Tuesday, February 9, 2016

3 Reasons Why This Year’s “Big Game” Ads Were a Super Bore


Super Bowl 50 is a wrap and I’m really trying to find if anything lived up to the hype. The closest I can come is Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Sorry, but those two being the biggest hits of the night isn’t a good thing for the NFL. It would be great for the Grammys, but not the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning winning a second Super Bowl? Maybe, but any good sentiment was overshadowed by the Papa John kiss (long before his wife and kids he kept saying he had to kiss) and Budweiser comments. Somewhere Nationwide is off in a corner with a chicken parm feeling jilted with no Manning on their side.

The game itself wasn’t overly exciting. Although you could argue that it was because the defenses lived up to their hype.


Ok, let’s talk about what we’re really here for: the commercials! Even when the game is boring, you can always be entertained by the commercials. Not this year. There was no stand out, slam-dunk commercial this year. There were hardly any I would consider good, let alone effective.

Maybe we’ve built our expectations up too much. Maybe Super Bowl commercials have run their course. I can’t help but agree with Robert Rose on last week’s This Old Marketing when he said that the ads were $5 million wastes of money. When you consider the potential for online promotions (see Newcastle Brown Ale’s promos for 2014 and 2015; none for 2016) and you’ll see why brands aren’t bound to the TV.

A majority of companies only used the ads for branding with no tie in to their website, email or social media. So, the message effectively dies after :30 seconds. Smart brands include their website or a hashtag where viewers can get more information or extend the message.

Three things I took from the ads:

1. Car Companies Struggle to Make a Decent Super Bowl Ad

I can’t remember the last time there was a really good car commercial for the Super Bowl. This year was no different. Either they go too deep into a story and don't explain the benefits of the car or they go too deep into the mechanics and don't make it entertaining.
  • Prius may have come the closest with their #GoPriusGo ad. It was clear the features they were promoting. However, the ad was too long and I got bored halfway through.
  • Kia scores points for using Christopher Walken, but that was more good casting than a good commercial.
  • Hyundai was 0 for 3 for their spots. $15 million wasted…and that’s just for the ad time.
2. Just throwing celebrities into an ad doesn’t mean you’ve got a hit on your hands.

As usual, there were a lot of celebrities featured in ads this year. But, few of the ads actually accomplished anything for their brands. The following ads worked better because they had good writing and/or told an interesting story:
  • Coke Mini with the Hulk and Ant-Man: Entertaining, but couldn’t tell the Coke can was smaller than a regular can. It looked huge when Ant-Man had it and tiny when the Hulk had it.
  • TurboTax with Anthony Hopkins: TurboTax is free, so there’s nothing for Anthony Hopkins to sell. So, he can’t be a sell-out. Funny take, even if it did remind me exactly of the product placement scene in Wayne’s World.
  • Shock Top with TJ Miller: TJ Miller isn’t exactly a household name, which adds to the charm of this ad. Probably the funniest ad of the night.
But the majority just missed the mark with the focus being on the celebrities and not the brand:
  • SquareSpace.com with Key and Peele: I’m a huge Key and Peele fan, and they were funny. But, from the ad, I have no idea what SquareSpace.com does.
  • Skittles with Steven Tyler: This was just an embarrassingly bad ad for both Skittles and Steven Tyler. Not funny in any way…just incoherent crap.
  • Apartments.com with Jeff Goldblum and Lil Wayne: Another just painfully bad commercial. The Jeffersons theme was the only part of the ad that made any sense. 
3. Cute animals officially jumped the shark this year

This was a bad year for cute animals…and animals in general. To top it off, Budweiser didn’t even offer a true Clydesdale commercial. They said those ads don’t sell as much beer, but they’re much more entertaining. Anyway, these ads tried, but just didn’t quite make it:
  • Heinz Ketchup with the Weiner Stampede: I know. I’m probably the only person that didn’t think this was the cutest ad ever. It was ok, but the dogs weren’t even the cutest part of the ad. The little girl dressed as the ketchup packet was way cuter than the dogs. And what’s with the song choice?
  • Honda and their Queen-singing sheep: I like Queen, but why were sheep singing? It just made no sense. It wasn’t cute. I just wanted it to end.
  • Doritos and the dogs: In what may be the worst Doritos ad of all time, dogs dress up like a human in a trench coat. That wasn’t funny when they did it in most of the cartoons I watched as a kid. It’s still not funny.
Oh, and I’m purposing not mentioning the Mountain Dew ad. I don’t know what to make of that thing. Was it an animal? Either way it was just annoying and doesn’t need to be remembered.

