The Human Touch in Keywords

Google has made building keyword lists exceptionally easy, with tools that allow you to generate enormously long lists of search terms. In fact, you can create a significant list quickly and have a paid search campaign up and running in far less time than it used to take. It more or less seems automated at this point, but this is one of those times when faster doesn’t always mean better.

In the digital realm, when everything is nearly instant, this seems counterintuitive. In fact, tell it to people who build keyword lists, and you will likely get some pushback. Why? Because many of them are lazy. Google makes it easy to be lazy.

In our experience, the best keyword list is one that has a large degree of human input. You can’t just make a list and launch it and expect success. A good keyword list is lean. It’s smart. It’s sharp. And it’s fluid, constantly changing based on analytics.

Creating a quality list requires a deep knowledge of the client, the product or service, the consumer, and the campaign’s goals. Google does not have this knowledge, and relying on automation will result in a fat, sloppy list of words and supporting ads that are anything but sharp.

That’s why it’s important to find someone who knows more than just how to manipulate the technology involved in creating lists and ads. Almost anyone can learn that in days if not hours.

Expertise in advertising is critical, and it comes from years of study and practice. What terms will people type into the search bar? What language will they respond to in the paid advertising? What are the headlines and the copy?

Google still needs a human to provide these answers. I recommend one who relies less on the technology and more on his or her own understanding of the advertising business and why people make a purchase decision.


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Holler, Scream and Yell to Save Money

Advertising, whether we like it or not, impacts our purchasing decisions.  Knowing this, some brands have spent millions in TV commercials, print ads in magazines and newspapers, radio commercials, and huge billboards on the sides of major highways all across America.  These companies have hired big-name celebrities to use or consume their product on camera, and have even paid astronomical rates to advertise at sports arenas.  Seeing a lot of these advertisements has often made me wonder if anyone has actually decided to switch their brand of shaving cream just because they saw a company logo wrapped around the padding of a goal post.

I can remember sending an email to our office manager saying that I need more “Scotch” tape.  My wife was very pleased a few weeks ago when she realized the hotel room we were staying in had an in-room “Jacuzzi.”  Visiting a friend in Atlanta, we went to lunch and he ordered a “Coke,” and while a dark soda showed up in a glass, I don’t have any idea which brand of pop he was actually drinking.

And while I believe anyone reading this article would understand the value of these massive, identifiable brands, not all of the products we select need branding.  Some products we select without even know what brand we buy.  For example, I have no idea what brand of paperclips are sitting on my desk.  When I’m around my house on the weekend and have that “honey-do” list in front of me, I’m unaware of the brand of coarse thread drywall screw I going to use to secure the footrest back onto my kitchen chair.  This is because brand was irrelevant when I was walking the aisles of the store.  The deciding factor when I purchased these items was made simply by looking at the shelf and seeing a box, with bold letters on the packaging that said exactly what was in the box.  “Metal Paperclips” is all I needed to see with a graphic of a simple black curved line that looked like a paperclip.  “1 5/8 COARSE THREAD DRYWALL SCREW” with a picture letting me know it took a Philips-head screwdriver was all that was needed for me to select that box of screws.

I bring this to the reader’s attention because I believe each company needs to be realistic about their product in regards to advertising.  While I believe that advertising is imperative to the survival of 90% of the products on the shelves today, there are some products where the decision to purchase is made at the point of sale (meaning a customer walks down the aisle and grabs the product oblivious of brand), so money spent on trying to create brand awareness is wasted.  If your product fits this description, you’ve got to rely your packaging to YELL what you do, to SCREAM what is in the box, or to HOLLER the benefit (and make the brand name secondary).  Focus your budget on accomplishing this goal, and it may be enough to make the consumer choose your product over the brands spending millions.

