It’s Time to Play the March Madness Advertising Game

Image credit: Al Sermeno Photography/Shutterstock.com

Unlike 2018, the big NCAA 2019 basketball tournament event is not burdened with the pressure of battling clean-up. March Madness 2019 is predicted to set a new record of $1.36 billion in advertising spend, continuing an upward tradition since 2013. The NCAA Men’s Division I Final Four will be hosted by the city of Minneapolis, and is predicted to generate $142 million in economic impact for the area and attract 94,000 visitors to the U.S. Bank Stadium.  “In terms of impact, visitor spending is only one way to think about success,” says CEO Kate Mortenson, NCAA Final Four Minneapolis Organizing Committee. While the city looks forward to the promise of an economic windfall, a list of international brands is gearing up for an opportunity to promote their wares to the millions of college basketball fans who will be tuning in to the weeks-long event leading up to the big game.

The NCAA has announced that this year’s tournament will be streaming across 15 platforms in an effort to keep pace with a more mobile viewing audience. Mobile experiences will be very important to fans and advertisers will need to heed the viewers’ continued gravitational pull away from traditional cable and broadcast channels. The most successful brands will be those that connect all the channels into one cohesive campaign that brings basketball fans together with the brand.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will continue to build relationships between fans and brands. Official March Madness social media handles generated 26 million social engagements across these popular channels last year. Marketers will need to prepare ahead in order to capture prolonged customer attention.  “It’s about speaking to the audience, whether they’re preparing for their bracket or starting a competition with friends and family. And it’s about thinking of the length of time you’re spending with consumers,” says Courtney McKlveen, VP and Industry Lead of Retail, Travel and QSR at Yahoo. “ The word ‘loyalty’ is fun to throw around, but it still exists. In order to build loyalty, it takes time, and it means being there throughout the shopping cycle, and having the confidence to think about your ROI differently.”

Casual-dining brand Buffalo Wild Wings is launching its “That’s March Madness” TV spots and digital ads urging viewers to visit its restaurants to watch the tournament. In addition to their usual broad selection of brew and spicy wings, the 1,200-unit Buffalo Wild Wings chain is rolling out custom-designed “Jewel Stools” in Los Angeles and New York City. “Man caves and technology have divided us, conquered us and allowed a part of our herd to be divided,” says Scot Crooker, associate creative director at The Martin Agency, Buffalo Wild Wings’ advertising agency. “Sports is about finding your tribe.”

Whether you choose one or all of the available channels, there are more ways than ever for a brand to engage with an audience during March Madness. While the digital play provides social analytics that can generate immediate message effectiveness, display and sponsorship advertising often requires an incubation period following the performance to measure success or failure. It’s time to establish a strategy and tip off your best effort to connect with our nation’s college basketball fans.

Marketers Help Distribute Oscar Gold at the Academy Awards

Image credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

The Academy Awards have been an entertaining promotion of the movie industry for decades. At its peak, the 3-hour distribution of the golden Oscar to the industry’s best performances captured millions of viewers and generated unprecedented hype for cinema performers, directors and technicians. The once high viewer ratings have diminished over the past two years due to falling interest in a program that has strayed beyond its stated mission and into the critical arena of politics and overt promotion of controversial social issues.

The prediction for the 91st edition of the Academy Awards was dire at the program’s debut but the ABC TV network managed to garner a record $2.6 million for a 30-second advertising spot on the 2019 program. ABC sells more advertising on Oscar Sunday than any day of the year.

This year’s major brands included:  Google, McDonald’s, Verizon, Walmart, Cadillac and Walt Disney. Nike used the platform to launch a powerful, female-focused “Dream Crazy” campaign, fronted by tennis legend Serena Williams. Embarrassed by a failing sneaker worn by its spokesman basketball star in Duke University’s loss to North Carolina the previous week, the iconic brand needed a big win to erase the memory of that debacle from consumers’ minds.

