Oh the times, they are a-changin’. Every year during the holidays, companies look for new ways to reach their audiences. Well, here we are, approaching the holiday season and WOW, have things changed since the last time we sat on Santa’s lap.

If we time travel just ten years back and think about holiday advertising, what comes to mind? Television ads (those Coca-Cola Polar Bears!), email marketing (that early-on Hotmail account…) and basic online/print magazine ads (and their oh-so-wonderful catalog counterparts – see JCPenney’s, below). In fact, we found an article from 2005 that says “If you want to ensure the best visibility for your advertisers this holiday season, you’d better contact publishers and submit RFPs (define) now.” Although pitching is still a very useful tool, it is no longer the only option.



Fast forward to today. We have multiple social media platforms, ads pop up on our screens based on what we’ve recently searched, and admen are able to completely understand big data and use it to target consumers on micro levels. These are the tricks of the contemporary trade, and – seem it trick or treat – what brands will be employing this holiday season.

Over the weekend, AdWeek updated us with the best way to reach consumers this holiday season. Two words: Programmatic Ads. Marketing Land defines the concept as such:

“In a nutshell, programmatic advertising automates the decision-making process of where ads are placed, using artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time bidding (RTB) for online display, mobile and video campaigns — and it’s making inroads into TV and social media, too.”

AdWeek reports that about 50% of consumers are down to have their personal information shared and used to provide them with better shopping experiences. The time is ticking, so major brands better get on board with such marketing intelligence or they might risk falling behind. So, ‘tis the season of spending! Thus, ‘tis the season for targeted consumer outreach.

When we started CBC nearly 16 years ago Jim Mullen, the legendary founder of Mullen Advertising and our former employer, gave us some advice. It was simple, and prophetic.

“Sell against advertising,” said the man who in 1976 started and built one of the most creative and iconoclastic ad agencies in America. He was sensing change in the air. In how we relate to brands, how they relate to us and the role of culture in the life of a brand.

So imagine who we thought of when reading that another legendary founder of another legendary ad agency, Chuck Porter of Crispin Porter (nee Bogusky) yesterday declared at an industry conference, “The war is dead, PR won.” For many years, he said, his company has been trying to think “more like a PR agency than a traditional ad agency” in order to create campaigns that generate buzz and engage with consumers.

“We realized the best buzz came from non-paid media,” Porter said, pointing to the campaign introducing the Mini Cooper in the US, in which the agency placed cars on top of SUVs and drove them around. “The client drove along with us, and by the end they said, ‘We don’t know how to measure this but everywhere we went people took pictures of us.’ .”

We agree. Whether it’s a campaign with “ad-like objects” (such as Rockport Shoes or TomTom or Garnet Hill), or the experiential CBC House programs, or something in between, the secret sauce to all our work at CBC lies in our PR roots and orientation. Because PR people think in terms of sharing (we need journalists to ‘share’ our story), this orientation is better suited for today’s marketing realities (aka, subtle and substantive) than traditional ad mentality. HOWEVER, PR people can’t produce visually compelling campaigns. The key is GREAT positioning and creative to push through earned channels (not simply media relations). Do that, and the brand idea will resonate and change minds and disrupt in the best possible way.

Is the war really dead? Who knows. But the rules sure have changed and they’re never going back.

Looking for a way to get people hooked on your story? Just make them wish they were a kid again. This was PlayStation’s latest tactic in the launch of their ad campaign for a new game: Star Wars Battlefront. Deemed the Ad of the Day by AdWeek this past Tuesday, the commercial takes you through every stage of your childhood Star Wars fandom (lightsaber battles included, of course).

Following the release of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie trailer during this week’s Monday night football, PlayStation took viewers one step further back into kid-dom. And we think it worked.

Aside from Star Wars being an ultimate classic to those of us “vintage” enough to have caught the originals come through theaters, the Playstation ad speaks to all generations, cultivating that nostalgic feeling of playing pretend as a child. From Halloween dress-up to the (more adult) feeling of wishing you could hop on a hovercraft and fly out of work on a slow day – PlayStation’s got it covered.

Not only has the gaming company recreated relatable and iconic moments with the advertisement, but they have also launched a supplement to the campaign: a purchasable bundle package featuring a one-of-a-kind PS4 system branded with Darth Vader and the Star Wars logo.


All right, let’s bring it “back” to the future. Using feelings of nostalgia as a marketing tactic is a creative way to get people emotionally involved, and translating that campaign idea across all product platforms (as PlayStation did with their branded repackaging) only serves to further generate feelings of commitment and the desire to come back for more. Plus, who doesn’t love a good reason to celebrate #TBT!? Consumer’s value feeling connected to brands, and a blast from the past connects them to the “good ol’ days” and – when the endeavor is successful – to the brand itself.

Have you ever wasted your afternoon trying to figure out how to get something you need from point A to point B? (That box you got delivered to work, lo and behold, is too heavy to carry on the train? That shirt you took from your roommate that he really, really, really needs at the apartment NOW?!) Yep, us too – and it seems we’re not the only ones.

