoid of Truth-Tellers as most of my people are afraid of being fired so no one speaks candidly to me. I use my CFO to bounce ideas off of some of the time. He is good evaluating the work ethic of our staff, knows who cheats on expense accounts, and who understands profit and loss on the account team but he still knows little of creative or marketing. Also, he does not spot trends at all. My best Truth-Teller is a client who has known me for two decades. He is older than I and is candid about the plusses and minuses of my staffers. Also, he has another agency for some work and tells me where they excel and we do not. It is never hostile but honest and valuable.
3) Small agency chief--"I have a good friend who owns a somewhat larger agency about 1,000 miles from me. We meet at a conference every year and catch up and talk every few weeks. Our bond is our concern about our long term survival. We saw a guy speak at a convention a few years back. Both of us were impressed so we had him come to our shops to observe us and do a detailed analysis of our strengths and shortcomings. I got mine first and was impressed. A month later my buddy got his and it was 90% like mine. I mean that! Some entire pages were identical. Sorry, Don, but consultants helicopter in for a few days, make some (seemingly) intelligent comments, leave and charge a bundle. Never again. My friend and I need someone who can be honest with us but also knows what is going on in our shops. Hard to find."
4) Fast Food Operator (20+ stores)--my Truth-Teller is free cash flow, period. My finance guy strips away the nonsense and is brutally honest. I know my corporate culture in important and my husband and I work at it but in times of disruption like these, our money guy is the ultimate Truth-Teller. He saves us from making some stupid mistakes. Our customers tell us how we execute although I worry a lot about those who say nothing but never come back.”
5) Small Ad Agency Creative Director--“We use a free lance graphic designer who works with maybe ten other shops and a few clients directly each year. He sees what others are doing well and poorly. He is the most valuable non-employee imaginable. My staff and I know when we are behind the curve on many issues just by spending time with him.”

A common thread in the comments through all whom I contacted was to be careful that those really close to you are only telling you what they think you want to hear. A Truth-Teller does not have to be in your face all the time or be a chronic complainer but he or she needs to be secure enough to speak up when something is going wrong. Sadly, many with the best potential as Truth-Tellers simply quit and move on to better things. Also, two people told me that if you tell staffers that they can say anything to you, mean it. If you can foster a culture of Truth-Telling, you might actually wind up with a real one.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do You Have a Reductionist on Board?

A few weeks ago, I saw an interview on CNBC with shareholder activist and billionaire Carl Icahn. No matter what you think of him (I admire him), he is always worth listening to as he brings a different spin to many topics. At one point in the lengthy interview he said, “Among other things, I’m known to be a reductionist. In my line of work you must be good at pinpointing what to focus on--that is, the major underlying truth and problem in a situation.”

His comment caused many memories to come flooding back to me. He is right that in selecting a company to invest in one must be a reductionist and weigh the relative importance of all the issues surrounding the security--earnings power, management, current price, and the state of the economy among other factors. Yet, it hit me that the same thing is needed in the marketing world and at advertising agencies.

I once worked with a fellow who had, in my way of thinking, an almost uncanny knack at identifying issues around the launch of a brand. One day in my office he started listing concerns and it was almost like a machine gun going off. I grabbed a pencil and furiously tried to stay with him as he ticked off the pros and cons of both the brand, the competitive environment, the category growth, pricing, distribution, and the ad campaign and media plan that we were using. When he left my office, I was stunned. This guy struck me as the smartest guy that I had ever worked with anywhere.

A few weeks went by and the rollout of the brand began. Then something hit me like a freight train. My colleague had no peer in raising valid issues but he had zero ability in determining the relative weight of each variable. He had no way of separating “the wheat from the chaff." A few months later he was still ranting about issues that the rest of us felt were 1-2% of the marketing mix. He was definitely not an Icahn like “reductionist.”  The product did well but he kept saying a big shoe was going to drop on it any day. It did years later and not for the reason he forecast.

Conversely, I once worked with a man who reduced any problem to one variable. Sometimes he was right but when he was wrong it was a disaster.

Today, the marketing and, also the media world is a bit more complicated than it was 30 years ago. So, a talented reductionist is worth her weight in platinum these days.  This individual can look at many issues around a brand situation and weigh the relative importance of each with reasonable accuracy. Do you have one of these innate talents on staff? He or she could be very valuable.

