Tagged: google

Paid Media Isn’t A Four Letter Word

Some time last year I was having a meeting with a start-up that had just launched in the Australian market. I explained that whilst clients often like to be involved with new and exciting projects, they also want to invest in products and platforms that are, or will be popular with a decent likely life-span. No-one really wants to invest lots of time, energy & money on the next Gowalla.

What, I wanted to know, would this start-up being doing to advertise its product and drive new users.

Well, we don’t believe in paid advertising, we’ll just be using word of mouth.

Cool, I said, I’ll tell our clients not to buy ads with you then.

Although I was joking (kind of) this chat has stuck with me, encapsulating as it did the beliefe that many people seem to have that paying for advertising somehow lessens the purity of your creative message; that it’s a bad thing to do.

I was struck by the same thought just before Christmas when I was judging some awards. I would estimate that something like 25% to 50% of the entries mentioned that the success of their campaign was in spite of the fact that they hadn’t spent any money on paid media. And again, yesterday, I was watching this (otherwise) excellent case study for a Fiat campaign from Germany which seems to boast about spending 0 on media.

Why is this something to be proud of? If your campaign was successful despite spending nothing on media, imagine what could have been achieved if you had done so. From my perspective, it almost feels like not paying for advertising is a sign that the creators aren’t confident in their work; if you haven’t spent money on paid media then expectations will be lower so success is easier to achieve.

As Eaon Pritchard points out in (another) excellent post on branding and promotion:

According to…data the single biggest predictor…of online video sharing is it’s initial distribution. For the best performing videos it’s about 8 views to 1 share. 24 to 1 is the average. So to get sharing, initial seeding/paid support is key.

And this, surely, is the key. Every-time an agency shouts about how they achieved something without paid media, they are essentially saying that they didn’t do their job properly, assuming that their job is to get their client noticed. And when a media platform or owner does this, they are saying that they don’t believe in the model they ask their clients to believe in; a media version of the greater fool theory if you like.

When Google started they were very proud of the fact that their success was built on recommendation and word of mouth. And they should have been. But as they have matured they have come to accept and realise the value of paid advertising. And Apple, surely one of the coolest companies out there (in the eyes of the sort of people who tend to sneer at paid media at least) have long known its value.

As Eaon puts it so succinctly:

Even the greatest, most creative most exciting video if only seen by a few people, wont get many shares. Get it in front of as many as possible.

Unless you don’t actually want anyone to see it, in which case, go right ahead.


British Airways’ #lookup Points To The Skies

Before moving to Australia I had a little ritual that I went through every-time I saw a plane in the sky.

In order to stop myself from feeling like there were people going somewhere exciting whilst I was stuck in rainy old England (or Ireland) I would always pretend that the plane was flying from Aberdeen to Luton, or vice versa, because, in my mind, there could be nothing exciting or jealousy-inducing in either place. Except when I was a kid and Concorde flew over every-day; that was just cool.

Well, it seems that BA have just ruined that little fantasy with their new campaign which taps into the very simple insight that we all lift our eyes when we hear planes flying overhead and many of us probably wonder where it’s heading. In order to highlight the range of their routes they have created digital billboards which update with details of flights passing by.

A Fast Company article compares it to interactive billboards in Sydney Airport that Google is using to promote its Play store, but I think the playfulness of the BA ones are more aesthetically appealing. But they’re both pretty clever.

A while back I wrote about a band called BADBADNOTGOOD whose name tips a hat to the fact that words can have more than one meaning. In the same vein I think we should start talking about MARKETINGMARKETINGNOTDIGITAL to highlight work that may use digital technology but is, at its heart, just great marketing. BA’s #lookup definitely ticks that box.



Death To The Click Through Rate

The exact number seems to differ depending on which report you believe, but it seems likely that the world’s first banner ad received a click through rate of around 44%. These days, people get excited if a campaign receives an average anywhere near 1%. This to me suggests that click through rates, as a success metric, are essentially broken. Something that research seems to back up.

Many clients, agencies and publishers still quote CTR as if they really matter when, I would suggest, most of the time they don’t. Quoting a click through rate of less than 1% as being a success is a bit like Whiskas selling cat-food by saying that 9.9 out of 10 cats don’t prefer it.

Whilst accountability has been an incredible tool for driving direct response budgets online, as TV and other more awareness focussed budgets shift online, I’d suggest it’s actually a hindrance. To most senior marketers, claiming such minuscule numbers as a win must sound ridiculous. And if your objective is to get people to watch a video, who cares if they click on it? Particularly on a mobile, where it’s just as likely that people are trying to turn the add off.

