Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Archive for Advertising

Looking for Alternatives to Paid Ads

There’s a pretty good back and forth going over a TechCrunch guest article that opined that most ad models will “fail” on the internet. The article, by Eric Clemens, a Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, takes aim at paid search in particular, because we “no longer need advertising to obtain the information” we want. Clemens says we can find what we want, when we want it, through more trusted sources than paid advertising. And most of us, he says, don’t even want to view advertising.

Clemens says that “conventional search,” such as a regular Google query, “misdirects” us to sites other than the ones for which we’re looking. “Monetization of misdirection frequently takes the form of charging companies for keywords and threatening to divert their customers to a competitor if they fail to pay adequately for keywords that the customer is likely to use in searches for the companies’ products; that is, misdirection works best when it is threatened rather than actually imposed, and when companies actually do pay the fees demanded for their keywords.”

I get it. Google is making money by providing search results for misspelled keywords and ambiguous searches. But misdirection? I don’t think so. How does Google know precisely what someone is looking for?

And I guess I wasn’t alone with these thoughts. “Search advertising is one of the most powerful forms of advertising precisely because it does not misdirect searchers, nor interrupt them but instead provides answers that they seek,” retorts Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan.

“If I do a search for ‘alaskan fishing trips,’ how is it that a search ad alongside the editorial listings misdirected me? What was that ‘exact’ thing I was supposed to get in the first place? Was it a government document? An Alaskan tourist office? One particular fishing company?

“In plain language, online advertising isn’t failing — the economy overall is failing.”

But that’s precisely the problem. Sites cannot survive on advertising alone. Which both Clemens and Sullivan recognize:

“The net will find monetization models and these will be different from the advertising models used by mass media,” says Clemens. Agrees Sullivan: “Charging for content gets trotted out as a solution. Well duh. People have been charging for content online for ages, and successfully so. Personal sidenote, don’t go banking on micro-payments to be the magic solution. But many sites, in my view, backed away from charging for content because the online ad revenues cranked up. Now newspapers that opened pages up to anyone to increase ad views are having to reconsider that much access. The balance will be found.”

Exactly. That’s why I think a monetizing model like “Kachingle” will eventually be among those working alongside advertising. Kachingle hasn’t launched yet, but when it does, it promises to offer readers a sustainable, easy-to-use way for supporting content sites. Stay tuned for more information.

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How will online advertising hold up in our declining economy?

Well, most speculate. eMarketer, in their latest predictions, project online advertising spend will grow from $24.5 billion in 2008 to $28.5 billion in 2009. This claim is generally supported by many other analysts:

Even those who disbelieve that online advertising will fare well in the recession, they believe that it will still grow, just at a lower rate than previously mentioned. In my opinion, retailers everywhere are going to try to drive costs down by cutting spend wherever they can and looking for more cost-efficient solutions. And how much cheaper does the internet get? eMarketer sums up this nice, succinct side of the argument withe the following seven points:

  1. The Internet is inherently more measurable and accountable than are traditional channels.
  2. The Internet allows for better, more-granular targeting than do other forms of media. That reduces media waste and can save marketing dollars.
  3. The Internet is interactive, thereby allowing for a higher degree of engagement with consumer and business prospects and customers.
  4. Particularly among younger consumers, the Internet is accounting for a larger and larger share of total media time; numerous studies demonstrate that teens, millennials and other younger cohorts are spending more time online per week than they are watching television.
  5. The Internet plays into the consumer-in-control movement and therefore provides new opportunities for marketers to be a part of their conversations about interests, attitudes, shopping plans and even brands.
  6. New Web 2.0 phenomena such as blogs, social networks and Twitter provide marketers with the potential to gain rich insights into consumer behavior and attitudes (the Internet is like a perpetual focus group on steroids).
  7. The Internet, unlike any other medium or channel, allows marketers to reach prospects throughout the entire consumer buying cycle, from initial awareness through pre-information-gathering to sales and post-sale feedback and support.

Don’t know about you, but time for me to start doing some online holiday shopping!

Insights into major search and ad networks

I recently listened in a conference call between a stock analyst and the head of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). Mark Mahaney is Director, Internet Rsearch of Citi Investment Research in San Francisco. I’m not sure how I got on his distribution list, but he often has sound, economic insights into the major search and ad networks. He set up the call with Randall Rothenberg, the CEO & President of the IAB.

Topics included “current drivers” in online advertising; YTD advertising trends; how marketers are reacting to the current recessionary environment; and key regulatory issues, including privacy.

Some quick notes:

NUMBERS: In 2007, total U.S. interactive ad spend was $21.1 billion. In Q1 2008ad spend was $5.2 billion, up 18% over last year. But these numbers don’t include spending being done by companies doing marketing on their own sites.

AD NETWORKS: Could see growth – or not – because of the recession. The reason for growth: The networks could offer lower CPM costs.

ONLINE VIDEO: Advertising in this medium will grow. Pre-roll, transparent overlays growth are likely.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: Promotion and “infotainment” possible directions that advertisers will veer toward, instead of “traditional” online advertising.

EFFECTIVENESS: 62% of those surveyed by the IAB said there was an “insufficient ability” to measure effectiveness of their campaigns.