Well, that’s my take on Super Bowl 50. What are your thoughts? What stood out to you? Did you have a different opinion on any of the commercials? Tell us in the comments below. Maybe #51 will be better. Let’s hope. Oh, and go Browns!

Monday, January 11, 2016

In This Aging State of Rock Music, Can This New Trend Keep Rock Alive?

Scott Weiland Lemmy David Bowie


They say these things come in threes. This may be one of the more brutal threes I can remember. First, it was Scott Weiland. Then, we were shocked by Lemmy’s passing. Only to then be blindsided this morning (as of when I’m writing this) by the announcement that David Bowie died overnight. It’s been a rough 5 weeks in the rock music world.

Sadly, rock music is at a point where many of the big players aren’t going to be around much longer…at least on a concert stage. We’ve got two Beatles left that are in their 70’s. Most of the Rolling Stones are in their 70’s (Ronnie Wood is still a spry 68!).  The big 70’s bands like Led Zeppelin, KISS and Aerosmith are in their mid to late 60’s. Bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Rush, and even Motley Crue have either announced (or finished) their final tours, or our likely there even if they haven’t announced it.

So who’s going to carry the torch for the next generation? Who are the current major bands that will have some longevity and be considered classic at some point? Unfortunately, there aren’t many options. The short list is dominated by Foo Fighters. I’d add Metallica to that list, but they’re even closer to already being classic rock.

There just aren’t many new bands that have the potential to be around for 20 years or more. The music business doesn’t support a band like it used to. It’s incredibly hard for bands to break out and even harder to sustain any momentum.

That said, there is a new trend that may be gaining some steam – franchising. Eddie Trunk has been talking about this for a little while now. What does that mean in the rock world? It’s bands licensing their name to new players to tour, and in some cases even create new music, under the name of popular bands. Sound farfetched? It’s already happening with at least two bands and on the verge with another.
  • Foreigner: They are currently touring, and have for some time, with no original members of the band. Granted, guitarist Mick Jones will play on sporadic select dates, but it’s not often. He licenses out the name and makes money on a new version of the band. They’re showing success, which has some other bands at least considering the idea.
  • Blackfoot: Who? You know…Ricky Medlocke? Highway Song? Train Train? With a couple of minor hits, is there enough interest in seeing the original band, let alone a new band with all new members? Medlocke (currently playing guitar for Lynyrd Skynyrd) was on Eddie Trunk’s podcast discussing it. He’s heavily involved and plays on their new music and occasionally in concert (which, in my mind, creates other issues), but is anyone clamoring for it?
  • KISS: Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are the only two original members in the band. However, they’ve stated on many occasions that they believe KISS can go on without them. And from the sounds of it, that may happen much sooner than later. With KISS, the members of the band portray characters. KISS in makeup has always been more popular concert draw than without. Does it matter who’s behind the makeup? We’ll soon find out.

One of the reasons it works for Foreigner is that the music was always bigger than band members. While Foreigner has a bunch of hits, you’d be hard-pressed to name more than two members of the band. That is likely the recipe for success: huge nostalgic hits + low individual band member notoriety = franchise success.

My personal opinion is that these are the equivalent of a tribute band, even if they have the original members’ endorsements. Are people going to shell out hard earned cash to see the bands they used to love with all new members? Like most fads, it’ll work well for a few (like Foreigner) and then tons of bands will follow with decreasing success.

Do you want to see an Aerosmith without Steven Tyler or Joe Perry? How about the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger or Keith Richards? Yes, the songs are what made the bands great. But the mystique of the bands playing those songs are what made the experiences great. You can only fake that for so long.

