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Online Display Ads Drive Most Traffic for CPG Corporate Sites

According to AdAge:

“Much of the traffic to the big package-goods marketers’ sites appears to be coming the way originally envisioned in the online advertising model: as a response to online display advertising. Search-heavy Google accounts for a relatively small amount of traffic to the P&G and Unilever sites compared with display-ad-heavy Yahoo, the leading source of traffic for both marketers, according to ComScore.”

The article also cites a McKinsey study that shows profit-per-customer is significantly higher if you can get a customer to visit your corporate website, rather than just touching him or her with traditional advertising messages:

“More traditional mass marketers are coming to understand how profitable their web visitors are, said Norm LeHoullier, who recently retired as managing director of WPP Group’s G2 Interactive. He said a study by McKinsey & Co. for one package-goods brand G2 handled showed that while its website reached only 800,000 consumers annually, they were generating $40 in profit on average [per customer], compared with $5 for consumers reached by traditional media.”

Wal-Mart's Fake Blog Spawns a PR Disaster

Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR, apologized yesterday for creating — without disclosing that Edelman and Wal-Mart were behind it — the “Wal-Marting Across America” blog. From Mediapost:


“Ostensibly a chatty travelogue written by two average Americans who parked their RV nightly in Wal-Mart parking lots and wrote endlessly effusive prose about their experiences with the retailer’s employees and customers, the ‘flog’ (or fake blog) became a marketing communications disaster for both client and agency when it was revealed that the vehicle, meals and all other expenses were paid for by WFWM, an organization launched by Edelman, and that St. Claire’s brother worked for the PR agency on the WFWM account.”

The blog was revealed to be a flog, and the potential for PR lift turned into a sink hole. Edelman’s comments yesterday: “I’m sorry we did this. I am completely committed to doing better, not only for our firm but also the PR industry. I want your readers to know I take all this very seriously.”

Steve Rubel, an exec at Edelman and the voice of Micro Persuasion, had no direct connection to the project.

Beet.tv Interview on FM

Andy Plesser, founder of Beet.tv, sat me down for an interview last week at the “Future of PR” conference. The topics: what services does FM provide its authors and how does FM select authors to invite into the fold?

US Blogs Cover Business & Tech; Italian Blogs More Personal

At “Communications 2.0: The Future of PR,” Steve Rubel of Edelman and Micro Persuasion shared some interesting stats on the content of top blogs in the US versus the top blogs in Italy. In the US, 46 of the top 100 are dedicated to tech or business topics, and only 3 are “personal diaries.” In Italy, 43 of the top 100 are personal diaries, with only 11 covering tech. I was also surprised to learn that only 39% of blog posts across the Internet are in English. Almost a third are in Japanese and another 12% are in Chinese.

User-Gen'd Product Reviews Get More Important

AdAge reports that Austin-based Bazaarvoice, a company that manages customer feedback for companies such as HomeDepot and CompUSA, will now syndicate its database of user comments to online shopping portals like MSN, Google’s Froogle and Pricerunner. Driving the user-review trend, Jupiter Research reports that “48% of online shoppers find it critical that retailers post reviews.” AdAge continues:

“as marketers fixate on getting their virals on YouTube and making friends on MySpace, these relatively unsexy product write-ups have quietly become the most common form of consumer content — Forrester puts it as the most-used form of peer-generated content — not to mention the one with the most direct impact on purchase decisions.”

Adobe Ad Launches Conversation; Adobe Joins It

Adobe has been running ads for Flex 2 on TechCrunch (an FM site), and caught the attention of blogger Ryan Stewart (Digital Backcountry). Folks at Adobe must be thrilled that their ads are driving editorial coverage by influential authors.

The bummer is that Ryan really didn’t like the banner creative. “How can a company so ‘in’ with designers have such horrible advertising? I don’t get it? Do these appeal to anyone? Am I crazy?” Instead of hiding their heads in the sand, though, the Adobe team took this an opportunity to learn from and engage with a core group of customers. Here’s Jeff Whatcott, Sr. Director, Product Marketing for Adobe’s Enterprise & Developer Busines Unit (my emphasis):

Thanks for the feedback. We hear you. We’re pulling the plug on this creative execution for the Flex 2 online advertising campaign. Please pardon our dust while we regroup. Please read on, because we’re going to need your help to make this better.

It’s great to have a product that everybody loves so deeply that they fuss about every factor contributing to it’s market success, including the creative direction of the online advertising. Our community rocks. Thank you!

In the spirit of openness and transparency, let me provide a little backstory on this campaign. The short version is that it ended up being a bad execution on some solid original concepts that came directly from developers just like you. Our agency actually did roll up their sleeves and get out there and interview (and film) real Flex and non-Flex developers to get inside their head and to test some concepts. The original concepts for this campaign tested really well with the developers, but we somehow lost our way as the creative progressed from concept to actual banners injected into a page. Oops. Our internal review processes certainly should have stopped it earlier, and I’m going to be looking into that, but we are where we are.

So where do we go from here? I think it might be useful to apply some collaborative community feedback approaches to the development of Flex developer marketing. It’s clear that you guys have a lot of passion about this, and I would love to harness that as long as it ends up producing marketing that works. We all have a stake in that.

