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TV News for Early Risers (or Late-to-Bedders)

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The television business, it seems, is learning what the predawn buyers at the fish market already know: starting the day earlier can be a competitive advantage.

Stations in Boston, New York, Washington and other cities are adding 4:30 a.m. newscasts this month, joining a backward march that started in earnest a few years ago. And those are not even the earliest. One station in New York, WPIX, will move up its start time to 4 a.m. on Sept. 20.

In catering to the earliest of the early risers, stations are reacting to the behavior patterns that are evident in the Nielsen ratings. Simply put, Americans are either staying awake later or waking up earlier -- and either way, they are keeping the television on.

In the past 15 years, the number of households that have a TV set on at 4:30 has doubled, to 16 percent this year from 8 percent in 1995. At 11:30 p.m., by comparison, when most local newscasts end, 44 percent of televisions are on, up 10 percent from the levels 15 years ago.

Ryan Singel:

The lawsuit (.pdf), filed in US District court in San Francisco, asks the court to find that the practice violated eavesdropping and hacking laws, and that the practice of secretly tracking users also violated state and federal fair trade laws. The lawsuit alleges a "pattern of covert online surveillance" and seeks status as a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by Joseph Malley, a privacy activist lawyer who also played key roles in other high profile privacy lawsuits, including a $9.5 million settlement earlier this year from Facebook over its ill-fated Beacon program and a settlement with Netflix after the company gave imperfectly anonymized data to contestants in a movie recommendation contest.

"The objective of this scheme was the online harvesting of consumers' personal information for Defendants' use in online marketing activities," wrote Malley, who called the technique "as simple as it was deceptive and devious."

Unlike traditional browser cookies, Flash cookies are relatively unknown to Web users, and they are not controlled through the cookie privacy controls in a browser. That means that even if a user thinks they have cleared their computer of tracking objects, they most likely have not.

Adobe's Flash software is installed on an estimated 98 percent of personal computers, and has been a key component in the explosion of online video, powering video players for sites such as YouTube and Hulu.

Websites can store up to 100KB of information in the plug-in, 25 times what a browser cookie can hold. Sites like also use Flash's storage capability to pre-load portions of songs or videos to ensure smooth playback.

Crowdsourcing: Amazon's Kindle Commercial Contest

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Patty Seybold:

Once again, Amazon is running a "Design your own Kindle Commercial" contest. The deadline to submit a single video with original soundtrack and footage is August 29th. You have to be a resident of the U.S. to enter this contest. The winner will receive a $15,000 Amazon gift card and the four runners up $2,500 gift cards. These kinds of contests seem to provide great opportunities for under-recognized professionals to strut their stuff, although I'm sure that the submissions include a lot of good amateur ones as well. Last year's submission helped the careers of the winning producer-director team, the team who wrote and recorded the music, and the team who did the actual video.

Here's the winning submission from last year's contest:

Facebook's mobile strategy laid out

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Jon Swartz:

About the only thing growing faster than Facebook's overall audience -- 500 million users and counting -- is its mobile user crowd.

Since the social-networking giant said it topped 100 million mobile users a few months ago, it has added another 50 million. The whopping figure of 150 million is the population equivalent of Nigeria.

The breakneck growth, combined with the fledgling mobile market, has put Facebook in a highly advantageous position to reap the benefits of a multibillion-dollar market worldwide. "We see mobile as the future," said Erick Tseng, Facebook's new head of mobile products. "Mobile is no different from the desktop Web. All the (Facebook) apps available on the desktop should be available on smartphones.

Goldman Sachs' latest mobile report, via Joseph Cotterill.

It's the End of the Web as We Know It

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Steve Rubel:

Wither the web? It's hard to believe but soon, if not already, the web is going to become a lot less interesting to consumers -- and just as it approaches its 20th birthday.

According to Morgan Stanley, within five years global internet consumption on mobile devices will surpass the same activity on PCs. This sounds like good news. It's natural to think that browsers on the third screen (phones) and the fourth screen (tablets) will simply replace time spent in front of the same on a PC. That's not the case.

Mobile devices, by their nature, force users to become more mission-oriented. As more internet consumption shifts to gadgets, it's increasingly becoming an app world and we just live in it. Innovation, fun, simplicity and single-purpose utility will rule while grandiose design and complexity will fall by the wayside.

It won't be enough just to build branded mobile applications that repurpose content across all of the different platforms. That's like newspapers taking the print experience and replicating it on the web as they tried back in the 1990s. Rather, we will need to rethink, remix and repackage information for an entirely different modality than platforms of yore.

First, let's look at the trends.
Virtual Properties broker iPhone / iPad / iPod app; v2.5 is now available.

The Financial Times posted several articles on "Google's Black Box" this week:

Richard Waters:

In an office in Santa Monica, wedged between downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, the future of the media industry is being drawn up.

Demand Media is a company created specifically for the Google Age. It tracks the queries entered into search engines to find out what users are interested in, then hires freelance writers at rock-bottom rates to rush out articles to meet the need.

To make sure these articles appear high up in the results when similar searches are done in future, it uses the techniques of search engine optimisation - the term given to the art of designing a web page so that it is accorded a higher ranking by Google's algorithm. It also makes money by displaying adverts alongside its articles from Google's advertising system.

