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Cesar A. Brea bio at Force Five Partners

     

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15 posts categorized "Trip Reports"

July 16, 2013

Please sponsor my 2013 NLG #autism ride: 2007 Ride Recap

On July 27, I'll be riding once again in the annual Nashoba Learning Group bike-a-thon, and I'd really appreciate your support:

http://www.crowdrise.com/nlgbikecesar2013

(Note: please also Like / Retweet / forward to friends, etc. using links at bottom!)

This is a great cause, and an incredibly effective and well-run school.  Your contribution will make a big difference. (And thank you to everyone who'd been so generous so far!)

For kicks, here's my recap of my 2007 ride:

"Friends,

Thank you all for being so generous on such short notice!   

Fresh off a flight from London that arrived in Boston at midnight on Friday, I wheeled myself onto the starting line Saturday morning a few minutes after eight 
.  Herewith, a few journal entries from the ride:

Mile 2:  The 
peloton drops me like a stone.  DopeursNever mind; this breakaway is but  le petit setback.  Where are my domestiques to bring me back to the pack?

Mile 3:  Reality intrudes.  No 
domestiques.  Facing 47 miles' worth of solo quality time, I plot my comeback... 

Mile 10: 1st major climb, L'Alpe de Bolton (MA), a steep, nasty little "beyond classification" grade.  I curse at the crowds pressing in.  'AllezAllez!' they call, like wolves.  A farmer in a Superman cape runs alongside.

Mile 10.25: Mirages disappear in the 95-degree heat.  (First time I've seen the Superman dude, though.  Moral of this story: lay off the British Airways dessert wines the night before a big ride.) 

Mile 10.5: Descending L'Alpe de Bolton, feeling airborne at 35 MPH

Mile 10.50125: Realizing after hitting bump that I am, in fact, airborne.   AAAAARRH!!!

Mile 14: I smell sweet victory in the morning air!

Mile 15:  Realize the smell is actually the Bolton dump

Mile 27: Col d'Harvard (MA).  Mis-shift on steep climb, drop chain off granny ring.  Barely click out of pedal to avoid keeling over, disappointing two buzzards circling overhead. 

Mile 33:  Whip out Blackberry, Googling 'Michael Rasmussen 
soigneurto see if can score some surplus EPO

Mile 40:  I see dead people

Mile 50:  I am, ahem... outsprinted at the finish.  Ride organizers generously grant me 'same time' when they realize no one noticed exactly when I got back."
 

July 20, 2012

Please sponsor me for the 2012 NLG Bike-a-thon, Appeal No. 358: 2007 Ride Recap #Autism

Hi folks, a reminder to please sponsor me for this year's NLG Bike-a-thon!  Here's the link to the donations site.  Below for your reading pleasure is my recap of the 2007 ride.  Thank you!

------------


"Friends,

Thank you all for being so generous on such short notice!   

Fresh off a flight from London that arrived in Boston at midnight on Friday, I wheeled myself onto the starting line Saturday morning a few minutes after eight 
.  Herewith, a few journal entries from the ride:

Mile 2:  The 
peloton drops me like a stone.  DopeursNever mind; this breakaway is but  le petit setback.  Where are my domestiques to bring me back to the pack?

Mile 3:  Reality intrudes.  No
domestiques.  Facing 47 miles' worth of solo quality time, I plot my comeback... 

Mile 10: 1st major climb, L'Alpe de Bolton (MA), a steep, nasty little "beyond classification" grade.  I curse at the crowds pressing in.  'Allez! Allez!' they call, like wolves.  A farmer in a Superman cape runs alongside.

Mile 10.25: Mirages disappear in the 95-degree heat.  (First time I've seen the Superman dude, though.  Moral of this story: lay off the British Airways dessert wines the night before a big ride.) 

Mile 10.5: Descending L'Alpe de Bolton, feeling airborne at 35 MPH

Mile 10.50125: Realizing after hitting bump that I am, in fact, airborne.   AAAAARRH!!!

Mile 14: I smell sweet victory in the morning air!

