Oct 02

Response September: Performance-Based or Bust

Response September 2015With Response‘s October issue wrapped and off to the printer today — and a biz trip to Vegas in the cards for next week — today’s the perfect time to put together my personal recap of the magazine’s September issue. Always one of our bigger issues of the year, September is led by a piece on the multifaceted integrated marketing programs at Bridgestone Americas, the world’s largest tire company, and includes the annual State of the Industry Report, as well as a series of solid contributed columns — all speaking to the expansion of the performance-based marketing universe. The expansion is so rapid and diverse, honestly, that we decided to update our cover tagline beginning with this issue. Yes, Response is now “The Magazine for Performance-Based Marketers.”

  • In May, I received a press release from Cassie Jones, a senior account executive at PadillaCRT, the public relations agency for Bridgestone. The release touted a then-upcoming TV campaign for its new DriveGuard tires that starred actor/comedian Will Arnett, perhaps best known for his character Gob Bluth on the hit TV show “Arrested Development.” I responded to Cassie, inquiring about the campaign and its overall fit in any direct, digital, or data-driven efforts underway by the Bridgestone marketing team. All credit goes to Cassie for listening to what our readers want from Response and producing an interview in late June with Amber Holm and Scott Palubinsky, talking about how performance-based metrics are becoming crucial to not only Bridgestone’s tire sales, but also for its 2,200 retail stores under the Tires Plus, Wheel Works, and Firestone Complete Auto Care brands. If you missed the link to the cover story above, here it is again: The Rubber Meets the Road
  • In the print and digital pages of Response, readers were able to hear a cross-section of answers from members of our Advisory Board as part of the magazine’s 20th annual State of the Industry Report. However, one of the best parts of our online edition is the opportunity to expand on such stories. For years now, we’ve been able to present the full, unabridged answers from all of our Advisory Board members who choose to take part in the story to each question. This version is no different. So, if you’ve read the print version and were left wanting more, click the link now to read the extended, Web-exclusive version of the story: Response Magazine’s 20th Annual State of the Industry Report
  • On a monthly basis, we run somewhere between two and six submitted columns from experts in the industry. These pieces are designed to share thought leadership from those who do the work of the performance-based marketing world on a daily basis, touching on hot topics and providing crucial tips and tricks for our readers. The September issue was no different — other than the fact that, from my perspective as the person who assigns and edits each and every one of these submissions, we were lucky to have a couple of exceedingly strong viewpoints. Doug Garnett of Portland, Ore.-based Atomic Direct (and a long-time Advisory Board member) touched on how DRTV is a boon for online businesses, while Venable LLP‘s Jeff Knowles and Ellen Berge gave readers the lowdown on new EMV credit card technology and how it could cause a burst of fraudulent activity in card-not-present processing. (Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a shout to the Washington, D.C., law firm’s practice group development manager Chuck Wilkins, whose help has been invaluable to Response‘s editorial efforts over the years).
  • Our monthly direct response TV and radio media billings recap takes a look at the first DR radio results of 2015. Those results maintained a recently positive trend for the market, showing a minor 1.6-percent increase over results from the same time frame in 2014. Lately, with recent DRTV billings struggling, it’s been refreshing to get around to the radio results each quarter. This quarter is no different, as a small jump in the total number of radio campaigns and increased spending on small-to-mid-level campaigns point to a strengthening marketplace. For a more in-depth look at 1Q 2015 DR radio media billings, click here: 1Q 2015 DR Radio Media Billings Stay Positive
  • Last but not least: not only do I own up to playing fantasy football for the past two decades in my September Editor’s Note column, I’m able to link that to the incredible expansion of weekly fantasy sports, brought to you on your TV nightly by businesses like DraftKings and FanDuel. What do these recently valued billion-dollar entities see in the combination of short-form DRTV and their fully digital product? And what does their ubiquitous advertising mean for the performance-based marketing business? If you missed the link to the column above, here it is once again: Fantasy-Level Media Investments Signal Huge Opportunities

Thanks again for reading and interacting with Response!

Sep 30

2015 Pac-12 Picking the Winners Recap: September

Though I keep track, weekly, of my game-by-game picks from my annual “Picking the Winners” Pac-12 preview (which has appeared annually on USCFootball.com for the past decade or so), it’s been a few years since I offered readers a regular recap and progress report. To rectify that, I’ll be providing three updates this season — this one, recapping the month of September; a second that will take a look at October outcomes; and, finally, a post-season, pre-bowl overview. If you missed my picks in the feature story, here’s the link:

15th Annual ‘Picking the Winners’ Pac-12 Preview

I finished the first month with a solid 32-9 mark. Only two completely inexplicable non-conference upsets and last weekend’s stunning Utah rout of Oregon in Eugene — an outcome nobody saw coming — kept me from a fantastic start. Let’s see how things shook out — my best picks, my worst picks, and how my pre-season expectations for each team compare with the current reality.

