Conan O’Brien

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Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

No wonder advertisers get confused about how to allocate media dollars. It is an absolute free-for-all. A day does not go by without another news item suggesting how one medium or platform is overtaking or supplanting another. I routinely remind myself of the progression that TV did not kill radio when it came on the scene, and likewise, the Internet did not replace TV. Every form of media is still in active use (papyrus scrolls and carrier pigeons excepted). I see latest Conan TV ads feature blimp advertising blended with mobile platforms. As a big fan of Team Coco, I am hoping for Goodyear associations, not Hindenberg.

A quick sampling of recent stories should give everyone pause about claiming superiority over another medium or about writing a competing medium’s obituary.

This intriguing story from Advertising Age suggests Facebook is voraciously eating the lunch of major magazine brands. It left me scratching my head about how Burberry, frozen in my own brain as a conservative British purveyor of fine raincoats, has attracted over 8 million followers on Facebook. I visited their pages and came away still scratching my head. This Google search revealed a few clues — fashion launches via Facebook and iPads, free samples of a new fragrance, interactive videos, and easy-to-follow followers like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Still, that is a staggering number of followers, but more power to them. Whatever Burberry is doing, it’s working.

Next up, two stories from Digiday. One reveals how Google is preparing a full frontal assault on newspapers’ biggest cash cow — Sunday circulars. Imagine a digital version of a circular that gives a retailer all kinds of local control to customize content by store, pricing, and product category. Also from Digiday is a rather depressing, confusing  picture of the landscape of digital advertising tech companies. The bar is low for entrants. The result is a mixed bag of options and results for advertisers. Not sure who is being served by this.

This week, New York magazine devotes an extended article to Twitter and whether it is becoming too big for its 140-character britches, er tweets.

If you’re not completely boggled yet, here is video reporting by the print-based Wall Street Journal delivered online from their web site to explain how tv ad spending can be rising as viewership is dropping. Got that?

My next media recommendation? Burma-shave style billboards but delivered with a twist — constantly changing messaging on a series of digital billboards. The product? Attention-deficit disorder drugs.

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Twitter remains the most intriguing and confounding of social media sites.

Twitter remains the most intriguing and confounding of social media sites.

Of all the social media platforms, Twitter remains the most intriguing and the most confounding. What can you say in 140 characters? A lot if you are a good self editor. But half the fun of Twitter is following drunken celebrities who tweet first, retract or paraphrase later.
Twitter is not for everyone, but it is certainly a great diversion for everyone with a mobile device and time to kill. Over 100 million new users jumped on the little birdie bandwagon this past year. What is Twitter’s real value? Whatever someone is willing to pay for it. Twitter just got a major round of investment bringing its Wall Street valuation to $3.7 billion. Not bad for a company that has yet to turn a profit and only sold $50 million in ad revenue in 2010.
I am concerned here with Twitter’s marketing value, however. I have been trying to get my head around Twitter for a long time and while I appreciate its many virtues, I am still perplexed by what it all means. When I first started this process, I tried to read as much as I could on the subject of Twitter. Then, I stumbled onto a videotaped guest appearance by the CEO of Twitter at a tech lunch and replayed on C-Span of all things. I listened intently and came away just as mystified as when I tuned in. Despite an interesting talk, and a lively Q and A with Twitter users, its CEO failed on the 5-minute elevator pitch. After a year as a Twitter user myself, I see why.
There are numerous examples out there where Twitter’s real-time tweeting has been an essential news communications tool for street level eyewitness reporting on everything from civilian demonstrations in Iran to the Mumbai hotel terrorist attacks. In the entertainment world, every reality show cast member has a Twitter account and an absolute compulsion to call unwarranted attention to themselves. A-list celebrities use Twitter to self-manage and self-publish announcements about themselves. Conan O’Brien has elevated one-liners to an art form while transitioning from the Tonight Show, to Twitter, back to his new cable show.
But are there any great marketing case histories on Twitter that can serve as business development models? I have read a few, such as the coffee shop owner who was able to respond to one of his regular customers (and who happened to be a Twitter account holder), who tweeted his order several blocks away prior to arrival at the drive-through window. After that, the coffee shop owner started reaching out to other followers in his zip code, then tweeting daily specials to everyone.
Since conducting my own year-long user experience experiment, I have little beyond dabbling and diversion to show for it. I have attracted 558 followers at last count, which sounds impressive until you routinely run across others who join your parade who have 28,932 followers of their own. Who are all these people and what motivates them to follow anyone’s feed on Twitter? As Twitter has grown up, it is easier than ever to find like-minded, hobby sharing, sports fandom in common, fellow tweeters to connect with. My proudest moment is when I started following Yoko Ono’s Twitter feed and she returned the favor. That balloon deflated quickly, however, when I learned she graciously follows every single person who follows her. By contrast, Conan O’Brien randomly selected one young fan from over 2 million of his followers to follow (the related tweets about that decision were more comedy grist).
My own tweets tend to fall into several typical user categories: smartass comments, sports team cheers, political rants, music fan appreciation, and via AddThis, a link to this blog’s latest posts. I have met some intriguing people from all over the world. Some have great non de plumes like Funkwell Jazzbacon (since it’s Twitter, maybe that’s non de plumage). Some of them are clearly on Twitter for purposes of commerce, although in 140 characters and brief follow-up messaging there is not a room for high-pressure or even low-pressure selling.
There are all kinds of apps, platforms, tricks, and techniques to help you build a bigger and more engaged base of followers on Twitter. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way by just launching a Twitter account, being yourself, and having some fun.

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