Friday, November 30, 2007

TJX, Television Viewing and Trust

I ran across a CNET post earlier in the week that recalled a recent experience. While I was paying (in cash) for a small purchase at the local TJ Maxx the checker asked me if I wanted to save money with a rewards card. I had seen a promotion for it as I entered the store and thought, “Are they nuts? Willingly give them any data? Not in this lifetime!”

And that’s pretty much the response I gave to the clerk’s question. The look on her face suggested that she was hearing that a lot, but she just replied politely that she had to ask. I apologized for snapping at her. The failings of TJX management are not her fault.

The CNET post highlighted a 60 Minutes segment from Sunday, November 25 that included the recently-completed Canadian study of the data theft. Sorry I missed it, because one of the subjects for the week’s Internet marketing class at Emerson College was data security. The TJX hack was in the class notes even though we had already talked about it several times, but I was pretty sure that Leslie Stahl had more/more recent information than I did.

So I asked the class of young professionals how many had watched 60 Minutes Sunday night and then waited for a hand to go up. And waited. Of the 15 young professionals and 1 much older one, not one of us had seen the promotion for the segment or watched the broadcast. It’s no secret that broadcast TV has its own viewership issues, but that surprised even me.

I assumed the segment might be posted somewhere, so during the break I searched. It took me less than 60 seconds to find it on the CBS News site, where it still resides as of this posting. That, too, is a commentary on the changing media scene. We all watched it together and had similar responses. The subject matter is downright scary even though we all though we knew quite a bit about the situation. For an Internet marketing class it also made the important point that identity theft is currently more common offline. Will that change as ecommerce continues to grow?

No matter whose fault they are—the retailers or the financial services providers—thefts like the TJX one do irreparable damage to customer trust. Especially when the institution at fault doesn’t notify the public in a timely fashion and seems less than forthcoming when they do notify. TJX does still have a prominent link to customer information about the data breach on their home page and on the main pages of each of their units. That mostly serves to remind many of us where we will only shop with cash, if at all.

No rewards card for me, for sure. And a sobering reminder of how hard marketers need to work to build trust in their brands and how easily it can be damaged. If you are a Jet Blue, and you have a great reservoir of good will among your customers, you can survive one bad experience, especially if the CEO is public and forthcoming and promises to fix the problem. How many of us have built that level of satisfaction and trust among our stakeholders? And what do we need to be doing to continue building trust?
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Savy Students and a Marketing Icon

The two go together, don’t they? A team of students from the Integrated Marketing Communications program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University recently sent me the link. They had produced a podcast interview with Don Schultz, who has already been featured in this blog.
Don is a veteran advertiser and educator who has been a role model and mentor to many of us. That’s probably the reason he has a Wikipedia entry. It’s a delight to hear Don talk about the evolution of integrated marketing communications and speculate on the future. Do take a few minutes and listen to the podcast.

As you do, think about the students who are learning to use social media techniques and the academic programs that are fostering that kind of real world relevance. In my early explorations of DIY Marketing I required a class of MBA students to each “build” something using freely-available applications. They looked at me with dismay; they were marketing students and the idea of exploring the applications wasn’t what they expected. But they got over their initial shock and came up with some great ideas. A couple built wikis, one set up filters (in the days before Google Alerts) to monitor the web for mentions of his company, several did podcasts or blogs. No one bought any software; one did have to buy a microphone--$17 as I remember, but that was the extent of the entire class’s expenditure.

At least one project made it into the marketing communications repertoire of the student’s firm. None of the projects that featured their own academic program were picked up by the administration, but—true to my prediction—a student group soon started their own independent blog. Higher ed has a real problem with open communications about programs, courses, and faculty. It’s even worse when it’s undergraduates where parents may see what’s going on.

These students are the future of our discipline. They need to be grounded in business-relevant, business-appropriate use of social media tools. Otherwise they may meet the fate of the bank intern who was all over the web the week after Halloween. This could be an urban myth, but no one has yet exposed it as a hoax, and the pictures are great!

Academics need to make the extra effort and practitioners really need to support them with guest lectures, curriculum support, internship programs and more in order to make this happen. Then we’ll have more great creative products like this one from Medill. Thanks, gang!
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Will 2008 Be the Year of Mobile Marketing?

That’s in the US, and AdAge thinks it will be(free registration required). Mobile use, and consequently mobile marketing is already well-established in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Marketers need to watch developments there because they are several steps ahead of us. The site of the Mobile Marketing Association and their case studies are an efficient way to find out about some of the best campaigns outside the US.

