Thursday, February 28

No Shit Sherlock headline of the day

Study: Brand-Driven Traffic Converts Best For Online Retailers
Direct Access Traffic -- or visitors who arrive at a Web site by directly typing in a URL or bookmark--represents some of the most valuable traffic an online retailer can draw in, according to a new study by Engine Ready.

Wednesday, February 27

Everyone Gets Their 15 Minutes of Privacy

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the lasting power of your "social self" online. The personal information that you divulge online in social networks, on your blog, on Flickr, in your Linked In resume.

The current hype is about unsubscribing from social networks like Facebook. The NY Times started it with this article. It was picked up by various bloggers testing the theory by trying to unjack themselves from the social net. There is even a scary case study on Symantec's site.

In summary, you can take your real self out of the Internet, but your virtual self hangs around. It's enough to make you consider ripping out your WiFi and restocking those Y2K rations.

(On a side note, it reminds of how difficult it was back in the day to cancel your AOL account. It was a multi-step process involving phone calls to customer service and sometimes written letters. Which apparently is still an issue.)

But the lasting power of your online information is going to cause all kinds of issues over the next few years. Especially as high school students try to get into college and then try to get a job.

Think a screwed up credit rating has lasting power? Imagine when college entry advisers and HR departments start looking up your background online. Use the Google Face search engine (trust me, it is coming) to find those Webshots party photos. Find that MySpace page where you confessed to getting wasted with the football team right next to the NORML logo. All of which you deleted years ago.

It is all sitting somewhere just waiting to be indexed, stored, and dug up at the wrong moment -- like your mom showing off your naked baby bath photos to your prom date.

But every online challenge spawns a whole new generation of service industries. Soon there will be companies to which recruiters can outsource the background checks. And there will be companies that individuals can hire to track down this latent information and scrub as much of it as possible. All for a fee. All automated. should invest in both and rake in the cash from recruiters and job seekers, just like Sylvester McMonkey McBean and his Star On/Off Machine.

These privacy finders/erasers will be making money until Google gets slammed from every angle over privacy issues and just offers the service for free to keep themselves out of court. Then a whole industry will vanish into a simple Google self-service tool. Which sounds like a no brainer, until you consider that the search engine offered a tool to scrub your search history with them, and got sued by privacy watchdogs.

The most recent hint at the future is the "people search engine" Spock. It is set up to automatically collect all the public information attached to your name, consolidate it on an official-looking page, and then email you with a request to "verify" it. Digital Blackmail. If you verify it, then you justify its existence. If you don't, then you risk others finding you on it with wrong information.

They make it sound so helpful:

"Spock combines two very powerful forces. First, our technology organizes web content about people into easily understood search results. We search for information on bio pages, social networks, news sites, blogs, directories …pretty much every place imaginable on the Internet. Second, the Spock community contributes information to help enhance the search experience. Members can add tags, pictures, and web links or simply vote on existing information to increase its relevance. Anyone can join to help make search better for everyone.”

“But Spock is not a social network. Don’t get me wrong, we love social networks. We just think that there are already plenty of great options out there for sharing among friends. Spock is a people search application - once you find who you are looking for, go ahead and click through to see where they are on the web.”

“Spock lets you determine where people find you on the Internet. When you sign up for Spock you can claim your search result and shape what information people see. Plus, when there is new information about you on the Internet we can send you an alert so you are always up to date.”

But there is always a dark side (from Wired Magazine):
Spock, a search engine for finding people, mixes search with social-networking tools like personal profiles and tagging. But you don't have to join to have a profile on Spock. In fact, you may be shocked to see what your profile says about you.

For example: Mike X. is a fat, retarded pimp who likes screwing prostitutes. Mary Y. works in a strip club downtown and owns a vibrator. Joe Z. is a man-whore who hangs out at stranger's houses and drinks rum and coke.

If you searched Spock using the real names of these high school teenagers, those are the kind of tags you'd find.

