Blog.

09
Jan
15

The Screen Scene at CES

The crazy, chaotic and exciting Consumer Electronics Show is here and walking through the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, one thing is very clear: display technology is changing faster and more furiously than you can imagine.

There are lots of things to notice and appreciate about CES but you’d have to be blind to miss the proliferation of incredible new TV screens. Here’s a short list of some of the most impressive models I’ve seen over the past few days.

sony_skinny
Sony Bravia X900C
This gigantic 65-inch display is only, gulp, 4.9 millimeters thick. Yes, I didn’t make that up, this screen is thinner than an iPhone 6. From the front it’s big, sharp, and beautiful, and from the side you can barely see it. It has eight million pixels to work with, so despite its narrow profile, it boasts sharper contrast, clearer blues and greens, and a more vivid picture than its 4K brethren. It won’t be available until spring and while the prices hasn’t yet been set, expect to pay a pretty penny for this svelte screen.

Samsung’s 110-Inch 8K Glassesless 3DTV

This year Samsung is showing off this huge 110-inch monster. By far the biggest crowd at Samsung’s booth was there for a huge 110-inch TV that not only showcased 8K resolution, but also 3D display technology that doesn’t require 3D glasses. With 16 times the pixels of home HD TV’s. this is television on a whole new level. This thing has somewhere in the ballpark of 16 million pixels and they’re virtually unseeable. Also from Samsung is a new wave in display technology where screens are outfitted with transparent OLED screens. Super cool.

lg_quantum_dots
LG Quantum Dot

Another entrant in the giant, skinny and beautiful television competition is the LG 65-inch UF9400 Quantum Dot 4K. This TV is fundamentally an LCD panel — the same technology currently found in living rooms around the world — but it incorporates a layer of quantum dots, which are extraordinarily small — as tiny as 20 atoms thick — also called “nanocrystals.” The size of these crystals determines the color of a pixel and it can be controlled precisely. The result is unprecedented color reproduction, as much as 30% better than regular LCDs. Quantum dots are part of LG’s proprietary technology, which also boasts improved color at off-angle viewing; a common issue with many LCD sets. This is another stunner of a set and once again is as yet unpriced.

Dell's UltraSharp u3415w display.

Dell’s UltraSharp u3415w display.

It’s a Curved World

If 3D TV’s were a big deal in previous years, this year it’s all about the curve. Samsung’s curved models inspired a new all-in-one PC with a curved display, and Hewlett-Packard and Dell announced new 34-inch curved displays. At first, the monitors seem like regular flat LCD panels. The slight curvature is noticeable only after closer inspection, but having the screen closer to the eyes undoubtedly provides a more intimate viewing experience. Lots of people expect to see only curved screens in the workstation of the future. The Hisense 4K curved screen had the sharpest picture quality of any TV I saw at the show. It’s not available in US yet but it offers a truly stunning image.

sharp
Sharp’s New 8k, um, 4k TV

4K TVs are no longer the hottest thing on the block so manufacturers are bending over backward to show you that their sets are somehow more 4K than everyone else’s. Is it possible for even more “k”? Check out Sharp’s newly unveiled 2015 lineup, the 80-inch AQUOS Beyond 4K Ultra HD TV. Its effectively cuts pixels in half vertically and lets subpixels create their own color values, leading to a near-8K (7,680 x 4,320) picture. Sharp is only making this technology available in an 80-inch screen. Pricing was not announced but there’s no way on earth it will be affordable to the masses.

Sharp’s Transparent Screen

Sharp’s new see-through display technology has remarkable implications for display marketing. In the video above the bottles of wine are actually behind the screen, not on it. It’s not hard to imagine how retail windows or simply “blank” walls could utilize this technology to influence point of purchase decisions offer discounting and personalize greetings. Who knew that the future would be invisible?

08
Jan
15

CBS Launches New Podcast Network

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.14.28 PM

CBS Radio launched Play.it, a new podcast network that brings together CBS’ amazing array of talent with a wide roster of outside brands and podcasters.

At launch, the network boasts over 300 shows and has something for everyone: 60 Minutes, an impressive repertoire of sports talk from the likes of Mike Francesca and Boomer & Carton, in addition to radio talent Carson Daly Mornings. For marketers out there, Play.it has an incredible selection of sports, business and technology podcasts with which to align your messaging.

The service is now available online at Play.it and through a mobile-optimized site for streaming across devices. Podcasts are available to stream or download. The Play.it podcast network will also be available on iTunes and CBS Radio’s HD radio stations.

