On Crowdsourcing

Some stream-of-consciousness thinking before the sun comes up today.

I haven't given all that much thought to crowdsourcing, which may be odd given my line of work.  

I haven't given all that much thought to Louis CK, which may be odd given my age and comedic sensibility.

Screen shot 2011-12-16 at 6.56.44 AMI was listening to Louis CK on Bill Simmons' most excellent podcast, and without meaning to they touched on an interesting point about the wisdom of the many versus the wisdom of the few.

As I understand it, Louis has a very successful show on FX.  What's interesting about it is that the network has zero control over it.  They wire him $200K per episode, and from that he creates the entire thing (including taking out his salary).  

This autonomy is very rare.  It's also a relatively paltry sum for an actor as successful as Louis.

But the show is hit, and growing an audience with every episode.

So why is it working?

Louis' position is this (paraphrasing):

The more people involved in making decisions (particularly creative ones) the more watered down an idea gets.  In essence, consensus-building breeds mediocrity.  

By the time Bob from legal, Mary from finance, John from ad sales and Lisa from PR have all given their input, the essence of the idea is lost.  And this is nothing against Bob, Mary, John and Lisa - I'm sure they are good at what they do.  But they are not comedians. 

So you've hired an incredibly successful creative (in this case Louis) for his talent but essentially said to him, "we only trust your sensibility to a certain point."  

The disconnect is that by the time Bob, Mary, John and Lisa have stamped the idea, it's not Louis' sensibility any more.  So why hire him in the first place?

Bringing it back to my world, I do have to wonder out loud: Is the wisdom of the crowd all that wise, or is the real value that it make us (me, you, brands, agencies) feel safer about any given decision simply because it's based on consensus?  And as a result, are we breeding mediocrity?  What constitutes authority on any given topic - deep knowledge, a proven track record and passion?  Or simply a point-of-view, no matter how uniformed or unformed, and an Internet connection?

I genuinely don't know.

But I think of some of the great creative and marketing talents of our time, and how they would view the wisdom of the crowd.  Three immediately come to mind.  Clive Davis - he didn't do any market research before signing a scrawny young singer who eventually became Whitney Houston.  Steve Jobs once famously said, "It's really hard to design products by focus groups.  A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."  And finally, Alex Bogusky (always a polarizing character) - Crispin is (in)famous for retaining creative control over their clients' work.  And love or hate the agency, you can't deny they've had a pretty killer run.

That's all for now.


"You think sometimes you're going to run out of material with cats, but you never do.  You come in on Monday and go 'Oh my God, trombone cat.'"

This parody video was done by an agency in Toronto called John St.  Not only is it a really funny idea, but the execution is superb (as was last year's hysterical Pink Pony Case Study video).  The production quality, the acting and writing - all done in a way befitting of an agency trying to show off their creative chops. 

71K views and counting ...

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkOQw96cfyE]

One More Word on Convincers

One more follow up to this and this.

Convincers have no desire to be in the spotlight.  Or more accurately, they are OK with others being in the spotlight instead.  This is crucial - not letting ego drive behavior.

So to recap, convincers:

  • Let others have the spotlight
  • Suspend their own agendas
  • Are more pragmatic than dogmatic. 
  • Posses the business acumen to understand, articulate and provide a POV on the client's/prospect's business challenges.
  • Demonstrate high emotional intelligence.  They can read the room so to speak.
  • Don't fall in love with their own ideas [or their agency's ideas].
  • Are strong enough to stand up to the thinkers when ideas - no matter how brilliant - are not appropriate for the situation.
  • Are sensitive to the considerations articulated by the doers, but aren't afraid to push for more with less.

I have an idea for finding and interviewing some convincers.  I'm sure you are all on the edge of your seat.

More on The Convincer

On Sunday night's Mad Men, Don Draper presents new creative to a bathing suit company.  When the prospect takes exception to how racy it is, despite having briefed Draper on their conservative values, the delicate genius berates the prospect, kicks them out of the office and storms out.

It's a nice follow up to my last post about the role of convincer in the thinker --> doer continuum. 

Specifically, the scene speaks to the value of someone who doesn't fall in love with their own brilliance, and can suspend their own agenda to focus on the needs of their client.

That's it.

