Advertising, Corona Virus, Financial Crisis


Most advertising that you see online, on-air and on the street is tactical, designed to build traffic and clear out excess inventory. The number of tactical ads you see each day is estimated to be in the thousands, depending on where you work, how you commute and how you spend your day. These ads were the bread + butter of daily, weekly and ethnic newspapers as well as community access TV and Radio. Today the low cost of online advertising is challenging the viability of most tactical (off-line) media and has already led to the demise of many great media. I predict the rout will continue for any medium that cannot demonstrate that it offers retail advertisers a decent short term return on investment (ROI). Why? Because too many of today’s inexperienced retail media planners believe that ROI is a great way to sort media options – since they’re only interested in short term ad response rates. 

I’m suspicious because ROI is not directly correlated to the medium’s reach + frequency potential, or the inherent credibility of the medium. Think CBC News vs. Graffiti.    

Tonnage is another piece of the equation. You can see the impact of massive media weight levels in the U.S. Primaries right now. The candidate with the most media support has the best chance of winning the race. 

Here in Canada, we have a lot of micro agencies and a few large ones. Each serves a handful of clients who believe that the thousands they spend every month, or the millions they spend every year are wasted.

Maybe so. Maybe not. Thoughtfully designed research and campaign tracking can address some of their dilemma. A broader perspective would help these clients as well. They need to understand that in the bigger scheme of things, their tactical campaigns really are just a few drops in the daily adverting bucket. So GREAT media planning is mission critcal. 

Last weekend’s ROB featured the above chart with this headline: “Markets see worst week since financial crisis”. 

Last week’s economic down-turn story has been tied to the coronavirus story - the top news story for the past six weeks. Think of it, from an advertising perspective, like a compelling two-part story that has now been told and retold on every TV station, radio station and newspaper in the world. Byond these traditional media, a Google search for “Corona Virus Update" on March 1, 2020, returned 59,200,000 results.

That's the power of advertising! Enough of it can significantly alter global behaviour in a few weeks.

This post is not a rehash of what we actually know about the virus today or about the direct economic impact. 

This post is an appeal to you to assemble your own case study for your own agency + your own clients to help them understand what can + will happen when a highly relevant story is told + retold by a lot of on + offline media many, many, many, many times from sea to sea to sea in every language and dialect. 

This is a once in a long-time opportunity to see the difference between the impact made by a small, local, online media buy (the kind Google encourages you to set-up and run exclusively on its network) and a real global multi-media campaign. 

The markets saw the worst week since the financial crisis not because there was a financial crisis last week, but because all of the global advertising said there is one. Big difference. 


And remember . . . 

“Even a stupid lie travels faster than a brilliant truth.”





Social Media Efficacy Insights

 The Economisttt

It’s no surprise to most of you that the ROI for online media campaigns, especially social media, can be pretty disappointing. And because online media vendors NEVER publish comparative performance scores it's on you to sort out why - and what to tell your clients (who were hoping for a miracle).

Well kids . . . this chart (from the December 21st, 2019 edition of the Economist) will help you + your client see the fundamental error in your collective ways. 

The analysis is by Chartbeat. It measures audiences for online journalism. ½ of the sources are in English-speaking countries and ¼ are in Europe. This chart compares 4,000,000 articles from 5,000 sites across 34 topics, and reports the results in hours - over the entire year (2019).

Stories about Mr. Trump won the 2019 online story race by a landslide. Why? Because he + his team understand advertising and media fundamentals much better than his rivals do. Mr. Trump’s team enjoy far more message reach, message frequency + story relevance, than all other stories that Chartbeat tracks put together. And unlike many other storylines, the Trump narrative isn’t based on multiple versions of a single event, like the Notre Dame fire, it's a never-ending story with a little something for everybody; sort of like the ongoing saga on Corination Street.

The big lesson for you is this: you need to nail your audience + then come up with an ongoing, relevant narrative.

Audience: think unique segments - high value  |  high volume  |  opinion leaders  |  brand ambassadors. 

Relevant: think interesting, controversial and \ or important.

Ongoing: think in years and decades, not in days and weeks.




A Rare + Brilliant Ad


This is the best Financial Services advertisement that I’ve seen in years. It’s the kind of ad that comes around maybe once every ten years – and makes me wanna scream and say; Fuck! I wish I had designed and written that ad!

