Monday, November 23, 2015

Multi-Funnel Digital Strategy

Have been thinking about a through-funnel marketing approach, and tried to have this ready in time for the YMMA Summit last year. Couldn't get the framework done in a simple enough way to present, but fleshed it out earlier this year. Happy to finally be able to share.


Real-Time Marketing

I was asked to give a talk earlier this year on Real-Time Marketing. It is definitely a valid concern for many marketers, but I think it is more of a characteristic of the space rather than something to really strategize around. That said, it is an important consideration and can be cut up into many frames of thinking.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"Have perfected the ‘looking busy’ look"
"No longer worry about looking smart"
"Look forward to doctor or dentist appointments"

After many years as a disgruntled employee who has felt in turns or simultaneously overworked and underpaid, I now find myself a manager fearful of being quit on myself. Call it karma? For all the times I served a supervisor with a competitive offer or a resignation letter.

It hasn't happened yet but I guess it is only a matter of time. Good thing there are guides like this one that help me look out for the signs of unhappy employees. These are three of my favorite entries from the list. Noted with thanks.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

problem-definition via ---- pics

The way you frame a question affects the quality of the solution.

In marketing we can sometimes focus too much on the answer without making sure we're doing our due diligence in defining the problem. Trying to get more people to keep X chocolate bar top-of-mind could be answered in an ifninite number of ways vs. trying to get people to see the same bar as something to buy for everyday occasion instead of only on holidays as previous marketing efforts had focused on.

Here is a masterclass in proper problem-identification.

Context and need: The pending re-authorization of the Patriot Act, which gave the US government vast access to citizens' private data, without needing to disclose the level of surveillance. Snowden sought to spread awareness about this by sharing government data with journalists. It was widely covered in the news, but John Oliver highlights how most/many Americans were still ignorant of the issues at play, and therefore remianed indifferent to the law's re-authorization.

Solution: Highlight the implications of US government surveillance using an issue that Americans are deeply passionate about.

PS/ Obviously I love this show. Mabuhay, John Oliver!

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Despite new viewing habits, television content still sticks to old formats

Wet Hot American summer was released in one eight-episode go, the whole series immediately available to binge on. Netflix releases all their original content this way, starting with House of Cards in 2013. Un-Real, though aired on Lifetime, released the show's first four episodes onilne along with the on-air season premiere. 
I watched the first four episodes of Wet Hot in one shot, stopping only to find and view the original film. I am a TV binge-r, and habitually watch shows straight. I remember when my sister and I first binged on an entire season of The OC. We were sharing a room and even if she hadn't seen much of the show prior she started watching when I put the DVDs in. At the end of every episode we couldn't stop the machine from automatically playing the next one. We had started in the afternoon, stopped only to eat dinner and then continued to watch straight until 4 am the next morning. When we woke up we just resumed watching until we were flat out of episodes.

Straight shot viewing seems to be part of the engagement model. It is tough to watch one episode at a time, and unless I am deathly afraid to be spoiled (e.g. Game of Thonres), I prefer to hoard episodes. What is the reason behind this behavior? It could be loneliness or feeling like you just need to finish a show that you've already invested in.

Given this mode of viewing that studios feed by releasing entire seasons at once, it makes me wonder if episode specs will be maintained as viewer habits shift. Wet Hot still shows opening and closing credits, and the episodes fit the half-hour format. At 28 minutes per episode, they don't need to leave time for ads but still fit within that standard timeslot. House of Cards fits within the hour-long time slot. These are the two typical episode lengths aligned with how programming is planned and scheduled. However when people are watching television online and often practically as a mini-series, will episode lengths eventually change beyond these uniform durations? To mini-clip shorts or even feature length episodes?

Entertainment formats are platform-driven. Except for cable shows, most television programs run for 22 or 44 minutes, leaving time for ads, as standard lengths that can be programmed into a pre-determined time slots. To signify the start of an episode there is often a summary of relevant events in previous episodes ("Previously on..."), which you might have forgotten if you're watching on a weekly basis. Many shows also have opening and closing credits that we associate with the start and end - which have to be in the show material itself becuase there is no external webpage that could include that information.

This reminds me of the intermissions that were once standard in movies. I remember seeing this when we were kids watching classic films on laser disc. As someone who usually has to leave the theater to go to the bathroom (thanks, RunPee), I wouldn't mind if more movies had an offical break. But on the other hand, why cut the action and lose momentum? It turns out that they used to need this time to change reels. "In cinema’s early days, intermissions were necessary to allow projectionists to change out film reels. When the French silent film The Loves of Queen Elizabeth opened in New York in 1912, it consisted of four whole reels and an individual intermission accompanied each." (The Outtake) Intermissions were a necessary, platform-driven spec.

