Thursday, December 4, 2008

Two Men Enter...One Man Leaves.

Apologies for the title as it will remind some readers of what is quite possibly the worst-ever sequel in the history of Hollywood filmmaking. I mean, exactly how did someone like the Tina Turner character end up running a town in post-apocalyptic Australia, anyway?

Movie criticisms aside, the line is actually appropriate because tonight I am proud to introduce you to the official Web site for the Search Engine Rap Battle series, where the leaders in the space attempt to solve their disputes Old rapping!

Now I think this will be much more entertaining if you have previously seen Eminem's 8 Mile, but even if not there is still a laugh or two in there regardless.

The video below leads off with an MSN vs Google showdown and includes the soon-to-be classic line "...cuz all your search results say 'Search Wikipedia'…" but be sure to check out the MSN vs Yahoo! faceoff as well and then wrap it all up with the Google vs Yahoo! finale here.

And in keeping with the overall theme, it is an absolute must for me to also highlight this "Paid Search 101" video from the infamous SEO Rapper, whose messages are just right in a funny-because-it-is-true kind of way...hope you enjoy it.

Aiight? Then I’m Audi, like 5000…until next time.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where Does The Time Go?

Was about to circulate one of my patented Sionne’s Spammy Mass Emails today - or what I really prefer to call an informative update to an intimate group of selected contacts - and remembered what my friend Malcolm would likely tell me, “Uh, excuse me but please stop stuffing my in-box with the kind of info and commentary you are supposed to be posting on your near-dormant blog, dude.” …which is exactly right.

Will spare you the latest litany of excuses as to why Posts By Sionne deserves its ranking as one of the leading Cobweb-Gathering Locations On The InterWeb but suffice it to say it is proof of the fact I lead an extremely rich and full life, which consists of basically the following schedule on a daily basis:

Getting up and hassling the latest iteration of the Roberts family until they get out the door with me and dropped off at daycare, going into work, working all day, coming home from work and starting the Second Shift ie. assisting my wife in throwing some food at our children, getting pyjamas on them and continually chasing them back into bed for about an hour after their supposed bedtime and then doing some more exciting grown-up stuff like cleaning up supper mess, paying bills and walking the dogs followed by catching up on daytime workload overflow and then getting a few hours of sleep…phew. Weekends are not as intense as weekdays but still consumed with buying groceries, usual household repairs and yard work, never-ending laundry piles, various children-focused activities, etc.

While I have never actually been a little mouse running on a wheel, over recent months I can well imagine exactly what that experience feels like. Don’t get me wrong though - life is good overall and no regrets, just the reality of limited time cycles in the past year or so, where blogging falls on the could-do side of the ledger versus the must-do side for me.

So a bit of a departure format-wise this time. Instead of working from a single theme my objective here is to simply get some of these items finally published instead of continuing to have them roll around in my head for weeks on end. So, in no particular order:

> A big shout-out to my friend Andris Pone of Instinct Brand Equity, whose article criticizing Bell Canada’s inability to deliver on its (re)brand promise was featured in the October issue of Marketing Magazine. Check out the article here because I tend to nod my head along with nearly everything Andris and his colleagues at Instinct Brand Equity have to say. Their criticisms and insights are always spot-on…these guys really get it.

> It was announced earlier this week that Jerry Yang is stepping down as Yahoo! CEO and will be reclaiming his former title of Chief Yahoo, reverting to a more strategic role as soon as Jerry’s successor is named. Not really any surprise here but my biggest question is “what comes next?” as this move only reinforces the fact that Yahoo! has been lacking a true get-it-done CEO since the beginning of the Terry Semel era, and what a debacle Mr Hollywood’s tenure turned out to be, huh? Kinda hard to run a leading Silicon Valley-based Web Media company when you fly up from LA once a week and don’t even read emails on your computer but instead have them printed out (!) by your executive assistant.

