Monday, June 30, 2008

July is Do or Die Month for Sponsorship Sales

My Sponsorship Monday post is trapped on my laptop. I am in California at a conference and had written a post that would help you make hay in July, a critical month for closing deals. Technology is working against me. I promise to post it tomorrow. My apologies.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Privacy and Intellectual Profiling

The information we seek reveals what we think. In an era of constant electronic communications without commercial privacy standards, our deepest thoughts can be tracked and picked over by the government and corporations. Search engines store our searches, social networking sites reveal our purchasing preferences and ISPs are starting to track our keystrokes. Essentially, our minds are being monitored. Welcome to the age of intellectual profiling.

I am proud to say that my firm is working on a campaign that will help the American public understand the impact of intellectual profiling on people's right to learn, be curious, and research what you want to know about online.

On the brink of the U.S. Senate passing legislation to grant telecommunications immunity for wiretapping citizens that eviscerates the Fourth Amendment, how real or imagined is the world of Intellectual Profiling that best selling author, Cory Doctorow, portends in his short story, “Scoogled”?

Ask him.

Doctorow will be a featured panelist at “Privacy: Is it Time for a Revolution” on Sunday, June 29 from 1:30-3:00 p.m. in room 201D during the American Library Association’s annual conference. The panel launches the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom’s three-year, 21st Century privacy rights initiative, which was recently kick-started with an investment from the Soros Foundation Network.

Not planning on being in Anaheim this Sunday? If you have any questions or would like to pose to the panelists, send them to me directly or comment on this post and I'll see to it they get posed.

Panelists include : Author and blogger Cory Doctorow,Wired magazine senior writer Dan Roth, and the Director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Beth Givens

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Take that! Brand Torture=Low, Low, Prices

New research out of MIT's Sloan School looks at ways consumers can punish brands. Turns out that savvy consumers understand that deeply discounted prices hurt brands by shaving down profit margins. Converesly, people are willing to pay a premium for socially responsible brands. For example, consumers were willing to pay more than $4.00 more for "ethically grown" coffee. On the flip side, consumers "punished" unethical coffee brands for their bad behavior with a mean price that was $2.42 below the control group's. So, negative information had almost twice the impact of positive information on the participants' willingness to pay. "

thanks to photographer Wendy Adams for making shopping look so cool on Flickr

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nissan U.S. Track and Field Sponsorship Stays Home

While automobile manufacturer Nissan has been named official sponsor of the 2008 USA National Track & Field Team, it is putting more thrust behind what will happen stateside. And Nissan will de-emphasize Beijing. Under the deal, Nissan will also sponsor the Eugene ’08 festival, which is providing facilities and events for visitors at the US National Team Championships, the event to decide the US Track & Field team for the Beijing Olympics.

To animate their sponsorship, Nissan has also renewed an agreement with publisher Rodale Inc., to create a multimedia program around the national team trials. The program, called “Master the SHIFT”, will launch at the Eugene ’08 festival, and will engage four elite athletes and professional trainers, or “Masters”, – Alberto Salazar, former marathon runner and coach; Chris Carmichael, former Olympian, author, and trainer to Lance Armstrong; Kathy Kaehler, Celebrity Fitness Trainer; and Laird Hamilton, surfer and television host – in an ongoing print and online campaign.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Love You, Mr. President...Whoever You Are

On weekends, I let my hair down and blog about anything that moves me. I wear my heart on my sleeve, voice an opinion, or dare to go places untold. By Monday, it's back to business.

This week, we said good-bye to my step-father, Joseph Rybicki. He was 88. He had battled Parkinson's disease for years, until it rendered him mute and incontinent. It was tragic to witness. But he remained dignified right to the end. After all, he was a soldier once and knew how to gut it out.

Joe stormed the beach at Normandy and took a bullet to the chest. He was left for dead and later recovered and hospitalized. Miraculously, he survived his wounds and served out his commission. He would return to his hometown of Detroit and marry a neighborhood girl and start a family. Unfortunately, there was no happily ever after when his wife contracted cancer and died at a young age. Years later, he would meet my mother, herself a widow.

They married and embarked on a life together as two mismatched people working it out for the sake of Catholic duty. No matter, their union provided my siblings and I a sense of stability for which we were very grateful.

