Be Sure to Check Out “Local Media: Vision 2020″ at Advertising Week!

MEC_News_AdvertisingweekLocal Media: Vision 2020

The year 2020 is no longer the realm of science fiction…it’s right around the corner. What will the media landscape look like five years hence? And how will marketers target and reach consumers where they live and spend? Will lines between traditional and digital media continue to blur? Will there be a united form of audience measurement? Will the process of media buying and selling be automated? A panel of experts will look into their crystal balls and provide 20/20 vision of local media in 2020.

I’m really excited to be a part of Advertising Week’s panel on local media this year, and am even more excited for the future of local in the year 2020. I’m a little less excited that, despite promises from futurists, I still don’t have a jet pack.

I’ll be joined by some great speakers, like NCC Media’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and business Andrew Capone, Fred Bucher from Time Warner Cable, Steven Lanzano of the Television Bureau of Advertising and Steve Lindsley of Comcast Spotlight.

The year 2020 will see the rise of the millennial: a generation that is more diverse than any generation before and enamored by technology. Even still, they spend more on music than the generation before them, and 65 million of them tune into radio each week. It’ll also see the solidification of up-and-comers in the marketing world like mobile advertising. And if we’re lucky, NFC technology will add an entirely need dimension to local advertising.

Advertising week runs from September 29 to October 3rd this year. It draws in over 90,000 participants and hosts over 250 events featuring leaders in thought, creatives and other trailblazers.

The talk will be given at The Adara Stage at Hard Rock, September 30 at 3:00 PM. Be sure to register for the panel here.

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How The Past Can Make the Future: Miller Lite’s Retro Rebranding

Sometimes new life can come from strange places. You might not think that the trick to reinventing a brand is to dig 30 years into the past, but for one beer, the past is a big part of the future.

After redesigning their cans to resemble their 1980s counterparts, Miller Lite is seeing a huge payoff for their rebranding effort.

evolution of miller

But Miller Lite’s retro vibe was supposed to be a limited-time stunt, as part of their tie-in with Anchorman 2 last year. But after impressive sales increases, Miller decided to let the label-change stick. Miller sold 32 more million cans than it had at this point last year. The branding is now being rolled out to cans and bar taps, in addition to bottles.

“A lot of people said, ‘I think the beer even tastes better,’” says Ryan Reis, senior director for Miller’s family of brands.

But what really lies at the heart of it is a millennial quest for authenticity.

“Since millennial beer drinkers are into authenticity and heritage, and with Miller Lite being the original light beer, we believe this is causing a lot of interest,” MillerCoors’ director of media relations Jonathan Stern told the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has seen a similar resurgence, when after 20 years of decline the brand turned itself around in 2001 to become a mainstay of Brooklyn bars. In that case, PBR noticed that their brand was picked up by the local cycling subculture, so they began sponsoring bike messengers races and similar events. Those communities preferred PBR because, similarly, it seemed more authentic and less corporate.

Digging in the past is also something that’s rooted deep in our subconscious: quite simply, the human brain is really great at remembering everything that was great about the past and forgetting the not-so-great stuff.

What’s better for marketing than conjuring up the good ol’ days?

Nostalgia aside, Miller’s new bottle design is just better, in the current scheme of things. Branding needs to aware of its surroundings, and when the best lite-beer competitors are blue, you need to go off in a another direction to get noticed. In this case, it’s white. And the retro design is cleaner and flatter, a huge trend in branding today.

I’ve always thought Miller Lite doesn’t get the credit it deserves, it’s an amazing beer, and hopefully with a little branding finesse, it will.

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Chief Marketer or Technologist? Lessons From MasterCard

raja2Does today’s CMO need to be a technologist too? That’s the argument Raja Rajamannar made, in a recent interview with AdAge.

Rajamannar is MasterCard Worldwide’s chief marketer, and his seriously ambitious goal is to turn MasterCard into a company that is known for much more than payments.

First, when our CEO, Ajay Banga, joined MasterCard in 2009, he began an effort to transform our image from a payments company to a technology company, and part of that is changing consumers’ perception.

