Archives for posts with tag: digital marketing


On my first day as a copywriter, I had no clue what I was doing. There were no courses for copywriters, nobody gave me any advice what to do. My first important job was writing headlines for a German charter company, marketing their Greek vacation packages. I look at their old advertising and started to write. I was sweating bullets. I had no clue if anything made sense, if they would fire me on the spot. At the end of the day, I dropped at least hundred headlines on the desk of my Creative Director. He was on the phone, nodded and I left for the day. I didn’t sleep all night. I’m sure I was unemployed. Next morning, the headlines waited for me on the desk, crossed out with a large “No”. And I went to work again. 3 days later, one headline was chosen and I slept for the first time. To start with another campaign that robbed me of sleep and instilled fear in me. Fear to be a failure. Fear to be laughed at. Fear not to be good enough.

Being scared is good

When you are scared because you don’t really know what you’re doing, you do your best to make up for it with really hard work. You try learn as much as you can to compensate. And, more often than not, you explore new possibilities that experts don’t consider. Being stupid keeps me alive and curious. Once I know everything, I’m ready to rot. And become obsolete.

That’s one of the reasons why I changed vocations early in my career (Law degree, speech pathology, advertising), moved from Germany to the US with two suitcases and started my own business last year. When I get too comfortable, I get itchy. It doesn’t feel right. I prefer the improvisation part where you rely on expertise and instincts.

That’s why I love digital marketing

Besides search advertising, we’re muddling our way through digital marketing. We’re trying our best to figure it out but what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. That’s just the way it is. (Oh, and I have my doubts anybody has really figured out traditional advertising. Just saying…) There are too many platforms, too many options, too many new developments each and every day that makes it impossible to know everything. Or even 10%. Behavior changes constantly, people are doing things differently today than they did 6 months ago. We have start from scratch every time we start a new campaign or initiative. “Trued and tried” has transformed into “Outdated and tired”.

Question everything

You might not have the title. You might not wear the great suit. You might not have the impressive resume. You might not have worked with the legends of the industry. But you have all the right in the world to question everything the guy with the title, suit, resume and work experience tells you. It can go two ways: You’ll recognize the suit is empty and the resume is just a bunch of titles on one sheet of paper. Or you learn something from each other. People that can fill the suit and don’t bank their existence on titles will always be grateful for questions and deeper explorations. They want to learn and move away from the “true and tried” ways of doing business. So, if you get this assignment that blows your mind, work with a legend and have to show everything you got and then some: Appreciate that moment. Your head might explode. You might not sleep. But chances are, you will do your best work.

But, be careful

While you need to embrace the fear of not knowing anything, don’t give in to the lizard brain. Use your fear to your advantage, don’t give in to it. Don’t try to fit in, keep your head down and ignore the pull of the lizard brain. Be fueled by your fear and do your work under Hugh McLeod’s motto: Ignore everybody.


This column appeared first on Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers site.

Are you tired of the “10 rules how to succeed in Digital Marketing”? Or the “Top 50 things to do on Social platforms”? Me too. The secret sauce of Digital Marketing is not complex and doesn’t require many ingredients.

There are only two rules you need to follow

Yup, two. Not 10. Not 545. Two.

When you follow these rules, your digital campaign will succeed. Your social media initiative will garner the desired results and your clients will be really happy.

Rule 1: Be valuable

Do something that makes my life easier. More entertaining. Makes me think. Makes me laugh. Smile. Cry. Connect with other people. Anything that adds value.

Rule 2: Be humble

Be a nice person. Don’t push out messages like a machine, don’t focus on your own needs and not on mine. Be polite. Be kind. Be attentive. See yourself as a servant, not as a general that targets people. And launches campaigns.

Put these two ingredients in your next campaign and you will be fine. (Between you and me: These two rules work for everything. Work. Life. Love. But, I’m, sure you know that.)

American cities used to be interesting.

Walk down Broadway in downtown Los Angeles and, hidden behind atrocious swap-meet-like stores, you’ll see facades of unique and astonishing architecture. Neighborhoods used to have their own character. Their local grocery store, book store and tailor. Now everything is Starbucks, Old Navy and Pizza Hut. Wash, rinse and repeat. I could be in Dallas, Boston or Los Angeles. Everything looks the same. Just the palm trees tell me I’m in Los Angeles.

I fear the same is happening to the Web. Strip Malls make sense. They scale nicely. Companies love scale. It makes businesses predictable. And more effective. Meaning: more profit.

