Monday, April 30, 2007

What Are You Doing?

With all of the hype surrounding Twitter, I just had to write about it. For those of you unaware of Twitter, it is a minute by minute, second by second updater that you can post to via SMS or the web. It's popularity really grew after the SxSW film festival about a month and a half ago, and its been growing ever since. There have been some Twitter clones out there, like a Facebook or Bebo, however Twitter seems to have rapidly become its own verb in a very short amount of time.

The sign that Twitter has made it to the big time is the new Barack Obama account that is a featured Twitter member. While Barack is the most Web 2.0 ified of presidential candidates (he has his own social network, YouTube, MySpace, etc), something about Twitter is extremely compelling. Unlike Facebook's automatic updates, Twitter allows you to write about something when you WANT to write about it and be able to broadcast this to the world (or your subscribers).

So you're probably thinking "Why would I want to know what you are doing at all times?" From a personal perspective, you probably wouldn't. (You definitely wouldn't.) However, from a brand perspective and perhaps even from an IR perspective (although this is very far from happening), you might be interested in knowing what is going on and a daily updated blog is simply not enough. Diehard Apple fanatics would be able to know Steve Jobs every thought at any time of the day. Fans of 24 would get to know what "Jack Bauer" was thinking every second of his day. And supporters, or potential on-the-fencers would be able to know what Barack Obama's viewpoints were...every second of every day. Sounds almost too good to be true, and it is, but the point that I want to make here is that as more and more tools come out that are being adopted by mainstream (right now it is the blog), consumers will be demanding more and more usage of it, which means allocating more resources to updating your Twitter / blog /MySpace profile / YouTube channel

Friday, April 27, 2007

GooTube Merger Complete?

YouTube is supposed to be testing out its pre and post roll ads this week according to Businessweek (via Mashable). However, Mashable brought up an interesting business model which seems to be a perfect compliment to YouTube's parent, Google. I've been arguing for eternity that I don't believe in pre, post, or mid roll ads. We all know from our own television viewing experience that they're annoying, intrusive, and very ignorable. So, that being said, the idea was to integrate AdSense with YouTube results and "Related Videos" section. Since more and more advertisers are hopping on the YouTube bandwagon presumably they'd want their content to be seen by more and more viewers. This in turn means that they'd be willing to pay for top placement on certain tags....or will they?

I think that this is a great idea that will, in the short run, help Google recoup some of its investment in YouTube. As long as advertisers can continue to make compelling content, viewers will be enticed to click. However, this does bypass the viral aspect of YouTube. After all, when you hear/see of a viral video how do you learn about it? Maybe if someone tells you for example about the Dove Ogilvy video you'll do a search for it...maybe. Most of the time, you'll be emailed the video or linked to it or it will be embedded like this. Lost revenue for Google. But other than that, I think advertisers will really want to own certain tags, since after all they are only paying for that interaction if it happens. I also love the concept of how the sponsored videos are embedded into the YouTube widgets. Popular videos come to the top. That way, everyone is making money similar to the entire AdSense model. Another thing to be weary of though is the gaming of YouTube, that is, writing a bot that can automatically ratchet your views into the hundreds of thousands. The Butterfly Effect magnifies this by placing your video in the "most viewed" category where more and more people will be curious as to why your video was seen so many times.

Despite these issues, which I'm sure Google will somehow resolve, I love this business model for YouTube, at least for the short term where advertisers/filmmakers can purchase placement for their videos and users know that they are purchasing that space. The question of whether this concept can translate from AdSense remains to be seen....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

If you can't build it, BUY it.

Stockpickr, a social network geared around the portfolios of various investment professionals, was bought yesterday by for undisclosed terms. We've been talking about Stockpickr for a while now and whether or not the collective intelligence of the group could predict the fortunes of the market. We've noticed that Marketwatch launched something similar with so-so results. However, the difference is the aggregated knowledge that Stockpickr has, boasting the portfolios of Warren Buffet and George Soros.

