The Fastest Growing Advertising Medium Ever

October 16, 2008 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Can you guess what the fastest growing advertising medium is? (Here’s a hint: read my last entry.) Advertisers like it for its ability to reach a highly targeted, actively interested audience. What is it? According to Rick Karr in a program on NPR, it is search engine advertising!


Yes, even though as many as 61% of Internet users are unaware that advertisers can pay for inclusion or even specific placement in searches, this type of advertising is big business. Not all search engines offer the same advertising options; for example, Google offers paid placements under a “Sponsored Link” heading, but doesn’t offer paid inclusion. AltaVista takes a similar approach. Yahoo offers advertisers the choice of paid placement or paid inclusion; the former are marked by “Sponsored Results” headings, and the only disclosure in evidence is a marketer-directed “See your message here”  link.


Is it a problem for Internet users that advertisers can pay to show up in searches? It could provide useful retail information for searchers seeking help to make a purchase decision. However, what if it’s not obvious which results are paid/sponsored and which are not? That’s one aspect that varies greatly from one search engine to the next. Consumer WebWatch and the FCC monitor search engine advertising practices and disclosure statements, and reports are available showing which engines are improving and which are not. With the medium growing so fast, you can be sure that many eyes will be watching for compliance with the latest regulations. How does your favorite search engine do? 



Go Google Yourself.

October 14, 2008 at 9:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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No, I’m not trying to be rude – I mean it literally. Go type your name or your brand name into Google and search it. What comes up? Do you see positive references, such as an announcement of an award, or a successful product launch? Or do you see negative links? If people search for your brand and the first page of results is filled with bad press, that will obviously affect their perception of your brand. Would you believe several Fortune 100 companies are suffering from this problem?

How can we put our best foot forward on the Web? First, we need to monitor search engine results. They can change overnight, as fast as an oil spill is sighted or a petition is signed or a blog entry is published. We can’t address an issue until we know about it, so we need to Google ourselves.

So what happens when we discover that result number four leads to a consumer site encouraging people to boycott our company? We can reach out to the consumers behind the site and try to resolve the problem. We can attempt to drown out their influence with an aggressive advertising campaign. On some search sites, we can even pay a fee for favorable placement of our own Web site. But more on that in my next entry.

In the meantime, have you Googled yourself lately?

The Push for Progress

October 13, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As television stations are constantly reminding us, as of February 17, 2009, all full-power stations in the U.S. will transition from analog to digital broadcast. (For more details, see the Federal Communications Commission site.) Many people have wondered why the government got involved and mandated this transition. What’s it to them if I like my rabbit ears? One reason is that this move will free up bands for use by emergency services, according to another government site. Others say that it’s simply a good idea to push forward with the newest and best technology so we don’t get left behind other countries. Regardless of the reasons, the result is that those who don’t currently have the set-up required to receive digital television broadcasts must take steps to prepare before February or find other ways to occupy their time. Hmm, maybe this is an opportunity for the American Council on Exercise!


Bye-bye, rabbit ears!

Bye-bye, rabbit ears!




The push for progress affects most areas of our lives. For example, do you know someone who doesn’t have a cell phone? Or have you left your cell phone at home lately and then been quizzed by someone who tried to get in touch with you? Have you tried to sign up for something without giving an email address? Or how about the Internet – if you don’t have high-speed access, how many sites are more frustrating to load than they are worth?


Many Web site designers follow the “graceful degradation” rule, offering full capabilities to only those with the latest browsers, newest plug-ins, and fastest connections. This either pushes visitors to upgrade (if they can) or drives them away. A better approach is the progressive enhancement rule, discussed in an excellent article by Aaron Gustafson. (His analogies are great, but if you have a sweet tooth, they’re going to stir up your cravings. Have a bag of Peanut M&Ms ready.) The concept of progressive enhancement mandates full content availability to all comers, with an enhanced experience available to visitors who are equipped with all the latest technologies. Isn’t that a fresh perspective?


It shouldn’t seem so revolutionary to build a Web site that almost everybody can fully access, but if you’ve tried to surf the Web with Netscape lately, you’ll agree that progressive enhancement’s time has come.

Web Design: What Really Matters?

October 12, 2008 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve been reading this week about different opinions on Web site design. There is a sea of opinions out there, full of currents pulling in different directions. Some recommend simplicity and clarity as priorities, while others say you’ve got to have all the details to offer a complete experience. Some say you should absolutely use forms to gather information, while others say you should get rid of them, or at least minimize them.


