Thursday, February 22, 2007

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

This blog post from Guy Kawasaki, a VC/author/serial adviser-and-board-member, is one of the best pieces of productivity advice I've seen in a long time.

We've all sat through long boring PowerPoint presentations, and for Guy it's endemic to his VC job because he has to listen to funding pitches all day. So he has developed (or at least is evangelizing) the 10/20/30 rule for PPT presentations:

- 10 slides max
- 20 minutes max
- 30 point font at minimum

Guy maintains that ten concepts is the most any human can comprehend at a time, and 20 minutes is a good goal because the average presenter will spend the other 40 minutes setting up the laptop to work with the projector.

The 30-point part is especially amusing, as well as salient. Guy theorizes that people who cram more words onto a PPT page don't really know the material and need more text as a crutch, thus forcing a smaller font to fit it all in. His alternate recommendation: determine the age of the oldest person in the room, and divide it by two -- that's your minimum font size.

This is one of those pieces of productivity advice I latch onto immediately and never forget.

Like Viacom, CBS Rebuffs Google/You Tube

According to this Mediapost story (free registration required), the negotiations between Google and CBS to extend the agreement to show CBS content on YouTube have ended. This happens not long after Viacom had broken off talks regarding a similar agreement.

Boy, wouldn't I like to be a fly on the wall of the corner offices at the media companies as they talk about YouTube. How much of the problem in reaching an agreement stems from CBS's and Viacom's being threatened by a new media upstart? After all, these companies have been around for decades (Viacom: 1971; CBS: 1927), and YouTube launched -- launched, mind you -- in February of 2005, a scant two years ago. If I were an old media company regarding such upstarts, both in terms of the threat they pose and in terms of the audacity of their very existence -- my nose might be a little out of joint, too.

Interesting comment by Larry Gerbrandt, general manager of Nielsen Analytics: "The problem with You Tube is there is no revenue yet ... How is Google going to see a return on the $1.65 billion they paid? They have yet to create a model. On the other hand, once they start to generate significant amounts of revenue, those copyright issues become more significant."

This all prompts a recall of Mark Cuban's famous email regarding the Google acquisition of YouTube in the first place, in which he wrote that anyone who would buy YouTube is a "moron". The delicious irony here, of course, is that Cuban himself cashed out on to the tune of $5 billion. To see just how much Yahoo is benefiting from that deal, just type the URL into your browser and see where it takes you.

Young People Believe

Here's something that media salesfolk should be mighty interested in. The Audit Bureau of Circulations have just released a news item, the main point of which is that as spending in digital media increases, advertisers will demand more accountability, in which they don't currently have much confidence (fewer than less than half of ad-agency respondents and only one-third of advertiser respondents being so).

But here's a data point that jumped out and grabbed me:

"Younger ad professionals appear to be less skeptical: 75 percent of respondents under age 25 said they trust the metrics provided by online publishers, compared to 22 percent of those in the 55-64 age category."

That's a huge disparity, and it tells me less about how confident different age groups are in Internet advertising metrics than it does about the general level of skepticism among age groups.

So you salespeople can probably use this kind of insight to tailor your presentations based on the age of your audience.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Opt In No No!!

So I'm buying tickets for a Philadelphia Phillies game at their website, and when you do so you have to register on their site, using your email address as user name and creating a password. And down the page a bit you see the opt-in statement stipulating that you agree to accept emails from the Phillies, Major League Baseball and their partners, and the checkbox next to it is pre-checked. You can debate the efficacy of pre-checks, but that's not what's interesting in this scenario. This is: I noticed the check mark inside the box looks dark gray and not black. So I tried to uncheck the box -- and it would not let me! The Philadelphia Phillies disabled the ability to uncheck the email opt-in box, essentially forcing ticket buyers' consent to opt into their email list!

And here's a bonus no-no: when you put in your credit card number, you see an unchecked box with the statement "Save credit card info". So I left that unchecked, for obvious reasons. But after I closed the window on that first transaction and I went back later to buy tickets for another game, and I got to that same page, my credit card information was pre-populated in the fields, even though I specifically refused to consent to them keeping it on file!

If you're a marketer, I hope you have at least a squishy feeling in your stomach about the tactic, if not disgust. Intellectually, it's easy to recognize this as a bad tactic. Yet some marketer working for the Phillies thought this was a good idea. Maybe the marketer is inexperienced and thought he was pulling a clever move; or maybe he didn't want to do it but was strong-armed into the tactic by a non-marketing-savvy boss. In any event, this is a terrible way to gain "consent", and I'm not saying this because I'm Mr. Goody Two Shoes. I know viscerally that it's bad because I was the customer in this situation, and as a customer I felt violated. So you can probably guess how much merchandise I'm going to be buying from the Philadelphia Phillies and Major League Baseball this year.

