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January 2011

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From Y2K to 2011 and Beyond

From the editor

Again this year, the January issue features a panel of local experts taking a look at what is ahead for the coming year. Since it is the start of a new decade we asked them to discuss what major changes during the past ten years will affect the new year.
The panel consisted a representative from a traditional agency, ROCKY LONGWORTH, Integer Group; new media agency, AARON BATTE, Faction Media; public relations agency, SHARON LINHART; and media agency, APRIL THAYER, Thayer Media. Again, TERRI MAIZE, Resonant Research, moderated the group. The one-hour discussion has been edited to fit into the magazine format but the full audio will be available in early January online at

Terri: Aaron, would you start, please?

Aaron: My name is Aaron Batte. I'm co-founder of Faction Media. I think, as an agency and as a digital ad agency, in particular, we'll have a different perspective on what the last 10 years has provided to us as marketers but, also what we see over that 10 years and how it's going to affect marketing and advertising and the lay of the land for our clients. I started at Barclay Evergreen in Kansas City, worked for a number of other agencies that have represented industries from both the consumer side and large consumer packaged goods.

Rocky: I'm Rocky Longworth; I'm fairly new to the area and work for the Integer Group. We specialize in both brand identity and shopper marketing. My discipline is primarily shopper marketing previously with Bernstein Rein in Kansas City and a couple of years at Saatchi in Northwest Arkansas on the Wal-Mart customer team. Most of my experience is automotive and consumer packaged goods. .

April: I'm April Thayer. I'm founder and president of Thayer Media. We're a 17-year-old media planning and buying agency. We don't do creative --we focus on strategy and getting the message to market. We work with mostly B2C clients but some B2B. We do local, regional and national. We've got all different kinds of clients. Probably 60 to 65 percent of our spending is outside the state. Some years it's even higher. It's an interesting time to be in media. There's nothing that's off the table with media, and the table gets more and more crowded.

Sharon: I'm Sharon Linhart founder and managing partner of Linhart Public Relations, which is a Denver-based firm that is going on our 15th year. Our clientele is very diverse - national, regional, local. We have long-term relationships with companies as diverse as Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Chipotle and Panera Bread, to Comcast and Southwest Airlines. On the B2B side, NWH Global, which is a big environmental engineering firm - Johns Manville and others. We have seen just seismic changes as everybody has in their tenure in the business. It's a really exciting and really dynamic time, especially in PR, I think.

It's clear that the consumer has become in control of the media. Increasingly, you have to be engaging in a dialogue with the consumer. They want to talk to the company; they want to tell the company what they think about the products and how they want them delivered. They will demand that messages be delivered to them in their own way. We, as marketers, have learned that we have to engage in that dialogue and it has to be authentic. It has to be transparent. It can't be just one way, talking at the consumer, any more.

Terri: April, you talked about everything on the table. Perhaps, we define what's on the table.

April: One of the most interesting things about media is that, over the course of the last 100 years, people have said that when the latest media form came out that the existing ones were going away. What we've seen is that nothing ever dies. I was trying to think of things that have gone away over the course of the last 100 years and it seems as though it is more vibrant than ever. Daily newspapers still have their difficulty and will continue to but they still represent single biggest daily reach vehicle that you can find. What that means for a media plan is that the layers get deeper because you have to have different ways to communicate with people. I think there's also that conversation that needs to happen. The ability to put a message out and then have something come back.

Aaron: One of the most interesting things -- the advancements in technology. Ten years ago this month we were all worried about the Y2K bug and the world economy crashing and everything coming down. Little did we know that was going to happen - it was just going to be 8 years later. Looking back at 2000 and then looking at today, in 2000 the iPhone didn't exist. Today, there's 50 million iPhones sold. 10 years ago in 2000 Facebook didn't exist. Today, there are 500 million active users; 50 percent of them login daily - 700 billion minutes per month are spent on Facebook. It's really astounding. YouTube in 2000 didn't exist. Today, people are watching 2 billion videos a day. Every minute of the day 24 hours of new videos are uploaded. And finally, in June 1999, a little over 10 years ago, Sequoia Capital invested $25 million into a startup called Google. Today it's one of the largest most profitable companies in the world and, expanding well beyond into advertising, into cartography, computing, mobile communications and most recently, energy. They've invested a lot of capital into wind and alternative energy.