Mastercard is doing that by seamlessly integrating technology up and down the suite of MasterCard offerings. There’s something for everyone. Yankees fans out there, you might have noticed their Qkr payment system, which allows you to pay for your hotdog and beer with your phone and a QR code. And the company has also been expanding Masterpass, a way to simplify shopping for in-store, mobile and desktop purchases.

Of course, mobile devices are going to radically transform how people pay for things. Rajamannar says: “unlike for most other companies trying to leverage mobility as a marketing platform, for us at MasterCard, the product itself — mobile payments, is core to our business.” In this respect the product itself as well as the messaging about it must by synchronized.

But despite the tendency for the digital and physical world to converge, Rajamannar argues that markets and standards continue to be fragmented.

Each market has a unique ecosystem, and what we are focused on is creating that unique and seamless experience for consumers no matter where they are. One way we do this is by pulling out those common passion themes like music and sports, and then delivering experiences around them in a meaningful way. That could be via wearables, mobile, gaming, tablet, PC — without losing sight of the uniqueness of the market, and of course, making sure that the economics of the business case work, too.

One way MasterCard is connecting, especially with younger demographics and early adopters, it by integrating itself in the electronic dance music scene. They’ve started a sponsorship with SFX, an event-based EDM company that puts on festivals such as  Tomorrow World and NYC’s Electric Zoo.

But it’s not just integrating MasterCard services into subcultures that makes MasterCard’s branding work, it’s their focus on experiential campaigns like Priceless Cities, Priceless Surprises, and Priceless Causes.

It’s also an unflinching commitment to local that makes it really succeed. Despite being a global company, Rajamannar and Mastercard understand that every locale and sub-culture is unique. For a marketer to really succeed, they should understand what makes those communities tick.

Read the full interview at AdAge.


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5 Mistakes That Could be Killing Your Creative Team’s Productivity


Creative teams need to run like well oiled machines. Not only do creatives need to keep the minds in tip-top shape to produce the best content possible, but their managers need to build an environment that fosters creativity. Research consistently shows that the little things can have a huge impact on productivity. We’ve written before about how coffee shops can be inspiring, but what are some things managers should avoid at all costs?

#1 Keeping the staff sedentary

If you take a look at the daily routines of some of history’s greatest minds, you’d be surprised how many of them allocated a good chunk of their time to  walking. Freud walked around Vienna every day at “terrific speed” and Beethoven carried a pencil and paper with him on his walks, should he be struck with sudden inspiration.

Of course, the science is there too. A study by San Francisco State University found this of participants who were given a creative task after sitting or walking:

100 percent came up with more creative ideas in one experiment, while 95 percent, 88 percent and 81 percent of the walker groups in the other experiments had more creative responses compared with when they were sitting.

It might seem a little sacrosanct to do what some may consider “nothing” in the middle of a work day, but managers who encourage their idea-strapped team members to go for a stroll might be thankful in the end.

#2 Not Enough Sunlight

Lack of natural sunlight isn’t just a productivity killer, it can also be bad for your health. It’s a unique challenge in places like New York, where space of any kind is a real premium.

As Psychology Today notes:

Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. Workers without windows reported lower scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality. They also had poorer outcomes in measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction.

Those quality of life issues easily spill over to the workplace. Another study found that people with access to natural sunlight were more productive and alert at work.

#3 Spartan Design

We all love the sleek minimalist look, but a lack of greenery could be hurting your team’s productivity by as much as 15%. As The Guardian writes,

Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow psychologists, who have been studying the issue for 10 years, concluded that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.

In one extreme example, an office had secured keyboards and staplers to the desk to ensure “tidy lines of sight.” By introducing just a few house plants per square meter, their employees began scoring better on memory retention and other performance tests. The researcher also hypothesized that other “clutter” like photographs could achieve a similar effect.


Altitude’s resident hipster window decal.

It’s incredible how our minds react so positively to plants and nature, another study at the University of Kansas found that spending time in the wild can boost creativity by 50%.

