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Media consumption diet

I've been working on a new biz pitch the last week so I've been out of my feed reading loop. As I was going through them today I saw that Jeremiah Owyang started an interesting meme to find out how people consume media. I'll follow his structure to be as relevant as I can.

    Web: I consume most of my information from the web in a couple of primary ways. The majority of the information I get using Google Reader and RSS feeds. I have 113 primary subscriptions (I check these real-time) and around 350 secondary feeds (check if needed) and I push the most important news to my link blog. Here are my stats from Google Reader so you can see what my daily consumption is like over the past 30 days (pretty cool).

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    I also subscribe to the Wall Street Journal online and use a core set of trend and news sites to get the rest of my information. I engage in Flickr to share my photography and I'm often checking out the next hot web sites for work.

    Music: I use iTunes exclusively for music and often listen to the electronica and ambient radio channels while working. All of my CDs are ripped and I'm only buying digital music at this point. CDs get ripped as I need them. I have an iPod that I take with me for podcasts, music and movies.

    TV: I watch very little TV and what I do watch is usually from Tivo. I have my laptop with me 90% of the time. I have Netflix for movies and when I do watch TV it's the Discovery Channel or TLC.

    Communication: I always have my phone with me. I get real time email and use it quite heavily to text message with family and friends. I also rely on the mobile browser and versions of Google Reader to keep consuming media when I am on the go. I have a Verizon EVDO card to get access pretty much anywhere. There is nothing like riding as a passenger in a car and doing some work while online.

    Movies: My wife and I rarely go to the movies which is why Netflix is important. On Demand looks promising, but my carrier is a little behind the times with their hardware so it's impossible for me right now.

    Magazines: There are a few magazines I read regularly. Harvard Business Review, Wired and AdAge are must reads.

    Books: I read a book every two weeks. Almost all of them are business titles. My wife thinks I'm strange but you can give me Tom Peters' "Re-imagine" over the DaVinci Code any day of the week.

    Newspapers: I only read them online, but the content is just as relevant. WSJ, NYTimes, LATimes, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

How do you consume media? Did it change over the last 6 months? Do you see it shifting in the next year?


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Brand switcheroo

brand.gifEvery now and then, a marketing company decides to abandon a brand which has taken years of effort and millions of dollars to build. AT&T is the most recent example of this with their Cingular absorption. Cingular had a brand presence which resonated as young, hip and fun. These are descriptors that are not (and arguably will not be) embodied in AT&T.

What I am noticing is how Alltel is stepping right into Cingular's vacated shoes. Their recent ad campaigns have the same feel, are young and attempt to be humorous to connect with the consumer. I wonder if they're seeing a shift in people coming in from Cingular. I think people want to connect with their mobile provider on a personal level and is why I think this is an interesting tactic by Alltel.

I see smaller scale examples of this from time-to-time. New companies try to ride the coattails of a competitor by mimicking their marketing voice and then differentiating on features and benefits.

Have you seen other examples of this in business?


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It's the little things that add value

cont_logo.jpgI'm a huge proponent of giving consumers ROI when it comes to their personal information. There is nothing I hate more than going to a web site, giving that entity a bunch of personal information and then getting nothing in return. Yes, I add value to them. They can show management the number of orders, subscribers and conversion rates. But what about me?

One small example of a company using my information to add incremental value to my experience is Continental Airlines. I am flying to Los Angeles tonight for a new business pitch tomorrow. I don't know about you, but most of my business travel is crushed in between meetings, conference calls and normal work and there are a lot of things that I forget to do before traveling. One of the biggest things I forget about is to check the Weather. I always end up doing it the day I fly and by that time I can't change what I packed.

You can see in the example below Continental has used my personal information to add value to the confirmation email they send out. The top of the mail has all of the pertinent flight and time information, of course, but the tie-in with Weather.com adds the most value. I knew the forecast a couple of days ago, I didn't have to remember to go look it up and I've packed appropriately.

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If you're a customer, ask yourself why you give the information you do and if the companies you support use that info. to add value to your experience. If you're an interactive marketer stop and ask yourself if the information you collect is being used to add value to the customer. If it's not, look for new ways to leverage it. The benefit to the customer is great and the effort is relatively small.


