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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Marketing to Our Furry Friends: A Look at Petco

logo_petco-stores_us-2It’s a good time to be in the pet business. 68% of all U.S. households own pets, and the American Pet Products Associations estimates that consumers will spend $59 billion on our pets this year.

To put that in context, Americans spend more money every year on their beloved household companions than they do on booze or men’s clothing. And Pet spending even weathered the recession, staying constant while profits in other sectors tumbled.

Petco, with a little marketing finesse, has been riding that industry success for nearly 50 years. The company, an industry leader, brings in over $3 billion in yearly revenue and employs over 20,000 workers.

So what does marketing look like at a Pet supply giant like Petco? As you might expect, traditional media plays a huge role, but social media and philanthropy are also important pillars of Petco’s success.

Last year, the company unrolled a $15 million campaign to stress the “Co” in Petco, playing off prefixes Latin origin which means “together.” They also changed their tagline from “Where the Pets Go” to “The Power of Together”

The problem Petco faces is a classic one: brand differentiation. Comparing Petco to its larger rival, PetSmart, is like comparing Pepsi to Coke. Both chains market to the same audience and, for the most part, what they sell is very similar. Consumers might not even be able to distinguish one store from the other.

Petco and other pet retailers have a natural edge in the social media game. After all, their product centers around the internet’s lifeblood: adorable animals. Petco supplements their widely shared photos of puppies, kittens and assorted other animals with useful pet information and promo codes.

This summer, Petco is stressing their “What’s on your summer play list” campaign, with a heavy emphasis on their “Do Good” component. While Petco is no stranger to furry philanthropy, like pushing animal adoption drives, their “Do Good” component mixes in new inventive ways to make a difference as part of the overall campaign. Besides encouraging pet lovers to have a summer doggy playdate or growing their own catnip, Petco provides resources for their website’s visitors to schedule a park cleanup or host a fundraiser.


All of that do-goodery hasn’t gone unnoticed, Petco was announced the World’s Most Ethical Company by an independent research organization. And we know from other studies that consumers will pay more for socially just goods.

Petco also knows how to utilize the power of local. While individual stores often support local animal adoption drives, one store opening in Queens decided to get inventive as host a “Reptile Rally” where kids could learn all about lizards, snakes and geckos.

As the trend of seeing pets as “part of the family” continues to increase, consumers who are willing to spend big bucks on products to “humanize” their animals will only grow in numbers. They’ve even rolled out doggie gyms, for those who want to keep their pets in tip-top shape. Petco, with their “Power of Together,” is poised to maintain a healthy position as America’s best pet supply retailer.


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What is Branding? 100 Thoughts From 100 Leaders

We all “know” what a brand is. Or do we? Like many words employed regularly throughout the day, do we ever stop and think about their actual meaning?

Or maybe we inherently know these things, but like many great ideas, verbalizing them is the inherent challenge.

So when a student at New York’s School of Visual Arts decided to reach out to 100 industry leaders:  marketers, designers, writers, strategist and creatives, the results were amazing. Sarah Fudin, a SVA Masters in Branding student, reached out this varied group of people through e-mail, phone calls and in-person meetings. What she wound up with is a fascinating and insightful look at the state of branding today.

The Altitude Group’s own Rich Lobel gave his own two cents,

To me, branding is capturing the essence of emotional (and rational) values that products embody — and relating those values to people’s lives. Brands are expressions of ourselves… from toothpaste to cars, there is a reason we reach for specific brands and proudly display them in our garages, medicine cabinets, kitchen cupboards, closets, living rooms, bedrooms, and so on.

Why do I buy Marvis toothpaste over Crest…? The traditional British image yet hip/cool vibe of this brand makes me feel better every am/pm when I brush my teeth. The packaging, the smell, the taste… the image of the brand resonates more with me than going with a mainstream brand. Why do I buy Skippy? Well, Skippy seems, to me, the brand for creative individuals! Go figure.

But Rich isn’t the only industry insider to share great insight. Here are some more of my favorites:

“The visual and conceptual identity of an offering. Both a look and a persona that guides what it does, how it does it and how it talks about it…”

-Will Wiseman, Universal McCann

“Branding is convincing that voice in someone’s head to be on your side.”

- Veronica Parker-Hahn, Oscar

“Branding is a visible representation of our invisible desire to self actualize.”

