A DECADE OF KEEPING KIDS ALCOHOL-FREE: How R&R Partners Continues to Prevent Underage Drinking Through Innovative, Researched-based Advertising

Experience is what you get when working with R&R Partners to prevent underage drinking—and a lot of it.

Since 2006, R&R Partners has worked with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) to eliminate underage drinking in Utah, a state that historically has the lowest underage drinking rates in the country. But, with the help of R&R Partners, Utah has found a way to further reduce the underage drinking numbers at a rate faster than the national trend. With the evidence-based advertising and communications of R&R Partners, Utah’s efforts have been incredibly successful, building not only the premier prevention program in Utah (Parents Empowered), but arguably the foremost underage drinking prevention program in the nation. In fact, 1 in 5 states has adopted Parents Empowered media materials or strategies to combat underage drinking.

So how does a state with such low underage drinking rates continue to push down the numbers? Below, we share a few of the secrets behind R&R Partners’ nationally recognized Parents Empowered program.

THE HARMS OF UNDERAGE DRINKING

R&R knows that the longer one can stave off a child’s first experimentation with alcohol, the more likely they are to prevent kids from a lifetime of alcohol abuse or related negative social behaviors. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, persons reporting first-use of alcohol before the age of 15 were more than five times as likely to report alcohol dependence as persons who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. And, if a child began experimenting with alcohol before the age of 15, they faced a 67 percent chance of suffering from alcohol-dependence. (SAHMSA, 2003, NSDUH)

As such, R&R understood the need to communicate the harms of underage drinking to parents, who may or may not see the associated risks. For some, drinking is the least harmful substance their child could use, and it may be considered a rite of passage, or even innocent experimentation. And while less than 10 percent of parents say they “agree” that it is OK if their child drinks alcohol sometimes, almost a third of parents feel there is very little they can do to prevent their kids from trying alcohol, and almost two-thirds believe their kids have never tried alcohol at all. (2015 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, April 2015) We leverage these findings, creating messages that empower Utah parents with the knowledge that they can affect their child’s decisions and their likelihood of experimenting with alcohol.

EFFECTIVE SOCIAL CAUSE ADVERTISING

Now, R&R is very proud of the public service messages/advertisements created for Parents Empowered, as well as the national and state recognition, we’re more excited that the advertisements created to prevent underage drinking are effectively motivating parents to set clear rules against underage drinking.

R&R is very proud of their work on Parents Empowered, as the work is both impressive and successful, but even more significant is the continual decrease in underage drinking across Utah over the past decade.

Across Utah, R&R has been incredibly successful in educating parents/guardians about the consequences of early alcohol use and teaching parents the most effective researched-based behaviors proven to help kids grow up alcohol-free—bonding, boundaries and monitoring. Research shows that close to 90 percent of Utah parents now view themselves as the person primarily responsible for their children’s decision whether to drink or not—this is fantastic news. Additionally, underage drinking in Utah has steadily declined since the state began working with R&R Partners, and more parents now report setting clear rules and expectations to keep their kids alcohol-free.

“We needed an agency that could build a program the size of a 747, and launch it from a short runway. R&R Partners has delivered a successful campaign for more than a decade.” − Art Brown, President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Utah Chapter

R&R Partners’ promise to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control—and to every client—is simple, “We will help you win in ways you haven’t yet imagined.” Providing creative, measurable and effective solutions is what we do best. Parents Empowered continues to receive a steady stream of new, unique, effective ideas that raise awareness among parents of the harms related to underage drinking and what parents can do to prevent it.

INNOVATION IS IMPORTANT, BUT EFFICACY IS VITAL

As a general rule of thumb, innovation isn’t R&R’s primary measure of success—it’s efficacy. Aiming to be extremely innovative doesn’t always lead to effective solutions in social cause marketing, whereas aiming to be extremely effective almost always results in innovation.

The efficacy and innovation of R&R’s work on Parents Empowered has twice won the “Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Media Award for Outstanding Community Awareness Campaign,” and has been recognized as a Prevention Best Practice by Service to Science, with additional recognition from the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) for Innovation in Prevention.

To build a campaign that is both innovative and effective, R&R knew research-based messaging needed to serve as the campaign’s foundation. Since the inception of Parents Empowered, R&R has helped to lead the campaign strategy by grounding all message recommendations in academic research and proven prevention practices. R&R’s past 10 years’ experience working directly with national and state prevention networks, and leveraging federal prevention best practices, has prepared us to motivate long-term sustainable change among key audiences, but also positions us to evolve the campaign using new trends and target audience insight.

For example, we capitalized on research-driven messaging in the development of the “Halo” ad that addressed parents’ mistaken perception that their child is immune from underage drinking. Halo delivered the message to parents that even good kids need help to remain alcohol-free.

More recently, the “Bobble head” broadcast message was developed in response to new research that identified a disconnect between fathers and mothers (especially in single-parent homes) who may not have the same attitudes about alcohol and underage drinking, and often don’t share the same rules and boundaries to keep kids alcohol-free. Many parents in research focus groups expressed the belief that underage drinking was dangerous, but felt their spouses may not feel the same way. This ad works to change the social norm and urge parents to agree on clear rules to prevent underage drinking.

