Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Financial services marketing: expanding your customer base in uncertain times

December 2, 2015

Certainly the financial world is keeping one eye on interest rates, but regional financial institutions are more focused on keeping their customer base strong amid tight local competition. Diversified revenue streams help to protect them from over-dependence on interest income, and they must stay nimble enough to compete on a number of different fronts.

Deciding which front to watch most closely is a tough call, with a constant churn of external factors keeping the marketplace waters muddy. Some timely questions may help determine where the best routes lie:

  • Will the emphasis on fee income shift when rates increase, with some customers re-evaluating their balance of dividend-yielding stocks and insured deposits?

Just as the balance sheet benefits from a diversified approach, so too does marketing. The right mix of messages emphasizing local service and a long term view of customers’ financial stability can set a foundation that allows banks to pivot with the landscape. By leading with a value proposition focused more on partnering with account holders than pushing them product, banks can build a layer of trust that will allow them to engage customers throughout their lifecycle.

In an ideal world, that mindset translates into making direct connections with customers. Tactics like social media engagement, highly targeted digital campaigns, direct marketing, and public relations should not be planned in isolation. When financial companies coordinate these elements around a consistent message and thoughtful rollout, they are much more likely to make an impact on the market that will outlast sudden shifts in sentiment. Simply put, a well-rounded approach brings deeper, broader relationships.

Financial institutions have no shortage of challenges to choose from. Whether seeking opportunities to expand geographically, reaching out to a different customer segment, or reacting to a competitor’s new local branch, business and marketing strategies must be fluid and multifaceted. Those companies that embrace a flexible message that transcends any given moment will find their customer base is more likely to grow with them.


Apple Watch: PR Blunder or PR Perfection?

May 14, 2015

Two words can instantly spark a heated debate: Apple Watch. The device has created two schools of thought- it sucks, or it’s genius. Try to find someone on the fence and you’ll be sorely disappointed. For Apple “fanboys” like me, there’s no doubt it’s a cool device – well-designed, fills a niche no other technology I have does, and above and beyond any other wearable on the market. To everyone else it’s “Why do I need it?” “Why would I spend $800 to not look at my phone as much as I do now?” or “They’re just dumb.” Debate aside, one thing seems to escape everyone talking about it. If you’re debating the watch, Apple’s unmatched PR machine is working.

Does anyone need a smartwatch?
Apple Watch is a hard sell. It has incredible capabilities but do mainstream consumers think they need them? Probably not, but they may want them eventually and Apple has the clout to make that happen. Before Apple Watch, smartwatches were clunky, fairly ugly and nearly all were marketed to the same audience as Casio’s calculator watches from the 80s. They had no mainstream appeal and even less functionality.

On the other hand, Apple has an ecosystem of more than 3,500 apps for Apple Watch alone and 1.2 million on iOS. Developers will innovate new apps specifically for Apple Watch, leading to more coverage of the watch, more interest and more debate as the device’s appeal continues to grow.

Apple is making smartwatches cool.
Apple’s already won the battle in making a smartwatch cooler than they’ve ever been. But is that enough for a device with a price tag ranging from $349 to more than $14,000? Apple’s betting on fashion-aware celebrities and consumers to adopt the watch. And shortly before launch it was already around the wrists of Beyonce, Pharell, Drake, Sam Smith, Katy Perry and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. Meanwhile the Apple PR team made no small effort to make sure the watch was reviewed by fashion magazines from GQ to Vogue and the most influential watch experts in the world, making the device known as more than just a “mini-computer.”

In order for Apple Watch to be successful it needs to be seen as cool, fashionable, desired, capable and most importantly worth your money. For an item nobody truly needs, Apple’s already proven that they’re able to make people want it. In the end, that’s all that matters. The reviews have been positive (with a caveat here or there), the thousands of articles keep on coming, the debate wages on, yet the bottom line remains – Apple has already sold 3.2 million watches in just over a month.

