Excerpts from McCain blogger conference call
A few days back, Yahoo announced that they will be hosting two online only debates, one for Republicans and one for Democrats and the co-sponsors of the debates are The Huffington Post and Slate.com. Now, the idea for an online only debate is a great move, but what I wonder is why didn't Yahoo pick another partner to balance out The Huffington Post? Weren't they concerned about picking another partner that is clearly on the left side of the political spectrum. Now, I'm not writing there is something wrong with the site and I do visit (not often) sites that are on both sides of the aisle, but Yahoo could have done a better job picking another partner that was either more neutral or one that could have balanced out HuffPost like Townhall.com. In fact, Townhall would have been the perfect foil to HuffPost. Think I'm off base? Then let's take a look at the content on Huffington Post right now:
So, what do you see? A post from John Kerry. Nice. Another blog post titled Sen Kerry: GOP Is Teetering on the Brink....It's Time to Start Giving Them a Push. For further proof, which is the only part that really matters, visit their blog section for really good balanced commentary.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am not writing that there is anything wrong with the site or commentary. What I am writing is that I can't see how Yahoo could view The Huffington Post as being anything but a liberal blog site and The Slate.com as also a left of center magazine site that does not balance out HuffPost. Need more proof, Yahoo? Hit this link from Quantcast and scroll down on the right until you see a column called Similar Audience and you'll see that their similar audience is from the liberal blogosphere.
Why does this matter? Well, Democrats opted out of a Fox News Debate because they believed that Fox News is an Republican only news outlet. I wonder what Republican campaigns think of this online debate format? Here's an interesting perspective from Townhall on the debate and why Republicans should attend it as opposed to the current field of Democrats that opted out of a Fox News Debate.
Nothing against The Huffington Post or Slate, but I really think Yahoo could have done a better job of either a) keeping it totally neutral or b) adding in another sponsor that was on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Again, I have no inside knowledge of what Republican strategies will be behind attending the event, I'm just an online media guy, but Yahoo really missed the boat on keeping this a fair and balanced event. Come on Yahoo, this wasn't even up for debate..
While playing a little bit in MySpace today for the article I wrote earlier, I found this cleavage laced ad from True.com. It is a Flash ad that has a scantily clad young woman with her cleavage very much exposed in a mock video chat banner. Now, before I chest down errr I mean head down the art of using boobs in online ads path, let me point out some of the awesome points of this ad unit.
Of course, I didn't fill out the form, but was very impressed with the cleavage play that True.com was making. I'm sure with an ad like that placed in MySpace they are getting a ton of traffic and clicks because that's what happens when you hang boobs in front of men while they are online.
The proof is in the boobing when you use ads like that, especially ones where you think the woman is trying to unzip her shirt. Sure the ads are attention grabbing, but unless you are getting conversion rates near 10% from the click, True.com will find out one of the internet truths, use cleavage sparingly and make sure you track the back-end conversions. Finally, watch the frequency of these ads, because I bet they can start to become very annoying with over use...
Saw this over at the Wall Street Journal today. MySpace, Mark Burnett Team Up for Political Reality Show and while I think it is a good test and makes sense from MySpace's perspective, my prediction is that it will be a non-event. Here's the premise. MySpace users submit videos on why they should be included in the show, called Independent. The field of contestants is narrowed down based on the MySpace community . Challenges on the network show will be determined by buzz generated on MySpace. The winner gets $1 million dollars to use on their own political campaign or donate to a political cause.
Here's why I think this will be a lackluster event and pretty much nothing more than a PR trick:
Ok, stop right there. Sure, I've been critical of MySpace in the past and still am. I do applaud them for monetizing the traffic that is there, but I've yet to see advertising that is not a) music, video, TV, gaming, movie products or b) not placed there by an advertising network like Ad.com or c) a result of a Google search or d) food or e) cheap .com products (more on that later). I've been buying a ton of online advertising for political as well as financial clients and I just don't see the outcry for placing ads there. The clients I've dealt with don't want any ads running there because of the unpredictable content and the perceived demographic profile.
Again, I don't fault MySpace for participating and it goes well with their online vote and of course their impact page, I just think that the theory that says that they will garner a lion's share of advertising dollars because of these efforts is a little exaggerated. I don't hear an outcry with my advertisers to get on MySpace and I wonder how many other non-entertainment advertisers are seeing the same lack of demand. Sure all politicians have profiles and that's good business, but I waiting to see one of them actually spend ad dollars in MySpace, especially ad dollars not associated with a network buy. BTW - I believe there was another version of this show that was run on cable TV in the past and as I recall it bombed. Anyone remember the show or the results?
BTW - According to MediaPost no network has committed yet to this show. That will definitely damper ad revenue....
FCC must think you can't control what your children watch or they think you can't be a parent. By way of the Newark Star Ledger who printed this article from The Washington Post called FCC Seeks to Rein in Violent TV Shows, the FCC now believes that they need to get more oversight into what's being broadcast 6AM and 10PM. According to the article you fine the following backwards thinking from the FCC:
You know what Mr. Martin? I don't need your help and I certainly don't want any help. Protecting what is watched by our children is the job of the parent, not the US Government. I choose what they watch and when and they are not allowed to watch any shows unless we watch and approve it first. Plus, with TiVo I control what shows are available to them.
