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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Denial In The Media World

Several years ago, I was scheduled to meet a friend at a local golf course. We got our signals crossed and he did not show up. The starter at the course paired me up with a threesome and I teed off 12 minutes after my appointed time. I was assigned to a golf car with a 77 year old gentlemen.

The fellow was pleasant and courteous but was having a terrible time. His tee shots barely dribbled down the fairway. After three holes he told me that maybe he should quit the game after 60 years of enjoyment. I looked down and saw the ball that he was playing. It was a top of the line Titleist and was the same that was used by touring pros.

When we arrived at tee box #4, I asked my new friend to humor me. “Try teeing off with the ball that I am using.” He was gracious and agreed but was a big grudging about it. His ball rocketed down the fairway, straight as a string, about 170 yards. He told me the ball must be illegal. I smiled and told him that it was designed for senior players with a much slower swing speed than the top 100 players in the world. After the round, I had a new best friend and gave him a dozen of the senior friendly balls out of the trunk of my car. He waxed poetic and said that I had given not just his golf game but his whole existence a new lease on life.

The aging golfer was a good man. Yet, he was in denial. He was not 30 anymore. In order to stay in the game, he needed to adapt to the current conditions--his aging body. I am finding the same thing true with the attitudes of many people in the communications business.

My last blog post in Media Realism (MR) was entitled “The Internet of Things and Marketing.” I received an inordinate amount of mail on it. A few wrote that they liked it and agreed, a plurality said that they had never thought about it but would, and a few were furious.

One fellow told me the following (obscenities deleted so I had to add a few words to put together a coherent sentence): “Cole, you are an idiot and you have always been an idiot. For 35 years, you have talked about the future of media and here I am still standing and making a living in this business. I will never read your stupid MR blog again.”

This guy and many others told me in the early ’80’s that cable TV would NEVER emerge as viable advertising medium. Fast forward to the late ’90’s and they said the same thing about the Internet. Over the last few years this same character and fellow travelers said social media was a fad that would soon implode and mobile advertising will never catch on with the public.

Okay. To be fair, no salesperson who makes his or her living from a conventional medium is going to say to a prospect that his station or publication is toast. And, the angry man described above has made a decent living in broadcast sales for decades and will likely make it to retirement. At the same time, he and many others need to face reality.

A TV station general manager put it to me this way-- “Sometimes, I meet with a young media executive at an agency who tells me it is game over for guys like me. Well, it is not. We are now doing well due to strong auto advertising this year plus we should benefit from a hotly contested US Senate race this fall. At the same time, we are taking advertisers and pleased to get them that we would never have considered 15 years ago. Our profit margins are still good compared to most industries but half of what they were in the mid-1990’s. We are not finished but will likely morph in to something else several years from now. I like your idea of local TV becoming more of a direct response medium with many multi-platform interactions.” That guy GETS it. He still drops off the gold in NYC but is changing his approaches and attitudes as media usage evolves.

The great Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach once said back in the ’70’s that “when you are through changing, you are through.”  That sums it up for me.

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Internet of Things and Marketing

By now, virtually all of you have heard about the Internet of Things and how it is changing our lives for the better. Have you, however, thought seriously about what it might do to marketing and advertising over the next five to ten years?

What is the Internet of Things (IOT)? Simply put, IOT is the network of a wide variety of physical objects that are embedded with software, sensors, electronics and, very importantly, network connectivity. These devices, some 50 billion of them soon, are able to collect and SHARE data. You use many of these items but are probably not aware of them.

I first heard the term used directly around 2008 at a conference where someone was telling us over a drink how a friend’s daughter called her dad in France who, with a few codes on his phone, opened the door of his Connecticut home and shut off the burglar alarm before she entered. Kevin Ashton, then of Procter & Gamble is widely attributed to coining the term in a 1999 speech. A few years ago my generous children bought Dad a Fitbit for his birthday. It tracks my every step, reports to my personal devices and every week gives me a summary of how much I have moved each day. It is now rare for me to do less than 10,000 steps a day (doctor’s suggestion) and prods me to get out of bed and take a 45 minute stroll prior to my morning coffee.

The applications are amazing and deep. Most of the play goes to locking your home or opening your car from afar or turning off an iron that you might have left on before leaving the house. Construction leaders see it as a huge leap forward. They use new terms such as “smart cement” which means that bridges, levees, and roads will have sensors in them that monitor cracks or stresses and send such warnings early so that action can be taken. Builders who do not build to spec had better be wary.

When I asked a few people about how this will affect us in the marketing/advertising arena, they dismissed it as not a factor. I am not so sure. A few of you have to have heard of the “smart fridge” in new “smart homes” that are being developed. It will alert you when you are running low on milk, butter, beer, yogurt, eggs, and other essentials. You could merely hit the re-order button and the next time your home delivery of groceries arrives, such items will be in your shopping bag. True, not everyone will have a smart fridge in 5-10 years but many upscale types will.

This has to help established brands and block out newcomers to a certain degree. Also, brands will not have to spend as much as on broad based advertising as they will able to do pin-point targeting on steroids using some application of the IOT.

Marketing automation vendor and leader Marketo describes IOT's impact as follows: "the connectivity of our digital devices that provides endless opportunities for brands to listen to and respond to the needs of their customers...with the right message at the right time on the right device."

Conventional media has to take something of a hit from this. One could cut their network TV budget by 30% but still hit key prospects and users dropping millions to the bottom line.  Financial analysts claim that the IOT represents a business opportunity in excess of $20 trillion over the next five years. Many companies and brands will be lifted by this remarkable technology but I cannot see legacy media being one of them.

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

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Block Out All The Noise!

Lately, I have been getting an unusual number of shrill e-mails and online offerings from financial Cassandras. Headlines include or are similar to: “Dow Jones Industrial Average to fall 80% this year, Gold is on the verge of a historic up-move, Social Security to go broke in 2016, Oil set to crash to $10 a barrel.” You get the idea as I bet many of your are also receiving such panicky pronouncements. Now, like any thinking person, I am a bit uneasy about the global economy in 2016. Yet, even though I firmly believe and have observed that markets tend to go to extremes, these headlines are unlikely to come true. With the growth of communications, particularly online platforms, we are inundated with too much information along with wild speculation.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a business channel and an amazingly successful billionaire hedge fund manager was being interviewed. When asked how he was able to be so decisive (and successful) in a rumor filled world, he answered, “I just block out all the noise.”

By remarkable coincidence, the next day I received an e-mail and a telephone call from a semi-retired media strategist (do we ever fully retire?) whom I have long considered to be one of the top five in the business. For over 35 years, I have always admired how he was constantly testing new concepts such as cable in the 80’s and the internet in the late 90’s yet he never wasted client money by placing large bets in emerging media too soon. When I asked him how he was always so sure of his touch his response was a self-effacing--“Simple. I just blocked out all the noise.” The guy is a genius and is being a bit modest.

Both of these industry leaders make an important point, however. When making decisions regarding allocating resources, be it a client’s money or that of investors, you always want to be data driven but rumors and information of questionable accuracy or importance are always front and center. It takes a steely resolve, even courage, to ignore the chatter or conventional thinking. I have spent 40+ years trying to learn to do it.

Finally, I was at the dentist on Tuesday morning. While waiting for my six month check-up, I read a copy of a year old issue of FORTUNE magazine. Tim Cook, of Apple, was talking about how he managed the tech giant and also tried to fill the epic shoes of Steve Jobs. His simple answer was, you guessed it, “I block out all the noise.”

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