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Follow-up on user-generated content… March 20, 2008

Posted by psychobserver in Advertising, Newsweek, Strategy, Trends.
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Here is an article from Wharton “The Experts vs. the Amateurs” that is related to the article I posted about from Newsweek: “Revenge of the Experts” (my post here).

Despite its title, I think the most important issue raised in this latest article is the one about business models. With the “everything is free” idea going on (thank you Wired) everybody is running around trying to come up with an “hybrid business model”. Indeed, current free models offered by formerly paid publications are not sustainable as they don’t generate enough to cover for the loss of subscription money. So, is there an hybrid free business model? … I tend to think there is none. If you want quality, reviewed, edited content, … well it makes sense you have to pay for it somehow. And there is only so much advertising money can cover.

The big problem is that the line between Expert and Amateur content is very blurry as the article states, so it makes matters worse. What makes it even worse is that as human beings we are really bad at reacting to a situation until there is a big crisis. So, as long as old-fashioned professional publications survive, we won’t realize that we actually want to pay for quality content. Personally, I do a lot of consulting work, and I am happy people are actually willing to pay money for my work, instead of having to watch a 5 minute advertising video before every meeting they have with me. I can imagine it is the same for a reporter or an editor. My feeling is that paid publications will come back in the end… I can’t help but think that the whole “free” thing will quite quickly disappear… not that I am an expert on the issue in any way, just a thought.   :o)

Changing the advertising experience? December 7, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Advertising, BusinessWeek, Customer Experience, Innovation, Japan, Strategy, Web 2.0.
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BusinessWeek published an article entitled “In Japan, bloggers get to pick their ads” on December 5th 2007 about a new ad network aimed at bloggers called AdButterfly (website in Japanese). Advertising arguably creates one of the worse experience not only for online users, but for people in general. However it is done, advertising is most of the time perceived as intrusive.

I guess we could categorize the reactions to that fact into two. The reaction that seems the most common around the World and especially here in China is to consider that a negative experience with advertising is a given and cannot be changed. If that cannot be impacted on, the important objective for advertisers is to be seen and hope that will create brand awareness (or unintended clicks that would result is a purchase maybe?). If the user is in some ways “forced” to see the ad, the advertiser (or should we blame this on media placement companies?) is happy.  The growing focus on ad clicks only solves part of the problem. Indeed only some advertising campaigns can be measured in terms of clicks, while others are just supposed to raise awareness, or create brand associations. And because of the focus on clicks, the websites where the ad is displayed have an incentive to have flying ads all around, hoping users may click by mistake.

We can definitely put the new venture in Japan mentioned above in the second category. On AdButterfly, although I am not sure about the details, bloggers will be choosing which ad campaigns and brands to associate with. With bloggers endorsing the ad, it is thought that the experience created by the ad will be much more positive. It is very probably true. If I read a blog and I know the ads there have been selected by that person, I would certainly (even though maybe unconsciously) pay more attention to them.

What about the advertisers’ side of the story? Potentially companies with great brand equity can greatly benefit from such a platform. But companies with lower brand equity may be totally blocked from getting access to the network by users. A pretty scary thought for the advertiser who is so conscious about keeping the brand image under control. Scary yes, but maybe a good thing. If people’s experiences with ads can become more positive, everybody is bound to benefit from that. In any case, AdButterfly is a great experiment! I wish I could read Japanese and try the service…

Interactive Billboards equipped with Bluetooth: Good or Bad? October 4, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Advertising, France, Innovation, Trends.
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BBC interactive billboard with a live pollYesterday in the French newspaper Le Monde (sorry, article in French) there was an article about interactive billboards supposed to be installed in the Paris Metropolitan stations. These billboards will be equipped with Bluetooth and will be able to send information through SMS or other means to people passing by.

Interactive billboards of such kinds are not new, but it seems to me that something is different about this initiative. Browsing the web we can find quite a number of interesting brand-driven campaigns that use interactive billboards. Below are just three examples, that I think are pretty innovative and can be efficient:

What is different here is that the initiative is not brand-driven, it is media placement company-driven. This could mean that instead of being surprised by a funny and innovative interactive billboard somewhere in town, people could be overloaded with interactive stuff and potentially unwanted SMS all over town if that type of billboards spread.

I am also puzzled by the choice of location to kick-start the project. People in the Metro don’t strike me as having time to interact with some ads. They strike me as been tense (especially during rush hours) and potentially running late. It seems to me that an initiative like this would make much more sense in the waiting area of an airport where waiting cannot be avoided.

As quoted from the Le Monde article, right now, Métrobus (website in French), the company behind the project and which is owned by Publicis and JCDecaux is waiting for approval from the CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés/National Commission on Computing and Freedom) before the project can be launched. Other companies like CBS Outdoor or Clear Channel are waiting for the approval as well to potentially launch their own projects.

I personally would prefer the approval not to be given as it would change what is a very effective niche advertising channel into mainstream advertising that would just overwhelm people and could lead to serious privacy issues.