Why pulling out of Macworld makes sense for Apple

Apple's announcement that they're pulling out of Macworld is causing all kinds of speculation. Is this the end of American innovation as we know it? Is Steve cryogenically frozen in a vault in Cupertino?

I can't comment on Steve Jobs health. I can only wish him well. But, I can tell you why I actually think the long-term pullout of MacWorld makes complete strategic good sense for Apple. 

Follow the logic train, why dontcha'...
  1. Apple does a lot of marketing. 
  2. Every piece of marketing Apple puts out is scrutinized to make sure it lives up to the Apple brand (not that I'd know).  So, they need quality talent to produce that marketing. And quality talent is neither unlimited, nor easy to bring up to speed.
  3. Marketing is for selling stuff. When do people buy stuff? Christmas. Lots of work for the Apple elves to do.
  4. MacWorld is for selling stuff. When is MacWorld? A week and a half after Christmas. Lots of work for the Apple elves to do.
  5. Reason #3 + Reason #4 = December must suck in Cupertino
  6. WWDC has been becoming a really popular event over the last few years. 
  7. WWDC isn't a week and a half after Christmas.
  8. Apple owns WWDC. They don't own MacWorld.
  9. WWDC stands for Worldwide DEVELOPER Conference. 
  10. The world is shifting toward a collaborative economy. This is a major change that means innovation no longer comes from just inside of companies, but from the communities surrounding them. Read Wikinomics if you don't believe me.
  11. Developers have created 13,000 apps for the iPhone since Apple released the API a handful of months ago. This is where the driving force will come from that will maintain Apple's leadership in innovation in the years to come. IMHO, this is a major strategic shift for Apple—and the absolute right one.
  12. WWDC has a stage that will work just fine for announcements.
  13. Regardless of Steve's health (which I hope is fine) he won't live or work forever. The Apple brand (and stock price) then cannot be tied so tightly to "The One" forever either.
  14. If I'm right and this is the first step in a major strategic shift for Apple, it's as good a time as any to start the brand transition from Apple's innovation comes from Steve to Apple's innovation comes from the Appleverse. (I just mentioned to my wife that I was writing this post and she says to me independently "they've got to wean the world off of Steve eventually—the man sneezes and their stock price drops 10 points!")
  15. Last week no one was talking about MacWorld. This week, I am.
My two cents, anyway.


iMedia Agency Summit: Takeaways

Back a few days now from the iMedia Agency Summit. Numero uno bit of news is that I've been asked to do an occasional article and write a blog on iMediaConnection.com. My first blog post was on my impressions from the Summit. I'm going to double post most of what I write on iMedia here, but in the meantime you can check out my iMedia blog here.

Without further ado, reposted here for your reading pleasure:

Impressions from my first iMedia Agency Summit

Posted by Adam Kleinberg on December 13, 2008 at 01:00 AM PDT

A few months ago, Dave Smith from Mediasmith and I were talking and he told me I “had to” check out the iMedia Agency Summit coming up in Palm Springs. I went. It was the most valuable conference I’ve ever been to—made great connections, learned a lot, even had fun.

Here’s my top five takeaways from the Summit.

1. Optimism.
People were surprisingly optimistic about the economic downturn was going to be a boon to the online marketing industry (to the extent that one morning the event planners put up a slide joking that “Dow up 267 points based on optimism at iMedia Agency Summit”).

Not across the board, of course. One-on-one, I definitely talked to people who’ve been feeling the squeeze. However, as a group we are either incredibly lucky to be in this industry or a bunch of naïve fools.

2. The lines between media and creative are blurring.
There’s so many ways to reach an audience, so many opportunities to make a unique (and measureable) connection that creative and media simply cannot take place in a vacuum.

Publishers and Networks (NBC Universal, for example, showed work for Nissan that included a content integration with the show Heros that spanned) are developing creative on their own in many instances and in some cases, agencies with digital capabilities are starting to act like networks. In his keynote, the CEO of Havas Digital showed how they are developing their own ad targeting technology based on unique user-cookies. So, even the players are blurring.

