We’re at the cusp of an amazing cultural shift: the majority of women under 40 within 10 years will be better educated and better paid than men of equal age.

That means that the role of women‘s advocacy organizations in business is not only to strive for equality; it’s to help women prepare for the burdens of leadership.

Stark, but true.

Two recent data points help to support this assertion. The first is the disproportionate number of advanced degrees that women are earning in relation to men. Mark Perry of Carpe Diem shared a chart recently that shows that 139 women in the 25-29 year old group hold an advanced degree for every 100 men in that age group.

Perry also dug into the numbers related to equal pay and found that younger women are earning nearly on parity with men of the same age.

But for single workers who have never been married, the BLS reports that women made 94.2 percent as much money as their male counterparts in 2008. Equal Pay Day would fall on January 22 for these single females, almost three months earlier than the official, unadjusted Equal Pay Day of April 20 for all women. For a separate BLS category of single workers, those with “no children under 18 years old and whose marital status includes never married, divorced, separated and widowed,” women earned 95.6 percent as much as their male counterparts in 2008. Equal Pay Day for that group of single female workers would fall even earlier, on January 19, only a few weeks into the year.

The purpose of these data points isn’t to devalue the generations-long work to give women equal opportunity. It’s to acknowledge that it’s an appropriate time for the focus to shift.

I was struck by this recently when I found myself at a cocktail party hosted by The White House Project the evening before its Epic Awards Gala in New York.

The room was filled with a diverse group of notable and remarkable women, not the least of whom was Marie Wilson, one of the founders of The White House Project. The purpose of the organization is to prepare and present women for positions of leadership; Wilson believes that if women can fill one-third of the leadership positions in government and business, then the national dialogue would shift dramatically…and for the better.

I was at the cocktail party because of my relationship with a notable woman; my wife Tami recently joined to the corporate council of The White House Project. The video below from the Epic Awards gives you a brief feel for what TWHP does.

As the cocktail party wound down, I spent a little time talking with a very passionate and engaging woman from Texas who is spearheading recognition of the anniversary of the 19th Amendment. She is an executive with a large technology company and spoke about how, just as she is entering the prime of her career, she’s confronted with the decision of whether or not to continue to commit time and energy to an organization that can’t advance women.

I probed around that point: What is it that keeps your company from becoming an attractive place to build a career?

“They don’t know what to do with us,” she said.

Her comment wasn’t colored with bravado, resentment or frustration. She was as puzzled by the organization’s inability to know what to do with a talented, ambitious woman as she believes the organization is puzzled by her.

Over my career, I’ve worked with very successful and effective women, many of whom have had positions of significant responsibility. I’ve witnessed their struggle for recognition and equality. Sometimes I’ve helped and sometimes I’ve hindered. What I have learned over the years is that the greatest reward that an organization can give women is the feeling of flexibility without punishment. I’ve also witnessed how challenging the embedded culture of organizations can be.

As I listened to Marie Wilson talk about The White House Project, I had a new sense of the power that women’s advocacy in business could have, and the benefit of organized and thoughtful dialogue around the questions of women in leadership.

The question is whether business will respond and engage in this dialogue with authenticity and integrity.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The landscape for local advertising, particularly by small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) is undergoing a profound shift that is being masked in part by the overall downturn in advertising spending, two recent research reports from BIA/The Kelsey Group demonstrates. The key for local media companies is to segment the SMB client base in relation to their adoption of online media. And the key to that adoption rate is the age of the company, Kelsey concludes.

To put the entire opportunity in context, it’s useful to revisit BIA/Kelsey‘s U.S. Local Media Forecast, released earlier this year, where BIA/Kelsey chronicled a devastating decline in local advertising spend in 2009 and 2010. The firm doesn’t anticipate any recovery until 2011, nor any real strengthening of the local ad market until 2012.

local ad spend kelsey forecast.png

That is more than $27 billion of local advertising that will have evaporated during the recession. Within this macro trend, a fundamental secular shift is underway, says points out Polachek, president of BIA/Kelsey

“The general economic conditions worsened during 2009 causing advertising dollars to remain on the sidelines as businesses — large and small, local, regional and national — reined in spending levels,” said Polachek. “Even with improvements in the overall economy, we do not anticipate a rapid recovery among traditional media over the forecast period, because we believe the structural change in the local media industry has accelerated.”

