Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Ultimate in Brand Ambassadors... or is it??

I assume McDonald's would think this is a good thing? I have no idea how to really gage the 'sentiment' or 'quality' of this as a key metric of user generated content. Either way, that is a one heck of a commitment.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bad or Good Ad Placement?

A left wing video showcasing the 'views' of Sarah Palin supporters, flanked with a special offer on the book!

At first glance I found this to be horrible use of Google Ads - what anti-Palin person would buy this book? But then I got to thinking that even though this is likely not the target audience that the publishers would want - there are likely a bunch of folks who may get the book just to see what silly things she'll say next. Plus, there are lots of her supporters that will likely watch this video and steam. Good or Bad, they're just paying for the click thru anyway...

Here's the video, highly entertaining...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Old School Thinking Still Drives the Media World

I came across this article on Clickz titled 'Web Will Account for 15 Percent of Total Ad Spend in 2010' and couldn't help but shake my head.

Here's why, right from the first paragraph:
"Despite continued sluggishness in the display ad market, Internet advertising will increase its share of overall ad spending to 15 percent next year, for a total of almost $65 billion globally, according to a new forecast from GroupM."

Now most people may jump up and say 'Yippeee! digital is still going strong!'. But this is utterly a reinforcement of the old school way of thinking is to just measure 'media' spending as digital investment.

Smart marketers are investing in platforms (social, community or otherwise) as a core strategy to reduce their overall spending as a whole.
Marketers need to stop just thinking about 'working' dollars and start looking at their overall production and IT investments as part of the overall marketing mix. The ROI of campaigns is not just about the measure of awareness and brand recall - but needs to look at the overall investment and the actions that people take.

Companies investing in creating platforms that engage prospects and customers 52/24/7 won't care what the 'industry' is predicting the media spend will be. They know that they can reach people more often, for less money.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ad Inventory - The Debate Over the Best 'Quality' Continues, With Loaded Stats...

I recently read an article on the about the effectiveness of various types of ad inventory - premium content sites, portals and network sites (Web Sites Debate Best Values for Advertising Dollars). This lead to some conversation with colleagues about the various types of ad inventory and the fact that the issue is not about site effectiveness - it is really about effective measurement, benchmarks and consistency. Something most marketers don't implement.

Study Sponsor
I always like to know the sponsor of studies – the OPA (which represents premium web content creators) released the study saying that premium content ads get better branding recall. My experience with these studies is that the represented association always seems to be able to demonstrate why their medium gets great results. I’ve seen countless radio or outdoor studies showing why those mediums are very effective. But I’ll take that with a grain of salt.

CPM Effectiveness
The root of the article is asking 'what online sites produce the best results' – content, portal or network. The reality is that this it really depends on the objective. If the objective is clickthru/purchase – that is measured by the ultimate customer action (and is highly measurable). If it is engagement, there are many different actions that can be tracked once people interact with the ad.

Better Valuation
The industry needs different and more consistent benchmarks. Creating more robust measurement models to help that help understand the impact of digital on overall brand health and campaign effectiveness. Looking at the effective cost per impression, cost per consideration, and cost per engagement – layering in the traditional inputs of cpm and click through with measuring other actions in the social space. Seeing how a paid impressions generates earned media and what type of impression is generating it. It is time to break down the walls between the different media companies, budget lines (working vs non-working dollars) and social actions to give people a total picture of the digital space.

The bottom line is that regardless of what these studies say, marketers have different objectives and need to develop custom reporting and measurement to better identify the value of the impression to their business needs. If a customer clicks the ad and buys a product – and the value of that click is how much your willing to contribute media to the cost of acquisition - regardless if it is ‘premium’ content or run of site.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Interactivity and Video - The Next Frontier.

TV 2.0, interactive video, choose your own adventure. Whatever you want to call it, entertainment is moving toward a much more engaging model.

TV has been a very passive activity - sitting on a couch and being entertained. Video games pushed the couch experience to a much more social level, but has been limited to gamers and youth. Online video has changed how we consume video - smaller bit sized snippets usually referred by friends - but even this is changing with better streaming quality and HD availability.

The Obama inauguration was a pivotal point in pushing how people engaged video - being able to stream something that was typically always in the domain of the big networks and even add interactivity like chat along side. Now Facebook has made their streaming platform publicly available, so anyone can take advantage of this interactive technology. Michael Jackson's memorial service used it, and has launched an application to leverage this as well. (Although with there is little interactivity watching someone sleep).

A new viral campaign has tapped into the idea of 'choose your own adventure' using You Tube in an anti-weapons campaign (sorry, couldn't embed). The result is a very interesting and sticky experience.

Interactive video is the next frontier of entertainment. It won't kill the traditional passive viewing, but there is a huge opportunity to link these various technologies together to create a new experience. Layer in other opportunities like mobile and there is a tri-fecta of new media engagement about to happen.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Latent Impact of Search Marketing on Yahoo

I work with Harmit Kamboe who authored this post and he has some valuable insights on search marketing...

