Tag Archives: Marketing

Native ads and content marketing are here to stay

At PandoDaily Shane Snow discusses the rise of native advertisement and the explosion in content marketing.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen a similar trend happening in a well-known and well-tested marketing channel, now dressed up in new clothes and offering new opportunities. Folks call it native advertising or content marketing. The advertising trade press can’t get enough of it. All the old-school SEO companies are desperately trying to cash in on the wave, and virtually every media company with a digital presence is exploring (or actively running) sponsored content programs. Shoot, Marissa Mayer just paid a billion dollars for a company in which native ads are the main revenue opportunity.

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The Disruptive Potential Of Native Ads

Felix Salmon of Reuters discusses a magazine article on the new industry of native advertising. On websites, traditional marketing takes place through banner ads: annoying blocks of text that flash or blink, peddling some terrible product. We view them as intrusive. And we have learned to ignore them.

On sites like BuzzFeed however, native or sponsored ads are used. This is where ads are created to resemble real news articles or fun lists. The sponsored ads mirror the content of the websites that they are placed on.

(Ethical dilemmas have been raised about this kind of marketing, though. For example, while BuzzFeed clearly marks their sponsored ads as such, letting the reader know that this is, in fact, an add, more strictly journalistic or “serious” content sites risk confusing their readers. This is exactly what happened to The Atlantic when they ran a native ad for the Church of Scientology that read like a news article.)

Salmon argues that native ads on the Web are just like good TV commercials (the kind we hunger for during the Super Bowl.) They tell a story, and we want to share them. They work for the networks who air them, the brands who sell them, and the audience who views them.

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On Facebook, News Feed Ads That Track You

“These ads take into account people’s browsing behavior outside Facebook, as captured through cookies, with the aim of offering up messages about products they’ve already shown interest in,” writes Jennifer Van Grove of CNET.

Personalized advertising based on one’s Web browsing isn’t new, but this marks the first time Facebook has allowed advertisers to market their products directly on News Feed. (Prior to Tuesday, advertisers were only permitted to display these ads on the rightsize column of the site.)

As Van Grove notes, these types of ads are extremely valuable to merchants; they know that the products they’re pushing are the same ones you’ve been browsing and they can determine, with precision, whether you follow the link and make the purchase.

The tricky part for Facebook though, is not further alienating its users. Van Grove, and the analyst she quotes, use words like “creepy” and “jarring” to describe the feeling that consumers might have as they come upon their ad-augmented News Feed.

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Netflix And The Niche Of Buzz: A “House Of Cards”

House of Cards

Netflix, Melinda Sue Gordon / AP via BuzzFeed

“Start with a charming but morally corrupted protagonist (usually a male) and throw him into a world populated by weak and compromised souls. Mix in explicit sex…Then intersperse those with non-plot-essential asides to give the show a “novelistic” feel, such as aspirational period or fancy dress…”

If you’ve glanced at a television anytime in the last decade, you’ll know what Richard Rushfield of BuzzFeed is describing here: The prestige cable dramas that are said to have displaced film as America’s cultural temple. (Andy Greenwald over at Grantland has a similar line on this: “The period setting — a crutch that, if we’re being honest, has become the Auto-Tune to cable TV’s pop radio…”)

But even as Don, Tony, Walt, and Nucky, captured dozens of Emmy statuettes and the attention of every media critic on the East Coast and beyond, the shows that reveal their souls–Mad Men in particular–are viewed only by a precious few.

In his piece on the media-hyperventilation over Netflix’s new series, House of Cards, Rushfield reminds us that while these respected programs on moral decay are critically praised, their cultural importance is largely overstated.

Sketching a brief history of “important television,” Rushfield contends that networks like HBO and AMC desperately seek the praise of TV taste makers: social media power users, journalists and art critics. And in this cultural chatterbox insulated with echoed hype, it’s easy to forget that these “adult” shows serve a small and select crowd. Rushfield writes, “while buzz is great, in the end it’s no substitute for actual viewers or subscribers, even if those viewers are more “desirable” upscale viewers.”

