Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Creative Advertising Tactics From ABC

As a marketing major, I've always had a critical eye for marketing strategies, especially advertising. I see a ton of advertisements that make me shake my head in dismay, either thinking, "Someone actually got paid for that?" or, "That actually made it past the brainstorm stage!?" Rather than sharing my rants about crummy advertisements, I would much rather share examples of advertisers who "get it" and do things right.

One area I'm particularly touchy about is forced advertisements on web videos. As a child of the 80's, I am accustomed to viewing any video I want online without being forced to watch television-type advertisements. I feel that changing the web video experience to resemble the television viewing experience is a terrible idea from a customer satisfaction standpoint.

Last night I stumbled upon an interesting and innovative way to solve this problem. ABC's web broadcast of its new show Secret Millionaire features an ingenious way to expose viewers to advertisements without interrupting their viewing experience. When a viewer pauses the video, it automatically exits fullscreen mode and displays an advertisement prominently where the video would otherwise be. When the viewer clicks "play", the ad disappears and the video resumes. This virtually guarantees that the ad will be seen by any viewer who clicks "pause," since they will have to look right at he bright ad to click "play" again. It also avoids interrupting the viewing experience, which gives viewers more positive memories of the show. It's a win-win-win tactic for the network, the viewers and the advertisers.

Unfortunately, after claiming the show would be presented with "limited interruptions," ABC included four commercial interruptions for the roughly 45 minute broadcast--nearly one every ten minutes. I'm not here to rant, however. Just imagine what the video would be like if it only included the pause-break ads without the forced interruptions!

How else can advertisers use creativity rather than brute force to gain meaningful exposures?

To view the episode I watched that gave me this breakthrough, check out Secret Millionaire online.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A New Type of International Partnership

I was reading an informative article from The Economist today which discussed the trend in developing economies to support large conglomerates, such as The Tata Group, which hold a wide range of unrelated companies from around the world. The article got me thinking about international business partnerships and a new way to form powerful multinational companies.

Traditionally, companies are formed within a single country. Companies grow to an international scale by exporting, licensing, forming strategic partnerships or building foreign subsidiaries. Or, companies from different countries can merge to form new, multinational entities.

As businesspeople and students from around the world continue to interact more with each other and, and as experienced businesspeople's contact lists more frequently include counterparts from foreign nations, I foresee a time in the not-too-distant future where entrepreneurs from geographically diverse areas of the world build companies together from day one.

Imagine a new technology company, for example. I can see one partner living in India, in charge of customer support and product design; another partner living in Mexico, in charge of manufacturing and logistics; and a third partner in the Netherlands, in charge of marketing and finance, with the company organized in a fourth country, like the United States, that offers a favorable business and political environment.

The first truly multinational partnerships--companies formed by partners living in different countries--could easily spring up in areas such as the European Union of the NAFTA zone, where trade and tourism barriers are virtually non-existant. After that, the sky is the limit.

How might you take your business idea to the next level by adding a partner from a different country?

Further Reading
The Economist: Tata Sauce Share

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The New Normal For Employees

"The new normal" is a term which, to me, represents the fact that industries and businesses around the world are coming to terms with the fact that indefinite exponential growth is simply not sustainable. Rather than thinking that the sky is the limit for revenue, profitability and volume, savvy post-recession businesses are learning to find sustainable output levels and grow organically over time.

Businesses are now running leaner and more efficiently while using less leverage to fuel growth. However, it seems that it is now employees' turn to face the reality of a new normal. The world watched as government workers in Greece took violently to the streets protesting the extension of the retirement age and cuts to employee benefits. Now we see government workers across the United States taking to the streets demanding that their legally-protected rights to collective bargaining be upheld.

The big picture I see is workers in developed economies refusing to accept anything less than what they are accustomed to. When I spent nearly a year working as a gas station attendant with a Bachelor's degree in 2009 I met a man who said he'd been out of work for over a year. When I asked him how he could have been turned down for every job in the market, he replied "I'm not looking for another job. I'm waiting for my old job to open back up." I fear this represents the attitudes of too many Americans today.

It may be time for employees in developed nations to accept that their income cannot grow exponentially forever. Companies and governments are operating leaner than ever before, while people are spending less and saving more. How can it be avoided that average wages and wage increases will find a new normal? This may come as a shock to a Westerner like myself, but we are going to have to accept the fact that our leveraged race cars, leveraged McMansions, leveraged private school tuition and a wide range of other expenses are simply unnecessary, and can no longer be taken for granted.

Workers in India and China are ready to work hard for wages that would offend the average American, and it's a good bet that our new democratic brothers in the Middle East will feel the same way. If Western workers are going to compete with the international workforce, we may need to stop demanding a week's wages for a day's work.

Here's a business idea to help workers with their new normal: household budget consulting services that charge a percentage of the money they save clients.

Further Reading
The Washington Post: Protests Grow in Ohio as Vote on Union Rights Nears
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Riots Mark Greece Protest 

“Democracy divides people into workers and loafers. It makes no provision for those who have no time to work.” - Karl Kraus