Second Internet: Charts and Bubblethink

3 04 2011

I’m on the record as saying I have my doubts about the future of Facebook and that when I read Lou Kerner it sounds like pure, undistilled bubblethink.

But if you can get past the breathless hype (and keep a tight grip on your senses and your wallet), there are some useful charts in this slideshare piece.

Is it 1999, as I think? Or 1996, as Lou Kerner thinks?

Only time will tell.

How To Get A Job In Advertising

20 07 2010

Want to get a job in advertising?

The best way to get started is to buy the bible on the subject: the latest edition of Maxine Paetro‘s “How To Put Your Book Together And Get A Job In Advertising.”

How To Put Your Book Together And Get A Job In AdvertisingIt has been in print for more than 30 years, but Maxine has been always updating it to reflect today’s rapidly changing reality.

There’s great advice from ad legends including Jeff Goodby, Cliff Freeman and Helayne Spivak.

And way back in the early 1990s, Maxine was nice enough to ask me to contribute my thoughts on digital.

The original piece was titled “Have You Downloaded A Ford Lately?”. This year I updated my piece for the new edition. Here’s what I wrote.

How Do You Succeed In A Business That Hasn’t Been Reinvented Yet?

You are hurtling at 900 mph toward a career in advertising.

The awards book your eyes are glued to is the rearview mirror.

Oh, and here’s the brick wall you’re about to slam into: nobody knows what a “career in advertising” is going to mean anymore because it’s all being re-invented.

This is either the craziest time in the past eighty years to take a creative job in advertising, or the absolute best. Now, more than ever, advertising needs muscular, adventurous, wild minds. The very best minds — maybe yours — will not just create commercials, or digital widgets or viral videos, but will help invent what advertising can be.

OK, so now you know advertising is going to be a sort of glorious mess. How do you succeed in  business that hasn’t been reinvented yet? I suggest five things.

1. Think Horizontal, Not Vertical. You’ll have to be great at creating ads if you want to get a job and keep it. But, that’s not enough.

Get outside your comfort zone. Learn, learn, learn. Make friends with different kinds of people, and ask them to teach you: marketing MBAs, PR people, computer geeks, web analytics gurus, market researchers, lawyers, accountants, etc.

Don’t buy into the “us vs. them” nonsense, or the absurd fallacy that clients are idiots.  These are sucker’s games invented by insecure creatives.

Develop a network of people who know things you don’t and nurture that network as if your career depends on it. Because in fact, it does.

2. Learn By Doing. Screw theory. Dive in, experiment. Start a blog. Get on Twitter. Put some pictures up on Flickr. Always, always, always look to the horizon and try to understand what’s coming next. Try different stuff. When you get lucky, try to understand why. And don’t be an arrogant knucklehead when you do get lucky. The universe has a ton of humble pie that it’s just waiting to feed to creative people whose egos get too big. And yes, in my fast I have been forced to eat my share.

3. Think Globally. Madison Avenue is not the center of the ad universe anymore. Neither is America. There are billions of people out there just as creative as you are, and advertising can be outsourced just like everything else.

Advertising follows opportunity, and during your career that’s likely to happen in Asia. Pay close attention to what the CEOs of WPP, Publicis and Omnicom are saying and keep an open mind about it. Read as much as you can about other cultures, especially China and India. Learn the language and go visit if you can.

In your career, imagination won’t be enough. You need to constantly demonstrate that you are someone who makes problems shrink and possibilities grow. Speaking of which…

4. Always Focus On Possibility. Change will be constant, and many changes will be hugely disruptive. Some, deeply painful. Whatever happens, always ask yourself: “what new possibilities does this create?” Remember the most wrenching change you encounter may also lead to the best part of your advertising career. Stay open.

5. Talk To Strangers. Get in the habit of saying hello to people you don’t know, especially if they seem to offer challenging ideas. In fact if you think I’ve said anything useful here, you can start by saying hello to me. Follow me on Twitter (@tomcunniff) or look me up on social networking sites like LinkedIn. The only ground rules: cover letters, resumes, and self-promotion will earn you a place in my spam filter. Intelligent questions and insights will earn you respect and prompt replies.

