Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Suburban Cities Are Coming Back!

Love thy neighbor as thy self. 

Great calling for the Millennials… a generational group hooked on me-isms.

I know.  I know. 

Millennials are the we generation.  Social media and all that stuff.  They thrive in groups and seek self-confirmation through friends online and onsite.

Ahhhh… yes, but they quickly transform the we’s into the me. 

I live in the midst of one of the Millennial neighborhoods located “ITP” (inside the perimeter) in ATL-land (Atlanta).

Atlanta INtown is one of the neighborhood newspapers that both reports and crafts the Millennial neighborhoods here in-town. 

Skimming through it, there are real estate listings found on nearly every page.  Most are priced at $850K+.  Most are built where the older home became a “tear-down” and many fit the “McMansion” stereotype.

Shoot…even ads for apartment “loft” communities are advertising 500 square feet one-bedroom units starting at $1,900 per month.

I am not making this up.  And for those in NYC, LA, Chicago and DC… realize that this is Atlanta and not your city where costs are well-known to be “up there.”

Many of the Atlanta ad agencies are located in the in-town neighborhoods. Many of their day-to-day staff are Millennials.  Many live in the pre-Columbus world of thinking that the globe is actually flat and once one journeys out of the core base of in-town Atlanta, the world simply ends. 

But that perception might be changing as they desire to find their own fountain of youth!

In today’s Wall Street Journal, there’s a very interesting section devoted to city growth and development.  It highlights top cities to watch along with some very interesting articles about neighborhood culture. 

One of the assumptions I will make is that the journalist writing the articles is also a Millennial.  He or she probably has little knowledge of geo-demographics and systems like PRIZM, ACORN or ClusterPlus.

The article that caught my attention is titled, “Suburbs Hope To Be The New Cities” with the subtitle, “Some Places Think It’s The Way To Attract Young Workers.”

The article talks about how not-too-far out second-tier city centers and smaller bedroom-communities that faced years of decline as folks flocked back to live intown, are now seeing upturns in migration growth as intown real estate is breaking credit lines.

A few Millennial couples can afford that $1.4 Million three-bedroom-two-bath bungalow now... but as soon as the baby comes into the family with the $1 million conception-to-college graduation price tag, that home might no longer qualify for the new budget plan!

Authenticity of the intown ‘hoods is quickly getting lost too.  Architectural landmarks or soon-to-be-landmarks (mid-century!) are being torn down and replaced by the “new,” eco-green, Dwell Magazine new builds.

According to a study completed by researchers at University of California Berkley and University of Pennsylvania, the population of college-educated 25-34 year olds in downtown and intown neighborhoods grew more than 44%... three times as fast as in the suburban metro.

Historic mom & pops are replaced with indy, high-end retail.  Starbucks replaces the local cafes.  Whole Foods replaces the Saturday “farmer’s markets” and mom & pop grocery stores.

I share this because the stage set of temporary, high-end culture quickly becomes apparent and is replaced by the desire for a more “real” experience.

Millennials are known to quick “click” from websites where they fail to connect. They will ultimately do the same thing with aspects of where they live and what they identify with as home.

The Nielsen-PRIZM system that we have in-house at EXPERIENCE has a whole host of over 20 neighborhood lifestyle groups that reside in what Nielsen calls “second city” ‘hoods. 

No question about it, here in Atlanta we have Downtown Atlanta, but also the second cities of Midtown, Buckhead, Sandy Springs and Decatur – each with their clusters of high-rises and local transit systems.

New Rochelle, NY is featured in the Wall Street Journal article.

When I watch Bravo’s Million Dollar Listings LA, those boys shift from Beverley Hills to Anaheim to Santa Monica to Long Beach.

And Georgetown is nice, but there’s also Bethesda where Discovery Networks is based and Alexandria where some cool pubs are found.

Love they neighbor as thy self.  Better yet… Root they self in a real neighborhood vs. a lovely, but way too perfect stage-set.

No question that the high costs of intown ‘hoods are going to shift what many think is the unstoppable future.  

As many readers know, in addition to living smack in the heart of the trendy in-town Atlanta scene… in about 750 “affordable” square feet… I also own a “farm house” about an hour’s drive east from Atlanta in a smaller college town. 

I write a lot about shopping at the WalMart located near that “farm house.”  Shopping there is always a “grounding” experience for EXPERIENCE!

Just as the Boomers drove the shift from the “rust-belt” to the “sun belt,” I do not think that shift from the “burbs” to “Intown” is the Millennial signature population change yet. 

“Mom and Pop” is coming back… and reality TV is transitioning to reality ‘hoods as I write this. 

Now… hand me that popcorn and organic salt!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Client Dollars Net At The Big Ad Agencies

Most evenings when I put the 24/7 work flow on hold, I sit back and click through the cable nets to grab some programming where I really don’t have to think.  

I end up on networks that run the spectrum from SPIKE, TLC, HGTV, USA, History Chanel, Discovery, ESPN and TBS.