I’m not sure what the replacement is; probably something made up of products like OCR, OBE and Google’s new cross device conversions. But whatever it is, we need to think of it. Because essentially media metrics are proxies we use to estimate business success and, more and more, click through rates just feel like a proxy for measuring failure.


A Week’s A Long Time #14


Once again I’m sticking to the two biggest stories in tech over the last week, as they both cover off so much.

Buying Into Youth

As if it wasn’t enough spending millions of dollars on an app built by a 17 year old, it seems that Yahoo! now wants to spend $1 billion on a company which is hugely popular with 17 year olds. Following widespread reports, Yahoo! dropped the mythical amount (“You know what’s cool?“) on the social blogging platform, though it’s yet to be seen whether this will be Yahoo’s MySpace or its YouTube.

Whilst there are some good arguments being made for why this might be a bad deal (including porn & rebellious users) there are some equally compelling ones as to why it makes sense, including one suggesting that Facebook should gazump the deal. What’s not in doubt is that this is a massive roll of the dice for Yahoo and its (relatively) new CEO, Marissa Mayer.

Many thought that she would focus massively on product, but with both Tumblr and Summly, she seems to have chosen youth and content over real engineering brilliance. Whilst it’s too soon to say how that will likely play out it seems a stretch to think that advertisers will rush to associate themselves with Tumblr’s tricky audience and content (though that doesn’t necessarily mean its not worth $1 billion) whereas concentrating on doing a deal for Hulu would have made more sense (though only with the right licensing deals in place).

After all, some reports suggest that Tumblr is losing traffic and was about to run out of money whilst others hint that the deal will also, potentially, leave Yahoo a little short of cash (though others disagree). Despite all that others are suggesting that these sort of platforms are still undervalued, though the main person saying that runs… a blogging platform.

Searching For The Competition

Although it didn’t make any massive purchases in the last week, in many ways Google came out on top of most of its competitors. During the 3 hour keynote of its annual I/O conference it presented a series of product updates and innovations that left many commentators gasping for breath. It included major updates to Maps & Google+, tweaks to Search & Google Now, and lots of news about the fact that Chrome and Android will soon be, if they’re not already, the biggest browser and mobile operating systems on the market. Oh, and cash is now an email attachment.

As if this wasn’t all enough to take in, Google also decided to take on the likes of Spotify and launch its own subscription based music streaming service. Without a freemium option, or the ability to use Facebook as a launch pad, in some ways the (rather clunkily named) service  Google Play Music All Access seems like less of an obvious hit than last year’s Google Glass. Whatever the case, Google seems to be shooting for the stars, whilst its main competitors are more concerned with just squeezing out the next product update.

Of course even astronauts have to come back down to earth eventually, and with continuing political and legal issues in a variety of different markets, Google could still end up on the wrong side of one of these decisions, though that is only likely to happen if legislators tighten up the rules which Google says it is playing by. In that respect at least, Google is firmly in line with its peers.

Avengers image from a Tumblr post (what else) about memes


A Week’s A Long Time #11

Microsoft sign outside building 99

A relatively quiet week in tech, but nonetheless one with a few interesting stories pointing  at the direction that the industry, and the world, is going in.

Google’s New Reader

Not that long ago Google announced its plans to close (or sunset, to use the horrible Valley term for shutting things down) its RSS product, Reader, causing much gnashing of teeth in the tech-blog bubble. One of the reasons given was declining usage but now, in a sign of how the world has changed since the halcyon web 2.0 days of Reader’s creation, Google has bought a different kind of reader.

Wavii, which Google has bought for something in the region of $30 million, is one of a new breed of services, which aims to aggregate and concentrate the content that people are consuming.  It follows hot on the heels of Yahoo’s purchase of British start-up Summly, which really highlighted the interest that Silicon Valley is taking in such products.

Whilst these moves show that tech and media companies are now trying to adapt to a world where 140 characters is often the limit of people’s attention spans, they also highlight the increasingly short attention spans of the companies doing the buying: Wavii was shut down on the day of its acquisition whilst this week also saw Google shutting down Meebo, a company it bought less than a year ago.

Whose Results Are They Anyway?

Google has often pitched itself as the anti-Microsoft, right down to its unofficial motto of “do no evil”; former Google CEO, and current Chairman Eric Schmidt said in 2009 that the company hoped that:

we won’t repeat the mistakes that Microsoft made, you know, ten years ago that ultimately led to all these things that happened with them

Which is ironic, seeing as how Google is now being taken to task by the EU, largely because of complaints led by Microsoft. They allege that Google unfairly favours its own products in its search results and have chased the US & EU to act to stop Google’s (alleged) anti-competitive behaviour.

