Our perspective at VantagePoint

Craig O’Neal Receives Silver Medal Award from AAF Greenville

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amy Clarke Burns
864.331.1273
aburns@vantagep.com

Greenville, S.C. — February 18, 2017 — VantagePoint Marketing president and CEO Craig O’Neal has been awarded the Silver Medal Award by the American Advertising Federation (AAF) of Greenville.

The Silver Medal Award, the highest honor awarded by the AAF’s local clubs, recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to advertising, been active in furthering industry standards, exhibited creative excellence and supported community development.

“Craig represents the best of what the advertising industry in Greenville has to offer,” said Nicole Viscome, president of AAF Greenville. “Through a 30-year career as an advertising entrepreneur, he has opened doors for many professionals and raised the bar for everyone in advertising. His leadership has helped develop and expand the industry as part of Greenville’s businesses economy.”

O’Neal co-founded VantagePoint, a business-to-business marketing and advertising agency, in 1993 and has led the company to become an eight-time Business Marketing Association of the Carolinas Agency of the Year and a Chief Marketer 2017 B2B Top Shop.

“I’m humbled to receive this recognition, which is an honor for me personally but also a reflection of the talented professionals who come together to make the advertising industry in Greenville so vibrant and dynamic,” O’Neal said.

In addition to his company leadership, O’Neal contributes to the development of the industry by serving on the Anderson University MBA Advisory Board and supports philanthropy in the community, both through direct financial support and by encouraging and supporting employee volunteerism.

The Silver Medal Award was presented Feb. 18 at the annual American Advertising Awards Gala, which recognizes the best in advertising and marketing from area agencies.

About VantagePoint Marketing
VantagePoint Marketing is a nationally recognized business-to-business marketing agency with a primary focus on foodservice clients. Headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, it is ranked nationally as one of Chief Marketer’s 2017 B2B Top Shops, is an eight-time winner of the Business Marketing Association of the Carolinas’ Agency of the Year award and has been named one of the small/midsized Best Places to Work in South Carolina for four consecutive years. Founded in 1993, VantagePoint takes an integrated approach in offering its clients expertise in marketing, advertising, branding, digital and public relations. For more information, visit www.vantagep.com.

About American Advertising Federation
The American Advertising Federation is a national organization for advertising professionals. With more than 200 local clubs across the U.S. representing nearly 40,000 advertising professionals, AAF works to protect and promote the well being of advertising by educating members, promoting diversity and inclusion, honoring and celebrating advertising excellence, developing future industry leaders, addressing community issues and providing opportunities for professionals to build relationships within the industry.

5 B2B social media truths — and how to make them work for you

Let me start by saying I’m not one of VantagePoint’s in-house social media gurus. I’m an account manager witnessing the talents of our PR/content marketing team go to work for our clients. I’m involved in the front-end strategic discussions and content creation decision-making, but I’m a step back from the execution — giving me an interesting perspective as I observe the trends unfolding.

Over the last year, two of my clients have launched or re-launched content marketing/social media endeavors, and for the third, we’ve been testing various content types to continually boost engagement.

Here are 5 observations that have rung true for all three B2B brands:

  1. Quick videos with on-screen text boost engagement.
    It’s become common knowledge that video content is good for social media. But when comparing types of video content, specifically on Facebook, we’ve seen a significant boost in engagement involving short videos (less than 90 seconds) with on-screen text, removing the need for audio. Facebook’s autoplay feature means these videos are often playing as soon as users encounter them, and without the commitment required to open the video and turn up the volume, viewers are more likely to watch them play out.
  2. Posts with photos or graphics perform better.
    When scrolling through your social media feeds, which posts catch your eye? The ones with the photos, right? We have data that shows this is true for B2B as well, where posts with images perform better in terms of engagement — often significantly so — than those without.
  3. Having a posting calendar cuts down on labor.
    It’s best practice to have a content calendar for your content marketing efforts, supported by a posting calendar to detail how this plays out across various social media channels. If you don’t put in the front-end effort to map this out, you’re likely wasting valuable hours searching for relevant content to share. (But when you do need to curate content, check out these best practices for how to do so effectively and efficiently.)
  4. Getting personal works.
    People care about people. Posts such as photos of company events or dealer training sessions or blog posts from the perspectives of long-tenured employees tend to have higher-than-usual engagement. Tap into the people in your enterprise to help drive a better connection to those outside of it.
  5. It’s pretty obvious which sales team members know how to leverage corporate social media efforts.
    There are typically a select few employees who regularly engage with the corporate accounts, and teams who have been trained tend to do a much better job. Be sure to train sales teams about where you’re active online and how they can use this to their advantage by sharing posts within each channel, sending direct links to content to prospects or encouraging social media follows among their customer base.

