Monetizing the Point of Sweat

I went on a nice little bike ride this weekend.  It was memorable, because it was my first with a road bike. You know, the ones with the thin tires, and the potentiaal to cost many thousands?  I rented a Felt Z85, and was pretty happy with it. I took my iPhone along for the ride.

I mapped my ride with the MapMyRide iPhone app.  After the ride, something crazy happened - I became a marketing opportunity. Hey, I just wanted to map my bike run! A women's antiperspirant had other ideas! 

Interesting- why in the lord's name would I tweet their hastag?  I'm dripping with sweat!  My legs are shaking!  I am a man, BTW, and I have never heard of your product!

I tapped "Close" on the ad  - and started looing at some of the details. I tapped "Route Details" and up came another ad.  Well, at least this one was for men...


As an athlete, I would never have wanted to see these ads. What could they be offering? However, being in marketing, I am accustomed to trying to find out. As my wife set about cleaning her bike, I lingered on the driveway, still dripping in sweat from an agonizing final climb. I tapped the Gilette ad.

Interesting. I signed up for a half marathon Training program...we'll see how they take it from there. Nice setting of my expectations on when the plan will arrive.

As an athlete, I can't think of anything I wanted less than those ads. The targeting for the first ad was hopelessly off, the second execution mystified me because I had to interact with what looked like an ad in order to egt what I want: content.

 The utility and content of MMF is what keeps people engaged - but what happens when all you see is ads?  When monetizing the "point of sweat" - content goes further than interruption.

Teen Attention Shifts to the Behavior Networks

USA Today reports on a non-story: Teens turn from Facebook to fresher social-media sites

Drawn to niche sites such as Foursquare and Tumblr, teens appear to be expanding beyond Facebook. According to market research firm YPulse, 18% of teens prefer to "check in" on Foursquare instead of Facebook, and 10% say Pinterest is a better site for browsing.

These behavior networks have experiences rapid growth largely because they ride atop identity networks like Facebook.  These networks do not challenge the core business of Facebook, particularly because: Facebook, and its advertising platform, are everywhere.  There are glimmers of what the Facebook Sponsored Stories will be on Zynga, while playing games like Words with Friends:

How Advertisers Catch Up to Consumers in Social

Facebook and other identity and behavior networks have created new behaviors - and these behaviors have had no trouble attracting the attention of consumers.  The new behaviors have been so empowering of consumers, that as they adopt new behaviros, they have learned to tune out advertising even more effectively.  Consumers have even learned to kill ads, concepts, and brand strategies they dislike en masse.

Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer in Seattle, noted that when the firm published its most recent forecast for digital advertising back in February, it projected that Facebook revenue would probably double again this year to $6 billion, a number she said is likely now out of reach.

"Consumers have adopted social media a whole lot faster than advertisers," Williamson said. "It's taking them a lot longer to figure out how to fit social media into their plans. []

This gap in "monetization" should be viewed in the context of how all innovation takes time to conquer relevant adoption curves and settle into a business model that works for all participants.  With the pace of today's change, we have cases like Groupon, where the vectors of growth point one way, while the sustainiability of the business is highly questionable.  This phenomenon in the information sector is likely to continue as the flow of information between market participants becomes effortless.  It is even worthy of excellent satire from McSweeney's: Ponzify 

So it's not just about your 2 Million app downloads that net you some nice venture funding for "traction" in the marketplace.  Make sure you're paying attention to how your users behave, as well as how their behavior change when you add "monetization" strategies.  

Watch Facebook's Mobile ad product introductions carefully.  If the users hate the products, and find them annoying, intrusive, or unstable, that's bad for the Facebook ecosystem and engenders the kind of hatred consumers have for companies like AT&T, in which they stay with the company but hate it because they cannot easily leave.  Conversely, if the consumer ignores the ads,  and skps right through them, that's bad for advertisers, who need at least some user attention to get value out of the ads.  The holy grail for facebook is helping to identify the ads in the middle: the ads so content-like that consumers will see them as a net benefit.  

This is small thinking strategy for Facebook, at best.  Which are the two or three brands whose social engagement strategies you like as much as you do their products?  Those are the ads that will be premium inventory in your newsfeed.  The social experiences that consuemrs want, which are so attractive consumers will seek them out for their value, are the name of the game for Facebook, because these experiences will have to rent access to Facebook's identity network.  And that is where the money will be.

Why Pinterest is A Fad

Consumer attention is finite, but so is your marketing department. Pinterest reached scale quickly, and I commend it for its 10 million users, but are those users so invested that the next “thing” won't become just as hot by rising 50% faster? How much of your social media team's time are you willing to bet?

