29 September 2005

Blog Ads Are Cheap, But Don't Overlook Their Importance

From MediaPost's coverage of OMMA East:

"Brian Clark, the CEO of GMD Studios, recounted a campaign that his agency ran for Audi, titled 'The Art of the Heist.' Just one-half of one percent of the media buy budget, Clark said, was spent on BlogAds -- a firm run by panel moderator Henry Copeland, which sells ad space on some of the highest-trafficked blogs. Those ads, Clark said, ended up accounting for 29 percent of the traffic sent to the campaign's landing page."

It would be great news for the nascent blog-publishing industry if this meant that Audi's blog ads experienced click-through rates that were 58 TIMES better than other online ads. But it's more likely that Audi just paid BlogAds prices that were 2% of the rates they paid elsewhere.

But all this focus on efficiency & click-through rates misses the bigger point. Advertising isn't about reaching people cheaply, it's about reaching the ones that matter -- prospective buyers & people who might influence those buyers. And Clark made this point as well:

"If you're afraid of what users are going to say [in comments on the blog sites where you advertise], there are two strategies: You get involved in the discussion, or you stick your fingers in your ears and pretend it doesn't exist. People are talking about you whether you're listening or not."

As a veteran tech marketer once told me: Branding happens; the question is whether or not you want to have a role in shaping it.

28 September 2005

Fake Blogs Are Hard to Pull Off

With 18.5 million blogs out there fighting to attract the attention of the 50 million people who read them (or have *ever* read one), it's a competitive playing field to say the least. All 18.5 million of these blogs -- not just the other few thousand marketers who run TV campaigns or glossy print ads in national magazines -- are the competition faced by brands who launch blogs-as-marketing-campaigns. Given that the odds are vastly against marketers mining for viral-marketing gold in the blogosphere, I'd expect they would work harder to make these ad-blogs fabulous. But alas. MarketingVox reports on the latest fool's errand, this time at Mazda:

"Mazda's new blog-cum-viral marketing effort proved to be pretty lame, and its failures reveal one of the dynamics limiting large advertisers in their exploitation of new forms of marketing. The campaign takes an old set of video 'viral' ads that never became very popular months ago and attempts to rejuvenate them by creating a fake blog to tout them. Compounding the first failure (not understanding that a viral ad isn't just a :30 -- perhaps with a dirty joke or a flash of skin -- that gets streamed onto the internet) Mazda committed the same mistake with the blog."

Other highly questionable attempts include the Sparkle Body Spray Blog, where "the Secret Girls get real," and the Juicy Fruit Blog, a site that TechCrunch calls a "train wreck."

26 September 2005

Viewers v. Agencies: The New Participation-Creation Movement

I caught up my AdRants reading today, and scanning a week's-worth of posts over lunch makes all this viewer-created ad creative business seem like a trend:

AdCandy, "an exchange for people who think they have great ad ideas and marketers who think consumer-created ads are worthy of buying," AdRants.

Picture Marketing "enables marketers and event organizers to take pictures of people at sponsored events, trade shows, and retail locations. The online service then combines those photos together with survey information supplied by each person, to build a mini-advertising campaign around each individual's photo," AdRants.

Family Guy launches Stewie Live, a re-make of the Subservient Chicken interact-o-ad, AdRants.

All of this on top of last week's news on the Golden Geiko campaign (which is running on FM-partner site Boing Boing).

A Case for Newspapers

In his NY Times column today, David Carr makes a case for the unique value print coverage of the news -- depth:

"The New Orleans story needed the big muscles of print journalism to gain custody of facts that seemed beyond comprehension. People could Google their way through the storm, but for a search engine to really work, you need women and men on the ground asking difficult questions and digging past the misinformation and panic that infect a big story.

"Newspapers are a civic good, especially right now, but they cannot function as a nonprofit. Make all the jokes you want about dead trees, a printed artifact that people pay to read and advertise in is an absolute necessity.

"On television, it always seems like Groundhog Day -- get wet, rinse, repeat. There is undeniably something compelling about Anderson Cooper standing in wind and rain in Galveston at 3 a.m. on Saturday as Rita blew ashore -- 'You feel very much at the edge of the world,' he said, blinking against the rain -- but that does not address the issues of governance, logistics, race and class that the hurricanes reveal. Those are stories newspapers tell well.

