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Twitter Marketing 2.0

Posted September 29, 2010 by admin @ 11:04 am

Promoted accounts

Yesterday the micro-blogging site Twitter announced several significant changes to its advertising platform. They can be seen as both positive and negative, especially from the perspective of small business interests.

Twitter opened itself up to advertising in April 2010, permitting rich media banners as well as so-called promoted tweets. These are the ads that appear on search results pages. Overall, clients are pleased with this format and users don’t appear to be put off by commercialization efforts. The company recently revamped the site, which allowed a worm to ease its way in and hack some user accounts. There was a method to the madness, as the redesign paved the way for additional alterations in their monetization strategy. They’ve even provided a business 101 summation of their policies.

The latest feature enables marketers to boost their followers by becoming a promoted account. Twitter already suggests that users follow others with similar interests on the site; now advertisers will be able to pay on a cost per click basis in order to be included in these listings. Chances are, larger corporations are going to dominate this arena at the expense of mom and pop shops. Fortunately, Twitter plans on unveiling a self-service tool, probably similar to Google’s AdWords, specifically for small businesses. But that won’t go live until sometime next year.

As Twitter embraces its future, it also says goodbye to the past: the short lived @earlybird account will be no more. Companies are still permitted to offer coupons on their private accounts, of course, so there’s no need to panic. The service only generated a little over 230,000 followers, which represents a small percentage of its 160 million total users.

These modifications are probably going to impact the advertising industry in a big way. Twitter’s decisions make it more useful than Facebook from a marketing standpoint. Facebook permits businesses to have accounts, but they are isolated from the wider community in many respects. For instance, companies cannot communicate directly with other users on their profile pages through the infamous “friending” process, putting small business owners in particular at a tremendous disadvantage. Twitter lets businesses participate in the site’s core functions, which makes it much easier to interact with clients and prospective customers. Way to go Twitter!

Filed under: Company Headlines

The Wisdom of David Droga

Posted September 28, 2010 by admin @ 12:12 pm

Obey Awareness Advertising

Socially conscious advertising may sound a bit oxymoronic, but advertising rockstar David Droga doesn’t see it that way. In a recent interview with CNN.com, Droga emphasized the unique position advertisers find themselves in and their ability to spread a positive message to a large audience.

Many people associate marketing with some kind of sinister consumer manipulation. There are certainly unsavory techniques and practices within the industry, but marketing provides an essentially open platform to disseminate any type of message. Droga himself has participated in advertising campaigns for charitable causes, so he has firsthand experience with responsible PR programs. The young professional offers the following poignant analysis of this growing private sector movement: “It seems like not a lot of the world’s issues can be solved by big government…But they can be solved by brands, and brands putting their best foot forward need advertising.” Essentially, Droga is saying that there is no need to spend valuable tax dollars on public service style marketing initiatives. There are plenty of small businesses and corporations who can deliver the desired message while giving their brand a lucrative boost.

Besides, government sponsored campaigns can sometimes come off as being forced, which leads people to dismiss or ignore them. This effect is even more pronounced during times of political turmoil, such as the current deficit crisis in the United States. Droga finds that consumers are more responsive to inspired ads that serve a worthy cause, especially when the encouragement comes from a trusted brand. For example, Billabong is a surfing company that donates proceeds from some its apparel to clean water initiatives and sponsors beach clean ups. Their strategy stands out from a generic philanthropic effort because there’s actually a relationship between the company and its chosen cause.

Businesses of any size can come up with an innovative way to promote their brand while lending a helping hand or simply creating awareness. If you own a small business or medium sized business, you might want to consider taking your cues from larger corporations. It’s probably best to support something that’s associated with your company in some manner or stick with one of your personal passions. When all else fails, stick to what’s popular at the moment. Right now the green movement is in full swing, which provides you with an easy angle. Let your customers know what you’re doing to lower your carbon footprint, from driving hybrid company vehicles to using energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. Remember, every little bit counts!

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FTC Cracks Down on POM Wonderful

Posted September 27, 2010 by admin @ 11:35 am

POM Wonderful

Advertisers have a rather unique responsibility in their hands. Their primary duty is to promote their products in a way that makes them sound attractive to consumers. This sounds rather straight forward, but it’s a little more complicated than it appears. In the process of hyping up an item or service, it can be very tempting to make unfounded claims or present facts in a disingenuous manner. Fudging the details is something most every advertiser is guilty of, but outright deception is unquestionably against the law.

