This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.
It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.
Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.
Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.
I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.
Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.
The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.
Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
During this discussion, we dive into finding the right balance between personal and professional branding , 4 steps to a better digital you and the importance of creating and sharing content, and adding value to your professional networks.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS EPISODE
1. How important it is to develop and share your own perspective and point of view.
2. Be open with your network connections.
3. Find the right balance of Personal Brand (the Digital You) and your Professional Brand (the hand that feeds you).
4. Diversify your network.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
Follow Eric Hanes @WordsDisruption
I recently had the privilege to be interviewed by the SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute team for the TAI blog. This is a repost of the interview discussing various topics tied to teaching, career advice, and how the advertising industry has shifted over the years.
Professor Tom Edwards is teaching capstone course ADV 4399 Advertising Campaigns for the Temerlin Advertising Institute this semester. Professor Edwards is the chief digital officer at Agency, Epsilon, where he oversees brand planning, research, data design, digital strategy, digital experience, social/CRM/email, innovation and media. He regularly publishes content and speaks on the future of marketing.
Professor Edwards was an adjunct faculty member of the virtual campus for Wayland Baptist University from 2003-2015. He also instructed Principles of Marketing, Advertising & Promotion, Global Marketing and Consumer Behavior. He has also guest lectured at University of Texas at Arlington, and prior to joining the TAI team he was a member of the SMU Digital Accelerator certification program faculty.
What made you want to become a professor?
I have spent the past 17 years in the marketing technology space. The rate of change associated with technology, its impact on consumer behavior and ultimately how we connect with consumers continues to outpace traditional academia’s ability to keep pace. I wanted to contribute and give back to the next generation of advertising professionals by bridging the gap theory and the practical application.
What is your background in the subject you teach?
I currently instruct the Advertising Campaigns course. Over my professional career, I have worked on campaigns for hundreds of fortune 1000 brands (Citi, Starbucks, AT&T, GameStop, Activision, Hasbro, Frito-Lay to name a few) both domestic and international. My expertise is rooted in a deep understanding of technology, consumer behavior, data and intelligent systems such as artificial intelligence and the application of machine learning.
What has been your favorite memory from teaching for TAI so far?
The passion and creativity exhibited by the students and the staff and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work, even when it’s in areas they may not be in their core area of focus.
What is your favorite part about being a professor?
I have instructed thousands of students over the past 15 years across a few universities and my favorite part is the open dialogue with the students. Getting to hear their perspectives and thoughts and to see their work evolve over the course of the semester is incredibly gratifying.
What made you want to go into advertising? How did you get where you are in your career?
I started my advertising career during the dot com days of the late 90’s. I had a passion for technology and all things digital. As graphical user interfaces and connectivity began to spread, so did the need to create engaging digital experiences.
The alignment of marketing and technology have been a key foundation for the advancement of my career. I have worked in interactive agencies, start-ups, enterprise software companies and large agency holding companies. Having the ability to decipher complex problems into simple solutions has been a key to career advancement. The other critical component to career growth has been my blog. 10 years and over 400 posts later, having a visible point of view and a repository for thought, industry commentary and speaking has been a valuable asset in my career development.
How have you seen the advertising industry change since you started?
The biggest change over my career is the shift towards the empowered consumer. Prior to 2007 advertising had remained somewhat stable with broadcast at the center of the experience. In 2007 we saw that begin to shift with the introduction of the first iPhone. This sparked the shift towards mobility in advertising that is still prevalent.
Then we saw how technology enhances consumer empowerment through the creation of user-created content, accessibility and amplification via social channels, the personification of brands and celebrity being redefined from Hollywood to influencers.
Moving forward we are now seeing the shift from content marketing to contextual and the rise of multimodal interfaces with the focus shifting from mobile and desktop to voice, vision, and touch.
Moving forward, we will see the shift from consumer-centric advertising to system based marketing as algorithms and virtual assistants will take on more responsibility for consumers and ultimately our definition of reality will evolve when we see the convergence of location data, computer vision, augmented reality and artificial intelligence where any space, physical or digital becomes a new canvas to connect with consumers.
What advice do you have for students who want to have a career in advertising?
