Category Archives: Advertising

Exactly what is Native Advertising?

The buzzword native advertising came on the scene a few years ago but didn’t really gain traction until last year when it began being thought of as the savior to publishing. It’s now one of the hottest things in the online advertising industry. Sorry banner ads, you aren’t what you used to be.

I don’t usually like to use Wikipedia as a source but honestly, it has the best definition for native advertising. It defines it as–an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience. The advertiser’s intent is to make the paid advertising feel less intrusive and thus increase the likelihood users will click on it.

Native ads provide valuable, relevant content and, to some readers, might appear like real editorial. Content marketing, a more commonly used term, is a form of native advertising.

A study conducted among more than 4,700 people last year found that native ads were viewed 53 percent more often by consumers than banner ads, and the attention people paid to native ads was nearly equivalent to the visual engagement of original editorial content.

So, are popular well-respected publications jumping on the native advertising bandwagon? The answer is YES.

Forbes Magazine created BrandVoice, described by one of its reporters as an innovative, efficient publishing platform, or brand newsroom, that is built on the belief that all content can be treated equally if its originating source is transparently identified. The reason for the formation of BrandVoice was the notion that marketers know their business better than anyone and they need new ways to reach their audiences. Statistics show that some of the native ad posts on are generating considerable more views, tweets, retweets and Likes than traditional editorial content. An effective revenue stream for publishers and a successful tool for advertisers…win-win.

Just like Forbes’ BrandVoice, the Washington Post created the platform BrandConnect to connect its advertisers with its readership, and earlier this month the Wall Street Journal launched its own native ad studio called WSJ Custom Studios.

You can scroll through the home page of most of the publications I listed and you will find an example of native ads. See one example below.

As long as publications and other online sources are transparent about native ads versus original content, I think it’s an incredibly effective use of ad dollars. What are your thoughts?

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The Loveable Kool Aid Pitcher Gets a New Look

Many companies wonder if their logos and brand graphics need a fresh look after a number of years. Do we need to rebrand or simply tweak our current brand in order to remain relevant? Sometimes a brand tune up is all a company needs.

While I’d prefer to focus on Kmart’s radical attempt to make its brand more hip and
relevant (the brilliant and hilarious online ad that promotes shopping for Kmart products online, which resulted in a media frenzy and almost 15 million YouTube views in the last week) but some people have taken offense to the ad, so I’ll stay on safe ground and discuss a less radical but still relevant rebranding effort….the Kool Aid Man.

Starting in the 1960s, children grew up watching the iconic gigantic pitcher of red Kool Aid crash through doors and walls. This beloved mascot is definitely recognizable and possesses a lot of brand equity so it’s no wonder Kool Aid chose to keep its beloved mascot and simply update the look. The company is retiring the human suit and replacing with it with a technologically advanced GCI character that has a colorful personality, a distinctive new voice and a more robust vocabulary to increase the “mom appeal.”

The new look launched this month in conjunction with a new brand campaign called “Smile, It’s Kool Aid” and included new television ads and a Kool Aid man Facebook page, providing followers with games and giveaways in order to keep customers engaged.

Like I mentioned, the company is by no means abandoning the brand that made it the most popular flavored drink mix. The company reports that the newer, slicker, more well-spoken Kool Aid man will continue to bust through walls. Oh Yeah!

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Want A Promotion? You’ll Have to Pay for It.

Facebook has added a new advertising opportunity for individuals and businesses.   The company recently released a new experimental feature which allows you to promote your updates, photos and posts to increase the chances of reaching a larger percentage of your targeted audience.

If you’re willing to pay an average of $7, Facebook will guarantee that your “promoted” post will appear near the top of your friends’ news feeds.  Of course, if you decide not promote your post, many of your “friends” will still see it.  However, by promoting your post, you’re increasing the chances that a larger percentage will view your message.

Some Facebook users may use this new feature to share news of an engagement, a newborn baby or an inspirational event.  I think the biggest beneficiaries of this new feature will be businesses, large or small. If a company wants to advertise a particular skill, completed project, or field of expertise to a large audience, they now are able to do it quicker and with more precision. It’s a new form of online advertisement that allows businesses to cut through the jumbled assortment of continuous updates that generally crowd Facebook pages.

As you know, Facebook is free to the public but the people who use it, pay the price of loss of privacy to use it. Our previous blog addressed that “Through our posts, comments, likes and group memberships, even low-activity Facebook users reveal a lot about themselves.”

So, the question is, will Facebook drive users away with this new “commercial” feature? Will it be too “in your face?”

We’re interested to hear your opinion on the new feature. Will your business be able to benefit from the new “promote” feature? Or will it clutter your audience’s news feed even more?

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Suffering from political ad fatigue? You’re not alone.

It’s been more than a month since the Democratic National Convention, where President Barack Obama quipped, “If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I.”

The president was commenting on the unprecedented amount of money pouring into political advertising during this general election season, which has resulted in a television-watching experience that can leave you wondering if that rerun of Seinfeld is sharing a time block with a political drama.

