“We have to think about communications today as an eco-system: interconnected, always-on, living, and constantly evolving.” Heather MCulloch* Consumers want intimacy with their brands. They want to know that what they buy is compatible with “who they are.” And so they open-heartedly invite brands into their lives, and enable their mobile phones to integrate with the rest of their digital universe – their emails, social networks, even their Facebooks, thus offering marketers a tidy consumer database that can be used strategically to help brands at every point in the purchasing path. And that makes mobile media appear just a little bit closer to the sweet spot than - say - purchasing time on House. Not only does it promise house calls for online shopping, using websites, promotions, coupons, events and everything other marketing creation up its sleeve, but mobile media delivers even more; It delivers out-of-house calls too. Point-of-purchase calls which promise to enliven retail as new mobile apps behave more and like “I have an uncle in wholesale.”
Mobile marketing can steer brands in the right direction.
“At the in-store stage, studies say two of three (66%) purchase decisions are made at shelf. This is a significant opportunity for brands to use mobile bar codes on packaging and POS displays to push digital coupons and specialized information to their target’s cell phones. Once on their shopper’s phone, brands will live on in the pockets of their consumers, and easily be able to follow up with post-store communication.”*
For consumer product goods, (CPG’s) smartphones are brilliant.
Smartphones make the shopping experience incredibly emmersive. They are equipped with a chip that can pick up UPC codes and scan mobile bar codes. “According to digital CPG, barcode scanning was up 700% in 2010 – with health and beauty products the most popular items scanned, followed by groceries and books… New bar code technology also offers CPGs the chance to provide a more absorbing in-store experience. Scanbuy offers a platform that enables CPGs to quickly create fully branded, mobile formatted content through product packaging. Consumers can instantly access information from recipes to nutritional information to coupons for the product they are considering in the store… This trend offers an opportunity to provide consumers with both more product information and a richer in-store experience…
The food industry presents especially significant prospects to utilize mobile technology. In a recent study, 56% of participants expressed a primary information need relating to product information (health, food origins, organic, farming practices, food safety or ingredient), while 31% desired information that was logistical in nature (location in store, price, or inventory). Interestingly, 43% of participants suggested a mobile phone solution.”*
Mobile marketing is there but not quite… yet.
Imagine if Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi didn’t share the same technology? Columnist, Kunar Patel put it this way in Adage.com, “The problem: too many isolated solutions that work for specific ad networks, apps or devices, not enough connective tissue to make it possible to make one ad, with one means for measurement, that can run in multiple places.”*
So it looks like we’re looking at what’s now and what’s coming. And to The Brief it looks like a caution to leave my smartphone at home when I go out to shop. Because as counter-culture as it sounds, I like to shop for groceries when I’m hungry. And I love every moment of mentally grazing among the fresh fruits and vegetables, checking out what’s exotic and yummy, and trying out new stores from Loblaws to Kensington to the St. Lawrence Market. And most of all I enjoy the thrill of the hunt for deals.
That said can you believe chicken is now a delicacy and parsley a side dish? Is it too late to buy into that Dealicious deal I saw online? Do you mind if I borrow your cell phone?
“Now that the social network Google+ has arrived, expressly to try and destroy Facebook and Twitter, the way Facebook and Twitter blew away MySpace right after MySpace obliterated Friendster the internet must admit that it really doesn’t understand the concept of friendship.”
– Real Time with Bill Maher “New Rules”*
With Facebook claiming a global membership of 750 million, Google is in the process of rolling out a new, more intimate and intuitive social network than ever before. At least that’s what Vic Gundotra, Sr. VP of Social for Google and Bradley Horowitz VP Product, Google+ think. “Google+ is more than a social product, or even a social strategy, it’s an extension of Google itself. Hence, Google+.”*
Codenamed “Emerald Sea,” Google’s social product debuted four months ago with a restricted-access global network. Or, by invitation only. Those new users included many PM’s, techies, tech bloggers, and Mark Zuckerberg. He is currently, Google+’s most followed person.