I think that Stockpickr was a great acquisition by which can utilize the social networking aspect to bolster its editorial content. The Wisdom of Crowds approach holds again, as savvy investors dart to see which stocks were picked by which investment gurus. The real reason however that I wrote about this acquisition was because of all of the press surrounding social networks. MySpace and Yahoo both have equal page views, however MySpace has a CPM that is a third of Yahoo. I wrote about metrics that MySpace commissioned to determine what the value of a friend add is. Facebook, the cover story of this month's Fast Company, was reportedly offered a billion dollars. YouTube of course $1.65 billion. A lot of money is being thrown at these social networks, but at the end, this money needs to be recouped. Of course, you can never charge someone to have an account, but if you can't do that, then how can you monetize this? Do you charge for premium content like Perhaps, after all this is how equity research makes their living (sort of). While it was a great buy (terms pending, of course) it remains to be seen if Stockpickr really is a stock picker!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trouble for US IR Sites?

The latest statistics from Alexa (via IR Web Report) show that traffic to Thomson's IR sites ( have hit an all time low. With a large number of US blue chips and mid cap companies using Thomson, along with the recent run up in the S&P 500, one would expect a positive correlation between page views and stock price. However, the latest statistics do not corroborate this. It seems that investors are turning more to blogs (like Seeking Alpha and tons of other blogs talking about industry, companies, products, etc), portals (like Yahoo! Finance) and message boards/social networks (like Stockpickr and Bullpoo) for their information. Is it a Web 2.0 thing? Doesn't appear to be, as Dominic Jones also notes that European companies' traffic is hitting an all time high.

What is happening here? I think its a few fold. The web is becoming more dynamic and static 'push' sites like Thomson's are just not cutting it. Investors would like a voice and an opinion in what is going on and the blog makes for a perfect forum for it. Social networks like stockpickr and bullpoo have become increasingly popular. Everyone wants to know what everyone else thinks. (I hate to bring it up again, but the Wisdom of Crowds effect.) Further, social networks give everyone an equal footing to be judged based solely on performance. Portals like Yahoo! Finance are not "Web 2.0" ified but then again, its been a staple since pre-Web 2.0 days. WHAT? What I mean is that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Another example: Bloomberg. In my opinion most traders are using Bloomberg as an instant messaging platform. Why? Because they've been using it since pre-email and they are comfortable with it. People have been using Yahoo! Finance since Web 1.0 and they have all of their data inputted and so forth (and since its customized, techincally it could be Web 2.0).

Investors relying on third party information like this is truly dangerous. As an IR/PR/Marketer you have no control over what message is being broadcast to the investment community about you. What to do about this? Well, as I mentioned before, about 5% of the Fortune 500 has a blog, and yes we are still waiting for the SEC ruling on Reg FD. However, its clear that instant gratification/communication is what the investment community wants, not day old or even half day old IR information. While it may mean more communication, I think that in the long run investors will be won over and you'll be able to broadcast your true message.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MySpace Marketing Metrics

Today's AdAge mentions marketing to the MySpace set through profiles and tries to quantify what its worth to a marketer when you "add" them to your friends list. The study was brought about due to the much lower CPM that MySpace is receiving as opposed to a Yahoo. In the end of the study, the real value of the brand interaction on MySpace was not simply the brand itself but how the brand actually plays a part in your daily life. Therefore, the value is four times over because of the actual endorsement from someone that you know, and how this person has benefitted from the brand.

The results here are not rocket science however. I think that the more that you engage someone with a feel good about your brand the better. What this study has done was given marketers a way to quantify that (and in essence put a dollar value on it). I wrote about Coke a few days ago and how they are creating a Second Life contest in which you "create the essence of coke." This is similar. How do I capture the essence of your product/brand? Why is your product/brand one of my friends? The brand needs to come up with a reason as to why people should talk about it, whether through a contest, feedback, or comments. Hence the explosion of all of the viral video contests on YouTube. How does my brand make you feel? Hopefully that is a positive experience although in the case of GM's viral video contest there was some backlash.