Let us know in the comments what’s worked best for your company’s social media channels. Just getting started with social media? Check out these 4 tips for developing a winning B2B social media strategy.

VantagePoint’s 2017 Super Bowl Commercial Review

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Every national Super Bowl commercial. From kickoff to the final whistle. In 3 sentences or less. Reviewed as they air. As has been our tradition, I give you my almost-real-time opinion of each ad — its effectiveness, clarity and entertainment value. I didn’t pre-watch any ads (or watch any ads again), as strong as the temptation was. Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!

So without further ado . . .

Google Home: John Denver’s “Country Roads” with an urban beat can’t quite rescue this. The dialog was a bit difficult to understand, and the product comes across as merely an Amazon Echo/Alexa imitator, with no clear differentiation.

Michelin: A great sound bed by José González from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” can’t overcome an ad that struggles to show a consistent story, and so you lose the point.

Avocados from Mexico: Selling avocados with a secret society worrying that their “secrets”, aka conspiracies, might be discovered (including that “there’s only 49 shades of gray”) seems a bit disconnected, despite some fun dialog and a “subliminal message” appearance by Jon Lovitz. A little wacky, a little fun. But will it sell avocados?

Mobile Strike: Arnold. He’s back. Hasta la Vista, baby. And probably another cliché or two that I missed.

H&R Block: A box that predicts global weather, educates children, and — helps your taxes? In this application, Watson doesn’t seem to have quite the same degree of global magnitude, no matter how important the IRS may think they are.

Skittles: The cliched “throwing rocks at a window to get the girls attention” gets an update with Skittles instead of stones. The twist is that the family inside is catching the Skittles in their mouths, including Grandma, a thief, the policeman, and a stuffed beaver. Fun, weird, and in perfect keeping with the Skittles brand — but not sure it’s worth the money they paid for a Super Bowl spot.

Busch: Crisp Cold Buschhhhhhhh. It got reallllllllly annoyingggggggg.

American Petroleum Institute: Some motivational sayings, a few all-American images, and fancy technology don’t do enough to convince me that the money they spent on this was worth it. I can’t imagine anyone’s mind being changed about oil.

GoDaddy: Cats on Roombas, a panda in the front yard, and aliens in the front seat of a late 70s VW Rabbit convertible to convey “The internet loves you.” Maybe, but not sure how that promotes GoDaddy. And true to brand, there’s a good deal of exposed skin — just on a guy (“the internet”) this time.

LifeWtr: Raining color cinematography, a John Legend soundtrack, and lines like “Art makes life more inspired.” A mixed bag for flavored water.

Intel: A chip that makes waking up, tooth brushing, pancake dropping all “epic.” I just wish I understood more — too much time was spent on the effects and not enough on the message.

AirBnB: A type-only manifesto of sorts: “We believe,” “We all belong,” “We accept.” On brand, but if you’re not familiar with Airbnb, you don’t know any more than you did before they dropped a few million on the ad.

World of Tanks: Teensy House Buyers get their teensy house destroyed by a tank, and Real Awful Moms get their ideal living room destroyed by a tank. Perfect parodies, and the fact that they are back-to-back makes the ads even more effective.

Yellow Tail: Yellow suits, stuffed Kanagooos with yellow aprons and some awkward Australian innuendo. I guess the good thing (?) is if you were unaware of the brand, you’re not anymore.

