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Great ad this from Ford, playing on a clever idea and linking it with functionality people genuinely want (unlike some recent car ads that highlight terrible features no one cares about) and another cool brand (the iconic apple headphones and USB cables)

What do you think?

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When you’ve been rated as the 18th best restaurant in the world, with a michelin star and multiple AA rosettes, it’s fair to say you’re pretty much sat atop your field. Why then, would you advertise your restaurant’s amazing offering with such a godawful website?!

Sketch, on London’s Conduit Street, is relatively popular: 112 reviews indexed by Google and with an overall rating of 4 stars, and those awards don’t come for nothing I guess. However, when it comes to shouting about themselves online, things are a mess. It looks like they’re going to have a go at revamping the site, (good luck to you Selesti) but they want to retain the “quirkiness” of the current site. Quirky? That’s a funny way of describing an abortion.

If you set aside the terrible visuals, pointless flash animation, (which simply serves to make the site less visible to search engines than it would be otherwise) and annoying sound, which are mere windowdressing to this abomination, some of the main issues are:

  • Usability – there isn’t any. The online booking system should be a focal point for the site, its the most useful thing here. Instead it is simply another difficult to read link on the rotating carousel.
  • Structure – nothing is where you’d even vaguely expect it to be? What happened to the idea of “familiar but different”?!
  • Design – it doesn’t look quirky / clever / quaint, it’s just a mess. I know my opinion on the appearance of a site is subjective, but several designers I’ve spoken to agree that its just bad.

Restaurant websites are difficult things to get right: they have several jobs to do: from processing bookings to giving a flavour of the ambience of the establishment. However, it doesn’t excuse truly horrific websites like that of Sketch making it out of the mind of a mental Hoxton Sq designer and onto the web where it can (and undoubtedly has) put off potential customers.

Give me:

  • good access to a usable table reservation service
  • a flavour of the ambience and food
  • a sense of the welcome I’ll get
  • some testimonials from customers and critics
  • easy access to crucial info like menus, location and opening times.

And in the words of Greg Wallace, I’ll be a very happy boy indeed!

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Website health checks?!

Had a dispiriting SEO moment this morning. I was at a seminar organised by a company peddling an IP lookup / website analytics mashup (something I really see value in and would recommend you have a look at).

Their guest speaker was a major digital player at a HUGE multinational B2B. To save her blushes, I’ll not alert their monitoring tools by saying the companies real name – but it rhymes with ITN and they do clever TV adverts. You with me?

Anyway, Ms X was very keen to state she had a budget of hundreds of thousands a year and delivered many millions in product sales. I believe she even said “I’m the person with the money” and “when I call people my phone calls get answered“. Good for you love.

What got my goat was her assertion that each reseller of her product has to undergo a “website health check” from an independent auditor. The purpose of this was to establish the site’s positioning in SERPs and whether it was a usability nightmare. Apparently these cost £200, and “you should be careful because there are some real cowboys out there” who might charge more.

a) “website health check”?? frak me, its 2009, not 1995. A website isn’t a person with swine flu, its a tool. When you’re talking to a room full of marketers you shouldn’t be afraid to say “we perform a site audit, focussing on visibility to search engines and usability.” If a marketer doesn’t know about SEO, conversion rate, and/or PPC advertising in todays online world, they’re deadwood. Lets leave the comparisons between a website and a person in the past eh?

b) The cost. If you want a site comprehensively auditted, especially when you’re expecting it to sell a good proportion of £x million in software, spending £200 is like taking a plastic fork to a gunfight. In order to understand whether a website of that importance is “healthy” (I’ll stick with this terrible phrase for now) you need to:

  • know how you rank for many, many keywords
  • do keyword research
  • understand your audiences browsing habits
  • be investing a lot of time in analytics.

All of these things require tools and human resource – good human resource at that. £200 gets you nowhere. Anyone who says it does is working for free or doing you a vast disservice.

Major b2b players need to be investing in good quality training for people in positions with large amounts of digital budget, otherwise performance will only improve in small increments.

In addition, the practice of promoting based on experience doesn’t particularly hold up for in-house marketing nowadays – if you want to succeed online DON’T just promote people who have spent years in traditional media – traditional methodologies don’t transfer well to the digital realm more often than not. People who are literate in the web, with a passion for understanding and a conditioning for what works and what doesn’t online are the real key to success and innovative marketing strategies.

So if you think your website needs a £200 website health check to make sure its fit for purpose, I have news for you… its dying of neglect already.

