33 posts categorized "Online Advertising"

04/01/2009 Can Selling Behavioral Data Save Online Marketing?

EXelate-logo I spoke with Mark Zagorski with Exelate today. Mark and his colleagues are trying to make online advertising work better by, as he puts it, “making selling data as important as selling media.”

Exelate buys your cookie information from Web sites, for example publishers of auto, parenting or finance sites, and sells that to ad networks and agencies. What it means to marketers is that when we buy that information, we can target advertising to show up on the page you’re browsing if we see that cookie.

It’s like this:

  1. You shop for travel deals to Paris on travel site. Your Cookie = Travel/Paris
  2. Travel sites sells cookies to Exelate
  3. Marketer selling 12 Language Translator Gadget is looking for people planning a trip overseas.
  4. Marketer buys your cookie from Exelate
  5. Marketer buys online advertising on ad network.
  6. You go online = Network sees Travel/Paris cookie and serves up Translator Gadget ad.
  7. Travel site makes money selling the cookie
  8. Gadget marketer gets higher response.

It sounds pretty smart and simple. You can work with the ad providers to get even more granular on a contextual level (only showing the ads on the Travel pages of the New York Times, for example) and I’m sure there’s a great play here with some of the multivariate providers, like Adroit.

One of the big issues firms like Exelate run into is privacy. While no user information swaps hands (no e-mail or IP addresses) there’s still a lot of touchiness in the industry about cookies and personal data.

It’s bizarre, actually, when you think of the amount of data snail-mail direct marketers collect about us and use on a daily basis, compared with what’s going on online. There’s something about online that just freaks everyone out about privacy, sexual predators, and data scams. Yes, we have all of that; it’s just that it’s a fraction of what happens offline.

Exelate lets customers opt out of their network, though, in case they don’t want people to sell their cookie info. Kind of like the do not call list. Only, it doesn’t mean that they won’t see any ads; it just means that they may not see any relevant ads. Exelate let’s people see the data they have on them and you can customize what you want to see.

Right now, from a customer standpoint, Exelate’s main promise is reducing something negative – irrelevant ads. It can’t stop bad creative and it can’t stop the ads themselves. It’s too bad there still isn’t a way to provide consumers with a clear upside, something to positive to gain rather than minimizing something unwanted.

While all of this could be help online advertisers and consumers, the biggest value may be in providing Web publishers an alternate way to monetize its visitors. Rather than simply selling more ad space, they can sell data. If it works, it could make the Web universe more stable for publishers and in a perfect world, might even reduce the amount of interruptive ad space.

It will be interesting to see how Exelate and some of the other behavioral data firms fare in this economy. Will online marketers try it? I know I’m seriously looking at testing this with a couple of clients. The cost difference is pretty minimal.

I’ll let you know what happens.

03/31/2009 The Online Chicken Littles

Web Ad Growth Deteriorates” reads the headline today from AdWeek. Yikes, I new things were bad, but not that bad. Here’s what dictionary.com says about deteriorate:

  1. To grow worse; degenerate: The weather deteriorated overnight. His health had deteriorated while he was in prison.
  2. To weaken or disintegrate; decay: The nation's highways are deteriorating at a rapid pace.

And yet, here’s what the article says about the latest IAB report:

  • Q4 had the highest level of spending online ever, yet the growth compared with 2007 for the quarter was only 2.6%
  • The 4.6% increase in growth from the previous quarter was the lowest increase since 2002
  • While non-internet media was down 2% for 2008, eMarketer is still forecasting a 4.5% growth in 2009 for online advertising.

Disintegrate, decay, degenerate, and deteriorate. Yet this is all happening in a time when our economy is in the worst shape it’s been in 70-80 years. I would have expected even worse numbers, given what’s happening to businesses across the globe.


Instead, I see a lot of positives in those numbers. I see growth and opportunity, and a realization that people have moved online and brands need to follow.

As my old thesis advisor once told me “What you see depends on where you stand.”

Where are you standing, Adweek?

03/30/2009 Mac vs. PC Online

Microsoft and Crispin have launched its latest competitive ads against Apple and TBWA. This time, the focus is price, not a bad strategy in a down economy. They’ve seemed to give up on the “PC users are cool, too” strategy after Apple and co. reacted very quickly with a jab at the campaign itself.

I like the TV ad. I think it was a good execution of a “normal” person shopping.

Online, though, I have to wonder if Microsoft and Crispin are simply out of their league.

This promotion showed up on the home page of the NewYorkTimes.com on Friday. It was a slot machine execution to show how much money you would save. There wasn’t a lot to it; it was kind of small and hard to read; and it didn’t take advantage of the medium very well. You could spin to see what great extras you missed out on by buying a MacBook.

