Archive for the ‘Content’ Category

Amid the constant barrage of last week’s industry news, there were two particular announcements that stood out from the rest. Both were creative related (albeit one is actually more of a social graph story). For the first time in a while, I was excited about some new creative potential, something that the industry needs really badly.

Richer Rich Media Units

For the first time in a very long time, a new rich media player is on the road to  approval among major publishers. In some ways Pictela is no different than what exists today, and in other ways is a breath of fresh air. Their position statement is that “Pictela seamlessly distributes high definition brand content across online advertising, publishing and social media”. While intriguing that the units can run hi-def content, the ability for a consumer to discern the difference is marginal. The in-page units provide a multimedia catalog-like experience. Of course social sharing options are built into the platform (is there any other way at this point?) I do like the fact that Facebook has approved Pictela units to appear as is in the newsfeed. The units also provide the ability to deliver dynamic content based on geography and demographics, although I have yet to do my due diligence on the technology, and am unsure at this point how comprehensive that dynamic content delivery really is. I also do not know whether or not third party tracking tags can be embedded, but we’ll make the leap of faith that they can be, otherwise they will limit the opportunity to work with agencies at scale.  All in all, it is nice to see a new kid on the block.

Facebook Open Graph Coming to an Ad Near You

MediaMind (formerly EyeBlaster) is running a campaign for Mountain Dew that incorporates the Facebook “Like” button in the ad units, a first for the industry. This sets the stage for advertisers to consider incorporating the open graph, which goes beyond the Like button, into ad units. Expect this to become a very common addition to rich media units in the not-to-distant future. The Like button, and other open graph functionality, is already fairly ubiquitous across the web, but within an ad unit as a primary or secondary call to action, it extends the ability to recruit brand advocates even further. Of course the bigger strategy for the brands is how to engage consumers and make the most of these new direct [social] relationships. Adding the Like button to ad creatives opens up one more pathway to the initial connection.

Media + Creative

As a career media strategist, it’s been bittersweet to watch the industry’s focus shift so much towards media dynamics. Of course, we should focus on how to better identify and reach consumers, and understand their relationships with the media. Heck, my career has been based on that. However, great media strategy, planning and execution is only as strong as the creative that runs. With the increased shift to data-based audience buying, media trading desks and automation of workflow and optimization, the creative conversation is rarely given its day in the sun anymore. Lest we not forget that one in nothing without the other.

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Most people don’t realize that I started my career in the music industry. Prior to my ventures in the digital marketing industry, I founded and managed a couple of independent labels and also ran a division of one of the larger independent distributors in the US. I learned many valuable lessons about business back then, but the one lesson that has best stood up to the test of time is that content can be a currency. This was is true for music, and it is true for web-based content today. But just what do I mean by “Content is Currency”?

Content in the Attention Economy

As marketers, we must understand the attention economy. As media fragments, attention becomes scarce. Content becomes the conduit to earn consumer attention – it becomes the currency, if you will, that creates the marketer’s side of the value exchange.

The cries of Content is King have reverberated through the halls of agencies and media companies forever. However, sometimes, content value seems to be misinterpreted by marketers as production quality, clarity of the marketing message or brand voice.  At the very least,  the definition of “high quality” content has become such a given that it is  not properly planned for, thus resulting in content that can easily have little relevancy or value to the consumer.

While  compelling content buys attention in all media, digital media presents the opportunity of discoverability, one of the unique  and most valuable attributes of the web in general. Most notably, search and social media play the largest roles in consumers discovering brand relevancy and value via content.  Search explicitly matches consumer interest and demand with content and products. Social media  on the other hand implicitly facilitates discoverability via sharing. Social media both further fragments attention and facilitates discovery of relevant content through the social graph at the same time. When consumers find content relevant and compelling, the psychology of human interaction and the  mathematics of network theory facilitate sharing. At a certain scale the content “goes viral”. Folks, viral is a result and not a tactic, but the goal should always be to produce compelling content that consumers value.

Do You Have a Content Strategy?

When planning your company’s content strategy, here are a few vital elements to not forget.

