Doug Weaver

More, from Less.

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JP Morgan Chase publicly announced that they’d cut the number of sites on which they advertise from 400,000 to 5,000 – with no difference in marketing outcomes.

YouTube announced that its Creator program is being given a new floor.  Where previously any YouTube creator could participate in the flow of advertising, now only those creators with a set minimum of followers are qualified.

Fake news, fraud, viewability issues and dodgy content have pushed many marketers to pound the table and demand a new level of care around distribution of their ads.  In so many words, P&G’s Mark Pritchard said we’ll play in a somewhat smaller arena if we just stop the nonsense and get back to making great ads and showing them to real people.

Welcome to the age of less.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

For two decades, the growth and capitalization of the online ad business has been built on assumptions of abundance; that more page views, more ad calls, more reach and more clicks would always be the answer.  Now we are faced with a different question:  how might our companies thrive in an age where we must manage scarcity?

Our planning for this era has taken on a bit of urgency.  If the headlines above weren’t enough, there’s the simple fact that the war for reach and scale is over.  (Spoiler alert:  Facebook and Google won.)

I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but supposedly the Chinese character for crisis combines characters of both danger and opportunity.  (If not true, it should be.) In this crisis, there is indeed a huge set of opportunities.  Now that it’s no longer possible (or desirable) to reach a bazillion users, we can get back to knowing our customers, speaking their language, creating great stories for them.  We can pull the reach needle out of our arm and start a respectable life solving business and marketing problems.

We can all get more of what we want.  In the era of less.

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Life on Mars.

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“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, ‘this is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work”

~Matt Damon as Mark Watney in “The Martian,” 2015.

In the dynamically wonderful and broken world of digital marketing, media and advertising, we all live on Mars.  We find ourselves alone in and facing the latest existential crisis.  The technological shift that happens overnight and threatens to render your business model obsolete in minutes.  The public fiasco that frightens the advertiser herd into a stampede away from whatever it is you’re selling.  The dawning realization that – from where you sit right now – you simply can’t get to your number.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

It’s at times like these that I like to pass along this little gem of a speech that slid in at the end of “The Martian.”  Having survived the unsurvivable, Matt Damon’s character makes the essence of survival very simple.

“That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

You just begin.  You do the math.  You solve one problem at a time.  Simplistic? Perhaps.  But is there really any other way out?  When I coach managers and sellers in our business I often find them feeling overwhelmed and broken by the perceived enormity of the challenges.  Indeed, if you find yourself struggling intellectually with the entire issue it will, in fact, break you.  But the best managers and sellers – the best executives of every stripe – all seem to have the same rhythm.  They slow it down.  They break it down.  They solve one problem and then the next.  And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

They also realize that what we do – as people and as executives – is a team sport.  They tap into their own generosity and to the generosity of others.  They beat back the crippling cynicism that hollows the soul and drains the spirit and they choose to believe that – given the chance – others will rally to help them.

“Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

Welcome to Mars.  You’ll do fine here.

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Think the Unthinkable.

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If we’ve learned anything from the events of the past few months, it’s that nothing is inconceivable.

For those of us in digital marketing and advertising, the received wisdom has been that the march of ad tech would be relentless, inevitable and total; that we’d keep tracking and parsing and coding until we’d achieved targeting nirvana –a blissful utopia that combines the best aspects of Wall-E, Minority Report and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

But it’s time to consider a different scenario.  Perhaps everyone in the ad tech world should question our own inevitability. It may not play out this way, but staring at this alternate future may be the healthiest thing we can do right now.

Want to confront the dead internet marketing ideas and dated thinking that continues to plague our industry? That’s just what we’ll be doing at The Seller Forum on Wednesday, June 7th in New York. If you’re a qualified sales leader or manager, request your invitation today.

Lately it seems like our industry has been caught up in a tornado like the one in Wizard of Oz. Massive winds and floating debris…hey, there’s the advertisers who are pissed at YouTube!….more wind, more dust…publishers fuming about the Facebook/Google duopoly….shingles and farm animals flying past….there goes Pewdiepie giving the Nazi salute!…dust, wind….fake news!

What brought the whole mess into sharp relief for me was the masterful screed on Doc Searls Weblog, “Brands Need to Fire Ad Tech.” If you’re a publisher who feels like you’ve been taking it on the chin for a long time, this guy is a populist arguing for a return to a better time. If you’re an ad tech true believer (or someone who’s bet a lot of money on ad tech winning) you may dismiss him as a dinosaur or a dreamer or the guy talking to himself on the street. But in any case you’ve got to read this. And then read it again. Among the key points:

  • Adtech sucks at branding. Hundreds of $billions have been spent on adtech so far, and not one brand known to the world has come out of it.
  • Yes, it works, about .0x% of the time, on average. The other 99.9x% of the time it produces nothing but negative externalities, including lots of tendentious math by agencies and platforms to justify the expense. Among those externalities are subtracted value from brands themselves.
  • Adtech’s rationalizations are all around putting the “right message in front of the right people at the right time,” and aiming those messages with spyware-harvested Big Data. Both of those are direct marketing purposes, not those of brand advertising. The difference is stark, absolute, and essential for everyone to understand.

