Thursday, January 29

Coming Soon: Banners That Get Bigger When You Touch Them

Kudos to Facebook. My 2009 Predictions completely missed their newest evolution of online advertising offerings:

Polling Banners

Geezus. Really?

The Adweek overview reads like an online advertising remedial course:
The polling ad is part of Facebook's second effort to integrate advertisers into the fabric of the site beyond standard banner units. Engagement ads look to mimic already popular activities on the site, like "fanning," sending virtual gifts and RSVPing to events. When a user takes an action with an ad, such as voting for which team will win the Super Bowl, Facebook sends notification of this to the user's friend network in their news feeds. Like those, the polling ad is priced based on impressions.

Hey! It is even Viral!

Eyeblaster and Pointroll launched the same ad unit 5 years ago.

I mean I get it. Advertising revenue is drying up and Facebook needs to prove it can make money. But anyone solving their social media strategy with regurgitated rich media banners will be disappointed in 3 months when the results PPT is delivered. Especially when consumer profile pages get flooded with random branded polls.

Although I'm sure the inevitable Cutest Puppy of the Day poll will be a huge hit.

Sunday, January 25

Spending Some Time at the Information Superhighway Rest Stop

My 4 year old recently received a digital camera for her birthday. It's a cheap one-step-above-disposable camera that takes crappy photos and even crappier videos. But for a preschooler it's pretty cool.

Yesterday I caught her on the couch with it making a bunch of electronic noise:

"Whatcha doing over there?"
"Playing games."
" My camera has games on it. Wanna watch?"
"Honey, I really don't think you should be playing games on your camera."
"OK. Can I play one on your phone?"

Touche already. Damn kids. Which forced the realization of a couple facts:

1) I had experienced my first digital generation gap moment

2) If it has a screen and a button, someone will figure out how to stick a game in it

3) It has been awhile since I played Bejeweled

My gut-reaction really was that a video game has no business being installed on a digital camera. Ironic considering my iPhone is bursting at the memory seams with games, apps, music, videos, and mobile photos. A phone that takes pictures? No problem. A camera that does anything besides take pictures? Heresy!

Technical convergence in consumer electronics is a funny thing. Back in the late 90's everyone was shoving the Internet into appliances. Surf the WWW on your fridge! Check email on your TV! Put a web browser in any room! None of these succeeded initially. Could you come up with a better doomed failure than a cobranded Gateway/AOL Internet touchpad? However, over the last 5 years multipurpose devices have slowly become the norm.

For me digital cameras are a one trick pony. I'm sure my parents felt the same way about their fridge. Soon my kids will bring home something else for me to scoff at, providing a soap box on which to stand and proclaim how it used to be: "We never had the Internet in our shoes!" (Oh, wait, yes we did.)

Every generation is destined to have their kids pass them by. The Dotcom Age occurred so fast that it chopped generations in half = those who had no clue and those who did. I came in right at the breaking point, providing a perspective that understands why the kids love mobile texting while watching TV on their computer -- and why their grandparents don't.

I've been waiting for a sign that the Internet Generation is finally jumping past my feeble brain. Now that I have a taste, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Wednesday, January 21

Free Research

As the economy slows and operation budgets decrease, paid research is often one of the first line items to get cut. If you lose your login access to Forrester and Jupiter, there are some free sources to keep you up to date.

My free daily email from eMarketer is a great aggregator of research bites.

Pew Institute is another good source for free research. They have some very insightful reports regarding gaming trends for teens and adults. As well as CES PPT presentations on teen online/technology habits and Boomers online.

Sunday, January 18

Best Call To Action of 2008 = Post & Win Some Shit

So I'm a big fan of beer. The kind of geek who stands in front of the store beer selection for 5 minutes -- pondering exactly which 6-pack to buy -- until his wife finally quietly demands that I JUST PICK SOMETHING ALREADY!

Craft brewers ("microbrewery" is sooooo Beer 1.0) have some of the most loyal consumers in marketing. The ones who proudly wear branded t-shirts, hats, and sometimes even tattoos. Choose their restaurants based on the beer list. Drive across state lines to buy a limited releases not available in their area. Pay $8 for a 4-pack.