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Ozzy Osbourne looks to re-invent the summer concert

CK has a great post on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog about the re-invention of Ozzfest. Ozzfest is a summer concert tour launched by Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon. What's different about it this year? The concert is free to fans, all 25 dates. How Concert 2.0 of them.

This fan-focused structure puts the burden of the event on the sponsors and not on the fans themselves. What a great idea to show the people, who buy the music and the merchandise, how valuable they are to the bands. Can you imagine these dates wouldn't sell out in a heartbeat? All of the merchandise sales and vending will still be in place so they're still making money.

Click here to read more on the Daily Fix Blog.


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Crowdsourcing, a great customer conversation starter

ielogo.gifI posted a couple of days ago about Dell's new IdeaStorm site. On the site Dell is soliciting ideas from their customers and then using those ideas as a center for the rest of the Dell web experience. The site has been well received (outside of the usual Dell haters) and it's a great step forward to really engage their customers and leverage them to bring new products to market.

I just saw another, VERY similar site pop up through my feeds via David Terrar at BusinessTwoZero. SalesForce.com's IdeaExchange looked so similar that I had to go back to Dell to compare. When I clicked the small "powered by AppExchange" logo on the Dell site I was taken to, guess who? SalesForce.com. Dell is using SalesForce's completely branded third-party system. Kudos to Dell for using it, but more kudos to SF for creating it and offering to clients.

Here is a quick breakdown of the components:

Users post ideas

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A simple form lets users get started quickly. They can upload images of what they're suggesting and write as much as they need to get their point across.

Promote the ideas

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The users on the site promote ideas they think are valuable. This way the site owner gets to see the most popular ideas as promoted by the group. The promotion link is next to each idea and users just click to vote for what they like.

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Discuss the ideas

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This is the important part for companies. Once ideas start to gain popularity, users discuss them, find the logic holes, suggest solutions and start to build a more complete, finished plan. This allows companies to step in toward the end, take the idea, add technical architecture details and implement more rapidly.

See the delivery

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Another key to this system is to show the customers that ideas are being taken to completion. This module allows the company to queue projects which have gone through submission, voting and discussion and are in the final stages of being implemented. Credit to the user(s) who created the idea is key and the "fame" they gain through this process will encourage other users to interact.

The model seems great. I wouldn't be surprised to see more Wiki features be added to the discussion portion of this to enable more structured interaction, but the core system looks solid and customer-friendly. Ideas are crucial for success. It's great to see companies like Dell and SalesForce notice this and start engaging customers with a great use of technology.


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Eyeballs vs content, which matters most?

eye.jpgThis question seems to be the new chicken and the egg. One side of the argument says that to get eyeballs, you have to have quality content. The other side quips that you need to have eyeballs to justify delivering the quality content.

Viacom's recent decision that forced YouTube to remove over 100,000 clips shows they put their stock in the content. It's more of the "if you build it they will come" approach. Viacom is creating their own site(s) to handle the video and embedding. YouTube, on the other hand, thinks that the huge number of eyeballs they already reach are the most important part of the equation. We'll soon see who is correct.

I personally tend to take YouTube's side. I think there is plenty wrong with their model, mind you, and they're surely not the last video phenomenon that will come along. But...they have the eyeballs. Consumers are gaining more control over the experience online and it won't be too much longer before companies are forced to realize this.

Consumers want to go to a single place to watch video clips. They don't want to have to jump from one site to another. In the end, the site with the most aggregated content may just win out and other video will go by the wayside.


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Speaking to PRSA's Cleveland Chapter today

PRSA_alt_web.gifBrian Bloom from Liggett Stashower and I are speaking at the PRSA Cleveland Chapter's luncheon today. The topic is right up my alley, 'New Technology for Communicators'. I love getting these opportunities to share and evangelize technology as a function of marketing. Too many companies try to make technology scary when it should really be transparent.

I'm trying to get over a cold right now, so they'll have to bear with me. I'll post reactions to the event later today when I'm back in the office. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy this warm 40 degree day.

Update: What a fantastic event this was today. Kudos to my presentation partner Brian Bloom, he did a great job communicating the impact of technology on PR with real, tangible examples. Thanks also to Tony Santana from PR Newswire for setting up the event.

