Monthly Archives: January 2012

YouTube’s 0.7% upload engagement rate

If you listen to the hyperbole, an hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second. This sounds fantastic, and yes, that is a lot of video. However, that’s only a 0.7% daily user engagement rate. The world has not turned into video publishers yet.

There are 3,600 seconds in an hour, so every second 3,600 people on average are concurrently uploading videos (to get 1 hour posted every second). YouTube has 790 million monthly unique visitors. So in any given second, that’s 0.00046% of its entire potential audience actively engaged in contributing content.

Let’s assume it takes 2 minutes to upload a video, so we can get through 720 cycles of uploads each day. Our (0.00046% of uploaders at any time) * (720 cycles of uploaders per day) = a per-day user upload engagement rate of 0.33%. You could play with this math further assuming faster upload rates equal a faster group upload cycle per second, so perhaps the engagement rate is 0.7%. You could also cut this number back by assuming some people are frequent uploaders, sharing more than one video a day, which would slash 0.7% to a fraction of engaged producers. I’ll be generous and leave it at 0.7%. However you count it, the world comprises more watchers than doers.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Originally posted on G+.

The tragedy of L.L. Bean’s Pinterest (updated)

Pinterest is a social bookmarking site, an Instagram without the commitment, which lets users “pin” any image they find interesting on the web. Once you sign up for Pinterest, when you see anything you like in a web browser, you click, it’s saved, and you build a Tumblr-style blog of groovy stuff to view or share later.

Brands are intrigued, because of course they want you to “like” or “pin” them, so in 2011 many set up Pinterest pages hoping for another broadcast medium.

Wait … did I say broadcast? Well, let’s look at L.L. Bean’s Pinterest site as an example. Boots. Flannel shirts. Stuff you can buy. It’s a catalog. There’s even a picture of an L.L. Bean store. Sigh. This is sad, because the outdoor brand has millions of ways it could tell inspiring stories. If you visit its flagship store in Freeport, Maine, you can’t help but be inspired to go camping, spend time in the dark woods with family and friends, pilot a kayak down a roaring river. L.L. Bean tells a story that many want to believe; most Americans who buy outdoor gear don’t really spend weeks outside, but vicariously imagine a rugged adventure under sun and stars. L.L. Bean could fill 90% of its Pinterest pages with candy for that desire, and slip in a few products in the remaining holes. But, alas, it appears the social media editor for Pinterest just uploaded the entire L.L. Bean product catalog. Or it could be consumers simply like to “pin” product shots as well; see update below.

Now, consider the savvier Whole Foods’ Pinterest. Here, instead of products, you’re greeted with photo collections about garden sheds and cooking for the holidays, and as you dive deeper it feels like Martha Stewart is sharing inspiring scenes and scents from beautiful homes. (I’m not the floured-up rolling pin demo, but I’m sure this snuggier stuff has an audience.) Whole Foods inspires us to go do something. Likely, that will require a shopping trip, but that’s the backbeat, not the lyrics here.

The great tragedy of social media is most brands use it solely to identify you and then spray you with one-way broadcast messages that promote their brand. “Engagement” is a pseudonym for “tagging a prospective customer.” This is understandable. No big organization can easily interact in two-way dialogue with millions of customers. But L.L. Bean, can’t you try a bit harder than showing duplicate images of furry boots?

Update — Laurie Brooks, Sr. Public Relations Representative of L.L. Bean, responded as follows: “I’d like to provide a clarification to your blog post. L.L. Bean has a very robust brand social media presence, that does not yet include an official Pinterest account. I believe the link you posted is an aggregate of all Pinterest users that have pinned L.L. Bean. We are big fans of Pinterest and hope to be active in the space in the near future.” The L.L. Bean Pinterest page appears to be under development here. The other page here is the No. 1 organic result for “L.L. Bean on Pinterest” and has been reported as an L.L. Bean site elsewhere in the press, but apparently is a crowdsourced compilation that resembles a product catalog. Thanks, Laurie, for the clarification.

Originally posted on Google+. For another view of how Pinterest is an evolution in social media, don’t miss Douglas Brundage’s analysis here.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Ready Player One: Understanding Apple’s haptic future

Soon, Apple will let you touch artificial reality.

Haptics is a term meaning touch, the non-verbal forms of communication such as shaking hands or kissing on the cheek that involve sensations of the flesh. But if you read sci-fi such as Ernest Cline’s excellent “Ready Player One,” haptics provide touch feedback for a virtual future. Sure, you’ve seen 3-D movies. But imagine immersing yourself in a 3-D virtual world, either via giant flatscreen TV panel or a pair of goggles, and having gloves, leggings or a body suit that provides tactile feedback. You touch something, and via minute pulses in the gloves or suit, that something touches you back.

With high-definition virtual projections and haptic feedback, you could leave this world for an entirely new one.

Apple is playing around in this space now, adding teeth to speculation it may soon launch high-end TV sets with glasses-less 3-D. This patent details Apple’s plan for a haptic “feedback device” which uses a grid of sensors to (a) track where your body part is and (b) provide a feedback sensation when you move your hand, or whatever, through space. In technical terms:

“The haptels are coordinated such that force feedback for a single touch is distributed across all haptels involved. This enables the feel of the haptic response to be independent of where touch is located and how many haptels are involved in the touch. As a touch moves across the device, haptels are added and removed from the coordination set such that the user experiences an uninterrupted haptic effect.”
What does this mean? If you see a bottle floating in front of you in a future TV commercial, you could reach out, touch it, and feel the glass curve. If you play a video game on a giant 3-D screen, when you punch your opponent, your fist will feel the impact. Other than the obvious porn implications, computer and entertainment interfaces may soon no longer need keyboards or glass pads or remotes. Because unlike Kinect-type technology that only tracks your motion in space, you will be able to “touch” the projected elements in the space in front of you.

