It’s no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to the news in the past 12 months that it’s a buyer’s market. Whether real estate, cars, clothes or media, everything can be bought at record discounts. So at the risk of sounding like a cheesy car ad, there’s never been a better time to buy!

And we’ve all seen the studies about businesses that advertise during a downturn and come out stronger on the other side.

But this time, it’s more than a little dip. Media costs are down 30% or more from the same period last year.

And media such as newspaper and magazines that historically issued an annual rate card and then said “take it or leave it” are now making bundled offers that create opportunities to increase frequency or ad size, add color, or gain online exposure. They’ll even let you write a favorable article about your business if it saves them having to pay editorial staff!

The point is, with all the noise in the market, this economy offers businesses a great opportunity to dramatically increase their ad frequency without increasing their ad budget year-to-year.

So be fearless. If your business is sound, let people know about it. We all love a success story.

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history

A print campaign for The Scribbler was named Best of Show in the 7th District ADDY Awards in New Orleans (the 7th District encompasses most of the southeastern United States and includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Lousiana). The campaign of small space ads for a Birmingham-area stationery boutique was created by ACD Roy Burns, designer Holly Cook and senior copywriter Kathy Oldham. The accolade also marks the second consecutive Best of Show District win for Lewis Communications.

iPads and PlayBooks and Xooms, oh my! Are Tablets Game Changers?
iPads and PlayBooks and Xooms, oh my! Are Tablets Game Changers?

Apple launched the much-anticipated iPad in the spring of 2010 amid a cacophony of Mac geeks clamoring to get one, and bloggers and journalists questioning where tablets would fit between smart phones and laptops. Since then, Apple has sold over 15 million units of their tablet, and launched the iPad2, a slimmer, lighter update.

But, more importantly, other computer and electronics manufacturers have jumped into the tablet market with an array of devices that vary greatly by size, OS, functionality and price. Motorola shipped 250,000 Xooms in Q1 alone and the Samsung Galaxy, Blackberry Playbook and a host of other tablets are now flooding the market.

Here at Lewis, we’re using a variety of tablets for work and for play. But what we’re really interested in, is how are you using them? Is your laptop spending more time on the desk and less time at Starbucks? Is your smart phone now mainly for texting and actual phone calls? Or have you postponed buying a tablet in the hopes that prices will fall while features expand?

Click on the link here and take our quick survey on how you’re using various electronic devices. In a few weeks, we’ll post the results in a new blog. You can also enter your email address at the end of the survey and we’ll send you the results.

Take the Survey!

01
London 2012 is Over. Which Brands Won?
London 2012 is Over. Which Brands Won?

Team Great Britain, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas and countless others won athletic gold in London, but which brands came out on top during these games?

The Peacock
In the U.S., NBC’s brand saw mixed results with soaring ratings delivering a huge and positive impact to their bottom line. Unfortunately, the hashtag #NBCFail was ubiquitous during the games and reached a crescendo last night as Bob Costas pulled the ultimate bait-and-switch promoting an appearance by The Who, but only after a pilot for a new sit-com. NBC pays billions of dollars to have the U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics, and must make hard decisions about how to recoup that investment. It is still hard to see how going out of your way to aggravate your viewers is a winning long-term strategy.

The Swoosh
Although Nike wasn’t an official Olympic sponsor, they almost don’t need to be. The swoosh logo was shown on screen thousands of times on athletes’ shoes and apparel. Their guerilla marketing campaign “Find Your Greatness” was brilliant in both strategy and execution by featuring everyday men, women and children finding greatness on a less-than Olympic stage, but still in a town called London.

The Ultimate Branding Machine
One of the less-heralded Olympic partners was BMW Group who found smart and relevant ways to keep their brands and their cars top-of-mind. In addition to TV spots touting their sponsorship, BMW riffed on Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket by driving a Golden Bimmer around London giving free tickets to those who shared photos of themselves with the car. During the closing ceremonies, Jesse J and two other singers were transported into and around Olympic stadium in three Rolls-Royce Phantoms specially built and badged for the event. BMW’s Mini joined in the competition with remote-controlled Mini’s carrying javelins back to athletes finding a way onto hallowed athletic ground that is supposedly free of commercial clutter.

Proctor & Gamble, Omega Watches and several other official and not-so-official sponsors of the games were highly visible with TV spots, online video, and social media memes. The brands mentioned above stood out most to me during these games, but branding is seen through the eye of the beholder.

Which brands grabbed your attention and won Gold in London?

The President, a lizard and a cashier walk into a bar…
The President, a lizard and a cashier walk into a bar…

Who are the most ubiquitous and competitive brands in advertising?

Miller Light and Bud Light? Ford and Chevrolet? Burger King and McDonalds?

What about insurance?

In the last 10+ years, insurance, specifically car insurance, has become one of the most hotly contested categories in advertising.

Blame Warren Buffett for at least part of this. When the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ and Berkshire Hathaway snapped up Geico (Government Employees Insurance Company) in 1996 it enabled Geico to make serious investments in their brand and helped spark an advertising battle among insurers that helped catapult spending to record levels.