Mandating what we are allowed to watch is just another form of Government censorship even if it is done under the guise of protecting children from violence. Plus, how does the Government decide what is violent and what isn't.
You know what, the nightly news is the most VIOLENT TV show on. Period. End of story. It isn't wresting as mentioned in the article (a small confession - we don't watch that garbage) and while 24 may be violent (that isn't on when the kids are awake), my kids can tell the difference between a fictional story and the actual news. Plus, you can't forecast when violence will be shown on the news.
Seriously Mr. Martin, try watching TV during the day and note which programming is the most violent. It isn't 24, wrestling, Woody Woodpecker cartoons, Battlestar Galactica. Nope - the most violent shows on TV are news programs.
As with most Government interventions, the best solution is to stay out of people's lives. Sure if you are watching a football game and a breast pops out, there is something wrong. What's wrong as a parent is that you are not expecting a breast to be shown during a football game...Anyway, the FCC needs to find something else better to do than to create work to justify their jobs. They should go back to doing what they do best (actually worst) which is approve mergers like AT&T gobbling up all telecom companies, professing public interest while none of the consumers actually experience competition these days.
***********April 27th Update*****************************
**This is Part 2 of my ad:tech posts that were cross posted over at MadAve Journal***
When large corporations have massive layoffs like the one Citigroup announced recently, it puts it into perspective what is important to you. As the timeless bromide goes, "No person ever said while on their deathbed, gee I wish I had spent more time at work". When you see your friends that spent their careers at say AT&T, hit with pink-slips you realize that what is important to you is what matters to you most. And in order to do what matters most, you need a little coin to keep you going.
When I left Harrisdirect after the E*Trade acquisition which ended almost 15 years of being a George Jetson in corporate America, I learned that there really is life outside HQ. Fact is a lot of the folks that I do business with today can't believe I actually had a 9 to 5 life. What I learned was you can earn a living, spend more time with you family, and be productive without the safety net mirage that large corporations sell you on.
If you can land at a company like some of sponsors that have realistic outlooks at why they are in business and they match up with your own personal goals, you truly can have a life outside the monolithic corporations and you can stop being a Spacely cog. Someone has to make money and it might as well be you doing what you like to do on your own terms.
It's the End of the Ads as We Know It
In the end I had a lot of responses about citizen ads and how social marketing will change the way people get sales information. "When we do end-user testing, we hear over and over that people actually want to see relevant advertising," Richard Frankel, Senior Product Director at Yahoo exclaimed which surprised me a bit at first read.
I don't think people want any advertising, but if they have to trade off free 411 calls or free content on a news site, they want those ads to be relevant. Relevancy really becomes viable when it is also highly personalized especially when a friend provides the marketing. Technology and online advertising now allows you to "do all (your) my shopping in the comfort of (your) my own home and leverage the collective wisdoms of thousands of real-world product experts," Richard added later on.
Changing the way product messaging is delivered in a highly personalized manner is what technology is bringing to the masses. Agencies and marketers need to adapt to the way people want messaging delivered to them. "More than ever, the personal side of ad:tech is about marketing for the people, by the people, and what role professional marketers have to play in this," Rohit Bhargava VP, Interactive Marketing of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide points out the challenge marketers face today.
Blogs, RSS, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and other technologies today have upped the ante on what consumers consider to be ads and the ones that fail to embrace the ending of ads as we knew it, will end up as yesterday's snake oil salesmen with a one horse carriage in a town looking to drum up business by screaming on a platform.
Well that's a wrap for me on the personal side of ad:tech. Please email me and let me know what you enjoyed best/least about the San Francisco conference. I'm most interested in hearing back from people about what they thought of the "the schwag at the booths," because as Harold Mann pointed out, "It's the sign of a healthy economy!"
Finally, I'd like to use this forum to give one bigger "shout out" to my buddy Sam Negin, thankfully now stationed right now over in Germany after serving time on behalf of our country in Iraq!
Those of us who have staked our careers on the enlightened benefits of new media deserve nowhere's near the level of gratitude and respect that people such as Sam and others have made to theirs.
My hope is that the commitment we collectively make as the next generation of new media evangelists and conversationalists can somehow make the world a slightly better place. The desire to generate freedom in the world is but one similarity we all share and can all be proud of.
Another is that the people we have gotten to know and respect in this business will be awarded next week for their commitment to this space. My advice for everyone is to continue to support ad:tech as much I support being a charter member of the Samo Medical Plan. Both give us great coverage and in the end, on an annualized basis are great values, in exchange for what, the cost of a little beer money!
********This post was also cross posted over at The MadAve Journal********
I was thrilled that the folks over at The MadAve Journal asked me to be one of the bloggers to write about the upcoming ad:tech. They gave me the topic of the personal side of technology, how it helps people in their lives, and how companies balanced personal and professional goals.
Sponsors were given a list of 6 questions and the folks at The Madison Avenue Journal collected the responses. Between these responses and my own answers to the questions, I've written this commentary, but you are probably wondering who Sam Negin is and why I named him in this post.