Pc ad3small
Think about what they’re up against: The latest Apple MacBook and iPod ads have the computer busting out of its assigned ad space. And the Apple vs. PC ads online have been the best, hands down, of repurposing TV ads online. Click here for a great, great example of what Apple and TBWA do with a NYT.com ad.

TBWA has used the technology in clever ways to gain attention, either by smashing up navigation on MTV or coordinating content in the banners themselves. The ads are eye-catching and entertaining.


I expected Crispin, who are one of the best agencies when it comes to doing both traditional and digital, to come up something better than a slot machine. Been there, done that. You’d figure that together with the Microsoft team at aQuantive, we would have seen something that would have pushed the limits.

Crispin and Microsoft need to move up a notch in using the online technology for advertising. We know they can do it on microsites. Let’s see that great creativity flourish in this limited space; we need them to do so.

As for content, in the TV ads are straightforward and clear. Online, I have to choose between a MacBook or a PC laptop and 65 Starbucks Lattes. I can already see Apple’s TV response.

03/29/2009 Another Contextual Ad on NYT.com

With all the dire comments on the future of online advertising, the one place marketers need to keep their eye on is the New York Times online. They’re the ones who seem to be experimenting with new models and solutions.

Last fall I pointed out an example from IBM, where the “ad” was links to NYT.com Opinion pieces that talked about IBM’s solutions. Smart and believable.

A few days ago I saw this as I was reading a business article. This “News for Marketing Professionals” seemed to know who I was, and it showed up in a place where I would have a good reason to click on it (as opposed to showing up in the Sports section).


Looking closer, I noticed that LinkedIn had sponsored the ad. I have an account at LinkedIn where I’ve identified myself as a marketing professional. LinkedIn teamed up with the New York Times to sponsor links I should have interest in which should:

  • Make me smarter
  • Show me how LinkedIn is helping my career

The best part, however, is that LinkedIn didn’t use marketing messaging. It used content from the site it advertised on.

This might be easier to do on big, content rich sites like the Times. I’d love to see some ad network figure out how to do this through multiple content providers.

Keep watching, I’m sure there’s more coming.

03/27/2009 How Fast Can Your Marketing Move?

One of the most touted benefits of online has always been that you could change your marketing more easily than other media. It doesn’t mean it won’t cost you anything and it doesn’t mean it won’t take you time to make the change. But it does mean you can move faster in the online medium more than you can print, TV or radio.

So now that we can move faster, do marketers truly take advantage of this? An article at Clickz.com got me thinking about this. They described a home repair service that optimized its paid search effort based on bad weather. 

American Residential Service’s marketing partner tracked weather patterns across the U.S. based on the understanding that the more extreme the weather, the more business ARS usually did. When storms hit certain areas, they wanted to make sure ARS was top of mind when people quickly, and sometimes desperately, needed help fixing their heating, air conditioning, sewers and drains. Face it, when one of these breaks down, you’re quite unhappy until someone fixes it.

So ARS’ marketing group identified the places where they would find those people. But they needed to be very nimble to take advantage of the opportunity. Once they saw the patterns, they shifted their paid search to those geographic areas hit by the bad weather. It was smart, fast, and, apparently, very effective.

I’ve seen and built online marketing that could tell where someone lived and could serve them geographically specific information. But those types of applications usually rely on a set logic. I’ve rarely seen marketing strategies that can react quickly to real time events.

Some, like Super Bowl advertising, don’t move at all, even when they know events will happen. There are many examples of missed opportunity around search, for example.

So how can you make your marketing faster? How can you turn it into Speedy Gonzales?


Look at what ARS did:

  • They set up a listening mechanism. If you want to react, you have to know when something happens. To do that, you have to listen. ARS listened through weather reports. Your brand could do the same, whether its watching markets, to news feeds or other social media listening tools.
  • They had an action plan. Once you’ve listened you need to have concrete steps to put in place once you have a trigger event. You have to map out the steps before hand, so that implementation is quick AND easy. Remember, time is of the essence here. The plan should not only tell you what to do, it should also tell you when NOT to do anything.
  • They had a strong conversion mechanism. Since you have a limited time opportunity, don’t use this as simply a branding exercise. Tie the problem you’re going to solve to a product or service you offer now. Make it easy for someone to convert; you should clearly show how you’re going to lift the weight off of your customers’ shoulders.

This type of marketing brings out the true promise of online marketing. While the examples focus on search, I think it would be worth it to examine doing so with online advertising networks as well. God knows they have the inventory.

Most importantly, put together a good strategic plan on how you’re going to move fast; how you’re going to act and why you’ll grow business doing so. Your clients need this. It also gives them a good reason to pay you for listening, a reason that’s clearly connected to ROI.

Maybe your business or clients don’t provide anything that has to do with outside events. Or maybe you need to use your imagination and you might uncover a missed opportunity.

