Skinny websites, snackable content and more from Digital Summit Detroit.

Digital Summit Detroit 2017 delivered. In less than two days, the conference covered all means of email, content, website and mobile trends. Lots for marketers to consider and capitalize upon. A few highlights we just had to share. 

Skinny websites are in season. 

Mobile usage trends prompted responsive design, with websites being crafted to render properly across all screen sizes. It has greatly improved the mobile user experience. Instead of requiring mobile users to scroll across inches of a site from a palm-sized screen, responsive sites scale purposefully, with tools like hamburger menus to facilitate the mobile experience.  

Still, mobile users want more, according to Erik Runyon, Technical Director at the University of Notre Dame. Runyon presented a breakout session called “Improving Web Performance in a Mobile World.”

In short, they want sites to load faster. Streaming delays are stressing them out—literally.

To illustrate his point, Runyon shared a neuroscience study by Ericsson Consumer Lab that measured user reactions to network performance. The study showed that delays in loading web pages and videos lead to increased heart rates and stress levels. On average, heart rates increase 38 percent with mobile delays. Oh, and the related stress? The subjects exhibited stress levels akin to watching a horror flick or solving a math problem.

And who gets the blame? The longer the delay, the more likely it is that some of the blame will be transferred from mobile service provider to content provider. In fact, a significant delay may even drive a user to a competitor content provider.

Performance matters. Take that to your design teams, Runyon suggests. Lead and live with performance. His advice:

  1. Performance has to be part of the culture.
  2. Performance should be part of concept and design.
  3. Give your team time to focus on performance.
  4. Implement a performance budget (think ongoing maintenance and upkeep).
  5. Get competitive.

Runyon pointed to and cnn.lite as examples of brands adhering to these guidelines. Both use Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to cut load time and enable mobiles users to get what they need without the wait.

Why your emails aren’t engaging or converting.

Email was a big focus of the conference, and rightly so. Every brand is doing it but only one in five emails is reaching the inbox, according to Casey Swanton of Return Path. Swanton packed a lot into her 30-minute session “Email Reimagined.”

Just like search engines want users to get the best result, mailbox writers want users to get the best mail, Swanton said. That means screening for credibility, interest and security. In-box placement is determined by sending ID (IP address, sending domain, authentication, etc.), and reputation (complaints, list quality, infrastructure, length of sending history, subscriber engagement, etc.).

“Mailbox writers care about the user experience within their space,” Swanton said. So they look for things like whether the message has been read, forwarded or replied to, marked as SPAM or deleted before reading.  Gmail is leading the industry toward better performance, Swanton said.  So, if you’re having problems with Gmail deliveries, it’s probably because that audience isn’t opening your mail.

“Relative engagement is key,” Swanton said. “Subscribers that are highly engaged with the sender are going to see that sender in their inbox at a much higher rate.  Less than 50 percent of messages are placed in email if the recipient isn’t engaged.”

She suggests these three tips to improve your Gmail results:

  1. Focus on sending to the most active subscribers first to establish a pattern of engagement to boost performance.
  2. Suppress known dead addresses. Pushing email to known inactive addresses will only hurt your engagement rate, and therefore your credibility and ultimate inbox deliverability.
  3. Don’t measure success on the size of your list. Between 50-80 percent of email is based on the quality of your list.

Work content harder.

Great content is a great brand asset. It attracts, engages and provokes action. So, work it hard, says Ursula Ringham of SAP, Inc., in a session called “Capture Your Buyer’s Attention with Innovative Content on a Community Platform.”

A video is more than a video, Ingham illustrated. It can be recast in blog, social and podcast formats. It can be worked internally to elevate employees to brand evangelists. Together, this content can be the beginning of a beautiful community platform.

Snackable assets are the new content.

Nearly every presenter talked about snackable assets. As in, “You do know what snackable assets are, right?” asked a marketer presenting on the topic of email hacks.  “Snackable assets can be used to fuel the consumer journey,” said a presenter on the subject of content marketing. “These snackable assets can also convert,” promised another expert on lead nurturing.