People and Culture vs. Creative genius and Money


In "Confessions of an Agency CEO" we find some interesting questions about the nature of client relationships and whether that "good" vs. bad dynamic is associated with good work.  I quote the passage I find most interesting below.

The Lesson is similar to the Zappos example: in a well-run company, culture often trumps strategy.

It’s often said that clients get the work they deserve. What separates
the truly good ones from the awful?
 I am big believer that, whether they want to admit it or not, agencies are defined by their clients. A client’s willingness or desire to do interesting or innovative work is what’s going to help you or hurt you in your attempt to create successful campaigns, build a portfolio, win awards and recruit new talent. The client’s culture invariably rubs off on the agency. It’s important to consider this going in to any new relationship. Good clients are secure and accountable individuals, who know what they need to do and can give clear direction. They stand behind their word and defend their position. They don’t hang the agency out to dry at the first sign of trouble. Good clients are secure enough to take risks and are not afraid of being wrong. They trust the agency and can effectively manage from a distance, which allows the agency to focus on delivering a great product, not managing an erratic client. Bad clients, conversely, are insecure, political and weak. They are afraid to stand up to their peers and bosses. They try to make everyone happy and get incremental credit along the way. Making great ads is secondary to their petty need for constant validation. Their insecurity and weakness leads to fear. And the fear leads to constantly second-guessing their decisions.

Do Consumers want to Keep Ads?

I'm glad that brand sare on borad with the idea that there can be a "not right now" relationship with a consumer- many marketers may only care about their explicit conversion metrcis.  That's encouraging.  But our real task is this: identifying the entertainment and information consumers want, and instead of standing in the way, creating the opportuntuiy for dialogue about what they might need, on their schedule.

AdKeeper Button Lets Viewers Keep, Share Ads 03/04/2011:

Volvo plans to become one of the first brands to launch an online display ad campaign with an AdKeeper button. Clicking on the "K" in the ad will allow consumers to keep the ad for future viewing when convenient, as well as share with others through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, or email.


GOOG 3G/4G Spectrum Patents from Nortel Key to World Domination

Over at SAI, the chart of the day suggests that ChromeOS is a jab at Windwows (duh) and that Google needs the OS to succeed because it is the best hope to kill a weaker Microsoft.  Despite Microsoft's attempts to break out of the doldrums, and the extreme diversification of their product offerings (many of which never stood a chance of working)- Windows remains the cash cow for the giant.

If I were Google, I wouldn't try to win the war against Windows under current conditions; I would need more things to fall into place.

Android users are wising up to the Google Platform, and applications for Android are proliferating.  Windows Phone 7, how are you feeling?

Bing is getting better, has differentiated itself and is integrating with Facebook more obviously (the future of social search is very scary for any company that does not follow Bing's lead)- that's got to be scary for Google.

ChromeOS apps would all be web apps, and the value proposition would have to involve the cloud, and applications that are enhanced by always on-data networks.  WiFi in the current sense just will not cut it.  You know what would?  3G/4G wireless connectivity built in.  

ChromeOS laptops might be a miserable failure like the Nexus one, but if Google sold them at a loss, they'd exact a far more painful loss on Microsoft.  With onerous license fees from the essential connectivity, Google has to own the key patents in order to reduce its costs.  This illuminates why Google may be fighting so hard against Apple and RIM for Nortel's 3G/4G patents.

When yo sign into Google Apps, use email, docs, spreadsheets, watch Youtube videos in the Chrome browser, and android apps all day, getting served advertising by Doubleclick until you remotely program your Google TV from your android phone and watch The Office when it's convenient for you...that's when Microsoft dies.  And with the exception of GoogleTV, I haven't named one thing above that sucks.  

To do the same thing on Windows/microsoft/Bing/MSN/Xbox, you're making some compromises along the way, for sure.  It's not a done deal, but it's for all the marbles.

Guggenheim Biennial: Live and on YouTube tonight 8PM!

Noticed this morning that the YouTube logo was not as exepcted:The Museum half of the logo execution above links to the YouTube Play channel.  I'm not sure if I somehow missed this in previous years, or if this is a Biennial that begins now, but the custom YouTube channel execution is interesting:

This is leading up to a Live Stream event tongiht at 8pm from the Guggenheim.  Presumably, watch there or live online at 8PM ET: on YouTube Play.  

UPDATE: I just went to Foursquare to link to the Guggenheim, and discovered a special!