I have 3 tips for students just starting their career:
1) Network – Begin building a professional network before you start your professional career. Attend industry events and network in-person, focus on your LinkedIn profile and engaging with content. Your professional network is one of your most valuable resources. It should require more nurturing and attention than personal social channels.
2) Sponsor & Mentor – It is key to seek a mentor, someone who works in the industry you are about to enter to help navigate key pitfalls and to “learn the ropes” from a seasoned individual. It is incredibly important to be open to feedback. It is also important to identify a sponsor within your organization. Someone who is either directly or indirectly in your chain of command. Someone who can provide positive internal earned media and groom you for advancement. You cannot always depend on an immediate supervisor to serve this role. Seek out highly respected and influential individuals within the organization, you will know who they are.
3) Original Thought – I cannot reiterate how important publishing content can be for a new grad. Having thoughts on industry commentary or showcasing your ability to connect trends that may not seem to link on the surface is an art that can lead to you being selected over someone else.
How do you incorporate aspects from your work into your teaching?
I look to bring best in class examples and techniques, be it research, the latest on aligning psychographics and affinity to personas or the role of conversational experiences into digital strategies. The key is aligning experience and tools with the core areas of focus of the lesson or assignment.
Follow Professor Edwards on Twitter @BlackFin360 to stay up to date on the latest areas of study.
I received a nice surprise as there was a special package waiting for me in my office. It was an early release version of the Xbox One X Project Scorpio edition.
The Xbox One X officially launches on the 7th of November. I captured the full unboxing, setup, and discuss what’s included and the features of the console including a look at the system after start-up.
A special thank you to Brent at Xbox and Chris from TripleClix for the great surprise.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
Here is a shot from the old TheBlackFin blog.
Starting and maintaining a blog has proven to be one of the most important decisions and invaluable assets in my career development and progression over the past decade.
By the simple act of formulating perspectives on various industry topics, it served as a foundational knowledge base to capture trends and evaluate shifts tied to consumer behavior.
Over time it served as a timeline to measure and gauge key technology inflection points and the impact of disruptive and emerging technologies.
Knowing that I had to create content changed my curation behaviors tied to industry news and new technology. My focus shifted from simply consuming content to analyzing topics and looking for connections as the foundation for digital strategy.
I joined Twitter the same month I started my blog in 2007.
Now, the role of my blog has shifted to sharing thought leadership with agency clients, a reflection of industry media commentary, and speaking engagements. But regardless of how much the focus evolves over the next ten years at it’s core the blog will still be about aligning experience + perspective + prediction.
My strategic approach developed through blogging was a key component to recently being named by Advertising Age as a Marketing Technology Trailblazer.
Beyond blogging, here is additional advice for those just starting their career.
Have a POV – Regardless of platform have a spot to capture your thoughts and focus on 2-3 territories in your industry of interest and begin commenting and creating your voice and perspective.
Build a Network – Your most valuable professional asset is your network. Be diligent in meeting movers and shakers in your industry and seek out those who are crafting a narrative in their industry and emulate their approach until you refine your own.
Mentor & Sponsor – Having an internal advocate is incredibly important when it comes to career advancement. It’s not enough to keep your head down and work hard. You need to work hard and have an internal sponsor who will champion your advancement.
You will also need a mentor, preferably someone who is not in your current organization but knows your industry to provide a bigger picture perspective and guide you through the challenges that will inevitably be a part of career advancement. I have been incredibly lucky and thankful to those who have sponsored and mentored me over the years.
Thank you to the thousands of visitors over the past 10 years. I write to openly share thoughts about the industry and to unravel the connection between emerging technology and it’s impact on human behavior.
Here’s to the next 10 years!
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
Today Advertising Age announced their 2017 list of top 25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers and I am honored to be included.
Photo by Bradley Taylor, Caprock Studio
A big thank you to the Epsilon corporate communications team, DGC and Advertising Age judges. I am truly humbled by the inclusion with such a great list of industry innovators.
I am incredibly grateful to my data design strategy and innovation teams. From research, planning, data design, digital strategy, digital experience delivery, social and innovation a huge thank you for all that you do.
I also want to thank Richard McDonald and the Epsilon agency leadership team for your continued support. Richard, it was your vision that sold me on joining Epsilon and its one of the best career decisions I have made.
