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I agree with Godin that traditional advertising doesn’t and won’t work in Facebook or Twitter. Operative word: traditional. But I don’t agree that Twitter and Facebook — just because they’re designed for connecting communities rather than distributing traditional media content — won’t devise native experiences that will work well for their communities and for brand marketers at the same time.
Brand marketing doesn’t need to operate like “traditional advertising.” For example, with its OPEN Forum blog, American Express is using marketing dollars to create a credible small business publication, replete with editorial contributions from the leading names in business advice. Based on repeat visitor rates and links from other sites that recommend it to their readers, the SMB community is finding value in the OPEN Forum blog even though its content is funded by ad dollars. And because the contributors to the site, such as Guy Kawasaki and Anita Campbell, are given license to create real, editorial content (they wouldn’t participate otherwise), they’re alerting their Twitter followers each time they post something new. They are not paid to post these stories to Twitter; they’re doing it because they always Twitter new stuff they publish, whether the content appears on their own sites or at someone else’s publication.
I’d argue that American Express is using Twitter for brand marketing right now, and it’s working as well for Guy’s and Anita’s followers as it is for American Express.
Certain applications within Facebook, like Graffiti, have done the same: Developing ad-supported experiences that allow brands to enter the conversation without spoiling the conversation. Here are some exmples.
(Disclosure of sorts: Seth Godin is not officially affiliated with FM, unless you count our informal Seth Godin Fan Club. He is, however, a sometime contributor to the OPEN Forum site, the content of which FM manages.)
David Altavilla and Marco Chiappetta of Hot Hardware pay a visit to Christine Arehart, aka GetInThruIt, winner of Intel’s Need a Tech Makeover promotion. Christine’s story racked up more than 21,000 votes, and when you hear it, you’ll know why.
More on Intel’s Need a Tech Makeover program.
“The Whopper Virgins experience begins with a TV commercial with a brief teaser that directs you to WhopperVirgins.com. The spot was compelling enough that I noticed the spot while watching the time-shifted ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ through my DVR; it’s running heavily during weekend football games. Go to the site and you’re treated to a video of Burger King running a Whopper vs. Big Mac taste test with people in Romania, Thailand and Greenland who have never eaten a hamburger before. It’s poignant and amusing, if you can tolerate the implicit ethnocentrism.
“What if you don’t remember the exact Web address and Google it? You still better remember the domain name. While WhopperVirgins.com ranks first in Google for ‘whopper virgins,’ it’s invisible when you omit the plural.”
If you leave off the s, Burger King’s own sites don’t appear in the first page of organic results, nor did it buy paid search ads to help direct those searches to Burger King. Get your agencies talking amongst themselves, Burger King!
UPDATE: Shortly after I Tweeted this post, Burger King’s BK Lounge Twitter identity noticed and is now following my every Tweet. Well done, BK, on Step One: Listen to the conversation around your brand. I’m waiting to see how BK Lounge participates in Step Two: Joining the conversation. Comcast does this well with @ComcastCares.
From Fred Wilson:
“I read an analyst report on the flight out tonight that suggests the near term price target for $goog is $350, down from $450 because google’s revenues next year are likely to grow in the single digits. They predict 6-7pcnt growth next year down from 15pcnt”
That’s in line with the latest (downwardly revised) Jack Myers report, which estimates paid search will be up 8% next year. More 2009 forecasts.
While I’m on the disclosure topic, here’s Chris Brogan on advertising, trust and a recent sponsored post he did for Kmart. I’ve been a critic of Izea / Pay Per Post in the past, because early deployments of the concept didn’t always require that paid participants disclose the deal. You can’t say that Brogan, though, wasn’t transparent from the get-go:
“I have to admit that I haven’t stepped foot in a Kmart for a while, like probably since before they merged up with Sears. But this assignment was totally worth it. Basically, the plan was this: take a $500 gift card and figure out what was cool to buy at Kmart.”
And, regardless of my take on Izea, his response to criticism over the above offers sound advice to all online publishers.