Truth in marketing has always been a highly controversial topic and some advocates claim that the government tolerates false advertising to an unacceptable degree. Deceptive claims are especially prevalent among the health foods, vitamins, and supplements industries. Almost every supermarket in America has an aisle devoted to this type of merchandise along with various similar items scattered throughout the rest of their inventories. While the products themselves usually aren’t dangerous or necessarily bad for you, they often do not provide the health benefits that their packaging promises. They tend to display claims that have not been officially evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means that the information presented could be completely bogus. But, the consumer won’t discover that unless he or she takes the time to read the microscopic print at the bottom of the label.

As part of a larger effort to combat false advertising, the FTC issued a complaint against the manufacturers of POM Juices. This company states that their drinks and supplements can treat or prevent a host of serious medical conditions, including heart disease, certain cancers, and high blood pressure. The organization explains that it only permits the use of scientific studies in advertising as long as the experiments referenced yielded conclusive results to substantiate the company’s reports. According to the FTC, POM’s statistics don’t measure up.

This incident should serve as a reminder to marketers everywhere: don’t compromise the integrity of your business by engaging in unethical publicity practices. Doing so puts you at risk for a federal investigation and will eventually ruin the trust you’ve established with your customer base.

Filed under: Company Headlines

The Mother of All Ad Conventions

Posted September 24, 2010 by admin @ 11:00 am

Advertising Week

Marketing professionals are all giddy at the moment, probably because next week kicks off the 7th annual Advertising Week in New York! This is a 5 day affair (September 27th-October 1st) that’s literally jam packed with awesome seminars, networking opportunities, roundtable discussions, summits, awards, and live performances by musical acts as well as comedians. It’s designed to celebrate the industry’s achievements and inspire creativity in the field. But Advertising Week is also about having fun with festival style entertainment offerings. This year’s guest list includes a wide variety of celebrity names, including Martha Stewart, Sir Richard Brandon, Nancy Pelosi, Dennis Miller Rod Blagojevich, Ziggy Marley, Mary J. Blige, , and Lewis Black. Talk about diversity!

It’s not too late to register for this exclusive event, although certain attractions are already sold out, such as the Battle of the Ad Bands competition. You may choose to purchase individual or group passes for discounted rates. Single people can opt for the delegate pass for $99, the deluxe super delegate package, or the student delegate ticket at the bargain price of $25. The student rate applies to the regular delegate pass and you must have a valid college or university ID in order to secure the lower fee. We strongly encourage college students of all majors to get involved in this as it’s a wonderful learning environment.

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to sit this one out due to prior commitments. We’re really interested in this year’s theme, though, which is the future of marketing. The number of college graduates in this country has steadily declined in the last ten years, and that’s never a good thing. We’re happy to see someone addressing this issue and we’d love to see younger, aspiring advertisers. Many college students don’t realize that marketing has a strong artistic element to it. Those interested in art or writing might discover that advertising affords them an opportunity to express their talents in a satisfying manner while still paying the bills. The romantic image of the starving artists may sound alluring during school, but after graduation that lifestyle isn’t going to bring many creature comforts or even provide for the basic necessities.

Is anybody going to attend Advertising Week? If so, we’re dying to hear from you!

Filed under: Company Headlines

Social Networking Seminars

Posted September 23, 2010 by admin @ 2:43 pm

Social networking sites

Love them or loathe them, social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are rife with advertising possibilities. There’s been tons of buzz about utilizing these free platforms for marketing purposes, but it can be difficult to generate an effective strategy based around these sites. Most companies have realized that simply creating accounts and profiles isn’t enough to bring traffic or revenue to a business, especially those of the smaller variety without a substantial amount of brand recognition.

In fact, small businesses in particular tend to be lost when it comes to developing a long term PR plan. There are social media experts for hire, but lots of small business owners can’t afford to hire a full time employee whose sole purpose in the company is to manage the twitter presence. At the same time, social media requires constant updates in order to remain relevant. Without new content added on a daily basis, your online existence will quickly fade into oblivion. Updating multiple accounts and blogs is very time consuming for someone without a separate marketing team. And lots of professionals are totally in the dark when it comes to local SEO tactics and other complex industry tools.

Companies interested in learning more about mastering social networking for business purposes may find it helpful to attend conferences on this subject. For example, on September 30th, 2010, there will be an excellent social media marketing event in Miami Beach, FL. Expert presenters at this one day gathering are going to cover a ton of cool topics, such as location-based advertising, blogging, and viral campaigns. As with any similar symposium, attending means having an opportunity to do some old fashioned face-to-face networking with other entrepreneurs. The official start time is 9:00am, but we’d recommend getting there early to make sure you get to sign up for the lectures you’d prefer. Tickets are still available, although they’re disappearing quickly. There are only 17 remaining as of 2:30pm PST! To grab the last few passes, please visit the registration site here. If you decide to attend this event, be sure to share your reflections and experiences with us!