Finally, a very special thank you to my amazing wife Cherlyn for supporting all the crazy hours and travel for the past 17 years.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
TA Expert Interview Series featuring Tom Edwards of The Marketing Arm
Tom Edwards, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.
Edwards joined Buckner to discuss modern day digital, social, and mobile innovations, the importance of bridging technology and marketing, and the four core elements that bring a campaign to life.
Below are a few of the highlights from our conversation:
TA: Tell us about what life is like at TMA and some of the projects you work on everyday.
Tom: At The Marketing Arm, we’re really a consumer engagement agency, so that touches a wide range of project types. Everything from digital, to promotional, to talent, to production, to just a number of different types of projects that come across my desk on any given day.
I’m a part of the digital engagement division and we service about 16 core clients, everything from Exxonmobil, to GameStop, to name just a few organizations. So over the last 15 years, my role within the industry has really shifted from starting more on the technology side, and really kind of incorporated being that bridge between technology and marketing.
As digital continues to progress, we’ve seen it all: the end of the dotcom boom, massive portals, the rise of consumer social. All of these different types of trends we’ve seen definitely had a hand in touching and guiding different project types across multiple platforms and different routes of sale. It’s been a fun, interesting ride and it continues to get better.
TA: What suggestions do you have for a team trying to compare and find the right marketing automation vendors? What should they be looking for?
Tom: Portability. So if I’m able to either leverage a tool that can aggregate content, redistribute, visualize things that can basically whether it’s a seamless flow, whether that’s your API through an SDK or whatever it may be, like that’s what I’m ultimately looking for now.
I’m looking for how can this one piece fit into the larger strategy that I’m trying to deploy and continue to add value without adding additional barriers or additional layers, that’s really the key piece. Because we’re touching so many different channels, everything from top line awareness via digital all the way down to shopper and point of sale.
So making sure that we can have programs that can work in scale. Scale is another key piece for us too and the data considerations depending upon local versus global so there are a lot of different pieces that we look at when we’re evaluating but for me, it’s how can whatever tool that you’re leveraging best provide value for everything as a whole versus just one specific piece or one specific function.
Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.
Chief Marketer recently named my agency, The Marketing Arm, promo agency of the year for 2012. In this month’s issue of Chief Marketers Promo Magazine, they break down the top 100 promo agencies in the US as well as a two page article about TMA and why we were chosen as this years recipient. The article also includes a key reference to our upcoming Flockstar beta launch. Here is a link to the full article.
Flockstar is the first of our new crowdsourcing service offerings that I have worked intensely on over the past 6 months. More news to come as we get closer to the public launch but if you are a creative, strategist, planner, etc… then there is still time to join the private beta at http://www.flockstar.co
Hmm.. the gentlemen to the far right looks oddly familiar…
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
I don’t know about you but I am driven by achievements. Yes I hear the laughter now and see the nodding of heads. I like to set an achievable goal and reach the objective. Maybe it is my military past or growing up in a military household but I like to have a clear objective that I can then pursue. Be it professional or personal I really enjoy a good challenge! This is what drives me professionally as it is a constant push to achieve x amount of revenue and margin.
At the beginning of this year I set a few arbitrary personal goals… outside of being the best father and husband that I can be:
1) 100 miles with Nike+ – Since I am a dad first, meaning most of my activities are home centric, running is one of the ways I workout. Setting a goal definitely adds to my motivation.
I am happy to share that I have now officially achieved these goals! I know it is arbitrary, what value does Gamerscore have? Outside of the ~10 cents per point that I have spent in $$$ not much other than to my friends who play as well. Airline miles??? Yes now I have the ability to sit on the plane a little bit longer. The only one that has any value is the running goal at least from an overall health perspective. But from my perspective these were primary personal objectives that I wanted to complete.
For me I find motivation in having a very clear set of objectives and working hard to achieve the goal. What motivates you? Do you set specific goals and work towards them? Do you wait for things to come to you? I am really interested in understanding how you find motivation to do what you do.
I wanted to take a moment and thank my wife for the best 9 years of my life so far.
We were married in October of 1999 on this day and I consider myself the luckiest man in the world to have found a woman I love so deeply. Now after 9 years and 3 kiddos I still feel the same as I did 9 years ago.
Thank you Cherlyn for all that you do!
