Random Musing on Shutdowns and Ceilings

I’m on a news watching/reading/listening shut down since my tolerance ceiling for childish national legislators has been exceeded.

Are the potential negative outcomes of Obamacare equal to or greater than the potential negative outcomes of continued government shutdown that will seem to lead directly to not raising the debt ceiling?

When did governing become some sort of Clint Eastwood spaghetti western where the first one to blink is a loser?

Are politicians ever elected to just do one thing, overturn one law, at all costs, no matter what?  If they are successful in doing that one thing, what will be the next thing they focus on, at all costs, no matter what?

Can we afford to have one-issue politicians on either side of the aisle that do not seem to understand – or just simply don’t care about – the inter-related nature of, well, just about everything?  Even if they don’t care about the inter-relatedness of global markets, surely they understand that domestic policy decisions are also inextricably linked?

Can we afford to have politicians with experience in compromise and negotiation responding to the one-issuers by digging their heels in vs. leading – showing how to compromise and negotiate?

Or, maybe, if neither side blinks and their actions send it all over the proverbial cliff, the short term pain would be worth the long term benefit of a “reset”, if you will.  The public would be so fed up with all of it that the preponderance of all current elected officials doing the bidding of the people would all be voted out – regardless of party affiliation.

If a compromise is reached before the proverbial cliff, some entity is not going to be happy.  Will that lead to the development of a viable third party – or at least a thing outside of the two current ones where people can feel like their needs/wants are served and they have some sort of influence or say in issues?

Or would it lead to secession?

That seems like an appropriate place to leave off on these musings.

ADDENDUM

Roughly 5 minutes after posting this, I received a phone call of a recorded message from Rick Santorum on behalf of a PAC that I think he runs or runs him or whatever.  Anyway, it made me realize I hadn’t updated my phone numbers on donotcall.gov for quite some time (I’m sure PAC’s have some sort of loophole related to donotcall.gov but anyway), so I go to the site and see the following.  Doh!

“Due to the Government shutdown, we are unable to offer this website service at this time.  We will resume normal operations when the government is funded.”

 

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I think I’m Facebooked out

“All media work us over completely.” – Marshall McLuhan

I think Facebook has worked me over completely.  Not social media in general (find me on LinkedIn, @jerrycourtney, +Jerry Courtney), this is specific to Facebook.  Maybe I need talked off the ledge so to speak, but I don’t think so.

This isn’t another one of those parables about taking a break from Facebook for a little while in order to get some sort of long-lost perspective that allows me to pontificate about how things are different when not using Facebook so I have something to post about once I’m back on Facebook.

A few months back, that’s what I thought it would be.  When I went on vacation in June, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and iPad.  I wanted to be in the moment and really enjoy my time with family.  It didn’t take long for me to adjust to life without Facebook.  The compulsion to fill any down time with a scroll through status updates, post some random witticism, or check in left pretty quickly.  If someone mentioned something I should take a look at or if I wanted to see if someone had messaged me, I’d just – gasp – go online and check it.  But I haven’t even done that for quite some time.

What it’s about is coming to the realization that of the social media that I do use, I can’t seem to find a constructive, beneficial reason for using Facebook.  It’s not so much about the fact that I find it exhausting to keep up with the streams and streams and streams of stuff people I know put there.

It’s more about the fact that I’m over the form of broadcasting any part of my life through the platform fishing for “likes” and comments that don’t seem to amount to even small talk or bring about a comment that doesn’t make sense.

It just seems most of what I’d consider placing on Facebook I’d rather do on an interpersonal level through different channels.  You know, those old school ways of communicating like phone calls, emails, SMS/MMS, maybe even – wait for it – a photo or video sharing site that I only allow certain people to view.  Basically, directly to the people I’m most interested in sharing with in a way that feels more personal.