Mile 15:  Realize the smell is actually the Bolton town dump

Mile 27: Col d'Harvard (MA).  Mis-shift on steep climb, drop chain off granny ring.  Barely click out of pedal to avoid keeling over, disappointing two buzzards circling overhead. 

Mile 33:  Whip out Blackberry, Googling 'Michael Rasmussen 
soigneurto see if can score some surplus EPO

Mile 40:  I see dead people

Mile 50:  I am, ahem... outsprinted at the finish.  Ride organizers generously grant me 'same time' when they realize no one noticed exactly when I got back."
 


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March 12, 2012

#SXSW Trip Report Part 2: Being There

(See here for Part 1)

Here's one summary of the experience that's making the rounds:

 

Missing sxsw

 

I wasn't able to be there all that long, but my impression was different.  Men of all colors (especially if you count tattoos), and lots more women (many tattooed also, and extensively).   I had a chance to talk with Doc Searls (I'm a huge Cluetrain fan) briefly at the Digital Harvard reception at The Parish; he suggested (my words) the increased ratio of women is a good barometer for the evolution of the festival from narcissistic nerdiness toward more sensible substance.  Nonetheless, on the surface, it does remain a sweaty mosh pit of digital love and frenzied networking.  Picture Dumbo on spring break on 6th and San Jacinto.  With light sabers:

 

SXSW light sabers

 

Sight that will haunt my dreams for a while: VC-looking guy, blazer and dress shirt, in a pedicab piloted by skinny grungy student (?) Dude, learn Linux, and your next tip from The Man at SXSW might just be a term sheet.

So whom did I meet, and what did I learn:

I had a great time listening to PRX.org's John Barth.  The Public Radio Exchange aggregates independent content suitable for radio (think The Moth), adds valuable services like consistent content metadata and rights management, and then acts as a distribution hub for stations that want to use it.  We talked about how they're planning to analyze listenership patterns with that metadata and other stuff (maybe gleaning audience demographics via Quantcast) for shaping content and targeting listeners.  He related for example that stations seem to prefer either 1 hour programs they can use to fill standard-sized holes, or two- to seven- minute segments they can weave into pre-existing programs.  Documentary-style shows that weave music and informed commentary together are especially popular.  We explored whether production templates ("structured collaboration": think "Mad Libs" for digital media) might make sense.  Maybe later.

Paul Payack explained his Global Language Monitor service to me, and we explored its potential application as a complement if not a replacement for episodic brand trackers.  Think of it as a more sophisticated and source-ecumenical version of Google Insights for Search.

Kara Oehler's presentation on her Mapping Main Street project was great, and it made me want to try her Zeega.org service (a Harvard metaLAB project) as soon as it's available, to see how close I can get to replicating The Yellow Submarine for my son, with other family members spliced in for The Beatles.  Add it to my list of other cool projects I like, such as mrpicassohead.

Peter Boyce and Zach Hamed from Hack Harvard, nice to meet you. Here's a book that grew out of the class at MIT I mentioned -- maybe you guys could cobble together an O'Reilly deal out of your work!

Finally,  congrats to Perry Hewitt (here with Anne Cushing) and all her Harvard colleagues on a great evening!

 

Perry hewitt anne cushing

 

 

March 11, 2012

#SXSW Trip Report Part 1: The Journey

Arrive Houston late.  Some lady steers my Hertz car out of space 125, toots cheerfully, and is off. (Wonder how she'll persuade the guard: "Yes, I am Cesar Brea...")  I arrange a replacement, and promptly get lost somewhere near Hobby.  

Later:  looking up from the hotel lobby floor is like looking down a shaft on the Death Star.  Thirty stories of beige-brown cantilevered soul-crushing sameness.  Can't sleep.  Accept insomnia, opt for double-header dystopia: the HBO Julianne Moore / Ed Harris / Woody Harrelson docu-drama Game Change about Sarah Palin, then Repo Men.

Morning.  I-290 West, toward Austin; it's  moonsooning.  Vaguely Quixotic: a "Dry-Force Water Removal" van blasts past me doing seventy.  Cattle line up near the road, backsides to the storm, in the bovine manner. 

