Friday, April 3, 2009

Survival Of The Fittest.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”
Clarence Darrow (1857 – 1938)...and actually not said by Charles Darwin, pictured here *Obama-style*

Wow, basically a whole month since my last posting. Now I would really like to be able to attribute my recent failings in updating this space to a deep commitment in observing Earth Hour…deliberately abstaining from using my computer’s power resources for an extended period and therefore being unable to update Posts By Sionne. The reality though is that my tree-hugging tendencies are in fact not that well-developed. I was honestly just too busy lately to get around to blogging.

That being said, I do think I have a pretty reasonable explanation behind my “going dark” and if you allow me to share a personal story here you will soon understand the situation much, much better.

So we were advised by our realtor at 5PM yesterday that the Seller's conditions are being lifted as of 10AM today/Friday. Assuming the inspection goes well this coming Monday then the transaction will proceed and as of May 15, 2009 we will be relocating to our new residence, aka The New & Improved “Casa Roberts” in lovely downtown Bradford, Ontario.

I offer this as proof that if one is truly committed and able to invest the required effort they can find themselves with a (sort of) Moncton-sized mortgage on a fully updated and reno’d 4-bedroom, 3-bath home sitting on a 100 X 100 fenced lot in a quiet family-friendly neighbourhood that is 5 minutes away from the GO Train station and also still takes only about 70 minutes of vehicle commuting to arrive at my office in downtown Toronto.

Very near the top of the Benefits list for us in this move is the fact that Natasha will soon be 20 minutes from her work and driving primarily via city surface streets, instead of her current “one hour of white knuckles on the highway twice daily” arrangement. This is really quite an exciting concept for my lovely wife, trust me. We both only hope that the ulcers we have induced and additional grey hairs acquired recently will turn out to all worth it in the end...

Meaning I will not elaborate extensively right now but let's just say that past few weeks have involved a whirlwind series of exceptionally-strange dealings with first the buyers of our current home, followed by constantly-stressful negotiations with the multiple potential sellers of the homes we offered to buy. And at one point there were even some serious and in-depth consultations with legal counsel on whether or not we could actually sue our finance company to counteract the impact of our potentially being sued ourselves (yes, I am not joking about this) by the buyers of our current home.

Did I mention yet - as I like to do often - that Natasha and I both work full-time and on the home front are managing the usual excitement that comes along with parenting a 5- and 3-year-old, while also finding time daily to pay at least a little bit of attention to our two supposedly-neglected pet dogs as well? And since moving back to Toronto we have faced the challenge of there not a whole lot of family support locally (aka “absolutely none”) and even something that should be as simple as getting the occasional babysitter for an evening is something that has not happened for at least 6 months now. Good Times indeed and I can honestly say that life as usual is highly *unboring* for all of us playing in the game as members of Team Roberts - Toronto Edition.

Before I go, I do have something tonight for those of you completely disinterested in Sionne’s personal affairs and dropping in periodically instead for my news and insights from the online media and marketing worlds.

Now if this applies to you and you have actually even made it this far down the page I can definitely say I commend your commitment to the pursuit of information, or your exceptional amounts of available free time, or both. But I will also share something I read this week that I believe falls under tonight’s Darwinian theme. Or for those of you who can remember this, perhaps it is more along the lines of that classic Timex slogan Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking instead.

HEADLINE: Microsoft Looks to JWT to Market New Search Engine - Web Giant Expected to Spend Up to $100 Million in Bid to Win Share From Google, Yahoo

Summary version of the Ad Age article is that Microsoft has engaged its agency JWT to develop a creative campaign for the latest version of its Search offering...which I have heard being referred to as both Kumo and Project Kiev but still also called plain-old Live Search, according to Steve Ballmer.

This is either an example of a committed push by MSFT to get some much-need traction in the Search category, or a colossal waste of dollars and a case of throwing good money after bad in a (doomed) losing effort. I suppose it depends on your point of view but mine is that this is a good move and might actually be able to make a difference in growing share for a viable market alternative to the Google powerhouse.

I personally have an above-average familiarity with the Microsoft adCenter offering from my previous role here at Bell Canada. I also experienced a reasonable level of success during that time, communicating adCenter’s merits to its B2B audience. So I think it is entirely possible for JWT to create some compelling messaging resonating with consumers of Live Search as well. Can’t hurt to try. Plus, if the Redmond crew really want to pursue a win in the Search Wars then taking aggressive action is better than doing nothing...and expecting a divine intervention-type of miracle to happen instead. As I often like to say, “the definition of insanity is continually repeating the same behaviours, yet expecting a different outcome” so this announcement makes perfect sense to me.

And combining a multi-million-dollar ad blitz with a parallel Microsoft strategy of Why-Buy-Yahoo!-When-We-Can-Just-Hire-All-Of-Its-Best-People just might be enough to do the trick. Since the other big news I heard this week was that Dayne Sampson - former Yahoo VP, Operations for Search and Advertising - has also defected to the Dark Side and been beamed up to the Redmond mother ship. This now makes a pretty impressive roster of Search & Media execs (aka Yahoo! alumni) on the MSFT payroll, a list that now includes Sean Suchter, Qi Lu, Larry Heck, Jan Pedersen and now Sampson.

Maybe the current thinking of management is to ignore whether or not Carol Bartz wants to re-open the dormant Micro-hoo! merger/acquisition discussion. Because as many who follow this industry closely are also observing, if this torrid pace of fence-jumping from Yahoo! to Microsoft continues it might not be too long before there won’t be much of a Search biz remaining for MSFT to buy anyway.

Always interesting. And I have no doubt there will be even more developments surfacing very soon.

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