“The Super Bowl is over. It’s mid-February,” Jeff Greenfield, chief operating officer of C3 Metrics, a media measurement company, said in a recent interview. “I am Walmart. My competitor is Amazon. Where can I go and compete against Amazon on what is essentially a global stage and get reach today? It’s the Oscars. … For a brand like a Walmart, they have to be there.” Despite a falling viewer audience, ABC will rack-up more than $150 million from this year’s event. Apparently, falling attendance and program ratings are having little effect on those brands that are willing to pay a premium to share the world’s entertainment stage.

The once “don’t mix politics, religion and controversial social issues with business” mantra that guided advertising for centuries is quickly being abandoned as marketers perceive changing trends in consumers’ favor for socially conscience brands. Providers of major entertainment like the National Football League (NFL) however, are learning that the diversion from focusing on the quality of the entertainment to the promotion of controversy has its limits with a diverse consumer audience. Going forward, promotors of programs like the Academy Awards may want to temper the rhetoric of controversy and refocus on awarding favor to artistic performance if they want to advance their own brand to a more diverse community of consumers.

This year’s ratings bump was welcomed after years of declining interest among viewers but the impact of the increase may be short lived, or not. The fact remains that the Oscars televised event with all its tarnish still attracts a reliable but fractured viewing audience. For brands looking to reach that audience, the Oscars ceremony continues to be an important venue to promote.

Valentine’s Day Isn’t Just for Lovers Anymore

Image Credit: NeydtStock/Shutterstock.com

Hallmark holidays have always been an opportunity for retailers to rack-up some additional sales. Valentine’s Day, once a day reserved for romance and couples, is trending in some interesting directions. With more than 50 percent of Americans identifying themselves as single and not fully committed to a love relationship, the dynamics of the once romantic holiday are changing.

The changing social norms are not slowing the momentum of spending. This year consumers are expected to spend nearly $20 billion dollars on gifts for their sweetheart, co-worker or favorite pet. Consumers plan to spend just over $26 on pets for Valentine’s Day. But the tradition has not totally gone to the dogs.

The traditional winners in the loving gift department will continue to be candy, flowers and jewelry but gifts of experience are beginning to find favor among consumers.  People aged 25 to 34 will be spending the most on Valentine’s Day gifts this year, dropping an average of $202.76 per person. A poll conducted by the National Retail Federation found “the top reasons consumers chose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day were that they considered it over-commercialized, didn’t have anyone to celebrate with or simply weren’t interested anymore.” Sellers spend less time planning their campaigns in advance of Valentine’s Day than other holidays throughout the year, and most consumers wait longer to shop for their gifts. 

The origins of the lovers’ holiday has been traced back to the second century when Emperor Claudius II executed two religious Martyrs named St Valentine. The original February 14 holiday doesn’t appear to have been about romance or love. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Hallmark Greeting Card Company’s forbearer started distributing Valentine’s Day cards. By the start of the 21st century, more than 60 percent of Americans celebrated the holiday. Despite the falling popularity of Valentine’s Day, total spending during the holiday continues to rise and the bulk of the spending will be for significant others and spouses. Co-workers, family members, classmates and pets will join the rank of favorite relationships in 2019.

Okay, So Even the Venerable Super Bowl isn’t Always So Super

Image credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

It may not be as bad as finding an empty vault in Al Capone’s basement but the LIII Super Bowl Game certainly failed to deliver on the anticipated excitement, either for the fans watching the game or the advertisers who spent a large share of their annual marketing budget to advertise during the event. The estimated $5 million per 30-second spot always comes with a significant amount of doubt as to its real value.

This year’s mega game was the least watched Super Bowl matchup in 11 years and is ranked as the lowest rated in 16 years. CBS says the broadcast averaged 98.2 million viewers and a 41.1 household rating, almost as exciting as the activity playing out on the field. Even the halftime entertainment failed to excite the dulling malaise in the stadium. Perhaps the only star-studded performance of the week was the city of Atlanta and its ten thousand volunteers who put forth an award winning performance.

