Monthly Archives: December 2012

The advertising challenge of concurrent media use

Recent media research points to a trend: U.S. consumers are using tablets or smartphones at the exact same time they watch television. Nielsen reports that TV use is still high in the U.S., with the average Joe or Jane watching 4 hours and 38 minutes per day. However, sales of smart devices spiked (again) this Christmas, and 85% of smartphone/tablet owners have reported using these gizmos while the TV blares in the background.

This “concurrent media use” creates a big challenge for advertisers — what is the best way to reach consumers who are using two devices at the same time? Because when the :30 second spot airs on television, usage of other devices in the consumers’ laps increases as they ignore the commercial interruption. When ads come on TV, consumers are looking away.

Flurry, a mobile-data company, scoured observations on 6 billion app sessions on 500 million smart devices in September and found something interesting: The time consumers use tablets and smartphones mirrors that of traditional television viewing almost exactly, but what consumers do on these gadgets is much different. Smart device usage rises from 7 to 10 p.m., matching peak TV viewing almost exactly (in the U.S., television prime time is 7 to 10 p.m. Central and Mountain, or 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern and Pacific). So far, so good — the TV is on and the tablet is in the lap.

But now comes the challenge for advertisers. If you want to reach consumers with an ad this Friday evening on both television and tablet, for a one-two impact, how would you do it? Tablets are the fastest-growing category of secondary device usage, yet consumers use tablets for something very different than video entertainment:

67% of tablet use is for games, 10% for social media, and only 9 percent falls into the “entertainment” category — of which video-viewing is a subset. So an advertiser running a television commercial on ABC can’t just also run the same video spot on hoping a tablet user is concurrently watching the video feed on her lap — because while the ABC programming is on TV, the consumer is likely playing the game Angry Birds on her iPad.

This finding is problematic for media buyers, because it shows duplicating the message from TV to a tablet environment for a concurrent impression is difficult … unless you recognize the consumers are doing something very different on these secondary devices. Rather than mirroring a message from one medium to another, marketers will need to create a strong secondary stream buying across mobile app networks where the message is reinforced within in-game advertising, as well as paid social media ads. Yes, you can still mirror TV spots in online video — and this can work very well in driving response — but if your strategy is to hit consumers at the exact moment of concurrent media use, you’ll need to add apps, games and social channels … or odds are you’ll miss the dual-media moment.

Chevron’s use of global warming for bold branding

Mention climate change and you’ll get hot responses from some conservatives who believe the risk is falsified, earth’s temperatures are not rising, satellite data is fudged and human-made CO2 and methane don’t absorb heat from the sun. Some liberals leap far the other way, accusing energy giants such as ExxonMobil of mendacious disinformation campaigns bent on disguising global warming. Climate change is one of those issues that, like the fiscal cliff in Congress, leads to more finger-pointing than problem-solving, with each debate participant letting his or her worldview color the facts. 

Chevron has its own strategy: cut through the denial and talk straight about the issue.

Type “global warming” into Google and the third sponsored ad you’ll see is from Chevron, inviting you to a webpage describing how it is concerned about global warming and working to build cleaner energy solutions. On its landing page, Chevron pulls no punches: “At Chevron, we recognize and share the concerns of governments and the public about climate change. The use of fossil fuels to meet the world’s energy needs is a contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs)—mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane—in the Earth’s atmosphere. There is a widespread view that this increase is leading to climate change, with adverse effects on the environment.” 

Wow. This is a bold statement from an energy giant with a $209 billion market cap. Most politicians don’t have the guts to talk like this. Why is Chevron pushing such assertions to the world? Well, first it could be a lure to investors — if half the population does believe that scientists can count and earth’s temperatures are rising, those investors are more likely to place funds in a company they believe may do something about it. Chevron could also see that energy will change, and be positioning itself for leadership in emerging markets for wind, solar, thermal, fracking, cleaner coal, carbon recapture, or other new technologies that might someday give old carbon technology a run for its money. (Chevron has run copy such as “It’s Time Oil Companies Get Behind the Development of Renewable Energy.”)

