03 July 2006

ChasNote Has Moved to a New URL

ChasNote is now located at Even easier to remember!

20 May 2006

Tivo-Proofing "Lost": Product Placement Turned Inside Out

All sorts of good stuff waiting for me at PVRBlog after falling two weeks behind on my reading! Such as:
"Tonight's [May 3] episode of Lost -- a show already so deeply embedded with secret signs and clues -- will feature details about the episode sprinkled within ads themselves. This is both brilliant and frightening. I can't recall wanting to watch commercials other than the annual Super Bowl but tonight I'll actually refrain from hitting the FFWD button so I don't miss anything."

Matt hopes this kind of Tivo-proofing won't become too common, but one thing I like about it: It forces marketers to think hard about what the content-makers are doing to engage with the content-consumers. If you want to join the conversation, you have spend some time listening! As Matt points out, "it must take tremendous planning to have every company with a commercial to film it featuring some tidbit from the show."

Warner Bros Offers Streaming Rights to Affiliates

Matt Haughey at PVRBlog reports on some good news for local TV affiliates and viewers who prefer to watch the digital versions:
"Warner Brothers is offering online streaming of their sitcom reruns to their affiliate stations. This is a big move as other networks have chosen to sell or stream shows directly to viewers, bypassing the local stations. Also, it's great to see networks offer fans ways to view older episodes they might have missed, which until now could usually be found online from less-than-legal avenues like bittorrent and usenet."

And, who knows, serving your customers what they want may even be good business.

17 May 2006

Everyone's a Copywriter with Modem's "Rant" Banner

A year ago in a letter to the editor at the NY Times (link, reg req), I argued that agencies would never support a TV ad model that required them to create hundreds of discrete creative units -- one for each micro-target -- for every campaign:

"Sure, the concept of targeting ads to tiny clusters of TV viewers, 300 households at a time, holds a certain appeal to marketers and consumers (Jon Gertner, April 10). But here's the rub: This kind of ad targeting requires dozens if not hundreds of 30-second commercials for every single advertising campaign, each spot racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in video-production costs. In other words, creative costs could quickly outpace the media costs to place those spots on the air."

Two months ago, working with a few blog authors, Microsoft's agency (IPG's McCann SF) figured out one way to do it efficiently, online anyway. They pointed these authors to the product's brochure site and let them each develop ad messages for their own readers (ChasNote 3/8/06). Art directors stealing a page from Silicon Valley's "distributed computing" playbooks! Or perhaps a Napsterization of ad creative, where content and server power is a shared effort. One blogger-copy ad drove a 60% improvement in click-through rates over the standard agency banner.

This past week, Stanford-based Modem Media (part of Digitas) took distributed creative a step further: Rant banners. These are ad units that create a conversation not just between a brand and individual customers, but among a community of customers all sharing with each other their experiences related to a particular brand, product or service. The banners feature a rolling thread of reader posts, like a group IM chat.

As Mark Galley, Modem's VP / Creative Director, describes the first batch of rant banners for IT-jobs site, the ad units are "a place where IT folks can vent to the world about how much their job 'sucks' (to use their language). Beyond that, it’s just flat-out entertaining to not only post as many comments as desired, but to read the endless amount of rants from other techies in similar situations. All that adds up to a ton of time being spent with the brand."

You can't beat that for engagement marketing. And it's highly endemic: The particular conversation at a site, since it's literally written by that site’s readers in their own voices, takes on the tone and personality of that community. There's a safety valve, too. When someone posts a new comment, he or she sees the comment appear immediately in the banner, but in fact this instant-gratification process is a local one. I see my own "rant" right away, but I'm looking at a version of the banner cached locally in my browser. Before my comment shows up in the conversation that is viewed by other readers across the web touched by the campaign, my comment is vetted by Modem's content filter to strip out inappropriate language or reference to company names.

