Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Global Alert: Economies Under Pressure", egads!

The title of the program was definitely not a turn-on, but the invitation to visit the AMA Chapter in Richmond VA was tempting. What an outstanding chapter!

The program featured Christopher Keating, VP, Consumer Strategist, Financial Services for Iconoculture. Iconoculture, based in Minnesota, helps marketers make decisions in corporations and agencies to enable growth and innovation. They keep up with consumer culture (via some pretty extensive and comprehensive research) helping clients align their businesses with the needs, wants, desires and passions that drive lifestyle and lifestage buying behaviors. It's all about knowing your customer to Iconoculture.

Christopher's presentation helped us understand the volatile global marketplace. Doom and gloom, unfortunately.

Over 50% of the U.S. Treasury debt (our debt, yours and mine) is in foreign ownership, mainly China. Personal debt (which is only yours and mine) is growing exponentially.

There was a time that foreign ownership of the debt would have been little cause for concern. The U.S. is the most consumer-riddled economy in the world; almost 30% of the world's economy. However, there's a fast-growing middle class in China, India, and now Russia. That means, foreign investors have new customers.

Do they still need us? We seem to serve as the standing military for the world, but who's going to help pay for it?

Current debt is unsustainable. None of us is saving enough. Less than 16% of U.S. households have a "rainy day fund", or 3 months of household expenses, in savings.

The deficit must be controlled. Cut spending. Increase taxes (ugh!). Correct entitlement programs.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times forecasted that in 10 years, our debt and liabilities will exceed 100% of GDP... and that was on 17 AUG 2004 ... and nothing has changed, it's only getting worse.

Are we headed for Economic Armageddon?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Attended the NSA-Virginia luncheon in Richmond last week. Great presentation by Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), Ronald P. Culberson, of on how to discover, develop and deliver humor in your own speeches and presentations. Be sure to check out Ron's blog, too.

Why humor? Humor gives balance to the serious, jump starts creativity for a new perspective, makes everything more fun, engaging and entertaining. Humor works, and it's all around you. Just look for the odd in everyday life.

There's verbal humor such as quotes, jokes and personal stories. There's visual humor such as funny actions and movements, props, humorous slides. There's also experiential humor, such as engaging an audience with interactive activities, using volunteers or fun small group activities.

My favorite new (humorous) quote:

"Love each day as if it's your last. One day you'll be right."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bowfire, a musical bonanza at the Sandler Center

I don't think I've ever been so enthusiastic about a musical performance (that wasn't Aerosmith). Bert and I enjoyed a fantastic ensemble group, Bowfire, at the Virginia Beach Sandler Center tonight.

We'd seen a small portion of the troupe perform at a PBS GM meeting in NYC at Tavern on the Green this summer. So, we were delighted to find them on the schedule at the Sandler this winter.

Bowfire is definitely a "must see" event, employing fiddle and violin, cello, guitar, keyboard and drums, and even an amazing instrument called a Chinese Erhu. They seamlessly mix a wide range of musical styles and even thow in step and tap dancing and a wonderful vocalist. The choreography was breath-taking, leaving me breathless in my seat.

I especially enjoyed their rockin' encore of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir Check out their schedule at and don't miss a show.

My friends, Barbara and Bobbie, promoted at WHRO

Barbara Hamm was named Chief Community Affairs officer of WHRO. Barbara will produce programming for WHRO's public TV station, including a new public affairs program hosted by Cathy Lewis and a magazine-style program geared toward the interests of the African-American community in Hampton Roads. Barbara will also serve as backup host for "HearSay With Cathy Lewis," the public affairs radio program that airs at noon weekdays on WHRV-FM (89.5). Her first radio program will air Feb. 1.

Barbara has been the WHRO's chief communications officer since March 2006. She's a former director of WTKR-TV, Channel 3. Congrats, Barbara!

