Archive for July, 2010

Startup Tour Stops in Fargo to Talk Advertising, Entrepreneurship

Here’s another post that originally appeared on Avenue Right’s blog, Nue Media Mix. I’m sharing it here for two reasons: 1) this was the coolest thing our company has been involved in from a PR perspective, and 2) it’s the first corporate blog post in which I said “ass.” How liberating. Watch for the TV series mentioned below to air in January.

Yesterday afternoon technology author and blogger Bob Cringely, his family, and a television crew visited Avenue Right on the Cringely’s (NOT in Silicon Valley) Startup Tour.

We were delighted to see the not-so-subtle black RV pull into the parking lot, here with a camera crew to talk to our CEO. The Tour will result in a 13-part television series profiling 24 startups across the country. More on that here .

The spirit of the project is to show the importance of American startup companies, wherever they’re located—how they contribute to the U.S. economy, serve to develop new markets and job opportunities, help us discover new technologies no matter our industry, and keep our country competitive in a global market.

Representing the media and advertising space, Avenue Right was selected for the Tour from among the nearly 400 startup companies nominated. Brian Gramer, founder & CEO, described his vision for the interview:

“My vision is to automate the process of media buying by providing a transparent media exchange that brings buyers and sellers together, helping small to mid-size ad agencies and the businesses they serve. The process of buying and selling local media—any medium—should be automated, transparent, and easy.”

So far, Avenue Right has built a database of over 49,000 media outlets; automated the RFP process for any local advertising medium; and above all, provided a place where media buyers can plan, negotiate, buy, and report on all their campaigns and clients, from one central location. And this company is just getting started.

With some big things coming over the next few months, we look forward to sharing that story as part of this television series that’s all about innovation, scheduled to air on a currently undisclosed cable station in January.

A big thank-you to those who nominated, voted, or commented in favor of Avenue Right.

Seeing that RV in our parking lot, it was an honor to know that we kick enough ass to bring thisTour all the way to Fargo, North Dakota, on a day so humid that we all wore the air like a second skin. Of course, a few of us still went outside for a picture. For now, it’ll have to do.


A few members of the Avenue Right team in front of the bitchin' Startup Tour RV.




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From Advertising Message to Consumer Action–A Framework

This post was originally written for Avenue Right’s blog, but I thought it may be of interest to the folks reading here, too.

As consumers, we’re inundated with advertisements every day, whether on TV, the radio, our favorite websites, the billboards we pass on the way to work. They’re in the newspapers and magazines delivered to our door or piled in the drop-bin at the local coffee shop or grocery store, sent to our mobile phones.

These ads use the visual, auditory, interactive, and persuasive opportunities afforded by their medium to create brand awareness, promote events and ideas, influence perception of product value, generate sales, and increase share of voice in a competitive market.

Advertisers, ultimately, are buying access to the audiences that can help them achieve these goals.

When planning an ad campaign for a local business, beyond hard numbers measuring CPM, CPP, GRP, and other mystical formulas, factors such as the ability for an advertisement—and the media in which it’s delivered—to reach and influence an audience should also be considered in campaign development.

The ability for a media channel to engage an audience at a specific stage in the consumer decision process should be considered relative to its effectiveness as a communication vehicle to inform and persuade.

It’s a balance between media, creative, timing, and repetition that drives results from when an audience has first become aware of product or service through their decision to purchase.

Researchers Demetrios Vakratsas and Tim Ambler put together a framework for how advertising works and ultimately affects consumers. This framework can help advertisers and media buyers understand how advertising (content, timing, repetition) is first filtered by the consumer before bringing about a mental effect such as awareness, attitude, and memory, ultimately impacting the purchase decision.

Today’s consumer can get through the purchase decision-process in three seconds flat, but what seems like an impulse buy may actually be the result of advertising recall, crafted through repetition in media scheduling, in addition to past experience with the product or service.

Optimizing the media mix for the decision-making process of the target consumer depends on messaging strategy, timing and delivery of the advertisements, the product, and the market.