The group was very enthusiastic and had a ton of great questions. I saw a lot of people perk up when I talked about a couple of key issues:

  • Transparency in social marketing
  • Second life and avatar marketing
  • Creating lasting conversations through social media
  • Tagging as a PR tool (I even gave Buz Buzogany a demo of del.icio.us afterward)

Events like this show me that marketers are interested in technology, but perhaps they need a little hand-holding to get going. As I mentioned, some companies like to make technology seem more complex than it is. Marketing drives technology, not the other way around. Marketers need to grasp what is possible and current, but their ideas shouldn't have pre-conceived limitations.

Download the presentation here. (21Mb PDF)


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Let Virgin fly

va_logo.jpgWhen's the last time you said you loved your airline? I honestly couldn't say. The race to cut costs has led to cramped spaces, pay-per-bite airline food, longer delays as more people try to board less flights and seemingly (at least to me) overworked, underpaid flight attendants.

That's why when I recently read about Virgin America's plight to start domestic air service in the US it struck a cord. Here is an airline who cares and wants to shift the paradigm of domestic travel, but their being blocked from flying by the US Department of Transportation. Virgin truly wants to fly, give great service, make sure passengers are comfortable and do it all with a smile and for a fair price. All they want is to give a little love. (Hey it worked for Southwest didn't it.)

Compare this to the recent JetBlue debacles (11 hour runway standoff and subsequent mishandling of flight cancellations). They've even vowed to release a passenger's bill of rights to restore credibility to the once lauded airline. Tom Peters has a fired-up take on JetBlue on his blog. I couldn't agree with him more.

Virgin created a great micro-site at www.letvafly.com (seen here) to support their cause.


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The site showcases cool, contemporary plane interior photos and video, allows users to sign a digital petition to Let VA Fly, lets you write your congressman and signup for mailings as the fight progresses. The site is also chock full of information for people to learn more about the fight to fly and the airline. On top of all that, it showcases what makes a real difference...people, personal attention and bad ass in-seat entertainment.

Virgin could have taken a militant, aggressive stance on this issue. They could berate the DOT for their decisions and resort to all sorts of name-calling. But they didn't. That's not the Virgin brand. That IS, however, the kind of airline I would like to fly on.

LET VA FLY! (It can't suck as much as the rest.)

Sidebar: Here is a quick tour by the VA CEO, Fred Reid:




Sidebar: Nice ad positioning by Continental, by the way, on the NYPost.com site:


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Update: JetBlue's CEO responds via YouTube. Is it enough? Will it really reach those personally effected?



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Dell finally creates real conversation

dell_logo.pngDell has been the whipping boy of bloggers for years. From battery recall snafus to shoddy customer support to the infamous Dell Hell experience of Jeff Jarvis. The personal computer maker has been a case study on how not to engage with consumers.

The company took steps in mid-2006 to use the web as a tool to converse with customers through the creation of its direct2dell blog. This approach allowed for quick alerting of problems to Dell customers, but still comes from Dell corporate PR with a spin. This isn't the conversation customers want.

As I was reading through my feeds today I came across this post on FutureLab by Stefan Kolle pointing to a new Dell system called Dell IdeaStorm. This is a big step forward by Dell to engage in true conversations, make customers feel important and make up for years of relative silence. The site asks users for ideas, helps them share ideas and rank them through a Digg-like voting system. Each article and idea has the ability for comments to be shared to help shape them further.


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I think Dell has finally found the right vehicle to communicate with consumers. Dell's problem in the past has been the delivery of the message. By involving the customer to deliver the message they've come upon the best of both worlds, more empowered customers and a quality communications vehicle to reach and support them.

Going forward Dell should promote the heck out of this thing. They need to feed on the community architecture, implement the suggestions and reply personally to anyone with an issue or opposing voice.

How many other companies should tap their collective customer base to co-develop ideas? The technology to make something like this succeed is here folks, it has been for years. The trick to making this work is to a) see the value your customers offer you, b) learn how to best interact and engage with them and c) learn how to turn these ideas into products. Once there is a product, the marketing launch can use the same customers to help reach markets quicker than ever before. Imagine the possibilities!

Update: Just read further though my feeds and see that Jermiah Owyang of PodTech has similar feelings.


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Unrequested mobile advertising

call_feature_us.gifA while back Google's Eric Schmidt shared his vision on the future of mobile phones. In short, phones will be free because advertisers will, in effect, pay for your device and service plan in exchange for you viewing their ads. Sounds good right?

