Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Premium Content

"We are talking about premium content here - our users are deeply engaged with our content"
"You are paying a higher CPM because we are talking about premium content"
"This is our most popular page on the site, we get the highest traffic on this and therefore we have a different CPM model for this, we call it a premium CPM"

As a media planner dealing day-to-day with sales reps, I've found a common thread in almost every single digital sales pitch...

Everyone has premium content?
Social Networking = premium content
Highlights of the football = premium content
Today's weather = premium content
One dog licking the bollocks of another (pictured above) = premium content

The word 'premium' is defined as "something of exceptional quality or greater value than others of its kind; superior". The issue here is that defined value is fairly subjective and is looked upon by sales reps as the value to the consumer, not to the advertiser.

My day-to-day encounters have led me to believe that 'exclusive' is the new 'premium', however, my major gripe with this is that we are surrounded by a digital landscape where only around 5% of content is actually exclusive and by way of today's consumer becomes another web environment's pot of gold in just a matter of hours. The permanence of exclusive content is rare. A movie trailer breaks on Ninemsn, within hours, it is posted on multiple blogs, Youtube, Facebook and the list goes on. As a consumer, I can get pretty much any video on a number of websites at a time that is convenient to me.

Most exclusive content is in the form of articles written by bloggers and journalists that are figureheads of online publications to create consumer loyalty so that users come back to a site day in day out to review updated content.

My questions are; Is there really a benefit around association with exclusive and very new content? Does it actually make it harder for an advertiser to cut through if the content is that damn good? If page viewing times and frequency of viewing increases, does this increase the likelihood of consumer engagement with my ad? If the user is that engaged with the content and is such a frequent visitor does that mean my ads become like wallpaper and that the consumer is glued to this so called premium content?

Some "premium content" based media owners find it hard to believe that historically, our ads work best from a response perspective in environments where users are engaged with very little content and are in their downtime - social networking, messenger, email - these are the environments that are least cluttered by content and advertising. While response isn't everything, publishers sell "premium content" on the assumption that there ads work better because people spend more time on a particular page.

Paul Fisher, head of the IAB recently wrote an article in AdNews urging media buyers to stop devaluing online inventory. It is the natural ebb and flow of digital media in Australia that is causing this significant rate reduction, not the media buyer. The fragmentation of digital media leaves most publishers with no choice but to live by the quote "Year of the Single Figure CPM". There is almost an infinite amount of inventory to buy which therefore creates quite a challenge for some of the bigger media owners who currently protect their yield by selling remnant inventory to ad networks.

If we get better engagement rates on historically cheaper sites who have more inventory to sell and therefore don't need to have as many ad units on a page, where does that leave the bigger media owners who put three islands on a page? Do they need to make integration opportunities more cost effective from a reach standpoint? Do they need to put their money where their mouth is and find a way to measure more than just the click to actually increase the frequency of publisher funded brand performance studies?"

The other major issue between social networks and major publishers is price premiums on use of ad space.

One major media owner recently came into our offices to talk about the different Homepage takeover options - it seemed that buying another 100 pixels below the fold would make the cost of the takeover another $10,000. It can be difficult to rationalise the extra investment to a client especially when social media owners sell ad formats on a flat rate regardless of the size of your targeted audience including ad units that let you integrate with a user's social calendar and encourage WOM. You are therefore paying for the audience, not the integration.

With such a disparity between the the volume of social media inventory and the revenue created, the opportunities for the social media hosts as well as third party publishers to monetise part of this inventory are endless. I envisage the competitiveness of online to heighten. The average social networker spends 22 minutes per user session. That is huge!

I certainly wouldn't call social networks premium content. However, at significantly cheaper CPM's, it is still a very compelling argument as a means of buying effective reach and creating brand integration opportunities.

Premium and integrated branded content is another term thrown around by the big wigs of digital media. A recent media owner referred to a sponsorship by an automotive client of a series of live concerts and harped on about how this was a great example of integration. After viewing the content, it seemed that it was simply a case of a great performer on stage with the automotive client's logo behind her. Is that really integration?

So after this long baffle about content, integration, what is premium? what is not? I have most likely confused you...What are your thoughts on the future of the way in which publishers sell ad space and the associated content around it? Does Paul Fisher have a point? Am I talking shiite again?


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tweetally dee, Tweetally dumb

I along with a growing number of Australians have become part of the flavour of the month in social media, Twitter.

Essentially, Twitter takes the one characteristic of Facebook that truly gives the user an opportunity to become an individual. The only difference being that a Twitter post need not be eventful.

The quintessential twitter post has yet to be clearly defined - but judging by the following four tweets below - the sky is the limit.

Searching for best prices online for Ray Ban prescription glasses, 1TB+ external hard drive and iPhone car stereo's. Any suggestions?

