Category Archives: Digital Advertising

AdAge Digital Day One: Viewability, Humanity, #failing

 The 9th Ad Age Digital Conference kicked off today in New York with a packed first day lineup. Some of the hot topics addressed today included viewability, humanity, and failing.

The morning’s first discussion between Rob Norman, Global Chief Digital officer at GroupM and Lisa Valentino, SVP, Digital Sales at Conde Nast, surprised some in the audience when the two executives vaguely discussed the terms of a recent deal where Conde Nast agreed to only charge GroupM’s clients for ads that were guaranteed to be viewed by consumers. While 100% viewability is never a guarantee, the two partners stressed that they reached an acceptable & agreed upon viewability level for their ad units.

The afternoon panel “The Story Makers” talked about the evolution of storytelling to storymaking – where consumers work with brands to create the story. Hirschhorn stated that it can be much less risky for brands to enter stories already being told rather than create one of their own.  Anne Lewnes, SVP and CMO of Adobe, showed an inspiring video celebrating Adobe Photoshop’s 25 year anniversary wholly created with user-generated imagery and exhorts viewers to “Dream On.”

We loved the “Fail Fast Forward” series of 10 minute vignettes, that highlighted a “fail” moment, the learning, and what was implemented to “fix” things. Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP, Advertising, New York Times, led with the story of a 161-year old article in the Times about Solomon Northup, aligned with the release of Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, and a subsequent Gawker piece entitled “This Is the 161-Year-Old New York Times Article About 12 Years a Slave  that performed way, way better than the Times piece about the original article.


The three actions the Times took? One was to “defy the gravity of tradition”, by embracing the notion that finding the audience is just as important as the story itself — Alexandra MacCallum was recently appointed to audience development and there is now a “masthead level” or leadership-level focus on finding the right audience. Two was to “Invent new ways to create value” which spurred the creation of T-Brand Studio and the Times’ entrance into the branded content biz, continuing striving to create content that makes people feel things, regardless of whether it is paid or not. Number 3. is to “never lose sight of what got us there in the first place” summed up with two simple words: Quality. Storytelling.

Our favorite quotable from the “Moving at the Speed of Culture” interview with Beats by Dre’s Omar Johnson: Jimmy Iovine said to me one day “What’s a SWAT? Your job is to sell headphones, right?” We had to work at a speed that most brands don’t have to. And they live it every day – Beats agency, R/GA, has to present every idea on one slide. Love this challenge!

Atlas’ Jennifer Kattula wrapped the day eloquently with “Five Things Marketers Ought to Know,” challenging us to move on from the Four Ps from Philip Kotler’s 1967 book Marketing Management, to the 4 Cs…. from Product to Choice, Price to Convenience, Place to Cross-Device, and Promotion to Creative Sequencing. Some compelling stats within, including touting the cookie’s demise and how people-based marketing is more effective for reaching the right people at the right time – something that digital marketers have a responsibility to aim higher on.

Golf Enthusiasts Gotta Look Good

As much as golf is an outdoorsy and somewhat leisurely sport, its players are very serious about proper attire when playing. There’s no uniform of course, but looking like a tall, cool glass of gin and tonic is preferred. That’s why fashion is so important on the links.

Venice, Calif.-based ad agency  Zambezi has created an online and print campaign for golf apparel brand Ashworth, part of the TaylorMade Apparel Group. On March 23, the agency and the client launched a “magalogue” in print and a digital version online called “Golf/Man” to engage with the modern casual golfer.

As AOR for TaylorMade and Ashworth, Zambezi made the brand as much about lifestyle as about the game. The publication chronicles days in the life of the brand’s marquis professional athlete, Justin Rose, as he plays top golf courses around the world. The first issue follows Justin playing Streamsong, a luxury resort in Florida. The hard-copy and online publications are both very image-heavy with photos of Justin, wearing Ashworth attire.

justin rose zmbz

Zambezi and Ashworth published this rather upscale book of scenic photography, printed on heavy paper stock, thinking it was an innovative way to position this niche brand before a discerning audience.

Click here to see the digital version of Golf/Man. For a look at the introductory video, “here, now,” about Justin Rose click here. 

Live at SXSW – Weekend Recap

The DGC team hit the ground running on Saturday morning at SXSWi with a quick stop at and an 11 a.m. deep-dive into how data will build high-performing humans. The panel featured New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz and Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan, joined by Michael Gervais and Mashable’s Haile Owens. We were fascinated with the panel’s discussion on how data can make even the highest achieving athletes more powerful on and off the field. One nugget we took away from the session was data and tools are great, but don’t forget about your body’s biggest source of information: your brain.

cruz After a quick selfie with the man of the hour, our team dispersed to other sessions before gathering to prep for DGC’s first-ever #SXSWi happy hour. The team set up shop at the JW Marriott to entertain clients and friends of DGC over margaritas, chips and guacamole, and the best darn jalapeño cornbread Austin has to offer.