The Apple Watch is already set to outpace the iPhone in first-year sales. It looks like their PR team is succeeding where others have failed, again.


Serial-ously Considering Podcast Advertising

January 9, 2015

Not everyone is an NPR nerd like me, so it’s quite possible that some of our readers have missed out on the viral phenomenon that is Serial. Serial is a podcast spinoff of the preeminent public radio program, This American Life. Just a few short weeks ago, producer Sarah Koenig introduced us to a fifteen year-old murder case with a few grey areas. Serial follows Koenig’s research into the 1999 murder of 18 year old Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, MD, by her ex-boyfriend, 19 year old Adnan Syed.

The basic building blocks of the case are as follows: Syed was convicted of his ex-girlfriend’s murder under shaky testimonies, questions about the competence of his lawyer, and a rather mind-numbing trip through the 1999 cell phone records of a teenager. It’s incredibly captivating to hear Koenig walk us through the details of every aspect of the case, including the not-so-stable evidence. I’ve been listening since October and was hooked all through the end. It’s no surprise the show has shot to the top of the podcast charts with its provocative tale.

The show’s popularity has me wondering about the opportunity for advertisers if podcasts really take off. Serial’s main advertiser – MailChimp – has gone viral due to the show’s success. The pre-roll audio ad plays at the start of every new episode, and I’ve noticed a few more ads included in the opening theme music of the show. It seems like podcast advertising is finally about to go mainstream, and here’s a few reasons why it would be silly not to.

  1. Active listening: Some companies are opposed to radio advertising because music stations don’t necessarily lend themselves to an active listening environment. It’s easy for an ad to get lost in the shuffle and become background noise.  With podcasting, listeners most likely won’t press play just to tune the episode out, meaning the advertisements should be getting noticed.
  2. Target audience: Part of the podcast’s allure is the sheer volume of shows available. There are the NPR-produced shows that reach your typical NPR-type audiences, but there are also the famous comedians, scientists, movie critics, conspiracy theorists, and fantasy baseball analysts (even Alec Baldwin) who have found a voice through podcasting. No matter how diverse an audience is, a company can hit it by advertising on a podcast because there is something for everyone.
  3. Native feel: MailChimp’s Serial ad is successful is because it sounds as though it’s part of the story. Listeners hear the voice of the show’s producer (at the very end of the MailChimp spot) telling you she essentially produced it herself. The spot even follows the interview format that mirrors the podcast’s structure. The advertisement feels native, like it’s a part of the show itself, lending itself to credibility, engagement and proper message delivery.

What do you think? Should podcasts enjoy their fifteen minutes of viral fame, or are they truly a viable channel for many advertisers to look at?

What’s my favorite ad of the year? The one that was able to make it.

December 4, 2014


Well, another year has passed and it’s time to evaluate which ads have been great and in some cases, not-so-great.

In the spirit of being optimistic, I’d like to focus on my absolute favorite advertisement of the year. Ironically, the ad that did it for me was a Super Bowl ad that actually didn’t even play during the Super Bowl. I know, you’re probably thinking-how can an ad get Super Bowl street cred without actually airing during the big game? Yes, some ads are just that good.

Well if you were fortunate enough to see Newcastle Brown Ale’s advertising campaign “If We Made It” starring Anna Kendrick, then you probably understand the value of this ad. And I’m not the only who gets it- the spot happens to be Adweek’s pick for the No. 1 ad campaign of 2014.

For those who haven’t seen it – Newcastle had big plans to buy one of the most coveted advertising positions out there, a 30 second spot during the biggest sporting event of the year. After crunching the numbers however, they suddenly realized that they were missing one minor detail: money. Not exactly a technicality, right? Well Newcastle’s rebound plan was nimble and smart. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a touchdown-right?

Realizing they were short on funds, Newcastle decided to go the self-deprecating route and be open and forthcoming in their ads. “If We Made it” was Newcastle’s way of acknowledging their potential for an amazing commercial- hence the “if we made it” title.

