Posts Tagged ‘advertising


When consumer rights orgs get it wrong: Consumers International gets it twisted

In December 2009, Consumers International (CI) announced their annual ‘Bad Company Awards’ for 2009. Among the brands that CI deemed to label “Bad” was Microsoft, lambasted for it’s claims that Windows 7 was a greener OS. Consumers International claimed that whilst Microsoft was flogging a greener OS (which they liked), they were also trying to encourage consumers to buy new hardware / PCs (which they hated)…. and they could not have been much further from the truth.

The Simpsons is a very powerful show - this is how people still seem to see Microsoft - "Buy Him Out, Boys"

I’m all for consumer rights. I love the idea of organisations like CI or Choice Australia keeping companies honest and providing reliable, third party information for consumers. Heck, I started this blog partly because I wanted to showcase great, ethical marketing and expose shonky, dishonest marketing, so I share an end goal with these organisations to an extent. In theory, I like what Consumers International is doing. But part of the credibility of such organisations comes from giving objective, informed decisions, and in this case I don’t think either of these qualities have been displayed. They seem to either (A) have something against Microsoft or (B) just don’t understand what they are talking about in this case.

Before I look at the reasons I feel CI have totally missed the mark by including Microsoft as a “Bad” Company, I need to confirm that I am not employed by Microsoft – I am self-employed, but I am currently contracted to Microsoft to help with their technical community efforts. Further, I’m not a Microsoft fan boy… I like alot of their products, but I’ve got a Playstation aswell as my Xbox360, I have a Nokia phone, I’ve used MacOS on and off for years, I use Google for probably 50% of my search needs, and cut my teeth as a geek (in my past life) delivering open source projects in PHP for NSW state government departments. So I’m no Microsoft zealot. As such, I’m confident that the points I list below can be considered as a fairly objective criticism of CI’s “Bad Company Awards” (as they relate to Microsoft anyway).

1 – No-one I know has gone out to buy a new PC just for the Windows 7 experience – all have either bought the software from a reseller, or downloaded it and upgraded. Those that needed a new PC, bought one, but not just so they could upgrade to Windows 7.

2 – I’m no licensing expert, but I’m pretty sure an OEM (or ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’) license probably brings in less revenue per PC for Microsoft than when someone buys Windows outright from a reseller like Harvey Norman. What does this mean? Basically that Microsoft makes less money from shipping a copy of Windows 7 on, say, a HP laptop, than they do by selling people the software alone through resellers / online…  it makes no sense for Microsoft to be trying to push people to buy new PC’s when it makes money from software, not PC hardware sales.

3 – Microsoft went to great efforts to ensure the upgrade to Windows 7 from Vista was easy. And it is easy. Ridiculously easy. Upgrading from a Vista machine to Windows 7 is something an average consumer with average computer knowledge can do themselves without needing help / tech support. Why would they Microsoft make upgrading old computers so easy if they were trying to get people to buy new PC’s.

4 – Microsoft also made sure that the large bulk of hardware and associated drivers that work with Vista will also work with Windows 7. So again, there was a consious effort on Microsoft’s behalf to make sure people did not have to buy new PC’s / hardware to enjoy Windows 7.

5 – Microsoft gave free upgrades with purchases of new Vista PC’s in the lead up to Windows 7’s launch. If you bought a new PC in the few months leading up to Windows 7 launch (in Australia, anyway) you received a free voucher for a Windows 7 upgrade. A free voucher that would make the Vista PC you just bought into a Windows 7 PC in a few months… for free. (Free also meaning there were no hardware upgrades necessary, and thus no hardware upgrade costs either.)

6 – Look at the Microsoft Press Release CI are using as proof that Microsoft is trying to encourage people to buy new hardware. At no stage does the press release say people should go and buy a new PC. In fact, at one stage, the press release says “Customers can purchase PCs with Windows 7 or software upgrades online or in-store from technology retailers”. ‘Upgrades’ being the key word there.

