Archive for the ‘Marketing Partnerships’ Category

News outlets make news. But to make money, they wrap that news in advertising.

Anybody else see a disconnect?

As we all know, advertising revenues are down as advertisers shift their dollars to more attractive media channels. And not every newspaper, least of all the NY Times, will be saved by the influx in erotic advertising that is resulting from Craig’s List’s ban described in this article on Adotas.

So I have a suggestion. Newspapers should climb out onto the leading edge of the micro-payments industry in this country and charge us for the news we so desperately need the same way they used to pay their reporters:  by the word.

I wonder what would happen if the NY Times wrote an open letter to all its readers in all formats (print, online, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) explaining that the old advertising model no longer supports the costs of news gathering, and asking us to opt-in to a micro-payments structure that has users pay for content by the word or article.

After all, we pay for our music by the song or album at iTunes and Amazon. Users pay for their apps, too, at the iPhone store.

Maybe our news will cost us 100th of a penny per word — I don’t pretend to know — but there’s a number that would be worth paying to get accurate, valuable journalism, fed into our brains by whatever method we choose.

Faced with the alternative — disappearing like The Rocky Mountain News, turning into an online blog like The Tucson Citizen, or going Chapter 11 like the Chicago Tribune — would the stakeholders of the Times keep the “Old Gray Lady” afloat?

Advertisers could play along too. They could buy prepaid content credits that they would give to their target consumers  — as premiums, promotions, free-downloads, usage credits, rewards points, membership discounts or rewards. When a reader used credits, if they were sponsored, they would see their sponsor’s message.

From a reader’s perspective, it would look like this: Whenever I logged onto the Times website (or followed a Twitter link (A Twink?) etc.) I’d get a screen with that day’s advertisers’ offers. I’d pick a sponsor, they’d pay, I’d get my news, and they’d get my eyeballs. Maybe by the article, maybe by the day, maybe by bandwidth, whatever. (Hey, if Bank of America brought me my NY Times content for free, I’d gladly sit through their pre-rolls.)

These prepaid blocks would represent reliable chunks of income that could be sold through a digital auction model or on an upfront basis, or a combination of both (digital auction for the any inventory left over after the up front sales). A major advertiser could work out a promotion with Amazon that every large format Kindle would come with a sponsored year-long subscription to the Times.

Forwards to a friend could represent extra eyeballs for the advertiser, or extra charges, depending on the media buy.

It is frequently said that people don’t value what they get for free. While that may not always be true, it is true that the Internet has changed people’s cost/value perceptions as it pertains to news.

I am a news junkie. I stopped reading printed newspapers long ago, mostly because they’re outdated the minute they’re printed. And I’m ingesting more of my news online or on my phone rather than be continuously disappointed by cable and network news (which I am watching less frequently). Online, I can get better news faster. And much of that news comes from the NY Times. But I usually only notice the publisher after I’ve read the article, if at all. I frequently don’t even notice whose article it is I’m reading on Google News. Or Digg. Or a tweet.

So, in my desperate search for news, would I be willing to pay for that NY Times article? I would if, like E-ZPass, it was effortless to do. Would I sometimes choose an article from the competition if it were cheaper? Depends on the organization. (After all, I have always had the option to buy a Post or Daily News rather than a Times, and yet rarely did so.) More importantly, would I sit through ads for the sponsored version if it were free? I would.

Format-wise, news gathering and dissemination is wonderfully adaptable to large-format Kindles, Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and more.

But what will happen to the dead trees, and all the personnel associated with their destruction, rebirth, and delivery as newsprint?

Since we’re attempting to reinsert value into the equation, let’s look at it in those terms. Would people find enough value in the printed version to pay more for it? Might the printed version of the Times became such a status symbol that some people would happily pay more to make a conspicuously consumptive statement?

Where is the tipping point? Could the Times sustain a print edition at $10 per copy? Remember, under this model they’re already paying for news-gathering and editing with micro-payments. The printed version just needs to carry its own weight. And if it can’t, then I’m sorry for all those workers along the non-value chain, but it’s time for retraining.

