Monday, January 25, 2010

Facebook isn’t just for procrastinating–innovative ways social media is assisting in disaster relief

I am one of those Facebook users irritated by all the cheesy games on Facebook. I’ve never played one, never sent a heart, sheared sheep, gotten a jewel, planted corn or secured bonus loot. (Incidentally, I also hate Webkinz that I am forced to help my 6 year old navigate).

So it was quite interesting to see how one of the most ubiquitous game purveyors, Zygan, is using their products and the devotion of their 180 million fans to help Haitain relief efforts. Zynga is behind such run away hits as FarmVille, Zygan Poker and Mafia Wars. According to the company website, “Zynga is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from non-withering white corn within FarmVille, a Haitian drum on Mafia Wars, the Haiti Wrasse Fish in FishVille, and a special chip package in Zynga Poker to support emergency aid in Haiti through the Zynga Haiti Relief Fund.”

The fact that people will spend real live, actual money on virtual things they send to virtual places still boggles my mind. But right now that aimless play has the potential to do some real good.

You’ve probably heard of the American Red Cross texting campaign–text 90999 and donate $10 to Haitian relief. This campaign had raised $3 million just two days after launch. The campaign is easy (I have a phone), fast (:30), familiar (I text all the time) and the sacrifice threshold is low ($10). These same principles apply to online games where users are already at the donattion portal and accustomed to making purchases.

I have no idea what the profit potential of Farmville corn is for Haiti, but I do know it makes me slightly less irritated to see my friends playing the game.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The future of print won’t even be printed

Over the last few years we have seen a dramatic drop in advertising in print media. While demographics shows that an older population still favors a printed product over a computer screen, the trend is for corporations to allocate more and more of their marketing budget to online outlets.

So what will happen to print? Let’s just say it will be getting an overdue facelift over the next five years. The biggest change will be to the physical form. Starting this year, tablet devices will start to take hold. Consumers have already shown interest in this style device over the last couple years in the form of the Kindle, e-Book, the Nook and others. While these devices have been primarily used to push digital books, they will now evolve to push every form of printed communication.

So who will be the major player in tablet communications? While many will vie for the top spot, I believe there will be one stand out–Apple. If you know me, you know I’m a bit biased when it comes to Apple. The reality, however, is that they already have the infrastructure to pull this off. They have one of the largest, if not the largest e-commerce store with 75 million accounts with credit cards registered to them. They are the largest music retailer in the US, accounting for 25% of music sales. In addition, their app store sold 99.4% of the apps sold online in 2009. So when you think about subscriptions to magazines or newspaper, why couldn’t they achieve the same thing over the next five years? They already have revolutionized the music industry and the phone industry, so why not print?

So what kind of changes can we expect to see in print if Apple has their say? I have come up with five changes that I expect to see in the print industry in coming years.

  1. Format

The static print format will be gone. Through digital print we will have the ability to add video and sound. This goes for both content and advertising. For example, Sports Illustrated showed a sample digital magazine and in it the reader was able to read the article on their favorite player, as well as watch video relating to the player and tweet their favorite player all from the one article.

On the advertising side, not only will we be able to add video and music, but we will be able to create more interactive ads. For example we can do a promotion that would allow a user to shake the device much the way it’s done on an iPhone app to find out what they won. So instead of everybody getting the same deal it might be that the first 30 customers who access the ad may get 50% off where as the others may have to settle for 10%. That would certainly incentivize the consumer.

The new format will certainly be more entertaining and interactive make print sexy again.

  1. Tracking

As advertisers it has been very hard for us to monitor whether our print ads are working or not. All we have are human tabulated ways to account for an ads exposure. We ask our customers how they heard of us. Sometimes they get it right, but often times they don’t remember or remember incorrrectly. Was it the radio? The tv? Or the newspaper? As a culture we get our information from various multimedia sources in a given day. Keeping track of where we heard things is the last thing on our minds.