Sam is one of my college roommates from Rutgers (year withheld to protect my age) and when he graduated he joined a program with the Army that paid for medical school with the tradeoff that he had to spend time in the Army as a doctor. Sam always wanted to be a doctor to help people and even offered the roommates charter membership in a medical plan called the Samo in exchange for beer money.
Anyway, the Army deal seemed to have been a good one except that he was shipped off to serve in Iraq to help injured Iraqis as well as our own soldiers. Oh, in case you think this is a sad story it is not - Sam is back from Iraq and is currently stationed in Germany
[Check out: Evening Keynote: Old Warriors Don't Die! Wednesday, April 25, 5:00pm-6:00pm]
However, this doesn't diminish the fact that he gave up years of his life to serve our country so that when he finally paid his dues he can practice being a doctor; not for making money, but to help people which is the kind of person he really is. I've had numerous careers since Sam and I shared a Silvers apartment at Rutgers and of course I thought that all of them had improved people's lives. Looking back, I can see clearly now when I've impacted people in a positive way and when I was just buying into a company's strategy to deliver a return to their investors or as I like to say, playing the role of George Jetson as a money making cog at Spacely's Space Sprockets.
[Check out: Gamer Nation: Strategies and Tactics for Brand Immersion in the Gaming Universe Tuesday, April 24, 10:45am-11:45am]
While you might think it would be tough to find responses for this subject from technology and online advertising conference sponsors, they were there and their responses really do prove that technology can impact people in a personal way.
Eliminating the Distance Dimension
"Distance no longer has a hold on my life", declared Organic
Chairman and Founder Jonathan Nelson and this short quote speaks volumes as how
technology impacts every day lives. No more are you tethered to an office or a
factory to earn a living and the 9 to 5 days are becoming the latest extinct
[Check out: Mobile Marketing Ecosystem Thursday, April 26, 12:15pm-1:15pm]
My wife Mary once complained "the kids and I don't know when you are
working, reading email, or playing World of Warcraft because you always look
the same - typing away on your laptop." I work more now than when I did
driving to an office and I'm always on; I'm on when I coaching my kid's soccer
team, on when I'm looking at hot tubs on a Saturday, and I'm on the night of my
daughter's birthday as I type up this post.
[Check out: Tales from the Bleeding Edge: The New Mobility - A Hands On Experience, Tuesday, April 24, 4:00pm-5:00pm]
"Technology often gives us more time to do more work, so the time saving
idea is a fallacy," is a quote Harold Mann President of Mann Consulting
provides that proves my point with a caveat that while you might not save time,
you can squeeze more into the day without wasting your life on Route 78
commuting to NYC.
[Check out: New Media Universe, New Consumer Behavior Thursday, April 26, 12:15pm-1:15pm]
While on the surface it looks like a return to a sweatshop brought about by investors looking to squeeze more minutes out of an employee, it really is the exact opposite. You can work anywhere now and be more efficient. This lets you spend more time, not less with your family and friends. Commuting will (as it has for me) become a thing of the past, allowing you to be instantly available.
Need to attend a teacher's conference - done, because you can make up your time later during the day. The technology companies of today truly make your personal lives better by giving you the ability to reach out and touch the people important to you whenever and wherever you want. My kids no longer remember what it was like for me to commute - they really believe that Daddy has been home forever.
Someone Has To Make Money
Maybe this part of my post sounds very impersonal and perhaps the people that provided me the quotes that I'm referencing are cringing slightly to be associated with it, but I really enjoyed reading the more realistic responses. Stripped away were the party-line responses and left were blunt honest assessments that we provide a service that people or companies need.
And you know what, there is nothing wrong with doing a service or providing a product that as Dana Todd co-founder and principal of SiteLab International Inc wrote.... "We're here to make money for the company and for our customers. Our ability to continue to provide a great environment depends wholly on our ability to stay profitable." It may not be something that as Dana wrote, "reduces carbon emissions", but providing people with opportunities in a fun environment does make them have better personal lives.
[Check out: Publishing in the Digital Era: Feast or Famine Thursday, April 26, 12:15pm-1:15pm
"While the dream of becoming a .com millionaire is a driving factor for innovation throughout the internet... without investors desire to make a buck, Google, YouTube, MySpace and other sites would never have gotten off the ground," William Rice, President of Web Marketing Association pointed out. Providing products that don't necessary save the world or solve global warming, but enrich people's lives including the company's employees is a contribution to society.
I woke up yesterday morning after my big night out in NYC to see this article in the WSJ called Vonage Says Patent Suits Could Lead to Bankruptcy and I was surprised because that's not their normal press releases that look like celebrations. Oh wait, this wasn't a press release, silly me, this was something buried in a SEC filing where you need to be more methodical and realistic because the Government reads it. Did their press releases which is their news to the community at large even mention doom and gloom? Let's take a look at their recent press releases:
Now onto their SEC filing from April 17th that you can find here. I'll have the details of the filings on the post continuations because this post is getting too long, but in summary it talks about massive layoffs, bankruptcy, lack of new customers, failure to maintain a stock price to stay on the NYSE, and other horrible results.
You know why I'm so fed up with this? I've seen my PR and corporate communications co-workers put these together and it takes weeks even to just get final approvals from compliance and legal which means while they were releasing these upbeat releases they were working on this doom and gloom end states for the SEC filing. And, I wonder how much they tell their customers. Did they send out an email or call them? I'm guessing no.