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Executives and Giving Back

A number of readers of Media Realism have been quite successful in their advertising, marketing or sales careers. Several have contacted me over the last year or so with a very interesting question. To paraphrase, it usually goes like this: “things have gone well for me and I would somehow like to give back to the industry or to society as a whole.”

Some of these people have recently retired but others are very active in the business world in their prime earning years. All seem to be quite generous to traditional charities but want to go beyond mere “checkbook” involvement.

A few comments from executives who have corresponded with me:

--“I wrangled an invitation on to a cultural board in my city. The first few meetings were fun as fellow members were true movers and shakers in our mid-sized market. I soon grew bored. We had little impact on what was to be presented to the public. People wanted me there to have my firm do some high quality pro-bono work for the organization, write a really large personal check and get friends to buy high priced tables at their annual fundraiser. Also, they moved so slowly it drove me nuts. This was not my cup of tea so I resigned after a couple of years. I am still deciding what to do next.”

--“I started a small foundation. It has been great. My kids are on the board with me and we review grants together. It has help me bond with my adult children. Each one can pick a gift that they have final say on over the rest of us. Our selection skills get sharper each year and our targeted gifts seem to be doing some good. The big issue going forward is do we disperse everything when I die or does it continue (on a small scale) for generations. People do not understand that you do not need to be mega-rich to do this.”

--“I tutor high school kids in my city one afternoon per week. The school administration is not particularly friendly toward me but the kids appreciate my help. It is gratifying to see a struggling math student raise her college board scores a few hundred points and get in to a decent college. I plan to hire a former student when he graduates next year if I can afford him.”

What do I suggest? Community involvement and checks to legitimate charities are all good. Here is one thing that I have suggested to a few people who still have plenty of energy and fear boredom in retirement--Give back by finding a way to help young entrepreneurs.

Many of us have done well. If you see a young man or woman struggling with a start-up, why not give them a hand? If someone comes asking for advice, why not give it? It will not affect what you eat for breakfast or make you cancel that trip to the south of France. In some cases, you might want to give small financial assistance or buy a modest equity position or serve on their board. If things go bust, so what? Again, a small loss will not affect your lifestyle one damn bit.
All of us know in our hearts that it is not the government or schools or the non-profit sector that will turn America around. It will be who it always has been in the U.S.A--the dreamers who take a chance, keep our economy growing and who ultimately will be the engine of economic growth and job creation.

Experience may be the best teacher but it also can be a cruel one. Many of you have already traveled that road and somehow succeeded. Help these kids avoid the pitfalls. You must have something valuable to contribute that can help fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in our country.

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Biggest Entrepreneurial Flaw

It is not news to state that most new businesses fail. People blame competition, a bad economy, lack of working capital, not reading trends correctly and a host of other factors. All of these things are true to a certain degree for failed enterprises. The more I observe, I more I believe a great deal of the failure of struggling entrepreneurs is due to the time management of the entrepreneur.

Many who fail try to do everything themselves and refuse to delegate small, time consuming tasks to others. Remember the Carter presidency? Allegedly, if one wanted to use the White House tennis courts, you had to sign up just outside the Oval Office. The president would glance at it frequently. When one is mired in minutiae such as that, how successful can a global leader be? I once knew a media director at a fair sized shop who had the cleanest billing backlog in the business. He had NO backlog. What stunned me was how he bragged about it. To myself, I called him the highest paid billing clerk in American Advertising. Yes, he had no backlog but soon he had no job and the pattern happened a few more times before he left the business. He had the brains to be a complete media person but it was hard to wrap his head around issues even at industry gatherings where I occasionally saw him.

I always put in some long hours but tried to play to my strengths and hired someone for my weaknesses or the when the risk/reward ratio seemed out of whack. So, I followed industry trends, stayed in touch with big clients, was careful about what was released to clients but had others monitoring billing and most day to day activity on smaller accounts.

On a larger scale, founders have to sometimes step down as CEO to succeed. This is hard to do given the egos involved but is often necessary. Do you believe that Google would be the dominant company that it is today if Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the brilliant founders, had not hired Eric Schmidt, a seasoned executive to actually run the place? They had the humility to, in effect, “fire themselves” to free themselves up to continue to innovate.

I know a small agency CEO who literally does everything. Nothing leaves the shop without his fingerprints on it. He is cranky and exhausted but claims that he loves it. Staff turnover is huge and he does not seem to grasp that few are learning much of anything as he makes all decisions. Some get lazy and do poor work knowing the boss will “fix it.” They are surviving, for sure, but have not grown agency billing in years. I do not think that they ever will.