Not only does R&R Partners have more than 10 years of success working on underage drinking prevention, but it has truly become the agency’s way of thinking—it is now our approach to our business and our way to give back to our communities. It is no surprise that more than a dozen states have solicited the help of R&R Partners to address public health and safety issues and change social norms.

WE BELIEVE IN CHANGING SOCIAL NORMS

Just as the Utah DABC and other community partners feel ownership in efforts to improve the health and safety of their communities, so does R&R Partners. We believe in the need to be socially responsible, helping to improve the communities where we live. The social causes we back are as much our passion as our clients’.

“R&R is not our vendor, but an equal partner. It is rare to find an advertising agency that believes in your cause as much as you do.” – Doug Murakami, Director of Alcohol Education, Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control

We’re committed to eliminating underage drinking with everything we have in our toolbox—strategic planning, advertising, digital marketing, mass media, nontraditional media, social media, public relations, and government and public affairs. And with all our expertise under one roof, we can, and will, continue to deliver powerful ideas and solutions for each social cause marketing campaign we build. We invite you to leverage R&R Partners’ passion and expertise to help launch your innovative and effective social cause marketing campaign.

 

Colorado Marketing Summit – The Colorado Brand

Your state is much more than a place to call home. It’s also a brand. A very important brand.

This is one of the many things I learned at the Colorado Marketing Summit. After all, who doesn’t like the opportunity to get out of the office every once in a while and connect with like-minded marketers? I just had that experience when I attended the summit at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver.

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It was a gathering of marketing professionals, creative agencies, media technology experts and community leaders. What was unique about this summit is that every company represented was based in Colorado. Some of the organizations that people will recognize include Western Union (an R&R Partners client), Arrow Electronics, Ball Corporation, UCHealth, MapQuest and HomeAdvisor. Those were rounded out with a few familiar folks in the food and beverage industry as well, including Smashburger, Qdoba, MAD Greens and WhiteWave Foods.

The summit was structured into eight panels and you were able to hear all eight without having to choose which ones to attend. Topics included leveraging smart data, social media strategies, content marketing, optimizing customer experience, meaningful digital engagement and others.

But the panel that stood out the most was called The Colorado Brand. Panel members included the chief marketing officer from the state of Colorado, the director of citywide marketing for the city and county of Denver, and the vice chancellor for strategic relations from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Impressive group − and all female. Girl power!IMG_1512

It’s no secret that Colorado is a great place to live. It’s consistently ranked in “best places to live” articles, including this recent first-place rank in U.S. News. More people are moving to Colorado now than during the Gold Rush in the 1850s. The panel highlighted that the Colorado brand is an amazing combination of outdoor activities, progressive lifestyle, entrepreneurial opportunities and a diversified economy. Colorado consistently ranks as a top-performing economy and currently holds rank No. 1 on the Forbes Best Places for Business and Careers list. The panel also highlighted that Colorado offers a great balanced lifestyle where people can truly work hard and play hard. To many outsiders right now, Colorado stands for one thing: marijuana. With the recent passing of recreational marijuana distribution and use, the panel pointed out that the Colorado brand needs to remind folks about all the other things Colorado stands for. Of course, that conversation can shape the brand, but it is important that we as a state build the right stories about the brand: Stories about its outdoor amenities, its art scene, growing chef-led restaurants, and the economic and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Colorado, as a brand, needs to continue reminding large companies why they need to do business here. In the 1980s, things were very different in Colorado. The town was mostly known for one industry: oil and gas; and there was the dreaded Brown Cloud pollution air-quality issue. Well, times have changed. A number of groups got together and created public/private partnerships to really change the future of Colorado and help diversify the industries. Brands start here and move here. There is a great, young, active workforce for these companies. Millennials are moving to Colorado in droves and that is changing the work ethic on a cultural level, but Colorado is embracing that change. There is a real understanding of having great pride and passion for work being done here, as well as equal balance with play time. One great benefit coming from this growth: new companies wanting to work with local agencies. This is a great opportunity for the R&R Denver office as we continue to build awareness and grow our footprint. We can be part of shaping the Colorado brand.

Think of your Corporate Social Responsibility as Corporate Survival

R&R Partners is a part of and attended a recent Nevada Corporate Giving Council. The renowned guest speaker, Edmund Cain  from the Hilton Foundation said that CSR is no longer being looked at as social responsibility, but rather as corporate survival. All companies whether their size should do their part to impact society.

Cain provided three helpful tips as it relates to prioritizing your corporate social responsibility programs: be respectful of the donor intent (ideally it’s for impact versus for cost of doing business); do the analytics (what are the pressing issues); how can your works be leveraged (with collaboration amongst other groups funding).

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Cain also touched on his recently published blog on why foundations should keep global sustainability issues top of mind.

Cain complimented the work being done in Nevada, and gave a nod to much of Conrad Hilton’s successes stemming from his ownership days of the Las Vegas Hilton and Flamingo Hotel. For more information on the Nevada Corporate Giving Council’s annual philanthropy report, see recent BusinessPress article.

