How to Ruin Retargeting For the Rest of Us

The courtship of two singles in a bar is a strange and unique human experience. Think about all of the pickup lines and anti-pickup lines that have been a major part of our national culture since reproduction was invented. The careful line that people have try to skate when approaching someone in a bar is a balancing act between “I want to give you the impression that I have an interest in you physically, yet I don’t want to appear cheesy and overanxious.” This balance typically denotes extreme failure or success for singles the world over.

This very same balance, interest versus over-anxiousness, manifested in design, could make the difference in your behavioral retargeting ads. The resurgence of display advertising has been led by the precision of behavioral targeting—in essence, we can now serve impressions to only those potential consumers that we actually care about.

There are 3 major benefits in launching this type of behavioral advertising:

1. Stimulate return visitors to your site

2. Drive otherwise “lost” sales

3. Create the “They’re Huge” effect

Most people forget that #3 is a real and powerful thing. The “They’re Huge” effect is the consumer phenomenon of established credibility when an internet marketing company, or any advertising agency, is seen advertising on their most trusted and visited websites. Because credibility and authority are such critical factors in influencing buying decisions, we see this as the cornerstone benefit of all retargeting campaigns—which should be thought of in the same light or priority as all other metrics. Trust, on the very same Internet that has a spam rate as high as 75%, has been completely relied on by on-site activity in the past to influence consumer willingness to buy.

Internet Consumer Trust Model

Internet Consumer Trust Model

The Internet Consumer Trust Model (above) as well as hundreds of other theses already written and hypothesized illustrates just this. The motive of this post is to really pick apart retargeting design strategy from a standpoint of trust and apparent value of the “They’re huge effect.”

The natural tendency of designing new media banner ads is hard to resist for some creatives. They not only want bigger, better, and flashier, but also to reduce the user to a set of targeting filters. Trying to outsmart your target brings creatives to launch ads not unlike the following:

The concept of this retargeting banner is to directly address the targeted prospect and pull back the virtual shade on their marketing initiative. In a nutshell, this banner tells a consumer: “you can’t escape us; we are everything that consumers have come to fear on the Internet.” And with the oxygen expelled from prospects’ lungs at the moment of realization that they are infected with some new strain of web-pig-flu, trust flies right out of the window.

If consumers know they are being targeted, they slam shut like a Washington clam. The way marketers can further perpetuate the sensation of mistrust is to unveil their strategy right smack dab in people’s faces.

Stick to the basics, folks. Whether you’re trying to earn valuable trust from a potential date or a retargeting prospect, one thing holds certain and that is that you should never reveal that you are aiming toward a conversion.

Advertising, Media 2 Comments

Lebron James’ Toothbrush & Cavities: A Consumer Engagement Story


Lebron James goes on TV to announce who will be the next in line for the opportunity to give him millions of dollars, and clearly we are all supposed to learn something from the process. Whether
it be how news-makers are controlling the news media (is that in and of itself new?) or how the King James phenomena is fully wielding the power of social media, something much larger than sports is occurring with the buzz leading up to and following “The Decision.” Part of what makes James’ recent strategy astounding are its similarities to recent and highly successful campaigns from Colgate and Mountain Dew. Oral care, heavily sugared carbonated beverages, and championship-less, non-clutch basketball players all can use the same tools to expand their business. The key to it all: Consumer Engagement.

The concept of consumer engagement is by no means new to the marketing world, but has
clearly taken on a life of its own via the web, and not without controversy. Engagement in simplest terms is the process of changing customers from passive, indifferent consumers of your product to active participators. It is in many ways a very ambiguous concept in terms of execution, but with incredible impact once executed. Adding clouds to clarity are the odd adages that follow it. For example, Gannet Media’s recent tweet “There is no shortcut to engagement, there is only engagement.” For the business owner that is about as helpful as Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try.” Luckily, considering the launch of Colgate Whisp, Mountain Dew White Out, and “The Decision” as case studies we can arrive at more substantive concepts.

Engagement is Achieved Through Multi-Tiered Approaches.