This structural change is highlighted in BIA/Kelsey’s most recent update to its Local Commerce Monitor, a local tracking study that the firm has been doing over the past several years.

The ground-level research of SMBs reinforces the overall outlook for local advertising.

The Local Commerce Monitor study also revealed a decrease in overall ad spending by SMBs, owing to unfavorable economic conditions and the long-term substitution of traditional media with lower-cost digital/online media. SMBs decreased spending on advertising and promotion by 23.5 percent, from $2,734 annually (reported in August 2008) to $2,092 annually (reported in August 2009). In spite of the overall decrease in spending on advertising and promotion over the past 12 months, on average, SMBs increased spending on Web sites and profile pages by 26.8 percent, from $608 in 2008 to $769 in 2009.

Kelsey does chronicle on notable shift among SMBs: they have personally begun to use more digital media than traditional media. This usage shift will drive accelerate the shift in marketing purchases, BIA/Kelsey contends.

online media usage kelsey smb.png

The younger the business, the more likely they are to spend heavily on internet advertising, BIA/Kelsey points out. Businesses less than 3 years old will spend close to 1/3 of their budget on internet, while businesses more than 10 years old will spend only 13%.

online media budget by co age kelsey.png

The obvious conclusion, Kelsey points out, is to target younger businesses with digital offerings.

The success rate is likely to be much higher.

The dollars at stake are meaningful.

Indeed, a steady shift toward digital media continues. BIA/Kelsey forecasts spending on traditional media to decline from $115 billion in 2009 to $108.2 billion in 2014 (CAGR of -1.2 percent). During the same period, spending on online/interactive media is projected to grow from $15.2 billion to $36.7 billion (CAGR of 19.3 percent).

Over the next five years, a focus on emerging businesses as the foundation of digital growth is a strategy that is likely to be rewarded.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Throughout our businesses at NCI, we’re seeing signs of increased consumer activity.

One notable one has been the uptick in activity from apartment shoppers.

In the first quarter of 2010, inquiries from apartment shoppers to communities (phone calls and e-mails) from Apartment Finder‘s print and internet products have increased 44% from the last three months of 2009.

That’s a big shift in activity. And, it’s confirming of reports from property managers and reflective of the improvement in the job market.

How’s that for a green shoot?

The housing market is recovering. At least, 1 million people think so.

That’s the number of people who bought homes in the first three months of 2010. And that’s more people than have bought homes in the first three months of the last two years.

Let’s throw out caveats and the concerns and step back for a moment. It’s easy to point to a lot of different reasons why the home sales figures are inflated, or why home prices continue to have risk.

The two charts below show the sustained trend in recovering home sales over the past two years.

The first chart plots the number of homes sold in the first quarter over the past decade.

q1 last decade.png

The 1 million home buyers in the first quarter don’t measure up to the levels of the real estate boom. But that’s not what a recovery means.

A recovery does mean changes in momentum. The second chart looks at how the market pacing has looked at the start of each of the last four years. This first quarter of this year was up 12% in sales versus the year before, breaking a decline that started in 2006.

The resale market is clouded by a lot of external factors that are driving price and inventory, but the actual number of homes sold show that there is an underlying increase in demand. From it we can infer that consumers feel good about buying homes. And that’s what the recovery will look like.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Nielsen has released a study today that looks at the effectiveness of different kinds of Facebook advertising. The goal was to determine whether ads that leveraged a brand’s social network — which Nielsen is calling “earned media” — performed differently than traditional ad formats.

The big headline: Socially-enhanced advertising has higher recall and higher purchase intent than traditional advertising.

In a blog post on Nielsen’s site, Jon Gibs, Vice President, Media Analytics, The Nielsen Company and Sean Bruich, Measurement Research, Facebook, explain the overall methodology.

Our joint report: Advertising Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression provides early insights from Nielsen’s BrandLift product which analyzed survey data from more than 800,000 Facebook users in response to more than 125 Facebook ad campaigns from 70 brand advertisers.