None of us anticipated how sad it would be to say farewell to Joe. He wasn't blood. Still, he was our friend and we loved him. So when the hearse pulled up to the cemetery and the U.S. Army Honor Guard met the coffin, and draped it with the American flag, saluted him and played taps we all cried our hearts out.

And when the ceremony was over, the soldiers folded the flag with careful precision into a tight triangle. A young, fresh-faced female soldier knelt down at my mother's feet and presented the bundle to her with these words: "I present this flag to you on behalf of the President of the United States, in honor of your husband's brave and honorable service to his country." Well, in that moment, that singular moment, I loved George W. Bush. I never thought I would or could ever feel such a sentiment for a man for whom I mostly feel contempt. But on that day, with the sun beaming through the stained glass and resting softly on my elderly mother's weeping face, and in the presence of this earnest young soldier, I thought well, at least Dubya knows how to send his condolences.

So long, Joe, and "May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." (Wm. Shakespeare)

Photo courtesy of At this Moment on Flickr

Friday, June 20, 2008

Collective Creativty and the Courage to Think

About a year ago, I became fascinated with brain research that might explain the vast creative output that is being facilitated by the Web. YouTube and social networking sites only scratch the surface. My contacts in the venture capital world tell me more content creation interfaces are under development.

My theory is that our social and ecological conditions have triggered the need for problem solving on a grand scale. That means "many minds" will need to be engaged to create new ways of doing things.

Here is my premise: similar to Jung's theory of collective unconcsious, it is possible to experience a collective creativity. That is, when large numbers of people begin to create in an intentional way, it stimulates a cognitive medium that makes a renaissance possible.

I am just learning about this. And I never have enough time to read the research and plumb the depths of the data. So, I do what I always do. I use my travel time as fieldwork and just start asking people if they see what I see. Sometimes, I'm met with puzzled looks, other times dismissed. Better yet, I am disputed by someone who really knows something, which I consider a blessing since it refines my thinking.

Last week I hit pay dirt. At the breakfast table of a B&B in Columbia Missouri, I was sitting across the table from Neal Cohen, PhD. He is an accomplished brain researcher from the University of Illinois. I chatted about a couple theories I'm working on. He dismissed or contested them based on his own work. He was a tough sell. But when I posed my theory on Collective Creativity, he paused, brightened, and got very animated. Indeed, there was merit to it, he told me. And in fact, he listed several pieces of evidence to support it.

I won't list all his support points here. Perhaps in a later post. But here is what I learned from Neal Cohen:
1. Intellectual courage is powerful all by itself. We should never be afraid to conjure and test a theory. So what if it's a crock? It may lead you somewhere else. That somewhere else could be very valuable.
2. Remain open to one another. Every idea I put before Cohen was considered very thoughtfully. His rebuttals were fair and qualified. Best of all, he enjoyed the banter. His attitude created the energy of permission. Permission to fail, permission to imagine, permission to laugh at yourself.
3. Colleagues can be found anywhere. If a renaissance is marked by cross-disciplinary mash-ups, it is then possible to broaden our definition of a colleague. Innovation can happen lots of places, under lots of circumstances. In other words, the conditions of the lab (breakfast table) are far less important than the people in the lab.

Finally, I just want to say there are days when I am putting my belongings in the gray bins or being wanded by security or eating a dubious-looking hotdog, that I wonder if my life is just a schlep. But on days when I encounter the Neal Cohen's of the world, I am the queen of all I survey!

So, what's your latest theory?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Waiter, There's a Gun at My Table!

Imagine you are at a business lunch, and in between bites your guest lets you know she’s joined the NRA. Okay, not your thing, but you keep enjoying your tuna tartare. There’s more. Next, she tells you she just acquired a license to carry a concealed weapon. You set down your fork. Wait, she tells you, it gets better. Leaning into you with sotto voce she lets you in on her little secret. At this very moment she has a pistol in her purse.

What do you do? I mean, what’s the proper business etiquette in this situation?

This is the situation I found myself in recently.