Day three saw us checking out some of the week’s best brand activations and experiences. We swung by Samsung’s Studio Experience, where our colleague, Sara Ajemian, made a DGC t-shirt in its design studio. While the A&E network offered up nightly stays at a faux Bates Motel to promote its series of the same name, neighboring station National Geographic took it to the extreme with a challenge to promote its new season of “Life Below Zero.” We dared to see if we had what it takes to Escape the Cold, as the promo was called, encouraged players to find clues to get out of the room in twenty minutes working with teams of 6. It was tough going – we didn’t find the key. Brands should take note for 2016 as this was an incredible way to bridge the gap between brand experience and user interaction. It tied to “life below zero” which is a show about people living in isolation in Alaska


Other panels we checked out:

– Argonaut, an agency that’s part of Project Worldwide, had two executives on a panel: Robbie Whiting, Creative Technologist, and Garrick Schmitt, digital advisor,  who spoke to a packed house about “Malevolent Marketing.” Recap the conversation on Twitter with #letsbeevil.

– Deep Focus CMO Jamie Gutfreund cracked the code on Millennials at the Pandora Lounge, encouraging marketers to be smart about their consumer and audience. She was later joined on stage by Nana Menya, AVP of Investment Strategy of GE, whose talk on the mindset of music was equally intriguing.

– DDB’s Global Business Director Marina Zuber discussed art, tigers and an #EndangeredSong with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and on-the-rise band Portugal the Man.

Stay tuned for more!

Best Practices for Operating at the “Speed of Culture” – sparks&honey and Reebok Break it Down

As a part of Advertising Week 2014, the 4A’s hosted its Competitive Edge series on Sept. 29, bringing together top agency and brand executives to debate the value of operating at the intersection of cultural intelligence and business innovation.

The session kicked off with a video clip from the new HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” in which anchorman John Oliver explored recent examples of brands’ Twitter #fails. From the DiGiorno mixup with the trending #WhyIStayed hashtag to various brands tweeting misguided 9/11 content, the clip raised some very interesting points about when it is the right time for a brand to engage in real-time social practices.

Terry Young, CEO/Founder of ad newsroom sparks&honey, and his colleague Imari Oliver, VP, Director of Creative Strategy, and good friend, David Oksman, U.S. Marketing Director at Reebok, spoke about best practices for brands that want to operate at the “speed of culture” in a session entitled, Leading Culture and Collaboration.

Why do so many brands struggle with creating authentic social conversations? According to Young, brands need to identify places, trends, dialogue and topics that they want to be attached to as a first step. When thinking about everything that is happening in social – it can seem overwhelming and random, so brands need to sort through everything and zero in on the select areas of opportunities, he said. Moving at the “speed of culture” isn’t an easy feat but it’s essential for brands that want to be successful in today’s world.

Oksman’s advice: Brands need to be strategic rather than opportunistic.  Just like an athlete, brands can develop muscle memory when it comes to identifying trends/cultural elements to attach to  – that is what drives nimbleness, Oksman said.

Culture is the pulse of the social world and there are two types – “slow culture” and  “fast culture,” according to Young. 3D printing, autonomous cars, and the sharing economy are examples of “slow culture” – these affect companies and brands over a long term. Memes and viral videos though are examples of “fast culture” that impacts culture and consumers in the short term.

The panelists concluded that when brands are looking to operate at the “speed of culture” they should be asking themselves three things:

  • What makes sense for their brand?
  • Which aspects of real-time trends and culture are a fit with the brand’s core messaging and essence?
  • Does the brand want to enter an existing conversation or create a new one?

Because isn’t creating conversations what it’s all about?

(INSERT PICTURE FROM PANEL)  From left to right: Terry Young (CEO/Founder of sparks&honey), David Oksman (U.S. Marketing Director at Reebok) and Imari Oliver (VP, Director of Creative Strategy at sparks&honey) with panel moderator, Advertising Age reporter, Malika Toure

From left to right: Terry Young (CEO/Founder of sparks&honey), David Oksman (U.S. Marketing Director at Reebok) and Imari Oliver (VP, Director of Creative Strategy at sparks&honey) with panel moderator, Advertising Age reporter, Malika Toure

Ten Seconds Or Less

SnapChat is like The Little Engine That Could. Its rivals pulled out all of the stops to buy it, duplicate it, replace it and eradicate it – yet the network is still popular.

