Monthly Archives: October 2016

Future of Ad-Tech and Digital Marketing

I recently sat in on Denver Startup Week’s panel on “The Future of Ad-Tech & Digital Marketing.” Although this seminar was extremely startup-centric there were many interesting nuggets pertaining to digital marketing and ad-tech in general. The most interesting takeaways:

Threats to Digital Advertising:

Of the major threats to the future of digital advertising, the three most crucial according to this panel were Ad Blocker downloads, identity theft, and the concentration of power and assets by major companies.

1) Ad blocking software is becoming increasingly prevalent for online media users and these apps are not limited to desktops or laptops, but extend to mobile devices also. Ad blockers function in a way that keeps individuals from seeing ads therefore eliminating crucial calculable data for ad agencies like ours. However, as we move forward and even in pop culture we see that brands are starting to rely more and more upon social influencers as ambassadors or walking billboards for brands. Influencers can act as a way around ad blockers. It was noted that “nearly 86% of our decisions are made based off one’s peer group.” This may lead to social influencers, CEOs, owners, and other “spokesmen” appearing more frequently in branding campaigns, as body language is noted as one of the strongest reinforcements advertising can offer.

2) Identity theft and cyber security has long been an issue, but has become more prevalent as more personal information is stored and shared online and between third party entities. Living in a time of technology that allows one to check their bank statements and then go right to Facebooking or internet shopping on a connection that is most likely open and accessible to any computer savvy individuals puts all sorts of personal information at risk. This simultaneously creates the need for protection of personal information through encryption and other means not often understood by typical Internet users, but these sorts of measures are sure to become more normal to the average Internet surfer. This also creates an issue for advertisers, and their partners, who often rely on third party affiliates to purchase client targeting information. A cease or major reduction of the almost free flowing information gathered by third parties would create an interesting situation for advertisers, who may see this sort of crucial information experience high rates of inflation and an overall decreased quantity of this type of information in general.

3) We are seeing huge concentrations of power and assets in companies like Facebook and Google – which can end up being incredibly problematic. These companies already have so much client information and power that they nearly eliminate true competitiveness in the market place through the shear amount of customer monetizing information they have.

First Party vs. Third Party Data:

The speakers on the panel also relayed an interesting viewpoint on the relationship between first and third party data. They suggested that first parties should try to import or purchase third party data and augment it with their own rather than push their data to third party companies. Sometimes when giant third parties have customer data the risk of this information being shared grows exponentially, and this is where data leakage may occur to where competitors can see and use this data to their own benefit.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data:

The final discussion of the panel was the strategy of shifting from quantitative data to qualitative data. This seems counter-intuitive for buyers and sellers of media who simply want to reach the largest amount of viewers possible. However, it makes sense when considering the role of qualitative data as part of developing a real relationships with viewers and customers. It will become increasingly more important for companies to create campaigns that collect more data about the users while simultaneously becoming more engaging therefore helping to curve the perceived intrusive/invasive nature of ads.


My Two Passions: Craft Beer & Marketing

The city of Denver recently hosted Startup Week, an annual series of seminars that not only showcases up-and-coming local businesses, but educates attendees on what it takes to be successful. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to attend a seminar that combines two of my passions: craft beer and marketing.

This particular seminar consisted of a panel representing three Denver-based brewing companies: Spangalang, Bierstadt Lagerhaus and Black Sky Brewery. These breweries embody the Denver craft beer movement, as they are small microbreweries that typically yield about 500 barrels a year. Breweries in this category are responsible for making Colorado the craft beer capital of the United States, and represent an industry that greatly impacts the culture of our society.

Passion Is Essential Ingredient

Although the topics of discussion remained heavily focused on the craft brewing industry, the panel’s insights and perspectives proved to be applicable to many industries. For me, the key takeaway is the importance of passion in your work. Despite entirely different backgrounds, each brewer has a love for their craft. Again and again, they reiterated that when nurturing the growth of a new business, without passion, one will fail. Believing in yourself is the key ingredient in the recipe for small-business success.

Crafty Marketing

I learned what type of marketing tactics each brewery found to be best suited for engaging new consumers. Interestingly enough – all three of the brewers agreed that they don’t invest many dollars, let alone interest, into traditional marketing. It was apparent that there was a stark contrast between the approach of smaller, artisan breweries as opposed to juggernauts such as Anheuser Busch or MillerCoors. While the latter has the capacity to inject a surplus of dollars into flashy, top-of-the-line advertising, the smaller breweries make better use of social media and word-of-mouth recommendations. They touched upon the importance of building communal relationships and representing themselves as local companies with a simple message: We make good beer.

Quality on Tap

To wrap up their thoughts, the panel made a point to establish the importance of quality when providing goods or service to the general public. It is imperative that if one isn’t making use of the highest quality, especially when it comes to effort (a personal export that drives success), one needs to reconsider whether or not to continue on that path. If a person can’t stand behind the quality of his or her work efforts, let alone the product delivered, then why do it at all? The concept came full circle, as passion and quality can repeatedly impact one another extensively.

Though our industries and day-to-day jobs may be entirely different, the path to success is very similar. Love what you do, and you will be successful. Maintain the quality of your efforts, and you will be proud of the result. Stand by your brand, and you will perfect your craft. Cheers!

