AniBlurbs (Column)

Anibal's thoughts on Online Marketing Strategy, Service Design, Tech, Innovation, Business and more…

Tech-Optimism Debunked by Evgeny Morozov? (VIDEO)

In this excellent, thought-provoking documentary Evgeny Morozov (@EvgenyMorozov, author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom) punctures the Utopian idea that Internet is somehow by default and inherently a Freedom- & Democracy Enabler. Mr. Morozov is placed inside a digital Panopticon and reacts to the short video’s and sound bites projected there-on.

The questions Evgeny Morozov poses, his critical stance regarding Tech-Optimism and the issues he rises are very legitimate: Is Social Media really bringing us together? Or is the Filter Bubble merely strengthening our (narrow) visions, thoughts and opinions? Is the internet a free floating island, isolated from politics?

One of his gripes against the Tech-Optimists is that they seem to leave out of their equation any political, cultural and economic aspects needed for / impairing societal change and progress, as if all our problems and challenges are somehow fixed by becoming a cyborg or as if a distant regime can be overthrown by collectively changing the colour of our social media avatar. (His stance is even more interesting if we take into consideration the UK Governments’ plans to censorize twitter and Blackberry Messaging “Pinging” in case of riots or public demonstrations.)

Evgeny’s is a fresh and different philosophy, going straight against the current online, real-time “social” Echo Chamber and one that merits further thought and debate. A (lone?) voice of dissent that needs to be heard.

If you happen to have some spare time I really recommend watching and sharing this documentary – of special note are his takes on Ray Kurzweil (Singularity / Cyber-Optimism), WikiLeaks and Google vs Baidu –
as it will challenge your assumptions about where society and tech(nology) are heading and how they (should or should not) influence one another.

Evgeny Morozov: The End of the Internet-Utopia

This documentary aired last week on Dutch Public Television, for background information please check here » http://www.hollanddoc.nl/kijk-luister/documentaire/e/tegenlicht-evgeny-morozov.html

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Coca Cola Shares Social Media Strategy deck (Case)

I’ve discussed Coca Cola’s Social Media Policy in a column not too long ago. Now there’s an excellent slide deck on Coca Cola’s complementing Social Media Marketing strategy.

The only thing missing in this presentation is the way they handled the unofficial Facebook fan page. Coca Cola’s Facebook fan page had a staggering 3.3 million fans making it the biggest fan page second only to POTUS Barack Obama (until Michael Jackson’s tragic death, now almost a year ago which resulted in the superstar entertainer taking top spot for a while, see Page Data).

What Coca Cola did back there was quite remarkable; instead of the usual corporate Pavlov reaction of shutting the non-official grassroots initiative down (Apple anyone?), they reached out to the two fan page moderators instead, gave them a tour, full support, the works; effectively making them even more engaged as brand ambassadors.

To my eye it is clear that one of the biggest brands in the universe is more than ready for the new realities of the next decade. Are You?

              





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The Future of MarCom and Media: Mad Men Meets Silicon Valley?

“The truth is, advertisers and brand marketers are entering a brave new world — one where code is on par with content. The 21st-century ad isn’t something to be looked at, it’s something to be used… …”Consumers” are now “Users.” So are “Marketers” now “Developers”?”

“…having someone who at least can help a creative team understanding how the software should look is very helpful. “I think having somebody like that, even if they are not the ones coding the app, helps bridge the gap between the technical and the creative…”

Source: AdAge – Agencies Need to Think Like Software Companies

              

Business Value = Subscribers * Demographics
Business Value = Eyeballs + relevance * intent

Last week’s talk of the town among media in crowd and digerati was that spending on Online Marketing in the UK finally has taken pole position from Offline Advertising.

Make no mistake: this is significant. (Remember this is BBC territory!)

              

For years eyeballs, attention and now -as predicted and long overdue- budget weight have shifted from TV, Radio and Print to Interactive Media, culminating in this milestone.

              

Why this change from spending budget on Offline Advertising to investing in Online Marketing Strategies?

And why this plea to repurpose the inner workings of agencies (and ASAP at that)?

              

Well, to answer the first question, here’s a list of activities people in general are currently undertaking (online) instead of massively tuning in on prime-time (or, indeed, instead of buying and reading newspapers) like they used to:

  • Checking news anytime, online, for free;
  • Discovering and consuming online content, via “Social Distribution”, for free;
  • Shopping online, any time they like;
  • Spending days on end playing videogames;
  • Spending evenings (cocooning with friends or family) watching TiVo or DVD’s;
  • Leaving comments and reviewing products on that very same e-commerce site;
  • Discussing and reviewing artists, movies, products and brands on niche online communities;
  • Logging in daily to update their status in social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook (or even several times a day – thanks to mobile flat-rate data plans and apt mobile devices and smart phones such as Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry and the Nokia N series, to name but a few).