All three campaigns employed the big three: social media, video, and contests. Colgate Whisp’s
campaign outsourced viral video via CollegeHumor, used a Facebook game widget, and a photo
submission/rating contest with location based filtering. Mountain Dew White Out’s campaign was literally a campaign using voting on outsourced campaign commercials, a Twitter follower contest, and solicitation of label designs all towards the ends of having consumers decide which new flavor of Mountain Dew would be mass produced. LeBron James had a well timed launch of his Twitter account that generated 300,000 followers faster than any other account, a re-launched website, and a Facebook page with 2.5 million followers soliciting questions that may be answered during ESPN’s “The Decision” primetime special. What brings all of these multi-tiered approaches together is very simple in concept– a seamless narrative that integrates each platform and asks users to participate.

Engagement is Achieved By Allowing Consumers to be Part of Creative.

The risk, and therefore courage, behind a commitment to engagement comes from the fact that engagement cannot occur unless a company is willing to open its doors a bit. For Colgate this meant looking to often crude and vulgar content generators to create their viral videos, as well as to potential customers to create the “face” of their brand. Mountain Dew probably opened their doors the most by having their consumer-base literally choose what product they wanted and how they wanted it to look. For James his openness comes from his willingness to answer personal questions via his Facebook page. In the end it is about achieving harmony between your personal business goals and the goals of your customers. Participation for the consumer quickly turns into an individual investment into the brand. This investment turns into long term loyalty and a higher likelihood that the consumer will develop into an advocate of the brand.

What About My Business?

All three brands mentioned here operate with a marketing budget significantly higher than most businesses. That said the concepts employed can be achieved for businesses of any size and for a very wide range of budgets. Outside of implementation time there is nothing inherently expensive about each campaign. And of course, like all things digital, its nothing you have to do all by yourself.

Advertising, Business X-Factors, Media, Social Media 1 Comment

What’s New About “New” in Mobile Ads?

baby danger

It has been almost two months since Steve Jobs first introduced Apple’s intentions of entering the mobile advertising market with the iPhone 4’s iAds application feature.  While at first viewed as part of the multi-pronged reaction to Google’s acquisition of AdMob (an acquisition the FTC explicitly says they recently approved based on Apple’s reactionary acquisition of Quattro), this should not be viewed as just another intriguing chapter in the once incestuous, now openly combative relationship between Google and Apple.  Jobs’ performance at Monday morning’s WWDC points to intriguing philosophy shifts in mobile advertising.  Shifts, yes, but not the dramatic, “game changing” shifts that Apple has built their brand on.

In declaring that “search on mobile isn’t happening” Jobs’ illustrates what many have observed: that mobile users essentially micro-search through the use of apps rather than using the traditional engines popularized by desktop and notebook users.  This clearly explains how Jobs was able to announce that iOS4 will offer Microsoft’s Bing as a search option not just comfortably, but with condescending praise.  That said, niche-based search found through apps clearly complicates most mobile SEO strategies, in particular when professionals lazily attempt to replicate standard web strategies on mobile platforms.

With apps becoming the strongest way to reach the mobile consumer–Jobs’ boasts the ability of iAds to reach 1 billion daily impressions–the seamless integration of ad and app is natural.  There is certainly much to be excited about iAd’s goal of providing the interactive and emotive elements of the ad space seamlessly within the application (”an application with the application”), rather than simply linking to an outside website.  But, any time we come across something announced as *new* it becomes important to consider what exactly is new about it.  Ironically, when considering descriptions of iAds they sound curiously familiar to many expandable java ads that allow users to experience the ad while staying within the website it is embedded in.

Also, with iOS4 finally offering the multi-tasking capabilities so many users pined for, it suddenly becomes more difficult to articulate the advantages of a user being able to experience ad applications within the original application.  As users become more accustomed to the ability to move through simultaneously running applications the novelty of opening an ad app within an application runs thin.

