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Disrupt This Ad

6 Dec

When he spoke in front of a room of media professionals at Code/Media earlier this year, Gabe Leydon of Machine Zone, the mobile gaming giant, spooked the room with his view that brand awareness, CPM-based digital campaigns will soon go the way of the dodo. There is such a fondness among Silicon Valley types for disruption, or at least the appearance of disruption, that this seemed newsworthy. A young Turk taking on the dinosaurs. But Leydon’s experience with digital media buying at Machine Zone is not representative of the myriad needs of different brands and publishers across the web. To think his experience is universal would be a mistake.

Leydon talked about his company’s revenue model of in-app purchases within a mobile game. For the very particular product that he is selling, heavy advertising on Facebook has proved very successful. Machine Zone pays Facebook a click per install rate, and the more people install the app, the more people get hooked and pay for in-app purchases, which is where the real money is made. Fine. But not all advertisers are Machine Zone; their objective isn’t installs or in-app purchases, but the purchase of flights to new airline routes, or a public awareness campaign to sign up for healthcare, or a sale on stylish sunglasses. The aforementioned examples are just some that I remember from my days running ad campaigns on display, mobile and video. Different advertisers have different goals. Installs are not the only metric that matters. Far from it.

In the talk, Leydon also indicated that publishers avoid quantifying their media, that they are all in on the racket.  That is simply not borne out by my experience. What I found when working with publishers is that they are often not as knowledgeable as they need to be about how to earn money online. Publishers are not the enemy; along with Leydon, I blame ad tech. There are always studies showing that bots make up a huge proportion of web traffic. Moat recently made the New York Times with its new product offering, a traffic verification tool. I worked at an ad network that sought to be transparent by using Moat’s technology. But in this age of programmatic buying, transparency and quality fall by the wayside. Digital advertising provides so many more opportunities for advertisers to glean insights into consumers, to create partnerships with publishers, to sell products effectively. I wholeheartedly support more transparency and efficiency in online advertising. Can a one-stop shop really handle the creation, placement and trafficking of online campaigns? Is Leydon’s insistence on disrupting online media buying prophetic or shortsighted? I am reminded of the saying “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” One company’s needs do not represent the trends of the rest of the industry.



11 Reasons Internet Listicles Are Easy Click Bait

8 Oct
Click Here

Click Here

I’m gonna come out and say something I should be ashamed of: I read the HuffingtonPost. Wow, admitting it feels good. Yes, the site is one of the most visited in America, so someone’s visiting Arianna’s big old blog aggregator, but who really admits it? I mean the site doesn’t have a distinct personality, really, it is all things to all people. But if there is one thing that the HuffPost excels at, and that gets me clicking like crazy, it is listicles.

Here’s an experiment. Let’s list the articles on the homepage with numbered lists in the title: 5 Things Rich People Do! 25 Things Every Woman Must Know! 9 Things People Over 50 Never Want to Hear! 7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget! 10 Ways Science is Suffering Under Government Shutdown! Now admit, the number in the title of each of these articles reassures you and tells you hey, I won’t take much of your time. You won’t be scrolling endlessly to read me. You’ll get some info and you’ll be on your way.

Let’s face it, listicles are the fast food of content consumption. They leave you feeling briefly satisfied afterwards, but mostly wanting something more nourishing later. For true nourishment, I suggest The New Yorker or a good novel. And in ode to listicles and the marketers who love them, here is a totally random, tongue-in-cheek list I made for your immediate satisfaction. 11 reasons listicles are total click bait:

  • Google has a special algorithm that reads bullet points alone.
  • Numbered lists should ideally be a prime number. Bonus points for odd numbers.
  • Each bullet point should be short and sweet. Ideally two sentences made up of around 8 words.
  • You should count the number of words in each bullet point. This adds unnecessary bullet points.
  • You should also use a bullet point to link back to a previous post. See how I did that?
  • Go ahead and link to random outside content. Links links links!
  • Be topical. Yes, it will lose value in the long-term, but in the short term, being super topical makes you now and of the moment. So, Miley Cyrus government shutdown Oktoberfest!
  • Some of your points will be really useful and/or insightful, but let’s face it, you have space to fill. You need some filler. So go ahead and just fill a bullet point with bla bla bla.
  • Lastly, end on a positive note. Your reader should have learned a little teeny tiny bit about something- say, that rich people don’t buy without first comparison shopping!- and then let them go on their merry way.