#4. Not Letting Them Goof Off (Just a Little)

It might be an instinctive response to swat the iPhone out of a procrastinating employee’s hands, but you might want to reconsider. As it turns out, microbreaks are a great, healthy way to deal with the stress of the work day and refocus your brain.

study at Kansas Study University found that most employees spent only 22 minutes a day using their smartphone for personal use. That’s not bad, considering many people work through lunch and stay late. Spending just one or two minutes to check Facebook, crush some candy or humiliate a coworker in Words with Friends can make the rest of your time more productive.

As the New York Times notes, the brain is like a muscle, and it needs rest to function at full capacity. Breaks shouldn’t be all one-minute phone breaks, the best kind involve movement, and a brief walk (see #1) to break up the work day can recharge your creative batteries.

5. Not Embracing the Unexpected

It’s easy to get into a routine. In fact, our brains are more or less programmed to operate that way. We’re creatures of habit. But a recent study suggests that being confronted with the unexpected might be exactly what you need to jump start the creative process.

In this study, participants were shown photos before being asked to create names for a pasta brand. Some of those participants were shown photos of people in their regular environment. Where would you expect to see an astronaut? Probably in space. But for the other group of participants, they were given photos of people in unexpected environments. Where would you probably not see an astronaut? The beach, or the arctic tundra, for instance. The ones who were shown picture that didn’t conform to their expectations were able to be more creative when later asked to produce pasta names.

But this benefit only happens for people who don’t mind when things don’t go according to plan. For people who hate when things don’t go exactly as expected, there was no increase in creativity.


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Innovation Districts: The Future of Local?


Sixty years ago, a second great American migration occurred as people began leaving cities for the suburbs, remaking landscapes and transportation in the process. But if you’ve been paying attention to the most interesting sectors of the economy you won’t be surprised to see that a very different trend has taken hold in recent years.

Cities are in the national spotlight again. In 2011, for the first time in nearly 90 years, the population growth of US cities outpaced that of the suburbs.

And while that might mean the waning of the dream of a little blue house with a white picket fence, it also means an exciting future for urban residents as neighborhoods are revitalized. Demographers and sociologists have noticed this trend, identifying how the close proximity of people stimulates creativity and entrepreneurship. They’re calling these neighborhoods “innovation districts.”

That’s why marketers need to start paying closer attention to innovation districts, a trend for both business and planners. They’ve cropped up in Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago and Portland – to name a few. They come in different shapes, sizes and formats, but one thing is consistent: the creation of a professional ecosystem that injects new life into under-utilized commercial space.

One of the best examples, in my opinion, is in Boston, where small businesses and fledgling startups rent space and utilize shared conference rooms in South Boston’s waterfront. Shared co-working space with other up-and-coming innovators is popular and the embedded businesses (coffee shops and restaurants) in the newly-built District Hall and nearby Seaport Square are popular spots to hunker down with a triple shot of espresso and chat up like-minded patrons.

So why should marketers care?

Despite our fast internet connections, people are leaving the isolation of the suburbs and creating new communities in urban centers. And good marketing campaigns do something similar: they strike up a conversation, and a relationship with a community.

Savvy marketers would also do well to think about ways to speak directly to America’s new class of thinkers, makers and influencers who tend to populate innovation districts.

Urban dwellers have seen the huge success of companies like Uber and Seamless who have zeroed in on hungry, young consumers looking to get from A to B. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

These could also be the next Microsoft, Google or Apple, so we should all start networking while we can. And those businesses too will need to get out of their bubbles and reach out to the larger surrounding community.

It’s just more proof that local is more important than ever, and marketers need to catch up or get left behind.


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What is YOUR #OneGoodReason?


Way to go CVS! Or should I say – CVS Health.

The company made headlines a few months back announcing they disavowed their addiction to tobacco…revenues, that is. While the company braces for the $2-billion drop in sales, they expect their re-positioning to overall health care to offset this and lead to sustained growth in the long-run.


This breathtaking (get it?) display in Bryant Park introduces the New York market and the world to CVS Health.