"Check in at the Guggenheim’s Art After Dark: YouTube Play event on Fri, Oct 22, 9pm-midnight and enter to win a YouTube Play prize, while supplies last. Show your check in at the Info Desk to win!"

If the Guggenheim can do it, with funding from HP and Intel, can your brand do something this interesting?  

Who cares if the cool kids leave Facebook?

The cool kids are leaving Facebook, says Pace Lattin based on data from InsideFacebook: the 18-35 demographic is now having negative growth in this "early adopter" demographic.   I can't yet find the raw data, but let's assume the trend is true.  Let's assume that the explosive growth of Facebook for mobile doesn't have anything to do with it. 

Any platform that requires the "cool kids" to be there for it to be successful will ultimately suffer the same fate.  We can't all be East Village hipsters enjoying our own exclusive online party, with VCs chomping at the bit to try to invest in the things we think are cool.  Even if all the cool kids leave, Facebook will still have a huge business with the uncool kids.

However.  Viewing Facebook itself as the cornerstone of social is just false. They beat out all the other social networks, more or less.  Round 1: Facebook.  Bigger, longer term, the interoperability of social graphs will make the choice of any one web site unimportant.  

Any platform that requires the "cool kids" to be there for it to be successful will ultimately suffer the same fate.  We can't all be East Village hipsters enjoying our own exclusive online party, and there will continue to be plenty of business opportunities for Facebook even if those users leave.

However.  Viewing Facebook itself as the cornerstone of social is just false. They beat out all the other social networks, more or less.  Round 1: Facebook.  Bigger, longer term, the interoperability of social graphs will make the choice of any one web site unimportant.  

The fact is, hipsters still have parents, and teachers, and friends they want to connect to, and some they want to be able to ignore.  Technologies built on opening the social graph and intelligent selectively sharing the content we ourselves consume is the direction we're heading.  


Round 2: unknown.

we haven't really seen the companies that are thinking about this.  Check out where Diaspora is going these days, and see the interoperable social  future.  



Help a millenial with experimental advertising!

Shelly Palmer provoked me to think about whether I am "too into technology to understand real business."  Yikes!

I'm sympathetic to the idea that many "social media" people live in a reality-exclusion zone where they only buy products from brands they can @message on Twitter.  On the other hand, the “real business” folks can probably wait it out, but more and more of them are starting to wonder.

I talked to a small outdoor advertising business owner who might not be ready…but he’s intrigued.  He gets online marketing and does aggressive SEM advertising. But social?

The shift to social marketing certainly made a splash but isn’t sustainable, really. In the early days of Twitter, most of the buzz about the promise of the service to transform marketing was being made by marketing people on Twitter.  Is the future of one-to-one, fragmented media a self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps.

That being said, we’re starting to see the ways in which pure awareness advertising shifts into engaging digital and offline experiences that aggregate attention rather than interrupting a piece of content. 

Advertising remains real and necessary, but it will increasingly be built around producing perceived value in and of itself. Pepsi’s PepsiCo10 strategy to take Refresh one step further and start funding new tech entrepreneurs is an bold example, and even if it’s on the wrong side of Wannamaker’s 50%, at least some millennials may get jobs.

Your privacy's fate: Sealed with a Click

I grabbed this just now on my Facebook home page: a sponsored Link with the Gmail/AOL/MSN logos, and my email address in bold, Thanking me?

Facebook_Gmail_ad.egg  on Aviary

I normally would have ignored it, but frankly I was curious. I clicked. The result, however, was insidious:

So now I can see what the plan is- Facebook wants to keep an eye on your Google account to make sure you don't connect to someone by email without also connecting them to Facebook.

It's hard to know what the cumulative effect of constant authorizations, approvals, and stored passwords really is, but I predict one day it sneaks up on you, an accidental overshare or ads that seem to insidiously follow you whenever you want?  A friend who lands on a site they hate, to find out that you praised it before you knew how much it would offend them? 

Or will it be merely the insidious, price-discriminatiung ad where you get to fly to Fort Lauderdale for $389, but your friend flies the same itinerary for $250 with a free checked bag?

Scary? Only sometimes.  But it all started with one click.


Cause Marketing: We see you!

A facebook friend liked a Facebook ad by a Philly-based Bongo Agency, so I went to see what this agency was doing with Facebook.  I discovered an interesting question about Cause Advertising.

