Dec 29, 2007

What Is Digital Advertising?

While the rise of digital advertising seems to be the only thing anyone in the business is capable of talking about these days, I often find myself wondering what digital advertising really is.

Is it a "viral" video like Dove "Evolution" or Smirnoff "Tea-Partay"? Or are those really just TV spots that run on the internet instead of NBC and aren't required to be exactly 30 or 60 seconds long?

Is it an online game that pops up in a banner but gets judged by the number of people who actually click on it as if it were a DM piece? Or is it a banner that just creates awareness, like a billboard?

Is it a microsite that people go to either because they're really bored or because they want to "interact with and have a meaningful experience with" a brand?

Is it a blog that a CEO (or more likely, his PR team) writes? A message board that allows people to talk about a product most people have no interest in talking about in the first place? Or one where "conversation" is already planted?

Is it a Facebook page that's a place for serious conversation and "brand fanatics" or maybe just a place for the merely curious?

Is it a full-on website like NikePlus that creates a real retail experience and actually provides value? Or is Nike an anomaly and are most websites designed to be merely functional and well-designed for clients who don't see their ad agency as the people to come up with new business models?

Is it an optimized keyword search that probably does more to drive traffic to a website than a dozen award-winning banners, people being quite content to do their own research, thank you, or is search just the digital version of running an ad in the Yellow Pages?

Is it a virtual store in a virtual world that's going to become relevant when all the elementary school age Webkinz users hit adulthood? Or are virtual worlds just online versions of "Dungeons and Dragons" and appropriate only for things like the Sci Fi Network?

Is it a brand new playground where creatives will get to run wild or is it a metrics-based medium that's going to make creatives obsolete while making stars out of account and media planners?

Depending on the wind, I can be convinced of either side of these arguments. But I think the greater truth here is that we are all talking about something that few of us can accurately define and that even fewer of us have anywhere close to the same definition of.

And that's dangerous.

So I'll throw the question out to all of you: What is digital advertising?

Dec 27, 2007

Who Says Long Copy Is Dead?

Who says long body copy is dead? A long delay recently left me with nothing more to read than the SkyMall magazine that sits in the front pocket of every seat of every major US airline. There I discovered something called the “Gravity Defyer Shoe” from a man who goes by the moniker “Alexander Innovation Wizard.” Alexander (which it turns out, is his first name) has a double page spread in the magazine, filled with copy whose tone will instantly transport you back to the 1930s and 40s.

Here’s a sample:
Ease Joint Pain And Pressure On Your Spine
It’s almost as if Aelous, the Greek god of wind, himself has taken his powerful wind out of his bottles and put it into each pair of Gravity Defyer Shoes. Your entire body will receive an energy burst when you slip on the Gravity Defyer Shoes because your joints and spine will no longer feel the full impact of your high impact life. The basic findings by the scientists of the Impact Research Technology Lab were that the combination of lightweight rubber and lightweight, durable springs will reduce the impact and force of gravity on your entire body much the same way that a suspension system helps reduce the impact on an automobile and airplane.

Jump Higher and Walk Faster
These ethereal shoes will transport you through life with such vigor that your friends and family will hardly be able to recognize you. The Gravity Defyer Shoes will power your step, making your steps longer and your jumps higher. You might find that you are walking faster and you may even find yourself showing up to those important meetings at work early! You might even find yourself joining a local basketball league.

Look Like A Million Dollars
We all have them, an expensive pair of dress shoes for those “special occasions.” The shoes that world famous secret agents wear to the black tie party where they end up doing some reconnaissance before they are chased around a European city by evil henchmen. The kind of dress shoes that show class, style, and sophistication but are so uncomfortable you can’t wait to take them off. Designed by the best shoes designers from three continents, the Gravity Defyer Shoes provide you will all the sophistication and comfort needed to keep up with the best of the world famous secret agents.
While it’s easy to poke fun at everything from the name of the product to the “Research Technology Lab” to the “expensive” shoes that hurt, what’s telling here is that there’s clearly a market that’s still taken in by this sort of hyperbole, a market affluent enough to fly and to buy $120 dress shoes. As we allow ourselves to focus on The Real Digital Revolution and the end of advertising, it’s wise to remember that there are still plenty of Americans who don’t share our skepticism to being sold.

Dec 24, 2007

30 Seconds of Fame

Sometimes it takes a posh TV shoot to remind yourself why the industry is so addicted to the 30 second TV spot. But for agency and client alike, it’s a chance to go Hollywood, to vicariously experience the glamor of the film industry. I mean just being on a set is an incredible contrast to sitting in an office, as is watching the whole process of actors bringing your ideas to life. Add to that the usual perks of 5 star hotels and 5 star meals and suddenly doing a really cool microsite seems hopelessly dull. Especially if you’re a marketing client at a company that doesn’t give marketing a whole lot of respect to begin with and the week you spend in Los Angeles making TV spots, spotting celebs at Shutters or the Four Seasons, and having dinner at the Ivy is the only thing you have to look forward to all year.

