Saturday, December 12, 2009

A different kind of don't ask, don't tell

With the holiday season upon us, charities are approaching us through the mail, telemarketing, email and on the Web. Representatives are in front of grocery stores and in shopping malls.

Now, I don't mean to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, but it seems to me that a lot of these organizations assume that people don't make donations all through the year, and that unless asked, people wouldn't make donations at this time of year either.

That kind of goes against the reality of philanthropy and charity in the United States, which has one of the highest rates of giving of any country in the world. To prove the point, check out this story in Forbes.

Back in the "good old days," many people gave to charity anonymously, especially when significant contributions were made. But now, it's almost as if more money is spent on publicizing donations, particularly from companies, than in the actual giving itself.

I wonder if the ubiquity of the Web has fostered this profound change, because so much information is available, both accurate and inaccruate, that companies and high profile individuals feel that they have to "promote" their giving in order to combat various bits of information that may not be so positive about their companies or themselves.

So in other words, if it's not on the Web, then people assume that you or your company are not participating in charity or philanthropy. In the old days it was the opposite; you weren't asked and you didn't tell.

This is one of the many ways our culture is being influenced by the Web. My native approach is the old school way, don't ask and don't tell. But maybe the Web has made that go the way of the Model T, or Netscape.

Regardless, charity and philanthropy remain virtuous.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One word.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giving Thanks: Tom Phillips

As we approach Thanksgiving, it's a good time to think about all that we have to be thankful for (apologies for the grammar). It's especially important during difficult times to be reminded of the good things, people, and events in our lives.

To start, I'm thankful for the experience of having worked for Tom Phillips at Phillips Publishing. Tom taught me entrepreneurship, the relentless pursuit of excellence, how to look at things from different perspectives, and to strive for perfection.

On a personal side, Tom was always friendly and had a kind word to share. He really made me feel like part of the family.

I thank Tom for the opportunity to work for him and learn from him. I thank him for the opportunity to learn how to sell advertising, and to delve into what was at the time a new-fangled contraption called the internet.

Today, our more than 24 employees, and many more stakeholders outside the company, benefit from the knowledge Tom provided.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

ad:tech NYC 2009 observations

We just got back from ad:tech NYC, and here are our immediate impressions:

1. Attendance seemed lighter this year than in the past; the new venue at the Javits Center may have accounted for that because it is a much larger facility so the crowd may have been spread out over much more space.

2. There didn't seem to be the usual "euphoria" among attendees; there was definitely a sense of calm optimism.

3. It seemed that there were more attendees from the larger media companies than in the past.

4. It also seemed that there were more attendees from up-market agencies and advertisers than in the past.

5. There are still lots of opportunities in the online marketing world. As more budget dollars are directed online, advertisers and agencies will seek out more unique opportunities with established, well-branded and respected publishers.

Okay, I have to add that it was pretty cool being in Times Square when the NY Yankees won the Series. Intermarkets doesn't take sides in any of that, but the collective roar heard throughout Manhattan as the Yankees won on Wednesday night was a remarkable experience.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hacking, parenting and the Intermarkets Way

As a parent, when your child does a great thing, there's always the conflict between wanting to brag about their accomplishment, while at the same time not wanting to seem like one of "those" parents who endlessly promote their child's every latest move as some form of monumental achievement worthy of the Nobel Prize or a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

But sometimes, you just gotta brag.

Every day at Intermarkets, we strive to achieve greatness within the construct of the Intermarkets Way. This means going above and beyond what is expected, to achieve what should be done.

With a widely dispersed staff, working at various locations across the country, it's easy, however, for us to just take for granted the everyday heroic acts of our team. For me, it's native to not seek out commendations, and that can lead to not sharing them, either. And that's not a good thing.

So today that changes.

And we've got a great example to use as a starting point.

This morning, my colleague Mike S. was doing a routine check of one of our publishers' sites and noticed something peculiar with the Google search code on the site.

After some quick research, he contacted me and explained the situation. Someone had “hacked” into the site’s server and made changes to the site's home page. The site’s servers are the same that host another of our publishers. This set off major alarm bells, even though the issue was not directly related to Intermarkets.

We contacted the publisher and he and his webmaster investigated and found that there was a security issue. The issue was resolved, and the code was corrected.

Thanks to Mike's rapid actions, we saved the publisher lost revenue and identified a security issue that could have affected other publishers, too. We earned the appreciation of the publisher as well as the webmaster.

Thanks, Mike, for your actions today, and thanks to everyone on the Intermarkets team for contributing to our ongoing success, and building the legendary Intermarkets Way.