Brand Launch Messaging

One of the bigger mistakes I have seen with new brand advertising is a lack of messaging in the creative. Sometimes the message falls prey to the “big idea” when that idea is more artistic than benefit-oriented. For big, established brands, that can work fine. The Cokes of the world can act like they are the Cokes of the world. They can spend 90% or even 100% of their time inside an ad on the idea, as long as people recognize the brand by the end of the effort. Their goal is to catch your attention, make you feel something, then attach that feeling to their brand: Coke is fun or Coke is refreshing or Coke is summertime. Their advantage is the fact that we recognize the red and the white, just like we recognize the handful of notes in the McDonald’s jingle. It doesn’t take much, and it shouldn’t after decades of advertising and billions of dollars spent. For young or emerging brands, there is no recognition – not in the brand name, not in the music or the colors or in the logo and certainly not in the brand’s benefit to the consumer. Advertising like there is recognition can make for a very costly lesson and years of slow growth (or slow death) slugging it out with the big boys. That’s if the brand is lucky enough to weather the changing retail landscape. When new brands try behaving like old brands, they can’t understand the underwhelming consumer response. When retail buyers start asking questions, they don’t have answers. “We did it just like everyone else,” they might say, when everyone else has brand equity and years of sales history. These young brands need to stop acting like big brands and realize that, as a newer brand, they have at least three distinct advantages over old, established companies: they’re newer, and new can be good and exciting (if nothing else, they haven’t disappointed anyone yet); there’s a unique story to be told, which helps cut through the advertising clutter; and they aren’t constrained by history or the other nonsense that can slow big brands down. Instead of behaving like something they’re not, small brands need to start focused, benefits-oriented message. Their advertising should be carefully crafted to clearly communicate who the brand is or what the product does and how a relationship with the brand will benefit the consumer. Think of early forays into advertising like it’s dating or getting to know a new friend; time needs to be spent convincing someone to give you a chance. Sure, there needs to be some style, but substance needs to do the heavy lifting. Flip Coke’s 90/10 (style vs. substance) model around, and give 90% of the advertising’s attention to the story and 10% to style. Lay out what’s in it for the consumer, why your brand or product is better, and talk about/show how it might make life a little bit better for them. At the end of a commercial, a viewer should have a good idea of what they just saw, and they should know how a brand or product can benefit them – and have a strong desire to go buy it.

Advertising to the Greatest Generation

How do we choose media for our Greatest Generation? This audience seems to be ignored often because many advertisers try to reach the prime adult target audience, ages 25-54. This is the demographic that advertisers feel are less set in their ways and are therefore more likely to try a new product. The senior market, however, is one of the best-kept secrets for advertisers who realize the spending power of this age group. And the influence of this market is not going away any time soon, as the senior demographic continues to expand significantly with the aging of Baby Boomers. Companies need to take advantage of advertising to this audience now, before they lose market share with this valuable segment.

When targeting this group, it is crucial to remember that seniors consume media differently and at different times and locations than other demographics. Engaging them with effective and efficient advertising requires media planners to focus on the world of traditional media, which includes newspapers.

Newspapers? Hasn’t this become an ineffective medium? Not for seniors or for astute marketers of senior products and services. Newspapers allow seniors to consume the media and consider the advertising at their own pace, when it is convenient for them. Nearly 65% of all seniors mention the main news section or obituaries as the first place they look for information, so these are clearly the most effective places to put an ad targeting this demographic.

Adults over the age of 65 are the most likely newspaper readers. This group saw the smallest decline in readership – only 10% over the last 12 years, according to Scarborough and Pew Research, 2011. Comparatively, readership amongst the 18 to 54 audience dropped over 35%. This younger group primarily gets their news via web, mobile devices and in other high tech venues.

If you’re advertising senior products, such as funeral services, long-term care insurance, life insurance, retirement communities, medical aids/devices or drug products, the newspaper still is an efficient and effective medium to tell your story. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the newspapers’ death are greatly exaggerated, especially when it comes to marketing to seniors.

How Do You Measure Success? By: Jeff Wright

Last week I had a “WOW” moment here in my office.  You know those moments where you get a message or an email that makes you pause long enough that you actually look away from your computer, gaze to the top left corner of your office and say to yourself “WOW”?  Yes, I had one of those moments!

Our CEO sent out an internal office memo in regards to the results that came in from one of our new clients.  This company (the new client) had signed an Agency of Record agreement with us a month previous.  During the last month, we’ve been busy creating assets (TV ads, magazine ads, radio scripts, etc.), which we’ll then purchase the media for in the near future.

While we’ve been creating these ads, we did have the opportunity to get one piece of creative to a media source.  The piece only ran for one week, and that is when our CEO sent out the memo.

The memo stated that our client sold 384 units in one retailer the week before we ran our creative.  It continued to say that the most this company had ever sold at this particular retailer (their record) was 1,830 units.  But, during the week when our one piece of creative had run, the numbers revealed that our client moved over 2,200 units, setting an all-time high for their company at that retailer.

Now, one might think that is when I experienced my aforementioned “WOW” moment, but they’d be incorrect.  Don’t get me wrong, the numbers were very impressive.  I was very pleased to see that we had, yet again, performed very well for our client.  I’ve seen how well our advertising works for several clients, and while I’m always very pleased that we are doing a good job for our clients, I’m never really surprised anymore.

Two different things struck me as being worthy of a “WOW” moment.  First, the CEO of an advertising agency was actually paying attention to the sales numbers at one week in and was looking at all the retailers individually.  For the CEO of a company to be involved with the results of his agency’s work for a client, and at a level where he is personally investigating the weekly numbers – that is the first thing that I found incredible.  Secondly, the fact that the measure of success to our agency was “units sold for our client.”  The CEO didn’t tell us how many dollars the client spent in media.  The CEO didn’t send us some note saying a marketing publication wants to interview our agency because of the brilliance of our work.  The CEO measured his success and the success of our entire agency based on how many sales we helped our client achieve.