Back here, why mobile? Why now? Why mobile is straightforward—wireless penetration is now substantial among both adults and teens. Why now is also pretty straightforward. Until now wireless bandwidth has been insufficient to support anything except calls and text messaging.

The FTC will auction wireless spectrum early next year that will greatly increase access to high-speed wireless connections in the US. The auction has received more attention than usual since Google announced its attention to participate. Their intentions are not entirely clear; they have until December 3 to detail them to the FTC. In the meantime, wireless users indicate they are willing to accept some types of ads on their mobile devices. Paul Martecchine gives some examples of good mobile marketing. Click here to view the video.

Mobile advertising can be a minefield for the unwary marketer. Advertising on small screens to people with small keyboards who may not welcome your communications is a whole new field of activity. Let’s begin with the fact that it requires what I call “Expanded Permission Marketing.” You have to ask not only “if” I may contact you, but also for “what” reason, “where” and “why.” This month Boston’s MBTA is conducting a beta test of wireless alerts for subway and train delays. Sounds like a good idea, right? Riders interviewed were concerned about how they would cost if there were actually a lot of alerts. Marketers beware!

The recommendations of one mobile marketer include using mobile to accomplish customer conversion and designing campaigns that are relevant to their lifestyles and interaction with your brand. In today’s lead article in iMedia Connection another mobile marketer warns that mobile must be an integral part of your strategy and gives more examples of successful campaigns.

Mobile marketing is just over the horizon—after a long wait—for US marketers. It’s not just the web on a wireless device. It’s a new channel with its own requirements for success and its own traps for marketers. It’s another train that is leaving the station and marketers should be considering what makes sense in terms of mobile initiatives.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ShopNBC Scores With V-Commerce

If it’s Cyber Monday, I must write about online shopping, right? And that from a smug person who has most of her Christmas shopping done—a large portion of it online.

My enthusiasm for video as part of the communications mix is well known. It’s not just a shopper perspective, although I use and value online video. It’s data driven. A recent study by SellPoint and Coremetrics and reported by Marketing Charts showed video product tour increasing online conversion by 35%. Among the findings of the study were:

•Shoppers who viewed videos spent an average of 2.5 minutes viewing detailed product information. That’s considerably more than the average time spent on most of the top sites according to the October 2007 Nielsen//NetRatings release.
•Last year shoppers spent more time on Thanksgiving Day viewing video product tours (208,509 minutes) than they did on Cyber Monday itself (181,726 minutes).
•They estimate that time spent will go up this year to 380,000 minutes on Thanksgiving and 182,000 minutes on Cyber Monday.
There are a lot of people pushing back from their Thanksgiving dinner table and rushing straight for the computer to start shopping! All online marketers should take note.
One firm that’s doing a lot of things well is ShopNBC, one of the big 3 television shopping channels. They use various communication channels well, including email and direct mail. Their website is a best practices leader. They call it a v-commerce channel.

After their most recent site update shoppers can:

•Watch previously-aired tv shows indexed by product category, brand or host. (All three channels have offered live streaming of their current programming for several years.)
•Search videos by product, brand or host.

•Customize the upcoming week’s program schedule by product, brand or host (full disclosure: that feature isn’t working this morning)
•Watch webcasts, which appear to be selected previously-aired programming.
•Share video by email, although that doesn’t seem to be available for all of the 4,000 or so video clips on the site.

After two month’s experience with the upgrade ShopNBC describes the results:(Press releases documenting the upgrades can be seen at > Investor Relations > Press Releases.)
•Average viewing time for the enhanced live web video stream at is five times higher than its previous version.
•Conversion for products is significantly higher when web video is a part of the customer experience.
•Strong web video usage has been seen in the most important online product categories.
•Top customers use web video more than anyone else.

They have already announced several upgrades since the v-commerce site was launched in May. Given the strong results, it seems likely there will be more. It’s a site worth watching.
But right now, I have to go shopping!
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Importance of Word-of-Mouth

Marketing Charts recently published results of a study of word-of-mouth marketing. All marketers know that word-of-mouth is powerful. The PQ Media study shows that formal word-of-mouth marketing is still miniscule compared to other marketing media. It is growing at a rapid rate, and they predict expenditures will exceed $1 billion this year.

Efforts to generate WOM are fairly recent and they have met with mixed results. I think I know why.