I could go on with more reasons, but let’s face it, CI got this one pretty wrong. Given it’s size and dominant presence in the world software industry, Microsoft presents an easy target for consumer rights group. Everyone likes to read about how “Bad” global corporations have been, so I think there’s perhaps a chance Microsoft’s inclusion in the “Bad Company Awards” is to drum up some excitement / interest. Admittedly, there have been occasions in the past where, either intentially or accidentally, Microsoft has found itself in trouble with consumer rights group, but Consumers International is far from the mark this time. I’d go as far as to say they’ve been very “Bad” themselves, since they have not shown what we need to be able to rely on from consumer rights organisations – that is, being properly informed, and impartial in their findings.


Agency side vs client side marketing : which is better?

SYNOPSIS: This is one of the longer blogs posts I’ve done, so let me break it down for you to perhaps save you some time. In the post below, I identify some factors that are important in your choice of job. I then compare these factors looking a both client side marketing and agency side marketing roles to see which is better. I throw in some jokes and make a half-arsed conclusion and bam, we got us a blog post.


It’s part of human nature to look at ‘what could have been’ and think that maybe we chose the wrong path in life. One of the greatest opportunities for this sort of navel-gazing is when one thinks about one’s career. Whilst perfect hindsight is probably one of the most useless gifts one can be endowed with, I can’t help but still sometimes wish I’d finished high school and done a panel beater apprenticeship instead of studying at university, because had I followed that path, I could probably own a hotrod workshop with a couple of employees building big budget custom cars all day by now… a dream job for sure.

Another question that comes up for me every now and then is that of whether I did the right thing by going client side to start my marketing career rather than agency-side. When I was but a wee lad just finished my marketing degree, I applied for the AFA Traineeship as my first fulltime role out of study. Now let me point out that the marketing degree I’d just finished was actually a Masters degree, and that I’d already completed a double degree prior to it wherein I majored in (1) Gender Studies and (2) Information Technology (weird combination, I know). Plus I’d worked part time all the way through my Masters degree in marketing roles, so I went into the ‘try-outs’ for the traineeship feeling pretty assured I was hot shit. And in all modesty, I was pretty over-qualified to be going for an AFA traineeship, so my confidence was probably somewhat warranted.

Anyway, it came time for the group assessment day for the AFA traineeships, which was the final step of the culling process for candidates, and all us eager young candidates lined up to perform our tricks like dancing monkeys for all the agency types who had assembled to pick over the young talent. The usual behaviour for group recruitment days was on display. Everyone was trying to be a ‘leader’. Everyone was trying to be creative. Everyone was trying to contribute for contributions’ sake… god help us, we cannot sit back and listen – we must speak and be seen to speak, no matter what the consequence!!! I remember one traineeship candidate was loudly rattling off names of staff from several big advertising agencies that he apparently regularly caught up with, like he was some bigtime player. I also remember thinking how unsatisfying it would be to glass him with the flimsy paper cups we were given for drinking water out of during the group exercises.

Well, the time came at the end of the day for the traineeships to be dolled out, and I was made an offer by Renard, a great agency from Sydney that I could totally have seen myself working for. Founded by Neil Fox, whom I’d spoken with numerous times throughout the group assessment day and was very impressed by, Renard was a smaller team offering a diverse role, which was right up my alley. To this day, I still feel like I shafted Neil Fox a little, as out of everyone on that day, he chose me to offer a trainseeship to, but alas things were not to be that way. I was very chuffed at my offer, until I found out what the AFA Grad traineeships actually paid – let’s just say that the amount was (A) less than half what I’d been earning whilst working client-side 20 hours a week during uni and (B) barely enough to cover living expenses. I feel the AFA really should have been more upfront with candidates about the amount to be paid, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m under no delusion that Neil Fox reads my blog, but Neil, if you do, I’m still very grateful that you offered me a job with your crew and I hope you ended up with someone awesome.