One of the things that we're constantly trying to do is guess at what's next and try to stay in tune with emerging technology and understand how that's going to play into our account planning, play to our recommendations for our clients and help them be the eyes and ears of the future.

Sharon: One of the great things about all the technology that you just mentioned is that it gives us all much better ways to measure our effectiveness into gauging results for our clients. You can really see an ROI. You can tell if something is driving sales or causing more enquiries.

Terri: Rocky, you said that one of your areas of specialty is shopper behavior. Please talk about what you do with respect to shopper behavior differently than in the past.

Rocky: I think a lot of what we do on our side is helping our clients manage all the noise that's out there. How do I know what social networks to subscribe to? How do I know the type of voice that I need to have within that social network? How do I measure its effectiveness? One of the shifts that we've seen over the last 10 years is the focus on the metrics side. It's beyond just measuring awareness or familiarity; those are typical brand measures. Now it's what kind of lift can I get at the cash register? How many items did I sell? How many cases did I move? If you don't go into it with understanding what you can measure and a plan to bring that measurement back to the client, then you're going into the initiative or program or platform, whatever it might be, with a huge shortfall.

P&G is a classic example they, want payout for every dime they spend. Accountability is driving a lot of what we do, so we have to be purposeful of what we recommend to the client. We have to know 1: if it's going to hit the shop or the consumer that we're looking for and 2: if it's going to resonate with them enough to get them to take action

It's complex, but simple. I can't tell you how many small and big clients that have come to the table and not had a good understanding of what the business issue is that they need to solve. Or what's the barrier that I need to overcome in retail. A large part of what we do is add the science to that so that we understand what are we really solving, so that when we go to market the program we're recommending is relevant and it's overcoming a barrier to purchase.

Sharon: What we're seeing is, finally the acceptance and adoption of integrated campaigns. It's not just silo'd media but it's all working together in all areas, all advertising channels. The work we're doing with Southwest Airlines is about winning hearts and minds of the people of Denver, and we're doing really innovative things to help people in Denver engage with that brand outside of getting on a plane at DIA. We are really trying to help that brand come to life for people so that they begin to accept it, want to learn more about it and follow-up with it.

Rocky: Today we're collaborating with multiple agencies. I'm sitting at the table with a competitor who's collaborating with a client because they're the brand agency. When I first got in the business we didn't talk to each other. We were not in the same room together; we didn't play in the sandbox very nicely. Today you have to be open to working with other agencies like PR, digital agencies, brand agencies, because we're all bringing a specific discipline and product knowledge to the table.

Terri: Aaron, are you experiencing that same thing?

Aaron: Absolutely. Probably with every one of our clients. We work within a vendor-ecosystem where we're bringing the digital expertise and we typically are working with a global brand agency that is outsourcing marketing automation. It's different for every engagement but, almost across the board, there's a vendor ecosystem where we're just one piece of the puzzle for our client.

Terri: Given all of these alternatives, how do you go about making recommendations?

April: There are strengths and weaknesses for every type of medium. There are certain messages that can't go places where other messages will thrive. Out of home is a perfect example. Television is an excellent forum for demonstration. It can be a great format for endorsement, that kind of thing. Whereas, maybe there are certain kinds of clients where there's so much of a transactional relationship on their website that they need a pay-per-click on top of everything else that you're doing for them.

Our job is to try and figure out what we want to help them do. We see ourselves as selling their message to go to the next step. The next step could be to the store but, it could be to the website where they have to register. It could be to interact with some other channel partner.

Rocky: We work with our media partners in the planning stages to understanding context - where's the best place for this message to live? That's the value that I see. We work with media companies in addition our own in-house media team. They're at the table with us in the planning perspective because we don't want to bring an idea to life for television and try to force it online. The connection planning part of it can help us frame up where that message will play best and where it's going to reach the shopper or consumer at the most relevant point when they're closest to purchase.

