OTA Sessions: Sure, I’ll Go.

Anytime we get an e-mail from our Certified Advertologist with the phrase “and the company will pay for it”, it gets my attention. This time the offer was for an all day OTA session at $150 a head so I was all for it. Plus, what I knew about social media and a connected world was that I didn’t know enough.

My personal experience on the subject began about a year ago at the request of a few of the Corazón soccer players who suggested that I join facebook. I did and soon had about 20 friends. The frightening part was that most of them were 14-year old girls. I was expecting a call from the authorities at any moment.

Soon after that, (to the chagrin of the facebook youth of America) the baby boomers
signed on. I’m up to 98 friends, most are adults, and we are all social networking away in a world that is changing by the minute.

At the OTA the first change I noted was the wardrobe of our industry prophets. Not that long ago, experts in our field would have been in a suit and tie, speaking to an audience clad in dark suits looking like they were at secret service convention. Today’s visionaries need only Levis, t-shirts, hoodies and sneakers to deliver compelling information about an environment where the opportunities to deliver one-to-many messages are quickly fading.

A more meaningful change is one that Julien Smith discussed. He talked about the new channels that don’t require transmitters or printing presses. The next night while discussing the day’s soccer games and other high level subject matter, one of the soccer moms shared a perfect example of what Smith was speaking about. When the O’Gorman Knights won the state boys basketball championship in Rapid City while she was at an event in Sioux Falls, the news came instantly via a text message. She didn’t have to wait to find out during a sportscast “right after these messages”. Instead, her husband became the media channel and there wasn’t a 2,000-foot tower or a gross rating point involved. What we take for granted is amazing when you think about it.

Who would ever have thought that our mission would turn to building tribes? Or that a group of people, the size of South Dakota, would join facebook every day? Or that someone would actually take the time to document how the country is feeling based on comments that we post on the web? It was an eye-opening day.

And who would have thought that we could have such a great line-up of industry leaders on stage right here at the Orpheum? It was a great OTA. Kudos, and thank you, to Hugh Weber for his courage and energy to bring this day together. Thank you to all of the guest presenters for bringing their stories to South Dakota in an enlightening and interesting way. And thank you Sioux Falls for turning out and supporting an event like this with your attendance.

I’m looking forward to next year…and you know what? Sure, I’ll be thrilled to go.

– Leigh Anglin

Enjoy Your Vacation? Thank a Business Traveler.

As I’m returning from a business trip, I see a lot of families either going or coming from a vacation. You recognize the ear-to-ear smiles, beach-purchased straw hats, random beaded-braids in their hair and the proudly displayed ski lift passes. The business travelers wear a somber look with their business attire as they diligently set their sport coats and laptops in the bins at security.

But there is another, much larger difference that you can’t see. It’s on their credit card receipts. The seats on the airplane enjoyed by mom, dad and 2.4 kids were purchased months ago at a deep discount. The business traveler in the next row paid three or four or more times that amount for her seat. Even though the business traveling road warriors rack up many more miles, they usually pay the highest fares.

The rental car for mom, dad and the 2.4 kids? They get big discounts for weekend or full-week rentals. On my trip I was charged $130 per day for a Hyundai. Over the course of two days I traveled about 60 miles between the airport, two clients and the hotel. The total bill with $80 of taxes and fees was about $340. That’s more than $5.50 per mile. As I was booking my rental car, the company proudly flaunted weekend rates of $49 per day. Same car, but since they knew I was on business, I was charged more.

I tried to stay at a nice hotel where my wife and I have spent many weekends for $79 or $89 a night, but the weekday/business traveler rate was $200 a night online or the “lowest price” of $150 on the phone. I stayed across the street at a “budget hotel” for $89 a night. I’ve seen their weekend rates at $49. But I’m traveling on business, so no discount rates for me.