From 2003 to 2007, TNS Media Intelligence measured 103.8% category growth in ad spend for insurance from $1.67 billion to $3.41 billion.

When you look at TNS’ data during that same ’03-’07 period just for auto insurance spending, the growth was even more dramatic: 195%.

Why is this category so white-hot?

The ability to quickly quote several different insurance companies has provided consumers with a level of price transparency that has flattened the playing field. The problem for insurance companies is that they are now perceived to be about the same in the products they offer, the service they provide and the convenience of buying or updating policies. Right or wrong, car insurance is now seen by many as a commodity.

In response, Flo, the Caveman, and now The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World are all vying to be “the lowest cost provider” with the character making their sales pitch really the only differentiating brand attribute for each insurance company.

So, would you rather buy from the googly eyes or Erin the eSurance spy with pink hair?

The answer for insurance companies may not be to keep jamming more characters at consumers at 300 GRP’s a week supported by constant logo placement at sporting events. Instead, why not borrow a page from one of the most successful marketers in the world?

While it is a far jump from car insurance to personal computers and music players, Apple is a brand that more marketers should emulate. Their products look different and work differently and stand so far apart from other products that the products themselves are their first and best advertising.

Lee Clow the chief creative officer of Apple’s longtime ad agency has said as much, “The Apple Store was probably the best ad we ever did. Everything a brand does is advertising.”

So, maybe instead of focusing so much borrowed interest on characters and spokespeople, car insurance companies might have more success if they first focused on the products they sell and try marketing something truly different.

Titanic lessons in advertising & branding
Titanic lessons in advertising & branding

Part II

In Part I I covered the first two of five lessons that Titanic can teach about advertising and branding:

1. If you’re coming head on into disaster, don’t avoid it; aim directly for it.
2. Be careful what you say. The message could turn on you.

Now, the remaining three of the aforementioned five lessons that apply to our job as communicators and brand stewards:


3. Don’t forget the keys to the binocular locker.

When it was determined that the White Star line was going to put only its best officers on board the Titanic for its maiden voyage, the existing officers were either outright replaced or offered lower ranks to stay on board. One of these officers was David Blair, the 2nd officer. Rather than accepting a lower rank, he instead transferred to another ship. The day before Titanic sailed, he left, taking with him the keys to a locker in the quartermaster’s office.

Normally, this would not be a big deal, however in this particular case, that locker just happened to contain the lookout’s binoculars. This brings up an important lesson for each of us in the communications business today. The advertising industry is changing in radical new ways.

Those agencies who embrace that change today probably saw it coming and weren’t caught flatfooted when things shifted. That kind of farsighted vision is an important tool to keep in front of every decision we make. Though some changes headed our way are small, they can have big implications. Just as not having a key to a single locker helped sink the largest, most advanced ship of the time, small things can have a profound impact on our business.

On that dark ocean on an April night long ago, if the lookouts had had the ability to see what was coming ahead of time, they would have reacted much sooner and we wouldn’t be talking about the Titanic right now.


4. No matter how accomplished you think you are, you can still freeze to death like everyone else.

A first class ticket aboard Titanic in today’s dollars cost $69,600. Needless to say, the first class section was a who’s who of American and European society. Titanic’s maiden voyage, if recreated today, would have the equivalent of Steven Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Colin Powell, Brad Pitt, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Tiger Woods and 320 other heavy hitters on board. Yet for all their importance, influence or prestige, they drowned alongside 3rd class steerage passengers.

What is the lesson here? Our company philosophy has always been that the best idea in the room wins. Because I truly believe — like Chef Gusteau in the film Ratatouille says — “anyone can cook.” Great ideas are great ideas and it doesn’t matter if the high-paid CD or the greenest intern comes up with it. It is still a great idea. I have had the misfortune (as have many of you reading this) to work in shops that don’t have this basic respect for ideas. The danger is, when our own self-importance gets out of whack, self-justification can overrule our best instincts.

Everyone has value, especially in the new world where ideas must come quicker and in so many more areas than ever before. The days of a writer and an art director sitting in an office and creating the entire campaign are over. The new order of the day is for agencies to change their structure to embrace this idea. Some of the best ideas we’ve had this year came from a media planner and an account supervisor.


5. Don’t ignore the person who is trying to save you.

Just minutes before the Titanic struck the iceberg, they received a warning from an eastbound liner, the S.S. Californian. The Californian had been forced to stop to prevent striking a very large ice field, and they knew Titanic was within a few miles of their position — so they fired off a telegraph warning.

Unfortunately, Titanic was busy sending messages from its first class passengers to their relatives and friends in New York. So the wireless operator on Titanic rudely told the Californian operator to “shut up.” Which he did. He shut down his radio for the night and went to bed. The Californian was within 11 miles of Titanic and could have saved 1500 lives.