Who says frontier towns are dead?  They're just spread out more, reflecting today's faster horses.  No horseshoes, but plenty of brake shoes. First Church of Such-and-Such -- still here.   Saloons? Gringo's Tex Mex, with "Latino Fusion".  Doc's specialized, or maybe just re-branded to game insurance billing -- "Drive-in Gynecology Clinic" (really).  Depending on local laws -- or lack of them -- gentlemen's clubs = brothels by another name.  Fireworks - pawn - gold - boots - tack - guns - ammo.  Plus, still plenty of 'tude:

 

We don't dial 911


I cross the Brazos.  (Always wanted to say that.)

"We got all your outdoor needs." Even if those extend to giant welded roosters:

 

Giant welded chicken

 

Obligatory BBQ stop. Chopped BBQ sandwich, slaw, jalapeno at the Lost Pines BBQ in Giddings. Highly recommended for friendly service and great food:

 

 

Lost pines bbq giddings texas

 

 

McDade: two chihuahuas play by the road.

They jump into the traffic.

Doing sixty, I swerve and miss.

The tractor-trailer behind me doesn't.

 

Crosses, mostly singly, sometimes in bunches: "Have you found Jesus?"

Austin, 30 miles: "Do you know Linux?"

 

 

Do you know linux


Part 2: Being There 

October 05, 2011

#MediaPost Future of Media Conference Trip Report

Today I attended Media  Magazine's / MediaPost.com's "Future Of Media" conference in NYC.  NYU hosted the event at its Kimmel Center overlooking Washington Square; after lots of recent events in midtown it was nice to be in the Village for a change, especially on a sunny early-fall day.  To the fortunate folks living in the condo one block south:  admiring your rooftop garden and the sweet library below made for a great conversation starter at breakfast!

Ken Fadner, Joe Mandese, and the MediaPost team assembled a great panel.  Josh Quittner framed his kickoff question with what seems to be the Ur-point of departure for all recent conferences:  Apple's latest announcements.  "Is the future simply "three screens" -- small / smartphone, mid-sized / tablet & PC, large / TV?"  Very quickly, the responses tumbled out. "Yes!  And more: wearables!  Thermostats! Location-based marketing (plus ça change...)! Voice!  Device-based payments! (Biometric access to our devices, for greater security!)  More fragmentation..."

Someone -- I think it was David Verklin -- replied that the answer is to "follow the consumer".  At first it seemed like a bland answer.   But of course it's really the only way you can get a grip on where things are going:  think users and use cases.  Which users, and which of their macro life events and the micro use cases that go along with those, represent the biggest pots of potential value to act as muses for media innovators?  Someone else -- Bob Carrigan? -- suggested that in shaping experiences to address those users and use cases, "convenience trumps quality."  Echoing William Gibson's iconic "The future's already here, it's just not evenly distributed," Maria Luisa Francoli noted that, for example, we're already seeing mobile devices used as a vehicle for payments in Africa.  Riffing on that theme, Beth Comstock predicted that we'd see lots more investment in user experience over raw features in the coming two years.  

Now, the role of the media in shaping what's possible seems even more significant today than 47 years ago.  So Josh naturally segued to ask about what firms would dominate the landscape in the coming years:  "Certainly Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook -- but who else?"  On the one hand, the panel had no specific, answers: no candidate from the MSM world, no mention of Microsoft (stunning, since we still spend so much time with their software), no golden child(ren) from the Web's Third Wave (though Groupon and Zynga did get shout-outs at different points later in the conversation).   On the other, their comments together pointed out that Josh's Big Four all aspired to be platforms that allow others -- ten million, by Bob Pittman's counting I think -- to transform features into experiences that solve for the users and use cases mentioned earlier.  One question left unaddressed is how much of the "profit pool" in this vision of media futures goes to the API builders versus the API users.  From my perspective, it looks like "the stack" metaphor for software strategy now generalizes well to media too.