Ouch! Hard to read. But Doc has seized the high ground. And there are plenty who will rally to this flag.

Do I think we’re going to see some kind of apocalyptic Day After scenario, where the whole ad tech machine comes crumbling down? No. But I think we should consider the Atlas Shrugged scenario.  What if all quality news organizations, publishers, reputable entertainment companies, and brand marketers simple dropped out? What if they circled the wagons and said “We don’t want that internet anymore…we want our own?” What if they left the rest of the web to its own devices — and vices — and simply let it run its course?

Or maybe it will be like A Christmas Carol: Confronted with a bleak future, we change for the better.

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Smart is Not the Problem.

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If you’ve talked to a recruiter lately or had someone else pitch the value and character of a company to you, you’ve no doubt heard something like this:  “The people at this company are SO smart…!”

You’re told this because the person doing the telling/selling believes it’s the sincerest form of validation.  The collective IQ of the founders, executive team and/or entire company virtually guarantees it will be a well-run operation steaming toward a series of successful outcome.   With this much brainpower firing away, how could it be otherwise?

The only problem is that ‘smart’ is rarely the problem.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

The internet and its assorted digital interfaces and services have had more than two full decades of being the belle of the hiring and funding ball.  We’ve attracted big IQs and degree-holders from prestigious colleges like a bug light draws moths on a dark country night.  Let’s face it:  It’s the internet ….everybody is smart.  All these algorithms and complicated business plans would never see the light of day if it weren’t so.  Even the sixth-place company in a five company space would look like a MENSA class to the average civilian.

So next time you’re being wooed by a company – or considering a candidate – and “the S word” comes up, look harder.  Instead of smart, see if the people on the other side of the desk have these qualities:

Experience. Have the people involved seen both success and adversity in the past?  Sometimes just the few extra laps can make you a better driver.  This is where you watch out for those managers and leaders whose entire background is theoretical or financial.  A little operating experience goes a long way.

Grit.  My favorite word.  Is this a team that finds ways to overcome?  A lack of grit, at best, makes a company feel soft.  At worst it feels like perpetual panic and angst.

Morality.  This may sound old fashioned, but values matter.  Can the leadership of this company be counted on to do the right thing when things go wrong?  What are the third rails they won’t touch?  What are the core principles and business rules that everybody in the company understands?

Purpose.  You had to know this was coming.  Why does the company exist?  What do its leaders believe in?  Sometimes the purpose is nothing more than flipping the company and making a profitable exit.  But if there’s not much more there, then this is a company that will shed people and value as soon as the winds change.

Now that’s smart!

In case you missed yesterday’s announcement, industry legend Scot McLernon is once again carrying an Upstream Group business card.  Scot’s joined our team as Executive Sales Strategist and is debuting a raft of new services to help sales leaders like you.  Reach out and we’ll hook you up with Scot.

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Your Double Life.

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Individual contributors become managers every day, and when they do the event is usually quite clear and visible to everyone in the organization. But the transition from manager to leader can be another story entirely.

I just read a terrific post by Butterfly co-founder Simon Rakosi called “Why Transforming Managers into Leaders Shouldn’t be Left to Chance.” He points out some great distinctions between management and leadership, including Managers educate around skills and tasks; leaders inspire around a vision and Managers view their employees in silos; leaders focus on team dynamics.

The challenge in our dynamic, hyper-kinetic industry is that there’s rarely a clean breaking point between one job and the next: it’s rare that someone ever says “I’m done being a manager now: time to start leading!” Most senior digital sales executives will pivot between these two roles a thousand times – often within the same day.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

On paper, the chief revenue officer is a leadership job, while the regional director is pretty clearly a manager. But the CRO must instantly snap back into manager mode when working with her direct reports, while the regional director must step up and lead when in the presence of his full team. A couple of thoughts and ideas to make your head stop spinning:

  • Leaders play checkers, managers play chess. So says Marcus Buckingham in “The One Thing You Need to Know.” When you’re in leader mode, all the pieces move the same, so the message or policy is for everyone.  When managing, each piece moves differently:  focus on what’s right for the individual in front of you right now.
  • Lead in public, manage in private. Managing is an individual sport. Shut the door.
  • Every group deserves a culture. If you’re manager of a team of individual contributors and others – even if that group is just two or three people – start answering the question “What does it mean to be part of our team?” Better yet, answer it together.
  • You can never understand enough about how people work together. Process, process, process. Leaders rightly obsess about it, and their teams get more out of it than you might imagine. Beware of any discussion that ends with “We’ll figure that out…”

To all of you out there who are living double lives, make sure you live in the moment and be the best manager and leader you can be. Just be sure you know which is appropriate and called for at the time.

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