April 13, 2010

Media Planning Through the Blog Fog


Are you skimming this?

They say that back in the 17th century, the average literate nobleman read the same amount of information over their lifetime as the amount of data that's published in The New York Times on any given Sunday.

This came up recently in a conversation with Gene DeWitt. He told us a story about something that happened to him when he was with Ogilvy & Mather.

So let's talk about blog fog for a moment. It's literally impossible to take more than a glance through all the information we receive everyday. Just reading every story linked to an aggregated email is difficult. It could take up to 1-2 hours to really digest every article and its ramifications to you, your family, career, friends and clients.


The Forest vs. the Trees

The blog fog gives us exponentially greater choices. You might wonder then why has The Wall Street Journal begun publishing a weekend edition? How does it compare to the Financial Times weekender - our personal favorite - or of course, the (somewhat worn out) New York Times? We think the answer is simple. Believe it or not, people slow down on the weekends. At least a few minutes or so, maybe even to read something rather than just skim it.

It's easier to read because there's less of a fog. You could make the assumption that skimming actually distracts or fogs up the mind during the week. On the weekend, we have more clarity and can see through it better, which may help us see the exit this time when we drove too fast by it during the week.


Our favorite past-time is to take a delicious moment on a whim to follow a zigzag path through the blogosphere, clicking on topics hotlinked by writers in their e-journals which are not necessarily related to our topic. This approach is often not linear.

For as much as we land on an entry that relates to our original curiosity, our eyes often glance on stuff not related at all. In essence, we take an "Alice in wwwLand" journey into the unknown, happening upon things that may razzle, dazzle, excite and/or scare us. We love it. It's funny how we frequently slow down and actually take the time to read these gems. And the irony is we get more out of them.

Recent University of Rhode Island Research suggests that those people who consume their food slowly put on less weight. It's healthier. Also, anyone who takes the time to post a response on a blog is also apt to have read what they are commenting about. Is there a lesson here?

The problem we have with glancing (though we do it as much as the next person) is that there's little or no retention to it. Maybe that's a good thing. Who wants to fill one's mind up with useless or irrelevant information? The problem of course is that at the time we may not find relevance. Then later, we find ourselves in a situation where the info we put aside would have been handy at that very moment.


Okay, let's throw all this out the window. Time is a relative thing. Now Gene's story:

My First Time

As an assistant media planner at Ogilvy & Mather back in the '60s, I was assigned to develop a media plan for Milky Way candy bars. First problem: I'd never written a media plan before. In my first fifteen months in the business, I'd trained in media research and bought Spot TV. Think outside the box; I didn't even know there was a box.

But O&M at the time was a very friendly place (about $60 million in billings in one office at 49th Street & Fifth Avenue) so I wandered around and picked up some information:

1. Milky Way sales were trending down
2. Corner groceries were being replaced by the new supermarkets
3. Single bar sales at candy stores were declining while multi-packs at supermarkets were growing
4. Hardly anyone bought chocolate bars in the summer because they melted
5. Most candy advertising was directed at children

One other bit of information based on my own personal experience: frozen Milky Way bars were really good.

I put this all together and presented a plan to the account group that included:
1. A recommendation for a summer promotion based on packing six or so Milky Way bars in a free ice cube tray
2. Daytime television during the summer when we could reach kids and their Moms (and virtually no other candies were advertising)

Months later I saw a sales chart that showed a multiyear negative sales trend reversing slightly in the previous summer.

A little ignorance is a wonderful thing.

P.S. O&M gave me a ridiculously small amount of time to produce the media plan. Everything is relative. Back then we did not have electronic calculators, copy machines, faxes, FedEx or cell phones much less computers... Still, the thrill of the producing it in record time and the self-imposed pressure made it a great experience and made O&M for me a great place to work.


So what's the point of all this? Who has the time to think about it? We guess the best summation of both situations is, regardless of the space and time issues: try like h*ll to enjoy the d*mn ride!

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