Finally, the study mentioned that just having a profile on MySpace didn't contribute to much. Three things that the study found were: that they gave a way for consumers to tell their stories, they gave people something to talk about, and they also provided incentive via a contest or promotion. So in the case of YouTube, #1) Video #2) your product #3) the prize. With MySpace's more flexible platform #1 could be a myriad of things. Creativity is the limit and I think that MySpace will work well with a certain type of brand and that clicks on MySpace may go the way of banners.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Perceptions of Online Video

Today's eMarketer statistic noted that most media and entertainment executives thought that online video (especially short form content) had the highest growth potential, triple that of the current cash printing format, the video game. Further they report that user generated content will be more than half of what is viewed online. However, the major difficulty here (in summing up the report) is

  • Commercials
  • Inconsistency of Production
  • Bad Search Capabilities/Too Much Stuff!

Now, I have to note that user generated content and short form content seem to be grouped together at least in the way that eMarketer has presented it. However, I have to point out a distinction between pure amateur video, prosumer/semi professional video, and professional video. While amateur video will always have a market (wacky clips taken on the moment by your cell phone camera), the rising of the "middle class," the prosumer/semi professional video will be the one to watch. These are the filmmakers/videographers with the new $5200 AG-HVX200 HD Panasonic camera, the latest Final Cut Studio for $1200, the latest Adobe After Effects for $1199 and so on. They'll have all the tools to make professional grade media, but at a fraction of the labor cost, and without the connections to achieve mainstream distribution. If you notice the top 10 all time viewed YouTube videos, 7 of them have editing that is probably beyond the scope of iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

I've argued that semi-professional videos will soon become the growing segment of online video, but as a marketer, how does that affect you? I think that it may mean access to lower production costs and more ideas for getting your brands out to audiences. From my limited knowledge of production, I know that it takes 5 guys to change a light bulb due to all of the union regulations out there. Well, now the guy in Iowa can create similar content at a fraction of the cost without the labor unions. It also means that with large prizes like a Superbowl Commercial (a la Doritos), more and more prosumers will be vying for an opportunity to utilize your marketing muscle to make it big. If Frito Lay were smart, they'd be asking some of their runners up to be creating their next wave of commercials (again at a fraction of the cost). But, here's the most interesting one: As computer skills become as necessary as typing skills were 30 years ago, we're going to see a new age of marketer: the creative techie marketer. Marketers: Be on the lookout for this person (or these people) as they will be pushing the frontier of what is possible in this new and exciting space.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Loving Google

Ok, I admit, I've been bashing Google a bit on their quest to take over the world and its probably a bad thing because the traffic to this blog from non-subscribers will probably plummet, but I couldn't ignore the incredible earnings release last night as well as their announcement of purchasing a WebEx type company this morning. Everywhere I turn Google this Google that, and now with a market cap that is about half of Microsoft, Google is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Coupled with Yahoo's drop in earnings, Google is the leader on the Web. But the interesting thing about Google is that for all of the neat little things they put out there, nearly all of its revenue comes from Search. How many times have you seen someone fire up their web browser go to Google and type in the URL? I bet Google (or some derivation with a Google search box) are on 70% of a person's starting (home page).

That being said, as a marketer, SEO (search engine optimization) is becoming more and more important. The first three pages must be positive about your firm and its products. And if they are not, get a PR team and an SEO to make sure that they are. However, the beauty of Google is that it is a true meritocracy. Just because you are throwing more money at a problem doesn't mean that it will go away. If a product is truly faulty, and appears negatively in a blogger's blog, and is linked to many times, you will have a tough time pushing that mention off the first page. Wikipedia no doubt will be on that front page as well (if you are popular enough to have a Wikipedia entry) so hope that that has a positive spin on you as well.

We haven't even spoken about SEM or search engine marketing, Google's bread and butter. Monitor your entries and make sure that you aren't overpaying for clicks that can be had for less. And while I'm not going to go into a whole lesson on SEM I think the most important thing: Make sure the landing page is relevant and ready to purchase. Imagine, you clicked on the link for the book The Tipping Point and it just brought you to's home page (where you'd have to redo the entire search). Sounds small but you'd be annoyed and you'd have a smaller chance of capturing that conversion. But the lesson today is that search is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives especially via Google (the numbers are our evidence) so please don't ignore that as part of your marketing plan.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

eBay, PayPal, Skype, Stumble Upon?

