Friday, March 31, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Stuff from the Bloglines Folders

Well, it's another rainy day here in San Francisco. Officially, I'm doing a two-day race this weekend, but I'm feeling a little less than motivated. I've been a little behind in my blog-consumption, and my BlogLines folders have long ago reached their 200 message limit. So, let's do some Spring Cleaning. Here are the best of the headlines:

Airline Loyalty Programs don't Pay.
A good Consumerist article on the economic failure of frequent flyer programs. The best point they make is that rewards do not loyalty make. Just be good.

Internet Identity Conference
Doc Searls links to a new conference on identity. Check out the logo. That's inspired.

The Blogging ROI Reality Check... being written by Scott Karp. Check out the thread.

and finally:

Creative Commons Comic Book

Helps explain the fight against copyright!
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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Must Read: AdAge on Target/Supplier Frustrations

AdAge has a great article today on the frustrations that marketers are feeling with Target. The article details how the big red one is forcing suppliers to eat costs to drive down prices, partially due to a new online reverse auction system. Man, those systems are bad: they do nothing but frustrate suppliers.

For me, the critical part of the article comes near the end, from the mouth of a supplier who wished to remain un-named:

“Those kind of auctions aren’t taking place on the must-have, traffic-building brands. My experience is it’s in categories where the retailer could carry whomever they want, and if they can do that, then how important was your brand? The only place that is safe is if you have a brand that is powerful enough that consumers will be disappointed enough if a retailer doesn’t have it.”
No truer words have ever been spoken. As manufacturers face increasingly squeezed and strained relationships, the task of brand-building is critically important. A strong brand is the trump card, the secret weapon and the man behind the curtain in all of this. And this is not awareness, mind you. But real, honest-to-goodness brand building and consumer love. You think Apple goes through a reverse auction to get its iPod into Target? No way. Their very presence raises Target up above its competitors.

Brand, brand, brand. When you're done: relationship, relationship, relationship.
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'Joga' is a fast mover for Alexa

Nike's futbol-fan community site Joga is at the top of today's Alexa Mover's and Shakers. Amazing, for the whole invitation-only marketing site. Increase the scarcity, increase the value.
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Everyone Loves [the consumer]

Atom Films is launching a new channel, focused on consumer-generated content. Good for them, although its interesting that the general sense here is that they are playing catch-up. Clearly, Atom must be a little surprised by sudden excitement around YouTube. But Atom, to be fair, has actually reached out to consumers in the past, with clever ad programs.

Many years ago, Atom launched a program with Sony, soliciting film ideas. The best ones, as voted by the community, were rewarded with a bunch of killer Sony gear.

This seems like the approach that they are continuing that thread. The idea of having an open playground where anyone can post anything which is separate from a vetted section is a good idea. Atom seems to think that the vetted section is the one for advertisers, but I don't that necessarily their only space. Someone like Maxim magazine or Axe may have the tolerance for risk to dive into that space.

Either way, it's once again clear to me that the mandate for a lot of business is to inject consumers directly into the business as many ways as possible.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jupiter Research Sold

Well: it's happened again. My alma mater Jupiter Research has been sold. David Schatsky, the head of Jupiter Reasearch writes about it in his blog. It's pretty much what you would expect from the head of a group being sold ("This is gonna be GREAT!"), but I have to say that I think he's accurate. JupiterMedia, the parent corporation is moving in a different direction, toward the management of digital assets and away from the creation of content.

Getting the Jupiter team inside of a structure that is totally focused on analysis will breathe a lot of energy and life into that company. I wish them all the best of luck, and congratulations.

Oh...and good work, Alan on the 40x multiplier on your original investment. That man has a sense of timing envied by Swiss watchmakers.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

B 2.0's Meets the Head of Digg

The story of Digg is the story of the concept of community, injected into a business model. Business2.0 captures this in a quick article about the site and its founder.
Not that Rose intends for Digg to restrict itself to news. Imagine being able, for example, to use Digg to explore the popularity of consumer products such as cell phones or plasma TVs--to be able, as Rose put it, "to drill down among your set of friends or the masses and see their opinions." Then imagine this capacity married to the recommendation-engine feature that Rose and his team are working on. In other words, Consumer Reports, look out.

So, how about that. The creation of the community is a brand asset. I so firmly believe that. In fact, I would like to see the finance department begin to examine these communities to understand precisely how much value they contain. P&G is able to save money on launching new products, because it has the 6 million + emails from Home Made Simple. That represents real value, real money.