Upon reflection after the event I attended, I thought about what CSR means to R&R, and it is at the heart of everything that we do—as an agency and for our clients. Before corporate social responsibility became essential to survival, we started the R&R Foundation, as we believe our employees and partners can come together for the greater good.

Jim King, Chairman of the R&R Foundation says, “As R&R Partners as a global marketing agency is well-known for providing creative communications solutions to a broad spectrum of clients, we want our Foundation to be known for strengthening the communities we serve.” I believe that not only is this at the heart of our culture and in living our values, but part of the lifeblood of our agency.

http://rrpartnersfoundation.org

 

Sadly, El Nino didn’t save us.

It all sounded so hopeful. Last autumn all the talk was about the “Godzilla of El Ninos,” forming in the Pacific Ocean and preparing to bring all of us in the western U.S. a winter positively brimming with wet, wonderful precipitation. Rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains and water everywhere the eye could see.

Meteorologists and climatologists were lining up to tell us that the models they were working on portended an El Nino unlike any we had seen since the record winter of 1997-98. States including California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado that had been suffering under the jackboot of the worst drought any of us had experienced for more than a decade would finally see some relief.

It was going to be glorious.

Except, it wasn’t. In June, as we look back on the El Nino winter of 2015-16, it seems that Godzilla underachieved. Granted, the news wasn’t all bad. The Pacific Northwest had a very wet year. But that’s Washington and Oregon. Their situation isn’t nearly as dire as ours. Closer to home, rainfall in Northern California actually had what has been described as “near normal” rainfall during the season. The nature of the drought is such that a year of “near normal” is now considered cause for celebration. But, many of Northern California’s reservoirs did receive a nice jolt of new water. And that’s a very good thing.

But things were much less rosy elsewhere. The snowpack in California’s mountains was still 14% below normal for the year. Even more disappointing, the seasonal rainfall in Los Angeles was 6.59 inches. Normal for the area is 13.54 inches.

Things were no better – and no wetter – in Arizona. Arizona’s mountains recorded a less-than-normal snowpack for the sixth consecutive year, even after a very promising start to the season. Nevada had a year very much like California’s. Not bad in the mountains and lakes of Northern Nevada. But in Southern Nevada – well, it never rains or snows very much in Southern Nevada anyway.

Which brings us to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – where the winter snowpack determines how much water will flow down the Colorado River into Lake Mead and ultimately to the millions of homes, businesses and farms in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah – even Mexico – that depend on it as their primary source.

Again, we are forced to wonder what might have been. As in Arizona and California, the year in the Rockies got off to a very promising start. But in the months after that… more disappointments. When all was said and done, the snowpack fell 20% short of what is considered normal. Even worse, a warm March caused much of the snowpack to melt too quickly and too early to really make a difference in the downstream reservoirs like Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Granted, the region did have a very cool and wet month of May, but by then, the damage to the snowpack had been done.

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Put simply, Big Daddy Drought had slapped El Nino on the butt.

There is no greater evidence of that than in the declining reserves in Lake Mead. In May of 2016, the level of the lake was measured at 1074 feet, the lowest since Hoover Dam had been completed. That level is expected to go down another five feet by the end of June. On a more optimistic note, due to some late season runoff and some extra stores that will be allowed to flow into the lake by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, it is anticipated that its level will measure 1078 feet by year’s end. That’s an important number, because it the lake measures at 1075 or less at the end of this year, it will trigger new – and harsher – restrictions on its use by all of us who depend on it for water. Cross your fingers now.

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So, El Nino didn’t save us. What now?   We have to continue to save ourselves. Water authorities and purveyors throughout the region need to continue to fight the good fight. Research has always shown that people in a drought-stricken area are enthusiastic to jump in and be part of the solution. They just need to know what to do, and trust that all of their neighbors are also contributing. If the drought has taught us nothing else, it has instilled in everyone in the region an awareness of the problem and a mindset to aid in the solution. Water smart habits were slowly but surely being formed. It’s vital that we keep that momentum going.

Our client, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is about to introduce an aggressive new water-saving program this summer, while continuing the other sustainable water management programs we have established over the past two decades that have resulted in some astounding savings. But we in Southern Nevada are old hands at drought, and the SNWA is viewed internationally as a leader in water conservation programs and marketing.

The key is that people, businesses and governments in all of the areas that depend on water that we all hope nature will deliver adopt a similar mindset and attitude, proactively changing behavior to conform to a reality that we’re ultimately going to have to save ourselves.

Because now we know one thing for sure – El Nino isn’t coming to the rescue anytime soon.

Reflections in the Aftermath of Orlando Shooting (and Lessons Learned for LGBT Marketers)

In honor of the lives lost in Orlando this weekend, I wanted to open my LGBT blog post with a small tribute to the horrible tragedy that has impacted all of our lives. I’m sure many of you woke up on Sunday morning as I did to the tragic news coming from Orlando. Each Sunday, our kids wander into our room and we go eat breakfast and plan for the day ahead. Well, that happened yesterday too, but Hudson and Sawyer witnessed their dads paralyzed to the TV with tears streaming down their eyes. What do you tell your 2- and 5-year-olds about a senseless tragedy and about death? I didn’t know exactly what to say and I don’t think I ever will, but I will always think of the Orlando club owner when I think of my kids moving forward. She had named the club “Pulse” as it reminded her of her brother’s heartbeat, whom she lost to AIDS years ago. I will always think of my kids’ heartbeat, and also the heartbeats of the 49 victims, each and every day of my life here on earth. My heart goes out to all of the families affected by this senseless act.

