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Teaser Ads for Honda, JCPenney, Century 21

I love Matthew Broderick and all, and it’s a fun idea for Honda to bring back Ferris Bueller (now driving a CR-V instead of his friend’s dad’s Ferrari), but is it such a good commercial that I want it to be two-and-a-half minutes long? Not really. But what’s length matter, I guess, if the teaser and leaked commercial attract a few million viewers on the web in advance of its Superbowl debut.

Speaking of teaser ads, what’s up with the new JCPenney campaign?! A brand new CEO plucked from the senior ranks of Apple and the company screams at us for 30 seconds? Oh dear. (More here.)

And this one from Century 21 featuring Deion Sanders. I can hardly wait for the third quarter.

Should Google Ban Itself for Paid Link Violation?

Google’s recent online ad campaign for its Chrome browser appears to violate its own policy around buying links that might affect a company’s rank in Google’s search results. Google blames its agency, the aptly-named Unruly Media.

From Search Engine Land:

The arrow points to a link leading to the Google Chrome download page. This is a straight link, not blocked with nofollow. It only appears in this post because the post is part of a sponsored campaign by Google, as noted at the bottom of the page. Therefore, both the author and Google itself are in violation of Google’s guidelines and risk being banned by Google….

Paid links drew much attention last year, after Google penalized JC Penney, as well as Forbes and Overstock for using them. Google even banned BeatThatQuote, one of its own companies last year over the issue. In 2009, Google penalized Google Japan for its own search results for the same issue, not removing it but reducing its ability to rank for 11 months.

Potentially, all this means that Google will have to ban the Google Chrome download page over paid links. That would suck for Google, since it’s busy running ads for Google Chrome, which will in turn prompt people to search for it. Right now, the page appears at the top of results for searches on google chrome….

Ouch.

UPDATE 3:26pm 1/3/2011. From All Things D:

Google, which says it had no idea it was paying bloggers to promote its Chrome browser, is punishing itself for doing so. The search giant tells Danny Sullivan it will penalize the “pagerank” of www.google.com/chrome for “at least 60 days.”

Display Advertising v. Graphical Ads

In last week’s coverage of changes at FM — including the departure of 7 staffers, mostly from the back office team that traffics banner campaigns — some news outlets covered the story as FM pulling back from “display advertising,” and, by implication, pulling back from traditional brand-advertising activities in favor of something else (what we call conversational marketing) which must not be, um, brand advertising.

It got me thinking about the phrase “display advertising,” and how it’s annoyed me that it’s lost so much meaning as it made its way from print to online. (I mis-used it myself in an interview with PaidContent, and didn’t put enough emphasis, apparently, on the subset of graphical ads to which I was referring, the “dumb” ones.)

In print, display advertising generally refers to the full-page ads that run in the main editorial sections of a magazine, as opposed to the smaller, often text-heavy classified ads at the back of the book. Advertisers would pay a premium rate for display ads, but not merely because they could use colors and pictures in the ads. They paid a premium because display ads did more than drive calls to the phone banks; the adjacency to the editorial content and the association with the publication’s brand helped advertisers *create* demand among readers who didn’t yet know they wanted or needed something. If that demand already existed, of course, the reader would have flipped to the back of the book, or picked up the yellow pages, to find a phone number. Some publications — the yellow pages, for example — offered classified advertisers the option to add colors and pictures, but that didn’t turn classified advertising into brand advertising. The yellow pages didn’t convince any of us to buy a new car while the old one still got us to work; those beautiful display ads and TV commercials did.

Online, however, the industry watchers call anything with colors, animation or graphics “display advertising.” The fact is, most online graphical ads are intended to do one thing: Drive clicks to retail opportunities. Contextual targeting engines, like Google’s AdSense algorithm or the technologies developed by various ad networks, are a fabulous evolution — perhaps you could say revolution — of the classified advertising model. Instead of organizing phone numbers and offers alphabetically or by category, the contextual targeting engines take an educated guess about your wants and needs based on the content you’re reading and push the classifieds to you. And that’s a wonderful thing. (Except when these “push classifieds” engines accidentally create embarrassing moments for their clients.)

But online banner ads still have a long way to go before they deliver to brand advertisers a messaging vehicle that’s as *native* to the online medium as display print ads were to the magazines in which they ran.

At FM we’re still very much in the banner-ad business. We just believe most banners aren’t living up to their potential. At the very least, they need to support the publications their customers love, not just rotate through a website’s ad inventory based on a bot’s logic. Ideally the banner ads are an opening to something bigger: A window into a brand’s broader online publishing strategy. Here’s how Dell and JCPenney are using ads to syndicate their content assets. If your customers use social networking platforms to have a conversation, figure out how you can join that conversation, like American Express is doing. If they love to connect with others by way of drawing, like certain BMW customers, let them color in your brand.

Whatever we do, let’s move beyond lame “graphical ads” that won’t create demand, no matter how well we target them.

