JUICY NEW TECHNOLOGY
The Universal Product Code (UPC) made its first commercial appearance on a 10-Pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum sold in Marsh's Supermarket in Troy, Ohio on June 26, 1974 for 67 cents. Much has changed.
The ubiquitous bar code is slowly evolving to provide much more than the simple management and tracking of inventory. Today, barcodes track rental cars, air traveler luggage, mail, library books and more. It has processed billions upon billions of items through the checkout counter and sped up the processing of returns.
As bar codes became popular and their convenience universally recognized, the market began to call for codes capable of storing more information.
Efforts to increase the amount of information stored by bar codes, however, caused problems. Enlarging the bar code area complicated reading operations, and increased printing costs.
As a result, a more sophisticated two-dimensional density matrix code (QR CODE), storing information in both vertical and horizontal directions, was developed by Denso Corp. to pack over 300 times the numeric data stored in conventional (UPC) barcodes…. in a minimal amount of space.
QR Codes will go far to break down barriers to mobile e-commerce as scanners are built into state-of-the-art mobile phone and communication devices. Beyond product labeling, these codes can be created to capture data “on the go” on ads, business cards, address books, maps and comparison price shopping. Amazon.com is experimenting with QR codes in Japan, generating affiliate mobile sales through scanner enabled mobile phones.
Applications are as boundless as a marketer’s imagination.
UPC CODE vs. QR CODE
CHALK ONE UP TO CREATIVITY
Sidewalk art has been around for centuries and is, perhaps, the oldest form of “citizen art” made available to the masses.
Fast forward to the 21st century and we find the art form has been raised to new heights . . . . waiting to be exploited by smart, forward thinking marketers willing to commit the time and energy experiment with the medium. If nothing else, the gallery that follows exemplifies forward thinking crying out for the extension of these creative values on a national scale.
But can this art form be scaled to reach a broad national base? Absolutely! Cutting edge vinyl printing technologies make it both possible and economically feasible.
With compliments and kudos to Julian Beever, creator of these visuals, enjoy the gallery. Julian can be reached by visiting his website …. http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/
The expected lift in eCommerce spending this year to a conservative $180 Billion will top last year’s efforts by a margin of 17% plus. This will undoubtedly place a great deal of pressure on those days, considered to be the best cyber-shopping days, that follow the Thanksgiving weekend.
When compared to a projected ad spend of $15.7 Billion this year, an ad/sales ratio of 8.7 falls a bit short of overall averages for Food (11.9%), Liquor (10.4%), Movies (13.7%) or Health Services (18.7%). This bodes well for the Internet, expected to continue its upward spiral through this decade.
In the coming weeks, Monday will be the new “Black Friday” as online shopping behavior shifts away from tradition. Monday sales have been indexing at 111 and 119 in the weeks following Black Friday. Weekday and workweek clicks remain highest. ComScore notes, however, that only 9% of online spending occurs during the lunch hour.
Marketers keen to follow trends will manage copy and keyword bid prices to reflect both seasonal and these new intra-week peaks. Beyond bid-management, optimization of shopping comparison site placements should also appear on their radar screens along with personalized e-mail campaigns.
TAKE TWO AND SEE ME IN 2009
It has been three years since the tablet PC made its heralded debut and racked up sales of $1.4 billion the first year. Although he introduction failed to spark the expected interest, last July sales were projected to reach $5.4 billion in 2009.
Fast forward to November and the same predictors now boldly estimate the market for 2009 to be a whooping $15 billion …. almost a threefold increase in a few months!
The science (or art) of projecting tablet sales is just about as accurate as predicting the weather.
Realistically, there are several factors that affect the outcome of any projections for the tablet market.
Market Presence – how many people have you seen pulling out a tablet in a Starbucks lately? The low market penetration is not helping post-early adapters jump in. Out of sight, Out of mind.
Market Penetration - driven by consumer need has not yet rooted. Applications for the consumer market are not obvious. OEMs must do a better job of providing a ‘raison de tare” to incent purchase.
Price – An obvious barrier which will, over time, correct itself. At a price point of $2000 plus, these machines are competing with handheld PCs.
Bulk – who needs to carry around an extra three plus pounds when a pocket PC can do almost as much with much less bulk. Inroads have been made recently by Lenovo, having just announced a tablet PC with over 7 hours of battery life and a hard drive that can expand to 120 GB, and as much as 4 GB of RAM. Dubbed the X60, this machine also boasts the support of nearly all forms of wireless connections.