Pirates movie: Johnny Cash sings “I see a band of angels, and they’re coming after me” as creepy pirates invade your screen — a far more appropriate music choice than for some of the other movie ads.

Pistachios: An animated elephant with the old falling-off-a-treadmill joke. Not very original, and doesn’t do a whole lot to sell pistachios.

Buick: “If that’s a Buick, then my kid’s Cam Newton” is the start of the action (and the jokes) in this ad that reads like a cliché. But the acting and directing really works — quite honestly, I was laughing too hard to write coherently. Full of fun, slapstick, and obvious jokes, but it definitely gets the point across — Buicks aren’t what you might have expected.

Logan movie: Amazing Grace as the soundtrack to a superhero movie trailer? Doesn’t work for me.

T-Mobile: Justin Bieber, “celebration expert,” gives a weak history of touchdown celebrations, including Terrell Owen’s “unlimited moves” — which proves to be an awkward segue to unlimited data. I guess the point is made, but the connection was really, really rough.

Honda: Tina Fey, Amy Adams, Magic Johnson, Steve Carell and Jimmy Kimmel as talking motivational yearbook heads (“All dreams are within reach”) is fun and almost-inspiring. But it seems self-serving when it becomes a promotion for a Honda CRV. Fun idea, weak linkage.

Bai drinks: Christopher Walken sits elegantly reciting song lyrics, ending in “it aint no lie baby; bye, bye, bye.” When the camera pans to a deadpan Justin Timberlake, you get the joke. But when the product is revealed — Bai — you get the promotion. Very nicely done.

Transformers movie: They tell us our world is dying — but it has been for sequels and sequels, it seems. More of the same.

Tide: Terry Bradshaw, a trending stain on his white shirt, Jeffrey Tambor, and a documentary about gazelle migration makes for a really great way to sell Tide pods and keep you captivated. Entertaining, compelling, and sells well. Nicely done, Tide.

Sprint: “Isn’t that illegal?” asks the little kid after his dad pushes his car into a ravine to “fake his own death” and get out of his phone contract. (“Yes, extremely illegal” reads the tongue-in-cheek on-screen fine print, along with “do not attempt.”) Not sure what the Sprint spokesperson is doing, though.

Coke: Nice food shots and typical Coke shots. “A classic love story” says the tagline — maybe, but boring.

Handmaid’s Tale: This ad for a Hulu series, based on an important book, is confusing and unclear, which is unfortunate.

Weathertech: Vehicle protection in instant form, as the floormat is built, delivered, and installed in the half second before the falling coffee cup hits the floor in the driving vehicle. Better than their previous Super Bowl commercials, but still not exceptional.

Febreeze: The Halftime Bathroom Break is a clever concept, accompanied by some clever writing (“When we go from standing as rivals to sitting as one”) and clever art direction (a crocheted Little Bo Peep toilet paper holder) to make for a clever commercial that does a great job selling the product.

Alfa Romeo: Little boys do superhero things, little girls provide grace, Alfa Romeo makes red cars, and we can all now “ride on the backs of dragons.” Um, ok — even though I REALLY want to drive a Quadrifoglio.

Michelob Ultra: The beer brand continues its niche advertising of “perfect for workout types” with some CrossFit/spin class footage and lots of back-slapping, all to the Cheers theme song.

TurboTax: Horses, knights, and a patched-together-egg in the hospital make for an interesting pitch for tax software, but it works somehow. Clever dialog like “We DID try to put you back together!” and “But you were the one sitting on the wall!” helps.

Lexus: Even a Sia soundtrack can’t quite rescue same-old footage of cars driving around a warehouse.

The Fate of the Furious movie: Vin Diesel, fast cars, explosions, a giant wrecking ball and a submarine.

Squarespace: John Malkovich in his wry, escalating anger attempts to get his name/URL back from someone else, and Squarespace tries to get us to buy our names as URLs. Hmmm. I’m sure Squarespace gets a markup when someone buys a domain, but that’s not really a high-profit area. It makes a curious strategic choice for a build-your-own-website company.

