Is Mobile Eating the World?

December 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

We’re lucky from our vantage-point in that we get a direct view to both the online publisher and advertiser communities. Very often the needs and interests of these two groups’ tack in different directions. That is not the situation we find ourselves in today as both groups are faced with the necessity and challenge of developing an all-out mobile strategy. The mobile numbers are staggering – 1.7billion (yes billion) mobile phones were sold globally in 2012. The numbers for 2013 will tell the same story. A fantastic presentation that documents mobile eating the world can be found here

mobile growth

The chart to the left comes from the presentation and is staggering and a reality punch that we have truly entered (and in a relatively short period of time) an untethered world. What does it all mean? Well mobile might not be eating the world, but it is certainly reshaping it and how we live our daily lives. What does it mean for the small sphere of online advertising? For publishers mastering content anywhere at anytime – and for advertisers figuring out how to engage their customers in a portable world or content anywhere and at anytime.

Rage Against the Machine: The Role of Online Verification Services in Media Planning?

April 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have had my first look at some of the output of the verification companies (e.g. Double Verify, AdSafe, etc.) and the results confirm what can happen living in a world dominated by Machines. The Internet, we must concede, may not be for every brand under the sun. New media, generally, is not for the faint of heart. For those brands that choose to follow consumers deeper into the woods of online, its clear from the first pass of the Machines that there will be no substitute for the hard work of media planning.

Here’s a partial list of the offensive categories that showed-up on the list of one of the providers (which will remain nameless evaluating Burst Network inventory:

                Weapons – Journals and blogs

                UGC – Forums, Gossip, Journals and blogs

                Adult Content – Nudity/Partial Nudity, UGC

                Violence – Sports

                Religion – Kids

                Adult Content – Nudity/Partial nudity, Profanity

                UGC – Forums, Games, Journals and Blogs

                UGC – Images, Humor

                Adult Content – Nudity, Partial Nudity, Journals

                Religion – Arts & Culture, General News, Sports

This is just the first 10 offending categories on a list of about 140. It’s pretty repetitive. These 10 basically set the tone and serve as generic labels assigned to most web site infractions. There are thematic variations: adult content can apply to nudity or alternative lifestyle, partial nudity or sex education or gossip. No category of UGC appears safe. It applies to everything: images, blogs, journals, entertainment, forums, games, humor, sports, technology, arts & culture, travel, chat, General news, etc., etc (basically, the World Wide Web).  Religion has harmful sub-categories. On the list in front of me Religion attaches to Kids (see above), plus Arts & Culture and Sports & News. Once or twice Sex Education shows-up as a category apart from Adult Content. I don’t know why.

Without argument, the list and its permutations corresponds to all the scary things under the bed when it comes to thinking about safe advertising environments. But this is why some clinicians will tell you not to make any important decisions at night. At night, in the dark (that’s a good metaphor here) we are not always rational.

Let’s look at the top 10 again and plug in the offending sites as they were picked-up by this particular verification sweep of Burst Network:

Web Site                                                             Infraction

www.blademag.com                                              Weapons

www.bossip.com                                            Adult Content

www.videocure.com                                    Adult Content

www.eastsideboxing.com                          Violence

www.dltk-bible.com                                     Religion – Kids

www.keenspot.com                                      Adult content

www.runehq.com                                          UGC – Forums

www.icanhascheezburger.com                UGC – Images

www.villagevoice.com                                Adult content

www.yappi.com                                             Religion 

Taking a closer look at the “offenders”:

Blade Magazine (www.blademag.com) is about knives – big, ugly-looking, mostly hunting knives. They are Weapons, for sure. Blademag.com is the online home of Blade Magazine, owned by FW Media, one of the largest specialty magazine publishers in the country. FW also publishes Gun Digest, plus magazines on Fine Arts, Crafts, Design, Automotive and more. Blademag.com is one of our “traditional” media publishers.

By coincidence, another one, the venerable Village Voice, was caught in the trap for “Adult Content”. Frankly, I’m sure they could be guilty, but I couldn’t find evidence on the web site – which was never a problem with the print property, where a quick turn to the back of the newspaper was a merry romp through the seedy under-belly of New York nightlife.

Yappi.com was nabbed for Religion. I’m sure they’re not guilty. Yappi is an online community for high school sports in Ohio. There is no adult content. There are, however, a couple of Catholic Schools in Ohio, the religious sounding names of which, I suspect, may have contributed to the Religious infraction detected by the Machines.

