Monthly Archives: October 2007

Zillow.com predicts next move for behavioral targeting


There are three basic ways to advertise online: Pay-per-click search ads on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft; banner ads on brand-name sites such as iVillage and USA Today; or behavioral targeted ad networks that run your banner on hundreds of sites, but only to users who fit a specific profile. We’ve found behavioral targeted banner ads outperform regular banner ads with click-through rates 400% or 500% higher.

Still, many clients are uncomfortable with behavioral targeting, and often push media planners to take a “safe route” with a well-known site. We’ve had clients insist that iVillage.com (a very strong site, yes) is the best place to run banner ads that target women. iVillage may be the No. 1 property for women on the internet, but in a horse-race, behavioral targeted ads that match specific women profiles generate click-throughs above 0.70%, while iVillage click-throughs fall below the industry average of 0.14%. It all points out the trouble with online advertising–chasing specific sites is no longer as powerful as chasing specific consumers.

Zillow.com points to a new way for advertisers to get both the brand-name site and the targeted benefits. Zillow is launching a behavioral targeting service online within its web site–which lists 80 million home values in the U.S. and has become a popular pastime for homeowners checking out their neighborhood property values. Zillow claims it has gathered enough data to now predict when consumers are about to buy, sell, or remodel a home.

Industry analysts say this is a new class of online advertising: vertically targeted content meets behavioral targeted demographics. If it works, you can now pinpoint only the web site users that fit a very narrow profile–say, women in their 30s with young children who are about to move into a home–and put your ad within the vertical content that best matches your brand.

Essence magazine’s 6.8 million invisible readers


Are The New York Times, USA Today, and Essence magazine making up fictional readers? They say it’s not fiction, but simply “pass-along” readership. Critics charge publications are playing with math to try to hide the truth: that many readers are moving online, and as circulations for print fall, pubs will have difficulty defending their ad rates.

Essence magazine is a strong publication and, according to MRI, one of the most popular women’s magazines in the country across ethnicities. A media buy in Essence puts your ad in 1.05 million magazine copies. Which is why we’re disappointed that Essence needs to exaggerate its readership.

The Essence media kit claims that 8 million people read each issue — OK, actually 7.845 million — which is a fantastic concept since Essence only publishes 1.05 million copies. In other words, Essence, to convince advertisers that their money is going further, claims each print issue is read by 7.5 people. To put this in perspective, let’s assume Essence is right. There are 36.6 million African-Americans in the United States. With 8 million readers per issue and 3.2 average people per African-American home, this means that Essence magazine is reaching almost every black adult woman in the United States every month. Nice readership!

Essence is not the only publication to make outrageous claims about pass-along readership. USA Today throws around a total readership number of 5 million, with a circulation of just over 2.2 million (USA Today notes in its fine print that some of the 5 million readers are online. The numbers are hard to parse; USA Today claims 10.6 million unique consumers visit its web site each month, which might break down to 1.4 million readers online per day.)

Most disappointing, even the stalwart, truth-laden New York Times plays with the numbers. NYT has a daily paid circulation of 1.08 million, but claims its readers magically multiply to 4.53 million in total, for a breathtaking pass-along rate of 4.2 readers per copy. Here’s an NYT exec defending such claims during an analyst call in March 2005:

“I think advertisers are becoming better informed in regard to what the circulation analysis means,” Times Chief Executive Janet L. Robinson said. She said it’s important to fully explain to advertisers what circulation numbers mean. “But it’s also very important for us to convert to a readership model as opposed to pure circulation numbers, which we certainly are in the process of doing.”

If all of this smells like fetid equine manure, well, who are we to judge? Sure, newspaper and magazine circulations are off a cliff, but that doesn’t mean that their publishers would stoop to defending impressions by making up a fictional “readership” count, would it? Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. So we propose a fair, mathematically sound solution. Take any print publication’s actual circulation. Multiply it by 5, to factor in all the fictional people who will pass along each copy to their friends. And then divide by 5, to factor out all the people who skip the page where your ad runs.

Netflix, our hero


We recently resubscribed to Netflix and one movie we ordered didn’t come in the mail. Arg. We put off calling, dreading what we assumed would be a long, slow slog with customer service. On a whim, we hit the Netflix web site seeing if we could reorder it. We clicked on (1) help, (2) DVDs, (3) DVD didn’t come in the mail. Hit the button. Done!

With three simple clicks, Netflix is mailing us a new copy of the DVD, no questions asked. We’re sure eventually Netflix would shut down a scammer trying to get free DVDs, but as new customers, we LOVE this service. Great example of intuitive web usability, and of making it easy for customers to climb aboard the Netflix loyalty wagon.

Rockport and Adidas get on the ball

How hip are Rockport shoes on a scale of 1 to 10? Dunno? That’s the problem faced by this lesser-known brand. So in June, Rockport launched a brilliant re-branding campaign by Hill Holliday of Boston, which cleverly opens new playing fields both geographically and demographically. It all makes financial sense, since Adidas bought Reebok in 2006, Reebok owned Rockport … but there is more going on.

Geographically, it’s a stroke of genius. Rockport is not well known outside the U.S., and Adidas pretty much owns Europe. Rockport had international sales of only 36% in 2006, but with this Adidas partnership, it now targets 50% by 2008. Adidas will open doors abroad.

Demographically, it’s also brilliant — because there are 79 million Millennial consumers in the U.S. ages 9 to 28 who are growing up fast, and heading for a more-formal workplace. This group has been focused on sneakers and jeans and so may not know Rockports didn’t used to be cool. This group can be reached easily, since Millennials are said to consume about 20 hours of media a day in only 7 clock hours.

And Millennials love soccer. The U.S. has been slow to adopt the sport, which started on our soil when Rutgers whipped Princeton in a football game in 1869. Today, we can’t even call it by its proper name. But MLS launched in 1996, today the U.S. has 12 major associations, and suburban moms and dads are now consumed by soccer. The brand of choice on those fields: Adidas.

Rockport, in essence, took Michael Porter’s five competitive forces of buyers, sellers, competitors, substitutions, and entrants, and focused on the market entrant. But instead of looking for a company entrant entering the field, it found a new demo entrant: The young kids who will soon change cleats for something suitable at their first job.

Pssst: Your PR is showing


Public relations guru Jeremy Pepper worries in a recent post that PR is losing out to advertising over who really influences social media. As advertising gurus, we think the reverse is true. Public relations rules online, because only PR is truly relevant. We love online advertising when it works … but we see rising cries of desperation from many web campaigns. As evidence, check out the godawful home page to MySpace.com to see how their marketing folks have turned it into a screaming billboard.

You can’t “game” relevance. This is why SEO is so hard — web site owners try to link farm and content stuff to rise in Google’s organic rankings, but without true relevance, they’ll never make it big.

We’ve seen four basic public relations approaches required for online marketing:

- create news (Nick Haley’s Apple ad)
- break news (Huffington Post, a blog-turned-real media outlet)
- share news (Digg.com’s user rankings)
- comment brilliantly on news (Seth Godin’s blog)

In simple terms, to pull users to your content, make it relevant. Give away something of value to get the attention you want. Google pay-per-click campaigns really are a perfect form of sharing news that is relevant to users (who are typing in search terms for the product). To pull people to your other web content, you need to create the same near-perfect connection.

Public relations is sometimes seen as a dark, Machiavellian attempt to spin fiction to the masses. In reality, PR works best when it combines relevant truths with a story about a product or service that recipients may find useful. The internet is a perfect sorting mechanism to make relevance and truth rise to the top (which is why Wikipedia works so well). Media planning makes advertising work in the same way — a good media plan puts the right ad in front of the right consumers, where the consumer will find it relevant.

A question for marketers: Have your media planners, ad creatives, web designers and public relations advisors sat down at the same table recently? If they aren’t all talking, you may miss the social media boat.