B to B – Providing the greatest thrust for sales, vertical markets that include Healthcare, Real Estate and Insurance are fueling the projected threefold jump by 2009.
Will the PC tablet market hit $15 billion in 2009? With the right wind behind its sales, it might even hit $18 billion in a perfect storm scenario.
SHADOW WORLDS, SHADOW CUSTOMERS
A cultural phenomenon is surfacing that may change how and where we live with the click of a mouse.
Welcome to virtual worlds. We glimpsed a primitive version of these worlds in the late 90’s with the release of video games where addicted gamers spent countless hours, and in some cases days, chasing imaginary characters in two-dimensional worlds.
We can trace the first arcade video games (Computer Space and Pong) back to 1971. In 1976 Death Race 2000 was released as the first violent video game, where points were earned by running over stick figures. Pac-Man hit the market in 1980 as the most popular game at the time, selling 300,000 units.
Graphics were, however, still relatively unstable until the turn of the century as Microsoft, Sony, Panasonic, Nintendo and other major players entered the gaming arena.
Today, we connect, and in some cases disconnect, to join virtual 3-D worlds via the internet. There are dozens of gateways, providing a menu of worlds that number in the thousands.
By far, the most advance of these worlds is Second Life (www.secondlife.com). As you step into Second Life your options are limitless. You can create your character (avatar) in your own image. You can purchase land, build a home, visit and interact with other avatars, open a business and reap the benefits in real dollars (where Linden dollars, the virtual currency, can be converted to U.S. currency).
There are over 1.2 million residents in Second Life. Marketers are awakening to the phenomenon by securing their positions in this virtual world ….. Starwood Hotels, Adidas and Toyota are just a few of the pioneering marketers pursuing Second Life residents....or shadow customers.
In-game ad spending will surge past $1 billion in 2010. Advertisers eager to secure a foothold in these new worlds should consider exploration in their marketing strategies.
They are ubiquitous. There are over 210 million cell phones in use in the United States, accounting for a 70% penetration rate. The US statistics pale, however, in the face of a worldwide deployment of 2.3 billion phones. Hong Kong tops the penetration list with 129% …. more phones than there are people. Our planet is only just beginning to discover the implications for a user-created, participatory medium that is globally connected.
As the US catches up with its Asian and European counterparts, we will begin to see a shift in the way we access data. Behavior patterns will emerge, displacing the PC for information needs. Consider that there are 575 million household PCs globally and 2.3 billion cell phones. Do the math! Which platform holds the brightest promise for marketers?
Marketers will, sooner than later, face the need to confront their communication options as internet-enabled technologies migrate to the cell phone. Today, consumers are loath to accept any form of commercial interaction unless it is to their distinct advantage. That will change as behavior changes.
Establishing a mobile marketing strategy is mission critical. Consider the following:
-Mobile phones are always on and within arms reach of the user while PCs need to be accessed.
-Over 60% of cell phone users take their phones to bed with them
-PCs are often shared (especially in an educational environment). Mobile phones are personal.
-Payment mechanisms are already built into mobile phone technology.
-Outside the US, mobile phones have outstripped the PC for Internet access.
There are hurdles. Standards need to be addressed. The fragmentation of handsets is an industry-wide concern as developers resist working with a host of wireless implementations. Efficiencies of scale, however, will soon wipe away competing platforms, giving way to one global interface standard, eventually with translation capabilities.
Opportunity rings. Are you picking up?
Google’s acquisition of YouTube for the princely sum of $1.65 billion has set in motion a new thrust in M&A activity by major media companies in an effort to acquire video distribution channels.
Marketer’s and net publishers should step lightly until the picture clears for emerging standards and formats. A quick scan of this arena reveals a host of service offerings which include the following start-ups as most prominent today – not your cookie-cutter YouTube:
Each performs search and distribution using proprietary technology. This includes Google’s YouTube which is text driven and not considered state-of-the-art for comprehensive video search. Blinkx and TV Eyes, as examples, serve up search results based on audio/video keys.
A hybrid approach, combining text, video and audio, cleansed for duplication, would appear to offer a well rounded solution.
It is obvious, from market feedback, that quality and broadband resources have yet to match TV quality. A quick check of the services mentioned here reveals the following pros and cons ….
Blinkx, TV Eyes and Bittorrent searches returned spotty (if any) results when queried for a Geico commercial. Blinkx served up “Ghetto Insurance” while results for the others were nil. Bittorrent, which utilizes peer-to-peer technology for fast and broader search netted zero returns, cluttered with annoying sponsored links. Video Egg is still searching for a good user experience.
