Jump

It must have been a bit tough-going last week in the offices of Google:

Wowsa. Not a fun week at all.

Or was it?

After all, the  “world’s most valuable brand” moniker belonged to Google for four years before Apple took it on — and being the reigning #1 for four years is no small feat —  particularly considering the hyper-competitive crowd Google runs with.

With the Microsoft deal, it seems that what’s got the attention of the folks in Redmond is not just what Apple has done with the iPhone, but that Google’s Android now outsells all other mobile operating systems — combined.
Oh, and investors hate, hate, hate the deal.

As for Facebook’s attempt at mud-slinging, since both companies are under fire from privacy campaigners for the amount of personal data they collect and retain online, it’s hardly surprising that there’d be a bit of dirty fighting when one considers the stakes in this battle of the behemoths for user traffic and ad dollars.

Finally, regarding the DOJ settlement — well, it’s just plain ugly and it’s probably best to just admit that and move on.

All that said, there was particular reason for the captains of search to smile last week.  And, plenty of reason for Netflix to be nervous.

On Monday,  YouTube head, Salar Kamangar,  posted on the YouTube blog “Welcome to the future of video. Please stay a while” thereby making it official that YouTube has entered the iVOD business (interactive video on demand) with YouTube Movies.

According to YouTube, we’re already “spending 15 minutes a day on YouTube and spending five hours a day watching TV.” Launching with over 6000 titles including full-length feature films from major Hollywood studios, Universal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros, they’re clearly making a move to change that equation.

And a smart move it is.

With an average of 137M people making 1.4M visits per month (U.S.), YouTube is already a beast. Adding full-length feature films available for rent on demand, on any device and any operating system makes them unstoppable.

Entertainment wherever, whenever and however we want it  —  isn’t that what the world wide web is for?

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As the U.S. Census Bureau releases data from the 2010 census, there have been a number of surprising stories (to me, anyway) that have made headlines:

  • Detroit’s 25% population loss to 713,777 (the lowest count since 1910),
  • New York City’s paltry population gain of  2.1% to 8,175,133 — a number hotly contested by city politicians
  • Hispanics now outnumber African-Americans for the first time in most U.S. metropolitan areas

But, it’s the changing face of the country’s children (increasingly Hispanic and Asian) that should have every one of us in marketing and advertising paying attention: Minority is mainstream.

Diversity is in.

Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Asian and Hispanic adults and children surged while that of Whites and Blacks shrank.

Aside from the obvious political ramifications of state’s gaining (Texas) or losing (New York) seats in Congress, the changing face of the nation will require evermore diligence on the part of marketers to understand an increasingly heterogeneous audience and tailor every message accordingly.

Exciting times, indeed. Mass marketing is dead. Long live target marketing.

Check out the USA Today interactive graphic to see what the new census data tell us county by county, across the U.S.


Photo: wallyg on Flickr

We tweeted last week about our unhappiness with the much-anticipated announcement from the New York Times that, beginning March 28, they will charge a subscription fee for digital content.

With all due respect to the agency Twitter team, I am glad to see that the “paywall” is finally going up.

As much as we marketers love the word “free”, it doesn’t require too much calculus to realize that no business can give away its product on a consistent basis and continue as a going concern.

Yes, the free website (NYTimes.com) is “the most visited newspaper site in the world” which has helped the paper see it’s online advertising revenue go “from being a drop in the bucket to more than a quarter of The New York Times Company’s overall advertising revenue,” according to an article about the paywall decision by Jeremy Peters.

But, just as the web changed news consumption by creating a user expectation that content should be free — and ad supported — the next generation of technology is changing the game, yet again.

Witness the birth of  The Daily, which MarketWatch.com founder Larry Kramer describes in a recent blog post as “the first news source from a mainstream media company (News Corp) designed purely for the iPad,” which, prior to launch, “was going to change the game.”

While The Daily’s detractors may suggest that it hasn’t changed the game, it certainly shakes things up a bit: it makes liberal use of video, both in stories and in ads, and instead of just ordinary photos, there are plenty of 360-degree panoramic shots that you can swipe around. Personally, I think it’s a bit light in the content department, but it does demonstrate that there is tremendous potential for publishers to create a new way to experience news.

Which is why I think we should all expect to pay for the sort of curated content the Times produces.  From here on out, it’s not jut the content quality that matters, but also how it’s delivered.