For advertisers who spent a ridiculous sum to produce a bevy of television commercials, they couldn’t be happy that the coveted number one commercial, as judged by the USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter, was the event’s owners and producers, The National Football League. It’s akin to entering a contest and having the contest organizer take the top trophy at the end of the show. Runner-up was the Amazon Alexa ad about technology gone haywire, followed by Microsoft’s ad about children with disabilities using the Xbox adaptive controller to play video games. The major beer brands’ efforts appeared to be as skillful as the two competitors on the field, just a bit off their best games. It appears as though brewing beer with molasses is a big deal, or maybe not.

The only clear winners were women, whose participation rate in commercials ticked up over previous bowl events. Toyota, Olay, Bumble and Michelob Ultra are among the brands that put women front-and-center in Big Game ads. “It seems like there’s an awful lot of humor and light appeals, and that for advertisers it’s somewhat of a play-it-safe year,” said Charles R. Taylor, a professor of marketing at the Villanova University School of Business. “We’re not hearing about anything crossing over in politics.” A resounding Bravo could be heard from avid football fans that spent more than $2,500 per seat to be entertained and $1 thousand for a bed to sleep in after all the partying.

Now that the crowds have gone home and the Champion’s parade has cleared the streets, it’s time for the marketers who convinced their C Suites that the million (plural in many cases) dollar tab was worth the effort. In the end, taking win place or show in the ad game only matters when revenue is added up. Unlike last year, the players on the margins of ROI won’t have the Olympic Games to soften a rough landing.

One aspect of advertising the big game from year to year is the answer to the question, “Was it worth the money?” It still remains in the wind. Measuring the impact of a single-event television ad is like asking an AM radio personality how many people heard a specific 30 seconds of the broadcast. In reality, the best answer you can hope for is a fair share of the audience that hadn’t nodded-off. The most successful ads tend to be those that elevate the institutional value of the brand over time. It’s sort of “you’re not sure but you’ll know the answer when you feel it.” Regardless of the answer, it is almost a given certainty that most of the admen and adwomen who turned out a team to play in this year’s LIII Super Bowl will return for an encore performance next year. The whole thing is just too good of a spectacle to miss. And besides, would you want to be the marketing manager who passes on the one year that the competition beats you badly at the goal line?

Another Super Event In the ATL

Image credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com

With all the excitement in Atlanta, Georgia, one would think it was 1996 and the Summer Olympics were fast approaching. Not since then has the big city in the South experienced this frantic level of anticipation and excitement. No Olympics this time, but rather Super Bowl LIII. For more than 200 days, City planners and more than 10,000 volunteers have been planning, priming and preparing for just one day in February, Super Bowl Sunday, and for good reason. This year’s super football contest between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams promises to generate more than $700 billion for the city’s commerce and a welcome down payment on the costs of the city’s brand new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The new stadium is the most recent mega landmark to grace Atlanta, which extends well beyond the confines of the original city boundaries. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is advertised to be located in the “heart of the City,” but the “City” of the Atlanta is expansive. The Atlanta Metro Area has become one of the most expansive urban Meccas in the country. With many of the world’s largest and best recognized companies deciding to call the area home, it is attracting some of the nation’s most capable young professionals and entrepreneurs who are gravitating to the area’s increasingly exciting lifestyle. The economic impact of the event will be felt throughout the expanded area and will certainly boost the fortunes of a large assortment of business and commerce.

Despite the advanced preparations and planning, residents and attendees will need to expect even more intense traffic on the city’s already frantic byways. For those not planning to participate in the many events prior to and on the day of the game, it may be a good time to consider cooking at home and staying close to the neighborhood. The areas traffic patterns have a reputation for gridlock and aggressive drivers and are legendary among residents and visitors alike, even during normal times.

Marketers are ready for the event that has redefined single-event advertising. A 30-second spot on CBS will cost advertisers about $5 million each, but there is no shortage of brands willing and ready to take a shot of making advertising history. Advertising opportunities are not the only venue for increasing brand awareness.  Billboards, Pedi cabs, vehicle wraps, experiential marketing and sampling are among the marketing collateral available to advertisers who want to connect with the anticipated 1.5 million Super Bowl LIII visitors.