Veoh, still in beta, did find a Geico commercial, but suffered in video quality. In all instances, the depth of video libraries did not come close to YouTube.
Both Brightcove and the Venice Project, although not search engines, are perhaps the most promising in video delivery. Brightcove provides a high quality, TV-Like experience but did suffer a bit synchronizing video to audio, apparent in Jeremy Allaire’s corporate pitch on his site.
On the horizon, Niklas Zennstromm and Janus Friis, of Kazaa and Skype fame, are launching their Venice Project for P2P video distribution, promising a roll-up of quality rivaling that of TV. They are in negotiations with major producers and will likely make an announcement this Fall.
For now, tube cookies are still baking.
"ALRIGHT MR. DEMILLE, I’M READY FOR MY CLOSEUP "
Corporate America is taking to broadcasts in a big way. Only today, the broadcasts are in the form of Podcasts.
Downloadable, portable and easy to create, companies the likes of General Motors and IBM are penning podcast strategies for both internal and external communication needs.
Internally they are used for information delivery, training and educational aids. Externally they create a viral buzz about a product or service. They are quick to produce and are timely. Attached to a feedback blog, they can communicate with global teams without confining time zone boundaries.
Increasingly, these companies are building their own well-equipped sound studios for as little as $10,000 with quality output.
By 2010, estimates put the number of Americans playing podcasts at a conservative 57 million, over 20% of the adult US population.
Corporate America must be mindful that podcasts and blogs need to allow room for both restrained content control and freedom of expression without turning the user “off” to a product or service. The corporate voice is not as trusted as the individual voice in this environment.
A.C. Nielsen Killer App
For the longest time, TIVO has been bleeding red ink as it struggles to maintain its lead as the only branded DVR on the market. Its current share of the DVR market hovers in the 31% range, with approximately 4.4 million subscribers. The fate of the company has been in question for some time as cable operators distribute their own units that do just about everything TIVO can do.
TIVO’s advantage is not in the hardware. It’s in the software and the reporting capabilities they have quietly mastered and just released under a new research division. TIVO can provide, for its subscriber universe, second by second ratings for both programming and commercials. This can eventually turn into a huge goldmine for TIVO as it fills a long-standing demand by marketers to substantiate the difference between commercial and program ratings …. a huge and costly problem for A.C. Nielsen, with no practical solution given their approach to data collection.
TIVO can quickly pull together consumer panels that replicate the US population and provide better ratings projections. A blend of current subscribers and those that are typically under-sampled by Nielsen can be had by giving away subscriptions to consumers that will correct TIVOs sample base. After all, who would turn down a free TIVO subscription?
This is not brain surgery. The ability to draw several panels from an existing base of 4.4 million has the potential to unseat A.C. Nielsen overnight.
NO NEWS IS BAD NEWS
The network and cable news services feed on the visuals that attract and keep viewers glued to many a TV screen. That the majors are losing ground to the internet as a news source is no surprise. Add to that equation the possibility of a day or week without major news events on a global scale and you’ll have the networks scampering to rehash yesterday’s news.
What to do?
Hire Rioters-R-Us! Create chaos. Pinpoint a religious cause and put the PR machine to work!
A lighthearted view of this “tactic” can be found in George Simpson’s column today on Mediapost’s Media Daily. His satire plays well …. if it is satire indeed (?).
Follow this link to his commentary …. it's a riot.
Plagiarism is considered a high form of flattery.
A parody of the Geico commercial with Little Richard hit the YouTube site just about 5 days ago. It has already had upward of 11,000 views and going strong.
The parody replaces the actor opposite Richard with President Bush, in a take-off even the conservative FOX network aired.
Congratulations to The Martin Agency for a creative mix that raised the bar for Geico one again. Congratulations to Geico for recognizing the value inherent in a well executed, humorous campaign.
What follows is the original thirty-second spot and its parody, just below it.
“ZERO” TO “SIXTY” IN ONE SECOND !
As Nielsen braces to report ratings for commercial minutes as the new currency for unit pricing, it is also grappling with the definition of a commercial. The issue attempts to define the difference between a national commercial and a direct response (DR) commercial.
Wake up! There is no difference. A commercial is a commercial is a commercial. The message should play no part in the definition of what it is.
My guess is that DR or “call to action” commercials perform better than your standard fare. Revealing higher ratings for these units will either cause the networks to increase pricing for Direct Response ads or jolt creative directors to introduce response mechanisms into more standard fare.
Direct Response folks always know how well their ads work --- minutes after they air. National ratings aside, DR call centers redirect response rates to buyers who make program changes to accommodate poor performance. In the internet world it’s called “Optimization”.