As Patricio Robles writes at eConsultancy:

“Newspapers are hurting, and the Times is no exception. The business models of the past aren’t the business models of the future. While it’s still unclear which business models will win out, it seems likely that they’ll have to include some form of paid content.

By launching a paid offering, the New York Times is at the very least trying to step into the future instead of burying its head in the sand and believing that the status quo is sustainable. This is a very important step for the newspaper.”

For about 40% of the cost of a home delivery subscription, the price/value equation for me more than works. Although there is no public disclosure of the number of digital subscriptions the Times hopes to generate, “company executives have said privately that the goal for the first year is 300,000.”

As a die-hard devotee of the newspaper of record, who’d like to see its fine journalistic tradition continue in ANY platform, I certainly hope they succeed.

Carpe diem.

The ubiquity of that phrase in our culture (especially since it was uttered by Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society) has rendered it nearly meaningless.

But early this week, all of us at Wilson were reminded of just how apt a guide it is to living a life that is full — and full of meaning.

On Monday, we were concerned when our proofreader and office manager, Daniel, didn’t show up as expected at the start of the day. By early afternoon, with his whereabouts unknown, and still no word from him, we tried to reach his family to check in on him and hoped that the word back would be that he was OK.

He was not.

Tuesday morning, we learned that he had died.

I can’t speak for everyone here, but I have operated all week on a sort of auto-pilot — my way of steeling myself through the shock and grief of so suddenly losing an employee — a colleague — a friend.

Daniel did many things for the hard-working team at Wilson. As our proofreader, he punctuated (and re-punctuated) our copy and he challenged us on syntax and grammar — the way a solid proofreader should.

As our office manager, he kept us supplied with everything necessary to keep the agency running with nary a bump or a hassle. And he never once complained.

As our colleague and friend, he was always there for anyone who needed help — whether that meant lifting a box or providing a listening ear — and always with a smile and desire to do whatever he possibly could.

But, most of all, he cared. He cared deeply about us and about our agency. In return, we cared deeply about him — right back.

He is very sorely missed.  Sorely missed, indeed.

At the age of 48, Daniel Morrison left this world much too soon. But, his legacy will live on in the many traditions, quirks and idiosyncrasies of a workplace that thrives on them.

To honor Daniel, nothing could be more apt than for us to throw ourselves completely in and — in return — get the most out of the many hours we all spend together.

For Daniel, we will seize the day.

A few weeks ago, Christopher Steiner at Forbes.com wrote an amusing and somewhat thought-provoking piece about the business world’s unfortunate and seemingly unending reliance on jargon in communications.

Steiner quotes Karen Friedman, author of  Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners when attempting to explain why jargon is so persistent and prevalent: “People use jargon because they want to sound smart and credible when in fact they sound profoundly dim-witted and typically can’t be understood, which defeats the purpose of speaking in the first place.”

Ouch.

Well, I suppose we could all take a breather and think a bit about what we’re really trying to say before we lapse into jargon-speak, even though it does seem to be the lingua franca of business.

Brevity being the soul of wit (at least as far as Shakespeare’s concerned), I’ve pulled my favorites from the Forbes list (there are 26 in total, all of which can be found here) and added a couple of my own to create the following list. I’d love to know which phrase you find most annoying:

 

We’re reading and watching and listening to lots of discussion about the coming creative revolution — fomented by the ascent of the digital domain.

In an article published last November in Fast Company, entitled The Future of Advertising, Danielle Sacks writes about the “mayhem on Madison Avenue” brought on by the rapid pace of change in the advertising business model — the same sort of change that has already turned the television networks and music and publishing worlds upside down.

Illustrations by Tavis Coburn

The bottom line: “Digital dimes won’t replace analog dollars.” We’re witnessing a sea-change in the way the business of advertising is conducted and all of us — marketers, advertisers, clients, agencies — will be profoundly affected. And, in the destruction of the old ways comes new opportunity — the coming creative revolution.

The article’s case study on Mullen is particularly illustrative of how the entire industry is changing:

“The agency recently caught the industry off guard after being awarded the business of two extremely progressive social-media clients, Zappos and JetBlue. Says Marty St. George, JetBlue’s SVP of marketing and commercial strategy: “I don’t think any of us expected Mullen to win. But we all noticed through its pitch process that you couldn’t tell who the creative people were from the media people or the planning people. They all finished each other’s sentences, regardless of what we were talking about.”

For anyone contemplating how to navigate all this chaos, I highly recommend you take time to read the article — it’s well worth the investment.