Thanks again to our friends at the Microsoft Automotive team. I had the privilege to join them for this past weekends Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
I have never attended an IRL, Le Mans Series or an SCCA SPEED World event so I got to experience all three at one location.
And I have to say it was a great event! Being a guest of Microsoft meant that I got to experience the same amenities as they do. This included their trackside chalet to watch the races as well as paddock access to view the cars, drivers and crews up close and personal.
It was great to see the likes of Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Danica Patrick hit the track… or actually road since this is a road course vs. the standard oval.
The event was the brainchild of Roger Penske with all net proceeds from the event going to the funding of the preservation of Belle Isle.
It was a great event and I want to thank our friends at the Microsoft Automotive team for being excellent hosts!
Below is me with one of the race cars…. Does it come in Black????
More pictures from the event are available in the Photo Gallery under Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
We initially flew into Vancouver to meet with Electronic Arts and various clients but we had also scheduled a meeting in Seattle (Roughly 2 hours away) so we jumped into the rental and drove towards the border.
We arrive at the border crossing and did not realize that we were in the “Nexis” lane which is equivalent to a FastPass into the US. So the line was roughly 40 minutes long and we did not realize we were in the wrong lane. We found out soon enough.
Once we realized our mistake it was too late. We tried to move over to the middle lane and it took a good 5-10 minutes to pull over. Once we made it into the proper lane we heard obscenities directed at us that would make a sailor blush. This coming from the most unassuming people you could imagine. Think of grandmothers and grandfathers in their late 70’s early 80’s.
So we have our meeting with Sony and head back to the border that same day. It is about 10:30 PM at night and there were no lines going back into Canada.
The guard at the initial post reviews our documents… smiles and asks us to pull over into one of the stalls and exit the vehicle, enter the building and get in line “a”.
We pull in just to see the contents of the car next to us completely removed from the vehicle. So this already looks like it is going to be a lot of fun.
Once inside we are interviewed separately… What are you doing here, where are you going, what states have you lived in since you were 18.
Once they interviewed both of us we were asked to remain seated while they ran full background checks on us.
In the meantime an individual was in our same waiting area and he was called up. Once he was at the counter he was told that he can never enter Canada and he was not welcome based on information that came up during his background check.
Needless to say I was not worried as I have no record to speak of but still being in that position and the demeanor of the border patrol it made me uneasy for a moment.
After a few more minutes we were handed our passports and sent on our way.
The morale of the story is to just fly to Canada and stay in the same country for the duration of the trip.
I consider myself a decent gamer, 45,000+ gamerscore, but on this day my 6 year old son absolutely obliterated me on Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii.
It is not just today either. The domination started a few days ago and the competition has been building.
He has mastered the little yellow powerhouse known as Pikachu. Who would have known that a 1’4″, 13 pound furry fantasy animal would cause me such grief.
You may or may not know about Pikachu. It is a character from the insanely popular Pokemon series. Yes they are still around and we buy the cards regularly. They are for my son, really.
His record is now 12-2 against me with the little yellow fuzz ball. I am frustrated but very proud at the same time.
I will hear pika-pika-pikachu in my sleep. The baton has officially been passed.
Today was our last day in Dallas before our vacation to Destin, Florida. You know, a day to get everything packed and ready for the fun in the sun to come. But today was one of those days that you could make a really funny movie out of or just break down in angst and defeat.
When you have kids, you know there will be great moments, your sons first soccer goal, your daughters first dance recital, etc… There are also those days that seem to never end. This was one of those days.
It all started a few days ago when my daughter was sick, then magically on Wednesday of this week I get sick, 104 degree fever, the works. So I am still not 100% today… more on that later.
The kids were playing in the backyard when my oldest son Gavin comes screaming into the house like a banshee. We asked him what happened and we immediately notice a large number of bites glowing red on his arms and legs. I look out at his play fort and see yellow jackets flying in formation as if celebrating their kill. Let’s just say they will no longer be patrolling this airway.
So we immediately go with the ice/benadryl combo and pray that he is not allergic. After about 30 minutes everything is looking good until he says… “I am having trouble breathing”. So we hop in my car and off to the ER we go. This is roughly 1:00 PM by now. We arrive at the ER and an hour and a half later we get the all clear. So he is good to go. So we head out for some celebratory ice cream and medicine pickup.