Advertising is undergoing radical change, so it favors people with guts now more than ever before. Don’t be afraid to be creative.

As the famous jazz pianist Thelonious Monk once said:

“The only cats worth anything are the cats who take chances. Sometimes, I play things I never heard myself.”


I hope some of my advice helps people get started. What other advice would you offer people who want to get their first job in advertising? Comments are welcome.

And don’t forget to buy the book. If you’re trying to get started it will kickstart your brain.

Photo Credits: Horizontal Bike from Kamshots on Flickr (Creative Commons license). Mumbai Traffic from Tom Cunniff on Flickr

Nestlé Social Media Nightmare

19 03 2010

I’m watching what’s happening at Nestlé with a lot of interest. I think we should all be watching carefully.

If you’re not up to speed, here’s what’s happening.

Greenpeace has targeted Nestlé in a campaign against palm oil. Here’s the Greenpeace Orangutan web site. And here’s some good background on the story.

Twitter is aggressively and gleefully helicoptering in enormous vats of gasoline to pour into the anti-Nestlé firestorm.

And, precisely on cue, the Internet’s townspeople have gathered their pitchforks and torches to storm the castle.

Here’s the Nestlé “fan” page on Facebook. Yikes.

Some of the snarkiest anti-Nestlé voices are from self-appointed social media experts. There’s a little too much glee for my tastes about picking on a company that has found itself in trouble.

Has Nestlé handled this unexpected attack flawlessly?  Perhaps not. But none of us are perfect. And that goes double when the stakes are high.

Before You Break Out Your Own Pitchfork…

The attack on Nestlé is not entirely fair.

They are not the only company on Earth that buys palm oil. Palm oil is widely used in the production of food and cosmetics.

And it’s not like they’re callously ignoring the issue, either.

As The Guardian points out, like Unilever and Kraft, Nestlé is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a consortium of buyers and producers promoting sustainably produced palm oil.

It’s all unfolding now, but a few lessons seem clear:

  • Social media gurus advocate “giving up control of your brand” and “conducting business transparently”.  This can be fun when people are on your side. Nestlé is learning that it’s a lot less fun when they’re not.
  • When you give up control of your brand people may not treat it the way you would like.
  • Transparency means people will see you naked sometimes. You will not always look good naked.
  • It’s a bad idea to “engage with consumers openly” when it suits you, and then slam down the castle gate when the mob turns ugly.
  • When the crowd turns against you, all the “sharing” tools you have given them can — and will — be turned against you too.
  • There are a group of people who relish “sticking it to the man”. They will always be first in line handing out pitchforks and torches.

I’m not suggesting that companies should avoid social media entirely.

What I am saying is that companies that do go there need to go in with their eyes wide open.

 Social media is like anything else in life. There are risks and rewards. And it’s not always easy going.

Lastly, beware the advice to abandon control of your brand. You are responsible for your brand’s success or failure, and you can’t crowdsource the job or make excuses when things get tough.

To borrow a line from an old song, “it’s a thin line between love and hate”.

Nestlé is a great company in a tough spot. I’m rooting for Nestlé to get this right, in every sense: not just the crisis management issue but the longer-term product issue.

Rishad Tobaccowala: 4A’s Transformation 2010 Speech

4 03 2010

Rishad Tobaccowala of Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi, is my new hero.  At the 4A’s Transformation 2010 event, he did something truly rare: he told the truth, in plain English.

It was unambiguous. Uncomfortable to hear. And absolutely right.

See the video here.  I haven’t been able to find a transcript online, so I’m providing an edited one, below. It’s inspiring stuff.

Rishad Tobaccowala: This industry is about talent.  And it’s not about any of the other things.

Go today, to Mountain View. Cupertino. Sunnyvale. Go wherever you want, and you will find that they are fixated on talent. Fixated.

The companies that have a disproportionate share of passionate talent will beat everybody.  And what we need to do like never before is bring and inspire talent into this industry. Because that is what will make this industry be the marketing Renaissance industry it should be.

What sort of talent should we be looking at?

If this is a Renaissance, we need to make absolutely sure that we bring in the builders.

This is a time to build. In the Renaissance, they built. And they painted. And they sculpted.