In the spirit of "You manage what you measure," one of the audience questions had to do with the metrics that will guide our progress toward media's future.  There's consensus, as voiced by Brian Monahan, that The Age of Sampling is passing, and The Age of Big Data is upon us.  David Verklin told a good story (even if it sounded slightly apocryphal, and his math seemed slightly off): "CNBC ratings recently went down 15%.  Why?  Two guys turned 55.  What could that possibly mean??  Well, the CNBC ratings panel tracks men 25-54 with certain other characteristics.  The panel had 32 people.  Two of those guys turned 55..."  Swimming briefly against the tide, Bob Pittman counselled "Some of this metrics stuff goes the wrong direction, you gotta help clients think like marketers.  When I ran Six Flags, I told my park managers, 'You have unlimited marketing budgets -- just give me a return.'"   Maria Luisa Francoli disagreed, pointing to attribution analysis as the way forward.  Pittman replied, "True, but that tends to drive you to direct marketing, "  She naturally countered, pointing out attribution analysis' whole premise is to put brand and direct investments on a common currency.   (For me, it's not whether you pursue greater accountability, but how...)

Josh: "Is social networking a fad?" Consensus answer: the genie's out of the bottle, the challenge is that social media is "broad but not very deep" in terms of how relationships are conducted and maintained there. David to Josh: "How many 'friends' do you really have?"  For me, behind this question, crucial to media firms and advertisers trying to capitalize on viral dynamics, is the question of how each of us "filter" the digital world, and of better filters as a worthy avenue toward media futures (the subject of the post I contributed to the conference blog).

What did I miss?  What's your synthesis?  Again, thanks for a great session.

 

#MediaPost "Future of Media" Conference in NYC Today

I'm at Media Magazine's / MediaPost's "Future of Media" conference at NYU's Kimmel Center today. (I contributed this post to the conference blog last week.)  Please say hi!  Trip report to follow.

July 26, 2011

Trip Report: Nashoba Learning Group 50 Mile Bike-a-thon / Saturday, July 23 #autism

This past weekend Cadel Evans rode to glorySo did I.  Let's review the bidding:

  • Cadel hammered until his quads burned.  I only had to tap lightly to achieve the same effect, and it took me many fewer miles.  Edge to Cesar.
  • He struggled on L'Alpe d'Huez, with only two more fans (worried-looking at that) to urge him ahead than I had on L'Alpe d'Old Bay Road (Bolton, Massachusetts).   No one photographed my agony and stuck it on Flickr.  Another pour moi.
  • To help him recover, Cadel had paid soigneurs massage his aching thighs.  I worked my cramps out myself.  Tossup I think, depending on whether you're frugal, or into the whole spa thing.
  • On the winner's podium, a lovely model handed him his stuffed lion.  When I rolled in, my lovely wife handed me a turkey sandwich.  It was a good sandwich, and Cadel's a little old for toys like that, no?  Advantage me.
  • Upon his victory, his domestiques cheered him.  At the end of my ride, William gave me a big smile and asked me to jump in the pool with him.  No contest.

Thank you once again to all our wonderful friends who were so generous again this year.  Regardless of whether your primary motivation was to support an incredibly worthy school, or to see me ride 50 + miles (including a wrong turn in West Concord) in 90-degree heat (and we both know who you are), we are very grateful!

October 15, 2010

Extending Marketing Integration to Agencies: The "Agency API" @rwlord #rzcs

My friends at Razorfish kindly invited me to their client summit in Boston this week.  It was a great event; they and their clients are working on some pretty cool stuff.  Social is front and center.  Close behind: lots of interesting touch / surface computing innovations (Pranav Mistry from the MIT Media Lab really blew our minds). 

In his opening comments Wednesday, Razorfish CEO Bob Lord made the point that for modern marketing to be effective it's got to be integrated across silos of course; but, further, that this has to extend to having agencies work together effectively on behalf of their clients, as much as clients responsible for different channels and functions need to themselves.

I've been wondering about this as well recently, and Bob's comments prompted me to write up some notes.

