Category Archives: advertising

Billboards: The Good, The Bad & the Sales Reps

I’ve used billboards for our institution for about 25 years.  They’re effective if the message is simple in a dynamic design.  But there are many other things to consider, which I know from good and bad experience.

Do not buy a board unless you know these things:

Its location.  If it’s on the left side of the road you’re traveling, it’s probably a waste.  It’s too far away from the traveler, and most of us don’t look to the left when driving unless we’re quick-checking scenery.

If it’s on the right and too far away, it will be glanced at and not processed.

Even with a board in a good location on a highway, you’re traveling 55-65  miles an hour.  You have 4-6 seconds to see and process it.  The image has to be grabbing and the message has to be brief and dynamic.

If you have too many words it won’t be read at all (a standard rule for anything but really important for billboards).

Do not give complete faith to billboard sales reps.  They’re under pressure to fill the blank space. A sales rep I’ve dealt with for years  pushed a board on an interstate. Great deal.   I asked him to send me a photo of it.  He did.  It appeared to be close to the right side of the highway with a long visual reach.

I bought it.  My graphic artist created a dynamic design.

A colleague drove by and took a picture of it.  Turns out it was actually down over a bank and was visible for a second or two.  The company photographer had walked down the bank and taken a picture of it, making it look like it was next to the highway.

It also turned out that  our president also saw it and was outraged at the rip-off.  My credibility with him was damaged.

My rep claimed he knew nothing about how it was presented to us.

A second board was presented in the same way.  It was smaller but closer to the road.  The problem: the board was behind a small hill and what appeared to have a seven second view was actually about two seconds.

For the most part, sales reps are not trustworthy.  Boards in prime locations go for top dollar.  If a rep tells you he can give you a good deal on a board, it’s because it’s in a bad location and not selling well.

The reps are under pressure to keep the board filled just as radio and TV needs to fill “inventory” and web sites need to sell “real estate” or whatever the latest term is.

With billboards, you need to scout the location yourself if possible.  If you’re doing something out of your area, you need a guarantee that the board is in a good location, and I don’t know how you do this.  We bought a board out of the area where the rep figured we would never see it.  It just happened that an employee was a native of that area and drove by it.  The board  was in a field so far away that the message was barely visible.

For billboards, the message and design is your responsibility.  The rest is up to the reps and with them I give a nod to the X Files:

Trust No One.

 

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The Successful Message: Sincere & Relevant

Our president, Fran Hendricks, is a retired Air Force brigadier general and a 1979 graduate of our university .
A sincere Veterans Day message from him seemed like it would be appreciated by veterans and non-veterans alike. We wrote a script and he edited it. We shot it with a single camera in his office with the U.S. and Pennsylvania flags behind him. These were not props. They’re part of his office.
He speaks straight into the camera. We cut to B-roll of photos of MU graduates and area veterans from all branches.
It ends with him saying: “Veterans, thank you,” and a salute. We fade to an image of  raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
The music carrying it is “America the Beautiful.”
I had put a lot of thought behind this before we even started. We did not want him in uniform. He is a university president. But after serving the country for 33-years, Fran Hendricks is very much a soldier, and always will be. It’s a source of pride to him, faculty, students, staff, alumni and area residents.
Hendricks is a humble man and I knew that a “message from the president” would not pass muster. He’s a service-oriented person and the university is the greater body that he now serves. The message would be from Mansfield University.
Most importantly, there was no sales pitch. I repeat for all of you PR folks who need reinforcement for your superiors: no sales pitch. No website at the end telling veterans or potential students to check us out. It is a message, pure and simple, of appreciation to veterans and current service people.
The results were heartwarming, inspiring and revealing. We posted it on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Our ultra-savvy web person, John Maslar, targeted veterans and bases in a five-state circumference, as well as alumni and students
His stats show show that in a five day period, the video:
-was seen by 125,000 Facebook/Twitter users;
-was shared on Facebook 75 times;
-earned more than 700 likes;
-was retweeted 8 times
-Between likes/views/shares/retweets/clicks, we had about 2,500 interactions.
As John points out: “that’s 18 cents per person who took the time to read and interact with the message.”
The video worked for several reasons:
-It is succinct (1:12);
-Hendricks is straightforward and sincere;
-the message is simple and direct;
-There is no “extra message.”
It gained us appreciation from students, alumni, staff, faculty, constituents and introduced us to new audiences.
Yes, you can count on one hand the number of colleges who have a retired general as a president, but every college has a special person who can convey a relevant message on an appropriate occasion.
Just be clear, concise and don’t pollute it. A clean message has its own halo effect that lasts for years.

