Category: computing


Initially I was going to write yet another article on how to get people to open that email you sent they don’t want. So I did some research on the topic and a surprising thing happened. The more I read, the more it sounded like advice I would give copywriters on writing effective copy for ads.

Be human. Don’t be boring. Write conversationally. Don’t write Gone with the Wind. Keep it short.

Email subject lines should be written like, you guessed it, headlines. And for those who haven’t made a career of writing headlines, let it suffice that it is often not a five minute job. Sometimes they just roll off the tip of your tongue. Other times you mull them over for days. That we rarely have days to come up with headlines these days explains why there are so many dreadful ones sitting in your inbox for emails you won’t open.

Numbers often work. “Five ways to make potato dumplings exciting” might get read by some foodies. It was David Ogilvy who mastered that school of advertising. “Five ways to…” “How to…” “Why your potato dumplings are uninspiring.” They do work. The problem is they have been so over used that their credibility comes into question as does the question “Says who?”

In one article on writing effective emails, the author pointed out the power of the word ‘you’. Just like in advertising. Write conversationally. Just like in advertising. Don’t be clever. Be smart. Just like in advertising. Pique someone’s interest. Just like in advertising. An email can easily get ignored. Guess what? So can ads. All you have to do is turn the page. Or channel. Don’t automate your email greeting. See my article “Dear Valued Customer” for more on that.

Here’s some good advice on writing effective emails. Don’t sell the product. Sell the benefit. That insight dates back to the dawn of selling. It’s just part of human nature: “What’s in it for me?” Every advertising strategy has a question to be answered: “What is the benefit?” This is not new to email marketing.

The rules and guides to marketing apply across all media. The delivery mechanism is what differs.

The barrier to common sense selling on the internet was driven by the lack of sophistication of search engines. There was a time when we had to write to satisfy the search engine’s capabilities. This often meant putting your key words in your headline, your first line of body copy and copious times after that. The result? Abysmal writing. But thankfully, search engines have become far more sophisticated and elegant to use a computer term. They are getting better and better at analyzing writing the way we humans speak. Even better, they are punishing writers who try to game the system by flooding keywords in every nook and cranny of their unreadable copy.

No matter whether you are creating advertising in traditional media, digital media or both, a simple rule should help you. Don’t talk at me. Talk to me.

It’s great to be human again. Even if we are little digitized.


Terry O’Reilly, of CBC’s Under the Influence, hosted a show with what could have been a very boring topic: The weather.

But when you link weather to marketing it gets down right fascinating.

There are some obvious weather marketing activities that have been going on for ages. When it starts to rain in New York City, somehow an army of street vendors instantly appear on every street corner selling umbrellas to those who either didn’t listen to the day’s forecast or chose to ignore it.

One less obvious example O’Reilly reported was for the crafts and hobby retailer, Michael’s. They knew that on rainy days, people prone to crafts were more likely to be engaged in their craft activity on that rainy day rather than on a sunny one. As a result, whenever it rained, Michael’s increased their media buy. It didn’t dramatically affect sales.  Then the light bulb went off in someone’s head: why not increase the media buy a couple of days ahead when there was a forecast of rain (or snow) to come? The result? A dramatic increase in sales. People got their supplies in anticipation of rainy weather rather than trying to get them and getting soaked at the same time.

Weather can affect much more than the sale of umbrellas or snow blowers. What is more powerful is not just the insights to buying habits based on weather but the speed of digital buys based on entities such as the Weather Network with its algorithms linked to media buying services and their algorithms.

Media buying and placement is now instantaneous, at least in the digital world. The advertising agency pulls the trigger at 2:02 PM and at 2:03PM their ad is turning up on someone’s Facebook feed. Or wherever.

Weather affects the sales of many products and businesses. An early, warm, bright sunny day in spring and it’s hard to find a parking spot in a nursery. During a thunderstorm with lightening bursts it’s hard to find a sane person on a golf course.

Weather predicting is one of the most complicated computing functions there is. If you think about conflicting air masses moving in three dimensional space with variables such as temperature, wind, humidity and air pressure and it’s not hard to understand why weather predictions aren’t always 100% accurate. Aviation weather forecasts are every six hours with special reports in between when there is a sudden change and pending hazards to flight. Long range forecasts? For the most part, pilots ignore them.

But weather reports are getting better and many marketers are benefiting from the speed of digital advertising and the accuracy of weather forecasts. If your business is impacted by weather it might be prudent to re-examine how and when you do a weather-related marketing push.

However, with the exception of meteorologists and some marketers, the weather can be an especially tedious conversation topic.

“It’s going to be a hot one today.”

“Sure is.”

It’s an understandable conversation topic because weather is often the only thing strangers have in common.

For the record, meteorologists do not hold a monopoly on weather forecasting. There was a beautiful pink sky this morning and that concerns me. Pink sky at night, a sailor’s delight. Pink sky in the morning and a sailor takes warning. Those high, wispy, pretty clouds (cirrus) you see? They point to good weather but are usually followed by bad weather in a day or two.  Wind from the east? A storm is on the way (in the northern hemisphere). The sky tells us a lot, yet I doubt I could convince advertisers to base media buying simply by staring up to the sky.

I recognize that the weather can be a very boring topic and this article certainly reflects that. My apologies.

But forecasts says the UV index will be high today so I think I’ll go down to the drug store and buy some sun screen.


latinLatin was the language of the educated throughout the middle ages.  It separated the intelligentsia, aristocrats and royalty from the masses. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the Catholic church ended delivering sermons in Latin.

Today, the language that will separate “intelligentsia”, technology and business leaders is code. It should be taught in our schools from grade one. :”Reading. Writing. ‘Arithmetic. Code.” It is the new international language (although much of code uses english..even that will dissipate). We will speak in symbols, construct language through code and those not fluent in some form of code will be new world serfs.

Teach your children code. Give them a fighting chance in the new world. We’re in it.

How ‘bout those bitcoins?


A ‘cloud’ is little more than a server with Herculean connectivity.  For those old enough to know what a ‘mainframe’ was, this is it, delivered through the internet.

That people bought into the term ‘cloud’ as if it were some kind of new internet, technological magic, took me by surprise. The term is brilliant because it implies that what ever it is, it is just out there ‘somewhere’. A cloud can be white, fluffy and almost dream-like.

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