The US threw the case out when the FTC found that the law protects competition and not competitors. The EU, which is often tougher on this sort of thing (and also never suffers politically from taking a pop at large US corporations), has not followed the same course. And whilst Google has now offered to label its own products when they appear in its search results, its competitors have said that this doesn’t go far enough, meaning the case won’t end here.

What this will mean in terms of a final result is hard to say (the nuclear option is for the EU to impose fines of up to 10% of Google’s global revenues), but what is certain is that Google is likely to face this sort of government oversight a lot more frequently going forward.

Rotten Apple?

In another case of a company which once prided itself on being exactly the opposite of Microsoft now being compared to them, Apple is suffering the same fate. Having briefly become the most valuable company in the world, its stock has now been in free-fall for quite some time. This week saw the company’s profits drop for the first time in a decade and now the wolves are really coming out.

The company’s move to keep investors happy by releasing a huge chunk of its cash hoard as dividends has caused some to wonder whether Apple is experiencing what Microsoft experienced back at the start of the millennium - a change in the shape and momentum of its business. What is for certain is that Samsung is now soundly beating Apple in almost all areas of the smarpthone business, though its latest phone is still far from perfect.

It’s more than possible that Apple will still turn things around with another industry changing device but even if it doesn’t, Samsung still has a long way to go till it can lay claim to a service product as strong as iTunes (10 years old this week). Amazon on the other hand

Microsoft image by Robert Scoble on flickr


A Week’s A Long Time #10

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 10.08.05 PM

Back after a well earned break, I’m going to have another bash at providing a weekly round-up of tech, media & marketing.

Tweet As…

Twitter had a busy week, launching a new product and two updates to its ad systems.

Twitter #Music is an app, built off the back of acqhired Australian start-up We Are Hunted, which is designed to help people find and connect with new and upcoming music. It’s a lovely use of Twitter’s platform which understands, and makes use of, how people are using that to connect to music. Importantly, it builds off of existing music services, in the form of iTunes, Spotify & Rdio: this means it’s in the interest of the latter two for this to succeed, and helps ease the pain of Apple after closing Ping.

At the same time Twitter announced that it is to allow ads to be targeted at Twitter users based on words in their tweets or tweets they have interacted with, and it was rumoured that Twitter is trying to tie-up deals with TV networks so that it can monetise video content within tweets.

Whilst the #Music announcement is a smart effort to drive deeper audience usage of the product, whilst creating lots more lovely user data in the process, the keyword launch, and TV rumour, show that Twitter also wants to get much better at making money off of the audience it already has. Tie the two together and you can imagine a scenario where TV stations target their video content based on what other TV shows people have tweeted about, and then Twitter gets to monetise it. Meta.

Home And Dry?

Last week also saw Facebook Home hit the streets. It’s since seen 500,000 downloads which is impressive, but not a patch on Instagram which saw ten times as many downloads in the same amount of time after launching on Android.

It’s early days yet, and, to be honest, in some ways it’s hard to understand exactly what Facebook Home does for people. Perhaps the fact that one of the main features of Home, Chat Heads, is now part of the iPhone app, will help to really kickstart Facebook’s mobile landgrab. At least that would mean they wouldn’t have to rely on this ad doing the job.

YouTube Preview Image

Race To The Bottom

Finally, and a lot more seriously, the web showed its darker side in the aftermath of a tragedy in Boston. reddit, which likes to call itself the front page of the internet, decided to try and capture the bombers. And failed.

Which would be fine, if it’s misguided attempts to play Sherlock didn’t result in plenty of innocent people being named as terrorists. It was, to repeat one memorable turn of phrase, like a racist Where’s Wally. To be sure plenty of people have pointed out that ‘traditional media’ is hardly blame free, and they’re right. But reddit has history, and it’s not as pretty as its cheer-leaders would like to claim.  


A Week’s A Long Time Vol. 6

Well, what a week it’s been. Apart from bankers proving, once and for all, as if we really needed the proof, that they really do match up to their Cockney rhyming slang name, The Stone Roses returned and were, if I do say so myself, triumphant.

But outside the world of middle-aged men cashing in their chips, and Bob Diamond, what’s been happening in the world of tech?

It’s The Content, Stupid

These days it’s becoming hard to keep up with all the tech companies rumoured to be on the verge of releasing a phone, TV, or some other high-tech consumer product. Facebook’s releasing a phone. Google’s releasing a home-entertainment system. No, Amazon’s releasing a phone and Google’s releasing a tablet.

Oh, I give up.