So if you’re tired of using the term content, use snackable asset. It’s applicable to everything from infographics to video, charts to listicles. Maybe even whitepapers, in so long as they’re not terribly filling. Think bite-sized for peckish consumers.

When agency work feels more like a mission.

In Metro Detroit, 1 in 3 adults reads below a sixth grade level." src="/files/u49/making-a-difference.jpg" style="width: 810px; height: 445px;" /></a></p>

Making a difference.

It’s a powerful motivator. Positive change is the primary goal of most of our clients—whether encouraging healthier behaviors, job growth, financial literacy, sustainable communities, and more. It’s the kind of work that feels more like a mission than a job.

Like our recent work with Reading Works, a Detroit-based nonprofit dedicated to improving adult literacy. Reading Works collaborates with community impact partners like Focus Hope and Southwest Solutions to teach adults to read so that they can enjoy a better life and greater opportunities.

The cause is critically important.  One in three adults in Metro Detroit reads below a sixth grade level—twice as bad as the national average. The problem of low literacy is even worse in Detroit where it impacts 40 percent of adults.

Adult illiteracy casts a long shadow. Children of low-literacy parents are 87 percent more likely to be growing up in poverty. When adults learn to read well, it’s life changing. Increased adult literacy corresponds to decreased poverty, decreased crime, reduced overall health care burden, increased child literacy, long-term economic growth and increased per-capita income.

Moreover, improving adult literacy is key to Detroit’s revival. A great workforce, robust neighborhoods and confident children succeeding in the classroom depend on it.

Still, adult illiteracy is overshadowed by other causes. And most people aren’t aware of the magnitude of the problem, according to a recent informal Brogan Talks to Women survey. Nor are they familiar with Reading Works.

  • 40 percent are surprised to learn that one in three adults in Detroit read below sixth grade level.
  • 12 percent have heard of Reading Works.

But people are ready to lean in and learn more. They’re especially interested in its impact on poverty, job skills, crime and community revitalization. Of the 133 respondents surveyed:

  • 96 percent agree or strongly agree that adult literacy is “critical to addressing employment, education…healthcare, citizenship, incarceration and neighborhood revitalization.”
  • 89 percent are compelled by the fact that children of low literacy adults are far more likely to grow up in poverty.
  • 87 percent are motivated by the statement “adults who achieve reading proficiency qualify for better jobs that can move their children and families out of poverty.”

These insights helped inform our creative strategy to bolster awareness and spark action, beginning with a short video to frame the issue. The video was launched earlier this month as part of Reading Works’ bid to win up to $100,000 from A Community Thrives.

Take a look and let us know your thoughts. (And vote for Reading Works through May 12, 2017.) We’ll be reshaping this creative for other channels to connect with volunteers and donors. For more of our social marketing work, visit our portfolio.

Don’t send money this holiday, send them to college.

Just in time for the holidays, presents the gift that truly keeps on giving in convenient gift card form. Grandparents take heed.

You guessed it—plastic 529 gift cards that let people contribute directly into kids’ college funds. Shoppers will find them at ToysRUs and BabiesRUs retail stores.They can be bought in fixed amounts ranging from $25 to $500 that are associated with state-run 529 programs, where education funds grow tax-free. 


The card is redeemed by creating a GiftOfCollege profile that directs the money to their 529 plan. The buyer pays a fee for the service, ranging from $3.95 to $5.95, depending on the card's value. There is no fee to the recipient for redeeming the card.

Gifting to 529 plans isn’t a new idea. The Michigan Education Savings Plan made it possible years ago for family and friends to open and contribute to existing plans. You don’t even have to be a parent to open an account so long as you own it. 

It’s the packaging that makes the Gift of College gift card particularly bright and shiny.