It’s through these early users of the newest social network that The Brief brings you news of it. I wish I could say I was an invitee, but when I requested access, Gopgle+ told me to scram. You? Why you only have 346 Facebook friends! Your tweets are nonsense! You are a digital do-nothing! (Which is insightful.) Scat!
In case you weren’t given first access to Google+ as well, you can preview it here. You’ll see that Google+ consists of a black bar called a “sandbar” on top of the page, something called “Circles” (which is how you group your friends), “Hangouts” (for video chats, instant upload photos) “Sparks” (for what sparks your interests) and “Huddle” (for chatting with a specific group of people)
Take a peak and then come back so we can giggle about what a potential plus these new features are for your brand’s bottom line.
Google+ is a real plus to advertisers. Google+ is populated by 18 million people for starters. All cranky because of late nights exporting their profiles, interests, and circles of contacts to Google+, (me excluded) along with their friends’ interests and contacts, and the sharing of every little thing about this and about that -all which makes friendships on the web so disarmingly accessible – to you. What a +.
Am I a cynic to say that every social network from Google to Quara to Facebook and Twitter make money from data donated on their social networks? And, what a boost social networks are to law enforcement, spies, hacks, predators, your boss, potential employers, and your mother-in-law! Personal sharing is in every way an oxymoron…
Google+ from the source Techcrunch writer, MG Siegler who actually met with Google+’s top tiers, Gundrota and Horowitz quotes Gundrotra saying, “We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward…We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets – or into being completely public,” he continues. “Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.”
The Brief points to this feature of Google+ which Gundotra showed off to Siegler. It’s called “Sparksand as mentioned above it’s a sharing of interests ‘engine.’ “Great content leads to great conversations,” Gondotra continues, “With Sparks you enter an interest you have and Google goes out and finds elements on the web that they think you’ll care about. These can be links to blog posts, videos, books – anything that Google searches for.”
(Perhaps your brand. Content on your brand. Social media on your brand. Just saying).
Gundotra says, “If you find something you like, you can click on an item to add it to your interest list (where it will stay for you to quickly refer to anytime you want). Or you can see what others are liking and talking about globally in the “Featured interests” area.
“Our goal here is to connect people. And everyone has a camera in their pocket,” Gundotra says as he shows “Instant Upload.” This feature of Google+ relies on the use of an Android device to take photos or shoot video. From a new app, you’ll do either of these things and the content will automatically be uploaded to Google+ in the background and stored in a private album (which you can share with one click later).”*
You can read Siegler’s entire piece by going to the techcrunch.com website below under “Sources”.
Point is, if you’re looking for new avenues of revenue - and who isn’t, The Brief recommends you keep your eyes on Google+.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.*
While I was pursuing news elsewhere in the industry, our digital social media behemoths were seeding the client/consumer landscape for a new spring. There is so much to report about Google, as well as Sir Martin Sorrell’s own Google-like digital spy called Xaxis.* Xaxis’ website defines its purpose: “Through the intelligent application of data and technology, we construct vivid Audience Portraits, which we use to reach consumers at scale. We enable powerful, resonant connections between advertisers and their audiences that drive real, attributable results. We’re an able digital partner to our GroupM agencies, and part of the WPP family.” Vivid Audience Portraits? Hey, that’s you and me!
Xaxis is in some ways indicative of Google’s unwillingness to share its data with its media partners, and an indication of Google’s true intentions – which is to be the biggest advertising agency in the whole wide world.
Daniel FareyJones wrote in mediaweek.co.uk * “Sir Martin Sorrell last night laid down a gauntlet to Google’s Mark Howe [Managing Director, Agency Operations, North & Central Europe] claiming it was ‘troubling’ at a time when regulators were watching, that the internet giant had denied Sorrell’s WPP access to its data.
[Sorrell] said: “The biggest issue for us is we have to work out with you . . . access. We have to have access – as we act independently for our clients – to the data you have.
“The biggest problem I think that Google has to sort out is how much access to give us, because we compete with DoubleClick, effectively, and Xaxis is the next iteration of that.