“Businesses are trying to do exactly what we asked them to do. They’re trying to master our languages. They’re trying to talk to us where we are. They’re looking for new ways to talk and to advertise.”
Is that such a bad thing?! Perhaps a better question, though: Why does ad-supported media feel so shockingly new to some people?
“Those models all work on advertising-to-pay-for-editorial and editorial-to-keep-eyeballs-to-support-advertising. In fact, all previous media works that way. TV, radio, etc. Lost isn’t on TV because it’s cool. It’s because people can advertise against it….”
“In larger operations, there’s a bag man to take the advertising money and leave the journalists pure. I’ll get back to that point, because there is a line still, and that line must be respected. That hasn’t changed, and won’t change. But because there are many of us who are the publisher, the writer, the researcher, the customer service department, and the public relations staff, you’re going to have to seek a slightly different way to manifest that distinction.”
The solution to that problem? Transparency, disclosure and some more transparency:
“If there’s one thing that I feel is the hinge of all this, it’s disclosure. Have you read my About page? I’m going to bet that I disclose more of my relationships with companies than most people receiving similar opportunities, and the reason I do this is to be clear when something has the potential to be a skewed opinion, and/or when I stand to make some money from your taking my advice.
“The sponsored post about Kmart had the words ‘sponsored post’ in the title, in the first line, and in the last line of the post, with links to the company that sponsored me (Izea). The first paragraph explained the campaign and what I was doing for the project. It was very clearly a sponsored post. Do you disagree?
“To me, this can’t be much more clear.”
Yup. But disclosure alone isn’t the only rule to keep publishers out of trouble. Every publication that has an audience does so because that audience gets something unique from that publication. Stated or not, there’s a contract between the authors of that publication and its readers. In some cases, journalistic impartiality will prevent a publication from inviting a marketer into the editorial conversation, disclosed or otherwise. Each publication needs to understand that contract, and find sponsorship models that don’t put it in breach with its readers.
Conversational approaches to marketing are effective for marketers — and work better for readers — in part because they aren’t regular old banner ads. But, lest these programs confuse audiences (and, perhaps, piss them off), it’s important for participating sites to explain how the programs work.
And Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin with her latest eclectic TV faves for the same.
That wasn’t so hard now, was it?
. He estimates total advertising across all media to be down 14%, and marketing communications as a whole (which includes advertising) to be down 4.1%. If he’s right, we’re getting down to Great Depression era advertising trends.
The ChasNote graphics department put together a view of analysts’ forecasts for 2009 online ad spending (above), almost all of which revise down with each passing month. The blue bars are the latest, the red bars are earlier forecasts (if available). “AVC” represents a less-than-scientific Twitter survey conducted by AVC author Fred Wilson in early December. At the right is an equally less-than-scientific average across the other six forecasts: The consensus shows around 8% year-over-year growth, versus about 12% a few weeks ago.
From the Digital Domain
column in the NY Times:
“Independent experts on Web advertising have been watching, however, and what they see is a myriad of difficulties in making brand advertising work on social networking sites. Members of social networks want to spend time with friends, not brands.
“When major brands place banner advertisements on the side of a member’s home page, they pay inexpensive prices, but the ads receive little attention.”
The article cites P&G’s most successful campaign in Facebook, for Crest Whitestips, which used free concert and movie tickets to entice 14,000 members to become “fans” of the brand, 4000 of whom later relinquished their fan status. The article also cites a Tide 2X Ultra campaign that invites visitors to submit “favorite places to enjoy stain-making moments,” which, you’d figure, would spark plenty of activity. But so far there are 18 submissions, two of which come from P&G employees.
Randall Stross, the article’s author, concludes:
“Brand advertisers on Facebook can try one of two new approaches. They can be more intrusive, but the outcome will not be positive. Or they can create genuinely entertaining commercials, but spend ungodly sums to do so.”
There’s a third path: genuinely entertaining and relevant campaigns that don’t cost ungodly sums. Check out what J&J’s Acuvue, BMW, and Intel have done, to name a few. I wish they were paying FM and Graffiti ungodly sums!