Asian American’s that are Shaping the Media World

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month.  It struck me that Asian American’s have and are playing an increasingly prominent role in shaping our media industry.   What’s even more impressive is they’ve achieved a career in media, despite overcoming their Tiger Parents disappointment in them not becoming doctors or working in the family business!

So here’s my list of Asian American Media Mavens.

connie chung geri wang

Hall of Fame News Broadcaster

Connie Chung broke through the news broadcasting ceiling by co-anchoring CBS Evening News all the way back in 1993.  It’s a rarity these days not see a female presenter on national or local TV news channels, thanks to Ms Chung.


Shrewd-ist Ad Sales Exec

Geri Wang, President of ABC Sales. This Upfront, look for Geri to beat out some CPM increases from Agency Media Buyers.


william hung Reality Media All Stars

This has to be a tie.  American Idol hopeful William Hung was the first reality star that most fellow Asian’s would rather forget.  His “She Bangs” performance helped foster American Idol notoriety and YouTube fame.  But we at least were able to move on and progress, when America saw its first Asian American  reality show winner when Yul Kwon managed to be last Survivor standing on the island.


jerry yangBest of Asian American Media Tech Geeks

… at the top of that tree are Jerry Yang founder of Yahoo!, Steven Chen co-founder of YouTube, not to mention some budding new tech-preneurs such as Brian Wong, the youthful founder of Kiip.  Also, I’m a fan of David Shingy, technically not American, an Aussie who’s definitely a forward thinker for the industry.  Try to if you can, get the chance to hear him speak.


lingmindyActresses that make us laugh most

I met Lucy Liu at last year’s CBS Upfront party, currently starring as Watson in the delightful Elementary.   But it was the Queen’s NY native role in Ally McBeal that to me was a break out for Asian American’s on television.  The producers of that show chose not to type cast the sultry Asian mistress or kung fu kicking villian, but quirky Ling, surely the most interesting character on the show.  I loved Mindy Kaling in the office and the delectable The Mindy Project.  And I really like little known comedy Sullivan and Son, that just starting its second season on TBS this week, whose lead character is Asian.  But the real star is Jodi Long who plays his Korean mom who probably breaks every rule in the PC Asian playbook, but leaves me laughing out loud.


danielBest Asian Hunk

According to my wife, Daniel Dae Kim.


Most powerful Media Owners in the Future

The arguably the most powerful Asian American’s that may inherit the media world might be two teenagers … Grace & Chloe Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng’s two daughters, who potentially could inherit a significant portion of NewsCorp and  21st Century FOX empires.


Most Innovative Media Client (and Hardest Partier)

Babs Rangiah, Vice President, Global Media Innovation & Ventures for Unilever who has helped to bring innovative media campaigns for Axe and Dove.


Cosmopolitan Magazine Innovates with it’s L’Oreal Sponsored Cover


Cosmopolitan magazine is causing a bit of a stir with its upcoming May issue cover. No, it’s not promoting a risque sex survey or planning to scoop Vogue with a Kimye cover of its own. Rather, the publication has the audacity to feature a pasted-on cover for its subscription copies, sponsored by L’Oreal Paris. The extra cover was produced by the edit staff and includes a tease about a L’Oreal contest alongside actual unpaid editorial cover lines. Traditionalists are asking, “Is this a blurring of the lines?”Fashionista raised the question of whether Cosmo had possibly violated The American Society of Magazine Editors’ guidelines.

Are they kidding? Right now, the publishing world should be challenging convention. It needs to. The media industry is being disrupted and the traditional business model isn’t keeping up. Newspapers have been decimated. The magazine business isn’t far behind. According to the Association of Magazine Media, ad pages have fallen a staggering 40% in the past five years. This despite the fact that magazines are showing increased readership when measured across print and digital channels. The magazine publishing industry doesn’t have an audience issue — it has a revenue issue.

For publishers to survive and thrive, they need to find more ways to attract marketing dollars. I applaud this initiative by Cosmo’s publisher Hearst and kudos also to L’Oreal for picking it up. The magazine industry has to find more creative and commercial ways to monetize its assets.

Just providing eyeballs for ads isn’t enough, because in media, there’s no shortage of them.

Total television viewing hours continue to climb. The supply of online display ad impressions appears almost infinite. Time spent with social media is now over three hours a day, up from nothing seven years ago. And the increased access to media via mobile is adding to the daily media diet. As a result, the value of the ad impression is diminishing.

