The Greatest Boy Band Ever Filmed


The recent news that Morgan Spurlock is going to be at the helm of a new concert film about One Direction (aka “1D”) will likely make many of his fans ask whether Mr. Spurlock is selling out. While Mr. Spurlock doesn’t directly addresses that in the article linked below from the New York Times, he does discuss why he decided to take advantage of this opportunity:

“To get to work with one of the biggest bands in the world right now,” he said, “and to capture that moment in time is also a rare thing.”

The full article can be found here:

The partnership between Mr. Spurlock and 1D is an intriguing one. My wife and daughter caught 1D this summer at HersheyPark. The band did a great job of integrating their marketing partners throughout the experience – photo marketing with branded backdrops, product sampling on site, signage around the venue. That partnership mix will not be new ground for Mr. Spurlock – his 2011 movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” focuses on the mix between content, branding and sponsorship. As demonstrated in the “TED Talk” video here, sponsors should be careful on what they sign up for. With 1D, it’s a wholesome image and exposure to teenage girls, which is why Pepsi, Colgate, Oreo, and others have signed up.

So, is Mr. Spurlock selling out by making a movie with 1D? As he points out in his interview, he’s a documentary filmmaker who makes “popular” movies. And in some ways, no band right now is more popular than 1D. What’s selling out about making a movie that will be seen by millions? (Well,

The more interesting question is whether or not I’ll go see the movie. If my daughter has anything to say about it, the answer is “yes”. (And as a Spurlock fan, I hope he’s able to make it as interesting to me as his other projects.)

For Shopping, Email Beats Social


For Shopping, Email Beats Social

I saw this article yesterday on one of the email marketing newsletters I subscribe to.  The summary is that while people are increasingly consuming social media, they still prefer to shop via more traditional channels online.  Email is still a better trigger than social media ads.

I noticed this first-hand last year, while working with a venue client who was looking to sell event tickets through their social media channels.  We collaborated to develop a strong offer with assets unavailable to the general public, delivered it exclusively to consumers via targeted social channels (Facebook ads, as well as organic Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest posts) and drove a significant amount of traffic to the website.  But a strange thing happened once they were there – no one purchased a ticket through this offer.  Why would this be?

We brainstormed a number of reasons:  Those interested in the offer already had their tickets; People clicked on the link, but weren’t ready to buy; Maybe the offers weren’t as compelling as we believed.

However, my belief now is that consumers just don’t shop while socializing.  Think about your own behavior – Do you scroll through your Facebook page looking for offers?  When was the last time you clicked on a Twitter special offer?  It’s not that you aren’t interested in the offers you might see, but that mentally you aren’t in a “shopping zone”. 

With email, you can hold onto a relevant offer much longer than on social media channels without immediately acting on it.  If I’m at work, I may let an email linger in my inbox till later in the evening when I’m ready to shop.  Email is a series of individual events – I read one email, delete or file it, then move onto the next one.  So it’s more “interrupt-able” than social consumption where my behavior tends to be more of a browsing or scrolling pattern.  If I “lose my place” on my Twitter feed, I’m forced to start over again – with email, this isn’t an issue.

So, what’s the answer?  Digital media platforms should be used for what they tend to do best. Web pages and social feeds are great for branding, introducing new products, and staying top-of-mind.  Just like traditional mass media.  However, when it comes to encouraging a transaction, stick with the mail – whether it’s electronic or traditional. 

Ask media to do what it does best, not what you think it should be doing best.  After all, these days every marketer has plenty of options to choose from.

My Time at Microsoft


Photo Courtesy of New Yorker



Little known fact:  I once worked at Microsoft.  For six whole months.

The recent attention being garnered by Steve Ballmer stepping down as Microsoft CEO ( made me think of my own time at Microsoft.  Microsoft Windows had been a client of mine, and they offered me a position when the company decided to switch agencies.  I think my experience there may be a microcosm of just some of the challenges the company has faced over the last decade.

I was initially hired to manage the consumer launch of Windows 2000.  You remember the consumer Windows 2000, right?  Oh no, wait – the week before I started (two weeks after I was hired), Microsoft changed direction and decided not to launch Windows 2000 for consumers.  Apparently, it was too much of a leap for “regular people” to handle, and still facing a number of adoption challenges by the business community.  So, the week before I started, I was informed that while there was still a job for me, my role was going to change.

Instead of a multi-million dollar launch of Windows 2000, I “managed” the launch of a product known as Windows Millennium Edition (or Windows ME), basically Windows 98 in a new box. 

