Has the ad biz gotten so big it’s bad? 9 say yes; 5 no; 1 maybe 2

Posted on August 02, 2013 by Rob Petersen



Omnicom - Publicis merger

“How big can we get before we get bad?” asked legendary ad executive Jay Chiat of his agency, Chiat Day, in the 1980’s.

Chiat Day doesn’t exist anymore. It was acquired by TBWA, which is a part of the Omnicom Group, which doesn’t exist anymore, because it is now merged and is called the Publicis Omnicom Group.

Last week, after decades of buying up boutique firms, the advertising conglomerates Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe decided two heads are better than one. They merged to create the world’s biggest family of agencies, with a stock market value of $35.1 billion and more than 130,000 employees.

Raising the question again: “How big can we get before we get bad?”

What’s the answer? 16 experts weigh-in. Has the ad biz gotten so big it’s bad? 9 say yes; 5 say no; 1 says maybe.


  • Bigger is not better – today, when clients are hyper-focused on ROI, efficiencies, true expertise and agility rather than sheer bulk – Dr. Augustine Fou, Digital Consigliere at Marketing Science Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Bigger companies might result in bigger efficiencies, but they don’t necessarily result in bigger or better creative ideas. Acting like a startup, leanness and agility have become the mantras of the marketing world – Arwa Mahdawi, Strategy Director, Contagious Communications
  • I’m not sure this is in the best interests of their clients or their talent. Clients today want us to be faster, more agile, more nimble and more entrepreneurial, not bigger and more bureaucratic and more complex – David Jones, CEO, Havas
  • This move is about enhancing profit margins for conglomerates, not improving results for clients – Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction
  • It’s going to affect, negatively, the smaller brands because the smaller brands are going to be less important to the corporate holding company –  Larry Chiagouris, Professor, Pace University
  •  There will be downsizing, synergies, and cost cutting. As a result of that, there will be some shakedown of people and accounts – Al DiGuido, CEO, Optimus Publishing
  • I’ve read about this whole idea that they’ve merged because they want to leverage Big Data. But if you’re not leveraging Big Data within your organizations prior to the merger, you generally don’t consolidate to become better at managing technology or Big Data – Jon Morris, CEO, Rise Interactive
  • Publicis Omnicom Groupe has a fake Twitter account. It’s pretty hilarious – The Onion
  • Ad agencies now work with Google, Facebook and Twitter, but the tech companies can easily bypass the agencies to work directly with, say, Ford Motor Co. or PepsiCo Inc. – Paula Dwyer – Bloomberg News


  • It will be a good thing, as it will particularly help the performance marketing industry, and provide greater value to clients who are seeking a more comprehensive, full-service approach to their customer acquisition needs – Peter Klein, SVP, MediaWhiz
  • Advertising firms and other service businesses typically don’t need as much debt as manufacturers or other companies that deal with physical goods – Jeff Davis, Managing Director, Mercer Capital.
  • They will also be able to leverage greater volume purchasing and more strategic relationships from the likes of Google and Facebook,” says Paul Pellman, CEO, Adometry
  • I’ll bet you $1,000 right now that within 12 months WPP will have made a major acquisition or made a major merger—just watch –  Larry Chiagouris, Professor, Pace University
  • We believe this is more about global scale and efficiency and the potential increased leverage against first-party networks, such as Facebook and Google, which could radically change the media business over the next five years –  Brian Deagan, CEO, Knotice


  • Marketers hire agencies for innovation and creativity. Clients of Publicis and Omnicom should directly ask their agencies — “What’s in this for me?” and “How will this impact my business?” Marketers who are clients of Publicis and Omnicom, in fact, have a responsibility to have those candid conversations – Bill Duggan, EVP, Association of National Adertisers (ANA)

Which side are you on? Do you think the ad biz has gotten so big it’s bad? Is it ever likely to change? If Jay Chiat were still with us, what would he say? What would Dan Draper think? What do you think?


6 viral marketing case studies teach sharing skills 4

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Rob Petersen

viral social media marketing

Viral marketing is programs designed to accelerate awareness, trial and sales through a high degree of social media networking being shared or spread in a short period of time (as defined to Wikipedia).

Successful viral social media marketing campaigns deliver big media exposure and buzz for a relatively small investment. But one of the biggest dividend occurs in how viral marketing programs encourage others to share.