“And because of the regulatory issues that Google is increasingly under, you’re going to have to decide on that. We both know there were some instances recently where we haven’t had that access, we were denied that access, and that’s quite troubling.”
Farey-Jones writes, “Sorrell was alluding to the fact that regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have started formal investigations into Google.
This week, the US Federal Trade Commission started a review of Google’s search advertising business and in November, the EU started a probe into complaints by rivals about Google’s search practices.”*
Google’s DoubleClick* is soon to be even more intuitive in its collection of data due to Google’s new Google+, a visually friendly and intuitive new platform for the external and internal lives of us and everybody we know. And everything we look at. Everything we feel. In essence, everything we are. Imagine the scud-like missile delivery of consumer to all its clients?
Google is a goldmine for research. Unfortunately, you are the subject.
CIO Central writer, Scott Cleland, had this to say on the subject of a menacing Google. “Google harms consumers by misrepresenting its search results as unbiased and aligned with users’ interests when the facts show they are not. The issue will come to a head in the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust investigation of Google.
[According the The Wall Street Journal, The FTC is looking into Google’s “core search advertsing business.”]
Cleland writes, “Google implies it is immune to antitrust laws, because consumers benefit so much from Google’s search engine and over 500 other free products and services. This ‘Google is really a philanthropist, not a business’ argument is not an antitrust defense, but a highly deceptive misrepresentation of their business.” Cleland goes on to say, “Even Google will find it challenging to argue that ‘deceptive acts and practices’ do not harm consumers. Moreover, Google will find it difficult to defend that it has not been deceptive with consumers in publicly representing Google as user-aligned, unconflicted and unbiased, when the facts powerfully show Google has an advertiser-aligned business model, has serious undisclosed conflicts and biases its dominant search business by self-dealing Google content top rankings while burying the rankings of some competitors. Simply, there is no consumer benefit, competitive justification, or First Amendment free speech right to engage in deceptive practices for financial gain.”
Share today - care tomorrow.
Privacy issues must be anticipated in advance and not after the confessional. Furthermore, it’s not paranoiac to wonder how seemingly innocent questions on Google are coded for your personal data…
Actually, it strikes The Brief that Google is the digital manifestation of everything my generation once conjured: Big Brother. HAL. The loss of identity. Privacy. Self.
Be careful. Be private. Google is not your friend.
In Sir Martin Sorrell’s own words, with CNBC’s reporter, Anuradha SenGupta, on the “new Leviathans” in Tech-Media and why the formation of Xaxis.
Music anchors private moments in our life. Like a photograph but with keener focus. Who can forget the perfect coupling of Gershwin and Gene Hackman for Continental Airlines? Or, more recently Feist for Apple? Or, back again, McDonald’s brilliantly insightful “You Deserve a Break Today.”
Advertisers try their best to find just the right music to invoke your life into their brand and vice verse. It’s a request for enchantment. For intuition. And we’ll find out why it’s difficult for a client to make up their mind and more.
For answers to this, The Brief turned to a quartet of commercial music pros. Brendan Quinn, composer/director at Pirate Toronto; Creighton Doane and Danny LeBlanc, owners, composers, directors, musicians at Doane LeBlanc; Steve Convery, audio producer/director at Tattoo Sound + Music; and Dave Sorbara, owner, composer, music director at Grayson Matthews.
For clarity’s sake, The Brief substituted production companies for individual names.
The Brief: Are clients more demanding in the digital, iPod, iTunes era?
Pirate: The ‘commodification’ of music, in general, has put enormous pressure on music writers and producers in the commercial world.
Grayson Matthews: Agreed. As the internet has created infinite access to music, virtually for free, or at least that’s how it’s perceived, you sometimes get the sense that even when someone hears something they like they still ask to hear more as it feels like the world of music is endless and can provide endless options. While the amount of music seems endless, quality is few and far between especially when you consider that something has to fit a project like a glove.
Pirate Music: The expectation is that the pieces of music will sound as good as those collections of songs on a client’s iPod that they listen to on their way to work – I can’t count the number of times the brief includes the saying “it should sound like it came off a record.” (but it’s not unrealistic because people are doing it.)
