the network conundrum

Advertising Networks and their effectiveness is an area of genuine interest for me as I wrestle with which path my particular organisation should take. I’ve touched on this in other posts but I’ve found an interesting article in Media & Marketing Magazine which looks at both sides of the argument in a far more reasoned and professional way than I could ever hope to achieve.

The Network Conundrum article

Well worth a read.


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Ad:Tech ’08 Session4 part 1

Using online communities to intelligently engage with consumers

This session was moderated by the fantastically dressed Mattias Miksche who is the CEO of StarDoll. StarDoll is a fantastic combination of social media, virtual world and pink. Essentially it drags the concept of kids paper dolls kicking and screaming into the digital age. Not being a 10 year old girl (although my friends might disagree) I’m possibly not best placed to judge how good it is.

What I can say is that it looks fantastic and seems to offer the engaging platform that advertisers crave.

Kate Burns (MD Bebo), Martin Verdon-Roe (Head of UK Sales at Tripadvisor) and David Courtier-Dutton (CEO Slice the Pie) joined Mattias on stage.

Each member of the panel presented a short introduction to demonstrate how they built and grew their own online communities.

Kate Burns from Bebo used an interesting anaolgy to start her presentation. She claimed that:

Facebook was a like a Blackberry, while Bebo was more akin to the iPhone.

Some would see this as quite arrogant and I’m sure her Facebook counterpart would hold a different view. However I have to agree with her. Having used both sites in the past, the level of engagement and utility with Bebo is different from Facebook and in my view is more ‘fun’.

However as a social network aimed at grown ups (I’m on the fringe of adulthood?!?) Facebook is more for me, because it is aimed at me.

She talked about initiatives such as the ‘Nike Dance Clash’ and ‘Kate Modern’ that in her view:

..bridge the gap between TV and Online

It was genuinely refreshing to see the creativity that Bebo has used with major brands.

Key Concept – Consumers can welcome ‘advertising messages’ only when they are relevant, engaging and above all entertaining.

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Ad Networks – Hit & Miss?

I’ve mentioned in a previous post my concerns that Ad Networks will result in loss of control. Obviously this is a sweeping generalisation as some networks will perform better than others.

In my view on-line advertising works best when it is relevant, contextual and entertaining. If I’m on a golf site you can be pretty sure I’m interested in golf, so serving up adverts for Nike, Taylor Made and Callaway would be logical and more importantly result in a higher click through ratio.

While reviewing some of the websites I encountered during the Ad:Tech Conference last week I saw a classic example of an advertising network serving up completely inappropriate advertising.

The site in question is a social networking site aimed at girls aged 8-14. It’s a fantastic site that mimics the paper doll model from yesteryear. It’s called StarDoll and will be the subject of a more detailed post later.

You can imagine my surprise then when on reviewing the site an advert for a Credit Card and for a Satellite Sports Channel were displayed. Totally inappropriate.

The advertiser will be lucky to get any click throughs, the 9 year old girl visiting the site will probably not notice, but if she does she’ll be confused (unless of course she needs a credit card to pay for her satellite TV subscription) and while the publisher gets paid the user experience is negatively impacted.

This example highlights what can go wrong. I have since seen some relevant adverts on the site, but it is largely hit or miss.

This is a huge issue and reinforces the negative perception of online advertising by consumers and makes me from a business perspective question the ability of advertising networks to deliver for brands and publishers.

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Ad Networks or Direct Sales what should publishers do?

There is much debate regarding the effectiveness of Ad Networks such as Double Click and Casale Media. I’m torn between both sides of the argument.

Firstly if you don’t have an advertising sales team in place but have a site with decent traffic then I can see the attraction of handing over your inventory to a third party. On the negative side in handing over your inventory you effectively hand over control regarding what appears on your site.

If you’re a traditional media company and have an existing advertising sales team should you use Advertising Networks? That is of course a loaded question and depends on the digital capabilities of your sales team and who they are selling to. There is also a perception that your own sales team can maintain higher yields compared to what can be achieved by Advertising Networks in general.

I guess higher yields are possible, but only if the sales team in question has the knowledge, understanding and capabilities to sell digital advertising effectively and with creativity.

In the short term many publishers will likely be forced into using advertising networks while they develop their own digital sales strategy and training.

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Ad:Tech ’08 Session3

Beyond Web 2.0: The digital landscape and the individual conjoined

The third session at this years Ad:Tech event introduced the concept of fusing the web enabled world with the physical world. The panel was lead by Andrew Walmsley who is Chairman of digital agency i-level and started by discussing the accelerating pace of change in the online World.

He used the lengthy process of transforming The Guardian from a broadsheet to a Berliner format as an example of the often pedestrian pace of change in the physical World, while contrasting this to the rapid, continuous change we experience in the digital space.

Andrew was joined by Emma Jenkins (Head of Interactive Marketing at Proctor & Gamble), Simon Andrews (Digital Chief Strategy Officer at Mindshare), Rafi Haladjian (CEO Violet), Peter Kurstjens (New Business Creation Director at Wacom Europe) and Jan Andresen (CEO of Weblin).

Key Concept 1 – The World has changed, so must marketing.

Key Concept 2 – People don’t like advertising and avoid it when they can. To be successful advertising needs to be so good it performs the function of a service.

Key Concept 3 – Advertising needs to be entertaining, relevant and contextual.

My abiding memory of this session was the strategy direction from Rafi at Violet. It had two parts

  1. Connect Rabbits
  2. Connect everything else

What am I talking about? Visit the Nabaztag site to find out!

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The Tube – a religous experience

Traveling on the Tube in London is ‘People Watcher’ paradise.

Picture the scene. Me struggling on the Tube with two bags. I finally get a seat and relax. You can imagine my surprise then when a young man boarded the train and launched into a loud and passionate religious sermon.

He warned me (well ok not just me the entire train!) that I cannot take my education and money with me when I die. Factual? Yes – Cheery? No!

He hopped off the train at the next stop with a merry ‘God be with you’.

You certainly don’t get that on the ’22’ to Downfield now do you?

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French biscuits…

Flying from Dundee to London is expensive, but it is a genuine luxury to face only a 15 minute drive home from the airport rather than the 1 hour plus faced when flying from Edinburgh or Glasgow.

But here is the downside. The service is run by CityJet which is owned by Air France. My problem.. the cuisine! The food if you ever get offered it (you seldom do) consists of very little other than an average roll. When a meal is not offered who are always offered a drink and a ‘snack’.

The ‘snack’ in question consists of a biscuit and small packet of some form of ‘crisp’ type snack. These French delicacies fall well short of the mark. The crisp type snack is just weird, bland and tasteless, while the biscuit is also hit and miss.

What’s wrong with a bag of Cheese & Onion and a custard cream!!!

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