Three days into the Dice campaign, the performance data is still being compiled. But the early signs are promising. Most people who have posted rants so far are posting multiple times, so time-spent will be the metric to watch. And personalized posts such as "Katie, are you there? Are you seeing this?" suggest that Modem and Dice have built an ad experience that their customers want to share with their friends. That's more than just cool.

14 May 2006

New Yorker Doesn't Get "Me Media"

In the May 15 issue of the New Yorker, John Cassidy can hardly contain his distain for the young entrepreneurs behind Facebook.

After acknowleding the site's enviable loyalty metrics ("Two-thirds of Facebook members log on at least once every twenty-four hours, and the typical user spends twenty minutes a day on the site," he tells us), Cassidy seems to feel an obligation to belittle its magic formula: "Ultimately, though, the success of sites like MySpace and Facebook may have less to do with the opportunities they provide for self-expression than with peer pressure." He cites Duncan Watts, a sociologist at Columbia, who argues "there's a certain lack of purpose to just hanging out in public, and it's hard to justify it if you don't have a lot of free time."

I wish instead he had tracked down a few media executives for the article. (VC Jim Breyer is quoted as saying that the Washington Post Company's chairman, Donald Graham, "thinks of [Facebook] as a next-generation media business," but that's about it.) There are probably many sociology professors (among others) who would argue that television only exists because everyone in the world has too much free time on their hands. Ditto the movie industry. Ditto the video game industry. Ditto book publishing, minus guide books, school texts and self-help manuals. But there's usually something positive to be said when a media enterpreneur creates a product that captures the attention of 8,600,000 people (two-thirds of Facebook's 12.9 million monthly uniques, according to Media Metrix) for 2 hours 20 minutes a week. Let alone a product that has them interacting with other college kids rather than, say, half-comotose on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Another thing that bugged me: While New Yorker writers usually leave out transcription conventions to indicate stutters, regional accents or spoken pauses such as "um" and "ah" between words, Cassidy quotes co-founder Dustin Moskovitz with the blemishes left in: "We had, like, a kitchen table, which we sat around. We had our laptops there, and we, like, hammered away." Gosh, those Harvard drop-outs who have built a company that the world's top VCs value at $500 million are practically illiterate!

(Disclosure: Dustin is my wife's cousin.)

13 May 2006

BlogHer Network Launches

MediaPost reports on the launch of a new network of leading writers that cater to female readers, BlogHer. Regarding their model --

"If they choose, participating blog publishers can refuse to carry a particular advertiser. They may also carry ads from other networks, but BlogHer is insisting that its advertising be the only graphic media advertising on a partner publisher's blog.... Participating bloggers retain their own URLs, traffic, and communities, and agree to publish according to editorial guidelines."

-- I think it's a brilliant approach. Though it sounds kinda familiar!

10 May 2006

Searchblog Readers on AdWords & AdSense

Battelle posted news (Searchblog) that, earlier this week, he launched his first AdWords / AdSense program promoting a real service, FM's new media planning interface. Perhaps it's no surprise, his readers lit up the comments line. What did surprise me is how much his readers -- the gurus and wizards of the search marketing world -- still DON'T know about how Google's ad programs work:

"I have wondered for a long time why Google doesn't provide more transparency with its click data. Your content click reporting issue occurs with site targeting as well. Not sure if they are consciously hiding the information from advertisers or just don't have the tech to push this data out."

The person who wrote that comment did put a winking emoticon after that last line. Of course Google "has the tech" to push out that data; they apparently don't want to.

04 May 2006

The Press on FM's Self-Service Platform

AdAge: A key part of the platform is a new do-it-yourself planning tool that will allow companies, especially small ones, to plan, create and execute ad campaigns across Federated's blogs. Referencing Wired editor Chris Anderson, he said, "You're not going to market in the 'long tail' if you have to find every site that's a part of it. We act as a filter for that."

