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Posts Tagged ‘Online’

Studies show that if a brand wants to drive significant online impressions, they should advertise on TV.  Similarly, if a TV ad aspires to live longer than thirty seconds, it should continue the experience online.  Cross platform convergence makes today’s advertising media world far more complicated but also far more engaging,  The trick boils down to innovative, creative and effective platform coordination.

Unfortunately, in a tough economy with escalating TV media costs, many advertisers look to the web as simply a cheaper medium.  They don’t really understand the metrics but the siren call of lowcost of entry makes far too many forget any sense of basic strategic responsibility and ROI discipline.

Hopefully, that shortsightedness will change if enough marketers read about this study from Mpire, an online ad optimization company in Seattle.  MPire developed a new technology called AdXpose which recently determined that 95% of clicks and 50% of online ad impressions were fraudulent.

AdXpose: “95% of Clicks, Half of Online Ad Impressions are Fraudulent

If these numbers don’t knock you back, re-read that sentence again.  This fraud is nothing short of Madoff-esque.  For a medium with as much data-mining and measurability as the web, this kind of blatant gaming of the system threatens to destroy it’s incredible promise.  And if that seems like too big an exaggeration, like something confined to the small space bargain bins of discount web banners, watch the click counts on YouTube for the Super Bowl ads this coming February.  Some will legitimately spike as people relive or catch up on this cultural event.  But others, quite obviously, will be blatantly played.  It’s been happening the past few years by some of the biggest names: names that don’t have the track record of performance of say a Budweiser.  With this big a high-profile gamble, a little off-shore insurance can protect your career and so clicks skyrocket for spots that hardly bear watching once.  In some cases, this can even happen without the clients’ knowledge; insurance works for production companies and young directors as well.

Television skeptics have enjoyed quite a run these past few years, particularly over dated and dubious metrics like Nielsen.  Given these findings however, perhaps skepticism deserves its day.  And equal time.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Picture 2This week’s cover headline on Advertising Age reads “Cannes swept by PR, integrated, internet winners” with the subhead “Tally suggests ad age is over–or, at least, it’s evolved to higher plain.”  Setting aside my issue with the subhead’s overuse of commas, this still reads like a textbook example of a classic journalistic mistake: burying your lead.

The headline should emphasize that advertising is “evolving to a higher plain,” instead of continuing to forward the whiny, helpless hand-wringing that’s become endemic to our industry (“it’s over–everything we’ve ever known is now wrong!”).  Yes, social networks are a critical platform that our industry needs to address.  Yes, the media landscape has changed radically.  And yes–most critically from my perspective–advertising alone is not enough anymore.

But here’s the thing: it never was.  For advertising to really work, it has always needed a great product or service, attractive design, and engaging street and retail programs.  But somehow, the simple fact that the advertising environment has become exponentially more complicated over this past decade has led some people–including apparently, the editors of Ad Age–to subjectively dismiss the foundation of our industry: generating creative messaging in paid media.  And that fries my bacon, that salts my shorts, that makes me pigbiting mad…

Because here’s a newsflash: advertising works.

Please read that sentence again.  Better still, let’s read it aloud together, shall we?  Advertising works.

Television?  Still works.  In fact, that audience is bigger than ever.  Radio?  Still works: we may court disaster by texting in our cars but all that commuting time is still filled by AM/FM radio.  And print?  It may be changing radically, but answer this question: would you rather have your name mentioned in the online version of the New York Times or the actual paper?

It’s time our industry corrects itself from this odd fever of self-loathing.  Because the facts don’t support all the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  In the June 22 issue of Adweek, Mark Dolliver wrote a story unfortunately relegated to a short item on the Adweek Media page.  In it, he cites an Adweek Media/Harris Poll recently fielded that concludes that yes, indeed, people are still swayed by ads.

Is advertising alone enough?  Of course not.

The real innovation our industry needs is the strategic melding of creative messages distributed through a coordination of both paid and earned media.

It’s not one.  It’s not the other.  It’s both.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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I get it.  These days, everyone gets it.  Any time I’m on an e-commerce site, some unseen recommendation engine works to insure that I see listings that reflect my own tastes and interests, like say alternative music as opposed to polka classics.  And I appreciate that, in much the same way I appreciate when a salesman understands my taste in clothes or shoes or pinky rings.  Data enables remarkable things…

But a senior vice president of advertising for  a company called ChoiceStream recently outlined a disturbing vision for what she sees as the next frontier for her business: expanding personalization from onsite user experience out into the currently impersonal realm of offsite banner advertising.  In this piece from Behavioral InsiderCheryl Kellong sees this as logical progress and considering her title, I guess that’s her job.