This is just more magic tricks from this joke of a company trying to get as much money out of investors and customers before they go belly up. Shameful and disgusting.
P.S. One more article from the WSJ called With Vonage, It's Risky to Follow the Leaders which talks about their insiders buying and selling Vonage. What's funny is this gem at the end of the article "InsiderScore.com research director Ben Silverman said that while insiders have been active buyers, hedge funds and institutional investors haven't been. "There has not been institutional support for the name," Mr. Silverman said. "It seems pretty rare to me that you see a stock that hated."
I know this is not one of my normal subjects, but I was completely floored when I saw this quote in today's WSJ in the article called Next Debate: Should Colleges Ban Firearms, "The students were like sheep" said Phillip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. "If you were in that room waiting to be executed, what would you give to be able to stop that and save the lives of others?" This was proceeded by this line, but not in quotes so it calls into question whether he even said it: other students who might have been carrying guns could have prevented the carnage. The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, sponsored legislation to overturn a ban on firearms at Virginia Tech.
This thinking reminds me of a very famous and funny moment from All In The Family where Archie Bunker gives his views on gun control, which thanks to YouTube you can now watch commercial and DVD free!!!
Do you think Phillip Van Cleave actually listens to Archie Bunker for advice?
Sorry about the infrequent posts over the past two days. First, I had to write a few posts for The Madison Avenue Journal on ad:tech which should be posted in a few days and then I was very busy yesterday. Besides getting a few media campaigns live, I was in NYC for AOL's First Look event, a meeting with an old friend Cathy D., and then dinner at Craft (YUMMY) with Dow Jones. To top it all off, I hit another giant pothole on my way in which I thought would have given me a flat, but instead broke a sensor in my door so that the computer thinks the door is open. The is the third time in a row I've hit a pothole coming or going to meetings in NYC the last two resulted in 2 flat tires.
So after my car troubles, I finally made it to AOL's First Look ceremony at Columbus Circle and even though I had to watch it in the hall outside because I showed up too late, I thought it was a very upbeat celebration of the new content AOL is showcasing this year. As a friend said, it sounded almost like an AOL upfront for online media buyers. Anyway, they showcased a Shrek based game, Gold Rush2 (a reality game/quiz show), an integrated campaign with Ellen Degeneres, a Million Dollar Bill game where certain dollar bill serial numbers could be worth big prizes, and a build your own island reality show called Iland. All of the shows had social media, offline content, and plenty of media integration which was exciting to see.
Those of you that have known me for a while, know that I've historically been anti-AOL especially on their old paid platform. Back in those days (circa 2001) when I was running online advertising for CSFBdirect, I couldn't understand who would be using that platform for trading and researching stocks, when most of that type of use was conducted during business hours when most of these AOL users didn't have access to AOL. Anyway, the deal was a disaster and I canceled it after exacting some revenge, never to work with AOL again until their online strategy changed. Back then, I would have described AOL as the walking dead.
Fast forward to 2006 and I've done quite a number of media buys for politicians as well as other clients via AOL. And, surprisingly, I often defend AOL to perspective advertisers saying that they've turned their online strategy around. Plus, the account management and client services have been really great; the only and I mean only annoying aspect is that their trafficking department always assumes that they are ad serving the ads instead of via a 3rd party which leads to some confusion. However, that last comment is just me being a little picky ;-)
The content they showcased as well as TMZ for entertainment news and their Political Blog are really top notch, especially for reaching consumers. I'm still not 100% convinced they are the place to reach active traders and financial types while they are researching trades, but they are probably a good place to find them when they are acting like regular consumers. Plus, a few buys I've done recently do show promise reaching them in this fashion.
As a former anti-AOLer for advertising, I'm more than happy to eat a little crow and say that they've definitely changed their strategy and hopefully it pays off with more advertising dollars. If you are trying to reach consumers, the content is there as well as competitive pricing and customer service from their account team. MSN should pay a little attention to AOL's turn around....
BTW - I'm not the only one who thought the First Look was impressive. Here's a nice write-up in the WSJ called AOL Beats TV Networks...
I've been advertising with Google since way in the beginning of their PPC platform and continue to run very large search marketing campaigns. I've also run huge (north of $130 million in online advertising) display/banner advertising campaigns since 1997 and always have used an ad server for placing my ads, tracking results, measuring post-click conversions, and etc since 1997. I've tried them all - MatchLogic, BlueStreak, Atlas, and of course DoubleClick.
So, unlike other blogs that claim to have experience (especially in the political marketing blogosphere), I actually have a ton and continue to work in this space. One of things that's always been tough is having a single source for reporting, optimization, trafficking, planning, and counting conversions (more on that in a second) and now with a stroke of a pen and $3.1 Billion in cash (yes cash or as Henry Blodget wrote: a few quarters of free cash flow) Google solves advertisers problems by acquiring DoubleClick.
