Thursday, June 19, 2008

Add Friend for Advertisers

Two great presentations have been floating around on What’s Next in Marketing & Advertising, by Paul Isakson, and an extension of this, What’s Next in Media, by Neil Perkin, with a stronger content focus. Both highlight the continuing evolution of media, social media, the power of the consumer, and the demand for advertisers to engage and interact, conversations. They deliver the message simple and straight to the point, watch them when you can.

It’s a word I find myself using a lot of on this blog, but it’s about how can the advertiser add ‘value’, helping people, helping communities, do what they want to do. It’s about the product becoming the ad, content being the new currency, and a flattening of the advertiser/consumer brand control hierarchy.

It's why I believe display ads, no matter how hyper-super-granular-targeted they are, aren't the answer to social media. You can build signs around it, ‘sponsor’ it, paint the walls in which consumers play in, but to extract value from the 'social' in social media, converse, involve and interact, you need to earn your place in the social media community. It's not short-term, it's not 'campaign' based, and it's not for every brand, but the audience is there, the opportunity is there, and the long term benefit for brands who truly understand and involve themselves in social media is massive.

Top 100 Australian Web2.0 Applications Announced

BRW have released their Top 100 Australian Web 2.0 Applications as a feature in their latest issue.

Take a look at the full list on Ross Dawson’s blog.

Big up’s to Ben’s in at number 8, Guy at Stateless Systems in at number 10 with retailmenot and the very cool CushyCMS at 40, as well as Jake and Nat’s adimade in at #48 after only 4 months. Eight of the top ten .com sites doing great things o/s. Never an easy list to compile, easy to critique, but overall a great attempt at capturing the web2.0 market locally, and a good opportunity to give these guys some well deserved credit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where’s the lab love?

Around 3 years ago Google Labs was setting the trend, with many a local publisher mirroring the concept, allowing their internal developers and UI teams to experiment with their own 20% time. It became a sandbox to trial, experiment and showcase new concepts that may require further quantitative feedback without risking their brand if the concept was not quite right just yet. Technology Sand Pit and Labs were one of the first to jump in and setup their own destination pages, but over the last 12 months, there as been very little seen or heard of them. RSS is the best Realestate can offer on their page, the page is down as I type.

The originator, Google Labs, has also slowed up and I find myself very rarely heading to this page. Their most recent Google Friend Connect skipped the queue all together, graduating straight to Beta territory, and it seems as though Google, like Realestate and have lost the love for labs.

It seems innovation, although somewhat slowly, is still happening, realestate have, although this doesn’t seem to have progressed all that much in over a year now, their main competitor Domain now have Just Listed in Beta, looking very web2.0 with it’s large trebuchet search font, supersized buttons and tag cloud-arama. There’s been some brilliant examples of experimentation with UI and functionality o/s recently, including MCNBC’s Spectra, but it appears none of the heavy hitters locally are stepping up to really push the conventional. I believe, labs or no labs, these publishers in particular, resourced and content rich, can do more. We shouldn’t have to rely on startup’s or the filtering through of tried and tested o/s developments to push the local envelope forward.

Online has a fantastic opportunity to test concepts, ideas, products with hundreds of thousands of users at relatively low risk and investment, “try stuff”, and it is through this that future products we interact with can be moulded, refined and produced.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

24 Hr Self-Serve. Media Planner Evolution

Google’s self-serve buffet continues to roll-out, with Google TV ads (currently only available in the US) complimenting their online and radio offers by allowing users to schedule, buy, analyse and optimise their TV schedules. Overlay the results with their online and radio data via Google Analytics and you have a one-stop-shop to measure cross-media effectiveness.. or does it?

Bless Google for providing us with these tools, but while it does provide a somewhat over-simplified approach to media buying and optimisation, does this open the door to a lazy, self-optimising approach to media buys? If x delivers y for z ROI, then a ok? For many, this will be the case. It’s still early days, but if the Google model works for TV, the reach and targeting improve, it really does have the potential to redefine the modern day role of a media planner. It opens up an opportunity to add depth in two key areas I feel need the most attention - consumer psychology and data analyse and interpretation.

