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15 posts from November 2005

Erwin Ephron Critiques "Engagement"

051130b_1Media planner veteran (and maybe inventor) Erwin Ephron has been calling the media's bluff on promoting 'engagement' to advertisers. In July, he made a presentation to the ANA explaining engagement in magazine advertising. Here he disassembles the idea of engagement in TV advertising.

It all comes back to relevance, although many other things can get in the way. I do believe that one day (far away) all advertising will be legally required to be direct, requested advertising.

ENGAGEMENT EXPLAINED: The Confusion is Engagement is Many Different Things. By Erwin Ephron (free registration required)

...we tend to think of Engagement as a single thing: A consumer state which results in greater likelihood of response to advertising. Engagement as a measurement is not a single thing. In TV viewing it is the sum of all measurable variables that significantly affect the probability of viewer response to the ad message. These variables include:

  • Size of the unit. Because recall studies tell us that a 30-second commercial is more likely to produce a response than a 15 is.
  • Clutter. Because a nine message pod will lose more viewers for the average commercial than a three message pod.
  • Situation. Because the number of persons in the room, the location of set, the time of the telecast, multi-tasking, etc. will affect who sees and gets involved with the commercial.
  • And finally, Relevance. Because what the commercial is about helps to determine viewer interest and response.

What does an Evangelist do?

051130cOne of my favorite books on marketing is Creating Customer Evangelists (see the right side bar for more info), and the authors, Huba and McConnell, just got some coverage in US News & World Report. This new article has a nice explanation of the duties and responsibilities of a corporate evangelist. For more information, check out their blog: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product by James Pethokoukis

"It's not about creating a better megaphone," says Bill Hamilton, CEO of TechSmith, a software developer with 100 employees in Okemos, Mich. "To be successful, companies need better conversations with their customers." The TechSmith side of the conversation is handled by chief evangelist Betsy Weber. "My job is about relationships," she says. And that means loads of contact with users of TechSmith's products--software used to capture images and activity from Windows desktops for multimedia presentations. Weber estimates that she chats with 400 of her customer evangelists several times a month via E-mail, instant messaging, phone, private forums, and meet-ups on the road. What does she do for these people to help them keep and spread the faith? She tries to reply to each and every E-mail, forwards problems or complaints to product specialists, invites the customer evangelists to groups beta-testing new products, and, of course, supplies the occasional tchotchke.

Use Search to Connect with Influencers

051128Most marketers consider search to be a point-of-purchase moment, but Sean Cummings, a VP at search innovator Dipsie, reminds us that people can click to connect, not just click to buy.

iMedia Connection: Can Search Build Brands? by Sean Cummings

You can build a brand through search, but only by smartly identifying those people who influence the cluster you are targeting, and then triggering their word-of-mouth for your product. Search can trigger interest and purchase, increase knowledge about a topic or product attribute, but the consumer must have primary interaction with the actual product to develop those neural highways of brand influence.

Audi, Volvo, AT&T Satisfied with Blog Advertising

051126_1I'm not sure I agree that major national advertisers are reaching people they may not have reached before by using blogs, but it does seem clear that the quality of the communication is there for them. Blog advertising is establishing itself as a productive channel.

NY Times: As Corporate Ad Money Flows Their Way, Bloggers Risk Their Rebel Reputation by Louise Story

Audi, for example, paid for about 70 million ads about its A3 compact model on 286 Web logs in the spring. Many of the blog ads featured links to other blogs that mentioned Audi's campaign for the A3, not to Audi's site, said Brian Clark, chief executive of GMD Studios, an experimental media firm that worked with Audi's advertising agency to create the campaign. "It was a substantial buy, and it was a really effective buy for the campaign in terms of the response," Mr. Clark said. "You find that blogs are these series of citational records of what bloggers read. People with blogs read blogs. You get a feedback cycle."

Web logs also give advertisers the chance to aim at specific readers. If you want to advertise to New York Mets fans, for example, you can easily find blogs that cater to those readers, Mr. Clark said.

Last spring, Volvo spent several million dollars to sponsor Microsoft's MSN Spaces, a site that offers free Web logs and personal pages. The blog investment was worth it, said Anna Papadopoulos, the interactive media director at Euro RSCG 4D, a division of Havas that is running Volvo's Web log campaign. Since April, about five million pages have been set up by individuals, and a million people have visited Volvo's home page directly from the blog site, she said. "These are people that we wouldn't have gotten through other marketing efforts," Ms. Papadopoulos said.

