Archive for the ‘advertising’ category

Interact08: Two 2.Advertising companies to check out

29, September, 2008 Video advertising platform Puts ads on idle cell phone screens

Visualizing the Iraq War, and the Scary Future of Journalism

9, July, 2008

I’m not sure how I missed this wonderful act of journalism-by-data visualization produced by Mother Jones magazine.

Titled “Lie by Lie,” it’s the wayleft publication’s “history of the Iraq War.” The project was undertaken, the editors state, “to create a resource we hope will help resolve open questions of the Bush era. What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them?”

Why I love this work of journalism [my own political inclinations notwithstanding]:

1. It’s nothing fancy, hardly a data visualization at all. It’s essentially a timeline navigation of information on the Iraq War. The only visual grace note is the roulettey spin of the date slider as you move it around. But the tool is functional: It permits navigation of the same data by topic, tags or search. It engages and it works.

2. It is an aggregation of content reported by others. This is a great example of curation, of journalism by assembly. Clearly, smart people knowledgeable about public affairs paid close attention to a huge amount of information, made careful selections and used available digital technology to make it accessible and flexible in a way no print publication could.

3. It proves you can advance a political agenda with digital journalism just as easily as you can in the analog world. Edit, select, tweak, ignore. . .and you can assemble your own version of history, just as certainly as the wingnuts at The Washington Times or the pinkos at the New York Times.

4. By virtue of its form, it surfaces new understandings that a reader of the original reports would not achieve. For instance, noodle around with the “Dick Cheney” taq and you’ll discover, right at the top, this entry dated . . . over 15 years ago:

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, speaking to the Discovery Institute in Seattle, says the first President Bush was right not to invade Baghdad: “The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that…we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”–Aug. 14, 1992

But even as it offers a great example of digital journalism, “Lie By Lie” raises troubling questions about same.

Most of the information is drawn from reports that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, Knight-Ridder, the New Yorker and many more. Yes, some bloggers made significant contributions. But it’s hard to imagine there would be much of a record of events to assemble without mainstream journalism’s (eventual! shame-faced!) commitment to digging for facts about the runup to Iraq.

The rub: This original reporting cost a fortune. It was produced under the old, dying model of journalism, wherein investigative reporting is funded by advertisements for cell phones, new subdivisions, mattress-chain mega-sales, designer clothing, and so on.

It’s important to remember that for all their swashbuckling highbrow bravado, the authors of New Yorker articles write on the back of designer vodka ads.

As Mother Jones has shown, people who are passionate about telling a story have powerful new tools at their disposal to do so. But without high-quality content–difficult, time-consuming, intellectually demanding, butt-numbing, sometimes actually dangerous reporting–the tools are just toys.

And who will pay for that reporting as we glide forward into the age of paper-free journalism?

Pour yourself a designer vodka and think about that one.


Dear Facebook: Bite Me

7, July, 2008

This ad on my Facebook page today:

Yes, Facebook, I’m 51. And yes, I’m overweight. *

But at least I have friends.

I wonder if you’ll be able to say that a year from now.


* “overweight” only according to standardized Body Mass Index assessments, which are widely known to be highly inaccurate and often defamatory. I actually have really dense bones and an extraordinarily heavy head–it’s like a freakin’ anvil–so this targeting of me as an advertising prospect is unfair, wrong and possibly actionable.

Platform A, Election Spending and Old-Media-Think

30, June, 2008

At last week’s Digital Media Conference held outside Washington, D.C., the lunchtime speaker was Lynda Clarizio, President of AOL’s Platform A. Platform A is a huge advertising network, a group of smaller ad networks lashed together under a single brand name. It’s AOL’s attempt to play big in the online ad game.

Clarizio’s a great speaker, able to command attention even amid the din and eventual post-prandial slump of a conference lunch.

But one thing she said led me to believe part of her operation, for all its new-media-world-killing ambition, is still grounded in the thinking of old media.

Since I wasn’t taking notes, I can’t quote her figures or words specifically. But she said she was disappointed with the recent performance of paid political advertising online. She hoped sales to political campaigns would boost online ad revenues this year.

The trouble with that thought is this:

Political campaigns–particularly Barack Obama’s, but many others as well–have learned to master social media to get their message out. Why buy online ads when a staff of two social media masterminds, a brilliant geek in a Red Sox cap and a battalion of interns can spread a powerful political message immediately, virally and essentially without cost? And far beyond the reach of any ad buy?