Mobile Search Field is Wide Open

According to this article in Business Week, when people "google" on their phone, they're not necessarily defaulting to Google's mobile site. Google is the leading search site on mobile, albeit with a thinner margin over Yahoo than on the desktop, with MSN lagging way behind. But a company I'd never heard of until today, Medio Systems, is powering the default search engine for Verizon, T-Mobile and Amp'd with a "white label" solution. They got in there because they are sharing revenue with the mobile carriers, whereas Big Search is not doing so yet.

The stumbling blocks for search on mobile is the same as for the Web on mobile: speed. Plus, it turns out people are less patient waiting for results on mobile than on the desktop, and don't want to navigate a bunch of links to get their answer.

I can definitely picture that. The speed thing, along with the resolution thing and the cost thing (mine is a pay-as-you-go 1¢ per Kb, and lots of web pages are a few hundred Kbs) is keeping me myself largely offline on my phone. The only people I know who use mobile web regularly are those whose companies pay for the high monthly fees. But even when mobile web solves these three issues, I think people will still use it for different reasons than the computer web. I believe mobile web will be used more for a quick info grab rather for than an entertainment experience. I know many companies are betting on long-form programming for mobile, but unless there is a significant redesign which allow for a substantially larger screen plus current ease of portability, I just don't see it becoming huge.

Consumer Reviews on Ecommerce Websites

Great article in CIO-Today about how more websites, even those that sell products, are allowing consumers to provide reviews and feedback about the products, and even the website and shopping experience itself, right on their sites, despite previous fears of negative feedback appearing. They've found that it actually increased sales in tests they ran, and that more sites are offering them ("By the end of 2006, 43% of e-commerce sites offered customer reviews and ratings, almost double the 23% figure at the end of 2005, according to New York research firm MarketingSherpa"), and people are taking advantage of the opportunity to speak ("In a survey of more than 1,300 people, MarketingSherpa also found that as much as 50% of customers aged 18 to 34 have posted a comment or a review on products they have bought or used.").

In my early days at CoolSavings, around 1999, we talked about launching a similar community-type function where folks could share shopping and coupon tips and become more involved with the site. We didn't in part because of the technical challenge (and costs), and partly because of inability to control for content. We, too, didn't want numerous posts bad-mouthing the site and service. That is the chance you take, of course, but it doesn't seem to be happening that way too often. Plus, two immediate advantages of soliciting customer feedback in a forum setting that leap to mind are (1) It provides invaluable real-world feedback that you can gather very inexpensively and incorporate into your process quickly; and (2) it puts pressure on the business to improve the product and experience in order to decrease the number of negative reviews. Both these advantages should lead to improved sites and experiences for consumers, which is a win for both sides.

"From Clipouts to the Web, Coupons Transition Slowly"

Article in the New York Times (free registration required).

Having headed up online marketing at a coupon-oriented site myself for a long time, I can vouch first-hand for the interest that people have in coupons online. Certain folks (e.g., women, early middle age, middle income, B-C-D counties especially) love the idea of printing coupons from a website and then going to the store and redeeming them, thus saving many dollars on each grocery trip. That's the vision people generally have when they click through the banners touting "baby coupons", "grocery coupons", "pet coupons", etc.

As you might expect, the reality is pretty different. While the coupon selection today looks remarkably better than when I worked there, it's still not nearly as comprehensive as Valassis inserts in your Sunday paper, and major CPGs like P&G, Kraft and ConAgra are still noticeably missing from the site (although Quaker Oats is there).

The printable coupons are the major lure this website uses to bringing in registrants for the primary purpose of sending them email offers for lead generation clients, where probably two-thirds to three-fourths of the lifetime revenue on each member comes from. It's not that they're luring people under false pretenses -- they do deliver on the coupon promise better than at any time I've seen, and they don't use tactics that are any more underhanded than pre-checking lead gen offers and forcing you to uncheck each one to opt out. And they do make offers visible to pre-registrants, whereas before all offers were kept behind the wall and you had to sign up to see them. But the vision people have when they register and the reality is substantially different.