It is ultimately unlikely that his shift in charting how almost $60 billion will be spent will have any impact in the real world. What Nielsen’s commercial minute ratings will NOT tell you is who is paying attention. That kind of feedback is and has been handily managed for years by Direct Response Rates.
The bottom line is sales ….. not ratings.
HORROR OR HYPOCRISY ?
The controversy swirling around CBS’s Survivor series move to pit different races against each other has provided a feeding frenzy for the media and has major corporate sponsors pulling out of the series.
I may be missing a point here but aren’t the Olympics, pitting one nation against another, country against country, tantamount to the same thing? Isn’t China against the United States, in the truest sense, a race competition? Israel against Saudi Arabia? Mexico against India?
For centuries, wars have been fought based upon cultural and racial differences, fueled by greed. The Olympics provided a safe playground for all nations to show their colors and standing in friendly world competitions.
We watch these competitions day in and day out, disguised as wrestling matches, movies, sports competitions and, yes, news.
Isn’t CBS merely providing yet another friendly “playground” as an outlet for competitive games? Let’s not make more of this than has existed since the first geographic boundaries were drawn.
CBS has its agenda for the series – ratings. How it goes about managing the selection of participants and competitions will be a challenge in and of itself. But, the network is also providing an opportunity, for those who believe in their cultural heritage, to shine.
Those who profess horror at the thought of what they accept wrapped in a different package need to sit and think of the hypocrisy of it all.
PING! – A RIVER IN THAILAND?
A relatively new startup out of San Jose just released a Beta version of its instant voicemail service delivered to any of your eMail contact lists. The company, PINGER (not the river in Thailand), is exclusively funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
Considered to be an “early adapter” I tapped into the site, registered and was up and running with several hundred contacts in just three minutes. The first voicemail was placed to my own eMail account at Gmail from my cellphone. The interface proved simple and easy to navigate. The pick-up on the other end was just as smooth with no prompting required by the recipient. Voice quality was surprisingly good.
Cost for the service, at least for now, is free. I suspect support in the form of text advertising will keep the service free for the most part with few, if any, complaints. Volume users will also be charged a fee for excess messages.
For now, it’s a novel way to send voice messages to a contact that might not otherwise want to be bothered by phone messages. Down the road, I can see its integration with a host of business applications. It can also be a boon to the visually impaired and those individuals that don’t have easy access to a PC.
Take Pinger for a spin …. www.pinger.com …. and PING! me with your comments.
The versatility of the common egg, touted as a perfect food in a perfect package, was bound to hit Madison Avenue sooner or later.
A Boulder Colorado company, Egg Fusion, perfected a method to laser-etch the egg surface with expiration dates and, yes, marketing messages.
The CBS network will be among the first to use the technology to promote its Fall line-up. CSI – “Crack The Case”, The Amazing Race – “Scramble To Win On CBS” are but a hint of what we can “eggspect” this Fall.
Has Mad-ison Avenue gone too far? As a consumer, I resent the use of a food product that I purchased, with an “in-your-face” commercial message on it. If you want to place an ad on my property, then pay me for it --- or reduce the cost of the product. I can draw a close analogy to cookies placed on my hard-drive. Don’t put them there unless there is some kind of return or benefit in it for me….and ask me first.
The implied benefit in this instance is the ability to recognize an expiration date, etched in alongside the ad message. No thanks. Every carton carries that information on its side – I don’t need to be reminded twelve times.
The consumer will, ultimately decide if this is a passing fad. I trust the consumer.
As for CBS, it’s the perfect package -- Created By Sperm.
She's famous for her thin-lipped smile, hiding a secret only her creator knew. Today, it's no secret that Sandra Bernhard has no secrets.
When scheduled to board a plane post the recent security measures banning liquids, gels and, yes, lipsticks, she declared "try to take away my MAC PlushGlass and it's World War III!".
MAC brilliantly jumped on this to distribute a 2-minute video rant by Bernhard on the topic of lips. Who better?!
As the pitch for the Subway Sandwich business moves forward, agency.com took a bold step forward in an attempt to let Subway's management peek under its covers and watch how an agency pulls its pitch team together.
It's a big gamble and likely a bigger mistake.
In a nine-plus minute video posted on YouTube, the agency serves up nothing more than a lame comedy routine a bunch of teens could have come up with. Getting behind the counter, serving up sandwiches as sandwich artists, the pitch team makes the process appear simple minded and non-professional. It's high school all over again.