Growing up in Mississippi, I was always raised with a value system to love, care for, give back and be respectful. I’ve always looked for similar shared values in the companies and clients I’ve worked for, and being a part of R&R Partners now for 10 years has been a perfect match for me. At the core, R&R is empathetic − we embed with our clients, helping them through whatever situation they are going through. R&R also puts our employees and their families at the forefront of everything we do, as we know it’s our employees who help deliver the results for our clients at the end of the day.

As an advertising executive and gay man, I carry those ingrained values that my family instilled in me throughout my personal and professional life. Recently, my partner and I served as plaintiffs in the successful Nevada marriage equality lawsuit. I was so grateful that R&R supported this endeavor that was so very important to millions of LGBT individuals throughout the world.

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The high of the Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage equality victory was recently overshadowed by the ridiculously bigoted rollback of anti-discrimination laws in North Carolina and my home state of Mississippi. I was appalled by the governors in these Southern states and how they’d allow for discrimination to not only affect the lives of many of their residents, but also the economics of their state. These states are losing millions, if not billions, of dollars in tourism dollars. There’s a great website that is tracking artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Cirque du Soleil, who are boycotting these states to stand up against their bigoted leaders. While I hate it for Mississippi, I love it in the respect to standing up for what’s right, and I’m in hopes that these biased laws are overturned in short-order.

The Mississippi discrimination law situation reignited my upbringing and also my desire to work for and with companies who are diverse, respectful and welcoming. It makes me proud to work for a phenomenal, independent advertising and marketing firm that has not only created the path for LGBT visitors to enjoy Las Vegas and our resort properties, no matter who you are, but also has helped fight for equal human rights in the Nevada legislature to pass hospital visitation rights, anti-bullying laws, transgender rights and marriage equality, among other corporate social responsibility initiatives.

AdAge recently published an article with “musts” for those clients marketing to the LGBT community. I’m proud to say R&R Partners has been living and breathing these musts since their existence began 42 years ago, helping lead the way for people like me to be a successful (gay) executive in today’s society, despite the setbacks a few are making us work through.

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Fletcher Whitwell is senior vice president at R&R Partners, overseeing multiple offices across the U.S. He is a devoted husband and father of two adopted children. He serves his community on many boards, including Human Rights Campaign, SampleDance, Spread the Word Nevada and Worldwide Partners.

 

TubeMogul University and the Future of Digital Media Planning/ Buying

There is no doubt that the digital media landscape is constantly evolving. Consumer media consumption habits are becoming more and more fragmented (see image below) and to consistently deliver fresh digital media strategies, media planners and buyers must constantly learn new tactics and follow digital trends in the trades.

It is especially important for agencies like us to stay ahead of the digital game since brands now have more options for buying media; some brands are bringing these efforts in-house. Digital media companies are making the planning and buying process easier, challenging media agencies to stay relevant since the process is becoming more and more automated. This automated planning and buying process is called “programmatic” (fancy digital lingo). Programmatic is the newest buzzword being thrown around these days, and should not be taken lightly. Data and technology are becoming so sophisticated, yet so simple to implement into our marketing strategies, and will continue to be the centerpiece of any quality media approach.

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Enter TubeMogul. Considered one of the leaders in the “programmatic” space, Tube(mogul) has made a name for itself by investing heavily in data and technology. Tube has successfully created a marketing platform with tools that simplify the planning and buying process. As our clients continue to expect more polished digital campaigns and transparency with their buys (as they should), we now need to find efficiencies in time-management as well as pricing. Problem: the digital media process is calling for more time and effort, requiring more emphasis on research, strategy, ad trafficking, execution, reporting, optimization, more reporting, and finally recapping it all to try and make sense of what the heck just happened. To say the digital planning/buying process needs to be streamlined is an understatement.

Along with my colleague, Kris Cichoski, I recently attended a conference hosted by Tube called TubeMogul University, or as we ended up referring to it, TubeU. The conference took place at Lake Tahoe’s beautiful Hyatt Hotel and included some of the top media folks from agencies and brands across the country. TubeU touched on the most relevant topics being discussed in today’s digital media conversations. Of course, they used this time to showcase their DSP (Demand Side Platform) and marketing tools designed to help make our lives easier, and campaigns more successful – a goal each and every one of us should prioritize. There was plenty to digest during TubeU (including some awesome meals on the beach, accompanied by an overzealous fireworks show to close out the event), so we are recapping the most relevant and key learnings from the conference.