"BUT with department stores consolidating both their operations and their advertising and with readers canceling the newspapers that land on their doorstep in favor of more instant gratification on the Web, big newspapers full of deep reporting and serious ambitions seem like dinosaurs at the beginning of a very cold age."

23 September 2005

The Loss of TechRepublic's Bob Artner

My friend and former colleague Bob Artner, VP of CNET's TechRepublic and the voice of CNET's B2B audiocasts, died earlier this week. A tribute to Bob's work at TechRepublic is on the site, Bob Artner, 1959-2005. A sad day.

22 September 2005

Forbes on Podcast Money-Making

From a article on podcasting revenue models:

"Stan Sorensenm, senior director of product management and marketing of Melodeo, believes there are four possible ways to monetize podcasting:

"-- Embedding advertising in the audio itself. Basically, this uses the traditional model of radio.

"-- Free and premium channels. This is how many content sites make money. There may even be subscription services, kind of like a magazine.

"-- An enterprise model. This would mean selling sophisticated products to major customers that would have special features, such as security.

"-- Advertising, which is currently the predominant approach."

Um, I recommend merging #1 (advertising) and #4 (advertising) into a single revenue line in the business plan before you talk to the VCs. I do agree that advertising is a valid income stream whenever large, upscale audiences tune in to quality programming. The trick is scale. One wonderful aspect of personal media is its ability to make public voices that aren't mainstream, which often also means smaller, more intimate audiences. Programmers who appeal to similar audiences will need to band together in order to deliver advertisers hundred of thousands of listeners at once. As for #2, though, I'd be surprised to see podcasts succeed with paid-by-consumers models where just about every other online content play, many of which are "kind of like magazines" today, has failed. I'm willing to bet the bulk of podcast revenue in the next 2 years will come from some variation of #3 -- corporate customers paying for professional content (especially if we include investors here), or B2B marketers who cover these fees by sponsoring podcasts aimed at corporate customers.

21 September 2005

WSJ Stealing News from PaidContent?

Rafat Ali accuses the WSJ of stealing his scoop -- again (PaidContent).

"The Wall Street Journal is at it again: stealing our story. The Viacom-iFilm deal, a story we broke on Monday night, has been picked up by the Wall Street Journal, without any credit. This is the second time in the last two months such a thing has happened."

20 September 2005

Geico Ads Ask Viewers to Make Ads

New Geico ad campaign plans to engage audiences by getting them to produce Geico ads. From AdRants:

"Jumping on the consumer-generated media trendlet, Geico has launched Golden Gecko, a contest in which people can submit 15 second movie trailers featuring the Geico Gecko. Geico isn't calling them commercials but the rules state all submissions become the property of Geico so it wouldn't be surprising if a winning entry did become a commercial."

15 September 2005

Alarm Clock on Federated Media

The buzz on Federated Media (my employer) from Alarm Clock:

"The smart money is that FM Publishing, while late to the blog network party, will make the incumbents squirm with some degree of envy. From the get-go, FM will have better editorial product than Weblogsinc and it will enjoy B2B payouts that Gawker Media cannot land."

Uh huh!

McKinsey: The Marketing ROI That Isn't

Kurt Oeler pointed me to a great piece in the latest McKinsey Quarterly by David C. Court, Jonathan W. Gordon & Jesko Perrey, "Boosting Returns on Marketing Investment".

“. . . Real spending on prime-time television ads . . . has continued to rise, even as the number of viewers has plummeted (Exhibit 2). The spending patterns of the US automakers, which increased their marketing expenditures per car during the 1990s even as advertising became less effective and their collective market share declined, typify these trends. Marketing powerhouses such as P&G are also quite concerned. At the 2004 meeting of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Jim Stengel, the company’s global marketing officer, said, ‘I believe today’s marketing model is broken. We’re applying antiquated thinking and work systems to a new world of possibilities’. . . . ”

Btw, Exhibit 2 looks like this: X. The audience for prime-time broadcast TV was around 45 million viewers in 1994; it dropped to about 25 million by 2003. Yet inflation-adjusted ad spending on those networks during prime time grew from $5 billion to $7 billion.