So what do you think? Am I crazy, or could this work? And if so, can someone please explain to me why the NY Times isn’t already doing it?

“You can have anything you want, but you better not take it from me. ”                                 Welcome to the Jungle,  Guns N’ Roses

“I’m a pepper, he’s a pepper, she’s a pepper, we’re a pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too?”    Dr. Pepper

As you read this, Dr. Pepper finds itself in a sticky mess, entirely of its own making. This past March, Dr. Pepper declared that if Guns N’ Roses finally finished its album “Chinese Democracy” before the end of the year, Dr. Pepper would give a free soda to everyone in the country.

It probably seemed like a safe bet at the time:  Axl Rose had been working on Chinese Democracy for 13 years, an estimated $11 million dollar pipe-dream. The album had itself become a symbol of what the name implied:  something that was inevitable, but in no way imminent.

Well, G N’ R finished the album and released it on November 23, exclusively through Best Buy.

And so the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (the company that makes Dr. Pepper) had to live up to its promise to give a 20 oz. soda to everyone in America. They intended to do this by allowing consumers to go to their website for a 24-hour period and download a coupon for the free pop. With the US population estimated at over 300 million, that means that to realistically deliver on their promise, if they ever had any intention of doing that, would have required their servers to handle an average of 12,500,000 hits an hour, or 208,333 hits a minute, or 3,472 hits a second.

Needless to say, their servers crashed and the site went down. Good thing, too, because I truly doubt Dr. Pepper’s ability to produce 300 million cans of soda by February, 2009, when the free offer redemption would end.

But I’m not here to write about a botched promotion. No, I’m here to write about a dishonest one.

You see, when Dr. Pepper first announced the promotion, Axl Rose said he was “surprised and very happy to have the support of Dr. Pepper with our album, ‘Chinese Democracy,’ as for us, this came totally out of the blue.” as reported in the LA Times.

And according to Reuters, Guns N’ Rose’s attorney Alan Guttman has written to Dr. Pepper’s CEO, saying, “that the original campaign was an “exploitation of my clients’ legendary reputation and their eagerly awaited album” and “brazenly violated our clients’ rights.” He is also seeking an “appropriate payment … for the unauthorized use and abuse of their publicity and intellectual property rights,” with the threat of further action if an acceptable offer is not made… The entire point of your campaign has been to use public interest in Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses as a lure to increase consumer awareness of Dr Pepper.” He further states that “mocking undertones” in the online promotional content represent a “raw and damaging commercial exploitation of our clients’ rights,” adding that the association is “even more damaging in light of your shoddy execution of your disingenuous giveaway offer.”

Sounds like G N’ R had nothing to do with the promotion, right?

That may not exactly be the case according to Rolling Stone, who today reported that the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group claims that Guns N’ Roses’ own management group first approached them about a promotion, and Axl expressed support for the promotion.

But whether Guns N’ Roses knew or not, nobody is claiming that the band got paid for the promotion. And that’s the part that’s got me bubbling. After all, if 3-M stealing the Post-It Note covered car idea can get me annoyed, just think what Dr. Pepper’s public and parasitic theft of Axl’s thunder means to me.

Who at the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group decided that it would be okay to do a promotion based on an album release without compensating the band?  Are celebrities and their work now fair game?  Can I put a picture I take of Tiger Woods in an ad for Adidas? What about taking a picture of new Cover Girl Ellen Degeneres and put her in an ad for Maybelline?  Can I use a band’s songs or an artist’s painting in a commercial without paying for the right to do it? No, companies have to pay when they associate advertising and promotions with celebrities and their creativity. (Or at least get permission, as John McCain found out time after time with song after song in his campaign.)

Did they think that because they were wrapping the promotion around an event — the long awaited release of the album — rather than the actual album meant they could get away without paying? Because if they did, does that mean I can run a public, high profile promotion based on the Super Bowl? I think the NFL lawyers might have something to say about that. JK Rowling is releasing a new book tomorrow. Can I run a national promotion based on the book’s release?  People pay to sponsor and be involved with high profile events.