A more critical view of things tells me its an audience issue.  Whereas I have been much more purposeful in my curation of whom I follow and what I engage in via Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, Facebook somehow became a stew of family, friends, colleagues, people I’ve done business with, and assorted acquaintances that I can’t always remember what the connection to me is.  Yes, I’m aware Facebook has tools to sort this all out, but Facebook is the only entity that benefits from me spending more time on Facebook to do that sorting.

To build the audience I want, it would be easier if I simply delete my account and start over with a defined objective for my Facebook use.  God forbid people should discover I’ve unfriended them and post one of those “Well, I’ve just been unfriended.  I guess someone didn’t like my [incessant political ramblings/over indulgent selfies/cat videos or pictures/invitations to play the latest Farmville-like game/support of teams that aren’t the Chicago Cubs or Chicago Bears/etc].  Oh, well they’re loss!” posts that gets dozens of likes and “Don’t let that bother you.  You rock!  It’s their loss!  ” sorts of replies.

Some would say being in the marketing industry requires my time on Facebook.  I’m not sure I agree with that.  There’s enough industry coverage about what Facebook is doing, how Facebook is doing it, and speculation as to why they’re doing it to suffice.  Outside of a truly relevant and major overhaul of the interface or some new purpose it might serve that requires personal investigation – other than mimicking or buying something that already exists elsewhere – there’s no legit professional reason I can see to stay on Facebook.  Are they doing or trying to do interesting things with data and targeting?  Sure.  Does it require an actual engagement in the platform?  Not that I can see.  Is there exclusive content that exists on Facebook I can’t find elsewhere?  Not that I’m aware of.  I find better industry content, insight and engagement on pertinent issues via other social media platforms.

So I’m worked over by and worn out of Facebook as I’ve used it to date.  In case I may not be seeing you around on the FB anymore, here are a few things I’d like to share… I love my wife.  My son is handsome and smart.  My daughter is beautiful and smart.  My dogs are cool and fun.  I go places.  I watch stuff.  I get mad about certain things.  Some things make me happy.  I have opinions and pet peeves.  I take pictures of people and things I find interesting.  I wish you a happy birthday when it’s your birthday.  I like some of the things you post.

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20 years ago – and last month – in Internet anonymity

It seems the New Yorker cartoon from 1993 is indicative of the sort of anonymity some, mostly Gen Y’ers (and whatever the people younger than Gen Y’ers are called) want from their social web experiences.

Image

“The Return of the Anonymous Social Web” tells how some neat-o relatively new social apps are demonstrating a trend for people to want some honesty in their social web experiences not just the shiny, happy versions of ourselves we push onFacebook, etc.  Oh, and to not give all their valuable personal info away…

This seems to support the adage that stuff comes and goes in popularity in 20 year cycles.  I’m sure this is called something academic by someone and I’m pretty sure Babylonians or some ancient civilization had some sort of astronomical or astrological calendar based on 20 year cycles, but this piece in Slate looks at whether the pop culture version of this should be 40, 20 or 12-15 years.

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Politics of Numbers

90% think something should be done. So let’s say that’s an over statement…a bit more than half of that is still half of the country. Most polls, of course, tend to be off by 5 percentage points in either direction at most.

An organization representing roughly 1.5% of the country doesn’t think anything should be done. Let’s say this number is under stated by 100%. That’s 3% of the country. (And, actually, I am recalling numbers showing that something like 60% or more of said organization agrees with the 90%).

A body supposedly elected under the principle “of the people, by the people, for the people” sides with the organization representing roughly 1.5% – or maybe up to 3% – of the country.

(Editor’s Note – this is a personal blog. I am not a fact checker. Feel free to fact check me if you like. Maybe I’m woefully misinformed. But that is why I hedged on the stats above potentially being significantly higher or lower than what I’ve seen, heard and recall.)

I respect the Constitution. I don’t always agree with issues that are passed into laws, but I respect that these things are law and we have the opportunity to freely debate these things, not to mention keep or get rid of those who develop and pass – or not pass – policies into laws. I typically respect them to the point of not discussing them because, of late, it’s hard to have constructive discussions on these issues.