Jean at the launch of Play.it in Las Vegas.

Jean at the launch of Play.it in Las Vegas.

“The demand for on-demand audio content is huge, with tens of millions of people and growing listening to podcasts each month, yet this content currently has been spread across multiple sites and services,” said Ezra Kucharz, President of CBS Local Digital Media. “With the launch of Play.it, we aim to bring consumers a unified, easy-to-use platform featuring the best podcasts from not only CBS brands but other major brands, personalities and publishers, as well.”

What’s enticing for advertisers is Play.it’s innovative ad insertion technology. In addition to native ads and other sponsorship opportunities, Play.it’s ad-buying platform also allows finely tuned audience targeting.

As podcasting grows in popularity, we’re excited for Play.it and hope it becomes as much of a staple in American homes as the rest of our platforms.

 

05
Jan
15

The Best Weight Loss Ad of 2015 Is Here Now

The holidays are over, and the time to collectively reign in our waist bands is here. As we regret that third serving of mom’s famous casserole, it’s a good time to be a health and fitness marketer.

When it comes to advertising about fitness, Weight Watchers has been doing it for longer than just about anyone. But their new campaign “If You’re Happy” does something truly impressive and tricky.  It doesn’t preach. Instead it recognizes a truth about human behavior. We eat (often overeat) when we feel emotional. This campaign acknowledges that lets people know that they’re not alone.

For many, dieting is the vehicle to a new-and-improved self, and that’s good news for companies like Weight Watchers. And with some amazing talent and an amazing new campaign, they’re ready to take on 2015.

The message? “We get it,” there are a thousand ways to break that new diet, and we’re there to help you on the way. Without becoming too preachy, of course.

The spot, which is the first creative made by Wieden + Kennedy for the brand, works because it’s subtle, moving and funny all at once. And it’s the perfect message to give people right after the holidays when overeating is a recent memory. In fact, ome gyms report that up to 15% of their annual new memberships are signed in January.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the “If You’re Happy” campaign was resonating particularly with those looking to lose weight.

According to data from research firm Ace Metrix, the 30-second version of “If You’re Happy” scored 17% above the norm for creative effectiveness for the health and fitness category among respondents who said they could stand to lose 10 pounds or more. Ace Metrix, which uses a sample of more than 500 people to score ads for traits such as persuasion, likeability and information, said weight-conscious respondents were drawn to the ad for its catchy tune and the  familiarity of emotional eating scenarios.

Weight Watchers, which has also been a marketing heavyweight,announced in October that industry luminary Maurice Herrera, who held top roles at Mentos and Airheads, would become its SVP of Marketing. The company also added impressive online services to help dieters connect with online weight coaches.

People and community though are at the heart of the Weight Watchers story. As James Chamber, CEO of Weight Watchers said in an interview with Ad Age, the company’s strength “is and always will be in the human connections that make a weight-loss journey more successful, connections between members and between members and service providers.”

 

31
Dec
14

The Best Ads of 2014

This has been an amazing year for advertising. While viral commercials are certainly nothing new, the predominance of heavily shared YouTube videos on this list only goes to show that marketers are getting better every year at integrating their campaigns online and offline.

So what are some of our favorites?

World’s Toughest Job

This viral video for Cardstore.com received over 22 million views on YouTube after pranking 24 job applicants. In a Skype interview, applicants were described a job that required “135 to unlimited hours” a week, on your feet of course. The applicants, already perturbed by the job’s ridiculous requirements, are then told the job pays no money. But, it was all for a good cause: appreciating your mother.

First Kiss

One smash success meant an unprecedented amount of publicity for small clothing company Wren. Strangers are just asked to kiss on camera. It’s not the actual kissing that makes this video amazing: it’s the incredibly awkward and heartwarming reticence exhibited by the participants. The genius of this approach is in its subtlety. There’s no spokespeople and no heavy come on to buy. The film’s budget of $1,300 proves you don’t need a lot to make a big marketing splash.

Derek Jeter Re2pect

After a 20-year career, tributes to Derek Jeter during his last season poured in, even overcoming some of baseball’s greatest rivalries. This touching Nike ad is no exception, and quickly spread across social media and the news. In the end, in racked up over 8 million views.

Puppy Love

Budweiser always goes big for the Super Bowl, and this year was no exception. Telling the tale of a friendship between the famous Budweiser Clydesdale and a dog, this ad became an instant favorite.

Wall and Chain

Nothing makes great advertisement like touching stories of the impact your brand has made in the lives of others. This story, two Berlin Wall guards stationed on opposite sites during the Cold War are brought together after a daughter plans a trip to Berlin through AirBnb.

Share a Coke

It’s not the ad, although that is great too, that gets this campaign on the list: it’s the interactive component. Coke bottles across the nation were adorned with random names, encouraging consumers to get one for a friend.

Follow the Money

Ok, the ad isn’t great – but that’s exactly the point. Newcastle has been making an name for itself with campy, over-the-top ads with a knack for self-parody. They had a foul-mouthed Anna Kendrick complain about being cast in a Super Bowl ad they never made, as well as Keyshawn Johnson describing their aborted plains.

Gol!

2014 was an unprecedented year of World Cup frenzy in the United States. McDonald’s got in on the fun with this series of amazing trick shots. And while I was initially convinced the shots were the result of computer trickery, the creator insists that they’re real shots from talent around the world.

 

20
Dec
14

What Serial Says About the Power of Storytelling

serial-social-logoSerial, the much talked about podcast, returned for its final episode last week and its legions of fans couldn’t be happier. The show, which spun off from public radio stalwart This American Life, tells the story of a 14 year old murder case in Maryland.

Serial is a fantastic show — gripping. perfectly paced and impossible to forget. But for people like me who work on the advertising side of the media business, the series has has sparked another watercooler conversation about the future of podcast advertising.

But what seems to be largely missing in the breathless blog posts and future of media think pieces is the fact what Serial really does is tap into a very old tradition indeed: radio storytelling.

I’m bullish about advertising on shows like Serial. In fact, I’m incredibly bullish about audio advertising period. Why? Because in a brave new world of infinite media choices, spoken word advertising is more powerful than ever.

Audio, and specifically radio, is not only alive and well — it’s thriving. Here are five reasons why.

1. The incredible psychology of the spoken word

Listening is deeply embedded in American culture, in part because of its deep ties with our national pastime: driving. But radio listening isn’t just a warm and fuzzy yearning for the past: a trove of data shows that listening to the spoken word has an elemental place in our psychology.

A fascinating study examining “sonic branding” found that the ability of sounds and music to trigger brand recognition is profound. Audio advertisements stimulate brand recognition and those who hear them experience a profound range of emotions, associating audio clips with concepts like “protection,” “truth,” “friendship” or “relaxation.” Even TV advertisers understand the profound power of audio cues: sleigh bells jingling or a hearty “ho ho ho” permeate traditional holiday advertising.

Other research finds that consumers feel that their local radio host was “like a friend,” and more likely to trust their recommendation than a commercial.

It’s not simply the “audio” that does the trick, otherwise there would be no qualitative difference between TV and digital video ads. Even after the advent of the radio, many speculated there was something about the disembodied voice that was particularly powerful. And they were right, audio without visual distractions leaves us more engaged with the spoken word.

2.  Millennials love listening to music — together

There is a pervasive belief that young people never listen to the radio, but in fact millennials are voracious consumers of it. 93% of consumers above the age of 12 listen to radio at least once a week, and over 65 million people in the 18-34 demographic — around half — listen to broadcast radio every week. Millennials spend about 11 hours a week listening to radio, mostly during their daily commute.

Communal listening — on the way to school, at a party, while on a road trip — is a big part of this appeal.

The case of Serial only goes to show that Millennials are eager to consume great audio-only experiences. And of course no aspiring pop star can ever break through without radio play. Can you imagine Taylor Swift’s year without constant airplay on the radio?

3.  There’s less fuzzy math in audio

A lot of of digital media salespeople promise perfect accountability and measurability. But digital advertising, as powerful as it can be, is also alarmingly unpredictable.

Take, for instance, the massive amounts of click fraud and URL masking found in digital campaigns. 85% of all digital banner clicks come from the same 8% of people. Forrester’s recent study that found the vast majority of brands are simply wasting their money on social media with engagement rates as low as 0.07%.

To say nothing of the shifting sands of the platforms themselves. Marketers who spent millions building fan bases on Facebook seem to have recently discovered that organic reach is approaching 0% for brands. It doesn’t matter if you like a brand and want to hear more from them. Seemingly overnight Facebook has become a pay-to-play medium.

4. You Know Your ROI

Nobody can cite more mind bending analytics than a pure play digital ad salesperson. But businesses and brands who spend on these platforms often leave disappointed. When it comes to building local brands, radio sponsors have some real advantages.

Unlike TV and digital, radio maintains 93% of its lead-in audience for its commercial breaks. After all, cars don’t have DVRs to simply skip past them, and most people are simply too focused on driving to find a new station.

