About Tom

Ad industry magazine editor, online sports columnist, known ranter, USC '94, all-around swell guy.
Jul 11

Response June: Highmark, Direct Tech, and the Retail Revolution

Here’s hoping everyone had a great 4th of July holiday! After returning from a week in Massachusetts, visiting my wife’s family and friends, I pushed through my inbox and some other pressing matter to give myself a few moments to put together a quick recap of Response‘s June issue. While we’re still getting back on track with timing following late April’s Response Expo, the issue has been online and hitting mailboxes for more than 2 weeks now. Led by a cover story on one of Blue Cross Blue Shield‘s largest affiliates, Highmark, the issue also includes features on the wider healthcare and pharmaceuticals market and a pair of loosely connected stories: a roundtable on the vast effects of Amazon on marketers and retailers of all stripes; and our second quarterly Advisors Forum of 2017, which tackles the rapidly changing retail space. Looking for background on how these items — and more — came together? You’ve come to the right place.

  • The cover feature on Pittsburgh-based Highmark — featuring an interview with Chris Zdanowski, director, strategic marketing, senior markets, commercial markets, and retail — had its beginnings in an email pitch from Highmark’s agency, Partners + Napier, in February. Shortly thereafter, I connected with Becca Bellush, the agency’s associate director of PR and social media, who served as an outstanding liaison between the Highmark team and me. Not only was this story a pleasure to work on from start to finish, due to the accessibility of Bellush, Zdanowski, and all others involved, but it also bore out many of the concepts we’ve been talking about recently in Response. The highlighted campaign features a mix of online and offline media, has a clear and measurable goal, and maximizes back-end technology to track results. If you missed the link to the story above, here it is once again: Marketing With High Marks
  • Beyond Highmark’s success using performance-based marketing tactics, our freelancer Bridget McCrea tackled a wider look at what’s new in marketing across the healthcare and pharmaceutical markets. She found marketers, both large and small, utilizing new technology to take their messages — and more importantly, their services — directly to consumers, at the time and place they wish. From using secure, online video chat to apps that allow patients to make more informed decisions about their care, health and pharma marketers are ahead of the technological game. In case you skipped the link above: The Future of Healthcare Has Arrived — and It’s D-to-C
  • Riffing from one of our most popular sessions at Response Expo, a third feature — penned by freelancer Doug McPherson — takes a look at the many ways Amazon is changing business, from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom. We enlisted three of the speakers from that “Amazon Effect” Expo session — Jaffer Ali of PulseTV.com, Matt Fiedler of Vinyl Me, Please, and Rus Sarnoff of Integrated Marketing — to give us an overview of a few of those issues. Here’s that story link again: It’s a Jungle Out There
  • The second of our quarterly roundtables featuring members of the Response Advisory Board takes a look at the changing face of retail. Early in May, I sent a series of questions to our advisors and five leaders stepped up to share their thoughts on how brick-and-mortar and e-commerce can not only coexist but flourish as consumer desires — and their attendant habits — change. If you missed the link, it’s right here: The Changing Face of Retail
  • Our monthly direct response TV and radio media billings return to the DR radio sector for fourth-quarter 2016 results. The radio market notched a fifth consecutive quarterly increase — this time, 6.7 percent. However, the big news is that 2016’s total of $69.9 million marked the radio market’s best year since 2004. How did it happen? For a full look at 4Q 2016 DR radio media billings, click here: DR Radio Billings Continue Winning Streak to Close 2016
  • Other key items in this month’s issue include:
  • My Editor’s Note column riffs off of an idea I’ve formulated recently while attending industry events and thumbing through other publications. And it closes with a concept you’re going to see an awful lot of in the coming months — more pointedly than ever before. If you’ve been inattentive to the direction Response has taken and if you missed the link above, here it is: The Third Leg — Media Drives Technology and Commerce

Thanks again for reading and interacting with Response!