*Vakratsas D. & Ambler, T. (January 1999) “How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know?” Journal of Marketing Vol. 63 (January 1999), 26-43.

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Local Advertising & the Consumer Decision Process

This post originally appeared on Avenue Right’s blog, Nue Media Mix. I thought it was worth posting out here as well.

Consumers are empowered more now than they ever have been to find information when they want it, and block out unwanted or irrelevant messages on the radio, television, their favorite online magazine.

The ads that do make it through the clutter have to compete for attention.

Recent studies prove that not only are we engaged in media from more sources than ever before, but a large percentage of the population does it simultaneously—already in 2006, 60% of adults surfed the internet occasionally while watching television.  Then there are those who listen to the radio while spending time online or reading a print publication. The possibilities for concurrent consumption of media—and advertising—are endless.

As we engage in these media channels, we both seek out and are exposed to advertising messages designed to inform and persuade our feelings toward a business or brand, or our inclination toward a purchase.

This brings consumers through the decision process of
•    Awareness
•    Consideration
•    Evaluation
•    Purchase
•    Loyalty

Shaping that path for the consumer are such factors as motivation for the purchase (physiological, social, personal fulfillment); buyer persona; and the way the consumer retains, organizes, and interprets information, which also affects purchase behavior (i.e., impulse purchase online vs. moving through consideration and evaluation stages).

Here’s a closer look at what’s going on in each of those stages. The time spent in each stage varies depending on the product or service and its price, but in general, it looks something like this:

•    Awareness – Identifies a problem/need/desire, whether it’s a need for gas in the minivan or a desire that had a little help from marketing, such as a ticket to an upcoming concert or play.
•    Consideration – Searches for information or solution related to problem/need/desire.
•    Evaluation – Compares options and considers price, quality, benefit, and risk factors.
•    Purchase – Decides what, where, when to buy.
•    Loyalty – Repeats purchase behavior depending on level of satisfaction with product or service experience.

Keeping the general stages of the decision-making cycle in mind along with the attributes and message delivery attributes of each media channel can help create a media plan that drives consumers from awareness to purchase.

More on this topic coming soon. Watch for Avenue Right’s newest white paper, “3 Tips for Aligning Local Advertising with the Consumer Decision-Making Process.” Don’t want to wait? Request it now by writing to jessie [dot] johnson [at]!


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Do You Argue With Yourself? Who Wins?

You writers out there…do any of you find yourselves wanting to critique/analyze your own writing as you’re putting it up on your blog? To tell why you’re structuring your argument or positioning your topic in a certain way, or why a list makes sense for your topic? Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

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Leveraging the Medium to Deliver the Message

As a form of persuasive communication, advertising seeks to guide an audience through a decision-making process that begins with awareness and results in a purchase.

We deliver rational and emotional appeals through words and sound and images that reach our audience based on who they are, where they live, where they shop.

How far that message will reach and with what impact is determined by both the creative and the media through which it’s delivered.

An advertising campaign that uses multiple media channels to target local consumers will be most effective in reaching its intended audience. This allows media buyers to leverage the advantages of each media channel and their unique properties in the overall message delivery strategy.

Different media channels deliver different experiences to different audiences. The success of an advertising campaign ultimately depends on a combination of factors—messaging strategy, media scheduling, creative execution, and audience recall.

When it comes to reaching and influencing an audience, each local media channel has unique advantages and disadvantages that result from a combination of audience media consumption patterns, popularity of the media outlet in its local market, and the nature of the medium itself.

This might be the ability to use emotion or sensory experience to increase recall, or deliver just enough information in just the right place or number of characters to influence the consumer to make that purchase or visit that website.

Understanding how media resonate with the audience through different levels of sensory and emotional engagement helps media buyers leverage the strengths of each advertising channel included in the campaign. The table below illustrates some key points of comparison not only in terms of message delivery, but ease of execution and cost to produce.

Here’s a link to the original post as it appeared on Avenue Right’s blog. If anyone would like a copy of the full white paper, please email me at jessie[dot]johnson[at]

Attributes of Traditional and Online Advertising Media

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What Milton’s Satan Can Teach Us About Writing Business White Papers

Many of us still recall the five-paragraph format for writing papers that seemed to be a favorite of so many English teachers.

