Becoming Professional: A Blog

Posts Tagged ‘advertising

I’ve touched on this in the past, but I do love a good outdoor ad, particularly the ads in the London Tube. Okay, some of them aren’t so hot, but occasionally I find one that I think has done a good job. And most recently, it’s this one.

Two Economist Posters Hung Side by Side in a London Tube

When I highlighted the “Beware of Pick-Packets” McDonald’s ad, I focused on how important it is for an ad to be aware of its surroundings and use them. In the McDonald’s case this meant referring to a common reference that viewers would know. The Economist is also referring to outside events that make it relevant to viewers, but in a less localized fashion. Plus it isn’t funny.

But that isn’t my only criteria for a good Tube ad. The Economist is using the ads to their full capacity in a number of ways. First off, it’s not a picture. These ads use the fact that people standing on Tube platforms are all bored. But this isn’t a novel approach to Tube ads. Practically all of them do this. No, what I like is that these ads are each two ads side by side. This probably cost quite a pretty penny but it is a very effective use of space.

The Economist's Ad Showcase Anti-China

When I first saw the ads, I only saw one of them. I simply hadn’t noticed the sister ad hung up right next to it. I was shocked. Yes, there are people with those political views, but do you ever see them shouting about their ideas in a Tube ad? Not really (except during election time, maybe).

The Economist Ad Showcase Pro-ChinaThen I saw the other one. Just as partisan but in an opposite color scheme. I got the message loud and clear: the Economist tells both sides of the story. And that makes it a good ad. What makes it better is that when these ads first appeared (or I first noticed them), the Economist had folk handing out free copies of the magazine at Tube entrances.Demon Panda eyes

But I do have to wonder about the demon panda.



mcdonald's ad

by PINEAPPLE XVI on Flickr

I love outdoor advertising. I know I might just be the only one in London who does, considering how often I hear people complain about Tube ads, but I do. Maybe because I am a marketer.

I am a bit picky about the ads I like, though. I have a main requirement for all advertising I see, outdoors, print, digital, or otherwise. It must fit in the context of the situation. If I am reading a magazine, then a great ad would do more than just recognize my demographic and general interests. It would play with the medium. And if I am in a London Tube, it should understand that context, too.

That’s why I love this ad.

McDonald's ad Beware of pickpackets

It was shown in my local Tube station for about a month, and each day it made me smile, and maybe reminded me not to wave my smartphone around. I highly doubt that the creators of this ad were trying to make a public service announcement. Rather, I think that they had gotten tired of the ubiquitous “What your valuables” notices that are scattered around all the London Tube stations. They decided to have some fun. And because they weren’t the only ones who were tired of those notices, the audience got a smile, maybe even a chuckle, out of the ad, too.

I am not the only one who liked them, either. Here are some quotes I found with a simple search for “Beware of Pickpackets.”

“On the billboard side of things, the latest McDonalds adverts are really great and generate a real ‘smile in the mind’.” – Payne by Name

Of course, there’s another insight that went into this ad: that everyone likes to steel fries. That’s the part that makes us want to hit the nearest McDonald’s come lunch or dinner.

econsultancy logo

by renaissancechambara on Flickr

This past week I went to the Econsultancy Future of Digital Marketing event. The speakers spoke on everything from online video to publishing to community management. We had around 15 individual speakers taking us through the now, next year, and then “beyond.” Talks ranged from about an hour long to 7 minutes.

But there were some highlights and a general pattern emerging from the talks. First the highlights.

Top 3 Best Speakers

Before I name names, let me clarify, there was a lot of great stuff presented during the event. For the sake of space, I’m just picking three, in order of appearance.

Alex Gisbert

Alex Gisbert via Econsultancy

Alex Gisbert from Expedia: Alex spoke on e-commerce, one of the most pressing topics today. I enjoyed his talk for two reasons.

  1. Alex did not talk about website design, he talked about widgets. He was talking about the open API but in a way that you didn’t have to speak techese to understand.
  2. Like many speakers, he spoke about his company, showing off. Unlike many speakers, when he showed off, it was useful for us as the audience and not just good publicity for Expedia. He made his company into a useful case study.

