Yesterday was the day after the Super Bowl, a national holiday in advertising when agencies nationwide (who have never made and will never make a Super Bowl ad) self-promote their expertise of TV’s most expensive commercials. This year, ad space sold for up to $3 million for a 30 second spot and NBC broke the all-time total ad revenue record with $206 million.

So, “Creative Directors” and “Strategy Gurus” go on morning shows and post blogs to tell us which ads will succeed and why (usually with lame football puns, like “Who scored the big touchdown?” or “Which ad fumbled?”). Of course, no one agrees on anything, and interest dissipates the next day – long before any definitive results and metrics can be acquired.

The folks at Park & Co, however, are taking a different angle this year. They’re looking specifically at how these ads extend their reach through the use of Word of Mouth, in particular social media, and they kindly included me on their panel of judges. It’s practically impossible for an ad agency to resist jumping on the Super Bandwagon, but I’m glad they chose to take a different look at the ads. I hope that they will revisit it later when they can compare the rankings with the results.

You can read all of the results released today on the Park & Co blog, but I wanted to expand on a couple of my comments here and look at why it isn’t the production costs or the big names or tremendous talent that necessarily drive the conversation.

First off, from a Word of Mouth perspective, the most talked about clip of the Super Bowl was only shown to Comcast viewers in the Tucson market, with their “accidental” 30 seconds of porn shown after the Cardinals’ final touchdown. I mention this, not only because it’s REALLY funny, but also because after several social media disasters, Comcast has recently been trying to use online media to improve its image and manage crises. It will be interesting to watch @comcastcares to see how they manage (or don’t manage) “Wiener-gate 2009.”

There are two brands that really caught my eye for their WOM potential. The first is Go Daddy. First, let me say that I’m no fan of  the misogyny  in their ads and I understand why people take offense (but, I am a fan of their service. Very reliable and amazing customer service). But as far as the ads’ strategy, they accomplish what other brands strive to do, using incredibly low production value: bad script, lame sets, and horrific acting. Go Daddy hints at risqué and then directs viewers to their Web site to see unrated content. Now, we’ve been teased with the possibility of seeing Danica Patrick drop the towel. So what? A lot of ads try to drive viewers to a Web site, right? Well, this time people may actually do it, and – the BIG difference – their Web site is their store. People are virtually walking into their stores to see much less than you’d see while watching football in Tucson.

For a completely different reason, I also thought the Hyundai spot titled Contract was incredibly compelling. The ad appeals directly to the uncertainty many feel in this unstable economy. It says that if you were to finance or lease a Hyundai and “if you lose your income in the next year, you can return it with no impact on your credit.” This is a bold offer for a desperate time. Sales are down; some aren’t buying because they’ve lost their jobs, but others are just being cautious because they don’t know what the future holds. Hyundai is appealing to the latter to come in and make a purchase in spite of the uncertainty by reducing the risk. I don’t know about you, but if I know people who need a new car and are in that situation, I will instantly recall this ad and tell them about Hyundai’s offer. I only wish Hyundai had done something to amplify the Word of Mouth potential, give us some tools to more easily pass on their message. But, the ad itself is very WOM-worthy. (I also think Denny’s pulled off a similar success by – shockingly – offering a free Grand Slam to everyone in America today. Now, they have to make sure their food and service make people want to come back and pay for it next time).

Having said all of that, I still think that creating and airing a Super Bowl ad is a giant waste of money. Even Hyundai and Go Daddy – as effective as I think those ads were – could have pulled off a lot more with a lot less, and pass those savings on to their consumers or sponsor a corporate retreat with AIG. What do you think? Does any ad justify the Super Bowl price tag? And, which do you think will generate the most long-term, effective Word of Mouth this year?

Okay, I can admit it: I enjoy Facebook. I like keeping tabs on people without having to keep in touch with them. I like seeing pictures of people I went to high school with. I even like reading and writing status updates. And, I love playing Scrabble and Word Challenge.

But, there are some things about Facebook that absolutely drive me crazy! I’ll rant about them here, periodically, when I just can’t take it anymore.

So, without further delay, Facebook Pet Peeve # 1:

If you have time to get on Facebook and update your status to let everyone know how busy you are, then you aren’t that busy. You know the status I’m talking about. It’s not “is working hard today” or “has a lot on my plate,” it’s “will never finish these 3 reports and overdue projects.” Of course you’re never going to finish them, you’re always on Facebook telling people how busy you are!

Okay, that’s my first Facebook rant.

Surely, I’m not alone here. What are your Facebook pet peeves?

You’ve heard that humans tend to be most attracted to symmetry, right? I was reminded of this last night watching The Office, as Oscar argued his case for why Hilary Swank was, in fact, attractive (but not hot). Oscar presented a segmented diagram of Swank’s symmetrical face, and explained she demonstrated “the scientific standard of koinophilia: features that are a composite average of many features.”

I admit to being attracted to symmetry, and that is exactly why I started Blabbermouth. I’ll explain…

I began my courtship of marketing at an advertising agency, practicing public relations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: traditional marketing can be and often is effective; it just doesn’t turn me on. I’m simply not attracted to it because of its lack of symmetry.

Traditional marketing (take advertising or PR, for example) is asymmetrical: the marketer is marketing AT the consumer. This provides plenty of opportunity to influence and persuade, but no opportunity to listen or adjust.