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Went along to #MSM09 today; a new conference which bought together some of the leading people in the social media monitoring field. The presentations were each insightful in their own ways and many of them can be found over at slideshare. Do check them out.

Monitoring Social Media 2009, feedback and overview of key points.

I particularly enjoyed listening to a practical example of how social media monitoring could help deal with a major online brand crisis from Robin Grant, who’s the MD at WeAreSocial. I’d like to explore how his model could be applied to my Higher Education clients sometime this winter.

Some of my thoughts from / about the conference:

  • As I have long suspected, the idea of applying old media frameworks and mechanisms to new online channels is pointless; things like response planning / embargoes / NDAs are pointless and ‘of another world’.
  • I probably wouldn’t pay for a social media monitoring tool right now, but I would invest in building something like Robin Grant displayed which was a dashboard that ran off free tools (I believe the main component was netvibes).
  • For Social Media Monitoring to develop it needs some universal standards adopting; this could be driven through a recognised qualification in the subject (akin to the GAIQ) and/or through the entry to the sphere of a major player (probably the big G)
  • Having a live twitterstream for feedback enhances the experience, although personally I have grown to hate the banality of people tweeting abridged comments from other people’s talks – its a bit self congratulatory / wanky.
  • No one mentioned Facebook Insights – something I’m using more and more for my social media clients. Facebook was written off as a closed book you can’t get data from – I don’t think this is true.
  • Digital teams musn’t forget that part of their job is still to educate people internally – not just sit in a silo and moan about a lack of investment in what they think is cool.

For such an emerging and exciting industry I think a half yearly conference would probably be necessary – a lot can happen in a year as discussed in many sessions today.

Finally – thanks to Our Social Times for organising – much appreciated – MSM09 was definitely a worthwhile break from my normal workload.

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After the fantastic PR garnered for the VW marketing dept by their Top Gear advertising challenge thingummy, I’ve been paying a bit more attention to their ads. Got to say I love this new one:

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Recently I entered the marketingpilgrim.com ‘search marketing scholarship 2009’ and had my article on web strategy published.

http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2009/06/how-to-kick-ass-with-a-mobile-website.html

The article covers practical, actionable tips for building a mobile web strategy, and the best ways to go about convincing stakeholders internally of it’s value.

Hope you find it useful!

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logoI really like Spotify, more so than Last FM, and its cool too see a new, legal music channel take off so rapidly. Anyone who uses Spotify will know that the service is free as long as you are happy to listen to one ad (although now this is frequently 2) every 5 – 6 songs or so. Also employed are banner ads within the UI.

In the 4 months or so I’ve been using Spotify, there have been various different ad campaigns kicking around, from directgov with its jungle explorer style music, to Zane-Lowe-voiced music ads. The most famous ad of all is probably Spotify’s own, in which the delectable Roberta tempts your earholes with her sultry tones in an attempt to get you to upgrade to Spotify Premium (although worryingly Roberta has recently been replaced by a bloke – not nearly as good!)

It’s the music ads I wanted to focus on here, as I think they will come to dominate the advertising on Spotify. There are a variety of different ways they have been done so far, some better than others. In the vast majority these ads are promoting new music and play quick snippets of new material in their 30 second length: pretty much like a radio ad.

The destinations for these ads are where the variation comes in:

  • Pointing to the artists website – problem: the artist’s site automatically starts playing music, overlaying what you’re trying to listen to in Spotify. Verdict = horrible.
  • Pointing to a sales site – the problem I have with this is how many people are going to buy based on just hearing a clip?

I always expect to be taken to a playlist when I hear an ad, even now I’ve been using the service for so long. It just seems like a natural progression. To my mind, the ideal Spotify music ad would be something like this:

  1. Ad begins – make it clear you can click to hear the artist now in Spotify
  2. If ad is clicked, a banner ad appears in the UI with a “find out more” or “buy now” message.

Some really good spotify ad campaigns are based around UGC playlists – the new film “I Love You, Man”, is one of my favourites so far, which has a ‘bromance’ playlist when you click thru. Other ad formats include releasing albums early exclusively on Spotify (e.g. U2), or some content (e.g. Lady Sovereign’s new album, Jigsaw) been made available exclusively on Spotify Premium.

Spotify UI with "I Love You Man" banner ad

Spotify UI with "I Love You Man" banner ad

The service is barely 7 months old, so it’s going to be interesting to see how ads in this channel develop, especially if Spotify do what all iPhone users are praying they will and release an app. So long as they continue to minimise the presence of Jo Whiley I’ll be a big fan of the service…

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