In fact, studies routinely find that radio advertisers have their investment returned to them eight-fold.

5. It Plays Well With Others

No sane advertising person will argue for a one size fits all marketing solution. If local marketing has taught me anything, it’s that the message has to be tailored for the medium and the locale. And more often than not, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

In the case of audio advertising, it pairs well with TV advertising. A Nielsen study found that TV and radio combined were far more effective are better than either one alone.

Despite countless technological innovations and competitors, audio advertising hasn’t gone anywhere, and it won’t anytime soon. People love listening, and the fact that it maintains listenership after the advent of on-demand music only goes to show that it has a deep, intimate, relationship with its listener.


Podcasting proves what the those of us in the business have known for a long time: when it comes to reaching consumers, listening is everything.

11
Dec
14

DraftKings and CBS Partner to Create “The Perfect Lineup”

What’s the perfect lineup?

It’s something every fantasy football player racks their brain about before kickoff. It cause sleepless nights and the inevitable last minute adds and drops — usually causing a great feeling of regret after the fact.

Today, CBS and DraftKings released “The Perfect Line-Up,” one of those campaigns that makes me love my job.

Fantasy sports veterans Scott Gramling and Marc Malusis, with a little help from CBS Television, filmed 30-second and 2-minute spots offering killer lineup advice to promote the amazing competitions DraftKings puts on every week. It airs in 14 markets:  Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

Scott and Marc are currently hosts of CBS Local Sports’ Fantasy Football Radio, where they review the latest headlines, talk daily leagues, and more.

The set was decked out with DraftKings and football set decorations, and no small detail was left overlooked. From replica championship trophies to a football-themed chess set and custom-made DraftKings football jerseys, the set reflected the fact that this segment is by sports fans,  for sports fans.

draftking

The CBS and DraftKings partnership began as a straightforward radio play, promoting local market promo codes and NFL season contests with talent endorsements, a Monday Morning football wrap-up feature, and pre-produced messaging. The program has since grown to include “The Perfect Lineup” for Television (and coming soon, radio!) and will continue to evolve in 2015 to cover multiple sports across markets.

Be sure to check out DraftKings.com and register with the free promo code: PERFECT

 

21
Nov
14

What Marketers Can Learn from Jared Leto

Jared Leto is a modern day renaissance man. The talented character actor who won widespread acclaim for performances in “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Requiem for a Dream” briefly paused his acting career to launch an equally successful music career as the front man of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

In 2012, Leto transitioned from actor to director with the fascinating documentary “Artifact.”  Meanwhile, Leto started developing his business acumen by launching a social media agency called The Hive and trying his hand at startup investment. He also finds time to be a prolific philanthropist.

Needless to say, Leto is a guy who knows how to make things happen, to draw from a variety of experiences to create things that are truly amazing. Earlier this month, Leto headlined a Los Angeles roundtable with industry leaders from  Facebook, Funny or Die, YouTube and CAA marketing (to name just a few).

Leto brought up two points that I think are absolutely crucial for marketers: take chances and connect the dots.

“You have this wide-open world and people don’t take more chances,” Leto bemoaned, noting that opportunities to network and create were everywhere. While plenty of brands and creatives take advantage of these opportunities, thousands more are missed – Leto uses the example of his social media presence.

“If I look at my Instagram right now, I get maybe 150,000 likes a photo, right? I’ve never been approached by a brand to do anything creative with my Instagram feed. Why? I’m a big believer that for platforms, whether it’s Spotify or Apple or Facebook or the coolest agency in the world, relationships with artists are always beneficial. But there is a conversation that’s not being had by lots of people.”

Even failure, Leto argues, is invaluable. “To be in the midst of that epic failure was a great opportunity to learn and learn,” he said of his experience with record labels.

“When commercials stop being advertising, they can be art,” Leto said, noting that it’s only the aversion to risk that creates obstacles. “If you’re paying attention to the rules, you’re not risking very much. So my job is to not follow rules, that’s the job of the artist.”

It’s no surprise that some of the best creative minds in marketing comes from those with a diverse background like Leto’s – musicians, comedians, artists, writers. How are we, as marketers, looking out for dormant opportunities and missed connections? It’s not always the easiest task – but it’s an indispensable step if we ever want our advertising to transcend into the realm of art.