Problem is, Strip Malls are de-humanizing. They don’t add anything to the neighborhood, they just add to the consumption culture. And they are an annoying eyesore.

And while we add ‘Like’ and ‘Twitter’ buttons to everything, retweet another link to the echo chamber, we should ask ourselves if we are committing the crime to change the Web to another Strip Mall. Boring, predictable and very much scalable. What’s in it for us?

Personally, I’d rather have the Wild West on the Web and not another outpost of scalability. Maybe that’s just me.


Our professional lives depend on improving the current reality of marketing. Why aren’t we acting like it?

Imagine you had to deliver a media plan coupled with a bet on your lifestyle. If the media plan works out as planned, you’ll double your net worth. If it fails, you lose everything you have.

That’ll focus you on delivering the best media plan. Ever. Suddenly the media plan becomes the most important thing in your life. Not just another task you need to check off your list.

If you had to bet your financial life on this plan, would you make the same decisions? Would you work the same way? Would you chase the latest Foursquare check-in or would you focus on delivering value without being blinded by bright, shiny objects? Would you bet your future on creative ads that nobody gets? Would you bet your family’s world on the pithy, little insights of focus groups? Would you to adhere to the wishes of your clients if you had to foreclose your house in case your campaign fails? Would clients change things if they were accountable for the results?

Or would we take our decisions more seriously? Ensure that we leave our egos at home and develop the best solution for the specific problem.

And not our childish needs.

Our professional lives depend on improving the current reality of marketing. Shouldn’t we start acting like it?


Most marketers have started to incorporate some kind of Facebook strategy into their marketing plan. Makes sense with Facebook’s immense reach of more than half a billion users. Covering the basics to reach people, just like a search campaign. An ad network buy. Given Facebook’s ubiquity and their strong persuasion of being a permanent player in the evolving digital landscape, this makes a lot of sense.

While I strongly encourage the majority of brands to have a Facebook presence, I don’t recommend investing in any platform for the long-term. The history of the Internet is littered with sites that promised to rule the digital world, just to disappear or die a slow death: Geocities (#1 site in 1997), Excite, Altavista, AOL, Yahoo, MySpace. Remember when AOL owned email?

My crystal ball is pretty cloudy today and I’m not a big believer in the “XY is dead” or “AB will die” game. But I’m pretty sure that in five years Facebook won’t be as important to users as it is right now. New sites might be more interesting to people. User behavior might change. The way we access the Web might change. (Actually, all of this will happen.)

Most sites are like new cars: It’s so exciting to drive them first, explore all the features and get comfortable with the newness. After a while, there’s always a point where the new car becomes the old car. Littered with stuff. Never really 100% clean anymore. Dings. Daily annoyances. And you start looking for the new-new thing. It happened to all web properties. When will it happen to Facebook?

As they say: It’s easy to come up with ideas, it’s extremely hard to execute them. Case in point, below banner ad.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 8.23.04 AM

Ok, the first part gets my attention: 3M will determine the perfect pocket projector for me, based on my Twitter feed. No clue, what they are analyzing, let’s give it a try. Once you type in your Twitter name, a brief message tells me they are analyzing my feed. Three keywords came up: iPad, Awareness (last post) and Social Media. And, here’s the result of their analysis.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 8.23.33 AM

No explanation why that pocket projector is the perfect fit for me. I can’t even click on the ad and explore the product further on a microsite. The only thing I can do is enter a sweepstake to win a pocket projector. I guess, 3M is not really interested in selling anything to me, they want to give their product away. Oh, and get me into their CRM system. The “analysis” of my tweets doesn’t seem to be that deep or my tweets are just very ambiguous: I ran the “analysis” again and this recommendation came up.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 8.58.11 AM

I morphed from a serious businessman to a family man, sharing his memories with loved ones, in a few seconds.

This is a typical problem in digital marketing

We all have been there before: A fantastic idea turns into a sub-par execution. Technology challenges, budget problems, resource limitations. Or all of them at once. It’s hard to execute a display ad that makes a difference. Brands are willing to pay millions of dollars for media buys, they still remain reluctant in signing off on a creative execution above $100k. We’re trained to believe that commercials should cost at least $500k and a display ad should be around $10-20k. That’s the reality but digital marketers don’t want to face it. There is a reason why print ads seem fresher and more creative than any display ad. Agencies have learned to play within the limitations of the print medium. Print remains a sexy medium, display ads are not sexy. They are small, look meek when presenting to client and, oh yeah, that average CTR of less than 0.1% doesn’t really help. Because they are so unsexy, digital marketers try to make them sexy by adding/tapping into new technologies. Often, without understanding them.

