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CM Conversation: Laura Desmond, CEO Starcom MediaVest Group

By - October 02, 2008

Speaker Desmond FM’s third CM Summit is just two weeks away (register here), and as I have in the past (and will with other speakers as well as folks I’ll interview at Web 2), I turn to the collective intelligence of Searchblog readers to help me prepare. I’ll be having conversations with Evan Williams (co-founder Twitter), Gian Fulgoni (founder Comscore), David Rosenblatt (CEO DoubleClick, now at Google) and many others.

But first up in terms of thinking out loud here is Laura Desmond, Chief Executive Officer, Starcom MediaVest Group, a unit of the Publicis Groupe. For those of you who might not follow the world of marketing too closely, SMG is one of the largest and most influential marketing services companies on the planet, its clients include Kraft, Allstate, Kellogg’s, Walt Disney, GM, Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, RIM (Blackberry), and on and on. The company collectively controls billions of dollars of marketing spend, including a significant chunk of the monies that fuel the Internet Economy.

In other words, Laura is one Very Important Person in the world of the web, even if you’ve never heard of her.

Given what I do for a living, I’ve come to know Laura and find her extremely candid and refreshingly absent the marketing-speak that sometimes creeps into top executives’ vocabulary. GIven the economy, it’s an extraordinary time to have a conversation. Here are some of the topics I plan to cover:

– SMG’s clients represent a comprehensive sampling of the largest marketers in the US and global economy. Given the economic crisis, what are they saying to you now about their plans for spending? Are they going to continue to shift to digital, or are they going to pause or move spend to places where they’ve lived in the past (IE TV, print)?

– CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands are just starting to lean into digital. What have they learned, and how far do they have to go before they view online as central to their plans, if ever?

– How has the digital world changed how agencies within SMG do their work? (This in light of my writings on CPG vs. Conversational Media, here).

– Lastly, I’ve asked Laura to bring examples of work done by SMG agencies. I’m looking forward to the show and tell.

But here’s where you can help: What else should I be asking Laura? Chime in in the comments!

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TweetSense

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Prmote Twitter

I think the business model at Twitter is going to be really, really interesting, and I think it’s going to leverage search, but search as a proxy for data and pattern recognition. We get an inkling of it at Election 2008, Twitter’s mashup of Tweets relating to the election, but there’s a lot more to think through. First off, Twitter is using its real estate to promote its deal with Current, which is a first, from what I can tell. The “ads” are on the right, right below each users’ profile. I remember covering every new pixel as the Google homepage caved to promotional reality, it’s interesting to watch it happen at Twitter, too, which I think has a lot of similarities to Google in terms of potential models.

Also worth watching is the hash function, where you can tag any topic (IE #redsox, as Churbuck pointed out). This function is not likely to catch on with my mother (I can’t imagine her adding hashes to her tweets, much less tweeting…yet), but what it enables certainly could. The problem is, when you create a site to pull hashed stuff out into a stream the result is often less than useful (as Churbuck noted in his post).

This is where the role of curation and editors is paramount. Voice, as Fred pointed out. There is voice in editing, voice in curation. And voice adds value. And where value is added, marketers can play, both on Twitter (imagine a cars.twitter.com, with auto advertisers on the right rail and at the top, perhaps using contextual TweetSense – yes, it’s owned, by…), and off (think about a feed of contextual Tweets and TweetSense next to conversational sites like Digg and, well, millions of others, as well as sites created simply from Twitter feeds on popular hashes…).

Just a (half) thought….

PS – why isn’t search.twitter.com, where you can see hash streams, even promoted on the home page of Twitter? Am I missing something, as I usually do?

All Algorithm, No Voice

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That’s how Fred describes Google’s new blog search, a supposed “Techmeme (or Technorati or Blogs.com) – killer”.

It’s a very good description of Google’s services.

World Inside Out

By - October 01, 2008

Over at the Amex Blog we’re starting a conversation about how this financial crisis effects small business. The site has given me a chance to think more deeply about what it means to run or be part of a small business – none of us here in the Valley like to think of ourselves as “small” but by nearly every definition, we are. And FM works with nearly 200 other “small” businesses. Join the conversation, we all might learn something. From my post:

…But that doesn’t mean I don’t wake up in the middle of the night, worried about what might be coming next. Many of us in the Internet industry are veterans of the last big bust – 2000-2002 – and we can still feel the pain of losing it all (as I did with the Industry Standard), or at the very least, having to cut back to the bone and wait it out. And this time, something feels different. This crisis is not limited to an overinvestment in telecom and Internet, this time our entire financial system has been brought to its knees. How can you not be worried when Congress is in an extended session to determine the best way to spend nearly a trillion dollars, money that, in fact, we don’t actually have (we’ll be borrowing it, given our national debt)?