One observation is that *if* marketers are addressing agency collaboration, they usually start with an *organizational* solution that brings agencies together from time to time.   While this is great, it's insufficient.  To make entities like these effective, it helps to lay a foundation that *registers* and *reconciles* different aspects of what agencies have and do for their clients.  This foundation, realized through a simple, cheap tool like Basecamp if not the marketer's own intranet system, could include:

  • a data registry.  Agencies executing campaigns on behalf of their clients end up controlling data sets (display ad impressions and clicks, email opens, TV ratings, focus group / panel results) that are crucial to understanding the performance of marketing investments, but are typically beyond the scope of what IT's "enterprise data architectures" encompass.  I'm not suggesting that agencies need to ship this data to their clients; rather, that they simply register what's collected, who's got it, and how a client can get it if needed.
  • an insight registry.  Agency folks crunch data into fancy powerpoints bearing the insights on which campaign decisions get made.  It would be very helpful if these decks were tagged and linked from the appropriately-permissioned online workspace.
  • a campaign registry.  Think http://adverblog.com, only for the marketer's own (and perhaps direct competitors') campaigns of any stripe.  A place to put creative briefs and link to campaign assets / executions that implement them.

These approaches are simple, cheap, and "many hands make light work".  Implementing them collectively as a marketer's "Agency API" would help marketers and agencies to "reconcile" their work, in the following ways:

  • discover campaign conflicts and integration opportunities
  • unpack possible disagreements into manageable bites to resolve -- data conflicts, insight conflicts, analytic technique conflicts, creative brief conflicts
  • better prepare in advance of "interagency council" meetings

Of course the registries are not a panacea for inter-agency "issues" that a marketer needs to sort through, but they help to make any problematic issues more transparent and straightforward to focus on.  

Please take the poll below.  Reactions / suggestions welcome from folks with relevant experience!

 

January 22, 2010

Marketing Zeitgeist: Winter 2010 #amab

Call me Ishmael.  Wednesday night I was on the tip of Boston's Fish Pier, attending the AMA Boston chapter's first panel of the year at the Exchange Conference Center. The title of the event was "Marketing 2010: What CMOs Are Saying".   Panelists included Harpoon Brewery's EVP of Marketing Charles Storey, Dancing Deer Bakery's VP of Direct-to-Consumer Marketing Scott Miller, and Philips Healthcare VP of Global Communications Frank McGillin.  Collectively they represented a useful cross-section of the B2C-B2B spectrum.

Myles Bristowe, the chapter president and an old acquaintance from ArsDigita days, moderated.  Myles' first question was "How has the economy affected your marketing plans for the coming year?"  The consensus answer I heard, channeling Stephen Stills, was to "Love The One You're With."  Charlie talked about increasing purchasing frequency among folks who know Harpoon and are brew-istas.  Scott described plans to de-seasonalize their business by positioning DD products as gifts for occasions beyond end-of-year holidays, and to invest in database technology to do a better job of personalization ("It's worse to do personalization poorly than not at all.")  And Frank talked about how Philip's event-focused strategy would focus less on tallying leads and evaluating events as lead sources per se, and more on the quality of engagement of interactions (online and off), trusting that this will prove a better indication of the efficiency and effectiveness of their investment in pricey events.

In answer to where they are increasing and decreasing their spend, the panelists presented an interesting duality, combining a "going to the mattresses" reliance on channels they know and love (Harpoon and Philips both rely heavily on events) and a forward-looking focus on integrating the cross-channel experience.  Charlie talked about Harpoon's intent to "cut in new channels and go back to the core [events]", describing their marketing strategy as "experiential" (focused on music festivals, road races, bike races, and the like) with support for "enthusiast activities with a social component" where they could use social media to reinforce the investment in the event itself.  Further, Charlie talked about the importance of documenting these experiences -- storytelling -- to reinforce and extend the impact of the events themselves on brand affinity.  Frank talked about how Philips is working to ensure that they are trying to "get better synergy across channels, by understanding customer segments and their purchasing experiences."  Scott described how DD's D2C average order value and conversion rates are much higher in areas where thay have a presence in grocery stores, and how they are re-focusing on "harvesting cross-channel affinity" by targeting their outbound D2C investments into geographies where they have a wholesale presence / store distribution. 

