My Digital Soapbox

"It’s very difficult to solve for the problem of how to make advertising inherently valuable in people’s lives”

"I believe all these things are in the process of changing. First of all, you need a liquid environment of data. And by liquid I meant that there’s enough information about what I want and who I am and what my history is that a marketer can understand me well enough to deliver me a message that is valuable to me.”

- John Battelle, Founder and CEO of Federated Media Publishing, WIRED co-founder, and author of The Search

A Friend Just Asked Me For My Definition Of Native Advertising…

Here’s what I came up with: 

Paid media that appears within an organic stream of content. It can be anything from product placement, integration, or Facebook promoted posts and tweets. The best native ads are true to the publisher’s identity and offers value to consumers. They aren’t easy to pull off. 

The nature of change is changing because the flow and control of information has become turbulent, no longer flowing top down, but flowing in every direction at all times. This means that the ability to manage and lead change is no longer based on messaging, communication and traditional sponsorship. Rather it is based on processes of informing, enrolling and adapting that are significantly more disruptive and difficult to manage for executives and leaders. - Mark McDonald, Gartner (April, 2010)


I got retargeted on Facebook today – and it was magical.

Here’s what happened. I wanted to buy a Ted Baker gingham check sports shirt. So first I went to Google and searched for “Ted Baker gingham check sports shirt”. That’s a pretty explicit signal indicating that I’m looking to buy a pretty…

This is the future of effective advertising. Native, audience segmentation, retargeting.


Glad to hear that HBO Go is coming to Apple TV. It looks like Apple is starting to spend some of that monstrous cash hoard on content. It’s the only thing stopping them from disrupting TV.

The “Apple can’t get content” argument has never made sense. Apple can buy ANY content it wants. It…

I’m ready for the takeover!

Eve 6’s new video is really fun. Check it out below, and then be sure to check out the "making of" to see how it was done. Great concept. 
Help promote the new Curtain music video by #Eve6 and win an iPod and other prizes!

Eve 6’s new video is really fun. Check it out below, and then be sure to check out the "making of" to see how it was done. Great concept. 

Help promote the new Curtain music video by #Eve6 and win an iPod and other prizes!

A snippet of what I recently wrote for the blog. 

Since the announcement of iOS 6, the media narrative has centered around Apple severing ties with Google and developing their own maps product. Now that iOS 6 is finally in the hands of the public, the narrative has shifted to the shortcomings of the new Maps app, with critics pointing to the lack of transit integration or street view. 

But I’m here to tell you about a feature of Maps that has huge implications for users, small businesses and big brands - Yelp integration

Check it out

Execute against who you want to be because it’s the only life that you have. Period. You are going to be desperately, desperately sad when you’re 70 and you didn’t do the shit you wanted to. If you do one thing - one call to action - find three to ten random 70-100 year old people that you don’t know and ask them about their life. When you see the pain in their eyes when they didn’t do the shit they wanted, PROMISE ME that you won’t do that.
Gary Vaynerchuk (The last 45 seconds of the video)
Riffing On Brands Being Human. And Whatnot.

Note: this entire exercise was spurred on by a lazy Sunday login to Facebook. There is no intention to classify any of the below brands as “good” or “bad” in the social media space. (All views are my own - thus the name of the blog being “My Digital Soapbox.”)

Since that’s out of the way - take a look at some of what greeted me when I logged in to Facebook today: 

Are the above examples ways for brands to build meaningful relationships with consumers in a digital world? The simplicity certainly drives people to click like, share and possibly comment… But maybe building a relationship that is contingent upon and quantified by likes/shares/comments isn’t really building a relationship at all. This might not be how those brands ALWAYS engage, but it is generally accepted that the “simple CTA” drives engagement on Facebook. And it does - based on Facebook metrics. 

But is it possible for brands to have RELATIONSHIPS with human beings? I’m betting yes, although it will take a lot of learning from the brands that try to build authentic relationships around passion points. It will also take patience when the “counting stats” aren’t there.

This update from Petsmart might not be getting great engagement, but it is shows a bit of promise (even if it ends up falling a bit short):

The post clearly targets a niche audience that likes to dress up their pet. I’m assuming that niche audience of hardcore pet owners is somehow lucrative in the Petsmart business and driving to Pinterest is a great way to connect them socially. 

Unfortunately, it ultimately fails, because it gets too complicated. Driving offsite from Facebook is a always a bit tricky, and in this case, seems to have been bungled a bit. Petsmart appears to have created a hashtag on Pinterest, but when clicking on that hashtag, there aren’t any results:

In this case, they would have been better off just promoting the boards that already exist on Petsmart’s Pinterest page and using the Facebook post to drive an intended engagement on Pinterest. As constructed now, I’m confused about what to do next.

And their boards on Pinterest are WAY too sales-ey: 

If you’re managing a branded social channel, just remember to keep it human. 

Now, things are going to get a LITTLE bit self-serving, so stop reading if you don’t want to read about a similar Facebook engagement, but by a brand that I’m working with. 

Read More

Foursquare As a Local Discovery Engine - The Game-Changer I’ve Been Waiting For

"Soon success and failure in the mobile app world will depend on developers building a user experience that is simple and intuitive – something that will use an advanced technology to make a process more efficient. A natural extension of our brains."

Yes, I’m starting out a blog post with something I wrote a few months ago on the Big Fuel Content To Commerce Blog. It might be self-serving, but I’m especially satisfied after this week’s launch of the new Foursquare app. The new emphasis on local discovery shows that Foursquare is on the right path to success and that they understand the shift in human behavior regarding recommendations via mobile technologies. Foursquare is clearly working hard to solve the “problem” I outlined in the above-linked piece with their new “Explore” features. 

From a brand marketing perspective, I’m especially excited about the new merchant program that they’ll be rolling out later this summer as a second phase of this app redesign (as reported by Mashable): 

Though Foursquare revealed last month that it has big changes in mind for its merchant platform, none of them appear in the new app. Eventually, merchants will have an option to purchase promoted placement of specials, and the offers will be targeted using the same technology that powers the Explore feature.
A Foursquare spokesperson told Mashable that the company will begin rolling out the first versions of the option later this summer.

As an interesting side note, merchant badges are being phased out. Before the new app rolled out, I reached out to the Foursquare “Partners” team on behalf of one of my clients, inquiring about a badge idea. I was told:

We’re winding down our partner badging program, instead allocating those same engineering resources towards building out new merchant tools (that your brand will most definitely benefit from). As such, we’re unable to engage in new partner badge programs like this. 

If Foursquare continues to grow its user base, it should become the best way to connect with customers on a local level, bridging the gap between mobile/social and brick & mortar. Pretty soon, Foursquare will be another important platform for brands to consider when allocating paid media budgets, especially brands with retail stores. 

In you’re looking for further reading about the “new” Foursquare, the NY Times wrote a piece about the future growth potential of the platform and Tech Crunch snagged the first interview with Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley after the launch. 

A couple more thoughts about the app (along with screen grabs) are below:

Loving the new app, but why are the “friends who have been here” icons so small and not hyperlinked?!

You can now “like” places, comments and tips. Data that will surely be incorporated in Foursquare’s “Explore” recommendation engine.