Santa was very good to all of us at Wilson RMS last Christmas.
Everyone got an iPad!

Besides the sheer joy of the moment, what’s been very fun to witness is the way the devices are being seamlessly integrated into our everyday work. We’re using them in meetings, while walking down the hall and while eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And because not one of us seems comfortable with the idea of ever being disconnected –we’re watching, reading, playing and blogging while in transit to and from work.

Since we all have an iPad, we’re able to share what we’re doing with them. And so, we’ve created the first of what I hope to be many videos to share that with you:
7 Apps We Love Now

After all, the power isn’t in the technology. It’s in the people who use it.

If you’re interested in owning any of what we shared, here’s the app list:
iGuitar
Dragon Dictation
Newsy
Bebot
Elmo’s Monster Maker
Go Skywatch Planetarium
uTalk Italian

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At Wilson RMS, we’re fortunate in that we develop creative and place media in many different channels — we work on everything from e-mail to TV to online display ads to insert media — and more.

One of the channels we’ve worked in consistently since we opened shop is direct mail and, boy, have we seen it experience change. From the heyday of direct mail spending in 2006 ($55.6B) to the precipitous decline in spending in 2009 ($43.7B), the ride down was steep and, for many in the industry, quite painful.

But, in 2010 the ride down stopped. And, in that, there is very good news.

How so? Well, the impact of the recession and shifting consumer preference for all things digital was supposed to kill direct mail. And yet, there it is on the chart below, second only to TV in terms of share of total estimated ad spending in 2010.

While the big winners for year-over year increases in ad spending in 2o1o were TV (up 17.5%, thanks, in part, to cable), and digital (up 8.3%), the big losers were the traditional print channels — newspapers (down 9.2%) and magazines (down 6.2%) — that are often lumped together with direct mail when marketers talk about the end of dead-tree media.

To be sure, direct mail has its challenges as more and more marketing dollars are allocated to the digital darlings — social, mobile and search — as well as e-mail and online display.

But,  as a recent survey conducted by Winterberry Group indicates, marketers consistently rate direct mail higher than any other form of direct marketing for “effectiveness across customer acquisition and retention missions”.

Click here to register for the very comprehensive presentation download.

Direct mail is still alive and kicking — because it still works.

And with the increasing sophistication of technology and data processing power that is being employed by service providers and clients alike, my prediction is that direct mail will become an ever more effective tool for generating new customers and engaging existing ones.

The days of carpet-bombing mailings are gone — and true target marketing lies ahead.

Next up: Technology is great, but it’s still about the people.

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Over the weekend, as I was contemplating what to include in today’s post (#2 in the series, 10 lessons from ’10), I opened an e-mail from Digital Buzz Blog — which is an excellent source of news and commentary about all things digital — and in a moment of pure serendipity, there was this beautifully illustrated infographic comparing the ways social media are being used by big business. I love stats — and these are really interesting:

Of the Fortune Global 1000 —

  • 33% have a corporate blog
  • 50% have a YouTube channel
  • 54% have a Facebook fan page
  • 65% have a Twitter account

If you’ve read any of my early posts, you know that I was a skeptic about the whole social media thing for some time — until we started using them ourselves.

Much like our colleagues at the businesses with the behemoth brands, we’re tweeting and Facebooking because that’s where the people are. We all know this, but the user stats of these two social media giants are something to behold. Check out the comparisons in this infographic from Digital Surgeons:

Facebook:

  • 500MM users
  • 30% are in the US
  • 12% update their status everyday
  • 40% follow a brand
  • 51% of brand followers will purchase that specific brand

Twitter:

  • 106MM users
  • 40% are in the US
  • 52% update their status everyday
  • 25% follow a brand
  • 67% of brand followers will purchase that specific brand

With numbers like these, it’s impossible to stay on the sidelines while everyone else is out having all the fun.

So, here’s my Wilson RMS forecast for 2011 — when it comes to using social media to create awareness and to generate highly-sought buzz, we’re just getting started — because the party’s only just begun.

Next up: Direct mail is alive and well and happy to be invited to the party.


It’s now been a full week since team Wilson RMS has been back from our much-deserved holiday break, so before much time passes, I thought it’d be helpful (and maybe a little fun) to take stock of all that we did last year and think about what it means for this brand-new 2011 now upon us.