Don’t get me wrong. Even though they are direct competitor to my employer I am far from a Yahoo! hater and in fact have a long-time affinity for what I consider to still be a leading global online brand. What would make me - and thousands of the company’s employees and shareholders, etc - happiest is for Team Purple to get their sh*t together and develop a clear and focused strategic plan, and then execute against it, before the executive exodus becomes irreversible and/or MSFT makes another bid. With the current economic downturn to navigate through and associated declines in advertising budgets the Yahoo! challenge will be difficult enough without any new Peanut Butter Manifesto-related issues compounding their problems.

Am really hoping for a number of reasons that Yahoo! can get lean and hungry before the entire train comes off the rails for them. From that point of view, Jerry Yang’s relinquishing the CEO role now is a good step in right direction. My favourite comment on this whole situation was one I read recently from the ever-quotable Mark Cuban, where he said "Jerry's too nice a guy. He cares too much. They've got a lot of avenues they could take but all of them depend on being a lot meaner and a lot more aggressive and that's just not their style." The article where Cuban was quoted goes on to say “Cuban should know - he took Yang for $6 billion during the dotcom bubble by selling to Yahoo, then made sure to collar his shares so they kept their value while Yang's fortune plunged. Never heard of Exactly Cuban's point.” which while entirely true also made me laugh out loud. A sweet play by Cuban but gotta love that ValleyWag attitude in describing a classic dotcom-era transaction…

> Finally, I came across the Search Marketing Fact Pack 2008 in Advertising Age and found it really interesting, despite the definite US-market emphasis. Even though I have a new role in my day job and therefore tend not to focus as much on the Search space as I did previously, it holds enough personal interest for me to dig into this stuff any chance I get. Some good info on Keywords and Buying Words, the usual on Analytics as well as solid coverage of Local and Mobile, two areas I have been following much more closely lately. Take a look at the full report for yourself here if you want to know more.

There you go and hope you enjoyed this one. And even though I am “cashing in some credits” (you married dudes know what I mean) and getting out of the house tonight - going to the Ad Club Holiday Party event, after also attending Mobifest yesterday evening - I will see if I can follow up in the not-too-distant future with another update…or at least by sometime before Christmas. I am really not kidding here, OK?

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Rise and Fall of…Twitter?

Ahoy-hoy. Am now back in town after my 2-week family vacation Back East and just feeling fine.

Today's video is for all you über fanatics of Web 2.0 communications tools out there, especially the Twitter hopeless tweet-aholics know who you are.

This parody of a scene from the film Downfall is a fairly popular Internet meme (just check out YouTube for Hitler Gets Banned, etc) but this *Twittler* version struck me as extra-funny and just right for a re-posting here.

Thanks to John Biggs for originally posting on his TechCrunch blog. Just remember, it's supposed to be a joke, and totally about Twitter NOT Hitler. So please keep that in mind before you post a negative comment or send me some nastygram email messages.

On with the show…

Friday, July 18, 2008

The People Have Spoken.

So I ran into an associate from my previous life (when I was working as a spreadsheet jockey senior product marketing manager in telecom) at a sporting event the other night. In the course of catching up he asked me a very unexpected question, “when are you going to put up a new post on your blog?” and I was quite surprised since it was apparent to me he most definitely wanted to see something updated at Posts By Sionne on a more regular basis. Kind of a minor ego boost but also at the same time a reality check...that there are actual, real-live people out there reading what you are blogging. Sometimes even checking back to see if there is anything new!

This conversation at the soccer stadium triggered a different perspective on my relationship with the (admittedly very few) readers of Posts By Sionne. And it’s something that simply reviewing Web traffic logs doesn’t properly illustrate - even though there may not be many of them, visitors to your blog are real people and they are checking in for one reason, ie. to read what you have to say. So thanks for the equivalent of a friendly kick in the butt, Scot and getting me back at the keyboard again…this one is for you, and of course the five or six other regular visitors to this space.

What some of you may not understand is that I absolutely enjoy the whole blogging thing and it is not in any way a lack of interest contributing to my infrequent/sporadic publishing schedule.

