Curate My A _ _! That’s ADS, people. (Part two – Engage Me)

Continuing the discussion on keeping it relevant in marketing in order to engage with your target audience, and the demand in the marketplace for everything curated.

When we look across the digital market we see something for everyone – an entire universe of information, products and services. We can search for anything. A-ny-thing.

Digital has also given marketers the ability to layer data to reach individuals who most closely match ideal customers. Add to that today’s mobile environment, and we have the ability to geographically target in real time.  This is pretty exciting stuff.

What does that mean to a consumer? Ads that are meaningful to one’s interests and needs that enhance the online experience. What does that mean to a marketer? It means effective CPMs with a higher level of engagement. It’s all based on relevancy to the receiver.

In a market where everything from razors to music, news feeds, entertainment, groceries, and fashion accessories can be served up in a curated fashion, subscribed to for convenience and novelty (such as Nature Box and Amazon Pantry,) we need to think of marketing messages in the same way. No longer are marketers beholden to the red car approach to marketing. (The approach that you keep putting your ad out there in the hopes that when a person is ready to buy a new red car, that your ad then become relevant, and registers with that consumer. The same thing applies to homes, mattresses, sofas, legal services, etc.)

We’re not talking about branding, that’s a whole different conversation. We’re talking about calls to action with intent to purchase, or sign up, or engage. Products or services that meet a specific need. Some, like razors and groceries, are consumable, some like mattresses and cars, are big ticket items, and some like Netflix and Pandora are services.

Really, any product or service can benefit from a curated approach to advertising. Put your message in front of the people with whom it will most soundly resonate. This requires knowing your audience.

In the decades before digital, marketers relied on print, radio and TV which could segment audiences based on program, broad viewership or subscription base, and readership/viewership, survey-based demographics.

What’s changed is the ability to identify a viewer’s preferences across multiple categories and narrower geo-locations. So ads for a restaurant more than 30 miles away don’t muddy the online experience of an individual without a car. Or ads for a vision center don’t get lost on a person who doesn’t wear glasses.

Essentially, what we are talking about is digital ad curation. Ads that reach you based on your wants or needs, even the ones you didn’t realize you had, because of your digital profile. This is where profiling is a good thing! Ads that have meaning for the viewer, and a higher rate of engagement for the advertiser. Is it a hit all the time? Of course not, but the odds have definitely improved.

In magazines, the good ones anyway, the advertisements have long been regarded to add to the overall experience of the reader. This has been documented by many reader surveys, and part of what drives ads into this medium. We read a fashion magazine, and we pour over the ads by Calvin Klein, DKNY, and Prada. We appreciate the aesthetic and trend indicators they represent. Or the ads that offer up details about new products in skin care. For the most part the ads add to and improve the readers’ experience. This is in direct proportion to their relevancy to the readers’ interests.

Why is this? The content is specific to a topic, it’s a fashion magazine. The same principle applies to a travel magazine with ads for an exotic vacation or ads for an airline, luggage, travel guides, and resort wear. A business or news magazine will offer up corporate real estate, legal advice and banking. This is a simplified view but the advertisers who support topic specific magazines know that they are in good company within the pages to serve up information to readers who meet a defined demographic. And the readers place a value on the ads as enhancing their experience.

The more specific the topic, like bicycling or gardening, the more companies that service these interests can expect to engage with the readers. This gets more difficult to determine the broader the topics, like the news, or the weather. And it’s limiting to big brands at a national level or to some local zoned ads in the back of the book. Or complicated national ad buys across local networked (or not) publications. The same can be said pretty much for radio and TV, which generally have broader market demographics.

But in digital, and this is where it gets interesting, we not only have the very specific “readership” and “viewership” topics like fashion or sports, we have many data layers at our disposal for those who choose to play the game. We can target specific demographics of consumers as they take in the news and check the weather online as well as in topic specific websites.

It’s like being able to identify the garden magazine reader while they are reading or watching the morning news. We can take all of that topic specific targeting and apply it across the broader information sources. And through the digital ad networks, we can follow that person throughout their online experiences.

Our personal online profiles allow relevant ads to come to us in a seamless flow. Like if we are male or female. So yes fellas – this means no more feminine hygiene ads of any sort disturbing your viewership. And apartment dwellers? No lawn and garden ads required. Deliver these messages to the people who fit the user profile.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has made a big show over higher priced devices that “protect” user’s data profiles. But why is that a good thing? Anonymous tracking and data that enhances what I see and experience online is a welcome application in my book. The algorithms that allow for recommended items as I shop, or drive, are also “recommending” advertisements for things in which I have an interest. This ads to my digital experience.

Why marketers should pay attention to this: It’s a natural tendency to want to tell everyone about our business or product, but not everyone cares. Put your marketing budget toward reaching people where you can best engage them. Even with PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) – leverage your impact where it can do the most good!