An agency whose management team looks closely at the numbers of their clients, and an agency whose leadership team gauges success by the number of units sold by their clients are both details that should make anyone sit back and say “WOW.”

OWN, By Jeff Peterman

OWN.  I’m not talking about the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).  I’m talking about taking ownership of a program, or day part or network when planning media for a client with a small media budget.

The adage of a having a media mix certainly still holds true today.  The right balance of TV, radio, print, outdoor, digital, etc. is important to reach your target audience at various touch points during your campaign.  Placing media when the prospects’ minds are open to the advertising message is key to engaging them, much like the brief moment in time when a camera’s aperture opens.

But when the client’s DR budget is small, although a media mix is great, it may not be the best recommendation for getting (pardon the overused cliché) the greatest bang for their buck.

I contend that having a large share of voice in a small pond is the best solution for small budgets.

It is difficult to gain traction by implementing the reach tactic for a smaller advertiser.  It’s location, location, location and frequency, frequency, frequency.  We all know it takes three or four impressions to make a typical prospect begin to consider your product.  Reaching a horde of your prospects with a single impression during a week is a waste of your client’s money.  We have to be smart and condense our buy to one medium, then hone in from there.  For example, if you’re buying TV, condense it further to one or two networks, and get more finite to one or two programs or day parts.

We find that “appointment” media is the best media for this tactic. I’m an NCIS fan (okay, addict), but NCIS is on multiple networks at multiple times, and often in a marathon or at least running multiple episodes – therefore, it is not appointment TV.

However, with a program such as Nancy Grace on HLN or Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, the viewer sets an appointment with themselves to watch the program on a regular basis.  This is great for us!  Because they view the daily/ nightly program multiple times during the week, we can increase the frequency of impressions delivered to the viewer, our target prospect, by just buying commercials during that timeframe.  We know they are going to be there.  That will increase our client’s share of voice and gain traction with the audience.  We start to OWN that program and the audience.

This tactic is short term (30-90 days) on one network – we then pare it back and begin to OWN another network’s day part.  But I think you’ll find OWNing the one day part will be a great tactic to gain frequency with a specific audience on a smaller budget.

Making a “Viral” Video

We are certainly in a world of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and all the other social media sites are blowing up with users posting, following, “liking,” and sharing on a minute-by-minute basis.  For some, social media is a way of telling the world who they are. People like to post photos, updates, and videos in hopes of giving others insight into their lives and personalities. It’s also a way to share interesting information.

Some videos that have been posted to social media can gather hundreds of thousands of views in a short period of time. These are called viral videos. Many companies have attempted to cash in on this idea by trying to create viral videos. The most effective way to have a video go viral is to create content that has a massive “WOW” factor to it.  Allow me to clarify the various kinds of “WOW” that exist.

Humor is typically the most common delivery device for the “WOW.” Making a truly funny video is much more difficult than one might think. Most of the humor-based viral videos that are grabbing views today appeal to the masses, yet have an element of intelligence about them. They walk a fine line of being easy enough for everyone to catch the humor, but hard enough that one might think only he and his friends are smart enough to appreciate the joke.

Videos that offer an emotional connection to a group or a cause can be another type that is commonly shared. Tell me the story of a sad puppy or post a video of a solider coming home, and you’ve probably created something I’m going to share.  Again, these emotional videos need to have a mass appeal.

Very rarely, a product or service is so absolutely amazing and unique that the social media users decide to share the video. These are products that have never been seen before, or they solve a problem that everyone is aware of and probably has complained about. While it is very rare that a product or service truly meets this criteria, when it happens the effects are immediate and incredible.

Occasionally I’ll pick up my office phone and hear a business owner ask me to quote him a price to make his company a viral video. Often this means that his company doesn’t want to spend money purchasing media.

While I’d like to accommodate the requests of anyone that calls in, it can be very difficult to envision creating a video that has a true “WOW” factor when the product is something fairly common such as skin cream, a kitchen organizer, or a wall-mount bracket for one’s entertainment components. I’m not saying it is impossible; I’m saying it is very rare. As a result, I am often faced with the difficult task of telling a business owner that in my opinion, his product (as good as it may be) does not have a unique enough quality to successfully make a viral video.

Attempting to make a viral video is similar to playing the lottery. While it might be fun, and it is awesome when it works, I don’t recommend anyone spend bill-paying money on it. Few short-cuts exist that beat traditional advertising.


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