Now why does this solve a lot of problems? Simple. Let's take a look at how this helps advertisers and agencies:
For Google, the advantages are huge starting with the fact that they used cash and kept DoubleClick out of Yahoo's and Microsoft's hands. They can combine search, display, blogs, email and site targeting into one neat package; plus, retargeting efforts become that much more ubiquitous. I never bought off on Google's complete search tracking package, but now I might. Finally, imagine all of that data they now get to go through and analyze; it can only improve their targeting capabilities which is currently top notch, but could use a boost (just check out some of the ads on my blog to see what I mean by targeting mistakes).
Finally, where does it leave Microsoft and Yahoo? Yahoo, probably not that much worse off because I know they have powerful targeting tools already and analyze the data on the family of websites. Microsoft? I think they are fighting against a strong current and looks like every stroke they try to take in the online river, they just end up going back towards that waterfall. Nice move Google.
I really wonder why American Express is changing their advertising them from My Life My Card to Are You a Card Member?. According to AdWeek, their agency Ogilvy is changing their tagline and of course their print, TV, outdoor and online campaigns. In the article is this quote from John Hayes Amex's CMO: "The new campaign continues the tradition of defining the value of belonging to the American Express community by showcasing some of our most exceptional cardmembers and the ways in which membership works for them," said AmEx chief marketing officer John Hayes, in a statement. "But the challenge we put forward in our latest campaign ('Are you a Cardmember?'), not only reaffirms for existing members why they belong, it calls to non-members to consider becoming a cardmember."
I'm actually not being terribly critical, but I liked the My Life My Card campaign because it featured famous people in silhouettes while they featured card benefits. According to the quote, I don't think it changes that aspect of it, but of course the biggest change is the call to action which is much stronger to non-card holders. I just think it is a little too subtle for the audience, plus when big behemoth marketing companies advertise it takes a while to make the big elephant dance.
When I was at AT&T (the older and better version), I saw plenty of super large advertising campaigns. I remember the iPlan (still don't know what the heck that was), True, OneRate, and Personal Network. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars behind these campaigns and while I can't claim to being part of the marketing communications team to develop these campaigns (I either built offers or ran tactical marketing plans in support of them), I did see how long it takes for a company and employees to embrace the new platform. Plus, lets not forget the army of copy writers, script writers, and designers employed at multiple agencies. All of this takes time and of course money.
The best execution of this was AT&T's True strategy. All of our calling plans, company awards, network, direct mail, creatives, inbound scripts, rewards plans, stationary (you get the idea) were branded True. TrueVoice, TrueUSA, TrueRewards, TrueChoice (calling card), and of course our highest award TrueSpirit (on a side note, I'm still pissed off at Joe Nacchio for moving the awards ceremony, the year I finally won the award, from exotic get aways for your spouse to a dinner at the friggin New Brunswick NJ towers in the scenic area off of Route F&CKIN% 18). However, these executions take time to reach all aspects of the company.
Back in the True days, we advertisers didn't have to fight for such a small share of our audience's attention. The net was dial-up, DVRs were not around, satellite radio wasn't around, folks actually read the daily newspaper in paper form, and people actually had to listen to our ads. Now it takes time to reach your audience and you have to do it well across multiple channels. It isn't as simple as dropping a few hundred million dollars on network TV and then watch the cash register ring.
So, the short question is, I really wonder what is driving Amex to change their campaign other than change for the sake of change or tweaking a giant ad campaign with a new call to action?
No, not by that ridiculously run company, but by their ex-CEO Michael Snyder who jumped off that sinking ship and left the architect of this disaster Jeffrey Citron in charge to go down with it. You can read the details in this WSJ article called Vonage Says CEO Resigns, Sets Cost-Cutting Plans or if you want to read the details in an always entertaining PR release from Vonage you can find it here. BTW - Vonage must have two PR authors - the one that takes happy pills before they write a release or the one that is more rationale and writes realistic releases.
Not only is the CEO getting away, they are cutting marketing costs (geniuses right?), general and administration costs (read head count reduction), and still have problems with Verizon. They did say they had an average CPA of $275 which is still horrible in the telecom world (it should be way under $100) and their churn is awful at 2.4% and that probably doesn't take into account all of their patent problems which just started creeping up.
This company is going down fast and surely the only reason Citron is taking over is because he has a personal stake in not just money, but in his own personal reputation with some serious investors. For an interesting spin on this, read this link that I posted a few days ago called Vonage: The Conspiracy Theory. You'll see this interesting view:
Despite all the King's men (major phone companies for this story) out for blood against Vonage I can't help but think these major investors would like to get their money back. Not only would these investors like to get their money back, but these guys want to make a profit, they want a good ROI (Return on Investment)......Even Enron went on for years before the scandal erupted and the investors and board of directors made millions before they lost everything. How many companies do you think faced similar fates but the news just never got out or received the attention it deserved?
I had another post ready to go, but all of my good friends asked me to make a post on Don Imus. Why? Those of you that know me for a while, know that I've been a huge supporter of The Rutgers Women's Basketball Team since about 1986 or so.
Back in my college days, the men's basketball team was absolutely putrid so the only good basketball to watch was Theresa's Grentz's Lady Knights basketball team (yes - they were called the Lady Knights back then). The Lady Knights were so popular that they played after the men so it boosted the men's basketball attendance. My college roommates and I sat behind the band, painted our faces, and raised the noise level several decibels at the RAC. We went on road trips with the team, spent a few nights partying with them (one was a late night Pizza party at Pattie's partially funded by my friend Sam N who graduated a semester early and had cash to burn), and generally hung out with them when we could. So, needless to say, we still follow them to this day.