It makes gifting to 529s all the more accessible—especially for the technology averse. And because it’s a card and not a bank account, it’s far more tangible. Now grandma has something to stick a bow onto and proffer properly. She can even hide it in the palm of those mittens she’s been knitting for her little darlings.

It will be interesting to see how this packaging twist plays out. Will the cards sell more 529 gifts or simply shift shoppers from online to check out line?

Got a thing for financial marketing? Sign up for the quarterly Marketing Statement. 

University Marketing 101: How Boston College builds social media into their strategy.

Let’s say you’re a high school student. You’re starting to think about your future—and it all starts with what college you’ll go to. Of course you want to go to a college where you’ll learn everything you need to be successful. You want prestige. Academia. But you also want fun.

So, what’s the best way to show students that your college has all of the above? Well, we’d say it’s Instagram. With 300 million monthly active users, the biggest crowd on the channel is a young one—with 18 to 29 year olds making up 53 percent of the site.

Colleges all across the country have taken note, and then taken to Instagram with hopes that a picture really will be worth 1,000 words. That it'll garner thousands of likes. Thousands of comments. Thousands of applicants. And for Boston College, the idea seems to be working.

Primarily, they use the space to showcase shots of their campus and its surroundings. Beautiful, organic, strategically minimal shots, that is.


This one's for the moms ?? Photo by @kristaveikos #bc360 #BCinBloom

A photo posted by Boston College (@bostoncollege) on

They keep their followers up-to-date—showing them what’s going on around campus in real time.

They give potential students a preview of what they might find themselves doing at school.


Home stretch... One more day until #BConBreak | Photo by @liamweir #bc360

A photo posted by Boston College (@bostoncollege) on

And they’re able to share their history—giving everyone an idea how long the school has been standing, and how long people have enjoyed attending it.


John F. Kennedy speaking at #bostoncollege in April 1963 #jfk50

A photo posted by Boston College (@bostoncollege) on

Ready to start sharing photos to your college’s Instagram account? Start with a content calendar—detailing what type of content will be posted when. Model your content after Boston College, sharing photos that fall in the same four buckets: campus, current events, students and history.

Read more: University Marketing 101: 4 colleges connecting with co-eds.


University Marketing 101: The Ivy Leagues wow with viral video.

Video. It's a simple concept that can have astonishing results.

Today, YouTube reaches almost 50 percent of the 18 to 34-year-old population—more than any cable network. An astonishing 98 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds reported using their smartphone on a daily basis to consume video content, which is why brands across all industries are choosing to experiment with it, including Yale University.

What starts as a “traditional Yale information session” quickly turns into a viral video that’s anything but traditional—especially for this Ivy League school. And it all starts with one, simple question: “Why did you choose Yale?”

(Cue the music.)

(Cue the list of reasons why students across campus chose Yale.)

Now, we know it would have been easy to create a list of reasons why Yale is a great university to attend. And it would’ve been even easier to send that list out to prospective students as a letter or an email. But, Yale isn’t known for being easy, is it?

That’s why when they made their list, they made everything rhyme. And instead of having students simply say why they chose Yale, they sang them, citing reasons like:

  • Students at Yale come from everywhere around, with every type of interest that can possibly be found.
  • Everyone here is on a similar mission where great classes and professors are a campus tradition.
  • It’s a place where you learn quintessential knowledge.
  • You can live in a residential college.
  • You can put your hearts into all the liberal arts.
  • You'll get a first-rate education.
  • You’ll thrive on classmates' conversation.
  • Great facilities to hone your abilities.
  • A sense of unity.
  • Immense community.

… And that’s why they chose Yale.

… And that’s why we admire this spot.  It’s quirky. Fun. Innovative. And of course, it’s musical. It reminds us that schools have great stories to tell. And because this video has more than 1.6 million views, it lets us know that, most importantly, students are listening to them.

Read more: University Marketing 101: 4 colleges connecting with co-eds.

University Marketing 101: Spartans will experiment with nontraditional marketing.

Michigan State University has built their brand on two small words: Spartans will. Spartans will work together. Spartans will work for the common good. Spartans will push past the boundaries.