Or, as Speedy said "Ándale! Ándale! Arriba! Arriba!"

03/09/2009 The End of Interruption Marketing

The IAB and others are working furiously to fix the wrongs of online advertising. Recently, initiatives focused on standardization, creativity, the economics of production, and more creativity hope to turn the tide and make online advertising as attractive as it was several years ago.

It seems to me that the IAB and others are ignoring the elephant in the room. That elephant is interruption marketing. It’s the foundation of the last 80 years of advertising and goes something like this.

“I know you want to watch this TV program (listen to this radio show, read this magazine). But you don’t really want to pay that much to enjoy it. So you watch and I’ll interrupt you regularly. If you really hate what I’m doing, go to the bathroom or change the channel. Don’t try reading something, because you’ll still hear my message. Is it a deal? Can I interrupt you?”

“I don’t have to pay anything? Okay, interrupt me.”

As we know the model worked best when we had fewer choices. The problem today, online, is that there’s no good interruption model, except maybe interstitials. And what’s worse; there so much free content out there that if someone really doesn’t want interruptions, off they go, and fast.


I think the IAB and everyone else involved in this industry needs to rethink the interruption model. We’ve become good at tuning out the noise. I have no problem getting free iPhone apps because those little ads don’t bother me (I don’t look at them).

On the other hand, I’m following some folks on Twitter that are feeding me links to specials on golf equipment and travel deals. I’ve opted into those free ads, really, because they’re relevant to me. That’s why search works. I have a goal and search helps me solve it.

I think instead of asking people to pay more to skip ads, I’d like to see a system where advertisers pay people to opt in. This is pretty loose now, and smarter minds than mine would have to figure this out, but it starts looking something like this:

Advertisers, ad networks and sites need to work together to identify people and what type of products and services they’re interested in. The hook for people like you and me is that this group PAYS us for their interruption. Yes, you heard that right. They pay us, not the other way around. Let’s say they pay me $100/year and I opt in to see ads for hybrid cars, iPhone apps, family travel deals, electronics and men’s clothes. I might seasonally opt in for Valentine’s presents for my wife and holiday presents for my kids.

That payment might come in the form of online credit to Amazon, the iTunes store or Jet Blue. I would sign up for that in a second, as would many others.

Every time I surf, this consortium serves me ads from these categories. They’re relevant to me because I’ve told them what I want to see. If I see 1,000 ads over the year, the incremental cost to advertisers is 10 cents per ad. A laughably low number.

How can we make sure we don’t see a huge amount of shlocky ads from big-pocketed advertisers pushing out the little guys? Besides click-thru-rates how about implementing a Pandora like system to rate ads even if you don’t buy?


By rating ads, it makes me more involved in the whole system.

This might be a totally crazy idea, and there are lots of structural reasons why it won’t work (like the fact that we Americans stink at collaboration, for example. Look at the European banking Giro system for an example of how things like this should work).

But it seems like the biggest issue we’re having is that we’re still pursuing interruption marketing at the expense of permission marketing

02/25/2009 IAB Stimulus Plan

The IAB is hard at work trying to solve the Online Advertising problem. The problem? Most of it is no good. The good people at the IAB will try to implement standards and inspire creativity.

In the spirit of collaboration, here’s my suggestion for on online advertising stimulus plan. Long on ideas, short on dollars.

  1. Start With an Engagement Plan – Remember this is a two-way medium. You can’t hide behind space requirements and sizes to excuse the creation of animated billboards. What do you want people to DO? And for this part of the exercise, remove the word “Click” from your vocabulary. There are lots of things you can do within the ad itself. Is your engagement plan browsing? Or is it creating? Or is it requesting or even buying? People on the other end aren’t robots. Watch and click is good for automatons. Map out an engagement plan before you start developing the creative.
  2. Stop Thinking “Ad” – Just because we call it an ad, and buy placement like an ad, it doesn’t have to be an “ad.” Think instead widget, microsite, or application. An online ad can be all of those things. And those are much more interesting than an ad. That’s the beauty of the online medium; that ad can be anything you imagine it to be. Remember, we’re interrupting people doing something else. If we’re going to ask them to engage with us, we should provide the most meaningful and robust engagement we can.
  3. Leverage the Technology – The online ad space can do pretty much anything these days. You can buy stuff right from an ad, you can connect databases to it, you can let people customize things it in, and you can figure out from where people are watching your ad. The technology allows us to make things more personal. It allows us to pull from content from different places online and feed content back to those places. The best part is, we don’t have to create a lot of this from scratch. Third party vendors like Eyeblaster, Adroit and Adgregate can help.
  4. Focus on Fewer Sizes – Size does matter in online advertising, especially for budgets. Online pubs try to sell as many different sizes as possible to get rid of inventory. Media buyers buy these sizes in packages to, presumably, keep costs lower. However, all that does is raise production costs. And it pushes sizes that usually don’t perform that well. So take a stand. If you’re going to do something engaging, something that will take time to craft and do right, don’t spread your budget on producing a gazillion different sizes. Pick two and go with them. Usually the pubs or the third parties can tell you which two sizes clearly outperform the others in any given category.
  5. Connect It  – Online advertising can’t exist in a vacuum. Make sure there are other robust contact points that connect with your online ad. It could be your Facebook page, a microsite, Twitter, or an iPhone app. Make sure that you connect all of these back to clear conversion paths, so when the person on the other end is ready, your company is ready too.