JCPenney's Home Style Guide Racks Up Votes at Kirtsy

A reader of JCPenney’s Home Style Guide especially liked Maggie Mason’s Dishtowel Lust story and re-posted to the women-oriented social news site Kirtsy. Sixty-nine others added their votes at Kirtsy.

JCPenney on Kirsty

Mommy Blogs Become Moneymaking Machines

From yesterday’s NY Times:

“Heather Armstrong’s wickedly funny blog about motherhood, Dooce, is more than just an outlet for the creativity and frustrations of a modern mother. The site, chock full of advertising, is a moneymaking machine — so much so that Ms. Armstrong and her husband have both quit their regular jobs…. advertisers are eager to influence the 850,000 readers, mostly women, who avidly follow Ms. Armstrong’s adventures. Although Ms. Armstrong will not disclose exact numbers, Dooce’s revenue this year is on track to be seven times its size in 2006, according to Federated Media, which sells ads for the blog.”

If the Times requires you to register, here’s roughly the same article at IHT.

Heather Armstrong in NYT

JCPenney's Home Style Guide Builds on Past Success

JCPenney’s Linden Street line has teamed up with a half dozen FM authors to create the Home Style Guide, a group blog that pulls high-style decorating posts — chairs to build a room around or a DIY wood clock, for example — from Craftzine, Cool Mom Picks, Dooce, the Pioneer Woman, NOTCOT and others. JCPenney is the exclusive sponsor of the site (though they don’t control the editorial content), like they were last year on a similar site, FM’s Fall Shopping Guide. Featured Linden Street products are promoted down the left-hand column.

Linden Street’s Home Style Guide

This expansion of the concept JCPenney piloted last fall suggests the “converational marketing” approach is working for them. Additional press on the earlier program:

Abbey Klaassen covered it for Ad Age, which requires registration so here’s a summary at ChasNote.

Steve Rubel gave it props in his year-end round up, from Micropersuasion.

Readers become subscribers, from ChasNote.

Marketing Concepts That Never Stop Giving

My colleague James Gross sent me a link to a post at Walking in Newness of Life dated May 7, 2008, in which the author calls on her readers to help her decorate her pad. One of her readers points her to an article from Dooce published on FM’s Fall Shopping Guide (the commenter attributed the article to Parent Hacks, another site that contributed content to the shopping guide), originally sponsored by JCPenney.

Fall Shopping Guide Still Talked About

That’s right, the fall shopping guide. It’s still part of the conversation, nine months later.

Why Information Works Better Than Simple Promotions

From a Lee Gomes piece in the Wall Street Journal (I saw it at Boing Boing):

“What is it about a Web site that might make it literally irresistible? Clues are offered by research conducted by Irving Biederman, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, who is interested in the evolutionary and biological basis of the human need for information…..

“When he hooked up volunteers to a brain-scanning machine, the preferred pictures [ones that "presented new information that somehow needed to be interpreted"] were shown to generate much more brain activity than the unpreferred shots. While researchers don’t yet know what exactly these brain scans signify, a likely possibility involves increased production of the brain’s pleasure-enhancing neurotransmitters called opioids.”

I’m no scientist, but this suggests to me that ads built around content (like JCPenney’s or Symantec’s) will do a better job engaging consumers than ads that simply offer up a discounted rate.

Ad Age on JCPenney's Organic Search Equity

Last fall JCPenney worked with FM on the creation of a Fall Shopping Guide site — an aggregate website of ten leading online voices and publications that cater to upscale women. Instead of ad banners driving traffic to a standard marketing site, JCPenney sponsored editorial content, promoted it with banners featuring content headlines, and invited visitors to join the conversation by submitting comments.

The approach delivered strong results. Not just better click-through rates. The sponsorship sparked customer engagement that positively affected JCPenney’s “organic search equity,” the status of the brand among the natural, unpaid results on search engines. As Abbey Klaassen describes it in her Ad Age article on the JCPenney campaign:

“Yes, search equity is all about link love. Creating — or aggregating — compelling content online and letting readers use social-media tools to share the content can goose Google results for brand or related terms. It’s something bloggers have known for years, but marketers are really just beginning to employ.”

Ad Age on JCPenney

Here’s my original write-up at ChasNote.

Rubel Applauds Conversational Marketing By JCPenney and Sony

In his 2008 Digital Trends Part I piece at Micro Persuasion, Edelman PR exec Steve Rubel calls out JCPenney’s sponsorship of FM’s Fall Shopping Guide and Sony’s integrated content center at Digg, the HDNA Stories We Digg section as leading examples of a major movement in digital marketing:

“the biggest story is that marketers are becoming a lot more confident online. They are starting to plow a significant portion of their budgets into digital media. As they do, they are investing in creating their own content. These properties leverage the same distribution channels that we, as individual publishers, use – most notably informal word of mouth networks, structured social networks and search engines.”

Sony HDNA Center on Digg