If you have heard of -- and preferably imbibed -- beers from Bell's, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, Ommegang, Lagunitas, Rogue, New Glarus (JUST PICK SOMETHING ALREADY! ) then you know what I mean.

These brands are the perfect test case for guerrilla marketing. They can't afford big advertising campaigns, instead thriving off rabid fans and word of mouth. It is only natural that they take advantage of social media and online communities to talk to their consumers and reach new ones.

Denver's Flying Dog Brewery is a great example. They have their blog, Flickr stream, Facebook mascot page and fan page, YouTube channel, and even an open source community project for developing new beer recipes. None of these gather the number of users or views that would strike fear in the hearts of mass brewers. But for craft brewers every consumer counts.

My favorite initiative is a promotion they ran in December via Twitter. Using a new mobile-based beer review site (Beerdo); they awarded prizes if you posted a review for one of their beers. Here's the scoop, promoted via their Facebook page:
For the next two weeks any Flying Dog beer reviewed on Beerdo will be entered in a contest to win some Flying Dog shit. We’ll draw a name at random and the lucky winner will receive some awesome Flying Dog merch. We’ll also be giving out prizes to some of the more creative descriptions of our beer. Think of it as our Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus present to you.

Here’s how to rate a beer via Beero from twitter:

1. Create a new tweet.
2. Start it with @beerdo
3. Next, type the name of the beer you’re rating. For example, Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale
4. To rate your beer, use 1-5 exclamation points (1 is low, 5 is awesome)
5. You can then use the rest of your message to describe the beer you’re drinking.
So your tweet would look something like this:

@beerdo Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter !!!!! This beer is as big as Hunter’s reputation, and I love the massive but balanced brew.

We’ll be monitoring all tweets with “@beerdo” and “flying Dog” in them, so make sure your reviews about our beers contain those terms.

We’re really excited about Beerdo for a bunch of reasons. One of those is that it’s a unique and innovative way to rate beers on the fly. So if you’re at a bar and trying Double Dog for the first time, it’s easiest to review the beer as you’re drinking it.

So tweet away, fans of Flying Dog!
The beauty is that this isn't a closed-system promotion. If I "tweet" about their beer, it is not only seen by Flying Dog but also anyone else following me via Twitter. Whether they know of Flying Dog or not. If I post 5 times about Flying Dog beer, then that is 5 brand impressions reaching a potentially new consumer. And if they are my friend on Twitter, then odds are they are someone who might enjoy a Snake Dog IPA or Horn Dog Barley Wine.

It also would make a great call to action when consumers are enjoying their product = bottle labels, bar table tents, coasters.

I continue to debate the marketing potential of Twitter. Not just their advertising revenue (or lack of), but also how brands can leverage it to support campaigns and drive loyalty. The use of status posts as promotion entry could be one of the first marketing tactics that makes sense.

Saturday, January 10

I Doubt They Will Settle in Linden Dollars

It is interesting when core parts of our online experience -- things that you always took for granted -- all of the sudden become a legal mosh pit of patent lawsuits and cease/desist press releases. It usually stems from a company realizing they own a patent similar to a technology now ubiquitous with the Internet. Something that the WWW could not live without.

It is basically extortion, since technology companies and individual users could not eliminate it without derailing the fabric of the WWW. They would have no choice but to pay a licensing fee or exorbitant settlement cost.

For instance, originally the only image file supported by web browsers was GIF. Or technically "Compuserve GIF" since it was developed for that early pre-AOL online service. As the WWW grew, all web pages used this format for their images. Unisys decided they owned the original GIF format and sued everyone to ensure that they got credit for it (to the tune of $10 for every graphic software package sold that supported GIF from 1994 - 2003).

The same thing happened over the MP3 format (Alcatel-Lucent won $1.5 billion against Microsoft, which was later overturned). Microsoft again was sued (and lost $521M) over the fact Internet Explorer supported plug-ins -- Flash, Shockwave, Quicktime, Java Applets, Active X, etc. -- which are necessary to do anything beyond reading web text and watching looped animations.