The Apple Hype Machine!

10 Sep
Apple Hype

Apple Hype

Well, in case you missed it, Apple announced a new model of the iPhone today. There will be a cheap version and a not so cheap version. One will be made of plastic and the other will be made of gold, if you so desire. But what struck me about today’s announcement is the inordinate amount of hype that went into it. A co-worker who is ordinarily far from a techie was breathlessly reading out updates as they came in on Twitter. Apple is one of those few brands that inspires such devotion among its customers. I know that I have single-handedly helped keep them in business with my MacBook, iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, and my loyalty comes from knowing the pain and heartache of having dealt with a PC, and all of its attendant security updates and viruses. Apple is smooth, it’s simple, it’s pretty, and always has been. But will it continue to be in the future?

I worry that without the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple is sacrificing innovation for incremental boosts in stock prices and nearly non-existent improvements in product. The iPhone 4S has a killer app: Siri, voice activated help for virtually any situation. No one else has a Siri-like app on the market. But ever since Siri, we’ve gotten the iPhone 5, which offers nothing more than a thinner model and a longer screen, and the new 5C and 5S, which offer affordability and increased battery power. Nevertheless, if reports of fingerprint recognition are to be believed, Apple has made a huge step forward in security (keep your hands off my phone, iPhone thieves!). But there are no great leaps forward, no vision. I wonder if Apple is keeping up with the rumors of Amazon, the ultimate disrupter, producing a contract-free phone, and if so, if they are ready to not just make modest adjustments year in and year out, but to lead the pack as before. In any case, they’ll always have the fanboys and the hype machine at their disposal.

In Defense of Facebook

28 Aug


There is a whole universe of marketers who make their living by selling their wares on Facebook- or finding the best algorithm to sell one’s wares on Facebook. So the livelihoods of many depend on the continuing popularity- nay, supremacy- of the social network. So a few weeks ago when a young 13 year old wrote I I’m 13 and none of my friends are on Facebook, many digital marketing pros sat up and took notice. Has Facebook reached peak profile, and if so, does it even matter?

Some say that even if teenagers are no longer using Facebook because of its popularity with the over 50-set, well, the over 50s have disposable income, so why not embrace the fact that Facebook is now skewing older? While that may be an argument, it’s a weak one, and doesn’t address the fact that without young users, Facebook loses caché…which is what lead to MySpace’s downfall. Remember MySpace?

I think that marketers would be wise to think of more than just Facebook when they think of social media marketing. And yet Facebook remains the 800 pound gorilla in the room. LinkedIn may be for the college-educated pro, Twitter may be for the technorati, but Facebook is still used by pretty much everybody. Ask someone if they’re on LinkedIn, and if they say no, well, no big deal. But have you ever met someone who is not on Facebook? It seems rather odd, like someone admitting to still using a typewriter or rotary phone. The lifeblood of any social network is people; without people you want to connect to, you’re sending your voice out across an empty void. We may be getting post-literate and living in an increasingly image-centric world (I am one of the last holdouts staying away from Instagram and Snapchat, which are purely image-driven), but for the time being, as long as Facebook is where our friends are found (and yes, even our annoying Great-Aunt who loves conspiracy theories), it is where we will spend our time. And it is where marketers should stay, for now at least.


Uso de Internet en México 2013

22 Aug

Cifras sobre quién se conecta al internet en México- y cómo.

Reviewing the new Ad Campaign for MIIS

2 Dec
MIIS Be the Solution

MIIS Be the Solution

I am a proud graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Class of 2007. I have been pleased to see the growing partnership with Middlebury College take root, and I am glad to see a widespread marketing campaign for the first time that I recall (or at least one that is reaching my eyeballs). Now I work in digital marketing, so I know that a lot of thought has gone into the digital ad campaign seen at left. Surely this image has been tested and analyzed and proven to be the most effective. I have, however, had some reservations about the photo that has been central to this campaign.