I suppose that when the technology evolved there was suddenly no need to stop a film to change the reel, and this is one platform spec that has been changed.

Movies have always had a much freer rein on length and duration. To qualify as a film a material must be at least ninety minutes long, but they can go to LOTR lengths of three hours and counting. Will television programming eventually evolve this way as well?

While there are online-only content networks like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, most television programming is still tied to linear and ad-driven programming schedules. We still have "late night" TV, shows are still scheduled during a supposed "prime" time, morning programming is largely news-led and "daytime TV" consists of soap opears. Episode lengths are determined by the number of ads that will be run. It is still one timeline being mapped out by networks, with content and cost per hour, per minute, per second. In advertising time determines cost, a 15s material costs much less than a 30s vs. a 60s or, the ultimate TV luxury, the 90-second commercial.

As someone who views shows often by the season, hasn't seen a TV ad on TV in years, never watches the morning news and views late night shows at any hour of the day, I wonder what changes lie ahead for this particular platform. As we move online where units of time become less as we select our own non-time lines, I wonder what innovations we will see in entertainment formatting.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

I loved my MTV!

I’m watching Up Dharma Down tonight! I can't wait to see them live again. While this can't possibly be true I feel like the last time I saw them live was probably ten years ago. This has of course triggered my nostalgia and has me thinking about all that has happened since then, and how - holy crap - this is my tenth year of work.

My first job was at MTV where I got to spend hours and hours listening to live music. I had never been into the local rock scene the way some of my friends were, chasing after Urbandub when they were in Manila, cramming into Saguijo, delighting in the fact that we were watching Basti live in Jesus Christ Superstar.

The world was alien to me but working at MTV introduced me to a piece of Philippine culture and art that I had for a long time struggled to relate to. My siblings and I belong to an odd subset of Filipinos who grew up on more Western influences than local. Which is coincidentally what drew me to advertising. Completely faulty logic, now that I think about it as a planner whose trade is focused on understanding the local truths that make people tick. I always loved art, film, music and television, and wanted to have a career in that field. If I had grown up in the US I would probably have tried to work for a TV network or studio. In the Philippines though, I knew off the bat that I had no affinity for local television or movies. Given the available tracks in my Communication course in college, Advertising (rather than Radio, Journalism or Film) seemed like a media world I could relate to. There were many ads I remembered growing up ("Ketchup please, Luis", "Goodbye, Carlo!", "Magpakatotoo ka!", the Katrina Globe ad) and it seemed like an industry worth exploring.

My internship at one agency shop not only lived up to the hype but cemented my passion for the industry. Signed, sealed, delivered. Locked and loaded? A done deal. I fell hard that summer and despite a terribly tumultuous relationship I am still committed.

After graduating none of my idol agencies offered me a job, no matter how many places I sent my CV to. I was also having an identity crisis, not being able to decide whether the right field for me was accounts or creative. I didn’t even know then that planning existed! I had always wanted to do design and while I had enjoyed my internship, where I worked under a lovely creative team, I left feeling like the discipline was too dependent on eureka moments that you couldn’t quite plan for. This seemed like too scary and random a construct to spend every professional day in. MTV was meant to be a stop-gap but I picked something up there that set course for my entire career.

The best thing I got from MTV was my first exposure to digital. I started out in PR and after six months was invited to move to the digital team. MTV was waning in cultural influence but was still advanced in the practice of integrated communications. Our channels were on-ground, on-air and on-line, with products created to exist on all three. I found this amazing, especially the online side. It sounds so cliché and passe now but despite my early exploration of ICQ and Netscape-based browsing, most of the digital world was new to me. As a Digital Producer I was in charge of populating our website and managing our fan community. I ended up playing around with Dreamweaver and I ended up learning to create web pages (in a WYSIWYG way) and enjoyed capturing content about the different bands and artists that came into our studios, including a still-favorite Up Dharma. (Cue post about how I learned who Ely Buendia is... Coming soon.)

Even if it wasn’t the social media age yet I marveled at this world of two-way interaction, which while always being a part of how MTV did things, was maximized online. I enjoyed content creation and publishing, the exercise of trying to create pieces to share that would get people excited about our world.