“Most retailers by now have at least begun personalizing particular product recommendations and brand attributes for consumers who are on their site.  The problem is that that level of personalization is not followed through when it comes to delivering advertising messages to consumers once they’ve left the site.”

Eww.  The whole notion of customized creative and messaging feels way too Orwellian.  Can she really believe that personalized display ads will build any sort of real relationships between advertisers and consumers?  Seriously?  Because I certainly don’t. Back in the 80’s, we would placate regional beer markets through a more primitive version of this kind of personalization that we called ‘localization.’   This resulted in classic gems like “Hey Chicago, make it a Bud Light!”

Seriously, Do I Know You?

Seriously, Do I Know You?

Now a tree frog could tell you this exercise was meaningless and ultimately, these messages meant more to the local wholesalers than the consumers of the greater Chicagoland/Northwest Indiana market. Because they’re facile. And false.  I don’t doubt that gigabytes of sophisticated web data would allow a ChoiceStream powered banner ad to create a far more intimate overture to me, but the net result is the same–it’s not authentic. I know it. And resent it.

The fact that technology allows you to do something does not make it a good idea.  Frankly, I bristle when people I don’t really know approach me and adopt an attitude of false intimacy or bonhomie; why would I feel differently if your brand behaved that way?

The promise of the web remains the deeply intimate level of one to one communication it makes possible.  But just as in real life, you need to be invited in first.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The massive changes in technology and consumer communication platforms mean a great many recognized truths in the world of advertising no longer hold.  We work in a time when the very notion of brand advertising must make a Copernican shift…

  Ads can no longer reliably build a brand by themselves.

  The notion of ‘campaigns’ seems antiquated as consumers take far more active roles in any brand’s story.

  The conceit of media flights fails to acknowledge how brand conversations happen every hour of every day, often in ways that radically impact brand sales and reputation…

Put That Way, It Doesn't Seem So Hard.

Put That Way, It Doesn't Seem So Hard.

Recently, my agency filled out an RFP for a manufacturer who placed great emphasis on a potential agency’s B-to-B experience.  Of course, I believe with a modicum of direction, any creative can work within established parameters for anything from the binding legaleze of pharmaceutical advertising to the conventional wisdoms of ‘car guys’ and on to the specific platform demands of viral, DRTV and web platforms.  I naturally rebel against this blind reliance on specific prior experience but the evolved marketplace actually backs up my truculence.  Because what do B2B agencies do aside from identifying audiences, their specific needs and hot buttons, and the specialize media they consume?  Not much.  That doesn’t imply they do their job poorly, just that their job pretty much resembles any agency’s job: we find an audience, surround them with relevant, engaging interactions—it’s all B2B, because B2B is a social platform.

So now that every one and their brother recognizes how various groups of consumers inevitably find like-minded others to affiliate and congregate with, every marketing agency is in the B2B business.

Whether we claim to or not.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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In today’s New York Times, Stuart Elliott provides the back story on Tropicana’s ill-received packaging redesign.  This issue first came to my attention back around the New Year when my wife spotted it in our local grocery store and succinctly opined “Yuck.”  I knew right then they were in trouble…

The Old...  The New...  The Old, Now New.

The Old... The New... The Old, Now New.

Anyway, this story once again highlights the unprecedented power that access affords today’s consumers.  Through blogs and emails, Tropicana fans demanded the return of their familiar package and it’s easily-recognized-on-a-crowded-shelf Straw In Orange brand symbol.  They also didn’t shy from critiquing the ‘generic store brand’ feel of the rather flat new graphics.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, let me admit that I worked on this brand through a string of division President’s and CMO’s from 2001-2008, and that further, I’m not much of a fan of Pepsi’s recent and pricey product redesigns—with the notable exception of a much-improved Sierra Mist.  However, I kept my opinions to myself while a groundswell of others apparently didn’t.  And so, mere months into this very expensive process, Tropicana recognized the wisdom of embracing this public feedback.  And good for them.