3. There is a conflict between the need for measurable ROI and the need for big ideas. (Don Draper is not irrelevant, I tell you!)
As the head of a creative-driven agency at a conference primarily focused on media, I found that our approach was very different from others I spoke to. We start with an idea and then think about the best way to deliver (and measure) it. In a world where people see a zillion messages a day (that is an actual statistic), reaching your audience creatively becomes incredibly important.

Media targeting and optimization is tantalizing. Even delicious. But it’s easy to lost site of the facts that people have dreams and fears, aspirations and frustrations. When we lift our heads from our databases, these are the things that make for great advertising.

But no standard metrics apply to reaching your audience in creative ways. This is a challenge in an environment where measurability has become the litmus test for success. (Reminds me of testing in schools being necessary, but being applied so stringently it takes the creativity and adaptability to kids’ needs out of teaching.)

Of course, the agencies that figure out how to bridge this conflict will be the winners when the dust settles.

4. This industry has issues.
I spoke to one peer who told me how great she thought it was to be able to collaborate at this conference with people who are normally her competitors and what a relief it was to see others facing the same challenges. For instance, at a metrics roundtable discussion I was in, everyone was in agreement that 15-20% variances in measurement technologies were the norm. One ad network rep told of a campaign where PointRoll and DART had a 300% difference in reporting!

I’m going to be part of a Client Value team that will be doing research and developing a report this year on how agencies can ensure they maintain client value in a rapidly changing world. (I’ll blog about it here as we make progress, but if you’re a brand marketer and are interested in being part of our survey, email me and I’ll make sure you’re on the list.)

5.This business is still about people.
The people at the Agency Summit all seem to know it. That’s why they come. But this runs deeper than networking.

When Gordon Padisson, the former head of marketing at New Line Cinema, spoke about his experience with agencies, he spoke of frustrations regarding turnover, over-promising resource bandwidth and the bait-and-switch of principles that disappear once they get the account. People, people, people. When he talked about agencies were great, he referenced energy, perspective and publisher relationships. People, people, people. Not a whisper about behavioral targeting or integrated cross-media reporting technologies.

So, remember what’s important folks.

Thanks, iMedia (and Dave) for the invite. I’ll be seeing you next time.


iMedia keynote: Tim Hanlon on the need for Transparency

Tim Hanlon from Vivaky gave the keynote at the iMedia Agency Summit this morning. Made a very great case for urgent need for change. If you're not measuring and proving value, you're going to be irrelevant and lonely in this economy. Recap at imediaconnection.com later today. Also, someone posted a Twitter search url for tagged comments from the conference here.

Marketing with Twitter

The big Twit question I keep hearing people asking is "how are brands actually using Twitter?"

@nunzi @task is great. Check out Qtask if you need real accountability and online collaboration https://website.qtask.com/t... about 1 hour ago
I tweeted at a guy I know in response to a tweet he had made. This guy is searching for his competitors names in discussion threads on Twitter and hitting people to check out his thing. 

That's how.


Don Epperson from Havas DIgital

On stage at iMedia, the CEO of Havas Digital says budgets are up 15% for interactive their. Told about one client that just shifted huge portion of TV budget to online video. Don's topic is "Evolving toward the agency of the future." A few of the things he's saying"

  • branding and strategy are more important than ever
  • optimization is part of what planning is becoming
  • large agencies will act like the large sophisticated media networks (my 2 cents: why not? seems like the media nets like Platform-A and NBC are doing creative)
  • tech providers will enable this for small agencies. big ones will create their own technology.
  • talking about a model where every individual cookie is evaluated and an automated bidding process puts a value on reaching every unique individual
  • moving from a placement value (your typical CPM) to an impression value (unique person)
Overall, it seems like no one's eyes are closed about the tough times ahead, but a lot of optimism about the potential for innovative companies to thrive. 

Makes me feel good about prospects for Traction.

iMedia Agency Summit

At the main session for the iMedia Agency Summit today—talking about digital media strategies in a down economy. Obviously, the good news is online is still growing (11% in the 3rd quarter). One recent study says still expecting 18% growth in 2009. We've all got these gadgets from a company called myxer that let us vote in real time and they're posting results. According to the folks in this room...