This is a perfect lesson for those of us in the advertising business who think we’ve got all the answers. We assert our expertise as we rush headlong into making yet another deadline. The problem is, we’re doing so much talking, that we may not bother to listen. I’m not going to quote David Ogilvy yet again for this conversation; you know what he said, but his assertion is right and wrong.

Consumers no longer have to sit and listen to what we are saying. They know a lot more than we think they do. And if we listen, we can learn a lot more than we think we know about them. Some of the best ads we’ve written were literally dictated straight from the people we want to influence. The internet is the best tool ever conceived for getting this information. So use it. Listen. Don’t talk. You might hear something you never expected.

history
history

The Birmingham chapter of the American Advertising Federation held its annual ADDY Gala at Soho in Homewood. Lewis captured 11 Gold ADDYs and 22 Silver ADDYs, more than any other agency. In addition, the agency won Best of Show/Broadcast for its “Never Saw It Coming” TV campaign for Alfa Insurance. Stephen Curry was honored as Creative Director of the Year and Copywriter of the Year, while Joel Wheat was named Art Director of the Year. In addition, being one of Lewis’ youngest employees didn’t stop Holly Cook from making her mark at the show. Holly was named Designer of the Year, Illustrator of the Year and her work from Auburn University was named as Best of Show/Student. This represents an unprecedented three major honors for a fresh-out-of-school designer.

Social Media as Conversation
Social Media as Conversation

While people spend countless hours each day checking social media sites, their reasons for doing so aren’t always as “cutting edge” as those of us in the marketing world would like to believe. A recent study published by Pew Research Center found that 91% of people active on social media sites say that simply staying in touch with friends is their motivation to use.

Too many marketers refuse to acknowledge that the way those of us in the communication industry use social media isn’t typical, as compared to the average consumer. If companies and brands using social media are really looking to drive ROI through these channels, they need to start offering information as valuable as a post from a friend.

Early in October, I received a call asking me to handle the marketing for an event at The University of Alabama. Seven UA departments were collaborating to bring Soledad O’Brien to campus, and if you haven’t guessed already, the first issue brought up was how social media needed to be the main component in our marketing strategy.

The primary social media channels being used were UA Ferguson Center’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, which had significant followings of more than 3,000 students. My challenge was to figure out how to engage students with the Ferg to drive the desired result: a packed house for the night of Soledad’s speech. I did a little research and found that most students were looking to feel like they got some sort of one-on-one time with Soledad during her visit.

After this discovery, I made two very simple additions to the marketing strategy that drove positive results on both social media accounts—not to mention a standing room only crowd on the night of the event:

I. We asked students to submit questions for the Q&A session held after her speech via Facebook and wound up with hundreds of submissions.

II. We set up and promoted a Twitter hash tag so students who weren’t able to attend could still participate. We had over 50 students tweeting on our live chat the night of the event.

These simple tweaks were not only effective in engaging students for the Soledad event, but have served to revitalize the Ferg’s social media presence. Tweets per day are at their highest level ever, Facebook comments and unique page-views are higher than they have been in months and we even had students solicit our team via Twitter asking to write a post on the Ferg Blog, which rarely sees any activity outside of UA employees.

Why not take this example to heart and show your online community that your focus is on what they want rather than what you’d like to tell them? Try sharing information they see value in rather than the self-serving, one-way marketing updates we are all guilty of sending out far too often.

The Real Winner of the 2012 Presidential Election
The Real Winner of the 2012 Presidential Election

Regardless of your political preference, the upcoming 2012 election has been fascinating to watch on Twitter. Think back to the 2008 election. Hardly anyone knew anything about Twitter. Yes, Facebook was growing and so was the concept of social media, but Twitter only had around 1 million Twitter users during the fall of 2008. Today, Twitter has over 500 million and counting. Big difference.

Fast forward to October 2012. Since the first debate started on Oct. 3, Obama’s campaign Twitter handle, @BarackObama, has gained over 847,000 followers. @BarackObama now boasts over 21 million followers and is in the top 10 of all Twitter accounts. A 4% increase in just three weeks. A side note for those who care—Lady Gaga has the most Twitter followers at 30.6 million and counting.

On the other side, Mitt Romney’s campaign Twitter handle, @MittRomney, has gained just over 310,000 followers since Oct. 3. @MittRomney now has over 1.5 million followers—a 20% increase in three weeks.

No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, Obama and Romney are in a tight race. Yet, Obama has the opportunity to tweet to almost 20 million more followers than Romney—nearly the population of the state of Florida. While his following is considerably smaller than President Obama’s, Mitt Romney has more followers today than total Twitter users from 2008.

So why bring up all these stats? Brands who are seeking to influence groups of people, small or large, need to consider the best combination of media to generate conversations about their respective brands. Twitter is a fascinating and non-invasive social media outlet in that users can pick and choose whom they follow. In essence, they can easily manufacture the type of content (or people) they are interested in.

The social media impact on the Presidential Election of 2012 has definitely provided a huge awareness boost for the two candidates when compared to previous elections.