These kids have a few things in common: They, along with 12,000 other people, recently downloaded a "Mad Libs"-like Facebook application and wrote stories about themselves and their friends, filling the blanks with scandalous terms.

But they didn't realize the application was created by Spock, which debuted last week. And they were horrified to discover that Spock used the terms they supplied to build public profiles on them and other Facebook members.

This is an email I received from them recently:

Subject: See what your friends are doing on the web

Hi Stephen,

Spock can find everyone you know on the web in a single search. Find out where your friends have been networking with people, posting pictures, and sharing information.

Click here to search now.

I'm waiting for the "Erase your identity on the web for $50" email to show up at any time. And I might actually click it.

Saturday, February 23

Evolution of Online Communities

The recent Disney announcement about consolidating their virtual world development (see post below) reminds me of a "History of Online Communities" presentation that I delivered exactly one year ago. This was during the Second Life hype, when all our clients wanted to know what it really meant.

Spoiler alert = if you got involved early then you were a PR genius. If you got involved 4 months after the hype started then you were instantly a marketing idiot

So I created this evolution chart to show that virtual worlds weren't a fad that just popped out of Web 2.0. More of an evolution of how people have used the Internet for decades, even before there were web browsers. Which means we should continue staying involved in them, as long as we have the right perspective and expectations.

Basically split it into three main reasons people go online -- to communicate with others, to express themselves, or to be entertained. I find that holds true for many of the ongoing online trends, marketing strategies, and technologies. If you can meet 2 of these 3 needs, then you have a real opportunity to succeed. If you can meet all three (like virtual worlds), then you really have the start of something with lasting power.

It was also a great excuse to reminisce about MUDs, the Well, and the Geocities homepage craze.

Click for the PDF version. It's over a year old, so the 2006+ content is a bit outdated.

Friday, February 22

Viral of Mouth or Word of Viral?

The Office Max Elf Yourself 2007 holiday site was a huge viral success. 5 times more traffic than 2006. Here's an overview on Mediapost.

Viral is a hit (rarely) or miss (mostly) approach. You can count the number of real viral successes on one hand. Burger King subservient chicken and Simpsonize Me, Mentos/Coke video (and the sequel), Snakes on a Plane Samuel Jackson voicemails, Jib Jab president music video.

For me, the original viral dates back to the Dancing Baby animation that ended up in everyone's email inbox and even on Allie McBeal. Or maybe the Exploding Whale video. Yeah, I'm old.

Case studies like Elf Yourself set the wrong expectation that every "viral" program will have the same results. Clients read it and want their viral "thing." So the account team wants a viral "thing." And the opportunity for the creative team to do something besides a 30 second TV spot that gets consumer tested to death is too alluring. So everyone ignores the fact that you can't plan on making something viral. It just goes viral if it is really unique and interesting and lucky.

Then you end up with a branded video on YouTube getting 5,000 views and a client asking what went wrong. And then you build a microsite to house that video, which gets limited visits. And then run some banners to drive traffic to that microsite to justify the production budget. At which point you start asking why you didn't just stick the video in broadband pre-roll advertising and tack a "Share This" button on it.

Even Elf Yourself was a rip off of countless other "put your face on a character and make it talk" executions. The Wedding Crashers movie did it 3 years ago. Oddcast does it every week. They just hit a chord during the holidays and got the buzz ball rolling.

Most don't realize that in 2006 Office Max actually launched 20 different "viral" microsites -- things like Reindeer Arm Wrestling, North Pole Dancing, Shake the Globe. Really to see which ones took off. Elf Yourself ended up being the one. Which allowed them to fine tune it and reuse it in 2007. You can see the full collection on the Toy website. There is also an article by their President that explains the program.