Dltk-bible.com was also caught-up in the Religion dragnet. They are clearly guilty. There is a lot on the DLTK site about bible crafts for kids, bible poems, bible coloring books, and the like. Overall, “DLKT Crafts for Kids” is a site for kids (and their mothers) that is full of creative things to do in a variety of categories, religion included. There are so many things to do, in fact, that the site attracts nearly 350,000 unique users per day (that’s right, per day), though it is highly doubtful they are religious fanatics.

Keenspot.com is one of those sites that I just can’t get my head around: Web comics. My 15-year old son seems to love them. In all, Burst served over 300 million impressions to Keenspot last year. I don’t get it. No Adult Content in sight, however.

Bossip.com on the other hand is pretty steamy, but not enough, it appears, to get caught in the Adult Content nets of the Machines; instead, Bossip is guilty of gossip. And, boy, is it ever: lot’s of gossip. Bossip is all about African American pop culture and it is a busy, busy, happening place – about 1.5 million unique users per month.

East Side Boxing is about boxing. My grandfather use to lament the extent to which boxing had dissolved as a sport in this country. As a young boy he used to go with his father, a doctor, to the fights on Friday nights. I don’t know much about boxing, but East Side Boxing seems to be very deep on the subject, which probably has something to do with the over 100,000 unique users they reach every month. Boxing is violent, however, which someone has taught the Machines. Jolly good. Unfortunately, that hasn’t make them smart.

Videocure strikes me is a poor man’s YouTube. Same inane stuff. Different parents. Mostly music content that – yes – bumps and grinds to today’s beat and (sometimes explicit) lyrics. Unbelievably, Videocure has delivered 60,000,000 impressions to Burst so far this year. It’s a video thing. What can I say? Everybody seems to want it, including consumers.

Back to my 15-year old son. The good news is that I don’t shell out $5 a month anymore for Runescape, an immense online gaming environment to which I sometimes felt he was – shall we say – overly committed. Instead, it’s $15 a month to Blizzard Entertainment for the also immense World of Warcraft, to which he is definitely overly committed. RuneHQ reaches the overly committed users of Runescape, at the rate of roughly 1/2 million unique users per month. It’s UGC for sure and big – big – business. Advertisers trying to reach the ‘Tweens marketplace can do so on Runescape (and they should), but we know from experience that it’s tough to interact with them there given their deep engagement with the game. Places such as RuneHQ are a better option to try and cultivate awareness with this brand conscious, hard to reach segment. Ironically, the Machines aren’t much for virtual gaming environments.

My absolute favorite on this list is Icanhascheezburger.com. Nothing makes sense about this site, including the name. It is an Internet caricature: pictures of Cats. Thousands of them, updated almost every second it seems. Though it’s only evening, Icanhascheezburger.com has fetched over 1.5 million unique impressions today. It would be impolite to talk about the money, of course. Suffice to say, that if you are reading this post the owners of Icanhascheezburger make more than you do, whoever you are. Iams Premium Protection for Adult Cats (a P&G company) is running a campaign on the site, I notice. Maybe they would rather I didn’t point that out, but, clearly, Iams is not afraid of the Machines. It helps to be P&G.

(Pause…I know, it’s a long post…but it’s important to have some idea of the role these, and other web sites can play in people’s lives before getting on to the main points, which are as follows:)

Every media planning decision needs to be deliberate in order to take the fullest possible advantage of the media choices made by consumers. If media planning does not succeed at getting inside the head of consumers it leaves advertising value on the table. Nothing contributes more to making those connections than context – i.e., matching advertising with media content.

I have known my fair share of cat lovers and I have listened to their cat stories. I involuntarily move away from them, though I had a cat for 17 years and buried it under the rose arbor in my garden after it died, and I still talk to it while pulling weeds and pruning shrubs nearby. Iams Premium Protection for Adult Cats is absolutely right to be present as a partner in the lives of cat lovers at icanhascheezeburger.com and I defy any general interest pet portal magazine or animal TV situation to provide a more immersive media opportunity to the national, $14 billion pet food category. It’s all thanks to UGC.

But Internet advertising isn’t for everyone. In which case, with respect to the verification “obfuscation” services, stay away. Don’t walk around on egg shells, wincing and peeking-out from behind a Machine. The angst isn’t credible, anyway – not in a world that features reality TV like “Addicted”, or the soft-porn of day-time soaps, or gossip TV morning news programs, or the hand guns and semi-automatic guns and hunting knives that fill each programming day – all 24 Hours of it.

