Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Daily Links for 29.06.2010: Facebook, Google ME, Digital Futures (without Banners?) & Marcom's past...

Interesting read about how the governing principles of marketing communications are still present, even in shiny new channels.
So Google may be trying to eat Facebook's lunch (see below), but it seems the network is really onto something with a combination of their advancements. Combining open graph with a search/recommendation capability means that Facebook is very close to creating a possible semantic search engine. The internet of things may be a ways from fully developed, but projecting Friends data on search result rankings as relevance is a good start.
So after going after email (Google Wave), microblogging (Google Buzz) & previous social networking (Yes, I remember you Orkut)...Google has set its sights squarely on Facebook with Google ME. No real details about this yet, aside from its existence, but three things should hold true:
1.) It will get buzz in the same mysterious way Wave did
2.) It will get tough competition from Facebook's 500 million settled users' network effect
3.) It will probably anger a few folks over privacy through some of its integration

Google Me seems interesting, but I imagine Facebook's counter attack has a better chance of landing a serious blow (see above)

MSNBC.com Puts on the Banner Ban
Intriguing to see MSNBC.com take the banner ad out in favor of more interactivity. Seems an interesting confluence of UX consciousness, greater content flexibility and a better user tech capability has finally driven simple display out for some.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Daily Links for 23.06.2010: Urban Outfitters, Airlines & Oil and Cannes

Congratulations to everyone who was involved with winning this. I'm lucky to work in the same company with such talented people, though I must have been busy/out of the office they day they were doing this since I have no involvement with it.

It is really quite a cool campaign.
I'll spare you a conversation about the irony of a multinational corporation replicating the look of mom and pop businesses that lack their scale. Instead, I'll say that I do think its an interesting piece of retail theater, as anything that makes people interested to investigate the retail space is quite cool.
I'm not too outraged by this, because I think the advert is pretty tongue and cheek, but I imagine a sizable amount of Gulf Coast consumers might disagree with me. Probably better to not spoof the giant environmental disaster, but kudos for being daring.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Daily Links for 21.06.2010: UPC codes, Cloud Computing, Foursquare & South Carolina

Lots has been said about the potential of UPCs & services such as Sticky bits (which allow content to be linked to bar codes and decoded by mobile app), but I think the strategic partnerships talked about in the article indicate a coming change. The potential to link content to UPCs, to be decoded by consumers during the shopping experience, requires mature ideas and serious brand commitment to deliver an engaging user experience. Campaigns with companies such as Pepsi may indicate that this level of support is finally there for the technology and can help to avoid it becoming just a fad.
I'm a big fan of simple things like this to prompt users to engage. I keep finding Qype/Yelp stickers on the doors of pubs & businesses that you wouldn't expect & I'll be excited to see how widespread the Foursquare stickers become.
As cloud computing becomes a more viable option for companies, the interesting focus comes on how this creates opportunities up the food chain (in design & development). While cloud computing may not seem to make a direct impact on marketing communications, the ability for startups and smaller agencies to utilize processing power and data flexibility which previously was out of their resource range can only bode well for greater efficiency and content creation.
The New York Times has a chance of making its paid content plans work, but you have to guess that at least one contributor doesn't rate the paper's chances too highly.

If the only people who buy newspapers in large numbers, and are prepared to pay online, are the over 25-year old age group then paywalls are going to have some serious issues when so many free alternatives still exist.

I know this is a little off topic for a marketing blog, but with the current push towards Behavioural economics & advertising, I thought I would throw in a little bit of consumer behaviour. For those not versed in South Carolina politics (of which Alvin Greene is the democratic nominee to run for senate), a virtual unknown beat an established candidate without any real advertising, speeches or campaigning.

While the logical answer for this is some type of fraud, the newsweek article attempts to attribute some of it to illogical behaviour on the part of voters. While this isn't exactly an advertising application of consumer psychology, it contains interesting insights into individual behaviours.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Daily Links for 16.06.2010

3 Things:
1.) Mello Yellow is still around....thats kinda cool
2.) Being outsold by 603 million cases (by Mountain Dew) may indicate that more than a throwback look is required
3.) Dr. Pepper vintage designs would be much cooler, but Mello Yellow does lend itself (as a brand) to some late 70's/early 80's mystique
This is a pretty exciting gambit by Exxon. On one hand, some effort is necessary by the sector to address concerns over the 15,000 deep water wells still operating. However, alternatively, people who live in potentially oil soaked houses, shouldn't really throw tar balls....
Nintendo's 3DS looks to be only the first, in an increasing line of handheld consumer goods sporting 3D within this current wave of development. While the 3DS alone may not drive 3D content adoption, coupled with other devices coming out, we may see 3D mobile as a viable content format soon.
Gawker clearly illustrates how the cycle of curiosity and reporting on the internet can take a Google trends prank and manufacture a quickly reported rumor.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

London Advertising Agencies on Foursquare (14.06.2010) [Infographic]

 As always, if you think that I've missed an agency or location to add to the search list, just email/DM or comment.