KFC's pink buckets are a great example.  My response in the FB thread:

What continues to baffle me about KFC is the unhealthy element of their food. Even if they are supporting breast cancer research, I feel like the brand is mobilizing moms to make their families fat.  Breast cancer is a worthy opponent (my mom is a survivor), but what about obesity and heart disease?  What about teaching kids healthy eating habits?!! 

I think a more thoughtful tie-in between the brand/product and the cause is key to making cause marketing successful.

I read the other day that the American public is essentially addicted to low prices and discounting in retail; until we agree that we will pay more for higher quality, healthy, safer products, that are better for the environment, I think marketers will rely on Cause marketing to use philanthropic sentiment to justify a premium price.

What do you think?

PS: don't miss, from the new Saatchi blog: 10 Ways to Communicate with Moms.

Success for Foursquare is in the Cloud

I enjoyed Caroline McCarthy's questions about Foursquare's sustainability.

But let's not limit the definition of success to the Foursquare product as it stands-the API is where the real action is.

Venue and advertiser innovation will drive the platform's success, as with Twitter.  Businesses and marketers can leverage the Foursquare platform to create engaging experiences wherever people gather, and they don't need to wait for Foursquare to make this a default behavior.

Marketers are dipping their toes in to the water of location-based social networking, using the game elements of Foursquare to enhance their marketing programs, but few are creating brand-relavent and ongoing experiences that add value for the user.

As users tune out broadcast messages, marketers will turn instead to memorable, high-ROI experiences in the real world that leverage Foursquare, or Yelp/Facebook checkins, or Gowalla, or the application we are all going to be using tomorrow.  Each of these is just another doorway to reach today's hyperconnected audience- and all their Foursquare friends.


Spontaneous Joy in Social Advertising

I spent the day with out of town visitors - my girlfriend's friends from college- and had two experiences in large groups that tell us much about the power of video experiences.

At the Manhattan JCC's Multisport Expo, Rachel and I attended a seminar on stretching- the new thesis in sports medicine seems to be that stretching before activity is not recommened, and that pre-activity warm-ups - a set of exercises was demonstrated- was preferable. 

The practitioners demonstrated two sets of warm-up exercises- meant to combat the idea that it's hard to fit the warmup into every workout.  At the end of the session, there was a phone number, a web site, an address, but no URL for the video.  Several people asked - we were all thinking it.  "Not Yet" the doctor's reply.  A completely disappointing missed opportunity to get all of us attendees- 100 people or so - to forward the experience of a great presentation and a real-take away, to our networks.  While it may be that the sports medicine practice didn't need the extra business- it was almost MEAN that we couldn't take the workout with us.  We'd have remembered that moment far better, to everyone's benefit.

I had lower expectations of the American Museum of Natural History, but this is a place that in many ways "gets it."  While parts of the museum are dark, scary places that likely haven't changed decor or content since the 1970s (I'm guessing about the latter but not the former), the dinosaur exhibits on the fourth floor were great.  I was definitely a dinosoaur-loving kid.  My favorite book at my granparents' house was Dinotopia, in which mankind discovers, and lives in harmony with, a lost world of dinosaurs.

I am prone to wandering a bit in museums (especially with dinosaurs involved) and I showed up  a few seconds too late to find Rachel and friends running in place and driving an imaginary car in front of a freestanding kiosk.  In fact, this was a camera-equipped video-production experience, which inserted video of the museum guest into a NYC Taxi being chased by T-Rex.  As though I was not already humming the Jurassic Park theme song!

The kiosk shoots video for 30 seconds or so, and prompts the user to send it, by email, to anyone you want!  Smart.  Part postcard, part email signup form, all fun, and sent at the perfect moment- this was exactly the kind of advertising the museum ought to be doing.  Don't sell me on the museum, sell mee on MY museum experience.  We came home and watched the video, and of course it offered some nice Museum of Natural History branding along with frantic T-Rex evasion.  I smiled, and my marketing self is still coming up with ways to enhance that experience. 

Capturing someone's spontaneuous joy is a powerful thing.

Learning from Give Me What I Want

The last decade has seen information technology  increase productivity and the measurement of marketing, and this has primarily been a gain in efficiency.  I think social technologies trend in the opposite direction by making marketing more powerful, insightful, and satisfying to the target audience.  Having the people's affirmation as a lynchpin of success has done wonders for the quality of many marketing program's.

At a recent NY Tech Meetup, I was introduced to and finally had a chance to try it out.  While the site seems to be hitting its stride in terms of ad monetization, it's possible all this ad-revenue will be clawed back by a copyright infringement lawsuit.  From a usability perspective, the site is great, and THAT is what people want. [side note: consumers (ok, I) will click on nearly anything to get the content we  (ok, I) want].  There is literally no telling what the " Helper Applet" is doing after you're done with it.