How to explain? OK, try this...maybe I spend too much time with someone who works in the law enforcement field, or maybe it is just the proliferation of TV crime program spinoffs like Law & Order: Jaywalkers and CSI: Boise, Idaho (yes I am exaggerating, but only a tiny little bit - I mean, how many of those shows are running on TV anyway?) but for me successfully blogging lately has been like committing a crime and therefore comes down to the elements of Means, Motive, and Opportunity. As in…

1) Means: Hmm, I have a computer with Internet access and the ability to command a mouse and keyboard. And as a generally opinionated person I typically have something to say, no matter the subject…OK, truth is I probably enjoy hearing myself talk more than the average person but c’est la vie. This trait combined with my long-time affinity for writing contributes to a capacity for producing something blog-worthy without too much difficulty. Never really any significant obstacles for me in the Means category.

2) Motivation: This one is a bit tougher. With a full-time job, a working spouse and two pre-school-aged children in my household, life for me recent has been a series of *weekday survival sprints* punctuated by weekends filled with an equal mix of non-stop family activities, housekeeping, chores and yardwork. Those in similar situations will recognize themselves when I state that blogging falls pretty far down the list of top priorities, somewhere well below convincing myself not to go out to the store for a pack of cigarettes (I don’t smoke, by the way) and just keep on driving ;o)

Thanks to Scot’s comments though, the Motivation part level has at least temporarily been ratcheted up a few notches. So this brings us to the final element - Opportunity.

3) Opportunity: Simply put - there never seems to be enough time. And when there is enough time either I am too tired by a long day to get excited by the prospect of blogging or there are about a dozen other things that seem higher up on the Important Stuff list, which means I end up doing a few of those instead.

Ah, but tonight it is so different. In this case tonight my wife is on a rare overnight work assignment and the rugrats (aka Sweet Little Angels to everyone except their parents) have actually both been sound asleep as of 9PM, for the first time in 3 weeks, I believe. Which leaves me now all alone in front of the computer with nothing but a cold beer and my friends Means and Motive asking me if I am going to invite Opportunity to the party ;o)

Somewhat long-winded introduction aside, here is a series of spots for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, aka MDAS. Not sure why but recently I have been enjoying European-based advertising campaigns more than those produced here in North America. This one was created by a creative agency (Openhere - based in Belgium) for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, targeting the EMEA market.

On the Full Disclosure front, I am currently employed with BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises) in the Sympatico/MSN portal group. With Sympatico/MSN being a partnership between Bell and Microsoft Canada and my role a hybrid of product marketing and sales, I live in this space and also have the opportunity to work on a daily basis with some very bright and talented counterparts over at MSFT. That said, I am trying to ignore any potential personal biases when analyzing these ad spots. If anything I am possibly inclined to be more critical, since I understand this particular MDAS business better than outsiders would. Why not watch for yourself though and develop your own assessment? Then see my comments below…

The Break-Up / Bring The Love Back

Inspiration, Anyone? - Trailer

Inspiration, Anyone?

Brilliant, just killer, really…don’t you agree? Here is what I found worked best on these:

It's simply very effective at communicating the superficial approach far too many advertisers take when communicating to their customers and prospects, regardless of the medium. Terrific approach, introducing the relationship between a (self-absorbed) man and his frustrated love interest to demonstrate the interaction between advertisers and consumers.

It’s well-executed - irreverent, light and humourous and styled as a parody without incorporating any darker satirical or sarcastic tones.

While not anywhere near as clever as the classic Mac versus PC series, it squarely hits the funny-because-it-is-true button several times. The agency scenes in Inspiration, Anyone? are especially entertaining for those of us who have personally experienced similar scenarios when dealing with a pure creative shop. As in the equation: muffins! + giant Starbucks cup + the bigger logo reco’ = WAY too funny.

