Get The Call Right

Thursday, 10 April 2014

by Jake Toplitt

Like many of my Matter, Inc. colleagues, I’ve loved sports my whole life. On a daily basis, I keep a close eye on issues and trends that relate to sports leagues, business and sponsorship.

And now that the baseball season is underway, a current hot topic is instant replay.

Major League Baseball (MLB) implemented a challenge-based replay system this season; if a manager disagrees with a call made by an umpire on the field, they now have the ability to challenge one ruling per game (and receive a second challenge if the ruling on their first challenge is overturned).

Many people think the integration of review by instant replay into professional baseball is a good thing. For years, viewers watching at home on TV could clearly see if an umpire missed a call, and yet the umpires themselves lacked a mechanism to review plays and overturn mistakes. With the implementation of a replay system this year, the MLB is helping to put umpires in a better position to get the call right.

Still, a popular sentiment is that the system is a work in progress. If the overall goal is to get the call right, critics wonder if a challenge system is the best means of accomplishing that. In a recent game, for example, a manager was unable to challenge a critical call that appeared to be incorrect because they had already spent their challenge earlier in the game. For this reason, one suggestion put forth by reporters to improve replay has been to centralize review and automatically look at questionable calls. This would eliminate the managerial challenge altogether; again, with the goal of getting as many calls right as possible.

How does this relate to our business? Our goal always needs to be – and is – getting the call right. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, or even how budgets are divided. We work to make sure every project is completed as best as it can be. Like MLB with its replay system, we’re constantly evaluating and optimizing our processes to best meet our clients’ goals.

A great example is how we at MATTER work within the larger Edelman network. My colleagues and I on the sports team at MATTER have fostered strong relationships with many members of the sports media. When members of other practices – such as health or consumer –  within Edelman need to pitch sports media as part of programs for their clients, they will often bring us in to allow for the best chance of success. Conversely, I’m currently working on a program for a client that is a sports program, but includes some components that really aren’t related to sports at all. Our resources within the Edelman network have allowed me to bring in specialists from outside our practice to best facilitate the accomplishing of our client’s media objectives. 

It’s important for all businesses to critically analyze their operations on a regular basis, the way that MLB is doing with replay. Whether it’s strategically structuring a communication chain at a financial company, reallocating resources in a manufacturing process at a factory,  or working cross-department at a firm like ours, the goal should ultimately always be the same – getting the call right.

Infinite Laughs

Tuesday, 01 April 2014

By Jess Blyth Ludwicki

Did you know that how-to videos rank second in popularity to comedy videos on the web?  When I learned this, I immediately thought of Infinite Solutions

The YouTube series features Mark Erickson, a nerdy host who gives tech-focused tutorials on how you can do things like increase your wifi signal using simple household items like tinfoil, a salad bowl, and a cell phone.  Another tutorial explains how you can sign up for a secret trial version of the new Google TV Beta:  a free streaming TV service. This how-to video in particular has acquired millions of views to date and sent tech bloggers into a tizzy when it was first released back in 2007.

Were these seemingly real how-to videos actually real?  Was Google behind the series?  Google was not, and eventually released this statement:

"Mark Erickson's Infinite Solutions segment highlights Gmail's seemingly infinite powers -- from gobs of storage and lightning-fast search to some of the best anti-spam action in the business. Alas, Mark's 'Google TV beta' is simply a figment of his fertile imagination -- but great entertainment for all of us here at the Googleplex."

In case you forgot, today is April Fool’s Day. I hope you have a good prank lined up for someone.  If not, maybe Mark’s Infinite Solutions will inspire you to conjure up something good.

Update 4/3/14:  Check out Mashable's roundup of the best April Fools pranks of 2014 including the world’s first DIY car building kit, and the Google Shelfie (a prank actually developed by Google).

The Past Is Just Us in Funny Clothes

Thursday, 27 March 2014

By Jess Blyth Ludwicki

On this #throwbackthursday, I share with you images of my grandfather Ed Minks with a young Joe Namath and astronaut Jim Lovell.  For those of you who don’t remember Captain Jim Lovell, he returned the severely damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft safely back to earth.  For you movie buffs out there, you might remember that Jim was portrayed by this actor in the 1995 film based on the historic event.  