A firm that has achieved explosive growth with its WOM program is BzzAgent. What they do is interesting overall, but my focus is on their disclosure policy. They require that Buzz Agents disclose the fact that they are “buzzing” a product, whether it’s in person or in some medium like a blog. The requirement to disclose is absolute.

Doesn’t that limit the effectiveness of the agents? To the surprise of virtually everyone, it doesn’t. Whatever the venue, people just seem to accept the disclosure and move on to information, or product experience, or whatever it is that’s being offered. BzzAgent is much in the news, having recently established a major strategic partnership with the Interpublic Group, but I can’t find any reports of the negative consequences that would come from a revelation of non-disclosure.

Think back to the blot on the record of John Mackey and Whole Foods caused by his dishonest postings. The Wall Street Journal recently reported (subscription required) that all Whole Foods executives have been forbidden to post on any Internet forum not sponsored by the company. That’s too bad, but it’s what you get when you do something wrong and get caught at it.

What started this train of thought was the reminder a few days ago that there are sites on the Internet where you can find people willing to write for pay in Internet forums of all kinds. The ones I’ve looked at don’t seem to have a disclosure requirement. For my money, that’s a bad idea. Period.

Transparency works. Deceit does not.

Word-of-mouth works—if it is honest and transparent.

It’s really hard to hide anything in this always-on world. You will get caught. So build transparency into your social media programs. You and your brand will be better off!
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Online Events Extend Reach of Events Offline

Marketers who want to get more mileage out of events held in the physical world should consider linking them to a parallel world in cyberspace. Last week when new media maven C. C. Chapman visited my class at Emerson College he told us about another installment in the Verizon FiOS block party series.

Verizon has an interesting approach to making a local event into a cyberspace happening. They can only expand the super-fast FiOS network in a particular area one neighborhood at a time. What they are doing is using the block party rubric because it’s essentially a local event. But by creating an event space on the web they give it greater reach and longer life. The event is modeled after the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series on ABC. Verizon selects a family in the neighborhood for a “media makeover.” When it’s ready they invite both the real and the virtual neighborhoods. If you’ve watched the extreme home makeover shows or Trading Spaces on TLC, you pretty much know the drill.

The basic components (at least the ones I’ve found) are:

•The MyHome 2.0 website. It has serious information about the FiOS network, an introduction to the makeover specialists and a section featuring the families that have been selected for the upgrades.
•A Facebook group
•A Flickr site
•Tie in with FiOS TV
Blogs and vlogs all over the place.

When I tuned in to the Pittsburgh party about noon on Saturday, C.C. Chapman was broadcasting live from the Zaharko home as everyone geared up for the party. His video gives a great sense of what was happening. I also noted an invitation on Yahoo! Local and I’m sure there were lots of other things I didn’t find that were aimed at drawing attendees.

At that point I had to leave and go Christmas shopping—sorry, C.C! I caught up today—watching videos, reading blogs, and looking at some of the pictures.

And that’s exactly the point. This neighborhood block party in Pittsburgh left its footprint all over the web. Verizon has gotten a lot of mileage from the event and the promotion. It will last long after the last cup of coffee has been drunk.

One blogger was already hoping the promotion would next take place in Delaware. She wanted friends to be able to apply. The buzz is the real outcome. You might want to keep an eye on the Be The Next Reality Star page—they hold auditions.

Or you might want to think about how you can give your next promotional event a life of its own on the Internet!
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Should Marketers Stop Talking About Advertising?

Several recent studies have documented the persistent movement of marketing attention and dollars away from traditional media to interactive and social media. Highlights include a report from Forrester Research predicting that spending on interactive marketing will be over $61 billion by 2012. As a yardstick, their estimate of interactive for 2007 is in the neighborhood of $20 billion while TNS Media Intelligence estimated total advertising spend at over $152 billion.

These estimates vary hugely, depending on what media are included and the forecasting approach. For instance, Jupiter Media forecasts about $35 billion in online spending by 2012. eMarketer is in the middle, forecasting roughly $42 billion by 2011.

Whichever set of absolute dollar figures you subscribe to, the actual flow of dollars from traditional media to interactive is well documented. It is generally agreed that interactive is growing by double digits while many traditional media are experiencing actual declines in advertising revenue. The TNS figures are representative.

