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Joe Cappo on the Future of Advertising

Joe Cappo on the Future of Advertising Staff

Editor’s Note: Joe Cappo’s book, The Future of Advertising: New Media, New Clients, New Consumers in the Post-Television Age traces ad agency consolidation, the impeding demise of television as an ad force, and more -- then lays out a startling yet ultimately logical roadmap for the future of bran marketing and advertising. Cappo recently retired from Crain Communications, Inc., where he was senior vice president. He also was publisher of Advertising Age, and is a world-class speaker.

Few people know the industry as well as Cappo does or have as intriguing a perspective on what’s to come. Here’s the first part of Cappo’s  fascinating and challenging conversation with Doug Weaver, president of Upstream Group, at the February's iMedia Brand Summit. 

DW: Joe, in the book you offer a really vivid picture of the ad business and the market and the social forces that really took it to the place that it is today. So how about starting us off with some context. How did a business that was seemingly so rich and profitable and exciting back in the late 1970s end up where it is today? What happened?

JC: Well, its food source was cut off, and as soon as you cut off a food source, any industry or any individual is going to be in trouble. I started actively covering the advertising business in 1968, and at that time, it was a personality business. It was a business of creativity. It was a business of entrepreneurs. There was only one publicly held ad agency in 1968, which was Foote, Cone & Belding. And even then, Foote, Cone & Belding had a very small core of owners, most of whom were employees of the agency.

At the time, advertising agencies had a sweet deal. They charged 15 percent commission on any media that they bought for their clients. So if they bought a hundred million dollars worth of television time, which you could do with one telephone call, they would get $15 million in income. With that money -- in fact, I interviewed the former president of J. Walter Thompson, who said, “You know, in 1965, in our Chicago office alone, which was the second largest office at the time with about 600 employees, they had a research department, they had a PR department, they had a merchandising department, they had a sales promotion department.” They were an all-inclusive, full-service ad agency, and they didn’t charge clients for any of those services because they made so much money from the commissions on buying media, especially television, that they were able to give all these services away as sort of a value-added kind of a proposition for their clients.

Well, what happened to J. Walter, as well as all the other agencies, is that as we went through time, as we went through the ‘80s and then toward the end of the ‘80s, this phenomenon called the “media buying specialist” started in Europe. And that is that clients would say, “Okay, I want you to create my advertising, but I’m going to go over here and have these media specialists buy the time because they’re only going to charge me 4 percent or 3 percent or 2 percent commission in order to buy my time on the television or radio or my space in publications.”

And so what allowed the agencies years ago to be a marketing partner with their clients all of a sudden just evaporated. The agencies were being paid then a creative fee for doing something or an hourly type of a fee or something, but nothing ever to match the 15 percent commission that they were getting for their services previously.

DW: At the same time that this economic core of the business gets yanked away, you also have the emergence of the big four holding companies coming, and we start to see arbitrage and a financial angle to the business. Will you talk a little bit about the holding companies and what difference they’ve made in the business.

JC: Well, in fact, it was the growth of the media buying specialists that prompted the agencies to say, “We’ve got to get a bigger margin. We’ve got to create a bigger entity in order to replicate the money that we were getting before. So the acquisitions began, really, in the early ‘90s.

In the list of ad agencies top 20 agencies in 1980, of those top 20 agencies, 17 are now part of the four major holding companies. Of the other three, one is still independent and the other two have disappeared. And the only independent agency left in the top 20 in the country is Gray Advertising, and they are not part of WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic, or (unintelligible), which owns the rest of the business. These four companies represent 82 percent of the advertising in the United States and 50 percent of the advertising in the world. So, that’s how powerful they are.

DW: So they found their financial efficiency, but one of the things that you say in your book is that the most damning thing is that the big holding companies have not stepped up and really become the general contractor for client strategy. They have not stepped up and really added a strategic value component to the mix. Instead, they are really becoming purveyors of low-cost advertising services.

JC: Well, they’re doing all of those things. Omnicom acquired 108 subsidiary companies in 2002, and those companies are sales promotion firms, web designers -- all kinds of different little companies, many of whom have since gone out of business because of the problems that came about in the Internet business.

But what they have failed to do largely is to integrate these various things. I did dozens of interviews for this book. I talked to sales promotion people owned by a holding company who have virtually no contact with advertising agencies owned by the same holding company. They might handle the same account, but they really have no involvement with the advertising agency.