These photographs were taken at a trade show for American Machine and Foundry (AMF) circa 1969 at Madison Square Garden.  In a nutshell, AMF was once one of the largest recreational equipment companies in the United States.  They owned brands like Head, Voit, and Harley Davidson, and manufactured everything from golf clubs and baseball bats, to parts that propelled spaceships into orbit.  Which brings us back to Joe, Jim, and Ed.

Ed worked for AMF and often hired celebrities to attend their trade shows and events in order to up attendance, secure media attention, and generate awareness of their various products and brands.  What I find so interesting about these photos, isn’t Joe Namath’s cool 70’s hair style, but how 40+ years later, we are still leveraging the power of celebrity and live events to reach consumers.  Yes, we’re now armed with advanced technological tools and fun hashtags, but at the heart of it all, not much has changed.

“The past is just us in funny clothes”.  This is what Mike Tyson told fans and media at a recent launch event for his new memoir “Undisputed Truth”.

To learn more about MATTER’s sports, entertainment and experiential marketing capabilities, drop me a line.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

By Karen Menez

Every year, Austinites brace themselves for the mayhem that is SXSW. What started as a small music festival in the late 1980s has seen exponential growth over the years and now welcomes more than 72,000 registered attendees. While film, interactive and music remains core to the festival, there are also multiple opportunities for brands across various disciplines to get involved, including SXSWedu (education), SXSWComedy and new this year, SXSports. 

Savvy marketers continue to take advantage of the incredible pool of influencers who flock to Austin with robust activations that weave in the local flavor. With big names like Lady Gaga, Kanye and Jay Z descending upon the festival, year-over-year there is a challenge for brands to break through in a major way; however, for brands looking to be judged by the company they keep, SXSW is definitely the place to focus.

As newbie to the scene, I was excited to immerse myself in the SXSW 2014 experience. I soaked it all in, checking out panels, talking to attendees, eyeing various sponsor activations and venturing into the SXSW trade show to see first-hand the music-film-interactiveness that overtakes this city that I now call home. With Austin slowly returning back to normalcy with this year’s festival in the rearview mirror, here are my on-the-ground musings and observations from ATX: 

Too Much Show – People Want More Tell: The consensus from my colleagues, who attended multiple panels, was that many of those panels were too self-promotional. Attendees got the most out of panels that took an open-dialogue approach with a facilitated discussion versus cramming the Q&A into the final minutes. At the SXSports panel on Sports Brands’ Impact on Culture #BallerStatus, the session started out as an Adidas history lesson and then fast-forwarded to how the brand aligns with spokespeople, creates “selfie opportunities” for fans at events and uses social media as a virtual autograph session. What took me by surprise was the level of depth from the audience during the Q&A session as they kept panelists on their toes. For any brand looking to put themselves on display at SXSW, they must be prepared to answer some tough questions from a highly engaged audience.

Sponsor Domination:  Brands showed up in a big way all over Austin and looked to infuse the local culture into their activations (after all, this is the city that proudly boasts – Keep Austin Weird). Iconic Austin locations from Rainey Street to Stubbs were taken over to set up musical showcases or serve as VIP lounges and experiences, branded bike messengers were on hand for mobile charging stations and Airstreams/food trucks were positioned throughout the city to recharge yourself or your phone. Many brands brought big-name celebs along for the ride, like Samsung hosting two shows for Kanye and Jay Z. The celebrity factor was definitely upped in 2014, but brands beware as not all celebs were welcomed by the locals with open arms – ahem, Justin Bieber.  

The Trade Show Circus:  The SXSW trade show at the Austin Convention Center was a three-ring circus with a diverse (and at times random) group of vendors ranging from Neon Mobile to NASA, CloudHashing to Chevrolet. It was clear that in-depth conversations were taking place in booths focused on technology and new platforms, but the highlight for me was all the interactive experiences that put the fun factor in the trade show. Many attendees checked an item off their bucket list with a spin from the iconic The Price is Right prize wheel, and NASA gave everyone a chance to have their own Gravity moment with a popular spacesuit photo opp. The reach for the two brands went well beyond the walls of the Convention Center with these simple shareable moments.

