Archive for October, 2008

08 looking to serve dynamic ads on stuff you’ve got on your hard drive

Edit: WordPress doesn’t seem to like the embed code BeetTV provided, so here’s a link to the BeetTV article in it’s original form –

Serving dynamic advertising on streamed content is easy (in theory anyway) –  the content is effectively being refreshed each time someone views it, so to serve a new ad every time the content is viewed means as soon as a video is called from a server, an ad can be called from a server and served at the same time. Easy. This is why alot of content providers use streaming video rather than letting users download video files – it gives more control over how content is served and the ability to serve up-to-date, semi-contextual ads…

But think about the terabytes of movies, clips and TV shows most of us have stored on our hard drives and portable media players – that same degree of control offered by streaming media is missing. have apparently developed a workaround for this. I saw the above video of Mike Hudack ( CEO) over on Beet.TV this morning as I was going through my feeds… he claims can serve dynamic ads on video content downloaded to viewers’ hard drives. Not streamed video, but video viewers have already downloaded. Thats pretty cool. More interestingly though, it allows viewers ‘click-through’ functionality – viewers are shown the pre-roll ad, see something they want to know more about, click the link and are directed to wherever advertisers point them to.

From mind, this has good potential – firstly, advertisers get more opportunities to achieve relevant impressions of their ads. They are also getting what every marketer needs the most – trackability – through the click through functionality. Further, serving ads like this allows the ads that are being served to be more targeted. This means the interruption / annoyance viewers experience is less than if they were shown less relevant or potentially expired ads (this is important since studies generally show that pre-roll ads bug the heck out of viewers). So it appears to be a win-win.

Of course, the debate over whether ads in a pre-roll, post-roll or interruptive form are effective at all, or if there’s a yet-undiscovered optimal way to run ads in a content-on-demand environment will continue to rage. But in the meantime, watch the vid above, and find out more about from their blog –… and if you’ve got 5 minutes, please leave a comment below with your thoughts.


Microblogging is still unprofitable: Why Can’t Twitter turn a profit?

Yammer has managed to start monetizing and is turning somewhere around the area of $200 a month in profit…. not exactly setting the world on fire, but they’re doing a damn site better than Twitter, who are still burning through venture capitalist’s money & are yet to turn a profit. With what are probably now the world’s 2 biggest microblogging platforms both unable to turn a reasonable profit, one has to ask – What is the best way for a microblogging service to turn a profit…

// first thought that pops into one’s head is “Ads”. Seems every man-and-dog wants to give people something for free / have it ad-funded these days. Which is great, but free (or more specifically, ad-funded) services have a snag – despite common perception, there is simply not a bottomless supply of Internet ads for us to roll out anywhere we like. The boom days of adding some adserver script to your blog / page and watching the dollars roll in are coming to a close. With tough economic times ahead, advertisers will move to either (1) online places where click-through rates on ads are proven to be the highest, or (2) where they can deploy a pay-per-click arrangement so they are not paying for ads that don’t work.

Twitter is neither of these places… firstly, Twitter’s user base tends to be cool-as-ice Gen-Y (see the graph I ‘borrowed’ from the Compete blog) who we know are skeptical of non-targeted advertisements. They have also been shown to modify their surfing behaviour in order to avoid / ignore ads. There goes the pay per click idea – click through rates will typically be pretty low, so Twitter’s income is limited if they choose pay-per-click.

Secondly, Twitter does not keep anywhere near enough data on it’s users to build user profiles robust enough to serve targeted ads well… if you have a look at your Twitter profile, the information they have actually collected is incredibly sparse. However, this second point is perhaps where Twitter’s opportunity for monetisation lies. Should it partner with someone like Microsoft or Google to do a meta-analysis of what individual users tweet about and then try to build profiles of Twitterers based on that, the targeted ad idea may yet work – at the very least, it will give Twitter and advertisers a good idea of products individual Twitterers might be interested in, and allow them to serve ads accordingly. The only problem is, it will take a partner the size of Microsoft or Google to supply the computing power required to make any sense of the tens of millions of tweets per day. I’m sure both companies would jump at the chance though (if anyone from MS or Google reads this and runs with that idea, you can check my about page for contacts details so you can send me my check:)).