In other words, make the salute sincere.

“Disrupted” Author Gives Advice on iGen Marketing

My last post was a review of Disrupted, which I  like a lot. So does my president. He told his cabinet members to read it. At a recent conference of college presidents, he recommended it to his colleagues.

I’ve recommended to everyone in the business.
I sought out author Stefan Pollack to do a Huffington Post piece about it. You can check out the full article there or just cut to our question/answer session below. Stefan kindly indulged me last week while he was on vacation.

Five questions about his findings and the future of marketing/advertising.
1. Why have you labeled people born after 1994 the “iGen generation?
Until now, most circles have labeled this generation Z, but based upon my observations there is enough of a generation gap between Y and this generation, that they needed a proper title. iGen describes quite a bit in just a few letters: they are inherently mobile, they value individuality, they are unique compared to the working generations of Y, Z and Boomers. The name also implicitly nods to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, which, among other forces, helped instigate the great communications disruption of the last decade, empowering this generation to lead brands into a consumer-controlled environment.
2. How large is the disruption created by this new consumer generation?
To be clear, while iGen has certainly created a disruption in the marketing world, the reality is they are natives of a post-disrupted environment. They don’t know a world apart from this intuitively mobile and consumer-driven one in which we currently live. iGen grew up knowing they have the entirety of human knowledge on small devices in their pockets. The consequences are staggering. Never before could a generation completely and totally omit a brand from their consumer decision-making process—they can find out anything and everything without consuming one iota of traditional media or brand-controlled messaging. This is probably the largest disruption our industry has ever witnessed.
3. What do companies and colleges need to do to communicate with these consumers?
The most important thing brands can do is listen. Identify the target audience and listen to them, learn their behaviors, their wants and needs, and deduce how a brand or message can coexist or nurture that lifestyle—then a brand or message will be relevant to iGen. Additionally, companies can identify influencers that iGen already listens to and capture their attention with a message, however they will concede control of the message once the influencer becomes an advocate.
4. What do we need to keep them?
Simple: be transparent, authentic, and honest. iGen and digital natives are the bloodhounds of consumers—they can spot disingenuous marketing long before it reaches them. However, once a brand or idea is embraced by iGen, they become fearless advocates and behave as influencers in their vast networks.
5. What will advertising and marketing look like in five years?
At the velocity of current trends, advertising and marketing will need to adapt to correct for the massive ad-avoidance rates. Now that people are mobile, their attention is moving from TV and print to their devices. Mobile marketing will continue to be a leading force in the industry, but it will need to be targeted—both demographically and geographically. Specific niches, such as video and music streaming, augmented reality, and location-based promotions, have tremendous potential for success. iGen is not adverse to marketing or advertising as long as it is relevant and authentic. The days of sandblasting a controlled message and hoping that enough of it sticks are over. Marketers must be accurate with their analysis of target audiences and use only tools that appeal to them.

