Author Archives: Pat Riley

About Pat Riley

As a Newhouse-educated sports broadcaster, Pat has the unique ability to uncover clients' goals and the media opportunities to help them achieve them. He came to us from a top Boston radio station, and uses his industry expertise to help prospective clients think—and find—success. Pat's dream of playing for the Celtics is realized, in part, most days around 3pm, when you'll find him in Michele's office playing NERF® basketball. When he's not busy brainstorming via free throw, you'll find him chasing after his new puppy or spending time with his family on Cape Cod.

Let’s All Be More Bold

The Boston Red Sox completed one of the largest trades in sports history last Saturday, moving three all-stars and over $200 million in payroll to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for a handful of prospects and the hope of a fresh start. The reaction locally has been mostly positive (until Adrian Gonzalez hit the third pitch he saw in a Dodger uniform out of Chavez Ravine). But you’ve got to give the Red Sox credit: this was a bold move.

Being bold is almost always a good thing. Apple’s iconic “1984” Ad, American Tourister’s rough baggage handler, the Old Spice Guy, bold ideas that turned into winning campaigns. So why doesn’t it happen more often? Why is Bold so out of the ordinary?

My working theory is that too often, we (marketers and agencies) fail to overcome a series of barriers that stifle original thinking and limit risk-taking. Here are three of my least favorite barriers and some suggestions for getting around them.

(Full disclosure, these are my least favorite, because they’re the ones I run into all too often. Here’s hoping listing them out loud will help me avoid them in the future.)

The Boss
Whether “the Boss” is the client or the client’s superiors, his or her tolerance for risk will have a direct effect on your ability to be bold. Sometimes this means having a great idea denied, but more often it means self-censoring your ideas to avoid conflict in the first place.

Regardless of the idea, make a business case for it. If a bold idea will garner a greater return, just about any boss’s risk tolerance will go up. Getting buy in from other influencers in and around “the Boss” is also key.

Too Much Experience
Usually clients are looking for marketers with more experience in their industry, but sometimes that experience can stifle new ideas. When you know the kinds of campaigns that have worked, bombed, or been shot down, then you have developed a subconscious pattern or formula for your ideas. Formulaic and Bold don’t mix.

Bring your ideas to someone you respect who is outside of your industry. Their fresh input may help you look at your product and your market in a whole new way.

This is the worst of them all. At every level of the marketing process, there needs to be a level of trust – that a bold idea, a risky idea won’t cost its owner his or her job, standing, etc. If an agency fears that bold ideas will put off their client, they’ll only pitch the safe stuff. Same goes if account and design teams aren’t on the same page. No one will stick their neck out.

The solution here is more long term. You must foster an environment where any idea has the opportunity to get a full hearing. Make this part of your culture, internally and with clients and vendors.

What do you think inhibits boldness? How do you overcome the barriers? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

May I Have Your Attention Please? 3 Rules of Thumb for Interruption Advertising

Been on lately? You’ve probably run into a mischief making seal named Zoe and a sea lion named Sierra, from the New England Aquarium.  So far they’ve bumped my screen, shut down my browser, and made a general (although adorable) nuisance of themselves as part of the Aquarium’s “Mischief is Back in Boston” summer campaign (via Connelly Partners – Boston, MA).

Smart campaign and cute use of’s rich media resources, but these whiskered tricksters got me mulling a bigger topic…how much online interruption is too much?

Online display advertising (like its print, outdoor, and broadcast cousins) works by interrupting your day to deliver you a message. The value of that message and how the interruption happens determine the success of the campaign. Here are some key thoughts when you’re considering interruption advertising:

Interrupt Quickly
Everyone’s heard the cliche “Americans see over 5,000 advertising messages a day“. That’s part of the challenge, but more importantly, the pace of our lives has quickened. Production, interaction, and distraction dominate our day. The space to interrupt us is smaller than ever, so do it quickly. Any delay and zap – your target is gone.

Show Immediate Value
Once you’ve mastered the quick interruption, tell us why you’re there – and make it good.
Side note: This is where properly segmenting your audience is important. What makes you valuable to one audience, doesn’t necessarily click for another. So use the many targeting technologies available to get the right value message up front.