-Joe Gebbia, Airbnb

“Branding is creating a distinctively authentic recipe that brings people to the table again and again to tie memories with flavor and great conversation.”

- Larry Sombke, specialty food entrepreneur.

“A great brand is compelling and true. Branding is the art and science of building connections through authentic stories, signature innovations, and inspiring experiences both inside and out.”

- Sue Matthews, Lippincott

“A brand is both a tangible mark and, at its best, a powerful emotional connection with the consumer. Brands are owned by consumers – not companies – and are built on both rational and emotional associations that go beyond the initial transaction to create a deep and lasting relationship that engenders advocacy and flat out love.”

-James Speros, Fidelity Investments

“Brand is just another word for ‘personality.'”

-Neal Blumenthal, Warby Parker

“Branding is the promise you make to your audience. Hopefully it’s an honest one.”

- Adam Panetta, barrettSF.

“Branding is the immediate and visceral reaction you have to any product or service, and what you believe it communicates about you as an individual to others. Branding is what drives people to make regrettable wardrobe choices, and spend any amount of money on designer cat food.”

-Jon Gieselman, DirectTV

-Branding is the definition, communication, and management of a compelling truth.”

-Scott Lerman, SVA

“An identity attached to an inanimate object.”

Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker

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Want to Stimulate Creativity? Try Going to the Coffee Shop


For any creative: marketer or designer, copywriter or blogger, chief marketing officer or freelancer, the difference between a good idea and a great idea can often be slight. But it can mean the difference between landing a client or leaving as an also-ran. So when you’re in the business of being creative, fostering an environment that lets ideas flow can be as important as the ideas themselves.

So what does science have to say about creative work environments? Coffee shops.

Coffee shops have long been pegged as the cliché hangout for creative people: from beatnik writers, to European intelligentsia, to today’s vast army of Starbucks freelancers. But as David Burkus notes in Psychology Today, it’s not the coffee that does the trick, it’s the background nose.

The background music, paper shuffling, rhythmic pounding of keyboards and whirring of coffee grinders might be just the trick to kick the imagination into high gear.

In a recently published study in the Journal of Consumer Research, a team of professors led by Ravi Mehta at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explored the effects of various levels of background noise on individual creative thinking. The researchers divided participants into four teams and subjected each team to background noise at a different volume (50 decibels, 70 decibels, 85 decibels and a control of no background noise). They asked each participant to complete a Remote Associates Test, a commonly accepted measurement of creative thinking. When they tabulated the results, the researchers found that those in the moderate-noise condition outperformed those in all the other conditions, hence moderate-noise was amplifying their creative output.

The study also confirms what we’ve probably already known: too much noise is distracting and can hurt creativity. But, as Burkus notes, our instinct to lock ourselves away to get work done in a quiet environment might not work. And the study’s conclusions about ambient noise isn’t specific to any one venue: parks or a sufficiently bustling library might also do the trick – it’s all in the volume.

But there’s a fascinating addendum to this study: being surrounded by sufficient levels of ambient noise also increases the “buying likelihood of innovative products.” When participants were confronted with a choice over a “traditional” vs. an “innovative” product, they were more likely to choose the innovative one when exposed to moderate ambient noise.

That’s not to say bosses should let their employees start working out of the nearest cafe, but it might not be the worst idea in the world. More likely, it’s a reason to not lock yourself in the office in solitude and instead get out where the not-too-loud action is at.

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Saying Farewell to a Legend: Nike’s Tribute to Derek Jeter

This year mark’s Derek Jeter’s 20th, and final, season with the Yankees and Major League Baseball. It’s a historic moment by any yardstick. In some of the best creative I’ve seen all year, Nike’s Jordan brand is giving Derek Jeter a farewell fit for a legend.

In the spot, Jerek gets a hat tip from fans, the New York Police Department, a laundry list of celebrities including Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Jay Z, Spike Lee, Billy Crystal, Michael Jordan and even the NY Mets. Ok, the Mets players were actors, but the real Mr. Met is actually in the ad.

As People points out, Jeter was one of the first Jordan Brand-endorsed players back in 1999 after being hand-picked by Michael Jordan himself. The average baseball career lasts, on average, a little under 6 years, making Jeter’s 20-year career span a feat to be reckoned with.

The clip has, so far, received 6.9 million YouTube views.