What is most interesting about the Forrester chart is their prediction of continuing strong growth in search marketing and huge growth lumped into “emerging channels.” Since they explicitly include online display ads, email and video (which also is forecasted to experience explosive growth) it’s clear that the emerging channels are other social media from blogs to social networks to advergaming and beyond.

Two other recent reports give perspectives on how this will change the advertising industry. A report by Accenture, quoted here last month, asked marketers to identify their top three areas for increased online spending. The choices are fairly conservative. Even so, they will create changes in how marketers carry out their interactive spending. Amateur content owners are new to the survey; the only growth area from the previous year is professional content owners. The “emerging channels” are content hogs and other content providers aren’t positioned to meet the needs.

The report with the provocative title “The End of Advertising as We Know It” is from an organization not known for frenzied speculation. IMB surveyed 2400 consumers and 80 advertising executives from around the world. Then they sounded impending doom for traditional advertising agencies and broadcasters as well as for traditional direct marketing. Advertisers themselves (DIY?), consumers and interactive agencies will create the most economic value.
This isn’t news to the traditional advertising agencies who are scrambling madly, through acquisitions and partnerships, to bring interactive services under the same corporate umbrella as their traditional services. This didn’t work well in the heyday of direct marketing back in the 1980s, it is proving problematical in the heyday of interactive.

There is a world of content creators out there—from the young man who created the iTouch commercial to residents of virtual worlds to the millions of people everywhere who post videos and photos. Savy marketers are learning to harness their own creativity and that of loyal customers in support of their brands. Let the learning continue unabated!
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Announcing a New Blog

I'm happy to announce that a new vertical blog sponsored by Glam Media launched just last night. eBrand Marketing has an interesting line-up of authors and you can expect it to be a lively and informative look at ebranding, especially in the context of marketing to women.

You may be familiar with Glam Media. Their website Glam has recently become the web traffic leader in the women's space. It has lots of good content and Web 2.0 features.

I'll be making today's post there with some new data on video. We hope you'll check it out and come back often!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coke, Virtual Thirst, and Second Life

According to Coke, even avatars get thirsty!

Whether you believe that or not, Coke has just concluded its first contest in virtual world second life. Called “Virtual Thirst” it invited people to create virtual vending machines for Second Life. The machines were to vend experience—the essence of Coke—not cans of Coke product.

The contest had a couple of interesting aspects; participants could submit entries in a variety of different formats and Second Life avatars would be the judges.

According to the contest rules,

You may submit your idea in any of the following ways: - gift an object to us in Second Life - teleport your avatar to (link no longer active; see graphic below) and use the drop-box to gift us your object
- share a video in YouTube - visit and use the "Connect with VirtualThirst" function to send us a message and attach your uploaded video
- share an image/description with us in MySpace - visit and use "Send Message" to post your idea as a message to us
- US residents only can also e-mail us your idea - send an email to with the subject line, "Virtual Thirst Entry" and attach your idea to the email. Please do not use the body of the email to describe or to link to a description of your idea.
[emphasis mine]

The contest took place across several media channels, opening it to more participants and giving Coke insight into channel usage. It probably also increased the difficulty of picking the winning entry. Judges were avatars, members of Joseph Jaffe’s Crayon marketing services company. A blog entry by Greg Verdino, a member of the firm, shows how comments were used to implement “listening” as part of the program. He also makes available a screen capture of the submission process on Second Life, complete with avatars.

The winning entry was a video and the announcement gives a good idea of how the contest played out. Coke doesn’t appear to be talking about their perspective on the contest—at least not yet.

There’s been a lot of criticism of Second Life in the marketing and tech trade press lately. Second Life itself offers metrics for its use, which of course makes their credibility suspect. Second Life may or not have the sustainable model; time will tell. There are many virtual worlds now; Tech Crunch (see complete table here) did an overview recently.
The time may come when most Internet users will have a presence in a virtual world for social or business purposes. It’s another thing marketers must learn about, must experiment with. It looks to me as if Coke’s first try turned out pretty well. I’m sure they learned lessons that will stand them in good stead as they consider other interactive ventures.
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Friday, November 9, 2007

Attracting the Attention of Internet Users

Reports on multitasking always amuse me. That’s probably because I see when I am sitting in front of the computer with the TV on in the background, maybe playing a video clip or webcast loud enough to be heard over it. I’m a member of the group, and I’m always interested to see what we are doing.