Then, there are a whole host of other ideas… sponsored backgrounds like Photobucket have done, fees for additional/premium additions to your free service a la Flickr, subscription fees a la some of the premier tech support forums… or does Twitter even really need to turn a profit? Interested to hear other ideas…

UPDATE: there’s more on this topic in one of my more recent posts at


iPhone making companies pay attention to mobile web.

Flying to Sydney this morning, I noticed in Qantas’ in-flight magazine that Qantas have launched a mobile web site. Fair enough… I’d say it was long overdue. The site offers the ability for flyers to check their agenda, check arrival/departure times and give feedback to Qantas. The functionality that would have been really interesting and valuable to users, such as mobile check in and mobile booking / payment are conspicuously missing, but at least they’ve made a start.

Anyway, what makes Qantas’ new mobile site more interesting is not the functionality, or the user interface (it’s incredibly sparse), but the fact that they are openly admitting they are releasing the website on the back of the (now 3 month old) iPhone 3G. In fact, the site is apparently optimised for viewing in Safari on the iPhone. Hmmm…

At first glance, this seems to make sense… iPhone, to many Australians, is the mobile web. Most of the comms we have seen for iPhone 3G in Australia so far have basically pitched it as some fantastic new way to access the Internet on the go. With Australian mobile web use being traditionally quite low, the introduction of the iPhone will be the first time many Australians step into the world of Internet access on their mobile. This means that the potential market for the Qantas mobile site is bigger, and the development spend from the site is much easier to justify as it will conceivably get more traffic.

However, the fact that Qantas have released a website on the back of the iPhone rollercoaster is a mistake… the site should have come earlier, and it is geared towards the wrong device.  When you consider that Qantas’ most regular and loyal customers are it’s corporate accounts, who probably have Blackberries or Windows mobile devices, why would you go and optimise your site for iPhone? This same segment of the market are more likely to be using data/web on their mobiles (since they don’t have to pay their data bill – the company does), so optimising for iPhone makes little sense. Steve Ballmer announced at a conference earlier this year that Windows Mobile will outsell iPhone this year. Add to this the fact that Blackberry still leads marketshare in the enterprise mobile phone market. The reason these devices are so popular in the enterprise space is that they are dedicated business devices. Despite recent added functionality to sync up with Exchange (meaning the iPhone can now theoretically do corporate email) the iPhone is still not a business phone…

So Qantas have released a website on the back of the release of a phone it’s most loyal and valuable customers are unlikely to be using… seems funny. On the upside, this somewhat knee-jerk reaction by someone at Qantas to the iPhone release is a very good example of the power and excitement around the iPhone. It has made the mobile Internet an attractive space both for marketers who were reluctant to pay for a mobile website, but who are now convinced of the excitement the mobile web can muster. It has also increased dramatically the number of end users who will consider using the mobile web to access a company’s services. This, really, is the most important part of any mobile service – people actually using it and finding value in it. iPhone has, as stated above, become the mobile Internet for a whole new generation of previously unconnected mobile users, though maybe not the enterprise (well, not yet anyway).


‘Marketing is a Dirty Word’ ranks 74th in the Australian Marketing Pioneers Blog Top 100

Wow, that’s one hell of a heading huh? Will never make my living as a journalist (or a copywriter)… It’s been 3 months now since I started this blog. The posts seem to come to me thick and fast at times, whilst they trickle through at others. Interestingly, the comments actually started coming in remarkably quickly for my first few posts, which means someone was reading! Now, due to the miracle of the interwebs, it seems more than just readers of my twitter feed and Laurel Papworth’s post on TwitterAgency have come across my blog – I found out today that the blog is number 74 in the AdSpace Pioneers Top 100 Australian Marketing Pioneers Blogs .