We learned quite a few new things. We also re-learned some lessons, as well.
Herewith, in no particular order — and one-day-at-a time — are the highlights of our agency experience from the year gone-by…

1. Mobile matters. Big time.
There isn’t much news in this, as anyone who walked a busy city street, boarded a plane or drove in traffic last year could tell you: every single one of us seems surgically attached to our phones — and many of us can’t seem to ever pull ourselves away from them long enough to navigate where we’re going and see that there are, in  fact, other people in the world. (Yours truly, guilty as charged).

But, what fascinates me is the continuing torrid pace of growth in the mobile market — I mean, doesn’t everyone have a darn mobile phone already?

Well, Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker predicts that as early as 2012, annual global sales of smartphones (est.> 450MM) will outpace combined sales  of netbook and desktop PCs — our traditional means for accessing the Web.

(See her full presentation here.)

And, at home, despite RIM’s early lead with the BlackBerry and the introduction of Apple’s game-changing iPhone, new players are heating up the market with even more whizzbang to keep us completely distracted at all times.

Just this week, comScore reported that Android phones now outnumber iPhones and they’re gaining quickly on BlackBerry.

Image credit: Flickr/ Quinn Dombrowski

What it Means: For consumers, the location-based, immediate gratification of web and app access on our mobile devices gives us a dizzying array of options for finding information, entertainment, connection and commerce. And as the wireless networks become even faster (hello 4G!), we’ll engage with ever-more sophisticated technology that will provide experiences we can’t even conceive of today.

For marketers, this shift in the manner and the frequency with which prospects and customers access the Web requires us to focus on the quality of our message as never before. Since the instantaneous delivery, consumption and dispatch of those messages provides no more than a millisecond for us to grab and hold an audience’s attention, the assertion that content is king could not be more spot on.

Next up: Twitter and Facebook — more than just a good way to diddle away time at the office

Greetings from Park City, Utah, where the scenery is splendid and the mercury is stuck at the bottom of the glass tube: -9 degrees F at time of writing. Yes, that’s 9 below zero.

And why, exactly, have I chosen to spend a post-Christmas week in a place of such  mind-numbing cold? For the skiing, of course.

I’ve been quite fortunate to have spent the last 5 days on the slopes — with 1 more to go — and I’m making significant improvement in my somewhat unorthodox form as I make my way down the mountain.

Being away from the office and all things work-related for the past week has given me time to develop a bit of perspective. And the physical challenge of navigating moguls and deep powder while bombing down a mountainside has helped bring that perspective into fine focus.

It’s certainly not a revolutionary thought, nor particularly insightful, but whether it’s running a business, creating a marketing plan, or writing a blog post, the more you do it, the better you become.

So, today, when WordPress posted it’s 2011 Post Every Day challenge, I decided that this is my resolution for the brand new year: I will endeavor to post to my blog at least once per week (a new post every day being a bit overly ambitious for me) about something that is relevant, interesting and timely.

After all, the only way to be a better writer is to continually practice writing — even if it’s not necessarily the quickest way to get to Carnegie Hall.

Happy 2011! Wishing you a year of perfection — in whatever you practice.

For me, the challenge is on.

I must have been an exceptionally good boy this year. Not only did Santa come early for me (Black Friday, to be exact), but he delivered that souped-up iPad I was wishing for, and it has been nearly impossible for me to put it down since.

As soon as I finished the initial set-up, I started  downloading apps with the sort of enthusiasm I once reserved for unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning. Three personal favorites: Pandora and Netflix — both for streaming entertainment, of course — and the oddly addicting Orbital.

I’ve also got multiple e-readers loaded and operational — Kindle, Google eBooks and iBooks — and the plethora of reading choices from among them is overwhelming. I must say that when I first saw Apple’s marketing that describes the iPad as “a magical and revolutionary product,” I was more than a little skeptical.

I am a skeptic no more.

As a media device, it is (thus far, anyway) unparalleled in its ability to deliver audio, video and other digital content in a way that engages and keeps one completely absorbed for hours on end. The interactivity and entertainment is engrossing in a way I’ve never experienced before. It is loads of right-brain fun.

And, that’s what’s got me worried.

Is it possible that the widespread adoption and use of such magical devices will further accelerate our nation’s educational and economic decline? Will we over-stimulate our collective right brain — at the expense of the left? Will we lose our edge?

Thomas Friedman has been quite vocal for some time about our need to make math and science education a top priority in order to stay competitive in the 21st century.

Seeing the news of the world these days, it’s hard to disagree.