.jpg Version below (click to enlarge)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Daily Links For 10.06.2010 (Spotify on TV, Foursquare, the APP store & More)

Spotify is continuing to move between platforms in a way that shows how streaming music should be done correctly. I love the service and while keeping a laptop out to hear music isn't too much of a pain, Spotify TV should be great at extending the service's reach

Incredibly useful analysis of how CPM & CTR breaks down for applications on the uptick within the App Store. The power of associated cross-selling shown through this is a good guide on how to encourage multiple consumer actions within the platform. In a channel where robust case studies are hard to find online, this is quite useful.

Can Foursquare and Gowalla put mobile ads on the map?
The location based networks seem to be hitting on all the right cylinders for progress in mobile advertising and sales promo., but the spectre of Facebook's location based service launching has to be worrying.

After Twitter stated their aim to develop more traditionally external features for the network, link shortening seemed like the logical first step. Now that Twitter has started to rollout the t.co service, its interesting to see how they can enhance the overall service with it. As t.co allows for a plus 140 character text limit (before shortening of links), the experience should be closer to what Tweetdeck currently offers with auto-shortening.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

iAd: Is Apple's Dominance of iPhone Advertising Inevitable?

Apple's WWDC keynote speech has come and passed and while once again Steve Jobs has given the world something to talk about (and purchase), the detailing of iAd struck me as an interesting point in the iPhone 4G's unveiling. As shown in part I of his keynote below, iAd is Apple's complete answer to engaging in-app advertising.

While the iPhone/iPod touch has no shortage of advertising providers and networks, in-app advertising  represents a section where Apple, as the hardware maker, has a distinct advantage. Though debate around the office entailed how engaging or annoying in app advertising can be, the channel represents an interesting way forward for engaging mobile messaging.

Apple's move on the in-app advertising market seems to be a fast but thorough opening salvo on what could be the definitive battle for dominance within the platform. Previous defensive action against Abobe, through spurning Flash (crippling adobe's content creation and advertising facilitation on the platform), and other advertising networks such as Google/Admob, including rumors of changes in operating terms, mean that iAds wasn't the first, just the biggest, step in making life difficult for Apple's advertising competitors.

So if Apple is quickly becoming seriously oriented towards in-app advertising for the iPhone, what is the company's offering, what is actually at stake and what are Apple's chances for dominance?


iAd is the latest iteration in a line of in-app content that has been developing alongside iPhone hardware. Within the mobile sector, marketers can utilize basic tools such as text messaging, traditional avenues such as display or search and branded content such as sponsored apps or content. While cost and engagement vary between possible channels, regulations on contact and relatively low iPhone click through rates on a variety of mobile content shows that engagement is they key to increasing mobile advertising effectiveness. Though both sponsoring/developing apps & in-app advertising offer opportunities for an engaging experience, in-app advertising attempts to utilize targeting efficient existing apps as a way to avoid longer lead times and development costs. Features such as video, location awareness, multiple input factors and streaming content mean that in-app advertising is utilizing an array of content options to message the consumer.

iAd answers the increasing engagement challenge by serving up interactive content within apps, allowing users to get related and engaging messaging without the feeling of leaving the application. While both iAd & Google/Admob's solution use HTML 5 to serve up content, launching upon interaction into full mini-applications, Apple's has claimed to do so without launching a browser (something that is probably related to the launch of multitasking on iOS4), providing a possible advantage over other providers. Apple's revenue sharing model with developers is a relatively attractive 60% for the application's author, meaning the choice to work with the hardware provider on content avenues should be a favorable one.

Costs are reported to be at $.01 per banner view and $2 per click to enlarge the banner into the interactive content. Companies are reported to need to invest up to $10 million for a launch spot on July 1st.