According to The Washington Post, which has a fascinating interactive map tracking “the spending race,” the candidates have spent more than $660 million on television advertising – $300 million for President Obama’s campaign, and $366 million for Mitt Romney’s campaign. And although it’s hard to believe, what you’re seeing in Tennessee probably isn’t as bad as what folks in swing states are facing. The Post indicates that both campaigns and their “allied parties and interest groups” have focused their television ad dollars in media markets reaching voters in swing states. Florida has seen the most spending, at $136 million. Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina – where airtime is cheaper – have experienced the highest number of political ads.

So has the ad blitz been effective in informing voters about their political choices this season? Or is all this communication just causing political ad fatigue? If you think it’s the latter, you’re not alone.

The Post’s spending map indicates that 81 percent of ad spending from the Obama campaign and 88 percent of the ad spending from the Romney campaign has gone toward negative ads. And it seems voters aren’t too happy about it. A Knights of Columbus-Marist poll released back in July showed that almost 80 percent of Americans were frustrated by ongoing political battle. About two-thirds, or 66 percent, say the candidates have spent more time on the attack than addressing important issues, and 64 percent say the negativity of these campaign ads harms the political process.

What do you think? Does the negative tone of political advertising hurt the political process? Has it turned you off from the election all together? Tell us what you think.

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Olympic Commercials Worthy of a Medal

Every four years I prepare for late nights and touching stories that make me teary-eyed and proud as I watch American athletes sing our national anthem on the medal stand. Yes, I am talking about one of my favorite obsessions…the Summer Olympics.  My devotion to the summer games started at a young age (I still love you Mary Lou!) and I have been fanatical ever since.

Record viewership numbers reported by NBC earlier this week (40.7 million viewers for the opening ceremonies and 28.7 million on the opening day of competition) prove that I am not the only one who can’t get enough of Phelps and Lochte. Those numbers might not be as impressive as the more than 111 million that tuned into the 2012 Super Bowl, but it is enough for companies to use this as an opportunity to showcase some creative advertising.

In honor of the games, I wanted to share my favorite television commercials so far.

The bronze medal goes to British Airways.

The silver medal goes to Visa.

And, the winner of the gold medal is Proctor and Gamble.

What commercial has impressed you the most?

Let me know and GO TEAM USA!

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Marketing Lessons Brought to You by, “Angry Birds”

If you have a smartphone or a young child, you’re probably aware of the green pigs and red birds featured in the app called Angry Birds, which has been downloaded one billion times. These cartoon animals brought Finnish company Rovio earnings of $106 million in 2011. Thirty percent of those earnings have come from items like apparel, toys, pillows and even cookbooks.

However, Rovio wasn’t always a success. In fact, they almost went out of business after launching 51 failed apps before Angry Birds hit in 2009. So what can we learn from Rovio’s success? Persistence pays off. The same is true for marketing.

Perhaps you’ve heard of “The Rule of Seven?” This foundational marketing concept states that the average consumer must hear or see your marketing message seven times before they take the bait. To make it more difficult, about half the time you think you are delivering the message, the consumer doesn’t even hear it. So, even though you may feel as if you are repeating yourself, you aren’t. Successful marketers find new avenues to share the same message over and over again.

Marketing Consultant Pete Monfre summed it up nicely in his blog when he said, “Persistence and consistency are the currency of marketing effectiveness. Strive to be ever present among people most likely to buy. Commit to marketing as an ongoing process, not a series of events.”

So take it from Rovio… persistence is critical to business – and marketing – success. When has it paid off for you?

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It’s Etch A Sketch in a Landslide!

Every consumer brand dreams of a high-profile mention that suddenly propels its product it into the national spotlight.  Right?  Well, maybe.  What if the attention comes in a politically-charged environment?

That’s the situation in which Ohio Art, creator of Etch A Sketch, recently found itself. And the way the company responded is an excellent example of “grace under pressure” and great marketing.

Etch A Sketch’s moment in the spotlight came as the result of a comment made by an advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In describing his candidate’s political positions, the aide said, “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You kind of shake it up and restart it all over again.”

The comment went viral and Ohio Art found itself with a potential opportunity or PR nightmare on its hands, depending on how you look at it. To its immense credit, the company made the most of its unintended moment of fame without weighing into a politically charged debate or alienating Americans of either the Republican or Democratic political parties.

Thus was born the Shake It Up, America website.  The home page states:

We stand firmly behind our proclamation that “We have a left knob and a right knob for each political party.” And “…when both work together, we can do loop de loops.” We’re especially serious about the loop do loops part. We call on you to shake it up, America! Exercise your freedom of self-expression by voting on Election Day, and drawing on your Etch A Sketch every day. Our political neutrality is unflappable. And our stance on self-expression is unshakable.”

A new ad campaign released in conjunction with the website featured headlines like:

“We have a left knob and a right knob for each political party.”

“Etch A Sketch is a lot like politics – there’s a lot of gray area.”

“Politically, we lean right down the middle. Which way do you lean?”

Each ad ends with the same statement at the bottom: “Etch A Sketch is proud to be part of the national debate.”