Now all this is clearly not a reason to adopt a TV-centric policy. But it does help explain why so many clients- and agencies- are so addicted to the medium. And (as I’ve mentioned on here before) it plays a big part in whether we, as an industry, will continue to attract the type of top-rate talent we need once the glamor is all gone.

One solution is going to be bigger budgets for web videos, be they viral-wannabes or video that lives on a website. But we do need to bear in mind that despite the allure of things like social media, it's the high production video work that makes advertising into a glamorous business, one that attracts people with a strong creative bent. The video work we do for clients- online and off- are mini-movies at best. Social media solutions, well-designed websites: those are another skill set, the sort that attracts people with a very different mindset. That's something too many people tend to forget as they blow the battle cry for the brand new post-TV world.

Caveat emptor and all that.

PS: Merry Christmas to all those celebrating it.

Dec 21, 2007

Up, Up And Away

So I’ve been doing a lot of airplane travel these past few weeks and I’m coming to the conclusion that the airlines are pretty much doing themselves in. Not all that dissimilar from the way American car manufacturers did themselves in.

People have just gotten to the point where they expect air travel to be a completely horrible experience, filled with long delays, lost luggage, interminable lines and surly staffers.

And we are almost at that point where there’s really not much the airlines can say to make people like them again. So what I’m seeing is people rejiggering their vacation plans to avoid air travel all together. I mean it’s become that unpleasant. Combine that with rapidly rising airfares and you’ve got some big trouble ahead as people permanently write off flying or cut back on it severely.

Now the Bush administration—as well as local authorities-- have been making noise about having the FAA cut back the number of flights and all that but I wonder if it’s not too late. There’s a real risk that like the aversion to American cars, the aversion to domestic air travel is a behavior that’s become too ingrained to break.

Dec 20, 2007

Still Here

Sorry for the absence of posts the past week. End of year craziness got the better of me. But I will be resuming tomorrow and through the end of the years.

Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Dec 10, 2007

Välkommna Svenskar

I've been getting a lot of traffic from Sweden these past few days, thanks to shout-outs from two Swedish blogs: åkestam.holst and APG Sweden

I have a soft spot for Swedes in advertising, so I'd like to welcome you all to the site.

Design Is The New Advertising - on MP Daily Fix

The other day, I came across a t-shirt that read “I’ll pay more for good design.” Now granted, I found it on a site I’d gotten from CoolHunter as I was looking for Hanukkah gifts, and the store was in Brooklyn and all that.

Read the rest of the post here

Dec 6, 2007

Dell Weighs In

Check out the Comments section on my post Dell and The Real Digital Revolution

Bob Pearson, Dell's Vice President, Corporate Group Communications, has weighed in and explained the company's dedication to design and their plans for the immediate future.

Very cool of him to stop by here and comment.

Dec 5, 2007

Added Value

Ever since the demise of the 15% commission, agencies have been looking for ways to monetize what they do and to add revenue. Because, as has been noted here many times previously, all too often, we're giving it away for free.

Anomaly, a fairly new agency in NYC, and generous sponsor of LikeMind has come up with a way to get some of our value back by going beyond the old print-tv-radio-digital paradigm for their clients and actually moving into the in-store experience.

Or, in this case, in-flight - the video above is a brilliantly done in-flight safety instruction video done for (now former or project-by-project, depending on who you listen to) client Virgin America.

And since in-store experience is what made Starbucks and Whole Foods what they are today, it's not a bad place to be.

Dec 3, 2007

Dell and The Real Digital Revolution

So the ad world is, predictably, all aflutter about Dell’s decision to award their $4.5 billion account to WPP, with the understanding that WPP will create a brand new global agency whose sole purpose is to service Dell.

Many have pointed out why having a one-client agency is folly, so I won’t go there, because in my view, it’s really irrelevant.

What’s going to be relevant, in the wake of The Real Digital Revolution, is how good Dell’s computers actually are. Specifically how good they are in relation to their competitors similarly-priced computers.

Because no matter how good the new Dell ads are, consumers are going to go online first before they buy one. And if CNET tells them that the HP machine is the better one, then that’s the one they’re going to get.

Dell is a perfect foil for The Real Digital Revolution because they’ve built their business by having the best machine at the lowest price, relying heavily on bulk corporate sales for profit. Corporate sales guys being far more influenced by facts and figures than by clever advertising.

In consumer land, they’ve only had one memorable campaign, the unintentionally brilliant “Dude, You’re Getting A Dell” series that lasted from 2000 to 2003. And I say “unintentionally brilliant” because I get the distinct sense that the casting of Ben Curtis as Steven, the “Dell Dude” was a happy accident. At a time (2000) when millions of tech unsavvy parents were going out to buy their children a computer, the Dell Dude promised them that their kid wouldn’t get stuck with the dorky machine, even if it was the cheap one.

But back to the new agency: the most they can hope to do is to maintain brand consistency. As McCann’s efforts for Microsoft have shown, there’s not much you can do when everyone thinks your product is crap. Apple’s ads work because their products do: people really like iMacs and iPods and the like. So the product lives up to the promise.

The ball is now in Dell’s court. If they want their advertising to be great, they need to ensure their products are great too.