Admittedly, I am a non-violent paranoid when it comes to bearing arms. Translation: guns scare me. And in social settings, well consider what it did for Dick Cheney. The difference is that Cheney and his guest were consensual. And they were toting weapons to shoot skeet, so at least there was the veil of sport involved

Do we have the right to know, and if so excuse ourselves from a situation involving a concealed weapon? Or do I protest too much?

By the way, the tuna sat poorly all day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Acts of God

Have you ever encountered the phrase "Acts of God" in a contract? It's usually found in a force majuere clause and lets everyone off the hook if some tragedy occurs. Floods, hurricanes, death, all qualify. 

I am not posting my usual Sponsorship Monday blog. I may not post for a few days. My long-suffering step father died this morning. Yesterday, a severe thunder storm ripped out power lines on my block and we are still without power.  (I am writing this from a coffee shop.) 

Acts of God. I'm releasing myself from blogging duties for a few days.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Content

Every now and then, I come across a blogger who just blows me away with really useful marketing content. It's an amazing contribution. Advergirl is my current favorite. Lately, she's been running tip sheets and mini-tutorials on how to plan and manage digital creative projects. Who doesn't need that? If you are reading this, you are needing that, right? Alice Sneary at OCLC turned me on to Advergirl, and I've been grateful ever since.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Olympic Sponsor's Nightmare

In the love fest that is the Olympics, the Beijing Olympics were supposed to be as Mr. McDreamy. Imagine it--a chance to leap gracefully over the high cultural hurdles of typical marketing, to land softly in front of a billion Chinese consumers.

But years ago, when those deals were being signed, no one could have imagined that "green lite" would become "green panic" and China would become synomous with poison.

And then there are those pesky monks. Robed, humble and fantastically photogenic, they are a public relations nightmare for Olympic organizers.

Enter Jill Savitt and Dream for Darfur. It's a movement that links China to the genocide in Darfur. I encountered Ms. Savitt when she was fresh out of Yale and leading the media charge for Take Our Daughters To Work Day. I can tell you from personal experience, she's brilliant, canny and can outsmart any P.R. executive at a major agency for a fraction of their costs. Already she has amassed enough media hits to force a coalition of corporate sponsors to publicy address her demands. Four years ago, sponsors might have sat in smug silence. Savitt is a fierce combatant and she will drive this Darfur sword to its hilt and it will make sponsors squirm.

It gets worse. This brand disaster comes at record prices. Some companies forked out up to $100 million in hotly contested bidding to become official partners for the Beijing Olympics. Those are the just the rights fees. According to Ethical Corporation magazine, "Top sponsors will be collectively spending up to an additional $2 billion on Olympics-related promotions in China alone in what marketers call '360-degree brand engagement' covering television, print, radio, internet, outdoor and mobile phone advertising, and event sponsorships. "

Sponsoring companies for the Beijing Olympics include Coca-Cola, General Electric, Visa International, McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, Adidas, Omega, Volkswagen, Haier, Eastman Kodak, BHP Billiton, Lenovo, Panasonic and Samsung. They will have their hands full shielding their brands from consumer vigilantes.

It's nearly August in the big scheme of things. All these sponsors can do is ride it out. But what's now being called into question is whether the world's instabilities make the Olympics too big a risk at too high a price.

Expect price deflation in coming years. Sure, the Olympics have always been used as a platform for protest. What's different now is the facilitating medium of Web 2.0 that can mass Tsunami-like force against brands in ways that leave permanent dents in a brand's aura. Consider also that the some of the issues people are rallying around are long-term global problems. They won't be solved by Chicago 2016.

Will the Olympics continue to be the darling of corporate sponsors? Probably. What's not to love? But can the Olympic Program continue its McDreamy status? Not likely.

Photo courtesy of FahLang, 2002 at Flickr

Sunday, June 8, 2008

This Blog is an SOB

Thank God it's Sunday. What a week! I heard that sentiment echoed down the line as women soaked their feet at the nail salon on Friday. "Boy, my week was awful," said the woman next to me, "How was yours?" Same, I said. Because it's sandal season, a regretably brief season in the Midwest, women like me who might not ordinarily indulge a weekly ritual at the nail salon, do so now.

But there was a bright spot. No, a klieg light beaming 10,000 watts in the direction of this blog. Liz Strauss, tapped us for her coveted SOB--Successful and Outstanding Blog designation. We are thrilled. Elated. And above all honored to have earned her respect.