EBay's latest acquisition, Stumble Upon has been purchased for $40-$45 million as reported by GigaOm. So eBay has bought Paypal, which makes great sense given their close integration with auctions and online payments, then Skype for a few billion dollars and now StumbleUpon? I'm not sure how Skype fits into eBay's core business of auctions. Would you ever Skype a person that you were buying the latest Nintendo Wii game from? And where does StumbleUpon come into play? Unless....eBay plans to take on the evil empire that is slowly brewing in Google. With StumbleUpon, which is essentially a repurposed version of Google's "I'm feeling Lucky" button, eBay users have a smart search at their finger tips. Users are taken right to a page instead of banner ads or even contextual ads, bringing some decent brand awareness at the very least. Connected with eBay's auction system, you can browse for similar items using the StumbleUpon mechanism.

As for Skype, how does this VoIP system fit in? I think that eBay wants to claim some desktop real estate similar to that annoying uninstallable Google desktop. With the acquisition of StumbleUpon, eBay's positioning of finding everything new and used, and a communication tool more intimate than IM, eBay is also building a complete desktop to compete against Microsoft and more likely Google (who announced their own "rolling of the dice" product as well). Keep this in mind as eBay who was once the garage sale of the Internet could become a viable player in the online space.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virtual Contests

I always hate it when people say "I told you so" but we have to toot our own horn a little bit here on Coca Cola's new contest on Second Life. Their Virtual Thirst competition calls for people to create a vending machine in Second Life that not only dispenses soda but the "Essence of Coca Cola." We talked earlier about how Second Life would provide a great environment for virtually anything.

Coke has really embraced the young consumer market with this promotion as they have a MySpace page, encourage you to upload your Second Life creation via YouTube, and of course have you create something in Second Life. This is a full embracement of the Web 2.0 sphere which is something that I haven't seen yet. I also think that Coke is trying to make up for the backlash they received from not fully acknowledging the diet coke and mentos phenomena. While the prize is kind of lame, a trip to San Francisco to be in a documentary, I think that Coke will receive a good number of entries simply based on the fact that people would like to win this very first Second Life creation prize, especially since the contest is about capturing the essence of Coke, and not having to create something that actually works.
Again, the great thing about the "flattening" of the world today is that professional tools are now available to the prosumer. Second Life might not be Maya, but it allows you to share with others what is in your mind. Final Cut Pro is the industry standard. After Effects is used in Hollywood movies. And the great thing is that all of these programs install on your MacBook Pro. The bar is going to be raised in terms of production, but alas even like Hollywood, content is king. And in Coke's words: "A truly unique and exciting stick drawing is better than a been-there-done-that professional 3D animation."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Google Rules the World

So in addition to their purchase of Doubleclick and their announcement of the Clear Channel Radio ads roll out, coupled with Google TV and their purchase of YouTube last year, Google seems to be the major force in the new world of targeted advertising. Google's database is going to stretch across all media which will truly be either a scary thing or an extremely good thing.

With Doubleclick, Google now has a presence in serving up banner ads and other display media. Coupled with their AdWords product, Google hopes to serve up relevant ads not just in text but also via banners. Overall Google is hoping that you have one crossover Google account. You can be hit with advertisements for your favorite foods and mainstream brands on TV, your favorite restaurants while on the road via Radio, and anything else they've missed via the Internet. One area where Google is lacking (although I'm sure they can find a small fledging company in this space that would LOVE to get bought by them) is mobile. Could Google be going the way of Apple and their iPhone product? Mobile is the hot new area of growth especially in the advertising front. Mobile gaming has grown in triple digits, nearly everyone has a cell phone (80%), web access is coming up on 50% and so on. While Google has their text messaging feature, it will be a matter of time before Google offers you free service, but only if you listen to an ad or if someone interjects during your conversation about different goods and services from some type of voice recognition pattern. Scary huh?