“The whole concept and the meta wormhole that it went down was just too beautiful not to do,” says Quinn Kilbury, who (as Newcastle’s brand director at the time, oversaw the effort). He tells Adweek, “It just felt very clear—‘How could people not talk about this?’ As long as the creative was somewhat reasonable—because the idea is so different and unique and completely contrary to everything else that happens in the Super Bowl.”

Newcastle launched this campaign a few weeks prior to the Super Bowl airing, and it almost went viral immediately.

The campaign generated over 1 billion media impressions! That’s right, 1 billion- and according to Kilbury, the statistic puts him in the same playing field as the advertisers who ponied up millions of dollars for a spot during the actual game. “That’s what the big Super Bowl advertisers do,” says Kilbury. “If you hit a billion you’re happy—like at Pepsi, it means you did your job.”

In my opinion, this humbling and in-your-face approach was genius and provided the results Newcastle was looking for. Because Newcastle didn’t try to compete with competitors like Budweiser on advertising spend, they had to rely on the intellect and creativity to intrigue their audience in a completely different way. The bubbly celebrity appearance by Anna Kendrick didn’t seem to hurt either. Anna currently has a Twitter following of over 3 million and several blockbuster movies- she’s the perfect spokesperson for a beer brand. Check out this edgy girl-next-door breaking barriers by endorsing products, and doing it well.

If you haven’t seen Kendrick’s new Kate Spade ad, you’re missing out! Watch it here:

Another “Thumbs Up” for Facebook

October 2, 2014


At EZG, we have a common request asked of us by our clients – they want to target their advertisements by appropriate demographic and target their audience based on behavior and context.

Simply put, our clients want to be able to do more than just target broad audiences like “Adults 25-54”. They want to be able to reach specific people who are interested in their products or services, and possibly already shopping around for it! Ideally, these potential customers would be talking about it on social media as well.

As advertisers, we’ve had popular search engines like Google and Yahoo! on our radar for years as our go-to sites for targeting. However, there is another advertising platform that is quickly becoming a top contender in the industry – and that heavyweight is social media.

This week, Facebook rolled out a new ad network titled Atlas,(Atlas is a former product of Microsoft that Facebook purchased last year for about $100 million) which now allows the site to follow users across the web and serve ads to them on non-Facebook sites.  The ads they are served will be based on information they have listed on their Facebook profiles.

For example, if a woman posts a Facebook status about recently having a baby, Atlas will allow advertisers to serve her ads relating to diapers, baby clothes, etc.  Sounds like a targeted dream come true, right?

In a blog post posted by Erik Johnson (Head of Atlas) earlier this week, he explains that there is a lot of room for improvement in this type of advertising. According to Johnson, “Today’s technology for ad serving and measurement – cookies – are flawed when used alone. Cookies don’t work on mobile, and are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world”.

Sounds like a flawed system, but Johnson believes that Atlas acts as a way to solve the problem by using something called people based marketing.

As an advertiser, there were a few things that I found interesting about Atlas. First, I think it’s great that Atlas tracks social media users across all devices. Obviously, mobile and tablet use by consumers is increasing, and it makes sense for advertisers to be able to serve targeted ads on these popular devices.

Secondly, I love the measurability that Atlas provides. Johnson writes that “Atlas can now connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales”.  For us, this is a huge benefit of the tool.

Our clients are very careful with how much they like to allocate towards their advertising budget and are very concerned with each campaign’s ROI. This can be a great way to track an advertising campaign’s success and the results can guide us in the optimization process.

I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impact Atlas will make for advertisers. I think Atlas could be a real game changer in the industry and hopefully something EZG will implement in our targeted campaigns.

It is really astounding how social media networks are now competing with sites like Google on advertising space. Who knows, will Twitter be next?

