Friday, March 31, 2006

My first Marketing Awards (Pam)

Not being one of the cool kids, I approached my first ever Marketing Awards Gala as an anthropological excursion. I've spent the last decade working in direct marketing, so I don't know a whole lot of advertising agency types. It's like going to a wedding and knowing only the happy couple.

What a fantastically weird evening.

Awesome venue, the Liberty Grand. There was a smoking room. Very civilized.

Finding food was a bit perilous. Like trying to fight a bunch of fat kids for the last Smartie. I did come away with a martini glass filled with Sunday dinner -- a carrot, mashed spuds and roast beef. Oddly cool. I saw servers walking around with paper cups filled with what looked like brown Special K. I passed.

The manner of dress varied wildly, from Holt's chic to same-thing-I-wore-yesterday-and-slept-in-it-too. It was a contest of cool. I lost. If only I'd try harder at these things. I'm a fashion tragedy.

I was quite surprised by the ceremony itself. Although it was very slick looking, so well put together, I couldn't hear it. People were talking...loudly. What's up with that?

Maybe this rudeness was a big passive/aggressive "up yours" to those same five agencies that seem to win everything every single year. I dunno, but it's not cool. I mean really, aren't we there to pay homage to the art? To give some credit where it's due? To lay some love on the people who, through their genius, make all of us involved in the profession look good? Can we not shut up for just one hour?

In order to hear the show, I was forced to cup my hand around my ear. It's not a good look and I resent being forced to resort to it. It contributed to my failure in the contest of cool.

Now, about those same five agencies. The Big Five Creative Shops. As I watched the same few people go back and forth between the dais and their seats, I had a thought.

This award show is about the power of brands -- agency brands. Could it be that these same five agencies win all the awards (not just Marketing Awards) every year because of their agency brand? Could the judges be influenced in the same manner that consumers are?

"I want a safe car, so I will buy a Volvo." "I must pick the best creative, so I must pick a Taxi piece."

I'm pretty sure no judge would acknowledge that there could be any truth in that. But that's the same thing as a consumer denying that they are affected by advertising.

It's just a fun thought upon which to ruminate for a few minutes. All the stuff that won was brilliant. What a bunch of rock stars they are.

I did share this fun thought with a friend of mine at the show who had her own thought that I thought was a very insightful thought.

She is a very senior person at a big multinational agency. She said that when the senior people at her agency have their regular meetings to review the business, they talk about financials. Only financials. They never talk about creative. When they review their accounts, it's about how much money comes in, not about the quality of work that's being done for them.

She thinks this emphasis is reversed at The Big Five Creative Shops. I think she's probably right.

In fact, in a couple of cases, I know first-hand that she is. I've spent time with a couple of The Big Five talking about WWF's business. There's no question that agencies like Taxi and Rethink are all about the creative in every aspect of how their business is managed.

It's like any brand. If you want to be about something, you must live that something. You can't fake it. Saying it doesn't make it so.

This is why the same five agencies wear a path on the carpet to the podium every year.

I bet if the awards were for the biggest bag of money couriered to New York, you'd see five different agencies winning every single year.

And good for them, too. I guess.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Who's next? (Pam)

I'm taking a break from putting the final touches on my CMA presentation. You know when you get to the part where you have to animate the thing? A boring task from which I need some reprieve.

So?

Who's going to take over this blog? Are you not bored with me by now and looking for some new tales of triumph, failure and motorcycles?

Surely there's someone out there pining to share with the world some great new marketing venture upon which they are about to embark?

If so, look no further. I think if you just email Paul Ferriss, a big cheese editor at Marketing Mag, he'll talk to you about it.

Why don't I share with you some thoughts as you ponder whether this is the thing for you?

DO THIS IF...

1. You have a story you think people can learn from.
2. You can commit to posting at least once a week. (Unlike, ahem, Bill Baker.)
3. You can write.
4. You have permission to reveal ancient Chinese secrets. Or at least some. It's no fun if you can't share results.

DON'T DO THIS IF...

1. You're crashingly boring. (Look deep within yourself to know the truth of this matter.)
2. You're afraid of people "judging" you. Confidence helps.
3. You think "nuclear" is spelled n-u-c-u-l-a-r.
4. You have a prob with strangers emailing you about their products/services/how they'd be so much better at your job than you are.

So!

Think about it. It's fun. Besides, everyone's dying to hear from someone new already.

(I'm guessing that's true. Maybe I need more confidence. Was it something I said? Did I say anything to offend anyone? Oh...my...gawd. What if people didn't get that I was joking when I said that Joe Piccolo wanted to punch me in the face? Cause I really was! Oh man. Now everyone might think I'm so awful that people want to hurt me. But it's not true! Chris Taciuk's shoes really are weird, but that doesn't make him a bad person. I didn't mean it! My good gravy, what have I done?!)

Monday, March 27, 2006

The friends you make (Pam)

The first thing that I do when I join a company is to make friends in two places. One - the EA of the biggest cheese. (For access and any skinny one can get.) Two - the IT guys. (To find out how much snooping into my Internet activity goes on and access bitchin' new computers.)

I had a prob with my computer (don't ask me what). My whining (executed with great charm) resulted in the awesome new machine upon which I am currently typing. It's so super fast that the IT guy was just in my office giggling, literally, about what a monster he has built just for me. I LOVE IT GUYS!

So. That latest. Well. Not much.

New changes to the site will go live end of day tomorrow, I hope. We'll get the MSN activity off hiatus and see what happens.

CN Tower Climb registrations are going insane. The trick is...are these new registrations, or just migration of paper registrations to on-line? Don't know yet. Haven't done the data work.

