I taught an advertising class as an adjunct professor at Wartburg College this semester. It was a great experience. I believe I learned more than the kids, but I quickly learned that teaching has changed since the last time I taught a class, some 20 years ago.20170303_134756

Here are a couple of my takeaways:

  • Even rhetorical questions can be answered with a quick search on a smartphone.
  • You can’t tell what students are doing if they have a laptop out. Are they taking notes, doing email or working on assignments for other classes?
  • Asking students to make phone calls as a class assignment to find information is unproductive: Students would rather look up the information than use the smartphone to make a call.

I also observed the same activity at a conference I recently attended (but I was in the audience and not up at the podium). I could see what people were doing.  Many, if not most, were using email. Some the entire time. Yet there was another phenomenon I noticed as well: When the screen was hard to read or the speaker was drifting around, many just went to the website of the company or searched what the person was talking about and pulled the information they needed.

During vendor presentations, some would look up competitors, search for pricing or search the general topic to see what else was available on the topic.  This means you can’t fake it as a speaker. It also means you have to think about your searching, emailing, disengaged audience during your presentation. The big take away: is what you are saying worthy of pulling your audience away from their email?  That is the real test in this digital age.

I know I said I love billboards, but I also love magazines. I like the writing, the design, the ads and overall structural layout of magazines. 20170304_073745

So you can imagine my delight when I found Texture. It is touted as Netflix for magazines. There are more than 200 magazines on this subscription service.

The secret is that many of the magazines do not lose their magazine feel on the tablet-optimized display. It looks and feels like you’re reading a magazine. However, there are some fun digital enhancements thrown in that allow you dig deeper into topics or interact with some of the content.

Will this save magazines in this digital world? Who knows, but for now, this is a great way to read a lot of magazines you may never have subscribed to in the past for a small monthly fee. I was able to email ads and articles to people right out the app, so this has the potential to build organically through sharing.

If you appreciate beautiful design, large photographs and aggregated content in one nice package, you’re going to love Texture. If you are a big news, click-bait person, don’t download the app.



Billboards should have no more than 9 words. That includes all the required language. Why? It is simple: you only have seconds to read a billboard, so it must be short.20170226_113252

If you can’t say your message in 5-6 words and then list your company name, you should not use a billboard. I love billboards because they are the Vine of print—they’re short, quick and pack a powerful punch. Sometimes the name of the company says it all, like “Family Beer & Liquor.” It says, “the family that drinks together, stays together” without saying it.

A couple of other things about billboards:

  • Vinyl fades in the sunlight. Don’t use light colors that will appear to fade faster. Also, don’t leave a vinyl up for too long and ignore it.
  • Digital billboards are not the same optics as vinyl or paper boards. Treat the different media outlets differently in terms of color and contrast.
  • Digital billboard is a big TV screen. You can see different colors better at different times of day depending on the light, so change up your message from day to afternoon to night.
  • Put a face on a billboard, not the person’s body. If the face is too small, it will never been seen or recognized. I always feel people are selling clothing when they put people in their billboards—big shirts, small faces.
  • Do the across-the-room test. Print out your billboard and put it on the wall across the room. Anything you can’t read will not be read by the driving public, so take it off the board.

Billboards are a very old advertising medium. Yet they are as relevant today as they were when the first humans scratched “MacDonald’s Next Exit” on a rock on a trail for the bathroom-deprived traveling public.

According to the New York Times, kids are not kids as long as they used to be. There is an “age compression” happening fueled by the internet.Portrait of a cute little business man

This has created havoc for channels such as Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. The Times says that these more progressive and curious kids can more easily turn to YouTube to find people their own age or like them.

This not only changes how you talk to kids, but how you talk with parents about their kids. Television shows and marketing messaging are dramatically changing in this tech-driven, high-awareness audience cluster.

Disney has developed a moped-riding character, Andi Mack (who has to deal with some complex life experiences), in order to appeal to 6- to 14-year-olds and their parents. Some of these issues would not have seen prime time 20 years ago. The problem is that these kids may be watching the “Walking Dead” or the “Die Hard” trilogy with their parents.

It’s getting difficult to program to these children, much less market toys for this more mature, pre-teen demographic. You also cannot offend the parents that may have memories of their own childhoods ruminating in their heads.

