New Roads in Automotive Advertising

R&R Partners and the transportation market have a great history together. From our work redesigning Boeing.com to our highway safety efforts, our agency has continued to produce successful results for all of our transportation clients. Most recently, we helped Ford enter the European market. What does it take to have this type of sustained success in an industry?

In today’s transportation market, there are very few segments more crowded and competitive than the automotive industry. This market competition leads to an endless supply of advertising targeted toward potential and current customers. So what tactics allow brands to rise above their competition? Here’s a look at some of the latest ads and tactics that are shaping the automotive advertising and marketing industry.

Out of Home

What better way to convince a car owner to upgrade their old car than by targeting them while they’re in their car. This fall, a billboard in Tokyo will automatically identify the make and model of vehicles driving by and customize the billboard message to the consumer driving by.

How does the billboard accurately project the vehicle make and model? It uses an AI called deep learning, which allows a computer to recognize patterns in huge piles of data – or in this case, hundreds of thousands of images of used cars.

When a market is flooded with ads, one of the best ways to stand out is through personalization. Consumers pay more attention to an ad that speaks directly to them, so this new technology will allow auto brands to increase their visibility during the customer acquisition and retention phase of the purchase process.

While being able to directly target a segmented consumer group is great, increasing the number of test drives is another key benchmark during the consumer purchase funnel for any automotive company. With this in mind, the Range Rover Evoque took the test drive away from the dealership and into the city.

An ad in Singapore placed a real vehicle inside a billboard with a “Test Drive This Billboard” call-to-action. The eye-catching motion of the vehicle pulling in and out of the billboard created a sense of excitement about the test-driving experience − something that isn’t always seen favorably by today’s consumers. Once the car was on a test drive, a clock would count down the time until the vehicle would return. This created a level of intrigue and excitement that led to an increase in test drives five times over, compared to the number of test drives from the showroom.

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In a segment where a test drive is a key point in the path to purchase, finding new ways to get people into a vehicle will be essential. As consumers get smarter and continue to value ease of accessibility, bringing the test drive to the consumer will be an effective tactic for any brand.

Social

The automotive industry continues to be one of the most active industries across social media advertising. Consumers want to engage with brands before, during and after their purchase process, and finding ways to leverage this desire to share will help increase brand loyalty and prominence.

Buying and owning a car is something that everyone can take pride in. Your car can be your go-to audio system, your place of serenity and everything in between. Toyota’s more than a car campaign uses this personal connection to collect social posts from all of their drivers, rewarding them with personalized nameplates for their Toyota.

By encouraging and compensating social engagement, Toyota continued to build a brand loyalty that positioned them well with their audience and encouraged customer retention.

Digital

As consumers continue to spend more time online, digital media consumption will rise. With consumers who are using digital tools throughout the entire purchase funnel, having a strong digital presence is essential. Before heading to the dealership, users will spend the time researching vehicles online and even purchase directly on site. This provides brands the opportunity to build engaging content, in multiple languages, much like R&R Partners’ Ford Vignale site.

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Every car has a varying version of design highlights, 360 tours and more. These assets continue to be consumed during the research phase of the purchase process, but the best brands are using the assets to tell a complete story for their potential customers.

BMW recently built an interactive showroom that created a unique digital experience that encouraged engagement and differentiated their brand from their competitors.

While the final assets created were similar to those of its competitors, BMW’s digital showroom built a complete picture of their brand, vehicle fleet and key features, all in one medium. In the digital space, the most successful brands will continue to have multiple digital assets that work together to tell a cohesive brand story.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

One of the hottest content forms that consumers continue to digest is virtual and augmented reality. Trust me, we know. Brands continue to find the benefit of creating virtual and augmented reality content as it provides unique and new experiences for a consumer. For the automotive industry, this new technology can help brands provide consumer-focused content throughout the purchase funnel, either at home or in dealerships.

Audi has recently taken a dive into the VR space by creating a VR showroom for their customers at select dealerships. This showroom will let the customer view an Audi in a number of different exciting environments, such as space, while giving them exclusive looks at the vehicle (X-Ray vision, anyone!?).

As automotive brands continue to pursue the latest technologies, the use of VR will help give a brand the perception that they are at the forefront of the tech race. Consumers want as much information as possible before purchasing, and VR will help inform and excite a consumer before making a purchase.

While VR is becoming more mainstream, augmented reality (AR) is just beginning to make its mark. Volvo recently announced a partnership with Microsoft’s HoloLens – one of the newest AR headsets on the market.

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Augmented reality will help Volvo create a car-buying experience unlike any other. Using AR, Volvo will be able to project virtual images while still allowing the user to interact with the real world around them. This means consumers will one day be able configure a car’s color, wheels and other specifications without ever having to see the real vehicle. Don’t like those rims? Simply swipe them away from your augmented vehicle and put the next set on. Other safety features can be highlighted as well, and pieces of the car that are normally difficult to see can be easily projected.

Ultimately, AR will help the automotive industry give more information about their vehicles and their brand than ever before.