Heck, my wife and I (who don’t always agree on politics) have even discussed with our kids about respecting laws or legal decisions that you may not personally agree with. We have also let them know about the potential for hard feelings that can occur because of discussing “political” issues – not that they shouldn’t do so and not that they shouldn’t have personal opinions on the issues, just that feelings can run high and friendships altered when “issues of the day” are discussed. And we couched it as what makes our country great, that many places in the world this cannot happen without serious repercussions or violence.

To be clear…

I think people kill people.

I would like people who shouldn’t have guns to have less opportunities to get guns.

I don’t understand the need for high capacity magazines in non-military situations.

I don’t think the government is plotting to take guns away from people who have lawfully obtained them.

I don’t think there should be a registry of gun owners (and I don’t think one is in the making).

I would say I’m more of a pragmatist than a party-affiliated person when it comes to “politics”.

But that aside, to me, the action taken – or not taken – in the face of the numbers above are hard to comprehend or rationalize, Constitutional amendment or not. Issues aren’t being “politicized”. They’re being bought and sold. On both sides of the aisle. Across seemingly every issue.

Yeah yeah yeah, special interests have “always” done this. Fine. Then let’s have our distinguished senators and representatives voted out of or leave office so they can work directly on behalf of the special interests of their choice and not pretend to be representing their constituents desires or protecting the Constitution. They can line their pockets all they want as private citizens. I do have a firm belief in capitalism.

It seems they are more than willing to make – or not make – decisions on the special interests’ behalf, while perpetuating indecision on behalf of the American people. And, to me, that just doesn’t add up.

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Big Data: Savior or Anti-Christ?

Anybody read any good pieces about big data lately?  Those of us in the marketing/media/advertising complex can’t stumble into a stream of things we should be reading on the industry without being slapped in the face with a headline or two on the topic two or three times an hour or, at least, a day depending on whom or what one prioritizes in one’s stream.

Since coverage of big data is contributing to big data and since I’m but a human who does not have sufficient capacity on hand to process it all, I couldn’t possibly plant links to pertinent articles, but simply will share a couple of themes I picked up from headlines in my stream the past few weeks or so.

The genius, of course, is that if you want to read more about these themes, you will leverage the big data of a search engine with some pieces of the information I’m providing below to find the articles on big data.  I’m helping you learn to cope.  Your welcome.  It’s all just so, well, big and data-y…

The head of one of the agency holding companies said all media markets will operate like digital exchanges sooner than later (I think this was on FT or some other pay-walled situation)

Someone said markets operating on big data are killing creative, while someone else said its making creative better since it’s tied more directly to business metrics – or maybe that was all in the same article (Maybe this was in MediaPost or AdAge)

Another said something about big data actually pointing to a lot of really good “little” ideas that can have “big” impact as long as you know how to mine the big data to find these gems (I think this was on the blog of analyst or consultant or a consultative analyst)

My personal favorite was Cobra Commander’s perspective.

I’m a bit geeky.  I like books about taxonomy and the history of information and how people used stuff before so we can understand or hypothesize how they might use new stuff now and in the future.  I like tinkering around with lots of numbers in spreadsheets so I can uncover an interesting story.  I’m not a 1’s and 0’s kind of geek.  I’m more of a know enough to be dangerous about how the plumbing works such that I can understand how the toilet, sink and shower are in the right places at the right times – even if it may be different than before.  If big data can help that be done, that is fantastic.

What I’m trying really hard not to say but am just going to say anyway is know what it is you want data of any size to do for you, to solve for you, to support for you before you start trying to process it.  Thinking about it that way should help you trim through the noise of the bigness, the veiled and unveiled fear of it, and make it another part of your toolbox of strategic goodness.