Mobile

It’s the year of mobile. Or was that last year? Mobile is getting bigger by the year so it’s only natural for it to continuously be the topic of conversation. In 2015, mobile surpassed desktop and became the #2 mode of media consumption after TV. As much as our industry is fascinated by mobile usage, there is still a huge gap in time spent on mobile vs. ad spend on mobile. Total internet ad spend in 2015 was $50 billion but mobile ad spend only contributed 25% of that. So how do you find your audience on mobile and where should you increase your mobile ad dollars?

How to find your audience:

  • Match desktop cookies to mobile device IDs and retarget users across multiple devices
  • Apply user registration/email data to do look-alike targeting off current customers
  • Utilize 1st party data from partners with registration info
  • Use partners with software development kits (SDKS) implemented across a network of apps to track user engage/behaviors on their mobile devices
  • Reach users who have been or are currently at a specific geo-location or those who visit multiple locations identifying them as your target audience

Where to spend your mobile money: In-App

  • Social
  • Gaming
  • Music/Audio
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ROI & Attribution

Attribution is one of those new buzzwords many marketers are still trying to wrap their head around. In a nutshell, attribution is a methodology we use to better understand how our media is working relative to a specific objective such as an online purchase. It helps paint a clearer picture, giving credit to media partners that are playing a key role in a customer’s path to purchase (or established KPI/objective). For instance, a pre-roll video may be responsible for introducing a prospective customer to a brand, while that same person may end up purchasing your product after being exposed to a display banner. Prior to attribution modeling, media analysts would give that credit to the display banner, not acknowledging the fact that pre-roll may have played a vital role in creating intent to purchase.

Why is this important? Attribution can be used to help us understand the most ideal media mix and strategy, giving us a better chance for driving positive ROI. Now whether that ROI is truly measurable is another discussion; that is why it is so important to be on the same page with our clients with regards to definitive success metrics and KPIs.

TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson said it plain and simple:

Correlation does NOT = Causation

Attribution should not just be placing a cookie on a user that was going to convert anyway. But how do we avoid reaching and paying for impressions against people who are going to purchase our product regardless of seeing our advertisement? Answer: TEST, TEST, TEST. There are many different types of tests we can apply to find efficiencies. One in particular that we found interesting was a placebo test. A case study was presented showing the results of a brand running fake/placebo ads (creative that had nothing to do with their brand) in conjunction with actual creative against similar audiences. The results showed many conversions coming from people that ONLY saw the placebo ad! This may raise more questions than answers, but ultimately, what this is telling us is that we need to be more cognizant of our audiences and frequency, and ACTUALLY APPLY learnings from insights we gain from reporting. If we do this, ROI should increase, making us and our clients all happy people.

Win-Win Situation

There are a growing number of things we must now think about if we want to remain a digital-forward agency. That is why we are now in deep discussions with Tube and other programmatic platforms about bringing their tools in-house. Solution: this will help us not only streamline the whole process (win), but leverage more efficient media rates (win). Not to mention, having a DSP in-house will certainly help us in new business pitches #WINNING. This would cut out the middle-man, and give us the option to NOT have to RFP 10 media partners who do the exact same thing (ultimate win!) Overall, TubeU was an eye-opening experience, giving us a glance into the future of digital media planning, and how it is finally growing up. Needless to say, it was a breath of fresh (Lake Tahoe) air…pun intended.

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NewFronts: Digital Content Previewed at Annual Conference

The month of May is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for brands and ad agencies. During this time, media companies announce direction for the coming year. The digital NewFronts were recently created as a means for publishers to gain greater attention and steal share from the television industry, which still commands a majority of ad dollars spent.

Time Inc stageI was fortunate to attend a variety of the NewFront presentations and identified some key themes that emerged.

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  • Digital video is where it’s at. Publishers are focused on creating new online video franchises to compete for TV ad dollars. Depending on the publisher, advertiser opportunities range from custom co-branded videos to product integrations to sponsorship to pre/mid-roll placements. Publishers are investing in talent and quality production to swoon advertisers.
    • Examples of new video franchises include:
      • Big Problems/Big Thinkers – Bloomberg (@BloombergTV): Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and journalist Terre Blair have paired up to create a series with major politicians and leaders to discuss major world problems and potential solutions.
      • Chance – Hulu (@hulu): Hugh Laurie (House) will star in a psychological thriller as a neuroscientist.
      • Time 100, The Influencers – Time: Through interviews of unique pairings, such as President Barack Obama and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, influencers react to the impacts of each other’s work and accomplishments.
Hulu Mindy project
  • Virtual reality is the next big thing. While details are scarce at this point, publishers are ready to tap into the immerse experience that VR can provide.
    • Key announcements include:
      • Hulu enters into a partnership with Live Nation (@LiveNation), where they will make select concert performances available to VR users.
      • Time Inc. (@TimeInc) will begin releasing VR content on behalf of its brands such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated…including the fan-favorite, SI Swimsuit franchise.
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  • Live streaming expands. Key announcements were made with regards to live streaming, either as a platform for TV content or general entertainment.
    • Hulu will offer a new platform for live sports, news and events in early 2017 (price point has yet to be announced).
    • Yahoo is focused on live streaming sports free, without authentication. They will stream 400+ events in the next year, including a focus on MLB and NHL.
    • In the case of Buzzfeed (@BuzzFeed), utilizing Facebook Live has finally reached TV-like viewing scale. As of late April, the rubber band/watermelon experiment saw 800k+ concurrent views and 10MM+ total views. Live streaming will invite hiccups though, as many witnessed with the Facebook Live event with President Barack Obama. Some technical glitch on Facebook cut the live-streaming interview short, but thankfully they were simultaneously streaming on YouTube, so all was not lost.Buzzfeed video franchisesHulu stage

Note, I attended presentations for Buzzfeed, Bloomberg, Hulu, Yahoo, Time Inc. & YouTube, so examples are drawn from those presentations. For a full recap of the highlights, please see Cynopsis Media’s wrap-up from May 16th (here).

