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Earlier this week, I was distressed to read (online) that long-time b2b publisher Penton had made a decision to give up on print. At first, I thought the move to all-digital applied across the board to each and every Penton trade magazine. Turns out it is strictly their tech group titles. With the cost of paper, ink, and press time combined with the explosion of tablets and e-readers, it is mighty tempting for publishers to give up on their print properties, especially if pages are down and advertisers are off.

I’m a print guy and always will be. I’d far rather hold a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, than strain my eyesight scrolling, adjusting screens, and absorbing pixels. Also, as our art director pointed out this week, doctors and hair salons are never going to fill their waiting rooms with stacks of Kindles and iPads.

However, some publishers are making the most of digital platforms and they are making it harder for print to keep up. QR codes and MS Tags are being used (some would say overused) to link ads to relevant online content and measurability. Meanwhile, ICIS and others are producing digital platforms that integrate rich media. Our client, Graham Engineering, was able to run a full page ad in the print issue. Then, we adapted it for their digital issue on the Ceros platform, integrating an extended video clip within the space of the ad (see page 6).  Sure beats banner and pay per click advertising.

The other way to look at this is for publishers being in the content business and connecting with readers (viewers?) in the way(s) that each prefers — print publication, digital version of print publication, web site, video clips, e-newsletters, webinars, in-person at events (and virtual events), and of course, all the flavors of social media.

It can be done and it is working . I had that reinforced by Michael Pitts this week, a hard-working ad sales rep doing his job the old-fashioned way, making face-to-face appointments with new prospects. What was he selling? The Philadelphia Tribune Media Group properties. Yes, the oldest, continually running African- American newspaper (since 1884) is still going strong. It was thrilling to hear that weekly print circulation is at 221,977, the vast majority of delivered to subscribers’ front steps. That’s a loyal and engaged readership.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Tribune hasn’t been content to rest on its considerable laurels either. In recent years, it has launched Metro editions taking it to specific Philly neighborhoods, as well as the Delaware and Montgomery County suburbs. It has also added special print publications like the Sojourner, a quarterly visitor’s guide to the region, and the Tribune magazine, with special editions on the Most Influential African Americans, Top African American Attorneys, and Women of Achievement.

Of course, like most newspapers, the Tribune has made its web site its 24/7 news platform, off which to build content for print via what is happening right now, what is engaging readers, and what demands the longer, more thoughtful coverage that print allows. Also, getting two-way conversations going via social media community pages. As Michael noted, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston has generated the kind of interest locally that it has nationally. offers some outstanding run of site ad opportunities, as well as rich media ad units that are going to reward sponsors generously.

I tire of the debate that digital is killing print. I’d far rather see examples like a 125-year-old newspaper continuing to successfully publish by delivering great content that doesn’t divide print and digital, but balances it instead.

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The Digiday Agency conference was a wealth of information on the ever-expanding digital ad world.

The Digiday Agency conference was a wealth of information on the ever-expanding digital ad world.

This week, it dawned on me that the world of digital advertising has become a morning commute from hell. I envision sun glare, tractor trailers overturned on off ramps, gaper delays, highway construction crews, crumbling infrastructure, and side streets not designed to handle the traffic they are swollen with.

What led me to that conclusion was sitting in on the excellent, well-attended Digiday Agency conference on Monday. Digiday assembled a sterling lineup of industry experts from the agency, publisher, and technology sides who made individual presentations, participated in panel discussions, and offered wide-ranging articulate opinions on the landscape of all things consumer digital advertising. I was probably the only business-to-business guy and one of the few creatives present, so I came to listen and learn. Here is what I came away with:

  • Things continue to morph faster than anyone can keep up with, let alone get ahead of. Digital now encompasses digital display, search, social, video/rich media, mobile, and more across a vast span of publisher and affiliate sites, plus desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphones that accept advertising. Throw in TV advertising that leverages and attempts to cross-link digital, social, etc. and you have media planning that often collapses under its own cleverness and targeting potential.
  • Analytics and metrics are overrated. One of the more incredible statements of the conference was a derisive one about digital display advertising measurement being still stuck in the stone age — specifically, the continued importance placed on click-through rates. The speaker noted that the demographic of those most likely to click on display ads is populated with low/no income types, online gamblers, and assorted tire kickers.
  • Video, Social, and Mobile are the future. Pretty obvious shift driven generationally and by tablets and smartphones. Of course, by the time that the ad industry sorts it all out, we will be on to other new technologies and tools.
  • Remarketing (retargeting) via browser cookies of those who visit advertiser web sites is only going to get bigger. A number of speakers used the funnel analogy of awareness advertising at the top and very targeted, directed messaging at the bottom to catch buyers when they are now informed and ready to make a purchase.  The theory is great. I just don’t believe that ads relentlessly targeting people whom cookie data has identified as hot prospects is going to be ultimately successful or a great idea. I still believe that the average person is suspicious of Big Brother approaches and privacy concerns trump marketing opportunities.
  • Digital media buying has been reduced to an RFP process. Publishers spoke about how hard it was working with agencies in digital space because the media planning contacts are all junior people and there is a revolving door between agencies. Not much time or room for relationship building and value adding when it becomes a “give me your best deal” RFP request.
  • Agencies are being courted as digital advertising venture capitalists. That seemed like a completely foreign concept to me because running lean and mean continues to be the norm outside of Madison Avenue; however, a number of shops spoke very intelligently on this subject.

Ironically, a couple of days after the conference, I came across this article on Adobe investing heavily in traditional agency territory and challenging Madison Avenue in the data sweepstakes of this space. There were a lot of technology companies like Google present at the conference, but Adobe wasn’t one of them. I suspect they will be heavily discussed when Digiday holds the west coast version of this event in Los Angeles in early 2012.

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Expericard postcards incredibly deliver a CD or DVD in cost effective fashion.

Every medium has its power and place. At a time when e-mail marketing has reached saturation levels, and too many companies are struggling with how best to create a unique place in social media for their brands, it pays to keep an open mind about other avenues, including traditional.
Then, sometimes traditional can be reinvented and reinvigorated. That is what has happened with a new product from Expericard, a Swedish company with US office in Chicago. They have developed a really innovative approach to leverage direct mail and video delivery – a postcard embedded with a really lightweight CD or DVD. Here are its many advantages:
• Reduced mailing costs by leveraging postcard rates to deliver video.
• A means to deliver a really high resolution video presentation that can’t be adequately streamed online because of resolution or length.
• A package that gets attention by its design and your creative designs of the card and the disc printing.
• A paper and disc combination that pushes sustainability initiatives by source reduction. Expericard video postcards are surprisingly lightweight.

Companies have hardly given up on postcards, especially on the consumer side. This week, one in particular got my attention for all the wrong reasons. It was crammed with a kitchen sink of messages on both sides, because the advertiser wanted their money’s worth or the designer (in this case, one of the yellow pages providers selling postcards as a value-added service). Imagine the value if they had lightened up on the schlocky content overkill and put a really amazing video inside their postcard.
Sometimes you just have to think outside the mailbox and the e-mailbox.

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Video can close the deal. On line. In store.

Video can close the deal. On line. In store.

Interesting article from VentureBeat on encouraging study results when video is used online to boost sales of non-tech products like Air Wick.

Video is just a great way to engage prospects and now there are more places to do so than ever before. Sure, everyone who wants to go viral has a clip on YouTube. Plus, more and more web sites out there incorporate video promotion opportunities.

But the really amazing thing to me is how many other places that flat screens are showing up to sell people during downtime. You can find them at the local diner. At the grocery store (in produce, at deli, and at checkout). At the gas pump. In the back of NYC cabs. In local bars, and it sometimes follows, even over urinals.

The best uses I’ve seen include digital billboards that are the most engaging outdoor since Burma Shave. They feature rotating advertisers, the ability for advertisers to rotate their own messages, and even law enforcement APBs such as Amber Alerts.

Also, I was surprised, during a recent trip to Wal-mart to find more video displays on end caps. For many years, Wal-mart was a bare bones shopping environment. There weren’t many options for POP displays, let alone digital signage. Times have changed for the better.

Well done point-of-sale videos, whether they are TV commercials or a dedicated sales presentation about the product, are a great way to close the deal. You’re engaging buyers when they’re filling their shopping carts. Why aren’t all package goods companies and retailers investing in in-store video? Then, posting them online, on their web sites, on YouTube, and on as many other locations as possible for driving traffic?

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