Let me know what you think of this trend. Does it interest you? What new rock bands should we check out? Tell us in the comments below.

Image Sources:
David Bowie: Victor Pineda

Scott Weiland: Daigo Oliva

Monday, January 4, 2016

Tips For a Smooth Transition to Agency Life


This was originally posted on the PR 20/20 Marketing Agency Insider Blog. It's what I learned after 6 months of working for an agency (PR 20/20). It's now been just over a year and these still continue to be my best tips. Enjoy.

As I wrote shortly after accepting my position at PR 20/20, I was exhilarated when I gave the official “yes” to work at an agency. What I didn’t write then was the reality that set in shortly after I hung up the phone. I’d been soaking up content marketing practices and strategies like a sponge for the last few years. The knowledge was there, but now I would need to put it into practice in a new way.
I’d never worked for an agency; my 16 years of marketing experience all fell on the client side. Would I be able to adjust and adapt?
Having just passed the six-month mark at PR 20/20, I’m even happier with my decision now than I was then. Below are some of the bigger adjustments I had to make in the transition and how I overcame them.

1. Multiple Clients

Instead of working with just one company, and only its product(s) or service(s), agency life meant working with multiple clients. You need to understand each account—who they are, what needs they fulfill, where they fit in their industries, what marketing they’ve done successfully (and unsuccessfully), and where you can help. You also need to be able to switch gears (and voices) quickly.
Add to that, working with different account teams that have different traits and processes, and there’s a lot to keep straight.

Tips for Adjusting:

Be curious. Natural curiosity is a great trait to have in an industry that is evolving as quickly as marketing. In A Curious Mind, Brian Grazer (@BrianGrazer) explains how curiosity can be used to:
  • Fuel the excitement to learn.
  • Learn new concepts.
  • Meet new people.
  • Spark creativity.
  • Tell stories.
Celebrate curiosity and strive to learn everything you can about your clients. This leads to questions and answers that can better define clients’ needs, and uncover the perfect strategies and tools to meet client goals.
A second tip is to look for ways to use your past corporate experience to help you understand clients’ issues. For example, I know how hard it can be to convince an executive team to try something new, especially when the benefits may not come as fast as they want. This perspective helps me frame conversations in a way that resonates with clients.  

2. Hybrid Marketing

I’ve worked with companies that stress improving your weaknesses. I’ve also worked with companies that believe in bettering your strengths to be the “go-to” person. At PR 20/20, we’re hybrid marketers, which means we wear all the hats:
  • Analytics
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • SEO
  • Social Media
You must understand both your strengths and weakness to contribute value, and focus your learning. My first six months have been a mixture of doing what I do well, while also working on areas I haven’t had as much exposure.

Tip for Adjusting:  

Always be learning. Now more than ever, there are tons of ways to learn. Read constantly, listen to multiple marketing podcasts and webinars, go to events and conferences, and network—anything to keep up with the industry.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the people you work alongside. Ask for advice or pick their brains. Learn from the diversity of approaches, and imitate those that work best for you. This can be used for managing your clients too.

3. Risk Taking

Every company I’ve worked emphasized taking risks. However, they never really supported risky ideas, as those would be the first cut due to budget or new focuses. But, at PR 20/20, they don’t only say it; they mean it. We’re expected to identify new tools and trends, test them and share with the team.
Our goal is to bring value to our clients. If there are tools that can help us do that better, we need find them. Also, clients may ask questions about new technologies, and we need to be able to answer them. They look to us as the experts, so we can’t be technology laggards.

Tip for Adjusting:  

Apply what you learn. Use your curiosity to fuel your learning. Then, apply that learning in new ways. It may be a new tool, process or strategy. Create a pilot program, measure the results, adapt and test again.
As Stephen R. Covey (@StephenRCovey) wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, “...to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.” 

4. Hour Tracking

I honestly thought the hardest adjustment would be tracking my time, since I never had to do it before. Although we don’t use a billable hours model, we still track time for efficiency reporting. That said, once it became part of my routine, it wasn’t too hard to remember.