BEHAVIORAL TARGETING: The primary reason people love interactive media is the ability to get relative content, including relative advertising. It sits on the other end of the spectrum from spam.

PRIVACY: Rothenberg cited surveys as to why so many folks are conflicted about privacy: When asked if they’re “concerned” about cookies, 85% say they “hate” them. Then asked if they’d rather pay for services they’re currently getting for free, or have targeted advertising that will subsidize services, about the same 85% say rather have free.

https://www.citigroupgeo.com/pdf/SNA21615.pdf

Goodbye 2007!

It’s that time of year again, when we all buckle down and face our shortcomings to eagerly make promises to ourselves that we’ll fix them in the coming year. We ponder the year past and wonder how our regrets could have been avoided and vow to not make those mistakes again. We delight in our fond memories and hope that the future has room for more. Fittingly, this is Left Bay’s 2007 recap, and hopes for 2008.

What We’ve Learned

Traditional brand advertising is dumb.

What Web 2.0 really is. Just in time too, since we’re at the dawn of 3.0, and all…

We have to turn the space heater on at least an hour before we settle in the office to brave the wintertime.

College professors of interactive advertising react to SEO jargon with nothing short of puzzled looks. (“No professor, not like banners…”)

What a blogopotamus is. Surprisingly, not a plump desk-chair potato who reads and writes blog posts all day.

We wasted far too much time perusing Google StreetView. And I didn’t find anyone I knew in the pictures.

Ask.com is going off the deep end. (Still waiting for that algorithm, btw).

Apple and Google are going to continue growing and will one day have a knock-down, drag-out battle-of-the-superbrands where the victor will take over the world (my loyalties lie with Apple, but I have a feeling Google will take the spoils).

Acquisitions will forever be news until the day that battle takes place.

This will always be funny.

Our Resolutions

We should try to read our SearchCaps more often instead of having 15 messages in our inbox daily from accrued newsletters. (which when we read, realize we missed a lot).

Update the blog more.

Make resolutions again in June when they start to go stale.

Happy New Year from Left Bay Media!

Chicks With Swords: An Ask.com Update

I originally wrote that audiences were “waiting for more” of the Ask campaign, and that we “can’t not talk about it” and “want the rest of the story.”

Well, we got more, and are (still!) furrowing our brows.

The latest ad from Ask.com has aired in due time for the launch of Ask 3D (which, weird advertising aside, is actually pretty cool. The ad features a thirtysomething, run-of-the-mill business guy getting what he’s looking for, which in this case is chicks with swords.

The concept is simple enough: A guy found what he was looking for with Ask.com. The execution, however, is not as easily understood. First of all, I don’t understand the big stage production. I think it worked well for Goodby’s eBay campaign, when it hadn’t been done as humorously before, and that this Ask ad is a blatant rip-off. The eBay ads at least put the stage show into some sort of context that viewers could identify with. Our Ask.com guy? He’s relishing out some sexual fantasy after a “chicks with swords” search on the internet by singing on stage? Jordan McCollum of Marketing Pilgrim notes CP+B’s historical “ubermale” portrayal. So, am I now supposed to equate business dudes searching for weird sex fetishes with Ask.com? Is the next commercial going to be a different guy singing “I got what I was looking for” in front of equestrienne line dancers? Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not a guy, nor do I have a Babes With Blades fetish.

But it still raises questions about The Algorithm I thought Ask.com was trying to push. The ad only alludes to it at the end of the commercial when it is displayed on the screen. And still, a search on Ask for “chicks with swords” is less than exciting.

CP+B has done creepy successfully before. Remember this one? Really though, I think they just have a weird obsession with broadway stage productions.

I await the next Ask.com chapter with some unsettling mixed feelings. I’m ready for some answers (ironic, huh?) to this Algorithm question, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I saw some women who ride horses performing the Electric Slide, either.

We’re still waiting for the elusive Algorithm.

The Algorithm is the most recent great success story of viral marketing. Ask is definitely getting something right if it’s getting the whole world in an upheaval over it. People in the search industry are buzzing over the assertive billboards, at first questioning their origins and are now eagerly waiting for more. Non-industry people are asking, “What the hell is an algorithm, and what does it have to do with Jesus and Ted Kaczynski?”

When the campaign first launched, quite secretly I might add, there was an immediate backlash of blog posts full of pictures, questions and speculations. I saw my first billboard driving down 101 a few weeks ago. “The algorithm killed Jeeves,” it read, and nothing else. After furrowing my brows for a minute, I decided it was a new ad by Google, attempting to reinforce its enormous shadow over the search industry. “But specifically attacking Ask.com? That’s uncharacteristic,” I thought briefly, and continued driving.

In the following weeks, a flood that grew to become more like a tsunami, swept through the search world. People thought the ads were bizarre, confusing, stupid, off-putting, smart, clever, vague; and then continued to blog and comment about it. We definitely know more now. We know Crispin Porter + Bogusky is behind it, Ask.com’s new-ish agency. We’ve seen all the other “Algorithm” billboards by now. We’ve seen the Google-attacking urinal ad. We’re waiting for more.

Why is it successful? It’s everywhere! People can’t not talk about it. The campaign screams curiosity. We want more. We want the rest of the story. Who is this algorithm, and what does that funny word mean?