For those looking to attend the Super Bowl this year, it is going to be costly for those who have not yet secured their tickets. Last available tickets for the game are rumored to cost as much as $10 thousand each. With just a few days left before Super Sunday, airline flights, hotels and passes to many of the weekend events are going for a premium. Good news for Atlanta. Who is your pick for Super Bowl stardom?

2018’s Holiday Sales Outperform Retailers’ Predictions

Image credit: imtmphoto / Shutterstock.com.

The days of long, unruly lines and 24-hour camp-outs in front of major retail locations appears to be a spectacle of the past. Shoppers tired of playing retailers’ hold-out games in order to get the best prices on holiday purchases have changed the long-standing dynamics of Black Friday shopping. Historically the absolute best shopping day of the year for retailers, the day after Thanksgiving in 2018 saw a significant shift in shoppers’ antics. Still the best day of sales for retailers across the spectrum, Black Friday was less stressful for customers. The increasing popularity of online retailers and major big box stores breaking with early promotions resulted in a much more civil launch to the Holiday shopping season.

Online spending was predicted to see big gains and reality did not disappoint the prognosticators’ early predictions. Online spending reached $3.7 billion on Thanksgiving Day, up 28 percent from previous years. Four-day Black Friday weekend sales totaled about $60 billion, according to retail advisory firm Customer Growth Partners. Smart phone sales set new records with customers using their smart devices to spend $2.0 billion.

Apparel retailers found new favor from consumers with an 8 percent increase in sales. Black Friday weekend saw several major retailers out in front of their best predictions. “Not all apparel is doing great,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “The biggest growth over the past few months has stemmed from activewear retailers like Nike and off-price companies like T.J. Maxx..” In general, brick and mortar and online retailers experienced their best performance in decades. “In sales terms, this has definitely been a very strong holiday — one of the best since 1999,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm GlobalData Retail. “Momentum in the consumer economy, confident shoppers and more discipline from retailers have all helped to boost spending.”

Department store sales were down 1.3 percent from November 1 through Christmas due mainly to an inability to capture an increase in their online channels. Store closures also muted holiday sales as traditional department stores reposition brick and mortar strategies. Successful smaller retailers are transforming stores to meet the specific needs of local markets and customers resulting in a new and popular shopping environment that is drawing favor from consumers.

All in all, the 2018 holiday shopping season delivered on predictions and resulted in a much appreciated Merry and Happy holiday for retailers across America.

We Give Thanks for All the Many Blessings in Our Lives

As we prepare to celebrate another day of Thanksgiving we are reminded of past holidays and the traditions of a day set aside to give thanks for those things most valued in our lives. It’s not surprising that Thanksgiving Day elicits memories of abundant splays of food, drink and jovial comradery of family and friends. The first Thanksgiving, generally credited to have been a celebration of good harvest, took place in 1621, when English Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts shared a meal with their Native American neighbors.

Since its declaration of an official National holiday in 1939, the second to last Thursday in November is recognized as a time to reflect and express gratitude and appreciation for those many blessings we experience in our daily lives throughout the year. While the day brings a diverse array of memories and celebration for each of us, the Day’s traditions may best be expressed in a poem by Edgar Albert Guest, a 20th century, English born American poet.

Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,

An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;

An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they

Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;

Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,

Buildin’ the old family circle again;

Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,

Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door

And under the old roof we gather once more

Just as we did when the youngsters were small;

Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.

Father’s a little bit older, but still

Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.

Here we are back at the table again

Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.

 

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;

Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.

Home from the east land an’ home from the west,

Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.

Out of the sham of the cities afar

We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.

Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,

Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

 

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun

When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;

Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,

Let me sit down with the ones I love best,

Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,

See the old faces unblemished by wrong,

See the old table with all of its chairs

An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.