Boing Boing: Federated Media head honcho John Battelle just announced that the beta of FM's killer self-service ad platform is now live! You can browse ad inventory on BB, Fark, Digg, and dozens of other blogs in the FM network, check out demographics, come up with an ad plan, and then hit the buy button right then and there.

AdRants: We took a test drive and found the planning tool very easy to use providing easy selection of blogs based on segmented audience profiles and demographics gleaned from readership surveys. Individual sites, groups of sites or all sites can be included in the buy, flight dates can be set and IAB standard creative units can be selected. Federated media claims its collection of blogs can deliver 70 million monthly page views.

More coverage at FM's site.

FM Launches Self-Service Platform for Advertisers

Last night at 9pm FM announced the beta launch of a seach engine for marketers who want sort the leading weblog sites and place ad campaigns (in real time) based on content categories, audience demographics or available ad inventory: Federated Media blog.

For those of you who called me a media dinosaur after my post on the extreme visions of frictionless media buying (ChasNote 4/14/06), here's a step in the right direction!

03 May 2006

Stuart Elliott: myAdvertising

Disclosure: From 1999 to 2001 I worked at a company called mySimon, and in 2002 I spent an all-day offsite talking about "Tech & You" as a possible tagline for some parts of CNET, so I'm hardly impartial on the topic of all this myWhatever in ad campaigns these days. Silliness aside, it's a nod in the right direction -- toward conversational marketing.

Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor, as quoted in Stuart Elliott's column (NY Times, reg req), sums up the good and the bad:

"'Having it your way applies increasingly to all brands,' Mr. Adamson said, referring to the longtime campaign theme for Burger King, which has recently been revived. 'It's only natural that advertisers try to flag that they are more about serving up your brand on your terms."' But the trend carries a big risk, Mr. Adamson warned. 'The demand for customization and personalization is a moving target....If you're unable to deliver, if what you offer is really no different from everybody else, the claims will do more damage than good.'"

24 April 2006

BW on Second Life: Virtual World, Real Money

The cover story for Business Week's May 1 issue (link, reg req) is the booming economy inside MMPOG Second Life. The article gets at what makes Second Life so interesting, even though other MMPOGs are (for now) bigger:

"it's a stretch to call it a game because the residents, as players prefer to be called, create everything. Unlike in other virtual worlds, Second Life's technology lets people create objects like clothes or storefronts from scratch, LEGO-style, rather than simply pluck avatar outfits or ready-made buildings from a menu. That means residents can build anything they can imagine, from notary services to candles that burn down to pools of wax..... Besides, in one important way, this virtual stuff isn't imaginary at all. In November, 2003, Linden Lab made a policy change unprecedented in online games: It allowed Second Life residents to retain full ownership of their virtual creations. The inception of property rights in the virtual world made for a thriving market economy."

21 April 2006

MediaPost on "Metablogs"

MediaPost columnist Mark Naples took a look at FM's "metaweblog" concept in today's edition.

"Federated Media is among the companies that have designed a solution that could perhaps remedy this for blogs and their advocates. Federated's metablogs offer value to three constituencies. One constituency value set is directed to the readers who want a human editor to sift through dozens of selected content sources online & to surface the essential articles each day. A second constituency value set is directed toward advertisers who want their brands associated with the leading online voices, all through one place buying opportunity. A third is directed toward the individual weblog authors, who get the opportunity to forge relationships with new readers.

I know that other blog aggregators have created similar systems. But Federated Media seems to have developed something that thinks it through more comprehensively from the buy side, the sell side, and the reader's side all at once."

Thanks for the plug, Mark!

18 April 2006

Web Will Collect More Ad Revenue than Print Magazines in 2006

That's the word from Merrill Lynch (AdAdge).

16 April 2006

Jeff Jarvis: More on the Open Ad Marketplace

Here is Jeff's reply to my note (thanks, Jeff!):

I may be expressing this badly... and I certainly may be naive... but I do believe that such a system could instead improve the value and revenue for highly targeted and high-quality blogs and other media.