Missing Link In The Thinker --> Doer Continuum

In the agency world there's an ongoing intellectual battle between the highly intelligent, insightful, black-rimmed-glasses-wearing thinkers [in agency parlance, planners, strategists, creatives] and the grounded, resourceful, nerd-chic doers [in agency parlance, producers].

And then there are those rare hybrids who can think of an idea and then actually do it.  I know a few, and they are truly impressive.  Those are people I want on my side!

So there you have it, right?  Find a thinker/doer hybrid and you're all set to rule the world.  Not quite ...

See, I think there's a missing piece in the thinker --> doer continuum discussion.  The convincer.

The convincer bridges the gap between the brilliance of thethinker, and the killer resourcefulness of the doer. 

They, well, convince.  Convince clients to accept our recommendations.  Convince new business prospects to partner with us.  Convince our own people that what we're doing is right/worthy/cool/groundbreaking/etc.  A few qualities that come to mind:

  • They are more pragmatic than dogmatic. 
  • They posses the business acumen to understand, articulate and provide a POV on the client's/prospect's business challenges.
  • They demonstrate high emotional intelligence.  They can read the room so to speak.
  • They don't fall in love with their own ideas [or their agency's ideas].
  • They are strong enough to stand up to the thinkers when ideas - no matter how brilliant - are not appropriate for the situation.
  • They are sensitive to the considerations articulated by the doers, but aren't afraid to push for more with less.

Two questions: Do you know any really good convincers?  And what's missing from my list of qualities above?

Old Spice, Chalkbot and the Hidden Value of the Echo Chamber

Just a few days ago conventional wisdom was something along the lines of, if you haven't heard of Old Spice's Twitter/YouTube thing or Nike/Livestrong Chalkbot, you must be living under a rock

But what's emerging - mostly anecdotally to be fair - are stories of blank stares at the mention of either of these ... even amongst professional marketers.  Both projects have played well within the digital echo chamber, but perhaps haven't permeated the marketing mainstream (let alone the mainstream mainstream).

And that emerging realization has added an interesting wrinkle to the conversation about these two campaigns ... if a viral video plays in a forest and no men 18-34 are around, does it make a noise?

Thinking about it, I still believe there are four points of value in both these efforts, even if they never make it beyond the echo: 

  1. The success of these - success defined in a number of ways, including brand lift, sales, etc. - arms marketing communications agencies with a case study for how to do it right.  The only downside is that some agencies will inevitably misappropriate it, promising I can do for you what W+K did for Old Spice!
  2. Marketers on the client side - those who have "social" or "digital" in their title or are fighting to give digital more share of spend - will have something to point to when confronting skeptical executives.
  3. The Old Spice example in particular shows that traditional ad shops are not as incompetent in social as some of the social media elite would have you believe.  In fact they can be pretty damn clever.  This is a good thing for the entire industry.
  4. Both programs are creative, delightful, well-executed.  They force the entire marketing ecosystem  to step up its game.

There are probably more, so feel free to add via a comment.

Paid Media = Scale for Domino's Pizza Turnaround

A lot of talk over the last few days about Domino's Pizza's "Pizza Turnaround" - equal parts blog | website | Twitter aggregator.  The effort is centered around Domino's transparent re-engineering of its signature pizza offering.

I like the spirit of this ... good talk-value; makes me want to keep following along; most importantly, makes me want to give Domino's another shot.

One of the most talked about features of the campaign is a short documentary [produced with help of Crispin Porter + Bogusky].  At the time I write this [Dec 28 @ 5:30pm CST] the video has logged nearly 328,000 views [in just a few days, over the holidays].

I noticed today that Domino's is running paid media units on YouTube's homepage. 

Dominos on YouTube

While I have no knowledge of this brand's spend, I have looked into YouTube packages and can tell you this is no small financial commitment.  What I suspect Domino's has figured out - that many brands have not yet - is that paid media, as a compliment to 'social' media, can give your brand's blog | video | Facebook page | etc. the push it needs to scale to a larger audience. 

Interested to watch this unfold.  The one thing I really hope is that Domino's doesn't cave to the inevitable snarkiness that many marketing and social media 'gurus' will heap upon it.  Stay the course, Domino's!

The Most Important Men in Marketing?