Aaron: One of our core practice areas is something that we call the behavioral planning plan. We want to look into the deep inside, studying analytics and the customer research that we have. When we're going through the account planning process and counting creation process and user experience design, media plays into that. And if the media team is not right in the middle of that planning conversation then all of those parts don't come together the way that they should or what they were designed to accomplish. For us, it's beginning to be less about just digital or online; it's about your total user experience and how they're exposed to your message and to your company at any given time.

April: Every layer has to contribute something. We are forced to account for the decisions that we make. We're looking at it from the perspective of one particular media choice that might be extremely targeted for somebody who's very late stage buyer and ready to talk. Another media choice might be for a person that's at a completely different stage. Part of what you're trying to understand when doing a media plan is what does the contribution need to be at each one of those levels and where can this message live where it's going to do what we want them to do. Get them to take that next step. It's a puzzle.

Rocky: It is where they are in their purchase cycle. If it's a more involved purchase, like an automobile or a motorcycle or even an engagement ring, those are involved purchases. It's not like I'm going to see a commercial and decide I'm going to go out tomorrow. That commercial may prompt me to go online to check out what other people are saying about particular jewelers.

Shoppers and consumers are looking at their own voices before they look at my marketing voice. It's, “How many good reviews has this car gotten?” If it's a package good it's a staple item like paper towels, that decision is more immediate. Where is my message best placed to where I'm going to draw on that transaction? Is it before they get to the store or, is it in the store? Or is it just maintaining the dialogue after they leave the store? It's complicated. There are a lot of layers to it.

Sharon: Increasingly, consumers trust people similar to themselves - the research shows I trust people like me so I go to my friends and my co-workers to get the recommendation of what product to buy or what store to go to or, what website to visit to learn more, as opposed to the company - the voice of authority telling me this is the place you should go. Influencing the influencers or those people who are opinion leaders… the bloggers, for example, is critically important. It's increasingly important every day to get them to reach those people who have such widespread networks and such great influence over consumers' behavior.

Increasingly, we're business consultants. So with each client we're helping them devise their strategy and how to reach the myriad of audiences that they have to reach, whether it's shareholders or stakeholders or employees. One of the most important groups you have to communicate with is the employees or your brand representatives and, hopefully, your biggest advocates. And they are the people who are reaching your consumer and your customer on a daily basis. How you reach all of those groups and how you reach them in authentic and believable and a trustworthy way is critically important.

We're also about helping our clients with corporate social responsibility programs -- what makes sense for them, where can they make a contribution in the community, where can they really make a difference.

Terri: I was hoping for some storytelling. Thinking about the last 5, 10 years, what are your greatest learnings?

April: One of the most interesting things that have happened over the last 10 years is the enormous stress that client marketing departments are under. They're trying to get the same amount of work done with fewer people and, less money. And, they need more than ever for people on our side of the desk to be their partners and to be their helpmates, to be their consultants and to ask them questions that jog their memory about things that might have slipped through the cracks. It has changed so much.

Aaron: It's really, “evolve or die.” The perfect storm of the ever-increasing pace of technological advancement combined with the evident economic downturn proved to us that if you weren't keeping up with the change and if you weren't offering true value to your clients at every possible opportunity, you're going to go away

Rocky: 15, even 10 years ago, shopper marketing didn't exist in its form today, in that we are trying to get close to the shopper and making a distinction between the consumer and the shopper and understanding when the best time is to get this person who's going into the store to make a purchase. That's been a big evolution in our business but, it's always been, from my perspective, staying grounded in what we're really hired to do as a marketing forum and that's to make the cash register ring. One of the biggest impacts I've seen over the last 10 years - the birth of millennia is this generation, it is coming at us hard and heavy, and they're going to be the people that fuel the recovery. From the very perception, they're coming into age fast, they're buying cars, they're starting families they're buying homes. They see through everything. You have to be authentic in the way you go about your messaging. You have to be authentic in the way you want to carry on a dialogue. You can't “green wash.” it's got to be real because they'll see through it and, they'll tell a lot of other people very, very quickly.