They did not manage only. They did not data read. They did not organize and re-organize.

They built, they painted, they sculpted. That’s what they did. We need to basically build and attract builders.

But to do that, we have to understand what the digital mindset is. And this is really where one of the big challenges is going to be for all of our industries, which have built up  — besides Silicon Valley —  systems that (…) incentivize seniority.

If you ask what top digital talent wants, they want accountability. They want a culture that lets them do what they want. And this is what they want the most: skin in the game.

The next generation wants wealth, and it has three types of wealth.

They want a wealth of experience, which means give me an opportunity NOW. They want a wealth of education — surround me with very good people and teach me. And sooner or later, they want economic wealth. And we must find ways to give it to them.

Because if we don’t they will build somewhere else. And that’s not going to be good for any of us.

When you came into this business, you came in with audacity. What you see in Silicon Valley is audacity. Remaking industries — that’s audacity.

You came in with dreams and now you stand with spreadsheets. Let’s get back to the audacity and the dreams.

And you know what? The spreadsheets will fill up beautifully.

How Can Publishers Charge For Content?

28 02 2010

In my first blog post at Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers, I talked about the “content is king” myth. We already have a content glut and it’s only going to get worse.

In the picture at left, publishing is wearing the red jacket. The lady in the blue dress? That’s you and me, and we have every intention of skipping out on the check.

In the face of this, publishers have to try as many pay options as they can, as fast as they can.

So how many different models are being tested right now? The answer may surprise you. Take a  look at this brilliant presentation prepared by Alastair Bruce at Microsoft.

Hugely enlightening and interesting, whether you’re a publisher or just somebody who wonders what the future of media might be.

Are You Selling Cave Swiftlet Saliva Or Kraft Cheese?

18 02 2010

What publishers must learn from CPG:  my latest blogpost at Jack Myers MediaBizBloggers. A brief preview:

We can ask, “how can publishers stop content from being commoditized?” but it won’t help.

I think it’s time for a weirder but more productive question.

Are You Selling Cave Swiftlet Saliva Or Kraft Cheese?

Cave Swiftlet saliva is the main ingredient in bird’s nest soup. It’s so rare and so differentiated that a bowl of soup made from it goes for about $30. Nice business. But the other 99% of what people consume are essentially commodities. Salt. Coffee. Cheese. Publishers can learn a lot from consumer packaged goods companies. Especially food marketers.

How would a food company look at the problem of commoditized content?

Read more here.

The Content Glut: Why It Stinks To Be King

11 02 2010

I’m flattered that Jack Myers has asked me to join his group at the always-interesting MediaBizBloggers.

The people who blog there are people I have a ton of respect for — Shelly Palmer, Cory Treffiliti, Jim Louderback, Matt Greene and a whole bunch of smart people from Group M among others.

It won’t be easy to keep up with a group this smart, but I’m going to try my best.

My first post is here.  I’m hoping to spark some discussion and so if you feel like commenting I’d be grateful.


The Digital Future of Magazines?

21 12 2009

UPDATE 2/21/10: New iPad demo from WIRED magazine.


When we got married 16 years ago, my wife and I subscribed to 7 magazines and read them all cover-to-cover. Plus, we’d buy more at the newsstand.

Today, we subscribe to just two.

Both pile up, unread, for months at a time.  Even The Atlantic Monthly, which I find both brilliant and entertaining. I feel lousy for not keeping up, but at least I’m supporting great journalism with my subscription dollars.

A lot of very smart people are working feverishly to restore the magazine business back to health.  Some friends passed me this intriguing video from a design house that has a slick-looking approach to the problem.

As good-looking as it is, for me it still misses the mark.

The problem isn’t that magazines aren’t slick enough or that they lack digital functionality. The problems is that magazines are a time-killing content medium in an age when we don’t have time to kill, and we’re already drowning in content.

My RSS feeder of free content is overflowing with stuff I can’t get to. I’ll bet yours is, too.

The Design Idea At 7:35

But just when I was getting ready to close the window and abandon the video, something cool happened. It’s at 7:35 in.

Now THERE’S something potentially revolutionary and useful: little intriguing chunks of quick, easily digestible content in a fun interface. That genuinely feels like a fun experience, and doesn’t fall into the trap of “but it has to feel like a magazine”. It reminds me, in a good way, of the Babelgum iPhone app.