One last point. With this inevitable big brotherliness about Google, why does everyone still cower down on Microsoft? Why is Microsoft evil while Google is always the good guy? It's clearly not David and Goliath anymore but rather a battle of two near equals. I think it comes down to the fact that Google doesn't charge YOU the end consumer and for the people that they do charge, they have guaranteed results. Google is open source everything, opening up their API's, and integrating their revenue source into it. Microsoft meanwhile is more old economy by selling IP and closing off the rest of the world to their monopoly. Lesson here? Be open, be liked, and also take over the world while you're at it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Butterfly Effect

The New York Times had an interesting article this weekend about how Hollywood and the music industry figures out if they have a hit in the early stages of its career. They don't. In a study that seems like it would be a great case study for the Tipping Point, the author, a Columbia professor, talks about a study that he conducted that talked about rating music. In it, he subjected one group to simply the names of songs and bands, and the other group also had the number of downloads on it. As you can slowly see, the one group with the download number had markedly skewed results than the other one. Turns out that the subjects were not only influenced by the music but also by the number of downloads. The Butterfly / Snowball Effect in play here, where people are influenced also by what they perceive others to like. He goes on to site examples of Harry Potter being turned down by eight other publishers, the Beatles, Star Wars, etc.

Well how does that affect your marketing plan? Very interestingly, this comes back around to social networks and the Tipping Point. People have the herd mentality which is why even a stock price falls or rises higher when perceived news comes out that is bad or good, respectively. We are all Lemmings to one extent or the other. We are social creatures, and we don't want to be left out. So, in this case, we need to find those influentials, those people willing to take a risk and endorse something (even if its as simple as putting it on a blog, MySpace page, or creating a YouTube video about how great something is).
They're taking this risk, knowing that if all doesn't go according to plan, their reputation is on the line. But who are these people? I think that while mainstream media is the easy answer, you can find blogs that are certainly influential to a certain community (TechCrunch for techies for example). Tila Tequila, the infamous, most "friended" MySpacer. Perhaps you have to "game" a system to even be noticed. I know that when I go to YouTube, there is so much content, that I just want to view the videos with the most hits. People have figured out how to game these systems to appear just there (although their rating reveals what the content really is). I'm hoping that this is helpful for those of you out there trying to market your products in this vast ocean of "stuff." (After all, MySpace definitely is not the cleanest or best social networking site, yet, they somehow caught). But if I could figure out the next hit, I would be doing so, and as William Goldman once mentioned - "No one knows anything." Very true not only in Hollywood, but when trying to figure out who will be the next YouTube.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Results are in...Bud TV Falls

So the results on the very widely watched (at least from a results standpoint) are in. Bud.TV viewership peaked at 253,000 visitors in February and has now dropped to 152,000 unique visitors good enough for ranking number 49,303 on the web according to ComScore Media Metrix. Bud execs were hoping for between 2 million and 3 million viewers on the online network which cost about $30 million. There's been a huge controversy over Bud TV's age verification scheme which asks you to put your drivers license since the attorneys did not want the alcohol manufacturer to actively market to underage adults and teens. However, despite this, Bud TV's free clips on YouTube have received little traffic with a few exceptions.

So the branded television network does not seem to work. Although 150,000 visitors is not bad, granted with a $30 million spend they should have received more. Personally I haven't watched any of Bud TV's clips until this post. Replaced by a Chimp and Afterworld are two shows that I've watched on YouTube. They are not bad although Afterworld seems like more of a slide show than a movie. There is no visible product placement except for the Bud TV logo in the corner. I'm not sure why they are not receiving the views that they were supposed to be receiving especially with all the hype surrounding it. Embedding is disabled for Afterworld, but I don't think that's the issue. I think one of the issues could be the pacing and the length of the shows. On average each show is about 3 minutes, where as Prom Queen is two minutes, although we don't know how Prom Queen is doing yet. "What Girls Want" is pushing 7 to 8 minutes! Replaced by a Chimp also adds about a third to its run time by putting their credits on as a post roll. While viewers probably click off at this point, potential viewers could be dissuaded by such a long run time. OR could it be just a critical mass thing? OR could this really be the Long Tail? Afterworld in YouTube terms is still in the top 10 subscribed and viewed. MySpace took a while to take off, maybe Bud TV needs to just keep at it and eventually a "tipping point" will occur? We'll be watching.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Web 3.0?

With all of the hype that Second Life is receiving along with the other virtual reality worlds out there, I have to talk about where I think this whole thing is going to go. Mashable reviews Cruxy today, a widget that works inside various virtual worlds, even World of Warcraft. The widget is a player that embeds within an avatar so that artists can sell their audio, video or stills.