Tip for Adjusting:

There’s not really a tip here. The key is to just do it. Because I thought it would be my hardest adjustment, it was constantly on my mind. If I do forget, I update our time tracker (we use FunctionFox) as soon as I remember. Now it’s just become habit and part of what I do as I transition what I’m working on.
Have you made a transition to the agency side? Tell us what adjustments you made.
Thanks for reading and please share it with your friends. 
Image source: PR 20/20

Thursday, December 31, 2015

7 Marketing Experiences That Defined My 2015

 7 Marketing Experiences that Defined My 2015 Jeremy Bednarski Taking it Back

2015 is quickly coming to a close. In thinking about what kind of recap or countdown to examine for the year, I decided to take a cue from one of my favorite books of the year, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing by Robert Rose (@Robert_Rose) and Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson). I wrote a review for the book (that you can read here), but the main idea is that marketing is moving to an era that will driven by experiences we have with brands.

I’ve had an incredible year of experiences. They range from concerts, vacations, conferences, work and more. However, they all tie back to marketing, even if loosely. What follows are my seven biggest marketing experiences that defined my 2015.

1. PR 20/20

PR 20/20 Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back

In December 2014, I started my job with PR 20/20. This experience expands the entire year. It’s been a year of learning the ways of a marketing agency and how I can blend it with my past experience. Being able to learn from Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) on a regular basis, along with all of my colleagues, has made for a smooth transition.

One big highlight was celebrating our 10th anniversary in November. I’m happy to be able to be a small part of their first ten years of success, and excited to be a bigger part of the next ten years!

2. Uber Promotions

Uber Puppy Bowl, Cleveland APL, Animal Planet, Jeremy Bednarski, Taking It Back

Besides being a more convenient option than taxis, Uber occasionally partners with organizations to offer fun experiences. The two we participated in can be summed up with two words: puppies, kittens. In January, Uber partnered with the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL) and Animal Planet for a Puppy Bowl promotion (read my full recap here). For a $30 donation, offices could have a 15-minute visit with two puppies. Uber drove the puppies to our office. In October, they again partnered with the Cleveland APL. This time it was kittens that were brought to our office.

These promotions are promoted through email and the Uber app. Businesses also post photos of excited employees with the puppies and kittens to greatly extend their reach.

3. Las Vegas and Sammy Hagar


There may be no better businessman that also happens to be a rock legend than Sammy Hagar. From hugely successful spirits (Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum and formerly Cabo Wabo Tequila) to restaurants to best selling books to a radio show to a brand new TV show to premiere in 2016, Sammy is everywhere. I’ve written about his ability to market and brand himself.


Sammy Hagar Circle Las Vegas Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back
Well, no trip to Las Vegas is ever complete without stopping by the Cabo Wabo Cantina (multiple times). This year’s trip had a couple of extra bonuses. First was seeing Sammy Hagar’s current band, The Circle, live in concert. What a show it was mixing in solo Sammy hits, Van Halen, Montrose and Led Zeppelin!

The second bonus was meeting Sammy’s son, Aaron at the Cabo Wabo Cantina. He designed a Sammy Hagar bobblehead and was signing them. He is an incredibly nice guy and spent some time talking to my wife and I and took a couple photos. When I asked if his dad would be making an appearance, he showed me the message on his cell phone that said the band was already in the air to their next show. Overall, still an experience I won’t soon forget.


Aaron Hagar Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back

4. Taylor Swift Live at the Q

Taylor Swift Cleveland Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back
Ok, Ok, I know…you’re thinking Taylor Swift? My wife, Kristen, goes to a few of my rock shows (and doesn’t get mad at the other shows I go to), so this is the one I take her to when she comes around. I enjoy seeing Kristen having fun. But the reason I include this here is the impressive marketing Swift employed for her last CD (including an innovative Instagram promotion) and the experiences she offered on her tour. She brought out multiple guest stars throughout the tour, including the likes of Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger (although none in Cleveland).