Marketing Charts quoted a recent study by Burst Media in which they found both men and women of all ages multitasking while they are online. They found that:

• ”Watching television (58.3%) is the most common offline activity while also online.
• Television viewing is followed by job-related activities (33.0%), reading a book (31.1%), reading a magazine or newspaper (29.7%), talking on a cell phone (23.6%), listening to the radio (21.6%), school work (17.9%), sending text messages by cell phone or other device (17.8%), and playing video games (15.5%).” See the full report here.

Not surprisingly, young users 18 – 34 do a bit more, but I doubt the differences are significant until you get to the 45s and older. USA Today did a series last year that went into depth on the media habits of the younger set, elaborating on issues I wrote about earlier in the week. They are trend-setters and it’s important to watch them, but don’t let that obscure the fact that multitasking is universal.

The question then becomes how we attract their attention in any medium—and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. There has been a lot of buzz recently about both MySpace and Facebook offering targeted advertising that is based on behavioral profiling. The buzz is a bit overdone because behavioral targeting is an established sub-discipline of Internet marketing. eMarketer, quoting the Connected Consumers study cited in an earlier post, consumers find personalized ads useful at the same time they have some qualms about being tracked.
There is also the time-honored direct marketing technique of offering them something. That approach is going mobile, and it’s especially popular with the young. However, a couple of recent ads from my friends at BostonNow shows that it’s taking hold in urban environments too. Mobile advertising has a way to go in the US, but if you are heading in the direction of one of the restaurants, why not text ahead for a free serving of nachos or a free cup of coffee? As direct marketers know, “free” is the operative word, and it attracts attention. Good marketers will carefully acquire opt-in permission to continue offering these customers mobile promotions. Let the dialog begin!

These two ways of attracting the attention of consumers have something in common. They do not rely on what pundits from Seth Godin to Bob Garfield have described as “interruption marketing.” It just doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are doing something else important and they don’t want to be interrupted.

Relevance works. So does embedding targeted offers in entertaining content.

What doesn’t work is trying too hard--too obviously--to sell them something. Online advertising needs to avoid the meaningless blandness of most offline advertising. Presence on social media must offer something useful in a life-style appropriate manner. Mobile absolutely must be invited.

We are in search of a new advertising (or is it non-advertising?) model. Any thoughts on what it’s going to look like?
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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dove Takes Another (Small) Step

Dove has received much positive buzz for the Campaign for Real Beauty that began with a Super Bowl ad in 2004 and has continued in many forms since. Ad Age(graphic on left; subscription required) recently suggested that sales of the brand have slowed in spite of the (mostly) postitive vibes about the campaign, but Dove is continuing to innovate within the framework of the Campaign for Real Beauty and the Dove Self Esteem Fund that is part of it. The positive message of this campaign is attractive to many of us.

I get excited when I see something new, so when I saw a Dove video described as “customizable” with an alt tag that said it could be personalized, I thought it was a great step forward. If you play the video, you’ll find it in the charming/warm/fuzzy genre that is typical of the Dove ads. The boy shouts for Amy, who he thinks is beautiful. Can you change the name in the video? No, you can’t. Can you add a personalized message? Sort of. You can’t add it to the video, but you you are encouraged to add a personalized message telling someone how beautiful she is. (I was sending it to myself, so I didn’t go that far; see below).

When I looked at YouTube the video had been viewed 5,147 times: I couldn’t tell how many times it had been shared. There were many comments, most of them positive, so the Real Beauty campaign continues to resonate, even though the advertising may have faltered. But I don't find anything that I consider really "customizable." I do find something that could go viral, and that's pretty good for now.

Another link that you can find either funny or scary, depending on how comfortable you are with the consumer-generated content. “Scary Dave” posted his personal video tribute to Dove as part of a contest several months ago. He can’t spell, he can’t sing, and he has no taste whatsoever. You may get all you want from this blog post. If you have a strong stomach you can watch the video. Either way, think about whether Dove should have reacted. I don’t think they did—or should have. It’s crude and tasteless; ignore it and it will go away sooner, except when bloggers like me choose to resurect it.

It’s not a nice, tidy world for marketers and I doubt that it’s going to get any neater. Our customers have found their voice and we have to listen to them—even when it pains us!
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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Relating to Gen Y

The generation of consumers born between 1980 and 2000 numbers over 70 million. Many are well into their 20s and in the labor force. All, through their own earnings or through influence over household expenditures are a powerful consumer force. They are a prime target for many retailers. They have been raised on media and the Internet is their chief channel. They are a leading indicator, and often an influencer, of cultural change. Their opinion matters. New York magazine had a provocative article (free registration required)about their values and behavior recently.

