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August 1, 20073 Comments

ON: Technology’s Place in a Marketer’s Brand

Today I was writing up concepts that were devoid of medium, they were pure ideas, pure messages.  Messages that evoked or contained emotion (shinny happy people).  On the way home as I putz-ed around with my new iPhone (yes .. I broke down and got one, and i love it!) I came to a conclusion on my approach to ideation. Its an idea no matter the medium.  One might express a creative vision for a brand in focus of the space they create in.

I am so tired of marketers approaching digital with fatigued or jaded attitudes.  Technology is not our focus.. Changing human behavior (buying habits) through the use of media is.

What technology has done is made it easy to do what was once burdensome and thus expensive. Technology has fundamentally linked the path of development in our (Western) society, and is wrapped up in our ideology. From time-to-time we use it as an instrument of our power relations as well.

Most often, technology is presented as a neutral enabler. However, on inspection, this is not the case all the time.  The web browser which enables us to seek out information and experiences does have its limitations, as does my mobile phone as does my television and even my car.  All mediums have limitations. As creative thinkers we must look as those limitations as opportunities to use creative thought in our executions.

In today’s marketplace of social media, social networks, vertical networks, in world networks and business networks we must target consumer behaviors as opposed to their age.  I think age and household income is important identifiers of the consumer segment, but the most important information we can have when crafting a brands strategy and relevant creative is… What are our consumers doing in our medium? How are they behaving online? 

When we answer that the ideas begin to flow and are naturally, simple and relevant.

Go forth and create!

ON: Technology’s Place in a Marketer’s Brand via @jpenabickley

November 4, 2006No Comments

ON: Election Hacking

Tonight, I sat down to chill out on a Friday night after a long week.
Running through my taped shows on my DVR, I ran across a documentary I
taped called Hacking Democracy.

This film should be a wake up call to us all. This cautionary documentary exposes the vulnerability of computers - which count approximately 80% of America's votes in county, state and federal elections - suggesting that if our votes aren't safe, then our democracy isn't safe either.

As a techno-geek, who has worked in the Internet industry for years, this part was not a surprise to me.  All systems can be hacked.

What was a surprise is that the private industry that tabulates our votes has escaped regulation and greater public scrutiny.  This should be the first story on the news and it has escaped the publics purview in time for us to do anything beyond make noise before this mid-term election.

If you have not seen this film, I think you can get it on demand.  It is Airing on HBO. See it and lets begin to demand better solutions for our tax dollars and our “democracy”.

ON: Election Hacking via @jpenabickley

November 3, 2006No Comments

ON: What is an XPlanner

For the last several months I have been conducting user studies in order to develop accurate personas for Ad Agencies that buy and produce online media.

Many of the agencies that I visit are "traditional" (Agencies that were not born digital) agenies.  In this setting and they often ask me what I do.  For years I was called an Interactive Creative Director, Then I was an Information Architect, today I am called an Universal Experience Planner.

Now you ask me, What the Heck is a Universal Experience Planner (XP).

The Experience Planner creates branded, interactive user experiences such as websites, games, mobile sites, digital media and applications for clients. The XP helps define and lead the strategic and creative vision; owns the information architecture, navigation, interaction and user experience; researches and defines user needs, business goals and requirements; and coordinates with the art director, technical director and account manger to inform visual design and facilitate build.

On a day to day basis I:

  • Takes ownership of the XP component of all assigned projects or brands.
  • Understands brands, and how to bring them to life online.
  • Serves as primary point of contact with internal team members and the client for all XP issues.
  • Provides expert usability and campaign wide interaction design recommendations to the project team.

An XPlanner Primary Tasks + Deliverables

  • Produces deliverables at a level of fidelity and detail appropriate for clients and internal team members.
  • Plans, conducts and analyzes primary and secondary research (heuristic evaluations, competitive analysis, one-on-one interviews, online surveys, stakeholder interviews, etc.).
  • Plans and conducts internal team and client work sessions (brainstorms,requirements workshops, etc.).
  • Defines, prioritizes and drives consensus on project requirements, including all features, functions and content.
  • Develops process models, user personas and scenarios.
  • Creates information architecture deliverables, including site maps, wireframes, interaction models and page specifications that describe navigation, content, and functionality.
  • Assists technical director with functional specifications.
  • Leads usability testing planning, facilitation and analysis.