I don’t know if this photo is only being used in the San Francisco Bay Area or if it’s national. I am sure that the Bay Area is full of educated, well-travelled, idealistic young people who would be ideal candidates for the largest school within the Institute, the Graduate School of International Policy Studies. Nevertheless, you may never know by looking at this picture that 40% of MIIS students are international. They study at the Institute for two years and then return to their home countries to apply the skills they’ve acquired during their Master’s. I know it’s unrealistic to expect a locally targeted ad campaign to highlight this kind of student, but the ad featuring IPS Class of 97’s Richard Crothers is rich in symbols. These symbols, I suppose, are meant to appeal to a certain prospective student.

But peruse the excellent blog Gurl Goes to Africa for a primer on the history of people from the Global North (U.S.+Europe) seeking redemption on the African continent. You don’t need to be Colonel Kurtz to know that. Examine the pictures on the Gurl Goes to Africa blog for a moment- the picture of privileged white people showing their friends back home how remarkably human the Africans are, the images of condescending Western attitudes (look, they’ve never seen a camera before!), and ask yourself if the photo of Crothers with the young African children isn’t meant to appeal to this same desire. If you want to help the little African kids, then perhaps a MIIS education is for you.

Bono in Africa

Bono in Africa

I encourage the Monterey Institute, my alma mater, to take a critical look at the use of the tired trope of the white savior in Africa not to denigrate the work of IPS graduates in the field, or of Mr. Crothers in particular. I applaud their work; what they do makes me proud to be a graduate of this fine institution. I merely criticize this image, of the many that could have been used. Again, I imagine that, as with any digital ad campaign, it has been fine-tuned, and this image has simply been found the most effective. Yet I would encourage the Monterey Institute of International Studies to test out a different photo. They could perhaps feature the story of Maame Afon, Class of ’05, featured on the MIIS website. She is pictured with young African girls like herself. Would such an image prove as successful for MIIS as the one currently being used? I would be curious to know.

Analytics: Not How, but Why

11 Sep
Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Those of us in the digital marketing industry know that we offer the advertiser one distinct advantage over radio, TV and print- a wealth of data about user engagement with the ads. We can not only guess if a user will see an ad, but see when he saw it, when he will be most likely to find out more, where he and others will see it, and more. I recently participated in an online course on how to best take advantage of the features in Google Analytics, and while I was shown how the interface works, I was left with the same question I had before starting the course: with the wealth of data at our disposal, what should we DO with all of it?

Of course, this all depends on what our needs are. The owner of a retail site will analyze analytics to see, for example, which search terms are leading customers to his site, whereas a breaking news site can see what time of day is best to publish stories to attract the most eyeballs.  The point is knowing what you need. I know that when I look at Google Analytics, I am easily drawn into minutiae like whether to choose a pie or bar chart, which metrics to overlap with each other- visitors by region, by city, etc. I particularly get a kick out of the In-Page Analytics that crawls any page on a site and shows where visitors go (2% to the About Us page, 24% to the Read More page, etc).  In short, it’s easy to spend a long time on Analytics. Which is why we need to get back to basics.

It’s one of those truisms of the marketing world that you must know who your customer is. Once you know who they are, you can then market to them in the right voice; this is why we do market research. Analytics, then, is a free, quick and easy form of market research. What are we looking to accomplish with the site? If we are trying to draw visitors from New York and we see that most visitors come from California, we look at the rest of the site to see how we could draw the right kind of visitor (perhaps with a modest Ad Words campaign). Figure out what you’re looking for- effective search term, time on site, etc.- and then use the information in Analytics to change your site accordingly.