I’ve had a couple of interesting encounters with the more broadly defined 18 – 35 demographic lately that have started me thinking. Both center around one of their favorite retailers, Gap.

In a recent class I assigned a short Internet marketing exercise. It started with my usual “select a website that interests you, one that you are reasonably familiar with.” Eight teams of graduate students worked industriously for about 20 minutes, with little or no conversation between groups. At the end, when we debriefed the exercise, two out of eight had chosen the Gap site. Not too surprising until I realized that both had focused on the (Product) Red ™ promotion.

Members of both teams had been following the promotion and gave every indication that it would affect their purchasing behavior and they wanted to encourage others to participate. Cause-related marketing can be powerful for young adults.
Their support of (Product) Red ™ lead to a broader discussion of social issues. The class occurred just a few days after the news about child labor in one of Gap’s supplier plants in India. They had been following that also, including being aware of how and how quickly Gap president Marka Hansen responded to the allegations and how quickly her response was posted on the Gap home page. They are paying attention. And always remember they are communicating. I searched Technorati and found 136 posts for “gap child labor india.” When I broadened the search to “gap child labor” I got 506 posts. I counted 13 video clips on the subject. All this has happened since the story broke in the British publication The Observer on October 28, and the posts continue.

What I heard from this small, unscientific sample is that they were giving a trusted brand the benefit of the doubt. Gap has a pretty good record for dealing with this type of issue and the reaction to this revelation was swift and decisive. So far, so good, but they are being watched.

A few days later a communication from another member of the target demographic revealed that Gap, too, has marketing feet of clay. The opt-in email offers a nice promotion. Unfortunately on the day it was offered, the entire site was down for a scheduled upgrade. Do Marketing and IT talk to one another? Not in this instance! And the site was back up a day later, so the promotion could easily have been postponed. Will the young adult continue to patronize the Gap? Probably, but they likely lost a sale this time.

Whether they are identified as Gen Y, Gen X or the 18-35 demographic, these consumers are connected and demanding. Their demands include the behavior of corporations as well as the products they offer. A trusted brand is built slowly, with considerable effort. It can provide a margin of error for unforeseen events. But news is viral among these consumers and marketers have to react quickly and effectively.
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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Explosion of Advergaming

I'm not a gamer myself so when I saw the announcement that Dr. Pepper had introduced its first branded game for the iPhone I though I’d look around and see what was going on. A first stop was eMarketer, which forecasts that all kinds of branded mobile spending are ready to explode.

Second stop was Dr. Pepper itself. I found it interesting that I could only access the game using the Firefox browser, but once I did that it seems easy enough to play from the desktop. Hum. . .looks like “bottle cap bingo” to me.
Then I visited Apple to learn a little more about the iPhone and the Safari browser that makes applications like gaming easy. If you want to learn more, take the Safari tour.
I kept on to the iPhone page, because I really didn’t know much about the iPhone except that it's expensive. I listened to the September updates video and was blown away with how much you can do wirelessly. Apparently your iPhone and your desktop iTunes update one another when you plug it in. Cool!

As I write this, analysts are discussing the new Google SmartPhone software. The speculation is that Google will partner with device makers with the effect of boosting the already-rapid growth in the mobile Internet space.

A final word from Marketing Charts, quoting a study by Ingenio/Harris in which Gen Y consumers, a key target market for mobile promotions, emphatically resist all types of mobile advertising. That makes Dr. Pepper seem right on track. Mobile users don’t want advertising per se, but they do want entertainment on their mobile devices. iMedia Connection has some suggestions on how to do it right. Let’s hear it for advergaming!
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Monday, November 5, 2007

Beginning the Do Not Track Debate

Recent announcements by AOL and MySpace imply diametrically opposing stances on tracking of website users. AOL is supposed to be readying a Do Not Track service on their site, although it is not yet on either their main site or listing of betas. MySpace, on the other hand, plans to offer advertisers a targeting service based on the profiles and behaviors of users. TechCrunch has early details and a screen shot of the interface for the service called SelfService by MySpace.

While publishers are taking varying approaches privacy organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and others have submitted a proposal for a Do Not Track rule. The Federal Trade Commission held hearings on the subject last week. They have posted the transcript in the form of webcasts on their site. Yahoo had a nice graphic of what the rule would look like a few days ago.

