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It is news to no one in the advertising biz that Google and Facebook receive 60 cents of every dollar spent in online advertising. But when Facebook travels to Cannes in France for the annual awards show and spreads money like drunken sailors, everybody’s senses pick up. Why are Google and Facebook so successful? Because they own the data? Because they own time-online? Because they throw great parties for media buyers? Yeah, a little of all that. But they win in the marketplace because they’re effective advertising mediums.  When an industrial distribution company goes from an ad budget of $300,000 to $1.3 M, most all of which goes to Google AdWords, there has to be a reason. Google AdWords track to sales.

When the ad-to-sales ratio of a Google or Facebook program is calculated and kicks the ass of all other media, why would a sane advertiser not invest there. It’s about sales…it’s about results.

Until other ad mediums deliver the attributable sales of a Facebook or Google we will continue to see this growth trend. It’s not sexy but money never is.

Peace.

 

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I don’t like being a brand commentator, sitting on the sidelines sharing what’s wrong with brands, without offering something positive. And I feel that way with Yahoo! As a brand consultant, people hire me to help create brand strategy. Were Yahoo! to hire me, here’s what I’d do. (Earlier in the month I wrote about What’s The Idea? process which covers Discovery, Fermentation and Boil Down. Here’s how I’d handle Discovery.

I was watching cyber security conference video last week and a senior level Yahoo! Security officer was leading the talk. He was smart, witty, believable, and committed. He is what I call a Poster – someone willing to share and help the public learn. Sadly, this gentleman who has since moved on to a big job at Facebook, was stowed away at corporate not seeing the public light of day. With Yahoo!, often all we get as the viewing, investing and using public, is Marissa Meyer playing offense and defense. Mostly from a stage.

I suspect there are scores of people like this security office at Yahoo! and these are the people I would speak to in Discovery. These are the body organs that drive a brand. That fuel the brain. That feed the mouth.

At Yahoo! we’ve been getting a modicum of brain and a lot of mouth. A good brand discovery would help go all deep dish on the company.

Peace.

 

 

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Ya-Who?

Digital magazines? Search? Buying traffic? Mobile advertising? Alibaba? These are the things discussed yesterday on Yahoo!’s earnings call. A call that announced revenue up 14% but break even earnings.

A couple of years ago Marissa Mayer developed a strategy I thought was on the right track: Make Yahoo! a daily habit. Well it seems the habit is more like a nun’s head cover than a web business. Mobile apps are a good path but I’m not feeling any results. People with mobile phones have hourly not daily habits — and frankly those habits are wearing thin. How many Facebook and Instagram posts can a body look at during the day. Yahoo needs to find enthralling apps. Mobile apps than haven’t been done before. Content served in ways never seen before.

Yahoo is chasing TV (Fantasy Football Live) and magazines (Yahoo Food or something) which is just repackaging old stuff with some new sheen. Ms. Mayer needs to innovate. Not cross over. Not repackage. She must start with behaviors that are habit forming. She was on the right track but hasn’t landed on a breathtaking innovation. Keep after it Ms. Mayer. You are probably closer than you know. Peace.

 

 

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I posted yesterday about Verizon’s purchase of AOL and how it begged the need for a “single user identifier” to maximize ad revenue across devices. A mobile phone number is an individual identifier, but it doesn’t integrate cleanly with that individual’s IP address or cable TV account number. I wrote a futures piece for Microsoft a few years ago in which I talked about the “Logged and Tagged Society.” Well, consumers are certainly tagged, but their log-ins are all screwed up. An analog for this is electronic medical records in the healthcare world. Also all screwed up. In the future each person will have a single user identifier and when that comes about, the ad platform people will have more context for smart sales than ever before.

An article in the NYT today quoted Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth (note to self, follow him on Twitter) saying “Are ads even relevant now? Do they even make sense on mobile? If all information is indexable and searchable, then what purpose does an ad serve?” He’s partly correct. But with a single user identifier in a logged and tagged society, ad serving will be more contextual and so much more powerful. Sadly, the nerds will take over and the creative people will be pushed aside to a degree. Creative selling is still a fundie of marketing and may take a hit in this mobile ad served/cookied era. But is will be back. We are not droids.

Peace. 

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Facebook’s monetization model is a lot like TV’s, but without the professional content. It is a content sharing platform the lion’s share of which is consumer-generated — friends sharing with friends and acquaintances. It’s not professionally created and that’s the allure. Like TV, Facebook makes money selling ads, interspersed with the content.

When Facebook was young we had no other way to keep in touch with lots of far-flung friends; today we have many ways, lots of apps.  And let’s face it, the content on Facebook is not that great. Add to the equation the fact that marketers are spamming us on Facebook and the pool  becomes even more brackish.

Facebook encourages marketers to be more meaningful and stimulating with their content while it continues to fine-tune the algorithm and targeting hoping to create greater ad investment returns.  It is not going to delay the wear out factor and Facebook knows it. They will have to amp up the quality of content so look for them to start investing in original content creation. It won’t be like Amazon or Netflix originals…it will be more interactive and communal. But it’s coming.

I wouldn’t be surprised if its sole sponsored to begin with. Stay tuned. Peace.

 

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Facebook reported huge earnings yesterday. It has often spoken about killing it in mobile advertising but I couldn’t see it. I understand where the ads are placed on desktop Facebook but have yet to see how they’re used in the mobile interface.  Are they little banners like on Weatherbug? Sidebar text ads? Nah, no room. I have never seen any ads on my Windows Phone so the whole thing doesn’t compute.