 

President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” At Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) our goal is to live by our words.

In this emotionally and politically charged competitive environment, we too often forget to be kind to one another, to appreciate the diversities of our lives, to be empathetic to our individual challenges and to demonstrate our appreciation for the opportunity to share our lives with others.  “At Junction,” says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO, “we are thankful for our dedicated, creative and talented team of professionals who work every day of the year to bring solutions to the challenges of our clients and are greatly appreciative of the love of our family, the comradery of friends and the respect of our associates.”

Our sincerest wishes, to all, for a happy Thanksgiving Day!

“What is old is new again” May Be the Most Surprising Trend in Marketing in 2019

Image credit: Artur Szczybylo / Shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, we have once again come full circle on another year. Marketing prognosticators are polishing their crystal balls of future things to come and declaring how technology will revolutionize our channels of communication with consumers in 2019.  Last year’s predicted trends are being measured against reality, and the process is becoming akin to scoring a competitive game of sport.

As with so many games in life the results of our collective efforts to predict the future of marketing tactics and activities are never completely aligned with perfection. Shifting consumer expectations and the response to accepting new communication technologies make the playing field difficult to read and an unsuited environment for calling a perfect game. All we can really do is take stock of what is working, evaluate why some predictions failed, make necessary adjustments to the strategy for 2019 and move forward. The most successful predictions of marketing in 2018 appeared to be offered by those who envisioned a broader and less specific set of outcomes.

“While some industries have embraced the paradigm shift in how they reach, engage, and mobilize new customers, I predict that we will see even more attention and focus being placed on getting the marketing mix correct,” predicted Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. The year’s performance appears to have been another example that absolutes and inevitabilities rarely pan out. So what appears likely to work best in 2019?

Video Marketing’s performance will continue to align with the previously predicted game plan. A Cisco forecast indicates that video will make up 85% of Internet traffic by 2020. While posts with digital images and content continue to capture a significant audience, video is generating 135% more organic reach for marketers. Once seen as an opportunity for only the most well-healed, larger players, video is becoming more economical for those smaller marketers who can benefit from projecting an emotional and appealing story. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the usage of online video has increased by 10 times between 2011 and 2016. Over the next two years, the trend has only intensified and is unlikely to slow down.”

Automating the marketing process to work more efficiently and smarter will continue to pay dividends of better understanding customers.  Scott Brinker, Founder of Chief MarTec, said, “As much amazing marketing software as there is today, there is still an opportunity for new ideas. Marketing should be — and can be — better.”  Automation will be seen as another set of marketing tools that enhances the acquisition of new customers.

Smart marketers will continue to develop an expanded inbound approach to connecting with their market segments. Content marketing, automation, social media and multichannel marketing can be coordinated to create a brand reputation that is authentic and valuable to customers. Consumers are more often placing trust in those they know. Quality, reputable content will prevail over stock ads in the coming year. If one were to bet on an absolute, a continuing utilization of inbound marketing tactics is a wise wager for 2019.

Once predicted to be rendered obsolete; direct mail, print advertising and brick and mortar sellers are showing some unexpected resilience in the digital age. Not unlike wax LP’s return to popularity among a niche market of music lovers in a world of digital recordings, old school marketing tactics are finding success with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise and those who long to revisit a traditional physical shopping experience. Players on the field of brick and mortar will need to focus on creating entertaining events and an enticing experience for their target markets.

Who would have thought it: consumers like getting mail, even if it was once thought to be junk? Print advertising is not dead. While a small and much diminished portion of overall marketing spend, print is finding its rightful place in the digital world. In the field of marketing where a fast, bang, digital technology appears to arise every minute, the most surprising trend in marketing for 2019 may just be “what is old is new again.”

Prepare Your eCommerce Website for a Happy Holiday Selling Season

Image credit: Dmytro Flisak / Shutterstock.com

Would a winning team come to the plate in the World Series expecting to win without their best equipment? The answer from most sports enthusiasts and players alike would be, “certainly not!” But retailers and sellers across the industry spectrum may be coming to the plate in the biggest game of the year woefully unprepared for a big win. The holiday season is marketers’ most important opportunity to win big or go home, yet many players are failing to adequately coordinate ecommerce outlets for victory.