This is something that a lot of agencies and marketers don't push themselves to consider. Crossing your fingers and hoping that 1 execution (viral or not) will succeed is not the best approach. It was still a risk for Office Max, but they spread their bets (and budget) by testing out a wide variety of executions. They ended up allocating their entire media budget to produce the 20 sites, therefore had nothing driving traffic to it except word of mouth. So kudos to them for having the guts to do it. I'm sure they lost a lot of sleep over it in the early days.

Thursday, February 21

VideoEgg Meet 2CV, 2CV Meet Dynamic Logic

Looks like my blog is being tapped. News today about an upcoming study to measure the effectiveness of ad interactions. Not sure how this is any different than Dynamic Logic studies, but gives marketers one more metric to demand benchmarks against.
Platforms Make a Difference for Interactive Ads

Getting consumers to interact with an ad is always desirable, but just how much more effective does it make the ad? A new study attempts to measure how consumers feel about a brand after they view a static ad and an ad they can interact with.

London-based interactive agency Weapon 7 hired research agency 2CV in 2005 to conduct the study, and a paper, "Measuring the effectiveness of interactive advertising," is currently undergoing peer review and is slated to be published in Admap this spring. The agencies carried out 16 different studies on different interactive platforms, most notably internet and interactive TV.

Will Virtual Worlds Have to Go Viral to Get Noticed?

Professionally-created destinations are going to quickly turn "free range" worlds like Second Life and Entropia into the YouTubes of virtual worlds. Tons of content, most of it crap, takes too much time to find the gems.

Disney Goes Virtual Kids' 'Studios'

Disney has announced the formation of Disney Online Studios, a new division within the Walt Disney Internet Group focused on virtual worlds, gaming and social networking initiatives aimed at kids. The announcement comes as the company’s latest virtual world, the young girl-aimed Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow, was previewed during Toy Fair in New York on Feb. 19.

Virtual worlds, games and social networking have increasingly become a major priority for Disney, which relaunched its flagship site roughly a year ago around XD, a Web platform which melded elements of community, multimedia consumption and gaming. And last August, the company both acquired the kids virtual world Club Penguin and unveiled the more tween centric world Pirates of the Caribbean Online.

Wednesday, February 20

Let's Start With Some Logo Placements and Go From There

So the online advertising spend forecasts continue to grow. Media Week collected different reports forecasting between 20% - 30% growth in 2008.

Which brings me to my theory that this growth isn't coming from marketers who already spend money online. I doubt most of them are increasing their budgets this much. Instead I think it is coming from the big budget marketers who currently spend very little online. And by very little, I mean less than $300K per brand.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of them out there. Companies who you would think obviously spend online based on their product or target consumer -- moms, twenty-somethings, affinity-focused consumers. But you'd be surprised. All the hype around online sometimes can't beat the decades-old media formulas and consumer ad testing black boxes.

But it is getting harder to ignore online media. So you will see these companies slowly start spending online, which should continue to fuel these 20%+ growth rates that seem to never end.

Next Up, Cost Per Shift in Message Association

VideoEgg Tries 'Cost per Engagement'

Online ad network VideoEgg is rolling out a new video format for brand advertisers that will charge them only when a user interacts with their ads. Called AdFrames, the units appear like standard display ads with a few seconds of preview video. Users mouse over the ads to display a Flash window that shows the full clip without leaving the page. VideoEgg plans to charge advertisers between 20 cents and $1 per interaction.

Reminds me of the days when banner Cost Per Click ad networks were all the rage (remember Until the ad servers figured out how dismal clickthrough rates really were and weren't making any money from it. At which point it disappeared.

Average interaction rates from rich media vendors like Pointroll are around 7%. So if I spent $100,000 at $15 CPM, then that would get me 6.6 million impressions. Which would equate to 462,000 interactions.

Based on their model, assuming they were charging 75 cents per interaction, they would instead charge me $346,500. Somebody in media with a calculator please check my math.

So at that rate, my $100,000 budget really only gets me 133,000 interactions. Which reverse maths out to 1.9 million impressions. Which means you really need to assign a big brand value on interactions with those ad units. Which gives Dynamic Logic something to think about, instead of continuing to tell me to use larger ad units and put the logo in the first animation frame.