“Disrupted” Should Shake You, Wake You

For years, as a PR professional, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get to high school and college students. I imagined them surrounded by a bubble I couldn’t pierce.
Stefan Pollack explains this generation’s communications world in Disrupted. It’s clear, direct and commendably presents his findings without offering “easy”  answers.
The iGen generation, as he labels it, has created the biggest shakeup in communications in generations. The iGens are those born after 1994 who have never known a world without computers,  parents without mobile devices, and who want their information now and know how to get it instantly.
If it takes more than an instant, it’s too long.
They don’t need to memorize old facts because they curate.
Pollack credits Apple for changing the way we communicate through the introduction of the iPod, which revolutionized the way we buy music and ushered the downfall of record stores, iPhone, and the iPad which signaled the downfall of desktops and laptops. He doesn’t give enough credit to the almost simultaneous appearance of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix, which share in the apocalyptic shift in the way we buy, read, listen, communicate and overthrow countries.
This is a minor complaint. Pollack is right. The revolution has happened.
iGen was born into the technology and with unwitting naturalness changed all the rules overnight.
Radio ruled for decades, dictating music we should listen to, infested by commercials. TV fed us nightly shows interrupted by commercials. Newspapers and magazines created cover and inside stories dotted by ads. The book industry told us what we should read. Period.
All are now in death gasps.
The traditional media, gatekeepers of news and scripting what’s important, are gone. iGens, now their own gatekeepers, allow in what’s relevant to them. If they accept it, they share it with their friends, the “infinite touch points.”
If they find you relevant and approve, you may succeed.

If they find you irrelevant, or worse, dishonest, they can injure or even destroy you by simply and instantly spreading the word.
Blasting ads at this generation is a waste of time and money. Relevance and interactivity is the only way to communicate.
And they want humor.
Over the past couple months I’ve found myself recommending Disrupted to members of various boards that I’m on, to my university president, to colleagues. All of us in the marketing world know traditional media is dead to those under 50. Disrupted presents its findings and explains how iGen is  communicating and if you don’t get on board – not just with the social media but understanding the way they’re  thinking, seeing the world and acting in it – you are a historical footnote.
At lunch recently, I ran these ideas past a 17-year-old female songwriter who’s going to college to major in philosophy. She nodded in agreement and added: “I Google things I’m interested in so I’ll get Google and Facebook ads about them.”
Read that sentence until it sinks in. They don’t complain about advertising. They invite brands that interest them.
And Brand, once you’re in, you’d better be real, relevant, transparent, have a sense of humor and a social conscience.
Disrupted passed the iGen test.  It’s the Bible for today’s marketing.

Pinterest: Evolution Means You’re Not In Control

We in the marketing business are shameless users, snatching  the latest social media hit which always starts out as a fun, sharing platform among students, hobbyists, musicians, grandparents.

As soon as we see it grab traction, we jump on the machine  to see if we can steer it toward our purposes.

But in the beginning, we never have control of the steering wheel or the direction.

Pinterest is the latest platform exploding onto the scene.  Its mission is  to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.”

Wikipedia also reports that for “January 2012 comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique U.S. visitors, making it the fastest site ever to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark.”
Recently there was an interesting CUPRAP thread (CUPRAP is the world’s best organization for PR and marketing folks.)
There were many questions.  Who uses Pinterest?  What is the ROI?  Who is the  target audience?
It’s too early to ask these questions.   We’re in new territory.  Study it, play with it and experiment.
Seven years and a universe ago,  MU gained international attention for its use of podcasting. Now it’s not in the news but tens of millions of people listen to podcasts. Facebook was a college game and evolved into a $100 billion business.
Is Pinterest headed in the same direction?  My guess is yes.
Remember, we, the marketers are the intruders. Pinterest started as a site where people (mainly women) shared recipes, patterns, quilts.
It grew quickly  into much more and now we’re trying to make it work for us.
Don’t try to control it. You can’t. Social media evolves itself. Don’t ask right now what your target audience is. The target audience finds you if you do it right. Don’t ask what the ROI is. The target audience delivers it if you do it right.
How do you do it right?  You experiment.

As Mike Moran says Do It Wrong, Quickly.

We’re exploring Pinterest  at Mansfield and I’m experimenting with it personally.  UW Tacoma has a good site with variety and a sense of play, and other schools are fast joining the party.

Forget the “suit” questions right now.

Have fun and make sure your boards — interesting and substantive —  are there when your audience comes searching for  for you.

Pinterest: Have Fun, Keep It Real

I’m seeing Pinterest as a new wave viewbook.  Granted, high school students and parents haven’t caught up with it, but then, neither have colleges.