Second Life and other virtual worlds are being infiltrated by big brands such as Dell, American Apparel and Nike. Yet while these big brands are necessary I believe that this peer to peer interaction will still drive commerce. For example, your avatar is sitting next to mine at the Second Life Apple Store. I chat with you about the differences between iMovie and Final Cut and you tell me that you think that Final Cut does things so much better and that is worth the price. Then I can purchase Final Cut right from the Apple Store. With Cruxy, the product is you going around telling people to listen to your music. That doesn't really happen in real life outside of Times Square. Again, I think that while big brands have little to lose in Second Life (since most of their stores are not manned anyway), the real interaction is peer to peer. Where recommendations and such will really drive sales and marketing.

Is Second Life overhyped? Probably. Is it the future? Again possibly. While today's mechanisms are a bit clunky, in essence, Second Life is one big chat room with nice graphics, imagine the possibilities when you are virtually there. Think Nintendo Wii meets Second Life...that would be cool.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Marketing Imitating Art

Just as life imitates art so does marketing. AdAge reports on this growing trend with different products, most popularly sneakers and cars. In fact, something like sneakers is such a popular art that social networks such as SneakerPlay have popped up around one's sneaker collection. (For the record, I am also a sneaker addict with about a dozen different pairs of sneakers.) Similarly the Toyota Scion has done a great job at being customized and thus a work of art in itself. To some degree, cell phones have also become a work of art (fashion) as well.

This being said, how can we capitalize on this as marketers? I think the first thing that we have to think of is WHY people do this? WHY do you want those shiny metallic purple sneakers? WHY do you want that lime green striped Scion? People want to be different, they want to be unique, they want to be recognized as individuals in this age of targeted marketing; the Long Tail. The more you allow someone to play with and customize the more control they want. We could go into a long discussion about iPods but I think that if Apple opened up not only the Apple architecture but also allowed for an infinite color palate of colors people would have multiple iPods for different occasions (my work out iPod, my going out iPod, etc).

Keep in mind that Products as Art only goes so far. Technical gadgets are the best candidate for this (laptops, cars), along with anything that you wear (cell phones, iPods, clothes (obviously)), and anything that you use that defines you (pens, tools, etc). Nike Plus created the wearable iPod with sleeves, sneakers and a whole line of clothing and sneakers that integrated the iPod with the rest of your running outfit. Putting gemstones on your phone was popularized by Paris Hilton but now its tough not to see at least a few people with these "pimped out" phones. Alienware took a commodity and made your desktop PC into your own. With technology we can create customized products for each individual and I think that soon people will expect this.

I think that the takeaway is that if you can customize your product with colors, designs or patterns (cosmetic changes), you should allow your consumers to do so via your website. Not only will they feel that this pattern is unique to them, they will become your brand advocate by integrating it into themselves as ART.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Value of Your Opinion

iProspect put out a report detailing user behavior online with an emphasis on social networks. To summarize some of the results:
  • Despite buzz about social networks, search engines still outweigh social networks in terms of reach and use
  • However, niche social networks are useful to reach a particular demographic and most social networks are regularly visited.
  • Purchasing behavior is somewhat influenced by social networks (this includes and Yahoo! Answers)
  • Most comments are positive, few are negative, but most people don't comment at all.

Interesting report, but one where our intuition really pointed to, which is before you listen to a marketer, you'd rather listen to a third party with no real vested interest in the product. Further, with a very small amount of people that are actually commenting or rating a product, you're left with a core group of activists that are driving a large percentage of ecommerce. Scary thought. The good news is that most people are fair and actually skewed toward product advocacy. The chart shows that a small amount of people are "Debbie Downers" that is, they just post negative comments. A few levels up are the fair folks, those that post both negative and positive - the "speak your mind" folks. And an even larger number are positive folks. Positive comments only. It appears that many net users follow what your mom used to say "If you don't have anything to nice to say, don't say anything at all." Good news for marketers. The scary part are the Debbie Downers, the makers of iPod's Dirty Secret, the whistleblowers, the Negative Nancys, etc. After all these website filtering mechanisms make it easy to find these negative ratings amongst a sea of positive ones. What to do? Don't ignore them. Don't delete them. Address them. Show your loyal consumers that you have nothing to hide and if it is your mistake, admit your humanity. Through this transparent communication, your product advocates will emerge out of hiding and champion your product against the Debbie Downers out there.