Having worked in search marketing for a few years, I was curious to see if there was an easy way to measure the latent impact (delayed conversion) of search marketing on online sales/consumer actions.

As marketers we sometimes forget that the prospect converts at his/her own convenience and not ours. Sometimes, the prospect may convert right away and sometimes the prospect may convert at a later date.

I was unable to find a rule of thumb on how many conversions may happen on a delayed basis. This is why I was delighted when I had the opportunity to run a campaign on Yahoo for a change instead of Google-only campaigns.

Latent Impact Data Gathering (Google versus Yahoo):
While Google adds back the “delayed” sale into the sales/conversions reported for the day that a user first clicked on to a search ad, I think Yahoo does a smarter job in this respect. Yahoo reports the sale/conversion on the actual day the “delayed” sale occurs. This may well be 3, 4, 5 or even 30 days after the user clicked on a search ad.

In the case of Google, one has to re-run the reports to see how sales/conversions for the previous days/weeks contributed to lowering the earlier recorded Cost per Order. In addition to that, one has to download and store the historical data offline, and then compute the latent impact across several days.

The Yahoo campaign produced some interesting results in comparison to Google.

Overall, the cost per order/conversion was much lower on Google than on Yahoo when the campaigns were live.

Here are some top line stats with respect to the test program that I ran on Yahoo:

Program dates – April 7 to May 1, 2009

  • The first orders on Yahoo came in on April 13 – however, in the case of Google, the first conversions flowed in on day 1.
  • Of all the conversions reported – 69% of the conversions happened during the time frame the campaign was “live”.
  • A respectable 31% of the conversions occurred after the campaign was over. This clearly demonstrates that search marketing has a measurable latent impact on the mind of the prospect. The last sale/conversion came in on June 7, a good 37 days after the campaign was considered over.
  • The Cost Per Order reported after these additional 37 days helped decrease the CPA by 31%. Once I factored this “delayed/latent” Cost/Order, Yahoo as a search marketing channel was not far off from Google as in terms of cost efficiency.

Conclusion & Recommendation:
Search Marketing has become a hostage to its own success. Clients expect a strong positive ROI from the get-go and are unwilling to wait for “all results” to come in. As online marketers too, we must keep coming up with better and more complete ways of measurement.

Based on my experience, in this case, one of the easiest things we should do is to wait before we report the “final” numbers on a campaign.

I am hoping that by sharing this information, fellow online marketing professionals will have a third party stat to convince clients or in house marketers to budget for at least 1 in 3 responses/conversions coming in after the campaign is over and record success accordingly. If anyone has some other similar stats, please share it with us below.

Originally posted on

Friday, June 12, 2009

Twitter - Is It All its Cracked Up to Be to Canadians?

The one thing I am hearing more and more (beyond "I think we need to be on Facebook") is "We need to be on Twitter". I usually as "why do you want to be on Twitter", which is generally accepted with a blank stare. An new ipsos survey looks at awareness and usage twitter among Canadians and surprisingly there are very few people who are using it.

Basically it boils down to the fact that 1.45% of Internet users actively use Twitter, which is about 1% of the total population. If reach is your strategy, you may be wasting some kid's time Tweeting about your company (hopefully you aren't paying a PR company an hourly rate).

Don't get me wrong, I like Twitter, I use Twitter, but I think that people have to think about what the strategy is and how Twitter is a tactics to help it. Twitter is not an end into itself and has to be part of a larger content strategy.

A Leger/CNW study showed how out of tune PR companies and other industry professionals were in terms of their perceptions of how consumers were using Twitter. Maybe, if reaching PR people is part of your targeting, Twitter would be the ideal tool.

Just reiterates to look at the data and write an articulate strategy before chasing a tactic. You can follow me @cowanpkc.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The NBA - King of the Court and Social Media

I've been a fan of the NBA on Facebook and have been following them on Twitter for some time now. Whenever I need to provide an example of a brand who is doing a great job in this space, the NBA is my go to. Here's why:

Content in the Right Context
The NBA has done a fantastic job of editing content for the social space. On Facebook, they provide great previews and summaries of games, behind the scenes glimpses into the athletes and other cool things in snack sized form. They distribute at a relatively non-spammy frequency - which results in lots of 'likes' and comments - tapping into the exponential media power of the social web. On Twitter, they have a personality and really use the messaging service to relay messages - like game updates and other 'gossipy' type info (Jay-Z is courside for the Lakers).

Integration of Web Properties
They do a great job at promoting their social presences on their core destination. It isn't buried below all the copy or off to the side - but it's nicely collapsed together in the main navigation under "fan stuff". Also, the widgets and games they create appear on both their main site and as social applications - providing an experience wherever the fan happens to be.