The point of this story is that the main deciding factor for me as to whether I went client side or agency side was the dollah bills. Materialistic, I know. Which brings me to the point of this blog post, and the first major difference between client side and agency side work – the cheddar…


I’m using the ‘Great Australian Paycheck’ reports from here as a yardstick. I know it’s not a perfect measure, but I don’t think that anyone can deny that (at least in the more junior ranks) agency staff are severely underpaid. Sure, the argument is that agency types have the payoff of work that is stimulating and fulfilling, but money in my pocket so I can go on an interstate holiday and eat out once in a while is also kinda fulfilling and stimulating too. Anyway, lets look at the figures…

salary report advertising  salary report client side

Salary brackets for agency side (top) vs client side (bottom) in Australia

Long story short, there’s alot more opportunity to earn $80k plus in client side marketing based on the above (then there’s the bonuses too!)

WINNER: Client-side by a mile. Plus, when you break down agency work on a ‘per hour’ basis, the pay is even worse because the hours are longer. Which brings me to my second point…


Besides being a film featuring one of the worst things to come out of Australia, The Hours are a major consideration for anyone in determining which career path they choose. If I were an investment banker doing 18 hour days, I’m still going quite happily get probably less than 4 hours sleep per night because I know I’ve got my mattress and pillows stuffed with hundred dollar bills and probably have Moet in the cistern in my toilet. Not so for young’uns at an agency. Being young and poorly paid at an agency isn’t an excuse to not work long hours. But you should want to work those long hours because it’s really interesting, fulfilling work (see point 1 above).

Being a junior marketer working client side on the other hand, is cushy… working 9-6, with maybe a really late night pushing that out to 7pm. Ooh, I’m gonna be tired in the morning!!

WINNER: Client side


Even when I’m not looking for work, I keep an eye on job listings to monitor what’s happening in the market, what companies are hiring what sort of staff etc. The number of ads I see for roles in agencies where they stipulate “Must have agency experience” is flabbergastingly high. Entry to agencies is hard for us client side marketers, no matter how good we are. The number of client side marketing roles that stipulate “Would suit someone from either an agency or client-side background” is equally flabbergasting – it seems it’s a one way road. Agency folk can quite easily make the switch to client-side, but it’s much harder for us client-side marketers to make the switch to the agency side of things were we so inclined.

WINNER: Agency-side, without a doubt


No marketer wants to be the ‘tactics guy’ – everyone wants to be the ‘strategy guy’. Strategy guys are the shot callers who drive off in their BMW M3’s after work. Tactics guys are the shit kickers who take the bus. Tactics guys get brought in on projects when they’re already half over and all the big decision have been made. Tactics guys get to ‘execute’. Tactics guys certainly don’t get the kudos they probably deserve. Whilst a lot of ad agency types will likely refute this, agency-side work is ‘tactics guys’ work. Before you scream blue murder, let me say I know many agencies advise clients on strategy – I know this. But my take on things is that the beauty of being a client side marketer is that you get to build a strong expertise in your market, in your customers, in your products. Thus your role is, almost by definiton, a strategic one, and your industry / market expertise should be something that I think alot of agencies would struggle to reproduce. If a marketing manager doesn’t know their market and their audience, and are thus unable to set strategy accordingly, I’d say they are under-qualified for the job.

WINNER: Client-side, but there’s certainly a grey space. As I said, the beauty of being a client side marketer is that you get to deep dive into a product or a market or a particular audience and be an expert on that. As such, it is the client-side marketer who should be setting the high level strategy, as they have that depth of understanding. Unless, of course, the agency you use has highly specialised research or knowledge in your area…


Client side marketers are usually boring. Not only are we boring, but we share boring information. I follow a good mix of both agency types and client side types on twitter – the best, most useful, most interesting information comes, almost without exception, from the agency types. They just seem to have their fingers more on the pulse. Agency side folks are cutting edge.

