March 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment
It strikes me that nothing stupid has ever come from the mouth or pen (or keyboard) of Doug Weaver, which is a remarkable record given his 15 years as an Internet sales activist and pundit. This is a more emphatic way of saying that Doug is always saying smart things; but emphatic matters here because what Doug says today in his blog, “The Drift” (“I Got My Micro Site in a Box”), should be pinned, like idiot mittens, to the sleeve of everyone in the Internet business each morning before they head out to wait for the bus to work.
Here’s his opener:
“For the last three years I’ve been on a mission to bury the micro site. The whole idea of building these little Potemkin marketing villages, bolting them onto our domains and then coaxing and cajoling consumers to visit them would be quaint if it weren’t so destructive.”
Further in Doug says:
“In just about every workshop I conduct I urge — plead with! — sellers to end the madness. “There’s no reason to do these anymore,” says I. “Take the visual assets of your media brand, fold in some creative and product messaging from the sponsor, dump it all into a Flash ad unit and distribute it!”
The part about “distribute it” made instant sense to me but I had to call Doug to make sure I understood who the “Potemkin village” builders were in his description. Publishers, it seemed. But why?
Well, it turns out that online publishers are in the habit of retro-fitting content to meet the special needs of advertisers by building custom environments more suitable to a product’s context. Advertisers desiring more on the subject of, say, acne skin treatments for teenage girls, 12 – 15 years old, against which to match their acne skin treatment advertisements, could prevail upon the publishers to create a “micro site” for that purpose to be buried among all the music and entertainment content (for instance) to which the teenage girls were first and foremost attracted, thus establishing an ancillary requirement to build traffic to that micro site.
There is precedent for this sort of “Please, maybe you like something else?” practice of selling advertising. The editorial calendar in magazines and newspapers comes to mind. Once upon a time destination travel advertisers the world over would freely buy pages in the Sunday Travel sections of newspapers. Then, under pressure from advertisers for better access to their best customers, newspapers began to create special destination sections that eventually had the effect of training advertisers to anticipate and wait for those sections. Which leads to the question of how many sections on Hawaii one newspaper can reasonably run per year without undermining its coverage of the travel world for readers? Two?
“Fine!” the Hawaiian advertisers responded in those days. “We’ll take two pages. We can use the savings on the other four pages we use to buy from you elsewhere.”
This is what happens when we chicken-out on selling value.
Save that point for a rainy day and worry about the fact that in a new media world that provides for the limitless availability of contextual opportunities, we’re still building Potemkin villages – by definition, impressive but fake.
All the while Google has amassed a fortune on the genuine article: the distributed, contextual power of the Internet – the fact that the editorial circumstances exist in real time to satisfy almost every conceivable advertising objective. Online there is always a right time and place that is suitable (as suitable as every fake village) to host the right message.
Which should be the whole point of Internet media buying because, after all, we are sympathetic to our Hawaii travel and acne skin treatment customers who desire to reach their best customers, and who found it increasingly difficult to do so offline, enough so that they started to revolt against the waste of traditional media and advertising.
Doug Weaver wants to help publishers with his post; mostly brand publishers that he may be worrying aloud are taking short cuts on the value of their inventory and swimming against the tide of media distribution, which is away from the center. They have a chance using the creative resources available today to bundle their authentic selves with advertising and distribute it together, beyond their borders, to where the people are.
This post is for buyers. Listen to Doug and take the message to the people - now that the chance to do so is real, and not from a box.
June 2, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Forbes.com released results from a survey of top marketers conducted in February and March that got very different play in the two places I saw it picked-up, thanks to my various news digests. The difference is interesting.
Adweek reported that marketers still regard the Internet as a direct response tool. Their piece was titled, “Most Marketers Ignore Brand Metrics Online.” Over at MediaPost, editors gave coverage to the Forbes study under the heading, “CMOs not satisfied with Ad Nets,” (meaning ad networks).
The results of the study, which polled 119 marketers, seem to imply that advertisers may retreat from using display advertising as a vehicle for direct response messages. They like Search and Email. Ad networks, as major purveyors of cheap, direct response display advertising over the past few years, get stuck in the cross-hairs of that change. Hence the varying treatment of the story in Adweek and MediaPost while the market figures-out what’s going on and who is likely to be affected.
I suspect that some of the ad network spin is coming from Jim Spanfeller, CEO of Forbes.com, who is a consistent spokesperson for brand publishers and brand advertising online, and a frequent critic of ad networks. Quoted in Adweek, Jim says,
“On the Web specifically, advertising has moved into more demand fulfillment as opposed to demand creation. That’s not really advertising. There’s nothing wrong with it. Doing search marketing and point-of purchase displays all works, but it’s not advertising. It’s not about creating demand and improving brand metrics.”