  • Frequency: if content is a currency, you might as well have a lot of it. More importantly, develop an editorial calendar for your different types of content across owned, earned and paid media.
  • Relevancy: for content to be compelling it has to be relevant to the consumer. Content should also be somewhat related to your product category or the lifestyles in which your product is used. Don’t forget that for some channels, like email, elements of relevancy come in the form of personalization.
  • Voice: without getting into the specific type of content (videos, blogs, tweets, mashups, or any other experiential content type), every brand needs to develop a voice beyond that of the brand voice. Are you going to be funny and witty, serious and informative, irreverent and unexpected? A little of each? This will tactically drive the content. Of course, there are some givens – like, humorous content often facilitates sharing. But it all has to be on strategy.
  • Authenticity: consumers want to see the personality behind the contrived brand voice. A little human authenticity goes a long way. Marketers are human too – at least most of us are. There is a place for the brand voice – know where it belongs and where it doesn’t.
  • Transparency: Consumers want to feel like they can trust your brand. They want to know more about the inner workings of the companies they chose to support. Consumers know that they are being marketed to in all facets of media, don’t hide the fact that you still want their business, but prove that you are willing to earn it. We all make mistakes, consumers want to know that you acknowledge that when necessary and that you learn and apologize. They’ll support you, within reason.
  • Immediacy: consumers expect an immediate response to negative news, as well as rampant and even individual customer service inquiries or complaints.  The immediatecy response plan needs to include all owned media (ie: your website or blog, social spokes like Facebook or Twitter, and CRM channels). This is a prime example of how PR, customer service and general marketing communications have all merged.
  • Discoverability: take the time to map out the distribution channels of your content and optimize the discoverability of each channel. Blogs, for example, provide excellent search engine visibility; Facebook’s open graph and api’s from all of the popular social platforms make sharing easy; while a recruitment and engagement strategy for specific social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube build a base of consumers with an interest in your brand who are potentially willing to share it across their social graphs.

From a strategy perspective, prioritizing content just may be one of the most cost effective, albeit unsexy, line items on your next marketing plan, if it is not formally there already. Content as a currency creates the value exchange for consumer attention, which marketers spend billions of dollars for otherwise. Social media and your content strategy are not replacements for advertising and promotions, but part of a holistic marketing mix,  boosting brand perception and  trust, which doesn’t come easily these days. Additionally, the discoverability of valuable content can help reach consumers who are light users of other media.

So does your brand have a formal content strategy?

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mobile-socialFollowing last week’s DigiDay Social & DigiDay Mobile conferences,  I had a chance to brainstorm about how social and mobile marketing were becoming such interconnected bedfellows. The trend is only strengthening.

Consumers are looking for experiential and utility value in social and mobile channels. The experiences we provide consumers are converging, and becoming less about the channel, platform or destination, and more about experience itself (I’d argue that it was always that way),  the development, distribution and measurement of these distributed experiences must strive for complete interoperability.

Currently, devices and platforms have various protocols and standards that make this a lot of work for developers, and more importantly, a major expense for companies. The end result – few companies have a consistent digital experience to offer consumers that transcends any platform or device the consumer chooses. Consumers want this, marketers want this.

Enter Adobe…yes, Adobe.

Apparently Adobe plans on creating uniformity across social and mobile applications.  Essentially a developer could build flash-based apps in a to-be-released authoring tool, that will be customized to deliver experiences to consumers in each native environment. Sounds like the holy grail of a uniform experience across various social platforms and channels. Of course the acquisition of Omniture will provide deep analytics into the performance of these distributed experiences. Adobe, I applaud you for taking this stand.

Not The First Time

Flash has been the basis of rich experiences online for over a decade. And why wouldn’t the makers of Flash want to maintain and even bolster this ubiquitous position? Those who have been in the digital media space for sometime remember when Macromedia (original brand that developed Flash) partnered with Doubleclick to develop DART Motif. Well, Macromedia’s involvement was limited, but the strategy was the same – create a level of uniformity between otherwise disparate systems that develop and deliver Flash-based experiences. Times have changed, and Adobe has far more skin in the game now. This is a big play. This can be a major boon for the  entire ecosystem – developers, marketers, content providers, and of course consumers.

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picture1Over the last couple of weeks Sprite (Coca Cola) launched an interesting reality-type program on YouTube called Green Eyed World, which will follow the nascent music career of a new artist, Katie Vogel, as she leaves her family in the UK and heads to the Big Apple, NYC. It’s typical reality format and also branded entertainment at it’s “best”.  I’m not a big reality fan, so I won’t comment on the content, but I do think the singer Katie Vogel has a nice, raspy, jazzy musical style. But I digress..

The interesting digital marketing tidbit here – is that YouTube (well, Google – as in one of the brands with a competing data portability product) has agreed to implement Facebook Connect, which will allow viewers to interact with their friends on Facebook and even with Katie herself while watching episodes. The fact that Google is using Facebook Connect can only mean that the two companies are open to the potential of the openness to a two way data portability relationship. Either that, or it was a big enough deal for YouTube – which  really needs the revenue.  Remember the history making data portability case implementation that rocked our world a few months back? …when CNN implemented it during the presidential inauguration? Well, this isn’t that big a deal, but it’s refreshing to see the mash-up of reality programming, branded entertainment, and social media data portability.  Kudos to the team from at Coca Cola Europe and FullSix for kicking off a global campaign in the UK and achieving global momentum. Well played.

Incidentally, this is a big change from Sprite’s early foray into social media via one of the first Facebook apps  in Nov 2007, which ironically is still there rotting away with 4 installs (i am one of them and know 2 others – ouch). One of the wall comments on the Sprite Sips page is most likely the best internet comment I have ever seen  – “This app is crap to the power of suck” – Lucy Peery . I’m making a t-shirt out of that.