Why one game is a fantasy-turned-reality for advertisers

September 3, 2014

For many, the final weeks of August are a sad time: the summer is winding down and cold weather is creeping in from just around the corner.  However, for others, the end of August is the most exciting time of the entire year – because fantasy football is kicking off.

Image via

As someone who is generally indifferent to the NFL, fantasy football season is personally dull for me. But as a marketer, I am completely obsessed.  It excites me because other fantasy sports drafts like baseball, basketball, and hockey pale in comparison to the billion dollar market fantasy football has created.

Fantasy football is particularly important to the advertising industry. 

First and foremost, fantasy football delivers a platform for an incredibly desirable demographic. The average fantasy football player is male, 30-40 years old, has a household income over $90k and has capital to spend. Using sports to reach this demographic is certainly not a new idea, but advertising within fantasy football allows marketers to reach this audience when they are most deeply engaged.

Fantasy football offers neutral playing ground, which is especially attractive since the NFL is a really troubled league.  The NFL’s image has become tarnished over the last few years due the concussion controversy, lax player safety standards, and player arrests. But fantasy football has a loophole- it allows users to disconnect from the league as a whole. When users are the GM of their own teams, they are no longer required to solely cheer on a specific team. Users follow their fantasy teams’ players across NFL team lines, indirectly giving the NFL itself less ownership of its own athletes and empowering the fantasy football owner.

 This ownership causes the users to become almost addicted to their team, and advertisers can capitalize on the captive audience in front of them.

Finally, the sheer saturation of fantasy football across the entire sports industry is enough to ensure advertisements’ visibility. To be competitive in any fantasy league, users need a portal, they need game access, and they need research.  Because of this, there are several mediums that have numerous opportunities to touch the desirable fantasy football demographic.

Fantasy league portals like Yahoo! and CBS Sports have worked side by side with massive advertisers like Miller-Coors, Toyota, and Visa to create engaging, native advertising partnerships. Besides regular in-market game broadcasts, the NFL runs games on Sunday Ticket and RedZone – two must-have subscriptions for any respectable fantasy football user. It’s the only way to stay up to date with out-of-market teams and players, and is splashed with advertisements along the way.

Fantasy football is a digital game which opens up the door for digital advertising. Popular sites like Yahoo! ESPN and CBS Sports receive a huge spike in traffic throughout the entire football season, creating the perfect platform for banner and custom content advertising. 

As advertisers, we’re always looking for opportunities for ad engagement and visibility to be high, and we think fantasy football creates an environment for both to be achieved.

What do you think of fantasy football? If you’re obsessed like I am, here are some great reads that I’ve cited within this post: Slate’s piece piece titled “The Evil Genius of Fantasy Football,” AdAge’s piece that provides a breakdown of the fantasy football demo, and AdWeek’s story covering media companies involved in the game.

3 Brands Winning the #WorldCup on Social Media

July 3, 2014

This year’s World Cup is officially the biggest social media event ever, and it’s not even done yet. Millions around the world are watching the matches and taking to social media to live-tweet their thoughts during games—and this is a great branding opportunity for companies.

For the brands unwilling to dedicate a large amount of their advertising budget to space during the World Cup matches, social media has acted as a great platform to gain visibility. Many brands have effectively used live-tweeting to connect to World Cup fans around the world.

There are 3 brands, which have scored on social media by creating great content and engaging hashtags during the World Cup:

Waffle House

What do waffles and soccer have in common? Very little–but that didn’t stop the Waffle House from crafting one of the most talked about Tweets during the World Cup. Before the USA vs. Belgium game, the Waffle House declared a war on Belgian Waffles by tweeting a play-on the #IBelieveThatWeWillWin chant:

Despite not actually referencing the World Cup or USA vs Belgium match, this simple tweet was a huge hit. It was retweeted nearly 24,000 times and helped the Waffle House gain coverage in the national media. The Waffle House connected to the World Cup phenomenon in an extremely clever way that drove mass engagement.