Magazines have assets that brands want. Magazines have insight into what engages readers. They know how to continue to stay relevant and current. They create content that people notice and share. They provide ideas. Finding new ways to tap into and integrate with this content is a whole lot more exciting for brands than interruption.

But will this turn off consumers?

Consumers get that someone has to pay for the content. Most consumers are savvy and pragmatic when it comes to advertising.

They know that advertising subsidizes their magazines. They understand that advertising by and large pays for their favorite TV shows, nearly all the content on the Internet, Google and Facebook, and even public radio.

Of course, if you ask a consumer if they want advertising, they will answer “no.” But the increased time consumers are spending with commercial media suggests that consumers accept the exchange.

Advertising is evolving. Consumers also know that the face of “advertising” is changing. We continue to add dozens of new formats. We now have: native ads, custom commercials on Jimmy Kimmel, Ford music videos on American Idol, sponsored stories, branded entertainment,unbranded content, viral videos, crowd-sourced content, influencer marketing, music/artist collaborations, mobile apps, in-game brand experiences, newsroom generated real-time messaging and value brand exchanges. Not only do consumers accept these newer forms of “advertising,” they are actually talking about them when they’re clever.

In the context of these added media channels, a sponsored cover seems tame.

Smart brands and publishers will always default to the reader’s point of view. I believe that most brands understand the importance of showing care in how they talk to consumers in these newer media formats. Crucial to this is respecting their time and intelligence. L’Oreal could have been more overt. But it appears they let the editors guide them. In today’s social-media driven world, they will quickly hear if things start to wrangle.

We all want a healthy magazine industry. For that to happen, magazines need to be more attractive for brands. Innovating and experimenting with new solutions can only be a good thing.

Chipotle’s Unbranded Entertainment Marketing Coup … Farmed & Dangerous

chipChipotle did something radical last month. The company introduced its very own TV series, airing on Hulu. The first three 22-minute shows in the four-episode comedy series, titled “Farmed and Dangerous,” are now available for viewing.

It’s another example of the Mexican restaurant chain challenging industry convention. In 2012, it picked up the Cannes Grand Prix for its animated “Back to the Start” two-minute music video, which ran to a Willie Nelson cover of Cold Play’s “The Scientist.” That ad promoted the story of Chipotle’s locally farmed ingredients.

“Farmed and Dangerous” takes branded content to another level by not including any branding at all in the show. Social Media Week organizers dubbed it Unbranded Entertainment. Chipotle and other advertisers placedcommercials in the show, but by not including branding in the show itself, the restaurant has taken a risk that few marketers would entertain.

But Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, Mark Crumpacker, said on a panel at Social Media Week, in which I participated, that he didn’t consider it a big risk at all. Citing McDonald’s significant marketing budget, which dwarfs his company’s, he said Chipotle couldn’t afford to rely on traditional advertising. The hope is that PR, buzz and social media will do much of the heavy lifting for the chain’s message.

This is an interesting, albeit untested, new broadcast model for marketing. We’ve already seen Netflix and Hulu create premium original content online to compete again broadcast and cable networks. Chipotle’s concept is to create an own original entertainment show that somehow presents its messge while it shares in the income of ads being placed on the show by other companies.

This model makes sense, of course, only if the right target audience, specifically Millennials, watches the show. What does the show have to do to succeed?

First, it has to be genuinely entertaining. Wisely, I think, “Farmed and Dangerous” is a satire. The lead character,Buck Marshall, played by Ray Wise, is head of the Industrial Food Image Bureau. Wise’s character represents big-business interests that attempt to put a positive spin on genetically engineered foods.

Second, the show must have a message that connects with audiences. The serious message here is about the importance of food safety and sustainable farming. These are issues that Chipotle has championed from the start and are a concern for a growing section of the population. Chipotle reasons that as more people are discussing these issues, more of them will choose its brand.

Third, the show needs to walk a fine line between offering pure entertainment and overtly pushing the brand. Cross that line, and marketing savvy Millennials will turn off. Chipotle has chosen not to make references to the brand in the body of the show.

Twenty-two minutes of content and no burritos in sight. Only a handful of brands would attempt this. But, get the mix of story and message right, and you have content that consumers will want to watch, talk about and share.

Maserati in the Super Bowl … A good idea?

Here’s What Maserati Could Have Bought Instead of That Super Bowl Ad

Published in Ad Age on February 11, 2014


Maserati’s spectacular Quvenzhane-Wallis-narrated Super Bowl commercial has had its share of fans and detractors alike, from agency creative chiefs to armchair critics. So did it prove to be a good media strategy for the Ghibli sports sedan?