Doane LeBlanc: At the same time, it’s also cheaper to license indie tracks because there’s so much available. You can see an indie musician giving away their original work for exposure. Artists can win if it’s a successful ad. That Chevy Cruise commercial with that cool track by Janelle Monae. She probably got paid, but not merely as much as she got exposure and fame. Feist is another great example.
Pirate: I think the biggest change that has altered the landscape of Canadian music, both for commercials and otherwise, is the decline of the traditional model for the ways in which artists and bands generate income. As a result, artists/bands have had to reconsider the ways in which they are prepared to make money. That has led to a much greater willingness amongst artists/bands to license their music for commercials. (Unlike in years past, many artists/bands would now jump at the chance to license a piece of their music for a commercial, both for the license fee and for the exposure.)
The Brief: So who came first Feist or the Apple?
Pirate: …the way I see it, Feist came first, followed by Apple licensing one of her hits, which set a huge precedent, and then some unknown band wrote a :30 piece that sounds as cool as Feist, got licensed by Joe Fresh and suddenly became wildly popular overnight.
The Brief: Are there new sexy digital tools for creating music today? Like 3D or 4D music?
Grayson Matthews: Computers just keep getting better at doing more which has heavily increased a producer’s arsenal but still the best sounds and track we ever do always come from going back to the traditional way of playing and recoding instruments and collaborating as artists. Creating a real experience in the playing and producing as opposed to crafting on a computer.
Doane LeBlanc: The digital age changed everything in audio production but the basic tools have plateaued. There are newer versions of everything released everyday but newer is not always better. Quality audio production is being done using classic recording techniques and the powerful editing and processing available in the DAW domain.
Pirate: The use of autotune as a musical instrument came and went pretty quickly. I’ve heard Melodyne can do some pretty amazing stuff to alter and correct single notes in a wall of stereo sound, though I don’t use it. But I also think a return to old school vintage gear, textures and production techniques to be back in a big way with the writers I know and work with.
The Brief: One-offs. Do they put a lot of extra burden on the music?
Doane LeBlanc: There seems to be more one-offs in Toronto. Don’t have to stay with the same music… and repetition carries a brand forward… but… kids are buying singles. Not albums. With kid culture you need to change it up. Also, people everywhere expect results quickly. It’s the nature of the beast. They abandon a good idea too soon to marinate.
Pirate: When Juno came out, every other music brief was for a quirky folk song with off beat lyrics, like that strangely infectious Moldy Peaches song. Then that got old and briefs turned to Vampire Weekend or more recently, Florence and the Machine. I definitely think commercial music is heavily influenced by the trends and fads in popular music and what’s cool and hip at any given time. But perhaps that’s for good reason, since fresh sounds and new exciting music has a powerful influence on catching people’s attention and making them feel a certain way. Right now, the “indie” sound is very popular, but I view the very definition of that term as a continually moving target, with the coming and passing of fads and trends.
The Brief: How has scoring for the web effected you?
Pirate: At first, we all expected the web to drastically change what we do, even at the risk of making us sound people obsolete. What we’e discovering now is that online-based projects have a lot of the same requirements as traditional TV. And in truth, a lot of “online videos” currently being produced are really just extended TV commercials or mini films, with full blown music tracks, voiceover, and sound design.
Doane LeBlanc: In some cases advertisers launch spots for web only. These usually run longer than 30 or 60 sec and can allow time and space for more creative music and SFX. Web content can be a very different and creative beast.
The Brief: Speaking of SFX, how has sound design evolved?
Grayson Matthews: The marriage of sound design and music is very popular and catching my ear these days. When it’s done well you can’t tell what is music and what is a sound effect. They work in harmony to create a very visceral experience that can be very cinematic. We worked on the latest Canadian Sapporo campaign that we are very proud of and we think we’ve done just that in this case. The new civilization Adidas ads using the new Justice single is another shining example.
Tattoo: The Toronto ad community seems to lean towards a minimalist approach to sound design. We’re a bit unique because we continue to hear spots out of the US and Europe that treat sound design much like a feature film. Very creative and sophisticated approaches.