I think you are right when it comes to plain CPM and CPC advertising that can appear anywhere: Advertisers like Pay My Bills and Vonage, for example, tend to buy tonnage and judge those purchases soley on performance, right?

Up the food chain from that are branding advertisers who do want to appear on quality sites that are relevant. But I've heard from agencies that they find it difficult -- impossible, actually -- to put together a critical mass of audience that makes it worthwhile to make the buy in our medium as opposed to other media. The open system I'm proposing would make it easier for them to both find the right sites and get the apples-to-apples measurement they require.

At the top of the pyramid are highly targeted sites and here I believe the marketplace adds the greatest value because it allows advertisers to find the "perfect" sites for them and pay for them. They will pay for perfect and, at the same time, will find more efficiency because they found the ideal environments.

How does this affect networks? Well, again, I may be naive and you can tell me far better but I think that this allows networks to be more flexible and to provide one-stop-shopping to agencies: When you sell an advertiser on a specific flight and need to get more "perfect" inventory, you can do so -- but not be responsible for those added sites all the time. On the other end of things, if you have excess inventory (God forbid!), you can put it out in the marketplace.

This is not entirely a frictionless, rational, performance-based system -- though it is, that, too. Instead, this is an infranstructure for advertisers for higher value advertising and for advertisers to find the critical mass and metrics they demand in trusted, quality, endemic, targeted, and sometimes ad hoc networks of sites.

Or so I hope.

14 April 2006

Is Frictionless Ad-Buying Good for Publishers?

Jeff Jarvis's latest column for The Guardian (see BuzzMachine) proposes an "open ad marketplace":
"By doing this, we take the friction out of the ad marketplace: every blog is an atom and every ad campaign is a molecule that attracts the best. Thus both advertisers and media gain control and increase their effectiveness and their value. In this post-scarcity world, freed of the limitations of the page and the clock, you could argue that as no end of ad inventory becomes available, rates will only drop. But I also believe that advertisers will pay higher rates for the right sites that perform efficiently for them. Thus quality sites will earn more and advertisers will waste less. That is the value of openness."

I agree that media buying, selling and the metrics that inform them both are in need of serious improvement. Today most of the control is still in the hands of a few enormous media companies that don't have a vested interest in innovation or upgrading the current system.

But I don't think that a "frictionless" open marketplace benefits buyers and sellers equally. Much of the friction in today's model comes from the publisher side, ie, the content producers and their appointed media sellers. The folks who put their hearts and souls into a magazine or TV network or web site want to make the case to advertisers that the editorial product they produce, and the conversation it engenders, are unique. That uniqueness, they argue, deserves a premium. While an advertiser can find those same people -- say the few million people who watch The West Wing -- watching other shows or reading certain websites, there's extra value to reaching them when they're watching The West Wing. And making that case, god forbid, usually requires a bit of high-friction human contact.

Google has shown us that algorithms can work wonders for direct marketers looking to drive clicks at the lowest cost. Whether or not marketing algorithms can create the next Absolut, Starbucks or Nike, is -- to say the least -- an open question. Great advertising is about more than "efficient performance," and best publications do something that even the most thorough spreadsheets can't compute.

My worry is this: Create a frictionless, rational, performance-oriented marketplace for ads, and content quality and editorial innovation go down the drain.

12 April 2006

Nearly $50MM in "Social Media" Advertising in 2006

Research firm PQ Media is out with a report on ad spending in weblogs, podcasts, RSS and the rest of the "social media" platforms (from MediaPost). Is it me, or has MediaPost devised some annoying app that prevents cutting and pasting from their articles? In lieu of quoting the article.... PQ Media estimates 2006 spending will be $49.8MM, up from $20.4MM in 2005. Most of the 2005 spending -- $16.6MM -- was for advertising on blogs, which the report calls "the most mature of the user-generated online media segments."