It’s a well worn saw that as goes small business, so goes the economy. If all of us start laying off employees and cutting back expenses by a third, our economy will go into a deep funk. If, on the other hand, we all declare faith in the future and start acting accordingly, our businesses will become the engine of economic recovery.

So what do we all need to move away from fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and toward faith and optimism in the future? I’m really eager to hear your thoughts and stories. What are you doing to deal with the current economic situation? Given your business and industry, what actions do you want government to take? What stories do you have to tell about how today’s environment is changing your business outlook? Perhaps if we start to talk about this, and share our knowledge, we can start to effect change – one story at a time.

The Case for Local Conversation: Saving Corbet's Hardware (Latest Open Forum Post)

By - September 28, 2008

Corbets (image credit Marin IJ)

I’ve just posted my latest missive on the American Express Open Forum blog, where I Think Out Loud about my local hardware business, which just might be forced out of business. It’s titled “Think Local, Act Conversational – It Just Might Save Your Business.” From it:

Corbet’s Hardware is my neighborhood hardware store, it’s something of a local legend. Let’s see what happens when I put it into Google (I omitted the apostrophe, as most folks do).

Interesting. First up is a link from “zinsser.com”, which appears to be some kind of a shellac company (no, really, a company that makes shellac). Corbet’s probably carries their products – the Zinsser site lists its distributors – but man, what on earth is that doing being first? Clearly, Corbet’s has not exactly joined the conversation economy quite yet.

Put another way, the very first link for Corbet’s is not Corbet’s own website (the store does not seem to have one), it’s some random supplier of Corbet’s. This is not a good thing.

Second up is a very nice profile of Corbet’s in the local paper. Third is another link from the paper about the store moving. A credit to the store, for sure. But it’s not really very conversational (for more on why I think “conversational” is so important, read this).

Fourth is a link from “ziphip.com”, which looks like some kind of listings directory (or more cynically, an Adsense honeypot). Nothing really useful for a potential customer of Corbet’s – nothing conversational or particularly trustworthy…..

….But imagine, if you would, that Corbet’s had a blog, and used that blog to talk about its business. The folks at Corbet’s could post about weekly specials, tips on home improvement, best approaches to pest control, and all the stuff that brings customers into the store. Oh, and by the way, it could leverage all its built in good will to drive its customers toward the Larkspur City Council, who, in the end, will determine whether or not Corbet’s will continue as a business – if Corbet’s doesn’t get that zoning change, it can’t afford to stay open. Ouch!

Given how sparse and poorly connected the first few links for “Corbets hardware” currently are, it’s clear that such a blog would come in first, and possibly second, third, and fourth, in any Google search. Add a Twitter account, and you’re nearly guaranteed to be a major force in any web-based conversation around your business. (In fact, I’d be willing to bet that within a few weeks, this blog post may well rank in the top ten for a search about Corbet’s…).

In short, by joining the conversation, Corbet’s would get a chance to shape it. And by shaping it, it just might ensure its future. Which leads me to ask: Has your business joined the conversation? You might consider doing so, before it’s too late.

Read the whole post here

The Conversation Economy, Sketches

By - September 23, 2008

Adobe Dmwnld

Thanks to Adobe, who sponsored this work, I pulled together some sketches for the book I keep talking about. It’s blog posts from Searchblog, a talk I gave at Cisco, work I’ve done for the Amex Open Forum blog (which just won a Mixx award!), with Powerpoint and video. A nice package, in fact, and I’m proud to say it all happened thanks to a sponsor. Check it out here (download will initiate). Thanks, Adobe!

Texting Is Stupid

By - September 20, 2008

Texting On M1082022(image)

After seeing the clearly obvious story about texting being a bad thing to do while driving (er, no sh*t), I just had to write that headline. Sorry. I text with the best of them. I love the concept and efficiency of short messaging.

But the interface is deeply stupid. I see these commercials from carriers extolling speed texting, and think to myself – “We’ve already invented an incredibly efficient way to get thoughts from our brains to others – it’s called speech.”

Why I can’t simply say to my phone: “Text Michelle” and the phone gets ready to send a note to Michelle. Then I say “Mich I’d rather hit Left Bank than Ambrosia for din love you bye” and the damn text goes to Michelle?

