Posted on | October 19, 2011 | No Comments
A mix of off- and online ads, this is a running list of the top 10 viral advertisements. For the most part, these ads are the result of innovative thought by top advertising professionals. While you can be the judge, we think they “get” viral marketing are are among it’s most accomplished practitioners.
1. Wario Land: “Shake It” – Still the leader with it’s off-the-board graphics. Only problem… it makes the page tough to navigate.
Posted on | September 19, 2011 | No Comments
What’s a widget? It’s a snippet of code that can be placed on any web page which, when executed (e.g., clicked-on, rolled-over, etc.), performs a function. That function may be simple, local like change color. Or, it may be complex, engaging services (APIs or Application Programming Interfaces) from around the network. As services for these widgets are rendered over the IP protocol, they’re available on all manner of operating systems across PC’s, servers, mobile phones and more.
From a marketer’s perspective, a widget is more than a piece of code. It’s an opportunity to get your brand, your message, your ad in front of consumers in a high-impact, high-utility way. That’s why widgets are now proliferating on Google, Facebook (20K+), Apple’s iPhone (200K+)… Even B2B marketers are getting into the fray with LinkedIn, SalesForce and BeeHive adding widgets or apps like they’re going out of style. Per Bob Garfield of AdAge:
…the widget is something like the magical connection between marketers and consumers, not only replacing the one-way messaging long dominated by media advertising but vastly outperforming it. Because online the link is literal and direct, and along its path, data of behavior, preference and intention are left at every step.
So, why do they exist? They started with open source programmers who wanted to re-use code written by others. Whereas before programmers had to build much of their web applications from scratch, libraries of re-usable functions mean today’s applications stitch together APIs to complete a business function. Why have web widgets become so prevalent? Three drivers:
- In 1998 Uproar.com found that it could acquire website traffic by placing its Trivia Blitz game on other websites including CNN. After interacting with the game remotely, people went to Uproar for more.
- Around 2002 Google and Yahoo learned that they could garner share by pushing search services off their sites. Suddenly search boxes appeared everywhere channeling algorithmic and paid search results.
- Around 2004, Social networks like MySpace helped consumers build their own web-presence providing basic plumbing e.g., your text description, your photos. Soon enterprising developers built transportable profile features which spread quickly.
So what? Whether they’re high-utility personal widgets or high-visibility social widgets, they enable ever-expanding services. Looking at ProgrammableWeb’s inventory of over 1,000 web widgets, we find the most popular:
1. The Map – Get direction. Google Maps is the King. Integrated into countless sites and over 1,500 mashups, their installs are 10x its competitors such as Yahoo Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth.
Posted on | September 16, 2011 | No Comments
Whether they are websites for individual products or whole companies, some stand above the rest in their ability to attract and retain eyeballs. What makes these sites effective? 1. Targeting: The marketer has a clearly defined target segment, 2. Alignment: Site theme, content, presentation and functionality connect target needs and product(s) on offer, 3. Economy: The site meets the target’s information or process needs with a minimum of overhead, 4. Aesthetic: Be it for branding promotional, or lead generation purposes, the site motivates consumers.
Take a look at the ten sites below and tell me if you think they’ve achieved these goals!
1. America’s Army by the U.S. Army
- What: Begun in 1999 by Colonel Casey Wardynski, the website provides factual, albeit glamorized, insight into the Army’s disciplines, tools, tactics and training. While some may question the accuracy of the portrayal, it is easily one of the most comprehensive marcom sites around and reflects sound design, innovative marketing and a significant budget. One of Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit finalists.
- How: A top ten multi-player game, simulated training exercises, soldier profiles, chat rooms, forums, community sites, competitions,…Learn how to fire an M-82, conduct infantry missions, read battle accounts, upload maps for combat training simulations, comment or ask questions.
- Why: The army wants to attract people who will do well. That means both informing and getting people excited about enlisting. In contrast to Marine Corp advertising which focuses on emotion, this site focuses on providing credible information for decision-making.
Posted on | September 16, 2011 | No Comments
Given the technical problems that beset LinkedIn’s InApps launch (“Applications on LinkedIn”), it may be premature to posit a wish list for the future. But, LinkedIn has a track record of putting technology in place. They’ll overcome the beta glitches. Then, given the tight focus of the initial group of applications, we can expect them to methodically, deliberately extend the platform. Yesterday I reviewed the applications in the release. I thought three were “killer”, four were “good” and two needed to be proven-out.
Per Jeremiah Owyang, LinkedIn is focusing on: 1. Collaboration between colleagues and connections – Outside the firewall, 2. SaaS environments to further a business’s IT mission, and 3. Business applications at the request of users and platform developers.
