This looks really cool….

I really like this because it ties in so well with the barclaycard ads that have been building up such a following on TV. The most common reaction to those ads is “ooo wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do that in real life?” Well, this app seems like the next best thing!

Congrats to Barclaycard for getting on board with the mobile web and well done to Dare and Fishlabs for coming up with such a cool idea. Can’t wait for it to hit the app store!

If you want to develop a mobile web strategy for your organisation or think you should be doing more to understand your mobile visitors check out my article over at marketing pilgrim.com


Mobile web strategy

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


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!

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with her sultry tones in an attempt to get you to upgrade to Spotify Premium (although worryingly Roberta has recently been replaced by a bloke – not nearly as good!)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…

I spent last weekend with some ‘non-web’ mates, and received a ribbing for my continued use of the twitter facebook app, which exposes them to my constant tweeting via their facebook homepage. Just goes to show bizarre Twitter appears if you take it out of context and show it to people who haven’t heard of it. “Rich, it’s ridiculous, we know more about your life than our own!”

Are we seeing a social media bubble developing?

Are we seeing a social media bubble developing?

I had about 5 separate conversations about Twitter with these friends that all ended with them making the same point: “It’s not that great if it can’t make any money.” Good point methinks. For me, Biz Stone’s statement to Stephen Colbert that; “We recognise the difference between profit and value, and we’re building value right now” kind of sums it up; successful social networks have all focused on facilitating communities that are both addictive and useful in equal measure to their members. This is the value. However, when the focus has shifted to making a profit, Facebook, Myspace, and now Twitter have all struggled.

Facebook is not making a profit that lives up to its hype, its size (800 employees, nearly 200 million users) or its valuation ($15bn anyone?). Myspace makes more profit than any other social network, yet it is currently beleaguered by social network snobbery and falling usage, and I would suspect a good proportion of its ad revenue is generated by Google AdWords users unwittingly leaving the content network enabled on their ads. I would add that Myspace’s profits also don’t live up to the hype / number of employees and users / valuations banded around.

These fiscal shortcomings leave people like Stone and Zuckerberg unfazed: in an interview with a German newspaper in October ’08 the FB founder said: “Growth is primary, revenue is secondary.” As a history student I know that like a dodgy kebab, events are liable to repeat on you, and this statement strikes me as pretty familiar to the mantra of the digital industry during the rise of the dotcom bubble.

The difficult question to ask is: why are social networks struggling to make a profit, when a good proportion of us can happily admit “I’m a facebook / twitter / myspace etc addict?!!” To me the answer is relatively simple; ‘traditional’ CPC / CPM ads don’t work in the same way on social networks as they do elsewhere especially when compared to SERPs.

When it comes to CPM/CPC advertising on social networks the click-thru rates ads achieve are way less than 1% in the main. Advertising 101 is: target your offer to meet a need or desire felt by a prospect. People are being sociable on social networks, they aren’t looking for something. There isn’t a ‘need’ to serve in a social network like there is in a SERP. Social network CPC / CPM only really works as a first referrer to your brand, not as a sales generator.

From the advertisers POV, the great selling point of web marketing over radio / tv / newspaper is the ability to easily track a quantifiable RoI. As anyone who’s been to social measurement camp will tell you; doing this for social media outside of CPM / CPC campaigns ain’t that easy. When advertisers turn to ‘social engagement’ campaigns to have more success in these networks, they encounter this problem. I mean, could skittles tell you exactly how much their little stunt last month was worth in pounds and pence? Unfortunately not.

This brings me to a two-pronged conclusion: The problem I see with social networks is as long as you can come up with a successful concept (big if!) like Zuckerberg and Stone have, it’s fairly easy to create ‘value’ for members (indeed, once a community reaches a certain size, it will tell you what facilities it wants you to develop). However it’s not so easy to create profit. Your members just want to enjoy the value, so traditional PPC is a hard sell to advertisers unless they can accept they are just introducing their brand and probably won’t make a lot of sales. When an advertiser ‘gets social’ instead to try and generate some sales they can’t really track the RoI, negating the main benefit of web advertising.

If advertisers can’t make advertising work like they can on SERPs, and users won’t engage with CPC / CPM ads in their social space, can social networks ever make the kind of profits that will justify the hype surrounding them?

Despite this question, the social media industry is booming. I find it remarkable just how many ‘twartups’ Mashable informs me of, all of which are based on a business that has no revenue model! Twitter grew 3000% year on year during March, and FB membership is still rising astronomically amongst all sorts of demographics. People in the digital space are dedicating more and more of their time to social media and genuinely don’t seem to be concerned by the “Growth is primary, revenue is secondary” mindset, despite the economic doom and gloom. These are classic signs of a burgeoning economic bubble.

As investment in ‘traditional’ CPM and CPC campaigns on social networks continues to dwindle, more and more agencies, organizations and entrepreneurs are focusing on social media campaigns through these networks aimed at engaging with customers. By doing this they are moving further and further away from a focus on RoI – surely the one thing we should all be doing in a recession? There seems to be no similar buzz around data driven online marketing in 2009, despite the obvious measurable benefits things like improving your website conversion rate can provide.