Asset Production

Whether it’s car availability, model revisions or access to locations, creating an awe-inspiring car commercial is not an easy production. However, a company called The Mill has recently created The Blackbird that allows advertisers to shoot and repurpose a car ad without needing the car. From TV spots to digital assets, including VR and AR, this new technology can help change the way all automotive brands advertise.

Ultimately, all of these advertising tactics will help automotive brands improve brand perception, awareness and loyalty. There is a real strength in having advertising that tells a story across a diverse set of content. The race among the automotive industry will continue, but the brands that continue to explore new marketing roads will be the ones that win the race.

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R&R Denver’s Top 10 TED Talks

Over the past year, R&R Partners’ Denver office has been meeting once a week to enjoy lunch and watch a selection of TED Talks. It has been an inspiring year of talks, so we thought we would share our favorites with you. Our 10 favorites cover a variety of topics including leadership, motivation and how our world is changing. We hope these talks inspire you and fuel your creativity as well.

Try something new for 30 days – Matt Cutts

Katie Fischer, Media Planner Buyer – “This talk inspired me to tackle several goals that had been on my “far future” to-do list. In realizing that I could accomplish a goal or create a new habit in 30 days, it changed my perspective on these seemingly impossible goals. Thirty days is a short window of time − way less daunting than I had built up in my own head. We really can achieve our highest goals if you truly put in the work day in and day out without quitting!”

Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast. – Tom Wujec

Jacqueline Meason, Account Director – “Love how this TED Talk reminds us that every person thinks differently. Some people like to really spell things out and others like to be concise. The idea behind breaking down a complex thing into a number of steps through visuals is a good one for agencies. I plan to put my white board to better use and have some drawing sessions with the team.”

The game that can give you 10 extra years of life. – Jane McGonigal

Katie Fischer, Media Planner Buyer – “Learning about gamer mentality completely changed my outlook on the importance of gaming. Not only were my eyes opened, my preconceived notions about gamers were shattered. This talk helped me understand my own brother and his affinity for gaming, and helped me to find a way to better connect with him! Gamers unite!”

The future of news? Virtual reality. – Nonny de la Pena

Monica McCafferty, Director of Public Relations – “As a journalist, your goal is to connect with people on an emotional level, educate them and challenge preexisting perceptions. If people can experience the story for themselves, which VR allows, reporting will take on a whole new dynamic. Vietnam was the first television or “living room” war, bringing the reality of war into people’s homes. If VR takes on today’s modern wars, I think it will have a profound impact on embedded journalism as well as on how people consume news.”

How great leaders inspire action – Simon Sinek

Sean Tonner, President – “This quote from Simon Sinek says it all, ‘If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat and tears.’”

The power of vulnerability – Brene Brown

Monica McCafferty, Director of Public Relations – “When I was 20, I traveled solo throughout Europe. What I found was that when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I was rewarded. Whether it was connecting with a local who took me in as a guest, or connecting with other Americans, Canadians and Aussies also with the token Eurail pass − the ability to put yourself out there to strangers and find a family in return was oddly easy. Of course, one must do this in a smart manner, but I left Europe with a strong sense of being able to read people’s body language, have empathy, and look for the similarities, not the differences. These skills have transferred into my professional life as a PR professional, where courage, compassion and the ability to connect are essential. ‘Spin’ is dead.”

How to build your creative confidence – David Kelley

Kellie Starr, Digital Project Supervisor − “This TED Talk spoke to me because I think we oftentimes forget that a good idea can come from anywhere. Surprisingly, through a series of small steps, you can build your confidence in being creative and in other areas as well. So even though my role is not typically a creative one, it reminded me that I have the ability to be naturally creative and therefore support my project team in the ideation and visual process as well.”

How Christmas lights helped guerrillas put down their guns – Jose Miguel Sokoloff

Brian Kelley, Digital Strategist – “As advertisers, we love it when an idea inspires action. Jose Miguel Sokoloff shares a powerful idea with us that helped encourage Colombian guerrillas to put down their weapons and come home. There truly is power in creative ideas.”

Never, ever give up – Diana Nyad

Erin Mowry, Public Relations Coordinator – “In 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim 111 miles from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. Her TED Talk says it all in her title, ‘Never, ever give up.’ Not only did Diana accomplish her dream, she did it later in life when many people said there was no way. This TED Talk was motivating and inspiring to say the least. I loved this talk because it proved that no matter the adversities you face in life, you just keep swimming to accomplish your goals.”

The way we think about charity is dead wrong – Dan Pallotta

Brian Kelley, Digital Strategist – “Are our ideas of how charitable organizations should be run handicapping their ability to be successful? Dan Pallotta offers new ways to think about the way charities spend their funds to accomplish big goals. This talk challenged some of my preconceived notions about charities and reminded me to challenge my notions about other industries as well. Only by truly analyzing the situation can we identify game-changing strategies and ideas.”

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Yahoo focus
  • 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.
Lindsey seeing VR at Time Inc

 

  • 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).

 

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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

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