 

Will Your Agency Survive in Modern Times?

I recently had the good fortune to attend and speak at the iMedia Agency Summit in Lost Pines, Texas. It was here in the vast back country land outside Austin that a few hundred agency executives and media sellers joined forces for four days of discussion centered on this question. The conference was billed as “The Modern Agency’s Survival Guide” with the topics centered on “who manages what” in the blurred landscape that is today’s ad industry.

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Kicking things off Sunday morning was an agency-only, all-day session geared toward getting agency executives in a room to discuss current-day issues that we’re all facing. As part of this, we had a guest speaker from a large national drug store chain join us. Bringing both agencyside and clientside experience, he gave some straight talk on what clients are looking for. His talk focused on a few things:

  1. The three departments you need to keep happy are finance, legal and procurement.
  2. When it comes to social media for a brand, always think: would we, should we, could we.
  3. When pitching your agency, lay off the smoke and mirrors and bring more substance.
  4. Understand the business and category that you’re pitching.
  5. Independent agencies have a shot at large clients; just don’t fight the same battle as the holding companies. They have more offices, a larger global network and just as many big ideas. Instead, push your value proposition when it comes to billing − various models (commission, fee, hourly, project, etc.) − smaller markets plus cheaper rent/salaries equals more dollars for advertising.
  6. Data is important, but don’t die by Infobesity. Focus on what matters.

Next up was a chat on the always hot topic of training. It’s something that large and small agencies seem to struggle with. The main issues revolve around not having enough time to implement a structured training program, slim margins dictating overloaded employees, and who is going to do it. This one has always shocked me in that your agency is only as good as the employees, so why wouldn’t you take the time to train, either in-house or with seminars/conferences? I’m proud to say that the ownership at R&R Partners are firm believers in training and continued education. I shared a few examples of our rrMIT media classes and Superstar program and people were amazed, and I’d like to think envious of what we have built around this topic.

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Day two started with a great panel discussion led by industry veteran John Durham @thedurham. He navigated a great talk with agency CMOs from SapientNitro, Rockfish and MRY. Lots of great thoughts emerged on the consulting companies like Accenture and Deloitte getting into the agency business over the last few years. These guys already have an established line of communication into the C-Suite and now they are buying agencies as if completing a checklist, offering a one-stop shop for clients. The next frontier in my opinion will be the move to start buying data companies and trading desks, effectively making advertising a commodity and devaluing good creative along the way.

The discussion shifted to the disrupters who are making waves among the Fortune 500, companies like Uber and AirBnB who are new to the game and have a different business completely from the legacy models. The largest companies in the world will need to continue to evolve, constantly shed their old skin, and embrace the new landscape as Silicon Valley is not going anywhere.

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After a few more sessions, it was time for the one-on-one meetings. Think speed dating for agencies and publishers. I had 10 sessions, each lasting 10 minutes, all back to back. Don’t be too jealous! My goal with these meetings was to focus the majority of them on companies that we have not worked with in the past, allowing for new opportunities to blossom. While you can’t get too in-depth, you can get a great understanding of their offering and know right away if it makes sense to continue the conversation once you’re back in the office. Lots of focus this year on the DSP/DMP (demand-side platform/data management platform) model, which screams a sea of sameness, although a few stood out, especially with ingesting real-time social data to bring better insights to your buys.

Day three started off with a great presentation from Susan Borst @susanborst with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Susan focused on native and ad blocking, both hot topics these days. It’s interesting to see the industry say native is the answer to ad blocking, and yet a few months later reverse course and say the opposite. Both are areas that are evolving before us, with a little help from the FTC who has issued guidelines, in addition to the IAB. With consumers seemingly wanting more content and brands willing to provide it, native opportunities will only continue to grow and blur the lines between advertisement and editorial. Susan boiled native down into three areas:

  1. Storytelling
  2. Story selling
  3. Just selling

Next up was Roy Spence, co-founder and partner of GSD&M. Roy gave a freewheeling, energetic, off-the-cuff speech titled “The Power of Purpose in Business and Life.” He drew on life experiences from starting his agency to current day. One of the better stories was the time he met with Sam Walton to pitch Walmart. Roy went alone to the pitch and when asked by Sam where the rest of his team was, he got nervous and just said, “One riot, one sheriff, what’s your problem.” Mr. Walton liked it so much, he hired him on the spot. While a great story, certainly not something that would happen today.