What agencies are trying to develop now is a strategic marketing function, but they’re not doing it very well. I’ll be very honest with you.

DW: So there’s a bit of a strategic vacuum out there. How are clients going to fill that vacuum? If they’re not getting strategy and they’re not getting market direction from their agencies or the holding companies, where do they go for that?

JC: You know, I asked that question dozens of times, from clients, agencies, et cetera. The agency’s people said, “We should be doing it,” but they’re generally not doing it. They might be doing it here and there, but this is not -- you go to an ad agency, you’re going to get advertising. You’re not going to get direct marketing, you’re not going to get sales promotion, you’re not going to get research or public relations or anything. You’re going to get advertising.

So there are three different ways that the strategy is going to be developed for a client. One is that ad agencies will step up to the role and start delivering this for their clients. Two, and what’s probably most prominent right now, is the clients are doing this themselves with a caveat that I will mention in a minute. Clients are trying to do it themselves. The third way is outside management consultants are now coming into the business. Accenture, for example, which is the largest management consulting firm, will go into a company and create a marketing strategy for that company and then have somebody else actually do the advertising, do the sales promotion, do the online and the direct contact and things of that sort.

The problem with the clients doing it is that the clients are as siloed as the agencies are, and that is the ad department is always fighting with the sales promotion department to determine who’s going to get the bigger budget from the marketing department. And you have direct is different from media advertising. You have these guys that are, “We’re in the brand advertising department” -- “Well, we’re in the direct sales part.” And they’re all fighting with each other. Even within the client companies, there’s a problem of strategy and who is going to direct. It’s an orchestra of a lot of instruments all playing their own tune without having a conductor who knows what each instrument can add to a symphony and then develop a strategic plan to create a very successful outcome.

DW: That conductor we’re talking about, that person who’s going to step in and really drive strategy for clients and help them see the whole marketing picture and really make the best use of all the tools. You mentioned Accenture. You mentioned the big consulting firms and them potentially stepping into that role. My first question is are they ready? Do they have what it takes to step in and make that happen for clients? Also, where else? I noticed a few years it was Coca-Cola that stepped in and brought in CAA to help them with some of the big strategic vision.

JC: Right, but that was a very backward move on the part of Coca-Cola, which has obviously made a lot of problems for themselves over the years. But they hired CAA because they thought the essence of marketing was television commercials, and that’s not what it is. Actually, to go into another realm, the essence of success in a consumer product is distribution. If Toys R Us doesn’t sell your toys, you ain’t gonna sell toys. If Wal*Mart doesn’t sell your shampoo, you’re not gonna sell a lot of shampoo because the retail market has become so strong, is exerting an incredible amount of pressure on the advertising people, and money that used to go into advertising is now going into slotting allowances. It’s going into trade promotions, into other things, to force the product into the marketplace.

There’s an easy reason for this. Why? Because, one, new products are coming off the roll as fast as they ever were. Two, there’s virtually no increase in shelf space. For every super Wal*Mart that opens, 25 other retailers go out of business.

So we get back to who else is going to… there is no one else to do it unless somebody develops a strategy, an idea. We now have these brand development companies. My friend, Don Shultz, who is a professor at Northwestern University and the fellow who invented IMC, Integrated Marketing Communications, just came out with a book called Brand Babble because everybody’s, like, “brand, brand, brand, brand, brand,” and most people don’t understand what a brand is or what a brand does or who owns the brand. So we see all of these formations in the consulting world and then in the corporate world about brand, chief brand officer, and things of that sort.

I think this is done without a thorough examination of what is going on in this business, and I think that there is no one there right now, but I would say the best chance is for these management consultants to come out to assume this role.

Now, a typical example is in the agency selection business. When I started covering the industry in the late 1960s, if Kraft wanted to hire an agency, they would get the ad director. The ad director would get four or five agencies. They would call them and say come on in and do a presentation, et cetera. Great.

Now if Kraft wants to hire an ad agency, they call an agency selection consultant who will send all kinds of questionnaires out to a hundred different agencies. They’ll talk to 40 or 50 of the agencies. They’ll whittle them down to four or five good prospects for this particular account, and then the client will come in and talk to these three or four agencies. This has created another barrier between the agency and the client, and this is sort of what’s happened.