What’s the competition focused on? Oracle Beehive seems to be focused on providing the picks and shovels for corporate intranet development including: 1. The personal workspace, 2. Process-centric collaboration, and 3. The platform for enterprise application development. Salesforce’s AppExchange has over 600 applications for the Salesforce.com platform including everything from lead generation to time tracking.
Personally, I would leave picks and shovels behind in favor of rapid application uptake. This is achieved by focusing tightly on the needs of the immediate community. Once you have 30M, 60M, 90M valuable InApp application / user instances, focus on pushing back into the enterprise. The challenge, many applications are available on the internet. So, there needs to be unique, possibly step-change, value for LinkedIn users created by bolting InApps on the platform.
Before getting to the list, it’s important to note that, as functionality is added, information is extracted. The question for the user and the service then becomes who has access to what information. In my opinion, this is the single largest problem with Facebook. It is a problem LinkedIn does not have to share. For professionals, the concept of proprietary information and sharing hierarchies is not alien. The challenge then becomes technical i.e., how do you structure profiles to accommodate a broad range of applications, use cases.
Posted on | December 19, 2008 | 2 Comments
I am not an expert strategist, but I’ve picked up a few tidbits over time. In school I learned that strategy leaves a trail – You can divine a company’s strategy by the products it launches, partnerships it forms, and companies it acquires. When I moved on to Booz-Allen, I learned that when you are the market share leader, grow the market – The NBA spends its marketing dollars growing the basketball market, not persuading you to skip baseball games. Finally, as a strategy executive, I’ve learned that the P&L is king – No framework beats the pro forma for isolating drivers, providing insight.
Ad Network Trinity
Network advertising has three basic cost drivers: ad acquisition costs, delivery platform costs and media acquisition costs (ex: P&G hires Razorfish to build a display campaign placing it on Platform-A who serves to Yahoo’s main page). Gross margin is distributed between the three levels in roughly equal proportions. That is, the advertiser acquirer, platform provider and publisher acquirer seek to make 25+% gross margins. Each also seeks to move up or down the value chain. Why? Because each piece of the value chain you capture increases your gross margin by 50-100%. For example, a network that either acquires its own advertisers or serves ads over proprietary properties can double its gross margins.
Google has a lot of initiatives including: search, iGoogle, Reader, Blogger, YouTube, Docs, Apps, OpenSocial, Android, Picasa, DoubleClick, Adwords, Adsense,… Clearly, they spend a lot of money “seeing what sticks”. Like 3M and Xerox before them, Google has learned that product innovation comes from enabling “skunk works”. But, looking beyond their dabbling, is there is method in their madness? Yes, and it’s based on two basic principles. First, Google has the pole position in the most rapidly growing segment of the ad market. So, if you’re the market share leader, grow the market. Second, per the Ad Network Trinity, Google focuses investment to maximize eyeballs and ad inventory on proprietary platforms. How? Read more
Posted on | December 15, 2008 | No Comments
After using Facebook, attending a developer conference and speaking to advertisers, I’ve built a Facebook roadmap. Not an application, widget or API wishlist, it’s a wishlist for Facebook platform functionality. To be sure, Facebook has initiatives focused on growing site and “ecosystem” functionality. They encourage app development through the fbFund. They encourage partner interfaces through fbConnect. Of course, they also have capable product managers.
Facebook seems very focused on Social Graph Marketing through fbConnect. The problem: as fbConnect pushes consumer profiles out, it will encounter data ownership issues that will slow implementation. Further, Facebook’s execution to date has been spotty. Their highly-publicized Summer 2008 Beacon launch was reversed within weeks. Their highly-publicized Fall 2008 re-design subverted third party developers by moving applications off the user profile page.
Facebook needs a framework for prioritizing and sequencing functionality based on value to users, to advertisers, and to the platform. Fortunately, aligning interests is not as complex as it sounds. Think of Google. They invest huge sums of money to ensure highly relevant search results are delivered in sub-second response times. Then, by plugging in paid search results alongside their algorithmic results, they facilitate targeted interactions between user and advertiser. Competition between advertisers ensures relevant results.
My Top 10 Facebook Feature Wishlist
So, adopting Google’s basic framework, how do we sequence features to maximize user engagement AND provide target-rich advertiser opportunities? My suggestions below are in order, soonest-to-latest: Read more
Posted on | November 15, 2008 | No Comments
The first act ever played on MTV, “Video Killed The Radio Star” ushered in the music video age. Driven by the powerful images, musicians of all stripes began developing videos. One or more music videos were soon required for any album release. But, as we know, video didn’t kill the radio star in 1981. Albeit with a smaller audience, radio persists today. Further, adaptable radio stars became multimedia mavens.
