communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.


Bet your entire money on Internet?

2009 has been a year when on several occasions I have had to look people in the eye and say, yes, we can do this without being 100% certain we could. It was also the year when, leaving behind the sweet non-committal years of strategic planning, I have had to put a price on what I believed to work or not.

Scamp places planners last on the list of people who should be asked to comment or have a say in the final form of a TVC (read here), and, somehow, he may be right because, unless the kind of planner you are makes you take responsibility for your recommendations, sometimes the environment can release you from the burden of a final decision.
Not so in 2009, when, after being asked how much I was willing to pay if my agency screwed up a project, I again found myself in a situation where the full burden of a budget was placed on one thing alone. In December 2009 I was asked if I thought replacing the full offline budget (non-trade) of an FMCG brand with online activities was going to increase its brand awareness and brand profile sufficiently to warrant a volume increase. In a crisis year.
I said yes and I am confident that we can make it happen BUT I find myself aware of the scarcity of tools at my disposal to give me the confidence I had offline that my answer was not hasty.
Think of these:
First, we cannot/will not/ have not measure[d] the impact of online over brand. Second, we have approximate tools to recommend media planning and split of budgets according to website clusters. Third, we are fully unequipped to complete the conversion funnel online for anything other than items which can be sold online. Fourth, we cannot measure something that has become more than 50% of the online time of users: social media. Fifth, most relevant social media channels are NOT monitored in Romania. Sixth, we are slowly but surely losing the credibility battle online now that concepts such as branded content, brand utility or brand spaces have but been buried by the financial crisis.
So, do I feel confident? No. Do I think I have my work cut out for me in 2010. Hell yeah! :D

A question of space on the www

A while back I spoke at Marketing Arena about the idea of Noise Brands: short-term, opportunistic brands built, Japanese style, on whatever is trendy at the moment. My idea did not catch with the audience but another one involving e-books, e-readers and the ability to place ads and comments into e-books seemed more convincing.

Recently I have been thinking about where technology is taking us, and also how, as human beings operating in given spaces, we are able to cope with this.
Consider my premises, which are simple and straight-forward: we used to operate within large expanses of space (we see ads in OOH format, we build mental images of brands based on imagery spilled out on planes and huge frontispieces), we are used to receiving information on uni-vocal channels, (images from TV, words from written pages without any other con-textual information, teletext never really caught on, nor did in-built multi-screen viewing). And then along comes the www and we have to start dealing with smaller screens, more than one type of information per screen, changing information per reload, multi windows etc etc. This is confusing and unexpected for the human brain. My mother is unable to follow the scroll bar on the computer screen with a mouse and she cannot grasp the concept of windows. She also does not see, literally, any of the banners in any Internet page she opens for a very simple reason: she is looking for text because, to her, the Internet is... a bigger book. Hence she is "blind" to any non-textual content displayed.
And now, my question is as follows: is the technology supporting the Internet, with its limited spacial display capabilities, able to support the huge amount of information we are trying to place on it? The iPhone is a hit because it makes browsing easy: meaning its lets the user slide seamlessly among dozens of pages of information and mind you, that is NOT a small screen for a phone.
Why did I start with the e-book? Because I wonder - what with e-reading becoming the new hit and the Apple tablet on the way (fingers crossed) - if we are not trying to cram too much into a simple act already. With Google's visual search, live search and word tagging apps e-texts can virtually become an exploded wikipedia, with EVERY word operating as a pretext for extra information. This information can be referential or ad-driven. And then it will be up to the user to fight the flood.
And I hope also up to the advertisers to not abuse the technological opportunities.


... (3)

Third year in a row with the resolutions already and, this year, for better planning, I am writing them ahead of time.

But first, a look back at what was planned for this year and what went down:
"So, for 2009 I am being more specific...a lot more. Here goes:
1. Get a second tattoo, my beagle and spotless bathroom tiling
2. Spend at least one week every quarter in another country (a new one)
3. Make a meaningful commitment to a person: friend, lover, pen pal, hobby partner, whatever.
4. Create a time-plan for my mom and dad (moving, new house, retirement)
5. Keep the business afloat.
6. Re-cultivate my planning roots.
7. Work out a solution for my blog/s – how many, in what language, what for.
8. Learn or teach myself something new ( and be good at it)"

So, how did I do against my 8 resolutions? Well, I have a new tattoo (and just so that I don't embarrass myself every time I get asked, it is a line from ee cummings' poem here) and my bathroom is spotless in new white and lilac tiling. I have spent more than a week per quarter in a country which is not Romania but not really different all the time (Barcelona and Madrid count as the same, so do Rome and Ventimiglia, Nice and Avignon and have successfully returned to my beloved London). I think I have kept the business more than afloat, with 2009 numbers doing better than expected (we rocked a 15% PM in crisis year, yeah baby!) and have decided to only keep this blog, make it in English and not give a crap about the people who dislike it. Things I have only partly done is spend more time with my mom and dad but I have managed to give my dad his most desired gift, a new car he can love and also, if you do not count business-plan-making a new thing, maybe number 8 is not totally completed as well. Unfortunately I have failed bitterly at getting a beagle and have completely given up that plan altogether. All in all, not a bad count.

And now for 2010, under the same brief, specific and measurable:
1. Stay committed to my blog and make it smart and interesting.
2. Write a book and refurbish my kitchen.
3. Grow the business by at least 20%.
4. Teach myself another foreign language and take up a sport and keep at it.
5. Visit at least one different city every two months.
6. Make that retirement plan for mom and dad already!
8. Do something silly and unplanned for every month
9. Start something which will enable me to work for me.
10. .... and something less specific about falling in love, happiness and silly smiles while thinking of that special person :D

Okay, so that should do it... Thanks all who've stuck with this blog throughout its latest rounds of uninspiredness and uncertainty and also to those who've stuck with me throughout my recent months of being tired, irrationally pissed off most times and less of the person I should have been. I am learning things and while doing so I sometimes am not my most gracious self.

Happy 2010 to all!