It looks (and sounds) good…very solid production overall. In the "Inspiration, Anyone?" trailer, it seems like they even spent the budget dollars to hire a soundalike for that famous Hollywood voiceover artist Don LaFontaine, originator of the now-clichéd "in a world where..." phrase.

Most importantly, after having all the preceding elements in place, you now have something that is viral-friendly and easily shared via emailed links to video clips, or uploaded as embedded content on a Web site…or blog as I have done here.

Interestingly, there are virtually no Microsoft references in these spots, with exception of MDAS thrown up for the closing shot. I think many viewers would be surprised to learn Microsoft actually even has a group devoted to Digital Advertising Solutions, although this is less likely to happen within to the target audience. While this “white-label” approach would be a huge oversight if applied on a traditional TV ad (remember that very entertaining EDS Herding Cats Super Bowl ad from a few years back…the one where virtually no one remembered the company it advertised?) in this online/viral medium it becomes less of a liability.

Now agreed there are some deficiencies, one being that it does not work very well in terms of detailing what MDAS really does and explaining specifically how advertisers can benefit. I am not actually familiar with the original briefing and campaign objectives but as a straight Awareness execution it definitely offers enough to be shared virally and in this format it can easily be re-distributed…which ultimately spreads the MDAS message and results in an effective campaign on the brand awareness level.

Great minds think alike, it seems. In my related research I learned that this spot has received multiple awards to date in Belgium as well as a prestigious Bronze Lion award very recently at the 2008 Cannes International Advertising Festival.

So definitely one of my more expansive efforts here. Suppose that it is to be expected with nearly two months of pent-up blogging energies now finally being released. Thanks as always for reading and come back soon for more, OK?

Happy surfing!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Send In The Clowns.

See below a fantastic print ad from DDB Stockholm/Sweden for the Volkswagen-owned Škoda car line. This is actually from around mid-2007 but if you have not already seen it, then it’s still in the New To You category…

So sure, the whole "our Pricing department is staffed by a bunch of clowns" thing has been done many times before - and for some reason quite frequently in the automotive space, ie. for spots promoting Wacky Larry’s Super Car Deals Emporium and the like - but in this case the concept’s execution is innovative enough to receive top marks from me.

And of course everybody loves clowns, or
don’t they?

(Click image to view larger version in new window)

Friday, May 16, 2008

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

So we are nearly halfway through 2008 already and I still don't have a Facebook account...but one of the (very few) Web 2.0/social networking tools that I do use often and truly find valuable is LinkedIn.

Now for those of you living in a cave the past few years and are therefore not aware of LinkedIn, it is recognized as the top business-oriented Social Networking site and as of March 2008 listed more than 20 million registered users spanning 150 industries. Some references call it “the business version of Facebook” but as one of the few remaining non-Facebook account holders on the planet I would say this comparison is inaccurate at best…and offensive at worst.

LinkedIn offer a free and highly effective method for expanding your network of personal and professional contacts, increasing visibility of Your Personal Brand online as well as digging up information about others in the business world.

OK, for some reason I recently started getting pretty active with efforts to expand my network of LinkedIn contacts…no problem, right?

Wrong. This exercise has proven a bit more challenging than originally expected, for a couple of reasons…first, I tend to only invite or accept invitations from people I know fairly well and have had some level of interaction with previously. This limits the total universe of potential adds I can approach. The second obstacle is that many potential adds either do not respond to an invitation. Or the response is that they have not yet signed on with LinkedIn and don’t want to go to the trouble of creating a profile on yet another service just so they can become connected to me. Fair enough, I suppose…

I believe this is their loss. As I mentioned above I find numerous benefits to using LinkedIn. It is absolutely a good way to present your professional profile online. In the process of being recruited for several jobs over the past few months I would often do a Google search to get info about someone I would be meeting and many times the only hit I would get back (at least with enough information to be of value in terms of their background, anyway) would be on LinkedIn. And in many instances their LinkedIn profile was one of the few – if not only – instances of that person having any kind of online *presence* whatsoever.