Back on the home front there is still packing to do but I am still not feeling 100%, in fact I am starting to feel worse. So around 5:30 I do a web check in thinking it will save me time. I don’t get the call that they have a room for me until 9:00 PM. So after another hour and a half I am the one that ends up with a shot today, not the one who got stung 8 times. Go figure.
So now it is closer to 10:45 PM and I finally make it home to continue packing the car. I go to get something out of the van and the auto sliding door won’t open. Then I open the front door and the lights flicker then go out. The battery is dead. Someone left the keys in the ignition when he took the van earlier. So now I not only get to pack the car, but jump the car as well.
So this is around 11:45 PM. I am in the garage setting up the jumper cables, the van no problem. Then I get to my car and I realize that I have not jumped off of my car before. It is a C-230 and needless to say I was not quite sure how I was going to pull it off after popping the hood. I had to remove the battery cover, filter, etc… to get to the area I needed to do the jump. So car is now jumped and it is past midnight.
We are wrapping the final items for the trip and I am shutting down around 1:30 AM. When my son comes downstairs covered in vomit and commences to use our facilities. Then I get the welcome surprise in his bed that he left. And oh what a surprise it was. It reminds me of Stand By Me when everyone has a blueberry pie explosion… Yeah needless to say I got the lucky task of changing out the sheets. How did Cherlyn get out of that one? Well she has been taking care of sick people for the last week.
While I was changing the sheets and trying my hardest to get rid of the smell I go to open his window and set off the house alarm and wake up our light sleeping infant son. Now 4 out of the 5 family members are awake and my princess is just sleeping right through it all. Lucky girl.
So it is 2:32 in the morning, their is still vomit in the air and the looming 5:45 wake up call to catch our flight isn’t getting further away. This is a great start to our vacation, did I mention that rain is forecasted for the next 7 days there as well stopping on the day we are to leave :).
Like I said, this is either a day that you can just laugh about or makes you just want to roll over. What time does Starbucks open again???
If you would have asked me 10 years about how many kids I would have or what kind of dad I would be I would have looked at you like you were from another planet. Fast forward 10 years and 3 kids later and I would not want to be anything else than my kids dad.
Gavin (5), Audrey (3), Grant (6 months) and my beautiful wife Cherlyn are the reason I get up every morning. Well that and my daughter likes to wake me up at 5:30 in the morning. Outside of trying to be a good role model and teaching them the ways of the world I occasionally have to perform a “Dad” duty.
Last night was one of those times. Being a medic in my time in the Army you would think that I would not have any issues with anything to do with a health related issue. I have given IV’s, numerous injections, etc… so last night my son Gavin had a loose tooth.
Being the trooper that he was he wanted me to pull it. No problem right? Step 1 reach in mouth, Step 2 grip tooth, Step 3 forcefully extract, Step 4 bask in the toothless glory of his new smile. Except somewhere between Step 2 and Step 3 I ran into a slight issue.
The tooth was definitely ready to go from the initial look and feel. I asked how he felt, he tensed but was ready. Then the first pull…. no tooth in my hand… a bit of blood and some screaming ensued. Tried again no go. So this right of passage is becoming an episode of Friday the 13th. Now as a dad there is nothing worse than seeing one of your children in pain so what do you want to do? Remove the source of pain right?
So now it was about distracting and calming. So I used the “let’s dry your mouth” as an opportunity to pull it while he was calm. A few wipes, a quick snap and the tooth was out. Back to my army reference. The site of blood does not bother me, but something about seeing the blood of one of your own definitely took me back a step or two. That and physically removing a piece of bone from your little ones mouth.
Well here was the finished result… mission accomplished :)
While I was traveling to Detroit for business we had a new phone system installed at the office. This is a very slick system, soft dialing, queues, etc…What I didn’t know was another plan was unfolding around the phone system.
There was a phone box on my desk and a few of my co-workers/culprits (John Balod, Deryl Dorsett) kept asking me about my new “wireless” phone so we made it back to my office and I opened the box to find a new “phone system” alright. The system consists of two Green Giant cans of corn connected by a long string complete with hand drawn instruction manual and a “long distance” add-on…. extra long pieces of string.
This was pretty funny, but it actually works as well! I may keep my new phone system vs. the high-tech system that everyone else is deploying :)