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iMedia Podcast: Branding with IM

iMedia Podcast: Branding with IM Kevin Ryan

Teenagers will confirm that the most popular and always-on communication channel today is Instant Messaging (IM). Only recently have brand marketers discovered the tricks to leveraging this channel.

Today's session showcases two of the year's most successful IM campaigns: "American Idol" and Unilever's new brand Axe.

Marketers for "American Idol" found that IM connected their target audience with their brand even when the show wasn't on. MECA Communications created a fully branded application that allowed fans to personalize their IM interface with content and graphics.

Axe, Unilever's new deodorant brand, commissioned two regular guys named Evan and Gareth to create video clips taken over their five-month trip cross country "to get the girl." Axe's goal in distributing the videos was to reach the elusive young male segment in a manner as non-traditional, offbeat and as clever as the videos themselves. Axe partnered with Xfire, whose young male audience spends 85 hours per month using the Xfire videogame application, to make the videos available to subscribers of Xfire’s Cool Movies channel. The results were impressive: the total number of videos downloaded in less than two months was over 550,000; 51 percent of the Xfire audience stated their intention to purchase an Axe product; and when the audience was asked, “Do you think Axe will help you get the girl?” 38.7 percent were certain it would.

The thought leaders behind both case studies walk you through the advertising strategy, target market, product development, technology and execution that contributed to accomplishing the brands' goals.

Special Note: This presentation included a PowerPoint slideshow that is available at the La Quinta Summit presentation archive.

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Andre Mahoney, marketing manager USA, Axe, Unilever
Bob Kimball, president and CEO, MECA Communications
Mike Cassidy, CEO, Xfire

Kevin Ryan, iMedia search editor and managing partner, Kinetic Results.

43:30, 29.8 MB, MP3

Some innovative campaigns:

Client: Chrysler, Jeep Patriot
Media: internet/interactive/print
Campaign: Patriot Factor

Chrysler approached Organic to work on a campaign to attract an 18- to 30-year-old male audience to its Jeep Patriot, which was introduced in 2007. The auto manufacturer believed the car would appeal to that demographic partially because it had a lower base price ($14,985) than other Jeep models.

Organic Creative Director Connor Brady says the agency began its research by looking at the lifestyle of the target group and the types of brands and creatives the group responded to. The agency honed in on the rising popularity of comic book culture as a possible way to engage the demographic. What resulted was the collaboration between Jeep and Marvel comics, whereby the more than 130,000 visitors to the Patriot Factor site were able to submit ideas to a crowd-sourced comic book produced for print by Marvel writers and artists. The comic's protagonists, naturally, escaped would-be evil-doers by driving Jeep Patriots. The campaign won a Web Marketing Association Outstanding Website Award and was noted as an Adobe Site of the Day in early March.

Client: Bank of America
Media: internet/interactive
Campaign: Fees and Processes

As banking has expanded from the local branch to the phone to the web, its evolution has been accompanied by an increase in the avenues customers can use to complain to and about their financial institutions. Bank of America tasked Organic with creating a site that would be both a hub for customer feedback as well as a forum in which the bank could explain the most frequent source of customer complaints: bank fees for overdrafts and late payments.

Brady said Organic shied away from the proverbial "Reverse 'L' Website," known best for its left-handed navigation and endless pages of black text. Instead, Organic went for rich video with bottom-of-screen navigation. The site's videos take users through the different phases of their financial lives, from student through retirement. Organic also built into the videos a variety of tools that enable users to search according to specific needs or email info to friends.

Client: Warner Bros. International
Media: internet/interactive
Campaign: Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

Warner Bros. International asked Organic to work on its web campaign to promote "Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth movie in the Potter series. The goal of the campaign was two-fold: introduce Harry Potter to people who by whatever miracle had not yet heard of the young British wizard and to draw in hardcore Harry Potter fans through character development and participation.

Organic worked with clips and reels provided by Warner Bros. International to create a series of videos and interactive Flash ads, which can be seen at this site. One notable Flash piece enabled users to create and print their own Hogwarts proclamations, modeled after those posted in the movie by the wicked Professor Dolores Umbridge.

The agency's work on the campaign resulted in an OMMA Award for Best Rich Media Campaign.

Agency Stars

Mark Kingdon

Mark Kingdon has led Organic since 2001, when he joined the company as CEO. Prior to Organic, Kingdon provided strategic guidance to emerging companies at Idealab. Before that he was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and led the company's Americas retail and distribution practice. Kingdon is a Webby Awards Judge and received his M.B.A. from The Wharton School of Business and a bachelor's in economics from U.C.L.A.

