Doug Weaver

The End of Cynicism.

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Along with experience in the digital marketing world comes a certain knowingness – a sense that one’s eyes are clearer, his sense of judgment more acute.  There’s an assuredness that we’ve seen all this before and that we can instantly recognize winners and losers and easily sort the wheat from the chaff.

You not only know this guy:  you’ve hired him.  Or maybe you are him.  You understandably value the digital experience he’s had at a half-dozen companies over the past 12 or 15 years.  This dude can make it rain.  Maybe he can.  But his experience and sense of self often come with a heavy tax.  The cancer that too often grows with experience is cynicism.  And it’s a killer.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

The smart CEO and the enlightened manager are acutely aware of how this disease presents itself and how quickly it metastasizes.  Mr. Experience holds the informal meeting-after-the-meeting to let the younger sellers know that this plan looks an awful like what he saw when he was at XYZ.com.  He airs his reservations about company direction in an email reply to the whole team.  Sometimes his physical presence at a meeting – body language, expression – are enough to spread the pathogens of doubt and fear.  At a time like this — of industry consolidation and massive change – he is patient zero in an epidemic of cynicism in your company.

The tricky part is, he may not even know what effect he’s having.  And he likely believes that his approach coming from a place of generosity and helpfulness.  I really love this company!  If he works for you, you must act.

Call it Out.  Have a closed-door meeting with your cynic and make it clear that he’s entitled to his opinions and thoughts, but that the overt behavior he’s exhibiting must stop.

Inside Words/Outside Words.  Let Mr. E. know that you want to hear his ideas personally and create a secure channel to listen to him.  But make it clear that once the door opens, you need him to support or stay quiet about direction and initiatives.

Consider the Alternative.  Too many CEOs and CROs operate out of fear – fear that saying goodbye to experience means kissing off your potential revenue.  But look carefully:  does the revenue this guy is actually producing compensate your company for the sense of despair and doubt that’s immobilizing your other team members?

You’d never tolerate an employee who came in and crashed your network every day, keeping a huge number of your employees from getting anything done.  But we do it every day.  Your company and your sales team have life-forces that thrive on possibility, hope and good intention.  Know the difference between honesty and cynicism and do what you have to in order to give your team the environment they deserve.

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P&G’s Last Stand.

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Last January at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, I followed Procter & Gamble CMO Marc Pritchard on stage after his speech about all that was wrong with the digital supply chain – the first of his ultimatums to the digital advertising channel.  It was a very impressive speech, and he said a lot that needed to be said.  Ten years ago we used to joke that P&G shouldn’t get to make any public pronouncements about digital advertising until it actually spent money on it; and here was the P&G CMO – who’d spent a lot in recent years – having his say.

But then came the Ides of March.  In an instant P&G cut $100 million in digital ad spend, with the implied threat that until we got our collective act together on fraud, viewability, standardization and more, that money wasn’t coming back.  I know many sales reps who did land office P&G business in 2016 and who are now seeing a big fat zero in that column.

But I wonder….

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

I wonder if this is all as clear as it’s meant to look.  All that money went away:  will it really all come back once MRC accreditation kicks in?  I’m starting to think that it won’t.  And even if it does, I’m not sure it’s going to flow through the same pipes or look anything like the spending we all got used to in recent years.

I wonder if P&G cutting $100 million from digital wasn’t just the least painful, most justifiable way they could make a significant move away from above-the-line brand advertising.  The world has changed dramatically for P&G and other packaged goods giants in recent years, and the change doesn’t have all that much to do with viewability standards on digital banners.  The simple truth is that the distribution chain has been completely upended.  Amazon has become a dominant channel for the sale of packaged goods, household and personal care products, and they will continue to press the P&Gs of the world for deeper and deeper discounts.  That money has to come from someplace.

I wonder if those working so hard to win P&G’s digital advertising money back might be fighting the last war….as if we all just assumed that the biggest TV advertisers would morph into the biggest digital spenders.  I wonder if advertising isn’t being seen now as a cost center to be managed and if the goal might be to buy less and less of it.

I wonder if we all need to think less about how we’ll help P&G spend its shrinking pile of advertising cash and how – instead – we might help them sell more product in a world where there’s a new normal for distribution and consumer behavior.

I wonder if we’re not all missing the story line here.

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What Si Newhouse Taught Me.

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It highlights my age and number of years in the media business to say that I overlapped with a few of the great names in media – names that understandably don’t mean that much to today’s 30-year-old media executive who’s orientation is all about the present and future. But the fact that I’ve worked for titles led by Helen Gurley Brown (Cosmopolitan), Jann Wenner (Us, Rolling Stone) and Louis Rossetto (Wired) is something I wear with a great deal of pride.

Which leads me to Sunday’s passing of S.I. “Si” Newhouse, Jr., the legendary chairman of Condé Nast. Newhouse was controversial, iconoclastic, painfully awkward and sometimes ruthless. But few can argue that he called the tune on the golden age of the magazine business in the 80s and 90s. And even though Si could never have picked me out of a lineup during my five years at CNP, he nonetheless left a mark on me. So here’s a short appreciation in three parts.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

Part One: He paid a ridiculous amount of attention to the details.  Despite being one of his day’s wealthiest Americans and overseeing titles like Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Vogue, Si famously arrived at work before dawn and read every page and noted every ad in every single one of Condé Nast’s titles. On a yellow legal pad he’d scrawl notes to publishers with a 49-cent Flair pen and staple them to ads he appreciated seeing – or to those he thought should be running in your pages. Even I got one.

