Burning questions

mmm-logo-aqua-name(Title used with apologies to Feedburner)

Question: Chris, why didn’t you publish a column reviewing the marketing campaign for Coraline? Seems like a movie you would have enjoyed tackling, especially since your brother-in-law repeatedly sent you emails with links to materials to include. What up with that?

Answer: You’re absolutely right. As a matter of fact I had a column about one-third finished but just couldn’t make it come together. It’s one of those that I just couldn’t fully wrap my head around and fully embrace. It happens sometimes, even with movies I’m excited about. But apparently I had no problem embracing the He’s Just Not That Into You or the Confessions of a Shopaholic campaigns. Go figure.

Question: Does this mean I can slap you repeatedly about the head next time I see you.

Answer: Ummm…no.

Question: Does this mean you’re an un-dedicated slacker who can’t be bothered to muster up enough energy to even try to please your readers? Follow-up question: Can I get my money back?

Answer: Yes. It also means I found it easier to go for cheap laughs at the expense of big, bloated campaigns than to try to analyze a movie with some heart and soul. And no, all transactions are non-refundable.

Question: Well at least there will be a handful of new columns to tide us over during the next couple weeks, right?

Answer: Actually no. If you noticed I haven’t published any columns this week and probably won’t next week either. The movies on the schedule just weren’t that exciting. Plus, I’m already starting to work on the bloated beast that will be my Watchmen column, so you’re just going to have to wait a couple weeks.

Question: Are you serious?

Answer: Ummm…yes.

NO FURTHER QUESTIONS!

Marketing Madness in 60 Seconds: 2/19/09

static4Tools: Alan Wolk writes an opinion piece for Brandweek that rightly says widgets too often resemble the old way of thinking about advertising, in that the product being marketed gets in the way of the message. The best widgets are those that are fun for the user and actually do something interesting ASIDE FROM marketing the product or brand.

Metrics: When it comes to video marketing efforts it’s a mistake to look to old metrics to define success. While substitutions for those metrics are still being fleshed out, it’s important to look at brand engagement and such to gauge the success of your campaign.

About half of marketers aren’t using analytics at all to measure their online campaigns and many of those that are are using multiple platforms, something that can lead to confusing conclusions.

Social Media: If you’re just beginning with social media Matt Dickman recommends you spend at least two hours a day listening, engaging and discovering and then expand from there as you feel you can or want to.

David Griner shares a slideshow on social media marketing he presented to a trade group recently that’s filled with good nuggets of wisdom, both anecdotal and in the form of hard statistics.

Email, social networking and SEO are the three common themes hit in the MarketingSherpa report outlined here.

The list of companies who are tops in terms of social media executions according to Abrams Research shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Fantastic chart of how many PR agencies who are promoting themselves as being social-media savvy are engaging in social media themselves.

Demographics: Wii is more popular among women and young children but not hard-core gamers. Xbox360 tends to attract those looking for additional features like social interaction and movie downloading. Playstation3 is most likely to be owned by the same people who bought previous versions. All this and more here.

Media: Nielsen has released its report on how the top 15 newspaper websites did as measured by unique visitors in 2008.

Advertising: Yahoo has begun introducing video and image ads in search results. Yahoo has long counted on their image ad abilities to keep them afloat, which makes me wonder why it took this long to get this rolled out.

Industry News: Paddison signs Wingnut, Sony hires Pavlic and more

agency-chair-bigThe new agency setup by Gordon Paddison, Stradella Road, has signed a deal to oversee all digital brand efforts for Wingnut Films, the production house of director Peter Jackson. While he was still at New Line Films Paddison was one of those working on the online marketing for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Sony Pictures has brought Michael Pavlic back into the fold. Pavlic will assume the title of Senior VP of Creative Advertising at the studio and will oversee the campaigns for Sony’s upcoming slate of films as well as TV projects.

Those receiving Les Mason Awards – awards given to outstanding publicity work – are acknowledging that the Internet’s tendency to spread information (rightly or wrongly) quickly means their jobs are a lot harder.

The Director’s Guild of America has hired a new media research firm to help it compile statistics on, well, new media as part of its negotiations with studios.