A few great quotes from Roy’s speech that stood out to me include:

  1. “We will never solve anything being on common ground, be on higher ground.”
  2. “Don’t spend another second being average at what you’re bad at; spend your time being great at what your good at.”
  3. “Marry the doers and the dreamers at work, great things will happen.”
  4. “We are uninvited guests in people’s lives; make it count.”

While a tough act to follow, the presentations shifted to mobile marketing with a focus on your intentions. Jeff Malmad @1od, head of mobile at Mindshare, along with Dan Brough @danielbrough, head of agency business at Waze, took us into this space. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the conversation around new demographics, with the question being, “Are content and intent the new demographics that we as an industry should be looking at? Does age really matter or should we be looking at behaviors?” While I would argue that it’s important to have a core demo, it’s becoming just as important to look beyond your core audience and find various niche targets that only social data can show you. Where else do your clients have opportunity to grow their business?

Wrapping up the large presentations was the CEO of Epsilon, Andy Frawley @AndyFrawleyCEO. Andy spoke about the industry having an identity crisis and what the agency model of the future is. Epsilon is considered a “new agency model,” or maybe better yet, a faux agency. Starting in data and email, it has added other disciplines, such as creative and media, by snatching up smaller shops as if they were on a grocery store checklist. Andy’s speech was highlighted by seven points.

  1. Get enterprise involvement from your clients; be OK with the c-suite and various department heads sitting in your marketing meetings.
  2. Operate as a solutions integrator, because if agencies can’t, consultants will.
  3. Stop with the hyperbole; clients hire us to produce outcomes, not buzzwords.
  4. Don’t separate advertising from the full customer experience. They need to inform each other.
  5. Know the consumer; insights without audiences are in-actionable.
  6. Hire nontraditional agency talent to breathe life into your organization.
  7. Learn how to build IP, but don’t destroy creativity.

After I moderated a panel on finding and retaining talent, it left me with one last round of 10 rep meetings to close things out. All in all, the conference was great for two reasons. First, it’s a gathering of truly smart people who are happy to discuss any industry topic. You can’t help but come away feeling energized and a lot smarter. Second, it really showed me that we at R&R Partners are moving in the right direction. From training, to culture to our work, we not only can compete with anyone, but we are often light-years ahead of other agencies when it comes to these areas, including the big guys.

Photo credit to Julian Haber Photography

So Uncool: How We Flipped the Script and Made Greenspun Junior High the Uncoolest School in Vegas

When I joined R&R Partners, I was thrilled to step into the glamorous world of advertising. I imagined myself a female Don Draper … working on exciting TV commercials, making creative pitches for clients, and collaborating with some of the best ad agency minds out there. And yes, the culture at R&R is part of what makes it one of the best places to work in Las Vegas. What I didn’t expect is how collaborating on our Flip the Script anti-bullying project would be one of the most fulfilling, impactful projects I’ve ever taken on in my career.

The initiative began in 2011, centered on the idea of standing up against bullying by turning it on its head and “flipping the script.” Throughout the campaign’s history, which has even resulted in Nevada Senate Bill 276 (strong anti-bullying legislation), relevant messaging and thrilling events like USA Network’s Concert to Rock Out Bullying have put this important topic at the forefront of pop culture.

This year’s mission? We partnered with the Public Education Foundation to select three Clark County School District junior high schools as our clients for the next round of the initiative. Three teams of R&R employees signed up as volunteers for this project, and I was fortunate enough to be assigned team leader for Team Purple. We were comprised of several amazing people throughout many different disciplines − design, copywriting, media, research, leadership, PR, production, insight, brand − who pulled together to create a campaign that would meet our clients’ needs.

Speaking of our clients for this project, they were atypical. Namely, they were a group of leaders in sixth, seventh or eighth grade at Greenspun Junior High School, starting at age 11. Our clients were energetic, have been fluent in social media their entire lives, and shed extensive light on what bullying meant in their world. We welcomed these clients to R&R’s offices for two separate brainstorms − one to understand their (and their parents’) experience. The second session was to present our campaign concepts to them.

Resoundingly, one of our two options stood out to these students. The concept that they unanimously voted on was Uncool. Literally. If bullies are cool − think Regina George in Mean Girls or the students of Cobra Kai dojo in The Karate Kid − then our clients wanted to be uncool. If sitting next to a lone student at the cafeteria is uncool, these incredible students were all-in. If standing up for someone was uncool, these leaders were all about it.

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After this direction was determined, the R&R teams burst into action; our team was lucky enough to have the talents of Kristen Hart, our creative lead, manifesting our Uncool design. Through her, and other team members’ tireless efforts, our campaign concept became a reality. We had T-shirts, posters, banners and other items designed for our launch event and an ongoing student store to reinforce the campaign. Sarah Catletti, R&R brand manager who moonlights as foundation co-manager, says, “It was important to the team to make sure that after our campaign launched, Greenspun could continue to be the Uncoolest school and maintain the program. In partnering with school administration and teachers, we were able to provide branded materials for the student store that kids who were caught being uncool could purchase with Uncool bucks as currency.”

greenspun2All of this hard work for our clients culminated in an Uncool assembly to kick off the program. The team tirelessly sought out local talent who were behind the mission to donate their time and skills and to join us at the event on February 26. And talent we got! The ladies from the UNLV Pom team kicked off the event with a high-energy routine, and JC fromMercedes in the Morning on Mix 94.1 FM was a dynamic emcee. He kicked off a program of entertaining vignettes, including the No. 1-ranked flyweight UFC fighter Joseph Benavidez, singer/songwriter Franky Perez, and Flamingo headliner and juggler Jeff Civillico.