An example I give in The Future of Advertising is that years ago, Fairfax Cone, the chairman of Foote, Cone & Belding, was a buddy, a close friend, of Joyce Hall, who was the chairman of Hallmark. For all of those years, they went fishing together and hunting together, et cetera. Foote, Cone & Belding was not only the agency, they were the marketing partner for Hallmark cards. Foote, Cone & Belding was the producer of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and everything they did, they did everything for their client within that. They designed the racks and everything else like that. That kind of  -- of course, Foote, Cone went public, Hallmark went public, they became part of bigger organizations, there’s no more contact, and the client is now at Leo Burnett and with nowhere  -- believe me, the chairman of Leo Burnett has no contact with the head of Hallmark. You have an account supervisor at Leo Burnett who is dealing with an ad director or a marketing director at Hallmark. It’s on a lower level.

DW: They have tactical contact but no real strategic contact.

JC: Exactly.

Monday: Cappo discusses why TV can’t compete, who’s really driving the business, and the big market you’re missing.

A great low-budget tactic for SMBs to promote their companies and products is to use UGC in video promotions. It is easier than ever to create quality videos because UGC admins are offered through many of the video hosting providers, including Blinkx, Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube, to name a few.

UGC video submissions to YouTube provide your site with a great way to interact with its users while also improving the content displayed on the site. Instead of storing files locally on your web server and using server processing power to transcode videos for playback, it is much easier to submit videos to YouTube. YouTube will host the files and take care of transcoding while offering a universal way to play back your videos. Instead of having to integrate a JavaScript script player into your site, YouTube supports iframe embed code that takes the guess work out of video playback.

By using an iframe, the choice of player is determined by YouTube, which has an HTML5 player and a traditional Flash player for older browsers. When you host your videos on YouTube, you aren't restricted to any specific file type, and you don't have to encode your videos because YouTube does the transcoding for you. By hosting UGC video content on YouTube, you can:

  • Increase brand awareness and SEO juice by hosting videos on your own company YouTube channel

  • Save disk and bandwidth costs by hosting videos off your local web server

  • Save CPU by no longer having to do video encoding

  • Shorten development time without having to decide which video player to use on your site to support all browsers and video types

You can run a video contest on Facebook as long as you comply with the site's promotional guidelines. You don't have to be a Facebook advertiser to run a contest. However, any promotions administered on Facebook must be done through an application, and the app must comply with Facebook's platform policies. To ensure you comply with these policies, you might want to use a third-party application such as Strutta or Wildfire.

If you run a contest on your Facebook brand page, note the list of do's and don'ts below, which are quoted from Facebook's promotional guidelines.

"You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as posting on a Wall of a Page, uploading a photo, or posting a status update.

"You can: Use a third party application to condition entry to the promotion upon a user providing content to the application. For example, you may administer a photo contest whereby a user uploads a photo to a third-party application to enter the contest.

"You cannot: Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by liking your Page, checking in to your Place or connecting to your Platform integration.

"You can: Require entrants to like your Page, check in to your Place or connect to your Platform integration before they provide their full entry information, such as name and contact information.

"You cannot: Notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

"You can: Collect an email or address through the third-party application for the promotion in order to contact the winner by email or standard mail.

"You cannot: Instruct people (in the rules or elsewhere) to sign up for a Facebook account before they enter the promotion.

"You can: Instruct users to visit the third-party application to enter the promotion (as described in Section Since users must have a Facebook account in order to access an application on the Facebook Platform, if you give this instruction, they will be prompted to sign up for a Facebook account if they do not already have one."

Many of the contests you see on Facebook that require users to post on the brand's wall or "like" the brand to win are in violation of Facebook's guidelines. While Facebook can't police every brand page, it might find a way to gain more control over its platform. So it's best to conform to the site's promotion guidelines.

You should also be aware there are certain legalities involved in establishing contest rules, and going with a third-party app provider for your promotion would help cover all the bases.

If your contest is on Facebook, you can administer it on Facebook or publicize it on Facebook and host it on another site. When you administer your promotion on Facebook, you use the Facebook platform to collect submissions, determine the winner, and notify the winner. When you publicize your contest on Facebook, you use your Facebook brand page and send status updates through Facebook, but host the contest on another site. If you publicize on Facebook, there are certain rules you must follow, including that the contest can only be open to individuals 18 years or older.