Are we witnessing the rise of a social media bubble? I believe that if you work in the digital industry and are spending more and more of your time focusing on socil media it’s important to recognize the difference between the value that social networks provide and their sustainability. It shouldn’t be taken for granted that social networks will eventually monetize in a way that will make huge profits. The social media bubble exists because so much is being staked on this assumption, yet all the signs point to this being a near-impossible task. I guess you should think twice before deciding if now is the right time to become a ‘social media expert’, or whether that twitter based startup is such a good idea!

Viral marketing. Considered as the cutting edge of online marketing, yet remarkably, almost all marketers I meet seem to understand it completely. I remember trying to talk about viral for the first time to an old marketing director i worked for, expecting to have a drawn out conversation about what this strange new term was. He responded; “oh yes I have a viral planned for later this year”. hmmm. I don’t think you decide if your content is viral or not old bean. Its them interwebbers that do that.

Obligatory Viral Cartoon

Obligatory Viral Cartoon

To me, the fundamental problem is that the more coverage ‘viral marketing’ gets, the more companies think they understand it, the more attempts are made at it, and the more watered down these attempts get. It’s given birth to something I call the ‘vir-ad’.*

So how does a vir-ad get created? The current buzz around viral marketing is leading to some very strange briefs flying around. Here are a few classic lines from a marketer that doesn’t really understand viral:

  • we want a youtube video
  • the content must have call to actions
  • must clearly identify our brand and brand values
  • we want it to look amateurish / handheld cameras to be used

Take a look at this, which is my favourite viral ad of last year, and a clip I’d hold up as being the truest definition of a piece of “viral marketing”. You’ve probably already seen it, but if not try and work out what its advertising without looking in the comments. Tricky, ain’t it?**

The thing is, if I pitched a similar idea to a client with a brief containing some of the points above, I’d not get the business. It’s not driving clicks to their website. It’s not got a brand name in it. It’s not even clear what its purpose is, other than to entertain. “Where’s my ROI?,” “This will never get past my CEO.”

In these instances, what we’re seeing is organisations asking agencies for something thats not a traditional ad, but it’s definitely not viral advertising either. I call it a vir-ad. On the face of it, vir-ads have several plus points for the organisation:

  • It’s cheaper to film and distribute than proper tv advertising (using youtube, a small digital agency and handheld gear)
  • It still has a message associated with it so it has a good chance of getting past internal sign-off
  • It’s going on youtube and facebook, which the CEO found out about from his daughter last month, so there’ll be a pat on the back for the marketing team at board level for being ‘out there’.

However, its a nightmare for an agency:

  • They have to provide the killer idea(s), with a limited budget for thinking time
  • To fulfill the brief they have to pitch something they don’t really believe is ‘a viral’, or attempt to educate the client and risk ruining the pitch altogether by denting the internal marketers ego.
  • Inevitable compromise = a ‘vir-ad’ being created -> agency gets ridiculed by competitors for not understanding what ‘viral’ is
  • A Vir-ad has a much slimmer chance of ‘going viral’ than a true viral, (its still selling something rather than entertaining) and so in most cases the client ends up disappointed: they were mega excited about exploring youtube / virals etc, and ultimately they barely registered 1000 views. Repeat business goes bye bye.

In most cases both parties end up losing. There are exceptions, such as this, which has started doing the rounds on twitter and is what I’d hold up as a fantastic vir-ad: a clever idea you’d forward for a laugh, but with a clear brand message. If it had been done as a ‘celebrity deathmatch’ style video on youtube then it’d be perfect.

So marketers who think you know viral: do you really? Would a true viral campaign get sign off internally? Would you be prepared to spend the money and get absolutely no uplift in product website views? That’s what you risk in order to create a piece of truly viral marketing content. Or do you want a vir-ad? Taking some time to really understand viral before the tendering process may make it a whole lot easier.

* yeah, I kind of did this on the spur of the moment and couldn’t come up with a better name.

** it’s for Gatorade. there’s a bottle next to the girl’s seat in the last shot.

Is it just me or does the wikileaks list of BNP members [aka morons] constitute a great address book for a DR campaign by marketers in the following industries:

  • home and contents insurance
  • estate agents
  • removal vans
  • paintwork / tyre repair and replacement
  • home security

For years the BNP has targeted vulnerable and worried voters with campaigns based on fear and intimidation – wouldn’t it be nice to see marketers letting them know what it feels like?

Online dating has been around almost as long as the internet, and it has spawned some very successful businesses. It’s no surprise then that the industry is responsible for one of the simplest, but perhaps most astounding, pieces of integrated on and offline marketing I’ve come across. 

This piece by Robert J Moore lifts the lid on the camapign and makes a great read.

It’s a great example of how simple but anonymous advertising can drive ad-curious people like myself crazy trying to find out who’s behind it. If you have been in London recently think “the times” adverts before they put “the times” on them.