A 90-second ad in the Super Bowl went for probably around $11 million. Add to that the production of the spot, the Yahoo home-page takeover, the USA Today cover wrap, paid search and digital display advertising, and it feels like a cool $16 million to $17 million for the week’s media buy. I’ve always been a fan of Super Bowl advertising, but this buy didn’t make sense to me.

If you’re Coca-Cola, which sells over 350 million bottles of Coca-Cola across the country, with just about everyone watching the game a potential consumer, it’s smart business to be in the country’s biggest advertising event. But for a luxury auto manufacturer hoping to sell a far smaller number of units, it seems, well, a luxury. Just 9 seconds of the 90-second spot involved a car visual or sound, with only the last 3 seconds revealing to viewers what the brand was. It’s hard to see this as a wise use of money.

But I hear the counter argument: “It’s generating awareness.” “The comments on Facebook and tweets on Twitter.” “People are clicking to its website.” So why not a Super Bowl Ad?

Creating awareness is a good thing. But doing this at the top of the marketing funnel is an expensive proposition. Many other marketing considerations go into converting a prospect into a buyer. Many more people are aware of Ferrari than, say, Mitsubishi, but that awareness doesn’t equate to more units sold.

Any auto dealer will tell you that selling cars is a 52-week-a-year proposition. Has Maserati got the budget to follow up a big week with sustaining advertising support for the other 50 weeks? General Motors does.

Maserati, part of Fiat Chrysler, did see some impressive increases in searches on and Kelly Blue Book after the Super Bowl spot ran. I’m guessing that these came off very low bases. Social-media mentions were also high. So they seem to have gotten the brand into the conversation.

One big surprise about the Maserati spot was the fact that no one saw it coming. No pre-event buzz. No spot on YouTube or Vimeo before the game. Ad Age’s piece showcasing the ads in advance didn’t have it. This felt like a miss for Maserati. The Super Bowl isn’t just a media buy, it’s a marketing event, of which brands are an indelible part. Perhaps the agency team felt it had to do something to stand apart from the rest. However, with 12 other automotive advertisers appearing in the Super Bowl, I would have worked harder to find a way to distinguish the brand.

Paying for the most expensive spot with the highest production values, in the most competitive automotive media event, doesn’t strike me as what a challenger brand — which it claims to be in the ad — should do. Kudos for Maserati’s boldness, but its money could have been spent a lot more imaginatively and responsibly.

As an aside, here’s what $16 million to $17 million dollars could buy in other media:

52 full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times

60 double-page color spreads and a load of premium digital placements in Forbes

Every ad in the New York Times tablet app for six months

6,000+ spots on CNBC

2-minute spots on the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Grammy’s

A 30-second spot every hour in prime time on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and Al Jazeera America for four months

A national 12-month deal running 90-second spots throughout on cinema

Every promoted Tweet to the entire U.S. Twitter base for 85 consecutive days

<adage_no_lookbook_links>or 10 home-page takeovers on Yahoo, AOL and MSN.

It’s Time to Shift the Focus from Mobile to Mobility

Let’s Stop Thinking About Mobile Just as a Channel or Tactic and Move on to a Bigger Idea

Published in Ad January 29, 2014
In an industry that’s obsessed with tapping into the Zeitgeist, we talk about mobile as though it’s the bright and shiny new object in marketing. Are we kidding? This year, smart phone penetration in the United States will hit 80%, tablets will overtake sales of PCs, and already about half of online traffic is taking place on the mobile web. Come on marketers … consumers and manufacturers are way in front of us. Let’s kill off talk about developing a mobile plan. Our marketing plan needs to be our mobile plan … and so too do our communications.

It’s Mobility, Not Mobile. Mobile is primarily about the devices and platforms, but mobility is a bigger idea. Mobility is very much at the heart of culture right now. It is about fulfilling consumers’ desire to stay constantly connected and helping people to get tasks done on the move. Mobility in marketing is going beyond mobile advertising, to adding mobile functionality and targeting across your marketing efforts, such as how Chipotle’s mobile app helps to facilitate dining on the go by allowing you to order and pay for your burrito on the way to their restaurant to avoid the wait. Instead of allocating a separate budget to mobile alongside other media channels, we should be applying mobility solutions to our print, video, search, out of home and website. For example, how many of us have plans to add voice navigation to our website? My bet is that consumers are going to respond to added mobility in your marketing programs as they have to mobile devices … super-fast.