You require a different voice, a different tack when you're talking to them. They can be just as strong an advocate of your brand as my generation would be. You just have to talk to them and connect with them.

Sharon: Trends learning. There have been so many changes and I feel like I learn something every day. It was painful to watch the media and, therefore, all of us who surrounded and worked with the media, evolve from the old days. The news came on at 6 a.m. and then, came on, again, at 5. When we would put out a press release, we had to get it into the newspaper by their deadline at 5 o'clock. And then, you'd be safe until the next day when you had another deadline. Well, that's all gone. It's 24-hour constant deadline. There is no such thing as a reporter on deadline. They're all on deadline every minute now. The evolution, as you say, is just crazy and interesting and frightening at times.

I think that those who didn't evolve and didn't see it coming and didn't adapt have paid the price. Yet, so many good things have come about because of this requirement for authenticity and for honesty and brands with integrity. Brands that stand for something. Increasingly, the brand has to mean something or the consumer rejects it. If it's just selling a fast food product and it doesn't have nutritional content in it, and you're not responsive to the consumers' need to know what's in their food, you're going to pay the price. For example, Chipotle, a fabulous client, local company headquartered here. Their mantra, their foundation of their brand is, “Food with integrity.” They believe that to their core. The founder is all about “natural and organically raised food can taste good.” That is good for business. The consumer will pay for it and that's what they want. The evolution has been really good for all of us as consumers and as people in the business.

Terri: None of you has used the term “brand loyalty.” Is that passé?

Aaron: I don't think its passé. I think that there is still brand loyalty. There may be different ideas of what brand loyalty means among the different generations that Rocky mentioned. The younger generations are just as loyal to their brand, although their brands may be different. And, they have a different relationship with their brands. Reinforcements are still an incredibly powerful tool. I think the definition of celebrity has changed (as relates to endorsements). Social media has powered a whole new generation of self-made celebrities. And, those people are using brands and endorsing brands that are growing grassroots popularity.

Sharon: That's a great point. We saw it just recently with what happened with GAP. They tried to change their logo and their customers, online, rose up and said, “Oh no, you don't -- that's our brand, that's our logo, we like it the way it is,” and they ended up changing it back.

Rocky: Social media gives you a forum to make change. Mike Jarvis is another example of what he did with Dell and their service. He forced Dell to change their service because of just one guy's bad experience. He got millions of people who, via online, via his blog, raised the same issues and Dell was forced to change. They wound up servicing their products. Online, the Internet social media can really impact your brand. It can do it very well or it can hurt you.

Aaron: More than ever, your brand belongs to your customer. Whereas, the company was in control of their brand at one point, your consumers are now in control of that brand. It makes me think of this extension that I've always forced my clients to make, where a lot of our clients are coming to us now, asking for demand generation strategies. I want to point out that what they're asking for is lead generation strategies. A lead is a business asset. It's data that belongs to you. Demand is an idea. Demand is an idea that belongs to your customer. It's intangible. What you want to do is create demand in somebody else's world, in somebody else's perspective. In somebody else's idea of what's good and what's not good. It's up to us as marketers, as agencies, to create the strategies that influence demand.

Terri: You also talked a great deal about evolution. What's the next big thing? What's exciting? If we say, “evolve or die,” what's the next thing?

Aaron: The next thing, of course, is mobile. I think with some of the advancements over the last six months with Google and Apple coming up with mobile apps serving platforms, it is going to be very, very interesting, since those two companies are moving for, pretty much, majority control of the mobile phone market - the SmartPhone market overall. The options that they will allow us as marketers to reach our customers in the pocket, in the device --giving them experience that is much better than static websites.

Finally, for us as digital marketers, the deep insights that we get through our different data points and whether that's behavioral tracking, or various means of social targeting. It's a little “Big Brother” (Orwellian), but it's very interesting to somebody in the agency world.

Sharon: One of the cool new things are the QR* codes -- the patterned black and white codes that have a Web-embedded link to them so, to your point, you aim your mobile device at it, it reads the QR code and gives you a message or maybe you can buy something with it.