Thursday, February 14

Wanted to Hire: Word Of Mouth Planner

Online Media Planners Are Doomed.

It was just getting so easy. Rich media specs are mostly standardized, marketers can grasp the value of broadband video, online awareness studies no longer take six months to sell in. Putting together a comprehensive media plan can actually be a 9 to 5 job.

But now we’re thrust back into the dark ages of media planning with Web 2.0. Search companies, software makers, and even advertising agencies now own banner networks. Facebook blurs the line between paid and viral advertising. Buzz measurement companies offer a whole new approach to media targeting. Don’t forget dynamic video game advertising, mobile social networking, and personal broadband video networks.

It’s enough to make you wish for the good old days when you had to explain how animated banners worked.

Ignore the Banners, Click My Google Links on the Right

With the dismal industry average for clickthrough rates on banners, it's amazing that it still generates news:

Heavy-Duty Ad Clickers Could Misguide Marketers

A study shows a disconnect between the number of clicks on ads, and the number of people behind the clicks. As a result, advertisers and marketers are advised to find ways other than clicks to optimize performance-based campaigns.

The report, "Natural Born Clickers," commissioned by Starcom and AOL's Tacoda and conducted by comScore, finds 16 percent of Internet users click on 80 percent of ads, and those people aren't representative of the general online population. "Close to 70 percent of the online universe doesn't click at all," said Greg Rogers, VP of sales strategy at Tacoda.

I'm still waiting for my dream media plan, one that has no banner placements in it. That would force agencies to put some thought into how to effectively spend the media dollars.

You know Dotcom is back...

...when we need a Portal for the Portals:
A Guide to Yahoo’s Unlikely Alternatives to Microsoft

Back Off If You Can Click This Bumper Text Ad

So the Auto Show is in Chicago this week, which got me thinking about Google's next move after they shift the mobile industry paradigms and devolve mobile communication into free ad-supported handsets.

The Google Car.

Why not? Any crazier than a Google Phone? Why wouldn’t I want to install my custom Google Maps, Google Earth mashups, and travel-related Google Gadgets into my SUV? Especially when Google offers to subsidize my monthly car payments by serving ads while the engine is running.

Touchscreens are becoming more prominent in autos. And as we have learned, anywhere there is a screen there can be an AdSense buy. I’m sure we all would love to drive by Starbucks and receive a coupon on our dashboard. (My favorite mobile urban legend.)

Although you might want to avoid passing that adult bookstore on the way to your cappuccino.

Not as crazy as it sounds.

No Shit Sherlock headline of the day

Web Video Audience Differs Widely by Segment

The characteristics and attitudes of the online video audience differ widely based on each individual user's experience and comfort with the still-evolving medium.

Be My Jackass!

Offering the first widgets that actually inflict pain. Gives new meaning to "poking" your friend. In the eye. With a USB connected plastic finger.

From a Media Post Article today:

BRAGSTER, A SORT OF MYSPACE meets Jackass, has received $3.5 million in first-round venture funding led by Intel Capital, the chip maker's investment arm.

The site lets users make cashless bets with friends about whether they can do kooky things like drink 15 shots of tequila in less than a minute. Around this premise, Bragster offers social networking features including video-sharing (for providing proof of accomplished feats), profile pages, and messaging.

The year-old, London-based venture says it's drawing 800,000 mostly U.S.-based monthly users, although comScore estimates traffic at 226,000 monthly visitors as of January. Bragster co-founder Wim Vernaeve said the company plans to make money in large part through "sponsored brags" in which brands pay to be part of dares or bets. In one test promotion, for instance, Bragster worked with Ikea in daring some of its users to spend 24 hours in one of the furniture company's stores.