Filed under: Company Headlines

Online Ad Revenue on the Rise

Posted September 22, 2010 by admin @ 1:55 pm

Print Ads

Print advertising used to be the staple of the advertising industry. Lately it seems as though this medium is quickly becoming a casualty of the digital revolution. The New York Times Company stated today that it expects revenues for print advertisements to drop by at least 3%, which isn’t very surprising. Sales for the print editions of this American media company’s communications empire are falling right along with their marketing counterparts because the two platforms go hand in hand.

At the same time, the Times believes that revenues from digital marketing will increase by about 14%! This story illustrates several key points. First off, print ads are no longer profitable. The old days are officially gone. Sure, there are a few die hards who will stick to the old fashioned printed newspaper and its ads, but they’re a demographic on the way out. Print ads can be very costly and there’s no point in putting them out when almost no one’s going to see them.

Secondly, digital marketing has numerous advantages over its printed equivalents. Newspaper ads are static and not engaging in the slightest. They display flat content and publishers have no way of determining their effectiveness. Compare that to a cost per click (CPC) campaign or a cost per action (CPA) that allows you to view your ad’s productivity in real time. Additionally, users are able to access the digital New York Times for free, which means they’re more likely to read it and view the ads it contains. Readers usually have to pay for the print version, either via subscription, at a newsstand, or elsewhere.

The Times is going to start charging people for its digital paper soon, and that will alter this flourishing dynamic. There’s no telling how large an impact this modification will have on online marketing, but it’s fairly safe to say that readership will decline after the transition is complete. This will likely deter some marketers, yet it could also end up benefiting those that decide to stay on. An online subscription service means a smaller audience whose demographic data should be at advertiser’s disposal. That means publishers can create extremely targeted ads to appeal to the select audience. In the long run, the Times will probably feature less ads; however, the remaining publishers will see substantially larger click through rates because they’ll be able to fine tune reader preferences.

Filed under: Company Headlines

CAPTCHA Ads?

Posted September 21, 2010 by admin @ 1:48 pm

Traditional CAPTCHA

Online marketing isn’t in its infancy stages, although it might be appropriate to say that the industry is in its terrible twos phase. We’re constantly trying to figure out how to connect with consumers while balancing serious privacy issues and the ever present annoyance factor. As a result, internet advertisers are always trying to come up with innovative platforms.

A company called Solve Media thought up an interesting concept: using CAPTCHA verifications for advertising purposes. Almost everyone is familiar with CAPTCHA codes; they are the text boxes that have users type in specific words to prove their humanity prior to viewing content, logging onto a site, or completing some type of action. Solve Media decided to substitute the random words for marketing slogans along with banner-like ads.

We applaud their creativity, although it’s far too soon to rate the technique’s effectiveness. It’s quite possible that these CAPTCHA ads will prove as popular as the original versions, which are often considered frustrating by computer users. The demos we’ve seen are substantially clearer than ordinary CAPTCHA displays and that’s a big plus. Everyone’s had trouble typing the correct words at some point because the text is usually obscured in some manner. With this platform, it would be rather foolish to distort the message because that would lessen its impact.

Still, most consumers don’t have favorable opinions about CAPTCHAs. This could easily lead them to make negative associations with the publisher’s brand. You’re probably not going to buy products from a company that irritates you when you’re just trying to comment on someone’s blog or read an article. Consumers may also blame the advertiser for technical issues, such as loading speeds, which they may not have control over. So far the response to these CAPTCHA ads has been mixed, but the criticisms are undeniably valid.

Naturally there will be naysayers no matter what. Nevertheless, this is an interesting alternative to standard banner ads and they’re at least a step up from pop-ups. We’d like to get other input about this subject from publishers as well as consumers. If you’re a publisher, would you consider running a CAPTCHA campaign? Consumers: would you appreciate this format or find it bothersome? Please let us know what you think of this technology!

Filed under: Company Headlines

Fundraising via Advertising

Posted September 20, 2010 by admin @ 2:27 pm

Ads in Schools

California’s cash strapped schools are getting pretty creative when it comes to finding ways to make money. The state legislature still hasn’t passed a budget, forcing schools to go it alone. Many institutions have already cut programs, such as art and music classes, in order to save money, but they’re finding themselves in the red nevertheless.

Some schools are making the controversial decision to allow advertising on campus. These kinds of programs are nothing new. On campus marketing has been going on for a while now. The difference is that more schools are turning to this strategy in rather obvious ways. While it used to be commonplace to see free beverage sample during nutrition or lunch, schools are now permitting banner ads and using their buses as billboards.

Some parents support these decisions because they feel the schools should take whatever measures are necessary to deliver a quality education. Others are concerned about impressionable children misinterpreting the ads as a passive endorsement from the school. Direct marketing to kids has always posed ethical questions, but advertising isn’t always a bad thing. Schools can sell ad space to institutions of higher learning, the armed forces, and manufacturers of healthy foods. While this may not appease ultra-zealous parents, there’s really no harm in making money off of promoting a worthy cause.