In “Ready Player One,” Cline imagines a lonely teenager who rents an apartment, staying inside to play virtual games clothed in a haptic suit, running on a circular treadmill, lost in a brilliant artificial world far away from this one. Now, Apple is making it real.

Microsoft Word, we hope you can keep up.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Edward Drake

Tim Hortons’ brilliantly disguised price increase

How do you raise your prices while convincing customers to buy more while making customers think they’re getting a better deal?

Tim Hortons, the Canadian donut chain, just did all this brilliantly. Hortons simply shifted the size of all of its cups up a notch: a “small” is now a “medium,” a “medium” now a “large,” etc. Hortons notes in its fine print that this “isn’t a change in the price or actual amount of beverage” — which means customers will pay the same per ounce of coffee. At first, this seems a fair deal, but now consider the likely scenario.

A regular customer walks in and orders her “medium” coffee in the morning … and is handed a larger cup. With more ounces. At a greater overall cost.

Our customer, bleary-eyed and thirsty for her Morning Joe, has a choice — return the coffee for what now has a “smaller” size name, or keep the larger size. If she sticks with the new cup size, she’ll be ordering more coffee every day, and pay more for it. Yet she walks out carrying a larger cup, feeling like she’s getting more at Tim Hortons after all.

This form of pricing is called “price obscurity,” a clever ploy to gain more revenue per sale by making it difficult to judge what you’re really getting. You’ve seen this before at movie theaters that give you a strange, extra-large size box of candy that costs $4 or $5. Is that a good deal? Of course you can’t tell, because the packaging obscures the value of the candy inside. If you’re still confused, play Hortons’ strategy to the extreme, and imagine if ordering a “small” coffee returned you a gallon that cost $30. Is that still a good deal?

Tim Hortons may not be charging more per ounce, but it is charging more per “size,” and sizes are what coffee customers order. Well played, Hortons. We bet your profit on this new pricing will be extra large.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Why banner ads are ugly

Some people aren’t keen on banner ads because they clutter up web content for consumers and have low response rates for marketers. They work, but making them work is a science. This is why we were elated when AOL announced Project Devil in October 2010 — a new ad format that would prettify banners, take up a full third of a web page, and put the editorial “stuff you want to read” in the remaining two-thirds as seen in the image above. The ads were both bigger but less obtrusive; cleaner, like a magazine layout; and able to hold several components including video for just a single advertiser. If it worked, the reading consumer would see less clutter and the advertiser would win more splash — both parties win!

Alas, Business Insider reports Devil Ad sales are down in Q1. AOL’s overall audience is down too, sliding in the U.S. from 60 million monthly uniques when Devil Ads launched in October 2010 to 41 million today, according to Quantcast. The ads cost much more than regular banners, about $48 CPM vs. the $2 to $4 CPM smart buyers can get through ad exchanges or ad networks. Apparently a 12x price increase didn’t offset the beauty and functionality of digital ads that don’t get in your way.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Posted on Google+.

Facebook Actions vs. the frequency problem

Imagine walking into a bar and meeting the love of your life. Your eyes lock, a flash kindles, and immediately both of you realize destiny has arrived.

So you walk up to her and say, “I like you,” and then walk out of the bar forever.

Good tactic? Nope, because your communication had no frequency.

Frequency has been a basic advertising concept for a century, the logic that repeat impressions are required to drive any action. Alas, this is where social media engagement falls down, because most “engagement” in the space equals just 1x frequency. For years now, marketers have been pushing Likes on Facebook, or similar social media actions such as retweets on Twitter, as a new metric indicating an audience is interested. But what happens when someone Likes your brand on Facebook once? They click a button, then walk away. You’ve had one tiny interaction. Sure, they may now be subscribed to some outbound stream, but that push followup messaging is just another form of broadcast media, especially at scale.

Now Facebook is addressing this problem; VentureBeat reported on Thursday that FB is expanding its “Like” functionality to include other “Actions” — a series of verb terms that could include “Read,” “Watched,” “Listened,” or custom responses such as a foodie site that could post a button for “Cooked.” Facebook Actions would solve several problems with current social media response:

+ It allows for nuance, the various stages of consumer engagement, which could boost response.

+ Actions solves the Facebook frequency problem.

Now, an enterprise trying to engage customers in social media can do more than push for one Like — it can add shades of subtlety that bring consumers back for repeated interactions. Imagine Ron Paul trying to win your vote. It’s unlikely he’ll get you to Like him immediately if you are not in his political camp, but you might Argue, Debate, Listen, Consider … and eventually be persuaded to Like his message later. The more variations of engagement organizations provide, the more chance that they’ll move prospects up the response curve. And every additional interaction creates another ripple in the broader social-graph stream.

Sure, all this could create a vast online silliness, a cluttered bunch of buttons for people to click on. With Diggs, Tweets and +1’s all competing for space, social response controls may become as ridiculous as a 1980s’ flight-simulator videogame interface. Facebook Actions could also devalue the already-fuzzy currency of Likes; how in the world do you score 2,000 “Cooked” mentions for your CFO? But let’s give Facebook credit for trying; at least now, like rethinking the true love you met last night, you may get another chance.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.