Can't do the data work because I've put our data guy into chains and have swallowed him up into a dark and enless pit of data queries and analysis so I can finish my initial planning for next year. Donor base composition by channel. Value by channel. Attrition. Retention. Gift values by type. Tenure. Acquisition spend analysis. All very nerdy, but endlessly fascinating.

The people in my group are tiring of me interrupting their work to regale them with obscure facts about our business.

"Did you know, my fair maiden, that while 61% of our donor acquisitions have come from DRTV over the past 5 years, this group represents only 31% of our current base? Have you any idea the implications?" (Seriously, that's huge.)

Over the next day, I'll have all this data pulled into one bad boy of a document that will point the way for planning. Then it's off to the marketing committee of our board with a straw dog of a marketing plan for them to tear through.

This is my favourite part of my job. Taking gobs of data and finding the nuggets of gold that I can use to move the business where it needs to go. Trick is to bring everyone along with me.

(Update on tummy turmoil from previous post. Daughter suffered from nothing that some Pepto Bismol and SpongeBob SquarePants couldn't cure.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'm back! (Pam)

Okay. So I didn't quit smoking. But no children were injured by me on the 24-hour drive to and from Sarasota. Fair trade, I'd say.

Stopped for some Marlboro Lights in Ohio, right around the time I realised that I'd forgotten to charge my iPod.

So, I'm back. Got in on Monday to look at results and figure out what we're going to do with the site to improve conversions.

FCB has recommended some very smart creative tweaks that will be implemented next week.

The CN Tower climb is moving at a screaming pace with just 6-weeks left before d-day. We've doubled the numbers of climbers and teams registered by this time last year. Nothing new in the marketing approach for this event, so I just gotta believe we're benefitting from overall awareness due to the climate change campaign.

I'm presenting this whole campaign at the CMA's Not-For-Profit conference next week. Have you ever tried to condense a year and a half of your life into a power point presentation? It's not easy.

Was just interrupted by my cell phone...child sick at school with very bad tummy situation. Must leave. Will write more this evening.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Big swissy news (Pam)

NEWS UPDATE: Turns out Joanna Wiseman has indeed been offered and accepted that on-line marketing job in Switzerland. I'm sad for us, so glad for her. And, I am officially on the hunt for a replacement.

When the news came through, there was a bunch of girlish squealing and such. We're all so thrilled for Joanna who's embarking on yet another life adventure. She came to us after an 18-month around-the-world bender. Maybe it was a year. Anyway, she travelled Africa (where she almost had to have her leg chopped off because of some sort of vile infection), Australia and all over South America. Now it's Europe she'll take on. Too great.

So, anyone know any smart, fun, on-line marketing types? Looking for someone at the manager level who wants to save the planet using the power of the net.

On another note, I don't think I've ever mentioned one big part of our climate change fundraising campaign.

It's the CN Tower climb that we do every year. This is our 16th year. Anywhere between 5,000 and 6,000 people climb 1,776 steps from the bottom to the top.

It's our biggest fundraising event. The ads for it just went up on the street-level recycling bins around Toronto. Eucan, CTV, Standard Radio and the Toronto Star are our big media sponsors.

We've been working on the event since August, but now my entire team is consumed by it full-time until it happens on April 29.

The web work for this event has been competing with the work we're doing on climate web site. Juggling our slim resources can be challenging, particularly on the web.

But the on-line pledging technology is up and running. It's pretty cool.

Check it out.

Where the campaign's concerned, we've perhaps had a breakthrough on the climate change web site front. Bill and his team are pretty convinced that we need to create more off-line awareness in channels we haven't addressed as yet. I'm not sure precisely where this leading, but have a wide-open mind, waiting to hear what they've got up their sleeve.

I'm going to have to wait for about a week to find out, though. I'm off to Florida tomorrow night...in a van...with four kids...with plans to quit smoking cold turkey on the trip. I'm told this is going to be fun. I'm fairly confident, however, that I'm being lied to.

I'll let you know...........

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Conversion, polar bears and Phyllis Yaffe (Pam)

Jeez, Louise. It's terrible, this sitting and waiting. Waiting for new things to work. Have made a few revisions to the site to see what is going to help our conversion rates.

With the new MSN deal, we're getting a ton of click-thrus. Problem is conversion.

Our best conversions seem to be led by messaging around the fact that polar bears are drowning. It pretty shocking actually. Because the ice has melted so fast up there where the polar bears live, they have to swim sometimes up to 100km to get to their food sources. Some of them just can't make it. Stunning, given that these animals are the best swimmers with four legs.

So, we're working on integrating this messaging into the opening animation on the site, making the link between the plight of the polar bears and putting one's name in the sky.

We'll see.

I met with the word-of-mouth guy. Very, very interesting conversation. I think about how I make purchase decisions and how so many of those decisions are made by with input from my friends and colleagues. It just seems like a no-brainer that if the power of personal influence can be harnessed to save the planet, well then, colour me interested.

Will be talking about this and a couple of other ideas I have up my sleeve with the marketing committee of our board of directors at the end of the month. At that time, I'll be presenting a straw dog of next year's marketing plan.

The chair of this group is Phyllis Yaffe, the smartest woman I've ever had the luck to work with. A giant in Canadian business, sufferer of no stupidity and all-around great lady. We'll see what she thinks.

FYI, we just finished the month of February up 14.6% over last year (July to end of Feb) for revenue for my team. Smashing, I say. It would appear that we're doing lots right.

It's going to be 11 degrees on Friday. I want my bike.