Say Michelle is driving. Her phone buzzes with a text. She’s driving, so she says to no one in particular “Listen text”. There’s my voice! Is this too complicated to make happen? Please. It’s not. The problem is there’s simply no culture of product development and entrepreneurial thinking in Carrier World. And Carrier World, alas, still rules here in the US.

Of course there are times when you want to use your thumbs, say, when you’re in a dull meeting and want to text on the sly. But the fact that you can’t text with your mouth is simply unacceptable. I think it’s going to change, and soon.

Google's Perfect Ad: Missing the Marketing

By - September 17, 2008

I missed this blog post last week from one of Google’s most senior VPs of Product, Susan Wojcicki. Titled “Ad Perfect” it starts:

Google’s advertising business was founded on the core principle that advertising should deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. This is very similar to our mission in search, and, like our colleagues in search, those of us on the ads team are constantly striving to achieve better results. We have hundreds of thousands of advertisers who collectively have millions of products and services, and out of that vast amount of information our goal is always to show people the best ads, the ones that are the most relevant, timely, and useful (and, from the advertiser perspective, measurable). Achieving this ideal has been difficult since the early days of ads, but now, with the Internet, it is within reach.

Then comes the nut graph:

What does it take to do this? We need to understand exactly what people are looking for, then give them exactly the information they want.

Well…sort of. Perhaps that’s the formula for the perfect “ad” – but the perfect ad is, by definition, imperfect. Advertising without marketing is, well, just a call to action. Only with marketing, a practice that I think is perhaps a bit underestimated at algorithmically driven companies like Google, can companies make any advertising they might do truly valuable. One tenet of marketing FM lives by is this: Add value to the customer’s experience. Sometimes you can do that by matching customer intent with a database of ads. But other times you can’t – you have to understand your customer in ways that are resistant to algorithms.

More on this as I write my next piece for the Amex Blog….

Click to Get Your Searchblog Discount: CM Summit Returns to San Francisco

By - September 09, 2008

Cmssf08

Last Fall we took a big step at FM and launched our own conference series focused on the media business, in particular, the marketing piece of the media business. Called The Conversational Marketing Summit (CM Summit for short), our inaugural event was a hit – though it didn’t sell out till the very last minute, leaving me a bit terrified no one would show up.

But given the speakers – Kevin Rose, Sarah Fay, Steve Hayden, The Ninjas, Suzie Reider and tons more – I should have known it’d be fine. We then repeated the event in New York this past June, and that was really a blast – we were joined by the CMO of GE, CEO of Ning, CEO of Hulu, and tons of case studies. And that one sold out early.

Now I’m proud to announce our line up for our second Fall conference, and offer SearchBlog readers a hefty discount to book. Here’s a selected list of our speakers:

* Jay Adelson, CEO, Digg.com

* Miles Beckett, CEO, EQAL (that’s the lonelygirl15 folks)

* John Byrne, Executive Editor, BusinessWeek

* Bill Capodanno, Director, Central Marketing, Microsoft

* Justin Curtis, VP Creative Director, Grey SF

* Laura Desmond, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, The Americas (brand client list to die for)

* Mark Dowley, Partner, Endeavor (if you don’t know these master agents, you should)

* Rick Farman, Principal, Superfly Presents (think Bonnaroo, OutsideLands, CrowdFire….)

* Jeff Flemings, SVP/Renaissance Planning, VivaKi (think GM and a lot more...)

* Gian Fulgoni, Chairman, comScore (let’s get serious about measurement, shall we?!)

* Porter Gale, VP of Marketing, Virgin America

* Seth Goldstein, CEO, socialmedia.com

* Scott Heiferman, CEO, Meetup

* Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, frog design

* David Rosenblatt, Vice President, Google (the CEO of Doubleclick prior to the merger)

* Marc Ruxin, SVP, Director of Digital Strategy & Innovation, McCann WorldGroup

* Dan Scheinman, SVP & General Manager, Media Solutions Group, Cisco

* Deborah Schultz, Strategic Advisor, Social Media and Emerging Technologies (working with P&G)

Gggateclub * Michael Theodore, VP of Member Services,Interactive Advertising Bureau

* Joseph Turow, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania (he’ll be debating Michael, above, on privacy and advertising policy)

And we’re still adding speakers. Now to the discount. Regular price for the event, which runs two full days at the lovely Golden Gate Club in SF (at left), is $1095. But I’ve got a code just for Searchblog readers that will get you $400 off. All you have to do to get this pricing is CLICK HERE.

It’s only good till Sept. 15th, so as they say on late night TV, act now!! See you in October!