Political campaigns have become some of the most adept, persistent innovators in social media, and they have had a powerful effect already in motivating volunteers, generating donations and circulating millions of messages via video, pictures, widgets, blogs, Tweets, podcasts, purloined documents and endless screeds. Much of this is being done by people with no formal affiliation with the campaign–which is, of course, the way social media is supposed to work. [For details on the web 2.0 arms race [[Obama’s campaign so far is kicking McCain’s staff’s slow-moving butt]], I invite you to attend the daily master class on such matters at the website of TechPresident.]

Paid online advertising–no matter how well targeted, contextualized and behaviorally-aware–is a garden hose.

Social media is a tidal wave.

Why bother paying for the former when all you need to do is ride the latter?

Eyeballing the Best “Contextual” Video Ad Ever

29, June, 2008

While playing around with the video platform MetaCafe today, I came across a particularly shrewd use of contextual video advertising.

Lasik? No, I\'ll just have contacts, please.

Are you a Lasik candidate? Check out this educational video illustrating the procedure, with a flap of cornea being sliced off and laser pulses reshaping the eye–all while the patient is wide awake.

What’s that? Think you might want contacts instead? Click here, my friend!

GSP Liveblog: Can Social Networks Be Used to, Um, Make Money?

10, June, 2008

The moderator of a panel at Graphing Social Patterns East asks social network honchos: “Does anybody actually show increased sales from social network advertising?”

He has to ask it twice because the panel just double-talks about “engagement” metrics and “getting people into a branded environment” and “very new, not about revenues yet,” “optimizing cross platform media campaigns” and “social influence marketing” and “win-win” and “blahblahblahdon’taskthatplease.”

But social networks need to be part of every advertising campaign anyway! That much they’re sure of!

Google’s Ad Scan: Stupidity, Madness or Mere Insanity?

29, January, 2008

The blog Silicon Valley Insider has an extraordinary item today about Google’s latest ad scheme, which works this way:

1. Advertiser buys ad in newspaper; a Google barcode appears on the ad

2. For reasons unrevealed and hard to imagine, a newspaper reader wants so badly to have the ad on her mobile phone that she takes a snapshot of the barcode with her device (she has previously installed special software to permit this)

3. Her mobile phone takes her directly to an online version of the ad–which presumably has more value in mobile, digital form than it does in its mobile, analog print version. Maybe it’s more information, or a chance to sign up for, oh, I don’t know, an e-mail newsletter or a sweepstakes (which is to say an e-mail newsletter)

4. The newspaper advertiser can now capture data about that potential customer which is uncaptureable in a print environment

5. Google sends the cell phone user an e-mail message, which she is invited to print out and attach to her forehead with duct tape. The e-mail says “I Am Verry Stupid.”

Actually, I made up No. 5.

I know, I know, they do this printed-bar-code-and-cell-phone thing in Japan. But in Japan they also watch those game shows where people hilariously incur significant internal organ damage by competing in contests involving mud, spinning platforms and immovable objects. “I Am Verry Stupid” indeed.

Business Rule No. 1: If you want to get consumers to do something that benefits you (like give you money, or merely identify yourself as a reader of an ad so someone else gives you money), you have to offer them something of value in return. This “value proposition” seems to be missing in this Google scheme.

Please, right now, close your eyes. Try to imagine seeing an ad in the newspaper so utterly compelling that you’re willing to stop whatever you’re doing, take out your cell phone, and view another version of that ad–maybe an interactive one, just like on the web!–in the tiny screen of your cell phone.

I know, I can’t either.

I prefer to view a money scheme this spectacularly wrong-headed as another hopeful sign that Google has entered its Late Empire phase, when the emperors drink arsenic at orgies while the lean and crafty barbarians consolidate control of the provinces and plan the ultimate pillage.

Or maybe (alas) it’s just another sign that Google has so much money now it can make big bets on slim chances and put nothing more at risk than a quarterly earnings rounding error.

In any case, if you know anyone who works on this particular project at Google, please send them the following message as an e-mail and ask them to tape it to their foreheads.


User-Generated Content: Can You Find the Pill Shill?

27, January, 2008

New comScore data suggest that about 30 percent of women consider user-generated content on the web when making decisions about birth control methods. Twenty-three percent said they wouldn’t consider UGC, and 46 percent said they’d consider it but haven’t tried the chat/forum method.

The data make sense. With a whole new wave of birth control products on the market—including drugs that permit women to have menstrual periods monthly, quarterly, or even once per year (!)—women are checking with those who have been there/done that for some straight talk.