              

Okay, I’m bound to have missed many, many more, yet even the online media consumption / activities I’ve inevitably missed, share core characteristics with the ones mentioned above, which, when indentified and aligned next to each other, should underline my statement that agencies need some unadulterated tech DNA should they hope to help their clients connect online with their audience.

              

Creatives need to be specialists in the spaces where consumers live that are defined by new technology.

“If agencies are to continue to offer the highest value to their clients, and realize the full potential of new media on behalf of their clients, they need to make sure every department is as technology literate as consumersSimon Mainwaring

              

So, why the need for new fresh Silicon Valley Blood for agencies in this post-Madison Avenue MarCom ecosystem? Well, for starters, all the activities mentioned above:

– are On Demand;
– are personalized;
– are ubiquitous;
– are interactive (vs. passive content consumption);
– put the user in control;

-And… they’ve become a habit.

              

Habits slowly but steadily ingraining themselves in modern culture on a global scale.

All of these activities have replaced, or are in the process of replacing, the habit of, say, going home after school or work, watching the same mass orientated, one-size-fits-all TV shows like the rest of the populous, within timeslots deemed fit by a few network coordinators, all the while zapping away the interruption marketed ads…

              

(On a side note, what has also been replaced is blindly following the opinion of a select few elitists, or opinion leaders, so you will. You don’t need (trust?) one or more reporters from the New York Times to tell you that The Dark Knight or District 9 are movies worth an evening out to the multiplex, what book is a must-read or which restaurant should be on your shortlist, as even more so than usual, nowadays people are forming their own opinion by reading online peer reviews or discussing their customer care experience online, no holds barred.

Internet killed the middleman.

And the platforms facilitating this have a reach of millions and sometimes even billions, globally.

This continuous two-way online dialogue is another reason why the one-way message sending, branding specialists need to acquire interactive skill- and mindsets…)

              

It’s The Internet, Stupid

Why doesn’t the traditional model work online? In short, the web is too fragmented (millions of videos, millions of web sites), too loosely coupled (countless hyperlinks, embed codes, APIs), and too nascent (too few revenue models, too little clarity about the future) to fit comfortably into a media conglomerate as they exist today.”

“The challenge is that the scarce resources are different: while the media business continues to rely on “talent,” today’s talent may be writing code rather than screenplays. Distribution still creates value, but it can mean a quickly passed link on Twitter or Facebook instead of an 8 p.m. slot on a broadcast network”.

Source: Giga Om – New Media Demands a New Kind of Media Company

              

But these factors are not the only causes for this disruptive re-allocating of budget.

Sure, everyone agrees that you should “fish where the fish are”, but the main reason that budgets are finally being freed up from political unwillingness or irrational conservatism, is that in these times of crises, true accountability in marketing and advertising has finally become key.

              

There’s no need for (hiding behind) second guessing or causality in MarCom anymore: Plausible effective advertising maybe was “fine” yesterday, today proven effectiveness by conversion is vast becoming the golden standard.

              

The current recession has acted as a catalyst for this silk media revolution, merely accelerating the inevitable.

Now the marketer finally knows which half of her marketing euro, dollar, yen or what have you, is wasted on naught and which half is an investment; generating leads or spurring your core hyper targeted audience into action. All in real-time, if necessary, meaning you can act real-time.

              

“It’s to no fault that many account teams have no concept of what web development entails in terms of budget and time. Too many times there are promises made that cannot be fulfilled. Having a cross functional, technically savvy professional on hand to lay out accurate budget and time frames in real time ensures that the client is not mislead by a traditional account person reliant on third party estimates.”

              

It’s no longer about the clever award winning Creative Director and his team of witty art-director/copywriter duo’s.

              

This also means that the sole focus in marketing and advertising isn’t about “sending content” anymore, but it’s about the underlying technologies that facilitate dialogue between brand and stakeholders, and empowers them both.

It’s about, for example, creating branded tools that might prove useful in everyday mundane tasks for the user: Apps-as-a-Brand-Utility. Eyeballs. Attention.

              

Now it’s about the pragmatic award winning Managing Director and her team of developers and creative technologists.

              

“Code” and “(meta)data” have earned their rightful place next to “design” and “gut-feeling”, thus switching the demand from pure creative output to actionable insights based on real-time data; apps and open platforms for effective communication, feedback and co-creation. All of this fundamentally challenging the very raison d’être and modus operandi of traditional agencies.