Whilst this is a kinda weird thing considering I hadn’t done any work promoting the blog (and so am pretty surprised it was even found), I am absolutely chuffed at being recognised… I have no idea if this ranking carries any weight, but I am now concerned with working my way up the ranks… At any rate, it must help the AdSpace Pioneers blog move up the Technorati scale 🙂 Big thanks to Julian Cole for including me in the list.

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Crowd Sourced Ad Agencies – true marketing ROI ?

In a post about marketing ROI in the face of economic downturn yesterday, I spoke about the importance of e-marketing for delivering that ROI. It’s fairly topical then that Laurel Papworth recently started the world’s first crowd sourced Twitter advertising agency, Twitter Agency (all in the space of an afternoon too, I might add). (Edit 3/10 – included correct link for Twitter Agency above)

Originally suggested as a joke in response to the $30m media account Vodafone has on offer, Twitter Agency is an innovative idea… imagine being able to harness the collective power and experience of Influential Twitterers (still not alot of twitterers, let alone influential twitterers, in Australia compared to the states) to get your message across for a fraction of the cost of just about any other types of media out there. I don’t realistically expect Twitter Agency to be considered for the vodafone deal – the idea’s a bit too ‘out there’ for a telco – but I can definitely see them potentially getting some consulting work from companies that work with highly connected audiences.

If you’re twittering and think you know what makes a good, effective Twitterer, go to to sign up as ‘staff’ for Twitter Agency… I’ve signed up and will post some stuff soon enough.


Google Chrome Market Share slips a little whilst IE gains a little

google chromeIn an interesting snapshot of adoption rates for Internet Browsers, Google Chrome slipped 0.1% to a 0.7% share of the total Internet Browser market in mid September. This is not surprising really, as nearly all the geeks I know went straight out and downloaded Chrome as soon as the comic came out to try it. It is only natural it’s market share would see an artificial spike as people bought into the launch hype, followed by a small drop as the users who didn’t like it revert to using their preferred browser as default. As with any new product from a company the size and ubiquity of Google (and also Microsoft, at that), there was also intense scrutiny of various aspects of Chrome which didn’t help. Kinda like using Qantas’ forgetting to empty one of their toilets on a flight as proof of the airline’s safety record going down the gurgler, Google was always going to be heavily scrutinised & criticised with Chrome.

What’s interesting about the small slip in market share is that Google’s brand alone doesn’t appear to be as good a reason to consumers to use Chrome as I had previously suspected. In a world where it seems it’s PR-worthy if a Google employee has pickled eggs for lunch, I was quite certain the beta of Chrome would be much more widely adopted. However, we are not seeing this yet, perhaps because Chrome is still in beta and hasn’t really been pushed very hard yet, but more likely because it is entering a market where it’s competitors are already playing by Google rules – Google typically comes into a market and does things either (A) much better than previous competitors (think Search and Search Advertising), or (B) for free in a market where people have previously paid to consume products (think Android‘s release). Chrome sits well in Google’s strategy from a technology standpoint (they want to own the user’s experience and therefore data from start to finish, which is smart), but their grounds for competing is not as well defined with Chrome as it has been with some of their other offerings:

1 Chrome is not really a drastically different product to FF3 or IE8 beta 2 (I’ve seen the claims that it’s handling of JScript is much faster but really this difference is currently negligible in day to day use of Chrome – at any rate, it’s not a compelling enough point of difference for most end users to switch just yet.

2 Browsers have always been free,

So Google’s 2 traditional basis for competing have been removed… the question is, then, how will Google make Chrome seem different and attractive enough for people to actually take the time and effort to download, install and get used to it when their current browsers are doing the job just fine? Will they clone the IE strategy of Browser Wars 1 and make sure every laptop, ultramobile PC, Mac, desktop, server and mobile phone that ships come pre-installed with Chrome? Or can they create a sufficiently different beast after beta release to spur people to make the switch to chrome and stay there (Google has a pretty fuzzy notion of what exactly constitutes a ‘beta’ release, as Gmail has been in beta release stage since April 1st, 2004 – see below snippet taken from gmail earlier today 🙂 )image




Online Marketing ROI plus Economic Instability equals Good Times.