Part Two: He played the long game. Some found fault with Si’s willingness to absorb years of losses on magazines he thought were important. But more often than not his bets on editors and concepts paid off, creating a halo of quality and a baseline of creative assets and brands that commanded premium prices, became must-buys for key advertisers and became the centers of gravity for the worlds they covered. As a sales guy at the launch of Allure, I saw first-hand how he didn’t hesitate to push off the magazine launch by months, then call for a major redesign after just a few issues… setting up Editor Linda Wells for more than two decades of success.

Part Three: He understood the difference between price and value.  Si was notoriously quiet and reclusive. The only time I got to hear him speak in a small group setting was when someone asked him why Condé Nast never, ever negotiated on price. (Something that has changed in the intervening decades, but that was legendary in its time.)  His answer was short and meaningful and something I repeat constantly to this day. “My father used to tell me that you can talk about price or you can talk about value,” he explained. “But you can’t talk about both at the same time. We just don’t let our people talk about price. So they have to talk about value.”

Si Newhouse’s legacy is undeniably complicated. And he was very much “of his time.” But some of what drove him is still timeless.

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Scatter Market Forever.

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One of the media world’s most stubborn legacies is The Upfront.  It’s best known as a way for big advertisers and their agencies to commit “upfront” dollars to networks in exchange for price breaks on the shows and demos they most desire.

We like Upfronts.  We like them so much that we make up excuses to stage them all the time. By now we’ve all heard of the Digital Media “New-Fronts,” the fortnight in late spring where we show off cool “programming” and ideas and try for up front commitments.  I’m for anything that allows digital media providers to strut their stuff, but…

But can the Upfront concept – a fixed, date-centric marketplace – survive in a world of unlimited “inventory” and constant technological change? Or will Upfronts go the way of “The Fall TV Season,” an event that used to mean something but that is now manufactured to gin up attention from buyers?

Welcome to the age of abundance.  Welcome to the Forever Scatter Market.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

I’m not naïve and I understand completely why Upfronts exist.  But the vast majority of us would be better served by committing to the skills and strategies needed in a permanent scatter market…. A market in which we must create or own opportunity, find our decision makers and – often – identify the budgets that might fund the things we create.

Scatter is about acting, not waiting.  It’s about the broader business or marketing problem, not about the narrow focus of the media plan.  It’s not about big showy presentations and product demos, but rather about the intimate, collaborative meeting at the whiteboard.  Upfronts are about what will be bought and for how much.  Scatter is about how the marketing or storytelling problem gets solved.  The Upfront is about the advertising business.  Scatter is about business solutions.

Banking on the Upfront is about fighting the last war… a war of fixed battles and well positioned armies….a war that’s perhaps already been won by a handful of superpowers.  Scatter is asymmetrical, guerilla engagements….it’s house to house and hand to hand.  And we’d all better start honing the strategies and skills we need to compete.

Scatter selling is here.  And it’s forever.

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The Conference Imperative.

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As I write this post, a few hundred of our industry’s best are at Dmexco, which folds right into New York’s Advertising Week which – before you know it – turns into CES and SXSW and Cannes and …. You get the picture. But it’s not just the big tent-pole gatherings; there are scores of smaller meet and greets peppered throughout the year from the likes of Digiday, ad:tech, iMedia, Digital Storytelling and even Upstream Group’s own Seller Forum. In a recent MediaVillage post, the value equation/boondoggle-factor of such events was briefly questioned.

Yet even as “can you believe how many events there are these days?” remains one of the most popular cocktail topics (at these very same events) the market value of human gathering is beyond question. Simple economics tells us so. If sponsors and attendees weren’t willingly ponying up the cash, many events would simply wither and die off. Yet here they are – again – blooming like dandelions. I’ve got a theory about why.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

The popularity of human focused events has grown in direct inverse proportion to the decline in day-to-day human contact between people who buy and sell stuff. In other words, the more that “connecting technology” – email, voicemail, texting, hangouts, shared documents – keeps us physically apart, the more we crave the handshake, the few minutes of eye contact, the nod of the head. Bitch all you want about whether a given event was “worth it” or not, human contact is at a premium and we will continue to pay that premium.

Now…to get your money’s worth out of any given event…

1. Have a plan. You’d be surprised how many people and companies don’t. Who do you aim to meet? How will you structure your time? Can you secure a formal or informal meeting spot? If you just show up, you’re just part of the crowd.
2. The first shall be first. As you attend parties or panels, get there first. Hosts and panelists remember the early arrivals. Then leave a little early to get a jump on the next one. No one will miss you at that point.
3. Spread out. People from the same company often stick together at conferences like 7th graders at the first middle school dance. If there are two of you in every conversation, one of you is irrelevant.
4. Write shit down. Give out a hundred business cards and collect two hundred. After each exchange, scribble a note on the back of a card. If someone doesn’t have a card, ask to take picture of their name badge with your phone, then text a copy of the photo to yourself with a short note. No matter how important the conversation or the customer, the connections are ephemeral unless you make sure they’re not.
5. Marketing, meet Sales! So often marketing and sales live in silos. Marketing buys a sponsorship and a bunch of passes to an event and then doesn’t get confirmation from sales about who’s attending until a few days before. Wasted dollars, wasted opportunity.

Human-to-Human matters more than ever. Make it count.

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