Just this week, the OECD released results for its latest PISA test (Programme for International Student Assessment), which measures learning by 15-year-old students in 65 countries. Students in Shanghai, China outscored their counterparts in dozens of other countries, in reading as well as in math and science. Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Finland round out the top 5.

And how did the U.S. students do? Not so well…

So, why blame the iPad?

Well, it is an amazing device, to be sure. But, will its wizardry inspire a new generation of American students to become engineering and math wizards themselves? Or is all that right-brain fun too distracting?

Obviously, the tectonic shifts occurring across the globe today are driven by a multitude of micro and macro forces. And, among those is the significant rise in income and education levels of many millions of people in the developing world. And, what is driving that? Their desire for a better life, a higher standard of living — something more like ours.

We are fortunate, indeed, to live in an extraordinarily rich country with a stable political system and a culture that rewards hard work and creativity. But, have we gotten too comfortable with all that we have? Do we take it all for granted?

I love that with a fast-enough connection, I can feed my addiction for news that is updated instantaneously throughout the day, I can stream the movie Up, or I can listen to my customized Hooverphonic radio playlist from just about anywhere I’d like to be. A huge thank you goes out to the all engineers who designed the device and to those who developed the many systems that make my access to and experience with information like nothing that’s come before.

And, let’s hope that of the 5.5 million iPads analysts expect Apple to sell in Q4 2010, a number end up in the hands of some very bright 15-year olds who, after an acceptable period of using it for pure enjoyment, are inspired to put it aside for awhile and get back to solving advanced trigonometry problems on their way to becoming the next Steve Jobs or Tim Berners-Lee.

The kids in China are already there.

Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes wrote a WSJ opinion piece last month entitled The Coming Golden Age of Television in which he argues that TV “is emerging as the dominant medium of the digital age.” It seems like a pretty big statement in the age of cord-cutting and the ascendancy of sites like Hulu and cable/satellite by-pass technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, Sony and others.

He admits that they “offer greater functionality, mobility and more powerful software that give consumers new applications to control, access and share content,” but he counters that TWC’s (and others) emerging business strategy, TV Everywhere, will make the online TV services unnecessary.

“It operates on a simple but powerful premise: If you have access to television in your home—whether through rabbit ears or a paid cable, satellite or telco subscription—you should be able to view all the channels you receive on demand on whatever broadband device you wish.”

Sounds darn good to me.

I, for one, don’t watch much television. I’m not home very much, so I am very reliant on my various mobile devices to keep me in tune with the zeitgeist. But, were Santa to prop a sparkly-new iPad or other tablet device under my tree in a few weeks, I may be inclined to catch up on all those locavore cooking shows I’ve been missing.

Why, just this week, Comcast announced 3G-enabled TV Everywhere for the iPad –with releases for Android and BlackBerry coming soon.

What’s not to ♥? TV Everywhere means we can all watch what we want, when we want, and  — coming soon — wherever we want.

But what’s actually on? Bewkes’s “golden age” refers to the robustness of the business of TV — higher ad revenues and subscriber fees + unparalleled access — all good things for those who produce and distribute programming.

I spent a lot of time in front of a television as a kid — and Mad Men and 30 Rock notwithstanding,  I think the “golden age” of TV occurred sometime during my childhood — like about 1974.

Think about it: M*A*S*H,  Columbo, All in the Family, Marcus Welby and  squeaky-clean Mary Tyler Moore.

THAT was TV.
And it may be the haze of nostalgia, but for me, it was golden.

Gotta give it to the Japanese for being more than a few steps ahead of us in developing a multitude of uses for the mobile phone that go well beyond simply… talk.

They were one of the first to widely adopt short messaging (“SMS” or “texting” here in the U.S.) and more recently they’ve introduced us to the wonderful world of QR codes — created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, and designed to allow the contents to be decoded at high speed — for bringing greater efficiencies to manufacturing processes.

And, now the marketers have gotten hold of them.

Afterall, what could be simpler than pointing your reader-enabled phone at a code (get your reader here), snapping a photo of it in all it’s 2-D glory, and then seeing where it leads?

Retail: How about a wine store where one can learn all about the provenance of a wine on the shelf that’s been tagged with a code?

Brand Advertising: Maybe try a “billboard video” that Calvin Klein would like us to enjoy in the privacy of our phones

or my personal favorite —

Financial Services: If you are lucky enough to live in Denver (or travel through DEN, as I recently did) where else but a local bank’s website

would you visit to download a copy of Moby Dick or Treasure Island? Brilliant.