As I wrap up my 12th Agency interview, I note that large agencies really need to study their organization and make sure that XPlanner is a key player within all of their interactive endevours.  I will not sit here and name the Large agency players that I have interviewed in the last months that do not have this player on their team and rely on a traditional creative team model of the art + copy = advertising.  In the legit interactive world the best brands are built in a team model that looks like this equation.

Strategy + XPlanner + Design + Copy +Technology = Fab Consumer Experience.

ON: What is an XPlanner via @jpenabickley

October 18, 2006No Comments

Is Your Brand Safe?

Are you pro or against working with ad networks?

If you, either through an internal department or an agency, work with ad networks, are you happy with the placements your ads get through ad networks?
Why or why not?

What is your biggest fear about relying on ad networks for the placement of your ads?
How have you tackled this?

Should mid sized & smaller publishers (the interactive ad long tail) be made to categorize their content in an open market place?

If so who should regulate and publicize publisher compliance?

If there were such a service would you pay for membership that helped protect brands through categorization and fine based penalties for non compliance?

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Is Your Brand Safe? via @jpenabickley

October 18, 2006No Comments

The Online Ad Game

There are so many aspects to the online advertising space that confuse marketers and agencies who act as the client advocate in the interactive space. After conducting a number of industry interviews with ad agencies and advertisers I have found that there is market confusion around ad networks and the safety of your brand.

Over the next few posts I thought I would address some high level issues and recruit your feedback and ideas in this forum to begin an open dialog with the best of our industry in order to develop a strategy and possibly an organization that will begin to guide the interactive ad industry in a positive direction that will inevitably lead to larger online ad spending from advertisers for 2007.

Ad Networks
Historically, an organization charged with the representation of advertising space for a group of Web sites for the purpose of maximizing revenue and minimizing administrative costs through aggregation. The role of an Internet advertising network is to transact, serve, track and report the distribution of creative from advertisers to publishers using an efficient, interactive marketplace.

Today they have become sophisticated operations designed to allow advertisers to place their advertising materials in front of selected individuals.  The typical selling proposition of a network is that these individuals are good prospects for the particular product or service on offer. But ad networks differ in several ways, including:

  1. How the your audience or individuals are selected or targeted
  2. The range of publishers' sites on which the advertisements may appear

A network can also be categorized according to the nature of the financial arrangement between the advertiser, the network and the publisher.

  1. The True Network= bases on revenue sharing agreements across a wide range of sites
  2. Arbitrage network = buys unused, unwanted remnant inventory at bargain prices in hopes of repackaging and reselling it profitably
  3. The Broker network = simply manages the transactions and adds little value for advertisers.

The beauty of the Ad Network, dependant on type, business emphasis, organization and approach, is that most networks offer a range of options, including demographic, geographic and dayparting. Many allow advertisers to mix and match various types of selectivity, creating a near infinite range of possibilities for finding specific categories of prospects and serving them targeted messages.

So why do Ad Networks have such a bad rap with advertisers and agencies alike?

One answer could be….
While ad networks offer increased reach ad networks also offer less control for brand advertisers. Marketers placing impressions on an ad network will be challenged to keep tabs on where their advertising appears. Marketers are justly vigilant about protecting their brand -- especially online, where they must inevitably give up a degree of control -- but ad networks can be particularly frustrating.

  1. Who do you hold responsible when you brand shows up on inappropriate content?
  2. How can you hold the agency, ad networks or publishers accountable?
  3. Is your Brand truly Safe without some sort of industry standard categorization of content?

Sound off...

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The Online Ad Game via @jpenabickley

October 5, 2006No Comments

ON: 56% of Active Gamers Are Online, 64% Are Women

Among the roughly 117 million "Active Gamers" in the U.S. in 2006, more
than half (56 percent) play games online, and 64 percent of all online
gamers are women, according to Nielsen Entertainment's third annual Active Gamer Benchmark Study, released
Thursday. Moreover, though teenagers still constitute the largest
percentage (40 percent) of active gamers, more than 15 million of those
gamers (almost 8 percent) are now 45 years old or older.

Although women make up nearly two-thirds of all online gamers, men
outnumber women in the overall videogame universe by more than two to
one. And although older females make up the largest percentage of
casual gamers, active gamer teens and young adults comprise a
considerable portion of this market, with more than half playing casual
games an hour or more a week.