Interestingly, their President, a UK transplant named Neil Campbell, cites the negative response from their most loyal consumers as key to the reversal, admitting “What we didn’t get was the passion this very loyal small group of consumers have. That wasn’t something that came out in the research.”

Of course it didn’t come out in the research.  Any practicing creative could tell you that.  Those of us who make a living dreaming up ideas quickly grow skeptical of the dodgy pseudoscience behind market testing and the mystifying faith too many clients put into their measurements of consumer opinions.  Somehow, this entire industry built its metrics around what people say, often in public among a group of peers.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but people lie.  We all lie.  We lie all the time, for reasons good and bad, but the inescapable fact remains you can not put all of your faith in the veracity of peoples’ words and what they claim in a focus group.

Happily, the web’s mighty data engine now allows us to measure what people actually do and how they act in the real world, as opposed to the often groupthink statements they make while being interviewed in the windowless confines of focus group rooms. 

So while many will recognize this Tropicana incident as yet another cautionary tale about the ever-expanding role consumer influence has on brand marketing, we can also take away another critical lesson: we need to update our testing methods to take advantage of our easy-access to the real world, behavior-based data all around us.

You want to determine the relative merits of two marketing approaches?  Don’t make some mock-ups and hold a focus group–create rich media banners of both of them and run online test markets and see which one performs better out in the real world.  This type of production costs very little—and unlike animatics, the creative materials actually drive sales as they’re being tested.  Imagine that: faster, cheaper, and more accurate testing awaits all of us online…

Why exactly is anyone still debating this?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Bill Gates, Devolved 500,000 Years or So

Bill Gates, Devolved 500,000 Years, Give or Take

As budget cuts, media confusion, and the baleful world economy wrack our incredible shrinking advertising world with round after round of staff reductions and pay cuts, we all worry about tomorrow.

But today, I attended an Omnicom DAS seminar where Jonathan Nelson, co-founder and chairman of Organic. addressed the current situation and how social media will reset the marketing game once again, with the same sort of revolutionary impact as Web 2.0.

He provided resonant insights and perspective on our changing business but one anecdote hit me like a ton of bricks.  Back during the dot com bubble of the early 90’s, Organic had 1280 employees.  Then the bubble burst, and within twenty-four months, Organic shrunk to 160 employees.  In other words, nine out of ten employees lost their jobs.  Moreover, of the thirty-nine web development agencies back then, only five survived.

Now I remember the dotcom bubble being bad from a general viewpoint, but I had no real empathy for just how bad that must have been until today.  Our troubles loom large; very good people have already lost their jobs and industry stability still seems out of reach at the moment.  Yet as Jonathan tells it, this bitter experience taught digital agencies how to expand and contract better than their traditional counterparts, which can be a real advantage in a scary marketplace.

But taking the uptside, more than anything this anecdote reinforces that business flows in cycles; even the crappiest craptastical crapfest of crap-crap-crapellicious times eventually passes.  And you can quote me on that.

Though you might want to rephrase that last bit if you have kids…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Consider the word “Comportment:” one of those dusty, remainder bin nouns on par with dated terms like “dungarees” and “sarsaparilla.”  On those very rare occasions when people use this term today, it refers to some sort of dated propriety, a finishing school bearing usually cited with a tall helping of irony.

And yet, marketers would serve their clients well to consider how comportment online and offline affects their client brands.  In a world that enables quicksilver consumer reaction to every brand and action, how companies communicate can be as important as what they communicate.

Unintentional Collateral Damage

Unintentional Collateral Damage

This nineteenth century word popped up this morning when my wife groused “I hate Netflix.”  That seemed odd.  We no longer subscribe, though we did for a while (of course, this was before discovering the wonders of $1 DVD rentals through one of the 12,000 amazingly convenient RedBox locations: not coincidentally, a valued agency client).  It turns out, whenever she clicks the main browser window closed on Safari, she finds the same Netflix banner behind it, forcing her to click that window closed as well.  Not a major issue, but since it happens time and again, it frosts her pumpkin.

As I reset her preferences to thwart pop-up windows, I thought about how oblivious Netflix must be to this unintended impression.  And how dangerous that kind of thoughtlessness can be when multiplied over the millions of impressions that happen online.  While advertisers should think of the web as a vast data engine, they should also realize that it is an intimate communications platform.   So behaving like an uninvited guest and refusing to leave won’t build your brand.

Sometimes, cheap media can really cost you.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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