But why would all of these companies, who currently make their money in ways other than shipping product, want to get into manufacturing (even if it is through a third party)? Well, the answers are myriad, but in many cases, it’s down to content. Because what’s fascinating about Apple, is that through its iTunes store, it has essentially locked millions of people into owning its products.

Whilst using an iPhone (or iPod) doesn’t mean that you have to use iTunes, or vice versa, it certainly makes life much easier if you do. And the reason that this works so well, other than the fact that Apple have categorically shown, particularly through the app store, that people really don’t mind making micropayments, is because Apple has a pretty impressive library of content, through its deals with the record and movie labels, as well as its flourishing app developer eco-system.

And it’s with this in mind that we should look again at a few of the last couple of week’s stories:

Meanwhile, of course, Apple keeps on printing money before squireling it away in off-shore havens carefully investing it. And the real irony? As was pointed out this week (and I kind of noted last week), for Apple, the iTunes revenue is a bit like funny money – the real cash is in hardware, and it uses its (free) software to make that hardware redundant, so that you have to buy a new one.

Black & Blue Berry

Meanwhile, away from the world of succesful tech companies deciding what product to release next (and YouView), a lot of attention was focussed on RIM, the makers of BlackBerry, previously the ‘smartphone’ of choice for businesspeople and rioting teenagers alike.

The pronouncement by RIM’s CEOThorsten Heins that his company isn’t in a “death spiral”, was met with widespread derision by the tech blogosphere. After all, the company has seen its share price plummet, shed a chunk of its workforce, and can’t seem to do right for doing wrong, all on the back of delays to the launch of its new operating system.

Now comes news that RIM might be about to lose another big chunk of revenue, if reports that mobile carriers are insisting on a reduction in the fees RIM charges them to use its server infrastructure are true. All of this has left many wondering whether there is any hope for RIM, or whether it should just sell itself off, either in parts or as a whole.

But having said all that, reports of a company’s death have been greatly exaggerated in the past. After all, back in 1997, it was commonly agreed that a once-great tech company, with its shares at an all time low, was basically toast. Indeed, Michael Dell famously said of the company in question:

I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders

Who was he talking about? Apple. If they could come back from the brink, maybe RIM can as well. Now all they need to do is find their very own Steve Jobs. Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath.

I’ll leave you with a wonderful synchronisation of music and tech, and more proof that many of Britain’s finest musicians get better with age: blur’s new songs, premièred on Twitter.

The actual videos are pretty ace too.

If you have any thoughts on these issues, or anything you’d like covered in a future digest, please do leave a comment, drop me a line on ciarannorris at gmail dot com, or tweet me.


A Week’s A Long Time Vol. 5 (Delayed)

So, this post is three weeks late, though I guess to mention that is to suggest that anyone might have noticed. Either way, I apologise but I was busy in Sydney scoping a few things out.

Anyhoo, what’s been happening in the world of tech whilst I’ve been gallivanting about?

Another Day, Another Developer Conference

So,this week was Google’s turn to try to wow the world with its latest news, particularly seeing as Apple spent so much of its recent event essentially putting the knife into Google. What was interesting about Google’s own event, other than the fact that these things are more like movie launches than simple product demos these days (parachuting? Seriously?!), is how much Google is moving into the world of hardware.

YouTube Preview Image

This week saw it announce the launch of its own tablet and its own home entertainment system. Oh, and cyborg spectacles. Because what Apple has done over the last few years is shown that more money can be made through hardware (which previously was quite often a low margin sector) than in paid for software (Microsoft) or ad-funded web software (Google). And both Microsoft and Google want some of that cash to put in their own off-shore tax-havens, sorry, R&D departments.

Judging by the early reports, they may not want to start planning what they’re going to spend it on just yet.

Just Browsing

But whilst the buzz about their physical products may not have been entirely positive, there will have been a lot more happy noises made about the news that Google is launching a version of its Chrome browser for Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines. Plus, it’s also likely to be as much of a blow to Apple as it was to Google when Apple dropped their Maps.

In the space of a few years, admittedly with a large chunk of Google’s (now considerable) advertising budget behind it, Chrome has become, depending on who you ask, the first or second most popular web browser in the world. And, due to the fact that most people who use Chrome tend to want to stick with it (I have a policy of installing it on any computer I work on, even if its a shared one – it really is that much better), I would imagine that it will soon have one of, if not the, largest share of browsers on Apple products too (they already have the default browser on all Android products, which outsell Apple’s, though they don’t make as much money).