While the global mobile advertising market is estimated to be at $5.9 billion, growth has been heavily forecasted due to moves by Google & Apple. Rapid growth within the market's estimation can be atleast partly attributed to Apple's iAds launch, as it has been revealed to have lined up $60 million in initial advertising commitments. These initial wins have led the company to state that it will capture 48% of the US advertising market for the second half of the year, giving them a dominant position on the in-app advertising landscape for their biggest market. A definitive success early in the US market could translate into advantages internationally, as well as forcing competitors to concentrate on other handsets/operating systems such as Android. 

The opportunity for Apple to turn their iPhone advantage into an advertising success boils down to how well the platform can perform during the development of an in-app ad, the time it engages with the consumer and afterwards in proving its value & effectiveness. The projections set forth by the company seem to indicate that success isn't just an efficient return on its efforts, instead aiming to lead the market in iPhone application advertising. Estimating the chances for iAd's success requires analyzing how it performs relative to its competitors and for the marketer in 5 general areas:

 How well can segments be targeted?

      iPhone application advertising already benefits from targeting by application. However, the ability to target based on insights from application functionality may only be the start in increasing messaging effectiveness. Based on their position as the hardware manufacturer & the operator of the iTunes platform, Apple comes out ahead of the game in targeting capabilities for serving advertisements. By leveraging possible purchase histories, usage figures & algorithms similar to their current genius features, Apple should be able to deliver insight into user segmentations in a way that other networks/providers can't.

Pros: Able to leverage iTunes user data to deliver in-depth segmentation
Cons: Possible user backlash over privacy issues

If done with tact, Apple should be able to coax the same willingness to share they found with users in their Genius features over to iAds, providing a superior user targeting experience

What is the development capability?
       Apple's current development model for iAd content involves a characteristically closed and tiered process. For the moment, Apple itself will develop the actual ad content, protecting an aesthetic for the service at launch, but adding an additional (and possibly superfluous step) in the client/creative/media agency model. If Apple can step delicately into a productive ICM model, they can become a valued creative partner for agencies, however I imagine a large amount of ego repair and openness if going to be required for an efficient relationship with existing creatives.
       Assuming Apple integrates itself into the development process, their shepherding oft he iAd aesthetic may help to codify the capabilities of the platform for a quick handover to external developers after launch.While the programmer in me hates the idea of limiting capabilities, a standardized, yet robust tool kit (monitored and updated by a very motivated hardware manufacturer) bodes well for the creation of engaging user content.

Pros: Apple's control over the creation of iAd ensures a uniform quality at launch and a standardized toolkit for developers to come.
Cons: The scale of Apple's launch partners means that a variety of agencies are going to require tight integration (and promises of quickly coming increased access) to utilize the platform effectively. A new step in a complex development process is never quickly welcomed.

If Apple manages to strike a delicate balance in a complex development process, controlling the iAds platform can help to foster the user experience and establish a vaunted aesthetic. If they don't manage to integrate and ignore development update down the line however, any aesthetic advantage goes away, leaving only some annoyed developers/creatives.

How well is messaging implemented?
       Apple's seamless integration of interactive advertising content to the application experience should give it an edge over many of the current advertising solutions (atleast until development catches up with the new OS's multitasking). Preserving this advantage against Google/Admob's & converted Flash to HTML 5 content depends on how the new feature is leveraged against current in-app browser based solutions.

      Assuming ad integration isn't an issue (or targeting), Apple may still hold an inherent advantage due to their knowledge of the hardware, the direction of development and access to future updates. Being able to develop against future capabilities for in app advertising means shorter development times and the ability to promise novel features to potential advertisers. Once Apple hands the SDK over to developers, continuing this advantage relies on integration between developers, creatives and Apple as a whole.

      The increased functionality from iAd (and other advertisers) can lead the way in increasing innovation for all advertisers. Engagement through geo-location, streaming content or possibly unlocked DLC is poised to drive advertisement acceptance within apps and may serve to increase effectiveness.

Pros: Apple inhabits a unique position in the development process. If it can leverage current and upcoming innovations to enhance the advertising experience, it can generate an advantage that other competitors may not have.
Cons: Apple's advantage as the hardware manufacturer and the content facilitator may allow for impressive content creation, but it may also limit innovation. New functionality is going to be required to maintain levels of user engagement. As users habituate to the existing features present in iAds, new experiences and capabilities must be developed. If necessity if the mother of invention, competitors may have a unique view on how to challenge Apple.