Wednesday, February 13

This Post Requires Version 2.15a to View

Remember back in the day when browser plug-ins were all the rage? This was when browsers could barely read formatted text tables and animated images, so third parties sprung up with all kinds of small applications that could be added to your browser. Want to view videos on a page? Install one of 15 different video plug-ins (most custom to only one type of video file type). Want to listen to streaming audio? Different plug-ins. You needed to install separate ones to do all kinds of things that we take for granted now: view PDF files, play interactive games, spin a 3-D product, have a live chat, and so on.

Netscape and IE had a running battle of plug-in wars as leverage for browser share domination. Funny thing is that Firefox (way out on the limb of the Netscape family evolution tree) is still at it with almost 2,000 "Add Ons."

But most of these plug-in developers failed to have much longevity and have disappeared. You could argue that Adobe (Acrobat PDF, Flash) and Apple (QuickTime) are pretty much the only ones left standing. Their products basically absorbed the functionality offered by everyone else, tied it to their software development applications, and wiped out an entire industry.

Which made me think that the explosion of widgets for social network sites is the same situation. Users want to pimp out their personal pages instead of their browsers. And software developers/amateur coders are rushing to meet that demand.

Facebook offers 15,908 widgets as of today. It was about half that a month ago. The OpenSocial standards being pushed by Google, which allows development of widgets that work across social network sites, will cause exponential growth of more vendors and apps. Not that I really need to choose from 152 different ways to "poke" my friends. So expect mass consolidation in the near future as the best ones go viral, establish themselves with a mass audience, and succeed.

Eventually users will decide which widget functionalities are fads and which are useful enough to keep around. These will be absorbed into the social network sites as part of their templates, just like web browsers absorbed the most useful plug ins into their core code. And some day you can tell your grandkids about how you had to find and install Superwall before you could remind your friends about the Saturday night kegger.

Next up will be an explosion of cell phone applications, as Google's Android mobile operating system catches on and allows developers to create small apps that work across phones/carriers. Start working on your catchy name for those apps now.

Shameless Work Plug

Newest Taco Bell site from our SoCal/Chicago offices featuring Sports Illustrated swimsuit models:

Monday, February 11

One Step Away From Dial Up

One of my good creative friends from the Dotcom Days dropped out of online advertising for a couple years. He is back into it now and had this great question:

"Why the @*&$$! are we still limited to 30K banner file sizes when broadband is everywhere and I can watch hi-def videos online?"

And he's right. It is sad that our poor Flash developers are still tweaking banner images pixel by pixel to squeeze the file size down to meet media specs that haven't changed since 2000. Not that I think 50K banners are going to make much of a difference in clickthrough rates. But it sure would take some stress off the production guys.

Which made me think about other technical limitations that haven't kept up with the Moore's Law:

  • Try to go beyond text/images when designing emails across standard readers. Forget animation, Flash, even HTML forms.
  • Is there still a valid reason (besides outdated turf wars) that I can't IM a Yahoo person from AOL? No wonder the kids are abandoning IM for SMS.

  • And speaking of ad specs, have you tried trafficking a rich media banner across more than 5 media sites? It's as painful as it was in 2000. And this is with IAB standards. Start the countdown of repeat calls to the RM vendor's tech guy before calling the sales rep and threatening to pull the media impressions if they don't strong arm the media sites into accepting them. All just so the client can see a larger version of their product shot in the expandable banner...

Leave your Online Advertising Luddite contributions in the comment area.

Caveat Regurgitator

Guaranteed this will make its way into some Ad Age or Business Week article about how Web 2.0 is recession resistant:

Web 2.0 Experience on 93% of Marketers' 2008 To-Do Lists

Half of online businesses plan to add "Web 2.0" online capabilities to their sites in six months.

Over 93 percent intend to do so within the year, according to a Scene7 study of retailers, manufacturers, agencies, and high-tech companies that sell products or services online, reports MarketingCharts.

Which sounds awesome, until you look into the data and realize that Web 2.0 describes pretty much anything you can do online, besides text and HTML tables. 360-Degree Spin?? Videos?? Not even user-generated 360-degree spins?