And this just in: Spartans will experiment with nontraditional marketing.

Understanding that in this day and age, mobile is everything, Michigan State University created a free app for Spartan fans everywhere. Once a user downloads the mobile app, they’re able to upload a photo and add a Spartan helmet to their head—letting anyone and everyone be a Spartan for a day.

Named Spartan Selfie, the app appeals mainly to Millennials, as 47 percent of all teen content on Instagram is #selfies. But it’s still a resource that gets past, present and potential students excited. It’s a tool to show school pride. And it’s something many choose to share on their social media channels—generating even more awareness for the university.

But that’s not all. The end result is branded—displaying the name of the university, the name of the app, the logo and a call to action… one that many have answered. At the beginning of this summer, 2,843 people had already shared their #SpartanSelfie on Instagram.


Lol! Love outdoor!!! #upperpenninsula #puremichigan #waterfall #spartanselfie #msu #gogreen

A photo posted by Tony Zhong (@tonebone19) on


So, could a mobile app benefit your school’s brand? We’d be willing to bet on it. A recent study shows that Americans spend 162 minutes on their mobile device every day, and 86 percent of that time is spent using apps. Isn’t it time yours was one of them?

Read more: University Marketing 101: 4 colleges connecting with co-eds.

University Marketing 101: Centennial College proves print ads still have potential.

If you work in the advertising industry, you know print ads in magazines and newspapers have been on a steady decline since 2007. Marketers are increasingly turning to mobile, social and digital—anything their audience can access in just a few clicks. And while print may not be one of those avenues, that doesn’t mean it can’t be effective.

Centennial College—a school in Canada home to about 18,000 full-time students, 20,000 part-time students and 150 programs across 40 fields of study—ran a series of print ads promoting the school to potential students.

They were fun. They were honest. They were relatable. But most importantly, they let their target audience know they see potential in them (and, inadvertently in print advertising!). And that’s a pretty powerful message.

Instead of recognizing the school itself—campus, professors, programs—the ads recognize that everyone has greatness within them. And whoever you want to be, whatever you want to do, Centennial College is the place for that greatness to shine.

How can you help your college or university shine? Try Centennial’s approach. Don’t talk about your school. Talk to your potential students. Because when you put your students in the spotlight, instead of just your school, you might be surprised.

Read more: University Marketing 101: 4 colleges connecting with co-eds.

University Marketing 101: 4 colleges connecting with co-eds.

Did you know there are almost 3,000 four-year colleges in the U.S.? Each year, more than 21 million high school students are expected to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending one of them—but, which one? And how will they choose?

With so many schools to choose from, it’s crucial that colleges and universities have a successful marketing strategy in place. And from what we can tell, some of the best strategies for the higher education market include a mix of traditional and digital media.

university marketing

1. Print

We know what you’re thinking. The idea of print advertising can sound dull and dated. But if your concept is strong enough—if it’s creative, clever and compelling, it can work.  

2. Mobile Apps

Today, more than 85 percent of Millennials own a mobile device, and a recent study shows that Americans spend 162 minutes on it every day. Of that time, 86 percent is spent using apps.

3. Viral Videos

YouTube reaches almost 50 percent of the 18 to 34-year-old population—more than any cable network. But that’s not all. An astonishing 98 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds reported using their smartphone on a daily basis to consume video content.

4. Social Media

Five out of six Millennials connect with brands on social media, and they’re active on almost all of the channels. According to Pew Research Center, 87 percent of people ages 18 to 29 use Facebook, 53 percent use Instagram, 37 percent use Twitter and 34 percent use Pinterest.

In the next four blogs in this series, we’ll explore these clever strategies more thoroughly. Meanwhile, have you spied a higher education ad campaign that’s worth sharing? Tell us in the comments below.

10 tips for students looking to get a job in an advertising creative department.