Pirate: I’ve noticed the transition of the medium to HD and the implications that has on sound design and levels in mixing overall. HD brings sound to life in such a big, more impactful way that, when we have to do a fold down mix from HD to SD, it’s a bit of a tug of war. The depth and clarity of great sound design can be lost in an SD fold down mix and, vice versa, a sound effect that sits comfortably in the mix in SD, can sometimes be too bombastic and explosive in an HD context – you’re forced to find a middle ground somewhere, a compromise. The better alternative, though often cost prohibitive, is to do separate SD and HD mixes. I have yet to see a client take that route though.
The Brief: Has the post-recession played havoc with budgets. (I hear the quartet groan in F-flat.)
Pirate: Yes. We’ve seen a fairly major contraction in the industry as a whole, and I think the recession played a pretty major role in that. Unfortunately, reduced budgets have set a precedent for what producers think the audio on any given job should cost, and it’s presented major challenges for us, the suppliers, to deliver the quality we strive to achieve, all the while working within our client’s budget.
Also, the online world of advertising is a very new platform, and it will be very interesting to see how that story plays out, as the advertising revenue streams catch up with the technology and the ability to deliver high resolution content, with minimal lag time. To me, online commercials most often require the same amount of work as television commercials, and I believe they offer the same, if not more powerful potential to reach the consumer. However, the stigma that still lingers in the world of producing online commercials is that there isn’t the same opportunity for advertising revenue. I think we’ll see a great deal of change and innovation in this arena in the years to come.
The Brief: With all the above, is this a creative time in your discipline?
Pirate: Terry O’Reilly once told me that the periods of the greatest innovation tend to coincide with economic hardship. People are forced to work harder, think outside of the box, and come up with new ways to cut through the white noise. As we emerge from the recession, looking back over the past couple of years, I feel like there have been some very novel, artistic and creative projects. But even more so, there have been some really creative ways people have learned to do great work within the confinements of a really tight budget.
In closing, The Brief discovered that it’s difficult for music production houses to close. As it is in every discipline in advertising. And that success, as always, is fueled by those wonderful relationships built on trust.
The Brief would like to thank the generous artists and experts who work tirelessly to make you stop, look and listen. Check out the websites below to find a selection of superb solutions for your clients’ business needs.
Here’s an example of a great indie song. “Out with the old” Artist: Casa Di Mondo bought by Telus.
THE BRIEF: When last we talked, I asked you why CEO Bonnie Brooks couldn’t have transformed the Bay a decade ago. Why is that?
GAUDRY: Not to say that she couldn’t but it certainly would have been more difficult. The retail environment in Canada during much of the last decade was very turbulent and in a state of evolution. There was intense media attention on the performance of The Bay and questions concerning the viability of the department store. As a publicly traded company in a challenging economy there was more risk aversion.
THE BRIEF: This is what Anne Kingston wrote about the Bay in Macleans.ca back in 2009.
“Even back in those halcyon days before the economy cratered and ’70 per cent off’ became retail wallpaper. Even then, the prospect of revitalizing the Bay was daunting. Mid-market department stores are on a death watch: so many have folded, Statistics Canada stopped measuring them as a category. “It’s not a viable format,” says Toronto retail analyst John Williams. “They’re squeezed between value merchants – the Walmarts and Winners – on one end, and luxury stores and specialty boutiques on the other. The Bay, whose 92 stores range in size from 1,000 to 100,000 sq. feet and in appearance from shabby to not-shabby, has been subject to multiple failed makeovers over the past decade, helmed by numbers guys who failed to realize that pleasing customers connects to the bottom line. Merchandising was a mish-mash, product inconsistent, sales staff infuriatingly elusive…” *
GAUDRY: I wouldn’t argue that. The proliferation of retail options, both online and bricks and mortar – especially the plethora of new specialty stores gave Canadian consumers tremendous choice.
THE BRIEF: I was working for your agency of record at that time when The Bay was being bought by Jerry Zucker and became a private company. What changed?