Just another example of Caveat Regurgitator.

Sunday, February 10

Social Media is Dead, Long Live Social Media

At some point the most promising internet trends and technologies get big enough that they go mainstream. They move beyond mysterious concepts -- with cryptic names that only hardcore online marketers understand -- into something that the average Newsweek reader can explain to your parents. Or your CMO. Think of the Dotcom 1.0 days of AOL chatrooms, personal homepages, search engines, online auctions, and instant messaging. Or the current days of viral videos, text messages, podcasts, Second Life, and MySpace.

This is when the most promising internet trends hit what I call the
Debate Stage. Are they the next evolution of the internet or just another fad? Are they really a new trend, or just an upgraded version of how we have been using the internet since Compuserv bulletin boards back in the late 80s? And, probably the most debated, are they worth spending marketing dollars on?

Social Networking has finally reached that stage. Last year saw a gold rush of marketing dollars into MySpace. This year will see a gold rush of marketing dollars into Facebook and its resulting symbiotic remora (widgets, beacons, and a whole slew of new mystery terms). All while a quietly growing tide of niche social sites swell up into a tsunami to surprise everyone.

So now we reach that point where every marketing article about social networking is proclaiming that it will save the world. Or that it died 15 minutes ago and no one noticed.

For instance, headlines from the last week:

Study: Marketers won't drop social media if economy tanks
The continued uncertainty in the U.S. economy will likely result in marketers trimming traditional advertising budgets while continuing to ramp up advertising in social media, blogs and Web communities, according to a study by Forrester Research.

The Social-network Backlash

Although advertising on social networks is projected by eMarketer to jump 75% this year, the segment faces key challenges, according to this article: The growth rate for users has slowed considerably, social networkers are spending less time on average on the sites and some are jumping ship altogether; meanwhile, the social nets' clickthrough rates are among the lowest in the Net segment.

Social Sites Don't Deliver Big Ad Gains
There are signs that some of the biggest new places where consumers are flocking on the Web -- social networking and video-sharing sites -- are yielding advertising revenue slower than some Internet companies had hoped. The latest warning that the hottest Web properties are proving difficult to make money from came from Internet giant Google Inc. While announcing disappointing fourth-quarter earnings Thursday, Google executives said the company was having a harder time than it expected generating ad revenue on social-networking sites.

Agencies Need to Reboot
Forrester Research believes today's ad agencies are not well-structured to take on tomorrow's marketing challenges, needing to move from making messages to establishing community connections. In a new report, the research firm paints a grim view of the current state of advertising, which it believes is in "a world of hurt" because consumers are tuning out the messages the industry is predicated on producing. Instead, it believes shops need to be organized around communities, not disciplines. What it is calling "the connected agency" would not only know certain communities but also be active members of these groups. Pushing messages would give way to encouraging voluntary engagement, and ongoing conversations would replace time-based campaigns.


So what is the reality? The big social networks (Myspace, Facebook, and probably Bebo next) are becoming the new mass reach online media buy. The type of media dollars that supported AOL, Yahoo and MSN during Dotcom 1.0. But the difference is that users are not spending their time reading entertainment articles on AOL, or watching broadband videos on Yahoo, or lurking in MSN chatrooms. Activities that keep them on the same page for a period of time so that the surrounding advertising can get noticed.

They are zooming through tons of personal pages during their MySpace sessions, barely noticing the hundreds of banners hiding in the visual clutter. Or playing with the widgets and embedded content on their own Facebook page, providing little exposure for advertisers. Yes, consumers spend over 30 minutes on their fave social site, but their behavior is very different than when they are visiting the rest of the internet.

The results include terrible banner clickthrough rates (trust me, the industry average 0.15% CTR is already terrible and social network CTRs are even worse). I haven't seen a Dynamic Logic study on social network advertising brand effectiveness, but I bet it also ranks at the bottom of the industry benchmarks. And it won't take long before marketers figure out that the "cost per friend" of those Upload Your Video and Win sweepstakes ain't making the expected ROI.