If that sounds harsh, really, it’s a working partnership gesture to the planners and buyers acting – as we say – deliberately with regards to their media choices. They are trying. And many companies are trying back. Burst Media, for one, can help with evaluating web site opportunities, site by site, from a catalogue of over 4,000 vertical niche properties in the Long Tail of the Internet in order to build custom, transparent, what-you-see-is-what-you-wanted programs, complete with all manner of creative reinforcements. But we recognize that for some the authentic, UGC-driven texture of our media offering – or any similar online offering – may not be Machine-ready compared to the softer production tones of the rampant sex and violence offline. In which case, buyers have the right to stay behind with those offline opportunities. It is perhaps a better choice for them to do so until the sensibilities of advertising decision-makers change, like the sensibilities of every generation of decision-maker have changed before. Once upon a time, after all, Elvis could only be filmed from the waist-up.  

As for the non-deliberative set of buyers – the blind purchasers, if you will – we assume, along with everyone else, that they don’t really want to know – which is another way of saying we assume they don’t want to pay for the value of knowing. I don’t know where they think they’ve been getting all the traffic to fuel results at $1.00 per thousand, but I’m confident we’ve cared more about it than they have over the years, and have spared them a great deal of too violent, sexy, UGC gossip.

As a final note, looking at the list in front of me, let me point out to the listening Machine audience that the CSMonitor.com is not a Religious web site even though it’s short for Christian Science Monitor. It is a very secular property. We are proud to represent it when we can and to support it with our ad management technology.

Machines, are you listening?

The story of The Monitor, by the way, which has won seven Pulitzer Prizes over the years that I can count, goes something like this (from the web site):

“It is 1907. An elderly New England woman finds herself being targeted by Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. She is 86 years old and holds some unconventional religious beliefs that she expounds in a book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The book becomes a bestseller, making her wealthy and a well-known public figure.

The New York World decides she is incapable of managing her own affairs and persuades some of her friends and her two sons to sue for control of her estate. Although Boston and New Hampshire newspapers and major wire services interview this woman and find her competent, the New York World is unrelenting. The lady in question finally is taken to court where the case against her is dropped.

And the next year this woman, Mary Baker Eddy, founds The Christian Science Monitor.

Given her experience with the press, it is not all that surprising that she sets as the Monitor’s goal ‘to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.’ In one of life’s little ironies, Joseph Pulitzer went on to endow the Pulitzer prizes for journalistic excellence.”

Doesn’t that make you smile? It’s a great new media story.

Super-brand Ad Networks

April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Let’s leave aside all the competitive clamoring for a moment and focus purely on the good ideas. Here’s one: super-brand ad networks as described by Cameron Hulett at Accleration Media in the U.K. in a post on the IAB U.K.’s web site. He proposes that, “publishers with strong brands – super-brands – should consider building their own ad networks.”

Russ Fradin, CEO at Adify, has written a lot about this notion since launching his company to build vertical ad networks in 2005. Collective Media, mentioned in Hulett’s article, also has a network building business; and, of course, so does Burst. We got into licensing our adConductor technology platform with the launch of the TACODA Audience Network several years ago and support several (super) brand media networks today.

There a good commercial reasons to help media brands build ad networks, a view our competitors obviously share. We make money working for companies that might not otherwise hire Burst to sell advertising through its proprietary network businesses.  And, in many cases, at least here, we get to rub shoulders with the high and mighty in the media world, which we like to think helps polish our own brand.

Secretly, however, there is better reason for us, or anyone, to be staunch advocates of ad network building among media brands (call them “super-brands” if it helps differentiate them from the plethora of other third-party ad networks out there): it makes significant, positive use of online media. Branded vertical networks align perfectly with the consumer value of the Internet, which is relevant content, and with the business reality, which is the dissolution of the protective barriers to entry that exist offline.

Mr. Hulett’s proposal is really, therefore, an imperative. “Super-brands” must either find ways to build networks online or simply revert to smaller, leaner versions of their offline selves – an utterly boring prospect, for sure, within a rich, expanding new media environment; but utterly necessary within a traditional media environment, whether print or broadcast. Traditional media either gets smaller and more relevant offline, or bigger and more relevant online. Bigger and more relevant online happens only one way: through distribution.

Here’s the important part (before anyone starts chortling about misfit media brands): if the super-brands don’t get into the vertical ad network business it may mean prolonged hardship and even doom for the rest of us, both buyers and sellers. The new media economy sits in suspended animation while traditional media – the only constituency with adequate reserves of trust built-up over years among advertisers and even some consumers – figures it out. All the talk of woe and irresolution and complexity that still rattles around the Internet advertising community is a direct result of waiting while traditional media works on its problems. We wait while, first, they experiment with stickiness, then personalization, then push technology, then “anonymous” third-party networks, then widgets, now social networking and video and soon, pay walls. All the while the industry waits for the “All Clear” sound. It waits until, eventually, perhaps with the rise of interactive Cable TV, the Internet’s first mover advantage is gone and the new media train leaves the station.

It is easy to avoid being left on the platform, but it means the super-brands must get on board.

