Thursday, August 28

Full of Meat and Online Marketing Wisdom

I attended a dinner last night of Chicago online marketing gurus as part of the Conspiracy to Change Advertising. It was hosted by Eyeblaster and a nice informal opportunity to discuss the state of interactive. Two interesting concepts came out of it:

The act of setting up a microblog account such as Twitter, Facebook status, etc. for the sole purpose of pushing out as much random information as possible, with little concern if the recipients are reading them. Specifically for those Twitterers who push out more feeds than they consume/subscribe to.

Behavioral Targeted TV Ads:
When your digital TV and computer start sharing the same IP address, why can't Google serve up dynamically-targeted TV spots based on your online browsing habits (as captured by AdSense and Doubleclick tracking)? Which means 'round the clock Webkinz ads in my house.

We are looking for participants from the "client side" (i.e. marketers who actually pay the bills, versus those of us who collect the money). Let me know if you are interested.

Tuesday, August 26

Three Degrees of Viral Infection

Awhile ago I wrote on the privacy threat when online social apps attack.

That threat has just tripped one step closer with the latest virus attack, spread via Facebook/MySpace friends (from the Washington Post):
The malicious software attempts to lure users in with messages ranging from "You've been catched on hidden cam" to the one about Hilton tossing a dwarf on the street. The messages contain a link that takes unsuspecting users to a Web page that looks like YouTube. There the page tells visitors that to view the video, they need to click on another link to download and install updated software. Those who fall for the scam are actually installing malicious software.

Now bundle in Facebook's latest rich media advertising announcement, which prompts users to engage in social activity via the ad unit:
The first three types of Engagement Ads now in trial let users post comments, become a "fan" of a brand's Facebook Page and send virtual gifts. Within the units, people can also read friends' comments, and see who else is a brand fan or who shared virtual items. All three flavors of Engagement Ads will appear in the new home page placement alongside the News Feed on the right. They will also show up in members' News Feeds as people interact with the ads.

The more sites are encouraged to blend advertising with social network activities, the greater the risk of something going wrong. And social network users will continue to be desensitized about their privacy risks, willing to engage in all types of "social engagement" via widgets and rich media ads.

Pity the first brand whose widget banner inadvertently publicizes its consumers' friend list, photo albums, or other "private" information. Or helps spread the next Virus 2.0.

Thursday, August 21

Taco Fu is Everywhere

Our Taco Bell online game is getting some great results and good press -- over 5 million plays -- not to mention an Ad:Tech award.

Wednesday, August 20

At What Point Will We Start Tivo-ing the Internet?

Back in 1992, NBC launched a grand initiative to cover a wide variety of sports in the Barcelona Olympics -- no matter how niche -- on TV. The catch was that you had to subscribe to three pay per view channels at the cost of $125. By most accounts it was a nice beta test but failed to live up to subscriber goals. They didn't repeat it for the next 3 Olympics.

Jump 16 years later and NBC has launched an even more ambitious program. Over 2,200 hours of Olympic coverage is available online at This time it is advertiser supported, allowing free access to anyone with a broadband connection.

This event is being heraled as the next evolution of online video. NBC is using it as proof that they can capture viewers beyond the TV. Nielsen is using it as a testing ground for cross-media measurement. Media agencies are using it to show they understand media integration. And Microsoft is quietly gaining millions of installs for their Silverlight video player.

Which still raises the question: Is anyone watching? Does the online video long tail extend to the preliminary round of women's 63kg wrestling - mat B?

Olympics online viewership is currently at 6 million a day (no word on what % of that is actually from North America), but expect it to be promoted as a success no matter how many people show up. The online video industry needs something to rally around right now. It is starting to get a bit confusing out there.

It was so easy when branded video content (BudTV) and custom online networks (Joost) bombed, and TV reruns seemed to be the path to video success (iTunes, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc.)

Now we have a new breed of online video portals that are collecting content from a variety of networks with hopes of revenue sharing (hi NBC and Fox, er I mean, Hulu; welcome back AOL). Networks that don't even exist anymore are even bringing their shows out of VHS storage and looking to make some advertising bucks (where have you been hiding The WB?)

Then you have the TV-quality shows that exist only online, providing consumers with new options for their entertainment fix. Short-form content like The Onion and Will Ferrel's Funny Or Die. Webisodes like MSN's Republicrats and MySpaceTV's Quarterlife (which really bombed when they tried to move it to Prime Time). Hollywood creative one-offs like Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. And don't forget the custom video shows produced by marketers such as Axe, Betty Crocker, and Unilever/Sprint.

And if that isn't confusing enough for advertisers to digest, now you have NBC creating the online webisode Gemini Division, which is available on a standalone microsite and also accesible via iTunes, Hulu, SciFi Channel, and MySpaceTV. And Google bypasses the whole idea of a destination for watching video with their recent announcement to spread Seth MacFarlane's new online-only show all over the WWW. Gives new meaning to the online media term "run of network."

In the end, marketers are going to retreat to what is familiar. Which for most of them means sticking with broadcast networks and TV-related content online. And crossing their fingers that things don't get any more complicated.