The opinions that make the most sense to me are the ones that emphasize perspective. For example, Indi Young explains in her article, “Look at It Another Way,” the importance of seeing from someone else’s perspective. After all, we are not always our target audience, right? (Think of a twenty-two-year-old designing a site for Miracle-Ear, or a male copywriter waxing eloquent on the benefits of Tampax.) Like looking at an optical illusion, we have to adjust the way we view things to glimpse the way someone will approach and use our site. Aaron Rester, in “Mapping Memory,” writes that when we design a Web site, we are not so much architects as mappers, because our audience already has established ways of doing things. We need to perceive our audience’s habits and perspectives in order to design a site that will fit them like a glove. The alternative is a site that may showcase our company and our way of organizing things but leaves the visitor out in the cold, lost and unappreciated.


Do you see both the young lady and the old woman?

Do you see both the young lady and the old woman?




What do you think about Web design and what’s most important? Of these three sites, which do you think works best?

Marketing to Minorities: Investment or Obligation?

October 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“One size fits all” marketing messages are a thing of the past. Today companies identify a variety of audiences for their marketing communications plans, among them groups defined not just by age and income but also by native language, race, disability status, and other classifiers. Is this an attempt to earn an obligatory “diversity badge” or is it an effort to reach out and include previously ignored audiences? The answer will be different for every company and situation, but regardless of a company’s motives, creating special communications for minority audiences can be good for business.

There are 45 million Latino consumers in the U.S. market, with purchasing power that had already reached $798 billion in 2006, according to a report by Magazine Publishers of America. Coca-Cola is addressing this population segment with a strategy that is not so much language focused as perspective focused. Reinaldo Padua of Coca-Cola stated in an article for Diversity Inc. that “Coca-Cola is a very positive brand, and usually all the messages are talking about the positive side of life. The optimism talks in a very strong way to Hispanics because optimism is the main reason that brought all of us here to the U.S.”

Another market segment that companies should not ignore is people with disabilities. U.S. Census data identifies this as a $1 trillion market, in which 72% percent of people are likely to upgrade to a product’s latest model. IBM’s Web site includes an Accessibility Center that discusses the company’s recruiting policies as well as products that help the visually impaired access online content more easily. Perhaps those are a few of the reasons why IBM has been commended by the American Foundation for the Blind.

Certainly the choice to direct marketing communications toward a minority group must be carefully considered. Approaching any audience merely out of a sense of moral obligation or in a tone that talks down to the audience is unlikely to establish positive business relationships. It’s not an easy road, but several companies are leading the way in doing it well.

Diversity Inc.’s 2008 Top Five Companies for Diversity

  1. Verizon Communications
  2. The Coca-Cola Co.
  3. Bank of America
  4. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  5. Procter & Gamble

And the winner is…

October 2, 2008 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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You! Or it could be. What’s more exciting than the possibility of winning a million dollars, a new car, a new wardrobe, or on a slow news day, even a Chia Pet?

Brands that want to surround themselves with excitement have long relied on sweepstakes, contests, giveaways, and other promotions. Besides attracting consumer attention, benefits can include some media coverage, more store traffic, increased product trial rates, and even new consumer data in the form of names, addresses (both e and snail), and phone numbers provided on entry forms.

Have a look at a few current promotions on the Web:

Feeling like tackling a big renovation project this fall? HGTV has the promo for you! Enter to win $100,000 in the Great Fall Fix-up Sweepstakes.

If you don’t plan to rip out walls but you do want some new floors, try Shaw’s Falling for Floors with the chance to win up to $1000 in flooring. Just coax a leaf to fall into the basket and new carpet, hardwood, etc. is yours!

But maybe house-related promos aren’t your thing. If you’re ready for a sweet treat, you could win the party of your dreams from Hershey Bliss. Even if you don’t win the big chocofest, you might win a little taste. Hershey is giving away 1000 free bags of candy every day!

Continuing the party theme, in a beary fun partnership Teddy Grahams and Build-A-Bear Workshop are offering the “Win a Build-A-Party Celebearation.” Email and date-of-birth are required, but isn’t that a small price to pay for a room full of happy children?

Don’t forget to let me know if you win! Or maybe you’ve already won something this year. What contests and sweepstakes have you entered lately?

Half a Bag of Popcorn

October 1, 2008 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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When is marketing equal parts ad and art? In the short film! (Yes, logo designers, your work can be art, too.) Short films are making strides into many brands’ IMC plans. If you have two minutes or ten, check out one of the selections below.

The Ritz-Carlton tries to shed its old fogey image with this short film, “The Delay.” Notice the dramatic use of lighting and the soundtrack. What do you think? Is it a success?

Guinness presents this quirky film that has made the rounds on YouTube and through emailed links. People tend to love it or hate it. So do you think it’s entertaining or just silly?