One interesting stat that jumped out at me: only 12% of all 175 million Internet users are interested in coupons, according to Comscore. Does this include the online savings you can get at places like Coupon Mountain? I love sites like those because it's essentially free money whenever you buy something online, and 80% of the things I buy online do have some coupon or coupon code available to use for the purchase. My tip to you: before buying anything, open another browser tab, go to your favorite search engine, and search "(product you're buying) coupons". Unless you know of a more effective way? Please share!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How Major Advertisers Get Sucked Into Adware

FTC Fines Adware Company $1.5 Million

No major advertiser who values its brand wants to associate it with dark-gray-hat adware companies. Certainly Travelocity, Cingular and Priceline didn't want to. So how does it happen?

One common way it happens is through affiliate marketing. When an advertiser wants to spend a lot of money to acquire a lot of customers under very tight CPA goals, they tend to spread their dollars around to more sources, and the deeper into sources they get, the less diligent they are vetting the sources. When an advertiser signs a CPA media deal with ad networks, even big-name networks owned by major media companies, they are charging the network with the responsibility to drive high volume within that cost goal, and historically they do not ask very pointed questions about the networks' tactics or affiliates. It's a sort of "don't ask/don't tell" tactic that they hope doesn't blow up on them.

Some affiliates of brand-name networks might be networks themselves with their own set of affiliates, and some of those affiliates might be affiliate networks, too. So sometimes, by the time your advertising actually appears on a site or in a desktop app or bundled with a software download, it might be several times removed from the original deal the that you the advertiser did with the big-name ad network. Unless you have the right kind of tracking software -- and not many low- or mid-budget CPA advertisers do -- you have little idea where your ad actually ends up.

Exacerbating this is the common tactic of networks to cloak their affiliates from the client, ostensibly to keep the advertiser from doing business directly with the affiliate and thus cutting out the ad network middleman. But another unacknowledged reason is that if you as an advertiser knew who some of the affiliates really were, you might well demand your money back. I have before -- I recently had some $170,000 in CPA advertising credited by one network when I discovered a certain affiliate that was carrying my advertising in a manner that blatantly and brazenly violated the insertion order terms and conditions.

This incident should probably wake up large customer acquisition-oriented advertisers to vet their ad sources more carefully, at least in the short-term. What they should try to do is insist that their ad network vendors be fully transparent and report where their CPA advertising runs, or else either take their business elsewhere or build their own affiliate networks.

OK, I'll Read This Story ... After I Check My Email

There are 12-step programs to help people deal with addictions to alcohol, cocaine, overeating, overspending, oversexing, overspending -- isn't developing a 12-step program for overemailing just so 21st Century?

The business angle to this post: get your nose out of your screen and call someone once in a while. Immersing yourself only in written communicating is not healthy for relationships.

Yahoo's Rich Media SNAFU

According to this story (registration required to view), PointRoll has written to its clients stating that Yahoo is going to make an effort to enforce their policy of charging fees for third-party rich media placements.

Yahoo have apparently pulled the PointRoll rich media ads of some clients and replaced them with standard ads. It appears the real reason behind the move is to try to migrate advertisers to use of rich media solutions from AdInterax, a company Yahoo acquired in the fall, and for use of which Yahoo would waive the fees (since AdInterax is not a third-party to Yahoo). PointRoll, who claim to have 70% of the rich media market, is a direct competitor of AdInterax.

If I'm a Yahoo media rep, I can't be too happy with having to field numerous phone calls and emails this morning from media-buying clients asking for makegoods on what's been switched out, and a bonus to salve hurt feelings. Yahoo might be an 800-pound gorilla, but it's a huge jungle out there, and Yahoo is already seen as a stumbling giant anyway. There are too many other online media vehicles out there for significant advertisers to cave to Yahoo on this.

On the other hand, there's no word in the story on whom the affected clients were, and that is a very large question. I have trouble envisioning Yahoo putting their foot down with their biggest advertisers (such as automotives, financials and the biggest direct advertisers) or their most coveted advertisers (such as CPGs) very hard. Would Yahoo risk ticking off an eight-figure spender just to try to strong-arm them into migrating their rich media technology to AdInterax? I doubt that.

I don't see Yahoo's strategy here succeeding for very long. Online media is a fluid commodity that is highly subject to the vagaries of supply and demand. If Yahoo loses business over this, the strategy will go bye-bye.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Web Video: The Spirit Is Willing, the Model Is Weak

Credit cutting-edge advertisers: when they see a significant new media model, they work to get in on the ground floor and establish early leadership however possible. In an increasingly digital world, it makes good business sense to be recognized as leading-edge, and moving first into nascent technologies helps that cause nicely. But doing so has to be a "near-future" rather than "right now" consideration, and sometimes moving first also means recognizing that conditions may not be quite right quite yet to make an immediate move-the-needle splash.

