Quick hits: Target, ad networks and the Super Bowl

I’ve been remiss in posting on some fascinating things that have taken place in the digital media industry over the past month. Fortunately, the two major reasons there has been a delay are because of closing an investment that we announced early this week and because of my total engrossment in the transformation of my New York Giants from playoff afterthoughts to Super Bowl Champions (which I’ll comment on below). I’ll do better going forward (I hope). Without further ado…..

Target and customer dialogue: Last month, Amy Jussel of ShapingYouth.org published a blog post in which she shared an opinion about a recent Target billboard advertisement. She also called Target several times, to which Target responded in an email by saying that “Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets.” Now whether you agree with Amy’s perspective or not, I think we can agree that corporations are doomed if their response to feedback from customers, in any form, is to dismiss it outright. If Amy had written a letter or sent an email, would Target have responded similarly? My guess is only if the customer service representative wanted to lose his or her job. The impact of customer service on word-of-mouth, brand perception and profits can’t be overestimated, particularly in a digital world where switching costs are negligible and customer acquisition costs can be sky high. Emerging companies like Satisfaction and Bazaarvoice (a Battery portfolio company) are focusing on the dialogue between and amongst brands and their customers to create new commerce and service opportunities. Leveraging consumers’ increasingly visible and explicit perception of brands and products in this way is just beginning. In addition, we’ve already seen that the empowering of consumers via digital media can save television shows and change company policy. Undoubtedly, we will eventually see an online consumer uprising that results in a tumbling stock price and executive job losses. The companies that fail to take advantage of the availability of consumer data and to engage in an open dialogue with customers do so at their own peril.

OnMediaNYC and ad networks: I had the pleasure of speaking at the OnMediaNYC conference at the end of January. One of the major things that struck me coming out of the conference is the incredible challenge that advertisers and agencies face in sifting through all of the various media outlets and ad networks now vying for their ad dollars. And that is exactly why scale matters so much. With multi-million dollar budgets to deploy and limited human and research resources, advertisers and agencies can only purchase media in so many places. And the simple rule of thumb is to pay attention to the outlets that can provide them with the most reach. Until there are better research, buying and analytical tools (if you know of any, send them my way!) for them, advertisers and agencies will only spend time with the largest publishers and networks. The challenge then for the publishers and networks is to achieve the scale necessary to rise above the noise and get the attention of potential buyers. Too many of the ad networks that I saw at OnMediaNYC focused on nifty targeting technologies and whiz bang ad formats. Very few talked about how they intend to achieve the scale necessary to have advertisers and agencies even spend time learning about their approaches. There are well over 300 ad networks in the market today, but I expect that there will be far fewer that achieve the scale needed to survive over the long term.

New York Giants, Super Bowl Champions, and teams: As a life-long Giants fan, I was fortunate to attend not only one of the great games in Super Bowl history, but also a game that ended in an unbelievable victory by my favorite team. There are lessons for business to be drawn from many parts of life, but as I left the stadium that night I was struck by a particular message. It sounds flowery and obvious, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that a team of individuals committed to each other and to a common goal always have a fighting chance, even in the face of naysayers and accepted theory. As venture capitalists, we tend to place a great deal of emphasis on the teams with which we partner. The Giants’ Super Bowl victory reminded me that there is a reason that we seek traits like focus, persistence and commitment in our entrepreneurs and that we strive to give them the same in return. In our business, often times market opportunities are not obvious to outsiders or simple to address. But a determined team that believes in its abilities can sometimes achieve outstanding results, even while those on the outside criticize its ideas and approaches. Just ask the Giants.


Super Bowl XLII

3 thoughts on “Quick hits: Target, ad networks and the Super Bowl

  1. Hi Satya, Amy here…Being a former journalist, ad agency CD and Target shopper, my whole purpose in calling Target in the first place was in a ‘what were you thinking here?’ context to get their POV/explanation/motivation of why the heck they’d risk alienating CORE customers to run an ad that could be misconstrued.

    I did NOT call to ‘complain or be angry or get attention’—I called to be FAIR…and simply left a voicemail with my contact info.

    Their response (or lack thereof) became the bigger story, derailing the original one, which was all about the proliferation/normalization of objectification via corporate innuendo and kids. (see today’s post on the new ‘blow’ powdered energy drink complete with mirror and credit card, ugh) http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=1119

    Anyway, wanted to share with you this ‘ideal customer response’ …

    I found this to be brilliant on a variety of levels, so added it to my own comments section for a ‘best practices’ snapshot for future ventures…

    The blogger said, “On this issue, they might have considered saying:

    “In retrospect, perhaps the the logo may have been better positioned as a halo, since we intended the woman in the photo to be making a snow angel. We are proud, however, that bloggers and other new media critics view Target as an influential design force in America today. It is “design for all,” and that includes public interpretation of design. We would like to collaborate in the future with people who may have innovative design ideas for Target campaigns… we urge those who are interested to e-mail designforall@target.com.”

    Thought that was sublime… Anyway, that’s my two cents…best, Amy

    p.s. On the ‘good news’ front, Shaping Youth was awarded a “Blogging with a Purpose” honor yesterday by several colleagues:

  2. Amy, the hypothetical email response from Target put forth by that blogger is a perfect example of seizing the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with customers, regardless of whether their commentary is negative or positive. Thanks for passing that along.

    Hunter, those tickets were worth every penny!

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