So what, you may say: browsers don’t make any money. And indeed they don’t really – Firefox is run by a charity, and essentially funded by Google, which pays handsomely to be the default search engine. But they do power the entire web, and that means that they can observe and probably track every thing that everyone accessing the web does. And in a world where the most profitable advertising company describes itself as  a ‘database of intentions’, that sort of knowledge really is power: the power to make absolutely tons of money.

So, we’ll chalk that as a score draw in the ongoing Apple Google match, though it’s likely that the penalties might be decided by a judge.

Anyway, that’s it for this week. It started badly, then got really crap but has got a lot better and should end with a bang.

This is for you Geraldine.

YouTube Preview Image

See you all in Heaton Park.

If you have any thoughts on these issues, or anything you’d like covered in a future digest, please do leave a comment, drop me a line on ciarannorris at gmail dot com, or tweet me.

Image: Google.


A Week’s A Long Time Vol. 3

Wow. It’s June. Where did this year go? Or, more to the point, where did the last 60 years go? I’m a republican, in the original sense of the word, but even I can’t bring myself to rain on the jubilee parade. Good on you Ma’am. Shame about your kids.

Anyway, what’s been happening away from the worlds of pomp & ceremony?

Buddying Up

Whilst Facebook’s IPO continues to cause ructions (and the media hang off of every part of Mark Zuckerberg’s honeymoon), some still see value in the Facebook platform. Coming off of the recent purchase of Facebook ad management system Vitrue by enterprise IT giant Oracle, all the signs are that SalesForce, which offers cloud based CRM systems, is about to buy Buddy Media for $800 million*.

Both of these are interesting, if initially slightly puzzling moves (at least in the case of Oracle). Essentially they highlight how social, and in some ways digital in general, can’t be parked in a client’s media, or even marketing department. It can affect everything from customer relationship management, product development, PR, sales, etc... Buddy had themselves highlighted this when they added to their initial offering, which was an enterprise tool for managing Facebook brand pages, by snapping up Brighter Option, which is a Facebook ad management tool.

This can only be good news for Facebook, and the other platforms that these tools cover (Vitrue was the first one to add Instagram profile management): companies like Oracle and Salesforce are often talking to entirely different people and departments at client companies, and so can only help those arguing that such platforms need to be taken seriously, potentially driving up budgets. And whilst no-one likes a monopoly (other than the monopolist), integration and consolidation should be a good thing for brands and agencies.

I’ve suggested before that by allowing companies to scale social management and advertising, these moves allow companies to increase investment, as less needs to be spent on actual human resource. One of the challenges many face with Google+ is that managing pages on it is still, in many cases, a very manual task. Some suggested that this would have made Buddy a good purchase target for Google, but personally I’m guessing the guys at Buddy would have worried that such a move might see them lose their favoured status with Facebook.

Courting Controversy

Whilst Google may not have succeeded in getting hold of Buddy, it has had its hand full in other places.

Firstly, the EU claimed that Google might need to change its search results to show that it’s not favouring its own products (YouTube, etc…) over similar sites from other companies. This all dates back to a complaint made by a group of companies around this (alleged) practice, with many (me included) in the industry unimpressed by the claims by some of those involved in the original complaint.

However, as many people & companies know, if a judge decides that a case has merit, which the EU seems to have done, the actual quality of the complaints doesn’t really matter, even if those arguments can quite easily be turned on their head: anyone fancy ruling that newspaper content should be regulated by government? All I know is that it’s lucky the EU doesn’t have anything more important to be worrying about like, oh, I don’t know, reversing over 2 years of economic incompetence and political cowardice.

Over in the US however, Google was claiming a win. In a battle with Oracle a judge found in Google’s favour in a key element of the case between the two companies when he ruled that Oracle couldn’t claim copyright on 37 APIs (an API is an application programming interface - every time you use a Facebook Like button on a site other than Facebook, you’re using an API).

Google had essentially argued that APIs were simply tools used to create programs rather than an actual program. As AllThingsD put it when the case launched:

Google has argued that APIs and programming languages aren’t entitled to copyright protection, for exactly that reason: You can copyright a given program because it’s unique, but you can’t copyright the language it’s written in. Perhaps I’m straining my skills at analogy here, but the way I understand Google’s argument, as put forth in an April 12 brief, is that you can copyright “So What?” but you can’t copyright “jazz.”

It seems like the judge was a Miles Davis fan, and this exquisite taste in music has probably saved Google millions of dollars.

Any thoughts on the content or format of this newsletter are more than welcome. L eave a comment, drop me a line on ciarannorris at gmail dot com, or tweet me.

*My ultimate employer, WPP, has a stake in Buddy, and it is the official social ad & profile management supplier for my immediate employer Mindshare.

Queen by marc falardeau on flickr