Here’s what 6 viral marketing case studies teach us.

1. ACNE FREE: Decided to generate awareness of a new product, Therapeutic Sulfur Mask, through sampling and sharing on social media, not that traditional route. Through their Facebook page, the AcneFree fan-gated welcome tab featured a form for fans to fill out as well as a share and tweet button on the offer. The goal was to gain 30,000 “Likes” by launch. The page had 41,000 “Likes” with only $1,100 spent on advertising. The deal was shared on Facebook over 500 times and tweeted over 1,000 times. The “Talking About This” metric was the highest in the catetory and the Facebook page now has 101,000 “Likes.

2. BLENDTEC: Is a company that manufactures blenders for industrial use (Starbucks uses Blendtec blenders to grind coffee beans). They decide to sell direct to consumers through commercials on YouTube that cost $1,000 each. CEO Tom Dickson blends golf balls, broom handles, iPhones and iPads in a Blendtec blender in these commercials to prove the blender’s effectiveness. Many of the commercials receive 10,000,000+ views, the Blendtec website receives 120,000,000+ visitors in the month the commercials launch and Blendtec sales increase +700%.

Blendtec website traffic

3. CHRISTIAN DIOR: As viral marketing has evolved, it has been integrated with mass marketing. In May 2012, Christian Dior released a YouTube video called ‘Secret Garden – Versailles’, supported on the brand’s Facebook page, Twitter profile and magazine, DiorMag. to generate awareness for the Fall collection. A ‘Making of’ video was  issued 10 days later with similar social media support. The 1st video received 17,000,000+ views; the follow up video received 5,000,000+; social network enrollment experienced a huge increase; all for a marginal investment relative to traditional marketing.

4. FORD FIESTA: Selects 100 socially vibrant individuals who are provided with the European version of the Ford Fiesta 18 months prior to it being manufactured and released in the USA. These socially media aware fanatics are encouraged to share their experience with the Ford Fiesta over the 6 months on their Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube channels. The effort generates 11,000,000 social media impressions; 11,000 videos uploaded, 13,000 photos posted and 50,000 “hand raisers” or “leads” who want more information; 97% did not currently own a Ford.

4. OLD SPICE: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” featuring Isaiah Mustafa attracted 19,000,000+ views to date across all platforms according to Visible Measures. Perhaps more interesting is the level of engagement demonstrated by the number of responses the video received within the first 24 hours compared to other historic videos.

Old Spice viral video responses in first 24 hours

5. TOYOTA: Toyota in the UK put together a social media marketing program that saw two bloggers attempting a 500-mile road trip in a Toyota iQ, all on a single tank of petrol. The trip would take the two drivers to 18 UK cities and every step of the journey would be shared through social media. It resulted in 64 blogs, including Wired, the New York Times and Treehugger reporting the attempt. Toyota reaching a potential audience of over 105 million readers worldwide. It reached a possible 3.7 million in the UK alone. Traffic to the Toyota iQ blog increased by more than 212%

What all of these case studies teach me is one of the most critical planning point for a viral social media campaign is how it will be shared. What do these 6 viral social media case studies teach you?



20 ways David Ogilvy would use social media (if he was still with us) 3

Posted on September 27, 2011 by Rob Petersen


David Ogilvy is known for expanding the boundaries of advertising.  This is demonstrated in his quotes, all are still as relevant today as decades ago like:

The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.

I don’t know the rules of grammar…If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. 

Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving.

He built great brands like Hathaway shirts, Schweppes and Dove and started an advertising agency built on his principles. If he were to launch a brand today, I have a feeling David would be a pretty good social media marketer too. His quotes and principles have just as must relevance for social media as advertising.

Here are 20 ways he would (or might) use social media to launch a new brand, today.