So here’s the invitation: please jump on this thread with your specific suggestions for what the Flex online advertising should say and what is should look like. What should the tone be (sophisticated, edgy, friendly, in your face, or what have you)? What should the catchy tag line be? What should the short product description be? What benefits, if any, should we mention right in the ad and what should be on the jump page? Should we bang directly on the competition (think Oracle ads) or should we focus on our own strengths? What creative concepts should we consider (code puzzles that convey a message, movies of Flex coding/results, what else)?

This is your chance to tell us how it should be done. Let us have it. We’ll parse it and see what we can come up with. We may even come back to you to test some stuff before we throw it up on TechCrunch again.

Thanks”

What’s that Martial Art that turns the opponent’s own weight and strength against him, Jujitsu?!

The Other Side of Corporate Blogging

Please read Jeff Jarvis’s latest post at BuzzMachine. Those of you who follow Jeff’s site (or Business Week…) know that Jeff parted ways with Dell over customer service issues a while back. Now he gets an aggressive email from an alleged intern at one of Dell’s marketing firms who’s been busy “researching trashy blogs that worms like you leave all over that frigen blogosphere.” Oh dear. Jeff’s final comments are essential reading:

“this is exactly the issue Dell — and any company — has in all its customer interactions in the age of customer control: The person who answers the phone — or now responds to a blog post — is acting on behalf of Dell and to the customer is

Dell, since that person is our connection to Dell. See the AOL cancellation video. Every one of your ‘customer service’ employees and every one of your ‘public relations’ employees in every encounter represents your company. That has always been the case. Only now, we can record their actions and report them to the world.”

A stark contrast to the recent PR homeruns at Symantec (ChasNote 7/14/06) and GM (CN 4/7/06 and CN 4/5/06).

How to Succeed with a Corporate Blog

Yesterday at Symantec’s Security Response Weblog, corporate blogger Todd Woodward offered some straight talk about viruses and the Mac OS: “Let’s start with the hot-button issue of Mac OS X viruses. Simply put, at the time of writing this article, there are no file-infecting viruses that can infect Mac OS X.”

But Todd, aren’t you corporate bloggers supposed to be selling me something, like — in your case — antivirus software??

Well, before you write off Todd’s blunder as a lost marketing opportunity, you should know that Mac cult site Daring Fireball gave props to Symantec on their frankness: “Very nice: an honest, accurate overview of the state of Mac OS X security from Symantec’s Todd Woodward.” Next, someone posted a link at Digg, and 1266 “Diggs” later, Symantec landed itself atop the front page of the most powerful word-of-mouth tech site online. (Caveat: FM sells Digg’s advertising programs. A less partisan reviewer might say “one of the two

most powerful word-of-mouth sites….”)

Yeah, but, Todd, among the 80-some-odd comments attached to the post on Digg, some people said mean things about Symantec for selling antivirus products for the Mac at all!

Then again, one Digg contributor came to Symantec’s defense: “It’s also nice to have an antivirus tool on Macs to prevent spreading infected documents around.” And there must be some positive dividend paid to Symantec for having 80 people talking about the finer points of their products.

On the balance, then, Todd and Symantec: BRAVO! You’ve launched a corporate blog that’s reads like an independent blog — and you’re out of the gates with enormous street cred.

GM's Corp Blog on Chevy Tahoe Epidode

From Chevy General Manager Ed Peper’s blog, a site hosted on GM’s corporate blog site:

“Early on we made the decision that if we were to hold this contest, in which we invite anyone to create an ad, in an open forum, that we would be summarily destroyed in the blogosphere if we censored the ads based on their viewpoint. So, we adopted a position of openness and transparency, and decided that we would welcome the debate.”

Forget Apple; GM is the darling brand among the bloggers this week!

Making User-Generated Content Safe for Advertisers

As young, upscale consumers spend more time with user-generated content at sites like Facebook, MySpace, Boing Boing and Digg (and less time watching TV or reading magazines), advertisers are eager to market themselves on these sites. But for certain brands, especially those accustomed to well-regulated media environments, it can be quite a leap.

Fox, the new owners of MySpace, are hoping to make that leap easier by top-down advertiser-friendly content filtering. From MediaPost:

“…perhaps most importantly to advertisers, the company has added resources to monitor the site’s mass of user-generated content. Advertisers have been reticent to experiment with MySpace since the content can be risque and, in some cases, offensive. News Corp. now reviews 2 million images a day and has removed 200,000 profiles it felt included ‘questionable material.’ Still, Levinsohn said, the content is practically infinite with 66 million profiles, making it impossible to inspect it all.

‘It’s not for every advertiser, clearly,’ Levinsohn said…. [But at the same time:] ‘We’re turning very much into a youth marketing company.’

The risk, of course, is that this approach may damage the credibilty of the service to its millions of members. The financial liability of that

situation is far greater than the lost revenue from a handful of conservative advertisers who need another year or two to remember that — as they’ve always done — they need to take their brand messages to their customers wherever those customers choose to hang out. And sending a corporate parent to chaperone the dance might turn away some of the cool kids that advertisers most want to reach.