Alex’s message was also simple. He basically told us that if we needed to sell something, we shouldn’t care where it is sold. Expedia has Expedia Everywhere, where they allow third parties to embed their open API into many other websites so that users can make their travel plans wherever they are on the web. Apparently, Expedia is already getting most of their traffic from embedded widgets on other websites. Now they just have to do more.

David Wieneke

David Wieneke via Econsultancy

Dave Wieneke @usefularts: Dave is an entertaining speaker, which did his ideas justice. His message, again, was rather simple: the internet, and content, is everywhere, so we should not be restricted by platform. Examples he used included a Mercedes iPad app that allows salesmen to close the deal right inside the vehicle, even signing. He also pointed out that 22% of all fixed line traffic during prime time goes to NetFlix in the US. Not too shabby.

Part of this movement away from fixed-platform utility is the rise of the mobile. Dave pointed out that Pandora, the American Spotify, receives 2/3 of its sign-ups directly over mobile. In France, you can even shop and pay by smartphone in a Group Casino grocery store.

Internet is everywhere, so we can now expand past the original platforms for our services. The usual example is for publishers, but I enjoyed Dave’s service-oriented approach.

Emma Jenkins

Emma Jenkins via Econsultancy

Emma Jenkins @emmajenkins: The previous talks I’ve highlighted were rather lengthy, but Emma’s was only 7 minutes. She tackled virtual goods, a rather complex and doubted area even within digital marketing, in those 7 minutes. That takes talent and guts!

She organized her talk in a very simple and classic method – she spelt the word “Virtual” with the first letter of each of her points. But they were good points. So good, I’m actually just going to list them.

Value: Though we may not understand it, people plop down real money for virtual goods.

Investment: People are collecting these items, and prices are rising. They are investment pieces!

Real: So what if they are pixels? They are still rather real to those who buy them.

Two point one billion: the estimated amount to be spent on virtual goods next year.

Universal: No one demographic is buying them. It’s everyone.

Affordable: They are priced so everyone can get in on the action.

Legitimate: And all of this makes it a legitimate business space.

I enjoyed Emma’s speech. It kept me engaged, partly because of her simple format. But it also supports the idea. I can understand the doubters. Though I was familiar with the subject before Emma’s talk and knew that it is a lucrative market, I still felt that it’s a bit weird to spend money on pixels of World of Warcraft gold. And I played World of Warcraft. But after hearing Emma’s explanation on why my personal preferences don’t matter, I’m sold. I still doubt I’ll buy a virtual tractor, but I won’t laugh at those who do.

The Big Theme of the Day…

mobile sculpture

by ahisgett on Flickr

…was mobile, or at least not being married to a platform. You might have guessed this from my first two highlighted speakers, but it was heavily prevalent in many other talks, some of which were entirely about the future of mobile. We even had a talk on augmented reality by King Yiu Chu of Layar.

More than just mobile, however, the idea was that your service, whatever it is, be accessible regardless of the platform. For instance, another speak, Andy Hobspawn, spoke on the Internet of Things. This isn’t really about mobile so much as everything being connected. Even online video was linked to mobile with the potential to view it everywhere, on multiple devices.

And that’s what I took away from the event. That even if you have a website, make sure that your website is viewable on non-PC devices and perhaps via other website, and provides a service in those places. It’s a simple idea, but after living in a website-world for a while, it’s a rather big one.

It’s a tough question. As you might have read in the prequel to this post, there are potentially three digital publishing pricing models. Here’s a brief list:

  • Make it cheap or free so that word gets around easier and hopefully encourages purchase of the more expensive versions of the same content. This hits lower price points, but may cannibalize sales.
  • Charge subscriptions to view content, like the Financial Times does. Hopefully the publisher’s brand will be so well regarded the consumers will think it is worth paying for and not opt for the free version put out by competitors.
  • Publish the content as though it were software. Consumers can purchase it, but there will be upgrades and such they will have to purchase as well. This will cover the large initial investment in digital and the subsequent smaller investments to keep the operation running.

But which one works?

