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September 2014 - Posts

  • Connecting the dots: Reaching People when They Want to be Customers

    Sep 30 2014

    Can you hear me now?
    When most people hear the word “advertising,” they think of yell-and-sell commercials with loquacious spokespeople hawking mattresses and used cars. I’ve been in many social situations where people cast me a dubious eye when they ask what I do for a living and I respond, “I help clients market their products and services.”  “Like those mattress guys,” they often say. Well, with all due respect to the “get a good night’s sleep” marketers of the world, yes… and no.

    The reason people find yell-and-sell advertising so annoying is two-fold. Generally, those ads are poorly produced and you are subjected to the cacophonous message when you don’t care about buying a mattress. In effect, something you don’t want to hear about when you don’t want to hear about it. Certainly, the dynamic duo of annoyance.

    So, this begs the question, “when does someone care about something being advertised?”

    Have you ever strained your ears to pick up the latest office gossip? And, you don’t even really need the office gossip, you just really want it? The human desire to be “in the know,” rather than yelled at, can be leveraged by marketers to help make advertising more relevant.

    So how can advertisers ensure that their messages are received and internalized?

    Do I know you?
    The first thing a marketer needs to understand is the benefit of their product and who may use it. And, the more we understand about the target audience —their day-to-day lives, behavior, likes and dislikes — the more tailored both the message and the delivery of the message can be. Think about it: Just like office gossip, even though you may find the source annoying, if you were in the market for a mattress, you might be a little more receptive to the sultan of slumber’s message.

    Getting in Touch
    Any advertising message has two parts: the message and when and where that message is communicated.  People are fully capable of tuning out their children or a spouse that’s sitting next to them in the car. How can an advertiser hope to break through?  For example, you turn on the TV to unwind after a long day and that commercial for the new SUV is just something to sit through.  Even if you currently drive an SUV or would consider buying one, you can still tune it out.  So when can the SUV, or any ad for that matter, mean more?

    Keeping It Real….Relevant
    Most messages resonate at a deeper level when there is some relevant context behind them. Context is important. For example, if you are researching a family driving vacation online and saw an ad for that new SUV, you might take a moment to look and possibly even click to learn more — because you’re thinking, how could that car enhance my family’s future experiences?

    How can advertisers connect the contextual dots for their respective target audiences? There are a number of syndicated research companies, like GfK MRI and Experian/Simmons that provide third-party data on consumer media and products/service consumption habits. There’s also an advertisers’ social media audience. A marketer that’s doing a good job of “listening” can really start to learn about who might be their best audiences or targets they never considered. And what these folks are doing and liking and sharing. This is powerful stuff and is there for the harvesting.

    So the next time you reach out to your target audience, remember: keep it real and relevant to them.

    Mary Jo Sobotka - Chief Integrated Media Officer

  • BFB Spotlight - ChewBika

    Sep 26 2014

    Phelps has been named a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business℠ by the League of American Bicyclists! The League ran a spotlight on ChewBika, our fearless band of bicycle riders led by IT Specialist Wesley High. Read his thoughts below.

    The thought of a gang roaming the streets of your neighborhood on two wheels may make you nervous; but, here at Phelps, that’s just lunchtime.

    ChewBika, our in house “bike gang” started a few years ago when a couple of the regular bike commuters decided to head down to Venice for lunch by the beach. Not only did they get to take a ride along the Pacific Ocean but it took less time than the 30 minutes it would take to drive. Soon, word got around of our Fridaybike adventures, and more bikes starting popping up around the office.

    We started with just a few people who were already riding on a regular basis but now ChewBika has truly become a part of our company culture: We have our weekly Friday lunch ride; we have our own T-shirts; and we help others with information regarding all sorts of bike questions, from rules of the road, to fun places to ride around the area. Most important, it has inspired and given people who haven’t ridden in years a chance to throw their leg over the saddle and get moving.