“Various models have evolved over the years but the successful ones have at their core a few talented individuals who “get it” when it comes to the nuts and bolts of technology, the subtleties of strategic brand building and the figures that justify an ROI…

the more multidisciplinary people an agency can employ without forcing generalists into specialized silos, the better equipped they’ll be to provide true integration.”

              

As it is becoming increasingly clear that consumers are changing their daily work-, leisure- and decision-making(!) systematic from Analogue- to Digital based; brands/advertisers and traditional MarCom specialists will have to adapt & change their Tech know-how (what vs. why), their thought patterns (creative top-down factories vs. embracing digital natives and co-creating), and their priorities (branding vs. true empirical accountability) to match this new reality or ultimately end up like that frog in the slow-boiling pan.

The long-term solution however, is not going to be purely a technological one, but rather an anthropological and sociological one; the real challenge lies in the cultural change and organizational restructuring needed to save traditional agencies from the same dark fate (or worse) as the music industry and newspaper & magazine publishers. Out with the old…

              

[Yes, the very fact that it’s 2009 and I’m posting this rant as being new(s), means that somehow there’s still a need for summaries and musings like this, however obvious and stale it might seem to fellow digital natives and digerati in-crowd alike. Yet, I believe that this needs to be heard and echoed. I’m merely trying to add a drip in the quite -possible very pretentious- hope all the accumulated drips will eventually flood the ivory tower of cognitive dissonance that some board rooms and CEO’s (across all traditional agencies and entertainment outlets) dwell in.]

Read more thoughts about Apps-as-a-Brand-Utility, the future of advertising, “Creative Technologists” and the ideal DNA composition for successful marketers and agencies in the 21st Century in this excellent article by Allison Mooney on Advertising Age.

              





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Your Online Identity Hosted In The Browser?

Weave Identity is a very interesting component from Mozilla Labs (of Firefox fame) and a possible disrupting one for the Facebook Connect’s, OpenID’s and OAuth’s of this world:

“Offering a single sign-in solution for the web is currently a hot topic. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace and countless other sites are all offering to host your identity for you. Many of these key players on the social web are also offering tools to allow third-party sites to let you log in using the identity you have hosted with whoever your provider is – Google through FriendConnect, Facebook through Facebook Connect and Twitter through its recently debuted OAuth-based system. But in the end, who knows how long any of those sites will last? It seems to make more sense to hand these duties off to something more permanent than the hot site of the moment.

That’s where Mozilla’s latest implementation of Weave starts to make sense. You can store your credentials anywhere, including on Mozilla’s servers or your own web server.”

Source: WIRED’s Webmonkey

If the Weave add-on is implemented as a standard feature in the next version of the 2nd largest browser in the world, it stands a reasonable chance of becoming THE default Online Identity Manager/Social Media Passport; allowing you to safely and seamlessly log in to your favourite Social Networks, blogs and communities, across multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS) and various devices (think Mobile, Netbooks, Thin Clients).

All the while giving you complete and FULL control over your online identity (you can even store your Weave login credentials on your own server!), which positions it directly opposite of the Walled Garden approach that Facebook is fast becoming notorious for.

The ease of use, combined with the fact that your average internet user hasn’t even heard of Google-, Facebook- and Twitter’s Online Identity Management solutions make Firefox Weave a serious threat to the aforementioned parties. After all: Wouldn’t it seem more logical and feel safer for her to let the browser take care of her online identity?

“Something that often goes unsaid in the discussion about online identity is that while most websites right now require usernames and passwords, many people actually use the password manager feature in the browser-effectively turning their browser into a limited identity manager.”

Source: Mozilla Labs

MozillaWeaveWillSolveThisProblem
By offering this One-Log-In-To-Rule-Them-AllTM feature as a standard option in the browser, much like Yahoo’s- or Google’s toolbar, a lot of the hassle and security issues associated with web based ID alternatives are removed from the user’s table:

“User experience in general suffers as protocols for federation (e.g. OpenID) involve complex redirects which jump the user from page to page and leave them open to phishing attacks…”

Source: Mozilla Labs

And there’s another major USP that promises a bright future for the Weave project: Firefox is an Open Source initiative, and even though OpenSocial, OpenID & OAuth are Open Source projects as well, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google and Microsoft are commercial parties with a deep interest into becoming your single sign-in partner, so they can monitor the sites you visit and the time frame in which you did: pure data mining for marketing purposes. In a time where privacy issues are within everyone’s crosshairs, this could become Mozilla’s trump card in the battle for your Online Identity.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping Google (note that they have 300 Million accounts!) from implementing such a feature in Chrome -it’s very own browser- using Friend Connect, or Microsoft from doing the same with their Live toolbar/Live Passport and Internet Explorer. The point is that the former hasn’t yet managed to get any serious foot in the browser market. And though the latter is the current incumbent in browser market share (for now), it has failed for almost 10 years to make it’s .NET Passport/Live ID efforts a true cross-web success, even as younger initiatives from the likes of Facebook and twitter have taken off in the past year or so.