Developing an engaging experience is Apple's advantage to lose with iAds. Both inter-developmental and company integration is key to messaging/engagement, without these, some of the advantage held as the hardware manufacturer is lost. 

 What analytical capabilities exist to measure effectiveness?
       Apple's choice to serve the ads themselves to users, as well as possibly limiting analytical capabilities for other advertisers, shows that Apple is serious about being the primary source of effectiveness data for possible clients. The ability to provide the most robust and timely data on engagement and mobile effectiveness can serve as possibly the largest selling point for iAd.If Apple's restrictions on other ad providers can corner the market on iPhone effectiveness data, they stand to become something akin to the Google Analytics of iPhone app/advertising data.

Pros: Analytical capability stands as the best foothold for iAd to force others out of the market. Advertising effectiveness data is key to justifying spend, adjusting campaigns and empowering clients.
Cons: Taking the position of key data warehouse of iAd means that Apple needs to think as an adserver, analytics provider and general media owner. Considering other parties are more experienced at this combination of jobs, the company needs to adapt quickly.

Apple's company history eliminates many worries about its role in adserving & analytics, but its closed stance on much of the company's data seems to indicate that robust campaign data may go the way of a summarized dashboard (ala Google Analytics).


What is the price/value relationship?
      Apple's pricing structure of $.01 per view and $2 per engagement shows that engagement is valued at a premium within the advertising pricing model. A view, as shown by the pricing plan, is recognized to just be a partially effective entry mechanism to content. While the low view price is rather effective at conveying value, the $2 engagement price places an emphasis on creating engaging content. While all of the launch companies command a media spend large enough to absorb such a cost, products with low CPA targets or consumer lifetime values must hope that engaged consumers will be motivated to purchase.

Pros: Apple's pricing model allows for multiple views (without engagement) at a rather sensible price. Engagement content should be rich enough to provide a cost effective level of engagement.
Cons: Establishing a direct link in advertiser's minds between conversion and the $2 content response cost may be a hard sell initially. 

The value proposition of iAd relies on how well Apple & subsequently developers create engaging content which relates heavily to the brand and conversion. Initial successes should foster a belief for advertisers the medium is cost effective. Lack luster initial performance may reinforce traditional advertiser's view of the channel as emerging and cause Apple to modify the value proposition.


 iAd represents an aggressive down-channel move for Apple. The breadth of their data, the understanding of their hardware and their ability to develop & scale the engagement experience can serve them well as an advertising platform provider. While success seems very probable for the company, they must overcome a closed corporate culture, integration into an advertising model they have yet to heavily deal with & the responsibility of growing the entire channel rather tangibly. If done correctly, Apple stands to deliver a revolutionary device to not only the consumer market, but advertisers. 

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Daily Links for 08.06.2010

A cross platform ad solution can definitely help to utilize scale in development, but encoding Adobe Flash into HTML 5 (to make it Apple palatable), probably won't sit well with Cupertino. Interactive ads (including iAds) are utilizing HTML 5 in a way that shouldn't allow for an outright and quick ban of this workaround, but I wouldn't be surprised if something happened along those lines in the future.
Reconciling how advertising placement is classified and measured relative to online & application channels should make for an interesting time as iPad ownership continues to grow
I've loved this campaign since I saw it in Clapham North Tube station last week. AMV captures the spirit of intellectual debate by juxtaposing two sides of an arguement on alternate OOH posters, showing the way that a similarly intellectual publication can interrogate an issue.
Socialized shopping through Facebook & Twitter seems to have more impact than just enhancing the brand experience. Interesting figures on how tangible spend can come from social media interaction.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Why Online Buzz Shouldn't Equate to TV Ratings....

   An article in last weekend's 'New York Times' posed the opinion that 'Online Buzz Doesn't equate to Ratings', which is something I completely agree with, but for different reasons. The NYT's piece compares an index of social media conversation volumes to Nielsen viewer data to illustrate that of the Top 10 most discussed shows, only 4 are in the top 10 by US viewership. Though the comparison starts to illustrate the nuances of online conversation analysis, I think that it also touches on a relatively global & basic idea about networking & human conversation.

   As shown previously in the analysis of Twitter conversation about the Superbowl & the FA Cup Final, events are normally a safe bet to drive conversation volumes online. I use 'normally' because not every large event targets the majority of the heavy online demographic or cohesively calls to action users in a way that generates a noticeable conversation mass. However, generally we prefer to share our thoughts and experiences around a singular event with others and this leads to a relatively easy to track message/activity volume (Eurovision final, I'm shamefully looking at you).