Wendy’s: The setup is nice, with rows upon rows of frozen beef patties. The payoff — with a guy holding a pink hair dryer “thawing” patties to the Foreigner tune “You’re as Cold as Ice” — is fun and effective, and definitely makes the point. The cherry on top is the use of a clever URL on-screen. Very effective.

84 Lumber: Beautiful, gorgeous cinematography throughout this VERY long commercial showing a Hispanic mother and daughter. You think you know where the story is going; however, there are enough diversions along the way that you second guess yourself. But the ad stops abruptly with only a URL to continue the story, leaving me confused (although my crack team of researchers tell me there’s a good reason). **Update** As of halftime, the URL (www.journey84.com) was NOT functioning, either through a traffic overload or malicious activity. **2nd Update** Thanks to one of our readers for letting us know you can screen the entire 84 Lumber ad here on YouTube.

NFL: Super Bowl Babies, a soundtrack from Chicago (“You’re the Inspiration”), and the tagline that football is family. Cute.

Audi: The narration gets a little heavy as the girl is challenged by slightly clichéd “evil” boys down the soapbox derby course. But she wins the race, and she and her dad walk off into the sunset (and into an Audi). Equal pay for equal work is a noble cause to champion, but I wish Audi could have done it more subtly.

Mr. Clean: Your favorite bald cleaning cartoon mascot appears to be getting a little risqué — until Mr. Clean turns into an overweight husband. Slightly uncomfortable for me, for some reason.

Snickers: As the western town falls down (live?) around the actors, the tagline reminds us that “you ruin Super Bowl commercials when you’re hungry. Great use of the “when you’re hungry” franchise, and great use of the “live” feature — including a score, just so you knew it was live. Clever and fun.

Anheuser-Busch: As a man immigrates from Germany and navigates his way across America, it became pretty clear where this commercial was going. The ad was well-shot, well-acted and well-directed, but was a bit risky (more than a bit?) in the 2017 political environment. The closing tagline “When nothing stops your dream, this is the beer we drink.” ties it all together nicely.

T-Mobile: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg pitching more unlimited T-mobile. Seems gimmicky, and I didn’t immediately get what it had to do with unlimited. Or T-Mobile.

Persil: Bill Nye. White lab coats. White tuxedos. And 10 dimensions of clean. Just odd.

Kia Niro: The whales, the trees, the ice caps and the the rhinos need Melissa McCarty’s help — and she ends up getting tossed, dropped, buried and speared in the process. You aren’t sure where it’s going until the voiceover tells us that “it’s hard to be an eco warrior, but it’s easier to drive like one” with a Kia Niro hybrid. Funny and effective.

It’s a 10 Haircare: Black and white shots of wild hair and a tongue-in-cheek political reference to “the next 4 years.” We’re challenged to “make up for it with great hair.” Not sure why or how, though . . . especially since I’ve never heard of the brand.

Netflix/Stranger Things 2: Starts out with an 80s Eggo commercial and it just gets weirder from there. Scary shows aren’t really my thing, but the ad definitely gets your attention.

A Cure for Wellness movie: This horror (?) movie takes the typical pharmaceutical list of side effects and tortures it a bit (insanity is a listed symptom), along with some slightly frightening images. Effective, if you’re into that sort of entertainment.

Battle of Evony videogame: Lush, dramatic and anachronistic battle of Chinese, Civil War, Revolutionary and medieval European warriors pitch a video game. I’m told the actors were some big names (although I didn’t recognize them).

AMC Walking Dead: A football gets obliterated by a spiked club, and an on-screen title. More of an announcement than a promotion.

Fiji Water: Child voiceover about pure water, with a bottle overlay onto a busy dark blue interstate. Yawn.

Baywatch movie: The Rock is an unlikely lifeguard in what appears to be a make-fun-of-ourselves, tongue-in-cheek comedic approach to the ’90s franchise. Funny, but you wonder if you’ve seen it all in the trailer.