Chuck Russo
Chief Client Development Officer

Chuck Rosso is Organic's executive vice president in addition to its chief client development officer. He structures Organic's accounts, including the ongoing Chrysler partnership. Prior to joining Organic in 2001, Russo was vice president account service and general manager for Detroit's Cobalt Group, a provider of internet-based auto services. For 20 years Russo worked for FCB Worldwide, including a run as the company's senior vice president, group director. He holds a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Chad Stoller
Executive Director, Emerging Platforms

Chad Stoller runs the new communication platforms and the Experience Lab initiative for Organic. The lab helps familiarize clients with their customer media and technology consumption habits. Stoller started with Arnell Group in 1993 as a media planner and developer for brands such as Ray-Ban, Donna Karan and Samsung Electronics. He co-founded Arnell Group's Surge Interactive, the company's interactive branding division, which led brand strategies for Universal Music Group, Tommy Hilfiger, Clear Channel, Cuervo and Playboy.com. In 2001 he returned to Arnell Group as its director, communication solutions.

Rick Corteville
Executive Director, Media

As executive director, media at Organic, Rick Corteville focuses on Organic's media services and consulting practice. Prior to Organic, Corteville worked at Grey Global, where he led the Oracle account in 1997. In 2002 he helped launch Grey Asia Pacific's online media departments, covering China, Korea, India and Australia. When he returned to San Francisco after his stint in Asia he worked on the company's Gateway, Nokia and Adobe accounts. He was voted a BtoB Magazine's Best and Brightest Media Strategist in 2000.

Connor Brady
Executive Director, Creative

Connor Brady has been at Organic for one year, during which he has worked on the company's Bank of America, iVillage, Sony Ericsson and NBC accounts. Previously, he was creative director at Razorfish, where he worked with Condé Nast, Ford Motor Company and HBO, and on the redesign of the New York Times website.

What clients say
Past and present Organic clients describe the company as crucial in developing integrated campaigns and great at creative and understanding and building on brand imagery. One client described Organic as good at presenting a variety of innovative, outside-the-box options while remaining responsive to company needs.

"They have excellent creative minds and they have extreme fiduciary responsibility."

"They've been crucial in developing our integrated campaigns."

"Oftentimes creative people can just come up with a creative idea but it doesn't really relate to a brand. They're very brand-centric in terms of coming up with ideas."

"When we hit points of conflict they were really easy to work through that conflict. They're great listeners."

On budgetary issues: "We never felt like we were backed into a corner. They gave us options."

"We always had a safe and a radical choice."

Suggested areas for improvement include continuing to push clients to take advantage of new technology and new media; taking more initiative to work independently with partner agencies; and staying sensitive to personnel issues.

"They should continue to embed themselves with other agencies."

On working more independently with those partner agencies: "We would like them to come to us saying 'This is what we've been thinking about on your behalf.'"

"From a client perspective, with the fast-moving web and Organic being the agency responsible for internet campaigns, we need them to push us even harder than they do today."

Average grade from clients: A-.

Leah Messinger is a freelance writer. Read full bio.

"We currently do not have any conflicts of interest."
This statement can mean a lot of things, but in most cases, it means that an agency had or might have a conflict of interest in the near future. The agency could be referring to anything from a vendor to a client that is on its way out. Good news for clients is that this statement means an agency really wants to work with you, so it is willing to make adjustments to guarantee that when a contract is signed, there will not be any conflicts of interest. You can take this as a signal that the agency is in a holding pattern until a decision is made on your end.

If possible, ask for clarification about what exactly were the previous conflicts of interest to ensure you are getting the whole story. This way you can tell whether the agency is waiting to make a move or if it is just trying to avoid the issue with semantics.

"We can do this quick, cheap, and well."
The saying that "things are too good to be true" certainly applies to this promise. In most cases, clients can expect an agency to deliver on two of these three promises. If a great project is delivered on time, it will not be cheap. If a good project is completed at a reasonable cost, the delivery date will lag. And if the project is delivered inexpensively and on time, it most likely will not be the highest quality.

These three characteristics are counterproductive to one another, so it is in client's best interest to establish which goals are most important to the project at hand. If price is the biggest factor, then it might be necessary to sacrifice a few expensive add-ons or expand the project timeline. Quality takes time and expertise, so regardless of the project, it is important to set realistic parameters around price and timeline.

"We get your business."
Agencies like to show category experience during a pitch. It adds credibility and lays a strategic foundation for the engagement. Experience within a vertical can expedite a discovery process and enable agencies to hit the ground running, but it is impossible for an agency to completely understand a client's business before working with it. Every business is unique, and each strategy should have merits of its own.