The latest media sleight of hand will be advertising in widgets. Because it lets us say "widget" and "established reach" in the same sentence. At least until we realize that the CTRs are just as lousy and marketers start asking how we know their ads aren't being served to the same 10 "friends" over and over again.

Which is going to force marketers to think about social networking beyond a paid media channel. Which is painful, since we actually have to think about it. And different types of agencies are going to have a distinct POV. Ask advertising, PR, media, internet-pure play agencies how their clients should use social networks and you will get very distinct views. Which doesn't meant they are wrong. Just that you can't pigeon-hole social media into one type of execution. But at the same time, defining the right mix of social media strategies into an integrated program, in an environment that changes monthly, is going to be tough.

Marketers have developed the integrated marketing brief, specifically to address some of these challenges when working across multiple agencies on a single initiative. It helps provide all agencies the same direction, despite their focus on very different tactics. And ensures that the marketer (i.e. client) has a vested interest in the outcome.

I would love to see marketers take the same approach to social media. They need to take ownership of their social media strategy. Sounds like rocket science, but it isn't. Spend some money on research, understand how your consumers interact with social media, and compare that with your overall marketing strategies. Then develop a social media input brief, send it to your agencies, and see what happens. And please don't expect that buying some "widget banner video pre-rolls" means you can check it it off your list of online tactics.

Tuesday, February 5

Social Networking -- A Visual History

Here's my cliff notes version. Click for the PDF.

You know Dotcom is back...

...when the Webby Awards are back:

Webby Awards Receives Record Number of Entries
Now that the Call for Entries has closed, it's time for the judging of the 12th Annual Webby Awards to begin! With nearly 10,000 entries, the Academy certainly has quite a bit of work to do.

From Second Life to Second Childhood

Forget Second Life (at least for the next 5 years). Buy your kid a Webkinz toy, create a virtual pet, and get ready for the future of online entertainment. Virtual worlds for children and teens are growing at an exponential rate. They have become the new chatroom, networked game, and social computing destination all rolled into one virtual stuffed animal house. Which for some reason is just as messy as my kids’ real bedrooms.

These are virtual worlds with a purpose and are generating real dollars for the companies running them. At some point Nickelodeon will create a virtual TV so my kids can watch real shows in their virtual bedroom with their real friends. Just try measuring the effectiveness of that broadband video campaign...

Most Desperately In Need of Consolidation

Social bookmark companies, come on down!

A couple screengrabs of "share it" buttons from CNN, USA Today, Advertising Age, Entertainment Weekly. Seriously, do we really need 14 different ways to recommend a news article?

Friday, February 1

You know Dotcom is back...

...when they start luring the agency guys away. All in the last week:

Former Carat executive Toby Gabriner is joining ad-targeting startup Adzilla as its new CEO.

Nick Pahade, president of Publicis Groupe's Denuo consultancy and a top exec in its media unit, is leaving the company. Pahade is joining GSI Commerce.

Omnicom has lost its top digital executive, as Sean Finnegan, Omnicom Media Group CEO, has left the agency to become chief media officer at Vibrant Media, the company best know for displaying text ads when users mouse over individual words on Web sites.

Stephen is Twittering about the lack of Twittering

I finally found a couple people who will admit to Twittering. Although they can't decide if it is a fad either. I filed it under my new category: "things I am finally too old to get into" -- along with my Facebook page and video IM.

I don't see it going mainstream until a famous celebrity strikes a deal with Perez Hilton to microblog for them. The bite-size reality show.

At least that was until Orbitz started offering their own version of user-generated travel updates:

Basically Orbitz users send Twitter-style updates while they are traveling -- delayed flights, short security lines, full parking garages, airport bar drink specials, etc. It borders on "scratch my day trip to New York and I'll scratch your traffic jam drive to O'Hare" good Samaritan.