The valuation of your community is probably more important than guesses at lifetime value.
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Monday, March 27, 2006

User-Generated Ad Show in SF

The San Francisco Bay Interactive Group is helping to sponsor the first ever user-generated ad show. What a great idea. I'm hoping that AMMO can be a part of it in some way, naturally, but mostly I'm just stoked at the entire idea. Entries are being accepted now.
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J. Bloom's Report from RE: Think

Jonah Bloom writes, over at AdAge, about his recent experience moderating an extremely high-level panel at the recent RE: Think conference. The verdict? Yet another call to those traditionalists who need to wake up and smell the convergence.

I'm inspired, of course. But, yet again: I start to wonder who are these digital sleepyheads? Is it really the problem that those traditional media owners are simply ignoring the Internet? Or, worse, are they tring to stuff it into a box? I'm beginning to have my doubts. There have been armies of speakers, months of conferences, piles of articles and many, many bold pronouncements by CEOs and CMOs. I think the idea is here. There are certainly some details that need to be communicated (ie: search and display ads should live in the same department). But: what the heck is the hold up? How come we haven't really moved past the 30 second spot?

I'm beginning to think that the challenge in front of us is not so much evangelism, but project management. Or, management consulting. I believe that what is holding up the true embracing of digital technology by the marketing department is not so much a lack of willingness to move from old school to new, but the astounding number of hurdles that exist inside the corporation itself.

The digital agencies that are able to not only speak the language of the technophiles, but also corporate speak will go along way in the next generation of the revolution. They are the ones who will take the dreams and turn them into real plans. Not quite as sexy as charting new territories, for sure. But certainly practical and necessary.
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Being Good: The Client/Agency Relationship

My latest ClickZ column is up. I wrote about a topic, sparked by a discussion with John Durham about the agency/client relationship. I'd love to hear stories and thoughts, so I want to open up the thread here on the ol' blog. Please leave a comment or send an email.
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Interesting Keyword Targeting

So, I'm hanging out with my (beautiful) son, whose name is Joad. Just goofing off, I typed his name into Google. And got a bunch of AdWords for grapes.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Dr. Carl's Response

Promoted from the comments, Dr. Carl responded to my thoughts on the reasons behind the resurgence in WOM:
I agree with you about the increasing importance that organizations place on relationships though I fear that some companies wish they could "get away" with awareness and have only come to the idea of relationships begrudgingly (and thus I think some of their efforts will be seen as shallow).

In my talk I also discussed the issue of WOM as a media channel and argued that if the industry (or a portion of it, anyway) makes this shift in how we talk about WOM, then the effectiveness of the channel will still rely on relationship principles that serve as the foundation of effective and ethical WOM.
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CGM Tsunami Alert: Snakes on a Plane

The next great word of mouth/consumer generated media story is upon us. Snakes on a Plane is the (actual) name of a forthcoming movie from New Line Cinema. From the Internet Movie Database:
Plot Outline: On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, lets loose a crate full of deadly snakes
The film, based on little more than the title and news that Samuel L. Jackson will start has launched an online buzz, not seen since Blair Witch Project. According to Hollywood Reporter, people have been pushing buzz for the movie, including creating songs, comics, clothes, and trailers.

The coolest part is that fans of the movie-to-be have decided that SLJ should, at some point scream the line "I want these motherf-------g snakes off the motherf-------g plane!"

The problem is that filming was already finished.

The solution was to get the stars back into the studio to shoot a bunch more scenes. Including one in which SLJ guessed it.

We're going to be telling the story of this movie for a long, long time, I think.

UPDATE: CGM-Meister Blackshaw is on the case!
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The Great Mike May Give Away

Next Thursday, the 30th, is the Great Mike May Give Away (my branding). Mike May, who has been at Jupiter and is a top-notch event consultant is going to give away half-hour consulting sessions. What a great idea. Sort of insight-sampling. I'm on the calendar.
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Dr. Carl's Slides Available

The slides from Dr. Carl's talk on the Birth of WOM (sounds like a the name of an MGM Blockbuster from 1967) are available. This is a great deck that talks about the DNA and the genesis of Word of Mouth. Or, rather, the surge in interest in WOM by the Marketing Clan.

I have one more bullet to add--and I think I mentioned it previously. I think the re-focus on WOM has to do with companies realizing that they need to focus more on consumer relationships than they do on awareness. I don't think WOM is the marketing-tactic flavor of the month because it really represents a move toward (or, perhaps a concession to) a way of marketing that deals less with telling people what to do than it is listening to them.

And a big part of why marketers are focused on that is not because they suddenly became more interested in their consumers. Its because they discovered that their favorite tactic--display--is getting avoided more quickly, easily and efficiently.
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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cycling Teaser Ad

OK. They got me. has me in their clutches until April 7th.
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Rule #125.3: Advertisers are more motivated for consumers, than consumers are motivated to pay for content

Game publisher Wild Tangent has a wild idea. Rather than buy a game outright, people can pay for a single instance of play, with a sort of online-token. It's essentially micro-payments for games, pay as you go. But the cool thing about this is that companies can sign on to sponsor the tokens. Coke, evindently, has already done so.
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Fixing Time Warner

Erick Schonfeld over at Business2.0 has an article up with a few proposals on how to fix the woes of Time Warner. The animating idea, here, is that T/W is a Media Giant in a world of Media Lilliputians. How does a giant remain effective when the focus is down at a micro level? How do you generate success with multi-million dollar releases, when everyone's watching Google Videos of the Star Wars Kid?

Erick's ideas are good; you should read them. But the idea essentially is to shift the focus of the company away from its size and more toward its ability. T/W should stop thinking about their content in terms of minutes and hours, and more in terms of bytes. That is, how much content they can make available to service the long tail of content demand.

I certainly find this to be a worthwhile endevaour. Not to sound like a broken record, but this clearly means that they need to reconsider the notion of content ownership, a la Creative Commons. Can they do this? Probably not without a significant fight in the legal department. Media companies already have themselves up to their neck in discussions about (and injunctions concerning) ownership. The content brand-managers maybe thinking different. But they get stymied at the legal department over and over again.

Erick considers the idea that, rather than making the company bigger by buying back shares, they should consider using their capital to launch a bunch of little companies that are built for nimbleness. That's a great idea. T/W should maybe stick to being a giant. I'm all in favor of big splashy movies, music and television. But they may need someone closer to the YouTube's of the world to remain relevant in this shifting world.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SEG: Search Engine Geekery

A good post for your mid-day doldrums: Ask MeFi picked up the curious question of why Google returns such an odd list of results for the query "http".
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Wharton: Bad WOM Gets Badder over Time

I just found this. A Wharton studyfound the obvious: Negative WOM is bad, bad, bad. Bad stories carry far more weight than good stories when it comes to products and services.

But here's the interesting twist. As bad WOM stories get repeated, they get embellished. That is, the clerks get ruder, the line gets longer, the Muzak gets more annoying, each time the story is repeated. I have no idea how they quantified this, but by the time the story is repeated a few times, the negative effect is actually 5x the original damage.

This is the heart of the JarvisDell Syndrome. I, honestly, can not recall the actual details of blogger Jeff Jarvis' complaints about Dell. But I can tell that the problem was big, the company unresponsive and the experience totally frustrating. That's the ripple effects of negative WOM.
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Cell Phone as Teen 'Rite of Passage'

There's a great new data set up on AdAge about wireless use. The conclusion is not too far off from what's become the accepted truth: Youth Rules Wireless. They very clearly see the phone not just as a way to talk, but as a little computer. This has definitely been the failure of imagination among my age group and up (I'm 36). We see the cell phone as an extension of the home phone. It's just a phone that is more portable.

Not so with Gen Y-erless. To them (and this is the best insight from the article), getting a phone is a 'rite of passage'. There's a huge jump in phone ownership between the 8-12 demo and the 13-15 demo. You can very clearly see that the presentation of a cell phone to a 13 year old is a clear acceptance of the child's growing power and influence. No wonder teen agers decorate their phones and display them prominently. It's a tribal badge!
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Working Definition of "Engagement" Needs Work

Well, never let it be said that those who pop above the foxhole don't get shot at...

The notion of Engagement is clearly important as a new measure of advertising efficacy. The trouble is, that while people tend to agree that engagement is a good thing, no one knows what it is. Well, Joe Plummer, chief research officer of The ARF has ventured a working definition:

Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context
I don't think this cuts it. But--its great as a starting point. Is there an official way to provide feedback? I'm not sure. I'd love to work on the Wikipedia entry on this one. I have two primary problems with this. The first is that it is focused on a single impression. The other is that there's no notion of time attached to it.

Engagement has to have at least two components: the intial connection with the consumer, and an action that he or she takes, preferably not prompted by the original communication or another re-marketing ad. That is, engagement is emergent effect that happens, after someone is made aware of a product proposition, evidenced by an action he or she takes.

WOM is the perfect example of measuring that emergent effect. Walter Carl made the excellent point that the majority of WOM interactions are the result of someone perceiving a need. I don't walk about telling people about Claritin. But if I meet someone with a stuffed nose, I'll definitely tell them to get some.

So: engagement has to be defined in that way. Engagement is a consumer mindset where he or she is able and willing to bring product attributes up immediately in a context where brand communication is absent. That's pretty close to unaided awareness, I know. But still: it speaks to the notion that the consumer has actively engaged some part of his or her brain to the brand. If there is a program, such as Nike's new soccer thing, all the better. The engagement can then take place in a branded space.
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New SEMPO Board: Great Choices!

Congratulations to the new Seach Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO) board. Gord Hotchkiss is the new chair. He's about as rational a person as you'd ever hope to meet. Rational...a good thing? Absolutely. We're entering into an era where the bluster and hype is happily chilled from the SEM world. I think Gord's clear vision will serve this community really well.
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Card on Google's Invitation Only Advertising

Jupiter's David Card has a post, in classic pithy-Card style, on Google and Nike's Joga site. He calls it "invitation only advertising". That's great. Pretty clearly, this is not a broadcast model when one needs to be invited to marketing. But, naturally this makes sense. Google has realized with Gmail that reserving access increases scarcity, which increases perceived value.

The question, of course, is whether this social network experiment goes the way of MySpace or the way of Friendster. That is: will the traffic be sustained? They are heading the right direction, for sure, by prepopulating the site with people you want to be connected to (if you're a fan, that is): soccer players as well as Nike employees.
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Monday, March 20, 2006

Log Trolling for Keywords

You never know what you'll find.

I was looking through the log files for this blog, seeing if there are any interesting searches that people are using to find my blog. The best one? "some good thoughts". I'm Google result #2.

Which makes me oddly happy on this rainy Monday.

Well: I suppose this post is worthwhile: trolling logs for search engine referals is a great way see if there are any new SEM opportunities. The log-entry for "some good thoughts" looks like this:

I bolded the important part. That "q" (I assume) stands for query. That "%20" is the way the computer deals with spaces. The result is a bit of voice of the consumer insight: someone, somewhere did a seach for "some good thoughts" and decided that SteinBlog was relevant. I could bid on this term and capture a bit of that long tail.

Alright: back to waiting for the rain to abate once more so I can go cycling.
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Dr. Carl @ NE: Lecture on The Gensis of WOM

Dr. Walter Carl is holding a lecture this Wednesday titled: Consumer-Generated Media: The Birth of the Word-of-Mouth Industry. If you haven't met or heard Walter, you definitely should. I may be victim to a little-bit of academia-envy, true--but I've always felt like he has a very clear and concise view of what WOM's about.

I wish I could be there--the talk is in Chicago and I'm here in SF. But I would love to offer my own theory on why Word of Mouth has experienced such a resurgence, of late. It all comes down to the priorities of the marketing department. In the (fairly recent) past, the most important task for marketing was awareness. But the priority stack has shifted, and now the top task is relationships.

You could certainly argue that TiVO-technology has viscerally demonstrated the downward spiral of awareness marketing to the ad team. But really, the provision of easy-avoidance technology has only demonstrated what people already knew: commercials are to be avoided.

WOM is really evidence of a relationship: if people discuss you, they care about you. Focusing on WOM is focusing on relationships. Or, at least, it should be. I worry that people consider WOM to be yet-another-media channel, and they seek to buy and manage it just like they've always done.

Certainly that's a part of the challenge, but fitting WOM channels into traditional marketing structures only diminishes its important. I imagine we'll start seeing PodCast GRPs sometime soon, which is cool. But all that really means is that big, traditional marketing subsumes all channels.
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Friday, March 17, 2006

Rule #243.2: The Internet forces the Real World to be More Interesting

I seem to be in a nostalgic mood lately, seeing things in a semi-long view. It may be due to the job change, but a lot of news seems to stretch my mind back to the really incredible thoughts that were born back when all this Internet stuff was brand new.

In that vein, there's a story on CNN/Money about a European chain that blends electronics and luxury items with (what else) coffee. It put me in the mind of a idea-thread launched many years ago by a book called the Experience Economy. The book sort of dismissed the Internet, which was unfortunate (and actually takes a sort of odd, metaphysical turn toward the end). But the idea was that retail was going to need to shift away from selling stuff to selling experiences.

Though not mentioned in the book, the best example of this (to me) is Old Navy. Certainly you buy clothes there. But the prices, the design, the ads, and the promotions (i.e. item of the week) clearly say that they are selling Shopping. The stuff you buy is practically a souvenir. The appeal seems to be toward younger people who want the experience of shopping, but don't have the ability (w/o credit cards, transportation) to indulge completely.

At the time, the theory was given a bit of a boost: we figured that the broad availability of products online, at easily compared prices, would force retailers into a corner. There would need to be a more compelling reason for people to come to the store than simply the products.

The fact that this story brings this store to light is, I think, evidence that this idea is still sound. There has to be a point to being in a store...making it an experience in some way certainly answers that need.
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Thursday, March 16, 2006

SuperGroup Denuo's Pahade Interviewed

Zach at ClickZ has an interview with Nick Pahade, the president of Denuo: Publicis' new group of really smart people. He asks some great questions, including:

Q. One of the unique things about Denuo is how you're acquiring stakes in new media and tech companies in exchange for helping develop their ad products. What companies do you have a stake in now?


Q. Does the services for capital approach sort of hearken back to Web 1.0?

The whole "equity for work" gig is a tough one, and I'm convinced it contributed to the downfall of some very good agencies back in the day. The agency that I worked at (Red Sky) always said no to these deals, but not necessarily out of any nobility--more like we needed the cash in now!

It certainly says a lot for the company that can do it: they are placing real bets on the development of certain technologies. But I'd watch this fairly closely. I don't know if these investments will ever show up on a public accounting, but this is the sort of thing that first of all invites every one with an idea to come to your door, and potential difficultly in paying the very real expenses associated with an agency. Publicis' backing will make it easier, but the balance has to be pretty delicate.

Check out Nick's answer to those questions.
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Search to Herald the Return of the Thin Computer?

There's more buzz today about the notion of a very thin computer--that is, a computer that does little more than connect to the Internet. Greg Sterling hypothesizes about it today, and there's news that Google and Yahoo! are in the process of developing just such a thing.

This is at least the second coming of Thin Computing: the first very quickly followed the mass-market discovery of the Internet. The problem that time, of course, was trying to justify the cheap price necessary to make the idea sound. Well, search seems to have promise solving yet another problem.

Becuase, the engines have a different problem to solve: they need a consistent flow of queries. Each query isn't a revenue generator, but only a revenue-generating opportunity. The challenge all the engines face is to keep up the flow of queries (as well, of course, of the number of clicks per query). A large part of the strategy has been to increase the number of interfaces.

Can that be done by getting the number of devices up? Probably. The engine's adopted revenue model certainly introduces a number of new opportunities for growth and development, that's for sure.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Google's Rosenberg: Click to Call is Next Big Thing

I just finished a one-on-one with Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of product dev at Google. This was a session at's Multichannel Executive Symposium. Among the many interesting things he said was a prediction that click-to-call is going to be a huge opportunity. He roughed out a vision of click-to-call, married with speech recognition.

Interesting, to say the least. I certainly believe that click-to-call has a very bright future. To hear it from someone like Jonathan is meaningful, in some way as well. MSN appears to be on the click-to-call trail as well.
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NEWS: I've joined AMMO Marketing

Good morning!

The news today for me is that I have joined AMMO Marketing, as Director of Strategy. AMMO is based here, in San Francisco, and is a part of the ISOBAR network of companies. I'm sitting in an office shared by CARAT and FreeStyle. I'm excited to be back in the world of agencies, and happy to be working with a few people I've known for many years, including AMMO chief Julian Aldridge, who I worked with eons ago at Red Sky.

Those of you watching closely know that I had a short stint this year at BuzzMetrics. They are a great company and a great group of people. It is clear to me that they are the far-and-away leaders in a field I've always considered to be critical to marketers and agencies. My time there was brief, but wonderful and there is not even a tiny drop of bad blood--and I look forward to working with them in this post as well.
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Google VW Mashup for Nav System

Automotive News has a story today about a navigation system currently under development by VW and Google. It was demonstrated at CES, but this is certainly the first really compelling description and screen shots I've seen.

You can imagine what the system is: Google Earth, in-car. Throw in a little GPS data and you've got a pretty amazing system for navigating the roads and, naturally, finding things.

Online directories are certainly a big deal: the phone is often considered to be the device of choice for these services, but this would take it a step farther, in terms of usefulness. Plus: every time you see a Google announcement, you should think "inventory". I am convinced that this is a core question that is being asked of all their innovations: "How does this create new ad inventory for us." The opportunity for local merchants here is huge.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More Like: Madison Avenue to Stop Paying Lip Service to SEM

MarketingVox points to an NYT article about big agencies starting to adopt SEM services. That's certainly good news, but I'd have an easier time digesting this article if a lot of agencies hadn't been simply paying lip service to SEM over the last several years. Interactive agencies aren't immune from this either...two notable exceptions were/are Carat (disclosure: I'm now affiliated with Carat; more on that tomorrow) and Organic.
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Good Gig: Rethink Advertising for Unilever

Unilever, evidently, has quietly established some internal teams to rethink advertising. Good for them. This pulls a page out of an old P&G playbook. In 1998, they established FAST: the Future of Advertising Stakeholders Something that begins with "T". (help!)

Pete Blackshaw was at the helm of that project and it definitely gave a lot of people a chance to tell their story and share their ideas...which were previously considered a little too edgy for mainstream marketing. FAST brought these ideas, literally, into the hallowed halls of P&G, and a crowd of brand managers sat attentively and listened.

What's Unilever's plan? Too early to tell, of course. But hopefully this is a chance for new ideas to be exposed to people who are very, very tuned in.
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WOM and the Consumer:Producer distance question

There was an Inc. article last week, once again re-affirming what we've already, always known: small businesses rely on word-of-mouth, way more than they do advertising. Reading this, I very clearly understood the real charge behind WOM, and it reaches back to something my very first (post-college) boss told me: people buy from people they like.

A pretty simple insight, but clearly its true. Consider a small business like a dry cleaner, or (more importantly) a car repair shop or a hair dresser, where trust is a very important factor in a consumer's decision. In a small business, the distance between the producer and the consumer is pretty slim: the guy repairing your car is often the owner of the garage (it sure is in my case. Portola Auto Repair, run by Paul Giannini).

Big companies, of course, is totally a different story. The producer:consumer distance is great, potentially unknowable. Dry cleaners are dry cleaners, right? Well, so are soft drinks or laptops for that matter (OK, the new Macs excepted). Part of the WOM challenge is making that distance shorter. Or at least making it appear shorter.

That's why corporate blogs are such a good idea. When the CEO or the designer or whoever is actually writing and accepting comments, that distance is shortened. This should be a key part of any WOM strategy: what is the perceived distance between consumer and producer.
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Monday, March 13, 2006

CBS Gets the Online Ad Bug for NCAA

Here's a rule of thumb: Advertisers are more motivated to pay for impressions than consumers are to pay for content.

I suppose I could assume this is a rule of the new economy, but--c'mon--this has been true since the early TV days, right? Well, we are seeing it exploding now. The latest news is that CBS Sportsline is going to offer the $19.95 subscription fee for its online NCAA Tournament coverage. I mean dropping as in, completely taking away. The math they did is that they would dramatically increase their viewership, making ads more valuable. Figure that we're in a premium ad-space shortage, inventing a whole lotta new inventory sounds like a good strategic decision.
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WebTrends Goes for the Metrics Marketer

The Metrics Marketer trend is continuing to rise. Metrics Marketers is a new, half-hypothetical job description that imagines a marketer at the center of a number of data streams, making multiple decisions through the course of a campaign. Some times these decisions will be large: affecting many customers/prospects (such as changing a landing page), sometimes they will be small, affecting only 1 or 2 customers (such as sending a follow-up email). The image is compelling to a lot of marketers.

I say its half-hypothetical, because the underlying platform necessary for this job is still being built: it's primary element is data and that data is only now becoming a) avaiable and b) actionable.

WebTrends is diving into this world, seeking to bring more of its data to the surface. Analytics vendors are actually very well placed to take advantage of the MM revolution, since they are plugged into the users actions in a way that few others are. As more and more tasks involve digital technologies, we'll have a better and better trail to follow.
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Agencies Slow to Embrace New Media: Not the Problem

Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, is the latest marketer to boldly accept blame for not embracing digital media:
"I'd have to say our traditional verticals inside our business probably, like any traditional business, are slower than they should be in embracing new technology"
This he said, mind you, at a client summit. I'm sure there were a few account supes who cringed when they heard that. But on the other hand, this is the sort of sweeping statement that tends to dig at agency teams: there is bound to be some group of people within the shop that have, in fact, embraced digital technology, and have tried to push it to clients and to bosses, only to be met with a dismissive attitude from leadership (on which Sorrell does, in fact, place blame).

But on the other hand: so what?

I certainly don't mean that the spread of digital technology is not an important thing for business and for advertising. But if you're focused on the technology, you're going to solve the wrong problem. Agencies tend to have a media-placement centric view of the world. If television media is effectiveness-challenged, the response is to go searching for other-media that isn't: Blog media, podcast media, game media, etc.

But the problem comes from the refusal to let go of the placement part of the thinking. If all you really need is to get up to speed on digital technology, its not that hard. Spend two weeks and you'll pretty much get everything you really need to know about new media. But if you want to shift the way you use media...scratch that...if you want to shift the way you interact with customers, regardless of media: that's a bigger (and more valuable) challenge.

"Placing media" is a symantic holdover from the offline-only world. As are insertion orders and even the concept of premium inventory. They all speak to the discipline of putting a message in front of someone and hoping for the best. My mentor Tim Smith talks about "true use" of the digital medium, by which he meant approach online (or really any media) by trying to understand it deeply and clearly, and using it in a way that could only be done on that media. It was as good an idea in 1994 as it is today.
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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Is BoingBoing the Next Great Media Brand?

I am definitely a fan of BoingBoing, the Weblog run by a small group of very smart and very clever writers. But I'm starting to see the brand pop up in some pretty interesting places. To begin with, they seemed to be the best information source as the Sony RootKit issue began to billow and spread. Today, I see them mentioned in the AdFreak blog as being the source for story about CitiBank's security problem. The other day, on the NPR program The World, they were brought up as being a site that is specifically blocked by the government of the UAE.

The Alexa graph shows they are beginning to edge into the level of reach currently enjoyed by WIRED, which is probably the closest established media player comparison. This is another WOM thing though: BB has not (to my mind) done any self promotion. Only good, insightful and fun writing.

Make that "good, insightful, fun and fast writing". Not long ago, I was talking with a reporter who bemoaned his lot in life: he'd be working away at a story, getting editor approval, going through the publishing process, only to glance at BB and see that the story had already been covered.
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Monday, March 06, 2006

Google Author Series

Maybe you know this already? Google has a couple of videos of authors speaking at their campus. Seth Godin, John Battelle, and others. Very cool.
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Blogging and Content Velocity

Scott Karp posted yesterday (a Sunday, mind you) about a number of things around the notion of blogs being conversations. In particular, he writes:
I’ve been involved in many thought-provoking conversations, most of which seem to peter out right when they started to get interesting. That’s the way the ever-rushing, every-churning blogosphere works. There’s always new news to read and new posts to write.
This is an important point about not only blogs, but how technology influences our notion of news: the frequency of publishing dictates our expectations of novelty. The technology that allowed for the daily publication and delivery of news in paper form changed expectations: you would assume that something worth printing happens at least once every 24 hours. Television, radio and the Internet decrease the time to publish, thereby increasing the expectation of news.

Blogs take it to the extreme. With no editorial overhead, the distance between thought, analysis and reporting is shrunk down to near zero. Readers expect a new story with every click of the refresh button. Is it any wonder that the most visited are also the most prolific?

The trouble, of course, is that world events don't necessarily conform to publishing technology needs. The pipe must be filled, however, and so there is an increased need to push more content out, ultimately resulting in a sort of info-overload. Consider the flow of announcements of new technologies and Web2.0 start ups. Can anyone really keep them straight? Or differentiate between them all?

I certainly haven't got the answer. It's a bit of a "Jane-stop-this-crazy-thing" moment. I will say, however, that this situation is best helped by context: the placing of new info nuggets into an understood environment. The best bloggers are doing this already, either through the continued use of tags or by simply writing in a way that isn't simply filling the pipe, but helping you to understand.

Consider TechCrunch, the blog that has given itself the formidable task of "tracking Web 2.0". This morning, there's a post about something called SnapTune. Michael Arrington does a great job describing the service by connecting it not only to another startup (Pandora), but also by associating with a very familiar task: recording radio to cassettes.

Immediately, this new piece of content is not only delivered, but delivered in a way that makes sense and tells me how to think about it. If bloggers are going to be new journalists, they are going to have to play by new rules. The notion of openness and transparency has been pretty well covered. The issue of effectively communicating in a torrent of content has not.
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Friday, March 03, 2006

Yahoo's Trademark Decision, and the difference between Y and G

Niki Scevak's got a good post on Yahoo's decision to alter its trademark-term bidding policy. He points out that this is sort of lose/lose/win situation, where Yahoo loses (revenue), Shopping Engines lose (traffic), but the trademark owners win (the exclusive right to advertise on their brand names).

I've written a couple times about the challenge of bidding on trademark terms. In general, I believe it should be allowed, provided there the ad demonstrates relevance (which is the same test that is always applied to SEM ads). The fact is that Whopper is at least somewhat synonymous with Hamburger in this brand-saturated world. I don't know that you can definitively say that someone searching on Whopper is absolutely looking for a Burger-King made and branded cheeseburger. They may be using Whopper as shorthand for what they are looking for.

Google, of course, is hands-off on this one. They are happy to let anyone bid on a trademarked term. They do have the very clever caveat, though, that each ad must have a unique URL. This is good, in that it forces anyone looking to tag-along with the search (ie affiliates) to generate some content of unique value.

What about the over-zealous lawyers that Niki refers to? From my view, I think Yahoo is much more inclined (at a corporate and cultural level) to pay very close attention to them. Google, on the other hand, is far more aggressive. In a sense, I think Google feels they are innovating, not only in technology, but in marketing and culture. I believe that Google will act, then wait for the lawyers to catch up with them.

Who's in a better position? Well, short term it certainly feels like Google. They move quickly and aggressively. But in the long term? The question of sustainability will haunt them.
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Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Success Looks Like for Online Content: Yahoo Searches for Footing

The rumors continue to swirl around the present and future of Yahoo's content unit. It seems that they are backing far away from their ambitious plan to develop a slew of new, online-only content. That's fine. A reality show based on a competition to see who could build the best home theater sounded not only extraordinarily boring, but also like one of those creative ideas built around a desire to land product placement deals.

I can't say I can read all the tea leaves in the statements from Lloyd Braun, Yahoo's content chief. The communal sense is that he is not a good fit for the company and is expected to bail out any time now. That could be true, of course, but both Braun and Yahoo are trying pretty hard to dispel the rumors. Particularly interesting are two of Braun's statements around the new-content pullback:
1) "I didn't fully appreciate what success in this medium is really going to look like," he said. "This is not about creating one-off hits like in my old business.

"I now get excited about user-generated content the way I used to get excited about thinking about what television shows would work," he said.
Well, now. I think this is a bit of the content-gospel that those who've been in the online world for a while have definitely come to appreciate. The challenge of broadcast (incluing movies and music and whatnot) is one of authorship. The challenge of interactive is about enablement. It's about building a launch platform, not a space shuttle (how's that for an analogy-stretch?)

When Braun says he "appreciates" the difference between what success looks like online and on-air, does he mean he finally gets this message? Does "appreciate" mean "understand" or does it mean truly like, enjoy and feel passion for?

The answer, I suppose, in the veracity of that second statement: that he gets equally excited about user generated content and professionally-generated conent. I simply read that statement, but I'd love to have heard him say it. I would have listened for any note of concession in his voice. User generated content won't get him to the Oscar party, and it may not let him fit in down in a town that considers users to be $10/head audience members and little else.

But maybe he's got it. But I wonder if Yahoo is thinking that maybe the path to content doesn't go through Hollywood nearly as much as it goes through MySpace?

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Listen Different: Analyst Credits Apple with Listening

Jupiter Analyst Michael Gartenberg wrote Apple's announcement yesterday. Apple's gotten a bit of a tough reputation to get away from right now: they plan an announcement and the rumors begin to swirl. Apple had promised to announce some "fun new products", and I saw open speculation that they were going to tell everyone they had been purchased by Disney. So, anything short of a Bono appearance is a let down.

Gartie (as he's known to friends and associates) sees a bigger story, specifically in the fact that Apple listened to the community in terms of integrating their Mac Mini device with the Front Row media software. This is clearly a good way to use this little computer. It's powerful, cheap, small, attractive and doesn't come with a monitor. Seems like a perfect compliment to the LCD televisions that are being increasingly purchased.

It's not clear what the original intention of the Mini was, other than for Apple to have a low-cost player in the market. But the TV integration may just be another case of Market Emergence: the condition that occurs when the consumer community determine a novel use for a product, and communicate that use to others.

This is a certain kind of CGM, and clearly one that companies need to be listening for. If the community has determined that the use of a product is X, and the marketing/communication continues to be about Y...relevance is lost.
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