Be Fun
This one is simple. Fun is never boring, offensive, or off-putting. Fun is interesting. Fun is good. So even with a serious product and service, find what is interesting and fun about it. Your audience will be more receptive to your message.

Back to our friends, Zoe and Sierra. Instead of shutting down my browser with mischief and then disappearing into a banner ad, why not bounce my screen with a ball, and invite me to play a game along the outside borders of my browser? Seal volleyball anyone?

Then invite me to meet Zoe and Sierra. Maybe even create a cartoon featuring these two characters. Kids drive attendance to the Aquarium, so get kids excited with games, stories, and cool facts/information about this adorable seal and sea lion. Then present your offer – Meet Zoe and Sierra in person at an NEAQ show this summer only! Maybe add a monetary value like get a free meet and greet with Zoe and Sierra when purchasing a season’s pass.

If I’m a parent or a child, that kind of interruption would get my attention.

Incoming! the magazine by students, for students

We’ve felt for a long time the best way to market is with good storytelling. And when our friends at Curry College asked us to develop a strategy to help them convert more of their accepted students into enrolled students, story was the way to go. No matter who we talked to about their college choice (Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenials), they all had personal reasons why they made their choice – “something just clicked.” So why not ask current Curry students, “what ‘clicked’ for them?”

That’s how Incoming was born – a digest of student stories, tips, ideas, and info all designed to help accepted high school seniors understand what made Curry the right choice for their peers. Check out some of the spreads here. Terrific copy as always from @WriterSteph7783 and tremendous design from Adam Goldstein.

Also keep an eye out for a series of Incoming video profiles to debut in late April.

Which Half of Your Advertising is Wasted? – 5 Simple Ways to Start Measuring Your Marketing

“I know half my advertising is wasted – I just don’t know which half.”
-John Wanamaker, 19th century merchant, considered the father of modern advertising

Why with all we’ve accomplished in the last two centuries, is this quote still relevant to business owners and marketers today? It shouldn’t be. There are very simple measurement tools and strategies that can tell you which media and messaging investments are working and which are “wasted”.

Here are five quick tips for developing an effective measurement strategy:

1) Monitor the Phones
Place unique, trackable phone numbers in different media placements to measure which get the most response. Each number re-routes to the same line, so you won’t need to make any changes to your current phone operations. You can even assign different numbers to different ad creative or to different elements within a single medium to monitor which section of the paper gets you the most traffic or whether one set of ad copy works better than another. This data can be invaluable when optimizing your campaigns.

A word of caution, don’t over-measure. Placing too many different numbers, especially within a single medium can confuse your target audience. We recommend keeping it simple. One number per medium is a good rule of thumb.

Recommended Media: Print, direct mail, email, transit, billboards, and other out of home

Potential Challenges: Brands that are highly identifiable with a vanity phone number – 1-800-54-GIANT for instance, present challenges for phone tracking. Obviously you can’t measure one medium against another when all of the numbers are 1-800-54-GIANT, but using another number undermines decades of brand development. For some brands, phone tracking just isn’t viable.

Next Level: Try recording the inbound calls. It costs a little more, but the recorded conversations give you real insight into the interest level, frequently asked questions, and mindset of your potential customers. The recordings also serve as a terrific sales training tool.

2) Use Your Own Ad Server
This one takes a little know how, but serving your own online ads allows a lot of flexibility and measurement opportunities. When you see a banner, video, or text ad online, it has been sent to your screen from an ad server. Operating your own (or having your agency operate one) allows you to change your online creative in real time and to monitor impressions, clicks, and conversions without depending on your media vendor for these vital measurement statistics.

Recommended Media: Any online advertising (banner, video, or text)

Potential Challenges: Not all web publishers support an ad server, or they may not support your particular ad server. Mediaplex, Adblade, and AdTech are some of the most popular. Also note that many ad servers cannot work with rich media, so if your online advertising includes a page takeover, expanding ads, or rovion technology, you may not be able to measure using your ad server.

Next Level: One of the true benefits of managing your own ad server is A/B testing. Want to test different creative or landing page designs/concepts against each other? Use your ad server to set up true 50/50 A/B tests to allow your audience to tell you what messaging they respond to most.

3) Set Up Specific Landing Pages
Most people know that online ads should direct users to landing pages with the specific content you were advertising rather than dump the user on your home page. The landing page gives the user a more customized experience and allows you to set the stage for an inquiry or sale.