Our Director of Strategic Marketing, Eric Lemieux and I stopped by the park  to check out the action and share our #OneGoodReason




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We’re Making News, Literally: CBS and Townsquare Announce Amazing Collaboration

America’s “mitten” is getting a new great source for news: The Michigan News Network.

CBS Radio and Townsquare Media will launch the initiative on Sept. 2 with nearly 20 affiliates across the state. Affiliate stations will now have access to world class news, sports and other local content. It’s all produced by CBS Radio’s: Newsradio WWJ 950 AM and WXYT 97.1 FM The Ticket and will be distributed to nearly 20 affiliates across Michigan, including Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor. Townsquare will handle all of the licensing and manage affiliate relationships.

Townsquare Media is the 3rd largest owner of radio stations in the US, and specializes in small and mid-sized markets. They also have an impressive roster of digital brands centering on music like Loudwire and Uproxx.

The news comes after GE’s successful #Pressing campaign that created a hub for policy wonks to discuss pressing political issues. It might seem counter-intuitive to think that in the age of blogging the world needs another news network. But people are craving quality news, especially on the local level, and businesses that can create an amazing content will be rewarded.

Our own Dan Mason, president and CEO of CBS Radio, had this to say:

CBS Radio’s Detroit stations have served as the authoritative voice of the community for many years, establishing themselves among the market’s most credible brands and news sources. We are excited to be working with Townsquare to distribute our award-winning programming to listeners across the entire state of Michigan, while also realizing the highest value for our content.”

Townsquare Media Chairman and CEO Steven Price added:

Townsquare Media has a constant focus on providing live, local and vital information to the communities we serve. We are thrilled to partner with CBS Radio to provide important statewide content to the residents of Michigan. The Michigan News Network will also offer a new and impactful environment for clients who want to reach Michigan consumers on a statewide basis.”

We’re excited here at the Altitude Group because we love great content, and we love getting that content in the car with hundreds of thousands of commuters whose radio provides a lifeline to current event.

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Summer Time Is Party Time at the Altitude Group


Here at the Altitude Group, we’re always finding reasons to celebrate. Whether it’s campfire milkshakes (yep) after a great presentation, the legendary, month-long “Bakeuary” or a Strawberry Shortcake themed party for a certain team member’s birthday, you could say we’re not just experts in local engagement…

If creating rich relationships with consumers in our local markets is our end game, taking time to engage with each other is a key part of how we make that happen. Between Activation and Strategy, Creative and Sales, our relationships are the heartbeat of our work, and that’s something to celebrate.

Enter the #AltitudeSummerBash. This year, the team gathered on the rooftop of Hudson Terrace for an afternoon of cocktails and conversation, not to mention plenty of snacks and insane gift bags.

While we’re at it, cheers to our gift bag product donors (and new friends!)  Thanks to Hint Water and Sexypop Popcorn for providing munchies and fizzy refreshments. Body wash from Bioelixia and lip balms from Flickable and Rosebud Perfume Company kept us beautiful (*hair flip*) while the folks at PureLyft made sure we were well caffeinated.

Last but not least, thanks to iStickr for decking out or Macbooks with the PacMan decals (in Altitude Orange!) and to Knock Knock Stuff for the sassy sticky notes. For more information on any of our gift bag sponsors, please visit their websites and social pages!

As we enter into the final quarter of 2014 with our minds focused on the budget, it’s important to take a moment to smell the roses (or the rose’) and remember why we do what we do… Whether its creating meaningful relationships with clients, powerful campaigns or making a mark on the business, none of that could be done without the support of our team, and to that we’ll raise a glass.

Missed out on the fun? Check out the photos, tweets and posts from the #AltitudeSummerBash on Facebook and Storify. Keep up with the CBS Alitude Group on our website, too!

Until next summer!


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What Local Advertisers Need to Know about Programmatic Marketing


Can programmatic marketing play nice with local media companies? According to a recent article on Ad Exchanger, yes, but the story misses so much that’s important about local marketing.

What is programmatic marketing? Well, in a sense, it is what results when traditional marketing meets computer science.