Google got hit with a lawsuit over ranking paid search results based on bid price by Yahoo/Overture (the backbone of search engine marketing). It was settled when Yahoo granted Google a perpetual license for 2.7M Google shares.

And in the most bizarre -- and most potentially crippling -- British Telecom actually claimed in 2002 that they owned a patent on web hyperlinks. Even though they filed it in 1976, 15 years before the WWW was born. It would have required any ISP hosting pages with hyperlinks (um... all of them) to pay a license fee. Fortunately it was thrown out by the courts.

[Additional lawsuits submitted by readers include online shopping carts and browser frames. Thanks Manuil and Gavin!]

The trend continues with the recent lawsuit announcement by (small virtual worlds company) against NCSoft, over the use of virtual world avatars. It hints that this is just the beginning:

Stephen Roth, attorney at the law firm representing, could not discuss which other companies might draw into the lawsuit, but said the patent covers "many ways of managing avatars in the virtual world," and there are "certainly other companies that could come within the scope of our patent claims." Roth said has yet to request a dollar amount for damages. The amount set will depend on "reasonable royalties" related to NCSoft's sales for online gaming and monthly service fees.

NCSoft is also a little guy in this space and a good test case for If they win, then the real royalties come from the Big Guys such as online gaming companies World of Warcraft and Everquest. It could also impact virtual world companies such as Habbo, Second Life, and

Even more lucrative (since they actually generate revenue) are kid-focused virtual world/gaming sites such as Club Penguin and Webkinz. Not to mention the marketing-driven virtual worlds from Disney (1, 2, 3), Barbie, MTV, and even Coke. And don't forget Nintendo's extremely popular Wii Miis.

Virtual worlds are widely viewed as the future of the Internet. Avatars are the GIFs of virtual worlds. It will be fascinating to see how this one plays out.

Tuesday, January 6

Friendship is Strong, But the Whopper is Stronger

Damn Burger King is good. Just when you think they are getting lame (try the tired Madlibs microsite = Whopper Angry-Gram), they come up with something brilliant.

Such as the only banner that I have ever clicked on Facebook. It is for their new Facebook effort = Whopper Sacrifice. Basically if you "unfriend" 10 of your Facebook Friends, then they reward you with a free Whopper coupon.

Which captures the newest social network marketing trend = rewarding consumers for acting virally.

Kraft recently launched a Facebook widget to support their social cause "Feeding America." To help drive viral spread of the application, Kraft donates six meals to hungry families for each friend users convince to add the application. It added over 26,000 users in December, which is fairly good for a branded widget. Facebook users can participate here:

Burger King, however, approaches it from a downright aggressive approach. When you usually unfriend someone on Facebook they are not notified. They could go days or weeks before realizing that they are no longer on your friend list. Unfriend them via Burger King's page and it actually notifies your ex-friends that they have been delisted. To add insult to injury, it also reveals that it only took a free Whopper coupon to persuade you to make that decision.

Of course, it also invites them to sacrifice 10 of their friends, thus encouraging the viral spread.

The assumption is that you have at least 10 people on your friend list who you don't really know, or who are so far removed from your actual social interactions that unfriending them would not have impact on your offline (er, I mean "real") world. But, as this great article from Wired on "never-ending Friending" points out, even unfriending complete strangers can be a tough decision.

Can you identify your bottom 10 friends?

Monday, January 5

There's an Android in My TV!

Well, maybe not quite yet. But it is coming, if this blogger's sleuthing is true:
Android netbooks on their way, likely by 2010
Imagine the billion dollar market at stake here if Google can make good on this vision. Netbooks are basically small-scale PCs. For Silicon Valley myriad of software companies, it means a well-backed, open operating system that is open and ripe for exploitation for building upon. Now think of Chrome, Google’s web browser, and the richness it allows developers to build into the browser’s relationship with the desktop — all of this could usher in a new wave of more sophisticated web applications, cheaper and more dynamic to use.
Google has excelled at spreading their ad serving technology way beyond websites into mobile, print, radio, and even TV. Imagine when they achieve the same success with their system software.

An internet-enabled TV running Android and serving Google ads? Hmmmm...