Well, Not Paying and Not Ads

The pay wall runs up against the availability of free substitute content. This model requires a strong brand, and those are expensive to grow. Because of this, pay walls can only really work for those companies that already have strong brands. Anything less and this path is unavailable.

software manuel

by mrbill on Flickr

To treat content like a piece of software makes a certain amount of sense, if it is delivered through an app, but if it is merely available online, then the pay wall’s problem still exists. How can a company, particularly if it is not immense and does not have wide brand recognition, grow? Or will we be faced with a monopoly of large publishers as all the smaller ones die out?

Digital advertising can’t cover the bills like it used to, so this takes out many of the free content business models. As John Squires, the former EVP of Time Inc, puts it, digital advertising is worth less than the analog version because it gets around to fewer people. This is odd, considering how people pass along information via social media, but Squires writes that a paper magazine is read by 7 people but a digital version is read by only 1.5 people per copy.

The Answer Is an Infomercial?

Gilt Taste LogoI think publishing will take a different route. Publishers will make their money through the communities that surround their content. They can charge for people to be a part of this community or merely sell merchandise to these individuals. That’s what the new magazine Gilt Taste is doing. The cooking magazine has no ads. Instead it offers consumers the opportunity to buy the products it discusses in the content. This is actually what Cory Doctorow is doing by allowing his books to be passed freely all over the Internet. The content becomes an advertisement for something else. In Doctorow’s case it is the hardcover versions of the books. In Gilt Taste’s case, it is the cooking appliances.

I know what you’re thinking: “This isn’t pricing content! It’s eCommerce! An infomercial!” And you’d be right. That’s exactly what it is, a pretty infomercial. What’s wrong with that? Yes, perhaps the newspapers will have some difficulty with this, after all what can they sell you in an article about Obama? But they could offer you’re a chance to donate to the political parties, which in turn support the coverage.

In either event, I think free content is the way to go. Money should come from elsewhere. Feel free to disagree with me. Many do. You can do it in the comments or even Tweeting at me.

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.

In the past few months, I had the good fortune to attend the first Google Firestarters event, where I heard and participated in a fascinating discussion of what agile business practices can do for both agencies and clients, and the IPA Club 44 Event at Microsoft, where I got to hear industry insiders talk about the advertising opportunities found in games. Why did I attend these events? Lord knows, I was generally exhausted, had deadlines to meet for school and work, and really only wanted to snuggle down with a good book. But they were worth it. After each of these events I felt re-energized, ready to tackle larger, harder problems, and better equipped to do so. I got myself to get over my laziness by just thinking of how I’d feel afterwards. It’s like going to the gym. After work, it’s the last thing I want to do, but I tell myself how great I’ll feel afterwards and go.

So, to help you motivate yourself to go to that next event, I am finally doing some short event summaries. This one is for the Google Firestarters event. Expect the IPA Club 44 Event in the near future.

Google Firestarters – Agile and Innovative

Harry Met Sally Movie PosterThis event was all about being agile and making things happen. Mark Earls was the first keynote speaker. He pointed out that people are herd animals. Best example: After the When Harry Met Sally’s famous restaurant orgasm scene, the little older woman says “I’ll have what she’s having.” Yeah, we flock together. And not only with our conscious choices. Mark also brought up an obesity example. Did you know obesity is contagious? Apparently, you are 60% more likely to be really large if a close friend is. Too bad it doesn’t work in reverse! However, Mark’s biggest point was that if an action isn’t visible, the herd mentality and contagiousness of state won’t come into play. Humans need to see it to copy it.

Stuart Eccles was the second speaker. He focused on start ups and how they, not the big companies, are changing our world and how we work in it. Unfortunately, there is no direct comparison between start ups and larger companies. But that doesn’t mean larger companies can’t learn from how start ups do it. Start ups Make to Learn to Test to Make, etc.focus on doing the minimum to achieve a goal, the customer, and being agile through iterations. The basic agile cycle larger companies can use is: Make → Learn → Test → Repeat. The trick is to do this process quickly, testing at every possible opportunity, and to start the entire cycle off at Make, not Learn, as unintuitive as that sounds. However, Stuart warned us not to confuse iteration with incrementalism. With iteration, you know what the beginning looks like, probably have a vague idea of where you want it to go, but you have no idea what the end will actually look like. You simply haven’t gotten there yet. With incrementalism, you know what the end will look like, you’re just doing it piecemeal. Hist final warning was that iteration won’t tell you what the best idea is, but it will help you to hone the idea you have.