Alfa-Romeo: Nice engine sounds as a red car winds its way along curvy mountain roads. The voiceover tells us she’s “found the perfect escape from monotony.” Better than the earlier Alfa-Romeo ad; however, no new ground here. (But I still want to drive one — that exhaust noise . . . . .)

T-Mobile: I think the point of this ad was that Verizon is the perfect phone carrier for S&M lovers, so choose T-Mobile. I think?

NFL: The field crew paints lines while footage from old Super Bowls plays, as the camera pulls back to show they’ve been painting the lines of the USA on the gridiron. The voiceover reminds us that “We live united inside these lines;” a not-so-subtle reminder that would be helpful to take to heart as a country right now. Very effective.

Wix: Action movie meets cooking show; the restaurant is destroyed while the chef builds his website, prompting his decision to start a mobile food truck. Pretty involved commercial, but it does make the point well enough.

Amazon Echo: The dog gets into some food, Alexa gets asked a question, and . . . the ad was over.

Turkish Airlines: Morgan Freeman admonishes us to explore the world. Except the camera pulls back to show a plane full of Morgan Freemans, and then he’s in a field in his airline seat. A bit creepy, especially when the voiceover suggests you could be “one of us.” Does nothing to make me want to fly Turkish Airlines.

Amazon Echo: The little girl makes a smart football reference, the dad makes a comment to Alexa, and . . . the ad was over.

Kings Hawaiian: A couple of guys stuff rolls in a hole in the wall, which the kids find in the grandfather clock on the other side. Puzzling.

Amazon Echo: They’ve run out of Doritos, someone asks Alexa for more, and . . . the ad was over. These 3 VERY short ads happen too quickly to be effective.

Bud Light: So the ghost of Spuds McKenzie shows up in some sort of Dickensian/Christmas Carol/Ghost of Christmas Past-Present-Future long-form commercial. The moral? Apparently Spuds’ soul can’t rest if people don’t drink Bud Light with Friends. A little funny, a little creepy.

T-Mobile: Another weird, innuendo-laced Verizon put-down, this time with a customer service rep. And I’m even LESS endeared to T-Mobile than before.

Nintendo Switch/Legend of Zelda: Interesting that they show the logo at the beginning of the commercial. Great gameplay video — compelling, if you’re a gamer.

Mercedes: A biker bar, full of leather-coated bearded folks starting to fight until they are informed they’ve all been “blocked in” by a Mercedes AMG-GT roadster. And they all stand in awe as the car, driven by Peter Fonda, drives away. Not sure I get the point of this ad, even if the Coen brothers did direct it.

Alfa Romeo: Italy, roads, engine, voiceover. Their best ad of the night. “Some cars take your breath away. Only one gives it back.”

Sprite: Lebron won’t TELL us to drink Sprite, but he’ll ask us. It’s actually pretty effective, despite breaking the 4th wall. And my co-watchers tell me it’s an old ad.

KFC: This gold stuff just keeps getting weirder. The facepaint, the extra “colonel” hanging around in the background. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s not working for me.

Tide: Part 2. Shorter, spilled coffee this time, but Jeffrey Tambor is again deadpan effective when Curt Menefee and Terry look at him through the screen. An effective extension of the first “stain” ad.

——-

So that’s your 2017 crop of Super Bowl commercials. The ads were pretty good overall, but nothing was tremendously outstanding. My pick for best ad? I would call it a tossup between the Buick ad and the Tide pair of ads. Both were effective, funny, entertaining, and memorable. The Buick might get the nod, as it can be run many more times; the Tide ad really only works for the Super Bowl.

(A footnote: a big shout-out to my crack team of researchers, Carson McQuaid and Caleb McQuaid. Thanks, guys!)

Menus in 2017, Part 1 | Keeping it “clean”

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Predicting the future is something typically best left to the mystics and seers. But we decided to try our hand at it at the VantagePoint Insight2Impact Foodservice Marketing Summit.

Renowned menu analyst Nancy Kruse highlighted five major trends she foresees coming to dining in 2017, shifts that are the result of changing demographics, changing priorities and a changing culture and economy.

We will unpack each of these predicted trends in a series of blogs over the coming weeks. First up: ingredients.