They May be Making Money
As with all sports leagues, sponsorship dollars are a massive revenue stream and the web is providing a great opportunity for sponsors to tap into ravenous fans. Sponsored applications, videos, and stories hold massive revenue potential. They're doing a good job here, but there is obviously some room for improvement when you look at the Twitter and Facebook posts.

As media companies and other organizations struggle to think about new ways to differentiate their offerings, they really need to think about how they can create content specifically for social consumption. Tapping into the social curve is the one of the single biggest opportunities for them right now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Regression Branding- The Key to Social Media Success

Everyone is trying to figure out how to tackle social media. Too often the tactics supersede the strategy and marketers get excited about entertaining contest or otherwise to really get it right.

Enter Regression Branding. Traditionally brand strategy is created like this - you understand your product/service, identify some key elements of it that differentiate it against the competition, make sure those things are target relevant, then create positionings to market it.

Regression Branding is about stripping back from your ad campaigns and your positionings and identify the lowest common denominator of how people want to interact with your brand - then create a social presence to address this.

For example, a wireless services company can strip down to the essense of their service - to help customers choose phones and plans that are right for them. Then facilitate those discussions to help customers with their core service proposition. Branded experiences and contests are wonderful marketing tools, but they won't buy any loyalty if your customers don't believe in that you can deliver on your product.

The proposition may be slightly more difficult for a CPG company - but with the right type of analysis and insight - marketers can get down to the root cause of what customers want to discuss to drive their business growth.

So lets all regress back to caveman marketers and build your social presence!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Violence and Video Games - True Evidence Has Finally Emerged!

Crawling through some blog posts the other day regarding in-game advertising, the debate over in-game violence causing real violence was still raging. I came across this comment that made me laugh out loud.

"I for one can attest to the connection, and video games have been responsible for a timeline of reprehensible actions throughout my life. This is one of those times, but feel free to share your own story:

6 y.o. -- As a mere 1st grader, I was caught hallucinating on mushrooms, breaking into a pet store and demanding where they kept the turtles. When the clerk looked confused, I snarled "traitor", slapped him in the face, and proceeded to the turtle section in the back. There I carefully laid them out on the tile floor and proceeded to do a semi-homosexual leap in to the air (one fist in the air and a blank expression on my face) and crushed the slimy quadripeds beneath my shoes. Apparently I was rushed to jail while screaming that someone owed me a princess."

Mario Brothers, if you didn't get it. Thanks Tgeigs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Happens to a Telus Meerkat When the Campaign is Over?

Telus Mobility is long known for it's cute ads that feature animals from all parts of the world. Their latest campaign has feature Meerkats for the better part of a year.

I've always wondered what happened to these lovely animals once they retired - then I stumbled upon Compare the Meerkat - a UK spokes-critter Aleksandr Orlov. Obviously a Telus meerkat has translated their fame to international markets and have become a huge sensation promoting insurance.

The amazing thing about this is how it seems to have a cult following. You Tube views for their ads are consistently in the 100k range - Aleksandr also has a Facebook Page with over 300k fans and he's on Twitter as well.

This is just a great example of how a company has taken a campaign idea and thought about how it can drive the momentum into various formats - not just the traditional executions. The result is a company that is creating pop culture and not just holding a mirror to it.

I just hope those other Telus critters are so successful.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Media Can Drive Creativity to Unparalleled Levels

Traditional media formats we have become accustomed to have killed any sense of true creative thought and alternative thinking.

The 30 second TV ad, the 22 minute time slot, the full page, four colour newspaper ad (if you are so lucky in these economic times). All these formats have forced creativity into a mold that needs to draw upon known, familiar memories to be effective.

It makes me think of Noam Chomsky's thoughts from Manufacturing Consent. The essence being that the forced concision of today's society makes it impossible to argue a new thought because of the back up required to support it (and the lack of attention to pay attention to the support).

I believe that this has a major effect on the advertising and creative communities. It is much easier to feed up a relatable storyline that is predictable and comfortable than something that is truly groundbreaking. The mold has been set and the people making the decisions want to approve the tried, tested and true. Holding up a mirror to pop culture is more prevalent now than ever before - think of all the recent remakes of movies and TV shows, plus the massive amount of parodies on the web.

New media, new interactivity, and completely unparalleled new distribution opportunities create a whole new way to break the plane of traditional ways to engage people. Multimedia can truly be multiple elements of media all coming together to form a new stories or interactions. We now have the opportunity to completely change the way people consume and interact with entertainment or communications.

More on this topic to come - with practical examples of how to do it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

BMW's Mobile Game - It's Fast... And Creative.

BMW launched a new game to support the launch of it's Z4. Called 'Expressions of Joy', it plants the user behind the wheel of a Z4 where the driver creates artwork by throwing the car into corners.