But landing pages can also be an extremely effective measurement tool. If you set up landing pages on different URLs and assign those URLs to different media, when a prospect converts, you can directly attribute that conversion to a specific media. This strategy is specifically useful for brands that tend to have an inquiry process before a sale like higher education, senior living, B2B, etc., because those brands can now attribute final sales to the media where the inquiry originated.

Recommended Media: Everything – both online and offline media

Next Level: Use friendly URLs to drive traffic from offline media. Landing pages usually live on long URLs, which are difficult for people to remember from TV, Radio, Print, or Out of Home advertising. Use a friendly URL that will re-direct to the long form one to improve recall and action.

Potential Challenges: If the friendly URL doesn’t have immediate relevance to the user, they won’t use it. For instance, doesn’t mean anything to a user. gives them a reason to go there. The next challenge is that you don’t want to dilute your message with too many different friendly URLs. If you have ten different offline media placements, ten different iterations of are nearly impossible to come up with and may confuse your audience. There are some limits to what you can measure.

4) Google Analytics
Google Analytics, like the human brain, rarely gets used to anywhere near its full potential. Analytics gives you the tools to measure where users go when they navigate away from your landing page, the top search terms visitors use to get to your site (invaluable for Adwords campaigns), even where users click most on a given page.

Recommended Media: Your Web Site

Potential Challenges: Analytics, like many Google properties, are sometimes difficult to use. But there are some terrific online resources here.

Next Level: Learn to set up “Goals” in Analytics, so you can set up certain online behaviors you want to measure.

5) Know the Limits of Measurement
No matter how sophisticated your measurement strategy, you can’t measure everything. Some users are going to simply look up your regular number and bypass your call tracking. Or they’ll see your online ad and look you up in the yellow pages bypassing your landing page. Or maybe they’ll see your ad on TV, Google you for more info, and finally ask a friend how to get in touch with you. There’s always a way around measurement, so the key is to see your measurement as a representative sample. It’s simply data that can help you make better decisions about your media. There are no magic bullets.

Want to add a strategy you’ve used effectively? Have any questions? What about social engagement measurement? Continue the conversation with us on Facebook at or on Twitter @Triad_Ideas #ThinkSuccess.

If you’ve read this far, you’re interested in the topic and have patience. Here’s a bonus for you!

Bright Idea: Branded Free Cabs on New Year’s Eve

One of the many ways New York and Boston are different…when you want to get around Manhattan you take taxis. Going from Fenway to the Waterfront? You’re riding the “T”. Ever wondered why this is? I always took it for granted that the MBTA was the way to get around. Well aside from the small, busy streets that make driving difficult for cabs, the cost as shown in this Washington Post info graphic, is the deciding factor. Boston has the 4th most expensive taxi service in the country (NY has the 29th for those too lazy to count).

Who knew? In a town where the bars close at 2a and the “T” usually stops running between midnight and 1a, an expensive cab ride or a long walk may be your only options to get home.

That got us thinking. On some of the biggest party nights of the year, when you and your closest friends are closing down the bars just after 2a, and public transportation is no longer an option, is there a brand opportunity there? Inspired by the innovative work from Zappos on Thanksgiving Eve, we’re dishing out this bright bulb of an idea to any hospitality brand that wants to use it or would like our help executing it.

This New Year’s Eve, supply a limited number of free, branded cabs to everyone in Boston. Designate 20 or so cabs, all wrapped in your company’s brand, to drive around the city bringing weary party-goers home for no charge. The buzz alone would be spectacular. Each cab can use a location service like GoWalla (just purchased by Facebook and easily integrated into the FB mobile user interface), FourSquare, or even Twitter or Facebook for patrons to know where the closest cabs are. Video could be taken to develop a web video or on air ad. You could play Cash Cab style games with riders for brand related prizes. If the brand was a hotel, offer the riders a discounted room for staying the evening in the city. Encourage the riders to share the experience and thank the brand using social media.

If the execution is successful at New Year’s, repeat on St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, 4th of July, and other high level holidays in Boston.

What do you think? What would the major challenges be? Is this idea too crazy to work? Are you going to steal it? Want help making it happen?

Leave a comment or catch up with us on Twitter @Triad_Ideas #ThinkSuccess.