Jun 06

Response May: Foundations, Revelations, and Exhortations

On the road again … heading to Chicago this afternoon for the IRCE event this week, and had some time to put together a quick recap of Response‘s May issue. With a full look back at Response Expo included, the issue delivered a touch later than normal — but the editorial content is worth the wait. The May magazine is headed by a cover story on one of our most well-received speakers at the Expo, Andrew Lermsider. Other features touch on the business solutions market and the current status of the media buying and planning space. That second story leads into our annual Cable Network Directory, which is our biggest one yet! There’s plenty for our readers to chew on this month, and here’s some background on how the pieces fit:

  • My first contact with Lermsider came via a LinkedIn introduction from Rus Sarnoff, who has long served as a close advisor on our Expo content and now co-chairs (with Greg Sarnow) our DRMA Education Committee. Shortly after the introduction, I learned that Sarnow had worked with Lermsider on a project several years back, and Greg had only glowing things to say. After one call with Lermsider, not only was I sure I wanted him to take part in our “Social Media as a Media Outlet” panel that was planned for the Expo (and, coincidentally, moderated by Sarnow), but that his background and vision for the future of performance-based marketing tactics would make a great cover story. He’s currently CMO and partner in Q Link Wireless, a mobile service provider, while also consulting a number of mid- and large-sized businesses on their marketing efforts. At 6.5 print pages, this is one of the longer cover stories in Response in recent years — but with Lermsider’s openness about the world of marketing and how he sees it unfolding, it probably could have been two to three pages longer. If you missed the link to the story above, here it is once again: Funnels and Foundations
  • Our most recent look at the burgeoning business solutions market kicks off with one of our top sources — and one of the top marketers in the space — for the past couple years: Wix.com. Vivian Hernandez, a speaker at the past two Response Expos, gives an update on the build-your-own-website service’s latest marketing moves and how driving customer experience on a local level is helping the brand grow globally. Beyond that, freelance writer Doug McPherson, touched base with leaders from service providers BigCommerce and SmartPrint to hear what’s working — and what’s not — on today’s marketing landscape. In case you skipped the link above: Stay Local, Get Global
  • Our semiannual look at the media buying and planning world queries leaders from the TV network world on how TV and digital continue to mix and merge, especially with the growth of over-the-top (OTT) and TV Everywhere services. Freelancer Nicole Urso Reed once again gets to the heart of what marketers need to know about where the best media opportunities are available. Here’s that story link again: Power Play
  • Once again, Response brings readers its annual Cable Network Directory. With contact and demographic information for more than 140 networks and other TV outlets, this is our biggest directory yet — and we actually send out requests for information to nearly 200 networks/groups. This year’s directory, if you missed it above, is here: 2017 Cable Network Directory
  • Our monthly direct response TV and radio media billings return to the short-form DRTV sector for fourth-quarter 2016 results. A huge quarterly increase — nearly 40 percent compared to 4Q 2015 results — helped the short-form space finish 2016 down just 2.6 percent from total-year 2015 results. Back-to-back positive quarters seem to be a sign that the space is finally stabilizing after a long string of losses. For a full look at 4Q 2016 short-form DRTV media billings, click here: Short-Form DRTV Billings Close 2016 on the Rise
  • Other key items in this month’s issue include:
  • Finally, my Editor’s Note column picks up where our publisher, John Yarrington, left off in his welcome remarks to Expo attendees just before Sugar Ray Leonard’s keynote address on April 25. It’s also of a piece with Wilkins’ column linked above. While we’re thrilled to have created a true signpost event for our industry — Response Expo — that event is only as good as our readers, attendees, advertisers, sponsors, and exhibitors make it. And while it’s a great feeling to know we’ve filled a half-dozen hotels in San Diego with leaders from the business, if too many folks set up shop in those alternate locations, Response Expo cannot be at its best. As a matter of fact, if too many come to San Diego without feeling the need to take part in the actual Expo itself, the Expo could eventually go away — taking its signpost and everything that draws 4,000 people to San Diego with it. Being the change starts with being a part of what makes our business great. If you missed the link above, here it is: Why Fear Change? Instead, ‘Be the Change’

Thanks again for reading and interacting with Response!

May 12

Response April: Monsters, Makeup, and Memories

Just days before Response Expo late last month, the April issue of Response hit the web and mailboxes. Before it’s time for the May edition to drop, I finally found a window in the schedule to take a look back at the issue, which features a cover story on long-time job seeking/recruiting leader Monster Worldwide. Additionally, there’s the last installment of our four-part series on the consumer journey, our annual look at the beauty and personal care market, and an exclusive Q&A feature with the seven legends who were inducted to the Direct Response Hall of Fame on April 27 at the Expo. Suffice it to say, it’s a power-packed issue. Here’s more on how it came together:

Thanks again for reading and interacting with Response!