Well, Paul @ HeeHawMarketing recently had an ad appear on his phone without his permission and it doesn't sound like Verizon is giving him free service or a free phone. Read more about his thoughts here.

Right now mobile advertising is in its infancy. Carriers are going to try to get away with tactics like this until enough people get pissed off. In the meantime, marketers are going to increasingly have a tougher time using this platform if the carriers continue to cannibalize its effectiveness.

Would you be mad if you started getting served ads on your phone without requesting them? Do you think you should be compensated for seeing them or is this part of the game? What if they were hyper-relevant/hyper-local?

My post from yesterday reiterates the challenge that publishers are facing. The good ones are going to learn to use advertising as a desirable feature and not force it down the consumer's throat.


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Give users control over the right part of online advertising, choice

choice.jpgThe user generated advertising trend is hot. Attempts to make consumer created ads pay off is hit and miss, backfiring for some companies and mildly succeeding for others. Still, the best form of user generated advertising comes from people who really love you and your brand, not from a contest or other gimmick. So with all of the hype, does this tactic really create new customers and in the end sell more of what you have to offer? Usually not.

While the focus has been placed on the ads themselves, we're missing an opportunity to really engage users and create more loyal customers through User Controlled Advertising (UCA). I pitched this back in 2005 and the world wasn't ready for it, but now seems like the right time to put it out there again. UCA would allow publishers or advertising networks to serve up ads (created by ad professionals) to users and allow those users to decide what they want to see.

UCA choices could be based on any of the following:


  • Type or category of ad ("See more ads like this")
  • Brand-specific ads ("See more ads from this sponsor")
  • Ability to easily scroll through ads to see what's available
  • Choose not to see an ad or sponsor

Here is an example of how this would physically manifest itself in the ad enclosure:

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This creates new opportunities and solves some key online advertising problems. First, if users are choosing to see your ads, they're going to be more likely to click through or buy offline. They're opting in to your message. Second, using this system there is less waste on people who don't care about you (sorry, they are out there)...why should you pay to show them an ad they'll never click? Third, if you combine this system with user preferences, personalization and reporting and you have created the most powerful, accurate, waste-free, relevant ad system on earth. These technologies are all out there, but nobody has put them together. Fourth, the system serves as a vehicle to extend the ad beyond the typical banner. It offers real estate for promotions and other personalized engagement techniques to connect with the right message and the right time.

Imagine a user comes on to your local newspaper web site (where you advertise). Based on their registration criteria the system knows they may be interested in you, so when they hit the home page there is your ad. If they like you they select to see more ads from you. The site then serves your ads at a higher weighting through the system giving you more impressions. The user wants to see your message and the chance they'll click through is increased. Conversely, if another person logs on and sees your ad and doesn't have an interest in you, they can click to an ad they do like. They get what they want to see and you don't waste impressions serving irrelevant ads.

Taking this a step further, RSS driven ads could be used as part of this new ad system. The messages in ads can be updated by the advertiser in real-time and not necessitate new creative. For example, say you have a campaign to welcome users to your site. You could create an ad format that would take their head shot and name and create a custom ad to thank them for signing up. It would be integrated into the system and allow them to share the ad with friends to get them to sign up. How much more relevant can you get?

The idea here is to give users control over the context and content, not the creative. It forms a mutually beneficial partnership and could have a major impact in the world of online advertising.


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Happy valentines day



I love this piece by Hugh MacLeod @ GapingVoid.

Love isn't about getting flowers and chocolates. Love is about being creative and passionate. I love this quote:

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
~ Henry Louis Mencken


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Active listening as a first step toward creating conversations

megaphone.jpgHey there marketer...are you listening? The idea of creating conversations with customers is wonderful in theory and, for most companies, scary as hell in practice. Who knows what customers will say? Will they gather around and laud praise on you for each and every move you make? Or, will customers show up with pitch forks and torches to try to run you off the Net?

Chances are you're in for a little bit of both, but in order to start your move toward creating a conversation you have to be listening. Listening is arguably one of the hardest skills for most human beings to acquire. Great marketers can turn what they're hearing into actionable, on-target insights that further conversation. Bad marketers don't listen, they react and browbeat their customers to ensure their ass is covered.

Conversations are two-way streets. Dialogs. Active listening is the first step to really engaging in a conversation independent of what tactics you're using to do it. This form of listening is the process of engaging with a customer, hearing what they're saying, confirming that you understand what they're saying and creating an action plan to respond to what they need.

