Interruption, avoidance, compulsion?

We all know the challenges presented by the decline of the interruptive advertising model and the threat of ad avoidance enabled by complex technology like the DVR and the simpler notion of having better things to do.

One of the more surprising resolutions to the issue may be inherent in a patent applied for by Apple that will disable the functionality of software unless its user demonstrates attention to the advertising carried by the application in question.

Apart from sounding more like a lemon than an Apple this idea is as flawed as every other bribevertising model ever created. Forced consumption of advertising simply does not work. The battlefield of the web is is littered with the grave markers of ‘click on ad, earn points’ businesses that produce splendid volumes of enquiries and dismal levels of conversion for the simple reason that the click was driven by desire for points and not by interest in the product advertised.

Advertiser patience for non-converting inquiries is somewhere between momentary and non-existent and such programs end up in the same bucket as click fraud in short order.

Businesses file patents all the time that they don’t intend to use or of which they make think better. This one seems different because it’s Apple that has applied for it. Despite that my guess is that wise heads will prevail and that Apple won’t corrupt its unique status in the brand pantheon with such an ugly resolution to a business problem.

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Lights go out on Beckham

I was charmed by this. Beckham and the LA Galaxy defeat the Houston Dynamo 2-0 but only after an incident that caused some consternation for the sponsor of the stadium. According to ESPN…

“Play was suspended twice after the stadium lights went out because of power dips, a release from the Home Depot Center said. The game was stopped for a 18 minutes in each half.”

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Two degrees of separation

The separation of audience from context is a much discussed if unresolved argument. The general thesis of the ‘pork bellies versus diamonds’ debate is either that context amplifies the value of messaging or that audience is everything and the cost and targeting advantages more than offset the specifics of contextual relevance. The seller community is neatly divided on this issue with producers of original content on one side and ad networks, by and large, on the other. Readers will be relieved to know that this post is not on that topic.

A more profound degree of separation may be the idea that the commercial message no longer requires the carriage vehicle of media at all. This argument was made at an IAA gathering in Tokyo by Masataka Hosagane an executive creative director at Dentsu. Mr. Hosagane showed some creative work for a PS3 game, Last Man Everywhere, and an innovative hybrid of a children’s book and an I Phone (called PhoneBook of course) and described both of them as communication ideas ‘beyond the frame’.

Without doubt, both were compelling and both seemed to be independent of any given distribution channel. The specifics of these pieces are less important than the growing notion that there are more and more marketing communications in the form of seeded video in general and applications in particular that are intended for peer to peer distribution and thereby bypass paid distribution channels and, by extension, the invoicing departments of media vendors. The most obvious manifestation of this trend is the spawning of brand owner iPhones and Droid apps from a raft of advertisers big and small that fill the marketing trades on a daily basis.

The problem, however, is this. Firstly it is hard to really gain traction in an environment shared with 100,000 other apps, secondly all the data suggests that even the most successful apps with significant download volume trail off in usage with a rate of decay that is alarmingly precipitous. Finally, consumers en masse don’t read the marketing trades. The maintenance of reach, recency and frequency remain an essential plank of any brand marketing strategy that depends on durable visibility and it’s simply not possible to maintain a flow of apps and sustained usage that can fulfill this role.

As a consequence the frame remains central to the message distribution process and those applications that break out should be celebrated as a supplement but not relied upon as a replacement.

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Bada Bing

Samsung has announced the launch of its own smartphone software and developer platform. They have named it BADA which, as you all know is the Korean word for ocean.

Now we can only hope that they integrate Microsoft’s search platform for the corporate naming event of the year.

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Mega Bite

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This image is a promotion for Windows 7 in Tokyo. No comment required

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The Digital Shelf

It is perfectly obvious that the only marketing activity that influences the sale of detergent is the number of facings in the store. The shopper goes to the store, they are arrested by the display and they buy. As a consequence the entire marketing budget should be expended on securing that shelf space.

Given this quite obvious correlation between the last pre-purchase exposure to the brand and the purchase itself it is perhaps surprising that the brand’s owners do not allocate budgets in this way and instead spend significant amounts of money all the way back from the shelf to the living room of the prospective buyer. They do this because they know, through a heady cocktail of regression analysis and common sense, that multiple contact points contribute to the emotional and rational preconditions for purchase.

These days we call this attribution modelling. We attempt to ascribe values to actions and attempt to create a communications recipe from assorted ingredients in order to create the intended outcome. This is not to underestimate the value of shelf space and most brand owners do not.

More puzzling is what to do about digital shelf space. It’s been said by wiser commentators than me that the results pages of search engines are very often the first digital touch point for brands and this has been extrapolated to describing those very results as shelf space. In the event that the shelf puts the consumer a click away from a transaction, this description has resonance. When it does not the analogy fades in both accuracy and relevance yet in both cases there is an assumption among the sellers of search clicks that budget allocation should start with them and only go to other channels when sufficient funds are allocated to capture every available click.

This represents a compound fallacy. First, wider marketing activity drives clicks; second, a huge quantity of consumer interaction with brands remains unmediated by search and third, if all marketers drank the same Kool Aid with the suggested vigor the results would be an inflationary spiral and an unwinnable game.

Search strategy is brand specific, it requires a determination of how and why people become aware of brands and of the path to preference and purchase. It requires knowledge of the brand’s channels to market and of the relative influence of each touchpoint. The focus needs to be on share of wallet in the category and not on share of clicks. The binary nature of search metrics is seductive but not everything that seduces you is good for you.

This is not the first time this blog has mused on this topic and it won’t be the last. Search has costs and it has opportunity costs. The attraction is that the costs are incurred against actions rather than exposures. The opportunity cost is related to those options you decline in order to fund those actions.

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Social Service

It has often been said that one of the distinguishing features of the web is that it is both a channel to market and a marketing channel. The stand out brands and corporations in web marketing know this and realized that what they did online had to add genuine customer value through any or all of choice, value, convenience, relevance and service.

It is the last of this handful of virtues that separates the good from the average on Twitter. Why do Best Buy, Jet Blue and Dell constantly top the list of brands that are leveraging social media?

I think the answer is simple enough; all these companies have found a way of creating genuinely enhancing experiences through the provision of real time customer service and advantage in the form of advice, information, discounts and benefits.

Its been said that customer service is the new marketing. It’s also been said that those companies that make service the goal across the employee base are the ones people will want to do business with. The notion of broadly distributed service within organizations has the added benefit of connecting participating employees with the broader mission of the enterprise. Forty something years ago President Kennedy is said to have asked a Cape Canaveral janitor the nature of his job. The janitor was sweeping the floor but answered ‘Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon’.

Tweeting for Best Buy might be less lofty but those that do are helping the company to separate itself from its competition. Looking beyond this group an increasing population of corporations are adding a service layer to brands through social media, mobile apps and other programs. Happily these services, like the brands themselves, require promotion. The ROI comes from the equation that says pay for creating awareness of a service and for directing the consumer to an experience you own. You can earn more exposure by how that experience is shared.

The message to brands is simple. If you want to think social then think service. Service sits at the heart of relationships between brands consumers and at the heart of the conversations those relationships create.

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