But if they attached a reward system, such as Orbitz Points every time you post, then they might really have a constant source of relevant user content. And a social media CRM strategy (sm-CRM?)

As long as my kids' Webkinz cash doesn't disappear. Then there would be a mass riot.

This is awesome. Just to be clear, I do think Second Life has established the next evolution of the internet. Although it is about 10 years too soon.

But proof that you can take the internet out of the idiot, but not the idiots out of the internet. From the WSJ:

Second Life pulled the plug on about a dozen pretend financial institutions that were funded with actual money from some of the 12 million registered users of Second Life. Linden Lab said the move was triggered by complaints that some of the virtual banks had reneged on promises to pay high returns on customer deposits.

As if we should be amazed that a world without laws/regulations (even virtual) leads to anarchy. Or at least bad finances. Basically the fake banks used the money to set up fake gambling houses. Which also ripped users off. So Linden Labs shut down the betting parlors, which meant the bankers didn't have anymore capital, which meant the virtual ATMs stopped spitting out virtual cash. Er, I mean real cash, since we aren't talking about play money.

Maybe Linden Labs should follow the government's example and give Second Life users 1,500 Linden dollars as compensation. And to stimulate the purchases of virtual body parts, which is the real backbone of the Second Life economy.

Speaking of widget consolidation...
How much money does Facebook Apps make? Not too much, judging by results from VideoEgg, which serves ads to a network of Facebook apps. Earlier in the week, the company trumpeted about its so-called eggnetwork pulling in $1.5 million in ad revenue over the last five months, but that isn't too impressive, especially when you consider that VideoEgg's client list includes some of Facebook's most popular apps like Scrabulous, Flixster and Vampires. In all, the application network contains more than 150 Faceook-specific programs."

On the other hand, advertising agencies might just be suckers enough to bite. Just like they did back in the late 90s:

Expandable widgets anyone?

The widget’s fifteen megabytes of fame has arrived. The number of widget sales people roaming the country multiplies every three hours. They’ll create widgets for your site, branded widgets for social networks, or let you advertise in their widgets. Which forces the next Web 2.0 dilemma – is a widget a creative execution or a media channel? A little bit of both, unfortunately, which isn’t going to help you explain it to your CMO anytime soon.

We've been meeting with a variety of widget reps, who tend to get younger and less sales-savvy in every meeting (another side affect of Dotcom 2.0). It's like the old days of rich media vendors, before half of them got consolidated and the other half went out of business. I expect the same to occur by the end of this year.

I also forecast a whole new range of measurement criteria and acronyms. Let’s migrate away from clickthrough rates (CTR) to Grab It Rates (GIR) –- the percentage of people who “grabbed” your widget and installed it on their MySpace page. And once we get involved in branded content within widgets, such as Facebook’s “poking” phenomenon, then we need the going rate for CPP (cost per poke) instead of CPM.

My fear is that we fall into the same trap as microsites, forcing the “if I build it, will they come?” scenario. Marketers will create tons of branded widget and then expect consumers to somehow find them, like them, and install them. And if you thought getting someone to spend more than thirty seconds on your Flash site was tough. Expect to see a wave of banner ads driving traffic to widget installer pages.

What’s your CTR/GIR X CPP benchmark goal?

Move over "widgets" here comes "lifecasting"

Beware the "internal alpha release"...

So basically you can now watch other people's video conferences live. And hope something funny happens. Eventually. Or maybe someone records it and puts the highlights on YouTube.

"Yahoo! Advanced Products releases an internal alpha of the new video service Yahoo! Live. Yahoo! Live is social TV, where you're the star! Create your own social broadcasting experience. Start by broadcasting yourself from your webcam, invite your friends to chat with you, they'll go live with you, and you're all on candid camera!"

You can expect CUSEEME (the original video webchat) to relaunch as a social networking platform.