This year, online sales have risen by 46% and with more than 60 percent of retailers showing inventory on their website, it is critical to be ready for all the increased holiday shopping ahead. For a website to be most effective it must be aesthetically relevant, be at the peak of its performance and timely in its content. The worst time to realize that your marketing hardware isn’t loaded properly is when you have competition within your sight. Now is the time to focus on improving the performance of your website’s existing functionality.

First and foremost, your website must be prepared to handle and respond to the increased amount of traffic that is experienced around the holiday season. With their busy schedules consumers are impatient with websites that are slow to function and deliver accurately on their commands. Studies have revealed that websites that fail to load in just three seconds produce increased bounce rates. It is time to test your server’s ability to respond to your customers’ expectations and take measures to improve the site’s performance.

Decorating brick and mortar stores for the busiest selling season is a holiday tradition. Retailers spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to set a festive mood in hopes of encouraging shoppers to spend with them. A website should be no different. Decorating your site with the sounds and sights of the season will generate consumer interest and appeal. Offer something dynamic and unique with your content and modify it often to accommodate special events and promote shopping incentives. Utilize plug-ins that automate the processes of timely scheduling and initiating content modification. Focus on intently delivering on your promises. A gift received the day after Christmas is a memory rarely forgotten.

“In today’s world, if you’re not on mobile, you don’t exist.” More consumers look to mobile devices to research products and services before making a purchasing decision.  By 2021, it has been estimated that consumers will spend $152 billion directly on mobile phones, and over the next few years mobile phones will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales. A strategy to align your online presence across all mobile devices is critical.

Secure your website! Loyal customers may forgive an occasional mistake or inconvenience caused by unforeseen and uncontrollable calamity, but mess up a financial transaction or mishandle consumer data and you may be forever unforgiven. The holiday selling season brings out the best in many people, but it also brings out bad actors in greater numbers who are willing to victimize your customers and your business to advance their personal gain. Ensure that all your software, plug-ins, connections and passwords are up to date, and invest in the latest versions of anti-malware as a first line of defense.

Prepare your eCommerce platform now for a happy holiday selling season!

Adaptive Risk Advisors Reveals New Online Presence

When Adaptive Risk Advisors (ARA) was formed earlier this year, co-founder Miles Parker’s goal was to create a full service company focused on providing customized insurance solutions for high net worth business owners and individuals. Specializing in Commercial Property and Casualty, Workers’ Compensation, Fleet Vehicle, Liquor Liability, Cyber, and Luxury Home and Auto insurance coverage, ARA is a full service, independent agency focused on serving clients who desire a value-added relationship, competitive insurance rates and the best policies for unsurpassed price, coverage, and service. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Adaptive Risk Advisors is strategically located to provide services to Wake, Durham, Chatham, and surrounding counties.

“We believe personal contact and service will become the cornerstone of our success,” says Parker. “Our focus is on establishing client relationships rather than on client transactions. ARA’s success will be measured by our clients choosing us because of their belief in our ability to meet or exceed their expectations of price, service, and expertise.”

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an award-winning hybrid agency, was selected to design and develop an online experience to support the growing business.

“At Junction we share the belief that forming mutually beneficial relationships with clients is essential to business success and that honesty and trust are foundational to a company’s continued growth,” says Julie Gareleck, Junction’s Founder and CEO. “We appreciate the opportunity to be selected to work with Adaptive Risk Advisors on the launch of their website. We look forward to following their success!”

Adaptive Risk Advisors is ready to provide customized and affordable insurance solutions. Their knowledgeable, friendly staff can empathize with clients and their needs and create policies that meet or exceed their expectations. Call 984-212-8000 or visit https://adaptiveriskadvisors.com/ to learn more about Adaptive Risk Advisors.