Not long ago I heard a marketing VP at Visa admit that TV advertising wasn't working nearly as well as it was 10 years ago, yet CPMs continued to rise. She griped that the networks had fewer & fewer viewers, but they charged more & more for each one. So Visa reduced the share of ad dollars spent on broadcast TV spots, from 95% to 75% of its total ad budget. The shocker to me is that Visa continued to invest 3 out every 4 of its ad dollars into something that wasn't delivering the goods.

06 September 2005

Google's CPM Revolution

Late last month, Google’s first print advertisers turned up in the back pages of PC Magazine (image) and Maximum PC, and with them Google inaugurated a shake-up in the media business as dramatic and fundamental as paid search was a half decade ago. This time they’ve brought their auction-style pricing model to an arena where performance can’t be measured in cost-per-click terms -- and CPM advertising may never be the same.

Clearly this is good news for media buyers, who now determine the value and set advertising rates themselves, eBay-style. And it’s good for print publishers in the short-term, who see Google’s print sales efforts as a glimmer of good news in an era of declining ad revenues. Ziff-Davis president Jason Young told the NY Times: "We're thrilled for PC Magazine in print to be presented to Google's fantastic base of hundreds of thousands of smaller advertisers." It’s outsourcing for back-of-the-book ad sales. Google’s self-service advertising platform, of course, does business with tens of thousands of customers much less expensively than live telemarketers can. As Battelle puts it, “this is free money for the publisher, and they probably love it” (Searchblog).

Jason’s counterpart at Conde Nast, Richard Beckman, is not so sure. “If you start selling an advertisement at a price that is not healthy for your profit margins, you can never really recover,” he told the Times. Yea, what’s the big idea letting customers tell you how much they value of your services?

I couldn’t disagree more with Beckman’s point of view. In my opinion, Google is in fact lighting the only pathway to recovery for publishers. For five years, magazine publishers have stubbornly maintained their traditional business practices and organizational structures (albeit with fewer people on staff) despite radical and obvious transformation among their customers. The Internet and digital media have closed the loop on performance tracking, measuring not only direct response (click through) but also ad viewership itself (actual impressions). Online marketplaces -- from Yahoo’s Overture and Google’s AdSense to recent upstarts BlogAds and AdBrite -- have perfected the dynamic pricing that’s always guided television’s spot market.

At some point, you have to face the music: The customer is always right. You can either set your own prices and keep dropping them until media buyers start returning your phone calls, or you can give those media buyers a more efficient platform to communicate what they think is a fair price. If that price doesn’t deliver the profit margin you’d like, improve your product or cut your costs. There’s nothing worse for the bottom line than telling your customers they’re insane.

(Also check out Gary Stein's "Why Google's Print Ad Experiment is a Really Big Freakin' Deal," Jupiter. Google's switchboards will handle calls to 800 numbers listed in the print ads: Very soon Google will know more than the publishers about how well their own readers respond to ads in their publications.)

04 September 2005

CBS Wants Naked News

What's CBS to do about their #3 position among evening news programs, still smarting from the "early retirement" of Dan Rather? CBS chairman Les Moonves thinks the revitalization of his network's news needs to steal some inspiration from the Internet's Naked News. From today's NY Times Magazine:

"On the one hand, we could have a newscast like 'The Big Breakfast' in England, where women give the news in lingerie. Or there's 'Naked News,' which is on cable in England. I saw a clip of it. It's a woman giving the news as she's getting undressed. And then, on the other hand, you could have two boring people behind a desk. Our newscast has to be somewhere in between."

01 September 2005

Conde Nast Responds to Google's Print Plans

"If you start selling an advertisement at a price that is not healthy for your profit margins, you can never really recover," says Conde Nast media group president Richard Beckman to the NY Times. What an odd point of view: Value determined by a yield manager in the back office, rather than by the customer buying the service. Hardly the free-market American way!

Meanwhile, the same article reports, "Google executives have said that they believe traditional media will ultimately emulate search engines by using an auction structure to sell ads."

Who are you betting on?