Doug Weaver Gets Real About Micro sites in a Box

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.

(Exhausting.)

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.

Forbes.com study shows the gaps left open in the brand advertising sales proposition online

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.

Privacy is better left to the private sector

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.

20,000,000 bloggers can’t be all bad for you

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.

Ad networks need to decide whether they work for publishers or advertisers

March 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

report appearing in Editor & Publisher concerns another treatise on Ad Networks, this one emanating from Northwestern’s Media Management Center, called “Online Ad Networks: Disruption – and Opportunity – for Media Business.” Similar to the Bain report for the IAB that caused a stir last year, the Northwestern report carries a simple message: leash your ad networks. They can be great companions, but watch what you put in front of them because they will eat until they die.

The nub of the matter is an awkward paragraph deep in the report: “…the publisher’s goal is simple: make the most money possible from an ad. The network has the very same goal – for itself. And the advertiser, naturally, wants to reach a potential customer for the lowest cost possible.” The awkwardness derives from the fact that a short time ago, maybe less than six or seven years, the paragraph would have read this way: “…the publisher’s goal is simple: make the most money possible from an ad. And the advertiser, naturally, wants to reach a potential customer for the lowest cost possible.” Now, there’s this bit in the middle about the ad network, which is crowding around the bowl, scarfing down food “for itself.”

Unfortunately, three’s a crowd, and everybody’s feeling it. Left alone on a desert island one of these three players – publisher, network or advertiser - is going to eventually get it in the neck. And you can guess which one it will be. 

Networks can’t be in business for themselves and survive: they have no proprietary audience or customers. They have to work in the interest of one constituency or the other, publisher or advertiser. If it’s the advertiser, great; bad luck for the agencies - already questioning who’s their friend and who’s their frenemy - though can ad networks become proficient across media platforms? If not, better for networks to serve Internet publishers for the reason that it results in expertise versus other media and aligns them with the object of all media desires, the audience. In that case, not ad networks, but publisher networks. We like that version here at Burst.

But, whichever, each ad network must decide whom it serves. Just pick one. Either choice gets us on our way and helps remove a significant barrier to establishing the value of online media for both buyers and sellers.

Now you can have your cookies and eat them too!

March 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

Google announced the beta of its Behavioral Targeting program today which will give consumers the chance to peek behind the curtain to see why a particular ad was furnished to their desktop. Leaving aside the potency of Google’s BT offering, which should be substantial, the consumer transparency provision will be very interesting to watch develop. Privacy regulators and marketers should both pay careful attention.

Regulators may discover that people aren’t that curious to know how the appropriate ad showed-up on their web page. Google should report on how many consumers actually inspect and then make changes to their categorizations. Personally, I’ll be surprised if people opt out, or in, of behavior categories more than once – which they might do initially in the same way we all customize web pages and then never alter – or pay much attention to them – again.

Google’s transparency commitment will mean different insights for marketers, namely how revealing is the behavior data in the first place? Some of that will depend on the duration of Google cookies. Is it 5 days? Is it 90 days? Depending, we may find that the cookie files of consumers reflect a boundless array of interests and opportunities, inviting questions about the significance behavior targeting may represent to advertisers positioned, as it is, further down the value chain of consumer engagement; or we may find that people are rather boring. A travel web site here; a pet care site there. Someone has a new puppy. In which case, behavior’s significance will be reinforced for building reach against a target audience, although, now that’s it’s transparent, advertisers may want to have the opportunity to better establish that it’s the right one.

Google may not have a lot to say about these variables over the next weeks and months, but industry observers will as they eagerly peak behind the curtain of the advertising served to their attention. It will be interesting to see what is revealed.

So little space. So little time. But banners CAN be creative.

March 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

Here’s good news from Adweek, as picked-up in the IAB Smartbrief yesterday: some creative people are getting excited about banner advertising. In this case, a VISA campaign that will feature live video feeds from five cities around the world inside the banner units. How great is that!?

Banners are the best hope for online advertising. The banner unit (including the leaderboard, skyscraper and the popular 300 x 250 box) has always offered the most promise for reconciling the advertising and content experience online. The complaints about banners along the way have dealt with the smaller space and the lack of intrusiveness. But, we know where those complaints have led us, which is pretty much no where. In a consumer controlled world (see my previous post “Yes, the consumer is STILL in control”), intrusiveness lands with a thud.

The advertising world has shown it can brand using the cover of a matchbook, a page in a magazine, 30 seconds of commercial time. Time and space being relative, what’s more restrictive than outdoor billboards. Yet, great brands have been made there. Think Altoids.

Yes it’s hard to do. So little space, so little time. And, worse, who really cares? But, that’s why they call it creative.

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