You’d think in an era of social networking, it would be easier to find a job. But I meet young people all the time struggling to find where they fit in and how to get their foot in the door. And I remember those days at the University of Notre Dame, when I decided I wanted to be a copywriter, searching through the Agency Red Book, trying to get internships, mailing clever things to agencies to get their attention. So here are 10 helpful tips that I have to pass on to aspiring agency creatives.

  1. Be creative. If you want a job in creative, do not follow a so-called professional resume format. I have seen resumes on paper napkins and on video. Be different if you want to break through.
  2. Study award-winning campaigns. Get award books like the One Show and Communication Arts Advertising Annuals. While you can find great award-winning creative online at places like Ads of the World, I think buying old versions of these books on is a great thing to have, to understand what makes a campaign and what makes it great.
  3. Learn the business. Seek opportunities (in class and out) to learn the business and add to your portfolio. Invent clients, do spec or do real ads for families and friends. The best way to get hired is to have a great book!
  4. Intern. Intern. Intern. I had two internships before I landed a full-time job. So pursue internships whether free or paid—but only at places where you like the work they do and know you can learn from their talent. Agencies like to try before they buy. An internship at your dream agency could lead to a better future than one at a mediocre one.
  5. Choose wisely. Big agencies are a great place to start as they hire more people more often. But at a mid-size shop like ours an intern could do web ads, social media, radio and get a shot at TV. Think about what fits you and your career goals.
  6. Brand yourself. Make your own brand speak uniquely through your website, business card, resume and guerilla. And be consistent with that unique quality that differentiates you from the pool of other aspiring creative. I have sent funny things to agencies over the years to get noticed. Attach a web video to your resume. Or try snail mail because in the digital world it’s a better way to break through and be noticed.
  7. Understand it’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for an agency. So research different agencies online and through the Agency Red Book at the library so you can talk intelligently at interviews and show them how you could move their business forward.
  8. Be patient and persistent. Understand Creative Directors and Creative Recruiters are busy. If they don’t get back to you, it’s most likely because it’s not a priority to them at that time. Find the Associate Creative Director or a Senior Copywriter or Art Director to glean info from. Any connection that can give you insight. Name drop their name (“So and so said to call you”) to get you to that next level. Stay visible so when they do need to hire, you make the list.
  9. Network. Join ad clubs. Freelance for local chambers of commerce. Friend people you admire on LinkedIn. Blog. Vlog. Increase your SEO. No contact is ever wasted.
  10. Stay positive! It takes time to get with the agencies you really admire but persistence eventually will pay off.

Those are the real secrets to getting a job in advertising as a creative. Take it from me, the school of life is more educating than even the best universities. Let me know if this helps. Or if there are any other tips that a young creative should try. Best of luck to you!

Will Create For Chocolate

Social media: coming to a school near you?

Is traditional going to become non-traditional media?  Well it seems that the ever-evolving social media is the latest and greatest form of marketing and advertising.  Newspaper is close to extinction, TV and cable spots can be fast-forwarded and people are tuning into satellite radio. I went to MSU’s career fair earlier this week.  All the students were familiar with social media and a few of them seemed to have a better grasp on it than others.  What I’m really trying to say is -  it should become a staple class among advertising college courses today.  And it should be integrated into media buying courses as well.

I know it changes daily  - but that’s the purpose of classroom discussions.  Keeping it fresh!

RIP Print

Universities are here in full force.

Marketing efforts, for colleges and universities, have resulted in a media battleground lately.  From career retraining to post-grad degrees, one can see how competitive it’s become – just from driving down the freeway or listening to the radio.

The University of Toledo has found ways to change the rules of the game by capturing Michigan students’ attention and enrollment by making out-of-state schools an affordable option.  UT offers scholarships to the Michigan student who meets a certain criteria. These students are able to go to an out-of-state school without paying the out-of-state fee (and those fees can be almost double the cost per credit hour). This incentive makes UT a viable option and a true part of the competitive set.  A message that stands out using mediums fit for the target – a perfect combination.


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