Someone keep this Apple guy away from media planning

For our next stop in the online advertising revolution, let’s visit Nick Haley, an 18-year-old Brit who whipped up an Apple commercial in a day last month. NYT says Haley posted his spot to YouTube, which set off a quick information cascade — YouTube users Dugg it, Apple marketing employees saw it, they told their ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day to get the English lad on the phone … and soon the big ad pros, with a bit of polish, had the spot running this past weekend on Desperate Housewives.

This user-generated stuff is getting better and better. Chiat, are you nervous?

Blame it on NASDAQ. U.S. kids are running from IT.


Be careful what business news you share with teenagers — they have long memories.

Today new college freshmen are abandoning IT and computer science studies, and switching to economics. The number of frosh chasing economics degrees is up 40% in the 2003-04 period from five years earlier, while new computer science majors are down 50%. The trend is so significant that big players like Microsoft are seriously worried, and launching new training programs to jazz up computer classes.

We can’t blame the popularity of Freakonomics for this (the book was published in 2005, after the trend began). Academic types believe three things led to the youth shift: the aftermath of the 2000-2001 dot-com bubble burst, in which teenagers saw parents’ savings wiped out in the NASDAQ implosion, shown above; the much-talked-about outsourcing of computer jobs from the U.S. to other nations, which further scares youth about future job prospects; and the simple fact that many CS courses are SO BORING in the first year.

The dearth of American computer talent will be filled by experts from abroad. The magazine The American reports that in April, the first day H-1B visas were allowed for U.S. firms to hire skilled foreigners, the government received 150,000 visas for 65,000 openings. The good news for today’s college kids: If they do study computer science, they’ll be among the few U.S. citizens qualifying for tomorrow’s wide-open technology job market.

Tip of the hat to Keira Knightley


True story: Last night a woman we know ripped this ad out of Oprah magazine, saying she found it offensive. Geez. One wonders what the marketers of Chanel parfum were thinking by dressing Keira Knightley of Pirates Caribbean fame in only a top hat and lap drape. Men so inclined will certainly notice Keira more than the perfume. Women so inclined will turn the page, thinking, oh, how obvious. How does sex sell in this situation?

Chanel announced back in April 2006 that Ms. Knightley would succeed Kate Moss as the new face of its Coco Mademoiselle fragrance. Coco Mademoiselle. Pop quiz, guys looking at the above photo. What was that product name again?

Book of the year: Clichéonomics


Wired’s big-idea book generator is brilliant. The concept here is that only a few of the thousands of business books published each year break out, so why not follow the formula of best sellers?

1. Create a title-as-theory. Should sound like a bad B movie. Ours will be “The Marketing Zombie from Payback Lagoon.”

2. Give it a subtitle, to explain what you really mean. Ours: “How to Unlock the Transformational Power of the CMO Before She Gets Fired.” This doesn’t have to make sense, but it will have more terms to sound even more important. Also helps if it makes executives squirm in their airplane seats.

3. Write an even more detailed premise to pitch the book, using words such as “dynamic,” “collective,” “profound,” and “previously hidden.” Wired recommends terms such as “tribes” and “the power of unconscious thought.” We’re thinking “The Secret Signals CEOs Send to Marketing Execs Before Calling in HR.” Nice.

You’re done. Send the memo to a publisher, get contract, punch up Word, and jump on stage next to Malcolm Gladwell. You’ve just written the next Big Idea Book. Thanks, Wired.

The great Digg experiment on blog rankings


OK, so we tried it. For a few days last week, we wrote witty and intelligent posts about media planning on our blog, then threw the stories on digg.com. The chart above shows you our blog’s web traffic — which quadrupled on a few days, especially if the story we posted had any reference to Apple. This points out two things: (a) you can increase blog readership by jumping aboard the exponential conduit of Digg, and (b) does traffic count anyway if you have to go fishing for it?