The temptation today is to go out, create a blog or a wiki or an extranet and then say "Hey look, I'm creating conversations with my customers!" These are all great tactics, but implementing any of them and not applying active listening is useless. If customers are taking the time to comment on a blog, for example, you should listen to what they're saying and reply individually to them (either online or offline). The more customers that say the same thing the more quickly you should make changes to respond to them. Even a contact us form can deliver real benefits if you respond to each inquiry appropriately and not just filter them into a junk file.

The feedback you receive is very valuable information. Information that you would gladly pay thousands of dollars to a research company to give you customer insights. The problem for many marketers is that this is coming to you directly. There is no company filtering responses to give you recommendations and too often companies put up a wall and ignore them or worse they get confrontational and protective.

Valeria Maltoni @ Conversation Agent (one of, if not the, best written blogs around) had a nice piece yesterday about the underlying meaning within conversations. She points out that in real-world conversations there are cues you can take to more fully understand meaning. These are more challenging online as you may have no context for the conversation, may not have met the person before and you certainly can't gauge their tone. (One of the nicest people I've ever worked with also had the meanest email voice I've ever "heard" and I had to apply a filter.) Active listening can help overcome these hurdles.

Agile marketing companies are leveraging new technology to create real, one-to-many and many-to-many conversations. They are using the outcome from that interaction to make meaningful, remarkable, relationship-enhancing changes that impact their clients in a positive manner. Are you listening?


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"Stealth marketing" is NOT marketing

liar.jpgI was reading through my blog feeds this weekend and came across one post that mentioned stealth marketing as a tactic for businesses to 'carefully' engage in. I read through what the author (who shall remain nameless) was saying and it made me stop what I was doing, cringe and get fired up.

For those that don't know, stealth marketing is defined by Wikipedia as:

Undercover marketing (also known as buzz marketing, stealth marketing, or by its detractors roach baiting) is a subset of guerrilla marketing where consumers do not realize they are being marketed to.

This is not marketing, it is deceit plain and simple. It is also one of the main reasons that marketers are increasingly coming under fire. Through the use of technology, this practice is becoming easier for companies to participate in and there are companies out there who leverage the perceived anonymity of the Internet to advance their client's campaigns.

Tactics that fall into the stealth definition include: creating flogs, adjusting rankings on sites like Amazon or EBay, paying users to change information or creating manufactured content alleged to be from a consumer. Instances of companies trying to get away with this by using social marketing as the vehicle are popping up all over the place and as of right now there is no real way to protect against it. Each individual site would be charged with validating the authenticity of each user's real identity.

The United Kingdom has taken steps to make this practice of deception illegal and punishable at the individual level. (A hat tip to Ben McConnell @ Church of the Customer Blog who offers his opinion on this here.) This is the first major step by any country to help stop this.

The line between stealth marketing and real customer evangelism is pretty clear. Just look at who is originating the message. Evangelism happens when the customer is pulling the marketer in to conversations and communities, not when a company is pushing its way into the conversation. Arming those evangelists with the means to do this is acceptable (adding Digg or Bloglines links for example). Pretending to be one of those customers is unethical.

Just use the Mom test. If you wouldn't call your Mom and tell her what you did, it's probably not ethical. Can you imagine calling home to say "Yeah Mom, Hi. I took place in a deceptive marketing campaign by pretending to be someone else, made some blog posts as them and tricked hundreds of people into buying some product that I don't actually use." I sure wouldn't tell my mom that.


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Boston scare has human impact

samples.jpegThe head of the Cartoon Network resigned on Friday due to the Boston guerilla marketing-turned-scare promoting the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Although he was not directly responsible for the stunt, Jim Samples voluntarily left his post saying:

(I feel) "compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch."

I give him a lot of credit for standing up and facing this. Was he the only one involved here? Not a chance. He didn't plan, execute or hold back information from the police. But, in this day and age of mis-trust in business, I think it's refreshing to see someone stand up and take responsibility.

It's also interesting to note (per this ABC News article) that the number of viewers of the program was NOT significantly impacted by the publicity in Boston. In fact the cartoon averaged only 6,000 more viewers in the target demo.

All of this chaos, Boston coming to a standstill, people going to jail and losing their jobs...for 6,000 viewers.