One of the most talked about moments on social media from the World Cup was the Luis Suarez “biting incident.” Twitter exploded with people immediately making jokes about biting and twitter was buzzing.  Naturally, brands wanted to participate in the action as well. Snickers, was ready and had the perfect social post created:

The simple claim of “More satisfying than Italian” fit perfectly with their brand’s voice and capitalized on Luis Suarez’s  bizarre behavior.

By using the most popular hashtags of the week, Snickers’ post was retweeted nearly 50,000 times- resulting in one of the most popular Suarez- related tweets on social media.


As a sponsor of the World Cup, Nike spent advertising dollars in all the necessary places.  Adertising aside, they still launched the #RiskEverything campaign, using Nike’s main twitter handle and their Nike Football handle as part of the campaign. Nike’s short videos (promoted on social media) have impressive viewing statistics—upwards of 80 million views. When posted on Facebook, the video garnered over 70,000 likes and nearly 50,000 shares- Gooooooooooalllllllllllll!

Their campaign has been following the cup’s action, and has had huge user engagement with thousands of social influencers spreading the #RiskEverything hashtag. Nike’s social media campaign appears to paying off with fans around the world responding and interacting.

Of all the #WorldCup posts you’ve seen on social media, what was your favorite? Who are you rooting for? Let us know @ebben_zall!


Did you know you can save lives through advertising?

May 7, 2014

Measuring a campaign’s results is always something advertising pros are aware of in their day to day activities. When I think about the methods used to measure whether a client’s advertising methods are working, I start by examining the answers to two general questions.

  1. Has the company seen a boost in sales?
  2. Is the target audience more aware of the company’s brand?

Most advertisers would agree that these two questions are applicable to every campaign- whether it’s digital, traditional or social in nature.  However, a new trend in advertising seems to be emerging and its asking an entirely different question:

Are lives being saved?

Whoa. Seems a bit heavy, right?

For those of you who don’t know what I’m referencing, think of the commercial that opens with a shot of a young adult in the driver’s seat, laughing along with her friends- and then suddenly her phone notifies her of an incoming text message. She reaches for her phone and begins to respond to the text, when seemingly out of nowhere, she is hit by another car head on. These heart wrenching television ads are airing more frequently, and according to AdAge, AT&T has recently switched advertising agencies for their “It Can Wait” anti-texting and driving campaign because of it. Proprietary research conducted by AT&T showed that the campaign generated decent awareness, but what they were hoping for was to change behavior for teenage drivers.  It Can Wait

Upon learning this, I’m wondering if advertising campaigns are fairly measured. Should commercials really be expected to change people’s behaviors and ultimately save lives? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the answer is “yes.”

Graphic advertisements featuring real testimonials from people living with smoking induced ailments (ie. loss of a limb, stomas, etc.) are a part of the first anti-tobacco advertising campaign ever funded by the government and the results have made an impact. A Fox News article published last September stated that “new research published in “The Lancet” medical journal suggests the first series of ads in the ‘Tips from Former Smokers’ campaign encouraged at least 100,000 smokers to quit successfully — twice the number CDC officials had expected.”

So it turns out advertising campaigns can be much more than a powerful tool to boost sales.  When the public’s behavior is positively changed and lives are saved due to educational advertisements, it shows the power of a great ad.  As an advertising professional, I applaud the government for standing behind these campaigns, and I hope we start to see significant changes with shock-inducing  anti-texting ads.

Why Understanding the Customer Leads to Effective Advertising

March 21, 2014

I took a psychology class in college that was titled; the art of persuasion.  In the class, we were taught how to understand what is going on inside a person’s mind and how to persuade him/her to your way of thinking—sounds creepy right? Well I loved it, which told me advertising was the right field for me. Not because I like manipulating people, but because I like the idea of putting myself in other people’s shoes, to identify what their problems might be and working towards a solution.