I posted before about a big miss that Mini had with their game, noting that it had absolutely nothing to do with driving. BMW has a good execution on it's hands - it will create appeal with enthusiasts and likely the highly gaming driven iphone/itouch audiences. The nice part is that even though this is a driving game, it has a nice creative touch by having users create a little piece of artwork.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Build Your Own Space - How Two Marketers Get All 'Engagementy'.

I recently came across two promotions for Comcast and Allstate - both of which gave the user the opportunity to create their own digital space, sort of like the old school sims or slightly-newer school real time strategy games (like halo wars). Although the idea of sims may feel done to death, one of these programs is a clear winner and the other leaves you scratching your head, baffled you just wasted ten minutes.

Comcast allows users to create their own 'Comcastic' appartment in Comcast Town (that isn't language they used, but the can for a small fee). This is the microsite that supports a recent campaign they launched, supported with the following broadcast creative.

The user starts off building their apartment with a phone, internet and tv (the essentials of course), and then you can pimp out your pad with a couch, windows, area rugs and so much more. Once that is done, well, that's it. You can earn some bucks to buy more stuff but there is no real point. I can invite other friends, but I have no idea why I would do this. There is no competiton, there is no ongoing changes or interaction with Comcast town or community of people who've built rooms.

I don't even understand what Comcast is going to do with the information gather from me building my room. They could have at least had me select brands of preference (samsung tvs, ikea couches, etc) so that they could make use that for future promotional or partnership purposes. In my mind, this is a complete waste of time and scores a big fat zero as a marketing tactic (if anyone has other thoughts on what I'm missing - please enlighten me).

Allstate, has a similar program where you can build a playground. Very similar interface (although the Comcast one is more intuitive and works a bit better) but the objective is clear - it is a leveraging program against their cause marketing/sports strategy, leveraging the olympics to build affinity with the local Chicago community to build and olympic-inspired playground, inspired by kids themselves. Quite brilliant as it is a great goodwill effort, ties together both sports and cause marketing and is dead simple.

Clear definable objectives of the marketer translate into a much more cohesive experience for the user. Sometimes, the obvious integration with on offline campaign just doesn't work.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Infomercials. Horrible, Yet Cultural Barometres

I recently read an Ad Joke post about the horrors of infomercials and how they all suck. I can't help but agree, but had to respond with the following comment:

Although 99.9% of infomercials suck, sometimes brilliance is struck. Vince, of ShamWow! fame is nothing short of of a E-List celebrity. His "fame" is being ported over to help sell the SlapChop - where he not only has wonderful one line zingers like "you're gonna love my nuts", but he also provides some light hearted social commentary on the problems with America.

I started thinking about the celebrity that has been created by infomercials - Ron Popeil of 'hair in a can' fame (as well as many other products), the rebirth of George Foreman and Richard Simmons, K-Tel (the brand), Susan Powter, Tony Robbins, and many many more.

Given most infomercials are horrendous creatively and usually air in the worst possible media available - how do so many of these products/people gain such a massive amount of awareness? I think people secretly love watching the train wreck that most of these are - laughing at the horrible production values, trying to imagine themselves using the silly product. Still, I think there is a learning to be had how our newest celeb "Vince" is taking infomercials to a new level with a self-deprecating and almost satirical approach to entertaining people with these ridiculous products.

But these must work or we wouldn't see them on TV. Someone, somewhere is acting now and sending a money order to Pueblo, Colorado.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Viral Videos, Are Those Things Still Around?

Yes, most people in marketing or advertising hate saying the word "viral". Mainly because it was so utterly overused 2 or 3 years ago, no one can casually grab a cookie around the boardroom table and ask "how's this going to go viral?" - without most people rolling their eyes.

Still, it is an incredibly powerful tool and should be a part of most content deployment strategies. I like to look at Viral Video Chart to get a feel for what is gaining tracking in the video space. Run by Unruly Media (a social web video company), it looks at the top 20 videos over the last 24 hours, 7, 30 and 365 days.

The great thing to take away is not just what videos gain traction, but a simple way to evaluate the success of these efforts. Unruly uses comments, blog posts and views to measure the top videos and growth of videos. Depending upon the objectives of the campaigns you may be developing, you and adjust these inputs and calculate the ROI against your marketing spend. Measurement is generally one of the biggest barriers that stops most companies from creating content without an ad spend, and this is a simple way to show what success looks like to the people in your organization who may not really understand the space.

The key is to create your set of clear, comprehensible and easy to communicate objectives and results. Tailor it to the language and metrics people in your company are used to seeing and deliver the pitch in those terms.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Great Perspective On Why Things are Amazing...

Louis CK (comedian/writer) on Conan on why we should really appreciate the world we live in. I especially love his take on the current generation and how ungracious they are of technology and the conveniences of the modern life (1:34).