So, one day a digital creative presents the CD an amazing idea: “We know the target audience for each of the 4 pocket projectors. Why don’t we analyze the Twitter feed of people and recommend them the perfect projector based on their tweets?” The CD is happy, the client is happy, the account people are in heaven. Executing the creative is easy but the problem is the analysis. Damn technology. This sounded so easy and it turned into a complex task. Ah, let’s just fake/shortcut it. And, while we’re at it, let’s forget about a link to the product page of each projector. Nobody clicks on banners anyway, right? Oh, and the media agency called. Wired just offered free sweepstakes as added value to the media buy. Helps us with the engagement metrics.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 9.23.38 AMLast but not least, let’s make sure to add as many form fields as possible to the sweepstakes page. People should work when they want to get something for free.

It’s not that hard

  • If you ask people to share their Twitter handle with you, they expect something in return. A brief analysis of their tweets, their twitter personality. Anything. Teaming up with Twitter analytics companies could have helped to group 4 target audiences into Twitter personalities and make it a more engaging experience.
  • Always, I mean, always have a link to the product page/microsite.
  • If you want people to fill out forms, make sure the forms are integrated into the banner.
  • Less work for people is more return for your client.
  • And, most importantly, don’t get blinded by a great idea. A flawless execution of a good idea always beats a sub-par execution of a great idea. Don’t get me wrong: Always shoot for the stars. But make sure you have the right equipment (budget, resources, technology) to have a good chance to hit the stars. Or you will certainly hit the gutter.


Marketers love to capture people. That’s especially true in digital marketing. We always try to find new ways and traps to keep people on our site. We make it hard for people to leave the site, creating overcomplicated processes, filling phone menus with promotional messages, trying to up-sell people throughout the whole ecommerce check-out process.

We act like jealous lovers, afraid that if they leave us they will never think about us again. It’s become so hard and expensive to get the attention of people, once we have just  speck of it, we never want to let go. Often people just want to get something done and then move on. They don’t want interaction, experiences or anything that prevents them from getting on with their lives. Think Redbox, ticket machines at a Subway, a soft drink vending machine.

People are feeling overwhelmed with all the information bombarding them all day long. Somebody tells them about a new luxury car: They just want to read a quick summary. They don’t want to test drive it, they don’t want to request a quote, they don’t want to get re-targeted all day. They wanted information, they got it. Thank you very much. Let me get on with my day.

You’re walking a fine line when you constantly remind them of your presence. You might become the annoying guy that talked to a girl once and now thinks she’s in love. She might fall for him one day but not if he badgers her with messages, love letters and other reminders of his presence each and every day. Or, even worse, traps her, making it hard for her to leave.

Real relationships are patterns of mutual investment. You invest in me. I invest in you. If all investments come from one side, you don’t have a real relationship. You have an imaginary relationship.

Next time you invest money in capturing, trapping and locking people in, ask yourself: Would you want to be treated like that? By anyone? Or would you want companies to invest in relationships of mutual respect? Based on a basic understanding of human desires, needs and mutual value exchange. (While writing this, I couldn’t stop humming “Free, free, set them free.”)


Image: Courtesy of Todayandtomorrow

Segmentation, behavioral targeting, retargeting, data exchanges: The opportunities to deliver “relevant” advertising to people are endless. As a digital marketer, you have so many choices ‘targeting’ your audience and delivering ‘relevant’ messages. And, what’s the result?

“Against all odds, traditional advertising is perceived by consumers as more informative, entertaining and necessary than online advertising. Of more than 1,200 people surveyed for digital marketing show ad:tech London by Zussi Research, 69 percent believed traditional advertising was relevant to them, compared with 45 percent for online. For the TV target audience—those aged between 25-34-years old—the gap widens further: 81 percent (traditional) vs. 53 percent (online).

Worse still for digital marketers, annoyance around advertising on the Web is twice as high online as offline. Comments made were that digital advertising is “ill-structured,” “mainly irrelevant” and represents a bigger, unwanted distraction for the consumer, rather than a subtle influence.

Typical comments included: “Traditional advertising is less in your face – online seems to use all kinds of annoying tricks to make you view them, eg popups and blank screen links you click by accident. It’s an immediate turn-off.”

As the article asks: Why is this happening?