On a professional level, advertising is all about problem solving, it’s how we create a desire for our client’s products and services. Advertisements pose problems and provide solutions all the time; do your feet stink? Use our client’s foot cream and the stench will disappear. Do you want longer eyelashes? Use our client’s brand of mascara and you will instantly have long, beautiful eyelashes.  The key to effective advertising is not only in the creativity, but in the solutions presented to the audience.  The question grabs the audience’s attention, but the solution provides a reason why the product or service is ahead of its competition.

In a recent branding campaign for one of our automotive clients, we made a point to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. We asked ourselves, what do customers want out of their car buying experience? The answer we developed was: they want to feel important.  Some people might assume that price is the driving factor and yes, people do want the best price for their car, but every dealership highlights their low prices, so what is the one thing that can really set a car dealer apart? Their attention to customer service (see what I did there, posed a question).

In order to differentiate our client from the competition, we wanted customers to feel special and realize they would receive a VIP experience when purchasing a vehicle from this dealer.  In fact, customers become an exclusive member of their “club” after making a purchase!

The crux of this campaign relies on the customer needs- the moment the customer walks through the door, he/she is treated like royalty.  Additionally, the customer is regarded as an insider who receives exclusive deals, tips and tricks and other perks, all while getting the best prices and customer service possible.  Now, tell me that is not a customer service dream come true.

Another campaign that communicated what it’s like in the customer’s shoes was Lincoln’s MKZ campaign.  The commercials are recorded from the point of view of the customer, in an interview format.  The potential buyer interviews two separate cars; an MKZ and a competitor (such as Lexus). The customers are asking the two cars important questions like; what kind of suspension do you have?  This campaign is a great example of the customer being in control of his/her purchasing experience and decision making, and they love that.

Lincoln Commercial can be found here:

While it may be common sense, it truly does make a difference for advertisers to know their audience on behalf of clients. We learn time and time again that customers are not solely focused on price, but also the experience the product/service provides. Being aware of that can sometimes be a challenge to advertisers, but can also be an advantage. Hey, at EZG we’re all about solving problems.

If you have an advertising problem that needs to be solved, reach out to us at

Thought leadership and paid placement? Meh.

March 11, 2014

Professional services marketing is a strange animal.  It’s one of the few disciplines that calls for a constantly evolving understanding of client subject matter: you don’t just get to know a client’s brand, you get to know the issues that drive their success.  Investment firms don’t grow long term because they have a cool logo or run a Superbowl ad; they grow because their clients trust them.  Law firms, CPA firms, consulting firms all share that common thread.  They sell because they’re smart (and some of them are even wicked smaht).

That opens the door to a few of my favorite things…to be good at what we do, we need to study the areas in which our clients play (academic), we need to identify trends (marketing savvy), and we need to be able to articulate the connection between those themes and their brand (storytelling).

Academics+marketing+storytelling=fun.  Oh yes.  You want me at your party on Saturday night, believe me.

I’m taken aback this year, though, seeing an aggressive mash-up of this thought leadership approach and paid placement, which undermines the credibility of clients and the media in one fell swoop.  Paid content has always been a part of the game, but in 2014 it has exploded to new levels of visibility.  The media’s need for content and revenue is outweighing its need to publish objective insight, while providers are pouncing on an opportunity that will eventually erode faith in the depth of their knowledge.

The WSJ has entire online sections with content sponsored and provided by Deloitte (CIO and CFO Journals).  Forbes calls their paid content “BrandVoice,” and the New York Times is following suit with a native advertising platform.

I dig into this a bit in PRNews’ PR Insider (Hey Pay-Play, Get Off My Lawn), and will echo the sentiment here: this is not good.  Brand journalism has a place and can be extremely successful, but intelligent buyers of professional services will quickly grow skeptical of the information they find in these sections.  If it’s paid placement, how accurate is it?  Where is the third party credibility?

I unfortunately predict great traction for the paid content trend in 2014.  But then it will crash, shifting back to true thought leadership.  And I’m wicked smaht, so place your bets now…

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