Excellent analysis of fakery and blogishness — from Lonelygirl 15 to Fake Steve Jobs — we’re awash in it, and here my colleague Mike Etherington, the genius behind last year’s Lenovo Tapes, should take a bow for doing bogus right.:
“A wink and a nod to the audience may be the difference between a wildly successful viral campaign and outright hostility. Itâ€™s the difference between the saga of lonelygirl15 who was in fact just an actress and the fake blog of a cosmetically-challenged woman Claire who was just a creation of Vichy, a division of French cosmetics giant Lâ€™Oreal. The former was entertainment; the latter was an attempt at a fast one.
Consumers need to be in on the joke, not made to feel that the joke is on them. At some point, there must be a sign or signal that what they are seeing, reading or listening to is entertainment or make believe.
And thatâ€™s exactly what The Lenovo Group did. Most people donâ€™t they are the world’s third-largest personal computer maker. What did they do? They went viral with a spoof Web site. As Steve Hamm reported in BusinessWeek that the site attracted 3 million visitors in first few weeks. The campaign pretended to let viewers in on some super advanced technologies being tested by the company. The site’s anonymous producer had supposedly received some videotapes revealing the secret research. The joke is apparent once viewers click through to the tapes.”
I was asked to give an impromptu tutorial in “widget advertising” last week in Bangalore. What started off as a casual request turned into a cubicle with a few people looking over my shoulder at a web browser with four tabs loaded with:
My iGoogle page
The new Lenovo/Microsoft Live Portal
The plugin directory at WordPress.org
Fred Wilson’s Blog, A VC
I have heard it said the best way to learn something is to teach it, and having never commissioned nor served a so-called “gadget ad” I found myself in the same mode I was in three years ago at CXO Media, when I conducted a series of brown bag lunches on the silent revolution occurring in the post-bubble world of web media. This is the abridged version of what I told the gang in Bangalore last week.
Traditional web advertising is defined by a call-and-serve model where a publisher fences off some turf which is occupied by a string of code which calls for an advertisement housed on an ad server. Getting that ad onto that server is the act of trafficking, and can attach conditions to when and where the ad is shown. For example, an advertiser might buy a specific section of a web site for a certain period of time, and only want an ad to be shown during certain hours, or to users from a certain geographical area, and further insure a visitor would not see the same ad more than three times. All of this is enabled between the code on the web site and the ad server.
Changing the terms — the duration of the ad campaign, the creative (say lowering the price in a banner ad in response to a competitor lowering their price), and making any modifications is a gigantic pain in the ass that requires a change order and all sorts of ad ops pain which one’s agency has to deal with. Therefore, the old model of serving ads, Dart trafficking, purchase orders, etc. , in my opinion, sucks.
Now, look at what is possible if the ad were fixed in place, like a plug-in feature embedded in the right side gutter of this blog. See the Flickr gallery? The My Blog Log thingy? Those are widgets. Apple has em. Yahoo has em. Google has em. WordPress has em. They are supposed to be all the rage and bloggers more eloquent than I have waxed eloquent about them. Some rag apparently declared this to be the year of widget. Um, okay, but how do they work for advertisers?
Let’s start with my personal Google page (my default homepage, except fricking Lenovo.com takes it over like a jealous girlfriend every other day). You understand the principle, it’s like every other portal page ever developed. MyYahoo, MyWay … pick a content module — a clock, a calculator, quote of the day from The Big Lebowski (“the Dude abides”), and place it where you want it. When you start selecting stuff, search on HP (yes, I am showing my competition some love here) and up comes this gadget.
Now, note to Eric Kintz, this thing hasn’t been updated in months, but the spirit is there and the potential is immense. So, for some reason, let’s say I am a real fan of HP cameras, I decide I need to see what they are selling every time I go to the Google portal. HP could, if they refreshed it, modify the price, change the image, push promotions, in short — this is a “perma-ad” that me, the user, can decide to place or alter.
What’s the difference between this and an ad unit? First off, it isn’t served by an ad insertion engine like DoubleClick or Atlas. Second, to modify it I don’t need to replace the entire ad, only elements inside of it. Think of this as a site within in a site. A mini-site.
Similar to this is what we’re doing with Microsoft for our homepage default in Internet Explorer. Setting the default on the browser to Lenovo.com isn’t a good idea — we get lots of garbage traffic that immediately goes elsewhere because the user can’t or can’t be bothered to change their browser’s homepage default. No, instead you want to offer the user a homepage with some modicum of utility, something that — dare I invoke the term of the year of 1997? — is sticky and will be useful. This page, a cobranded version of Microsoft Live at MSN, is an attempt to do that, and we are building a widget/gadget thingy to keep our customers informed, tell them about features and functions they may not be aware of, and let them know when we’re conducting a promotion or having a sale.
Then there are plug-ins. Plug-ins are modules a site-side publisher — like a blogger — can download and embed on their blog. Some of these plug-ins are “badges” or fixed spots that a blogger can grab as part of an affiliate program with say Amazon or Bass Pro Shops. The concept is simple — give the vendor some real estate, and any sales that result from a click from the affiliate badge will carry a unique identifier which yields the blogger/site owner a percentage of the sale.
Finally, if you want to see a site in action that uses a lot of plug-ins, widgets, gadgets, etc., you can’t do much better than Fred Wilson’sA VC. Fred is a venture capitalist at New York’s Union Square Ventures and he invests in a lot of the companies that produce these plug-ins. He’s also blogged smartly on the topic.
So, to recap:
Gidgets are the next wave in display advertising. They pose a challenge to creative teams who need to design a unit that can be easily updated, through a syndication pipe using RSS/XML principles to publish new content from a remote owner. They pose a challenge to publishers who are accustomed to a random, or roadblock model in ad tagging and serving. They probably will simplify the lives of the people running metrics as they aren’t subject to any randomness and probably will have a longer shelf life than other units served on a campaign basis. Will they perform better than banners? The Jury is out.
Benjamin Lipman on the iPhone activation process. Money quote:
“Discerning the truth from the fiction is always a fun game with phone reps. Mine was very pleasant, especially for someone who has undoubtly been answering the same questions all day. He claims Apple is 100% in charge of activation and transferred me to an Apple number dedicated to iPhone whose weary rep told me that activations may â€œtake 24-48 hours right now due to overwhelming demand.â€
Excuse me? First impressions are everything and demand is only overwhelming if it is unexpected. Apple expected high demand. Heck, Apple created that high demand with one of the most brilliant marketing strategies in recent years. To not have the activation system robust enough to handle millions of concurrent activations quickly is beyond stupid and so, well, un-Apple. Strike 1.”
Mixing business and personal is becoming a bit too much of a tightrope act for me. Mitch Ratcliffe told me — don’t go to a multiple-blog format, it’s a nightmare — and given my inabilities to keep one blog alive without the help of the master, Mark Cahill, why would I think two or three blogs would be any better.
Maybe Peter Kim’s designation of this as a top ten client marketing blog has me a little freaked out. I don’t pay a lot of attention to my technorati rank and it shows, but mixing in posts about clams, wind farms, beach rights, and rats in the roses with pedantic displays of professional insight into page views, metrics, engagement marketing, and customer satisfaction is way too diverse. Sure, people can sort by the tags, but ….
So, I am seriously thinking of subdividing ….
UPDATE: ok, ok, no subdivision. Screw it. One blog, indivisible, and lead us not into Penn Station ….amen.