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WalMart doesn't get it

walmartdown.pngAs reported earlier this week by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, WalMart launched their new video download service without FireFox support. The resulting page looked like you see it here. They've recently "fixed" the problem by showing the message below.


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I know this is a beta version. I know that WalMart is using Windows Media DRM which only works through IE. But, why not give me more than this. 14%+ (some sites say 30%+) of the world's browsers are FireFox, why shut those people out. There has to be a more graceful way for this to present the marketing message.

If every pair of eyeballs is a potential customer why not show me the content in my browser's format and only when I get to the download part tell me about my browser. If I'm interested that much, I'll find a way to get IE. At this point they're telling me they don't care about my experience with their brand and this site. Would they keep someone out of their stores like this? Absolutely not.

It's easy to put up a wall like, but why not build a bridge? Invite people in, show them why you're remarkable and convert me to a customer. Every business should learn from mistakes like this and create more openness and support for mainstream platforms. Heck, at this point FireFox has more people using it than IE7. Someday the tide may even shift. Who knows, but wouldn't it be great to stay ahead of the curve?

Note: Paul @ HeeHawMarketing pointed out a similar problem on the Sales Genie website, they've corrected it in short order.


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Is Viacom censoring content?

Viacom_logo.gifAfter the Viacom cease and desist order was sent to YouTube a lot of clips were taken off of the YouTube servers. People like myself who use their embedded videos are having to go back and remove content or explain why videos are missing.

My previous post on Cingular's name change to AT&T (I mean at&t) used just such a video. I referenced a segment clip from the Colbert Report on Comedy Central where Steven Colbert explains the confusion surrounding the matter and the pure ego of at&t.

I just noticed this clip was one of the ones effected, so I went to look for a replacement. Comedy Central's site has most of Colbert's clips for viewing. But, for some reason the Cingular clip isn't there. I did a search on the word Cingular and had no results...except one entry with a Cingular promotion.

I am wondering if Comedy Central held this clip off on purpose to not piss off Cingular, or maybe I am just not seeing it (I've looked for a while though). It just makes me wonder, when a company like Viacom removes content publishing from the masses like this (and I just read that NBC may be the next company to go on the offensive), how does the consumer suffer? What else won't get posted to appease a sponsor.

I know that Viacom owns the content, but I don't know that removing it from the masses like this is beneficial to them. There are shows that I watch now because I saw clips on YouTube, there is no way I would have seen them otherwise, there is just too much content. More eyeballs are a good thing. Maybe Viacom is just a little bit jealous that they're not the ones who created YouTube.

(Oddly I did find the video available on Google Video Canada and another version on YouTube that hasn't been pulled yet.)


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Guerilla "terror" marketing out-buzzes Super Bowl

flip_off.jpgFirst let me say that I don't condone the method with which the now infamous Boston Aqua Teen Hunger Force campaign was executed. In today's world, getting permits for electronic blinking devices, magnetically affixed to bridges and overpasses is a no-brainer. Should those guys go to jail for videotaping police and not alerting authorities? Yes. Did Boston overreact a little? Probably. Do marketers need to think beyond our world and put things in the context of the global climate? Absolutely.

But...something has been driving me crazy for a couple of days ever since TNT agreed to pay the City of Boston $2 million for the blunder. $2 million. What was the cost of a Super Bowl ad spot? $2.6 million. So, let's look at a sample of the buzz generated by the Aqua Teen Hunger Force vs. Snicker's controversial Super Bowl ad and SalesGenie.com's tragedy of a campaign ($5.2 million + spent between the two).




I find it incredible that $2.6 million buys you less buzz. Would Sales Genie have created more awareness if they'd hired two lackeys to run around major cities attaching blinking genies to bridges? They probably would have received more buzz and anything would have been better than their Super Bownl ad in my opinion.

The second part of this is effectiveness. Aqua Teen probably received more cred from current fans and picked up new fans as a result of the guerilla campaign. Was it worth it to TNT and Interference (the agency behind the whole thing)? I would say it was. They got the buzz, paid the fine, are coming out clean and saved $600,000 over running a Super Bowl spot.

I think it's time for marketers to wake up on two fronts. First, look around, see that running a spot on the Super Bowl is a HUGE waste of money which could be spent better and deliver more ROI in other venues. Second, look at the world around you and make sure that your tactics are not going to bring a major city to its knees and strike fear into millions.

