Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Twitter Finding Its Legs As A Marketing Tool

Ad Age is reporting that Twitter is becoming a "killer app" for local businesses looking to communicate short-term deals and specials in order to drive feet into the store.

I can vouch for this localized aspect of Twitter myself, as I have subscribed to a few local-based feeds, such as cubsbaseball, tweetchi and getoutchicago, which provide the kind of real-time updates about important things that Twitter does best. I mean, aplusk might be entertaining, but he doesn't actually need Twitter to communicate the things he does. He could do the same in a regular ol' blog.

To all this, I say, "finally", and on two fronts:

- The value of Twitter as a marketing vehicle has been questioned in general. It looked like it might go the way of MySpace pages, which were used as not much more than extensions of marketers' websites. Such pages may have connected on some level with their target, but they didn't necessarily deliver anything that was valuable or essential. A real-time update service for local concerns does qualify as a valuable and essential tool, though.
- Local businesses have been struggling to harness the Internet as a marketing tool for well over a decade now, dabbling in local search, yellow pages apps, broad-based SEM and even couponing, with limited success at best. Using Twitter as an intrusive, push-based medium, particularly to phone apps, could be the game changer that finally gets local businesses online -- plus it's free, and will probably stay that way.

Potentially transformational stuff here, folks. This one has a good chance of catching on and sticking.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

No, I am NOT This Guy

When you google my name, you'll get a lot of results, most of which concern me either in a professional capacity or in a baseball addict capacity. Depending on when the spider crawled, the results differ from time to time.

But without fail, the #1 result always reads:

Freedom owner's debt woes multiply

HILDEBRANDT'S DEBTS. Here's what banks and others say they are owed as of Monday by Chuck Hildebrandt:. • Fifth Third Bank, two revolving credit loans were ...
www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/08/17/loc_loc2a.html - 50k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this
With a link to a story detailing his malfeasant misdeeds.

Rest assured, I am NOT this guy, as coincident as his screwing banks, utilities and contractors over his baseball team is to my own love of baseball.

I wonder how many job interview opportunities I've lost because of this?

Don't Mind Us, We're Joost Watching You!

The Mediapost article Joost's Volpi Touts 'Targetability' (free registration required) states:

"Our biggest asset is targetability, and our belief is that TV advertisers want a high degree of targetability," he said. "From an advertiser perspective, we know exactly who's watching what content."
This is the kind of statement that anyone hardly bats an eye at anymore. Twenty years ago there would have been a privacy uproar at such a statement, even if it were made in a trade publication. Now, in the age where we've come to expect ubiquitous government surveillance, and in which we're raising a generation of children who grow up taking for granted that they're constantly being surveilled, we just shrug our shoulders and say, "meh..."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. After all, I work in this industry, too. But from a marketer's perspective, this is good news, indeed.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Widgets: Advertising Will Never Be The Same

So says this article that ran originally in Billboard.

Widgets are those handy little apps you can place on a PC (or Mac) desktop that transmits information to you from a website, such as news headlines, weather forecasts, sports scores, etc., without you having to endure the pain and agony of opening a web browser and visit the website itself. The Vista operating system has embraced the widget concept (calling them "gadgets").

Remember the old application PointCast? It was essentially the same thing in that it used what was called "push technology", i.e., it pushed information to you through this application, without your having to manually request it. Same deal here, essentially, except each widget is standalone, with its unique stream of streamlined information, as opposed to the omnibus that PointCast was intended to be.

So who benefits from widgets, from a marketing point of view? Seems to me that those who can deliver information in a branded environment would obviously benefit (Weather.com, CNN.com, etc.), although their ability to directly monetize it might be hampered in this format. After all, a widget is almost by definition of very small app, as opposed to large desktop apps like Weatherbug, so the ability to carry advertising on a widget might be difficult.

Perhaps widget content providers would like people to click headlines and come to the site for more information, but isn't the point of the widget that you receive the information in the widget without having to come to the site? Seems to defeat the purpose, n'est-ce pas? Used in that way, the widget is not more than an RSS conduit.

From my standpoint, of course, I am most interested in how direct marketers can use the widget for customer acquisition purposes. I'm a bit doubtful that you can successfully engage widget users to sign up through a complex registration form on the widget itself, and using it to drive traffic might be a testable proposition, but I wouldn't bet on its success as a high volume generation marketing vehicle. I'll keep my eye on it, though, in case an acquisition usage tactic becomes clear to me.

Cops of the World, Rejoice!

It will be easier than ever to find your nearest Dunkin' Donuts location! (free registration required)

Or, go directly to www.myicedcoffee.com.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Big Studio Involvement in Online Video Takes a Step Forward

Joost Boost Worth $45 Million (free registration required)

The concern over Big Media's ability to control distribution of their content online should be more possible with the launch of Joost, the new online TV-cum-social networking start-up that is sure to get more blessing (and money) as they evolve. Not only have they received money from CBS and Viacom in this round, but they already have content agreements in place with
Warner Music, National Geographic, Turner Broadcasting, The Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, CNN, Hasbro, the NHL, Sports Illustrated and Sony Pictures Television.

This looks like the VOD model they've been talking about for 15 or so years, only online instead of through your cable or satellite provider. The key differences between Joost and GoogleTube are (1) Professional media companies provide the content, not regular folks; and (2) it will focus on long-form programming (half-hour-plus), as opposed to short-form videos (under 15 minutes).