Marketing Madness in 60 Seconds: 2/18/09

static3Advertising: Jeffrey Rayport at BusinessWeek takes a while to get there because he’s busy laying the ground for his argument but eventually gets to the point of saying cost-per-action or cost-per-click advertising is the future of the online ad market. They have higher rates and advertisers only pay when a positive action is taken.

Brian Morrisey (rightly) pegs “culture” as one of the primary stumbling blocks to true innovation in the advertising industry. As long as that culture holds to what’s been done and doesn’t adapt to what’s actually happening the advertising industry can never truly come into the new media world.

Terry Heaton points out how the same problems are facing both the media and advertising world as he tries to answer the question, “What if there is no equilibrium?”

Mobile: Mobile advertising still faces some hurdles but there’s a ton of other behaviors that mobile technology will enable or make easier.

Social Media: Susan Getgood advises marketers to look at the potential benefits of social bookmarking sites. Those benefits, though, are dependent on the marketers being respectful of the communities there and making sure they’re looking closely enough at the metrics to see what’s working and what’s not.

A really good primer on the state of social media marketing at SearchEngineWatch.

Scout Labs is the latest company to join the social media monitoring market. The company has been in limited testing of its low-cost monitoring solution for a little while and is now opening up to the wider audience.

Social Networking: Facebook has reverted to its old Terms of Service after a very loud outcry over concerns the social network would own people’s content. This is about the fifth time Facebook has adopted the “Introduce with no communication, act surprised by the backlash and backtrack” approach, usually followed by the company doing it anyway.

Marketing Madness in 60 Seconds: 2/17/09

static2Social Networking: Max Kalehoff shares an example of how marketing his company through his personal Twitter account both felt better and produced better results than his previous attempts at doing so through a corporately branded account.

With all the hubbub about Twitter creating a brand level of user on the service, Jay Krall at Cision has a list of some of the features that would be good to see for such accounts.

Media: The Washington Post has added a recommendation widget to their site that is meant to expose related stories from both the paper and other outside sites. Unless I’m missing something it doesn’t seem all that different from the usual “related stories” box that’s been on newspaper sites since forever but, again, I might be missing something.

Advertising: TargetSpot, which sells ads for online streaming radio stations, showed remarkable growth in December of 2008. That could be a sign the format is coming of age and beginning to be taken seriously by buyers.

The shifting of ad dollars online by kids-oriented brands means good news for the biggest kids-oriented sites. That’s despite the fact that a smaller percentage of those dollars are being allocated as part of deals that integrate both online and television advertising buys as has been the case much of the time in the past.

Brian Morrisey at Adweek writes about a new initiative involving SpotRunner, Google and Microsoft called “Malibu.” The project is an attempt to bring the efficiences of online ad buying to the TV commercial world. It’s something that’s been tried before with varying degrees of success (mostly negative) but I guess these three feel they can succeed where others have failed.

Brightroll’s Lewis Rothkopf is absolutely right: When people start curbing their online usage because of usage caps put in place by their ISPs it will have an incredibly huge – and hugely negative – on the online marketing world. You know those commercials about people worrying about their cellphone minutes? Now imagine that, except with people counting their Internet minutes. Ad rates will be absolutely decimated for anything running after the 15th of the month.

Email marketing continues to dominate the minds of marketing executives, with the biggest percentage of respondents to this survey saying it will be a priority.

Journosometingoranother

I’m all in favor of The Chicago Tribune re-dedicating itself to fighting corruption in the state of Illinois and shining the light of day on the dirty deeds done very expensively that have become part and parcel of this state’s government.

But the fact remains that such a declaration only serves to highlight how bad both the citizens and the press in the state let it get.

It’s the job of the press to look for “the truth” not just reprint both side’s reactions to a particular issue. They – and by “they” I mean the press at large, not just the Trib – failed to act as the public’s advocates and information source and that’s a big part of the problem we now find ourselves in.

So go out there – do your job. We should all be more vigilant, but without accurate reporting the citizenry isn’t fully equipped to hold our elected officials accountable, either at the ballot box or in the courts.

DVD Review: Make ‘Em Laugh – The Funny Business of America

make-em-laugh-dvdThe excellent PBS documentary Make ‘Em Laugh – The Funny Business of America has been released on DVD and it’s among the best things I’ve watched in a good long while.