I know I’m not the first to complain about this business versus pleasure travel dichotomy, but I stared thinking about what would happen if my clients treated their customers the same? Or I if billed differently for my clients based on whether they were selling to consumers or other businesses? I’d be out of business.

Take our long-time client Applebee’s. Could you imagine walking into a restaurant and being asked “Will this be a business or personal lunch?” If you say business—or worse yet they assume you’re on a business lunch because it’s a weekday and you’re wearing a sport coat—you are handed a special menu with prices two to five times higher than the mom and kids who walked in behind you. I don’t think I’d stay at that restaurant.

After September 11, 2001 business travel was cut dramatically and the airlines and rental car companies were hit hard. And cutbacks in car rentals meant fewer cars purchased by Avis and the others. That put more pressure on Detroit’s already ailing car industry.

Should the travel industry make all of their profit on the backs of business travelers? Or what would the airlines look like if every seat cost the same regardless of whether you were wearing a business suit or Hawaiian shirt? Would that encourage more business people to travel? Some airlines like Allegiant and Southwest eliminate classes on airplanes, democratizing the skies. But from Sioux Falls, if I take Allegiant on my upcoming trip to LA I have to arrive 2 days early and stay 2 days longer. Allegiant is built for leisure travel. You don’t see many suits on their flights.

Should we have flat pricing for travel or let the business traveler subsidize your flight and hotel? On one hand I hate getting paying outrageous prices when I travel for work, but I love finding the discounts for the long weekend away.

What do you think?

– Jim Mathis

Welcome to Twenty Ten!

I know this blog post is slightly off topic. It’s not really about advertising, but really about communication in general, so bear with me.

Welcome to 2010. That’s twenty ten, not two-thousand ten or two-thousand and ten. And please, don’t say “oh-ten.” I heard that the other day and I cringed.

My reason for saying twenty-ten is simple. For the last millennium we have said it that way. The last century was the “nineteens” and what comes after nineteen? Twenty.

History is filled with examples of the correct pronunciation. With the Magna Carta, King John was required to give rights to men. That was in Twelve Fifteen. In grade school we all learned the rhyme “in Fourteen Ninety-Two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Our country courageously declared our independence from England in Seventeen Seventy-six, not One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-six.  And back in the eighties, Prince helped us party like it was Nineteen Ninety-Nine.

A few brave and respected journalists have been using this method from Twenty Oh One right through Twenty Oh Nine. Venerable radio broadcaster and host of Sunday Morning on CBS, Charles Osgood has lead the charge. When all around him people were stumbling over “two-thousand and something”, he stuck to his guns.

And Charles and I are not alone. The National Association of Good Grammar has our back. “NAGG has decided to step in and decree that (2010) should officially be pronounced ‘twenty ten,’ and all subsequent years should be pronounced as ‘twenty eleven,’ ‘twenty twelve,’ etc.,”

But the decision to say the years this way is not a new one. Back in 1969 (that’s nineteen sixty-nine, for those of you playing along at home) a couple of one-hit wonders from Lincoln, Nebraska had us (or at least our moms and dads) singing “In the Year 2525”. And Zagar & Evans would never had a number 1 hit if they’d been singing “In the year twenty-five thousand and twenty-five.

And this morning, the first one of twenty-ten, I watched the anchors on The Today Show struggle with the verbiage. Most of the time they got it right, a few times they corrected themselves part way through, but when Al Rokerslipped up and said “two-thousand and ten” he got a stern look from one of the other hosts.

And if you’re the kind who can turn his back on logic and reason, can I appeal to your lazy side? Twenty ten is shorter and easier to say. Three syllables instead of five. If you’re the “go green save the earth” type, saying twenty ten takes less energy and by say it, your body produces less carbon monoxide than saying two-thousand and ten. Twenty ten can reduce your carbon footprint!

Every year at this time, we struggle to write the correct year. So I’m throwing out a new challenge, as you forge ahead into the new year, try to stick to twenty ten. Who’s with me?

– Jim Mathis