References to two brands in the space of 140 characters to me highlights how our generation really takes pride in the brands we consume. Furthermore, the need for peer recommendation is potentially a lucrative area for advertisers - the challenge is how do advertisers get involved in peer recommendation without coming across as just another 3rd party.

White rustyrockets
National cleavage day? Finally, patriotism I can get into - my buoyant knockers are glistening with British pride. Will Her Majesty join in?

With 170,000 followers, Russell Brand is the kind of media personality that now has the ability to basically drive his own PR machine.

White brosello
hated watchmen! Did anyone understand it?
White mfractal
saw WATCHMEN yesterday, hell of a movie!

Entertainment advertisers, specifically film distributors have always dreaded that bad review in the Sun Herald or the thumbs down from Margaret & David on the Movie Show. The 'review' can now spread like wildfire - What this now means that a number of reviews from peers, regardless of whether they are all positive, all negative or mixed, may empower the consumer to further research the film. Watching the trailer, reading an official review, seeking additional content etc - the challenge is how do entertainment advertisers manage this? I shouldn't really use the word manage should I? Dialogue is not manageable, it does however create opportunities for brands to further engage with consumers.

I'm hoping we will one day see the likes of Twitter offering an advertising service in which an advertiser could for example seek out a bad review from a consumer, and then serve them further content, an incentive or ask them a question. Negative feedback from consumers can surely strengthen a brand and the way they do business.

The next question I have for advertisers is how do you quantify peer evaluation? The measure of the 'click to conversion' can be taken a step further. Will we be able to one day attribute an online display ad to a series of Tweets? If a financial services brand spend a couple of million online and in the space of three months, see 20,000 more positive comments about their brand, can we give media the accountability for this uplift in positivity?

In summing up my take on Twitter, my opinion is the following
  • With a Twitter profile being updated in real time and most Twitter users updating their Twitter 5,10, 20 times a day, how much of it all becomes clutter? Will Twitter give users an opportunity to 'favourite' particular users they are following?
  • Do people like Kevin Rudd belong on Twitter? To be honest, his daily Twitter updates are simply a very bland encounter of his daily engagements, both business and personal. I guess what I'm really asking is, are politicians actually doing themselves more harm than good?
  • What will Twitter's revenue model be?
I am certainly looking forward to seeing how agencies and their associated advertisers utilise, monetise, leverage and learn from such a powerful aggregator of consumer sentiment.

If you want to see the kind of Tweets I post, please feel free to add me - you probably will be bored!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The future of the B2C relationship

While going through the medicine cabinet at home, I saw about eight bottles of vitamins - all different brands. It dawned on me, there is a real lack of brand loyalty in this world. We all love that word 'new' and hate that word 'old'. We seek new products because we love that first trial.

There really shouldn't be any loyalty when you think about it. We would walk into a pharmacy and they would recommend a particular brand of vitamin, and you would think, that if we trust one product in a brand's range, we would trust them all.

With the rise of local 'chemist's own' type brands, it seems people are starting to question why they are perhaps paying another $5 per bottle to get Cenovis Vitamin C, rather than $5 less for a homebrand product. Are they simply just paying for marketing? Or quality?

There is a fantastic episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry enter a drug store and pick up two containers of what appear to be similar products. They jokingly compete with each other reciting ingredients with one manufacturer having less of one particular ingredient and one having more. The fact that neither knew which was better for them really enscapsulates the current relationsihp that consumers have with pharma brands - there is NO TRUST. That scepticism that we all have may just be the reason why there really is no loyalty in the pharma industry.

The Gruen Transfer looked at this industry with a fine comb recently and really tore it to pieces. Advertisers make outlandish statements about their products and trick consumers into thinking that they need to buy a particular shampoo because it removes 97% of dandruff instead of 96%. So it really is no wonder, that they don't trust these companies.

So maybe - what these brands need to be doing - is incentivising their customers. Consumer loyalty programs seem to be a thing of the past. But my belief, is that they will become increasingly more important over time, given how cluttered our supermarkets and pharmacies are at this point in time. I don't need 34 different shampoo brands, I need one.

I really see digital advertising as being the pivotal medium to facilitate the growth of the one-to-one B2C relationship. Recently, a blogger in the US wrote about his dissatisfaction with the service of Dell Computers. Dell trolled the web for these comments, acknowledged their flaw, and compensated for their lack of service by sending the unhappy blogger a new Dell computer with a customer service guarantee.

What advertisers needs to do is give consumers an extra reason to purchase their products. Given how homogeneous most of these products are, they need to be thinking about added value - monetary or non-monetary.

First of all, by giving your consumer added value, you may be starting a conversation. Once you have them hooked, not only can you then continue to incentivise their purchases but also talk to them, gauge their reactions on new product releases, get their feedback and actually start to LISTEN to the people who actually want you to hear them

Advertisers should be setting up online portals that facilitate this direct relationship. All their media, both digital and traditional should be driving to this. I see this as being a more relevant area for those industries with particular homogeneous product offerings - banking/finance, health/pharma, FMCG cleaning products.