Week 1

Best Picks

  • Utah over Michigan (picked 24-20; actual 24-17)
  • UCLA over Virginia (picked 38-14; actual 34-16)
  • Oregon over Eastern Washington (picked 46-24 [22-point margin]; actual 61-42 [19-point margin])

Worst Picks

  • Washington State over Portland State, 45-13 (actual: FCS-level PSU 24, Washington State 17)
  • Stanford over Northwestern, 31-20 (actual: Northwestern 16, Stanford 6)
  • Colorado over Hawaii, 35-24 (actual: Hawaii 28, Colorado 20)
(AP Photo/Young Kwak)

(AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Let’s talk about the worst picks here. I mean, wow — it’s embarrassing enough that Washington State has a team like Portland State on its schedule, but scrambling for a fourth-quarter tie before losing in the closing moments at home? The loss dwarfs the other two disappointments.

Stanford embarrassed itself in Evanston, Ill., against Northwestern. The Cardinal’s (premature) 2015 obituary was written many times over in the week following this loss. And while Colorado‘s defeat here was probably the least shocking of the three, anyone who stayed up late enough on the season’s first Thursday night to watch even the first half of this game knows just what a frightful performance this was by both the Buffaloes and the Warriors.

Week 2

Best Picks

  • Michigan State over Oregon (picked 38-34; actual 31-28)
  • Utah over Utah State (picked 20-14; actual 24-14)
  • Michigan over Oregon State (picked 35-7; actual 31-10)
  • UCLA over UNLV (picked 37-7; actual 37-3)
  • USC over Idaho (picked 56-7; actual 59-9)

Worst Pick

  • Rutgers over Washington State 34-28 (actual: Washington State 37, Rutgers 34)

In easily my most solid week of September, even my worst pick — aforementioned Washington State, which bounced back from the embarrassment against Portland State to go on the road and beat a troubled Rutgers team they’d lost to in Seattle last season — was close to on the money. You could even make a case that my worst pick was a 51-21 predicted blowout by Arizona State over FCS Cal Poly — in a game that was deadlocked at 21 into the fourth quarter before the Sun Devils scored two late TDs.

(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

On the other hand, those best picks are all something to behold. Perhaps the most difficult thing to do in picking games like this is coming close to the actual scores in should-be blowouts. So, those scores in the Michigan, UCLA, and USC victories are all rather pleasing.

Week 3

Best Picks

  • Washington over Utah State (picked 27-16; actual 31-17)
  • Arizona State over New Mexico (picked 43-19 [24-point margin]; actual 34-10 [24-point margin])
  • Washington State over Wyoming (picked 31-14 [17-point margin]; actual 41-23 [18-point margin])

Worst Picks

  • USC over Stanford, 24-20 (actual: Stanford 41, USC 31)
  • Texas over California, 38-37 (actual: California 45, Texas 44)

Interestingly, one of my worst picks also was one of my best picks. In a shootout in Austin, I took Texas to win a one-point nail biter. Really, in a shootout in Austin, Cal won a one-point nail biter when the Longhorns missed a late PAT that likely would have spelled overtime.

Remember Stanford’s obituary? Neither did they, as they simply wore down USC in the second half at the Coliseum. This matchup has been up, down, and all around in recent seasons — and with a number of close margins, it’s often anybody’s guess as to which team will come out on top. After the Cardinal’s early misstep at Northwestern, not many gave them a chance against the Trojans. Many were wrong.

Week 4

Best Pick

  • California over Washington (picked 39-28; actual 30-24)

Worst Picks

  • Arizona over UCLA, 27-20 (actual: UCLA 56, Arizona 30)
  • Arizona State over USC, 35-28 (actual: USC 42, Arizona State 14)
  • Oregon over Utah, 48-20 (actual: Utah 62, Oregon 20)

I mean, you see those worst pick scores. Whew. At best, before the season, I’d have said UCLA and USC, with the right breaks, could win close ones in the desert  — while it would take a lot of breaks for Utah to pull a last-minute upset in Eugene. So much for those ideas. It looks like the Ducks might be going through an “end of the mystique” season, much like USC did in 2009 — Oregon’s offensive injuries and troubled defense don’t remind anyone of its recent dominant squads. In the meantime, it’s clear that the Pac-12 South is staking its claim as the conference’s best division.

September Expectations vs. Reality

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

With nine incorrect picks, including four in Pac-12 conference games, there’s some shakeup when looking at my expectations for each squad vs. the reality. Let’s start from the Pacific Northwest and head down the coast before curling back inland.