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Filed under advertising effectiveness, analytics, future of media, measurement, twitter

My McLuhan Memes

(Decided on consonance for the title of this post vs. S**t McLuhan Said.  I applaud my own restraint.)

When I feel a bit worn down by 140-160 characters of digital/new/social media and technology quips, purported wisdom, snarky-ness and links – my own included…

When I feel like there is one outline used by most authors for all books about and/or related to digital/new/social media and technology that tend to extrapolate the 140-160 character form to mean 140-160 pages of quips, purported wisdom, snarky-ness and links – with many illustrative case studies…

When it seems after following a week of posts and memes from Advertising Week I’ve come across a scare number of interesting, stimulating, or new concepts…

I turn to Marshall McLuhan.  Mainly because he was right.  In 1964, he was right about 2012.  Maybe more right about 2012 than most of us trying to figure out the reality of 2012 that he could only prognosticate about.  I don’t think he was completely right, actually have a few bones of contention related to what he said, but, by and large, the dude nailed it.

Which then gives me hope.  It grounds me.  Makes me feel my philosophical basis for my day to day is all good.  That I don’t need a new/social media guru to understand what’s going on around us.  Gives me a critical basis to consider new ways of thinking being proposed in 140-160 characters or pages.

So I’ve curated some of my favorite McLuhan quotes into some memes below.  So when this world is gettin’ you down, you can refer to these and get yourself reinvigorated and back into those bubbling, flowing streams of social-ness with renewed perspective and some damn good zingers to boot.  (FYI, there are quite a few Twitter accounts for McLuhan…including his zombie…)

SUITABLE FOR T-SHIRTS, PLAQUES OR POWERPOINT SLIDES WITH A STRONG VISUAL

There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.

Our time is a time for crossing barriers, for erasing old categories, for probing around.

Whoever sharpens our senses tends to be anti-social.

MEDIA AIN’T JUST A PLACE TO PUT ADS

All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical.

Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.

Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.

Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions.  The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world.

WE CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH OR CHANGE IS HARD

Nothing can be further from the spirit of new technology than “A place for everything and everything in its place”.

Our age of anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools, yesterday’s concepts.

When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavors, of the most recent past.

We look at the present in a rearview mirror.  We march backwards into the future.

In the name of “progress”, our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old.

DEALING WITH INFORMATION OVERLOAD

The instantaneous world of electric informational media involves all of us, all at once.  No detachment or frame is possible.

Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness.

At the high speeds of electric communication, purely visual means of apprehending the world are no longer possible; they are just too slow to be relevant or effective.

Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition.  We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay.

PROGRESS LEADS TO REGRESSION OR GETTING BACK TO BASICS

Electric circuitry is recreating in us the multi-dimensional space orientation of the “primitive”.

We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.

Under conditions of electric circuitry, all the fragmented job patterns tend to blend once more into involving and demanding roles or forms of work that more and more resemble teaching, learning, and “human” service.

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Filed under books, communication platforms, future of media, McLuhan

Stuff I’ve Said Other Places, Episode 3

I believe this will be the end of this series.  A nice, neat trilogy.  Pretty sure there won’t be a prequel or postquel.

This one was posted on September 11, 2006 at iMediaConnection under the title “Staffing Made Simple”.  Of course a joke for any media director, digital or otherwise.  My main intent with this one was to extol the virtues of a “cross-trained” media professional.  But as I tend to do, I meandered around a bit.

First was to take on what was at the time a budding air of superiority from “digital” folks – a “we-know-more-than-you-and-are-ready-for-what’s- next and-your-not” kind of air – while also incessantly bitching about ridiculousness of hours and not having enough people to help out.  I’ve always felt that sort of arrogance just needs to go away and the more people you can get to learn and understand more stuff, the better.  And the corollary – if you aren’t interested in learning new stuff, you’re in the wrong industry – is equally applicable.  There tends to be enough work to go around for everybody anyway so no need to be insecure.