With Netflix and House Of Cards, critics are taking the logic of post-golden television to the next, absurd level: First, Tony Soprano killed network TV, now streaming will crush cable and Don Draper. (Netflix released all 13 episodes of House Of Cards at once, which is novel. The show is directed by David Fincher: Seven, Fight Club, and The Social Network and stars Kevin Spacey, aka Seven’s John Doe. Netflix’s series follows a cutthroat politician and, also noted on BuzzFeed, is wildly popular with Capitol Hill staffers and journalists – further proving Rushfield’s point: your perceived twitterverse is actually just a tiny solar system.)

“All of this is not to say that networks should not make shows that they consider quality fare, or that journalists shouldn’t write about them,” Rushfield concludes. “But when doing so, they should bear in mind that just because the group it appeals to is an elite niche, that doesn’t make it any less of a niche.”

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Fast & Furious 6 Ignites Fan Ad Campaign

Fast And Furious 6

The New York Times

When the Super Bowl commercial for Fast 6 came on, the room erupted. When the trailer featured a car killing an airplane someone threw the bowl of chicken wing bones in the air. And when Michelle Rodriguez’s character appeared in the last frame I fainted.

The franchise has achieved a strange and popular allure, running on the kind of horrible-but-awesome plots usually reserved for old-school Schwarzenegger movies, Roadhouse and Taken 1 – infinity.

Writing in The New York Times, Brooks Barnes reports that Universal, the movie studio promoting the film, has seized upon the fan frenzy. Through creative marketing techniques studio executives are trying to amp up the hype and drive up ticket sales. *Cut to Vin Diesel pressing down on the NOS*

Some notable next level marketing: Universal chose not to release a teaser trailer pre Super Bowl and instead initiated a supercharged ad campaign once the commercial aired. The studio harnessed the wild popularity of it’s stars–Vin Diesel, The Rock, Ludacris– who were encouraged to share posts, pictures and tweets that included behind the scenes material. In addition, fans of the series were polled and actually listening to: the movie’s title, the inclusion of The Rock and the return of Ms. Rodriguez are all ideas that came from the crowd.

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How To Measure Influence?

Darcel Dissapoints - NYTimes

Darcel Dissapoints – NYTimes

Even as social media collect an increasing amount of data about our personal preferences, quantifying taste is exceedingly difficult.

The tech journalist Stephen Baker, writing in the NYTimes, frames the recent paradigm shift in advertising like this: Where clever humanists, “Mad Men” advertisers like Don Draper draw from the liberal arts to predict and guide our shopping behavior, search technology like Google has recently enabled a more quantitative approach.

Baker writes:

In the last decade however, those numbers people have rocketed to the top. They build and operate the search engines. They’re flexing their quantitative muscles at agencies and starting new ones. And the rise of social networks, which stream a global gabfest into their servers, catapults these quants ever higher. Their most powerful pitches aren’t ideas but rather algorithms. This sends many of today’s Don Drapers into early retirement.

While this narrative may lead one to believe that advertising on social media is the next frontier, Baker provides evidence suggesting otherwise.

Corporate advertisers are devoting only a modest 14 percent of their online budgets to social networks. According to comScore, a firm that tracks online activity, e-commerce soared 16 percent from last year, to nearly $39 billion this holiday season. But advertising from social networks appeared to play only a supporting role. I.B.M. researchers found that on the pivotal opening day of the season, Black Friday, a scant 0.68 percent of online purchases came directly from Facebook. The number from Twitter was undetectable.

Interestingly, Baker goes on to suggest that perhaps social media’s ineffective marketing is merely a function of firms measuring the wrong things.

Baker points out that while Facebook and Twitter may not lead to direct sales, their likes and retweets are potentially valuable, in nudging our inclinations. He writes, “The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past.”

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App Overload: Google’s Project Glass and the baffling array of digital nonsense

Genius apps are the cutting edge of web culture, but others are pointless distractions.

Rather than inspire Neil deGrasse Tyson levels of wonder, suggesting to us its promising potential – a  Pilot’s POV with star maps, fuel gauge, and altimeter, or a Soldier’s HUD with terrain charts, ammo count and health monitor – Google’s ad shamelessly seduces, using the irresistible pull of consumer electronics.