When I first heard about the racially charged comments by Don Imus, my first reaction was - that guy is still alive? My second reaction was, this guy is a clueless jerk. Why on earth would he degrade these college students after they had such a great run through the NCAAs when at the beginning of the year they looked like they were in for a rough season (like the Yankees, we RU women's BBall fans are accustomed to winning). That was rude, uncalled for, and degrading.
And, like most people I heard or read about it a week later. You know why that is? I know ABSOLUTELY nobody that listens to his drivel. Not one person. Not one person in the past 15 years that listens to his garbage. My parents? No. Friends? No. And don't forget my friends are now unfortunately in the coveted 30+ age group with money demographic. I commuted for 5 years to Jersey City during prime drive time and none of my fellow commuters ever mentioned him. Howard Stern? Yes. Opie and Anthony? Outrageous and disgusting, but yes. Mike and Mike in the Morning. Sure - I have them on my first position. WDHA for rock music and then of course the AM static news channels of WINS, CBS, and Bloomberg. WFAN in the morning? Never. WFAN in the PM, sure if you can stand the static you have Mike and The Mad Dog.
Imus? Seriously, I thought he passed away. That's why I was shocked to see he had advertisers and according to this NY Times article he generates $50 million in revenue each year when you include MSNBC. Also as you probably know, there are several advertisers bailing on him now, which calls into question what were people doing advertising with him in the first place?
CSFBdirect used to advertise with him and thankfully we canceled it years ago due to lack of traffic and results. However, who is listening to him now? As Townhall pointed out (and beat me to the punch with that title BTW) his ratings in the DC area are anemic and as far as I can tell in the NYC area he gets like a 2, which is pathetic.
Can he recover? Sure, but I'm not sure why. Was this a stunt to re-position himself to hate-mongering folks? Who knows. I'd say stop listening to him if I could find anyone I know that still tunes him in. Maybe this will get advertisers to re-look at their sponsorships and figure out why they were there in the first place. Picking on college students in their moment of glory for what he believes are professional gains is wrong. Does he have freedom of speech? Sure, but that has to do with being arrested by the Government, not having advertisers and listeners send him to media purgatory which is where I thought he was in the first place.
About a year ago, my lawyer friend Howard B suggested that I service mark/ trademark PardonMyFrench. He thought, while we were having lunch in Parsippany NJ, that if my website got big enough it would be important to have it registered. I of course laughed thinking, well there is no way I'll be in business on my own (minus my Connell Donatelli work) for a long period of time that a service mark would really matter. Anyway, he was serious so while I was on my way home I thought to myself "well maybe it wouldn't be so difficult on my own".
That night my cousin Nikki (she prefers to be called Nicole....) called me to discuss her new business selling political t-shirts under the company name Team Candidate, because politics is a team sport (there - how is that for a link Nikki?). One of things she brought up was how easy it is to get your own trademark or service mark using the government's online filing system for trademarks. So without the help from a lawyer (lunch will only get you so far), I used the online filing system, researched the mark, filed the paper work, and dropped about $300 or so on the filing.
After about 6 months I started hearing from the attorney assigned to review my mark. She was both helpful and knowledgeable on filings. After a few phone calls and follow-up information, she sent my mark onto public comment and approximately 14 months after my initial order, I am now the proud owner of the service mark PardonMyFrench.
That's right people, I own the mark on PardonMyFrench. That means every time you say PardonMyFrench, you need to say "oh that's owned by Eric Frenchman" or how about Eric Frenchman's PardonMyFrench. Just so you are clear, I can't stop you from saying pardon my french or collect any money when you say pardon my french. So please try and be careful on the use, or just like Viacom I'll send you letters asking you to refrain from saying those words or I'll ask you to pull down content when you use PardonMyFrench.
On a serious note, I'm still not sure what I'm doing with my service mark of PardonMyFrench. I guess I can ask Google and Yahoo to stop selling PPC ads on the term. Wouldn't that be crazy? All this should teach you is that the US Government has a great online process especially for small businesses and if you want to get a mark just be careful and follow the rules. Oh, one more thing, you'll get a lot of junk mail from former ambulance chasing lawyers saying that they will help you - guess what - it is all a bunch of BS. You don't need them....
Did anyone catch Real Time with Bill Maher the other day? I know it was a re-broadcast from March 16th but I'm not an avid fan of the show and was only desperate to put something on TV Friday night. The reason I don't watch regularly is that the show gets most of its laughs from ripping on Republicans and when he has a decent one, Bill seems neither funny nor intelligent. Anyway, I wasn't trying to go out of my way to rip the show in general, only Dan Rather and Martha Raddatz.
In his panel segment with those two and Jason Alexander (who was very funny), Bill asked the panel what they think of media today. Dan Rather says that the internet is a supplement for news and even called it added value which prompted Raddatz to chime in an say that journalists don't get to determine what is the most important story of the day. Here watch for yourself courtesy of YouTube (and as a side note, pay attention to the fact that a) you didn't pay to see this and b) you probably won't pay in the future to subscribe to HBO to see it and c) who gets the advertising opportunity in this case).