The current smoking cessation campaigns by the American Legacy Foundation, branded “truth”, running on tv and cable are well done and compelling if even a bit controversial, but over-reached and wasteful. They are hitting households without smokers or youth (for prevention), in prime TV networks that aren’t cheap. Don’t waste foundation money on irrelevant markets. The “truth” campaign is targeting youth, and where do teens spend the most time? On their mobile devices. With teen smoking down to just 7%, as stated on the truth website, put your ego’s away and get smart about your ad spends. (the ad campaign won an Effie award in 2005)1

40 million adult smokers, many living in southern states that are tobacco friendly, are identifiable by geography, and demographics. The CDC’s marketing approach is more effective. Geographically based and across multiple media outlets, including digital. The CDC campaign targets individuals within population sectors that are most likely to smoke, including military and individuals with behavioral health issues that make them prone to the habit. 2

For B2B companies – digital gets even better. Stay tuned as we venture into the B2B sector in the next post of this 5 part series on engagement.

As always – the basic principles of good design, strong creative, and thoughtful execution apply. An ad is only as effective as the set up. A targeted message in a poorly executed package is still a bad ad. Check the phone numbers, make sure your links work, and track it.

Let me know your thoughts on curated ads – and the movement towards digital targeted marketing. It’s a fast changing mobile market and we’re just getting started.




Engage Me

February 9, 2016

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The key to engagement is keeping it relevant

“Engagement” is the buzz word at the top of the list this month. More than 10% of American Couples get engaged (6 million Americans plan to ask or accept a proposal) on Valentine’s Day, making it the number one day of the year for the momentous event. And for the 50 billion dollar a year wedding industry – that’s big business. But even higher on the buzz worthy list is “engagement” of a different sort. Fan engagement, employee engagement, patient engagement, political engagement – these are ever present topics across national conversations, in the news, and problem solving within the markets themselves. Engagement is what everyone is striving for.

In today’s heightened “information now” mentality, the population expects to be engaged across all sectors of the marketplace. Entertainment is on-demand, curated, and recommended; employee retention and productivity requires employees to be actively “engaged” with their work and their employers; in healthcare – patient empowerment, shared decision making, and informed consent through patient engagement are key metrics of success; the 2016 election requires party members’ support, activated grass roots efforts and debate turnouts. Across the board we’re talking about an increasing level of “engagement” from stakeholders.

So – how do we accomplish this? The key lies in making touch points relevant. Communications (ads, notifications, information) must speak directly to the issue, be interesting and visually appealing, and capture the attention of the intended target within 3 seconds or be deemed unengaging and therefore – irrelevant.

We are seeing more and more use of the term “curated” – from curated content to curated commerce2. What it boils down to is making things immediate, and relevant, for the consumer. From subscription commerce (think Dollar Shave Club and Birch Box) to Amazon’s “Recommendations for You” based on your shopping and viewing patterns, the Netflix and Xfinity on-demand entertainment models, to targeted digital ads that seem to stalk you throughout the internet reminding you of the pair of boots you abandoned in the Zappo’s shopping cart or the coffee table you lusted after on Wayfair – we are living in a customized consumer market.

Employers are encouraged to monitor the engagement of their employees in order to maximize productivity. With 71% of all employees not fully engaged, and the companies with engaged employees performing at 202% over companies without3 – the term “engagement” has significant ROI implications. While attributes like empowerment and inspiration are key factors of employee engagement, so too is communication. Meaningful communication that imparts the vision of the company (inspiration) and provides a sense of team and ambassadorship, keeps things relevant for the employees.

Similarly, in healthcare, engagement is being looked to as a strategic ROI driver. Engaged patients have better health (recovery) outcomes, engaged individuals have better success at managing chronic disease and preventing complications at a huge cost savings.4 But in the case of healthcare – the debate is heavy on the definition of “patient engagement”. Just having a patient portal or remote monitoring technologies in place is not enough. With adoption and usage rates lower than 10%, Electronic Medical Record systems and patient portals alone do not equal patient engagement. We need people to actively use them.5

The upcoming election has spawned an uptick in political engagement. The absurd number of Republican candidates alone has breathed new life into the party as issues and debates, jabs and sound bites rock the news across both parties. With a record setting 6 billion dollar projected political ad expenditure for 2016, the LA times reported that “The nominating process has taken on a higher profile with a more crowded and contentious field of presidential candidates and no White House incumbent running for reelection. Televised debates have drawn higher TV ratings.” but “the primary reason for the increase, observers say, is that campaigns and political fundraisers have figured out how to more fully exploit super PACs to raise huge sums of money to help their favorite candidates.” 6 That is to say – they’ve made it very relevant.

Why blog about this? Because we can be relevant in all these areas and more. In today’s digital, mobile environment, companies, organizations and causes can target very specific communications across very specific demographic and geographic markets to make sure the communications are reaching the people they’re meant for, the people for whom it is most relevant. The people with whom they are looking to engage. Wasteful mass market TV spends will be the dinosaurs of this era, like the opioid induced constipation ads from pharmaceutical companies Daiichi-Sankyo and AstraZeneca running in Sunday’s Super Bowl – irrelevant for most viewers, but posed as public service announcements co-sponsored by various pain management foundations.