Oh, I must admit that I do watch a good share of the news networks too.  I click back and forth between CNN, Bloomberg, HLN, FOX and FOX Business.

What amazes me the most are the broadcast commercials that run between the programming.

I even have a small framed quote up in the television cabinet that reads, “Remember, if they were all sane, the psychs would not have a job.”

I’ve voiced concerns about the Progressive Insurance ads in the past.  Flo was created by Arnold Worldwide.  Since 2010 when Progressive premiered Flo, they have produced 100+ commercials.

100+ commercials in about a five year time period.

Arnold Worldwide is based in Boston.  When you check out their website, you will see quickly that those Progressive ads are not likely produced for $50k.  Probably add at least one more digital point to that price figure.

The Progressive ad I saw last night was all about Flo.  It wasn’t until the logo came up on the screen at the very end of the spot that you realize its Progressive Insurance that the spot is attempting to sell.

Already this morning I went out and spoke to some Millennials as they were ordering their custom made Starbucks coffee.  I asked them if they had ever heard of Progressive Insurance Company and only one out of the 10 said yes.  When I asked if they had ever seen a character named Flo in any commercials, six of the 10 said yes. 

They went on to describe her as this character with “big hair that dresses mostly in white.”

 BTW… there’s some rumors out there that Progressive is replacing Flo with the animated insurance box.

I guess if I worked 24/7 dealing with insurance sales and claims, I would seek out something entertaining to break the doldrums. 
There’s another ad series that Chevy is running that showcases participants in a focus group with a facilitator.

In the first ad to premiere, the setting was actually a tad realistic in how it showed the facilitator revealing Chevy models.  Then came the second ad.  And now has come the third one this past week.   At least the third one in the series that I have seen.

The last time I did a conventional focus group was about ten years ago for a hospital.  It was the hospital marketing team that insisted we do a conventional focus group, randomly recruited and one in which they – the client – could sit behind the one way mirror and observe the discussion flow.

Big time corporate clients have long time been strong supporters of doing focus groups.  Not too sure that they fully understand the dynamics of the discussion, but they love the wine, mix drinks, shrimp cocktails and French pastries provided behind the one way mirror.

Back in 2003 when I started EXPERIENCE, I decided that it was way over time to create an alternative to the high cost, “pecking order” conversational flow of conventional focus groups.

They got to be expensive and contrived. 

Today, we do Coffee House and Pub Chats, On-the-Street experiential interviews, hosted neighborhood networking and online chat rooms and commentary boards.

Part of me is okay with the McCann creatives making fun of focus groups and using them as the commercial backdrop.  There’s another part of me that finds the use of focus groups by the corporations to be rather disturbing. 

In the third ad that I saw the other night, the facilitator is actually rattling the sales pitch.  If an EXPERIENCE staff member ever did that in any of the tools we use today, they would not be a part of the EXPERIENCE team long. 

I looked up the Nielsen PRIZM lifestyle groups that Chevy scores high on in ownership and sales. 

Here are the top PRIZM groups and their nicknames… “Kid Country USA,” “Campers & Camo,” Pickup Patriarchs,” “Toolbelt Traditionalists” and “Young and Rustic.” 

My bet is that these folks actually believe that they are watch a real live focus group when they watch those Chevy commercials.

Then last night I saw an ad that I still cannot figure out what was the product and brand behind it.

It opened with an office in a city-setting like New York with techies working at their computer pods.  The people quickly changed into animated human-like animals and as they were doing so, quick snippets of social media dialogue pop up on the screen, but the graphics are so small you really cannot read the text exchange. 

As the spot progresses, the focus shifts to the guys and gals that evolved into lion-like creatures and they appear to invent a quasi-digital umbrella that they send out of their 15th floor office window and converts into umbrellas carried by the folks walking on the street below.

Ad the end of the spot a website address.  Part of me wants to say that a brand name like Slacker appears.

To be honest… when you read what I just wrote, it sounds like I was on my third round of bourbon plus toking for the night. 

I was not involved in anything like that when I saw the ad, but my hunch is that the ad team probably was when they created it.

No question, the ad was not cheap to produce.

Will be interesting to see if the ads pop up in the next few days.  If they do, I will write down just who the ad is suppose to be promoting and share it with blog readers.

NOTE:  Found out... the ad is for #Slack, which I still have no idea what they do.  Here is a link to their ads and an article about them... http://techcrunch.com/2015/12/30/slacks-new-tv-commercial-is-adorable-and-effective/  ... LOL... some techie brand.

This past week, I had lunch with a couple ad agency owners.  They run medium to smaller size shops.  They told me that they were laying off more creative staff and shifting over to building client teams with free-lancers. 

I quickly asked if cost was the driver… and they quickly admitted that overhead costs did play a partial role.

However, they added that free-lance teams could be kept fresh and that the product produced would not fall into the conventional ruts and commercials that seem to live in their own little worlds. 

I could not agree more.