However, I’ve also been in real world situations where getting to that point is extremely challenging for a number of reasons – even when it seems you have it in your power to make it happen.  Not really feeling up to getting into that right now…

Next was the thought of a truly fluid and real time digital media marketplace.  Mind you, this was prior to the explosion in ad exchanges/trading desks/DSPs/etc and so forth.  Perhaps we are closer, but noticed a few articles from various online measurement firms in my Twitter stream today about over 1 billion in online advertising being wasted on bots – and of course a note saying “and here’s how to protect yourself”.  So maybe impressions being traded at the impression level in real time is getting better, but seems the intervention of human beings for more than just pressing buttons is still required.

And to that end is the real reason I am re-posting this one.  Finding talent that can think critically about what they are seeing, develop strategy, and drive that through to application, completing the loop back to new data and doing it all over again – will continue to be a challenge.  Perhaps we have placed a bit too much faith and trust in the 1’s and 0’s, or maybe there’s too much teaching of placing too much faith and trust in the 1’s and 0’s vs. teaching what to do with the output from the magical programs, models and dashboards we see every day.  I’ve had discussions with a number of friends and colleagues who work at media companies, at agencies and at marketers who are all looking for talent who aren’t just data-driven, comfortable with numbers and technology, or are part programmer but who demonstrate actual critical thinking skills to understand how these things can fit together and apply actual strategy moving forward.

One conversation in particular stands out.  “It’s like they don’t even have a point of view on what’s going on in the industry, ” this friend and former colleague said to me.  Kind of a bummer since this is such a dynamic, fun industry to be in.

I will stop now in hopes that this somewhat curmudgeonly opening doesn’t take away from what I think is a hopeful message below.  Enjoy…

————————————————————-

Much has been made of late regarding the challenge of finding good, experienced interactive/digital media people. It’s a consistent topic in just about every trade publication you pick up or trade website you peruse. It’s even starting to get some play in some mainstream business publications, in print and online.

I have been relatively lucky in that I have a good, solid core of talent that has allowed for much organic growth as our clients’ interactive / digital / new / emerging media budgets have grown (note to headhunters and my esteemed colleagues– HANDS OFF); a great core of talent that has (more or less) willingly given up on the concept of “normal” work hours and work weeks as the workload has steadily increased.

I’ve become a bit exasperated of late, however, both in terms of my recent searches for outside talent, as well as with the trade buzz around this topic. I’m a firm believer in the idea that there is nothing new under the sun, and that the best way to get insight about the future is to examine the past. Since we live in the digital age that we do (I haven’t done the math on this officially but I’m thinking there are about 15 digital years per every calendar year), all I had to do was take a quick look back to the not-so-distant past for some insight on this current event.

There was a trend some 10 years ago of media planners and buyers making a jump into this internet thing without a safety net, primarily driven by curiosity, to establish themselves in this space. Paraphrasing Willy Wonka, we were the music makers; we were the dreamers of dreams.

I have many fond memories of just trying to figure it out. Back when sock puppets sold dog food online, and someone thought there was a viable business plan in paying people to surf the internet, stock options fell like manna from heaven (even for companies using sock puppets to sell dog food online and companies paying people to surf the internet), and The Big Guys’ main sales strategy was “We’re big. Buy us.” (See, 15 digital years per calendar year bring trends back a lot more quickly in our world.)

Nostalgia aside, the main reason I got into interactive / digital / new / emerging / title-of-the-week media was because I had a curiosity about media in which people were an active participant in the experience. There was the thrill of being able to see the loop close– seeing the actual behaviors resultant from our advertising. What’s more, the ability to use that data to make the plan better– immediately. And there were many folks like me (many of you reading this now) in the previous decade having a similar epiphany.

Do you think such curious folk in this industry ceased to exist in 1995 or 1998 or 2001 when you came into the game? Is there not a strong safety net now in place to show the way for the next generation of digitally curious media planners and buyers, digitally experienced or not? Are we not the potential Jedi Masters to these potential Padawon Learners? OK, I’ll stop now.