A Gay Millennial’s Message to Marketers

As an openly gay millennial, I’ve often struggled with fully embracing LGBT advertising messages that reduce a beautifully diverse queer community to two-dimensional stereotypes of fashionable, hard-bodied, blonde models. It’s a confession I’ve never been proud enough to voice until now, at a time of unprecedented strides in LGBT equality, and an equally strong movement within media and marketing to build support, advocacy and community.

In the era of declining print advertising and increasing digital banner blindness, it seems the most impactful way to reach the LGBT community is through 1:1 on site community building.

The shift in successful LGBT marketing is no longer just speaking at the community—but to actually become a part of it.

As a born and raised Texan, growing up gay was hardly something to celebrate. Even with a vibrant nightlife and active community, I always felt I was on the periphery of the mainstream. A member of an auxiliary group that brands tried to engage with using hunky shirtless models, homoerotic undertones and the occasional Pride flag.

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As well-intentioned as these efforts were, they felt half-hearted and inauthentic. Growing up with these messages made me feel even more secluded from the rest of the world. Was I fit enough? Did I dress well enough? Was I proud enough? Was I really a member of the community I identified with?

On June 26, 2016, exactly one year after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, I attended my first Pride Parade in New York City with my partner of four years, for my 27th birthday. It was the most exciting experience of my life because it was the first time I really understood what it meant to be a proud gay man.

I remember looking left to right on the crowded street in New York’s West Village neighborhood and my eyes filling with tears. Booth after tent after sign of countless Fortune 100 corporations, were affirming me. Accepting me. Embracing me. These brands weren’t trying to sell me their products; they were there as advocates and members of my community.

That unforgettable experience shaped how I saw my community and my perception of these brands. As a marketing professional, I took home plenty of notes on what it means to connect and build advocacy with the LGBT community and the values that successful brands shared.

Equal Representation

Trends within the millennial generation suggest that the best gay outreach messaging is equality messaging, not “gay-specific” messaging. Forty-seven percent of millennials are more likely to support a brand after seeing an equality-themed ad.

105644_1_busdev_culture-and-diversity-millennial-graphCommunity Building

My Pride experience didn’t make me feel like an auxiliary afterthought or an outlier. My partner, friends and advertisers all came together to not only include me, but to celebrate me.

Impactful LGBT messaging is true cultural immersion, and brands across the country have stood up to celebrate my community.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority embraced 1:1 community building while at Los Angeles Pride this year with “Virtually Fabulous.” The on-site activation brought Las Vegas to LA Pride (and attendees to Vegas) with an incredible virtual reality experience featuring interactive videos that users could choose from a number of Vegas attractions, ranging from zip lining through the Rio to bottle service at Marquee.


Another value that ran through the brands whose message moved me during Pride, was unapologetic authenticity. Honey Maid did this beautifully in its “This Is Wholesome” TV spot, where it took all the negative and disapproving messages and literally created a message of love.


The strongest theme that tied all these LGBT advertisers together was a message of togetherness. At NY Pride, I felt like a part of an experience that united all sexual and gender identities. This sentiment is illustrated perfectly by a San Francisco Burger King with “The Proud Whopper” that proclaims “We Are All the Same Inside.”


As a gay millennial, equality, authenticity, inclusion and community are all values that deeply resonate with me. Marketers meaning to connect with the LGBT community will be the most successful by joining our community and joining in our celebration.


From Tech to Talent − Why Culture Matters

Recently, we highlighted Falken Tires president and CEO Richard Smallwood’s top strategies for employee engagement. The conclusion of this two-part series features ideas from Jill Elliott, R&R’s VP of people and culture. Jill’s impressive HR and organizational development background spans across multiple industries, including working with clients such as Disney, Expedia and Unilever. When one meets her for the first time, you instantly get her Bay Area tech vibe, coupled with an apparent passion for employer branding, and designing programs that build culture and employee engagement.

Jill and I sat down recently to discuss her strategies for creating a strong culture and putting people at the center of the organization. “Leaders should strive to cultivate a level of trust,” she remarked. “Having employees’ best interest at heart closely aligns with who we are and how we treat each other and our clients.” At R&R Partners, we use a specific language around the people and relationships who are at the core of what makes us great: “We value family and community above all.”who-we-areIt isn’t a bit ironic that my conversation with our ambassador of people and culture took place the day of the annual Media Tailgate. While we were talking about something Jill is obviously energetic about, teams of people were working together to put the final touches on our 11th annual event, which celebrates our employees and partnerships. One of the most enjoyable afternoons of the year, she was quick to point out that “all of our events are just ways to connect our people to the culture. These are not simply parties—they provide this important opportunity to connect.”

I asked Jill what she would do with an unlimited budget to drive even more employee engagement at R&R. Her response wasn’t what I expected, yet it makes total sense: “I would survey employees to ask them what they want.” Our discussion was interrupted slightly when a unicorn pool float came into Town Center during the Media Tailgate set up, yet after we had a Friday afternoon giggle, Jill impressed me with her final thought: “If you get the people part—the recruiting, the hiring, the development and the culture—right, everything else falls into place.”