This is great fodder for demonstrating the differences between generations and illustrating how gen y's expectations on instant gratification is absolutely super-sized compared to anyone before.

Thanks Jennifer R for posting this.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hotel Mobile Sites Show Good ROI

An article in Ad Age talks about how various hotel chains are using mobile bookings to generate revenue. Although it doesn't state if this is net new revenue or if this is simply cannibalizing existing channels (which I assume is the case), this shows how a company is using mobile to its advantage to help differentiate it's service offering.

I've often mentioned that marketers need to exploit mobile first by looking at their core business offering and seeing where there are natural synergies to align their strategies against the channel. Then (or concurrently depending on their workload/resources), look at how they should add mobile as a communications element to their overall mix.

The article cites 'convenience' as being on of the major drivers behind m-commerce - which is quite true and obvious. On the business side of the equation, I'm sure that this will also reduce call centre volume and check-in time - although I'm sure that many of the people up-taking these products would just use the web anyway. The question will be how to differentiate their service offering in the long term?

Eventually all hotels will offer this service, so how do you create a unique service to each customer? If the business objective is to reduce call centre/staffing costs and drive retention, what is the core mobile strategy that will encourage customers to do this time and time again? Perhaps rewarding these customers based on their profile (which I assume is an early tech adopter) making their stays more convenient and rewarding. Like, giving free wi-fi for a two-night stay, developing an app making their phone their key for their room, or having them beta test other apps you are looking to develop. Take the service a step further to try to see how you can create a relationship.

I've been using mobile check-in with airlines since they launched. I'm constantly surprised that whenever I show my phone 1) they don't have the 'equipment' to scan my ticket and 2) at least one of the reps say 'oh, I've never seen that before'. But one thing is for sure, I have never thanked or communicated with for being an early adopter of the product.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The CRTC Is Crazy, Or Maybe the Entertainment Business Is.

Recent news about the CRTC is mulling over whether or not to tax Internet Service Providers has me perplexed. If your not familiar with the issue, it basically boils down to this: because people are now watching content on the web, Internet service providers should have to help fund Canadian content in the same way their broadcasters traditional media do. This is the position argued by Canadian producers and artists as a way to help stimulate Canadian developed content.

I am perplexed because the CRTC has already gone on record stating that the web was not going to be regulated (if you can regulate it at all). This was a big step, keeping meddling hands out of a medium that is the great equalizer. I'm also confused because the internet offers artists carte blanche to develop, produce and distribute content free from the shackles of Canadian funding system. The SAG strike in the US showed us that when some of the funniest and talent people can work outside of the existing distribution systems - some of the best and most enjoyable content can be produced - Dr. Horrible, Sarah Silverman's Matt Damon thing, plus lots of other actor mash ups.

What needs to be done is for Canadians to get more daring with the production of content and use the web for distribution. We have lots of talented actors, writers, comedians, animation houses and producers - yet we can't seem to get outside of the shadow of needing government handouts to produce content.

I think it is about time that we take advantage of the smart people we have in the entertainment business and go outside of the CRTC and other government bodies to create alternative distribution and monetization for our content.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Creepy or Cool - VW Let's You Make Babies

In promotion of the Routan, VW launched a site that lets you make a baby. All you need to do is simply upload a picture of you and your partner and presto - you know what your kid(s) will look like! At first I found this a bit creepy, but then I used it and it was kind of cool.

Creepy, because I gave up rights for VW or Crispin to have unlimited use of my pictures for use or to edit/alter however they want. Then I started to think about it and although I don't really post too many of my own pics in public domains - lots of other people do and I do upload many of my person pics to closed areas on Flickr. Also, because when you use the app - the baby you create follows your cursor around the screen. That was creepy.

Cool, because one of my favourite things of all time is the 'Game Face' feature EA Sports has in Tigers Woods 08. In this application, I've uploaded pics of myself and EA has created a golfer with my face - which is really cool. I play golf as me, complete with all my equiptment and clothes that I typically wear - and my FACE! It's amazing. Personalization on the web is what sets it apart from all other mediums - and this VW feature automatically involves two people which basically guarantees that this will be viral. They also included so many ways to share, users will definitely show off to the world what their offspring will look like.

This app also ties really nicely with their strategy - which I assume is to target young couples with growing families in an engaging way. VW should reap the rewards off additional branded impressions that this app should create though the momentum effect.

I also think a good side effect will be that office folks everywhere will use this as a time killer - matching all their co-workers to see what their kids will look like! Now that's creepy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google Latitude is a Killer GPS App

I'm usually a big fan of things that Google does and their latest version of the mobile maps product does not disappoint. Running on my Blackberry Bold, I recently downloaded Latitude, which utilizes GPS or mobile carrier cell towers to identify where people are and shows their location on the map. If your familiar with the mobile maps app already, you'll know that it is just as good/functional as the full web version (complete with satellite view).