WHRO also named Bobbie Fisher as the new Chief Communications Officer. Bobbie came to WHRO in 1996, serving most recently as director of corporate communications. She'll be responsible for the communications, public relations and marketing functions of WHRO's family of services (subjects near and dear to my heart).

WHRO includes public television (WHRO TV15/HD15.1), WHRO Kids and WHRO Create; two public radio stations (WHRO-FM (90.3) and WHRV); the WHRO Voice Radio Reading Service; four new digital radio services; and educational services. Way to go, Bobbie!

Monday, January 14, 2008

“Is Newspaper a Dying Medium?”, the program

VP/GM of South Hampton Roads’ The Virginian-Pilot, Maurice Jones, spoke at HRAMA’s January ‘08 luncheon event. Due to overwhelming, positive response to the subject matter, the venue was changed at the 11th hour to accommodate the approximately 125 participants. (I was there, and here are my notes.)

The topical timing turn-out yielded a sell-out crowd as Landmark Communications (the Pilot’s owner) announced last week their intention to potentially sell all or part of the company.

Maurice quoted media research source, the Scarborough Report, to tell us that the answer is “NO, Newspaper is NOT a dying medium”. A historical timeline review revealed that new media is ADDITIVE, not substitutive. Radio did NOT replace newspaper, TV did NOT replace radio, the Internet did NOT replace TV, and so on, but each successive new media launched ADDED to the prior one. (The Pilot has been in existence since 1865!)

Changes today ARE applying pressure to all traditional advertising models, used to financially support media, though. Not just newspapers are affected. Pressures are from demand for greater ROI, media fragmentation, changing consumers (wanting more control, but having less time) and disruptive technologies.

What are these “disruptive technologies” facing traditional media? Cell phones, iPods, the web, PDAs, Tivo/DVRs, video games, VOIP, VOD, XM/satellite radio, etc.

Hampton Roads is a tech savvy community as evidenced by our extremely high U.S. rankings in such measurements as growth in usage of these so-called “disruptive technologies”.

Media fragmentation has been a direct result. Just think: in the last 10-20 years, the U.S. has grown from 3 TV channels (NOTE: 4, counting PBS) to include cable TV and 250+ channels, 0 web sites to 100M+. There’s also the explosion in numbers of radio stations (even more when including HD and internet radio) and the preponderance of niche print publications available (some represented by V-P’s Targeted Publications + Media). Locally, we still have only 2 daily newspapers, Southside’s Virginian-Pilot and the Peninsula’s Daily Press.

The consumer audience has changed dramatically, too.

Newspapers as well as network and local TV/radio has lost reader/viewership. Cable primetime news has declined substantially since 2003 despite a 150+% gain in the five years prior. And, of course, internet growth continues to spiral upward.

According to Maurice, the question should be NOT “Is Newspaper a Dying Medium?”, but “What is a Newspaper?”

The definition is broad among adults (18+). Some circulation stats for the Virginian-Pilot: 47% read daily, 60% read Sunday, 72% read the paper at some point over the past week. Add 10% to any of these numbers for viewership.

In contrast, the 2007 Super Bowl reached an audience of only 42%, which is the biggest ad day on TV. Hmmm….

Every day at the Virginian-Pilot offers better reach than Super Bowl Sunday.

Recently, the Virginian-Pilot has accomplished a major redesign in print and online to meet and exceed the change in consumer wants and needs. The Pilot’s online offerings serve 1M unique visitors every month, representing the largest usage in all of Hampton Roads, not just Southside. was ranked 6th best access in the country. That means there are only 6 other metro regions’ newspapers in the U.S. ranked better for online news access.

The Virginian-Pilot is not just a newspaper company. It’s news, information and advertising, too.

The definition of a newspaper has truly changed. Newspapers fuel consumer power, giving information to do what you want to do.