Maybe Dr. Pepper got confused and thought they were doing Axl Rose a favor in some perverse form of cause related marketing. (Way back in 1983 American Express ran a groundbreaking cause related marketing program for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. And although they raised $1.7 million for the project, they actually weren’t an official sponsor of the project and never paid to be one.) But when you attach yourself to a non-profit through cause related marketing, the non-profit gets something for the association, usually in the form of contribution.

Or maybe it all just started as a dumb joke that grew out of control, and Dr. Pepper thinks they can wave it off. (Oh wait, they’re not waving anything off.  According to the LA Times, a spokesman released a statement that actually said “This was one of the largest responses we have ever received for a giveaway, and we’re happy we were able to satisfy the thirst of so many Dr Pepper fans.”)

No, I’m sorry, but I still can’t figure out a way to see this that doesn’t have Dr. Pepper trying to cash in on the creativity and reputation of someone else without compensating them for the relationship. But maybe I’m being stubborn and shortsighted.

So can someone please explain to me — ideally someone from Dr. Pepper Snapple Group — what exactly they thought they would gain by this ill conceived, poorly executed, and ultimately exploitative promotion?

Back on July 10th, in my post “Is Obama Going To The Dogs?” I wrote about the Presidential Pup website where the AKC was holding an election to decide which dog the Obama girls should get. I wrote in glowing terms about what I thought was an excellent and timely marketing partnership.

And a successful one… at least for the AKC. Since they started, there have been 42,000 votes and a clear spike in traffic. According to Quantcast, site visits to AKC.org, which were hovering around 2.5 million before the start of the promotion at the beginning of July rose sharply over that month to a high of about 2.8 million in early August, only to drop again to their pre-promotion level by late August.

By the way, the Poodle won the election.

So when President-elect Obama mentioned his canine promise to his girls in his acceptance speech, I fully expected there to be some connection to the AKC partnership, at least in the days ahead.

Empathetically, I thought, if I were the AKC marketing director, and Obama didn’t mention our partnership at this global-attention focal point, I’d feel a bit ripped off. Talk about a missed opportunity. The whole reason to do a marketing partnership like that with a highly public cause is for the attention it brings. Even more problematic, he mentioned shelter dogs, not exactly the territory the AKC tends to pee in.

I went to the Obama site. Nothing about the AKC and the Presidential Pup site.

I just spent the last week at Ad:Tech listening to all the ways in which the Obama campaign has rewritten the rules of online marketing. According to Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy Mather Worldwide, the Obama campaign is the “best CRM campaign that has ever been run.”  For the Obama campaign to be involved in a marketing partnership and not to mention it on their site isn’t a mistake, it’s an impossibility.

So then I went to the Presidential Pup site at the AKC.  The site landing pages were updated on November 5th to reflect Obama’s victory and discuss his public reiteration of his promise to his girls. The site discusses the voting, and goes on to say “We hope the Obamas consider the survey results,” said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson.

“We hope”?  “Considers”?  That didn’t exactly sound like a partnership to me, and it certainly didn’t sound like the tone of the original site.

Somebody at the AKC is definitely on the ball, though. In addition to the speed with which they updated their landing page, the page has a picture of two adorable poodle pups with the headline “A Pair of Poodles for Pennsylvania Avenue” and the caption which partially reads “A pair of six-week-old Toy Poodle puppies rescued by Flora’s Pet Project/Poodle Rescue Connecticut visited the American Kennel Club offices in Manhattan today to be photographed in hopes of catching the attention of the Obama family. The pups will be available for new homes in early January. They can be adopted by contacting…”

That’s great marketing. Obama specifically mentioned shelter dogs, so the AKC adds the “rescue dog” element to make their efforts more relevant. (As I recall, there was no mention of rescue dogs the first time around.)

They’re also spreading a wide net to attract attention. They made sure to mention that it was reported that Veep-Elect Biden has said his wife told him that if he got the vice presidency and got elected, he could get a dog. This too is good internet marketing, adding additional key words and relevance;  last time, they made sure they got the McCains in the story as well.