   Extrapolating online tracking into television, I can see where the NYT article gets its premise and its contradictory tone. The Top 10 US television series are highly anticipated and, in their own way, weekly broadcasting events. Logic would dictate that such shows drive conversation for an activate audience which would generate a cohesive and noticeable mass of conversational activity through sharing the viewing event. The contradictory discrepancy in top online and viewership shows illustrates that not every top viewership show activates an on-line audience.

The lack of support for my #bumbum hashtag is listed as the primary reason that the show was canceled....

    Though the promotional purpose of combining TV viewership with online activity is to share the viewing experience and promote content, after the fact analysis is different. While large events like the Lost finale or an American Idol episode generate something to rapidly discuss (all the while interacting with a viewership that is relatively digitally savvy), I imagine less marquee events such as CSI, NCIS or a really good Law & Order (possibly a personal bias) won't galvanize action in the same volume or time frame, skewing the relationship between ratings and conversation volume.

    Alternatively, the nature of online networks means that conversation volume can spike for TV events which lack overall popularity. Due to the propagation of online viewing 'sub-cultures', its feasible to say that activity spikes for the season finale or prominent episode of a low/mid rated show could mimic the online activity of larger mainstays. Online 'sub-cultures' can drive their specific viewing tastes away from the mainstream, supporting viewing events with such interaction that they mimic the volume of conversation for large, mainstream events.

   So between the activity and content biases towards discussing certain shows online, is there a place for networks such as Twitter to predict viewership? I say there is still a large role for online messaging analysis in predicting/monitoring show performance, but not from overall message volumes. If we, as marketers & analysts, move more towards analyzing the volume of conversation in segments or over time, as opposed to relative to other shows or in general, we can begin to gather insight into content effectiveness.Even with a specific focus though, frequency analysis seems better suited for online PR analysis or advertising effectiveness, than viewership analysis.

Safe....for now...

   More effectively, the real worth of online TV content analysis comes from 'what' users are saying, not the frequency of it being said. While message frequency can begin to illustrate quick reactions to events, it doesn't posess the power to predict larger events that would equate to rating a viewing session. If we analyze what users are saying, we can begin to form a general opinion on how a user reacts to content (not just if and when) and whether they would return to share such an event again. While analysis of such content isn't currently quick or easy, it represents the true value of online conversation analysis.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Daily Links: (02.06.2010)

The death of IE6 can only breathe more functionality into every user's internet experience. Developing web content for a browser which managed to break almost every standard of design was horrible on its own, but the staying power of IE6 over the last 8-10 years has done massive damage to where Internet usability could be. The browser, mostly propped up by corporate usage over the last few years, has seen its time pass well by. Now, if we could only get Firefox's browser share above one of the other IE versions.
Its amazing to see traditionally huge retailers, which are used to crushing the competition with scale and large locations, considering the idea of 'right sizing' retail formats.The approach that grocers like Tesco & Sainsbury in the UK have used, seems to be catching on. Trading just large locations for a mix of corner store/local to hypermarket mixes seems to be the way forward. Its become true that not everything has to be a big box destination location and consumers will trade selection for convenience in some circumstances.
Really straightfoward yet informative look at what makes up the 'semantic' web everyone is talking about. Semantic & Web 3.0 get banded around alot, but I think this video starts to break down what it might be about and the different ways to get there.
Its interesting that Loopt has 3.4 million users to Foursquare's 1.4 million, as it seems that Foursquare has captured the geo-located zeitgeist in a more pronounced way. The advent of Loopt Star (the integrated gaming/retail incentive) element for the network should increase attractiveness (and the facebook integration is a plus), but I'll be intrigued to see if they can do anything that hasn't already been done. I don't want to be the mayor and the boss of my favourite pub, I just want to know where my friends are around it and maybe get a free round. It seems like this market will contract before/during its rise in popularity.

AppleInsider | iPhone OS 4 beta 4 Places geotagging feature now works
So first everyone is talking about possible Facebook integration into the iPhone/iPod OS and now these pictures arrive from the OS 4 Beta. Between integrated geotagging of pictures and the 'places'/'event's headers, it seems like the next offering is moving towards a heavily unified content sharing platform.
The 'internet of things' seems to still be a rather unclear concept, but as our devices become more and more connected, the reality of it is becoming more and more tangible. I love the juxtaposition that more data can generate greater insights, but also requires much more complex ideas and techniques.