As lines blur between traditional and non-traditional, as most media move to digital and more measurable platforms, do we need to, in a media analogy, parse a finite universe of experienced digital planners and buyers until that audience is no longer efficient or stable to target? Or do we need to find an audience with a propensity for curiosity regardless of their demographic make up (traditional vs. digital) and show them the way?

Look, if we’re going to walk the talk of convergence / cross-platform / integration, it CANNOT all be driven by interactive and digital media experts (weren’t we the first ones in the recent past to extol the virtues of “media agnostic” approaches?). Likewise, in a world where medium is message and people use rather than consume media, all pertinent knowledge about a client’s business needs and goals CANNOT only reside with account folks and “traditional” media planning teams. It has to be a partnership in which knowledge and information are shared freely to get to a common goal. In the words of another wise sage — potentially as crazy as Willy Wonka — Roy Spence, “We do not have the corner on smarts.”

Roy loves to speak about the model of “Dynamic Collaboration” as the key to success. In order to get to innovative solutions, all disciplines must collaborate and ideate together BEFORE integration can truly happen. Otherwise, you’re just integrating the wrong things. And, the key to collaboration is removing the chip from your shoulder and checking your ego at the door– digital folks have just as much to learn from traditional planners and buyers as they from us.

I think we’re a long way away from an uber-planner/buyer who can effectively strategize, execute and optimize across the spectrum of media vehicles now at our disposal. Wonka also said, “We have so much time and so little to do. Scratch that, reverse it.” Whenever asked about the potential for “splitting” a person between traditional work and interactive work, I’m fond of pointing out that folks working for me have 40+ hour per week jobs, folks in traditional media have 40+ hour per week jobs, and I’m relatively certain no one (voluntarily) works 80+ hours per week.

Perhaps one day we will have a purely digital media marketplace where front-end planning systems are tied to media inventory management-negotiation systems that then feed seamlessly into tracking and billing systems across all media vehicles; something that is adaptable to the dynamic nature of seamlessly integrating messaging into content and programming, as well as efficient at placing “spots and dots” as needed. And it will come with a slick dashboard showing all of your results across all your spending in one place. That’s a bit more than a few digital years off, I think.

We live in a culture of media mash ups; the same could be said for the ways and means of how media gets planned and bought. A pertinent example in this very digital year: As search is touted for its efficacy in building brands, the industry is rampant with talk of broadcast being purchased on an auction model.

That seems to beg for well-rounded media people who have a working knowledge and understanding of all platforms; people who are comfortable with and can act on instantly available data allowing for real-time optimization, but also are comfortable working in an environment where efficient audience delivery is key; people who can walk the talk of the effect of media mix on communication goals– as well as business goals.

In my estimation, this requires hands-on knowledge where media people can be dedicated to working within an interactive/digital media team for at least a year, preferably within the first few years of their career. Conversely, a year-long “work study” for a young digital media person who has never worked in the traditional world is a must as well. Where they go from that point is up to them, but one thing is for certain: They will have sufficient context and tools to do any job in media well, regardless of how these various platforms evolve.

My favorite line from Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” is, “It is when the tools of production are transparent that we are inspired to create. When people understand how great work is made, they’re more likely to want to do it themselves.” I believe that sums it up nicely. Give solid, young media planners and buyers the tools they need and watch the innovation and creativity flow.

Perhaps I’m over simplifying. Perhaps with media agencies separate from creative agencies separate from interactive agencies such a system can’t work and flourish. Where clients manage bricks-and-mortar in silos from the digital world, perhaps what I’m talking about can’t flourish.

Or perhaps we just need to try harder to make sure that such a system can flourish. Mr. Spence also likes to say, “You’ve gotta kiss change on the lips.” Pucker up.

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Filed under future of media, stuff I've said other places, the career