Archive for June, 2011

Google Makes Another Play for the Social Web

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Google sorted out the web and made it searchable; can it also create the connections between people that are making it social?

Google’s latest attempt — in development for more than a year — was unveiled today as Google+, and offered to a select group of journalists and analysts who will be able to share photos, links and status updates.

The major difference between Facebook and Google+ is that instead of having a massive friend list, users collect each other into groups, such as family, work and friends, called “circles.” This context has been missing from Facebook and has gotten some people in hot water — for example, those who post their wild weekend party photos that may be seen by family and colleagues. And on Google+, there are no friend requests. People do not need to agree to be friends with one another and can view updates without sharing their own.

While executives declined to say what their are doing with Google+ when it comes to advertising — for example, will brands be able to create “circles”? — they did say that +1, an icon launched recently that is now integrated into Google+, is operating with ads. The +1 service allows users to click on the icon, indicating they like that search result. Google+ follows the search company’s failed attempts at the social web — Buzz and Orkut — and could be a huge deal for Google if people are willing to participate in yet another social network.

But the bigger play here is to harness the data about human connections generated by the social web and apply that to search and even display advertising. The rise of Facebook meant that a lot of this emerging activity was taking place inside a walled garden that was largely invisible to Google.

“Google rose to prominence because the web became open and they made it sourceable and discoverable, so this is a preemptive strike on Google’s part,” said Steven Rubel, exec VP-global strategy and insights for Edelman, explaining that as people spend more time inside walled gardens such as Facebook and mobile apps, Google loses its power to search and monetize that walled-off content. “Now they have a leg in the game in a world where people spend less and less time on the web.”

Mr. Rubel may be right. While Google continues to be one of the most visited sites — ComScore showed 180 million people visiting a Google property in May — Facebook is catching up. But Facebook users spent an average of 375 minutes on the site during May — close to 3 hours more than the 231 minutes they spent on Google.

Google+ will give Google a place for users to create their own content — the stuff we’re used to because of Facebook — such as user conversations, their photos and the links they share, plus group text messaging and video chat. Since it belongs to Google, it will all be searchable and monetizable — just the way Google likes it.

While people are not in immediate danger of losing the searchable, open web, the phenomenon can occur slowly over the next decade as mobile and apps become more and more dominant in how users consume information. “It’s like a receding hairline,” Mr. Rubel said. “You look in the mirror when you’re 29 and think, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad’ and wake up at 40 looking like Kojak.”

Google executives said that getting social information on their users will improve Google products across the board — by allowing personalization. Most of Google’s most popular products such as search, maps and YouTube do not require a login, which limits what Google knows about its users.

But social has never been Google’s bag. “It would take a seismic shift for people to take their social stuff to Google,” said Deep Focus CEO and founder Ian Schafer, who said that the real earth-shattering use for Google+ is in mobile, not social networking. “The biggest implication for Google+ is mobile,” Mr. Schafer said. “For example, for people to be creating content wherever people are and using that to deliver messages to them and close the loop on sales. The promise of Google+ is closing the loop on social CRM.”

For advertisers and brands, the potential is immense. “A connection made with a brand in Google+ can eventually be tracked to a purchase,” Mr. Schafer said. “If we can create relevant brand engagements with people and give them an ability to purchase the product at a later date — whether that’s three, six or 18 months later — this brings us back to social ROI.”

Indeed, metrics and analytics is one area where Facebook falls behind Google when it comes to advertising. When asked what she’d like to see from Facebook, Coca-Cola’s head of integrated marketing and communications Wendy Clark said she wanted a good way to measure social media success.

Why Brands We Know Partner With Startups That We Don’t

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Success of Foursquare and Pepsi Sparks Copycat Duos

Could a CMO discover the next Facebook?

Marketers are becoming increasingly entrenched with digital-media startups, often kicking the tires on a new service or social network even before consumers have had a chance to give it a spin.

It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Startups bring marketers in to help imagine ad products, forging relationships early and gaining credibility by wrangling big brands’ involvement. Marketers, in turn, get a peek at what’s new and next in digital media, often at a bargain rate, and a chance to stay a half-step ahead of their consumers and rivals. That’s not to mention the good chance that they’ll look pretty cool in the process.

Over the past few years, some progressive marketers have popularized the model. PepsiCo was an early partner of location app Foursquare, and American Express ran a pilot program in March and subsequently launched a nationwide rewards program tied to check-ins on the service. Virgin America, one of the first advertisers on Twitter, also launched the first deal with Loopt for the reverse-Groupon, in which consumers-pick-the-deal discounts on flights, just last week. More conservative marketers are now scrambling to partner with the next hot digital things before anyone else has read about them.

Consultancy Medialink, for example, has organized Silicon Valley tours for marketers such as Unilever and Bacardi to meet partners. Chobani yogurt and Arizona Beverage Co. recently partnered with social network Consmr, which aims to be the Yelp for packaged goods.

Wrigley and movie-vending-machine company Redbox recently partnered with Tap.Me, a mobile-gaming-rewards network backed by agency investment unit Rockfish Brand Ventures. While Consmr and Tap.Me haven’t won much attention from media or even consumers for that matter, that’s OK. In fact, it’s kind of the point.

“After so many years of the world moving so fast, we know new companies are launching much more quickly and becoming part of consumers’ lives faster,” said Dave Rosner, who often plays matchmaker for brands and startups in his role as exec VP-director of digital and innovations at Initiative. “So the idea of waiting, where it used to be safe, now is sometimes not.”

General Mills’ venture arm has been at it longer than some, having added digital media to its existing focuses on food tech and emerging food brands two years ago. Trying out startups doesn’t present much risk for a top 50 advertiser like General Mills. “These are usually small-scale pilots, and there aren’t a lot of dollars thrown at it,” said Meredith Schwarz, the head of General Mills Ventures.

But a broader pool of marketers seems to feel the risk of waiting outweighs the small price for experimenting, which often runs on par with a measly web-banner buy. Between $25,000 and $50,000 is usually the price tag for test-and-learn campaigns, said Dave Knox, partner at Rockfish Brand Ventures and former Procter & Gamble marketing executive. “The cost of learning is very cheap,” said Tristan Walker, Foursquare’s business-development director. “Later, when your competitors start to come in, you’ll already know how to scale your business.”

Take PepsiCo, which was one of Foursquare’s first brand partners back in early 2010, when the location-based service had fewer than 1 million users. Since then PepsiCo has run multiple programs with the company. Today, Foursquare has 10 million users.

Are Advertisers In Love With TV Again?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Are you 4 or against QR Codes?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Why Marketers Shouldn’t Waste Their Time With QR Codes.

Ad Spending Grows for Fifth-Consecutive Quarter

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Ad Spending Grows for Fifth-Consecutive Quarter, but Rate of Gain Is Shrinking.