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GE Continues Its Native Advertising Offensive

GE was an early brand to tell its story through an Instagram profile — with retro-filtered photos of airplane engines, locomotives, radiopharmaceuticals and cool pics from the labs at which it tests the quality of light emitting from concept light bulbs. It posted the images to a Tumblr and the comments suggest they struck a chord. Boring old GE had a social-media hit with the hipsters.

And even before Instagram, GE curated a channel of healthy-lifestyle stories (mostly stories written by publishers with no connection to GE) on Digg, following the healthy-living influencers among the Digg community and building a following of its own.

So it’s hardly a surprise that they’re at it again. Building on the popularity of nostalgia on BuzzFeed, GE is sponsoring “The BuzzFeed Time Machine” — lists that might have made the rounds had Buzzfeed been online in the days before the Internet. In an interview with Ad Age, BuzzFeed president Jon Sterinberg says:

BuzzFeed is focused on nostalgia because it’s one of the most popular types of content that people love to share. It’s some of the most shareable stuff because you send to your friends stuff that reminds you of being together in the nineties.”

Smart: Find out why your customers love BuzzFeed and give them more of the same, this time wrapped in your brand. And not only is GE underwriting the creation of BuzzFeed-y content — lists of retro silliness that you can’t help pushing to your high school friends via Facebook — the brand is dusting off its retro print ads to use as creative.

I’m not currently on the market for a dishwasher, but if I were I’d almost certainly consider the Potscrubber II. Keep it up, GE.

Online Publishers’ OPA Summit 2012

The Online Publishers’ Association got together in Miami this week for its 10th annual executive summit. Here were some of the highlights for me.

This guy:

Among the many things I love about Rishad Tobaccowala: He can get in front of a roomful of big-media publishers, tell them content isn’t king (“or queen or emperor”), that the proof is in the fact that publicly-traded media companies have lost 70% of their market value in the past decade, and still get louder applause than any speaker all day.

To honor the OPA’s tenth anniversary, he took a look back at how well this group saw into the future of media — back at that first OPA Summit. “We got the ingredients right,” he said, pointing out that John Battelle and Jeff Jarvis presented on the emerging influence of user-generated content, blogging and search in 2002 and 2003. But there was almost no talk back then about the four companies that are most important to today’s publishers: Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

It’s hard, he conceded, to predict where your competition will come from. When Apple entered the smartphone market, it was bad news for Nokia. But who would have guessed the iPhonee would also emerge as stiff competition for Nintendo, Nikon and Navtek?

Matt Freeman, chief innovation officer at McCann Erickson, asked: Why have agencies lost their influence in the business world? Why don’t agency execs sit on their clients’ boards like they did before the Great Depression? Partly, Freeman argues, it’s that their business models have incentivized bad behavior. Charging a commission based on media budgets encouraged wasteful spending, and charging by the hour rewarded agencies for solving problems slowly. The break up of agencies into creative shops, media buying shops and strategy consulting shops is another part of the problem. Strategy and creative have lost touch with media producers — the people who gather consumers into audiences. Publishers need to spend more time with agency creatives, and vice versa.

Fun fact: Dr Suess started his career at McCann drawing art for ads, such as this one for Flit mosquito lotion.

Next up: Linda Descano at Citi called 2011 the “Summer of Like.” Ok, great. Now we have zillions of Likes, what do we do with them? Benjamin Palmer, founder and CEO of the Barbarian Group had a bunch of answers. His shop is helping brands create compelling, frequent content for social media channels. In GE’s case, they’re taking photos of heavy equipment and jet engines, running them through Instagram filters, and pushing them out to a Tumblr blog. Check out all the comments, retweets and Likes before you say corporations can’t bring an authentic, engaging voice to social media.

From my own six minutes on stage (OK, OK, Pam Horan! It was six-and-a-half minutes!), two stats garnered the most interest. At least if the twitterers in the room were representative. 1) Ten percent of the photos taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months (source), and 2) Google estimates there are somewhere north of 3 trillion images online. Outside discussions of the federal debt, I guess, you just don’t get to use the word trillion that often.

Jason Cavnar, CEO of Singly, introduced a provocative thought: In the future identity will become a paid service. My interpretation: The premium online publishers in the room should put less energy into paywalls and more effort into understanding the real monetary value of audience-data-as-currency. (And the rest of us should spend some time considering how much personal data we currently hand over to websites and ad networks, free of charge.) He also sees a near-future for advertising that’s greatly impacted by HTML5: Forget the crap we mostly put inside 300×250 banners, “turn them into storefronts for brands and newsstands for publishers.”

Moat’s Jonah Goodheart offered a breath of fresh air amid the smog of hyperactive audience targeting by the DSPs: Context matters more than clicks. He cited an example of a wealth management firm canceling an ad campaign with a premium business publication because the click-through rate was low. I’m trying to imagine 1) having enough money that I need a wealth manager, and then 2) clicking on a banner, entering my newfound $8 million dollars into a web form, and hitting Submit. (Here’s who clicks on ad banners.)

My two favorite quotes of the day came from Liberty Media’s Michael Zeisser. First, a summation of his years as a consultant: “I spent 13 years at McKinsey hunting for synergies, and I never found any.” And a word about punditry: “It’s easy to predict the future, unless you have to live the with the consequences.” True enough.