Then the earnings article I read today cleared it up.  It said the ads appear in the feed, much like this shrunk down ad from the desktop Facebook application:

facebook ad

Ahhh, now I get it. The mobile version of this ad will measure about an inch in height, contain a logo or brand mark, an eyebrow, headline and a few words of copy, a visual the size of a thumb nail and link. At least this is the way I see it. Anything bigger will be too intrusive for the Facebook masses. This ad unit, to be named later, will be the advertising unit to replace all. It will be as common as the TV ad, the page 4C, the banner. Ad agencies will perfect it. It will launch video. This unit is why Facebook will be printing money for the next 10 years. The unit is here, the time is now.

If Facebook exhibits restraint on how frequently they can serve these ads there should be no consumer backlash. And don’t get greedy Mr. Z and Ms. S. Don’t sell super-premium size mobile ads that gobble the screen.

Does anyone have a good name for this new unit?

Peace.

 

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I wrote a piece last week about LOI or loss on investment. There used to be only a couple of ways for brands to let consumer’s down: A bad product experience — we all know how that can get tongues wagging — and poor or offensive marketing communication, e.g., an ad. The latter rarely happens because professionals are developing those and approving those. Also, ads are often researched.

Two ways to lose brand investment used to be the case, not today. Brands use way move channels to reach consumers. A poorly laid out website can tork off consumers. A slow or unfulfilling ecommerce experience. Some poorly thought out photos on Facebook accompanied by irate online comments. Digital and social have given consumers and poorly trained employees new hand in communications and it can dilute brand value. Undoing the good work.

Last week a friend emailed me having received a disingenuous email from Amazon. A huge fan who has fed lots of money into the Kindle engine she was pissed because Amazon asked her to take a survey about Kindle usage. She happily agreed but then learned they were just trying to upsell her a Kindle Fire. To add insult, they asked lots of inane questions they should have known having so much data on her. Her rant to me was paragraphs. She’ll get over it, but a petal has fallen off that rose.

The problem in brand management today is twofold. First, you actually have to have a brand strategy to manage. (One idea and three proof planks.) And second, you have to manage vigorously…with all partners, vendors, employees and publics. Find your brand strategy and feed it.

Peace.

 

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I’m not a big template fan. They stifle natural creativity. A while back as director of marketing at Zude.com, a drag-and-drop web page building tool, I lobbied hard for no templates. The CTO and CEO understood where I was coming from but felt the masses when confronted with a blank white page would seize up. Better to give them some starter designs to build personal web pages. (So they could look like everybody else.) We were competing with Facebook when it had 18M users.

Facebook and MySpace were both template based products – database fed. Zude was more freehand. But expressive. The people who took the time to build their own pages (no HTML code was needed) created pages that looked beautiful – way more so than Face and My. There were also a lot of homely pages, mine included. But on my pages you could feel me. On my Facebook page – not so much.

In our jobs and lives we need to rely less on templates so we can experience new – experience more. Taking the annual marketing budget and shuffling the numbers is using a template. Revising the website using last year’s wire frame is templating. Sending out an email blast to a well-worn list? Templating. We all template but we need to do less of it. You smiling up there Mr. Jobs?

Peace.

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CBS and Google.

A little over 4 years ago I predicted Google would break up into 3 different companies.  It would happen in about 48 months, the non-prescient post suggested. I was wrong. The post had over a 1,000 hits, partly because of a point I made about Google’s culture of technological obesity, a tidbit picked up by Steve Rubel and Life Hacker. Who knew?

Today CBS, a proclaimed content company, has made public its plans to spin off and IPO its outdoor business. A $3.3B advertising and real estate venture, it is deemed non-core. CBS is rolling financially, owning an amazing share of prime time TV viewership as well as a successful film business, a cable channel and online properties. CBS is making the move during a period of earnings strength. It’s still about portfolio focus.  

My Google trivestiture prediction was also about focus. But without any government pressure, Google has decided that a diverse portfolio, kept buoyant by mad ad revenue, is the best way forward.  Google can afford to pizzle away money on Motorola, and self-driving cars and, and, and.  Google is taking the GE approach, becoming a diversified technology company. And I’m liking it.

CBS gets what it is good at — content. Its diversity comes from flavors of content: prime time, movies, cable and online. Google is good at putting the world’s information at our finger tips… yet it is looking beyond the dashboard toward what’s next.  And as long as Google can turn a profit, it’s a brilliant approach. (That’s why Facebook bought Oculus Rift.  It’s non-core, but it is about the future.)

For businesses, focus gets you smarter and better. Diversity gets you smarter and better. No wrong, until the shareholders start to wince. Peace. 

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Social media is still primarily a tactical rather than strategic effort within companies. Years ago while at a meeting and doing introductions a young social media maven offered, “Hi I’m Rebecca, I work at Tribal DDB and I teach clients how to use Facebook.”  You just remember this stuff.

This Technorati link shares some interesting data points on social media and confirms my strategy vs. tactical point.  Only 51% of company social media programs are managed out of the marketing department. And let’s face it, many marketing departments are tactically rather than strategically focused themselves.  Sure they keep an eye on sales, but mostly they measure acquisition tools, traffic, engagement and, lately, activation.  The strategies driving these things, the value-based claims, are not measured. There is also some data on top three social media careabouts for the coming year, none of which are strategic – even though they are ironically identified as “strategic objectives.” 

Measuring awareness of the advertising line “Hope Lives Here” is not nearly as important as measuring attitudes towards “physician who know the latest protocol.”

With a plan, social media can soar. With a plan social media can prime the attitude pump. With a plan, not only the 51%, but all others, can be a chorus of harmonious business-building voices. Peace.

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