UGC can let sisters do it for themselves—at least with a new form of a product women have been using for years, and is heavily advertised with direct to consumers suggesting it’s a lifestyle choice rather than a medical decision.

The survey, like so many, was done on behalf of pharma companies. The back story raises familiar questions about UGC with consumer products

Hmmm…pharma companies learn that a majority of women either are or would consider UGC to make decisions. So let’s see, what’s a more effective method of reaching these women–more direct-to-consumer advertising or hey, maybe a posse of online “brand ambassadors” and “superusers” who slyly create UGC on behalf of drugs?

The implication, well known to students of 2.0 marketing, is clear. In the world of UGC, it can be hard to tell the difference between a girlfriend and a pill shill.

Click Fraud: Not Just a Scam, a Sport!

7, December, 2007

An article today in MediaPost today reports that a company called Click Forensics estimates that 28 percent of the clicks on those Google and Yahoo text ads found next to search results, blogs and various web sites are fraudulent. This is to say the are clicked on with malicious intent, in order to generate revenue for the websites that host the ads.

To vastly oversimplify a very complicated process of auctions, algorithms and audacity: Let’s say an advertiser agrees to pay Google 15 cents for every click that comes from its ad to its site. Google drops the ads on sites or search results whose content corresponds to the material in the ad. Google collects 15 cents times 120 jillion for each click to the ad, or whatever its current reach is. If the ad is on a blog or web site, Google gives (say) 5 cents to the site for each click. Google keeps a dime. Advertiser gets qualified leads. Win-win-win.

Unless it turns out those clicks are generated by robots or stooges in the employ of blogs or websites that host the ads, trying to steal from advertisers 5 cents at a time–which, the report suggests, happens with 28 percent of all such clicks.

As someone with no investment in the Adwords game–and who rarely clicks on those ads–I’m not sure what all this means to the larger world of commerce. But I offer this curious observation: When the MediaPost story on click fraud showed up in my Gmail inbox, the ads below appeared next to it. I invite you to click them all–either to strike a blow for purity in web commerce or, if you like, purely for sport. It certainly won’t make me–or cost me–any money.

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Web 2.D’oh! Round-Up, Vol. VIII

14, September, 2007

If it’s Friday, it’s time again for our weekly whiskbrooming of the dust, detritus and details that fluttered onto the floor of the 2.0ffice recently.

Dude, Where’s My . . .Self-Respect?

In a play to enter a tragically underserved market on the web–teenaged and young adult males–the folks at Viacom announced that they will next year consolidate a number of guysites into something called

If the current SpikeTV site is any indication, the Viacommers have Rupert Murdoch’s site beat in the how-low-can-you-go competition. By a long shot. To suggest some Spike content is soft-core porn would be generous indeed. [Click on Homepage Top 100 if you don’t believe me.] By comparison, AskMen comes off as downright gentlemany. Stay on the high road, Rupe!

Video That’s Not Hideo

Here’s something I don’t see very often: Video that serves a purpose on the Web. One of my nerdy-favorite sites,, this week posted a round-up of well-done do-it-yourself videos. A favorite is “How to Buy a Car Without Getting Screwed.” [Though at 5:53 it breaks my 2-minute rule.]

One of the scariest is–I am not making this up–“How to turn a flashlight into a handheld burning laser.” After posting, the video sprouted this useful bit of essential derriere attire: UPDATE: Several readers rightly point out that your burning handheld laser could pose a safety risk to humans, especially when pointed at eyeballs. Watch your kids, proceed at your own risk, treat as you would a weapon, etc. Thank you.

Genuinely Interesting Item of the Week

Don’t miss the list of finalists in the Online News Association’s annual Online Journalism Awards.  [As with most such competitions, the finalists’ list is always richer than the final list of winners.]  

Leaders in the obscure-but-great division include: , the site of an group of Oklahoma media companies that’s far more sophisticated than most of its coastal brethren

HoopGurlz [resist nanny-nanny-boo-boo at Don Imus here] 

Assignment: Guatemala, a very ambitious multimedia investigation into an unsolved group of three murders, produced by the tiny (though Gannett-owned) Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley. [Oddly, this feature is listed in the “service journalism” rather than “investigative journalism” category. Explanation, anyone?]’s “Vista for the Masses,” a full-out, scramble-the-jets, spare-no-cost, hose-the-competition report on Microsoft’s new operating system.

Everybody knows the big media brands and what they can do online. The pleasure of clicking through this list is to see how many truly remarkable obscurities are out there–and too often overlooked.

And finally, our Noted Without Comment feature

Zappos Targets the Shoeless Flier