  • Washington (picked 2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12): One of two teams in the conference for which I’ve picked the right outcome each week.
  • Washington State (picked 2-1; reality 2-1): Same record, two miscues that were both covered earlier — the loss to Portland State and the victory at Rutgers.
  • Oregon State (picked 2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12): The other team in the conference that I’ve nailed all four picks for this far.
  • Oregon (picked 3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12): So far, I’ve only gotten that Utah pick incorrect — but the way the Ducks are playing, quite a few more miscues could be on the way.
  • California (picked 3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12; reality 4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12): That Texas win not only foiled my pick, but also should make Cal’s bowl eligibility a cinch.
  • Stanford (picked 3-1, 1-1 in Pac-12; reality 3-1, 2-0 in Pac-12): The Cardinal went from written off to the class of the North — in a three-week span. The Northwestern outcome is the one that really stings me, though.
  • UCLA (picked 3-1, 0-1 in Pac-12; reality 4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12): Not only did the Bruins’ win at Arizona place them aside Utah atop the early race in the South, it also wrecked my perfect record with them.
  • USC (picked 3-1, 1-1 in Pac-12; reality 3-1, 1-1 in Pac-12): Looks good, right? I mean, as a Trojan, I’ll take it (after that Stanford performance). But, purely from a selection standpoint, the Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of this team in recent years continues unabated, leaving me with a 2-2 mark.
  • Arizona State (picked 3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12): I wasn’t buying the Sun Devils in that opener against Texas A&M in Houston, but I did think they’d be better than Arizona this season. After falling on their faces against USC last week, it’s anyone’s guess.
  • Arizona (picked 4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12; reality 3-1, 0-1 in Pac-12): That UCLA destruction — my lone miscue — plus injuries to Anu Solomon and Scooby Wright seem to have the Wildcats season hanging in the balance during the next few weeks.
  • Utah (picked 3-1, 0-1 in Pac-12; reality 4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12): After performing to standard in the season’s opening weeks — grinding out home wins with defense and just enough offense against Michigan and Utah State — the Utes have exploded on the national scene. Are they this good? Is Oregon that bad? We will find out.
  • Colorado (picked 4-0; reality 3-1): That loss to Hawaii stings me — and it really stings Colorado’s bowl hopes, unless they get upset happy during their upcoming conference schedule.

Enjoy this weekend’s games!

Sep 18

Response August: Dating, Gumballs and Storage Units

Response August 2015Since we sent the September issue off to print almost two weeks ago, I suppose I’d better get around to my quick recap of the August issue of Response. An intriguing, multifaceted cover story on Social Discovery Ventures, another digital marketer that’s found success by adding offline media to its mix, plus the usual array of news, research, and opinion, gives you plenty of reason to read on for more background on the latest issue.

  • At a trade show in early 2015, I met with Lindsey Carnett of Marketing Maven PR to discuss her client base and see if there might be an interesting story or two out there among them. Near the end of the meeting, Lindsey brought up a dating site client that was involved in sponsoring the international road rally Gumball 3000. She mentioned that this client — which turned out to be SDV, owner of AnastasiaDate.com and AsianDate.com — not only had added a direct response TV campaign to its mix, but that it was inviting journalists to attend all or part of the nine-day, two-continent Gumball rally. During the next few months, with the help of Lindsey and former MMPR staffer Elizabeth Maxim, I was able to interview Anthony Volpe, SDV’s chief marketing officer, about SDV’s overall marketing plan, how a sponsorship of the Gumball event fit within that plan, and put together this feature on the performance-based aspects of their efforts. I also joined
    Hanging with Gumball 3000 founder Maximillion Cooper in Las Vegas on May 29.

    Hanging with Gumball 3000 founder Maximillion Cooper in Las Vegas on May 29.

    the final leg of the Gumball rally — from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, via Death Valley — on May 29-30 (and what an event that was: I’ll just leave this link to a piece from Eric Mack, one of my fellow journalists who was along for the ride) If you missed the link to the cover story above, here it is again: Racing to Success

  • Our writer Bridget McCrea — who was freelancing for the magazine prior to my arrival in 2001 and earns more than her keep every year — brings to life the natural fit of direct response as part of financial services marketers’ performance-based arsenal. For a long time, the financial services space — from local payday loan shops all the way up to multinational investment firms — have been leaders in using DR, and as services (especially online services) expand their power in the market, it’s no surprise that the financial space remains one of the most innovative users of performance-based tactics. If you didn’t already click the link above — here it is: Cracking the Code
  • Our monthly direct response TV and radio media billings recap takes a look at the first short-form DRTV results of 2015 — and some of you might want to look away. With a 12.8-percent decline, 1Q 2015 results were rather similar to the prior three-month period — 4Q 2014 numbers fell 12.7 percent. Total spending in 1Q 2015 short-form billings was the lowest recorded in any first quarter by Response since 2006. The results were intriguing in light of conversations I had during a recent visit to New York, where I met with a number of agency and network leaders. The buzz about the battle over what exactly constitutes a direct response TV campaign in 2015 was massive — and these reported results don’t exactly give lie to that buzz. For a more in-depth look at 1Q 2015 short-form DRTV media billings, click here: A Rough Start
  • If you remember one thing from my August Editor’s Note column, I’d suggest this: never fill up a 10×10 storage unit with 40-plus years of your life unless you want to spend four consecutive weekends clearing through its contents. If you missed the link to the column above, here it is once again: Slowing Down … to Pick Up Your Sales Pace

Thanks again for reading and interacting with Response!