Do you know these men?


I am a huge believer in Alan Wolk's theory of NASCAR blindness.  Both because I've seen it in practice, and I've recognized it in myself from time-to-time.  With that ...

I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that Dana White and Brian France could walk down Madison Avenue without causing much of a stir.  Which is too bad because one could easily argue that White and France - along with Vince McMahon - know the American consumer landscape better than anyone in the "industry."

If you don't know [it's OK, we don't judge here at Flagged For Follow Up] White is the President of UFC; France the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR.  If you don't know who McMahon is ... well I just can't imagine any marketer doesn't know the name.

By various accounts, collectively these men preside over empires that generate more than $2 Billion (with a B) in revenues per year.  We're talking live events, TV deals, licensing, pay-per-view and merchandise galore.  Sure, business has suffered a bit in the recession, along with just about everyone else. 

There are 290 million people who live somewhere between Los Angeles and New York City.  These guys have it dialed in when it comes to speaking to/entertaining/selling to this group.

So if we (by "we" I mean marketers in major cities) want to create "stuff" (campaigns, creative, trinkets, retail experiences ... whatever) that drive business results, we need to start thinking about what will appeal to 300,000 fans at Daytona, not the cast of Friends.  More like a rabid crowd at a UFC match, less like a star-studded crowd at a Lakers game.

There are a ton of smart, talented and grounded marketers in this country.  The smartest of them recognize a world west of the Hudson River.

Branded Entertaiment Innovation?

This is a deck I created in September of 2003, back in my entrepreneurial days.

Get past the horrific slides (a .PPT ninja I'm not).

Focus on the basic premise ... pretty close to what specialized branded entertainment agencies are pitching today (6 years later).

Since there's nothing I can do with this deck now, I figured I would share it for the benefit of any brand managers interested in getting into the branded entertainment game ... for one very specific reason:

When your big (and possibly expensive) agency pitches you on their big idea, show them this terrible ugly deck, created by one young guy in his NYC apartment nearly 6 years ago.

Is their big idea significantly more innovative than what's in here, or are they selling you the same pre-packaged programs that have been around forever?

And if their version of innovation is tossing around the term "webisode," tell them about all the awards BMW and Fallon won for that idea in 2002.

I'm not saying I ever had, or currently have the answers.  Just sharing ...

The 12-Steps of Pitching

  1. Pitch -4 weeks:  Let’s jump all over this.
  2. Pitch -3 weeks:  Pitch isn’t for 3 weeks … plenty of time.
  3. Pitch -1 week: We’re in pretty good shape for a week to go.
  4. Pitch -2 days: What's our strategy?? We have A LOT to do.  But let’s get it done today so we can get a good night's sleep before the pitch.
  5. Pitch -1 day: This is gonna be a long night …
  6. Pitch -2 hours:  Who’s got the preso on USB?!
  7. Pitch -15 minutes: What floor are they on?
  8. Pitch +5 minutes:  We rocked it!  Where’s the bathroom??
  9. Pitch +30 minutes:  Man, I wish I would have emphasized that one point a little harder. 
  10. Pitch + 3 hours: [stunned silence as you stare at the never-ending to-do list that’s piled up over the last week]
  11. Pitch +1 day: That wasn’t so bad. Pitching is fun!
  12. Pitch +1 week: This looks like an interesting new prospect, would love to be involved in the pitch.

Return to #1 on this list.

What Mona Lisa Have I Painted?

Right or wrong, as a marketer [and perhaps particularly as someone on the agency side] I feel self-imposed restraint about what I can/can't say in the public eye of social media.  Both in the content of what I put out and the tone in which I convey it.

Picture 1  


  1. You never know what brand you're pitching next.  And without a doubt, most prospects are going to Google the pitch team to see what they're all about.  How would they feel if they came across a snarky blog post about their recent ad campaign?  Or a sharply worded critique of how they handled a recent crisis in social media?  Some would be fine [maybe even appreciate it].  But there are a lot of fragile egos out there.
  2. It's a small world, this marketing echo chamber in which we play.  You never know who your next potential boss might be.  Do you want to be face-to-face with a person you harshly criticized (a) on day one of that person as the new boss at your company or (b) during a job interview?
  3. What Mona Lisa have I painted that gives me the right to cast stones?