What are you? A manager, a visionary, or a swashbuckling entrepreneur? Figure that out and you can enhance your chances for success almost exponentially. As Plato said 2400 hundred years ago, “Know Thyself.”

In more modern times Warren Buffett sums up the issue well. At one of his famous “Woodstock for Capitalists” annual meetings where he and vice-chairman Charlie Munger answer questions for hours, he said: "Be realistic in assessing your talents. A number of CEO’s have no idea where their circle of competence begins and ends.” Find out your circle of competence and great things may occur.

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Update: The Over the Hill Gang

It is a bit hard for me to believe but I launched Media Realism six and one half years ago today. Nearly 300 posts later, I have tracked readers in 139 countries and heard from people involved in advertising, media and marketing in 96 of them.

My first post was on January 4, 2009. It was entitled “Integration problems? Maybe the “Over the Hill Gang can help.” It covered the issue of how much digital one should use in a media plan relative to conventional media options. I suggested that you go to very mature people in the industry who may be retired or about to retire to get a straight answer.

Now, that several years have passed I think this group of people may be more valuable than ever to serve as consultants or mentors to younger media strategists. My original group consisted of several men and women who were 58-62 years old with over 30 years experience in the media wars. None was what I would call rich but all were millionaires. They were the type profiled in the 1996 book, THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR or what famed economist Robert Heilbroner dubbed “The Common Millionaire.” So, each had or has a net worth of $1.5-5 million. Not rich but not struggling either.

As the years have passed a few people have moved out of this group but many new acquaintances have entered who fill the bill nicely. Some of my original kitchen cabinet demurs now when I ask their opinion on a media topic as they say they are too far removed from day to day activity to give an informed point of view. All, however, remain sharp eyed analysts who watch changes in the media world with interest.

Why go to these people? I have found that people who are too close to a problem tend to get very defensive when you talk about the future or possible threats. The value of these graybeards is that they have run the marathon and are now entering the stadium for the last quarter mile or they have recently crossed the finish line. Nothing can hurt them now.

So, my best sources and most objective colleagues and more insightful critics tend to be those about to retire or those who have left the business in the last two years. Many still consult a bit, and a few trade media and advertising shares quite aggressively so they still have money in the game despite the lack of paycheck.

One friend told me that a young person now refers to him as an “eminence grise” which he says beats an executive vice president or sales director any day.

Here are a few comments from people whom I correspond with frequently and I find invaluable sounding boards:

--"Don, I have my house paid for as well as my beach house. My kids are through college and I paid for my daughter’s wedding. My 401k is low seven figures. If I get whacked in the next corporate belt tightening, so what? So, I call things as I see them and am candid with my CEO (privately) about everything. He is in the same boat as I but a lot wealthier.  We both know the game we have loved is coming to an end and fairly soon”.

--“I got downsized last year. They were afraid of a lawsuit given my age so I got a nice severance package. My wife and I spent a few months in Paris last year and I have yet to touch my rollover. I sleep better than ever but maintain a lively interest in all aspects of advertising and marketing. When you ask me to comment on blog topics, I love it. I am as objective as I will ever be”.

--“Consulting is hard. Everyone asks me to be candid and then get super pissed off when I call it as I see it. I am cutting back. It works best when top management asks me to analyze a problem or give a P.O.V. I do a write up and then meet with them face to face. Some only ask me back if I echo their opinion going in but others seem to appreciate my brutal candor”.

--“No one can do much to me anymore. My major bills are behind me and how much golf can one play? I see things more clearly than I did five years ago. When I retire in a year or two, I hope people seek my counsel. If not, I will be fine. I would like the money but I do not need it. That independence is my greatest strength”.

So, to all of you younger people out there, may I suggest that you find one of these type of individuals as a sounding board for ideas, the state of the business or for career advice.

Who to avoid? There are three types to run not walk away from. They are:

1) Anyone who is remotely bitter. If someone talks about how they got “screwed” by an organization, I would avoid them. You do not want someone who looks at life through a rear view mirror. I know people in their 80’s who buy stocks that they think have a great future and want to leave them to their grandchildren. This is the type of optimistic thinker you want to cultivate.
2) Someone who repeatedly tells “war stories” of advertising’s golden age. I find it fun to reminisce for an hour with an old friend or colleague but you have issues in front of you and problems in the future. Look for forward looking types.
3) Avoid all whiners. There are still contemporaries of mine who talk about how great things were when one could buy three TV stations in a market and get a 90% reach. Great. Those days are gone and are not coming back. Ever. Such harmless losers cannot help you.