The video itself proves to be boring, uneventful, complete with innuendos and insults. The management at Subway, in a smart move, made "no comment".
The seeming lack of organization on the part of agency.com to put its best foot forward can only help its competition. Wow me with consumer insights and buzz, research, and marketing prowess. Tell me about my competition. Show me how to leverage the dynamic shift in consumer marketing channels. Give me examples of success in my category. And create brilliant communications that embody these principles.
At the end of the day, agency.com did more to generate awareness of itself across tens of thousands of viewers. That's what they may have expected .... Ironically, it was attention drawn to a lousy execution.
Here's the video if you can stand it for nine minutes .... be patient while it loads.
There has been much controversy surrounding a move by The Wall Street Journal to accept advertising on Page One. Soon, The Journal will also “downsize” the dimensions of its print version to offset increased overhead.
These moves underscore the need to cauterize revenue declines, for the print version, in the face of falling circulation. The Journal does not stand alone as the New York Times is also facing downsizing.
Note: Critics against Page One advertising claim it will somehow lessen the integrity of the national newspaper, maintaining the need for separation of “church and state”. Have these critics taken a few moments to examine the ads that appear on the Home Page of their Internet counterparts? What makes an ad on Page One more disingenuous than and ad on the Home Page?
Most, if not all, of this maneuvering stems from the tremendous and increasing appetite for news delivered via the Internet. Print, in almost all forms, is suffering circulation declines. The downward trend will continue for some time.
Fortunately, traditional media giants are recognizing the need to integrate digital versions into their product suites. Rupert Murdoch is leading that charge for News Corp. while The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal Internet editions are experiencing surging revenue increases.
Managing cost containment on one side while investing on the other is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The business model for an integrated company like the WSJ must change radically.
Radical Solution for The Wall Street Journal: Force a downward circulation base for the Journal by increasing the subscription cost for the printed version to $2500 ($10 / copy newsstand), eliminating all but the cream of the reader crop while, at the same time, increasing the CPM for these readers to increase margins. Ramp up the Internet ad rates, allowing for increases in unique visits and an extension for mobile delivery options.
Can today’s CEO’s cope with or even understand the shifting sands of digital media?
The largest media giants have been taken by surprise as young, empowered entrepreneurs sway the young, tech savvy consumer to social networking sites like YouTube and MySpace.
Although these powerhouse sites, capturing millions of users each day, have begun to overshadow even the major portals, and they have yet to introduce a business model that will wow! Wall Street, it becomes crystal clear that media is now a dynamic and fluid environment that will not bow to the traditional formats.
Keeping pace with almost rapid-fire changes in media delivery channels has the major media brands scrambling to grab their share of the future.
News Corp is still trying to understand what the tiger-by-the-tail, with its MySpace acquisition, is all about. It’s NOT your father’s newspaper anymore!
MTV is looking over its shoulder at YouTube, looking for its own version as it cries “video is our expertise …. We’re looking at acquisitions and builders”. And by the time it makes an investment, we are already onto yet another platform programmed by a few whiz kids in a garage.
With few exceptions, the visionaries in our business have strayed off their path. The next play and the play after that in the digital game is about the consumer …. the ability to easily search a world of information / entertainment and control the way it’s received…. paid or otherwise.
We can wrap the delivery of that information in a fancy package complete with ad messages …. and it will matter less. What will matter is how the commercialization of the delivery channel, whatever it may be, is accepted. That is the Holy Grail that today’s CEOs should keep their eyes on.
Shedding traditional methods can be a difficult and sometimes an impossible task when corporate America needs to be accountable to stockholders breathing down their necks. Most are averse to risk-taking, especially when risk is placed squarely on the shoulders of those who might be half, or even one third the CEOs age. I’ll proffer, however, that clinging to old ways saw the downturn in Newspaper, Magazine and TV revenues and glacial, albeit late, shifts in strategy to downsize the old to make room for the new.
Digital media will displace, not replace, traditional media. It will also play a major role in defining what advertising is and is not.
The newest eBay ad campaign touts “Whatever it is, you can get it on eBay” in a variety of boring commercials.
In my book, IT always stood for Information Technology and was originally promoted as such in an ad campaign by Fortune Magazine in the early 90’s. Fortune positioned the magazine against a business / technology community with phrases like ….
What is IT?
Who wants IT?
Where is IT?
How can I get IT?
…. in both print ads and video shorts.
And just recently, Gatorade launched its version with “Gatorade IT”. “It’s here, it’s everywhere.”
We’ll I’m not buying IT. It is now about as overdone as “the art of….” tagline in countless ads.