A great way to generate traffic and interest in your products is to invite your users to submit a UGC video showing how they use your product. Building a UGC area takes a little engineering work, but once it is done, the rewards are priceless. You own the content, you get the SEO attribution, and you increase your traffic. Building a YouTube-like admin is as easy as chiming into the application programming interface of Fliqz or VMIX, which both offer this service (see the section at the end of this article on hosting your videos).

Be creative as you invite your users to submit UGC videos demonstrating and using your products. Make it fun and allow people to vote for the best videos. Invite users to tell why they like your product or how they use it in unique ways. Encourage your customers to submit videos through email marketing or house banner ads on different pages within your site. You might even run a small PPC campaign on appropriate search engines. Lastly, you can publicize your promotion on Facebook if you conform to its promotional guidelines.

You can give away tchotchkes or product samples to the user who submits the video that gets the most votes on a weekly or monthly basis. An example of this type of UGC video promotion can be seen on Twistlets, a site selling teen jewelry that can be bent or twisted into different shapes such as a bracelet, necklace, or head piece. The site has a featured video on the homepage and buttons to submit videos or view photos. Users can upload a short video clip (60 seconds or less) showing how they "bend it, twist it, shape it and wear it." Girls can rate their favorite designs and sort by the most popular and recent video submissions.

When you use UGC videos on your site, don't forget the video sitemap. This is something your webmaster can do to ensure the videos rank well on search engines. You'll also need to submit the videos to video-sharing sites (read more in the upcoming section on optimizing your video).

Video can be used for branding on your corporate page and for promoting products on your product pages. People would rather watch a video than read about your company online because it's faster and easier to comprehend quickly. You can capture the essence of your business and interact with your customers, giving your company a personal touch. If you sell complex products, a demo will help boost sales. These videos should be short and are inexpensive to create.

When creating your online corporate or product videos, be sure to keep them short and ensure the quality is good and the sound is clear. In fact, captioning is now available for video, and it helps to sell product to have a few captions in your video. Have a clear goal before you start and limit each video to making one main point. Videos should be between one and two minutes long -- three minutes max. That's why you need prior planning.

You don't need to hire a pro to make these short videos. Use a plain background behind a talking head or product display. This keeps the viewer's attention where you want it. Don't use flashy transitions or effects -- but it can be helpful to use graphics. Use large text that is easy to read with sans serif font. Keep your camera steady when you shoot by using a video tripod. Be sure to have lots of light. You can use three lights positioned approximately 6 feet away from the camera and attached to a drawing easel 2 to 3 feet to the side of the camera. A couple of lights should be at eye level, while the third is about 6 feet up, pointing down. By placing the lights off to the side of the camera, you get subtle shadows on the subject, which helps add dimension.

You can make your sound better by using a good quality microphone plugged into your camcorder. Bad sound quality is common in do-it-yourself videos because the built-in microphones on most camcorders are not good enough.

Lots of customers will give you written testimonials. Contact some of those customers and give them an incentive to put their testimonials into a video. You can give them coupons, discounts, or a 30-day free trial for their efforts. Anyone can make a short video these days; they can record the video and send the file to you by email. If you're both in the same city, you might invite the person to your business to shoot the video; then take them to lunch or dinner to show your appreciation.

All you need to create high-quality web videos is a camera, proper lighting, and video-editing software. You can use the Flip Ultra HD camera ($132.99), RCA Small Wonder EQ101 camera ($99.99), iPhone, Droid, or any good smartphone with a video recorder to record your videos.

Most of these cameras fit in the palm of your hand and run on AA batteries. You can record up to 30 minutes of digital video directly into the camera's memory, so no video tape is required. When you're finished recording and are ready to edit or upload to the web, the camera plugs directly into your PC, allowing you to transfer the video files to your computer. Flip has its own video editing tools in its video management software. A few popular video software programs are described below.

Microsoft Movie Maker video software is easy to use. You can create and share your own movies with Windows 7 and Windows Movie Maker. This is a free download that also includes tools for photos, instant messaging, email, and social networking. You can import photos and videos from your PC or camera into Movie Maker to start making movies. Editing tools allow you to trim, split, and speed up or slow down your movie. You can also edit the audio, adjust volume, fade music in/ and out, etc.