This past week Uber launched UberRUSH, a same-day delivery service that is being pilot tested in three major cities, and is being pushed as a business-to-consumer asset. As Uber released in a statement Wednesday, “today with the launch of UberRUSH, every business in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco has the power to get customers what they want, when they want it.”Screen-Shot-2015-10-16-at-3.54.36-PM-300x199


UberRush allows businesses to make faster, more reliable deliveries that, in turn, save consumers extra “tedious” trips to places such as the grocery store. For now, the service is targeted towards small businesses. For example, through UberRUSH, local or smaller-scale restaurants with lesser capacities for delivery teams can outsource delivery and get their customers food faster, preserving more time for in-house clientele.Screen-Shot-2015-10-16-at-4.04.54-PM-300x228


Will UberRUSH be a disruptive market force against companies like UPS and FedEx? Although UberRUSH does not deliver nationwide just yet, we anticipate them stealing a bit of attention from these now “old school” delivery companies in their trial cities. For example, when ordering something online from a local retail shop, consumers who want same-day delivery would have the ability to choose the UberRUSH delivery option. Consumers will then be able to track their product, every step of the 30-minute way. Say goodbye to “3 to 5 business days.”Screen-Shot-2015-10-16-at-4.04.27-PM-159x300


Uber made a name for itself by finding ways to meet consumers’ needs where traditional business models were falling flat. And the brand epitomizes contemporary corporate movement: action-based and willing to make daring moves across traditional business-identity “boundaries” (who’d have thought a taxi service would be delivering roses on Valentine’s Day!?). Will the old school players prevail amidst the force of this new school juggernaut? Only time (and with UberRUSH, we may all have a lot more of it) will tell.


Holiday shopping this year will be quicker and easier than ever, with the increased number of social media platforms introducing ‘shop-able’ posts and functions. Instagram pioneered the trend, announcing last summer that that they were granting companies the privilege of posting ads that appear on feeds. For the first time, this allowed links to take users outside of the app to buy the products in the photo they’re used to so routinely scrolling past.



Pinterest quickly followed suit with their ‘buyable pins,’ which enabled users to search for products within specified parameters, such as price range and color. As a result, retailers could drive sales straight from their posts.


The newest addition to the convenience-shopping rat race is YouTube. The video platform is rolling out new ad products that will allow any video to become shop-able. This is especially beneficial for brands that have numerous ‘review’ or ‘unboxing’ videos for their products. Previously, brands could only add this function to their own created videos, but the new feature allows them to link from eligible videos, regardless of the creator, through an auction for the ad space. [Source]PICTURE-1-300x225



With the constantly increasing use of mobile devices, platforms are taking advantage of the time millennials spend on social and networking apps. The data accrued from active users allows companies to better target and market to their consumers. (People have even been matched with pizza on the dating app Tindr!). Social media has become integrated into lives and routines, and for some millennials, they can’t remember a time when social media did not exist. Even now, the social media landscape is becoming more visual-based, with Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook at the forefront of this trend. People are spending more time sharing this visual content than they are creating it. Thus, it’s no surprise that companies are focusing their efforts on creating a quick and seamless transition from daily media “checks” to – you got it – sales.


Society has seen a surge in celebrities-turned-digital-mavericks, such as the recent launch of the Kardashian apps and Ashton Kutcher’s new role on Shark Tank. While we might expect such a move from the enterprising Kardashian klan, there have been other, more subtle celebrity efforts to become involved with commerce, business, and social media.

Flashback to 2007’s Gossip Girl, which became immediately famous for fashion, much like Sex and the City had decades earlier; characters were not only on-trend, but trend-setting.



After the show’s 2012 finale, Blake Lively continued her character’s legacy and remained a style icon. In July 2014, she launched Preserve, a lifestyle website with corresponding social media accounts consisting of handmade wares and clothing designed in part by the actress. (Gwyneth Paltrow can perhaps be credited with the celebrity lifestylepreneur trend, having launched Goop back in 2008.). Gossip Girl fans were optimistic and envisioned Lively’s website as a place where they could get the inside scoop on all things “Serena”.

Why then, did Lively just announce that she is shutting down the site? What went wrong?

The most successful aspect of Lively’s new business was not the goods for sale, but was, in fact, her personal Instagram account. (On it, Lively frequently featured herself in Preserve pieces.) Perhaps, though, her consumers were looking for that and only that – the continued persona of the character of Blake Lively (and, in turn, her Gossip Girl counterpart) –but nothing more.

The trajectory of the website highlights the importance of strategically growing a brand image in direct accordance with its products and offerings, and, likewise, ensuring that the target consumer (if “the consumer” is what the company depends on) is in line with them both.

Not to get too sappy here, but we’re sad to see Preserve go. We’re not too worried about Blake Lively, though, for what she’s excelled at the most – her Instagram account and the quippy, genuine, personable “Blake Lively” brand that shines through it – lives on.