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Interactive Spending Study Launched

Interactive Spending Study Launched Lee Watters

Advertising.com has fielded a significant research study on media spending, with an emphasis on interactive expenditures. iMedia Communications is co-sponsoring the study, and the results will be released at the iMedia Brand Summit  in September. Advertising.com has contracted with Millward Brown, a respected global research firm, to reach out to hundreds of top marketers around the U.S. to participate in this study.

The study will investigate:

  • How marketing dollars are being allocated across different media and why.

  • Marketer perceptions about which media channels and combinations provide the greatest return for different objectives (new product launch, expanding brand consideration, etc.).

  • The overall role of interactive online marketing (online advertising, search, email marketing, Web sites, banner ads) in comparison and in combination with traditional media.

  • Latest trends in cross-media marketing.

  • How measurement tools and information are used now, and what marketers need to make better decisions about media-mix allocations and evaluating ROI.

There are two parts to the study: a qualitative section, which is just about completed; and the quantitative online interviews.

"The qualitative interviews are in-depth discussions designed to get texture and background on the media spending subject at hand. The quantitative interviews will provide the data needed to make significant projections on our industry’s future behavior," says Neil Perry, marketing consultant and former head of McDonald’s Interactive Marketing. Advertising.com selected Perry to serve as a liaison with participating marketers.

“We found out during the qualitative interviews that much of our interactive spending is not necessarily reflected in our overall online media dollars," Perry says. “For example, frequently email marketing expenditures are captured under a corporate CRM spending category, and not reported as marketing expenditures. The same is often times true for search, Web site optimization, affiliate marketing and other subsets of the interactive media environment. We want to get to the bottom of this, and get a true understanding of our approach to contacting consumers via the Internet.”

“It’s also important for us to know what really are the key factors marketers are using to evaluate the Return on their Investment moving forward," Perry says.

Qualified marketers from the iMedia database were invited last week to participate.

"If you received an invitation, please complete it as quickly as possible so that your insights are included in this valuable industry study," Perry says. "If you did not receive an invitation, by FedEx, to participate, and feel you should -- e.g. if you are a marketer who has control over or major influence over your company’s interactive budget -- please email me."

A third phase of this study will launch in September, when Millward Brown will conduct interviews with advertising agency executives about their thoughts about and practices in the online space.

Cold hard cash

Geoffrey Handley, co-founder, MXM Hyperfactory, worked for years in China and Hong Kong, where exorbitant gifts are still common. Here's a list of bribe stories he amassed during his time in Asia:

  • Cartier watches

  • Rolex watches

  • A Ducati motorbike

  • Montblanc pens (often left behind after signing a deal)

  • Box seats for the Olympics

  • Regular holidays to the Philippines, Malaysia, etc.

  • Cold, hard cash -- and lots of it in real bills!

Handley's father also worked in the industry in China, but during the '70s -- when he once put a client's children through school as part of a business deal.

3 tiny helicopters

David Clarke, CEO and co-founder of BGT Partners, shares this story:

"An outsourced creative shop would call me often and go multi-channel on me. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, phone -- you name it. Solicitations were hitting me from everywhere. One day, a radio-controlled helicopter shows up in the mail with a message, 'Let's take off together!' I sent a thank-you note that said right now was not the right time to 'take off together.' The helicopter was distributed to the office. Three months later, another helicopter arrives with a note, 'Are you ready for lift off?' That helicopter was distributed to the office. Six months go by, and another helicopter shows up. China must have had a sale on these things. I just returned to sender."

An amiable escort

When asked about his most interesting bribe story, Sean X, digital strategy director at Amazon Advertising, had this to say:

"I am sure you will get countless expensive dinner stories, spa treatments, baseball/football tickets, strippers, etc. But not many 'escort' stories.

"When I was running marketing globally for Ask.com, I was at a conference vendor party. (The vendor throwing the party was not a vendor of mine.) I had a woman approach me at the restaurant/bar the party was at. She whispered in my ear that she was a gift from a 'special friend.' However, there were four vendors of mine who were attending the party (all female ad reps at ad networks I was buying significant media from), so I could not determine who had sent her over. For obvious reasons she would not divulge, and maybe the vendor thought they were the only person there I was buying media from. Maybe it was not even a current vendor. Maybe they asked the wrong person at the bar. To this day, I do not know. Anyway, I have to assume one of them, or all of them, were my 'special friend.'

"I never asked any of these vendors, and none of them ever said anything to me about it. First ask yourself, if I did not know who was supplying the gift, would it be ethical for me to accept it? Actually, first disregard the illegality and the morality of the situation, then ask yourself that question. Now, if you know me, the next question to ask yourself is, 'What did I say? And how the heck would a vendor expense this?'"