Wow, that really shocked me. Added value or a supplement? First, sitting in front of a TV all day waiting for some smart person to come and tell me the news is so old fashioned , slow, and one-sided. The days of only have three networks to choose from has long since passed and deciding how someone gets their news is also wrong headed. Why TV or print? It doesn't matter really. All that matters is that the content you receive is reliable and if you wanted it delivered via the web than that's what's important. Plus, if a community of people decide that article A is more newsworthy than article B, than that's what should be put up front.
News shouldn't be decided by a few experts centrally located somewhere who really only care about fame, fortune, and advertising revenue. Dan Rather does have a valid point when he says that to be informed on an issue that you should read a variety of sources. I just don't think the variety should be the format it is delivered by, but the source of the news and story. During the day I read multiple sources of the same story and different views of the same story especially when it comes to politics. I personally find that the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Hey Bill, newspaper readership is down because you get it faster elsewhere and you sometimes don't even pay for it. Plus, if you want to read the NY Times, but do it online you still can get the same news reporting. Finally, aren't you more well informed when you get to look at many different angles and have the community provide feedback on the story. One sided news is a thing of the past.
Vonageland, where after those customers decide to leave from that crappy company they tell the investor community that they fixed their churn and then in small print, only read by analysts, explain that the fix was due to allowing non-paying customers to stay on the system longer.
Vonageland where PT Barnum like exaggerations of losses in courtrooms appear to be monumental victories for this company conjuring up visions of Barnum hoaxing people into believing he actually had George Washington's nanny on display.
Vonageland where they turn customers into investors only to have their stock get pummeled and in the process, lining the pockets of brokers, financial advisors, and of course the founders and CXOs of the company. At least for all of Barnum's hoaxes he believed deep down he was entertaining people; there is nothing entertaining about losing your shirt on a stock.
Well folks, it looks like Vonage is finished, or nearing the end. As this NY Times article explains Vonage was given a death sentence and then a temporary reprieve from the gallows prompting them to finally get real with their press releases by announcing that Vonage receives temporary stay in Verizon patent litigation, continues to sell service. I guess even their PR department can see the end because they didn't issue a classic Vomit release like "We Won and Continue to Win in Court!!!" You know, it is never a good sign when you see a press release saying that you can temporarily add new customers.
Anyway, what gets me is at the end of the article there is this mystifying quote from Gigi Sohn a lawyer with Public Knowledge a firm that clearly doesn't have much when it allows this quote to get out from Ms. Sohn "Any time a company is told they can’t add new customers it’s pretty serious,” Ms. Sohn said. “I’m not sure the judge fully understands what this could do to a relatively small company like Vonage.”
Ms. Sohn said Verizon was unfairly using its patents as a competitive weapon. “I think Verizon is pulling out all the stops to put Vonage out of business,” she said.
You know what? I think the Judge knows that when a small company steals patents and misleads investors and customers regarding their product, he knows exactly what it can do. It will put them out of business which is where they belong.
PS: LA Times has an article on Vonageland too...
It seems I spoke (really wrote) too soon and the Vonageland PR writers were back to their usual stunts. From today's press release we get this award winning fiction from their PR team: "Vonage Holdings Corp. (NYSE: VG), a leading provider of broadband telephone service, today stated that it views the Court of Appeals' granting of a temporary stay on Friday allowing Vonage to continue to add customers as the first step toward resolving this matter in Vonage's favor. The stay will remain effective while the Appellate Court considers making the stay permanent."
Well, I guess nobody else believed them because their stock is being pummeled by 10% today. At 3:52PM ET: 3.02 0.35 (10.39%)
And my town doesn't pick them up. So, after my wife bugged me to finally move them from the backyard I decided to dump them tonight. So, I roped my father-in-law into helping me get rid of them in a nice forest near my home. I put one tree in the back, hanging out the window and one tree on the roof and then started out down my street to make a left turn and then another into the park. Unfortunately, there was a police officer coming down the street. No sh&t, just as we were getting ready to make the turn. My father-in-law makes a turn going in the other direction hoping he didn't notice and he pulled us over one friggin block from my damn house.
COP: Ummm, where are you going with those trees
ME: I'm trying to dump them
COP: Oh, I thought you were cutting them down from people's homes.
ME: Nope, my wife has been giving me sh^t so I thought it would be a good time to get rid of them.
COP: <laughing> I dumped mine by a river. Why don't you take them to the DPW, but you didn't hear that from me,
As we drove off, my father-in-law thought about how we got busted and how we were going to explain this to my mother-in-law. Anyway, we took the cops advice and dumped it where he told us!!! Happy Easter by way of Christmas.
On my drive home the other night from Seder I got to thinking about the types of first life companies and products I'd like to see in Second Life. Seems like I had a lot of time on my hands, right? Well, have you ever tried driving back to NJ from Long Island on a Jewish Holiday while your entire family was asleep in the car? If you have, then you know that plenty of ideas will jump into your head.