Yes, more money would help. I agree with Mike Shields at Mediaweek, a small shift in TV budgets to online budgets could help create something new. But it’s not only the money.

It’s not that difficult. It just means we have to stop looking at this online marketing opportunity as “ads” and start delivering the promise of the digital medium.

01/28/2009 IAB Says Online Creative Stinks

The Interactive Advertising Bureau is about to jump in to save the sorry state of online advertising. According to the IAB, the “creative shabbiness" we see online stems from entrenched perceptions inside big advertising agencies that online is not a creative medium. Dependence on old media "reach and frequency" media planning principles within those agencies ends up dragging the whole product down.

The IAB is right. I’ve written previous posts how online advertising has amazing potential for engagement and even direct sales.

But who, exactly, doesn’t believe online is a creative medium? It’s probably the most creative medium around today. And when even the venerable old Hatch Awards in Boston gives its best of show award to a Web site, a site of a TV focused ad agency, you’d think no one would believe the idea that online isn’t a creative medium.

Want to see some recent creativity? Check out this ad from Swedish Åkestam and Holst for playground or this one from Brazilian Famiglia for Rossi. You can find great examples at Banner Blog.

What the IAB meant was that there are still a lot of traditional creatives that still don’t understand digital. And the longer they keep making the ads, the longer we’ll see shabby online creative. For the people running these types of agencies, the responsibility falls on you for allowing this behavior. For Clients using these agencies, switch as fast as you can. These people are stealing your money.

As for blaming the media departments, media departments need to get up to speed on the different types of online advertising they can do. It means shifting some of the media spend into solutions like EyeBlaster or Adroit. Digital creatives can help here a lot.

If you’re currently producing crappy rotating billboards for online ads, stop. Talk to your team and come up with other solutions. You’ll still drive ROI and engagement and have a little more pride in what you produce.

01/21/2009 A Good Online Marketing Campaign

Pepsi launched an online marketing campaign this week in time for Obama’s inauguration. The campaign, Refresh Everything, let’s people give messages and well wishes to the new president via online advertising, microsites and social media.


I found this on Yahoo! music. It was a rich media ad that let me send a message to the sites right from the banner itself. I can’t believe we don’t see more of this type of online advertising; it works so much better than the animate billboards we’re all sick of.  I may not have known exactly what I was getting into, but I was able to create and participate in the banner before clicking off of my page. Now that I created my personal message, I had to see what this was about.

You land on the Refresh Everything microsite, filled with video. There’s Eva Longoria in the corner; you have to see what she has to say. The microsite shows the TV ad (great) and has video of a symposium to refresh everything. This site is cool, but  Pepsi goes further on the social media sites.

The YouTube channel has five pages of personal videos. It’s amazing how many kids there are up there. The Tumblr site should have all of the text entries from the online ads, but I can’t find mine. Bummer.

Despite this personal set back, I love what Pepsi is doing here. Engaging online advertising and using social media sites for what they do best: content.

It’s so refreshing to see the online ad space used in this way.  Why, why aren’t other marketers doing more of this? There must be a brain cramp with agencies producing banners.

I just may have to switch from Coke.

01/05/2009 IBM Advertises NYT Content

I saw an interesting online ad on the New York Times over the holiday break. While the buzz today is about how the Times is now running display ads on the front page of the paper, IBM has run advertising on the Times’ site promoting Web content from the Times itself. I had to look at the ad a couple of times before I realized it was a paid placement. What it did was to link to four Thomas Friedman articles that spoke about IBM’s technical solutions, such as how Stockholm uses IBM to reduce inner city traffic.

What a great idea! Use content, from the pub itself, as advertising for the company described in the articles. We’ve all seen that technique used as third party PR, but this was the first time I’ve seen it done this way.

I ended up reading three stories about IBM’s technology from a source I frequent by advertising on that source. Too bad I’m not in the market for the technology, because that was the best online advertising I’ve seen in a long time.

Click here for a full view of the page with the ad in context.

IBM built its ads on trusted and valuable content placed in a setting that would maximize that trust. I hope we see more of that.

Well done, Big Blue!NYTSponsorshipSmall

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