This particular ad simply wasn’t relevant to the majority of viewers of the medium it was delivered through. Who stands to benefit? The manufacturers of the expensive drugs, adding to the cost of the medications by an expensive ad buy, in order to reach the 8 million or so potential users in a viewership of nearly 115 million. Baffling more than 100 million viewers with its obscurity. How to better deliver? Through pain management or constipation related resources, Doctors offices – awareness campaigns more targeted to the suffering individuals. The individuals and insurance providers who no doubt will be paying, in the cost of the medication, for the estimated 5-10 million-per-minute spots7.

Follow me here at Enradius in this 5-part blog series as we dig deeper into the concept of relevant engagement through the digital market.

Cindy Carson, ; @cbcarson

 photo credit nenetus








Selling Health

Promoting Good Health

We all know “Hump DAAAAY!”.

It’s a cultural icon, a rapidly recognized meme, and part of our vernacular around the office and throughout our social conversations. Why? Because a very clever group of copywriters and producers came up with it and the brand it was created for, Geico, broadcast the commercial repeatedly over time. It stuck.

Imagine if “What’s in your wallet?” was a campaign for um, ahem, safe sex? Or “Because I’m worth it” was a reminder for your yearly physical? If the country is serious about improving the health of the population – we need to think like a marketer.

Yes – I am suggesting that the groups most impacted by the cost of healthcare – apply a “population health” approach to achieving their objectives through marketing. Whether it’s targeted marketing to a specific demographic, or broader, mass marketing to the greater population, it’s time to get the right messages out.

In a country where:

  • nearly a third of the population has diabetes1
  • more than two thirds are considered to be overweight or obese2
  • about 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year3—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths, and
  • 18.7 million adults and 8.9 million children have asthma4

and where we are spending upwards of 2.9 trillion in total national health expenditures5, it’s time to take a new approach! One that we KNOW works.

If advertising and marketing work so well that we need to regulate it, – just ask the likes of the Marlboro Man and the Joe Camel – both removed from mainstream media after controversial backlash around their advertising campaigns. If we need to control what messages are reaching our children, when and where adult beverages can be aired, and restricting cigarette ads, now one of the most highly regulated forms of marketing, (Some or all forms of tobacco advertising are banned in many countries).6 – let’s flip it! Make marketing work for health.

“Can you hear me now?”   I mean – can you really hear me? Do you get the concept? We need to be SELLING health! We’ve caught glimpses of it with product campaigns for milk (it does a body good), eggs (the incredible edible egg); and the Nike anchored motto of the exercise mindset “Just do it.” But these are product pushes where brands or associations promote a healthy concept they are aligning with the product, not a comprehensive push for health, wellness and prevention at a strategic level.

What if the product was health?

Imagine a country where the majority of citizens know the 6 warning signs of a heart attack? We know “two all-beef patties, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, special sauce all on a sesame seed bun,” so we know that it is possible and it works. We roll catch phrases into our daily conversations. They become a part of our culture, our lexicons. If we apply the same mass market principals to population health could we achieve the same results? I think so.

A “No Sweet” (play off of no sweat) campaign with headbands and sweatshirts, promoting unsweetened beverages and healthy alternatives to sugary foods like cereals and other breakfast foods that fall victim to large amounts of added sugar, could work. Or a catchy jingle for heart attack awareness cleverly packaged in an entertaining format and played repeatedly until 90% of all consumers not only recognize the message but can sing the whole thing are just hints at what’s possible.

I recently enjoyed a performance by a 7-year-old boy who recited the entire dialog for “The most interesting man in the world” commercial down to the “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”  to the great delight and pride of his father, and entertainment of all those around.

Marketing works.

Imagine a time when “eat your greens” or “get your flu shot” can be packaged up and go viral, the icons for the message being slapped on T-shirts sold at the mall or bumper stickers for the college set. A time where “health” becomes cool.

Why not? It works for just about everything else. Let’s apply the same resources and creative to impacting one of the biggest challenges facing this nation. It’s rising cost of health. Diabetes, Obesity, Heart Failure, Cancer – come on people – let’s do this! What do we have to lose? Only 2.9 trillion in health care expenditures, 17.4% of our GDP7 , with lost productivity because of missed work due to health problems costing the US 84 billion each year according to a 2013 Gallup-Healthways report.

Did you know that 90% of all cancers are environmentally caused8? That means they are not genetic. In other words, they are PREVENTABLE. When you look at the health stats in this country it’s enough to make you crazy. Oh, and we haven’t even talked about the mental health market. With 14.8 million adults suffering from depression9.

How much can we influence it? A whole lot. Awareness, education, information and motivation are the messages and tools of our health campaigns.

So, what’s in your wallet? I hope it’s taken on a whole new meaning for you.

The possibilities are endless. Let’s continue the discussion – reach me at or @cbcarson on Twitter.

6 Warning Signs of A Heart Attack:  (American Heart Association)

  • Chest Discomfortin the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body – Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort)
  • Cold Sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness