Monday, March 26, 2007

Video Issue #1: What is online video

My ClickZ column this week focuses on the issues and the opportunities for advertisers around online video. Each day this week, I'll focus a little deeper on each of the issues. Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

I went to the Apple Store this weekend. What a place. The virtues of the Apple retail experience have been listed a thousand times before, so I won't re-hash, but they clearly know how to do Good Store. If nothing else, they realize the value of making the products the heroes, and when you let people touch heroes, they get excited (and buy!)

At the store yesterday, the hero of the day is AppleTV, and its a great illustration of the first issue around online video: what, exactly, are we talking about? Here is a device that (elegantly) blurs the line between online and off in terms of viewing content. The value here is the consumer, as well as the producer. A new revenue stream is opened-up for NBC with episodes of the Office.

What about advertisers? We are a little left out of the picture...or are we? The opportunity to talk to consumers may be roughly equal to $1.99 an episode. You can clearly see an opportunity to offer the premier of a show on iTunes for Free, brought to you by SteinBlog Heavy Industries.

The point is that there's not really a single thing called "online video", and--as such--there's really not a good silver-bullet approach to using online video effectively.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

YouTube and Advertisers: Wading into the Chaos Pool

I spoke at the ClickZ video ad conference this week (held here in lovely San Francisco, thank you Rebecca). After our presentation, someone asked the panel "if you have a brand that is controversial, what advice would you give about posting video on social networks?"

My advice was (and I quote) "Tread freakin' cautiously"

I absolutely believe that it is fantastic that we have sites such as YouTube where anybody can post a video and anyone comment on it, or post videos that are responses. That is a good thing and there is so much crackling energy around it that you have to pay attention. But that doesn't mean you, as a brand, need to dive in head-first.

If people out there in the world absolutely love you, a consumer-generated media strategy can be a fantastic thing. If there are people out there in the world who hate you, a CGM strategy can be deadly. Because any latent feelings that consumers have about your brand will come to the surface immediately when they are prompted. If everyone thinks your brand is successful only because you kill bunnies all day long, that message is going to come out the minute you post a video about your non-bunny-killing activities on YouTube.

This week, AdAge is asking the big question about YouTube and Google's purchase: was it worth it? They point to the limbo state of their ad model: it's not what it is now, it's not what it wasn't and it is going to be something, but no one knows what that is. But, they also point to the weak spot: advertisers don't necessarily want to get into a space that is under the control of consumers and therefore, by its nature, based upon chaos.

Sometimes, it helps to think of advertising simply as a math problem. Everything has a probability of success, as well as a chance of failure and a chance of something unexpected. A good ad strategy used to be a clever line and a good consumer insight. That won't cut it anymore. Today, you need to consider the dynamic ecology of the consumer landscape, identify risks and take actions to mitigate issues. Sometimes, that may simply be chosing not to participate in a space where the odds are stacked against you, no matter how attractive that space is, and how many blog posts are written imploring you to embrace a Brave New World.
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Monday, March 12, 2007

Calendar meltdown!

We got all stressed about Y2K and nothing happened.

Congress decides to change daylight savings time, and every computer on the planet screws up its calendar.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Attn Email Marketers: Take Jupiter Survey

If you use email to do business, please take a minute to help out our friends at Jupiter Research with the their annual email survey.
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Telling Brand Stories

One of the big marketing ideas of the last several years is to begin generating stories about your brands and for your business. Mark Thompson wrote a compelling piece a few years back about the concept of having a story in BrandChannel, complete with some very good advice.

I see today, as well that Ira Glass has a series of videos up on YouTube about how to tell stories. Glass hosts This American Life, and I believe he knows more about telling stories than anyone since maybe Mark Twain.

Here at Ammo, we've been up to our neck in stories for a while now. I don't promote my own company here on the blog, and that's not my intention. But we've been doing some deep thinking about stories: why they get told and (more importantly) why they get listened to.

One of the main insights that we've hit on is that, simply, a brand is not a story. They are two distinctly different things. The chart to the left represents the primary differences between a brand and a story, and it is a basis for a process that transforms/evolves brands into stories.

I think that's the most important step: going from a strong brand to a compelling story. It's not always easy, of course, as some brands don't really appear to have anything to say. But there certainly is a process that you can use, where you unpack the brand into a series of parts, and begin to assemble those parts into a tale that unfolds.

That's why the first difference up there is that, while a brand is "Statement of belief", a story is a "chain of events". The brand comes whole: it is everything you need to know in one simple sentence. The story is told in pieces, where each piece sets up the next, and they all lead to one overall truth which tells you something not only about the characters in the story (which could be the product, or its founders, or any other aspect of the business), but about the world as a whole.

When people ask you to think about stories, don't just make them up. Watch Ira Glass and see what he has to say about stories. There's a lot marketers can learn, just by thinking about those who make a living telling stories.
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ning in the SF Chron: Let's not get too excited, OK?

Well...a front page story today in the SF Chronicle about a new Internet company, complete with
photos from the launch party (held at Ruby Skye), analyst quotes overflowing with optimism (" networking is about to become, in the words of Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li, "like air. You can't escape it, you have to have it. It will be built into everything we touch and do online.") and lots and lots of promises of overwhelming growth.

The Chronicle seems to have gotten over its crush on Google, so that's good news. But it seems like they're ready to dive back to the heady days. We'll keep a close eye on them.
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Online Video Ad Models: The Race is On

Demonstrating an enormous amount of optimism, Eric Schmidt told an audience: "It should be the case that monetizable viewing habits on the Internet should catch up with those on television."

He further added
"Our strategy is first and foremost to get as much licensed content on YouTube as possible, index everything, and develop the advertising tools that will allow people to make money." That certainly is a reasonable approach. I mean, they built the entire Google business on that model, first indexing Web sites than developing advertising tools. Well, not developing from scratch, of course. More like liberally borrowing and building out.

But pretty clearly, the race for content is on. Joost's going for, of course, as are a number of other players. Schmidt's optimism is a bit striking. That's the approach we all believed in just before the big crash: content is king, get the people first, monetize it later.

Will this be different? I'm not sure. I do know, at least, that we are building off a model that already has a proven advertising track record, so we should pay attention when Schmidt points that advertisers who value Desperate Housewives watchers will be interested in following them wherever they go.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Joost Ad Model to rely on data

MIT's Ad Lab blog has a nice round up of thoughts on Joost's ad mode. Joost is currently in beta, but plans to be a new way to consume streaming content in, watch television shows online.

There's a quote there from the Joosters, which is that they want to really disrupt the current ad buying system for broadcast. Traditionally, you bought ads based on reach and frequency. They want to shift to quality, and the way they are going to do it is by, yes, leveraging data.

Once again, what's happening behind the scenes in the online ad space is way more interesting than what's going on on the front.
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Monday, March 05, 2007

The Wow starts....MSFT to go digital with ads

UPDATE: Mich Mathews is
(a) a woman
(b) spelled with just one "t" in her last name.

She's now pictured there to the left.

Of course, I would have known that if I did a simple search ;-)


Speaking at the 4As conference, Microsoft's Mich Mathews said that the majority of their ad spend would move online in the next few years.

No word on whether or not Mich made it out of the conference hall alive. I imagine she had to hack his way through a sea of media-reps, similar to the last-remaining-human would has to in most zombie films.

That a big company (especially one whose products are all digital) would make such a move is becoming less and less remarkable. Microsoft is following territory already trod (or claimed to ready to trod) by Unilvere, P&G, Bud, Coke and others. What was remarkable was the reason he gave for the shift. Ends up, Microsoft is interested in online because of "the enhanced reporting abilities it brings".

Well that's cool. Especially coupled with the fact that they are still going to do broadcast, but with more targeting. I imagine that the data for that targeting is going to come from online, right? Here we have online, with the data that it throws off, in its proper place in the middle of the marketing mix.

It makes sense for Microsoft to adopt this attitude. After all, they build Ad Center entirely around the ability to target ads. They must have, at some point, realized that these big spreads in magazines haven't amounted to nearly as much as a very well-considered, data-driven campaign.
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