There was no marketing budget, and therefore not a lot for me to manage.  However, Microsoft was doing a good amount of co-op marketing with a number of manufacturers.  The co-op marketing was mostly with product manufactures – HP, Dell, Canon, etc.  Therefore, it focused primarily on how Windows ME was specifically designed to integrate seamlessly with your digital devices (we called this new idea “plug and play”) – which at that time meant your digital camera, your printer, and maybe (if you were lucky) your MP3 player.  Which held 12 songs at a time.

Working on this campaign directly led to my resignation from Microsoft.  While thinking about how these products fit together, I shared a vision with my manager that Microsoft could position Windows ME as “The Center of Your Digital Life.”  Windows would be the software that didn’t just allow your PC a static connection to all of your devices, but created an entirely new lifestyle based on what those connections brought together.  Share photos easily, keep in touch with your friends, take your music anywhere, print from any location, etc.  Keep in mind, this was prior to the iMac, the iPod, Facebook, Flickr or any of the myriad of sharing options we have today.

I thought it was genius.  My supervisor didn’t get it.  At all.  “What’s that even mean – your digital world?  No one will understand that.”  Well, we’re Microsoft, I pointed out.  We have a LOT of money to spend on marketing.  We can explain it to them.  And own it.

Needless to say, my idea was rejected, and I spent the next two months hanging Windows Media banners at events, buying billboards with Windows Media logos that faced Real Network’s offices (“We’re coming!” was the strategy – as if they didn’t know), and in general, losing interest.  In fact, I believed that Microsoft was so focused on the past, that when I resigned and they offered me the chance to manage the launch of their new “super-secret gaming platform” I declined, thinking it would never come to pass.  (My mistake – XBOX turned out to be a bit of a hit.  Oh well.)

So, after six months of a miserable commute and frustrating marketing experience, I resigned to go back into the agency world.  It’s still my only foray into corporate marketing.  I learned that I thrive on the creativity and opportunity for fresh thinking that is part of the nature of the agency business, not the product details, launch cycles and engineering that often dictates much of what happens on the corporate side. 

My experience at Microsoft is more than 12 years in the past, but it mirrors many of the reasons why Ballmer’s term may not have been as successful as it could have been.  Reliance on past market position, an unwillingness to turn the ship, a lack of vision to see the future.  Scary to think what the world would be like today had Apple decided to license it’s operating system in the 1980s instead of remaining proprietary, or what a visionary like Steve Jobs might have meant for Microsoft.

Affleck as Batman?


Affleck as Batman?

Okay, so first off, let’s hope Ben Affleck looks better as Batman than he did as Superman (pictured from the film “Hollywoodland,” where he played an aging George Reeves as TV’s Superman in the 1950’s).

Lots of geeks (and I include myself) up in arms about the recent news that Ben Affleck will be playing Batman in the new Man of Steel sequel. While we have plenty of time to debate (the movie won’t come out until July 2015), as a long-time comic book reader here are three things Ben will have to do in order to successfully play the role of Batman (IMHO):

1. Nail the role of Bruce Wayne: Batman’s secret identity is the real mask of the character. Being able to portray a care-free, millionaire playboy is just as hard as doing a realistic portrayal of the Dark Knight. And, unlike Robert Downey, Jr.s’ Iron Man/Tony Stark, Batman and Bruce Wayne are two very distinct characters. Michael Keaton got this. George Clooney did not.

2. The voice. I’ll admit, this is the hardest thing to get right. Somewhat gruff, but not forced. Again, Keaton did it well ( Bale went a little overboard. Kilmer barely tried.

3. Fill out the costume. This is really where Bale’s Batman was so much better than the others. Rather relying on molded plastic (with or without nipples – or just an “au natural” physique (Thank You Adam West –, Bale’s Batman was a somewhat realistic portrayal of what Batman’s suit should try to be. If Affleck is going to be believable as Batman, his suit needs to be too.

I’ll say I am cautiously optimistic about the whole thing. The Goyer-Snyder-Nolan team is doing consistently good work, so they definitely know what they are doing. And, as the initial teasers seem to indicate, this may be an older, wiser and semi-retired Batman we meet in the movie – which Affleck may be able to pull off well. Still, I admit I’d feel better if it was Ben behind the camera than in front of it.