Needless to say the MTV story ended extremely quickly. Our doors closed which somehow made the last three months there so sentimental and even more memorable. My “Almost Famous” band-aid year wasn’t meant to be extended or prolonged, only captured in my memories as the perfect first job to transition from being a college kid to someone in the working world.

I look back on MTV, my first world of work, with so much fondness. It was a good year with enough fun to last me the next decade of sleepless nights and endless stress. I remember my first few weeks doing agency work thinking, “So this is what real jobs are like.”

I have absolutely no regrets about this path and a career that has taken me from our office in an under-populated Fort to all sorts of cities. Most of all I owe many thanks to MTV for infecting me with the digital bug.

"Future" // Urban Dub & Dicta License
"First of Summer" // Urbandub
"Pag-Agos" // Up Dharma Down

Post-event: Up Dharma at the St. James Power Station, Singapore


Monday, July 20, 2015

hello lah

I never wrote an "I'm in Sing" post!

Maybe things happened too quickly between Shanghai, my break and the next move. Packing, searching for an apartment, moving money around, booking a Christmas flight home, meeting dozens of new officemates, trying to place people within a tricky org chart. Getting into the swing of things, thinking - hey, there's work-life balance here! Nobody books meetings past six. And then boom. Three unforgettable weeks when an avalanche of projects and pitches started to fall and haven't quite stopped. No time to take stock.

One of our creatives asked me if this is the worst I've had it. PSHAW. I was trained in the Manila school of advertising, I started out under a telco and I finished with  three years in Mr. Lim's sweatshop (I say with great fondness!). It's nowhere near the worst I've had it. In terms of workload.

It's been nine months now. The amount of time I promised myself I'd stay when I started at my first ad agency... where I, with a few internal moves here and there, ended up staying for eight years. When all the pieces just fit. And when they don't.

Singapore has been such a switch from Shanghai. I can't help but compare. Everything seems to be different between my PVG and SIN lives. I romanticize my year in the four seasons of the charming, tree-lined French Concession. I think I left with just enough time on the clock to be able to say that all the crap was part of its character. But as other friends who have made the same geo move have said - Singapore is the handsome, rich boyfriend who will impress all your kiasu friends. But Shanghai is the rugged, scruffy, massively imperfect guy on a motorcycle that you'll always be tempted to choose. Or as I told another friend, Shanghai is the mistress you can't help but love.

This might make it sound like I'm not happy to be here. But I've come to love, if not the city exactly, much of my life here. Nine months have passed and as we've said, I'm glad I came.

And now it's 11:30 pm... time to get back to work.


Friday, May 8, 2015

signs of the times

What a sad and sadly accurate commentary of our times. This couple, this guy, this girl have all died in the last year as a result of overzealous selfie photography.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

State of the Agency Market

"Of the world's five largest digital networks, only one is owned by an established agency company: No. 5 Wunderman, owned by WPP.
IBM Corp.'s IBM Interactive Experience ranks as the biggest digital network, followed by Deloitte Consulting's Deloitte Digital, Accenture's Accenture Interactive and Alliance Data Systems Corp.'s Epsilon."

via AdAge

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Post-Digital Musings at Stream Asia 2015

Where do we go from here?

As marketers we claim to have a deep understanding of our customers and their culture. The fragmentation and complexity of our post-digital world, however, have made it increasingly difficult to put our finger on the consumer pulse. Technology, communication, socialization now evolve so rapidly that before we can wrap our heads around the status quo reality is once again different. I’ve recently discovered that it can help to have an industry support group of sorts that we can discuss and process these things with. The scenario may keep changing but what is important is to keep up the inquiry, to keep processing. 

I’ve been thinking about the idea of the Post-Digital for some time – what our world has become through digital and how it will continue to evolve. Trends like the Maker movement and the 3D printing industry have made me wonder if our digital future will lead us back to the basics of the physical realm, because while technology-enabled these developments feel distinctly analog. On the other extreme are innovations like virtual reality glasses, hololenses and smart homes, smart chargers, smart everything. These technologies make me wonder if we’ve swallowed red pill and jumped into the rabbit hole.

I finally got to explore this topic in greater depth last week at Stream, a WPP (un)conference that invites participants to examine the future of digital and communications. WPP brings agency folk together with clients, founders, media, social entrepreneurs, creators, makers and geeks of all sorts to exchange ideas and questions. It is an un-conference – no suits, keynotes or a set agenda. In this particular Stream drones were flying around and there was a trapeze. Standard activities are the gadget show-and-tell, Powerpoint-eoke, and midnight cook-off. It’s a little random. Much of the activity time is set for participant-generated discussions. When users arrive they can post a topic and anyone can show up to have an exchange and/or heated debate.