First it was the family that has been more difficult to portray as the typical family in marketing. Now it is the children. This makes storytelling more difficult, but more in line with their parents. Kids are growing up faster. The marketing needs to grow just as fast.

A study by Accenture showed that more than 50% of people said they had switched a provider in the past year.  Nearly 80% said the are switching faster than they did in the past 5 years.Customer using loyalty card or credit card at supermarket

Banks were listed (as well as cable/satellite companies, internet services and retailers) as the most likely victims of people pulling their loyalty. What is really putting fear into businesses is the fact that millennials are not responding to the typical loyalty programs.

“New ‘languages of loyalty’ have emerged, driven by brands experimenting with creative digital experiences, which have changed the dynamics of customer loyalty today,” said Robert Wollan, senior managing director, global lead of Advanced Customer Strategy at Accenture Strategy. “Every consumer has a natural instinct around what makes them ‘stick’ to a brand. The traditional ‘low price’ and ‘reliable service’ mechanics are no longer as effective at driving loyalty.”

The Accenture strategy of loyalty identified several areas driving customer relationships, particularly with millennials. Some of these are:

  • Tokens of affection—59% feel loyal to a brand that gives them small tokens of affection, such as personalized discounts.
  • Get to know me—41% are loyal to a brand that offers personalized products to create something special. 85% are loyal to brands that safeguard privacy and personal information.
  • Thrill seeker—41% are loyal to brands that present them with new experiences,

Kevin Quiring, managing director, Advanced Customer Strategy at Accenture said, “An appetite for extra-ordinary, multi-sensory experiences, hyper-personalization and co-creation, are changing consumer dynamics around loyalty and forcing brands and organizations to shift their approaches and programs.”

Adidas is stopping its TV advertising. The Guardian pulled all Google ads. These are all signs of something, but not what you think.Adidas media announcement to not buy tv

When I was in television, we would hear rattling from clients of pulling campaigns because of news coverage or lack of news coverage. Even back then, Saturday Night Live would have one church group or another threatening a boycott—if only they could see it now.

The threats are always there. The big announcements are always there. But beware the public announcements of audience buying. Why would you give away your strategic advantage? Why would you show your cards? Well, I would say it is all part of the negotiations. Any clothing or shoe manufacturer needs an edge. Nike, which passed Adidas years ago in market cap, has a negotiations edge just in its size, celebrity endorsement deals and financial muscle. Adidas needs an edge. Here is how it gets it with TV execs. Coke doesn’t need to make these broad sweeping claims and PR declarations.

In media buying, don’t just watch out for big pronouncements in media or at cocktail parties. Instead listen for the subtle moves by the biggest players, like the slow but steady move from newspaper to native advertising. Listen for the talk around landing page optimization and geo-fencing for personalized delivery.  Those strategic maneuvers will not be proclaimed in a media release.

On recent visit to Disney World® for a trade conference, I was so surprised at the attention to detail. If we all could find our Disney soul, the market would open up to us in so many ways.

Here are three little things that made me realize I was at Disney and not just another corporate event:

  • Sound baffles—When was the last time you attended a conference and the door kept opening and closing to the point of distraction? Enter a little wedge that stopped the noise and the distractions. I’m sure that was an inexpensive fix.
  • Plug ins—Is it really that hard to realize we want our phones, iPads and computers close to our bed and plugged in? Thank you, Disney, for understanding guests’ needs in advance, and being up-to-date at a resort area themed on the past.
  • Expectations met—They said I would receive a letter with my ticket to the Magical Express in my hotel room 24 hours prior to my departure. The letter came in a nice envelope and was on time. Along with the bus for the ride to the airport.

Yes, the flowers were in bloom around the manicured facility. Flesh paint was going on the buildings. The food was fantastic. The uniforms were fantastic. Yet it is the little things that made all the difference.

The biggest little thing is the way cast members (from the maintenance crew to the airplane kiosk outside the hotel) treat guests—it was always with a smile and a friendly effort to make the day magical. And that is free. It just requires training and constantly reminding cast members of the importance of experience.

In the end, Disney knows the experience starts at the airport and ends at the airport. Everything in between is managed to make sure you’re enjoying your overall experience. And sold at the same time.  That’s the magical part.