The commercial is minimally branded, with Jeter’s Jordan shoes in the first shot and then a minimalist Jordan logo in the final cutaway. But the message is powerful enough to drive the branding home.

Watch this spot. I guarantee you’ll leave it with a lump in your throat!

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Latest Lexus Campaign Asks ‘What Makes the Perfect Drive?’


There’s a slogan that’s been proliferating among digital advertisers: “Content is king.” The idea, it goes, is that to create great leads and lasting relations with consumers, marketers need to tell great stories to get them there.

In reality, these advertisers have tapped into the logic that’s pervaded good marketing for nearly a century. And it’s always refreshing to find an advertising partner that wants to fully explore this concept.

That’s why it was so exciting to work with Lexus dealers in the tri-state area to launch the “Perfect Drive” campaign. In collaboration with Team One, Lexus’ ad agency, CBS personality Craig Carton tours the  market’s best golf courses in a brand new Lexus GS F Sport.

In a short segments that appear both on radio and TV, Carton talks to each club’s Head Pro about the most challenging holes on each course. Over the course of twelve weeks, these pros will dish out advice to Carton while listeners are offered the chance to test drive a new Lexus  and enter to win a VIP experience at a local course. Grand prize winners will be treated to a golf resort trip to Ireland.

Cars are uniquely positioned for branded video. Even if you’re not an enthusiast,  automobiles are an American pastime that  plays an intimate part in getting you where you love to be. Whether that’s a golf course, family picnic or the beach, cars are constantly involved in the things we love to do. “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the web series by Jerry Seinfeld, strikes a similar vein, if only because artists are realizing that cars are the perfect medium to tell their stories.



“Golf is a major passion point for many of our customers and we are excited to build on our partnership with the MGA to further expose people to our fresh new line-up of award winning Lexus vehicles, while engaging with fans in the tri-state area,” said Greg Kitzens, Lexus Eastern Area General Managert to RBR.

2013 was an incredible year for luxury cars, with amazing growth across the board. Many luxury brands, like Lexus, Audi and BMW, saw growth anywhere from 7%-20%. Some smaller, ultra-luxury, brands like Maserati even saw growth as high as 144%.

“We had a great time working with Team One and Lexus to create a campaign that highlights their pursuit of perfection and comes to life on a very local level,” said Altitude’s own Rich Lobel. “Craig is a known golf enthusiast with a distinctive ability to speak to sports fans and champion results for clients. He will be a great ambassador for Lexus as we execute this program.”


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Kendall-Jackson’s New Spin on Spin the Bottle

A wise sommelier once told me the secret to a great bottle of wine: It’s not the wine you’re drinking, it’s the people you drink it with. Of course, drinking great wine with great friends is nice too.

That’s why I love Kendall-Jackson’s latest campaign. The California winery’s summer campaign isn’t so much about touting the great wine, but what you do with it.

friends and wine are devine

Last week, Kendall-Jackson took their slogan to the parks of San Francisco. In partnership with the San Franscisco Parks Alliance, the company showed up at Alice’s Summerthing concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park with a ten-foot tall bottle of wine. The whole thing was rigged up to a game-show-style wheel. Think “The Price is Right,” but instead of vacations and cars, you can win VIP backstage passes.

As Kendall-Jackson’s Vice President of Marketing told MediaPost:

“One of the things that excited us about the spin-the-bottle idea is that it is culturally relevant across multiple generations. An ongoing objective for the brand is to engage consumers and build relevancy with a younger wine consumer who will become our core consumer for years to come. This activation is a way for us to connect with younger wine consumers, but still be relevant to long-standing fans that have been familiar with the brand for many years.”

Alice’s Summerthing is a free yearly concert held by CBS local affiliate 97.3 “Alice.” This year featured Ingrid Michaelson, Kodaline, Us the Duo, and Magic! It was attended by an estimated 15,000 concert-goers.

spin the bottle

CBS Altitude Group worked closely with Kendall–Jackson and Heat on the design, production, and activation of Spin The Bottle.

The company plans to roll out the experience at other outdoor events under the slogan “Friendships grow nicely in the sun.” While the campaign is appealing to all generations, they hope to speak to millennials, not by overt messaging, but, as creative director Jeff Guenther tells MediaPost, to “hang out at concert with people enjoying some great music, and hopefully add a little more enjoyment to their day.”

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