Word of Mouth marketing, when done right, is symmetry at its best. Instead of marketing AT, we get to market WITH our consumers. This is risky for some, because it means letting go of control of the message. You have to have a lot of confidence in your product or service to do that.  This is also why I can only take clients with products I believe in. I can’t let go of the message if I think it will make you (in turn, me) look bad. So, if you become my client (and I hope there are a few of you), you should know that I’m a big fan of your work. 

If you have the luxury of letting go, the rewards are immeasurable. You get to not only start a dialogue, but to participate in it. You get to listen and respond; you can defend and define your product when it’s misunderstood or improve it when you learn from a consumer how it could be better. That’s symmetrical marketing, a give and a take; and not only is that attractive, it’s hot.

Have you heard about the revolution? America’s coffee shops are full of displaced marketing professionals. In the down economy, marketing budgets are (wrongly) the first to go – resulting in layoffs at advertising agencies nationwide. In turn, since nobody’s hiring, these homeless marketers become freelancers.

n.   also free lance (frē‘lāns’)
1. A person who sells services to employers without a long-term commitment to any of them.
2. An uncommitted independent, as in politics or social life.
3. A medieval mercenary.
v.   free·lanced, free·lanc·ing, free·lanc·es

I wasn’t a victim of layoffs; I chose to leave my job to start my own business. But, I do feel a strong kinship with my fellow former ad execs. And, I’d like to think of us as (definition 3) a band of medieval mercenaries. And, since we’re used to being around other people – and chaos, working from home, alone doesn’t cut it for a full day. So we grab our MacBook Pros and head to coffee shops for the free wifi (hear that Starbucks?), heavy caffeine intake, and – most of all – human interaction.

So, next time you go to your local java shop, take a look around. Need a new logo? Ask the hipster in the corner with the double Americano. Looking for a pithy print add? Those two at the table with their laptops back-to-back like a game of Battleship are a copywriter/graphic designer team. And, looking for some Word of Mouth marketing? I’m the non-fat latte buried in my computer, but grateful to be around people.

Stop by and talk. Let us know what you need. Because last year’s award winning marketers are waiting for you at coffee shops, hoping to stay on this side of the counter.

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The Citizens – The Surfer

Here’s an online video created for the band The Citizens. Listen to the song, then share it with your friends. Then, buy their album on iTunes!

What’s a Blabbermouth?



I conceived, wrote, and managed crAZyspace in 2008 for the Arizona Democratic Party.

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Theatre companies have been harnessing the power of Word of Mouth for centuries. Most theatre-goers are familiar with the curtain speech that sounds a little like, “If you liked what you saw here tonight, please tell your friends… If you didn’t like it, tell them you saw Cats.” See, they get the most basic principal of WOM that a lot of businesses look past: It’s free and easy to ask your loyalists to tell their friends about you.

However, there is a dilemma to posing that ask during the curtain speech of a limited run theatre production – it may be too late to gain any traction. Childsplay, an Arizona theatre company for young audiences, is trying to get a step ahead of the problem.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Childsplay’s “Friends & Family” night for its upcoming production of Busytown. They gathered about thirty Childsplay loyalists to their Tempe rehearsal hall to meet with actors, designers, the choreographer, the music director, and the director. They were given a WAY behind the scenes peek in to the production weeks before opening night. But, most importantly, they were given the opportunity to be a part of Busytown through their early participation.

Childsplay understands that without their audiences there would be no reason to show up for work. So, instead of waiting for the lights to come up to include them, they give them ownership from the start. That’s what Word of Mouth is all about. If you give me a sense of ownership of your product, then I have a vested interest in your success. That gives me extra motivation to spread the word for you.

By giving the audiences a sneak peek of Busytown, Childsplay gave these audience members ownership of the production. They got to ask questions, get to know the play, and are now armed with information to share with their friends with enough time to build some momentum. They even got to learn one of the dance numbers.

And, of course, the curtain speech happened… but long before the curtain went up. Rosemary Walsh, Childsplay’s Marketing Director and all-around wonderful human being, made it very clear that we had invited them there for a reason. She told them that without their help, there is no Childsplay and asked them to spread the word and hand out free passes for the show. These Childsplay evangelists were ready and willing to help. All she had to do was ask.

 If you’re interested in attending a future “Friends & Family” event at Childsplay, let me know and I’ll put Rosemary in touch with you. You can also become a Facebook fan of Childsplay.

I could really use your help. I created this video for a great band – The Citizens. I really want to spread the word about them…not because they’re clients, and not because I’m close friends with the guitar player. I have loved this band for a long time, and I know once more people hear them, the possibilities are endless.

So, I’d like to ask a few favors of you. First, watch the video.

Next, did you like them? You can hear more of their music on The Citizens’ Web site. If you like what you hear, you can download their albums from iTunes. You can also become a fan on Facebook.

Finally – and this is where I really need your help – I’d like to find some bloggers who will repost The Surfer video. Obviously, those who write about music would be a start, but let’s think beyond that too. There have to be blogs about monkeys, circuses, circus freaks, surfing, monsoons, and other related topics seen in the video. Do you know these bloggers? Do you know someone who knows someone? If you do, please let them know about The Surfer video. Every little bit helps; no blog is too big or too small.

Thanks for your help. You’re the best!

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