Will the real creative geniuses step forward, give IT up and come up with more creative approaches.
Oh…by the way …. Type www.ebay.it into your browser and you’ll wind up in the eBay, Italy domain!!
The posting of a billboard in Amsterdam for Sony's Playstation with a controversial image and the copy .... "Playstation Portable. White is coming.", is unquestionably not for the US market.
It is the first in a series of many images that play on the choice between a black or a white case for the PSP. Clearly a creative, if not brilliant, debut for Sony's campaign will evoke emotion. Sometimes harsh, sometimes quizzical and often shock and outrage.
One comes to realize the creative genius as the series of images plays out ... sometimes Black as the aggressor and sometimes White as the aggressor.
Kudo's to the creative team at TBWA and the marketing team at Sony.
The radio commercial for a homeopathic remedy, touted as "a scientific breakthrough', instructs to “rub it on your forehead”. This mantra is repeated enough to make you question your ability to comprehend what this commercial is about. Thirty seconds later the commercial closes with “HeadOn …rub it on your forehead”. There is no mention whatsoever of the product’s redeeming value.
What the heck does the product do!
Frustrated, I searched the web to discover it is a headache remedy. Digging a bit deeper, we find that there is no medicinal value in the product’s active ingredient, White Bryony, an herb diluted to one part in 1,000,000,000,000.
You can’t overdose on the product. In fact, you can rub it all over your body with no results … when you apply nothing, nothing happens.
The effect of HeadOn commercials will actually give you a headache!
I would like to know who produced and placed this radio ad (and its sister 10 second TV spot shown here). More importantly, why the FCC allows this misleading dribble to air and why major drug chains stock it.
Clear Channel's recent announcement to examine the use of one second radio spots, or "blinks", in an effort to provide a means for brand extensions to a limited number of advertisers, clearly calls for a reality check.
Let's investigate a bit into the potential for these listener "blinks" (which, by the way, is more appropriately labeled for the visual experience provided by television or streaming video). There are a host of issues that surface at first blush.
Placement of these sound "bytes" must fit seamlessly into the radio genre of News, Talk or Music --- otherwise both stations and advertisers run the risk of adding clutter to an already cluttered environment.
It is unlikely that rating and pricing structures, given a limited number of potential clients, will generate any new and significant revenue streams for the stations. It is more likely that existing radio budgets will be cannibalized to fund these efforts. How many blinks equal a thirty; a fifteen; a five? Can we all recall when the standard unit for radio was a sixty?
Accountability and tracking of these units, through agency-wide enterprise financial systems, can turn into a nightmare. Agencies are already over-burdened with a deluge of paperwork and Sarbanes Oxley compliance issues.
Let's clear the air, blink three times and pretend this never happened.
Turn to any of the trades and there is no doubt that there will be some article written about News Corp's MySpace.com site. The trades just can't stop chatting it up as the fastest growing social networking site on the net.
I couldn't help but wonder what all the hype was about and became a MySpace "user" (I use the term in an non-addictive sense) about 2 months ago.
Having created a profile, albeit under a false name, I ventured into the twilight zone of MySpace.
I was immediately bombarded by users who wanted to "be my friend". People I did not know nor wanted to know. People who, laughably, had upwards of several thousand "friends" on their profile. Useless banter with no redeeming social value other than curiosity and, dangerously, entrapment. In many cases I found the users to be trumped up imaginary persons often cloaked in the skin of others whose photos were "borrowed". Nothing on the site seemed real to the observing eye.
Browsing through the profiles I was not surprised to find sexually explicit and sometimes disturbing photos. I often worried about the kids who ran into these randomly accessible photos. I worried even more about kids that were underage and easily drawn into conversations with would-be predators.
Shocked at open profiles that suggested "I love kids and often go to playgrounds to just watch them" I decided to abandon the generally unhealthy site.
News Corp has a tiger by the tail .... and if it doesn't do something very quickly to turn this site into a more controlled environment, they run the risk of government scrutiny and intervention.
Frankly, I don't care how profitable this site is. Supporting it with advertising will eventually backfire with enraged parents, schools and communities demanding action.
This is not about free speech or rights under the constitution. It's about social consciousness....not social networking.
The past weekend’s Wall Street Journal pulled the covers back on the hiring dilemma many of the “new era dot-coms” are facing. As forecasts for double digit growth in ad spending continues through the rest of the decade, HR departments must find new ways to keep the pool at least partially full.