You will find that these older pros are usually flattered when asked for advice. Let then back inside the tent for a day or two and you may learn something.

To all my United States readers (approximately half of the Media Realism audience), may I wish you a Happy Independence Day weekend.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2016 Political Advertising

Candidates for president are lining up in both major parties with the Republicans having as many as 20 entries while the Democrats have three declared to date. This has caused much chatter in the media and joy in the management offices of television stations in early primary states and those dozen or so states in November, 2016 that will be known as “battlegrounds.” Also, and very importantly, online and social media political advertising will likely soar. With so many apparently well funded candidates plus record breaking Political Action Committee (PAC) spending, it may be the year for many of us in battleground states to lean heavily on Netflix, HBO, and PBS to avoid the nonstop political messages.

Consistently, projections seem to indicate that what will really zing in 2016 is digital media spending. Rolling up all campaigns in 2012, digital snagged about $200 million from all campaigns. In 2016, the working estimate that I hear the most is for digital to flirt with $1 billion which is an eye-popping five fold increase over the previous presidential year. Areas talked about the most are online video and social media which may be hard to track so the tally might understate the action. Watch for a dramatic increase over the mid-year elections of 2014 in Facebook postings, You Tube Videos that have gone viral, and targeted e-mails and many more Twitter tweets. Social media is very inexpensive and can be done on the fly. It is perfect for the pace of the world of 2016.

While all the action is soaring in digital, conventional TV and cable will also likely have great years and will still dwarf digital spending. Local TV stations are currently struggling in a very lackluster year across the country but their bean-counters at headquarters are licking their chops when forecasting for 2016. Here are some off the record comments from some broadcasters I know regarding next year’s TV action. Their candor is humbling:

--“Thank God for the Roberts court. They have guaranteed us nice billing through the next two political cycles. The Citizens United decision struck me as insane but it sure gives my station a big helping hand.” (To oversimplify, in Citizens United, the court, in essence, removed limits on individual, corporate and union political spending)

--“It is curious. People still line up to spend money with us and we should do great with the presidential primaries in our state and get some nice money in the general election with a reasonably competitive US Senate race and a real battleground in the presidential sweepstakes. But, honestly, the cable guys can offer so more precision than we can to a candidate. They can run different messages on various channels and really target in both demographically with channel selection and geographically with zoned buys. Yet, political dollars will easily bail out my network affiliate station next year. Will they wise up and use more cable and ramp up digital? Who cares? By the time they do, I will be retired!”

--“About 30 years ago, I was a strong and aggressive young salesman. When I was assigned the political sales beat one year, I asked for a meeting with my sales manager and general manager. In the session, I asked if I were in trouble. They said of course not. Well, politicals were a dumping ground in one sense in those days. You had to give the lowest possible rate and you also bumped lots of long standing advertisers in strong programming. They assured me that my future was safe. Today, everyone brags about political spending. It is amazing how things have changed. The awful truth is that the business is weak in most markets and political bucks are a shot of adrenaline that we desperately need for our billing. Now, as a GM, no one is upset if they are assigned political spending.”

Some people, in a minority, were not so bullish on network affiliate prospects for political billing:

--“Karl Rove has to be angry with losing the last two presidential races. This time, they will not get outsmarted and ultimately out-advertised as they were in 2008 and 2012. The GOP has to be grooming pollsters and media people who will be state of the art next year in terms of forecasting and media execution. And, my bet is they will use a lot less over the air TV than people may think. They have tons of money but they will allocate it very well.”

--“This forecasted spot TV bonanza may be a mirage. Iowa will do great for their caucus and WMUR in New Hampshire will break records. After the GOP field thins, it will change probably after the South Carolina primary. Watch for social media to grab some serious money.”

--A long time media researcher says: “Let’s say it is Clinton vs. Bush. They both have baggage and large numbers of people who will not vote for them simply due to their names. So, TV is not going to persuade people as much as you might think. It may help get the vote out on November 8, 2016 but I do not see it as crucial or as big as others do. The “ground game” of getting the vote out will be the key".

So, digital spending for politicians will grow exponentially next year. With the record amounts being spent, the rising tide will raise both digital and television be it over the air or cable. Nothing, as I like to say, lasts forever. So, watch for on line to overtake broadcast in the years to come (2024?) in political campaigns. At that point, broadcast TV will be in a world of hurt without their huge biannual bailout.

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