You are currently browsing the archives for September, 2007.

Time Inc Digital's CPMs Get Premium Over AOL

PaidContent summarizes a new research report from Thomas Weisel analyst Gordon Hodge. The headline is that Time Inc Digital (the websites associated with Time Inc magazines such as People and Fortune) will generate an estimated $175 million in revenues next year.

People Mag Cover

But this is the line that caught my attention:

“even though traffic to magazine sites is only a small portion of the total traffic at Time Warner including AOL, the effective CPM rates are considerably higher, given the targeting and brand association of the magazine content, the strong national advertiser relationships in the magazine ad sales group and the overall quality of the Time Inc. brands, says the report.”

What could be more obvious, you ask? Well, it’s not obvious to everyone selling ads on the internet. While venture capital and media entrepreneurs invest heavily in next-generation ad-serving algorithms and ad-network approaches to marketing customers, we might all benefit from a close study of our print-publishing colleagues. I’m not going to defend the printed magazine format or the traditional (and restrictive) approach to intellectual property. But if relationships built on a deep understanding of customer needs and a focus on brands over demographics drives “considerably higher” rates for Time Warner, maybe the same approach will benefit those of us on the outside.

Mark Ecko Is Retarded

That’s the headline someone used for a story posted to Digg. (Admittedly it’s been Dugg only once, and Marc Ecko’s first name is actually spelled with a C.) But the story of Marc Ecko buying Barry Bonds’s 756th homerun ball for $750,000, marking it with an asterisk and sending it to the Baseball Hall of Fame has me thinking the exact opposite about Mr. Ecko. I’m convinced Marc Ecko is a genius of conversational marketing.

Marc Ecko

What does Ecko get for his $750,000? Well, for starters, 10 million people (maybe a bit fewer, you could vote multiple times) went to his site to vote on what he should do with the ball. And just now I searched for “marc ecko” + “barry bonds” and Google returned 88,600 results. At least a handful of the stories I read call Ecko some variation of an idiot, but almost every one tells readers — in the first paragraph — that Marc Ecko is a fashion designer. That can’t be all bad.

Disruptive Ads Still Effective

New research from Yahoo and MediaVest (see Ad Age) says out-of-context ads work about as well as ads that are relevant to the adjacent content.

Marlboro billboard

I forget the term for it, but there’s an old-fashioned advertising tactic (and lots of research that supports its effectiveness) where ads are designed to break outside the boundaries of the ad space. Like billboards that have objects hanging off them. The thinking is: When you are trying to interrupt people, do it loudly. Jar us into noticing.

To me, though, the question is, what’s the success metric you’re looking to drive? If you want clicks, naked women and blinking offers to win a free motorcycles work great. Interruptive ads also have a long and successful record in the pre-Tivo era. But if you want to spark up a dialog that might lead to a long-term positive customer relationship, you may want to go with polite and relevant.

Jarvis and That Butt on His Site

Two years ago, I was on a Web 2.0 panel hosted by Jeff Jarvis and I said something along the lines of, “While we all work to build great new ad-serving and ad-buying platforms to facilitate small, targeted transactions for long-tail marketers, let’s not ignore the needs of ‘big butt’ advertisers.”

And here we are, still talking about rear ends.

Butt ad

Apparently some BuzzMachine readers are giving Jeff a hard time over an ad on his site for high-end Washlet toilet seats. The ads feature the image of woman’s naked behind with a smiley face drawn across it. His post, About That Butt, offers the backstory.

“I’ve been meaning to mention the elephant in the room: that naked butt to the right, the happy ass. I’m proud of the ad, not because I’m a customer for $1,000 toilet seats (not made for the Navy) but because it represents my return to Blogads, where you should feel free to buy an ad and replace that ass. Hint, hint.”

(The post also explains why Jeff parted ways with FM — partly because BlogAds works better financially for BuzzMachine, and partly because Jeff doesn’t like some of the stuff we call Conversatonal Marketing. Our original motto at FM was “Author Driven.” That means we try very hard to put each author’s needs and wants above all else, and it means we sometimes part ways with people we like and respect very much, like Jeff.)