The study has a clear bias towards paid advertising on Facebook, and doesn’t measure the impact of a content-marketing program versus a display ad program. The study also doesn’t touch on the relative value of fan bases of different sizes, which will have an impact on ad performance and marketing expense.

I’ll spend more time in a later post delving into the entire report, but first let’s look at the two money charts that will spread across the blogs of social media mavens today.

The first shows the impact that socially-enabled ads (read “earned media”) had on response versus a controlled group: 10% more recall, 4% more awareness and 2% higher our chase intent.

The second compelling chart shows the impact that the social components of an ad has on consumer response. Ad recall more than tripled; purchase intent moved to 8%.


The social features of the ads were pretty simple: including the slug “xxx and yyy are fans of this page” in the ad unit. Organic ads, which were a proxy for sharing about a brand by users, were considered for this study to be the simple instance of a status update appearing in your stream that says one or more of your friends have become a fan of a page.

The Nielsen study is compelling and supports common sense.

When you see that someone you know has done something with a brand, particularly a brand you recognize, then your attentiveness increases.
That’s the benefit of building a fan base on Facebook. You raise your awareness in all of your fans’ social networks.

A good content marketing program, where you use your fan page as a way to distribute content and engage with your community of interest, will have the same or greater impact on your brand presence and your business results as the ad units included in the study, I believe. As the Nielsen research demonstrates, the most powerful impact is achieved when people recognize the attachment of their peers to a specific brand.

The other thing that the study isn’t meant to address  is what a brand needs to do to get and keep fans. Clearly, a deep and active fan base can benefit a brand. The steps to attracting and maintaining that fan base require a specific set of skills and focus, and have a real cost against them.

The study is a great support for the power of social networks to drive brands, but is focused narrowly on one implementation that doesn’t take full advantage of the richness of a social media marketing program.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index was released today, jumping 1.4% in March, capping six straight months of increases and reaching what the Conference Board calls “its highest level.”

9B9F064B-F33C-464C-A70F-B8DF6A6A03BB.jpg

It’s nice to see a quantitative chart blending multiple data points that ticks up strong strongly.

As is consistently the case in this economic recovery, employment will be a primary driver of continued performance.

Adds Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board: “The indicators point to a slow recovery that should continue over the next few months. The leading, coincident and lagging series are rising. Strength of demand remains the big question going forward. Improvement in employment and income will be the key factors in whether consumers push the recovery on a stronger path.”

Regardless, this is a nice bit of momentum to head into the summer with.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Here’s a surprising bit of research: Consumers reduced the amount of time they spent consuming media during the recession, according to a Yankee Group survey reported on by eMarketer.

339D6D3C-49DB-4571-8C14-8BF074B89767.jpgMedia consumption dropped 17% from 2008 to less than 12 hours a day.
The one media exempt from the reduction was mobile.

Activities decreased almost across the board, with reading, music and radio, and TV and video dropping most dramatically. The only increase in time spent was with mobile phones. Talk time on mobile was up 12%, while average daily mobile Web use rose 36% to 11 minutes. Texting was also up, by 55%, to take up 27 minutes a day in 2009.

The survey speculates that consumer were too stressed by the recession to enjoy media. I’d venture that consumers just wanted a break from advertising. When you’re consuming at a breakneck pace, every ad has potential relevance to your actions. When you stop consumer, every ad is a reminder of what you can’t have.

Taking a break from advertising when you’re trying to cut back spending is like avoiding bars when you’re trying to stop smoking. The association between two actions — in this case, consuming media and purchasing products — is just too closely linked to keep temptation at bay.

Taking this speculation one step further, I wonder if we haven’t over-optimized media for purchasing. By this I mean that virtually no media experience is exempt from a commercial connection that attempts to bias and influence the consumer. This is the trade-off of free content…if you’re going to get the experience for nothing, then we’re going to design the experience to get you to buy things from our sponsor.

This underwriting tension has always been a part of the modern media landscape, but today the explosion of media distribution channels and the Anywhere Consumer has turned the stream of marketing messages into a constant barrage.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]