Each of the series’ six episodes covers a different type of comedy styling. With episodes that cover “The Wiseguys” and “The Groundbreakers” and other categories of comedy each one features an encyclopedic overview of the history of comedy in America. From Laurel and Hardy to the Marx Brothers to Steve Martin to Buster Keaton to Saturday Night Live and everything in-between, the series not only contains interviews with comedians and historians but a huge amount of archival footage as well.

Make ‘Em Laugh is a must-see if you have any sense of historical knowledge of American comedy or are looking to educate yourself in this field. If you know all these acts you’ll have a blast reliving some classic skits and film footage. If you don’t this is a fantastic primer on some of the all-time greatest comedic moments in the world of film, television, Vaudeville, radio and everything else.

This is the kind of series I can see watching again and again simply to enjoy the footage that is strewn throughout it. Own it, rent it, borrow it – do whatever you have to do to check it out again and again.

DVD Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

jsbstash_2037_469943Zack and Miri Make a Porno might be director Kevin Smith’s most accessible movie to date, even while it also seems like the one that least carries many of Smith’s defining characteristics.

The story takes two childhood friends, Zack and Miri, who have known each other since grade school and who currently live with each other – though in a non-sexual manner – as they find themselves in the middle of a financial problem. With little income and a lot of bills the two find inspiration to their difficulties at a horrendously uncomfortable high school reunion.

That solution? They’ll make a low-budget porno. Hence the movie’s title.

They recruit a hodge-podge of friends to help them make their movie. A co-worker of Zack’s becomes the producer because he’s the only one with money. A high school friend with a video camera becomes the cameraman. And a couple of ladies – portrayed by actual porn stars – become the stars in the movie.

In-between the problems with production that provide much of the movie’s comedy Zack and Miri provide the movie with it’s heart and emotional resonance. These two have known each other for 20+ years and never had a romantic relationship but decide, of course, that it’s going to be the least weird if they have sex on-screen. They just need to convince themselves that it’s not going to impact their friendship. But of course it does and it’s not hard to predict where the story will lead them to.

Zack and Miri doesn’t play like a Kevin Smith movie. By that I mean many of Smith’s verbal ticks are downplayed in the writing, or at least they’re less prevalent in the hands of the actors he’s cast here. While there’s an abundance of jokes about people’s private parts and a huge-honking Star Wars reference, it’s handled a little bit more deftly than is usually the case in his movies. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, portraying the titular couple, bring their own style to the characters and makes Smith’s dialogue flow in a way that it hasn’t really been able to in prior films. That’s not a knock against them – I’m a huge Smith fan – but it just works on a different level in Zack and Miri than it has previously.

The movie is now available as a two-disc DVD set. On disc one you’ll find just the movie. On disc two you’ll find a wealth of extras, including the “Money Shots” webisodes that were released on line during the film’s production and a collection of bloopers, ad libs and other fun outtakes.

The best part of the extra features, though, is “Popcorn Porn,” an hour-and-a-half documentary that chronicles the film from inception through the much-documented battle over ratings with the MPAA. This is absolutely the best thing (other than the movie) included in the set and I definitely recommend watching it after you watch the feature.

Marketing Madness in 60 Seconds: 2/13/09

static5Retail: Research from Webvisible and Nielsen shows that far too many small retail businesses are not fully utilizing online marketing tools, including search, despite that being the primary way consumers are looking for information on local businesses.

You’d think that Microsoft’s plans to open retail stores would be hampered by the fact that Microsoft doesn’t have many products that are going to be strong enough draws for consumers. It’s not a horrible idea, but it only really works if Microsoft takes some level of product offering out of mass retailers like Best Buy and Target.

Really, Starbucks? Instant coffee?

Advertising: Fox continues to get press for their “fewer commercial breaks” strategy as the network expands it from “Fringe” to now include tonight’s premiere of Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse.”

A month after shutting down Print Ads, Google is now shuttering their Radio Ads division, saying it was a risk that simply didn’t pan out.

I think I completely missed the news that out-of-home advertising company Reactrix had shut down in December. That’s too bad since I liked them a lot and thought they were doing some cool stuff.

Search: Interesting numbers on how video has become more prominent on the first page of Google results. Some good tips – as well as cautionary notes – for marketers looking to get their vidoes there and what they can realistically expect in terms of results and conversions.

Social Networking: Facebook continues its solid growth, now competing for the title of top social media site.