Something I learned from doing media sponsorships with Hearst, owners of Good Housekeeping Magazine, is that the only people who question the value of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, are the ones who never earn one. I really get that now.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Is Happiness a Frill?

What if I really don't know how to make myself happy? What if all the years of believing, for one reason or another, that my happiness is a frivolous, selfish concern because my duty outranks everything?

I am seeing Hillary swallow the bitter pill I have tasted myself. You work hard. You learn to gracefully maneuver around lesser talented males and not piss them off in the process. You get a good education. You pay your dues. You raise your kids, you raise your husband. You build a career. You suffer a lot of rejection (I'd love to know the comparison between how much rejection professional women absorb vs men) some of which you can't figure out because it doesn't seem to based on merit. You learn to raise money...big money. You've done everything in your power. You followed the plan to a T. And in the end, you are left standing with nothing.

I am thunderstruck that the Democratic Party have floated Caroline Kennedy's name as Obama's running mate.

So, all that duty, all that striving, all that work -- does any of it translate into happiness? Did Hillary "enjoy" the process? Because it seems to me, that part of her problem was a lack of authenticity. A lack of passion. Buried in there someplace, I wonder if she really wanted it. Had she become so disconnected from her understanding of what makes her truly happy that she became plastic? And is this a common pitfall for women? Do we, over time, get so bogged down and so confused by having to jigger the system, that our energy gets wasted when we could be using it to create our own happiness? But we don't realize it. We are too busy struggling to wedge our foot in the door to look up and realize, it's not the right address. It doesn't house our happiness.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Seeing is Believing

What do you get when you cross a cynic with a creative? A sensualist.

Why is Italy filled with so much eye-popping art? Because sensualists rule in a renaissance.

The roots of this lie in the compost heap of decline. Do you need convincing that we are moving deeper into decline? This is the "death comes first" part that occurs right before a renaissance. It forces otherwise optimistic people to face harsh realities. That triggers cynicism, through which every mesage is filtered.

Equally powerful is a collective creativity that spans from content creation to creating a new and better world. The tension between cyncism, a negative force, and creativity, a positive force works just like a battery. It's charging up a generation who, when they can trust nothing else will rely on their senses. What they can see, touch, taste, and smell.

This week I blogged about the potential for a new language based on symbols to facilitate the volume of communications we all have to manage. I'm looking into it. Frog Design turns out to be yet another resource for viz. comm. I've invited our Culture Scout, Brandy Agerbeck a viz comm guru to weigh in as well. We'll see what she has to say.

Liz Strauss wonders if a world that values visual communication over text-based language will favor extroverts? Research on freshman at the School of the Art Institute in the 1990's revealed the student body's Myers Briggs scores were predominantly I's -- introverts. Not sure if that would still be true today.

Will our doodles, pictures, and logos become our most valuable assets?

Photo courstesy of Dave Mundy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Will Symbols Set Us Free?

How much email is too much? Yesterday, I was in Des Moines giving a RenGen talk. Over lunch, the topic of email ettiquette came up. Michael Morain from the Des Moines Register and John Busbee from KFMG radio and I were talking about managing multiple media obligations. Michael wondered: "What's the human threshold for email? At what point do you just give out because you can't respond to one more email?" No one knew.

I dialed up Shelley Dolley, one of my associates. She quickly unearthed figures on the number of emails that were sent out worldwide in 2006 (billions!), divided that by world population and voila! The average number of emails managed per person is about 200, rounded down. Yikes! We are swimming in email. Now, we have to account for SPAM in there. "SPAM ruins everything," Michael bemoaned. True. Still, this is a lot of communication.

So, how to simplify?
Take up a haiku approach? Fewer words? Well, consider Abe Lincoln's quandary, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."

Or are we headed for a new language based on symbols? It's universal, visual, and quick. It would replace the cryptic, letter-based code of IM that leaves so much up for misinterpretation.

military uses symbols. It helps clarify, train, and command quick behaviors. Then there's TripleInk, a firm that specializes in symbology. Also noteworthy, the hand drawings of bloggers that are so popular. Just more evidence that this move towards visual language is revving up.