Our current viewbooks and recruiting materials are our packaged goods using  the old media philosophy of “this is who we are and we hope we can sell you on who we say we are.”

Pinterest offers a new slice of the 2.0+ philosophy.  The 2.0 language is: “This is who we are and we invite you to join in our discussions.”  The new spin is “this is who we are and we invite you to share our pictures/videos and comments.”

A student or a parent can poke through the boards to get a feel for the campus, its programs and activities.  But like all social media, it has to be real.  If you create boards that are as stiff, clunky and, mmm, didactic as printed materials sometimes are, your boards will fall flat.

There is a discussion about copyright which revolves  around people repinning photos of others, not knowing if they’re copyrighted.  Almost everything we post is ours. We own the pictures and we want you to repin them.  Just as we want you to share the photos on our website, our videos as well as our Facebook and Twitter material.

One reader commented on the last post that she’s worried about copyright if the school posts, say, the cover of a faculty book or bookstore items.  I’m not a lawyer but I can’t imagine a publisher or manufacturer getting upset about promoting their products.  As long as there is no misrepresentation or a third party making profit from their works, there shouldn’t be a problem.

The only glitch we’ve had is an artist who insists on approving photos taken of him in performance.  We’ve been waiting now for several weeks.  We haven’t heard from hm so we’ll use what we want.  Marilyn Monroe might have had approval rights, but this is a different age, one in which an audience member takes a picture and posts it on YouTube before the artist finishes his first verse.

Right now it’s important to get a Pinterest board started.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  The seasons, club activities, video testimonials,  and projects.  The secret is to keep it real and create categories that others — parents, students, alumni and constituents –are  interested in.

And it should cost next to nothing.  At Mansfield, we have a photo library of 40,000 + photos, student video testimonials, TV shows and more.  With some creative thinking about boards, they  fall together pretty easily.

It does take time to produce each board but with careful photo/video selection and tight writing, they shouldn’t have to be updated too often.

In fact, by the time your boards need to be updated, the print viewbook might well be a historical mention in Wikipedia.

A good introduction is The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Blog, Podcast or Videos with PinterestIt’s a free download and aside from the writers using “great” every other graph, it is written in a simple and lively way and has good, solid information.

It didn’t take long for us marketing folks to see a new venue to promote our stuff. Is it a good venue?

Actually, I think it’s excellent.

The bottom line is to be there when the audience comes looking for you.

Pinterest & College Marketing

Pinterest is the new social media explosion.
Is it the Wild West all over again?
Yes.
Do we marketing types really know how to use it?
Not really.
Do we need to jump on the wagon?
Absolutely.
Pinterest is the world’s fastest growing social media site. It started as a way to share — gardening tips, fashion, recipes, and wedding planning.  The primary demo was, and continues to be for now, women.
But it’s changing and expanding at an exponential speed that would have excited Einstein. Do a search for anything — antique swords, silent movies, Eros– and you’ll find people who share your interest.

It’s a virtual bulletin board in Alice’s Wonderland. Hours melt  before you as you follow this link, and search for this subject and find worlds within worlds, still pointing to more.

Will Pinterest last? I think so.

The news that we’re an increasingly visual society is old.  Words are work. People read less and less as time passes.  I don’t like it but I’m working to accept it.
Who imagined that YouTube, from its first amateurish, silly, and often sophomoric postings would become the most popular search engine in the world?
In my mind, Pinterest is a college marketer’s dream.
Mansfield University jumped onto Pinterest in early 2012.  A no-brainer .  We’ve created boards on Stars Who Have Performed at Mansfield,  Scenes on Campus, Regional Activities, and Student Organizations, Campus Buildings, and others.  We’ll be adding more.

We organize — visually — our topics of interest, fill in with short written content and post.

Does it work?  Don’t ask.  In the marketing world Pinterest is in its infancy.

Is it worth the time involved?  Yes.  Experiment.  Test.  Play.

In the next post:

-It costs nothing;

-Use the resources and materials you already have;

-Copyright doesn’t have to be a dilemma.