The interface idea at 7:35, especially if some of the items were video, feels like it has the potential to be a winner.  What do you think?

UPDATE: Micah Baldwin, a friend of mine from The Internet Oldtimers Foundation, had a smart observation about the design which he has agreed to let me share:

“(this design commits) what I consider to be the cardinal sin of any web app today. It creates a uni-directional relationship. Its between the reader and content, but doesn’t take into account other readers. Basically, the concept of social. The recreation of the water cooler online.

What if the reader allowed for communication and conversation?

Now, the NatGeo piece I read on pygmies could be shared and discussed with my friends that I know are into the subject. Time and speed are now on my side.”

Is It Time For The Chief Brand Integration Officer?

10 12 2009

Once upon a time, marketing was easy.  In fact, Ed or Jimmy or Bubba from sales could handle it.

You didn’t need an MBA: the booming postwar economy made even lousy strategy look like a stroke of genius.

You didn’t even have to understand advertising. You had an ad agency to handle all that Hollywood  junk.  All you had to do was make some phone calls, steer clear of company politics, and have the occasional 12-martini lunch with your pals on Mad Ave.

Fast forward to 2010, and it’s a mess. Your traditional agency still does gorgeous TV, and some of their young guns really do “get” digital. But, maybe their digital offering isn’t as good as agencies that were born digital.

So, how do you manage this?

You can do what most marketers do and work with a crazy-quilt of agencies. You’ll have a traditional agency for TV. Another that does paid search, one that does social media, one that does mobile, one that does PR, digital ad infinitum.  You’ll get best-of-breed thinking, but you’ll spend a lot of time playing coordinator and referee. Oh, and trying to coordinate all the data from these disparate efforts will be a ginormous pain in the shorts.

Or you can go with a “we-do-it-all” interactive agency. They may not be as deep in search as a pure-play search agency, or maybe they’ll be stronger in analytics than in creative.

But at least all your stuff isn’t in silos.

Except… it still is.  If you’re like most marketers, what about the impact of the other 80% or more of your spend that remains in traditional? How does all that integrate with your digital efforts?

The Integration Problem

I’ve worked in traditional, digital and now I’m on the client side. Having seen a 360 degree view of this, I’m more convinced than ever that marketers must take the lead across all these different specialties and integrate them to drive results.

It would be great if you could have your lead agency do this, but you really can’t. No matter how great an agency is, I think it’s impossible to be entirely objective.

Every agency is passionate about their specialty. If they’re not, they can’t be good at it. And as a practical matter, every agency is in business to sell more of what they do. They need to upsell as much as you do.

So the job of integration, of synergizing disparate efforts so that 1+1 adds up to 11, has to be done on the client side. Easy, right? Well… maybe not.

The Overloaded Brand Manager

The job of integration usually gets placed on the shoulders of a brand manager who is already tasked with managing far too much.  Trying to wrap your head around traditional, digital, manufacturing, innovation, social media, competitive threats, private label, and the ugliest roughest retail environment in history all at once ain’t easy.

And, marketing organizations typically lack people who have enough experience across these silos to see the opportunities that exist — and especially not those that can be created.

Is It Time For The Chief Brand Integration Officer?

Marketing organizations now need a senior manager with deep experience in both traditional and digital who is tasked with integrating them.

A strong Tradigital exec who can look at great ideas from different agencies and find the ones that work not just as one-offs, but multiply the power of the overall effort.

Today, 10 years after the dot-com bust, a small number of these people exist. They’re the oldtimers who left successful traditional advertising and marketing gigs to dive headfirst into digital.

What do you think? Does a new position like this make sense? Who ought to do this job, and why? How would this work within a traditional brand management structure?

Comments, please…

Social Media Venn Diagram

23 11 2009

George Bernard Shaw famously said, “When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.”

Today, would he have Tweeted it, put in on Facebook or MySpace or shared it through Google Reader? Or would he try to monetize this news like Rupert Murdoch?

Image via the Huffington Post who (I think) borrowed it from (I think) its original source at Despair.

Social Media Venn Diagram