Like I said, sometimes you just gotta brag.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Survey says...

The vast majority of corporate chief financial officers do not agree with the recent statement by US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the "recession is likely over." According to a recent poll, nearly 70% of CFOs believe the recession will continue.

This is startling because CFOs are the most knowledgeable about where the economy is right now and where it is heading.

The major concern at this moment is that economic policies may be developed based on assumptions that may be in error.

Why this matters is that business and consumer confidence is crucial in reviving the economy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Intermarkets awards scholarship

Intermarkets, Inc. announces that Daniel C. Yates has been awarded the Intermarkets-Lucido Journalism Scholarship.

We created the scholarship to recognize an outstanding graduating senior in Virginia who understands and promotes the importance of unbiased journalism in the United States media.

Click here for more information.

Daniel wrote a great essay and has shown tremendous leadership and a true commitment to real journalism.

Congratulations Daniel and best wishes to you for the future, from all of us at Intermarkets.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Intermarkets Publisher Gets Slow Jammed by Jimmy Fallon!

Intermarkets manages sales for a variety of Web sites, including the iconic Drudge Report. We're also proud to work with Rasmussen Reports, which must also now be an icon as the site was slow jammed by Jimmy Fallon, check it out here.

Come on about Matt Drudge, next?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Web advertising industry snapshot - First half, 2009

Minor updates, July 22, 2009:

Short and sweet tonight. Here's what we've seen in the Web ad industry during the first half of 2009:

1. Q1 performed better than expected, given the current economic conditions. Consumer confidence, unemployment, interest rates, energy prices and more have contributed to restricting economic growth in most business sectors.

2. Q2 performed much better than planned, due to stable-to-growing demand for online ad space.

3. Overall financial performance for 1H09 looks to be lower than in 2008, but only slightly, with a decline under 10% (which is less than predicted by a variety of forecasters).

4. Ad networks performed relatively well. We think this is due to better optimization tools and practices, as well as advertisers shifting budgets away from broadcast, print and cable to the Web.

5. We've noted a slight increase in VC funding of publishers and advertising intermediaries, somewhat disrupting natural pricing equilibrium for both buyers and sellers.

6. We've noted some realignment of publishers and advertising intermediaries away from conventional online media (banners, for example) opening opportunities for those who can effectively work these formats.

Outlook for 2H09:

1. We believe economic conditions will weaken further through the end of the year, with key indicators such as the unemployment rate, interest rates, real estate values, energy prices, tax increases, state budget deficits, tight credit conditions, and more choking economic growth.

2. We agree with predictions that unemployment will exceed 15% (or perhaps even much more) during 2010.

3. This particularly critical benchmark will cause marketers to continue to be conservative with their budgets.

4. We think the Web advertising sector should continue to be sound with stable-to-moderate growth. We expect blue chip advertisers to continue increasing their online ad spending for the rest of the year.

More to come, but we wanted to be among the first with a 1H09 summary.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer: Sizzle or snooze?

During the stock market crash of 1929, and during the depression that followed (and for that matter, in the film, "It's a Wonderful Life" the antagonist played by Lionel Barrymore), great fortunes were amassed by some smart folks who bought while the masses were selling. To this day, that same pattern repeats itself, by the likes of investors such as Warren Buffet.

So, when your competition is slashing their marketing budget during tough economic times (afterall, why bother selling your product when sales are down, right?), does it make sense to seize the moment and aggressively market your product or service?

Of course it does!

During weak economic times, such as those we're now experiencing, there is a lot less "noise" in the media, meaning that your message can get through more clearly and more efficiently than when times are good and lots of competitors are in the marketplace grasping for your market's attention.

That's why this summer, don't snooze...sizzle!

With the stage to yourself, and while great creative work is always vital, if you don't have a perfect idea, at least you will have more people's attention, so you can get across a sales or reminder or whatever message you're aspiring to deliver.

Think of it this way; Whose message are you more likely to hear: the words of one child in a classroom with 40 other chattering kids, or the words of one person with whom you are in a room alone?

Okay, so I'm not so good at the sales pitch myself these days. To encourage our target market to listen to our message, we're offering discounts and free bonuses this summer to capture your attention.

Too Sweet To Resist!

Check out Intermarkets today to learn more about an offer that's Too Sweet To Resist (plus we have a nice picture of some puppies as part of the promotion; yes, we can be ruthless).