The key to this taking off, in my view, is the ability to watch Joost through your TV set, the ultimate lean-back medium, as opposed to watching it through your computer, a lean-forward medium. This will get easier as HDMI connections on TVs and ever-faster broadband Internet connections become more common. I'm not positive how fast the video stream has to be for the quality to approximate current 525-line standards, let alone HD, but it has to be faster than current 384 kbps standard.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Video, Schmideo -- D1SPLAY RULEZZZ!!!

There's no doubt about it -- video might be on the cutting edge, along with other 2.0 buzzworthy strategies like RSS, podcasts, blogs and the like -- but after house list email marketing and the low-hanging fruit of search, display advertising is still planned to be larger than any of the others, even in 2007. This in eMarketer:

And even though rich media spending is growing incredibly and display spending is topping out, it won't be until 2011 when rich outstrips display:

People just like to stick with what's familiar and easier to manage. When rich becomes as easy to manage as display, that's when the tipping point will really occur.

Click and Buy in Online Video: Fine Idea, Limited Execution

This BizReport story says that Kohl's has become the first advertiser to to use MSN's new VHL (Video Hyperlink) technology. (Microsoft loves those cool little three-letter extension handles.) When you're watching an MSN video (actually, a Kohl's video on MSN Movies site) and an item on sale at Kohl's come onto the screen, a big green arrow starts flashing in the lower right hand corner. That's your cue to mouse over the items for sale and click it. At that point the video pauses, and another browser window pops open to the Kohl's site to the page where you can purchase the item.

It's a cool technology and the idea is almost as cool as the technology -- you can see the video in action here. This execution does have some limitations, however:

  • People have to want to view a promotional video, such as a Kohl's marketing video, to see it in action. This is probably not a practical application for content-oriented video.
  • In this video, you have to move quickly, say within three to four second, to click on the item or it's gone, and it takes a while to figure out how to go back and see something you like again. (Just clicking on the time status bar behind the current point won't do it.)
  • In addition, the model in this video is always moving, so it's easy to click and miss.
  • The video gets interrupted, which hurts the flow of the experience.
  • You can't click on the green arrow and choose the featured item on the video -- they should consider allowing that.

All in all, it's a good first effort, and I can't imagine it won't improve with subsequent executions.

Viral: It's Not For Just Anybody Anymore

So says this Mediapost article (free registration required). A Dynamic Logic survey reveals that 50% of over 1,000 respondents in the marketing field think of viral marketing as a fad, whereas only 24% think of it as a marketing strategy with traction.

I've thought for sometime that successful viral campaigns are like catching lightning in a bottle. It is extremely difficult to predict with any level of certainly that something you create might catch on with your audience so strongly that they forward it to all their friends. Marketing viral is particularly tricky in this regard because no one wants to look like a marketing tool to their friends, so advertisers either have to mute their brand identity in the campaign -- which obviously defeats the purpose -- or they need to do something to take the "brand hero" aspect down a notch, such as injecting an ironic twist into the execution.

But because successful viral relies on insight into zeitgeist -- knowing the exact right mood at precisely the right moment -- it seems more likely that these campiagns will happen at best by hunch, and at worst by accident, than by careful planning, which by definition is a process that takes place over time. That, I think, may cement the idea that successful viral marketing is lightning in a bottle.

I also wonder whether there's a little bit of wishful thinking on the part of marketers in this survey as well: perhaps if they call it a fad, they can convince their management or their clients that it's not reasonable to ask for it, thus removing the likelihood of being set up for failure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Social Networking Goes Niche

As titled in this Business Week article.

The gist is that more people are getting turned off at the overt openness of MySpace, where basically anyone can reach out to you (except if you're a teen, in which case you can put up a wall), so social networks that allow you to control exposure of your profiles to others are gaining traction. The article names Vox as an example of just such a niche network.

I see MySpace as filling a fundamentally different need than Vox. MySpace is all about widening your circle. It's a place where kids can connect with other kids from far-flung places, to help mitigate the isolation they feel as their parents place ever more restrictions on their mobility in response to our increasing media and news culture built on fear of strangers and of The Other. Young people, therefore, would like as many contacts as possible. It also makes them feel popular if they have 100,000 "friends" in their network.

People like the protagonist in this story, who fled MySpace for Vox, want to use social networks in a different way: to strengthen ties with the contacts they already have, and to broker, and have brokered, contacts with only those new people with whom they share common interests or purpose.

But there's another thing not being addressed by this article: is another reason people are fleeing MySpace that there's just too much advertising and storefonts being put up there? I can easily envision such backlash against this marketing tactic causing the sun to set on it in the next year or two. And if that happens, what would justify continued investment in broad network platforms like MySpace?

Online Leads To Offline -- And Vice Versa

I've seen numerous articles suggesting that online research leads to offline purchases, but this is the first article I've seen suggesting that exposure to offline advertising leads to online searches.

This makes perfect sense -- I can easily recall instances where I've done the same thing -- but this is the first I have seen this idea articulated in trade press.

This is based on research by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, representing a category that currently does most of their advertising offline.

Another Ad Network Gets Busted

This time it's TMP (TrafficMarketPlace), as a user alleges that Travelocity and Cingular are still serving ads through malware. As I mentioned in this post, that's how it happens to major advertisers, and surely they know by now that it happens this way.

I pulled my company's advertising out of TMP because we suspected some funny business from one of their affiliates. We experienced a sudden spike in impressions, no increase in clicks, CPAs going from about $5 to hundreds of dollars in a single day. We suspected impressions fraud. We went round and round with TMP to try to get a resolution in place, then all of a sudden, my rep left, her spot was not backfilled, and the VP of Sales became suddenly unavailable. We ended up simply not paying for it, and ultimately not working with them anymore.

And now this.