Perhaps these ad campaigns should be restricted to high schools only. Teenagers are still vulnerable, but they are less likely to fall victim to disingenuous claims. It’s probably a good idea to steer clear of junk food providers no matter how much money they offer. A school in San Jose permits advertising on campus, but not without approval from an advisory board. That way the schools control what the kids see, which means there are no inappropriate ads.

Hopefully, these ads will disappear once the economy picks up again. Until that time, parents are free to voice their opposition to these initiatives and push for tight controls over the content. Parents have every right to be uneasy about such matters, yet they need to realize that the schools feel as though they have no other choice. Having a school that’s literally covered in ads is still better than homeschooling for most families.

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FTC Implements New Regulations on Debt Relief Services

Posted September 16, 2010 by admin @ 11:42 am

Debt Relief

Flip on your television or radio at almost any time of day and you’re guaranteed to hear at least one ad that promises to help you get out of debt. These ads have become more prevalent in the past couple of years as consumers face mounting credit card bills and faulty mortgages. While there are indeed legitimate debt reduction and consolidation agencies on the market, there are also tons of scams actively engaging in deceptive advertising campaigns in order to take advantage of desperate individuals.

In an effort to protect consumers from these unethical practices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently created new policies with respect to this industry. For instance, debt relief companies will no longer be able to charge upfront fees without delivering any results, unless the customer signs an agreement specifying the terms of the transactions. Additionally, there are several stipulations concerning the creation of special bank accounts for the purposes of paying off outstanding balances. The debt firms can no longer collect referral fees from account providers, which may curb corruption by eliminating back door deals.

Many of the policies focus on telephone marketing practices because this aspect has been particularly problematic. Telemarketers must now disclose important information to prospective customers, such as the fees involved and the estimated duration of the process. These conditions apply when customers initiate the contact as well; they are not merely applicable to sales solicitations. This rule will probably help consumers determine the validity of claims made in company advertisements, which allows them to make an accurate evaluation of the provider’s honesty and integrity.

For more details or to report a violation, please visit the FTC’s website here. If you run a debt relief business, you should go over all of your sales policies along with your ad campaigns to ensure that you’re in compliance. Consumers interested in obtaining these types of services will undoubtedly benefit from reviewing the rules, too. We certainly hope that these guidelines improve this unfortunate situation. This industry certainly has developed a negative reputation, so we’d love to see it reach its full potential.

Filed under: Company Headlines

Innovative Advertising Avenues

Posted September 15, 2010 by admin @ 2:29 pm

The Ad Game

Most people are used to seeing advertisements everywhere they turn. From TV spots, print ads, and billboards, ads occupy nearly every available space in America. Sometimes these ads are blatant and other times they come in the form of subtle, silent product placement. For instance, when you see a TV or movie character working on a MacBook with the familiar Apple logo glowing on your screen, you are witnessing product placement in action. This tactic is normally used for branding purposes and it’s fairly difficult to determine the effectiveness of this technique for obvious reasons.

In the past couple of years, advertisers have started utilizing product placement in video games for promotional purposes. Until now, they really couldn’t be certain that they were conducting a worthwhile campaign, but a recent study demonstrates the benefits of marketing in video games. The data shows that consumers are roughly 24% more likely to purchase Gatorade if someone in the household plays games that feature ads for the beverage.

Naturally there may be other lurking variables that influenced the purchasing behavior. Nevertheless, this study can be considered groundbreaking because it’s the first of its kind. Since the data reflects a significant ROI for this kind of marketing, it could totally revolutionize the field of advertising as well as the gaming entertainment industry. At the very least, this reassures those who have already starting blazing the trail. Hopefully it will also inspire other companies to explore the advertising potential of this underrated medium.

Hardcore gamers may object to this onslaught of seemingly unwelcome content, but the key to the success of these ads seems to be their remoteness. The ads simply take up space that would either be blank or filled with fake ads, much like they were at the turn of the century. Since they don’t interfere with game play, they don’t compromise the overall user experience. Of course, overzealous advertisers may not always keep these concerns in mind. Perhaps in the future, gamers will be able to turn ads off or at least limit their presence. Still, it’s important to remember that marketers have no incentive to decrease a game’s functionality or otherwise irritate consumers. That would be counterproductive to say that least, especially since many games appeal to adults who make household purchasing decisions. The study focuses on sports games, which means that Gatorade ads in question are contextually appropriate for the setting. Plus, advertisers might be willing to finance creative projects in exchange for ad space. Obviously, additional funding means better quality games.

Filed under: Company Headlines
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