Sunday, November 30, 2008

Capitalism = death

Ok, I'm a capitalist. That is, I believe that people should be allowed to start a business, earn money, and spend it how they see fit. Businesses, too, should be allowed to spend their money as they see fit, for example by offering a great sale on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But businesses have to keep in mind the dangers of the mob. No, not the mafia, I mean a large set of humans milling around waiting for some meme to take them over, to remove their free will.

Take, for example, Nov. 28 of this year. Take, for example, Wal-Mart. Consider, for example, that they always offer low prices, and Nov. 28 they undoubtedly had a bunch of extra specially low prices and great deals. Hence the mob of over 2000 gathering, even before the doors opened at the extra early hour of 5 in the blessed a.m. This mob is waiting and waiting, it's cold, they're getting impatient. They start chanting, which can be a good thing, but not in this case: "push the doors in," they say.

The workers, sensing impending nuttiness, form a human chain to slow the mob down. Then the mob starts pushing. Someone apparently removes the hinges of the doors, others smash and crash. Then the flood....

And poor 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour became a victim of capitalism, a martyr to low prices. Trampled to death by the very people he awoke so early to serve. Okay, being pushed down is terrible. But if you notice you're stepping on someone, wouldn't you stop to pick them up, even if it meant you'd miss the 50% off sale on diapers? Why did money make these people stop acting human?!?!

Not that that isn't terrible, but what really gets me is the postscript in the article on this consumer craziness, is that, although the customers were told to leave after Jdimytai was killed, they felt miffed since they had waited so long. So they kept shopping.

Capitalism 1, humanity 0.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More dialogue - less reaction

Since my previous post on Twitter vs Motrin there has been a considerable amount of backlash about the backlash. As has been pointed out, the majority of the commentary was by relatively few folks, and the majority of that was neutral and perhaps even positive.

So why did Motrin yank the ad so quickly? Was it prudent or just plain wrong? As has been further pointed out, the ad itself had very poor visibility, and pulling it indeed could be a fine way to prevent the issue boiling over. However, the reaction to the ad was actually a very potentially positive pointer to the nerves (pun intended) it was hitting - mom's are in pain, and people do like Motrin, they just didn't like some specific elements of the wording.

Rather than reaction, Motrin could have turned it into a firestorm of pro-mom proactivity. Dialogue with them. Get them to reinvent the wording, have a contest, collect testimonials. Heck, partner with the baby-sling folks to make some joint campaigns. Anything other than a knee-jerk disbanding of the campaign!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twitter as anti-ad platform

Motrin knows their customers - people with pain. And they know their subgroups, like baby-toting-moms. What they don't know, apparently, is how to advertise to them. Motrin had an ad campaign targeting moms who carried babies in slings or baby backpacks (why not dads too?!). But they blew it in their text, sounding like moms carry their babies as fashion statements, with first-person statements in their ads like it "Waring your baby is in fashion... [it] totally makes me look like an official mom". Consumers hated it, and Twitter gave them an outlet. In fact, there were so many rants against the Motrin ad machine on Twitter that Motrin halted the campaign.

While I would say Motrin blew it, I must applaud them for listening to their consumers, and keeping their ears on the social media machine. A bad campaign perhaps, but not a total loss. Three cheers for Twitter, and at least one for Motrin.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BipBip - Reinventing mobile advertising

Recently I came across a neat model for user-controlled advertising. The folks at BipBip* are developing a service (patent pending) where consumers set a wish list of products they want, a maximum price (or minimum discount?) and geographic distance for each product. The mobile alert service will only let through (SMS) ads that meet your criteria.

Sounds to me a bit like the old Priceline concept, with a few nice twists. In particular, not only can you ignore the offer, but they also promise to donate 50% of their advertising revenue to the consumer's charity of choice. That's a nice incentive. Other services try to buy consumers off with cash or discounts - this one goes to the heart. Nice call BipBip - I wish you success!

* If you need a password to see the description, go to the BipBip message posted on the Killer Idea Developers group on LinkedIn

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Giant pinata a bust - big beachball better

Carnival Cruise Lines, which has a very catchy catch-phrase "Fun for all. All for Fun.", tried a new publicity stunt: they built the world's largest (I mean, Guinness Book of Records big) pinata, and filled it with 8000 pounds of candy. They were all set to bust it up with a wrecking ball for the thousands of onlookers, until the police came and halted it. Why? They were concerned how the crowd would react to all that candy. A successful publicity stunt for sure, but what a bummer of an ending!