But wait, it gets better!  Now you can not only purchase Etch A Sketch with its traditional red frame, soon you can buy a blue or flag-themed version of the toy.

It’s a real pleasure to see how this iconic American brand took the high road, encouraged citizens to exercise their right to vote and turned an opportunity into a playful and notable campaign. And I know which color Etch A Sketch I’m ordering. How about you?



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Three Simple Techniques to Boost Your Creativity

Whether you are crafting your next successful press release or brainstorming ideas for your client’s new killer marketing campaign, your ability to think creatively is one of your most important skills and resources. Your creativity is why you get paid the big bucks and why your campaigns win the awards.  But what happens when the creative juices just aren’t flowing? Here are three simple techniques that can quickly boost your creativity when the well is running dry.

Step away. Many times you can be too close to a project making it difficult to think about it in creative ways. At this point, you should step away and allow your mind to think about something else. This doesn’t have to be a trip to the beach (although that can help). Go for a walk. Hit the gym. Go to lunch with a good friend. Ask your co-workers about their weekend and chat for a while. Allowing your brain to rest, if only for a few moments, is a powerful way to re-energize your creative abilities.

Nashville PR

Return to sixth grade. Sixth graders are at that point in life where they get the basics but are curious about everything else. Therefore, they ask the best questions. Why do it this way? What if we did it this way? Why? Why not? Try looking at your project through the eyes of a six grader and question everything. Why am I doing it this way? What if I did it like this? What is the ultimate goal here? How am I accomplishing the goal? What would I do with an unlimited budget? Feel free to bring in a co-worker, friend or even an actual six grader to help you ask as many questions as possible. And remember, “Because we’ve always done it this way,” is never the answer.

Play games. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing more than having fun. Begin a brainstorming session with a ten minute game of Charades or Pictionary. Do a role-playing session where someone in your office acts out a customer experiencing your marketing campaign or reading your press release. Have a contest to see who can come up with the most ideas for a new campaign in fifteen minutes and reward the winner with a gift card or some other office prize. There’s no limit to the games you can play. Fun activities will boost the camaraderie and creativity of your team which will be reflected in your follow-on work.

Remember, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. If you’re having trouble coming up with that next big idea, you can always just look around. Take note of what similar successful campaigns are doing and think about how you could apply those techniques to your current project.  Creativity is all around, and sometimes all you have to do open your eyes to it.


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News Media Depend Increasingly on Aggregators, Social Networks to Deliver Audience

The U.S. news industry depends increasingly on other organizations to deliver a growing portion of its audience, finds “The State of the News Media 2011,” a report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. These players, which frequently take a share of the revenue and control the audience data, include independent networks, aggregators and social networks.

One author of the report notes that in a world where consumers decide what news they want and how they want to get it, the future belongs to those who understand the audience best and can leverage that knowledge.

News consumption is becoming more mobile, with 47 percent of Americans now receiving some form of local news on a mobile device. Online is still a leader in how people say they get their news at 46 percent, surpassed only by local TV news at 50 percent.

In fact, every media sector is losing audience now except online. This includes cable news networks like CNN, Fox and MSNBC, which for the first time experienced double-digit loss of viewership in 2010. Radio, which has been a relatively stable media platform, is expected to experience major change soon with the addition of online radios by carmakers like Toyota.

For the first time, overall online advertising revenue surpassed spending on print newspaper advertising, and with the growing popularity of tablets, growth in online ad spending is expected to continue. The growth in online ad spending doesn’t necessarily translate to good news for news organizations, however.  Much of that online ad spending goes to places other than news sites, and the Pew report predicts that is unlikely to change.  Since online advertising will likely never generate profits for news organizations to compare with the ad revenues generated in traditional platforms like printed newspapers, news sites continue to seek ways to charge for content and develop alternate revenue streams.

The media is dynamic and evolving. Pew’s latest report reinforces the importance of not only identifying your audiences but understanding the way they prefer to receive content. From the changing needs of journalists to the most effective way to target ad budgets as news consumption trends shift, this understanding is more critically important than ever to developing an effective strategic communications and marketing plan.

Do you know how your audience prefers to receive news and information? How have you seen those trends change in your organization?

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QR Codes on the Rise

If you haven’t heard of a Quick Response (QR) code, I’m sure you’ve seen one.  They are the little barcode-like images popping up on everything from advertisements and business cards to t-shirts and even napkins.  Encoded in the QR code is text, URL or other data that be scanned and accessed through a Smartphone.

Commonly used in Japan since 2004, QR codes have recently taken the US marketing industry by storm. By simply including a QR code that links to your company’s website or social networks in all of your collateral materials, consumers can connect with your company instantaneously through a simple scan.

How do you create one?

There are a lot of QR code generating websites out there.  I used Kaywa to create the one above and it only took a few seconds (check it out!).  You can then save the QR code and use it wherever you like.

How do you access the code?

Just download a QR reader app to your Smartphone.  Some of the more popular QR code reader apps are i-nigma and QR Droid.  From there it’s simple – open the app, scan the code and be connected!

Do you scan QR codes when you see them?

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