Reminding you to add value within social media communities, earn respect…and have you pet spade or neutered.

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Via the JasonHeller.com blog

sd-collageMany readers of this particular blog may not be aware of my dual lifestyle. One part marketing maven, one part commercial photographer and adventurer. Today is one of the rare times where my two lives have come together (well, at least I’ve found an angle to make it relevant to the digital marketing community). Yesterday, Bonnier Corp, the parent of Sport Diver magazine, #1 title in the scuba diving category (where I am a regular photographer & author of the IMAGES column), acquired Scuba Diving magazine, #2 title in the category.  Scuba Diving magazine, for many years was owned by Rodale and more recently by F+W Publishing, has been an iconic title for some time. As is happening all around us, the new media era has allowed only the absolute strongest to survive and to a degree forced the consolidation of yet another category.  About 5 years ago another iconic dive magazine Skin Diver had folded, and Sport Diver subsequently acquired the remaining assets of their brand and customer lists. Congrats to the team at Bonnier and at Sport Diver for a job well done, and for maintaining a position of dominance in an evolving market. I am proud to be involved with the team at Sport Diver.

We are observing the result of massive changes in consumer media consumption. Niche categories have fared better than broader titles due to the passion their readers have for specific lifestyles. However, even niche categories are being affected by the shift to digital media.  The down economy and large infrastructure of primarily print-based media companies have been colliding lately. Look at what happened to Tribune, the largest newspaper conglomerate in the US.  The print media business is in a state of flux. Many publishers have heard the chants but ignored the mantra of “evolve or die”. Being a media company today means understanding how to distribute your content across multiple channels,  providing consumers the experiences they expect, and building revenue models that will morph and evolve as quickly as media consumption patterns. Easier said than done, of course.

We are watching history unfold in so many ways.

It was no surprise to see AdAge today run a piece about YouTube’s potential as a search powerhouse. In August, YouTube’s search volume surpassed that of Yahoo, the number two search engine – that’s search volume – actual search queries – pretty amazing when you think about it.

Barack Obama's Campaign Buys Video Ads Against Keyword "John McCain"

While search accounts for the lion’s share of online ad spending, video represents a big part of the future growth and a method of engaging with consumers in a deeper manner. Google has been struggling to monetize the potential gold mine of YouTube, experimenting with varying formats and sales strategies. Search ads may provide another win-win-win – providing benefits to marketers and consumers as well as to Google itself. What it does not replicate however, is the  similar intent that consumers have while searching on a search engine, posing the question of whether this format can yield the direct response success that has predominantly led the search category into its dominant role. All things considered, this approach still creates a relevant and engaging experience for consumers – based on that criteria alone, it has legs..

I moderated a panel at the OMMA Global conference today titled “Competing With Search”, which I thought from day 1 was an interesting title, but somewhat of a misnomer for any conversation relating to digital media. I knew then that this would make for an interesting panel and hoped for some different perspectives and opinions (after all, what fun is a panel when everyone just agrees on everything).

The official description was:

Search advertising continues to attract 40% of today’s online ad budgets, and some projections have search growth continuing to outpace display spending over the next decade. Plus, the direct response model seems to have affected the success metrics applied to all campaigns. How do publishers-armed with a portfolio of display, email, video and sponsorships compete with almighty search for budgets that increasingly demand ROI? How are publishers making the case with clients to maintain or grow their non-search budgets. Is video proving to be a hedge against budgets moving to search? Can a content provider create unique packages that complement or replace parts of a search spending strategy? How can sales teams create compelling display and direct response programs that complement and enhance existing search spends? And how can the sites themselves use search engines to increase the value of their own inventory to clients?

I’ll pull out a few interesting sound bites from the panel…

  • The panel agreed that it’s not about “competing with search” for web publishers, but rather maximizing the value of an audience and packaging advertising in a way that maximizes monetization
  • The last-ad attribution model is broken and unfairly credits search for the entire influence chain rather than the activation of it. Multiple attribution protocol needs to emerge as the standard and is emerging far too slowly. Agencies and marketers need more education about these things.
  • The impression doesn’t mean anything – the value of the impression matters. Applied data helps increase the value of the impression.
  • Video can create emotionally compelling consumer experiences, but successfully adding video to a website requires good content, which requires a real investment.
  • MySpace is apparently so big that Jason Oberfest calls a site with 10 – 20 million unique users “mid-sized” (for the record 10 – 20 million uniques is still quite big, it’s just not MySpace big)
  • Scale matters when it comes to addressability, segmentation and the maximization of profitability for publishers

Ok, no revelations made, but the air was cleared for many in the room. I directed the audience to check out Atlas’ Engagement Mapping demo, and also mentioned Doubleclick’s Multiple Attribution Protocol, neither of which are perfect sciences, both of which are far better than the last ad standard and help to more accurate apply credit to advertising influence.