With print moving to digital, we no longer need to ask our customers where they saw us. We will receive access to analytics that will give us instant feedback if our ads are working or not. They will give us more information on consumer habits and behavior allowing us to make better advertising decisions.

  1. National publications will localize

Currently it is cost prohibitive for local advertisers to buy advertising in large national publications. It really is overkill if you only want to capture a small market. By moving to a digital format, national publications will be able to offer local rates easily. They won’t incur additional print costs to customize their publication regionally or locally and they will have a more niche reach for their advertisers. A good example of this may be that one of the local sports books may want to promote to a male demographic. They could choose to advertise in Sports Illustrated and still have it be cost effective to reach men in Reno-Sparks.

To better attract local advertisers national publications will also be able to localize content. Just as it is easy to change advertising, the same can be said about content. Using the same Sports Illustrated example, we would be able to get content on a local topic like the Wolf Pack.

  1. Micro publications will germinate

In much the same way that the Apple app store has made it easy for individual programmers to sell apps in the Apple store, digital print will make it easier for people to create their own publications. Creating a publication from scratch is most often cost prohibitive due to printing, distribution and production costs. If a majority of those costs are eliminated, we would see more small, specialized publications develop. Writers would be able to drop their content in a page layout friendly program and the system would distribute to subscribers.

  1. Cost

Obviously cost will be the biggest change. By reducing at least half or more than half of the cost to create a publication, print can be a viable business again. Over the last few years we have seen many layoffs and shutdowns in the print industry. Content has suffered and in many ways we as a consumers have lost our voice. By eliminating hard production cost, versus human production cost, I believe we will see a reversal of this trend. Print will be viable again and we should see more publications develop.

Some may argue that the digital tablet will kill print. This was the same argument some people made in the early 60s about tv destroying radio. Yet today, we still have both. And both have evolved dramatically from their initial form. Print will never go away, but like the other media it must evolve. In this evolution, it will create change and opportunities for everyone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

can average Joe's make kick ass Super Bowl commercials?

Doritos is at it again. For this year's Super Bowl television festivities, Doritos is hosting another contest with the best fan-produced spots airing during the big game. This concept of letting "non-Madison Avenue" types create the coveted Super Bowl spots seemed cutting edge a few years ago, now it smells just a little gimmicky.

Gimick or not, they are handing out real money to the winners (last year's duo got a cool million and launched TV careers). This year they're giving away up to $5 million with $1 milllion bonus for spots that take the top spots in USA TODAY’S consumer driven Super Bowl Ad Meter. The question is, should we professional advertising folks feel threatened by the success of these average Joes?

According to a USA Today article that ran after last year's Super Bowl we should:
"It wasn't just the Arizona Cardinals who met their match in the Super Bowl — so did Madison Avenue. And it could be a game-changer. For the first time, it wasn't an ad agency that created the best-liked Super Bowl commercial. It was two unemployed brothers from Batesville, Ind., whose ad for Doritos — created for an online contest for amateurs — won them $1 million from Doritos maker Frito-Lay, and leaves ad pros with a lot of 'splaining to do."

Well, I for one am not shaking in my slippers quite yet. First of all, I just watched all the Doritos finalists spots and they're just not that great. (The one with the little kid threatening his mom's boyfriend was kind of cute). When I see really good advertising, whether print or TV or online, I feel it in my gut. A pang of "I wish I had done that," or "I wish I had a client who let me do that," or "I wish I had the budget and the client and the talent to do that." I get jealous. These spots aren't making me jealous.

Second of all, I've done this advertising stuff long enough to understand that good ideas can come from anywhere including from a Pastor in Whittier (one of the Dorito finalists).

Third, you can put lipstick on a pig. I'm not saying any of the Doritos spots are "pigs", but they have been dressed up with good production quality and casting and I'm guessing the pastor didn't shoot the spot himself.

So, this year I will again tune into the Super Bowl with a cursory interest in the game and an acute interest in the commercials. And I hope something I see hits me right in the gut, even if it comes from someone who has never even heard of Madison Avenue.