Have a great July 4 holiday, and keep those cards and letters coming!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Managing aspirations

Profound lessons from the Bronze Age, more meaningful than the latest management fad:

Around 400 BC, near the end of the Peloponnesian War, controversial, brilliant and legendary (and real) General Alcibiades of Athens looked out over a mass of untrained, raw, newly-recruited Thracian soldiers, on a southern plain in Thrace (part of Turkey, today). His military companions looked on at the new recruits in astonishment that Alcibiades could have so much confidence in them.

In a haughty tone, one of the companions says to Alcibiades, "Even yourself are not so vain as to imagine that these recruits will stick (i.e., fight – KPL) for you?"

To which Alcibiades replies, "I'm disappointed in you, old friend. Can you be as blind as these Thracians to what stares you, and them, in the face?"

"And what would that be?" his companion asked.

"Their own greatness."

He meant he would lift them to it.

He continued, "They will not stay for my destiny, but for their own."

From "Tides of War," by Steven Pressfield

Do you see the greatness in your colleagues?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Go beyond making a sale. Build a relationship.

I recently spoke at a conference about internet fundraising for non-profit organizations and political candidates (they're really non-profit, aren't they?).

The key point I stressed was that while you need to ask for donations aggressively, keep in mind that you also want to engage the visitor to your site and build a relationship with them. It's Marketing 101, all over again. In a relationship scenario, your visitor may keep coming back, and they make keep making donations, over and over. And, they may even form up your grassroots, get-the-work-done volunteers.

That's crucial, because while it's satisfying to donate to organizations or candidates that suit your interests, it's even more satisfying to see them succeed. Money's a big part of that, but so are the actions of the volunteers who vote, recruit other supporters, contact decision-makers, and more.

We just ran a campaign for a political organization on one of our Intermarkets Portfolio sites. The ads generated in some instances >1% CTR, and generated tremendous amounts of donations. This level of engagement can be extended beyond just a single election cycle or issue to be advocated. It can be transformed into a commitment by the visitor to be an engaged member, making an impact, and in turn, producing self-actualization benefits that no "Thank you" card in the mail could ever achieve.

Greetings from South Carolina,

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Best performing headline in an advertisement on the Drudge Report

I was just reminded today that the best-ever performing headlines for advertisements on the Drudge Report were in the format of:

"Shocking new video! Paris Hilton (fill in the blank)!"

It didn't matter what the "fill in the blank" part said; as long as it was a "shocking new video" featuring Ms. Hilton, click rates were through the roof. We saw some ads hit an 8%+ CTR (albeit with very focused targeting and restrictive frequency capping). And if that sounds high...well, it is. In fact, it's shocking.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Marketing in a tough economic environment

Digital media provides marketers with a quantum leap forward in accountability and measurement tools. Everyone knows this. But in the current economic environment, marketers need to remember to focus on the basics.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of what marketers should demand from their media partners (like Intermarkets):

1. Get as much performance reporting, with as much detail as possible. This will let you know why the consumer is behaving the way they are; and may point to ways to guide them on the path you want them to take.

2. Work with your media partner on pricing. They want to sell, you want to buy. If they won't budge on pricing, push for value-add inventory to reach the eCPM you need to make a campaign work. Sometimes media companies have to stick to a baseline CPM, but may be able to deliver the number you need with value-add inventory.

3. Listen to the advice of the media partner to learn what's working on their sites. They can't give you confidential information, but they certainly can guide you in the right direction.

4. Track conversions and share the information with the media company. Working with the same numbers, both marketer and media partner can create the best, win-win opportunity.

5. Chill. Everyone else is stressed out about so much stuff these days, no one needs to add to it. Not everything is going to work out perfectly, and you will have successes. Mutually treating each other well will create a more desirable and productive relationship.

6. If you've got to cut your budgets, talk with the media partner to see what options they can provide to you. You might be surprised at how flexible ad sellers are these days, even in digital media.

7. Share future plans with your media partner, confidentially, to help them understand your goals and objectives so that they can develop placement opportunities for you.

8. Keep in mind that your competitors may--correctly--see the current environment as an opportunity to gain market share more cheaply through reduced advertising costs. When a non-marketer in your company throws down the gauntlet to you to cut ad spending, the best reply is to ask, "why do we want to cut sales and market share now, of all times?" Of course, smiling innocently as you say this will make the comment go over much better.

9. Ask your media partner for ongoing and consultative support to make your campaigns even more successful. You should expect them to provide you with suggestions, strategies and tactics, as well as insights.

At Intermarkets, we strive to provide all of this to our clients, all the time. It's astounding how many ad sellers wouldn't even call clients back just a few months ago; now they're having to cold call prospects.

What a difference a few months make.