WINNER: Agency-side


Whilst on the topic of who’s boring / interesting, another factor that probably has a large bearing on where we choose to work is the ‘cool factor’ of the job you do. No one wants to be meeting people at parties and telling them “I build relationships with a select group of IT influencers who perform a variety of activities pro bono which helps deliver support and product information to Microsoft’s IT Pro and Developer customers” (that’s my current job I just described, by the way, although lately I’ve taken to telling people I’m a famous rapper and/or streetfighter. Not that I’m ashamed of my job, it’s just that it takes a certain type of person to appreciate what I do, and they’re usually the ones playing D&D and drinking tang in the corner). Working at an agency gets you street cred. It gets you props at parties. I’m pretty sure it’d get you chicks / guys. Everyone wants to be cool.


WINNER: Agency side again has it in spades.

drumroll please….


Lets take a look at the results to see once and for all who’s better client side or agency side marketers:

VARIABLE Client Side Agency Side
Money WIN
Hours WIN  
Career Portability WIN
Strategy v Tactics WIN
Knowledge Sharing WIN
Cool Factor   WIN

Oooh how convenient, a draw…


Engagement vs Advertising: the key decision in your viral marketing campaign

When planning a viral campaign, you’ve got to decide on a balance between your messaging being focused on what I see as ‘Advertising’ vs ‘Engaging’. Advertising vs Engagement are not necessarily mutually exclusive measures – they fit more on a sliding scale:

1 – the pure Advertising approach jams a marketing message down consumer throats. Marketers usually feel inclined to use this sort of messaging to ensure whatever attention their (hopefully) viral campaigns get leads directly to consumption of the marketing message they are communicating. The Advertising approach means that your brand message is clear, but it may limit the reach of your viral campaign, because let’s face it, ads have never been among any of the big time viral videos. People don’t usually spread content that is obviously advertising.

2 – the Engagement approach is different in that it focuses first and foremost on the content, making sure that whatever content is featured in your (hopefully) viral campaign is clever / inspiring / controversial enough to ensure a large number of people will pass it on to others. It is about engaging some sort of emotional response from a significant enough proportion of the public to reach that viral tipping point so that you start to get hundreds of thousands of views rather than thousands. However, the greater the viral ‘infectiousness’ (i just made that word up!) of your campaign, the lower the opportunity for brand messaging and the greater the potential for confusion.

To illustrate, let’s take 2 similar viral campaigns, both based on a similar idea of creating short films to attract people to consume campaign assets. The first campaign is the recent efforts by Google, and the second being one of my alltime favourite online campaigns, Zune Arts (about 2 years old now, still going strong). The difference between the Advertising vs Engagement approach is well illustrated by these two campaigns – Google seem to have gone the ‘Advertising’ route, whilst Zune have gone the ‘Engagement’ route. Looking at some of the Google videos, the ‘short films’ are not really short film, rather they are just a nifty little ad (see example below). This is fine, but I can’t see myself passing this around to friends (except of course to discuss here why the content is not necessarily suited to a viral campaign). The content’s just not interesting enough.

The Zune Arts campaign, however, had me browsing the site for 45 minutes the first time I visited –  the content is so rich and immediately engages the audience (see the second video below for example). I’ve also been back for multiple visits, and have shown a number of other people. However, I left the site none the wiser about Zune’s product features / value proposition (I wasn’t even shown a product shot in any of the short movies). The content was cute and I liked the Zune brand all the more for providing it, but I still own an iPod…

One of the Google Chrome ‘Chrome Shorts’ vids

One of the vids

I’m interested to hear if anyone has examples of viral campaigns that they feel have struck a really strong combination of Advertising vs. Engagement. I invite you to leave your comments below…


Using Facebook Connect for demographic targeting: marketing case study

Checking through my feeds this afternoon, I came across this press release about and their use of Facebook Connect. HerHotSpot is a social networking site specifically for women – in the words of the site’s founder:

Whilst is an interesting enough concept in itself, there are 2 other equally interesting issues covered in the press release:

1 – Since implementing Facebook Connect, the site has seen signups increase by more than 300 percent and average page views have nearly doubled. I’ve always said that Facebook Connect was a good traffic magnifier, this is proof.

2 – More interesting though is the Facebook Connect-only policy (i.e. using Connect as the sole vehicle to prevent access to males). I see alot of people using Facebook Connect as a way to attract more unique visitors to their site and to encourage repeat visits from existing users, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it used to preclude people of a certain gender from visiting a site. Furthermore, this is also the first time I’ve ever seen a site use Connect as it’s only means of verification – not only does prohibit men from entering, but it prohibits non-Facebookers aswell.

At first glance, this is a curious strategy (erecting barriers and limiting how many people can use their service) but the payoff is that the site will get users of the service that are of a very specific demographic – women (obviously) who are at least internet savvy, are already on Facebook and probably aged in their teens to late twenties / early thirties (although the age demographic is debatable). This makes the site very attractive to advertisers – if my target audience was sociable, connected 16-29 year old women, I’d love to be able to sponsor articles / advertise / participate in the site. As such, HerHotSpot should have no problem making the site a profitable venture.

Mind you, there’s no provision stopping us fellas from simply setting up a facebook account that lists us as a female to gain access, but why would you…. it’s just be a bunch of chatter about boys and lipstick (that’s sarcasm right there, FYI).


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.


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.


Microsoft’s new ad campaign: case study in starting online controversy Pt.2

DISCLAIMER: I’m still contracting at Microsoft, so take what I say with a grain of salt 🙂 I’m still also a fan of Windows.

So Seinfeld got dropped from the ads. No surprise really. With an ad campaign basically saying “Yeh, so we’re out of touch” which really did nothing except celebrating being out of touch, the writing was on the wall. Jerry was an interesting choice for a number of reasons, not the least because he was featured in an Apple ad back in the day, but really, he had to go.

However, his departure does not necessarily make this campaign a failure. It is still generating so much conversation and controversy, which still appears to be a good thing – all eyes are firmly focused on Microsoft at the moment. Are they f–kin up, or are they doing something completely crazy and new? Whether dropping Jerry was a planned planned tactic or not, Microsoft is:

  1. Once again the centre of attention right now
  2. Showing that it is adaptive. Some people think the ads sucked. What better way to tell your customers you are listening than to change the campaign to suit?

I still reserve judgment about whether this is a good campaign or not because as I have mentioned I don’t know where the campaign’s going. But every time any little details about the campaign come out, it’s hitting TechCrunch, Engadget and most of the other popular news sites, aswell as a good number of the Apple blogs and fansites (eg/ TUAW), so leveraging that momentum and attention is going to be critical.

Image from Engadget

Rumours reported on Engadget suggest there may be a more direct reaction by Microsoft to Apple’s aggressive “I’m a Mac” campaigns in the future releases. This is actually what I have wanted to see from the start. There is alot of (borderline) misinformation in the Mac ads (less than technical people have told me Macs can’t get viruses and can’t crash, so from that perspective, the ads seem to be working somewhat). 

This is a perfect battleground for Microsoft to take back some of what was theirs. They really need to address the damage the “I’m a Mac” ads did. I’m envisioning guys in fluoro Spandex roller blading through Central Park in NY doing crazy extreme stuff like going backwards (sic – I’m being sarcastic there in case that didn’t come across) and giving high fives to each other and generally being trendy dicks. All listening to white headphones (for the vision impaired and slightly slow, iPod has white headphones) Fade out. Product shot of Zune.  No B.S. – thats Microsoft. Thats what I’d be doing…

EDIT – 19/9/08: Third ad in the campaign, minus Jerry, has been seen at Gizmodo. It’s not bad, really it’s not. Without being too combatitive, it definitely moves towards dispelling the nerdy image Apple branded MS with. Tony Parker is in there. Tony Parker’s the man. And he’s a PC!

EDIT 2 – 19/09/08: Wow, talk about saturation bombing!! The following PC / Windows ads went live on US TV tonight (PST) 

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