Using a series of algorithms, advertisers and marketers can serve up digital ads to consumers who meet specific criteria. This happens in real time as marketers bid and compete with each other on ad exchanges to determine whose inventory is shown to whom.

Looking to target sites that have a lot of visitors who are sports fanatics between 18 and 24? Programmatic marketing can help you do that. Looking to remarket to consumers who have previously visited your site? Programmatic marketing can do that, too.

The article points out that programmatic marketing can provide greater reach, customization, better performance and a variety of price points for local media companies. These are valid enough points, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story.

Here are my contentions:

Algorithms Don’t Capture the Subtlety of Local

No, we’re not at war with machines. But algorithms just don’t understand the nuances of local marketing like people do.  To craft a truly personal local message, you have to understand what’s happening in that market. People in Detroit buy differently than people in San Diego. Hell, they are different than people in San Diego!  You just can’t automate genuine connection with a community, it takes dedication and a deep sense of what makes them tick.

We’re Not a Faceless Mass, Either

Great local marketers understand that everyone in a certain demographic isn’t the same. Local consumers reward a brand for speaking to them personally rather than simply spitting an an offer because they meet some automated criteria. Our fearless leader Rich Lobel and I might look the same on paper — we both live in New York and both work at the Altitude Group — but an algorithm wouldn’t know to speak to Rich’s passion for Harley-Davidson or my obsession with watching live sports.

There are some fantastic uses for programmatic marketing. For instance, trying to sell off those “abandoned shopping carts” by targeting individual users across their favorite blogs and social media. But what starts the conversation and builds the brand recognition that got them there in the first place? For that, there’s no replacement for human-to-human marketing.

The Numbers Don’t Always Add Up

The article notes that ad exchanges exist for a variety of price points. But for small local media companies without huge readerships, chances are that price point for their inventory is somewhere between “slim” and “nothing.” Click fraud is a real problem. And there’s some scary numbers associated with the display banners that dominate programmatic marketing, namely, that 8 percent of users account for 85 percent of all clicks.

Marketing From All Angles

Programmatic ad buying is about placing media efficiently in an exchange.  Marketing is about engaging with your audience and captivating them through information story telling.  Since when has technology taken precedence over ideas?

Programmatic marketing isn’t always bad. Selling inventory on ad exchanges is a great solution when local media companies have an excess. But programmatic marketing is a supplement, not a solution for local media. This isn’t a zero sum game. Great marketing uses the best of all strategies and great marketers understand that.


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The Secrets of Successful Storytelling


We talk about storytelling here at the Altitude Group – a lot.

Storytelling is a huge part of what distinguishes humans from animals.

Only humans tell stories. Story sets us apart. It’s one of our oldest activities and arguably even serves as the foundation for society. Whether that’s hanging out with a few buddies for beer or trying to market a great product.

I love stories and I’m a storyteller. So naturally, I was really pumped when I first heard about GE’s #pressing campaign back in March. Pressing is an effort to “bring leading voices in media together for smart discussions on policy issues.” It’s an ongoing campaign collecting media content into a continuously updated dynamic display on

There’s a ton of great information there, but like most good storytellers, GE didn’t invent a whole new repertoire from scratch. Instead, they curated and distributed stories from leading publishers and added in a dash of their own incredible content.

Linda Boff, GE’s executive director of global brand marketing (be sure to follow her killer Twitter feeddished on what turns regular storytelling into amazing storytelling. For one, they have to be authentic. With information readily available and everywhere, and 1,000 different brands competing for a consumer’s attention at any given minute, readers can spot hucksterism from a mile away.

With GE’s #Pressing campaign, which promoted high-quality editorial content from several top news media partners, the goal was for GE to bring together diverse policy opinions in a constructive way. In doing so, GE built affinity with beltway insiders on all sides of the political spectrum in a never-before-done way, leveraging meaningful content instead of the usual airport jet way advertising.

But besides good stories, storytellers need good technology. As Linda notes: “If you’ve got a powerful story and you combine it with powerful technology and you put these two together, pow! Fireworks!”

Pow? And Fireworks? I couldn’t have said it better myself!


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