All Media is Digital. All Digital is Mobile. Thankfully we rarely separate digital from non-digital media plans anymore. Your digital strategy is your media strategy. In the same way, we have to stop putting mobile in a silo. A number of media companies are leading the way. According to the New York Post, about a third of its audience (print and digital) is coming from mobile devices. Over 65% of Twitter’s growing ad revenue comes from mobile ads on smartphones. Little wonder that Instagram, SnapChat, Flipboard and Waze, whose platforms have mobility at the heart of their proposition, were the hottest and fastest growing media this past year. VH-1 showed that it was able to grow its prime-time television viewing audience by 34% by improving the mobility of its shows and content. It made available full episodes through a mobile app, which also included extended content encouraging audiences to share with their social circles.

Mobility is Shifting Hyper-Local to Hyper-Location Marketing. Patch’s demise at the hands of AOL was a blow to pundits of hyperlocal. But mobility solutions are creating far more granular targeting and brand engagement. Savvy companies like PlaceIQ and 4info have mapped out the country and can provide location-based marketing (standard and rich media banners as well as video) based on where you go and where you’ve been. Apple’s iBeacon went live early this month in 200 Safeway and Giant Eagle supermarkets and could revolutionize the in-store experience. Using low-frequency Bluetooth technology, it creates GPS-like utility in the store itself that is able to pinpoint to within a few feet a shopper’s location through his smartphone and prompt him with special offers as he navigates the store.

Mobility is Fueling Intelligent Marketing. Mobility is paving the way for more intelligent marketing by utilizing the data it collects. FourSquare is somewhat re-inventing itself as a decision-recommendation engine for users and an insight resource for marketers accessing location data they have collected. The Weather Company is using its data to help retailers plan and even forecast sales. For example, based on weather patterns The Weather Channel knows that in Chicago, beer sales increase when summer temperatures are below normal three days in a row, whereas, in Dallas people buy sunscreen and bug spray in the spring when the dew point goes down. Mobility could inform an entire marketing communication strategy.

Mobility isn’t about what’s happening with devices and setting aside budgets for mobile advertising, but how you bridge mobile to real-world marketing. Exciting times ahead.


Marketers Can Learn Plenty from Media Brands

Originally published in Advertising Age December 10, 2013

Marketers are used to holding all the power, while media owners scramble for dollars amid all kinds of disruption. But the smartest brands actually need to study their media partners and in many cases follow their lead.

Media brands operate in arguably the most competitive marketing arena. A cable network competes with 250 other brands for attention. Digital-media brands like Yahoo, Hulu and Facebook — once upstarts and disrupters themselves — are seeing shiny, newer upstarts invade their hard-won turf. Consumers switch brands at the click of a remote control or mouse. As businesses, their market share is tracked and measured in a matter of hours, rather than months.

But even with limited marketing budgets, media brands are improvising and making the most of their unpaid media options first. Here are some lessons we can draw from media brands:

Think like a publisher. The Daily Mail has become the largest newspaper website globally by perfecting its own brand of news and gossip, with bold use of visuals and clever search tactics to drive traffic to its site — and encourage its circulation around the web. The Huffington Post has become highly adept at creating interactive content, receiving over 7 million reader comments a month. Both have built their success on the back of some of the lowest-cost models in the business. This is something brands can emulate.

Of course it helps to have a news hook, such as a new product introduction — another area where all marketers can learn from media. In the months leading up to FX‘s “American Horror Story” premieres, TV viewers were teased with short, episodic flashes of unexplained, weird glimpses into the showcoven. Viewers were left puzzled and uneasy, but primed to want to see the show.


Create cultural moments. Maybe it’s easier said than done, but consider it your ambition. Rather than rely on advertising in other people’s events, BBC America created its own event when promoting “Dr Who: Day of the Doctor” last month to coincide with its “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary.

BBC screened a cinema 3-D simulcast in 11 cities and made sure to be highly active on social media. On Tumblr, 14.5 million views were registered on the BBC America “Doctor Who” page; Twitter saw 1.83 million tweets.

anchorman 2.jpgThe network promoted all of this on and off channel, creating celebrity spots online that in turn inspired spoofs. One came from Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy character from the forthcoming “Anchorman” sequel, another media-business case study in overachieving on marketing spending.


Innovate in social media. Eight of the ten most-liked Facebook brands, excluding celebrities, are media brands, and Fox’s “Family Guy” has over 50 million “likes.” Cable networks, however, have led the way in innovation of social-media platforms. MTV worked with Twitter to originate custom interactive experiences for its Video Music Awards, like an MTV Twitter Tracker site that encouraged viewers to tweet about VMA celebrities by expanding and shrinking the stars’ photos as corresponding Twitter waxed and waned. The network also created Hotseat — a seating chart of the theater that showed where celebrities were tweeting from during the broadcast. By clicking on a seat, viewers could see a celebrity’s real-time Tweets.