For brands looking to navigate and activate at SXSW, there is no standard template and it can really become a choose-your-own-adventure platform.  With a diverse array of attendees, brands can get specific on the exact influencer they are looking to reach and get creative regarding how they interact with attendees both at the festival and those following the conversation on social media around the world. I would caution any brand not to judge its success at SXSW solely on media impressions, but more so on influencing the influencers, extending their message via social media and using the festival as a means to network and build partnerships.

As the city recovers from the SXSW 2014, the locals can happily exhale and take their city back – that is…until SXSW 2015 planning begins in a few weeks!

Planning For Luck

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

by Abby Fass

Brands devote significant time and resources to develop strategies to reach consumers.

Carefully crafted plans are built on research and creative thought, often honed through months of meetings, focus groups and revisions.

But the one thing many brands don’t plan for – and should?

One word – LUCK.

Case in point: The winners at the recent 86th annual Academy Awards included Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong'o, Matthew McConaughey and…Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza

If you’re not familiar, the latter is a pizza chain based in Burbank, Calif. Up until the night of the Oscars, Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza’s primary claim to fame was producing the largest commercially available pizza (see here for their Guinness World Record-holding, 54-inch-squared pizza).

But that was before….

On the night of the Oscars, host Ellen DeGeneres strolled down the aisles of the Dolby Theater, asking A-listers who would be willing to split a few pizzas. The gag went over well, but no one expected Ellen to actually order pizza. 

Later in the show, however, Ellen emerged on-stage with an actual Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza delivery guy (he was not an actor!) and proceeded to distribute fresh slices to celebrities in the front rows.

From Jennifer Lawrence to Brad Pitt, the celebs were chowing down in their silk and chiffon. Dior and Jason Wu reps must have been cringing, with visions of vicious grease stains running through their heads.

It has been running joke for years that everyone at the Oscars is starving. After surviving hair, makeup, wardrobe and the lengthy show, many stars have made fast-food runs after the Oscars telecast – actress Hilary Swank famously celebrated her 2005 Oscar win with a burger and fries from Astro Burger. That said, it was a genius move for Ellen to ask if the attendees were hungry.

But perhaps the most interesting part – and here comes the “luck” – is that the stunt was unplanned in terms of a corporate partner.

Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza had no idea Ellen was going to call.

Reportedly, the owner of Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza didn’t even know what was happening until his daughter called him and told him to turn on the Oscars. There, in front of 43 million viewers, his brand of pizza was devoured by some of Hollywood's biggest stars and essentially promoted by Ellen, whose national talk show is one of the most sought-out for paid integrations. TMZ estimates that this coincidental promotion amounted to roughly $10 Million in free publicity

And now the little pizza shop that could is smartly making sure to get some mileage out of its unexpected 15 minutes of fame – it began leveraging the publicity immediately via its social channels and had Oscars apparel available on its Web site within 48 hours.

The lesson in all of this is two-fold for brands:

1)      Quality customer service ALWAYS matters.

2)      It pays to have a plan for the unplanned – even when it’s called luck!

Can you imagine if Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza had delivered late? Or messed up Ellen’s order? Or sent an unprofessional delivery person? By maintaining its commitment to quality customer service, Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizza truly “delivered” when it mattered most.

And to my opening point, it pays to have a plan for the unplanned – including luck! At MATTER, we believe clients benefit from smart scenario planning and help them create an “activation plan” for a variety of situations, whether it is an unexpected crisis or an incredible win that is simply serendipitous.

Who will tweet on behalf of your brand, for example? What will the after-hours communications plan be? Opportunistic moments don’t always happen between the hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

So, make a plan for tackling the unplanned.

The Oscar could (unofficially) be yours!

Abby Fass is an assistant account executive in the Los Angeles office of Matter, Inc.