More generally, Scott talked about how the ebbs and flows of supply and demand are also affecting where they put their marginal dollars.  He described how a couple of years ago, surging postage and printing costs had pushed them away from physical catalogs and toward email but also SEM in particular.  However, more recently, popular keywords have been bid up to the point where that channel has become less attractive on the margin.  Meanwhile, affiliates have matured to the point where they can be relied on more, and, related, Scott's seeing major ROI in their SEO investments -- every dollar invested there has
produced $95 in revenue.  Throughout, direct marketing generally and email specifically "still work".  As for social media, his experience so far has been that it's useful for supporting the brand, but it's not yet accountable enough to be looked to as a monetization mainstay.

Speaking of social media, Charlie and Frank echoed Scott's sentiment.  Charlie noted that Harpoon still relies primarily on a high-five figure house list for its email newsletter as the get-the-word-out cake, and its so-far-more-organic social media efforts as frosting.  Frank talked about how for Philips, their main investment so far in social media has been more focused on listening in established communities such as Sermo and Facebook's "Innovations In Health" group, rather than "trying to build the world's biggest online community of MRI enthusiasts."  In particular, he noted there's a genuineness of the feedback you get in these settings that the artificiality of focus groups and surveys tends to suppress.  And Scott talked about how DD is trying to "recycle" the listening it does through its call center's conversations with customers, where "everyone's got a cookie story -- 'I just want you to know that Grandma had one of your brownies just before she passed!'" to do online justice to this organic brand advocacy they're hearing everyday.

Another question concerned how measurable they find / are trying to make their marketing, and what that's meant to their business.  Scott described DD as very analytically driven, telling a story about how insights have transformed their business.  he described how they had observed that 92% of their orders were "ship-to-someone-other-than-buyer".  This helped them conclude that they weren't really a bakery, as the founders perceived, but a gift retailer.  So, they stopped taking pictures of the cakes, and started taking pictures of the packages for their catalogs! (Very memorable "data is the new creative" example, IMHO.)

The panelists were asked about the degree to which they are pursuing finer-grained measurement, and how much they are using testing.  Interestingly, they suggested that there were both cost and utility limits to what they could do.  Charlie noted that being two layers away from the customer made measurement beyond profit per case-equivalent a very expensive proposition for them. As for testing, Scott noted that with most of their sales concentrated in a very tight seasonal window, testing carried high risks that didn't rule it out, but made them more conservative about what to try.  Nonetheless, he noted that given the ease of fielding some tests they are now able to adjust what they do within this tight holiday window if they start very early -- right after Thanksgiving this year, for example.

I asked what campaigns by others they found memorable and gave them ideas for their own marketing.  All three panelists mentioned good ones. I liked Frank's best: he described how, before and during a major snowstorm, Volvo Boston had sent email weather advisories and reminders about topping up on windshield fluid.  Great example of indirect brand building through a useful service.

Afterward I chatted briefly with Paul Regensburg, President of Rain Castle Communications, which recently helped Unica re-launch its brand.  Paul noted a slightly less breathless tenor about "new channels" among the panelists than you'd expect if all you read were the trades.  We agreed that it's always different to hear directly from practitioners, especially when you ask them about everything they're grappling with rather than any particular channel effort or campaign.  The calibration was really useful.

(Finally, congratulations to Myles and his volunteer colleagues for the great work they've done building the Boston chapter to be the fourth largest of 78 in the country.  Last night's event drew well over 100 people, not bad for a frosty January weeknight.  Myles noted that 30% of ticket sales for the event
had come from their viral "Tweets For Seats" Program.)

December 22, 2009

New Year's Resolutions, 2010, Part I: Less Is More

Tony Haile was my gracious host last week for a short visit to Betaworks in Manhattan's meatpacking district.  Fascinating conversation (Thanks Tony!), more about that in a separate post to follow. 

Across the street from Betaworks' offices was this sign:

 IMG01101-1

Hit me like a ton of bricks (no irony).  My gold standard for trying boil down what I'm doing -- and for that matter what anyone else I'm working with is doing:

  • Clarity -- it's veal.
  • "Promise" -- not just veal: quality veal.
  • Accountability -- got a beef?  Talk to Dave.
  • Brevity -- more questions?  Knock on #425.
Probably not the same epiphany for you as it was for me, and Seth Godin's got nothing to worry about to be sure, but nonetheless a high signal-to-noise moment for me given what's been on my mind.  Hope to use it to full effect in the new year.