Another interesting point is what they call brand awareness versus actual conversion - Amazon obviously leads in conversion while YouTube does a pretty good job of brand awareness. Kind of obvious because you go to Amazon to research a product while you go to YouTube to view stupid human tricks.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Video Game Spending Up

In today's eMarketer, the report stated how video game spending pegged at about a billion dollars for 07 will nearly double in four years. I think marketers are realizing the potential of video games and the power of product placement, especially interactive product placement. A few months ago, Microsoft bought Massive, an advertising company specializing in billboards for video games. We've seen the success of Burger King's XBox Games. I attended the King Kong premiere last year and instead of a goodie bag they asked me if I wanted a Playstation or XBox Game of King Kong. We've seen the launch of PS3's take on Second Life. And speaking of Second Life, we've seen the massive (no pun here!) press that it has gotten for being an interactive world where real money is transacted.

All of this points to a slow integration of products and services into the content that we consume. Interactivity is the key to building a strong brand. While celebrity and character endorsement is powerful, nothing is more powerful than experiencing something first hand, even if that is through YOUR avatar or video game character (or even yourself through Wii's new interface). I don't think as marketers we give people enough credit. I think they would very much like to be engaged with your brand, if your brand has something compelling to engage with. For example, watching ABC's prime time shows online, some of the commercials that are shown are simply TV commercials repurposed for the web. I can't wait to click on that Continue button. However, commercials that have a story line, or allow you to click to play a game or something that engages you with the brand during that mandatory thirty second break are more likely to be successful. You are actually interacting with that brand as opposed to mindlessly watching a 30 second countdown. In Second Life, you experience (or at least your Avatar experiences) the difference between regular shoes and Nikes. Likewise in video games (which if you think about it, Second Life is one big video game). Point here: keep your eye on this space and begin to develop your own branded content and allow consumers to use your content on their avatars or characters and they eventually may use them in real life.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Update: Companies Happy with Web 2.0

Well everyone that's spent some cash on your peer to peer network you can now be happy. McKinsey's Survey (registration required) shows that most people are very satisfied with their Web 2.0 investment over the past five years. Most of these folks categorized themselves as fast followers or early adopters, probably because they were able to get in before demand increased and therefore got a good price. In fact 42% said that they invested at the right time while 24% said that they should have invested sooner. A gray web services investment was being used by 80% of respondents followed by collective intelligence, peer to peer, and social networking. Bringing up the rear was mashups, blogs, and wikis, which are not even being considered by many of the respondents. India had the greatest percent increase in investment dollars followed by AsiaPac and Europe, while Retail and High Tech led the way for industries.

Overall the report doesn't say anything that we don't know or couldn't have inferred. The greatest tech growth is obviously in the countries with little to no tech infrastructure. At this time, India and China. Blogs and Wikis still are having a tough time being adopted because companies are still very protective of their IP and don't want anything out there that could offer up their competitive advantage to the industry. Web Services, peer to peer and collective intelligence strategies are leading the way as they are the backbone for any type of further collaboration internally. One lesson learned though is that many of them wish that they had implemented this technology faster. I guess sometimes we never learn, since collaborative technologies like blogs and wikis will (possibly) become a norm, yet very few companies are investing in them.

The First Collaborative Commercial

Mashable broke a story about the first collaborative TV commercial. For $39 you can buy your own frame of an 8 and a half minute TV commercial. (In PAL at 25 frames per second ourTVad has 12750 frames. PAL is the European standard for broadcast, since this is a Lisbon based site). So far as of this writing they've sold 4 frames. Again, this worked when the guy sold the million dollar home page but I'm not so sure that this will work in video, unless someone buys at least 100 frames. $3900.