Look for agencies that have relative experience that can be applied to your situation, but do not believe agencies that say they understand your business will not need any ramp-up.

"This will go viral."
No one can promise this. Viral is a dubious word for agencies that usually involves more finger-crossing than confidence. Advertisers can develop a solid strategy that matches clients' target audiences, but to promise that a campaign will join the short list of viral successes is foolish.

Clients should translate this statement to mean that its agency really likes the proposed idea and is fairly confident users will too. If an agency promises you that a campaign will go viral, challenge it to prove why. Ultimately, the best advice is for clients to evaluate how much they like the campaign, and to determine whether the investment is worthwhile -- even if it does not go viral. If the content can still provide value, go for it.

"We play well in the sandbox with others."
There are some advertising shops that work well with clients' partner agencies, but if given the choice, most would prefer to develop campaigns without input from others. Most of the time, this promise means that agencies can tolerate working with other shops. Agencies that promise this mean well, and they probably do have a history of working with other agencies.

If it is critical that your agency have experience working with agencies, then you can feel confident that agencies promising this will do their best to be amenable to partner shops. They will gripe about it behind the scenes, but if the work is executed well and on time, who really cares about the rest?

"We know digital" or "We are global."
These two claims could be true, but they are also vague enough to give agencies wiggle room. Sure, an agency might have a shop outside of the U.S., but that does not give them a stamp of global approval. To be global means that agencies have experience with internationalization and localization for several countries and languages. It does not mean that they have a one-person office in a foreign country.

As for knowing digital, clients need to evaluate this claim on their own. Look at the work history. Is the agency a traditional shop that just opened a digital office or has it been executing digital campaigns for a while? Either way, clients should ask for proof to support such claims.

"We can guarantee you this much $$."
Revenue is the ultimate measure of success, but agencies cannot predict how much revenue they will generate for clients. Just like "going viral" should not be promised, producing a certain amount of revenue cannot be guaranteed. Promises like this are usually a way for agencies to differentiate themselves from the pack because they come across as accountable and confident. However, this sets unrealistic expectations around client-agency engagements. Clients probably do not get desired results, and agencies end up rationalizing campaigns that don't live up to their revenue goals.

This is not to say that agencies cannot be held accountable for campaign success or that they should not strive to achieve revenue goals. It is, however, an unrealistic promise for agencies to guarantee exactly how much money a campaign will produce. There are far too many variables to consider -- from both clients and agencies -- to make such bold statements. It would be far better for agencies and clients to come to an agreement about other metrics to measure the output of a campaign.

It is up to agencies to manage the expectations of their clients, and the responsibility starts during the pitch process. To draw on a tired cliché, a pitch is like a first date; everyone wants to put their best foot forward, minimize flaws, highlight attributes, and see where the meeting takes them. From here, it is up to each party to make its own judgments and see if a mutually beneficial relationship is possible. Clients should have a firm understanding of what they will get when hiring agencies, and hopefully with this article, clients can be better informed about when agencies might be stretching the truth to impress them.

Robyn Freye is director of partnerships for DOJO.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


After a full work day, maybe one following an all-nighter with a teething baby and a helpless husband, all most moms want is a hot bath and an episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." The idea of attending an evening networking event, overnight conference or even a quick happy hour becomes a guilt-ridden choice. But the advantages of attending are clear: it helps strengthen relationships, close deals, and get promotions. Face time is incredibly important in this business. Unfortunately, many moms choose to opt out because it interrupts what limited family or personal time they have left.

So how are moms reconciling the need to network? Evette Mesrobian, director of sales for Spongecell in Los Angeles, created "Moms in Digital" monthly networking lunches. This supportive group of agency and sales leaders bond over shared experiences. 

"The idea for Moms in Digital stemmed from the fact that we all work in an industry that is extremely fast-paced and ever-changing, and requires a mastered skill of multi-tasking for success. Add to that the parallel requirements of being a mom, and you have a group of individuals that should be commended for being successful at balancing two very demanding jobs. The group brings us together not only to network with similar individuals, but also vent, laugh, and know that we are not alone in this juggling act," says Mesrobian.

With kids aged from 8 months to 10 years, these moms are not only sharing parenting tidbits, but also strengthening their professional networks in a way that is personally meaningful and perhaps professionally more valuable than just another happy hour. Support from friends is key to managing stress and more moms should consider forming their own groups.