And no, I haven’t listened to 2 day’s worth of webcasts either, but they are well organized to locate subjects or speakers of particular interest. The usual suspects are, of course, arrayed in the usual formations—privacy advocates vs. advertisers and web publishers. The proposal is worth reading, especially page 4 on the recommendations for the rule. The NYTimes online notes that while Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL/Time Warner spoke at the hearing, MySpace was there only as an observer.

One thing that caught my eye was an element of user-generated content in the hearing. The Stop project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School has sponsored a Cookies Crumble Contest and votes on the winning video were taken at the hearing. A first for the FTC. . .maybe for Harvard Law also?

Considering how slowly other privacy initiatives have moved since 9/11, this is a debate that is likely to continue for some time. While it does, technology will continue its inexorable progress.

I’ve watched the privacy issues for many years. I would call attention to the Do Not Call legislation. Could the industry have forestalled actual legislation by being more transparent and accommodating to the wishes of the public? Should the Internet industry begin (yesterday) to inform users in an open and understandable manner what they are doing and why they are doing it? History suggests it should!
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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Are They the New Portals?

For weeks the industry has speculated on the possibility that either Google or Microsoft would grab a piece of Facebook. The issue was settled on October 25 with the announcement that Microsoft had spent $240 million to acquire a stake in Facebook. WSJOnline pointed out (subscription required) that Facebook is now the second largest social network with a much higher growth rate than MySpace. Let the financial pundits argue over whether Microsoft paid too much or whether the potential for highly-targeted ads will provide ROI in the end.

Largely overlooked was a short paragraph about Microsoft’s rationale. It referred to their view that “social-networking sites like Facebook might one day become the central window consumers use to access the Web.” Translated—are social media sites becoming the new portals to the Internet?

The giants like AOL and Yahoo! have long offered users the opportunity to personalize and create opening pages. So do publishers from WSJ to your local newspaper. All of them are “old media” in their approach to design and content, offering a menu of standard fare from which we can choose, and perfectly fine for a lot of us.

But quietly and without much attention other sites have opened major gateways to the net. Millions of young people visit MySpace, Facebook and other networking sites on a regular basis. To what extent are they using them as their window on the web? I’m not sure anyone has the definitive answer to that, but here are some insights.

Steve Rubel posted some interesting stats from an October 2006 Forrester report on his Micro Persuasion blog in May. These data suggest that only 29% of Forrester’s respondents place a high priority on personalization when you ask the question directly. They seem focused on finding what they want in an efficient manner.

Avenue A/Razorfish conducted a study about a year later that gives a different perspective. Their respondents are using technology to create personalized web experiences. Sixty percent of them personalized their home page. Many reported using RSS feeds and sharing bookmarks, reading “most emailed” links and engaging in other social media activities at least “once in awhile.”

Download the report here.

Why the big difference? It’s the samples, I think. Forrester’s Technographics program uses a sample that’s representative of the Internet user population. AvenueA/Razorfish used a sample they called the “connected consumer.” On their blog Garrick Schmidt described their respondents:

• Access to broadband
• Spent $200 online in the past year (travel, netflix, tickets, amazon, gifts, etc.)
• Visited a “community site” (myspace, youtube, facebook, classmates, wikipedia, etc. — several of which are in the [top worldwide properties according to comScore]
• Geographically, economically and demographically diverse

According to eMarketer, “three-quarters of Americans use the Internet [while] two-thirds of all US homes have a broadband connection.” Broadband users do more of everything, spending both their time and their money on the web. They are the target for all Web 2.0 applications; it’s just not realistic to engage in these activities without broadband. So the “connected consumer” is important.

Venture capitalist Jason Mendelson has an interesting post on AlwaysOn. Guest lecturing to undergraduate economics classes he found that all but 2 of the students used Facebook, many also used other networks, they used Facebook for about 20% of their email, and they considered MySpace a “has been.” Highly unscientific, yes, but in line with my own observations. Every time I ask the questions, more students have personalized pages and more are using one of the social networks, increasingly Facebook. How they are using them—and to what extent they bypass the original portals—is yet to be determined.

But it’s certain that the future belongs to the connected, and they are increasingly wired in through a social site. What does the new generation of portals mean for marketers? Is it good news because we know where to reach them? Or is it bad news because they don’t want or pay attention to ads there? How do we make ourselves relevant in this social ecosystem?

Not easy questions, but the ones marketers must deal with!

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