MTV can usually count on a Miley Cyrus kind of moment to drive social media chatter at the VMAs, but it does everything it can to get in position before that moment arrives.

Make the most of strategic marketing partnerships. Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio streaming music service has built an impressive brand amid a seas of alternatives. It’s achieved this partly with the muscle of Clear Channel’s radio stations, but also with the spectacle of the iHeartRadio music festival, album-release parties, exclusive artist content and partnerships with major media, technology and auto companies.

With so many alternatives to their products available instantly, media companies have not choice but to get their marketing right. Let’s emulate their best examples.

A Review of Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And the Art of Battling Giants

… And What Brands Can Learn from his latest book

An edited version of this appeared in Advertising Age on October 23rd, 2013


Malcolm Gladwell made a valuable contribution to marketing with his book The Tipping Point, which got us to think about how brands catch fire and the power of influencers.  Remarkably, despite being published over 11 years ago, it still ranks #1 on Amazon’s best sellers list among advertising books, and #2 among marketing books.

So I was curious to review his latest effort, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And the Art of Battling Giants [Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group] to see if this might evoke an epiphany for me in the business.  For those expecting a marketing textbook, they might be left wanting.  No such cases studies of how Hush Puppies shoes was able to become cool again.  In fact, I sense Gladwell has become too famous to pander to us simple marketing folks.  His book showed less research, rather many stories – dozens’ of stories from the far past to modern day.  Mostly, they are stories of everyday individuals who have overcome extraordinary disadvantages or adversity.  For example, David Boies, who became a brilliant attorney despite his dyslexia.  There was also an account on Wilma Derksen and how she dealt with the violent murder of her thirteen year old daughter.

As advertisers, we love stories.  We love them, because we remember them.  They cause us to identify with the message at a personal level.  And such is Gladwell’s craft of storytelling that they provide a persuasive medium to get his ideas across.

The story I was particularly drawn to was of Vivek Ranadivé, an Indian national working in Silicon Valley, who decided to coach his twelve year old daughter’s basketball team.  He grew up a fan of cricket and soccer, and didn’t know the rules of basketball.  The girls on the team were daughters of nerds and computer programmers and were often overmatched by opponents that were taller and who were much more schooled in basketball skills.  Yet he devised an unconventional strategy and an approach that took his daughters team to the national championships.  Gladwell described Ranadivé as “an underdog and misfit, which gave him the freedom to try things no one else had dreamed of.” 

So what can brands can learn from David And Goliath?


Changing the Shape of the Battle.

Playing by the same rules as the established brands is a losing proposition.  When Ranadivé’s daughter’s basketball team played their opposition’s game plan, they lost.  This was the lesson I took, when the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas needed to promote themselves against bigger, better known hotel properties.  Instead of competing with the noise, they created a sophisticated campaign for a sophisticated traveler promising a smaller more intimate experience.  The hotel continues to command some of the highest room rates on The Strip.  If you have the same strategy as another brand that’s outspending you 2-1, then you simply will lose.


The Act of Overwhelming Odds Produces Greatness and Beauty.

Being a David brand is so much about attitude.  Gladwell described how David Boies and Wilma Derksen talked about not accepting the inevitable.  So what if the establishment brands have bigger budgets, more resources and wider distribution.  Having judged at the Effie Awards, the campaigns that overcame the odds made the most compelling cases.  Sometimes the best ideas have come when our clients have challenged us to develop a media plan with no budget.   Dove’s global brand director, Fernando Machado briefed his agencies with exactly that task, out of which Dove’s Sketches campaign evolved.  (Oh, and by the way, they found budget to support it as so often clients do when confronted with great thinking.)


Substituting Speed and Surprise for Strength.

Bigger firms have scale over challenger companies.  But with scale, comes complexity in organizations to make decisions and act on them.  David brands can succeed by seeing opportunities early and gain an edge by securing them faster.   Urban Outfitters gained kudos for being the first major brand to employ Vine.  I’ve written in the past about Adaptive Marketing, and how marketers such as Interscope Records to Obama were able to move quicker to win in the marketing stakes.


Gladwell’s David and Goliath deserves to be on your bookshelf or Kindle library if only to remind you that success is so much more sweeter when beating the odds.