And, their answer is:

“ad:tech conference and marketing director, Christophe Asselin, says that customers aren’t responding positively the way that the industry believes. “While we are witnessing some amazing online campaigns out there, this research simply shows that the overall advertising and marketing community isn’t hitting the mark with online users.

“Customers are becoming more and more savvy to online marketing tactics and are less forgiving toward sloppy and clumsy practices mainly adapted from the old mass media communication model. Just because online is cheaper and quicker to implement, doesn’t mean you can afford to throw away its huge potential,” added Asselin.”

What happened? (Not sure if people were just asked about display advertising. If the survey includes SEM, this is even worse than anybody could have ever imagined.) Is it the abundance of online inventory? Sites plastered with display ads and text links, resembling more a weekend in a cheap tattoo parlor than a serious publication? Limited creativity packed into tiny pixel boxes? Failed integration between traditional and digital agencies/divisions? Measly budgets for creative executions? Focus on media placements first and then allowing the creative department to play in their limited sandbox? Applying lean-backward tactics to a lean-forward medium? Broadcast mentality in a narrowcast world?

I don’t have an answer. I said for a long time the effectiveness of online marketing is rapidly declining. Bright, shiny objects often let us forget that the traditional digital tools don’t work that well anymore. Or not at all. All I know is, we need to start thinking outside of the 728×90 box. Outside of quick fixes (Facebook page, anyone?) If the digital marketing industry desires continual growth, we better see these survey results as a big wake-up call.

Are we going to consider this as a big reset for the industry or just another study to yawn about? That’s the $368 billion dollar question.


Image: Courtesy of

I’ve seen TV commercials that made me laugh. The majority of radio commercials annoy me. Some print ads are rather interesting, most of them purely forgettable. The range of emotions when experiencing “traditional” advertising ranges from highly entertained/intrigued to annoyed. I was never angry a TV commercial interrupted my show, maybe annoyed, but not angry.

The range of emotions when experiencing “digital” marketing ranges from barely entertained to angry. Angry at the pop-ups, the take-overs, the obnoxiousness of advertisers to push their message right in front of my face.

Why is there such a huge difference in emotions between “traditional” and “digital” marketing?

Two reasons:

1) We have a contract with traditional media: You serve us ads and the content will be free/dramatically reduced in price. Sure, we try to do our best to get out of that contract (DVR, radio podcasts) but in general we’re fairly happy with the partnership.

No such contract exists between us and digital media. We don’t see ads underwriting anything. Does an ad on Facebook make the site better? Nope, it cheapens my experience. Does an ad on Yahoo’s homepage improve their content? Not that I know of, it just makes me want to leave the homepage as soon as possible. Marketers haven’t found an airtight value proposition for consumers to see ads as an underwriting proposition. Every time a brand serves up an ad, it reminds us that there’s no contract. No relationship, no reason not to get angry.

(And, most of the web ads are intended to be clicked, turning Digital Marketing into a whining and begging contest, turning even more people off.)

2) TV, Radio and Print are entertainment channels. Sure, there’s some educational and informational content but we use these channels to entertain us.

Digital is an entertainment channel. And an information channel. Most importantly, digital is a communication channel. Depending on your tasks at hand, the definition of digital as a channel changes by the minute for each of us. While my visit to might be my kind of entertainment (sad, I know), others are looking for information on the same site or want to communicate with other readers about a common topic. The reception changes dramatically in whatever mode I am:

– Information Seeking: Don’t even try to serve me an ad. I don’t want to see and hear it. I’m focused on my own information needs. Your intrusion makes my task at hand harder to accomplish.

– Communicating: Don’t you know the two of us are talking? Why do you have to bother us in the middle of a conversation? What do I have to do to get you out of my world?

– Ready to be entertained: What you got? Something funny? Something interesting? I’m watching a show/video but I don’t mind discovering something better.

Search Engine Marketing continues to be successful because it answered the need for information with relevant results. Banner advertising never took off because the Web is a hybrid channel and we have to guess constantly what mode people are in. Inserting messages into a communication and information environment doesn’t work. So far, it only works in an entertainment environment.

If digital marketing will ever grow up, it needs to develop a mutually beneficial contract and find new ways to message to people when they want to be informed and/or communicate. That’s why companies like Facebook and Twitter should take a step back and reconsider their advertising models. Applying a broken digital advertising model to a new platform still equals apathy, non-performance and angry people.

When you’ve figured out a way to shift digital advertising emotions to the range of traditional advertising,  please let me know. I’ll bet my house on you.