Google's Biggest Advertisers in June 2010 (And What They Tell Us About Online Media)

Top 10 Google Advertisers June 2010

Hats off to Michael Learmonth at Ad Age for getting his hands on this sensitive document!

“While the search-spending document obtained by Advertising Age is not a complete list of advertisers on Google, the accuracy of its data was verified by multiple sources with direct knowledge of spending levels. It’s a revealing cross-section of Google’s business that gives some clarity to one of the most opaque areas of ad spending, and the lifeblood of many American businesses. “

Two noteworthy items in this story.

One, Google’s revenues are well distributed: Its top 10 advertisers (in June, anyway) represent only 5% of its total revenue. While 47 advertisers spent more than $1 million in the month, another 71 spent between $500,000 and $1 million, and other 357 spent between $100,000 and $500,000.

Two, Google’s revenues — which represents around half of all online ad spending — continue to skew heavily toward direct-response advertising versus brand advertising. Google’s top 10 includes University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group, Expedia, Amazon, eBay, and Living Social. Compare that to the list of top 10 US advertising spenders across all media:

Top 10 Advertisers Across All Media

Outside of AT&T, they are entirely different lists. At this point in the history of the Internet, it’s hard to argue that the big brands haven’t yet gotten hip to the crazy new technology. The only reasonable explanation is this: The giants of ad-supported online media — portals, publishers and social media platforms — are not offering solutions that do the stuff of brand marketing. Nobody beats search and behavioral targeting when it comes to serving up a coupon when we’re hunting for a product. But clearly the big spenders on the brand side aren’t convinced online ads can turn us on to a new shampoo or shaver, or convince us to walk into a dealership when our old car is still running fine.

GE Sponsors Digg's Health Coverage, Earns Cred with Digg Audience

Earlier this month GE brought its HealthyMagination campaign to Digg. One aspect of the campaign encourages the Digg community to share health-related stories with others by drawing attention to the sharing features (and GE’s logo) at the bottom of each health headline on Digg.

Health story on Digg with GE integration

And the approach is earning GE some praise from the notoriously tough crowd at Digg.

A Digg reader posted a screenshot of the GE sponsorship to and submitted the image (with his commentary) back to Digg: “New UI feature for debuting early? I think it’s a classy and non invasive way to feature revenue generating links.”

Digg reader posts on GE campaign

Another reviewer, the author of the respected brentcsutoras blog, reminds his readers that on other occasions he’s come out as a critic of ad integrations on Digg — before going on to say that he’s impressed with the tastefulness of the GE program:

“Clean, non-intrusive or annoying, the click-able banner takes you to a pretty cool landing page off HealthyMagination, which is GE’s attempt to help people become healthier ‘through the sharing of imaginative ideas and proven solutions’ by helping gather, share and discuss healthy ideas…. I have to say I am rather impressed with GE and their use of social media.”

The brentcsutors blog isn’t just respected by its readers like me, either. It’s highly regarded by Google’s PageRank algorithm too. Here’s how that benefits GE. Right now when a user goes searching for that high-profile socially-curated news site called “Digg,” Google returns brentcsutors’s favorable review on the first page of results.

GE has gone one better than “positive association with the Digg brand,” it has literally inserted itself into the online conversation about Digg.

GE Banners On Boing Boing Promote Boing Boing Stories

I love to see campaigns like this one General Electric is running on Boing Boing.

GE Banners on Boing Boing

GE is sponsoring all Boing Boing posts on green energy and tech (wherever they naturally occur) as well as pulling together those articles into a section of Boing Boing called High Energy. (It does not have any influence or approval rights to the editorial content itself.) GE’s logo and banners run in all the usual advertising spots on the High Energy section, as you’d expect. But in other sections of Boing Boing, GE’s banners promote Boing Boing editorial coverage from the site’s archive of green-tech coverage.

That’s smart, isn’t it? If readers are visiting Boing Boing to read stuff by Mark, Xeni, Cory, David and their friends, then ads featuring editorial content by Mark, Xeni, Cory, David and their friends are a whole lot more likely to capture the attention of those readers.

The campaign also runs in relevant areas of VentureBeat, Inhabitat, The Business Insider and Make.

(Disclosures and credits: FM manages advertising and sponsorships for Boing Boing, including the above campaign, which we worked on with Beeby Clark & Meyler, Goodby Silverstein, and the digital marketing crew at GE.)

Save the Date: CM Summit NYC, June 1-2, 2009

CM Summit NYC Logo

Don’t miss the third Conversational Marketing Summit, in New York on June 1 and 2. A killer line up of speakers is coming together, including (so far): Facebook’s Mike Hoefflinger, Microsoft’s Scott Howe, HuffPo’s Arianna Huffington, GE’s Jen Walsh, Google’s Eileen Naughton, and MTV’s Richard Kang.

Green Campaigns Get Noticed, Though Some Backfire

Nielsen numbers analyzed by Ad Age suggest that consumer do prefer green brands, products and services, but that brands that push too hard on the theme — GE and Starbucks are called out — invite scrutiny that may bring with it an online backlash.

Starbucks Fair Trade