Test-driving luxury cars in Napa

Joseph Dumont, a partner at Questus, shares this story:

"Here's my only and favorite courting attempt by a vendor. The effort of this brand to garner time with our team was simply brilliant. The rep in this case knows that I am a car guy. Meaning, I own a stupid, fast car. And I long for additional stupid, fast cars in my future. Sad, but true.

"So this astute rep set up 'Car Day For Questus' in the Napa Valley. Car Day consisted of a driving tour through the Napa Valley in five exquisite automobiles that included an Audi R8, a Ferrari 430, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Corvette ZR1, and an Aston Martin DB9. Needless to say, our team had the time of their lives. Not only did they drive the finest engineered automobiles in the world, they were treated to a catered lunch at a beautiful vineyard in the valley.

"Our entire team was literally buzzing with endorphins by the end of the day. The only bummer? I got called away on another client need out of town and missed the whole experience. And I actually almost wept. Moral to the story? Know your customer."

Assorted condoms

Alicia Houselog, senior media planner, space150, shares this story:

"We've seen it all at space150, but a highlight in 'odd things reps do to acquire business' came from someone repping a large blogger network. One day we received 10 large assortment packages from a prominent condom company. Turned out the rep had also worked with them and had inventory left over and decided it would be a good idea to send that product to his prospects. Outright bizarre, but made for a good laugh and story."


David Murdico, executive creative director and managing partner at Supercool Creative, says:

"At the end of last year, a company called Parse3 sent us a box with a bonsai in it. We put it on a desk and waited, but it just sits there. We give it coffee, and the interns take it for walks. We're thinking of trying electroshock."

A single oar

Theo Fanning, executive creative director at Traction, says:

"I'm a creative director, not a media director, so nobody really bribes me. Printers used to try to wine and dine me, but nobody spends any money on printing anymore. Still, many vendors think that it is a good idea to inundate me with useless crap based on bad puns -- because, as we all know, the pun is the basis of all great creative."

Among these pieces of bad-pun crap, Fanning has recently received:

  • A giant fake diamond: "I am a diamond in the rough."

  • Shot glasses: "Give us a shot."

  • Socks: "Here is a new pair, 'cause I will knock your socks off."

  • Cookies: "We are a sweet surprise!"

  • An actual canoe paddle: "With us, you won't be up a creek without one."

"The last one is my personal favorite," Fanning says.

The beloved Shake Weight

Jonathan Hills, founder and president of DOMANI, says:

"We've received some odd ones over the years -- a Shake Weight. It came wrapped like a gift with the vendor's logo printed on the thing."

A weeklong beach house vacation

Jason Sutterfield, chief operating officer at Campfire, says:

"I had such a terrible and rocky relationship in the past with a rich media provider that it paid for me and my family to take a trip to the Outer Banks to stay at a house right on the beach for an entire week. All of this was done 'under the table.'"

Chloe Della Costa is an editor at iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Smoking gangster holding brown envelope," "Hand-drawn vector illustration of a red devil," "money," "flying helicopter," "portrait of young attractive woman in night club," "front view of a young man driving his convertible car," "background of colorful condoms," "single bonsai tree," "oar and waterdrops," and "the cape lookout lighthouse" images via Shutterstock.

Find the right influencers

This may seem obvious, but the first step in any successful influencer outreach campaign is to accurately identify those who are most likely to be interested in what you're pitching. Unfortunately, this vital first step too often doesn't get the time and effort it deserves.

Perhaps the primary reason for this deficiency is over-reliance on subscription media/influencer databases.

PR and marketing pros have access to all sorts of tools that enable them to create expansive lists of influencers in seconds by inputting just a few search criteria. No doubt these tools are very valuable when used correctly, but relying on them entirely can yield a list that's simply too broad and unfocused (i.e., filled with influencers who won't give a damn about your pitch and will feel inclined to disregard any email you send them in the future).

With such a list in hand, it's easy to paste your pitch into a form and hit "send all." Of course this carpet-bombing approach yields poor results, and whatever time you save on the front-end not refining your list will be wasted later as you try to follow-up with up with all of those disinterested contacts.

It's a hassle to narrow down such a broad list to find just the influencers most appropriate for your message, but it's worth the time and effort. An off-target list results in an off-target pitch akin to junk mail, and it's destined to get junk results.

Action item: Don't rely entirely on subscription media/influencer databases. Do your homework!

Reach out before you're ready to pitch

Today's most sought after influencers exert their influence via social media, so it's easy to figure out what turns them on. It's also easy to connect with them and start building a rapport. The key is to get on their radar and earn their interest before it's time to hit them up with a pitch. This approach should seem like common sense in the age of social media, but it's often ignored.

Action item: Don't wait until you need an influencer to make a connection. Start building a relationship today!