And of course running ads inside Google searches for “global warming” means you’ll only be talking to people hunting for the issue, in essence partitioning off environmentalists with their own communication stream. But I don’t think that’s it. Chevron’s main tagline is now “The Power of Human Energy: Finding Newer, Cleaner Ways to Power the World.” ExxonMobil by comparison offers the comparatively bland “Taking On the World’s Toughest Energy Challenges.” Chevron is becoming the 7Up to ExxonMobil’s big cola. It’s a crisp, clean, different alternative — explaining that energy is not good or bad, but rather an evolving spectrum, headed for cleaner solutions. Chevron is focused on a multi-billion-dollar emerging energy market. At least for branding, that’s a warm story.

Originally posted on Google+.

Ho ho ho, it’s finally time to shop inside Facebook

Forget advertising revenue. The real money play for Facebook may be breaking into e-commerce.

Facebook has launched holiday promotions for its online gift service — a brilliant ploy, because it adds a new communication element that no one else, not even, offers. If you buy a gift for a friend inside Facebook now (anything from sweets to socks to Legos to electronics), your friend will be instantly notified inside Facebook — and have the option to adjust your order. If you send me clothing that’s the wrong size, not only will I feel good knowing it’s on the way, but I can make the shirt size L instead of XL (not that big, folks) before it ships.

Beyond the gimmick, though, this is an aggressive move in Facebook’s transition to full e-commerce. might worry, because Facebook offers things other online retailers cannot:

1. Facebook has reams of data on your profile far beyond transaction observations. While other retailers like Amazon can mine data on your past purchases of spy novels or lingerie, only Facebook can scrape your self-written personal profile to determine you’re a former East German Victoria’s Secret model who is a Tom Clancy fan. This gives Facebook better potential for targeting.

2. Facebook doesn’t need to build warehouses, because it has already convinced nearly every brand in the world to build a promotional page inside Facebook. These brands are, like lemmings headed for a cliff, rushing to promote Facebook … er, their Facebook page … with their own marketing dollars. They’ll surely be interested in a new way for Facebook users to buy their stuff inside Facebook.

3. The social dynamic wraps the delivery in content that could spread fast. Ping! Your friend loves you and has sent you a gift! You can response, share, or propagate either the message, or perhaps the gifts themselves. The spending itself could go viral. Imagine how happy Lego would be if every gift begat a similar purchase.

4. Facebook has taken one-click ordering ever further. You don’t need to punch in your friend’s address, if Facebook already has it. While most e-commerce sites remember your information on your behalf to make transactions easier, Facebook can also offer to remember all of your human network’s information as well.

$160 billion opportunity

This so-called “F-commerce” has been around for a while, but brands selling via Facebook have met resistance, mainly concerns by most consumers that social transactions are not secure against fraud. To make online purchases take off, Facebook needs to train us that its purchase system is safe. So Facebook is starting us on training wheels, with this little last-minute gift promotion.

The size of the prize is huge. If Facebook can break down our resistance to using it for real purchases, it may grab a chunk of the $160 billion spent annually in the U.S. — and far more internationally — in e-commerce. Success would make its paltry $5 billion in annual ad revenues look like an investor appetizer. Once we load our payment information into Facebook, it could then move this service to mobile commerce as well — enabling one-click ordering of anything on our iPhones.

Clever, Facebook. You’re convincing us to make you our new wallet, UPS shipping and storefront all in one. You might finally find a way to make mobile advertising work by turning our Facebook app into a click-to-buy icon. You even save us from typing in our friends’ addresses.

We’re running late for Christmas, so we may just dive in.

The NRA goes silent. Is this good strategy?

That quiet sound you hear is the NRA not saying anything … which makes an interesting case study. Regardless of your politics or emotions about the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. (which happened just miles from our office), if you work in communications you know shocking events can create uncontrollable tides of response. One organization dealt a blow by the Connecticut shooting of little schoolchildren is the National Rifle Association, a force for defending gun rights that is now the pinata of public debate on gun control.

Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post noticed that after the shooting, the NRA immediately shushed its numerous social media accounts. A visit to its Twitter node shows the last update was Friday morning. This is not the first time the NRA has gone dark following a gun tragedy. After Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January 2011, the association removed itself from public communications for days. Nor is the NRA alone in the silent treatment; when Carnival Cruise Corp. had a ship run aground in January, it plugged all social media streams (although, perhaps not expecting such a crisis, Carnival took several days before turning off everything; somehow we suspect the NRA has crisis plans in place).

Does shutting down work? Some say no. PR strategist James Lukaszewski wrote in the 1990s that non-action in crisis communications can lead to embarrassment or prolonged visibility. However, if you can’t change your position and admit wrongdoing — the classic PR response is to say, “yes, it’s our fault, and we are going to work to fix it!” — then silence may be the last option. You can’t apologize if your position can’t be moved, and the NRA is locked into advocacy for weapons. Maybe it’s right. Eventually the public will move on. Given the stakes for the NRA, its best position may be to wait and see.

PETA pulls a porn site bait-and-switch

Oh, the cleverness. PETA, the pro-animal-rights organization known for racy ads showing naked people who refuse to wear fur, teased the major media outlets this week with news it was launching a real porn site — — filled with nudie pics. Media outlets responded with drool, with everyone from CNET to the Huffington Post sharing the titillation that an animal rights group would go full monty to get traffic to tell its story. The site actually launched briefly, with content not deemed safe for young children or nursing animals.

And then PETA pulled the plug. Visit now and you’ll be instantly redirected to another website with a new message — “Now that we have your attention … now it’s time to see a few PETA commercials.” And actor Alec Baldwin narrates a video about chickens. Oh, PETA, you tease. Now we’re writing about you. It worked.

How to make $382,000 before the end of the world

We don’t know if Damian Campbell makes $382,000 a year from his Facebook campaign. We do know his ad and web landing page, shown here, are pretty ugly, with enough disparate font treatments to send Edward Tufte into therapy. But what Damian has going for him is one of the most brilliantly well-written conversion pages we’ve ever seen — in this case, targeting patriotic survivalists for the coming apocalypse — and it’s likely he will make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So let’s break this little campaign down, looking outside in.

1. Damian is running ads inside Facebook. These can be purchased at a low cost per click, say, $1.25 for each person who clicks through to his conversion webpage. The “cost per click” buy is important, because he only pays if someone takes action on his ads.

2. Next comes pricing. Damian is selling a CD-print package with tips for buying the right foodstuffs to survive any coming emergency. We’ll be generous and assume the total printing and shipping cost of this package is $4.00 per unit.

3. Damian sells the total package for $49.97, discounted from some high artificial reference price. So at an estimated $4.00 for production and stuffing envelopes, he clears $45.97 per order.

4. Now, let’s back out the estimated Facebook marketing costs. If each click costs $1.25, and Damian gets 3.50% of visitors to his web page to convert, that’s a $35.71 marketing cost per order — for a nice $10.26 profit per order. If Damian can boost conversion rates to 4% via clever copy (and he has a lot of clever copy), the marketing cost per order falls to $31.25. $45.97 inbound after production costs minus $31.25 in Facebook ad costs equals a whopping $14.72 profit per order. 

5. Now consider how big Facebook is. More than a billion users, many of them U.S. citizens upset with the government and fearing the world is about to end. If Damian sells 500 booklet-CDs per week, his profits — not revenue, profits! — run to $7,360 per week or $382,720 per year.

All this takes is a little Facebook ad, which can be tested at tiny budgets until the economics are proved to work, and a landing page that can achieve 4% conversion from visitor to buyer. The Mayans may have predicted the world will end in 2012, but we bet they didn’t see how social media ads could help authors make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There’s always a crisis coming. We bet Damian’s site will do even better in 2013.