In MediaPost, he says,
“Ad network spending is all about demand fulfillment while direct-to-publisher display is much aligned with the traditional advertising goals of demand creation.”
Unfortunately, I think Adweek probably has the story line right in its title, “Most Marketers Ignore Brand Metrics Online.” But don’t just blame ad networks. The survey data has very little to do with ad networks. The survey data implies that Marketers still don’t respect the Internet as a branding vehicle and that makes all display advertising purveyors guilty.
Jim Spanfeller has the gumption, at least, to say “it’s not advertising” when he talks about the pervasiveness of what he calls “demand fulfillment” advertising online. I’m not sure I agree that it’s not advertising, but I take his point. Too bad we didn’t have Jim nearby when the industry as a whole was rolling-out its fulfillment value proposition in 1995 extolling the one-to-one results and risk-free benefits of online advertising.
The Forbes.com study shows, once more, just how ill-advised that positioning strategy was. We should hope that our ability to encourage brand advertisers to see the engaging and deeply relevant value of online media to audiences gets here before digital technology levels the playing field for all media, especially TV.
May 21, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Capitalist tool, Forbes magazine, has two pieces on the virtues of leaving the issue of privacy to the private sector. Lee Gomes sets it up by writing about the “Hidden Costs of Privacy”and editor William Baldwin follows-through by commenting that the free markets will ultimately provide a more secure and efficient privacy solution (“Privacy for Sale”). Baldwin has a great line:
“There’s another cost to legislated privacy solutions, even when they work. They impede, so to speak, the body’s natural defenses. They slow down the innovation that the marketplace could bring to bear on the problem.”
When one considers what the private sector did to fix (eradicate?) the problem of pop-ups and spy-ware, Baldwin’s comments make abundant sense.
April 21, 2009 § Leave a Comment
There are almost as many people making a living from blogging these days as there are lawyers, according to a report by E. Kinney Zalesne in the Wall Street Journal today. If your first reaction to that is “Oh my gosh that’s a lot of lawyers,” you probably work in new media. If, instead, you’re surprised and/or somewhat horrified to know there are that many bloggers you may be a columnist for a newspaper (although Ms. Zalesne is more notably a researcher and co-author of the book “Microtrends: Small Forces behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes”).
It’s the surprise and incredulity that always pops off the page at me whenever stories get written about citizen journalists, long tail publishers, or whatever you want to call them. Who are these people and what do they know is the back beat in these stories written by the grown-ups. Here’s an example of what I mean from the article today in the Journal:
“All this fits with the trend toward Opinion TV. Less and less of our information flow is devoted to gathering facts, and more and more is going toward popularizing opinion. Twenty-four-hour news channels have been replaced by 24-hour opinion channels. The chatter is the story.”
I dispute the notion that there are less facts floating about these days than there were before the Internet empowered a new chattering class. Intuitively we must accept that there are many more facts and many more fact-checkers in the world thanks to web publishers and bloggers, even compared to when the Wall Street Journal or New York Times had all their foreign bureaus. No doubt there is proportionally more spurious information as well. But, it’s a small price to pay for access.
Likewise, I’d argue that 24-hour news channels long ago replaced themselves as 24-hour opinion channels without ever leaving the comfort of their studios. And that’s fine. No complaints. The pretense of impartiality within the traditional news media deserved to be exploded, and it was, thanks largely to an incessant and democratic Internet.
Interestingly enough at the end of her column today Ms. Zalensne wonders what competitive advantage the high incidence of bloggers in the United States will give the country in the global economy. She concludes:
“And with millions of human-hours now going into writing and recording opinion, we have to wonder whether being the blogging capital of the world will help America compete in the global economy. Maybe all this self-criticism will propel us forward by putting us on the right track and helping us choose the right products. Maybe it will create a resurgence in the art of writing and writing courses. Or serve as a safety net for out of work professionals in the crisis. But for how long can nearly 500,000 people who are gradually replacing whole swaths of journalists survive with no worker protections, no enforced ethics codes, limited standards, and, for most , no formal training? Even the “Wild West” eventually became just the “West.”
My answer would be that in an Information Economy, it helps to have a lot of information producers. After all, when it was an Agrarian Economy we had a lot of farmers. When it was an Industrial Economy we had a lot of factories. Now we have a lot of bloggers. And formal training and standards aside, 20,000,000 bloggers can’t be all bad for you under the circumstances.
February 27, 2009 § Leave a Comment
In this week’s Behavioral Insider from MediaPost, the results of some <shameless self promotion warning> Burst Media research on consumers’ concerns about privacy. The “Truman Show” moment is a perfect analogy for when you see an ad that is just a little too relevant, like when Laura Linney turns around and does the product promotion for laundry detergent, and Jim Carrey gives his googly-eyed all.
The key finding from the research is that 80% of people online are concern about their online privacy as it relates to age, gender, income and web surfing habits.