Conclusion: The site is one a huge missed opportunity for the major media companies and studios- this is where the people are, and they'll watch or its successors until they figure out how to serve the audience rather than enslave them. 

Relationships: your ticket out of Social Media Slave Labor

Are social media sites the agents driving us all into slave labor creating the means for marketers to oppress us?  Or can marketers be smarter than that?

Instead, I would argue that only marketers who fail to create relationships need slaves.

The Internet as Playground and Factory conference explored these issues recently, and at first blush, an excerpt like this gives us all the willies, doesn't it?

Only a small fraction of the more than one billion Internet users create and add videos, photos, and mini-blog posts. The rest pay attention. They leave behind innumerable traces that speak to their interests, affiliations, likes and dislikes, and desires. Large corporations then profit from this interaction by collecting and selling this data.  Social participation is the oil of the digital economy. Today, communication is a mode of social production facilitated by new capitalist imperatives and it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between play, consumption and production, life and work, labor and non-labor. 

Am I a slave right now, blogging and tweeting and mentioning brand names and leaving a trail of data crumbs all over the interwebs?  True, all the data the "slaves" create is fodder for data-driven marketing. Tracking people across social media, .com properties, searches and video views, it all becomes the cloud that companies are seeking to profit from.

Many of these approaches create highly interesting optimization problems.  However, I would claim that we cannot reduce all marketing to an optimization problem.

1. You can't optimize awareness- if you want people everywhere to know what you are doing, this will cost you in terms of money, people, or time, or frequently all three.

2.Once a user finds you, marketing strategies must combine the use of personalized offers with actual relationships and content.  So no matter how many times you test your banner creative to see whether people who saw the "pizza hut and taco bell" video like your banner ad better than people who saw the "Peanut butter jelly time" clip from Family Guy, these correlations do not get people to like you.  They're just data. 

3. Data in marketing organization often reduces perceived uncertainty about a tactic without really proving it's the right strategy.  It's just a better use of money, but spending money without creating relationships is a first class ticket to

4. Optimization-driven marketing creates perceived value for middlemen and service providers, and moves dollars around between ad nbetworks, exchanges, publishers, advertsiwers, agencies and niche service providers:  it does create valuable relationships with customers.

The Human Relationships  forged when your product or sales force take care of the customer, however challenging, last longer than an ad campaign or an agency retainer agreement, and are forgiving of mistakes but not impervious.  It's a long-term value play.  Some companies play this game well, and many, many, do not.  Patience is a virtue.

Hat tip to @kcheyfitz for giving me something to think about this Sunday morning.

You keep using that word, Targeting- I do not think it means what you think it means

Dear, ad team,



I know you didn't mean to target me with your ad.  You did?  Hmmmm.

Ok, I'll play along.  I have read Rainbow Six (the BOOK) twice.  I have two legs and all my fingers. I am not averse to wearing riot gear and breaking up WTO protests.

Is it just me or is a Facebook ad for law enforcement taking the wrong approach by luring people in with the SWAT Team - literally enticing people to apply for law enforcement positions with all the cool weapons you can only get with lots of virtual gold in Mafia Wars or at that level of Doom II I could never reach? If this is really best accomplished THROUGH FACEBOOK then their ad inventory must be even cheaper than I thought.

The the kind of law enforcement assitance you're likely to get from Facebook is more along the lines of an SNL Sketch than anything else.

You know what, this ad is  hell of a lot better than a credit score ad or something from, so I take it all back.


Benjamin Bloom

Keywords vs. people in creating your marketing strategy

Charlene Li was quoted in mediapost suggesting that marketers should seek to test the effects of their campaigns and understand the experience and reactions of people to those keywords, rather than only looking at the numbers. 

I agree in principle, and it remains true that if you are going to talk to a conference of search marketers, you have to temper your words a bit so you don't lose the attention of the people who spend their days in an Excel/SQL driven quest to "optimize" their keyword buys or ad targeting.

Finding out what keywords drive the most revenue for your business is an interesting challenge and one that many businesses need to do.  But at the end of the day, you'll find me building a relationship with a customer, not the keywords that he types into Google or Bing or ...Bing :). 

Those relationships are about more than keywords, they are about an experience and delivering value. As more businesses shape up to this reality, they are sure to reap the rewards.  As I have been chronicling in my Human Marketing series, I think creating a connection with a customer, even during short transactions, is what delivers long term value to the enterprise.