One of the things that disappoint me when it comes to first life companies jumping into SL is that they just view it as an extension of their web presence or as a place where they have to be before it becomes big. You know what I've seen when this happens? No traffic, no reason to visit, and of course a place that doesn't take advantage of a place where anyone can live a fantasy, be what they want to be, or a have real-time conversations instead of boring conference calls. Anyway, thanks to questions from my friend Jim over the weekend, here's a list of first life companies and their project that I'd like to see in Second Life.
Those are just my 5 favorite ideas. I thought of many more on my boring trip back from Long Island and of course have other ideas that I've presented to clients which I can't print here. Needless to say, just putting up a Second Life office will disappoint the marketer and the community. Building places and products that enhance the SL experience will pay big dividends over the long term.
Google announced a partnership with Echostar to power their advertising system and I'm slightly bullish on this offline strategy for Google as opposed to Radio or Print. According to the press release here are the highlights:
A separate news article via Yahoo News called Google to sell EchoStar satellite TV ads provided these two juicy tidbits:
Now why am I a little more bullish on this effort as opposed to radio or print? Simple, if Google can work with EchoStar to figure out if someone actually watched an ad for a period of time, that's HUGE news. This allows the advertiser to know if people are actually watching the ads and then they can optimize accordingly assuming that the results are published in a reasonable amount of time. Note, I didn't say real-time because based on the tidbits above it looks like it would be delayed 24 hours. Plus, the other upside is the auction based style on buying and selling ads on a CPM basis and only billing advertisers for what has been viewed. This makes me bullish.
Now, on the other side, I agree part of the way with Donna Bogatin that they haven't been able to extend the platform into the offline world, won't have complete control over the platform, and Google will be acting as a middle man all under the guise of making the process more efficient.
Plus, the biggest negative is that they still have a ways to go specifically on results tracking. While it is great to know if someone watched an ad (impression) and then optimize accordingly, I really want to know as a big advertiser whether someone actually responded to the ad (click) and if they took an action based on the ad (conversion). Only then, will I really be able to judge the effectiveness of my ads. Wouldn't it great to actually optimize offline ads appropriately and figure on a CPC or CPA?
While this is a better model than radio or print, it still has a long way to go to even approach online's optimization and results tracking abilities. Up until now, they've had mixed and in my opinion sub-par results extending the buying model to radio and print. For example, I wonder when Google will finally power XM Radio's ads in a more targeted fashion? Until they can crack that results and targeting code, Google TV will be a nascent step towards improving the offline advertising process and that's why I'm slightly more bullish on it.
Seriously, how many of you visit MSN these days other than MSNBC? Do you use them for search or even the homepage anymore? I doubt it. I can't tell you the last time, I even thought about searching there for a subject, finding content, or even when I've received traffic to this website from them.
They seem to be searching for a brand identity and while they have one at the desktop level, there seems to be no purpose to their website destinations. None and they are falling faster behind their major competitors and I won't even compare them too Google which is like comparing a major league pitcher with a single A rookie who can't find the plate with their 89 MPH fastball.
Even in last week's Business Week, they painted a bleak outlook on MSN and MSN Search (or Windows Live Search or whatever it is called now) in the article called Where is Microsoft Search? You can read it for yourself, but quickly: search volume is heading south, change in management, confusing branding, and no real strategy for turning it around. Plus, to add insult, there was a blurb on political search in the same article called How to Read The Google Tea Leaves.
Sure, they just bought Tellme which actually fits in with their offline/desktop strategy, but I think the rumors of them looking to purchase DoubleClick for a couple of billion seems crazy. I just don't get that. MSN needs DoubleClicks's ad server or email push engine? Why? I've never been a big fan of DoubleClick and canceled two deals with them and I'm guessing their largest customer AOL would do the same if Microsoft bought them. MSN's biggest problem is not the advertising technology behind them, their biggest problem is to make MSN.com an internet destination for a specific target audience. Check out these demographics comparing AOL, Yahoo, Google, and MSN as reported by Quantcast.com (numbers compared versus the internet average = 100)
MSN has a higher skew towards the 55+ audience and has the lowest average of younger audience. AOL, not surprisingly has the highest % on the young end as well as a high % of the older audience. Google definitely skews toward the younger audience and has the lowest ratio of older users.
MSN needs more content and a reason to have people visit them. I don't have the time to read through their judgments over the years, but it seems to me that they have to figure out a way to leverage their desktop products better. The PC search on Windows sucks. Maybe instead of trying to battle Google on the internet maybe they should go back to their roots. Fix PC search and figure out a way to supplement that with online search results. Sure that sounds like going back to the future, but their older audience can use their help; heck, when I was looking for help on why my PC was acting funny today was when I really saw how broken they really are.
MSN.com not sure what I have in common with it anymore. Microsoft still powers my two laptops, a desktop, and my Treo 700W. I occasionally use Internet Explorer and spend a ton of time with Microsoft's Office Products. Those have to count for something and there are millions of people with that same profile plus Xbox owners. If I was at Microsoft strategy, I'd focus all of my energy at webifying those important contacts in every facet possible. You do a desktop search, you should also have a side-by-side online search results; not sure if that's illegal for them but if it is, they ought to try and fix that.
Google and the other usual cast of characters are also looking at buying DoubleClick. Personally, I don't get what the big deal is because I've personally found their technology behind other companies like Atlas and BlueStreak....
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