New Sonic Promo


New Sonic Promo

As a “low-rent” foodie, I absolutely love this idea from Sonic. Who doesn’t want to eat a burger with their favorite team stamped on it? Even better, regional customization! (I can’t wait for the “O’s” burger, with Tiger Sauce and Old Bay seasoning here in Baltimore. Yes, my mouth IS watering while I type – why do you ask?)

Great example of a brand getting creative with their marketing partnerships to generate new sales and create some buzz. Click the photo to read the full story.

On Sponsorship Marketing, from the New York Times


On Sponsorship Marketing, from the New York Times

In my line of work, we accept the fact that nearly everything can be bought.  In fact, you can even have your logo tattooed on the back of a boxer.

However, it’s also critical that the placement makes sense.  Both for the brand, and the consumer who desperately craves authenticity.  This article from the New York Times does a great job of showcasing how intrusive advertising “drop ins” can be in a sports broadcast, yet at the same time how essential they are for sponsors to get value.  A “drop-in” (for those unaware) is when a sponsor’s brand is integrated into the broadcast itself.  “This medical injury update is brought to you by MedStar Health, the Official Medical Partner of the Washington Nationals”, as an example.

For any brand considering sports-related advertising, here are three tips on how to get the most value out of a “drop-in” segment:

  1. Be Authentic.  If you’re in telecom, a “Call to the Bullpen” drop-in makes sense.  If you’re in health care, it probably doesn’t.  Find something that naturally fits in with your brand or product – if you can’t think of a natural fit, ask the property (or your agency) to help create something that does.  You’d be surprised how creative you can be, no matter what your brand is or the sport you’re sponsoring.
  2. Be Unobtrusive.  For drop-ins, it’s all about branding.  But saying too much can get in the way.  Try to keep your drop-in brief – include the brand name, resist the urge to get in a messaging point as well.
  3. Own Something.  For one of our clients, we included as part of their college football deal that every time the ball gets into the “Red Zone” their name would be included (i.e. the Sponsor Name Red Zone).  This not only became part of the radio broadcasts, but also included in-stadium LED signage, was included as part of a student promotion, and cleverly named to naturally become part of the college’s lingo. We did this because we knew that many of this particular college’s football fans also listen to the team broadcast while in the stadium. Look for opportunities to take ownership across different forms of media as part of your “drop in” strategy, and ask for elements that are not currently being sponsored instead of being included in a rotation of various sponsors.

What’s your favorite “Drop-In” sponsorship?


“Profit in busi…


“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” — W. Edwards Deming, Professor and Management Consultant

I share this quote today because I think it’s relevant in terms of a real-life experience that my wife (who we will call “Mrs. JK”) shared with me yesterday.

Mrs. JK recently started working out at a local Cross Fit gym (or a “box”, as I think they call it).  As such, she’s become a devotee of certain retailers who specialize in workout apparel specifically designed for Cross Fit.  She’s purchased a lot of their products over the last few weeks – shirts, shorts, headbands, etc. – and has the receipts to prove it.  She’s often sharing with me how great this brand is, and how wonderful their workout clothing fits her needs.  It’s a great brand, and she’s become very loyal to it.

One of the marketing tactics this brand employs is hiring Brand Ambassadors to visit Cross Fit gyms and introduce new customers to their apparel.  As Mrs. JK explained it to me, two very fit and attractive ambassadors visit her gym, interact with the people working out, and share the brand’s benefits.  This is a GREAT idea, and an excellent way to expand a brand’s profile – literally be where your customers are and demonstrate that you share their passions.

Yesterday, however, there may have been a bit of a brand disconnect.  The ambassadors (smartly, I might add) looked carefully at the brands being worn as people came to the gym for their workout (WOD, as it’s known in Cross Fit).  If Cross Fitters weren’t wearing THEIR brand, the Brand Ambassadors gave them a free pair of shorts to try out – no need to buy, just as a gift.  GREAT IDEA!!! – for attracting new customers. However, since my wife already had on this brand of shorts, she got nothing.  BAD IDEA!!! – in building customer loyalty.

Your best customers are your current customers.  In a situation like this, a brand can alienate them by ignoring them.  Not unlike a sports team who discounts tickets at the risk of upsetting season ticket holder who paid full price, this is an example of looking for new customers while risking your relationship with your current customers.  While I can see limiting a give-away like this to new customers, why not offer something that shows your current customers how much you appreciate their business.  A 10% off coupon?  A $5 Starbucks gift card?  A personal shopping appointment?  It doesn’t have to be the same value as the free shorts you’re offering to new customers, but it should be something that shows them you care.