What’s interesting about SnapChat is its perception, which, for lack of a better term, snaps back and forth in terms of good and bad press.  The early days of SnapChat led many to believe it’s purely an app for all kids to “sext.” And every few weeks, there’s some sort of SnapChat privacy story – various articles on how safe those snaps are (or aren’t,) an actual data breach, or how legal the content of snaps may be.  In a post-Snowden world, these types of privacy breaches would be a kiss of death. Yet the network continues to persevere for its users.

Last week, SnapChat’s founders were on the cover of Forbes’ 30 under 30 – among other things, sharing how Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg essentially bullied the founders to sell to him or face extinction through Facebook’s version of the app Poke. As we now know, Poke fizzled and SnapChat thrives.

Now the startup, like many other networks in the space, is looking to monetize through advertising.  Yet the network needs to find a genuine way to make these ads happen, with content that people actually want to see.  HBO, always one of the boundary pushers in new avenues for social advertising, launched a SnapChat account tied to its popular show “Girls.” The extension is perfect for the show, as one can easily imagine the characters attempting to decipher what their potential suitors are implying by snapping emojis of pandas and guns.

While many critics, professional and amateur, are quick to remind everyone that SnapChat’s founders each passed on more than $750 million in Zuckerberg’s buyout offer, the network’s popularity among users is as great as it’s even been.  It goes to show that a brand can overcome bad press and a potentially bad reputation by sticking to the company’s brand and messaging. Yet so far, SnapChat may need to work on its sincerity when accepting its flaws, and there have been more than a few instances recently.  One could chalk up this up to the brashness of Silicon Valley hotheads – call it growing pains. Finding your voice and credibility is not easily done in today’s hyper reactive world – particularly when there can be so much on the line – and minor stories can explode into “national scandals.” That’s not to say every brand can survive bad press; it requires buzz, a dedicated following and a little bit of luck – but it is indeed possible.

We’re looking forward to following SnapChat’s business evolution in the coming weeks and months.

Creating Awareness, Acceptance of Online Tracking is Critical for the Ad Industry

In the wake of the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden revelations about online surveillance, consumers are more aware and concerned about online tracking by the government and companies alike, according to a Monday session about online privacy during the 10th annual Advertising Week.

What does this mean for marketers and agencies? Dick O’Brien, EVP, Director of Government Relations for the 4A’s trade association, said that educating the consumer public about how and why marketers want to track them online is critical to making them feel more comfortable with the practice.

“The issue hit full boil when it became clear to many people that we [the ad industry] had such incredible ability to collect and analyze data and use it for targeting purposes,” O’Brien said, adding that the days are gone when brands just hoped that ads reached the intended audience.

In the wake of the Snowden story, many people began to conflate online tracking to the totalitarianism described in the writings of George Orwell, in Brave New World and that of a dystopian, Kafkaesque future, O’Brien said. Indeed, he acknowledged what consumers describe as a “creep” factor in receiving ads that are relevant to one’s online behavior, a sentiment that makes it critical for the advertising industry to address this issue head-on.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) is working with other organizations to educate the public about the reasons the ad industry collects data. O’Brien explained that when “tracking” was put in simple terms –so football players won’t get ads for feminine hygiene products, say—and that paid advertising helps keep Web content free, people were more receptive to it.

When it’s explained to consumers that tracking allows them to receive ads about products that are relevant to them, and that ads pay for the free internet, then they understand, O’Brien said.

Click here for Dick O’Brien’s explanation about why standards for tracking must be established. 

Microsoft Unveils Insights to Complement TV Campaigns with Digital

Today at OMMA Video, Microsoft presented research conducted in conjunction with several key advertising partners and commissioned by Nielsen on how TV and online video advertising can work together to reach consumers. David Porter, Global Strategy Lead of Video at Microsoft, revealed five of the research insights in MediaPost to help brands better understand how digital video campaigns can complement a standard TV campaign.

Take a look at the article below from David Porter, global strategy lead, video at Microsoft, to learn more:

TV and online video have often been depicted as being in “platform wars” against each other.

David Porter, global strategy lead, video at Microsoft

David Porter, global strategy lead, video at Microsoft

Despite the emergence of several new screens over the last few years, television remains the most effective way for advertisers to reach an audience at scale. Yet as viewing habits evolve and more quality content becomes available online, advertisers should consider how to connect with their consumers outside the confines of the traditional living room. 

Historically, marketers have faced a number of hurdles on how to successfully evaluate TV and online video. It can be difficult to identify and target an incremental audience online. Secondly, digital screens have yet to see the meaningful scale that television has reliably provided advertisers — and until recently, consumer access to broadcast-quality premium content online was very limited. Finally, from a measurement standpoint, the industry has lacked a consistent methodology standard to measure audiences across platforms, devices and screens.

