Entries in ND&P (193)


Mobile Tags and Codes: A Sampler

Mobile codes/tags have really jumped onto center stage within the past couple of months. Though they've been around for a few years now, they seem to be popping up in mainstream media more frequently now—from national periodicals to local news broadcasts and even late night talk shows (not to mention their use in marketing/communication materials).

Example of a Microsoft TagAs a supplement to a previous ND&P blog post on mobile tags (which you can read here), I recently wrote a comprehensive article about a few of the more (and less) common types of mobile tags. Most of you have probably run across QR Codes, for example, even if you didn’t realize that was the type of tag you spotted. Right now they are probably the most common type of tag being used in marketing pieces and campaigns. MS Tags by Microsoft™ are rapidly gaining in popularity, too. In the article, which you can read and download, I give visual examples and a few basic specifications for the following types of mobile codes:

  • QR Codes
  • JAGTAGs™
  • SnapTags™
  • MS Tags™
  • BeeTaggs™
  • EZcodes™
  • DataMatrix Codes

I encourage you to thoroughly research the choices available when planning to use a mobile code. (I spoke directly with people at a few of the companies I researched in order to answer some of my more targeted questions.) Your advertising/marketing agency should also be able to recommend the best option for your specific project.

There are many factors to consider – from whether your audience will be using a smartphone or a more standard cell phone for scanning your code (not all codes work the same way), to how large the code will be printed on the final product (some codes work better in smaller sizes). And also, whether what the code looks like matters to you (some codes allow for visual customization). Here is an abbreviated list from the full article, outlining just a few of the things you’ll want to consider when choosing a code:

Things to Consider when Choosing a Mobile Tag

Code Duplication. As QR Codes in particular continue to increase in popularity, we could start seeing some accidental duplication. There are several QR Code generators publicly available, and many generate codes independently of one another. (Granted, the risk of duplication is likely very low.) Using a QR Code that has been generated by one of the proprietary options may be one way to reduce this risk (for example, the same company that creates JAGTAGs also offers QR Codes, as does the one that creates EZcodes).

Visual Customization. Some codes allow for more customization than others (like using your logo, images, or specific colors within the code itself).

Size Matters. Some codes are better suited to run in smaller sizes – like on a business card, versus a billboard.

Audience. Is your target audience more likely to have a smartphone or a more standard cell phone? Will they need instructions on how to use the code/download a reader (if required for your code)? Is your audience even likely to use mobile tags at all?

Cost. While there are many free types of codes, you may want to explore some of the paid options depending on how you’ll use the code, what information you’d like to track about its use, and what level of visual customization you require. And when choosing a paid option you can often choose either a term subscription for services, or negotiate a rate per project.

And here’s a couple of additional factors for you:

Longevity. Many of the proprietary code options will let you REASSIGN the content for a code you create with them. This means you might be able to use your promotional pieces longer – you don’t have to reprint or recreate them to include a new code. You can keep using the existing code and simply assign new CONTENT to it.

Relevance. In addition to being able to reassign content to an existing code, many of the proprietary code options (mainly the paid options), will also let you create VARIABLE CONTENT. You can send one type of message the first time a user scans your code, then send a different message if that same user scans it a second time, and so on. You can even vary your messaging based on factors like the weather. Imagine a camping retailer being able to customize messaging so that the audience gets information about waterproof gear when it’s raining.

Purpose. It doesn't really matter how hot and trendy mobile codes are right now if they don't make sense for your promotional efforts. So make sure you thoughtfully plan how to incorporate them into your program. What content will they deliver to the user? Is it content they can't get anywhere else? Is it content that not only renders well on a user's device, but is it content that will be relevant to the user when they view it (such as while standing in front of your billboard, or sitting at home with your magazine print ad, or on the subway car after seeing your ad on the ceiling, etc.). Does the code simply take a user to the homepage of your website... or does it deliver a video with tips for using your product, or directions to the retail store closest to the user's location?

How have YOU been using mobile codes/tags in your efforts, and what factors did you consider when choosing a type?

Read the full article “Mobile Tags and Codes: A Sampler”

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)


1 + 1 = 4. The Impact of Multi-Platform Media Buys

Huh?  I am a media person and really should know my basic math right?  Maybe I haven’t had enough coffee, or have become too dependent on my calculator?  No, most days I can still do simple math, even without my calculator. 

I am talking about the impact of multi-platform media buys.  We know that using more than one type of media will give the best results, but with the multitude of media options available today it is more important than ever to understand the strengths of each vehicle and how they can be combined for maximum effectiveness.

The best combination of media depends on the audience, message, objectives, and of course the budget.  I am not going to go into every scenario, but here are some results from a couple of interesting studies.

Using various forms of online advertising is a good strategy and can have impressive branding influence, in addition to driving site traffic and generating leads. 

Display ads (banners) allow for a visual message and the ability for users to interact.  Organic search (search engine optimization) is building your website so that it is “search friendly” and comes up in the non-paid, search listings. Paid search (search engine marketing) is paying for your message to be served in search results. 

Research from iProspect and comScore showed that using two or three of these forms of online advertising together increased brand recall.

 Image used courtesy of ©iProspect

The report also showed that paid search alone generated a 44% lift in likelihood to purchase, and that paid search + organic search resulted in a 73% lift. In addition, the likelihood to purchase increased 31% for those exposed to both display and paid search, over those just exposed to paid search. Read MediaPost's comprehensive insights on the study results.

Ad exposure in both offline and online media can deliver great results.

A study done by The Nielsen Company for direct-to-consumer drug advertising focused only on TV and online media. Results showed that consumers who had been exposed to the ad both online and on TV had 100% greater memorability than those exposed on TV only.

TV has the greatest influence in the early stages providing awareness and interest, and the Internet often takes over when interest prompts consumers to learn more about the product.  TV, as well as other offline media vehicles also drive a huge amount of search volume as well as website visits.

Using a consistent voice across multiple platforms, both offline and online, will provide the best results.  Each media has its strengths in moving a target audience along the decision cycle, and exposure across various media has much more than an additive effect. 

Oh darn, I just spilled my coffee on my calculator!!!  Now I am in real trouble…

(Tammy Harris)


It Don't Mean a Thang if it Ain't Got That Slang: Slang and Copywriting

(Creative Director/Copywriter Doug Cook takes on the question of using slang...)

When I’m Out in the Street

I talk the way I wanna talk

            --© Out in the Street, Bruce Springsteen, the River, 1980

Even in today’s color, motion, sound and graphics-saturated media environment, copywriters still spend ponderous moments choosing just the right word. (OK, Let’s say most of ‘em do.)

In many cases, it’s the difference between pushing for the outré and edgy just short of bad taste; versus maybe just settling for safe at the risk of boring. It gets especially dicey as we approach slang—and I don’t mean “techie” talk in the way of, say, elephant cage referring to a large array of antennae surrounded by a fence.

I’m speaking of that slang we know as “street slang.”

The Word on the Street
Take the word pimp, for instance.

Safe to say it’s most widely recognized usage refers to someone plying others for purpose of recompensed sex-related activity—not suitable for ad copy or polite company. Inevitably, it raises an eyebrow. A titter. A sidelong glance.

But like so many words, over time, “pimp” has assumed other connotations. It may simply refer to someone employing back-channel means to surreptitiously pass along information for money or favor; and, in an even broader sense, it has come to commonly refer as a verb form to the heavy aggrandizement or adornment of any object, person, place or thing, as in: MTV’s Pimp My Ride—originally hosted by rapper Xzibit; MTV2 soon began airing episodes of Pimp My Ride UK hosted by DJ Tim Westwood.  

Ironically, that adaption actually brings “pimp” full circle, closer to its origins almost 400 hundred years ago: It first appeared in 1607’s Thomas Middleton book Your Five Gallants, seemingly stemming from the French infinitive ‘pimper,’ meaning to dress up elegantly and from the present particle ‘pimpant’—alluring in dress; seductive.

And the plot thickened quickly—a mere 29 years later, the same author, apparently making a career of it, used “pimp” as a verb, meaning to act as a pimp, in his book, The Bashful Lover.

A Modern Dilemma
You might rightfully wonder, what brings us to weigh this particular piece of street slang in such detail? The short version: We were in the throes of proposing a micro-site that would allow our client’s customers to highlight certain dynamic and fun attributes of its product and services in a fashion similar to Pimp My Ride. (They don’t sell cars, mind you—but let’s just say it’s in the home/office technology realm.)

So, the internal debate began—we could go full-force and just call it “Pimp my Crib” (or “Rig,” a sidebar debate). Or we could capture the same design flair and flavor, but hedge our bet a bit and entitle the site, “Trick My Rig." (OR - "Trick My Crib" - with "Crib" of course being recent slang for your domicile, residence or home-base.)

On one hand, agencies—especially on the creative side of the house—always want to be perceived as hip, with it, cutting edge and totally abreast of all things cool. Right?

In the words of The International Man of Mystery: Yeah, baby!

Agencies just as adamantly—hell, more so—want to win the business. And win business for their clients. (By the way—anyone see Glengarry Glen Ross lately?) Losing a new business pitch by going, um, “too hip for the room” puts you in the not-so-cool category faster than you can say “Cancel my car detailer.”   

To Slang or Not to Slang
All of this brings us round to the very nature of slang—it’s ephemeral, trendy and of the moment. Somebody somewhere right now’s saying something that’s hip and cool and we don’t have a clue what it means. The whole point of slang is to close a loop to a select few of whom exclusively speak your language.

And as to advertising and mass communication, it is a Catch-22: If it’s broad enough to be understood and appreciated by millions of “average”—let’s say middle-aged white folk between 35 and 65—Americans jingly-jangling with plenty of walkin’ around cash, then by definition the subcultures who actually create street slang have long since left it at the curb, so to speak.

And so, it was oh so nice (Neil Diamond?) to have this basic assumption brought home by no less an authority than Jonathan Green, author of Green’s Dictionary of Slang

At 6,000 pages and some 17 years in the making, it’s by many furlongs the most comprehensive resource of its kind.  From the introduction: “Slang is the language that says no. Born in the street, it resists the niceties of the respectable. It is impertinent, mocking, unconvinced by rules, regulations and ideologies. It remains something apart. And for many, that is where it should stay.” (You can hear Mr. Green here from the April 8, 2011 broadcast, On the Media, with Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield: http://www.onthemedia.org/mostemailed/

The Verdict
Our decision? Though you can make the case that some clients (and consumers) would be duly impressed with the chutzpah of going full-bore with Pimp My Crib, we ultimately chose Trick My Rig for its ability to capture the essence of what we were after—the homage aspect, if you will—without winging ourselves in the foot.   

Where do you go to find the very latest, freshly minted street slang? Why, out on the street, of course.

The trick is in knowing which street.         

(Doug Cook)


Off the Grid: Social Media on Vacation 

For the first time, really, since the advent of social media and instantaneous photo sharing, I went on vacation in a less-than-connectivity-friendly place.

No fear, I thought. I’ll easily stay away from Facebook and Twitter and texting. I need the break. Enjoy the unconnectedness of it all.  Consider it a sort of entrement between the chapters of my life.

Cue the isolation. With no way to share my photos or brag to my friends, I resorted to quick hits on my 25-cents-a-minute pay-as-you-go-phone just to get my “social connectivity” fix.

And I don’t consider myself a social media addict. I have an average number of friends on Facebook and about the same number of Twitter followers. I tend to comment or participate only when the spirit moves me.

Why did being “off-the-grid” make me so uneasy?

I’ve come to several conclusions:

1. We live with a “breaking news” mentality. I want you to know how much fun I’m having right NOW! Not the same effect 10 days later.

2. We need instant validation. A thumbs-up “like” makes us feel special and worthy. This is doubly important when one is on vacation enjoying a tropical heat wave and everyone at home is enduring snow.

3. We don’t want to be left out. While I’m relaxing on a deck chair, who knows what other exciting/important/impactful things are happening? How’s my kitchen remodel going? Who won the Phillies game?

4. It’s a habit. To be connected – and the desire to remain so at virtually all times – is ingrained. And it has only been amplified by easy access to tools that help us reach a much wider audience, at any moment we desire.

Here's one of the photos I had to wait to share until I got back.

Truth be told – I’ve been on the rebound from the experience. There was no easing back into social media – my Facebook friends wonder what happened to the normally reticent Betsy.

I’m dedicating myself to further study of the issue, though. Maybe write a white paper or two. I’m certain I’ll need four, five more vacations this year to work it all out.

(Betsy Parkins)


Quackers: Aflac Seeks New Duck; Vigilance in the Social Sphere

Can you quack like a duck?
If so, hope you gave insurer Aflac a call – they’re looking for a new voice for the iconic Aflac duck.

In a story covered by everyone from the Hollywood Reporter to the New York Daily News, longtime voice-of-the-duck Gilbert Gottfried was fired on Monday, March 14, 2011 after making tasteless tweets about the recent earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan.

As a company that focuses on the serious business of insurance (including cancer, life, medical, etc.), one might imagine desirable spokesduck qualities to be trustworthiness, compassion, dedication - in addition to, of course, memorability. Whether or not you choose to make the case there was inherent risk of Gottfried firmly inserting his foot into his mouth at some point during his considerable tenure (he IS a comedian, after all), Gottfried's personal remarks on Japan just didn't fit the bill (no pun intended. well okay, maybe a little).

So after more than 10 years with Gottfried's voice, the duck is looking for a new quacker. Aflac opened applications to the general public, and posted on Monster.com as well as QuackAflac.com. (If you're still interested, though, a message today on Aflac's site reads “Sorry, you’re too late to be the spokesduck.” but does note that updates on the search will be posted on the Duck’s Facebook page in the third week of April).

Will the next duck be a total departure, or mirror that signature nasally (and oft-irritating) voice we’ve become familiar with? What about a female duck?

Social Vigilance
Whether or not you secure your place as the next spokesduck, there’s certainly one lesson that’s been reinforced here. When you ARE a brand (or even just affiliated with one), what you do in your personal life reflects on the brand just as much as it does on you. While this has been true for decades, with social media/social networks now mainstream communication channels, your “social” life makes you that much more visible – requiring you to be that much more vigilant.

Aside: Gottfried’s “jokes” were deliberate, and tweeted on his personal account. I haven’t even addressed some of the recent incidents we’re all familiar with--examples of “accidental” tweets – where an account admin was mistakenly tweeting on the company account as opposed to a personal account. Check out:

The American Red Cross (who handled it fabulously – go Wendy Harman!):
Their official blog post.
A guest blog post with full details.

The follow-up blog post.

 (Shaun Amanda Herrmann)