Each performer touched on how being uncool was the new cool, and our clients themselves kicked off their program at their school. “I had some of our eighth-grade boys raving, saying it was the best assembly they’ve attended at Greenspun! Their favorite part? The pom girls! “There was something for everyone!” shares Greenspun’s leadership student council co-adviser Dana Martin. “…Your team knocked it out of the park!”

With happy clients and a top-notch event, Team Purple ended this week tired, yet knowing that we had made a difference in students’ lives. As I draft this, proud of the work we did as a team, I can’t help but smile and think that Greenspun was just one of the three schools this project has impacted. Similar campaigns and events are taking place at Becker and Fremont junior high schools. “The Flip the Script initiative and the ways that our employees volunteer to positively affect others is what the R&R Foundation is all about,” says Jim King, principal and leader of the R&R Foundation.

Welcome to the sexy, life-changing, exciting world of advertising. Don Draper would be proud.

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Net Metering Explained

First, we need to understand the grid. This is the system of lines, power plants, solar facilities, wind farms, dams, switches, transformers and other very expensive infrastructure the U.S. power industry uses to generate and deliver electricity to all of us, 24/7.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_1_TransmissionLines

Into the picture come homes and small businesses that install solar panels on their rooftops to generate their own electricity – independent of the grid. They don’t pay a utility company for it. It came from their roof. It’s theirs.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_2_RooftopSolar

But the sun doesn’t always shine. So these homes and businesses stay attached to the grid because they need electricity 24/7. Of course, they pay the utility for the power they use when the sun isn’t shining.

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So far, pretty simple. But wait.

First, most of the homes and businesses with rooftop solar don’t use all of the power they generate. Where does it go? Since they can’t store it (at least not yet – a number of scientists and visionaries are working on technology to change that), it goes back to the grid, so the utility can deliver it to someone else.

And charge for it, though they didn’t generate it.

If that sounds unfair, don’t worry. The utility credits the homes or businesses for the rooftop-generated electricity they have sold to someone else. That’s the basis of the term net metering. In theory, the home or business owner isn’t billed for the total, or “gross” energy consumption. Instead, the charge is for the “net” consumption – the amount you use less the amount you generate.

But what price do the utilities pay? Utilities would like to pay what it costs them to generate, buy and deliver electricity. Rooftop solar owners, on the other hand, would like a price closer to what the utility is charging other customers. To further complicate matters, in some jurisdictions, prices paid to rooftop solar owners were established years ago, when solar electricity was much more expensive. Not surprisingly, the utilities would like to see the prices updated to reflect current (lower) costs. Just as unsurprisingly, rooftop solar owners resist that notion.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_4_Compared

There is yet another point of contention. It’s our friend, the grid, which, as we discussed, is very expensive. For the most part, the costs of the grid are baked into the rates the utility charges. Those rates are rooted the idea that customers are connected to the grid and pulling power from it 24/7. The theory: Spread the costs of the grid evenly across the entire ratepayer base.

However, based on that thinking, if rooftop solar owners aren’t pulling power from the grid all the time, they aren’t paying their fair share.

How so? Though they are always connected to it, they aren’t always paying the rate that includes its costs. Meaning those customers without rooftop solar will end up paying a disproportionately high percentage of its cost. Put another way, if a non-solar user pays a certain price for electricity and a solar user – after rebates – pays half that amount, the non-solar user is paying twice as much for a grid whose cost to both customers is constant. Utilities believe this is unfair. To close the gap, some utilities have proposed a flat service charge to rooftop solar owners to make up the difference and keep the costs of the grid distributed evenly. This has happened in Nevada.

Many proponents of rooftop solar resist. The original idea was that rooftop solar owners would derive savings from producing, using and selling their own power. Over time, those savings would cover the cost of installation and maintenance. They say that a combination of unfairly low rates for credits and service charges make that impossible. Again, the utilities disagree.

So, who decides? As with virtually everything in the utility industry – regulators decide. In Nevada, it is the Public Utilities Commission, or PUC. In Arizona, it’s called the Arizona Corporation Commission, or ACC. These regulatory bodies conduct public hearings in which all affected parties – utilities, rooftop solar owners, the rooftop solar industry, the general public – state their case and make their proposals. They then decide what net metering rates will be enforced and what, if any, service charges will be adopted.

101600_01_RR_NetMeter_5_RegulatorsThose hearings create a fair amount of news. This is happening in Nevada right now.

Like many issues in the world of energy, net metering can seem esoteric and confusing. But if you live in a state with conditions conducive to creating solar energy, it’s an issue that will surface, if it hasn’t already. Hopefully we’ve been able to unravel the mystery enough to give you a basic understanding of an issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.