SBC Communications, which adopted the AT&T name on Monday, has found that advertisements on the blog site it started last fall,, have a higher click-through rate to its home page than its advertisements have had on other Web sites, said Michael Grasso, associate vice president for consumer marketing at AT&T.

Budget's Innovative Campaign with Bloggers Succeeds

051125_1Stuart Elliott has an excellent recap of the good results of the Budget Rent-a-car campaign which brought together all sorts of blogging resources. Hasbro has been encouraged to try their own innovative campaign using classified ads instead of blogs.

One of the important things to realize about these wonderfully creative campaigns is that they are not high-risk for these advertisers. The marketers are siphoning off a fraction of what they now have to spend to reach a mass market and using that money more efficiently to find a highly engaged audience that will spread even more word-of-mouth support for the brand.

NY Times: Placing Ads in Some Surprising Spaces by Stuart Elliott

Budget turned to blogs to promote a contest with a scavenger hunt motif, buying advertisements on 177 blogs bearing names like BuzzMachine, Gizmodo, Jossip, Largehearted Boy, Overheard in New York, Stereogum and The Superficial.

And beginning next week, Hasbro will sponsor an unconventional series of make-believe classified ads to promote a new version of its Monopoly board game. The classifieds will appear in newspapers read by consumers shopping for cars, houses and boats. Although the ads will resemble those that sell cars, houses and boats, the "merchandise" is actually in the form of tokens from the new Monopoly 70th anniversary edition.

Detroit Figures out Women?

051122_1Although Mercury denies it's re-branding itself for women, it has clearly become a more "woman-friendly" brand. It's sponsoring the development of independent films by women, getting involved with high-end fashion shows, and partnering with dealerships to offer the Make Your Day sweepstakes, the prize being a day to pamper yourself with a makeover, manicure and coffee. As long as they don't paint the cars pink, the guys seem to be okay with this!

Detroit Free Press: Ford's chick brand? by Sarah A. Webster

Mercury's official position that it is gender-neutral seems difficult to square with Mercury's highly female-oriented campaign. "That's what they're doing," Gordon Wangers, chief executive officer of AMCI Inc., an automotive marketing firm in Marina Del Rey, Calif., said of Mercury's apparent targeting of women. Karl Greenberg, a reporter who follows the auto industry for Brandweek magazine in New York City, even noted how Mercury's campaign is packaged in a soft, muted color scheme. "There's really little question they're directing most of their brand at women," he said.

Plenty of car and truck models over the years have been aimed toward women -- minivans, the VW Beetle and or Volvo's 2004 YCC, or "Your Concept Car," which was designed for and by women. But few marketing experts could remember an entire brand being positioned for women. Coming off as a chick brand in the auto business has risks. There's an old adage in the auto industry: You can sell a woman a man's car, but you can't sell a man a woman's car. Some experts, however, say this long-feared risk is overblown -- and outdated.

Evolution of the Commercial Break

Tivo and DVRs have finally pushed the TV networks into innovating the standard commercial break, known to TV execs as the "advertising pod" (no relation to an iPod). Although local stations and cable channels have always had more freedom in putting together commerical breaks, now that the industry leaders and changing their rules, we should start to see a lot more experiments. Looks like we'll have to use the pause button to make our own breaks in the future. TV Ad Rules Are Challenged By 'Pod' Busters by Brian Steinberg (subscription required)

TV executives have begun to bend the rules: Some now give preferred positions in the ad pods to advertisers with product-placement deals in shows, in the belief that a well-placed ad helps emphasize the product. Networks are tentatively trying other new things, such as the five-second spot. Earlier this year, several networks ran a five-second ad for General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac in the middle of commercial pods. To get the spot on TV, however, GM often had to purchase a separate 30-second ad in the same pod, a GM spokeswoman says. ...

Some ad firms are coming up with novel proposals for their clients. These include grouping several commercials together in a single pod to play off the theme of the program. For example, a rental-car company might band together with a hotel chain to air their ads together during a program about travel, suggests Joe Uva, president and chief executive of Omnicom Group Inc.'s OMD, an ad-space-buying firm.

Other possibilities: running never-before-seen footage for a movie during an ad break, or showing multiple ads over several pods that add up to tell a single story. "The issue is about what the content inside the pod of tomorrow will look like," says Mr. Uva.