Oh shit, Robert Goule is messing with my stuff again. Gotta run.

Update:
Steven Colbert's always humorous take


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OpenID and why you should care

1148194262.pngIf you are a regular web user like myself, you probably have passwords and usernames scattered across hundreds of sites, spanning the past 8-9 years of your online life. Does your online banking username and password resemble your login to your wacky aunt's baby photo sharing site? Or does your password arsenal need NSA top-secret-clearance-carrying cryptologists to help you uncover the right combination of characters? How do you store those usernames and passwords? More importantly, what helps prevent other people from claiming to be you?

Wouldn't it be nice to have them all in one place and have a third-party verify that you are who you say you are? This has been tried before, but by partial companies. Microsoft's Wallet centralized e-commerce application failed miserably and Google's new checkout application may follow in the same footsteps.

What you need is an open, decentralized, free system for digital user-centric identity. It just so happens that is what OpenID is. First and foremost OpenID is not a trust system. The system is an identity verification system. Trust is only given by users once they determine if it's warranted.

Let's use the example of two bloggers leaving comments on one another's posts. In the diagram below, each person is using a different publishing system and they want to interact with each other through comments. OpenID works where I go to your blog and enter my blog URI. Your blog checks back to my ID server (behind the scenes) and authorizes that I am who I say I am. Your blogging system then populates my comment information on your form. I enter my comment and it comes into your queue. You look at the comment, click back to my blog and decide if you trust me (if I am a new commenter). If you do decide to trust me you approve the comment, if not, you delete it. The same thing happens when you come to my blog and submit a comment. My system validates your identity through your ID server. I then determine if I trust you.

openID.png

OpenID saves time for Internet users and centralizes the storage of identity information. The decentralized nature of the verification keeps people honest. If someone lies about their identity, they can be reported and when they interact in the future they would be flagged.

The biggest reason to care about OpenID is the fact that Yahoo and Microsoft have thrown their support behind the system. Those two powerhouses are validating the concept and the fact that this type of system should be independent of corporate influence.

For an awesome take on this, check out the following video done by identity 2.0 maven Dick Hardt of Sxip Identity. It's a marvelous presentation and shows the challenges of identity 2.0.





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Tracking online trends and buzz

There are a couple of sites I use to track trends and buzz. One of those is BuzzMetrics BlogPulse which tracks keywords in blog posts across the Internet. I was curious, given Vista's recent launch, what the level of buzz was in comparison to the iPhone release.

It isn't even close. You can clearly see in the chart below the blue spike is the release of the iPhone and the orange spike is the Vista on-sale. This goes as much to Apple's tight secrecy on the device versus Microsoft's 3 year death march toward Vista's release.


vista_iPhone buzz.png


Trends like these can give you a window into your users and popular culture. You don't need an expensive buzz tracking service to get an idea of what's happening. Use the following sites (my favorites) to keep your fingers on the pulse of your business or industry:


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Yahoo playing advertising catch-up

yahoo-logo-735610.jpgYahoo's long-delayed new advertising system, code named project Panama, is in the process of launching. Yahoo has been trying to catch up to Google and Microsoft for quite some time and Panama is expected to bridge the gap.

Yahoo needs this project to be successful in order to increase its revenues and lift its stock prices. The next step is for Yahoo to try to gain ground in the search volume race. Right now the change in model doesn't mean a lot without more volume and more impressions. For media professionals, it's just another disparate system to learn, for Yahoo this could determine their relevance as a search powerhouse.


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Disenchanted with the Super Bowl ads

Every year I get excited for the Super Bowl to see what new ads will be unleashed on the masses. Nearly every year I am disappointed and this year is no exception. The wacky dot-com wastes money hand over fist (Sales Genie), and the car makers don't really make ads that sell anything (although, if I need to tow a cement truck at some point, I'll go buy a pickup truck).   

One of the only bright spots last night, in my opinion, was the video game Coke commercial where the thug character has a change of heart and starts helping people instead of stealing cars and setting things on fire (see below). Budweiser's spots were disconnected yet predictable and funny. I wonder if that formula pays off.

Maybe I set myself up too much. I expect cool, innovative, groundbreaking ads that make me want to buy the product. Will I switch to Nationwide Insurance because of K-Fed? No. Will I drink Bud Light because the Dalmatian commercial was heart-warming? No. I won't try CareerBuilder.com either (one of those ads would have sufficiently gotten their point across). The consumer-generated ads stacked up to the other non-sense so those companies may come out ahead (not spending anything on production). The only real winners last night were the network and the ad firms.