Now before you start freaking out and thinking that this is far too big brotherish, you have to think of the possibilities and utility of this product.

First, you invite your friends from Gmail or directly entering their email address (the Gmail integration and overall Google integration is good - it automatically selected my profile pic from my Google profile as my image). Now you can have tabs on your pals wherever they are - whether you are shopping at the mall, grabbing a coffee or having a night on the town. Think about how many times you are delighted when you bump into a friend and have a spontaneous lunch. Or, extend this to traveling out of town and you can reach out to those friends you typically wouldn't on a short business trip. They've added elements like 'status updates' so you can add notes like 'I'm looking to hook up' or change your profile pic from your camera phone to reflect your location.

Privacy is obviously a huge issue with location based services - but Latitude does incorporate privacy features where you can either manually set your location (i.e. you said you were at the dentist but were really at a job interview) or you can simply go off the grid and hide your location. Don't worry, big brother isn't always watching.

There are deficiencies. First, there is a complete lack of any advertiser integration. I want to be able to serve up ads to people based on their location. Currently, there isn't any obvious place to do so, but I'm sure this is part of the road map. If you think about the user behavior that Google will track (morning commute routines, entertainment districts traveled, shopping areas visited) the amount of behavioral data collected and the ability to target customers modeled against your target segments is very exciting.

Another small gripe is that although this is touted as a community product - I can't ping people or contact them directly from the app. Any 'community' product should have communication as a key element - and with this being a location based service the with the core feature being able to find friends - you have to be able to contact them. If you combine this with the above issue of advertiser integration, marketers are missing out on a huge opportunity. I would love to be able to pull key words from a conversation, know where the people are and serve up relevant ads - 'want to go for dinner' = restaurant suggestions - 'want to come back my pad?' = the nearest drug store for condoms.

I love the app and the ease of integration with the device. Add a few more small elements core to the communications piece of the phone and its a total winner. Now all we need to do is work through all those pesky privacy issues and marketers can really use this to serve up smart, location based advertising that adds value to the consumer.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cyborg Beetles - The next big grassroots opportunity.

Although this is really has nothing to do with communications, this is likely one of the craziest things I've seen in a long time. UC Berkeley is experimenting on insects to basically create armies of cyborg beetles. Or as they put it "implanted devices are designed to hijack control of motor functions, induce physiological changes, and to serve as a self-contained platform for various transducers."

You have to watch the video, it will blow your mind - Click here.

Now there are lots of applications of this beyond the obvious creation of cyborg armies of Dolph Lundgren type super humans - there are some really interesting applications for this from a marketers standpoint. Think of the mystery shopping research you'd be able to do by flying a few bugs into the store to monitor a few sales transactions (in real time via the web!). Maybe control a few swarms of locusts to create a living and changing billboard in the sky. Or the intel you can gather from your competitors by flying a few of these into their boardroom.

I just hope those folks over at Berkeley have some decent security and are watching to make sure no evil super villains are lurking about.

Thanks Engadget for the image.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mini launches iPhone game - and it's not what you think.

I'm a big fan of things that the crafty marketers at Mini do. They constantly surprise the market with engaging outdoor installation pieces and insightful advertising that is unique to their brand.

So when I heard they launched a new iPhone game I thought to myself - those guys are so smart developing another cool branded experience. Then I saw the game 'Liquid Assets', which is a new take on an old game that has nothing to do with their product, and I thought - what a odd thing to do.

So maybe I'm a purist when it comes to these types of things or I just like the obvious - but why didn't they lead off with a driving game? They could have commissioned a game developer to tailor a existing game featuring your fav Mini utilizing the iPhone/iPod Touch's unique interface. I'm sure that Mini fans everywhere would have jumped at the chance to push a Mini to the limits in various courses. This just seems like it would be tighter to the product and enable them to learn a bit more about their audience (ie. data collection, tracking behaviour, etc)

Games rule on the Apple handheld platform - but they still have to be great to engage the user. Sometimes it's better to just do the obvious. And do it really well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

2009, The Year of mCommerce?

There have long been the promise that the mobile phone will become your wallet - finally enabling you to point it at a pop machine and purchase that tasty carbonated treat. But the reality is your going to have to fish in your pockets for spare change - that form of mCommerce is a long way from mainstream.

Although the technology exists and some banks are wireless providers are piloting this lovely technology, sadly your phone will not become your wallet anytime soon. But really, who even needs this on a mass scale - when was the last time you tried to buy something and didn't have a credit card, debit card or even cash to do so.

So where does that leave the world of mCommerce? The real question is how are marketers using mobile to drive commerce.

2009 will be the year that marketers finally realize that the mobile can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool - in particular for the retailers who want to drive store traffic. Recessions have a wonderful effect of forcing marketers to try new strategies and tactics to drive sales. And mobile marketing firms want to demonstrate the opportunity the channel creates, opening the door to alternative results based compensation structures.