37% expect budgets to remain the same (about the same say it'll go up and down)
43.9% think biz's are projecting growth in 2009
47.2% think digital media will grow 10% in 2009 (plus another 10 or so % who think it'll grow more)
80% of people here have direct access to the c-suite
68.7% think agencies and publishers think there's decent collaboration
87.6% want to wait til the bar opens to have a big group hug

CEO of Havas up next...

iMedia Agency Summit: Why agencies suck.

10 minutes til breakfast here in lovely Palm Springs. I'm at La Quinta for my first iMedia Summit. Everyone keeps telling me to "pace myself" so I'm a little worried about the libations over the next two days 

(Note to future first timers: Just finishing this post 3 days later. Didn't pace myself. It was good advice.)

However, it's been a great event and given me lots to think about. Gordon Patterson, the former CMO of New Line Cinema (and a great guy), was interviewed yesterday about how where he sees agencies providing real value to clients and where he sees agencies screwing up—and why despite that he still loves agencies and sees they have great value to offer.

According to Gordon, the fundamental issues between clients and agencies are on both sides: clients don't communicate to agencies and agencies don't listen.  Big fundamental issue on both sides because it leads to clients who feel like they're being nickel-and-dimed by agencies and agencies constantly struggling with scope creep and being squeezed by clients. It leads to a situation where agencies—that are full of smart people trying to be strategic about everything they do—wind up being tactical.

From the client side, Gordon's other issues were really about getting the service you expect:
  • the old bait and switch: principals pitch and then you never see them again
  • retention and turnover: as soon as people get up to speed on your business, they move on (from now on, you can be be sure I'll mention that only 2 people have quit at Traction since we started the agency in 2001 every time I pitch)
  • don't over-promise on bandwidth, dammit
  • agencies better keep bringing new ideas to the table, because your competitors sure are
  • turf battles: agencies and publishers need to tag-team to make good ideas a reality, not fight over turf
But Gordon also point out that agencies are incredibly value because of the energy, the outside perspective and the media relationships they bring to the table. He also brought up the value of agencies that "cross-fertilize" across client relationships (something I think Traction needs to do more of).

Great session.


Twitter. Bitter?

Just got back from seeing Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter, at a Churchill Club event. Was very amused when he snarkily pointed out that Barack Obama hasn't made a tweet since he got elected. He felt "used." Sniff.

Ironic that I'm blogging about it instead if twittering about it, but I just twittered about this blog post, so I guess it all works out. Even more ironic that Evan Williams used to be the CEO of Blogger which is what I used to make this blog post. About Twitter. Whew.

Twitter has been gaining a lot of traction lately in the media. Some people are even calling it "the next big thing."

I can't call myself a big fan, however. My last five tweets are dated Oct. 16, Sept. 25, June 24, May 14 and Dec 21, 2007 (it's December 2, 2008 today). I understand the "watch the chatter" aspect of subscribing to a bunch of people you know and just being "present." But this concept of "presence" is everywhere now and frankly, (drum roll, about to coin a term here...) I'm suffering from Presence Fatigue. I've got Facebook Status, LinkedIn Status, a sadly neglected blog and I'm supposed to Tweet too? Who the hell is listening? I've got 39 followers, but I don't know who half of them are. And I'm following some people technically, but I'm not looking at Twitter so not really.

Evan pointed out that when he was at Google, they were always successful at rolling out web apps because they focused. And, I think Twitter is similar to Google in that it is simple and focused. Google was nothing but a search box for years. Twitter is nothing but a 140 character box. And they're both dominating their categories. Great.

But Twitter has to change. They have to change because I don't have any way to discover friends on it, so I've basically tried it out and abandoned it. They're working on fixing this—according to Evan Williams they are trying to make it so you can port your Facebook friends into Twitter. But as soon as they start making this app better — and they have to because they're not making any money now — they're going to lose that simplicity and focus that makes them the Google of "presence."

Mr. Williams says he has a plan to make money that won't screw up the product. He also says that the reason things fell apart with the Facebook acquisition was that he thought it would be a "disappointment" to sell the company for only $500 million. I'll just wait and see.