Culturally, this is a big deal. Whenever a civilization begins creating a new language, it marks an important milestone. The more universal the new language, the deeper the implications. This goes beyond jargon or dialect.
The burden of our current communications cannot hold. So let me ask, how many emails will it take to achieve world adoption of symbols as Internet language?
Photo courtesy of Temp13rec on Flickr

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rox Darling and Primo Water take a Beach Walk Together: A Peek Into an E-content Sponsorship Deal

From its very beginning, the Web held promise for a new day in marketing. Its content builds community, while other media remain individual experiences. Its accessibility makes every one an artist. If the Web is advertising’s shiny new toy, why do advertisers insist on using it in old-school ways?

It’s not been a failure of imagination…it’s been a lack of heart.

Beach Walk 646 - Taming the To Do List
Enter Rox Darling. The high priestess of e-aloha, Rox’s breezy Hawaiian beach walk videos have become a daily ritual for people seeking a little respite from a stressful world. Spreading her earnest goodwill and a sincere desire to be a voice that stands for renewal, Rox wants the Web to be a force that changes the way people interact with others and their environment.

Rox brings a lot of heart to the Web. Her efforts have been rewarded. The award-winning has earned more than 2 million downloads. That’s over 4,000 downloads per day. Plus, an active cadre of fellow bloggers drop in for the occasional, “Aloha, Rox…I was just thinking about something you said”

But now she has new bragging rights. She has a major sponsor! And while some of the financial arrangements remain under wraps, Rox freely shared several aspects of the deal when she spoke to me from her Barefeet Studios. “We knew from the start that we had to protect the online environment—the beach I walk on is pristine. So my site has to reflect that,” says Rox. She believes that serenity is part of what draws people to her daily video blog. “I couldn’t see littering the site with a lot of little tile ads,” she lamented. “People come here for daily renewal, I have to honor that.”

Instead, she and
Susan Bratton of Personal Life Media developed a strategy for seeking out just the right sponsor. “We had to get it right and find a true partner for the Beachwalks brand.” They clicked with Primo Water, a bottled water brand with a biodegradable bottle made of vegetable oils, not petroleum. It’s been a great match.

How it works:

Spots. A brief spot runs after every BWWR segment. Rather than interrupting or preempting what people come for. The simpatico look and feel of the Primo spot virtually extends the experience, so viewers linger to watch it.

Hotlinks. Rox’s site is robust with lots of cubby holes for content to explore. Links to Primo are scattered throughout, but nested carefully in Rox’s sincere gratitude for the tie.

Star power. Rox is low-key about her celebrity, but she knows her star power is a tacit endorsement. Better yet, it’s an endorsement with a booster pack of community that loves Rox. And hey, bottled water is bottled water. May as well drink the one that’s making Rox’s show possible every morning, right? The next wave for Rox is to evangelize her loyal viewers to walk into their local stores and ask for the water because they love Rox. Love me love my sponsors. It’s a delicate proposition for someone as attuned as Rox is to the welter of exploitative marketing platforms out there, but she has the brand equity to make it happen.

Eye balls. Beachwalks attracts RenGen viewers: cultural omnivores, well-educated, spiritually open and eco-conscious. How many? Since its beginning, over 2 million people have downloaded the vlog, at an average rate of 4,000 per day.

Intimacy. These are impressive numbers. But not the gargantuan number advertisers get through TV ads. Still, the web’s intimacy grows community that cross-endorses in ways that make a brand sticky earn cred that TV cannot deliver.

Quality. The production values, the beauty of the beach, the magnetism of Rox and the gentle seduction of her brand: “It’s all good if we are good to each other.”

Hands on. Rox and Susan are working with Primo, and other potential sponsors to connect into other needs such as workplace programs and custom streaming. But these programs prove to be a little more work for the sponsor, Rox admits. Still, the future seems to be headed toward fusing the brick and clicks that help link employees, customers and content together.

What’s next for Rox and her beach companion, Lexi the dog? “I want to take Beachwalks on the road. I want to go to beaches around the world and radiate out the energy that is Beach Walks," says Rox.” We hope a sponsor can make that possible for a talent who has built one of the Web’s most authentic brands.