question mark made of puzzle pieces

After the speakers we broke off into a short unconference. I spent the entire time in Ramzi Yacob‘s group discussing how agencies can encourage clients to work in more iterative ways. We tossed around tons of ideas, and it is really an interesting question to puzzle. In fact, more interesting than our solutions are the various problems: if clients give agencies only 10% of the actual budget to experiment with, we may have convinced them to experiment, but can we actually show impressive results with a small budget? Also, innovation usually fails. How do we keep client trust when this is just the way it is and yet we’re supposed to be the experts? How can we get around short-term sales appearing more important than long-term innovation?  How can a company motivate its employees throughout the change (or employees within the agency, for that matter)? The solutions suggested were often quite good and enlightening, such as approaching heritage brands with agile first because they generally recognize the need to stay up-to-date and relevant, or using case studies from different sectors to illustrate the possible gains. I personally like the idea of billing by results. But still, the problems agencies face tends to be more enlightening since the solutions wont be discovered in a discussion. They’ll be discovered through doing. Yet the problems we face can be discovered by sharing experience and then defining them together.

This event was truly fascinating and really worth attending. I hope to attend future Google Firestarters events, too, and report on them. You can find Neil Perkin, the organizer’s, summary of the event here. He goes into more detail about all the other unconference discussions and has some interesting points of his own about the event.

So In the Future…

Attend what events you can. I hope that this has inspired you to go to the next cool networking or presentation event you hear about. You can really walk away with some cool nuggets. If you know of an event that will happen, write about it in the comments. If you are, rather, looking for an event, write about that, too. We might be able to help each other out.

Image of three coffee mugs that playfully make a sheep

by Little Hippo on Flickr

Many people have enjoyed the habit of waking up in the morning, grabbing the morning paper, settling down with coffee and cereal, and learning what happened to the world since the day before. I used to watch my mother go through this ritual daily. I never did.

The question isn’t how do we get young people to read newspapers. The question is – is it even possible to save the traditional newspaper or magazine?

Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. Traditional print media, according to Clay Shirky in his article Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, relied on the fact that printing presses are expensive, thus limiting competition and creating positive returns to scale. The press is no longer expensive. It’s pretty dang cheap. It’s the Internet. As I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog, I’m using free Internet (well, included in my rent), and the free version of WordPress. Competition has just boomed, but the costs for traditional printing remain the same.

Beyond simple infrastructure, the institutional organization used by traditional print media is being challenged by a more fluid and agile structure – one without managers. As Shirky described in his book Here Comes Everybody, businesses and organizations pay a price to be so organized. So they can’t cover everything, like special interest pieces or all the little town hall meetings that might, though probably not, blow up into a big story. Considering the cost of covering such stories, the returns simply aren’t there. However, in this new digitized world there are free or cheap tools that allow groups to organize themselves, such as wikis or simply shared blogs and e-mail, without having a concentrated managerial layer. When the structural framework is digitized to this degree, the transaction costs are lower, allowing these new publishers to tackle more niche subjects – and reap the benefits traditional publishers can’t touch.

The way news is presented when it is digital is not analogous to a newspaper, either. Digital news is often accessed through news aggregators, who categorize based on subjects or categories. News is no longer bundled with a bunch of different topics, like finance and movies, sold to the same consumer, who may only want one. Putting all types of stories in a single paper makes sense when you have to balance printing costs. But it makes no sense when data is digital. People just switch to a source perceived as better for that type of news or pull it straight off of news aggregators.

Image of an iPad open to a blog post

by Yutaka Tsutano on Flickr

Finally, people approach digital content differently from printed content. They want it cheaper. Susan Currie Sivek pointed out that a study by the Reynolds Journalism Institute found that though users thought that reading magazine apps on their iPads was about the same as reading the traditional print versions or going to their computers, they would be more likely to purchase these apps if the prices were lower than the print version prices. People simply think digital material should be cheaper. The news institutions have to meet these price points or deal with more piracy.