 

17
Nov
14

Storytelling Done Right: AirBnB Edition

airbnb berlin wall

Earlier this week, the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall that divided communities and families for nearly three decades has since served as inspiration for peace and unity after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Dealing with historical events that bring out conflicting emotions of happiness, sorrow and trauma is tricky for anybody. And for brands, dealing with such events in a way that is contrived and insincere can backfire. But every now and then a brand meets the challenge, and when they do, it’s usually because their marketers are acting like real human beings. An obvious objective that, surprisingly, many fail to realize.

So how does one go about doing this? Well, I’ll let you watch this AirBnB video below.

As part of this initiative, AirBnB launched the site BelongAnywhere.com, that features additional interviews with Jörg (the father) and Kai. Kai recounts being ordered not to interact with the guards on the other side of the wall and the looming sentiment to view Jörg and his colleagues as “the enemy.” Jörg’s daughter, Cathrine, admits she deliberately booked an AirBnB room in East Berlin before discovering Kai’s professional history.

AirBnB is a company that faces many legal hurdles as it expands, dealing with antiquated housing and hotel laws (just look at the on-going fight in NYC). But with marketing like this, people are sure to rally behind AirBnB as they expand to new markets.

“Great content and storytelling is so important now for any brand,” said AirBnB CMO Jonathan Mildenhall. “As a community-driven company, we don’t want to just talk about our product, but instead put our community front and center of any campaign.”

13
Nov
14

It’s 10PM, Do You Know Where Your Programmatic Ads Are?

Big-Data

Programmatic buying is getting a lot of praise these days, but also a lot of flack. Programmatic ad buying simply means automated. A lot of people confuse it with buying ads through computer-run auctions — known as real-time bidding — but that’s just one way to buy ads programmatically. At its core, programmatic buying is any ad buy that gets processed through machines.

In digital advertising, programmatic is a powerful tool but it also comes with some serious downsides. One of the biggest is click fraud, phony clicks on banner ads that end up costing the advertiser without delivery any benefit. But there is another existential threat to the industry: URL masking.

Imagine this, you want to advertise a great new album on a series of great music blogs so you purchase some inventory on the hypothetical AmazingPopBlog.com. But in the end, your ad ends up showing on piracy sites where that very same album is being downloaded. How did this all happen?

The practice of URL masking usually involves utilizing iframes, the same code that lets people embed YouTube videos and other media. What happens is that the music piracy site, or any site with a reputation that scares away advertisers, will embed ads that were meant for AmazingPopBlog.com, fooling paying advertisers in the process.

AdAge ran a really great article on the problem last week, citing recent research that suggests that 40% of programmatically bought digital ads have masked URLs.

URL masking is often used to trick advertisers into running ads on sites with illicit or stolen content, which tend to generate lots of traffic but little ad revenue. URL masking is also used to fool buyers into thinking they’re buying premium inventory when they are instead getting low quality placements.

Some will hear a lot of talk about programmatic buying as the “future of marketing,” and, like every great seller of snake oil, as a “hop on now or be forever left behind” scenario. But I’d liken it more, in its current state, to a prototype car engine that may revolutionize the industry, or simply leave you stranded.

Programmatic buying is an important part of a marketer’s arsenal. But I’m a staunch believer that programmatic marketing lacks a lot of what makes local marketing great. At the Altitude Group, we focus on the power of true cross-platform marketing. But for many marketers, the risks associated with programmatic buying are just too great to deal with until the industry successfully weeds out click fraud and URL masking.

 

12
Nov
14

Never Too Early: Gearing Up for the Holiday Season

signs of christmas

It’s November, and the holiday season is upon us. Many may consider the day after Thanksgiving to be the real start of the season, with its barrage of holiday sales, jingles and advertisements.

But one of my favorite things about the holidays in New York City is the slow build-up I see around me already. My coffee shop has already put up a few wreaths. There are Christmas lights in the nearby bodega and a smattering of fake Christmas tree hawkers are already patrolling the streets. My favorite: the Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks winter cups that mark the real beginning of the season. They’re just as iconic as the tree!

That’s the spirit of a campaign with MSG Entertainment that I’m incredibly proud of: “Signs of Christmas.” The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I’ve taken my son every year since he was 4, and my daughter can’t get over the Teddy Bear Ballerina number. The latest addition to the Ingrassia family will be joining us this year: my 1 year-old son. He’ll either just love the colors, or fall asleep, but I’m excited for him either way.

It began last week and ends on New Year’s Eve. The performance featuring the Rockettes started back in 1933, and has since become an iconic part of NYC’s Christmas season.

As part of the campaign, We asked key CBS Radio talent in New York and Philadelphia to reminisce of their own Christmas memories and call-out the signs of Christmas that they are serif around town.  You can listen below: