Marketing Madness in 60 Seconds: 6/26/09

static4Advertising/Marketing

Yes, the FTC is looking into paid placements of online mentions that aren’t fully disclosed by the author. But I’m hoping that what Andy Beal says is right and that most writers won’t have to worry about it since there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing. For those worried, a simple bit of disclosure should suffice nicely.

Yahoo is launching a new self-service ad product, something it’s hoping will attract the attention of local and other smaller businesses. At least one person who deals with the local advertising market, though, thinks that this sets the entry bar too high for businesses that are used to having programs built for them and don’t have the skills or the time to do it themselves.

Research from Harris Interactive suggests people are over-hyping online word of mouth, with their study saying offline recommendations or discussions carry more weight than their online counterparts. The numbers skew slightly more in favor of online among younger respondents. This is another one of those issues where each new survey will suggest something different but it’s worth noting the back-and-forth.

Google is introducing AdSense for Mobile Apps as a way to help developers of applications for a variety of platforms, including its own Android and the iPhone, monetize those creations even if they don’t charge for them directly.

Some shows are commanding higher ad rates for their online streaming through Hulu, TV.com and other outlets than they are for their main, traditional television broadcast. You can mark the day old media began officially dying….NOW.

Media

It shouldn’t be surprising that few news organizations have a solid set of social media guidelines in place when you know that few companies of any sort have a solid set of social media guidelines in place. That being said, there seem to be a couple examples of reasonable guidelines in this story, where the employer is taking a “Hey, just don’t be irresponsible on Twitter” stance.

A newspaper-content licensing agency in the U.K. is actually considering trying to collect royalties on behalf of papers for links to stories. That’s right, links. So even if someone links to a newspaper story without reprinting content the agency would try and collect a fee. Not right on any level.

Google is once again being blamed as the source of all problems for newspapers when it’s actually a combination of a half dozen things, none of which is Google and many of which reflect the “we’re the only ones that exist” attitude that dominated the early web, that have papers in this position.

A Reuters editor has told the governing body of the Olympic Games that they need to change their accreditation rules to accommodate and acknowledge the insta-publishing reality.

Social Media

Wiki creation service WetPaint is launching a new product that seeks to measure online interest – judged by participation and engagement with related social networks and site – in television shows. The most interesting thing about this story is that it’s not a company that you’d usually associate with tracking and measurement doing it.

Similarly, a new deal between TiVo and Quantcast would seek to offer a single, unified metric that spans both TV and online advertising. This would save marketers having to cluge together disparate numbers from two – or more – different reporting services and give them a better sense of how their cross-platform campaigns were running.

MySpace is suffering from a serious lack of cool perception right now. But as Catherine P. Taylor says it can get some of that back by involving social media bigwigs in its future developments and plans.

Finding an Audience: Distribution Notes for 6/26/09

movie-ticket-and-popcornHome Video

Redbox’s kiosks are taking business away from Netflix. It’s not that surprising since those kiosks very much serve the hits-driven head of the Long Tail consumer market and so are going to be attractive to the pedestrian traffic that their placement in McDonald’s restraurants and outside Walgreen’s stores draws in.

Online/On-Demand

You can now download and view movies being distributed by Cinetic Rights Managment on your Vudu set-top box.

Gigantic Group is launching an online streaming service that gives customers unlimited viewing access for three days for $2.99. The first movie being released is the documentary Motherland. The interesting part is that Gigantic can block the movies they release from being available in areas where the films are playing in actual theaters. That’s kind of a big deal and could go a long way in making distributors more comfortable with the arrangement since they don’t have to worry about angering theater owners.

Picking Up the Spare: Terminator, Star Trek, Transformers, Watchmen

bowling-pinsTerminator: Salvation

James dropped me a line to let me know he had snagged an online ad that Visa created as part of a promotion they were running for Terminator: Salvation.

Star Trek

Star Trek – and Terminator – was among the most searched topics in the month of May according to Nielsen. The report says that searchers were looking for details on the film’s story and other information that would help them get informed on the movie.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

George Parker at AdScam has some problems with the Burger King promotion for the movie.

Watchmen

The much-ballyhooed Director’s Cut of the film has begun to hit select theaters, featuring additional scenes and with The Black Freighter footage integrated back in to the story as it was in the comic.

What’s the thinking behind a re-tweet

tweet-retweetDaniel Honigman asks: Does a re-tweet equal an endorsement?

While I certainly concur with the point behind Dan’s anecdote about journalists double-checking things before randomly re-tweeting – and the larger caution that anything that can’t be verified should be re-tweeted with care – I think the answer to Dan’s question is, almost universally, “Yes.”

A re-tweet, in essence, is the equivalent of saying “I would have said this myself but this person said it first and just about as well as I would have so I’ll publish it under my own feed.” So it’s very much an endorsement of the original publisher’s point of view. It’s also a recommendation of that person in general to others and a way to label them as somewhat of an influencer.

Dispelling the “free advertising” myth

This New York Times story on “free advertising” has my irritation levels set on maximum. That’s because it’s centered around one of the most persistent – and wrong – myths about social media and word of mouth marketing: That it’s free.

Social Media Icons

It’s this particular paragraph that I’m going to take issue with:

What does free advertising look like? It can take many forms: Getting a journalist or blogger to review a new mobile phone, placing a video on YouTube, spreading the word via bloggers, and starting a Facebook group dedicated to a brand or product.

All of those cost money.

Getting a journalist or blogger to review a product is not just something you come into work and throw together before you begin your real work. It’s (or at least it should be) part of a larger campaign strategy for which goals and benchmarks have been clearly defined. Having worked on more than one product review campaign involving bloggers I can tell you to do them right they’re both time and resource intensive.

Placing a video on YouTube is free, yes, but if the brand wants a slick branded channel that’s going to cost some dollars in terms of design work. It’s also not exactly as simple as upload and let it go. Someone needs to be in charge of managing the tags and keywords on the video and tracking its spread. With the millions of YouTube videos it also helps to do a little outreach to interested bloggers and writers with the link to the video to help spread the word and that costs money.

Which gets me to the “spread the word via bloggers.” Not free. It’s media relations, which companies have always paid for from their agencies and always will. If you pay an agency $500 for media outreach and that results in 20 mentions *from the people they contact* that comes to $25 per mention, but that billed time also should include vetting a media list and doing their research on the bloggers they’re going to be contacting. If, as a result of those 20 initial hits, 10 other bloggers pick up the story the client’s costs drop to about $17 per mention. But that’s not free.

Finally, starting a Facebook group for the brand or product is, once again, not free. You can’t just expect the page will automatically start attracting hundreds of fans that are just waiting for the brand to show up. Agencies need to research if there are existing fan-created pages and talk to them, they need to do outreach around the page and might even recommend doing some advertising to promote the page and drive membership. Plus, since this should be part of that larger online strategy, it’s not great thinking to break this out from the overall cost of that campaign.

One of the great things about social media is that the tools that make up that category are indeed free or at least relatively low cost. But while the tools aren’t going to cost very much out of pocket the implementation of those tools and the strategy around their usage does and always will. If you’re doing it yourself and not using an agency or consultant it’s still going to cost something, even if that’s just your time and resources.

The “sponsored conversations” issue finally comes to the forefront

In the marketing industry we’ve been dealing with the idea of “sponsored conversations,” the euphemism developed by Forrester Research for when a brand in some ways directly pays for a blog post of some form, for years. It used to be cut-and-dried: Paying a blogger to write about an issue was wrong any way you looked at it. Then we began to realize that the main point of damage – the breaking of the trust between writer and reader – could be minimized if the writer was clear and frank in their disclosure of X post being paid for since it at least gave the reader the necessary information to judge the content of the post fairly.

(By the way, I refer to “sponsored conversations” as a euphemism because prior to this it was simply called “paying for coverage” and that was viewed as all sorts of wrong. But there needed to be a term created that made it something legitimate for companies to engage in. Enter “sponsored conversations.”)

I’ve written about this idea before back when the topic was first brought back up and mostly agree with what Marshall Kirkpatrick at RWW says about the issue and still feel that full, pre-emptive disclosure coupled with an effort to not pass along PageRank so that search results aren’t manipulated goes a long way to alleviate the concerns I and many others have.

But I bring it back up because the other day SlashFilm wrote a retrospective of director Sam Mendes that, it was later disclosed, was a component of an advertising package bought on the site by the studio releasing Away We Go, his latest film. In the first part of the clarification it was said that the piece was written solely by one of /Film’s writers with no editorial input from the studio but that it was the result of a deal made with the studio. Peter then updated the original clarification to say that there was no direct contact with the studio and that they were unaware of the editorial and instead it was an idea put forward by their ad network.

(Those are two drastically different things and I’m a bit shocked that anyone involved could think it was one instead of the other. Either you worked with the studio or with the ad network. I’d suggest Peter not let people who aren’t completely knowledgable about site matters speak on behalf of the site.)

In terms of what /Film did right, they did put a “This post is sponsored by…” disclaimer at the beginning of the Mendes retrospective. So disclosure was made and that’s a good thing.

What I think would have been more ideal was if there had been a post prior to that explaining what was coming up and how the deal was arrived at. Something that would have said “Here’s what we’re doing so you can take this at face value.” Before-the-fact information would have likely defused much of the negative reader feedback about how it happened.

As Kim Voynar says, this brings back up all sorts of issues, many of which I address in my post from back in March. What constitutes crossing the ethical line? Accepting free DVDs to review? Accepting a flight out and hotel accommodations in order to visit a set? Running and promoting a contest that’s tied to a new release?

It’s actually a bit funny to me that Peter’s second stab at an explanation would put the onus on the ad network. I’ve been in the industry long enough to remember when ad networks were supposed to be the cure for editorial bias toward advertisers. You sign up for a network and you never know what ads are going to run and therefore can’t slant your coverage in anyone’s favor. That was supposed to be a far cry from the mainstream media model, where ad sales people mingled with editorial staff and the lines, at least in the minds of the readers, got blurred. No worrying, it was thought, about an advertiser pulling their spots in protest of negative coverage because they’re not going to really know and hey, if they do there’s always another advertiser to take their place.

Now – and I’ve seen this happen with other networks and other high-profile sites – the ad networks are apparently the ones pushing for the blurring of lines they were once meant to protect.

The easiest thing to say in these matters is that everyone should go with their gut. If you feel like it’s ethically questionable or that your audience might see it as such then spike the idea and explain yourself as you need to. If you need to, find someone you trust to call “bullshit” on you when they need to and run it by them. Barring those, though, early and constant communication on the matter is the best bet so that everyone has the information necessary to judge the matter accurately.

I’m sure this will continue to be an issue that gets hashed out. What’s interesting to me, though, is that we’re now seeing this conversation happen in a specific industry and not just in the world of marketing best practices. That means things are changing and it’s why it’s important to keep up on such matters.