I’m not one of them, having preferred a more natural approach to writing where the argument fleshes itself out along the way. The freedom to play with the transition of ideas throughout the paper rather than how many paragraphs I could produce that–within them–followed yet another structure, the main idea of the paragraph followed by supporting statements. Blah. Yeah, I was docked a few times for format, but to me, it was the writing journey that mattered.

To help us structure our ideas and content, there’s a general rule in writing that goes something like

  • tell them what you’re going to tell them (the Introduction)
  • tell them (the Body)
  • and tell them again (the Conclusion)

Enter the “real-world,” out of academia and into corporate America. The 5 paragraph prescription doesn’t always work, and folks just doesn’t have time for you to tell them three times unless you’re really creative about it.

Turns out the time spent studying composition theory and writing research papers really was a fertile training ground not only for producing marketing collateral such as white papers, but also in writing things like project plans, business cases, grant funding applications, and just about every other form of business communication that goes beyond the transactional.

Who knew that writing “Satan, Sex, & Scripture: The Phenomenology of Sin in Paradise Lost” as a pompous young grad student would have a direct tie to my career in the private sector? To me this answers the question so many students in freshman English ask themselves and each other in classroom or on the campus lawn – what does poetry have to do with my degree, or my future career? Why do I have to read Shakespeare? Or Chaucer? Why are there no pictures in these books?

It’s because of the limitless opportunities these works present for students to structure and present their arguments “off the fence,” as one of my professors used to say. To take a side and think critically in order to defend it.

One of my favorite duties at “work” is writing white papers. The most recent are available here and here. The writing process for me didn’t much differ from that of my research writing days. And yes, ever the English major, both those white papers have semi-colons in their titles.

Those that read white papers are looking to solve a business problem, so the content has to be both informative and prescriptive. (Sometimes, the writer must first make that reader aware that they indeed have a problem.) It’s the equivalent of reading up on other critics of a literary work before beginning the research paper, then writing in such a way that the reader is guided in how to read the given literary work based on the writer’s interpretation of it. Other similarities include

  • facts and citations from credible sources,
  • an engaging tone that’s not too dry,
  • addressing potential objections early on,
  • a summary of the paper and its argument in the introduction,
  • and a conclusion that answers the question, “So what?” (Why should a literary work be read this way? Why will the ideas presented help me do business more efficiently or profitably?)

One thing you’ll notice on this blog is that I absolutely love language–the words and their rhythm, texture, room for interpretation. Because of that I’ll include from time to time excerpts of previous papers or short stories that I’ve written. And maybe the occasional piece of marketing fodder.

That said, below is the introductory paragraph from the paper mentioned earlier, “Satan, Sex, & Scripture: The Phenomenology of Sin in Paradise Lost.”  It does three things that are also important for the intro to a business white paper:

1) Establishes the author’s position on what will be the central argument in the paper (Satan’s character represents the Jungian notion of the shadow),
2) Addresses the opposing viewpoint (readers who are drawn to the character show evidence of their own sin),
3) Provides evidence to support the argument being proposed (Satan’s fall and temptation of Eve).

The ancients teach us that true knowledge of the self comes only after an examination of the other side—the vengeful, deceitful, contemptuous recesses of the psyche—in order to discover moral absolutes. As a symbol of evil, the author of sin and death in Paradise Lost, Satan becomes the archetypal, primal human being, in consciousness though perhaps not in form, and embodies the weaknesses inherent in mankind.  Milton’s Satan contains the other, darker, elements of the human psyche, the tendencies toward envy, wrath, lust, and pride that make us complete.  Identification with Satan signifies not the reader’s sin, as some critics have argued, but an active, positive response to otherness, facilitating the incorporation of human darkness which manifests itself as evil when repressed in the psyche.  Through his own fall and temptation of Eve, Satan offers the reader the means to recognize, confront, and consume her shadow, a Jungian signification for the dark or unacceptable emotions and behavior which reside in the unconscious mind.

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