The advertising industry is at risk of becoming irrelevant to its clients, and ad agencies only have themselves to blame.
This burgeoning identity crisis makes the industry ripe for reinvention. That’s the mantra that Hill Holliday chief executive Karen Kaplan and her team tried to convey last week during MediaFWD (formerly TVNext), the Boston agency’s annual media conference. It’s time to be more of a curator, she told the crowd, and less of a promoter.
Kaplan kicked off the event, which drew about 350 people to the Institute of Contemporary Art, by laying out the challenge for her industry: “Consumer dismissal of advertising” — ad-skipping, ad-blocking and ad-free streaming — has become the new normal.
The number of potential advertising channels increased significantly with the rise of social media: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and the like. The industry’s knee jerk reaction, Kaplan said in a subsequent interview, was to just fill as many channels as possible.
“We just made the problem a lot worse for ourselves,” Kaplan said. “Because we were stuffing every channel with messages, consumers were becoming overwhelmed. . . . We came to this conclusion that avoidance is the new default for consumers.”
This makes marketing a bit more challenging, but it also offers opportunities. In Hill Holliday’s case, Kaplan said, the agency tries to figure out ways to help a consumer interact with a particular brand, rather than simply hyping that brand. She cites mattress company Tempur Sealy International as an example. Hill Holliday developed an app for the company that would ask consumers a series of questions — inquiring about height, weight, sleep patterns, etc. — to make it easier to pick a mattress in the store.
“You have to be open to reshape your offering,” Kaplan said. “It’s all about being nimble and being innovative.”
— JON CHESTO
New crowdsourcing site targets Latinos
At StartingFive Partners, its mission is embedded in its name.
Cofounded by Boston entrepreneurs Jeff Glass and Andy Miller with backing from General Catalyst Partners, the Harvard Square startup lab aims to create five tech companies in the next five years. And it recently announced its first: FundLatinos, a crowdfunding website targeting the Latino community.
Latinos are traditionally philanthropic, although their giving tends to be focused on family, friends, church, and neighborhood institutions. FundLatinos “brings that giving to an online platform to make it easier, and opens it up to people beyond your local community,” said the site’s general manager, Andrew Vassallo.
At least one Latino-focused crowdfunding site already exists — HIPGive, created by Hispanics in Philanthropy — but partners only with nonprofits. FundLatinos can be used to raise money for all types of causes, from weddings and quinceaneras (celebrations of a girl’s 15th birthday) to medical bills and education expenses to community-based initiatives.
Among the site’s clients are Colombian-born sisters Angelica and Diana Cardona Ramirez, who are trying to raise money to open Chocolaffee, a store in Revere selling Colombian food specialties.
Like many other crowdfunding sites, FundLatinos charges a 5% fee on every dollar raised (nonprofits are exempt from that charge), but (take note, bargain hunters) it’s waiving the fee during the month of November.
— SACHA PFEIFFER
Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership gets its own new housing
Christopher Norris has made a career out of helping other people find new homes. Now, he’s lining up one for himself and his 150-person staff in a deal that would allow Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, the organization he leads, to own its headquarters.
His group’s annual lease expense has essentially doubled over the past 15 years for its office near South Station. That was enough for his board. So the housing advocacy group is moving to a new home near the Roxbury Crossing T station, on a spot that was once owned by the MBTA. Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services is developing the building: a five-story structure that will have 40 affordable apartments. Norris’ group will buy what will be its 27,000-square-foot headquarters on the first two floors for about $9 million, through a condo arrangement.
A groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday drew a number of prominent city politicians, including Mayor Marty Walsh, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Representative Jeffrey Sanchez and City Councilor Josh Zakim. The work will be completed in mid-2017, with the move expected a year from now. Eastern Bank, which is helping to finance the project, will open a branch there.
So far, Norris has raised about $1.2 million toward a $2 million goal. The total project including renovations will cost $13.6 million. Norris is betting the upfront investment will be well worth it. As any housing expert knows, home ownership gives you more control over your destiny.
— JON CHESTO
A chair at MIT in Lindquist’s memory
Susan Lindquist, a legendary scientist at MIT’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, died of cancer last month. But her legacy is being honored by health care giant Johnson & Johnson, which is establishing the Susan Lindquist Chair for Women in Science with a $5 million grant that will be awarded to a female scientist to advance biomedical research.
Lindquist, who was 67 and long taught biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led research programs that changed the scientific world’s understanding of the role of protein folding in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
She also founded or co-founded multiple biotech companies, most recently Yumanity Therapeutics in Cambridge, which is developing treatments for brain and central nervous system diseases caused by protein misfolding.
— ROBERT WEISMAN