This is how, on a sunny Saturday morning, I ended up in a Post-Digital roundtable in Club Med, Phuket. (Though in true ad agency fashion by roundtable I mean a casual arrangement of lounge and folding chairs). More questions were brought up than answered, but it was comforting to discover that others in the industry also struggle to understand what our post-digital world is and will be.
I found that many comments and questions helped me firm up ideas on my earlier question about the duality of the post-digital. Here are three potential scenarios based on our group exchange:

  • The post-digital will go back to basics: The maker movement will teach us to work again with our hands. 3D printing will have us rediscover physics and then allow those proficient enough to produce their own goods. Individuals will be able to trade and barter with this merchandise. Relationships will become the main selling tool; there will be little need for mass-market brands in this DIY future.
  • The post-digital will lead us down the rabbit hole: Robots will eventually take over our marketing jobs as AI will apparently overtake human intelligence in about a decade. The children of Generation Z, our future consumers, will be raised as ‘screen-enabled’. Their intense interaction with five screens and up will have effects on real-world interfaces – they will expect taps and swipes to operate what in our time were analog things like faucets and hinges. To prepare children for the programmable future “reading, writing, coding” will become the building blocks of primary education.
  • The middle ground: We will live within an Internet of Things, with every machine sensor- and web-enabled. Machine-to-machine communication will become a thing. Most things won’t change – our need to convene, touch, socialize, make love, and emotion will remain a bigger factor in human and brand engagement than the strictly rational or data-driven.

The perspectives I heard were so interesting. Some, none, a few may prevail, only time will tell. What has become a little clearer to me now is that we are utterly unprepared for these changes. As we were discussing our value to brands and clients in this context one participant commented on marketers’ strong hesitation to let go, to be vulnerable to the changes. This is fair, though our preoccupation with processing this new space may be because we are the one generation that straddles both the analog past and the digital future.

After the session we parted ways, heading to other discussions that further exemplified the complexity – and sometimes absurdity – of our digital present. Talks covered everything from Bitcoin and the future of behavioral buying to “Digital Breaking Bad: The Illegal Undernet” and “The Selfie Stick: The end of mankind?”

It was good to be able to put my questions and thoughts forth to a group who were also processing these unprecedented changes. As an industry we have a lot of evolving and catching up to do. But it’s great to feel like we’re not alone in discovering and investigating this new landscape. If we can continue to come together and try to make fun or sense of the new digital world order, I think we’ll be ok.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What is Net Neutrality

I'll let my friend, John Oliver, explain.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I've been published!

Miles away from my own book but I was contacted last year about one of my blog graphics being cited in a Marketing textbook. They credited me and sent me a copy.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

social media tonality

Brands ride on trending hashtags to gain views and interactions. Participating in a high-traction topic increases their chances of getting attention from people who wouldn't otherwise have been exposed to their social presence.

This has served brands well in many cases. Oreo's spontaneous response during the Superbowl power outage and, a little closer to home, KitKat Philippines' tweet while Facebook was momentarily down both impressed fans and drove global PR pickups.


But not every hashtag is appropriate for brands to participate in. The trades were abuzz when DiGiorno pizza tweeted using #WhyIStayed, tying it to pizza consumption without recognizing that the hashtag was actually being used by people opening up about why they had stayed in abusive relationships.

John Oliver took note of this and shared his very strong feelings that brands shouldn't try to participate in every possible conversation, and that most people don't want them in regular conversations:

DiGiorno's hasthag use was obviously a mistake an oversight that the company has apologized for. There are lessons to be learned about thorough hashtag research as well as troubleshooting to see if they might be hijacked by trolls and with the brand eventually included in a thread of unsavory messages.

That's common sense though. Should, per John O., brands just shut up online?

In the Philippines and I suspect many South East Asian countries consumers have a much higher openness to brands and branded conversations. In one focus group I did with lower-SEC moms they described billboards and Facebook social ads as sources of information on important product news to pay attention to. Our consumers don't hesitate to like brand pages and interact with brand posts. In which case I think it doesn't turn anybody off to see KitKat commenting on Facebook being down. After all, KitKat's consumers are experieincing the same thing and in that context it tells current and potential consumers that the brand knows what they're about, that it has a personality and that it can be witty and have a sense of humor.