GAUDRY: When Jerry Zucker* first took The Bay private, it gave the leadership team more breathing room and the ability to identify opportunities for growth, without media scrutiny.
THE BRIEF: …and this 300 year old Canadian company selling out to an American…
GAUDRY: All that. But once the microscope was removed, and people could focus on the brand, there was a greater desire or willingness to take risks. Decisions were made based not on history but on the future viability of the chain and necessity for differentiation.
THE BRIEF: And then Jerry Zucker* suddenly died and Richard Baker* bought the company,
GAUDRY: After Richard Baker bought the company, there was a comprehensive review of the marketplace, probably one of the best in Canada at the time. One of the boldest actions coming out of the research was the elimination of more than 800 brands. That cleaned up the store significantly, allowing for fewer but more relevant brands to cross more doors in a meaningful way. It focused the company’s actions to a well-defined target.
THE BRIEF: Who is the Bay’s biggest competition?
GAUDRY: Anyone in fashion really. Specialty for sure across Canada – and in the Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal I would add Holt Renfrew and the luxury brands with independent boutiques. In terms of Holt Renfrew I actually think this will be interesting to see play out. Holts seems to be adding more aspirational luxury but taking fewer risks with Ladies fashion in general. For sure they have all of the major designers but their buys seem to be a little on the safe side and slower to respond to emerging designers. I think The Bay is buying better fashion for women certainly in Queen Street. We will see how it cascades. The Bay also seems to be creating more industry buzz with special events and designer appearances like Proenza Schouler, the latest designer’s to show up at The Bay.
THE BRIEF: This is the Bay and this is Pruenza Schouler! OMG!
GAUDRY: They are bringing in the hot new designers that everyone is talking about, and showcasing their availability at The Room. Creating buzz and a new narrative for the Bay: The brand has positioned itself anew by aligning with some of the most important new designers on the globe today. These new designer brands are creating a halo for the entire chain. This is making it easier to attract better brands to more doors – like Coach, Diesel, Rachel Roy and Halston to name a few. The arrival of Topshop this fall is a big win. I think we will see a cascading effect of new brands coming on board in the moderate, moderate better and better price bands.
THE BRIEF: As they say in fashion, “WOW!”
THE BRIEF: Anything you would like to see in particular?
GAUDRY: The same energy and enthusiasm they have brought to women’s fashion and accessories extend to menswear and home. While there have been some improvements it certainly isn’t keeping pace with the momentum we are seeing for women.
THE BRIEF: Any predictions for the future.
GAUDRY: Many. But if I were to pick one it would be that I think there will be another real estate play at the Hudson Bay Company. I would not be surprised to see some of the underperforming stores, or stores that do not align to the new vision being closed or sold off with the remaining leases that Target did not acquire from Zellers. I am not sure how many Bay stores will be around in the next few years but I am certain it will not be 91. Conservatively I would say 80, perhaps as low as 65, maybe less – just a guess. It will be interesting to see who picks up the space and how that further changes the retail landscape.
THE BRIEF: Since this is an advertising/marketing column, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the Bay and media. I hear their radio, but they have certainly changed their marketing strategy. Can we discuss that? What happened to certain promotions like Scratch N Save?
GAUDRY: Largely eliminated.
THE BRIEF: No TV?
GAUDRY: They haven’t done TV in the past two years. They have significantly shifted spend from broad discounted advertising to a blend of focused sales promotion and brand awareness. They are investing more in online marketing, e-commerce, social media, brand positioning and events. And of course there are the radio spots featuring Bonnie Brooks (which is voiced and written by Bonnie Brooks in collaboration with Terry O’Reilly at Pirate Radio).
THE BRIEF: How interactive is their social media?
GAUDRY: Lets just say, there is room for improvement.
THE BRIEF: Ultimately, who does the Bay want to be? GAUDRY: Not who but what – world class. Time will tell.
The Brief thanks Clint Gaudry for all his insights on the Bay. If the behemoth known as the Bay can make it here, they can make it anywhere and you can too. Imagine all the marketing mistakes you won’t make simply because you read this column.