Here are just a few ideas of how an advertiser can give a consumer added value
- Give them additional volume of product
- Discount their product
- Invite them to take part in a customer survey in exchange for discount or additional volume
- Invite them to be part of a consumer forum perhaps in an exotic location (all expenses paid of course)
- Set up a competition for consumers to come up with a new name for a new product
- Let these consumers be the FIRST to try your new products - have an exclusive product launch party

Anyway, until next time, say hi to your mum for me (or something along those lines)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Value in Social Media

The recent AIMIA Social Media workshop I attended really got me thinking about the way in which advertisers are truly utilising the value of social media.

For starters, we live in a world where every consumer wants to consume content when they want, how they want and where they want. We all love that feeling when the MSN Messenger/Hotmail notification pops up telling us that we have a new Facebook notification. Has someone written on my wall? Has someone invited me to an event? Has someone from the past, perhaps an old school buddy, asked me to be their friend?

Do Tooheys want me to sell beer to my mates? Does a radio station want me to tell my friends I am a proud listener of their morning show show?

Has a brand asked me to be their knight in shining armour?...

You get the jist. As humans, we all take pride in the brands we consume, otherwise, we wouldn't be consuming them. I am more than happy for my friends to know that I wear Tsubi jeans, or that I love the crisp taste of Super Dry, or my favourite film is Knocked Up. Right now, the Facebook guys in the US are just starting to take advantage of this on a very basic level with granular keyword targeting allowing advertisers to buy relevant keywords listed on a user's profile page.

Contextual targeting is here to stay. Clients especially love the ability to ambush a competitor's keywords. But what we are not doing and should be doing is really getting consumers excited about working with brands through social media. I am talking about a direct relationship that is BENEFICIAL FOR BOTH PARTIES.

Let's take a banking client - say Commsec. Where all banking and finance clients currently FAIL is that they lack the ability to resonate with my generation. At the end of the day, all I want from a bank is that they keep my money safe and they grow it. In fact, I'm with NAB - not because I've been saturated with advertising, but because my mates recommended their Student Saver program when I was at uni. More often then not, especially with financed related products, we seek influence from our friends, family, work colleagues etc.

Imagine a social ad that tells your friends - that not only are you with NAB - but NAB helped you buy your first car or that NAB helped you put a mortgage on your first home. TV ads that try and portray a similar scenario have one thing lacking. If you don't know the people who were helped by NAB, why would you trust them? I mean after all, to most people, NAB are just a big conglomerate out to rule the world.

The fact is that advertisers can leverage a consumer's trust in the people closest to them. This is why social media is such a powerful tool and for many advertiser's, will be the primary source of media spend online in the not too distant future.

In the last month, I've had about ten friends buy the iPhone. How do I know? Well they told me on Facebook - either through their status notification or their excited wall post talking to me as if they have just won the lottery.

Julian Cole, ex-digital strategist at NAKED brought up an interesting point about starting a conversation, listening and then responding. He is spot on. However, my question to him is, as an advertiser, how do you truly end a conversation? Consumers are not going to interact with your brand forever?

I would like to also add that my belief is that in all three stages of the social media process, the advertiser has to really give the consumer something of value. Value in social media is CRUCIAL. Without value in social media, there really is no point.

A perfect example of an advertiser utilising social media by truly giving value to its audience was a youth brand I worked on. . I had the pleasure of actually working on this campaign in late 07/early 08. They came to us with a brief that screamed 'Facebook'. Their primary objective was to increase audience numbers with trial for new users via online streaming. Working with the client and media, we came up with a simple Facebook application that utilised RSS feed technology. We "tuned into their world". Music is such a powerful tool and we saw an opportunity to give the user something of value. We gave the user the opportunity to stream music live to accompany time spent within the Facebook network. These users were spending up to 30 minutes each time they would log on.

We gave them the tools to do it via the Facebook Application which allowed them buy the most recently played song on iTunes, enter competitions, request songs and so on. As the media agency, our job on top of giving a solution on ways to interact with their potential audience, was to drive relevant traffic to their solution. Without significant media spend behind these campaigns, they will fail. Luckily, the client invested a solid volume of media

To me, the reason why an advertiser like Fantastic Noodles failed is that they expected consumers to interact with their brand without giving them the tools to do so. They also believed that consumers would willingly 'pimp their kettle'. They were wrong.

Social media really is such an exciting phenomenon and I cannot wait to see what the next generation of clients do online.

While my first blog may lack quotations from trade press OR insanely exaggerated statics that normally come across as a numerical wank, I just thought I would get my opinion out there.
I'm not saying I can change the world - but hopefully someone agrees with me.

Until next time - say Hi to your mum for me (or something along those lines)