Not to be totally turned off, they turned their attention to something softer - the world's biggest beach balls. This time, the police not only didn't stop them, rather they pulled out their cell phones and started taking pictures.

Kudos to Carnival Cruise Lines for advertising via fun!

(click to learn more about the advertising event)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Taking ads to the cleaners

Seems like advertising is everywhere. Now it's reaching even further - into your closet. And it's green. 3.5 billion wire hangers get thrown out every year! Instead the Eco Hangers from the Hanger Network are made out of recycled paper. And being paper, it is easy to print ads on them. Distribution is through dry cleaners and hotels, which get them for free, effectively replacing all those billions (again with the !) of wire hangars, and importantly making it possible to reasonably target certain demographics. Seems like everyone is a winner.

(learn more about the Eco Hangar advertising)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mass microtargeting

One take away from the 2008 US elections - talking to your consumers is powerful. The Recent media introspection confirms over and over that Obama won due to his "nearly flawless" media campaign. It is reported that he has a database of over 3 million voters, with whom he communicates directly, including an SMS or email right before his acceptance speech. Think: whenever he has a question or wants to take a poll or wants to push his opinion on the public - just send an email directly to every supporter. Cheap, fast, effective.

That's power. Power to the people, with the people, and for the President-elect. Read more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Every name an ad

You've seen it before - people using login names that are actually ads. Names like SEOMaster, TaxPrepGuy, and JavaGuru - pretty easy to tell what they do and what they are trying to sell, and you might click on them just because of their name. It's not a name, it's an ad! Another take on this was the recent net meme to give your profile a middle name 'Hussein' - can you guess who they were voting for?

Recently there was an article in mediabistro about a coffee shop that had had it with freeloading students. Students would just hang out without buying anything, not even glancing at the menu, just to use the free wifi. The answer: change the name of your wifi, frequently, from merely the name of the shop to an ad, such as "OrderAnotherCoffeeAlready" and "HaveYouTriedTheCarrotCake" and even "Mmm,,,YummyMuffinsOnly1,99". As a consumer, I would be amused. I might even be tempted to buy something.

A name is just a name.... unless it's an ad!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More content and more ads

MTV and MySpace have penned a deal to allow copyrighted MTV videos to be posted royalty-free on MySpace. The catch: ads. According to an article in AdAge, The Palo Alto based company Auditude has a way of identifying MTV video material, and simply attaches an ad to it, such as an ad to purchase the DVD of the show being posted. No more lawsuits, even for posting entire episodes.

As long as the ads stay relevant, such as buying a DVD of the show in question, I think this is a great move for the industry. Expect to see this on more and more video sites.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Twitter Spam is the first business that I have found to figure out a way to use Twitter for ads. The money model, interspersing ads into your tweet stream, isn't original, but I haven't seen anyone else actually do it yet.

I like the way it gets set up: people set their own keywords, and then get ads based on their use of those keywords in their tweets and the number of followers they have. At regular intervals BeAMagpie will insert a tweet in your stream that all your followers see. Simple enough, and gives control to both the user and the advertiser.

However, I really don't like the idea of forcing others to see ads when there is no opt-in. True, they are always allowed to opt-out by blocking your feed, but then you've both lost a friend.

I'm curious to see how people react to these sorts of streams. I'm guessing it will be successful, but I'm not sure I'm glad.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Who needs advertising? - on online shoe retailer - barely advertises yet has cornered a sizable chunk of their market. How? A blatant, unflinching respect for their customers.

Even more, they respect and value their employees, and in particular their employees' respect for their customers. To quote Creativity-online quoting a Zappos executive:
"We put as much energy in planning and training our employees as other companies do planning their media," says Brian Kalma, director of creative services/brand management. "That allows us to feel more comfortable having every single employee be a direct contact with the customer. Every person is an advertising vehicle; with thousands of phone calls a day, mutiplied by 365, those are a huge amount of touch points with our customers."

A great way to behave towards your employees and customers!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ads and free speech

Do you believe in ads? Can they fix your faith? Can someone else advertise against your creed? Apparently it's a question.

I'm big on freedom of speech, and just as aware of the needs to curb it. However it's never easy to say who gets a say. The ad world is clearly not immune. Political ads are a frontrunner in line-walking between getting out a message and beating someone up.

Now the anti-religious world wants to advertise. According to Creativity-online there are those who want to post atheist messages on buses. And it's a legal question. Why? In the US, even the money has a faith-ad embedded in it. And what about Christmas? Has an ad right in its name. Should we ban the holiday, or change its name?

I'm not an atheist, but I can't see any reason to ban their ads. Can you?