Another benefit of LinkedIn is access to a growing number of posted job opportunities. A lot of these require that you are connected in some way to the job poster via your LinkedIn network in order to be eligible to apply. Or sometimes there is a stipulation that you must have received one or more Recommendations from others in your LinkedIn network. This is exactly what it sounds like, since a key feature of LinkedIn is that it allows you to receive Recommendations from connections within your network and also post recommendations for others, basically LinkedIn’s version of an online reference letter.

Like employment references in the Real World, most times they are a sober yet enthusiastic endorsement of the person in question, effusively listing positive abilities, personal qualities and generally describing how great someone is ad nauseum. Well I actually came across a LinkedIn recommendation recently that stood out for its innovative approach and clear sense of humour:

“Jamie is smart, hardworking and very personable...but
I feel I have to relate that on more than one occasion
I witnessed him putting his used coffee mug in the
sink - unwashed. Not only did he not rinse it and
put it in the dishwasher as indicated by the sign "your
mother does not work here etc." but he just left it
there with a little bit of sludge in it. I'm sure he
was really busy at the time, but still. I just felt
I needed to be balanced in my feedback and I probably
should have confronted him with it at the time.”

Thought this was just great…demonstrating creativity on the part of the writer along with a fun easy-going attitude from the recommendee who allowed this recommendation to be posted within their profile.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back…Back In Black.

Long time.

So quite a lot has happened since the last time I posted here: relocation to Toronto with the family and a new gig as a spreadsheet jockey senior product marketing manager with
Canada's largest alternative telecommunications provider. OK, not much of an excuse for the long period of blog dormancy but those of you who know me best are aware I am a better-late-than-never kind of guy...and it all gets done eventually.

If you are new to Posts By Sionne, this blog was originally intended as a way for me to voice my personal opinions, with the (very loose) common thread of topics being related to marketing in some way. Take note of the title of today’s posting as it is significant on a few levels.

First of all, I am “back” participating in the blogosphere and definitely intend to make a longer run of it this time before my next leave of absence. Second, there is the AC/DC connection…Back in Black was this band’s 1980 album release, the first one recorded after the death of its former lead singer. With its iconic all-black cover art as a sign of mourning/tribute to Bon Scott and containing some of AC/DC’s biggest hit songs, it is easy to see why Back in Black is often ranked as the
all-time worldwide best-selling album by a band and second only in all-time worldwide record sales overall behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

The song "Back in Black" is the title single from that album, best-known for the distinctive hard-hitting guitar riff at the song’s opening. This is the default ringtone for my mobile phone now and it simply rocks in a way that puts "In da Club", "SexyBack" and all others like it to shame.

So Back in Black has some significance on a few levels and in my opinion stands for doing something really well while also totally rocking out. But here comes the marketing part, after the jump:

Wow, right? Hard to go wrong with a Summer Blockbuster movie trailer featuring songs from AC/DC, Audioslave and Black Sabbath…and helps quite a bit in my case that
Iron Man remains my favourite comic book superhero character from back in the days when I actually used to read Marvel comics with a passion. Would love to be the marketer with that level of budget and responsible for promoting a highly recognizable product like this one. No need to develop a Blair Witch guerilla buzz or Cloverfield stealth-type of campaign (both of them very well executed, by the way) when all you really need is a cool trailer to get the word out. Even the fanboy crowd who may eventually critique the film to pieces after it is released will still go see it at least once, if only to provide fodder for their online diatribes, a la the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

Will you go see Iron Man when it kicks off the Summer 2008 movie season? Maybe you are anticipating the return of Indiana Jones or Sex and the City instead? The big one is no doubt going to be The Dark Knight and it is a cynical thing to say but I will bet you a dollar on this: somewhere right now there is a room of movie executives still debating the benefits of all the added publicity from Heath Ledger’s untimely and scandalous death versus the issue of re-casting the Joker character for future sequels. No doubt.

Appreciate your feedback so hit me up with a comment or two.

I’m back…