In an article a couple of days back in the Sydney Morning Herald, we read about Credite Suisse’s analyst Finola Burke forecasting a 2.4% drop in advertising spend in the coming year. In the same article, we saw Fairfax media have just cut 550 jobs in the wake of anticipated revenue losses on the back of economic slowdown. Whilst the past 4-5 years have seen massive shifts away from traditional media’s and to online advertising, this is the first analyst I’ve seen who has forecast all-round reduction in spending as a result of looming recession and economic turmoil. Does this in turn mean we (i.e. Aussie online marketers) might be cowering waiting for the axe to drop on our jobs?

Not yet. Australia is yet to be stung by the credit crunch in the same way the United States (and now Europe) are currently being, and generally our financial markets have been better regulated (yay ASIC and APRA!) and are therefore (for the time being) less likely to suffer the large scale disaster seen in the US (ripple effects are inevitable though). Same situation for alot of Asian countries, who all remember how darn hard they hit the skids in 1997 and have been appropriately prudent in their financial activities since. This doesn’t mean the massive clusterf–k mistake our American friends are suffering is not going to hit us. It probably will. And it will hit some of us harder than others:

1 Consumer spending on High Involvement goods will slow down. Retail forecasts for the coming holiday season in Christmas look grim for the US at least, which is to be expected. Typically, in hard economic times, sales of big tickets items such as houses, new computers, new cars, airline tickets etc are hit the hardest. So potentially, companies in the struggling Aussie automotive, airline and manufacturing industries will be putting the squeeze on their marketing department to tighten the belt and knuckle down.

2 Financing for growth will be harder to come by. Credit will cost more if it is in high demand and low supply – basic rules of any market. With some of the biggest banks in the world being US banks, we will inevitably feels some pain here. Even if their revenue doesn’t take a hit through all this, a company will still have fewer opportunities to expand due to difficulties in securing credit (again, we’re yet to see this in Australia, and if the Reserve Bank keep cutting interest rates, I could have egg on my face here). This means companies will look to other sources of funding growth initiatives (and perhaps to meet their debts) – internal sources. We all know marketing and media spend are often one of the first things cut during serious financial strife.

3 Companies will revert to their core competencies. Peripheral parts of a business will begin to be stripped back, as CEO’s begin to take action to free themselves of blame if the credit crunch begins hitting Australian companies harder. They cannot be begrudged for this, as they have a job to do aswell. Despite marketers assuring companies otherwise, marketing is probably considered by most companies a peripheral part of their business – the value it adds is not necessarily viewed as the same value delivering their product and/or service adds. So again, marketers may see the chop.

So why, then, has it never been a better time to be in e-marketing? Because e-marketing, done well, provides the best ROI a company could hope for. E-marketing (or digital marketing or online marketing or whatever the heck else you want to call it) is the most track-able form of direct marketing, which financial decision makers love because they can see a direct relationship between spending X and making X^y profit (where y is hopefully greater than 1). What this will mean is that as companies in Australia inevitably tighten their belts worrying about what ripple effects the US economic crisis will have, E-marketers will (read should) be the final ones to be effected as our activities are the ones most able to show the CEO, CFO, board etc. value added. Furthermore, this might mean that companies shift even more of their marketing spend away from traditional, harder to track marketing activities and into e-marketing which shows stronger provable ROI. Whilst not wanting to dance on the potential graves of other types of marketing, this economic downturn could see a new vigour and focus on E-marketing from business leaders, and we may be in a new era where e-marketing is finally given the resources and importance that traditional marketing activities have always received.

So go have lunch with your boss and give him the schpiel. And get him to give the schpiel to his boss. And flick your zippos and hold them in the air, e-marketers, because we could be about to see a marked change of the guard from the marketing old school to the new school. There’s always a light at the end of a dark night.

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