  1. GOGGLE INSIGHTS: Start by looking at the most used words and phrases consumers use when they search because 90% of every purchase decision begins on the internet.
  2. BLOGHER: Turn to blogging communities like BlogHer to seek out thought leaders in relevant industries and through blog comments solicit their views, maybe win their advocacy. After all, today, the consumer is not only your wife but, if she blogs, a good writer who carries influence.
  3. COMPANY BLOG: Create a company blog to show the people at the company who manufacture the product are accessible.
  4. INFOGRAPHICS: Use infographics as a more dynamic form for presentations and stop doing staid power point decks.
  5. SLIDESHARE: See what are the latest presentations on media, research and technology are.  Stay at he leading edge of the agency business.
  6. FACEBOOK LANDING PAGES: Introduce the value proposition to new users in social media just as you would with an ad.
  7. FACEBOOK PROMOTIONS THROUGH THE WILDFIRE APP: Drop coupons or run a sweepstakes to fans at the fraction of the cost from the early days of advertising.
  8. RETAILERS FACEBOOK PAGES: Examine key retailers who have big Facebook Fan bases and see if they will do posts to support the new brand – a win/win situation for the retailer and the brand, especially since fan bases for retailers like Walmart have 9,000,000+ fans.
  9. TWITTER HASHTAG COMMUNITY: Start a # community on Twitter around the key need the brand meets. Do a regularly scheduled chat once a week to see how consumers speak and think about the brand.
  10. TWITTER PAGE FOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT: Create a Twitter page to answer consumer questions like Best Buy did with Twelpforce.
  11. YOU TUBE ANALYTICS: Create a YouTube channel for the commercials and use YouTube Analytics to see how long they watch them and, if there is a drop off, where?
  12. COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE: Listen to the comments and posts on the social networks of competitors and see what their consumers are saying and where they might be opportunities.
  13. TARGETING TOOLS: Use targeting tools like Openbook, Booshaka and Twitter Search
  14. SURVEYS: Poll fan bases to gauge consumer satisfaction using available survey apps.
  15. YELP AND REVIEW SITES: See if reviews are being written and what they say.  Maybe even consider doing an ad with some of them.
  16. SHORT URL’S: Use Short URL’s to track the posts and messaging that draws the most clicks and interest.
  17. DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT: Use content that can be downloaded or embedded to measure not just interest but involvement.
  18. SET UP REPORTING AND TRACKING: Make the commitment to identify metrics that are important to track regularly and integrate with other key business tracking measures.
  19. CROWDSOURCE NEW IDEA PRODUCT EXTENSIONS: Like MyStarbucksIdea, reach out to your community for new product innovations and ideas
  20. GIVE THANKS TO COMMENTS GOOD AND BAD: Show appreciation for the negative as well as the positive comments and be timely with response.  What social media offers to a brand is the opportunity to have a relationship with a person, not a company, and to build trust faster.

I’ve heard David, in his later years, spent less time at the agency and more time at a chateau he owned in France.  That’s ok.  He could do most  of the work from there; that is, if he had an internet connections and some smartphone apps.

Do you think this is how David Ogilvy would use social media if he was still with us today?


An adman’s journey into social media marketing 0

Posted on May 09, 2011 by Rob Petersen

Sometimes, the best person to tell your story is someone else.  At a recent PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) speaking engagement, a reporter, Maggie Caldwell, from the Greenwich Post just outside New York was in the audience. 

She wrote this story about my journey from adland into social media marketing.  Thank you Maggie. 


By Maggie Caldwell, Hersam Acorn Newspapers

Small business owners of the world take note: If you are a Twitter contrarian or Facebook foe, you are likely diluting your business’s potential by ignoring a major customer base.

So says Rob Petersen, founding partner and president of Barnraisers, a Wilton-based online marketing solutions company that builds brands primarily using social media. A veteran ad man who has been at the front lines of the changing advertising field, Mr. Petersen discussed trends, tactics and best practices in social media before a group of PR professionals and small business owners at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich last month. The luncheon was sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America’s Westchester/Fairfield chapter.

“Social media is a different kind of marketing channel. It is based on a conversation, not a monologue,” Mr. Petersen said. “People access the Internet so much more. The capability to access your friends for recommendations, rather than listening to an ad is just the way you do it now.”

The Internet has changed consumer behavior, he explained, citing statistics that 90% of purchasing decisions now begin on the Internet, 75% of consumers shop online before they buy at the store, and 85% of consumers look for independent reviews.

“Consumers are now in control,” he said.

Mr. Petersen’s own foray into the world of social media came after he saw ad sales plummet as the recession set in in 2008. He says he is no “techno geek” but started blogging for his own company about trends in advertising. He later taught himself how to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media programs.

“I did it because I was scared,” he said. “I had clients and then the worst recession since the Great Depression happened.”

Through the experience of keeping a blog, Mr. Petersen became a self-taught expert on social media. It changed his whole course of thinking about advertising as he began to recognize the potential of this new platform. He noted that the way people buy products, which had been the same for decades, was shifting. He saw that once consumers bought a product, they wanted to share it, leading to purchase reviews.