Still, it will be worth it to measure if consumers feel like brands are putting their noses where they aren't invited or shouldn't be involved. And even in the open web, maybe brands need to self-restrict.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

spaces that inspire creativity

Can my next office be as creativity-inducing as 826 Valencia?


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Manila: A design problem

Traffic has been horrendous.
  • I was trying to get to Ortigas last week but had only hit Guadalupe (not even the bridge) after two hours. Google Maps says that distance should only have taken twelve minutes, and even if that is under the most optimistic of trafffic circumstances, it really shouldn't have - and in the past hasn't - taken 120 minutes. I had to cancel my meeting and turn back, spending another hour on the road before I got home. 
  • The next day my sister and I were in Toby's Estate in Salcedo Village. We called our car to come get us from our house, which is also in Makati. It took an hour to pick us up and another 45 mintues to get home. All in Makati!
  • It took my younger brother, who studies in Ateneo, an hour to get from school to The Fort, and two more hours in The Fort to turn on to McKinley.
  • This is from my own experience; I can only imagine the commuters' side of the story.
This is insane. Traffic doesn't usually get this bad until Christmas, or unless a bad storm causes extraordinary flooding. It has been raining but it doesn't usually lead to traffic this crazy. It's so unproductive and wasteful.

Some pretty pathetic pictures from news media pages:
Ayala Ave. - Makati Ave. intersection (via)

Pasong Tamo tunnel flooded as of 3:40pm yesterday. (via)

EDSA last night (via)

"Top photo was taken at 5:11pm. Bottom photo was taken
at 6:47pm. Same spot on SLEX-Nichols Bridge." (via)

Only short-term solutions being proposed. “We have to give priority to the public utility vehicles since private cars can find other roads apart from EDSA,” according to an LTFRB board member (Philstar), a scheme that would prevent private cars from driving on EDSA between 6am and 9am. This might help in the morings but completely disregards the worst traffic of the day - rush hour after 5pm. It also implies that there isn't enough room for both private and public vehicles on EDSA which isn't the case. The problem is that buses and jeeps stop anywhere and take their time loading passengers even if they are blocking traffic. EDSA is both highway and loading dock.

There are other angles to the problem:
  • Do we have the right roads to accommodate the number of people who move around in Manila everyday? 
  • Is there adequate public transportation? Do these systems encourage a commuter culture vs. public vehicles?
  • Are public transporation drivers properly educated about being a good citizen on the road? Are they equipped with the proper protocol and guidelines for not causing traffic? Are they incentivized enough so that they can think not only about themselves but for the good of the entire community on the road?
  • Does the city accommodate walkers and bikers with sidewalks and bike lanes?
  • Do we have enough urban centers in the country, enough to depopulate Manila?
  • Are zoning laws being properly implemented? There are no businesses or buildings on major freeways in other countries, with space for vehicles to properly exit major highways to enter businesses or business districts (unlike Megamall situation which uses EDSA as their driveway, with more buildings added practically on the highway every few years).
  • What causes flooding? What are the streets that flood fastest / most frequently? 

It can seem pretty hopeless. What is one to do in the face of horrendous late-afternoon to evening to nighttime traffic? Leave work early? Not work at all?

We need design thinking! To come up with long-term solutions. Band-aids won't fix these problems. Haven't we already done the yellow lane and the coding scheme? But new cars and the unsupervised public transporation build on top of that and they are soon inadequate. We need to isolate the root causes of flooding and traffic in order to put real solutions in place. We need design thinking to find and address the problems on different layers and create a system of solutions that involve government officials, businesses, public transporation operators, private vehicle owners, commuters, pedestrians, traffic enforcers.

There is an answer to this; other cities have done it. There are cities where people don't even want to buy cars because it's so much more convenient to commute. What we don't know is if the right confluence of vision, strategy and implementation will ever come together in the hands of the lovely people in government to make Manila a city we can be happy to move around in.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Like / Live

Today's documentaries. Good stuff.


Experts talk about the Twitter-powered discipline of "live storytelling" - how to design stories that are not fully told and leave room for audiences to participate, grow and change stories. Twitter-sponsored (and even posted on the TwitterAds page) but they use good cases and examples from politics to brands. Real time newsrooms included.


Social media changes what it means to be a teen - the constant drive for likes, retweets and shares and the images and actions required to continuously generate those results. Celebrities have become their own media publishers and fans become impressions ready to be sold. Marketers, brands and media franchises are poised to take advantage.

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