With the promo in mind, consider Neil Postman’s quote from Amusing Ourselves To Death:

“But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision [1984], there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World…What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one […] Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy…”

I’m not an opponent of electronic consumption.   My crush on Alexia Tsotsis is almost as big as the one I have for Tina Fey.  I stream the shit out of Pandora and Netflix.  I pay friends beer money with Venmo.  I love the GIF of King Joffrey getting slapped.  I text and tweet and Gchat.  Once,  I out of reflex accidentally typed in youjizz when I really wanted youtube.com

However, for every ambitiously disruptive app or platform (Coursekit, Square, Kickstarter, OPower), there are thousands more whose purpose dumbfounds most (Pinterest).  The social web is the new cool.  But there are those using connectivity to grapple with society’s dysfunction, and there are others trying to convince us that sexting is better than sex (that digital interaction can replace the human touch).  The likes, the check-ins, the status updates, is that what we really mean by sharing?

To scroll through your Facebook feed is to see Freud’s narcissism of small differences in HTML.  All of us, so alike, trying desperately to be different in our own “I’m watching this, I’m listening to that” 21st century kind of way.

In a stunning display of withered imagination, Google’s glasses allows “…the wearer to set up meetings with friends, get directions in the city, find a book in a store, and even videoconference with a friend.” This small-minded view of technological innovation is less Carl Sagan and more Mark Zuckerberg.  Is Google’s glorified appointment maker, in the way it was revealed, really that compelling?

In much of our best science fiction, humans end all forms of tribalism and fix their gaze outward, toward the stars.   So before we circle jerk onto an ad company’s newest piece of plastic, we should check our standards: Do we see ourselves as the splendid dust of ancient suns or as frivolous consumers, too distracted to look up?

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Prometheus: Next Level Marketing

A commercial within a commercial for a sick movie.  Watch a robot cry.

The more traditional movie trailer for Prometheus is frighteningly wild.  Horror as a movie genre is completely underdeveloped.  But this film looks spooky and intense.  A chance to see Charlize Theron naked, Idris Elba with a hilariously unnecessary accent, and a set design that strikingly resembles HALO =  interest piqued.

Also, props to Michael Fassbender and Ms. Theron for being in basically every movie in the past year without reaching horrible Seth Rogan levels of market saturation.  (THIS FALL watch Seth Rogan AS Seth Rogan IN: I’m a fat-stoner-loser who was pretty funny in “40 Year Old Virgin” but then took on every role he was offered and squandered any potential for a decent acting career). 

(Fellow HALO nerds: watch the Prometheus trailer and pretend its a trailer for a new Halo movie.  It works surprisingly well.  One of these days it will be made and the world will share our joy).

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“I Volunteer As Tribute!” How “Hunger Games” Marketing Is Some Next Level Shit.

Those who suffer from nerd fever have historically been male fans of sci-fi and fantasy. We think of serpentine lines of over-stimulated, under-sexed man-children waiting for the midnight showing of “Star Wars”. We imagine “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings,” World of Warcraft and Halo. But what about a young adult fantasy, originally a book, which stars a young girl?

“Twilight” and “Harry Potter”*** come to mind. And like these two, “The Hunger Games” spread obsessive fascination through clever web promotion. Using Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, Lionsgate has been implementing a “phased, yearlong digital effort.” Armed with a tiny budget and small staff, marketers successfully turned fans of “The Hunger Games” into evangelists.

A crafty example:

On Dec. 15, 100 days before the movie’s release, the studio created a new poster and cut it into 100 puzzle pieces. It then gave digital versions of those pieces to 100 Web sites and asked them to post their puzzle piece on Twitter in lockstep.

While many have noted the record breaking opening weekend ($155 million, 3rd biggest of all time), it’s also interesting to note how many men made up the movie’s initial audience: 39 percent. Compared to the newest “Twilight,” whose first weekend audience was only 20 percent male, “Hunger Games” had a much broader marketing campaign.

Well received by critics and fans, the intense buzz generated online seems appropriate and worth the effort.

*** Yes, I meant to call Harry Potter a girl.

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Splintering TV Audience = Lucrative Ad Market

Alienating some, while attracting others. The NYTimes looks to FX and their lineup of male-centric, innovative shows. Rather than cater to the masses with inoffensive, laugh track-worthy garbage, FX is trying to be bold.

We tried to build a business that is based on risk-taking and to have a culture that embraces artists who want to try audacious things.

With “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and “Louie” its paying off.

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