The fact that content factories are being created to ride on the back of search engines highlights an uncomfortable paradox.

Google's search engine formula marks an ambitious attempt to model the real world in mathematics, identifying its users' needs and desires and delivering the best information from the web in milliseconds. But as its influence across the web grows, Google's algorithm is starting to shape the world it describes.

Tom Foremski:
Groups magnify chances of Google hits:
Companies with a high page rank are in a strong position to move into new markets. By "pointing" to this new information from their existing sites they can pass on some of their existing search engine aura, guaranteeing them more prominence.

This helps companies such as AOL and Yahoo as they move into the low-cost content business, says Mr Bonnie. "They can use their Google page rank to make sure their content floats to the top," he says.

Google's Mr Singhal calls this the problem of "brand recognition": where companies whose standing is based on their success in one area use this to "venture out into another class of information which they may not be as rich at". Google uses human raters to assess the quality of individual sites in order to counter this effect, he adds.

I've known about this for several years but wasn't able to get anyone from Google on the record. These Google employees have the power to promote or even completely erase a site from the Google index.
Scott Cleland:
Wow. After a decade of passionate public representations that Google's vaunted search algorithm is "neutral' and unbiased, we now learn it has substantial regular human intervention to discriminate what site gets what ranking, who gets found and who does not, and who wins and who loses in the business of online content.
The explosion in mobile apps, including our broker iPhone/iPad/iPod app, is changing everything online.

David Gelles:

Facebook on Friday announced another round of changes to its privacy policy, including amendments that could allow the site to share user information automatically with third-party websites.

Certain websites could soon be "pre-approved" by Facebook, so that if a user is logged into Facebook and then visits the third-party website, it would receive information including the "names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting" of a user and his or her friends.

The sites might be able to retain that information "to the extent permitted under their terms of service or privacy policies".

Facebook said it would introduce the feature with a small group of partners and offer new controls for users to opt out.

However, the company could face resistance by users and advocates who see such a move as another invasion of privacy.

Brokers and others have mused the mining potential of Facebook's data.

Gelles has written a followup article on Facebook's privacy issues:

For example, when Facebook users post a new piece of content, they can decide whether to share that with an individual, a group or the entire web.

Facebook's motives are not hard to grasp. By making more personal information publicly accessible, it is improving its ability to target users with highly-specified adverts. "They are pushing the envelope because it is in their financial best interest to do so," says Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester Research.

However, Facebook - and the rest of the social networking industry - is facing the prospect of increased regulation in Europe and the US, its biggest markets.

The Economist:

HEN the Sloan Digital Sky Survey started work in 2000, its telescope in New Mexico collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy. Now, a decade later, its archive contains a whopping 140 terabytes of information. A successor, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, due to come on stream in Chile in 2016, will acquire that quantity of data every five days.

Such astronomical amounts of information can be found closer to Earth too. Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes--the equivalent of 167 times the books in America's Library of Congress (see article for an explanation of how data are quantified). Facebook, a social-networking website, is home to 40 billion photos. And decoding the human genome involves analysing 3 billion base pairs--which took ten years the first time it was done, in 2003, but can now be achieved in one week.

All these examples tell the same story: that the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and hold governments to account.

Tom Foremski:

Social media is great at promoting social media experts but useless at promoting actual products and companies.

I hardly see any product or company discussions in my Twitter or Facebook streams. I see occasional gripes about airlines, cable TV service, and sometimes I'm asked to become a "fan" of a company on Facebook. But that's about it.

The fact that airlines lose luggage, are late, are rude, is not new, it's par for the course. Same for cable TV companies. Social media does nothing to improve airline service or inform me much about things I didn't already know about a product or company. As for joining a corporate Facebook fan page, one click is about the extent of that engagement.

Yet social media is great at promoting social media experts who say that they advise corporations on their social media strategies. Or maybe social media is not good at promoting social media experts because I don't see the results of their work.

Is Pepsi a Social Conductor?

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Jay Deragon:

A social conductor is an individual or organization that enables people to use their organization to achieve wants, needs and desires. The opposite is a social producer who uses people to create direct benefits to their organization.
Pepsi Initiates the "Conductor" Model
Time Magazine states: To Pepsi, and to companies around the world, the days when mass-market media is the sole vehicle to reach an audience are officially over. Instead of pouring millions of dollars into a Super Bowl commercial, Pepsi has started a social-media campaign to promote its "Pepsi Refresh" initiative. Pepsi plans to give away $20 million in grant money to fund projects in six categories: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education.

People can go to the Pepsi website -- which can also be accessed through Facebook and Twitter -- to both submit ideas and vote on others they find appealing. Among those on the site now: "Help free healthcare clinic expand services to uninsured in rural TN" and "Build a fitness center for all students in Hays, Kansas community." Every month, the company will offer up to 32 grants to worthy projects.

"This is such a fundamental change from anything we've done in the past," says Lauren Hobart, chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages. "It's a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn't the right venue, because we're really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers."

$20M is a drop in the bucket for Pepsi, which will certainly continue to spend advertising money in the traditional way. Having said that, thinking different for marketing purposes is certainly a great and timely idea.

Brokers and agents have numerous local opportunities to stand out without spending much money.

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