His blog on its own became such a success, Rutgers University offered Mr. Petersen a job teaching classes on social media and digital branding. The university is now one of the first to offer a social-media specific MBA program.

“Traditional marketing strategy boiled down to one thing: Shout it out!” Mr. Petersen said. “If you want to grow, shout it louder. Now it’s changed… People don’t buy the way they used to. Now let’s listen to what people are saying.”

At his Web site,, Mr. Petersen lists a number of case studies about companies successfully using social media to their benefit.

“Social media is the difference between launching with many millions of dollars, versus many millions of fans,” Mr. Petersen said paraphrasing Chris Bruzzo, vice president brand, content and online at Starbucks, which launched a highly successful social media program called “My Starbucks Idea,” where consumers invent and then vote on new drink offerings at the coffee chain giant.

Trust factor

One of the major components of social media is that it imbues the consumer with a sense of trust, Mr. Petersen said. He cited the case of Foiled Cupcakes, a company launched by a Chicago woman who started baking in her home kitchen and selling her cupcakes for delivery online. The business has no storefront and relies almost entirely on social media to get the word out about her services.

“The value is in trust, engagement and timely responses,” Mr. Petersen said. The company created a blog and set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and created its own community of followers.

“People like to do business with people they know,” he said. “Social media offers more than a phone number or e-mail address… it gives a face to a product.”

Another company that ran a hugely successful campaign online was Blendtec, a manufacturer of industrial blenders that was looking to expand from the B2B (business-to-business) market to reaching everyday consumers.

The company launched a video series entitled “Will it blend?” in which the company’s founder, Tom Dickson, blends all sorts of household items, from golf balls to stuffed animals to glow sticks. Two videos of him blending an iPhone and an iPad received more than 10 million views each on YouTube.

“Blendtec had a product that you had to see in action to understand how good it is, and he found a medium for it,” said Mr. Petersen. “This was a campaign that probably cost less than $20,000 and in turn, the company’s sales increased by 700%.”

Social media budget

After going over some case studies, Mr. Petersen said it might behoove business owners who are either Internet shy, or too busy, to create a social media budget.

“At the end of the day, it is a time equation,” he said. “When you bring someone on, you have to ask how much time do you require to do this, and what is the compensation.”

In looking for the right “social media marketer,” as he termed the profession, Mr. Petersen advised people to seek out a person who will embrace the business, who has an interest in what they are promoting, and who has a proven track record that they can amplify the message.

He said it takes time to draw people to a new Web site or Blog, but there are proven methods to grow an audience online. These include searching for other people who are writing on a topic that has to do with the business and commenting on their site, or inviting them to view your own.

“Use the social networks to say ‘I have a blog out,’” Mr. Petersen said.

The worst mistake someone entering the world of social media could make, however, is to build an audience and then just stop Tweeting, Blogging, or interacting.

“People will wonder what happened,” he said. “You must make a dedication to this. At least three to six months to start.”

6 social media ROI case studies with something in common, courage 8

Posted on December 15, 2010 by Rob Petersen

I’ve been to a good number of companies this year where there has been management resistance to social media.  The most often cited reason is a perceived inability to prove ROI.  Social Media Examiner says the #1 question companies ask is “How do I measure social media return on investment?”

So, one week in September, I devoted an hour each day scouring the internet for case studies that prove social media ROI.  In short order, I found 67 case studies.  Not a small number and too many to fit into one blog post.  I broke it into two, 34 case studies that prove social media ROI and 33 more case studies.  In total, there were 67 case studies that prove social media ROI through hard metrics like:

  • Increased sales
  • Shortened sales cycle
  • Higher closing rate
  • New leads
  • Lower internal operating costs
  • Decrease in customer issues

Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching a class on social media ROI at Rutgers and highlighted case studies in each of these areas. Rutgers is among the first universities in the country to offer a Mini-MBA in Social Media Marketing.  10 other teachers covered key topics in other areas of social media as well.

Questions from students made me realize, in addition to the numbers, all the case studies had one other characteristic in common: Courage.  Here’s  a sampling of the stories to explain why.

