The Talents of the Corporate Marketer

Judy_Shapiro_headshot Over at Ad Age, Judy Shapiro, “CEO and founder of EngageSimply, a social marketing engagement company, and [a person who] has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs,” gives her peers a pep talk. Apparently the increasing automation and rationalization of their trade has many big business brand propagandists feeling that “it’s anything but playtime for marketers, [as t]he sheer tonnage of technologies is a serious buzz kill, casting a cloud over the industry.”

The remedy, Shapiro says, is to remember one’s own wonderful skills and the larger meaning one’s labors:

Marketing was never for the faint of heart. It requires the insight of a psychologist, the wit of a standup comedian, the stamina of an endurance athlete and a chameleon-like ability to adapt to never-ending business highs and lows.

But if you made the grade, you were rewarded by participating in an industry that attracted the best and brightest. More than that, marketing as a vocation was deeply satisfying because you knew that your work meant factories kept running and people kept getting paychecks.

Bravery, inisght, wit, stamina, adaptability. Quite so, but it seems to TCT that Ms. Shapiro, despite and because of her pride at keeping capitalism growing, has omitted the topic of moral fiber.

Might that be because the qualities required of the marketers there run rather parallel to the work of overseeing the Tarnungskommando at Treblinka?

Ralph Roberts’ Favorite Saying

ralph Ralph Roberts founded Comcast before handing its reins to his son, Brian L. Roberts. Here’s how Ralph describes his business’s core idea:

I didn’t burn any bridges with Muzak when I left there, and my brother, who unfortunately passed away in 1972, had been the advertising director at Revlon and had a similar career to mine. He was also in advertising and marketing, and Muzak Corporation, after I had left for some time, invited him to come over to be a senior vice-president of the company, and one day he came in to me and he said, “You know, Ralph, we ought to buy some of these franchises. They’re a license to steal as recurring monthly income.” That was our favorite expression, just like cable. You put in the equipment and every month they send you money.

Such is the true stuff of the great private-sector boondoggles.

How Irrelevance Serves Monopoly

In the United States, our overclass has used its ownership of politics to prevent serious regulation of communications infrastructure, to say nothing of public ownership. As a natural result, we get the highest prices and worst services in the supposedly developed world.

Of course, a small part of the gargantuan cash geysers the overclass reaps from such a sweetheart set-up is used in marketing the overpriced, inferior products underlying its profit ranches.

Having no rational product differences or genuine technological breakthroughs to describe, such marketing is always mere empty manipulation.

Consider this perhaps familiar example:

How, one might wonder, could such unfunny and ham-handed irrelevancies be profitable to AT&T? What’s the business rationale? Is AT&T stoned?

Turns out, as always, not in the least.

Per an Ad Age story titled “How Big Data Shapes AT&T’s Advertising Creative,” there’s rather rigorous method to the apparent superfluity:

It’s Not Complicated” may have been its name, but the insights that drove one of AT&T’s most successful ad campaigns ever were based on a massive three-year big-data project that was plenty complex.

The campaign featuring comedian Beck Bennett and little kids in a classroom was the product of a three-year project. It involved an analysis of 40 copy-test variables and tagging 370 AT&T and competitive wireless communications ads on everything from the type of humor used and how characters interact to type of storyline.

The BBDO-created campaign that resulted from the analysis generated an additional $50 million in sales in AT&T’s estimation, said Greg Pharo, director-market research and analysis for the telecom in a presentation at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:Think 2014 conference in New York today.

Here’s how that happens, per Ad Age‘s report:

Mr. Pharo and AT&T Senior Data Scientist Damon Samuel, who made the switch from working on the telecom company’s marketing-mix analytics team to working on the project, delved into sometimes surprising details about what works and what doesn’t in their ads and those of rivals. Among the lessons:

-Ads with storylines are very effective

-Informative demonstrations boost ad performance

-Simple outperforms complicated

-Slice-of-life and transactional or promotional ads can both work

-Humor is effective at driving recall, brand favorability and likeability, but not all types of humor are equal

-Character interaction matters a lot

Of course, some of those lessons have guided TV advertising since Mrs. Olsen was pouring coffee for Procter & Gamble Co. and Folgers in the 1960s. But AT&T’s analysis has helped delve deeper into exactly how elements work, particularly humor.

The team, along with its market-research shop Added Value, painstakingly code commercials for such things as the type of humor. And they found, according to Mr. Pharo, that ads featuring humor deemed clever, sarcastic or snarky tend to outperform ads with silly humor (though Mr. Samuel noted that ads with darkly sarcastic humor tend to underperform).

While ads with storylines do better generally, those with complex storylines, too many scenes or vignettes and complicated visual montages “underperformed very significantly,” Mr. Samuel said. “Thirty seconds is just not enough time to share all the story elements and come to a resolution.”

Particularly effective are ads with informative presentations when a character explains the benefits and presentation of a product, Mr. Pharo said.

While people demonstrating product benefits works, just showing phones and benefits, or what Mr. Samuel termed “phone porn,” doesn’t. At best, such primitive product demos drive a shift in the mix of handset types sold without increasing total sales.

The rewards for AT&T are substantial, Mr. Pharo said, with the project showing that 25% of AT&T’s total sales are driven by media advertising and 10% from TV alone. Creative quality and tonality rather than media weight or placement account for a third of TV ads’ impact.

Such are the building blocks of our market-totalitarian culture.

Comcast Monopoly: The Marketing Logic

Per today’s Advertising Age:

Acceleration of addressable advertising

One of the biggest obstacles to ad targeting at the household level has been a lack of broad reach, which makes running campaigns across multiple operators a clumsy and inefficient effort. The merger should eventually help expand the addressable universe to the kind of scale that advertisers desire and speed up advances in areas such as dynamic ad insertion.

And increasingly, Comcast will have the data to make addressable smarter. With about 30 million set-top boxes, it will have an even bigger trove of ratings information, viewing habits and personal data. Combined with marketers’ own data, that will help planners and buyers laser focus their media selections, Mr. Kanefsky said.