Google likes QR Codes and I must concur. My bet is that they’re going big.

Drop me a line

or give me a call

and let me know if you agree.

I don’t know about you, but my attention span seems to be decreasing with each passing year.

I have been trying for about a month to finish the latest Jonathan Franzen novel, “Freedom” (The New York Times Book Review calls it a “masterpiece” — I heartily agree), but as much as I love the book, I find myself very easily distracted and unable to focus for periods long enough to experience the “zone” —  total immersion in the material — which has been for me one of the great joys of reading.

I am far from being the first to make this self-observation.

Earlier this year,  Nicholas Carr published his newest book, The Shallows, in which he argues, quite persuasively, that the Internet, specifically — and technology, in general –is re-wiring our brains, inducing only superficial understanding.

Does that mean we’re getting stupid?


When Carr first published his provocative idea in a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly magazine in the summer of 2008: Is Google Making us Stupid? he was challenged by the likes of futurist James Cascio, and others, like Stephen Johnson, who think about the impacts of technology on humans.

They argue that “the increasing complexity and range of media we engage with have, over the past century, made us smarter, rather than dumber, by providing a form of cognitive calisthenics.”

I love the way that sounds, “cognitive calisthenics,” almost as though surfing the Internet and checking one’s BlackBerry and downloading magazines onto a Kindle were strength- and endurance-training exercises for the mind.

But, I have to say, spending a little bit of time with The New York Times earlier this summer didn’t provide me with much support for the we’re-getting-smarter crowd’s view.

From general distractedness to impatience and forgetfulness, it seems there are evils awaiting us with each new gadget we add to our connected lives.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road — self assessment.

I took this online test to measure my ability to focus and my ability to switch quickly between tasks. As an inveterate multi-tasker, I was certain of my mastery of both. And then I got the results:

They show that I am, indeed, a high multi-tasker — and this is really not such a good thing: I am more easily distracted — and I am slower at switching between tasks — than those who multi-task less.

 

Does that mean I’m getting stupid? I can’t say.

But it does make me want to put away my keyboard, turn off my BlackBerry and get back to finishing that book.


As I write, I am on my way home from my way second favorite city in the U.S., San Francisco, (and tracking my flight on the go-to site for road warriors, flightstats.com)

where some of the Wilson team and I spent a few days at the DMA2010 Conference & Exhibition.

En route to San Francisco, I spent a couple days in desert-spa-and-resort favorite, Tucson. While there, I went for an invigorating run, one afternoon, in the Catalina foothills, and then mapped my route at mapmyride, the site for those of us who seek quantitative affirmation of our physical fitness accomplishments.

The thing I like most about mapmyride is the point-and-click method of route mapping — with a few clicks of your mouse, the software makes the point-to-point connections and fills in the route and the distance  — with a result that is both visual and numerical. Brilliant.

While running, I started thinking about those mapmyride connectors and their analogous equivalents in the human realm — friends, colleagues and acquaintances who put people and ideas together — and how invaluable they are to the flow of ideas and the transaction of commerce.

Steven Johnson, a Brooklynite, and best-selling author of a number of books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience, released a video a couple weeks ago promoting his latest title Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (available in retail outlets and via download today).

The premise of his book — and the accompanying video — is that great ideas don’t come from a single person having a Eureka! moment, but instead are the product a multiple minds working together in almost accidental ways due to chance encounters made via networked connections. He cites as examples the English coffee houses of the Enlightenment and the Parisian salons of Modernism, and talks about how the Internet is functioning in the same way today.

I was so taken by this video — not just the content, but also the illustrated form, that I had to share it. For my money, it’s well worth the 4-minute investment.

As I came back to reality last week, after an incredible week of biking in Puglia

 

I came across an intriguing article in the Wall Street Journal about people’s decision-making habits or, perhaps more accurately, the tendency of some to delay decision-making due to ambivalence.

As I read it, ambivalence about decisions is a sign of maturity. And as I interpret it, that means I must be quite mature, given my inability to make some personal decisions lately.

You see, it all started with the iPad.  When it was first launched, it looked to me like a glorified iPod touch.  But, as I’ve watched the sales numbers rack up (see the latest eye-popping projections here) and I’ve peered over the shoulders of friends and colleagues entranced with its seemingly magical properties, I began to do research on all the fabulous ways it’s being used for everything from basic PowerPoint presentations to the development of super-slick digitally published content. As I learned more about this marvel of a device, I found the argument for succumbing to iPad-mania growing ever stronger.