1.  INCREASED SALES (AJ BOMBERS):  After six month of break-even sales and no money for traditional marketing, Joe Sorge, the owner of AJ Bombers, a burger restuarant in Milwaukee, started using Twitter to attract customers.  Within a year, weekly sales increased +60%. What happened?   Joe spoke to the Rutgers’ class via Skype.  Someone asked why start tweeting?  In Joe’s case, he said, “I was sacred.  I opened a restaurant in Milwaukee at the worst time in the worst economy since the Great Depression.  I sat at my computer wondering how I could make this work. When I found people on Twitter talking about my restaurant and my burgers, I jumped in.”  Good feedback from customers on Twitter helped build relationships and Twitter followers soon accounted for 75% of AJ Bomber’s customers.  AJ Bombers now has 11,000+ Twitter followers, success with Foursquare, a “Food Wars” episode on the Travel Channel and the sales to go with it.  Joe recently started a company with Chris Brogan to help small businesses called Kitchen Table Companies with a show on The Pulse Network.  Here’s a video of a 2010 social media profile in courage.

2.  SHORTENED SALES CYCLE (BLENTEC): In 2007, Blendtec, a company that manufactured blenders since the 1970’s was having flat sales.  They produced commercials for YouTube that cost less than $1000.  Company sales then increased +700%.   The “Will It Blend” commerials featured CEO Tom Dickson.  Tom blended everything from broom handles to good balls to iPhones and iPads in Blendtec blender.  For a product who benefit has to be seen to be believed, video was the perfect medium. Some of the commercials have been viewed over 9,000,000+ times.  But the  company took a big risk.  They put their CEO out there where he could be viewed as either a charismatic presenter or a clown.  The benefits of that risk, and the courage of the management team, are shown in the viewership numbers from Alexa once the commercials started on YouTube.


3.  HIGHER CLOSING RATIOS: (FISKARS): A 300 year old Finnish company that makes fine cutting tool created an online social community of crafting enthusiasts called  “Friskateers” to reach the underutilized channel of small retailers.  It resulted in a 3X increase in company sales.  But it didn’t begin that way.  According to Suzanne Fanning, Director of Communications at Fiskars Americas, it started as a way to have an “emotional bond with consumers.”  Try selling that to a company of highly rational engineers.  But once the community started swapping product stories and generating new ideas, resistance went away.  Now, Fiskateers are a major company driver of innovation.  Not to mention a major cost savings on traditional focus group research.

4.  NEW LEADS (FOILED CUPCAKES):  A Chicago company that bakes cupcakes generated 93% of its business through social media leads to surpass revenue targets by +600%.  But, the most impressive statistic is this company has no storefront (it sells only through a website) and no way for consumers to experience their product (before they buy) unless they establish a relationship with them through social media.  In an interview with Beth Harte, owner Mari Luangrath says, “we know every single one of our customers by name. We’ve probably had a good Twitter or Facebook conversation with them before they even call us.”  That’s courageous customer relationship marketing.

5.  LOWER OPERATING COSTS (IBM): Invested $100 million in company generated new product ideas and saw a return of $100 billion in total revenue for a 10-to-1 ROI with a 44.1% gross profit margin.  Best of all, they did by relinquishing control and letting employees set up the own blogs and “crowdsourcing ‘Jams'” to collaborate with one another globally.   There was no IBM corporate blog or Twitter account but there were 17,000 internal blogs, 100,000 employees using internal blogs and as many as 500,000 participants in company crowd-sourcing “jams.” IBM showed courage by relinquishing control.  It generated a huge amount of cash.

6.  DECREASE IN CUSTOMER ISSUES (BEST BUY):  Imagine if you said, “I’m going to poll my customers on the customer service they want and deliver it on their terms.”  That’s what Best Buy did in creating the TwelpForce, an employee community customer service group that works through Twitter to answer customers questions and concerns.  The employee community grew to 2,200 employees within 3 months and responded to over 13,000 customer questions, concerns, and opinions. The Twitter feed @twelpforce now counts over 32,000 followers and the number of questions averages 100-125 per day and is considered a key value-add by customers and the company.  My guess is Best Buy is having a very good Christmas season so far with the help of TwelpForce.

Colleagues tell me 2011 is likely to be a year where more companies embrace social media as a valuable marketing tool.  The graph below from Google Trends indicates social media is here to stay.  But courage, I’ve learned from these case studies that’s something that always supersedes trends.

Do you think courage plays a role in social media ROI?

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