The Virginian-Pilot has been voted the best newspaper in Virginia 21 of the last 22 years by the Virginia Press Association (VPA) and won 3 Pulitzer Prizes. was one of the first newspaper websites in the country, and LINK (providing condensed news and entertainment) was one of the first free dailies.

The Pilot is journalistic excellence with a local impact, an impact which means something personally to each and every individual in Hampton Roads.

A few more stats regarding the Virginian-Pilot: most used ad medium, most valuable in planning shopping, best for bringing sales to consumer’s attention.

Newspaper is becoming agnostic. There are more geographically zoned products and more targeted publications such as the ethnically-focused MIX Magazine, launched August ’07.

The Virginian-Pilot is also the largest publisher of military newspapers in the country. Pilot Direct, V-P’s direct marketing business, is the fastest growing segment of the company. Following closely are V-P’s online products, such as, which is typically a difficult segment to monetize. And, they’re moving into mobile products as well.

The Virginian-Pilot, as an aggregated audience solution, reaches 93% of South Hampton Roads adults every week.

Newspapers are Alive, Well . . . and Changing

It’s still the most powerful media product in the market.

Questions? and, Answers

Yes. One day (in Maurice’s opinion) the core Virginian-Pilot product will be free versus the current paid subscription model. The ability to obtain free content is enormous, and the move in media is to “free”.

Yes. The production plants are undertaking green initiatives and building on these.

Yes. The Pilot is working on integrated “multimedia” sales and marketing packages for its diverse products versus the “silo” of sales teams by product used now. This is a historical and cultural shift.

Why are you selling? Publishing is only 15% of Landmark’s holdings. The Weather Channel is driving Landmark Communications’ decision involving the sale of the Virginian-Pilot. Think of it as “beach front property”; sell when the selling is good.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sharing Thoughts #10

Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up.
Jesse Jackson,
professional civil rights activist and Baptist minister

NOTE: I've not posted here as frequently as I like due to: volunteering as VP-Marketing/Communications for the Hampton Roads Chapter of the American Marketing Association (starting a blog, e-NL, maintaining/updating website, print creative, etc.), volunteering as the Marketing Lead for the Defense and Homeland Security Consortium aka, a special interest community within the Hampton Roads Technology Council (getting the website up-and-running, PR, etc.)

I'm also participating as a member of several new organizations, Town Point Club Business Networking Group, the Public Relations Society of America, Hampton Roads Chapter, National Speakers Association, Virginia Chapter, Tidewater Association of Service Contractors (TASC) and the Ad Club of Hampton Roads.

Oh, and getting ready for my Class of '08 Tidewater Community College CED Certificate in "Navigating Business with the Federal Government" at the Virginia Beach campus, and I'm applying for my Professional Certified Marketer™ designation with AMA.

And, did I mention, I am searching for my next job opportunity?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Top 10 TV ads, 2007 (these are my faves!)

#4. Dove: "Onslaught"
Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto

I love the last line: "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does." It's 60 seconds of really obsessive "beauty" behavior that, as consumers, we shouldn't allow the beauty industry to shove down our throats. I know it's hard to look away, but we should.

#6. American Express: Tina Fey
Ogilvy & Mather, New York

I love 30 Rock, I love Tina Fey, and I miss her at SNL. She makes us feel as if she's just like one of us, with way too much to do. I'd love to take her out for after-hour cocktails sometime. Tina?

#9. Doritos: "Live the Flavor"
Consumer-created ad

This was the winner of Frito Lay's Super Bowl ad contest. Yeah, I agree; it's a bit slick for "user-generated". But, hey, "geeks" are IN. Guess that's why I love it!

#10. Nationwide Insurance: "Rollin' VIP" (Kevin Federline)
T:M/Irving, Texas

This one is my absolute favorite; unfortunately, I never remember who/what the product is. It's classic celebu-not! Guess it's not really a good ad if I don't remember the product. I think Burger King would have been a better fit (especially better than their "king" with the big papier mache` head).

For all of the Top 10, click HERE.