Jumpcut video editing software also offers a free download. This movie maker and sharing service has many advanced features and requires a slight learning curve. Movies can be made from video, audio, and photo files or clips from other videos published on a site. You can set soundtrack lengths and add visual and audio effects by clip. Once saved, you can re-edit by clicking "remix."

iMovie is a user-friendly video software that makes viewing and working with video quick and easy. A built-in library automatically organizes your videos so all the clips you've captured and the movies you've made are just a click away. It is easy to add movies to your website, publish them on YouTube, and create versions for iPods, iPhones, and Apple TVs. The cost is $79 (part of iLife).

Create a niche video-sharing site
Be a leader in your industry by creating a place where your audience and stakeholders can post and view business videos for free. When your brand becomes the host for video sharing in your niche, you get more traffic and brand exposure. Your customers can post videos about their products and services, or marketing tips, how-tos, and more. You will quickly develop a growing video community that shares industry information and ideas.

Once your video community reaches critical mass, you can generate ad revenue and get more SEO juice that can put your site in top organic rankings. We wrote in detail about creating your own white-label video hub in August of last year, and the information is still relevant.

Create a video email marketing campaign
Embedding a video in your email marketing campaign can increase your click-through rates by as much as two to three times, according to Forrester research. It tells your audience that you care enough to communicate in a personal, interactive, and easy-to-understand manner than a longer text email that takes more time to read.

While there are a number of video email providers available, we encourage you to seek a provider to fit your budget. We searched for an affordable video provider and found VideoCustomizer, which is a cloud-based solution that provides the infrastructure and technology for creating, designing and delivering personalized video email, video ad campaigns, and video streaming and hosting solutions. With this technology, you can reach customers on computers, iPads, iPhones, and smartphones.

VideoCustomizer's Plan Lite gives you 1,000 video emails on the platform with 4,000 video landing page views, which includes a free video ad. It also includes video hosting on your website and blog. The plan offers multi-user, multi-email accounts, and you can use your own domain with full system access. The cost for Plan Lite is $15 per month.

Optimizing your videos
It's important to optimize your videos by creating a video sitemap. You can use the Google Video extension to the Sitemap protocol to give Google and other search engines information about the video content on your site.

Video content includes the web pages on which you embed your video, the URLs to players for your video, or the URLs of raw video content hosted on your site. Each URL entry must contain the following information:

  • Title

  • Description

  • Play page URL

  • Thumbnail URL

  • Raw video file location and/or the player URL (SWF)

For more information see Google's guidelines for creating sitemaps.

While you can submit your videos directly to video-sharing sites like YouTube, Metacafe, Vimeo, etc., you can also use TubeMogul, a free service that allows you to upload your videos to multiple leading video-sharing websites quickly and also track results. Currently supported websites include: Google Video, Metacafe, Myspace Video, Revver, AOL Video, and YouTube.

TubeMogul is a video analytics and distribution system that gives publishers independent information about web video performance in addition to automated upload to the top video-sharing sites. It provides the following features:

  • Mass upload: Upload videos to six leading video networks automatically

  • Video analytics: Track video performance, viewership demographic reports, and create comparison charts

  • Comments and ratings: View all user comments and ratings from one place

  • Charts: Email charts to others and export to Excel

Hosting your videos
You will need a video hosting company, and we would like to suggest a few hosting companies that offer affordable solutions that are easy to deploy.

  • Fliqz allows you to upload, stream, track, and monetize your video content. It offers five different plans, from basic to platinum, and you can try it for free.

  • Vmix is a cloud-based platform-as-a-service solution that can deliver engaging, interactive video on your website and mobile applications. It also offers a free trial.

  • Ooyala offers high-quality video solutions, providing video delivery for every kind of video screen. It also offers a free trial.

Since there are few barriers to entry and technology allows do-it-yourselfers to create good marketing videos, there is no reason for hesitating to use video advertising solutions. By taking advantage of user-generated content and creating your own marketing videos, you can reach your target market and brand your business quickly. Whether you use a contest, product videos, video testimonials, a video sharing site, or video email marketing, you will positively boost your brand and increase conversions, guaranteed.

Jason Prescott is CEO of TopTenWholesale and Manufacturer.com.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Common sense faux pas

The list of common-sense faux pas is a long one. You would be surprised by what people do and how the littlest things can completely derail an interview or even the chance at an interview.