    Our best example is Gabby Gonzalez, our talent coordinator. She hadn’t ridden a bike for more than the five years since college. L.A. didn’t seem like a place where it was feasible. You could tell all that changed the first time we convinced her to ride to lunch with us. Riding a borrowed bike, halfway down the first block she screamed, “I can’t stop smiling!” Soon after, she bought a bike of her own and — before we knew it — she was riding the 10-mile commute to work a couple times a week.

    What’s so great about ChewBika is that it gives everyone a chance to take a quick reprieve from  their busy work week to just have fun. Nothing complicated — just great people, fresh air, good food and two wheels. If that’s not a way to get people back on a bike, I’m not sure what is.


    Wesley High - IT Specialist

  • Could you bike to work?

    Sep 24 2014

    Are you sick of commuting in soul-crushing, rush hour traffic? Take this short quiz to find out if you're a candidate for a bike commute instead!

  • Phelps is a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business!

    Sep 24 2014

    Based in Santa Monica, Phelps encourages associates to choose bicycling as an easy option for commuting by providing cyclists with amenities such as safe bike storage, an on-site shower and a modest stipend. Phelps associates, in turn, bike from all over Los Angeles, some up to 30 miles round trip. For our efforts to support bicycle commuting, we've been recognized with a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business℠ Award by the League of American Bicyclists.

  • The best advice in a crisis is to ignore your own advice

    Sep 19 2014

    In a crisis, first reactions are generally rash and defensive. It’s easy to want to defend yourself when something goes wrong. Like other vertebrates, humans are prone to the “fight or flight” response, or a flood of hormones, when an attack is perceived. Fight or flight results in a multitude of physical symptoms (increased heart rate, panic, dizziness) – and aggression or social withdrawal. And in most cases, an overestimation of perceived control during the situation.

    That’s why the best advice we can give in a situation that has turned hostile is to ignore your own instincts and consult a professionally trained crisis manager. We’ve all seen public figures  let their flawed natural inclinations get them in deeper trouble as they defend themselves in a PR crisis. Rarely, if ever, does this approach work in their favor. It is more likely to cause irreparable damage that could have been avoided. This is why we always recommend that if possible, an objective outside source is brought in to manage the crisis and guide through the path of resolution.

    The cardinal rules to avoid self-sabotage:

    • Be truthful, transparent and swift with the facts
    • Get ahead of the story, if possible
    • Put the facts into simple messages
    • Be empathetic
    • Trust your consultants and follow their advice

    Would your natural instincts tell you to guard the truth with your life, or are you the ‘it will just blow over” type? All the more reason you should rely on experts.

    Roxana Janka - Public Relations Specialist

  • Technology as Celebrity — How long will Apple reign?

    Sep 17 2014
    What can we say that hasn't already been said a thousand times over regarding Apple’s unveilings last week?

    Not much.

    News feeds worldwide have been inundated with opinions flying left and right, and bonafide experts weighing in on every aspect of commentary that comes with an introduction of such magnitude from the most recognized company in the world. Being an admitted Kool-Aid-drinking fanboy of the highest magnitude, I’ll reserve my predictable judgment and commentary on these awe-inspiring miraculous devices for another time and place.

    However, out of all of this hoopla, what I’m perhaps most fascinated by is the sheer spectacle of it all… what Apple is able to achieve simply in the anticipation leading up to and the actual unveiling, repeatedly. Last Tuesday’s event was a Stones’ concert, Presidential address and Hollywood movie premiere all wrapped up into one, eclipsing all three combined in the attention received.

    My point: Apple, Tesla and other technology brands, are rock stars — and not just to geeks. Heck, not even U2 could conjure up the ovation that Tim Cook received after using Jobs’ quintessential, “One more thing” line. Technology, and the dream of what role it will play in our lives, has replaced the level of superstardom once reserved for the upper echelon of luminaries and entertainment elite.