Most ads in this category say nothing worth while about what the company can do for you. They'll try their luck with come-ons like; “Call us for a free consultation. Our experts can show you how to grow your returns while reducing your risk.” 


They’ll probably offer you a free coffee, tell you to reduce your debt, open a TFSA account, and top up your RRSP to reduce your taxes.  

Admittedly it’s tough when most of the financial services and products you’re selling don’t come with a fixed ROI.

Admittedly it’s a lot like Advertising where two ads in the same medium can garner dramatically different response rates.

And at a time when there are a dozen or more cheap Apps and free YouTube videos making all sorts of (unattainable investment achievement) promises it’s tougher than ever to explain, to the uninitiated why anyone would pay an (ongoing) professional service fee.

Well kids . . . that’s where this ad for MAWER is simply brilliant and brilliantly simple. 

My hat’s off to MAWER + Company, their ad manager, ad director – and especially their copy writer. 



About love and brands


A while ago the lunch time conversation with a group I work with took a romantic turn and it became a great metaphor for better understanding brand romance dynamics.

When Mary asked Adam “when did you know you were in love?”, the first thing that shot through my head was: “Which time?”.  I bit my tongue, silently listened to the group – fascinated by their emotional triggers and remembered some of the emotional triggers for those who were attracted to a brand named Frank Wehrmann:

  • Ann-Marie liked the way I dressed.
  • Pam liked the way my loyalty to her revealed itself in tough times.
  • Susan loved my quirky smarts.
  • Pauline liked my earning potential.
  • Inge valued my "Canadian outside - German inside" cultural mash-up.
  • Michelle liked the fact that I was a single father. She likes kids, but not babies and never wanted to go into production.

Brand Lesson #1:

People fall in love with brands for a wide variety of reasons - often it's not one of the obvious ones. You can help them fall for your brand by watching and listening to them rather than just telling them how great you are. Look for ways of making them feel that you are accommodating their individual needs while you court and accommodate millions of others. Think “MASS INTIMACY”.

Brand Lesson #2:

People love (or hate) well defines brands. This applies to where they are, what time period they represent, what social status they support, etc. Accordingly, some brand managers create spin-offs in an effort to cover more of the waterfront. This strategy usually doesn't work well.

Brand Lesson #3:

What you plan for and what happens are two very different things. Keep an open mind.

While I’ve had some very strange relationships in my time, they have all contributed to the rich tapestry that is my ongoing journey of self discovery. Master Gurudev taught me to become aware that every decision I have made in in my life has led me to where I am today.

Think about that last sentence before you read on.


Lesson #4:

We are the sum total of all that we breath into our brands and allow them to become. That required an intimate understanding of how they are loved or left – and why.

A brand is a partner on our journey – just like my wife, my son and our dog.




Goggle (self serving) Best Practices


Here’s a screen grab of a typical Google Best Practice deigned to help me optimize my Google Ads account. This ones all about ad testing (or research):

  • Test one variable at a time.
  • Use a 50/50 split to reach statistical significance faster.
  • Avoid making changes while the experiment is running.

This (elementary) advice is so biased and self serving it’s painful.

  • While testing is the best way to improve the poor online advertising response rates (and ROI) many companies experience, Google does NOT tell you that you should have done a lot more homework before setting up your online advertising campaign. Before you turn to any media vendor, you should already have research at hand that tells you which medium or media will provide you with the most effective response rate – not the cheapest one. There’s a difference.
  • The Google Best Practice advice is, by any professional standard, entry level advice – good enough to get you started but not insightful enough to help you win the race. Google’s Best Practices are not the profound or insightful musings of an advertising research director. Most are really not worth reading - unless you're just starting out. And if you're starting out, this stuff will stunt your growth and education. 
  • Google’s Best Practices help keep Google top of mind by giving itself another seemingly legitimate reason to send you a push notification – encouraging you to think about using more Google products and services.

The best thing you can do for yourself, your agency and your clients is to learn to think for yourself. To sort out what’s most important for the brands that you represent and to do so by exploring all viable communication options – not just the cheap and convenient one – the one that’s just a few key-strokes away.


REMINDER . . . Alexa is not your friend – she’s owned + operated by Google.