Back to that ad with the butt on it. If a company runs an honest business and pays a fair price to advertise on a publication like BuzzMachine, what’s the problem? I’ve been selling advertising for 15 years, and I haven’t loved the creative concepts submitted for every campaign. But I appreciate the financial support provided by every single one, and I do my best to keep my aesthetic judgments to myself. I’m also thankful for all the high-quality content I read and watch every day — for free.

Jeff, Henry and nice folks at Washlet: Keep up the good work!

Terrible TV Spot Is Working Wonders

Isn’t it a bummer when terrible creative works well? That seems to be the case with those TV spots for headache remedy HeadOn. From Ad Age:

Who, indeed, could forget one of the most amateurish and mind-numbing creative executions out there (formula: Repeat the tagline not once, but three times as a woman rubs the product on her forehead). Yet the campy spots have jump-started sales and won the brand pop-culture credibility and some serious free airtime — including a solemn commentary from “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, who called it “the most annoying ad on television.”

Sales are up 234% from 2005 to 2006.  I guess we’ll be seeing more of that spot!

JCPenney's RSS-Powered Ad

Here’s JCPenney’s new ad creative. The 300×250 unit is running on FM’s parenting and craft sites to drive readers to the Fall Shopping Guide they’re sponsoring (see ChasNote 9/17/07). The ad updates with new headlines in real-time, each time a new article is posted to the Fall Shopping Guide site — like that Symantec ad that pulled content from their security analyst’s blog.

JCPenney RSS ad

Diggnation Crew Gives Away HP Blackbird 002

In Diggnation Episode #116, Kevin Rose tells viewers that he will be giving away HP Blackbird 002, one of the 518 gaming systems that is part of HP’s limited release. HP sent them 002 as part of their sponsorship of Diggnation, and they’ll give it away on October 5 to one lucky visitor to


In the first 48 hours after Episode #116 was made available, among thousands of visitors to HP’s Blackbird wiki site more than 120 of them submitted articles on what they’d do with a tricked out gaming box like that.

Ad Supported Phone Calls

Today’s NYT reports the launch of a new ad-supported, free Internet phone service from San Jose-based Pudding Media. The company says it will work like Gmail, where an algorithm (not humans) will listen to phone conversations and deliver relevant ads based the topics being discussed. Coverage by the Times and others suggest that fear of privacy violations is the primary obstacle to the company’s success. I think the bigger challenge will come from the advertisers.

Given that algorithms from established engineering powerhouses like Google still have a tough time understanding context in natural conversation (Google is great at understanding intent when you type a keyword into a searchbox, but much less so when they need to guess intent based on words on the page of other sites, and the former generates click-through rates that are something like 17 times those for the latter, see ChasNote 3/17/07), and given that computers are better at identifying typed words over spoken words, I just can’t imagine this will work well enough to deliver a satisfactory experience for advertisers. Especially since Pudding Media will initially sell ad space on a cost-per-action basis.

Facebook Worth $10 Billion

According to WSJ, Microsoft is considering an investment in Facebook that would give Microsoft a five percent stake, and would value Facebook at $10 billion.

“Facebook, which is used by over 40 million people to set up their own personal Web pages, to communicate with each other and to share photos and videos, has emerged as the poster child for the latest Internet wave. The company expects this year to have a profit of $30 million on revenue of $150 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Based on that, a $10 billion valuation for the company is sky-high.”

I don’t know much about finance, so maybe I’m reading those numbers wrong. Facebook spends $120 million a year? Really?? They have a few hundred employees, office space in Mountain View to house them, and a big server bill. But $120 million in expenses?  I’ve got to believe their profits and margins are better than reported above, and that their revenues will grow much faster than their expenses for a while, which would say that a $10 billion valuation is slightly less sky-high.

Google Becomes Ad Agency

AdAge reports:

“Andy Berndt, co-president of Ogilvy & Mather’s New York office, has left his post at the agency to go to Google, where he will helm a new global unit dedicated to collaborating with marketers, agencies and entertainment companies.”

I saw this at Searchblog. I’m especially interested to follow Battelle’s assessment….