So, it was with a sense of deja vu that we began hearing that three social media acolytes (Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis) had declared PR dead at the hand of social media. In truth, they were expressing frustration with aspects of the PR industry. PR practitioners, sensitive to issues of influence, may have overreacted. In doing so, they reinforced the bloggers’ primary complaint: that PR folks don’t read their work.
Why do the words of a few bloggers matter? At the very least, these Web 2.0 luminaries are sizable web publishers relied upon by thousands of readers to divine and interpret important trends. But, it’s more than that. They have “Twinfluence“. Unlike web publishers of old, through the immediacy of and interplay between media like Twitter, FriendFeed and their blogs, these authors create their own echo chambers. The result, if one of these Web 2.0 oracles say you’re dead… perception can become reality. Read more
Posted on | November 10, 2008 | No Comments
In the genre of negative ads, the idea is first to distill your competition to a single product attribute and then fix that attribute to an immovable scale. Advertisers may do this by setting up a straw man or by naming their competitor’s product directly. Particularly aggressive, one-sided negative ads are referred to as attack ads. Some advertisers go on to introduce their products favorably. These are called comparative ads.
As outlined in the New York Times “Dueling Brands Pick Up Where Politicians Leave Off“, these ads are tactical in nature. Advertisers who choose this tactic are rarely bashful about their messaging focusing on an important buyer value. As they risk consumer backlash, negative ads often carry a humorous or “tongue-in-cheek” tone. Finally, according to the Times, they often give rise to a competitive response. Digging a little deeper, we see other “trademarks”:
- It’s an underdog tactic. When you are the market share leader your objective is to grow the market. When you are #2 or #3, your objective is to take share. Therefore, it is a fundamentally competitive or “distributive” tactic.
- Given time constraints, the desire to get the most “bang for the buck”, and desire to limit litigation, they are usually highly-targeted assaults focusing on one key attribute.
- They are often topical in nature. That is, one rarely launchs a comparative or attack ad to build one’s brand. One launches an attack to quickly assert superiority. This is often best done in a topical context. For example, as we will see below, Apple uses the latest, negative press to lampoon the “PC”, a stand-in for Microsoft and it’s Windows Vista operating system.
- There are significant differences between political ads and commercials based primarily on latitude given the different forms of speech. Commercial comparative ads must comply with the law or risk civil liability. Per Goodwin Procter’s Top 10 Things to Know Before You Launch A Comparative Advertising Campaign, the advertiser must: 1. Know both what they are saying and implying, 2. If the comparison is based on a consumer survey or demonstration, follow a bulletproof, repeatable process, 3. Substantiate all claims.
Let’s see an illustration of these points below. Read more
Posted on | November 10, 2008 | No Comments
Articles on potential Facebook revenue models run the gamut. Comments following those articles span the galaxy. The consensus on Facebook revenues falls into two general categories:
- They’re like Google – They’ve got oodles of traffic and oodles of ways to monetize it.
- They’re like eToys – They’ve got an unsustainable business model, users prone to flip and a management exodus.
The fact is, according to Mark Zuckerberg, they put up $150M in revenue in 2007 and are targeting $300M in 2008 with $50M EBITDA. How? They have: 1. A search deal with Microsoft’s MSN, 2. Classic “portal” placements on user profile page with $200K+ 2007 “ad sponsor” price tags, 3. “Social” a.k.a. behavioral ads which run elsewhere on the site, 4. ROS (run-of-site) inventory that is largely sold off to ad networks, and 5. Referral revenue off on-site gifting (i.e., where users send off-line gifts to each other). With 161M uniques and 61B page views each month, they’re their own ad network. So, they’re Google. Right?
Maybe not. While they raised $250M from Microsoft in 2007 (on a $15B valuation) and another $235M debt / equity investment in 2008, the latest scuttlebutt from outlets such as TechCrunch is that Facebook may be in need of cash. Apparently social network CPMs (cost per thousand impressions, a primary revenue driver) are dismal and expenses are ramping with a vengeance. Read more
Posted on | November 1, 2008 | 1 Comment
Facebook is actively expanding platform functionality launching Facebook Connect and free classifieds in May, 2008 and redoubling efforts to build a music service in October, 2008. All point the way to a more robust platform.
Then, on October 15th 2008, Facebook announced 25 winners of its fbFund $25,000 application developer grants. Each is entered to win a further $250,000 grant. The cost of admission, fbFund investors have right of first refusal should the firms subsequently raise capital on their ideas. Taken together, and individually, these fbFund winning apps illustrate Facebook’s expansion desires. So, let’s look at our top picks in a bit more detail: Read morekeep looking »