Salaries for sales execs with just 5 years of experience, for example, are easily pushing for a base of $150,000 plus bonuses, plus commissions. And VPs leading the charge can command packages upwards of $500,000.
Ad agencies cannot compete with these salaries and can be expected to see a further drain on their tech savvy, digitally focused personnel.
Look to Google as an indicator of the demand. Tap into their career section and you’ll find open calls for upwards of 100 jobs. Multiply that demand by the needs of others in the same space (Yahoo, MSN, eBay) and you can paint a rosy picture for individuals considering a move.
Those who left the field during the dot-com bust have found greener pastures elsewhere and are reluctant to return, while traditional media sales execs have not yet caught up with (nor do many want to) the new surge.
As a result, the bottom layers will be easier to fill while the need for structured and seasoned professionals who may have a better grasp of client needs will fall short of the demand.
Fanfair and hoopla aside, I made a visit yeaterday evening at 8:30 PM to Apple's flagship store in New York.
The store, open 24/7, 365 days a year, is easily spotted just across from the Plaza fountain on Fifth Avenue. Its entrance has been touted as a giant glass cube, leading down a circular glass stairway to an open retail space which has taken over the entire front of the original GM building.
The architects must be turning in their graves. Apple's references to the Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris is a far cry for this glass eyesore and is insulting to the French.
As you reach the retail floor, you are confronted by an enormous spacious display area for everything Apple and then some. The store is not exclusively Apple and is difficult to negotiate. Circuit City, or any other major electronics retailer, do a better job of store design and display.
Asking for assistance is a joke. "You can make a reservation at this computer for our help desk".
All I asked for was a set of earphones that I lost. "Oh...those are not sold here. You'll need to make a reservation......". Dissapointment after dissapointment.
Shame on Apple. They still don't have their act together. This is one Apple that needs to be tossed out of the Big Apple barrel.
As CBS Corp. moves away from its Paramount theme parks in a $1.24 billion sale to Cedar Fair, is it missing an important and emerging outlet for content distribution?
CBS' seven theme parks, tagged with a 10 year licensing deal for familiar Nickelodeon characters (Sponge Bob Square Pants) may have, in the long run, been sold for a song.
With an explosive evolution in media access, the sites for these parks could have been integrated into a broader media strategy to create theme based content (ie. online gaming, rides, streaming adventure videos) for distribution to broad based, young consumer groups.
Kids, teens and young adults are the demographics marketers dreams are made of .... CBS, a network whose programing has always been associated with an older audience, missed the forest for the trees with the pruning of this asset.
The CBS deal brings the number of Cedar Fair theme parks up to 19. The right digital advances, coupled with a digital strategy to leverage its licensing deal, has the potential to place Cedar Fair in an enviable position as a major distribution channel reaching the fickle, elusive and valuable young audeince.
Just one year ago, the three top ranking social networking sites combined (Classmates, MSN Groups and AOL Hometown) generated 35 million unique visits during April 2005.
Fast forward to April 2006..... MySpace leads the social networking pack with a whopping 367% increase to 38 million unique visits while the original top three performers slip to 33 million visits and YouTube makes its debut with 12.5 million.
The reality of this phenomenon should be taken seriously by the mainstream media channels as marketing opportunities expand in squared fashion. The integration of new and ever-changing options require a keen eye on the direction young America takes to establish themselves on their own media platforms.
Nielsen maintains that these sites enjoy a high retention rate. MySpace, for example, boasts a retention rate of 67%. Word to the wise ... that retention rates include existing but inactive accounts that contribute to the overall picture in an unhealthy way.
Marketers note: be wary that the lax supervision of questionable postings (pornographic or otherwise) doesn't slap a lid on its unbridled growth and the consumer tide turns against it.
Turn to any consumer (and some marketers) and ask them how they like Web 2.0 compared to Web 1.0. Chances are you'll get a blank stare.
This new and improved version of the web allows for greater interactivity through blogs, Wikis, Social Networks, RSS Feeds and Virtual Conferencing among a host of other applications. Visitors to interactive sites can apply their own tags (keywords) to the information on hand, creating a public directory .... or folksonomy, generating a sense of community and, in the case of marketers, providing a platform for interactive testing and brainstorming with their customer base.
Web 2.0 has also created a new bubble of sorts with venture capitalists rushing to fund new versions of stale material.
While you do not, as a marketer, need to understand what makes Web 2.0 work, you do need to understand how it can be applied to leverage your business.
More power to the people.