Then last Monday, when my weekly must-read, the New Yorker, announced that they will begin publishing on the iPad,

I thought, “That’s it, I’m in.”
And, so I was.

At least until I saw the Research in Motion announcement that very same day about the launch of Playbook, the new tablet for the BlackBerry crowd.

It looks like it’ll have some sweet features such as a camera and the ability to play Flash. Better yet, it’ll connect to and share resources with — what is for me — the ultimate indispensable gadget and a constant companion — my BlackBerry Tour.

So, as I look at it, there are today two very viable contenders for my tablet dollar — the user-friendly iPad with its sleek design and aura of cool v. the much more practical PlayBook with a set of functions that fits hand-in-glove with things I’m already doing all day, every day.

Although it is a truism of direct marketing that choice depresses response, I think my own hesitation is just that, certainly not a decision to do nothing at all. For as soon as I thought to write about this topic, the tablet product announcements began in earnest — including recent announcements from Dell and Microsoft — as they try to grab their share of the spotlight among all the new entrants in the coming tablet wars lining up for battle.

As we witness a proliferation of gadgets which may, ultimately, replace the PC and the smartphone, there are definite benefits to NOT being an early adopter. For as the tech titans battle it out for market share and pile on the features, we all win as consumers.

That much is clearly decided.

I like to think of myself as someone who makes informed decisions. Whether it’s researching flights on my favorite travel site or picking the perfect restaurant for a festive night out, I am completely hooked on the instantaneous access we get to endless streams of information online.

As a consumer, I love the ease and convenience of using the Web to help me with most, if not all, of my daily tasks. But, as a marketer, when I begin to think about all the data sitting in all those warehouses and all those clouds, it gets me a bit overwhelmed.

After all, in the direct marketing world, we’ve been working a very long time to achieve the holy grail –right offer/right person/right time. And, how do we do that? Data.
With so much of it out there — little bits left behind as we course through both the real and virtual worlds — it’s piling up fast. Just ask Google.

So, how do we manage it and make sense of it all?

Apparently, quite nicely, thank you.

I’ve been admiring a company called [x+1] for some time now. They’re doing a lot of number crunching to create some sophisticated algorithms that get marketers awfully close to the holy grail. Even the Wall Street Journal has picked up on it:“Websites are gaining the ability to decide whether or not you’d be a good customer, before you tell them a single thing about yourself.”

Companies like x+1 may seem a bit out there in the realm of direct marketing, but when we consider the meta-trends, we can see “digital” is already happening in many, many places today.

A recently released Winterberry Group whitepaper forecasts that by 2012, U.S. marketers will dedicate $7.8B on marketing data and associated services, with “digital” comprising 10.8% of the mix — over $840MM. The other 89.2% of that spending, of course, will be for offline or “non-digital” data and services.

So, here’s the thing —  in 2008 the number was $10.3B total spending — of which just 3% ($300MM) was digital. Data — and digital data in particular — is proliferating. But, as spending on offline data/services decreases each year, spending on the digital equivalent isn’t picking up the slack. It’s just that much more efficient to handle, manage, manipulate and store electronic information. Period.

It certainly isn’t lights out, yet, for offline data  — nearly $7.0B in spending in 2012 is definitely no small potatoes. But if I’m going to make an informed decision for the focus at Wilson — my money’s on digital.

I was in Columbus yesterday, the home of my alma mater, The Ohio State University.  As I drove around town there was quite a bit of chatter on the radio about proposed changes to the Big 10 football schedule when Nebraska joins the conference. The ardent discussion centered on the prospect of the Ohio State-Michigan game being moved from its current place at the end of the conference season (where it has been more or less since 1935) to somewhere in the middle, as part of a change that will split the conference into two divisions to accommodate all 12 teams that will comprise the Big 10.

Still with me?

Those who follow college football know that the Ohio State-Michigan game is one of the most long-standing, intense rivalries in the game. In 2000, ESPN called it the greatest sports rivalry at the end of the century. Some of my more vivid childhood memories are of the game and the antics of the legendary Coach Woody Hayes and his turncoat, former assistant, Bo Schembechler — and of the zealotry of the fans on both sides of the state line.