    Unlike pop stars, many of whom flame out as quickly as they rise, Apple has maintained a place in the hearts of loyal fans for years. The seemingly indomitable popularity raises certain questions: Can Apple continue to deliver upon the anticipation that its technology elicits? Will the thrill of the next big thing from Apple ever die down? Or, possibly, will another contender manage to create a greater sensation? Speaking for the die-hard fan boy inside of me, I can’t imagine a day where the Apple-flavored Kool-Aid doesn’t have me lining up days in advance, wallet ajar. What do you think?

    Aaron Dubois - VP Digital Production


  • Make It Faster, Higher Quality and at a Better Value. And by the Way, Integrate It, Too.

    Sep 12 2014

    We invariably want things faster, better and inexpensive. For example, today’s computers are a hundred-plus times faster,  more robust in their features and dependability, and they cost less than they did just 10 years ago. Yet, the market demands even more value. The same goes for countless other products and services. It’s no longer a matter of sacrificing quality for speed or price – now the lightening-speed sharing of knowledge and development of technology allows these things to happen.

    In the past, the demand for faster and better and for less was answered with, “Pick any two,” inferring that it was only possible to deliver any two of the three. Faster and better but not at a lower cost. Or, cheaper and faster, but not better. Or less expensive and better, but not faster. That’s no longer true. In today’s warp-speed, technologically-driven competitive environment, two of the three is simply no longer good enough. All three aren’t good enough either. Because wait, there’s a fourth!

    In order for the convergence of specialized areas to increase an overall system’s efficiencies, the elements must be aligned and integrated.  Integrated – working in a synergistic, efficient way – so that the whole is greater than the simple sum of the parts. This fourth opportunity can be the new competitive advantage for companies who are organized to deliver it.  Apple integrating products, service and education is a good example.  Phelps integrating paid, earned and owned media is another.
    Most people enjoy working hard to deliver something they believe has value. Too often, however, they’re hampered by the way they are structured. The opportunity now is for companies to perform faster, better and in a more integrated fashion, to deliver higher value.

    How can your company organize to improve the integration of its services to deliver better value to your customers?  We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

    Joe Phelps - CEO

  • Project Managers, Take Cues from Jazz Musicians

    Sep 05 2014

    Jazz and project management: at first glance, these two might seem to be polar opposites. One is the quintessential American art form, born out of adversity and the rich multicultural melting pot that was the early 20th century, while  the other, a process of getting a group of people from start to finish in an organized, efficient manner.

    However, the world’s greatest jazz musicians have internalized the fundamentals of project management in a way that few other industry professionals ever have or will. One listen to the recordings of band leaders like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Benny Goodman and it’s not hard to hear the meticulous attention to detail, underlying communication and unbreakable interconnection that these bands employed in order to deliver a world-class product.

    First, jazz musicians have a strong foundation and understanding of their medium. Charlie Parker practiced night and day for years to develop the muscle memory in order to play scales and comp chords without having to think about it first. Max Roach could walk into a crowded, noisy bar and subconsciously "keep time” to a point where he instinctively knew what 160 beats per minute felt like, without needing a metronome to guide the way… and could hold it no matter how much the bass was dragging.

    This foundation is so important because jazz masters had to develop an uncanny ability to improvise. The beauty of jazz is that, just like a complex project, no matter what’s on the page of sheet music, the music can take an abrupt right turn and venture into uncharted territory at any moment. Jazz musicians, because of their training, take this in stride, maintaining complete control over the band’s trajectory… without knowing exactly where they’re headed.

    It’s this same ability to improvise while retaining complete control that project managers strive for on a daily basis. The strategy veers off in another direction? No problem — shift course and change key. The project’s requirements change? Understood, we know what to do. Sixteen bars of trumpet solo, then we’ll all sync up on the downbeat of the 54th measure and finish the song. 

    So, if you’re striving to be a better, more efficient project manager, take cues from jazz greats:

    1. Know your team, inside and out. Learn their strengths, weaknesses and communication style. And make sure they know yours.
    2. Always be looking to improve your skill set. Learning never stops. Practice, practice, practice!
    3. Improvise with both confidence and humility.

    And consult the jazz section of your local record store.

    Aaron Dubois - VP Digital Production