Yet TV and digital video can truly work in concert together to surround the consumer with the best of sight, sound and motion across all screens.

Microsoft, in conjunction with several key advertising partners, commissioned Nielsen to conduct research examining how TV and online video advertising can work together to achieve optimal reach, frequency and GRP metrics. After more than a year spent on research and analysis, we have revealed five practical insights that intend to help brands better understand how digital video campaigns can complement a standard TV campaign… [CONTINUE READING]

No ‘Scandal’ in Diversity and Inclusion

The 4A’s Competitive Edge series featured two panel discussions as part of Advertising Week 2012 on Oct. 3 at B.B. King’s in Times Square, and each focused on building workplace cultures of diversity and inclusion.

Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch Inc.’s New York office, was joined by Leo Preziosi, Jr., Founder and Executive Director of Live Out Loud, an advocacy group for the LGBT community. Scott Creighton, Global VP of Marketing Excellence for Johnson & Johnson (and a Deutsch client) moderated their discussion, titled, “Our Culture, Our Business, and the Domino Effect.” Deutsch also works pro bono with Live Out Loud. In the video clip, DiFebo told The Hit Board what she considers to be the single most important aspect of fostering an inclusive business culture.

The following panel discussion, “The Real Live Scandal,” featured Washington, D.C., power lawyer Judy Smith, who is the inspiration behind the main character of ABC’s hit series “Scandal.” Geri Wang, President of ABC Sales & Marketing, was also on hand, and she and Smith talked at length about how a show featuring a strong African-American female character landed on prime-time broadcast. Sallie Mars, SVP, Chief Diversity Officer at McCann Worldgroup moderated the discussion, which included insights from Mediapost’s Editor-at-Large Barbara Lippert and Deidre Smalls-Landau, EVP, Managing Director at Identity.

Executives who participated in both sessions emphasized the importance of having an inclusive culture and its positive effect on a business’s bottom line. In the video, Judy Smith explains how “Scandal” went from a concept to a highly rated drama series.

The Value of Being Mad About March Madness

While I was mad about March Madness early last month, I now find myself mad because of it. Not only did my bracket die during the Sweet Sixteen, but also my team, The Ohio State Buckeyes, lost an upsetting Final Four game over the weekend, thereby ending the season in my eyes. Yet, the same could not be said for everyone. Yesterday, our very own Erin Donahue—a graduate of the University of Kentucky—represented her team in a Wildcats shirt, while the few DGC-ers lucky enough to still be in the running for the office pool fervently discussed what it would take for them to win.

In the end, Kentucky and Dejon Mullings (the DGC office pool victor) weren’t the only winners last night. Every team that made it into the tournament won something: recognition. The nation knows about schools such as Duke, UNC, Ohio State and other big names in college basketball, but what’s great about March Madness is that it gives smaller colleges the opportunity to build buzz. Especially during a time when prospective freshmen are trying to figure out where they want to go to school.

It certainly worked for my brother four years ago. Faced with several university options, he didn’t know Davidson College was the right school for him until he witnessed the way in which it built camaraderie (bussing students to games, distributing t-shirts, hosting viewing events, etc.) around March Madness as its team made it all the way to the Elite Eight. Since then, Davidson has become much more to him than just a basketball school. He’s now a fan of the entire college offering.  

March Madness is not just a measurement of basketball prowess, but also a highly valuable marketing tool. For Kentucky, it means a championship ring. For all 64 schools that were in the running, it might also be the key ingredient in attracting a freshman class that’s just as mad about the school as it is about its basketball team.

Nature Valley makes digital debut at SXSW Mashable party

Sunday night was the highly anticipated Mashable SXSW party at a giant pool hall/bar in downtown Austin called Buffalo Billiards. As throngs of party-goers waited outside, we crept in to check out the Nature Valley Trail View

display, say hi to the creative folks at McCann who came up with it, and enjoy some “Kow-a-bunga” (an energy tea that frankly, can stay in Texas).

Nature Valley, one of the main sponsors of the event, with their team at McCann recently launched “Trail View,” a website that allows you to explore some of America’s iconic natural parks from the comfort of your computer. Think Google street view, but over miles of hiking trails in Yellowstone, the Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. The display at the Mashable party featured interactive big screen TVs where guest could explore the trails, as well as watch some of the behind-the-scenes footage of the McCann teams hiking through the great outdoors with all their cameras and equipment. The whole project took almost three months to film—not a typical assignment for a bunch of ad folks!

Nature Valley’s first big foray into the digital space is true to the brand, focusing on preserving nature while using cutting-edge technology to capture it authentically. The display had many people taking a break from beers and billiards to wander over and see what the beautiful landscapes were all about.  Congrats McCann on a successful launch!


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