The traditional printing industry simply can’t survive in a world where data is digital, both the institutional and the articles. The digital world simply has very little resemblance to the traditional marketplace they were created to serve. This is not to say the institutions can’t adapt to this new world, but they won’t look the same as they do now.

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.

Image of a man in a mask taking a photo over a wall

Image by Anonymous9000 on Flickr. Click to see original location.

I read this post by Chris Zaharias, SVP of Sales at Dapper, an online advertising technology company. In it, he claims that the problem with ad-targeting is not the privacy intrusions, but rather it’s the excessive frequency of ads and poor targeting. Chris has a point, but privacy is still the issue, just not in the way most people think. Because of that, the solutions being suggested, both self-regulation and legislated regulation, aren’t solving the true privacy issue: advertiser stalking.

See, if a stalker just follows you around, you feel like your privacy has been invaded. He might never invade your home. He might even refrain from taking photos. But if the man is following you everywhere you go, yes, he is invading your privacy. You have the right to go places without someone intruding on your day. What’s the difference between being stalked by a person in real life from being stalked by an advertisement in the digital world?

Not much. Of course, the company can know about the websites you visit without showing you an ad. That’s what cookies do, after all, let the company know upon your arrival to the website that you’ve viewed such and such content already. They can even tell if you put something in your Amazon basket but didn’t buy. This could be viewed as an invasion of privacy. Except that you can often tell where a person has been in the real world by knowing a little bit about a person and extrapolating. That’s what demographic research does. It takes your characteristics and figures out the probabilities of you behaving in certain ways. True, with cookies, there is no probability. They know how you behave.

Still, considering the benefits of cookies (the added personalization, deals, and greater relevance they can make available for advertisers and consumers), I think it’s okay to let a company know what websites I’ve visited. As long as they don’t use this information to stalk me, that is. Again, I’m drawing a distinction between having information and using it to be creepy.

I seem to be one of the few people, who are making this distinction. The two proposed solutions to the “online advertising privacy issue” certainly don’t seem to be addressing it.

The FTC has provided a glimpse at what might become the legislated solution. They released a privacy report in which they suggested a universal “Do not track” option for consumers, according to this NPR article. Sounds like a solution to my problem, right? If you can’t track me, you can’t stalk me. This solution has been positioned as the “Do not call” list for the digital world, taking a person out of the personalization ecosystem of the web entirely. Of course, when you’re not tracked, you loose all the benefits of a personalized web. Considering that personalization seems to be where the web is going, this might not even be practical for consumers, regardless of their privacy concerns. As Braden Cox said in his recent blog post Do Not Track – A Single “Nuclear” Response for a Diversity of Choices,  what we really want is something in the middle of yes or no that “would represent an educated setting where consumers understand the tradeoffs of interest-based advertising – in return for tracking your preferences and using them to target ads to you, you get free content/services.” And if you don’t opt-out? They can follow you all over the web with impunity.

the icon that consumers see when the ad uses behavioral targeting

Image from the Self-Regulation Program. Click to view original location.

The other approach, which Braden suggests provides a middle ground solution, is self-regulation. The Self-Regulatory Program for Online Advertising is a group of large advertisers who have agreed to be open and transparent with how they use consumer data, provide an easy opt-out mechanism, and display the icon to the left in ads that lets consumers know when the advertisers are using cookie data. While it would be lovely to have more information, there are drawbacks. One is that this is a voluntary program, and even if you opt out from receiving targeted ads from all of the member advertisers, there are still plenty of advertisers who are not members. I think this approach is too hard for the consumer to keep track of because just like no one reads the fine print, no one will go to the Self-Regulatory Program’s website and go through the list of all their advertisers in order to weed out the ones they don’t trust.

And oh, it doesn’t prevent stalking.

So, I’d rather let the cookies work the way they work now, but with the advertiser’s respecting my space – though it would be nice to know when they are using my data and how. I can’t deny that. Any one in real life can observe me for a day and pretty accurately tell my routine and my habits. My grocery store probably knows more about me than an online advertiser, much less my credit card company! But online advertisers stalk us and our credit card companies don’t (unless you owe them money, and that’s another story).  If advertisers just stopped stalking, we wouldn’t have a problem because our privacy would not have been violated.

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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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