The site goes on to say “No matter what breed the Obamas or Bidens choose, the AKC hopes they can assist both families. “I would be happy to personally assist Obama and Biden in identifying a responsible breeder if they are looking for a puppy,” said AKC President & CEO Dennis Sprung”

The first site really made it seem like the Obama’s were along for the ride.  But now, it’s clear that wasn’t the case.

Nearly a decade ago, in our book, Making Money While Making a Difference, Dr. Richard Steckel and I wrote about the dangers of misleading the public when it comes to cause related marketing.  It’s only gotten worse since.  When you pretend to be helping a cause or when you aid and abet consumers in reaching the conclusion that you are aligned with a cause or group when you are really just trying to cash in on their publicity, you are in danger of a serious, negative backlash.

If the AKC were aligned with Obama, wouldn’t he have mentioned it in one of his long and involved post-acceptance speech statements about the promised pooch?

If this were the marketing partnership it seemed to be, then wouldn’t Obama have mentioned it at least once during the many times he’s had to address this overwhelmingly important issue since winning the nomination?

It’s not his fault if the issue keeps coming up: I mean, our economy is in the tank, the mid-East is loping towards a meltdown, attack dog Rahm Emanuel is the chief of staff of the face of change, and the press keeps wasting our time on shaggy dog stories.

Oh wait, so am I.

No, I’m not.

According to Wikipedia, “Shaggy dog stories play upon the audience’s preconceptions of the art of joke telling. The audience listens to the story with certain expectations, which are either simply not met or met in some entirely unexpected manner.” While I don’t claim that the AKC intended to amuse us, I do think their whole presidential pup story is a bad joke with utterly unmet expectations and an unexpected conclusion.

I’m writing about a marketing disconnect. A missed opportunity. Or, more likely, a misleading one. Just another example of misleadership, this one on the part of the AKC.

What do you think?  Can someone please explain to me whether the AKC is practicing good marketing or misleadership?

Even though this post is going to be about Barack Obama and an election, there’s nothing political about it. I just heard about an interesting marketing partnership. Barack Obama and the American Kennel Club (AKC) are asking people to vote on who the “First Dog” should be should Senator Obama become president. There’s a website with the vanity url www.presidentialpup.com where you can vote for one of 5 dogs chosen to match the special requirements of the presidential life, such as “Must be able travel on Air Force One.” Also, Senator Obama’s two children are allergic, so the dogs must be hypoallergenic.

When I first heard of this, I thought it was pandering, that Obama was getting a dog just to win the critically important canine vote.

Then I went to the site. I saw that the site was apolitical, and balanced. The site also points out that Senator McCain and his wife have 24 pets including 4 dogs, but that this will be the Obama’s first dog.

According to the AKC, Senator Obama promised his daughters that after the election they could get a dog, win or lose. The site has links to the 5 dogs up for “election” as well as two breeds of McCain dogs, but being the AKC, they conveniently leave out a profile of his mixed breed canine Coco!

I saw the way the AKC is using the opportunity for education, pointing out that after the decision to get a dog, the next most important decision is the type of dog you get. Breed characteristics are critically important. (As my wife and I ponder a dog for our own family, we’ve been learning about the pros and cons of different breeds. For instance, as much as we love Bernese Mountain Dogs, they’re not the right dog for an urban apartment!)

By the time I was done checking out the site, I realized I loved this marketing partnership. Obama gets publicity, and his daughters get a dog. The AKC creates a buzzworthy opportunity to educate, inform and build brand awareness.

But there is one aspect of the promotion that bothers me. There are 5 breeds of dog in the running for First Pup: Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, Miniature Schnauzer, Poodle and Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. Now, it doesn’t bother me that there’s not an American breed to be found in this bunch of foreigners. And I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I can’t stand any of the candidates except the Wheaten.

No, my question concerns Obama’s two daughters and the oftentimes questionable taste of the electorate.

Can someone please explain to me how the Obama girls are going to feel if the public elects a dog they can’t stand?