Aaron: New developments are amazing-- the ability for us to reach our customers not only at the right time but knowing exactly where they are from a geographical perspective. Beyond that, knowing that they're in a store standing in front of your product right now -- in front of your customer's product.

Sharon: It can also be really advantageous. If you were standing there making a fairly sizable decision on some product that was pretty pricy and you could get a 50 percent off coupon or an offer or something real time because they knew - you had announced that you were there by virtual checking in online on your device. Or, maybe, you're the hundredth customer through the door, that day, and so you get a free lunch. It becomes worth your while - maybe you don't care that your privacy has been invaded. You're allowing that to happen.

(Mobile) is also a fabulous customer service tool or technology. If you're traveling and maybe you're in airports, you're having problems, your flight got cancelled or something and, you can immediately interact with your airline to get it rescheduled or get your luggage found or whatever your issue is, and they interact with you real time then you're pretty happy where you are and they help you out.

Rocky: Flight Tracker Pro does that. I have it on my iPhone. If your flight gets cancelled it will tell you in advance. You can connect immediately to your airline and rebook it on the fly. It'll tell you what flights are available. It's really about the tools. Technology is a great thing but, if we're not providing tools, if we're not providing relevance or if it's just content for content's sake, then it's not going to go anywhere or, it's going to be short-lived. But, if it's relevant, if it does provide tools, gives access, adds value to the experience, overall, technology is a really, really good thing.

Terri: The one you're most excited about?

Rocky: To me, it's combining behavioral and transactional data. It's understanding what I've got in the market basket data information - what do I have on the transactional side? And, what do I have on the behavioral side, and how do I get them to come together? So I understand, truly, what behavior is driving purchase. To me, that's exciting. We now live in a shopper market arena and we're very surgical the way we go about making recommendations to clients.

Aaron: What excites me more than anything else is just that there are no boundaries.

April: I'm excited about the depth of data that's available. That helps us understand the selling process and helps us figure out a better plan because we can see the steps to conversion. We can understand our clients, where we need to take these people in order to get them closer to a sale. We had so little of that prior to this. Intent to purchase was such a big deal and that's probably the worst data in America. This time we see people engaging with websites, beyond signing up for things. Providing contact information, recording visits that allow us, then, to get a view on that buying process that we never had, before.

*QR Code link:

Sharon Linhart A respected industry and community leader, Sharon Linhart has led Linhart PR since she founded the firm in 1996. Under her leadership, the firm has become a global powerhouse known for uber-satisfied clients and award-winning results.

April Thayer is Founder and President of Thayer Media. Previously, April worked in sales and research on the media side of advertising, and in media and account management on the agency side of advertising, in New York, Fairbanks and Denver. April's business insight has been honed over the many years she's been in advertising, and is augmented by a voracious reading habit.
April sits on the Board of Directors of Colorado Public Radio as well as on the Finance Committee. Thayer Media provides annual CPR underwriting support to the Women's Bean Project, a local organization dedicated to helping women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.
She has one brilliant and lovely child named Sam, two stupid dogs named Mister and Lucy and April persists in playing golf, despite remonstrations from the starter at Inverness Golf Club.

Aaron Batte has worked in the advertising and marketing industry for over 15 years providing thought leadership and strategic vision at both traditional and digital agencies. Aaron is a founder and principal of Faction Media, a digitally led business-to-business marketing agency based in Denver.

Rocky Longworth For over 25 years Rocky has led strategy teams for clients like P&G, Frito Lay, Kellogg's, Nissan and MillerCoors. His strengths lie in his ability to see through the mist and pinpoint the most profitable ways to help clients win.

This unique vision extends beyond traditional marketing disciplines to include shopper marketing, digital strategy, sales and operational assessment, and environmental merchandising.

Terri Maize President, Resonant Research, is a facilitator of research for major corporations. Her capabilities include everything from forming and moderating focus groups to complete planning, implementing and evaluating research projects. She is an active member of the Business Marketing Association and American Marketing Association. Maize may be reached at 303-399-4424 or by email at

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