How does this affect/restrain my social media behavior?

  1. A foul word slips out every once in a while, but for the most part I keep it clean.  Some people are very sensitive to language.
  2. Particularly when it comes to creative, I constructively question, but stop short of criticizing.
  3. I find myself staying away from certain brands altogether ... particularly if they are big players in categories I know I want to work in.
  4. I never [at least to the best of my memory] talk trash about another agency.  I've walked in their shoes, and have no interest in piling on the negativity. 

Don't get me wrong ... I have opinions.  Strong ones.  But I express them in other ways than in the public eye. 

Do you think I'm taking the easy way out?  Do you have any of the same concerns?  Would love to hear your POV.

My Little Blog Is All Grown Up

With a steady [albeit modest] audience and a renewed vigor for blogging, I figured it was time to graduate to an actual banner header.  This is one of several minor changes I'm making over the next few weeks.

Jeff Gordon, Creative Director | Principal of J.D. Gordon Advertising [no, not Jeff Gordon of NASCAR fame, which would be both really cool and really odd] was kind enough to design the new header you see above.

I love that with very little direction, Jeff designed something reflecting my sensibility [and thank you, Jeff, for not putting an actual flag in the banner!].  

Jeff, it was a pleasure working work with you.  Thank you.

About J.D. Gordon [from their site]:  JDG is a Midwest-based, creatively driven agency. We exist to build strong relationships between businesses and their consumers. Our clients are our partners. Together, we build their brands through strategic planning, advertising and design.


P&G's Tide Loads of Hope T-Shirt

You'll recall a couple of weeks ago the folks at P&G conducted a social media experiment, while raising money for charity.  My recap here

My shirt arrived the other day, and David Armano asked people to submit photos in exchange for some link love.  P&G digital brand manager, Dave Knox, promised me the T-shirt would be of good quality - and it is.  Pretty cool design, and not the typical stiff/ill-fitting corporate apparel. 

Using the Photo Lolz Polaroid emulator ...


P&G's Social Media Experiment [Tide Loads of Hope]

[UPDATE:  Read David Armano's inside account; AdAge's report]

A funny thing happened last night.  P&G - as part of a private digital night in Cincinnati - turned to some of the most well-known names in social media to accomplish a few things [all but #1 are speculation only]:

  1. Raise money for their charity, Tide Loads of Hope [clean clothes to families in need of support after natural disasters]

  2. Demonstrate the power of social media to senior executives
  3. Self-promotion
  4. Ingratiate themselves with the social media who's-who [a proactive insurance policy]

What did they do?
For a few hours, several teams - led by different cewebrities hunkered down at P&G headquarters - bombarded Digg, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and more with links to Tide's web site where you could buy vintage looking Tide t-shirts.  Twitter was particularly insane, with #pgdigital appearing non-stop.

How did they do?

  1. According to one participant, $50K in four hours, with P&G matching $50K.  I don't care how deep P&G's coffers are, they should be commended for the match.  Bravo!

  2. I'm sure this experiment went a long way towards changing some old school minds within the organization.
  3. Tide's name was all over the Internet last night, and I'm sure it will be written about a lot today.  The thing to watch for today is backlash, which you saw starting last night and I'm sure Tide knew was inevitable. 
  4. All the usual social media suspects were virtually tripping over themselves to help promote this.  But come on, who doesn't want to be in P&G's good graces [and help raise money]?


Did you participate [disclosure: I purchased a shirt]?  Either way, what do you think of the excercise?

Did you think the external agency participants at P&G last night went far enough to disclose their relationship with the company?  I saw a video from Ian Schafer of Deep Focus (@ischafer) who was very clear to state his agency did not work for P&G.  But I didn't see that same transparency from others.  Maybe I missed it in the frenzy?

Do you think, as Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor at Adweek seems to based on his tweets below, that we were all played?

Picture 1

My Interview With Alex Bogusky @ His Twitter Experience

Alex Bogusky 2Alex Bogusky may be the last last name in the advertising agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, but he's certainly very well-known within [and increasingly beyond] the advertising world.  

For those who don't know, CP+B is the celebrated [and occasionally maligned, and more often than not, polarizing] agency behind the Whopper Freakout, the Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld's Microsoft Ads [which I happen to love] and so many more creative [and at times, controversial] efforts.  Read Creativity's 2008 Agency of the Year article for a good overview.