Take a quick job ad for a Media Planner on SEEK, the description states they’re after -

  1. Campaign Optimisation
  2. Development of media concepts and plans
  3. Developing innovative and effective communication solutions
  4. Maintaining effective relationships with clients and ensuring in depth knowledge of their business and its needs
  5. Media negotiation and buying
  6. Researching past brand or product strategies and results, competitive actions, consumer behavior and changes to the marketplace
  7. Understanding and interpretation of research, market data and systems
  8. Produce media plans identifying mediums, timings, weights and cost estimates
  9. Prepare presentations and reports
In theory Google has the ability to alleviate large chunks of 1, 2, 5, 8 and 9. Let’s ignore 3 and 4 for one second and focus on the remaining numbers 6 and 7 – two clearly distinct roles I feel will evolve in importance and demand for clients in the future.

You need someone who is able to proudly wear the cap of number 6, truly understand and define a brands audience, their behaviour relative to the brand, campaign and how they interact with media – all media, not just your traditional above-the-line categories we are all familiar with, but new media, social media and the yet-to-be-defined media.

You also need someone who is happy to wear number the 7 cap, delve deep into the available data sources, filtering, sorting, refining and identifying what metrics are important and why they are important relative to the brand and campaign objectives. This is all the more important in the online world, where everything is measureable, a lot of data, but not a lot of sense in what data is important.

These are truly value-generating roles, one’s that will push the ad industry forward, provide true value to clients, and from this result in numbers 3 and 4 for the media planner – innovative and effective communications solutions that deliver on client objectives and satisfaction.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Creativity is limitless. But knowing your limits creates innovative ideas.

If you were to have all the money in the world, what would you spend it on? I don’t think it’s an easy question to answer. Give me $10k, $500k, 1mill and I’ll reel off a shopping list for easy category – I have a limit. I think everybody is capable of great ideas, in many ways this is the easy part. But I believe the key to generating innovative executions, is in the deep understanding of the limits, the paddock you have to play in.

Apply this to online advertising. In responding to a client brief. A great brief offers detailed insights, target audience and clear objectives that provide us with boundaries to work within. You expect that they are S.M.A.R.T. and you hope the funnel isn’t too big or too small to filter your ideas and response. You have several ‘limitation buckets’ that are defined for you –

- The Client – their understanding and enthusiasm for digital, their budget, their previous success with online.

- Their Campaign objectives – ROI, CTR, CPA, - insert three letter acronyms here -

- Your resources and assets – your audience, your internal resources, skillsets, time.

And one more..
- Technology

One bucket I think is most undervalued, you are limited in technology. Understanding the limits of technology and how you can manipulate the online space is fundamental to being able to fully maximise your creative opportunities and produce innovative digital executions.

Online is no doubt the most complex of all media to understand. Changing standards, measurement metrics not always easy to interpret and of course the constantly evolving technology; from Adobe Air to Silverlight, the mobile evolution and the big wide world of widgets.

But too often, local players, through failed understanding of what is possible, a lack of willingness to challenge what has been done in the past, apply a cookie-cutter approach to online solutions, tried and tested executions, that rarely deliver on client objectives or deliver true value. I feel there needs to be more people actively seeking to understand and apply this technology in new, unique and relevant ways.

I don’t expect everyone will want to know the latest Web2.0 social-networking site, spend their days on a carousel between RSS feeds, Techcrunch, Friendfeed and Twirl, but overall I think there needs to be a greater demand by those in the local online ad industry to understand and apply what is possible.

Check Orange’s ‘The World’s first internet balloon race’, a clever, unique execution which will no doubt deliver on Orange’s objectives above and beyond. And it’s not always about thinking large. NDM’s very own prized possession, the homepage, offer up 14% of your above-the-fold pixels to advertisers via a medium rectangle and banner.

Forget the IAB terminology of ‘display ads’, we’ve got an interactive canvas, opening up opportunities for a conversations, engagement and interaction. And I hope through increasing the understanding and the limits of this technology, we can drive innovative, creative ideas that push forward local online advertising.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Users are number one

This is one point I'll always come back to. Understand how to reach and engage users, change behaviour, improve lives and the dollars will follow. Usability and user testing, while not glamorous, are important. Forget search-engine optimisation.. for a moment. And focus on the user. Spend too much time optimising to an algorithm and you take your eye off your real users. Human based search-engines such as have the ability to redefine search all together.