Quick funny side story from the concert: We had general admission tickets in the pit at end of the stage runway. Midway through the first song, I was pulled out of the pit by security and pulled into a hallway. They asked for my ID and then said I was good to go back into the show. I can only guess that I resembled someone they were looking for…either that or a 40-year-old guy in Taylor Swift pit without a kid triggers a suspicious reaction. It was one of the weirdest experiences at a concert, although it made me laugh.

5. Chicago and Foo Fighters


Foo Fighters Dave Grohl Jeremy Bednarski Taking It BackThere is no band that had a bigger 2015 than Foo Fighters. They, and specifically Dave Grohl, were everywhere…even with a broken leg. This article recaps their year. Included in the year was a surprise show at a record store in Warren, Ohio (where Grohl was born). This was a tiny store and very few tickets were available, so I didn’t get to go. That was their only Ohio show on this tour.

Because they didn’t have a Cleveland date, when we decided to take a trip to Chicago, we planned it for the weekend they were playing Wrigley Field. We weren’t able to get tickets beforehand, so this was our first experience with trying to buy from scalpers. Most were shady…to say the least. However, after a long day of asking and waiting, were finally able to find someone with the tickets we wanted for the price we were willing to pay. It was an incredible show. The band was on fire and we were able to get in a good spot on the general admission field.

6. Content Marketing World

Content Marketing World Joe Pulizzi Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back

Content Marketing World…I could write a whole blog post just on this. Oh wait…I did (read it here). If you follow my blog or any of my social media accounts, you know how much of a fan I am for Content Marketing World. It’s the ultimate marketing experience. You can read the recap for my full experience, but two big highlights were attending the premiere of The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing, Content Marketing Institute’s documentary on the history of content marketing and the launch party for Joe Pulizzi’s latest book, Content Inc.

The best part of the conference (besides the learning) is being able to catch up with so many marketing friends from around the country and world...and even those that live in Cleveland that I don’t get a chance to see often enough.

7. Slash Live at the Hard Rock Rocksino


Slash made his way back to Cleveland for the second year in a row. It’s always great to see Slash live, but the real reason I’m including this is because it ties into the just officially announced reuniting of Guns ‘n’ Roses.

With the inevitable rumors swirling since Slash announced he had spoken to Axl Rose, the band’s website recently placed their original logo on the home page. They followed that up with teaser trailers in theaters for the new Star Wars movie. Welcome to the Jungle played over crowd footage. They had to know this would be the hardest secret to keep, so the teasers helped to keep them top of mind until today’s announcement.

Slash Guns Roses Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back

Few details have been released, and I have a feeling their marketing team will string us along a bit so our excitement level reaches a fever pitch by the time it comes to buy tickets for Coachella and whatever other shows they’re planning. Needless to say, we’ll all be on the edge of our seats each time another tidbit of info (rumor or fact) comes out.

2 Bonus Experiences to come in 2016

1.    Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I know…it’s taking me forever to see this movie. I’m seeing it Saturday though (Jan. 2). So far I’ve been able to avoid any spoilers (knock on wood…). More than a little excited to finally see it, I’ve been impressed with the marketing of the movie. It may not seem like it, but Disney actually spent less on than most movies on TV ads.

What they’ve done a ton of is brand partnerships. From car ads to breakfast cereals to make up to shoes, Star Wars characters are showing up everywhere. But instead of a sense of over-hyping or selling out, fans get more and more excited. Disney has been able to keep its Star Wars brand ambassadors on the edge of anticipation.

Walt Disney World Mickey Mouse Jeremy Bednarski Taking It Back
2. Walt Disney World

I’m going to Disney World! No, I’m not a Super Bowl MVP, but I’m just as excited to go. For my money, there are no better marketers out there than Disney, especially for what they do inside their parks. So, while I’m excited for the parks themselves, I’m also intrigued by their marketing.

I’m sure I’ll write a blog post or two after the trip to discuss what they do well (hopefully not what they don’t do well). I’m already experiencing a good portion of it as we’re planning the trip.

Well, that’s a quick look back at my 2015 from a marketing experience perspective. I’d love to hear about your experiences as well. Tell us your favorites from the past year in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading and have a happy, healthy 2016! If you like my posts, sign up to get them by email.