That's where online video appears to be at the moment, as this Ad Age article will attest. With digital ad spend expected to exceed $20B in 2007, according to eMarketer, less than 4% (some $775MM) of that will come from video.

According to the Ad Age article, the key inhibitors to make an immediate consumer impact in online video are:

  • Fragmented audiences (therefore, hard to generate reach quickly).
  • Limited ad inventory availability.
  • Lack of web-specific video content to sponsor.
  • Ad buying model still evolving.
Industry pundits believe online video viewership must at least partially migrate from traditional TV viewership -- not all online video viewership can be incremental, after all. And the dollars must follow too, says pundit wisdom, as much as 10% of the current $65B by 2010. How can an effective system of categorizing the viewing options and congregating the viewers and ad inventory be created, in such a way that it will be easy for online sellers and buyers to deal with?

But that's only half of the problem. The other half is, where are online viewers going to be watching their videos, even in the next few months? The market is so young and in such flux, that's a major issue. Can viewers be conditioned to accept advertising? What's the proper ad length? Where does it belong during the program? Is the traditional content-plus-ad spot even going to end up being the dominant format long-term?

Some major players are going to have to make some very large bets to try to mold the market to their liking, and many of these players are going to have conflicting agendas with others, and winners and losers will be declared. But that's the way new business models evolve, and video advertising will be no different.

MarketingSherpa: One Out of Four Consumers Use Preview Panes; 59% Block Email Images

I have always used preview panes whenever I can, mostly at work. At home I use the classic Yahoo mail client, which doesn't have the preview pane available. I would think most people who work in offices handle their email clients the same way.

And now the proof: this MarketingSherpa article confirms that 69% of people view their emails within a preview pane while on the job, but only 27% do so at home, for basically the same reasons I (and possibly you) do.

Part of the issue is availability of course, but there is also a significant minority of people who don't use preview pane even when available to them. 95% or so have preview-pane-capable email clients, while 38% of home users do. That means that roughly 70% of the people who do have preview panes available to them use it, and it's consistent between office users (69/95) as home users (27/38) -- but this also means that almost 1/3 do not use it even if they can. It would be fair to predict that as more folks at home have preview panes made available to them (e.g., as Yahoo's Outlook-like "Beta" view becomes more popularly used), the 70% acceptance rate figure will probably hold firm with the absolute growth.

As with most tech and digital applications, preview pane usage does have a demographic skew: 84% of 18-34s use it, but only 58% of 55+s do. I would guess this is in part due to the older generation's aversion to fully exploring the options available to them in their digital applications, as the default for mail clients is no pane preview.

The article states upfront that 59% of users blocks images, but the chart they show well into the article seems to show the opposite: that only about 41% block images, with the majority of those people being in the 35-54 range. The article also states later within that fewer than 50% block images. So even though the article appears to contradict itself somewhat, it seems safe to take away that roughly half of email users block images.

The implication for email marketers: bring your value proposition immediately to the top of the email, and try to limit images at the top to the degree possible, so that your email recipient does not decide in the 1.4 seconds it takes to scan your email that you have nothing relevant to say, and that your email is too difficult to interpret at first look.

Interpublic's Prediction: Five Big Trends

The Interpublic group of agencies this morning announced they believe the five biggest trends of 2007 will be, on a broad scale, and digital media stands at the center of these predictions.

The five are:

  1. Physical and digital worlds collide
  2. Consumers build digital homes
  3. Social software drives communications
  4. Marketers embrace digital nets
  5. Next-generation content makes it big.
If you have 20 minutes to kill, the video, entitled POV: Emerging Media Predictions for 2007" and delivered by Greg Johnson, Executive Director of Interpublic's Emerging Media Lab, can be seen here. Unfortunately there's no written transcript available just yet.

To me, the most interesting prediction is #2. I have begun to wonder whether the digital home will be the centerpiece of what becomes Web 3.0. Web 1.0 consisted of web content pushed by publishers to consumers, much as old media had been. Web 2.0 is the social and community-based interactive web. I think that Web 3.0 might be life-management web, in which you can use the Internet to communicate with your house, your car, your electronics, etc., to manage tasks related to these items. I also think it will be used to greater effect to manage your general scheduling, both day-to-day (appointments and tasks) and throughout your life (doctor appointments, oil changes, etc.), to a degree that is being underutilized today.