Keep good company

There's a social networking theory called Triadic Closure. It asserts that if person A and person B are close friends, and person A and person C are close friends, the two who are currently not friends (B and C) are also likely to become friends once they discover they have a friend in common.

Having such a friend provides a shared point of reference for bonding and a reason to trust each other. Most people (especially influencers) also thrive on building their social circle and closing gaps within their network. 

If you're having trouble connecting with an influencer, check out whom they're talking to, and then reach out to these "friends of influencers." Twitter makes it easy by allowing you to see entire conversations and join in directly. You can also connect on LinkedIn and other platforms. Then when you reach out to the influencer, there's a good chance she/he will notice that you have friends in common.

This works especially well if you want a specific influencer to attend your event. Start by inviting their online friends.

Action item: Build your network to include friends of the influencers you want to reach. Be social!

Go offline as well as online

We tend get so caught up in our digital relationships because we're constantly looking at our smartphones. Alerts from Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, etc. are a constant distraction. Perhaps that's why we forget that nothing beats the original form of social networking -- face-to-face communication.

One of the best ways to make in-person connections is to attend networking events that appeal to the influencers you want to reach. There are all sorts of digitally-oriented groups nationwide that stage great networking events; Kevin Winston's Digital LA and Jessica Lawrence's NY Tech Meetup are two of the most prolific that come to mind. Both offer recurring events that are fun, informative and filled with influencers. 

Perhaps the most valuable offline opportunities for brand marketers are the more niche events targeted at a specific group of influencers, such as my company's traveling TECHmunch Food Blogger Conference. Each year TECHmunch stages a series of events in cities across North America to bring together top influencers and content creators, including many who are eager to work with brands. When it comes to such events, PR and marketing pros are welcome to attend, sponsor, and join the conversation.

Action item: Step away from the screen, and attend targeted offline events!

Solve their problem, not yours

Top influencers are inundated with correspondence from marketers eager for attention. In addition to dealing with all the off-topic and inept product pitches, they're also under pressure to produce a steady stream of quality content that informs and/or entertains their audience. Feeding the content beast -- whether it's a blog post, YouTube tutorial, Snapchat story, or Instagram pic -- is their single biggest challenge.

So rather than pitching them an opportunity that solves your problem (promoting your product), try pitching them an opportunity that helps them solve their problem (creating great content). Help them, and there's a much better chance they'll help you in return.

This tip can be illustrated through a couple of sample pitch subject lines:

Subject Line No. 1: "We launched a new line of pans. Would you like a sample?"

Subject Line No. 2: "I read about your burnt eggs. Our new pan can help with that." 

Which email would you rather open? The first one is clear, but it doesn't tell a story (and therefore doesn't suggest that the pitch will help solve the influencer's problem). The second one demonstrates real knowledge about the influencer, and is more likely to spark his/her imagination.

Before you reach out to an influencer, stop and think about your product and what you're really offering. Is it something the influencer could go out and buy on his or her own? Is your $20 lipstick really worthy of a blog post?

Food blogger Jerry James Stone adds, "I hate it when brands sound like they're doing me a favor."

One way to make your product and pitch more valuable to an influencer is to send it with everything required to use it. The influencer will appreciate not having to make an extra trip to the store for the cake batter to fill the new cake pan you just delivered. Your extra effort and attention to detail will be noticed, and chances are the influencer will actually try the product.  

Action item: Make your subject line (and the rest of your pitch) about the influencer... not your product. Appeal to the influencer's ego, their wants and needs. Once you have captured his or her attention, you're halfway to the finish line.

Cut to the chase and size appropriately for the small screen

According to EmailMonday.com, nearly half of all emails are read on a mobile device, and the number is growing. So it's likely your pitch will be read on a small screen while the influencer is multitasking.

This means that your pitch has to be concise and easy to scan. Start with a clear and compelling subject line and don't bury the lead. Address the who, what, where, when, and why, and state clearly how you can help satisfy the influencer's needs.

Food blogger Donna Currie says, "Don't make me have to ask a dozen questions to find out what you want. Who is your client? How do they want to work with me? Don't beat around the bush. Tell me all, and I will respond. Tell me nothing, and I will assume it's something shady. If there's no budget, say there's no budget. Leaving that detail until last is not going to make me feel warm and fuzzy. It's perfectly fine to say, 'we have no budget for cash payment, but we can offer you…' and then spell out what you will do."

Action item: Be clear, concise, and upfront about what you're offering!

Babette Pepaj is founder and CEO of BakeSpace, Inc.

On Twitter? Follow Babette at @BakeSpace and iMedia at @iMediaTweet

"I don't want to listen" image via Shutterstock.

I'm iMediaConnection's content guy. My stellar team compiles, edits and writes all of the editorial content you see on our site.  Best part of the gig is getting to work with all you fine folks, and commenting on the wacky world of brand...

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