Lots of retailers are already experimenting. Jack in the Box launched a mobile couponing campaign - deploying coupons at different day parts, as well as a variety of different offers to gauge what works in the best in mobile space to generate response. And in an interesting move, the agency Mobile Posse guaranteed double digit results or the campaign was free. H&M also launched a fully integrated program, creating a branded experience with their products to drive loyalty and retetion.

Microsoft announced the launch of their Tag product, which essentially creates interactivity on anything that has their mobile 'tag'.

Consumers install the application on their phone, then simply take a picture of the tag and more information is delivered via the web. Now this product is not anything new - QR codes and Datamatrix codes have existed for years, along with the old standard of SMS shortcodes.

The thing marketers should take note of is that they are missing a massive opportunity to create interactivity - the much sought after 1:1 relationship. The fact that marketers rely on consumers to remember a URL, 800# or key search term until they can access the web, is utterly ridiculous.

Marketers should try to continue the conversation -whether it is delivering and additional branded experience or a coupon - they can add value to a consumer's day and try to use every moment to bring that person closer to purchase. The opportunity exists, but very few are taking advantage of it. Mobile is simply another tool in the marketers warchest and it should be leveraged against virtually all strategies.

2009 won't be the year of mCommerce. But it will be the year of mMarketing - amongst the smart marketers who want to drive transaction.

Friday, January 16, 2009

iPhone Applications - What we can learn from the top 5, it's actually quite sad.

I like to look at the top 5 unpaid applications for the iPhone (and iPod Touch) as a barometer of what marketers should look to leverage in the mobile applications space (much like marketers should also monitor applications on social media platforms like Facebook).

Not surprisingly, games dominate the top 5 (as of Jan 16/09) as has been the case from the launch of the app store. In fact, 4 of the top 5 applications are in the gaming category. Interestingly, gaming has been a space largely ignored by the wireless carriers as a revenue channel - notionally because they simply sell themselves and marketing investment isn't required.

So what is the trend?

The core insight is that technology and ubiquitous connectivity has created a culture needing constant stimulation and affirmation of their place in the world. People cannot be one with their own thoughts, they need to have an external source that reaffirms they are part of something larger - even if that is simply a game of pac man.

Think about your experience when having lunch with a colleague - the minute your lunch partner gets up to go to the washroom, you reach for your iPhone or Blackberry and look for messages. If there are no messages, you go play some brickbreaker or suduko. Long gone are the days of quiet introspection and spending time with your inner thoughts. Much to the chagrin of philosophers everywhere.

The opportunity for marketers is to:
1) exploit this, provide entertainment and branded experiences to consumers in an effort to deliver their key messages.
2) capitalize on the movement when the pendulum swings the other way and consumers strive to postulate and spend time with their inner thoughts for general self improvement. Brain Age (nintedo DS) is a good indication this movement is starting and people of all ages are looking to replace mind-numbing games with something that is more positive.

Let's try to make people think again.

PS. iFart is the #3 application. That may motivate you too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brand Integration - A New Idea? I Don't Think So, But the BIG Opportunity is Content Deployment

With the challenges that broadcasters are having on the future to advertising sales with the advent of digital TV and DVRs (see my perspective on this topic), they are turning to the 'new' idea of brand integration. We all know that this is obviously not a new idea, as product placement has existed for years and P&G were the inventors of the soap opera.

Here is a nostalgic advertorial that leverages the entire line up of prime time stars circa 1965 - from competing networks even! Makes you wonder if an advertiser could produce something like this today - negotiating with all the broadcasters, distributors, production houses, unions, agents and managers.

This is the exact type of material we should be looking to produce to keep viewers engaged in traditional commercial content. But advertisers need to take it further and develop an overall Integrated Content Strategy. This content should be leveraged by the advertiser for additional deployment in other channels - sales rallies, direct mail, in-store materials and a whole host of other marketing efforts.

Imagine after seeing this in your favorite show - a DM piece comes with Lorne Green inviting you for a test drive - you go to the website and sign up and there are out-takes and additional content for you to view. And after you sign up for your test drive you get a follow up OBTM call from your favourite actor thanking you, along with an MMS of the car/actor sent to your mobile. Then you get in store and you're greeting with life sized cut out's of the whole gang? Makes we want to test drive a Corvair...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Why is Interactive Always the Last Part of the Presentation?

Here is a follow up to the very funny advertising parody short "The Break Up".

There is so much to talk about here - but I'll keep it short to two points.

1. Online is always relegated to the end of the presentations, when most people are getting their coats.

This is a massive problem, but it is simply the fact that 80-90% of advertisers spend the budget on above the line 'traditional' media. As well, most advertisers and their internal stakeholders (Sr Marketers, CEOs, etc) see the traditional elements of campaigns in market - and don't spend time reviewing the online portions (likely because they either don't fit the online target profile and won't see the ads, or they simply just don't participate).