Hispanic vs. Asian-American Marketing

14 Jul
Chinese Language Ad

Chinese Language Ad

Is language the glue that holds the Hispanic-marketing world together?  One of those perennial questions that Hispanic marketing professionals ponder is whether it is possible to market to a group as diverse as Latinos. Will one marketing strategy effectively reach Salvadorans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Colombians? Young and old? The new immigrant and the second-generation Latino? It turns out that the glue holding these disparate groups together is the Spanish language.

This becomes apparent when you think about the marketing strategies deployed to market to the Asian-American community. Anyone looking to reach this demographic has to have marketing materials translated into the language or languages of their target market: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Hmong, or others. Oh wait, there is no “Chinese”. There is Simplified Chinese, the written language of mainland China, and Traditional Chinese, the written language of Taiwan (Wikipedia explains the difference; Mao Zedong is involved). The spoken language is either Cantonese, the dialect spoken in Southern China and Hong Kong, or Mandarin, which is the dialect spoken in the northern part of China.

Additionally, a marketer has to figure out where their Asian-American market lives. If your campaign is in Honolulu, try Tagalog to reach Filipinos. If you’re in L.A., try Korean.  And if you’re in Houston, use Vietnamese to get your message across (Houston is home to the 3rd biggest Vietnamese community in the U.S.).

All this is not to say that the Asian-American community is too tough to market to, so why bother. It is always worth it to reach someone in their language. But the above facts illustrate one reason why Hispanic marketing is a little more straightforward than Asian-American marketing. Language is king. And one last note: although there are some Latin countries with some historic bad blood- Peru vs. Chile, Dominican Republic vs. Haiti, Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica– the countries of the region all share a basic colonial history. All Latin American countries were conquered by Spain. Compare that to Asia, where there is a long, complicated history of inter-regional conflict. Think of that when arguing to someone that Puerto Ricans and Chileans have nothing in common. In Spanish.

When the Campaign is Ready but the Message Isn’t

16 Jun
Basic Ad

Basic Ad

I’ll share a brief work story in such a way that the guilty shall remain anonymous.  We have a client for whom we are doing extensive branding efforts. A foreign company looking to reach American shores, we are going above and beyond for them in getting their name out there. And yet, their website is fairly basic (certain features don’t work and the English is poor).  The ads they provided us with are also best described as ‘basic’, and again, the English is merely passable- no errors, but definitely not idiomatic. It makes me wonder, why invest in expanding your reach if the product or service is marketed in a lackluster way?

I don’t have any experience on the agency side, so I have little knowledge of what goes into these decisions. Does one person green light the marketing budget, while the creative folks pass the buck? Is it simply a lack of resources? Or do people get so eager to market their wares that they don’t stop and think about HOW they’re marketing them?  It doesn’t take long to come up with a plan. Who do we want to reach? What do they want? How can we convince them that we are exactly what they want- and are better than any alternative? Getting these things clear is the important first step before launching an all-out ad blitz. Because regardless of all the exposure you’ll get…you’ll get no sales. And the public will not be impressed.

All Hail the Irish Job Seeker

30 May
Job Seeker

Job Seeker

In these tough economic times, job seekers would be well-advised to think outside the Craigslist/ box and be creative. I recently learned of a young unemployed man in Ireland who went an unusual route- he placed a huge billboard alongside one of Dublin’s busiest roads, stating “Save Me From Emigration”, with his email address at the bottom. Granted, this stunt couldn’t have been cheap, but as I like to remind people, investments are smart.  The man in question, Féilim Mac An Iomaire, returned from living in Australia in August, and has applied for over 100 jobs, with no luck. His billboard has landed him radio interviews and, one would hope, soon a job.  Did I mention that Féilim works in marketing?

I will be curious to hear if this creative approach to the job search results in a good job for this young man. I am reminded of the New York ad executive Alec Brownstein who figured that other top ad executives would have a penchant for googling themselves. Of the five individuals whom he targeted in a Google AdWords campaign, he got four job interviews, and two job offers. And he only paid $6 for the advertising. Remember the old adage from elementary school, “Show Don’t Tell”? When it comes to a creative profession like marketing, you can talk about your creativity in your cover letters, or you can show it in unique ways.