Short films can take far more time to develop than their length would imply, but they can be very involving. Dove, Bayer, BMW, and Volvo are just a few of the companies that have added “Lights, Camera, Action” to their marketing phrasebook.

When Consumers Pay for Advertising

September 30, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In my last entry, I posed the question, “would you mind seeing a logo all over your game if it were fun and free?” Many companies wonder about the answer to this question, too, as many “branded” mobile games are provided for free rather than for sale. This means that companies are pouring significant money into game development in hopes that consumers will take advantage of a free download and immerse themselves in the brand environment.

Some brands, though, have achieved the recognition and coolness factor required to charge for the brand experience. Think you would never pay to be advertised to? Let me ask you this: do you own a Harley-Davidson jacket? A LOST T-shirt? Companies do give away promotional items like John Deere caps and bank pens, but some companies have the brand clout to draw consumers in willingly. If you are ever in Atlanta and want to see a branding phenomenon, go to the New World of Coca-Cola Museum. Not only do people stand in line to pay admission – $15 for an adult – to be surrounded by Coca-Cola history and memorabilia for a couple of hours. Granted, there is the sample room, where you can enjoy limitless samples of Coke beverages from all over the world, including some unusual selections like mango fizz. What I really want you to notice, however, is the gift shop behavior. People pore over selections of Coke branded playing cards, picnic sets, clocks, and especially T-shirts, then shell out the money to take the brand home with them and display it for friends and family to see.

Other companies have succeeded in this brand fascination, too, such as Aflac, which in response to requests began selling stuffed ducks that quacked “Aflac” on its Web site. The proceeds – over $75,000 – went to a Children’s Cancer Center, while consumers all over North America played with plush brand quackers.

So how does a brand get to be so beloved? Are there any brands that could bring you to part with your money for more than just the product or service? Would you pay for an Aflac ringtone? Would you buy a Volkswagen Beetle T-shirt? Would you go pay admission to a Purina Pet Park? I’m eager to hear your opinions!

Games on the Go

September 26, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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When was the last time you heard a traditional telephone ring?


Today phones announce incoming calls with hit songs, movie sound clips, barking dogs, and college fight songs. Most people are familiar with downloadable ringtones and wallpapers for cell phones, but have you tried any mobile games?


Since my last entry talked about advergaming, I thought I’d explore games on mobile devices this time. Do you have games on your cell phone or mp3 player? I tried a simple typing game and the ever-popular Bejeweled on my trusty little phone soon after I got it, but have just discovered the many options out there – free and paid.


Many companies have created games and made them available for free download to mobile devices. Coca-Cola offers a soccer game, for example, and Audi has the A4 Driving Challenge. Branded games are, for the most part, free. Would you mind seeing a logo all over your game if it were fun and free? Or would you rather pony up a few bucks and buy a “pure” game for your mobile device?  

When is Playtime not just Playtime?

September 21, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Do you work the New York Times crossword online? Do you visit GoldToken for a game of backgammon or chess? Or maybe you are more the simulation game type and enjoy creating families and neighborhoods with TheSims2 or speeding along mountain lanes in Roadsters. And then there’s always sports – Madden NFL anyone?

If you play games online, have you noticed any banner ads on the host site? Maybe you remember there is one, but you don’t remember what it is for. A dancing figure and something about financing, maybe. What about in your games? Some games have buyable add-ons, such as The Sims Ikea stuff pack featuring a line of furniture from the Scandinavian brand to furnish your little simulated homes. Other games may have you driving past billboards for Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, while still others are even more up-front about it – maybe you’ve played Hot Wheels Turbo Racing?


As expensive as some games are, free games can be quite attractive, and there are a lot of them out there. They usually either support themselves with ads or serve as ads in and of themselves. Do we care? I will admit to being annoyed by the flashing “you may be a winner” banners, but I can tolerate a little bit of brand presence in a good game. It has to make sense, though.


The big question is what happens when it comes to children. According to a 2003 Department of Education study, 64% of children ages 5 to 14 who access the Internet do so to play games. They might be playing games with Quicky on the Nestle Quik site, or they might Bike with Barbie. Free entertainment for the kids – what could be wrong with that, right? But what about the extended brand exposure and the emphasis on consumption? Is it a bad thing that Junior spends half an hour helping a cartoon bunny guzzle chocolate milk and save a chocolate waterfall? Do we want our little girls to be exposed to extended Barbie messages, and will it lead to whining in the toy aisle or even eye damage from all that pink? (Really, you should check out that site. But wear sunglasses.)


As technology and media creativity grow by leaps and bounds, there are more and more questions. When it comes to advergaming, we have to make sure everybody plays by the unwritten ethical rules, too.

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