So it's no surprise that the Twitter universe [I just can't bring myself to using words like "Twitterverse"] was abuzz when Bogusky, aka @Bogusky, first appeared in mid-December and quickly amassed a large and active following. 

It was perhaps with the same amount of buzz that he abruptly announced a few days ago:

Alex Bogusky 1

Why would he walk away from Twitter?  Was he just being provocative? 

Rather than speculate I asked Bogusky [we've never met, but did exchange a few tweets] if he would answer five email questions about his Twitter experience.  He graciously obliged. 

In the true spirit of online community, I quasi-crowdsourced two of the five questions [as noted below] from folks I respect in the social media space.  Here we go ...

Question 1:  When you first joined Twitter there was an amusing amount of chatter questioning the identity of @Bogusky.  In fact, there is a @BogusBogusky.  Why would someone want to pretend to be you, and more importantly what does the community's initial suspicion about your identity say about the state of things in social media?

Alex Bogusky: Yeah, I’m pretty sure @BogusBogusky works here too. I don’t know who it is but you can tell they’re on the inside. The suspicion comes from the fact that there is no requirement to be who you are online. I think this is something that might change going forward. There will be communities that are more diligent about ID and it will be a good thing. People are much more positive and responsible when they have to represent themselves and are unable to hide behind anonymity.

There’s a place for both kinds of community but I look forward to people representing themselves. Twitter actually has more of this than many communities. And I liked that. I had decided I would only follow people who had posted a picture or even an illustration of themselves. You don’t really know if it’s them I guess but it seemed a good indicator of sincerity.

Question 2: What's the significance, if any, that you are doing this interview with me - rather than say, AdWeek?  Does it say anything about the future of journalism and the role of "traditional" media?  If so, what?

AB: The significance is you asked me. And you didn’t seem to be looking to stir up controversy. I saw a headline somewhere that I had “…broken up with Twitter.” I don’t think that’s an accurate way to put it. Breakup is a very emotionally charged word and it’s a lot more exciting than the truth. I was getting to know it. Enjoyed the hell out of it. Brought some clients into it and was learning a ton. But in the end it wasn’t something I was going to weave into my everyday so rather than just not posting I thought my last posts should instruct anybody that came to the page that I wasn’t there. I don’t want people replying and sending questions or thoughts into a black hole. The web and social media is like ice cream. It’s all so fucking good. But we all find our favorite flavors. So it’s not that I don’t love butter pecan, it’s that I love mint chocolate chip even more so when it comes time to get ice cream I get that.

Question 3:  My guess is that CP+B has plenty of social-media savvy folks amongst the ranks who have been advising clients on how to explore communities like Twitter.  But as CP+B's head honcho, what is it about your own Twitter experience that you will you bring back to your teams, and your clients?

AB: That’s exactly right. The goal is to use and understand a lot of what is out there. I hope what I bring back is ideas. The ideas come from the medium meeting the marketing problem. So we’re just beginning to put those together.

Question 4: Len Kendall (@LenKendall) of Critical Mass wants to know: Did Twitter not inspire any creative thinking for you? Thoughts layered on other intelligent thoughts?  If Twitter did inspire creative thinking, can you give an example?

AB: I couldn’t say it inspired creative thinking for me. In general it was difficult not to get overloaded with links and articles. I’ve always been more of a blank page, white walls sort of person. For me twitter would probably hamper my creativity. I prefer the learning that comes from doing. It’s more dynamic and usually pushes you beyond the discussion.

Question 5: Ian Schafer (@ischafer), CEO of Deep Focus asks: Was there a singular moment that caused you to say 'this isn't for me'?

AB: No. And I will drop in from time to time. I of course reserve the right to reverse course. Wishy washy is how I like to roll.  I do think there needs to be some way to lock a retweet. I would see my tweets retweeted but changed slightly. I think that should be fixed. If it has RT in it, it should lock somehow.

Bonus Question:  @TheMime would like you to comment on the following:  . . .
AB:  : 0

That's all for now.  If you have additional questions, leave them as a comment.  Maybe Alex [or a fake version of him] will answer them.