Action by a group of heavyweight marketers, led by Wal-Mart and facilitated through the ANA, provides a healthy break in the clouds that have been hanging over this initiative for several years. A call by Wal-Mart's Julie Roehm to pool $50 million for the development of a market system and test will likely be met with resistance from major media outlets and major agencies.
That comes as no surprise given a similar test that proved successful, by HJ Heinz with Ariba several years back, seems to have been squelched when major media properties turned up the heat.
But several years and $50 million can make a difference.
While Julie Roehm and 10 other marketing partners will ante up the $50 million pool, we question the need to "reinvent the wheel" when reverse auction models have already made significant headway and investments into the framework and process that drives such models. The focus should be on process refinement across all media formats.
Enversa, funded by IMC2, is one such outfit that begs a hard look. Pouring millions into process development harkens back to the days of Mediaport .... a failed multi-million dollar attempt by major agencies to re-write agency process for the creation of a new-age, agnostic, enterprise-wide management system.
The marketers are to be applauded for this bold, visionary step forward. The ANA has the dedication and diversified intellectual capital to facilitate the experiment. But both marketers and the ANA should not attempt to pull this off without the benefit of agency and media partner input. And at the very least it should review models that are already planted in the marketplace and not rely solely on the Google's of the world to do so.
The controversy over the utilization of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags and how they may or may not impact privacy concerns, is a speed bump that suppliers and retailers must navigate in order for the technology to achieve widespread, consumer based use.
ROI data for businesses is now coming to light and it is more than encouraging. From Wal-Mart to P&G, to the Pharmaceutical firms, RFID tags are tracking the movement of pallets and case shipments from warehouse to retailers. Interrogators (readers) are also dropping in price to allow for case tracking from inventory to sales floors, preventing out of stock situations and lost sales.
Just recently, one firm announced the cost of the low frequency retail tags at just 5 cents (in bulk), pushing acceptance even further along. The next step for retailers is to integrate RFID data into back-end systems for refined control.
All this must be tempered with the potential abuse at the consumer level and steps necessary to minimize it. It is an issue that will likely demand government regulation.
The benefit to the consumer can, however, be significant and boundless. Consider, for example, a RFID tag on an airline boarding pass. Checkpoints at the gate can assess whether the passenger is within range of the gate. Children's clothing can be tagged by parents while traveling or in school as a deterrent to abduction. No doubt there are enormous advantages to be had.
RFID is here to stay. But PLEASE, take a lesson from consumer concerns about PC cookies, and temper its introduction with the proper education concerning its use.
I am placing current bets on the GoDaddy IPO, due sometime soon. This dot-com registration site, led by Bob Parsons, knows how to manage and market itself in an otherwise low-interest category with small margins. They have wisely extended their product offerings to generate growing revenue steams as the expected registration business plateaus.
Keep a watchful eye on this one.
Did someone forget to let them know that the industry will move away from circulation as a basis for pricing?
This report isn't needed ... nor does it qualify as a final publisher statement.
Today, the discontent escalates as the ABC has been hit with a lawsuit alleging fraud, conspiring to overstate circulation figures.
Is the ABC is a good cop turned bad cop? Should the allegations be unfounded, the Bureau remains a good cop turned retired cop ... ineffective, unnecessary and tired. Can it be salvaged? Absolutely, but it will require an overhaul of its business process, rooted in the new vision of what the publishing industry needs to compete in the market for its share of ad dollars.
For now, the ABC remains ...Anything But Credible.
Having negotiated the site myself, and respectful of freedom of speech, I found the "content" too sensitive for most advertisers to consider appropriate for their brands. Although the lure of millions of users (and I am using the term in an addictive sense) is appealing to marketers, there are responsible boundaries within which they must play.
MySpace needs to clean up its act....quickly.
Interactive television, the holy-grail dream of advertisers, agencies and the technology providers will absolutely enjoy 15 minutes of fame ... until the fickle consumer tires of the novelty. Consumers don't need nor want to control or "produce" their version of entertainment content. They want to control information and have available to them entertainment choices. Those channels are available today in a blazing array of delivery options.
And where is television content headed today? It is headed for the Internet as broadcast and cable networks open that channel to their content.
The hype will continue for a while ... and then fizzle, leaving investors holding an empty bag.
Looks like QVC needs to rethink the need for a 2 second delay on its live broadcasts.
Follow this link to a video of this honest, but embarressing clip . . . .
The group boasts almost 2 million members scattered across 10,000 groups. What is of significant note is the equity participation (under $10 million) by noteables Ebay, Esther Dyson, Allen & Co.,and Senator Bill Bradley among others.
Climb on this bandwagon FAST with sponsorship participation.