I had trouble sleeping as I thought more about this. $2.6 million dollars per spot PLUS production costs to shoot the ads. So most of those ads are probably around $3 million total. Now, what if those companies took that money and invested in their communities. What if Nationwide started a network of facilities that supported the homeless or underprivileged in their key markets. Would that make me consider Nationwide? Yes it would. What if Nike spent their $3 million on sending shoes to inner-city organizations so kids had warm feet? I would actually consider Nike shoes (which I wrote off a long time ago).

My big question today is what difference did last night make? Are more people employed? Do homeless families have a roof over their heads? Do their kids have shoes on their feet? From a business standpoint, will any of those companies see the benefit of spending $3 million per spot? Will sales see a jump? Will somebody come to work today and say to themselves, "Self...I should go and hire Sales Genie because, having spent $3 million dollars last night, they surely know how to help me run my business."

Most of the real winners saw their campaigns take off on the Internet over the past couple of weeks. K-Fed's ad has been out and driving traffic to their site. I'd like to see a comparison on how many people went to Nationwide.com vs. saw that ad on TV last night. I bet the Internet won and for a LOT less.

So, what difference did last night make? Did it make a difference to you?


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Super Ad Sunday is here

goal_small.jpgIt's not that I'm not a football fan, I am. But, I look forward to today (like many others in the marketing community) to see the ads. This year's advertising will be a mixture of user generated ads, from the likes of Doritos and Alka Seltzer, and the typical comedic beer ad shootout.

Ad Week via www.superadfreak.com will be blogging the Super Bowl ads this year. Guest bloggers include Seth Godin, Joseph Jaffe, Tim Arnold, Andy Berlin, Chris Wall and Tom Messner. (I can't wait to get Seth's more pragmatic take to help cut through the hype.)

This is a nice experiment to engage top-level marketing bloggers and get real-time input. It will be interesting to see how the commentary works and what ads come out on top. Interactive marketers need to pay attention to the push to the internet and we all need to look at how/if these commercials drive real business results. More on that from me tomorrow.

For now, check out the SuperAdFreak site for the running commentary and enjoy the game.

Note: This Apple Macintosh ad really started the phenomenon of Super Bowl advertising as its own partitioned competition. Is the next groundbreaking commercial going to launch today?



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Viacom v. Google getting ugly

youtube_logo.jpgViacom's takedown order to Google hasn't come as a complete shock to most. There is quite a bit of material up on YouTube which belongs to other companies, but Google has operated under the protection of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act whereby they remove any unauthorized clips on request. This most recent request was much more public and hostile and the outcome has long-term legal implications.

Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing brings up a great point on the method with which Viacom notified Google via spammed requests.

Per Cory:

Viacom did a general search on YouTube for any term related to any of its shows, and then spammed YouTube with 100,000 DMCA take-down notices alleging that all of these clips infringed its copyright and demanding that they be censored off the Internet.

This bulk search method caught other non-Viacom clips in the search. Viacom has also asked Google to keep future clips of their programs off the Google sites. This is not covered under the safe harbor act in the DMCA, clips are only removed on request. It'll be very interesting to see how Google responds.

March 13, 2007 -- UPDATE: Viacom has decided to sue YouTube for $1 billion.

March 14, 2007 -- UPDATE: See my latest post titled "Viacom v. YouTube, litigation v. innovation?


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What a difference a year makes

A year can make a big difference. I was in Detroit on business last year around this time and was having lunch in a restaurant. I started talking with the bartender about the city and his take on the its re-building initiatives. He only spoke about problems like crime, the homeless and how the re-building was sure to fail.

Fast forward one year. The Tigers were in the World Series, the city hosted the Super Bowl and the mood is good. When I was in Detroit yesterday (the reason I didn't post) everybody talked about how good the teams were, how the city was really coming around and people were moving back downtown.

So what changed? People in Detroit took a couple of unrelated events and built upon them. They've created a new attitude which is starting to change the city for the better. Every year great things happen to other cities, and companies, but they're treated as one-time events. The best way to get on a roll is to look for small things, good things and then build upon those. Keep the momentum rolling and grow.

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