All in all, it’ll be very interesting to see how the developments around Identity Hosting continue to evolve…

[Update: Netlog now accepts Google FriendConnect, more on TechCrunch.]





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Why the Click Is the Right Metric for Online Ads (On Adding Value and Thinking Beyond the Display Advertising Business Model)

“…many advertisers in the past gave most of the credit for a sale or conversion — which in the web world could include anything from visiting a website to printing an online coupon — to the last ad clicked on or seen by a consumer. But that means brand-focused sites such as NYTimes.com and MarthaStewart.com and even social-media sites such as Facebook and MySpace lose credit because they are often not where a consumer will see that last ad. And when they lose credit, they lose advertisers, and when they lose ad revenue, well, you’ve read that story.

“Publishers have a lot to gain,” said Steve Kerho, VP-analytics, media and marketing optimization at Organic. Mr. Kerho has been doing lots of analysis on how online-display ads affect search and conversions and found that in some cases, a display ad can increase a search ad’s click-through rate 25% to 30%. If he had simply measured the clicks from search, he would have missed the display ads’ influence.”

Source: Adage

So… If we’d translate the above model to, say, a real world situation; that’d mean that the sales guy in the local electronics store should get a piece of the provision pie, and maybe you’re neighbourhood whiz kid should be offered a small fee too, since they were the ones that influenced you before you decided to shell out on a new bleeding-edge desktop and order it directly by mail-order, no?

Of course, the conclusion presented above is preposterous to say the least. Not giving full credit to the last click shows a lack of common sense and of everyday reality:

If we’d were to apply this model to the offline advertising industry we’d might as well start charging less for TV ads during the Super Bowl or advertisements in general, since it has never been empirically proven that said ads actually sell significantly more cars, to name but an example.

(Actually I hereby challenge thee naysayers to tell me why the fledgling automotive industry in the US can’t be saved by throwing more money against Interruption Campaigns now that the going is though… Odds are it’s because it just doesn’t work that way nowadays…)

Publishers would of course love to use such a model, since suddenly those abysmally low Click Through Rates on social networks ´d become a license to print money, yet that’s not where the problem lies: it’s about engaging with the visitors of the Facebook’s of this world if and when they feel like it, adding value to the community, giving them something to talk about or a good reason to get rid of their friends. The engagement model is a far more viable one since it makes it very clear for all stakeholders what the true value of those brand interactions are for everyone.

Conjuring op schemes to charge more for a product -display banner- that, on it’s own, has failed to truly deliver on its promise up until this very moment, is not the way forward out of this recession. The research budget would be well better spent on innovation, adding value to the visitors, strategic alliances -you name it, just do not waste it on taking undercover pot-shots at “Go -Emperor CPC- Gle” et all.

There is one thing that does ring true about the statement that a conversion shouldn’t be attributed to just the Last Click alone; and that’s the reoccurring coincidence that carefully crafted, creative Crossmedia campaigns drive word-of-mouth & website traffic, allowing for a tighter control on conversion, ánd they also have the uncanny ability to tip the Attitude scale in your Brands’ favour. A little…

It’s common sense and it’s what marketing should be all about: influencing as many factors as you can to get the prospect to turn into a consumer, making her loyal, spurring her on to buy more and in the end becoming a brand-ambassador.

The communication mix as well as the quality of your product combined with the customer centricity level of your organization all contribute to that end.

As well as a million other tiny factors (does the sun shine, did THAT girl on the train give you a smile, do you have enough money to spare, etc., etc..)

Yet, if we’d follow the philosophy of Mr. Kerho to it’s conclusion, it’d mean we’d have to split the Cost-per-Click revenue and spread the wealth over all communication channels and creatives -and not just the display banner- in order to get a somewhat “fairer” representation of value/conversion for money.

[The Adage article starts with this quote: “The great paradox of the web is that it’s an interactive medium and everything can be measured. And that’s wonderful — unless you’re measuring the wrong thing.”

I’d think what they should be stating is: The single greatest asset of the web is that it’s an interactive medium, perpetuously capable of reinventing itself. And that’s wonderful — Unless you don’t keep your feet firmly on the ground and try to look at opportunities with a positive mindset!]





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