Breastfeeding and the workplace

While the U.S. Department of Labor requires that employers give nursing mothers lactation breaks and a private space (not a bathroom) to pump, the reality is that conditions vary. When it comes to supporting working moms, says Stephanie Waddle, VP group media director at Deustch, "Having a secure and private pumping room is No. 1. I've heard too many stories about women having to pump in stalls, etc., and having it be very embarrassing." In addition, the constant "on the go" aspect of the job, frequent travel, and back-to-back meetings makes it difficult to schedule those breaks.

Maggie Romanavich, associate media manager for Constellation Brands, helped initiate a "mothers' room" program and in doing so, won her company the Breastfeeding in the Workplace award through the Chicago Breastfeeding Coalition.

She recalls, "There were three of us that came back (from leave) at the same time, and we were able to talk to the HR department. They bought us pumps, and we get a really pretty room… a refrigerator, we all got our own personal locked filing cabinets. We had a cork board so we could put pictures of our babies up there. It was nice to have that group of moms and be able to share that together."

At the very least, companies should be providing the reasonable accommodations required by law. But those that go the extra mile in accommodating nursing moms will bring an appreciated benefit and relief for new moms when they return to work. 

In the fast-paced world of digital, many women worry about losing their edge while on maternity leave, even for just a few months. Shreya Kushari, SVP, search marketing at DigitasLBi North America in New York admitted, "To be frank, I don't think I ever stopped working. I was always checking my emails, and I would be available for anything urgent. It's just the nature of the business that we are in. And that's how I felt. Nobody asked me to do it or expected me to do it. I just felt that if I want to be competitive and if I want to do what I need to for my career, then I will have to 'lean in'… while on my maternity leave I never felt completely disconnected."

The conversation about what happens when an employee goes on maternity leave needs to happen well in advance.  For example, when Danielle Cravatt, VP sales, southwest for Exponential, announced her pregnancy to her company she was breaking new ground:

"I am the only female manager at my level at my company, so when I got pregnant there were really no boundaries around what happens with maternity leave, maternity pay, and what happens when you come back. Rather than leaving it to chance, I wrote the pages in my own book and said, 'Here's what I think is fair,' and started establishing policy. We have a lot of female employees, and I want them to feel -- when the time comes for them -- they're in a very comfortable environment."

Employers should make sure maternity leave policies are established and communicated before the need arises. Even smaller companies in start-up mode should proactively establish and promote those practices to attract and retain female talent.

On the other hand, employees should set expectations with their teams about their availability while on leave and when they return to work, as their daily schedule may need to shift. Meetings at 6 p.m. may no longer be possible, and moms tend to become more disciplined about time management on the job because every minute has to count.

Finding inspiration by mentoring

Women are often drawn to the field of marketing not only for its creative aspects, but also its collaborative ones. Developing talent through training and mentorship is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.

Patricia Ni, VP digital account director at Initiative in Los Angeles puts it this way: "I love mentoring the 'young kids' as they grow and become savvy media professionals… and that's probably why I've been doing this and stayed here for so long."

Employers should consider building upon that passion. Empower your talent to create mentoring programs to help junior staff develop specific skills, in addition to any formal training, and allow those with a specific interest to help create those training programs.

Additionally, training could potentially open new career paths within the organization previously unexplored. Perhaps a senior agency leader could run workshops and training programs on an ongoing basis for staff in place of some of the standard client responsibilities. Though these hours may be considered non-client billable, imagine the upsides: better employee retention, better trained staff, and optimized workflow or processes across the teams.

Family-friendly office culture

An office culture that supports parents can create a huge impact on employee satisfaction. For instance, Deutsch has implemented a unique approach, according to Waddle: "I attend a mom's group from a local parenting/family therapist that is organized by partner EVP Kim Getty at Deutsch and the HR department. The therapist comes once a month, and Deutsch caters lunch in a conference room. We are encouraged to select a topic prior to our meeting to hold a focus in our 1 1/2 hours we have together. Topics range from sleep or potty training, playground politics to finding balance in our personal lives." As another example of agency-provided benefits for parents, Horizon Media guarantees employees time off to attend their children's school functions, in addition to the standard paid time off policy.

Across the board, working parents tend to place high value on flexibility in their work schedules or opportunities to work remotely, but too often this isn't part of the culture. Glassdoor's recent report of Top Companies for Work-Life Balance ranked AOL and Yahoo! in the top 25. Some of the parent-friendly policies they embrace are flexible or alternative work arrangements and on-site childcare.

Just as digital is leading innovation in advertising, content and marketing, this industry has a tremendous opportunity to shape the future of corporate America. We only need to recognize the significance of this issue in retaining female leadership and collectively advocate for better conditions for working parents.

Talia Arnold is a digital marketing consultant.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet

"Family" image via Shutterstock.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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