A former colleague of mine, Andrew Goldberg, listed his top job applicant offenses as showing up late, smelling like cigarettes, having typos on a resume, and sending sloppy emails (including ones with lowercase letters or that use using "u" to mean "you"). Other really basic courtesies that should have been taught at home seem to be easily overlooked when one is nervous. I recommend always including a "thank you" and "hello" wrapped in a smile. On the other hand, using inappropriate language, as Sal Tofano mentioned, is not very smart. Chewing gum in an interview is another "duh" offense, and it was listed by no fewer than three people in my networks.

In addition to the gum faux pas, David Greenwald cited these other interviewee pet peeves:

  • Not looking at the interviewer directly when speaking

  • Reading your slides or resume to the hiring manager

  • Not taking notes or not even having a note pad and pen

  • Staring out the window when the interviewer is speaking

  • Clicking or twirling a pen

  • Unpolished shoes

  • Dirty chewed-up finger nails

And finally, the three most offensive common-sense blunders were offered by the following folks:

  • Jim Holbrook: mistreating the receptionist

  • Leo Pieri: using a referral you don't even know

  • Andrew Goldberg: checking a phone during an interview

To these, I say: Come on people -- really?!

Do you want this job -- or just any job?

The overriding theme here is simple: Do your homework! And at least pretend that you want the job you are interviewing for and not just wasting the interviewer's time.

Understandably, not every job you interview for is your dream job. But in my experience, at least 30 percent of every job is what you make of it. There will always be barriers and limitations, but there are likely far fewer than you imagine once you get in. Thus, the biggest disservice you can do to yourself and to the employer is to be short-sighted.

Wes Nichols made the point well when he said, "I dislike when people talk about their career as a series of 'gigs' -- that telegraphs a short-term, putting-food-on-the-table orientation rather than passion about their career or employer."

Here are a few more anecdotes regarding the need to do your homework:

Tad Smith said his biggest reason for not giving people a job is that they make it obvious that they don't understand the business for which they're interviewing, let alone the job itself.

Dan Gershenson emphasizes this point in noting his frustration with cover letters that begin, "Dear Sir or Madam, I am applying for..." Gershenson said, "Really? Thanks for showing me you didn't research me at all and I am one of 200 people you're sending the same letter to. So -- why should I treat you with any more respect than what you've shown me? Do your homework on the decision maker(s), the company, etc., and craft a customized cover letter. If the person isn't worth your time to do that, frankly, you shouldn't be worth their time either."

Look in the mirror

Want a mint? No? Mind if I stick one up my nose?

OK, that's a little crude, but you get the point. The idea that people would go into interviews without having brushed their teeth recently, had a breath mint, brushed the dog hair off of their suits, or -- God forbid -- not bothered to actually brush their hair is beyond understanding. But, as usual, I never cease to be amazed.

In my network outreach, both Randy Simonian and Andrew Goldberg noted that bad breath stays with them a lot longer than what the person says. And Sal Tofano suggested that people should not "show up for the interview as if they were going to a garage sale." Good idea.

Don't be a digital idiot

In this day and age, it is important to know that there are no secrets. What you put in the digital world is accessible by anyone nearly anywhere. So, this old mantra applies: Don't write it if it is not something you wouldn't want to see splashed across the front page of The New York Times. Sal Tofano agreed and noted that he has reconsidered the employment of people who have spoken negatively about past employers and colleagues on social media sites. 

That said, there are far worse digital behaviors. Eileen Campbell said that she "just got a LinkedIn request from a guy who uses a framed picture of himself on a museum wall complete with adoring visitors gazing lovingly at him as his profile pic. Who knew egos had legs?" And while this is clearly tacky, the worse offense -- digital or otherwise -- is confusing genders. In this case, Campbell's egomaniac also addressed her as "Dear Mr. Campbell."

Did I mention that there were worse digital behaviors? The worst I read came from my former agency pro, Dede Solley, who said that she interviewed a candidate for a social position and regretfully accepted his LinkedIn request. "To this date, he is still stalking me online," she said. "I even changed companies. Week to week, he's always on the list of people that viewed my profile." Yuck!

Remember: Your digital shadow is huge, and even if you don't make direct contact, there are plenty of tracking systems to alert people when you are tracking -- or stalking -- them. Learn when enough is enough.

You have two ears and one mouth

I was reminded about this bit of interview advice once, as I tend to be a "talker." I was told to listen twice as much as I spoke, as that is the ratio of my ears to my mouth. It has worked like a charm, every time. My friend Pat Ruta agreed. He noted that people who don't listen consequently don't know what questions to ask.