This is a game, mind you, that has been played 106 times – and has decided the conference champion between the two schools 22 of those times — so changing the date of The Game means seriously messing with tradition.

Ah, tradition.

I unquestionably appreciate the benefits of tradition – the sense of consistency and the feeling of belonging to something larger and more permanent than oneself that can come with ritual and custom. But, as I listened to the fans, I wondered if it isn’t time that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry had a little shake-up — just like the rest of us.

Like many in the OSU class of ‘85, I consider myself relatively tech savvy – I am as addicted to texting, email on my BlackBerry and the morning paper on my Kindle as anyone else I see in my travels – but, man, the pace of disruptive change in the world of technology and media makes you afraid to blink.

Which is why, in a bow to “tradition,” I have been somewhat late to the social media party– and its myriad opportunities for connecting and sharing.  (Just look at the latest Pew Research study to see how big the party already is.)  After all, I rationalized, aren’t relationships best nurtured and maintained via phone calls and face-to-face get-togethers? Isn’t that why, as the leader of the agency, I’ve been racking up hundreds of thousands of miles all these years?

Until now.

Earlier this year I asked a few of the more digitally-oriented members of our team to plot a social media strategy for the agency as a way to promote our business.  Now, like any other 21st century marketing firm, we’re on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and you’re reading my second post on our new blog.

And, thanks to the influence and helpful advice of such dedicated social media practitioners as Michael Gass, we (and I) have embraced the not-so-new as a way to give ourselves a voice and create opportunities for marketers to get to know us.

It is, however, a very long way from setting up a new Twitter account to making the words work in a way that says, “this is who we are” and “this is what makes us unique”.  The seeming ease of executing in social media belies the hard work it takes to do it well.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I know that we’ll do things that will make me cringe, but we’ll get it. We have to.

So, as much as I still believe strongly in the power of an in-person meeting (I’m definitely not giving up those miles!), I am genuinely enthusiastic about the power of digital media to broaden our reach and to get us to consider opportunities in places we’ve never been before.

It’s time we messed with tradition.

Seriously.

I jumped out of a plane Saturday.

Actually, it was more of a push — a push from my tandem partner at the sky diving center — that got me airborne.

But, the rush of free falling from 9000 ft up was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced and, amazingly, unlike anything I’d ever anticipated. To borrow a very over-used phrase:  I have never been more in the moment.

It was the same for the friends I was with — shout-outs to our fearless leader, Marion, and fellow flyers Darryl and Terry — and for everyone else we watched drop from the sky.

As each tandem’s chute opened and they became visible in the east, besides the faint whoops and hollers we could hear on the ground, what became most obvious was the mile-wide smile plastered on the face of every first-timer.

And then, it was over.  Days of build-up to the big event, filled with nervous excitement and anticipation, ended with the flutter of a parachute as we glided quietly to touch down.

In the 48ish hours since my smooth landing, I’ve been thinking about what motivated me to get in that very small plane, fly out over the East End of Long Island — and literally put my life in the hands of a complete  stranger.

As a business owner and self-identified adrenaline-junkie, my willingness to take risks has been rewarded time and again. Whether I’m committing untold agency resources to blow out a new business presentation — then watch us go on to win the pitch — or I’m leaving much too little time for traffic on the way to the airport — but I make it to my seat just as they close the plane door — my penchant for calculated risk-taking grows with each successful outcome. So, for me, skydiving was something that I just had to do.

But, now comes the real test.  As we embark on our 10th year in business, I find myself wanting that next interesting challenge — the client with the intractable business problem, or the new new thing we can add to our capabilities that will truly set us apart as a business partner. But, I also see myself struggling daily to let go and hand over the day-to-day operations to my very competent team — so that I can do more of what I love and more of what helps drive the business.

On Saturday, I trusted a guy I’d first met only 15 minutes before to guide me safely down to earth, but like lots of business owners, I’m still working on how best to operate the helm at Wilson RMS.

Jump will be my way to put it out there — thoughts, feelings, questions, and maybe even a few answers — as I learn to trust in a completely new way. Let me know how it sounds to you.

— Dave


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  • Chris Cushing: Nice list. Although the most annoying for me is the new corporate catch phrase "bandwidth." Ooh, Makes me shrug everytime I hear it in a meeting.
  • Maile: Sweet write, great site layout, continue the great work
  • Nate: I have DISH Network and a Sling adapter connected to my receiver and I was surprised to see how many devices that this work on with DISH. I know Comca