I love the warning on the bottom of flickering. I mean come on 25 frames per second and you can buy one frame, of course there will be flickering. If this commercial is ever seen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Prom Queen

So Prom Queen debuted on Monday. If you are not aware of it, it is Michael Eisner (ex-CEO of Disney) venture into the online world via Vuguru his online production company. 90 second episodics professionally produced and sponsored through pre and post roll advertisements. Prom Queen is produced by the same team that put together Sam Has 7 Friends, normally thought of as the harbinger of the online serial short, and the first series produced by Vuguru and hosted on Veoh (Eisner is on their board).

Initially thoughts? Not bad. There's a pre-roll and a post-roll advertisement for Hairspray the movie. That's it. No visible product placements. No visible brands. Content wise? Not bad either. Feels Dan Brownish. Each episode ends on a cliff hanger of some sort that leaves you wanting more. The production quality also gives an eerie "Am I watching TV online?" feel to it that makes Internet time feel like TV time. (Meaning that on TV they can slowly creep into a room but online why don't they just have a jumpcut to the room?) Honestly the 90 seconds goes by pretty quickly and you almost wish that they didn't have this restriction (which is obviously what they want). Each of the characters have their own MySpace page and the forums (while not heavily travelled ... yet) could be an interesting point to determine plot points and other things that the producers could use ... or not use.

In my opinion I think the content executes well. I could see that the series could be highly addictive and like shows like Lost and 24 have fan sites arising and all types of chatter via the message boards and forums. The production quality is superior and rivals that of The one thing I'd like to see is better integration of product sponsors with the content. As we move toward a pay per action world, perhaps that's what we might see. But for a first pass, good job, Michael. We'll be waiting to see who kills the Prom Queen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Another "Wisdom" Application

After talking about Marketwatch last week, which by the way, when everyone was bullish the market went down (what does that say?), I've stumbled upon another Wisdom of Crowds type application courtesy of Mashable called MyMuv. MyMuv (pronounced My Move) is a trend tracking tool where you can create "battles" between two different things. Examples: Hillary Clinton vs George W Bush, XBox vs PS3, Coffee vs Tea, and a whole bunch of other battles, some that make sense and others that don't.

Now just like Marketwatch, once MyMuv achieves some type of critical mass, will it be able to accurately predict trends? I think that this will do a better job than Marketwatch since there is no financial incentive (at least not apparently) to choose for example coffee over tea. You choose hopefully what you really use or like and the wisdom of the crowd will determine whether or not you are in the majority. Since its a social network, it will prevent one from loading any of the battles and it will determine what type of person you are from your choices, although IE vs Firefox won't say much about you....perhaps.

I think its an interesting play and will probably require stricter monitoring to make it appeal on a macro level. It seems that it is India based with many references to India, which is fine, but many of the battle participants like a Bajaj Pulsar or Dharwad need more explanation! (Although Google and Wikipedia do a good job in defining.) Again, we'll keep our eye on this and see how it predicts the future!

Monday, April 2, 2007

DRM Free at Last

EMI's announcement today to make their music DRM free may change the entire consumer landscape of music. EMI will sell their new DRM free tracks through Apple's iTunes at an exclusive price of $1.29 (30 cents above the normal track), but they claim to have twice the sound quality of existing tracks. Without DRM (and their CD's do not have DRM), their MP3's will be able to be copied to other players, discs and other forms seamlessly. Will this expand the music business or will it further shrink it?

In my opinion, the removal of DRM from EMI's tracks will actually expand their listening base. Prior users of iTunes who were reluctant to purchase may now purchase more since the tracks can now be played not only on their iPods but on their home stereo systems. They'll be able to share tracks more easily with friends who may be enticed to purchase other tracks by the same artist.

As for the pirates? I think its fairly well known that to get around the DRM you can burn the tracks to a disc and then re-rip them to get rid of the DRM. Pirates that did this before now have to go through one less step. But pirates will always be pirates and even so, pirates will always find a way to crack any type of DRM while true consumers will be the ones that pay the price.

The record labels? The Long Tail is in effect here. Record labels are going to have to find more acts to sign to bring visibility to in order to satisfy their entire spectrum of listeners. They're monopoly is over, its going to be like finding the hidden Microsoft amongst all of the bulletin board stocks out there. Like finding the next lonely girl amongst every YouTube video out there. Like finding the next OK Go amongst every track on iTunes.....