What it is

The coming focus on ingredients is really more about what’s not in them than what it is, Kruse says.

Gluten-free.

Non-GMO.

Antibiotic- and hormone-free.

“Clean” and “free-from” ingredients have been staking out an increasing foothold in the day-to-day vernacular — and pantries and refrigerators — of many consumers. Restaurants large and small will continue to follow suit to meet consumers’ demands.

Why it’s coming

This trend is driven in large part by millennials, who often are skeptical of commercial agriculture and long and unpronounceable ingredient lists. In addition to checking labels in grocery stores, they’re also now demanding greater menu transparency from the places where they’re feeding their families.

It’s a demand that has moved very quickly from the fringes to the mainstream, helped in no small part by Panera and Chipotle, two standard bearers for the clean eating movement.

Where it’s showing up

Panera’s much-referenced “no-no” list of ingredients not allowed in its foods was first published in 2015 and continues to be updated regularly.

Other major chains joined the bandwagon in various ways and to various degrees, including:

Smaller chains, too, followed suit — Noodles and Co. removed artificial ingredients from its core menu; California Tortilla went GMO-free; and Shoney’s announced its switch to cage-free eggs.

What’s next

As more and more restaurants design all or parts of their menus to meet clean eating demands, expect more messaging and promotion around the concept of simple and simplicity.

“Simple” is a far easier, and much less intimidating, concept to grasp than the technical and sometimes legally regulated terms like “organic” or “GMO-free,” Kruse says.

McDonald’s already tapped into the power of simple by registering the phrase, “The simpler the better” for trademark in March 2016 and using the tagline in ads.

Denny’s publicly changed its pancake recipe to one with only four, easily recognizable ingredients — eggs, flour, vanilla and buttermilk.

And retail brands have latched on to the trend with formulations and packaging that emphasize simplicity. Simply Lay’s, Keebler Simply Made cookies, Simply Heinz Ketchup and Pillsbury Simply cookies, to name a few.

“It’s like the gold rush, this pile-on on the retail side,” Kruse says.

Recognizing and preparing for the demands — and the inevitable supply chain disruption that will accompany them — will allow those in the foodservice industry to adapt to this “simple” new world.

Subscribe to the blog for the next installment of the Nancy Kruse’s trends report, on modern-day dieting and the transition to healthier eating.

From bland to ballyhooed | How engaging formats can boost B2B messaging

icon-for-blogHere’s the problem: As we experience firsthand daily, decision makers in B2B settings are busier than ever. Compound that reality by the fact that human attention spans are getting shorter, and we as B2B marketers have a real dilemma on our hands. How do we convey information about complex products or relatively dull features — both staples of this space — in a way that will grab attention in a sea of cluttered inboxes and growing to-do lists?

Here are a couple solutions to the conundrum that, while growing in popularity, are still far from being leveraged often enough:

Infographics

The human mind is wired to process information visually. In fact, 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Furthermore, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text, and studies have shown that 40 percent of people respond better to visual information than to the written word.

That’s why well-crafted infographics like these can be such effective ways of conveying content.  hey allow you to present information in a digestible, approachable way that’s also more likely to grab and hold attention.

As such, it should be no surprise that infographics typically outperform comparable content formats, especially on outlets like social media. And if that weren’t enough, there are numerous SEO benefits to infographics.

Animations

Studies have shown four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it. Sometimes referred to as “explainer videos,” animations like this can quickly and concisely share information in a vibrant and engaging manner — almost like moving infographics, if you will.

These brief videos make it easier to share larger amounts of data in an engaging way than via print — and are perhaps most aptly suited for demonstrating functionality or hard-to-grasp concepts while avoiding walls of text.

Plus, animations are often much more cost-effective than traditional video filming.

Simplicity, bite-sized content and engaging visuals — those are the secrets that make these content types successful. By leveraging these brain-pleasing characteristics, you can produce a piece that’s informational without feeling like a chore to the consumer.

What are your favorite vehicles for delivering content people actually want to engage with?  Leave your thoughts below.