I'm a big girl (or boy) now

Jim Holbrook's anecdote about immaturity is almost unbelievable. After an interview, a candidate's mom -- yep, mom -- called HR to follow up. Similarly, Dede Solley told this story: "Last week, a colleague of mine interviewed someone who brought his dad to the interview with him and requested a lounge where his dad could hang out during the interview. Nuts!"

You can't make this stuff up. Although I don't think it should have to be stated, I will go ahead and do it anyway: Leave your parents at home during the interview process.

Don't be a cliché

Be yourself instead. This means that you have done your homework (per the earlier discussion) but that you also know yourself and are hopefully interviewing for jobs that are well suited to you, your strengths, and your personality.

My friend Ted Wright has run a successful company for several years and interviews people regularly. He is a bit edgy, but his larger point is a good one. He says the biggest reason not to hire someone is because the interview candidates are not being themselves. "Some jobs call for flip-flops, a deep knowledge of Zydeco, and the ability to use the word 'fuck' in all possible variations," he said. "Some require you to know how horribly tacky it is to wear a button-down shirt with a suit. And in some, you have to be able to play basketball very well. 'Stop thinking, let things happen, be the ball.'"

I personally believe that being yourself means leaving out the clichés. David Greenwald's favorite too-oft-used cliché is when an interviewee says he or she would be good in a sales role because that person "gets along really well with people" or is a "team player." Furthermore, if an interviewer inquires about your greatest weakness, don't tell them that it's "working too hard" or "caring too much," advised Greenwald. Gag.

Don't get ahead of yourself

Interviewing 101 and Negotiations 101 have a lot in common. Both teach that it is best to hear points of views fully from all sides and to decisively make your case before making demands. Unfortunately, too many people seem to forget this when they are interviewing and jump the gun by making requests or demands in the very first interview.

Karyn Saunders, a friend and professional recruiter, provided me with a list of don'ts along these lines. "Asking about compensation in the first interview -- a big no no," she said. Her other questions to avoid during interviews include:

  • If hired, can I have a week off at Christmas? It is tradition to spend it with my family overseas.

  • What are the hours like?

Karen Koerner Arnold also said that asking detailed questions about benefits too early in the interview process feels pushy and can give the interviewer the impression that you do not have a true interest in the company and position. "I want to hire a candidate who wants this job, not just a job," she said.

Perhaps the most off-putting comments you can make are those that reveal your inner diva. Mark Wildman sarcastically noted that he loves immediate discussions during interviews about a person's need for an office and its size requirements.

Foot-in-mouth disease

Is the unemployment rate 8.1 percent or 1.8 percent? I ask because, after hearing from my social network, job interviewees are making it sound like there is an abundance of jobs and they simply have their pick. Unfortunately, I don't think that is the scenario these days. Kieran Jason Hackett, a senior executive, recalled an interview in which the interviewee said, "I really see this position as a great way to set me up for my real dream." Umm -- so, you're really interested in this job and company, huh?
But the award for the most "oh no he di'in't" (insert finger wag) story came from Adina Smith. She recalled that, in the middle of an interview, a male candidate said, "I'm not good at reporting to women. Am I going to have to report to you?" To which Smith replied, "You would have, but no, you don't need to worry about that anymore." You go, girl!

Don't be a creep

Always remember that you are not invisible. People do the most amazing things in public and while entertaining -- great fodder for YouTube. But it can be the kiss of death in an interview.

Two examples emerged from my social networks that exemplify this point. First, Floyd Hayes tells of an interview in which a young man came in looking for an internship at Hayes' company. "The thing is, there was a large mirror behind me, and this young man was so vain he kept checking himself out in the mirror," Hayes said. This gets a five out of 10 on the "ick" scale. But this next story gets a solid 9-plus.

Josh Kavanaugh tells of a time when his firm did a panel interview with a male candidate who "brazenly and inappropriately stared at one of the female interviewers the entire time -- no eye contact was made with anyone including her the entire time." Eww.

The topic of why people don't get hired is one that gives and gives. And while at least most anecdotes are somewhat humorous, they can be also highly disturbing. Truthfully, none of the tips in this article are revolutionary or new. But they still seem to be violated with great frequency.

Julie Roehm is senior vice president marketing and "chief storyteller" at SAP.

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"Abstract colorful background" image via Shutterstock.


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