The social elements of videogames are becoming an increasingly
important part of the gaming experience, with those in the active
gamers category spending more than five hours a week playing games
socially. Some 64 percent of active gamers play on PC-based systems,
which offer users connected experiences through massively multiplayer
online games (MMOG) that other platforms cannot yet match. Personal
computers also are the platform of choice for players of casual games,
especially among women.


ON: 56% of Active Gamers Are Online, 64% Are Women via @jpenabickley

October 5, 2006No Comments

ON: Google’s Mashup Dance

Google Gadgets
now allows anyone to add them to any page, not just your Google
personalized homepage. Here's a sample; try it out for yourself and get
the code for your blog, MySpace page, or whatever site you have. More
info at TechCrunch.  See below.

ON: Google’s Mashup Dance via @jpenabickley

October 3, 2006No Comments

ON:The Black Dahlia


Entertainment properties are quickly showing a move towards in video ads and a user interface that makes you, the consumer, a part of the movie magic.  I cannot comment on the movie.  but the ads and microsite exude creative hotness and an awesome experience.  Visit the http://webapp1.latimes.com/theblackdahlia/ to jump in to the storyline.

This campaign, launched by Universal and the Los Angeles Times, marks
the first integrated print, online and out-of-home campaign using
actual news stories -- pulled from the Los Angeles Times archives --
about the notorious and still unsolved "Black Dahlia" murder that
stunned Los Angeles in 1947.

Traffic was initially driven to the minisite by Los Angeles Times,
Chicago Tribune and Newsday ad inserts. Ads have also been place on the
latimes.com website driving audiences to the minisite.

ON:The Black Dahlia via @jpenabickley

October 3, 2006No Comments

ON: Converging Channels

I've been reading Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins. It's
brilliant - lots of great ideas and required reading for anyone who works to drive consumers to a brand.

One form of convergence he covers is something I have been evangalizing for years -
the flow of content across multiple media platforms. The  book dedicates a chapter to
The Matrix films as a cross channel narrative.  The story that unfolded across different
platforms.  Rather than there being a film narrative that has spin offs, key
elements of The Matrix story are in the video game, the animations, the
comic books. He argues
that few consumers will be able to dedicate the time required to get
the whole
picture, which is why cross channel or "transmedia" storytelling drives the formation of
communities - communities that share information – and triggers word of
mouth.   I know this to be true as I had a hand in shaping this creative thinking.

That said, i have used the same strategy in some of my most sucessful brand efforts for Jim Beam Brands.  See one of my most sucessful marketing case studies - Knob Creek for an example of this.


Since there are so many elements to the story, every member of the community is
likely to have something to share, some social currency to trade, so communities
form and information is passed around the network.

The model that has held the industry's collective imagination for the last few
years has been media neutral planning. In essence, this is the belief that we
should develop a single organising thought that iterates itself across any
touchpoint.  See another explantion of this in my cross media plans / experiences was the great chase.

Want the formula?  read the book.

ON: Converging Channels via @jpenabickley

September 11, 2006No Comments

Flash Forward Conference 2006

Hello World,Flashbackblack_1

This will be my first official blog entry, which I hope will the first of many, for the ON: digital+marketing blog.  I was invited by the wonderful, and energetic Joanna Pena-Bickley to be a contributor and thus, I have accepted.

I am currently in Austin, TX attending the 2006 Flash Forward Conference so that I may learn more about how Adobe (formally Macromedia) Flash can benefit the marketing, branding and e-commerce activities that I am involved in.  The conference starts tomorrow with some interactive sessions and continues through Thursday with other informational seminars.  I think the conference will be packed and hopefully will offer up some valuable and interesting information on applicable Flash technology.

What I'm most interested in learning about, is how Flash can be used as application for e-commerce activities.  I've been working with Flash for about 8 years now and know the advantages it has for expanding and developing marketing and branding efforts online through the use of animation and basic interactivity.  Sure, animation is great and engaging for online (and off I suppose) marketing purposes, but how can Flash really be beneficial for a company like CDW (CDW, Corp. - whom I work for) It seems like video and application building via Adobe Flex is what might be most relevant.  This is what I hope to find out and will share in future posts this week starting tomorrow when the conference officially begins.

On a final, and very important note, I must also share that I upgraded from a mid-class rental car from Hertz, to a silver Mustang for an extra $10 a day.  Hey, you only live once I suppose.

Flash Forward Conference 2006 via @jpenabickley



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