Everyone knows online is important, but marketers need actively work to elevate it's profile and rethink it's role in the overall communications mix. Stop presenting it as a separate part of the communications plan and begin integrating it in other parts of the strategy and presentations. Display is simply another form of push advertising, just like the TV ads, billboards or newspaper. Social web (social media, blogs, etc) is a 1:1 channel, so it should occupy the same part of the strategy as grassroots, PR or even retail. So often do marketers divide their activity by discipline, their 'integrated' campaigns a fallacy. Stop thinking of the importance of media in terms of the percentage allocation of budget (or the perceived importance to internal stakeholders). Start thinking of it in terms of what will actually change consumer behavior and influence purchase.

2. This campaign is sponsored by Microsoft advertising, good for them.

I applaud the fact that MS saw a successful industry parody and decided to capitalize on it. Take a good viral program and use it to drive home the core values of their product and department 'brand'. And this is not simply a one off, they clearly believe that the industry is full of relics that don't understand the online world (see this for a scary interview with the Executive Director of Brand Strategy for Interbrand). Hopefully they can work with advertisers and deliver some amazing online programs integrating all their properties. Not just say it, but actually deliver it.

If anyone is interested in making parodies like this, contact me and we'll go sell them to MS.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Every Marketer Should Be Very Excited About Tivo

Tivo has two killer services that every marketer should be very, very excited about. StopWatch and PowerWatch. StopWatch gives second by second national viewership data for shows and commercials. PowerWatch is a service that provides marketers with valuable information about viewer behavior - on a base of 100k viewers, it can drill down to find out who is watching what commercials and when. That is, if they are watching commercials at all.

Both services are amazing for a few reasons and will (hopefully) change the face of TV planning/buying. As a marketer, here is what you should be thinking about:

Internet Metrics Applied to TV- and Then Some...
Marketers can now start to understand the performance of their advertising show by show, creative by creative. Not only will they know what shows actually are pulling better engagement with their commercials, how many are being viewed live vs timeshifting, but they will actually be able to drill down to understand if how they are performing against their target demos.

Negotiating Power Has Shifted
Knowledge is power, right? Now the power has shifted as marketers know what kind of audiences their advertising is pulling, not just how the show is performing. This is a fundamental shift in the mindset of media planning as we no longer have to rely on sketchy 1950s Nielsen ad models - we know know exactly who is watching what and when - and we can start to value the inventory based on the performance of our advertising, not the performance of the show.

This is a double edged sword as this could throw the whole TV financial model into chaos. Advertisers won't want to pay the rates broadcasters are demanding, the devaluation of ad inventory results in an an inability for broadcasters to pay cable/satellite providers to be carried on their systems and broadcasters won't be able to provide the product. Sounds eerily like the music business, but it is still exciting.

Will the Direct Marketers Please Stand Up
The other very exciting opportunity is the potential to target - and target very precisely. With a digital box in every home (in the US this year, Canada in 2011), marketers should be able to drill down and target by area code, demographic, ethnicity, and behavior. We can even start of use propensity models that we've set aside just for the direct communications.

Thankfully the ad ecosystem isn't just the in-broadcast inventory, but also extends to other 'internet-like' ad units with on-demand services, in-guide advertising and otherwise. Hopefully enhanced digital guides that will evolve dramatically and provide much more robust ad opportunities (if you have ever been on xbox live - it should be providing a similar type experience if the cablecos and tivo are to keep up).

The Creative Question
The elephant in the room understanding what DVRs will have on the creative product. The initial results Tivo published cited three commercials as being the 'least skipped': 1) A furniture store, 2) A tourism ad for Dominican Republic and 3) A Hooters commercial. The obvious conclusion in a Business Week article was that the ads need to be relevant to the viewer. It also noted that Bowflex was a top performer, primarily due to it's placement in wrestling. Yes, I think we get that - relevance, check.

But my conclusion is something slightly different, sex sells. Sad, but true. When skipping over ads, the things that grab a viewers attention are scantly clad men or women working out or running in slow motion across a beach. I just wonder if Bowflex or Dominican tourism saw an increase in search terms, site traffic or call centre traffic? The reality is that much more work will need to be done on this topic to develop creative that will not get skipped. And if you are getting skipped, how do you tailor your ad for at least some brand recall (make the logo bigger!).

Every media company or advertiser buying TV should be subscribing to this service. Or pushing their cablecos, satellite providers or broadcasters to get this type of learning. The opportunity is understand the performance of your advertising, negotiate better rates, get more targeted, and compliment your campaigns with other efforts (online, search, traditional, etc). The end result will be a stronger ROI on your campaigns.