Wednesday, March 23, 2005

For people who've REALLY got too much time on their hands

Find an empty room. Turn it upside down. Become a minor internet celebrity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Caught a nasty viral

Adrants has been ranting about viral marketing. While there's much to agree with, I have to disagree with the final paragraph:

There's not much a marketer can lose using the viral medium. The stakes are low. The potential return, very high. The worst thing that can happen is no one will see it. No problem. Try again. It's cheap.

The worst thing that can happen is not that no one will see it. That's pretty bad, as it's hard to get clients to invest in viral campaigns and a failed campaign doesn't make it any easier to secure budget for next time. Fine if you're in traditional advertising and the viral is an add-on, not so fine if you specialise in digital.

Worse is that in the attempt to be edgy you misjudge the content and create a consumer backlash against the brand that makes all the wrong headlines. Those kind of mistakes are expensive. Just ask Ford about their headless cat (they say it was not a sanctioned release). Some argue that the controversy made it successful, but the tone of their 'wasn't us' denials suggest those at HQ wouldn't agree.

Successful virals are a delicate balance between the 'underground' nature of the Internet and branding requirements and the two are not a natural fit. That's why all virals need the moment of genius that Adrants' rant alludes to. Get it right and achieve the kind of reach per cost that only the Internet can provide. Push it too far and, sometimes, it's better that no one sees it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

We're not in right now, please take your business elsewhere

In the heady days of the Internet boom, countless companies were born and subsequently died on the advertising-based revenue model. The bursting of the dot com bubble showed that business fundamentals still apply and that over optimistic advertising forecasts just did not materialise.

Thankfully for the industry, things have largely stabilised with better balanced business models, based on a careful mix of advertising (especially the saviour paid search), subscription services and e-commerce. However, the case for digital media is still being made and the arguments have still to be won in convincing the major advertisers to apportion ad spend commensurate with consumption of the media.

Given this background, I was amazed when putting together a media plan this week at the lack of responsiveness among certain prominent sites.

- To begin with, when it's such an important revenue stream why make it so difficult to find out who to contact? Some sites hid the information in 'About Us', one 'Advertise' link was a dead link, others resulted in a form to submit (I'm sure I'm not alone in finding these too impersonal and wondering who actually answers enquiries and when...)

- One website helpfully listed three contacts and their direct lines. All were on voicemail. I left a message for one of them and sent a cc'd email to the two others and await a reply more than 48 hours later

- Of those I emailed, I am still waiting more than 48 hours later for even an acknowledgement of my request for information having said I had a deadline to meet

With a big name client and money to spend, the response across this range of sites gets a 'must try harder' on the half-term report, especially as we're not talking about one-man sites with limited resources.

The exception that proved the rule, was the site that published a direct line from a prominent 'Advertise here' link, answered their phone and sent through a proposal in the time requested. Guess who's more likely to get the business?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Who leaked the Doctor?

With the new series of Doctor Who about to be released, it was hardly a surprise to read that the first episode had been leaked onto the Net.

Material ranging from the recent U2 album to the dire Matrix sequels have done the pre-release rounds to much media hype and outrage from the producers in what seems to have become the sign of must-have content in today's peer-to-peer age.

While I'm by no means suggesting that the prematurely returning Doc was deliberate (and I'm sure the BBC lawyers would back me on that), it does make me consider how risk-taking marketers with the right product could use the peer-to-peer phenomenon wisely by actually releasing limited content through this channel.

It's increasingly commonplace for artists with an album to market offer limited free downloads of their tracks and a natural extension would be the right P2P networks, some of whom are slowly moving down the road to a legitimate business model.

The problem is that such networks are hardly respecters of copyright once the full versions are released, but perhaps engaging with this huge community of potential customers can help begin to address the major challenge that content producers are facing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel for mobile rage

Nice to see I'm not alone in my mobile rage with Jeezidunno giving Gapingvoid's cartoons a run for their money...
Podcasting for Virgins

In a wake-up call for the commercial radio sector, Virgin Radio's Pete & Geoff breakfast show (yes, hoho) has announced that they will be creating a Podcast of the show (almost).

However, with the RIAA and BPI in particularly litigious mood of late, it's hardly surprising that there's no music allowed, as this would apparently constitute illegally downloading.

As a regular listener to the show and a fan of technology, I would surely be in their target audience, but I won't be subscribing anytime soon.

Firstly, while their banter is better than most, it's the music that I, and I suspect the majority, commercial radio listeners tune in for and this places the content firmly in the decaffeinated camp for me.

Secondly, while I appreciate the flexibility of being able to listen to the comedy duo at my own convenience, the 'popcorn' instant hit value of commercial radio hardly makes it worth keeping for posterity or even taking up valuable storage on a rapidly becoming out-of-date MP3 player.

However, I can only applaud Virgin Radio for helping Podcasting take a major step forward into the mainstream, and even if it does just end up as a nice bit of PR, the importance will be in the others that follow their lead.