Are iAds “game changing” in and of themselves?  No, but the posturing of Apple and Google leading up to and after its July 1st release certainly will be.  Apple’s current $60 million in ad campaign commitments is still dwarfed by Google’s ad empire, but the often tangled relationship between these giants will naturally cause this to change moving forward.  That said, Jobs’ goal to create platforms to deliver ads with “emotion” and interactivity magnifies an element that many unsuccessful campaigns fail to properly employ: the need to weave a coherent and effective advertising narrative– something that does not inherently need “game changing” or “revolutionary” platform developments.

Business X-Factors, Media, Web2.0 1 Comment

The Weekly Insider 06/02

This week’s theme is: Juicy Sausage

That’s right; delicious links.  What makes a good link?  It has to taste exactly as you thought it would (relevant), have a flush casing (anchor text), and get those nice brown char marks on the grill (follow).

Google Confirms “Mayday” Update Impacts Long Tail Traffic
Which universal search element to you most commonly target?
Why Google Local Listings Merge and How to Unmerge Listings.
All Links are Not Created Equal: 10 Illustrations on Search Engines’ Valuation of Links
Local Links For Local People
SEO Strategy – Taking SEO Beyond the Typical Audit
Facebook just blew away the competition in Display Ads

Media, SEO, The Weekly Insider 1 Comment

The People to Avoid Following on Twitter

A few months ago, I attended a release party for a new Craigslist competitor.  Of course, anytime someone claims to be the ‘new’ anything (usually it’s Facebook) I immediately raise a red flag or two.  Pageantry and gagging jargon were bountiful; several clichés were thrown, tossed about so flippantly that the English language was reduced to nothing more than the replay from a voice recorder hidden in David Ogilvy’s codpiece.

The crowd was comprised of local tech bloggers, journalists, connoisseurs, and wannabes; the vast majority of whom ended up becoming a critical force in driving the presentation.  The site performed poorly in a live demo; the presenters were ill prepared to discuss the future of their business, and worse, the snacks weren’t brought around the crowd at a brisk enough pace.

The presenter and CEO of the site unraveled and began to disclose much more than his release detail.  It was his core marketing understanding and belief.  At least 4 straight questions were answered by a resounding “Because we think that Seth Godin would do the same.”

At the fourth such response, one of my cohorts leaned over to me and said: “This company is running face first into a brick wall with both hands behind its back.”

For starters, if your business model is to hang on every word of a single Marketing Philosopher - no matter how talented or successful he or she may be - you are doomed.   The body of knowledge in marketing, and particularly internet marketing, is simply too broad in discipline and knowledge for a single person, no matter their amount of appearances as a talking head, or published books, to be a sole provider of theory.

Marketing and the Internet is bigger than the brain power of one person.

If you use Twitter as your source of Marketing study then I strongly recommend you expand your followership to 100 or more people of various disciplines (SEO, Print, TV, PPC, etc.), with varied follower counts, levels of notoriety, and published works.

The power of group-sourced intelligence on Twitter will act as a balance board for your personal development.  Your followed list should not look like an Ode to Gode; rather, it should resemble a technicolor Lego boogie board.

Below is a list of people noobs should avoid as a sole marketing resource.  Though all brilliant in their own right, they are mere micro chasms of the entire scope of the worlds digital marketing brain trust and will give you an awkward slant on life if read out of context (140 characters  at a time).  Building your business around persona twitter timelines would be like trying to jump the Grand Canyon with a rocket strapped to your back.











Business X-Factors, Media, Social Media 10 Comments

From the Media Professor’s Dictionary #2

Information Asymmetry

Definition: At it’s simplest for sake of this exercise; information asymmetry is an imbalance in the amount of knowledge held between two or more parties prior to a purchase or negotiation.

Media Information

Example: A lot of things sold on Ebay. Sure, the picture may have a nice photo of a raincoat from one angle, but upon purchase the buyer learns that there is obviously more than meets the eye; there are several holes in the non-photographed lining of the coat.

What Can Marketers Do? The problem with this issue of asymmetry in a marketplace is that this behavior (once it becomes commonplace) bleeds into other forms of consumerism.  Soon, a jaded consumer may have a difficult time rationalizing the online purchase of goods.

It may sound simple, but creating early paradigm shifts by addressing unspoken obstacles may have significant effects on winning mindshare.  Exposition of assumed objections before they come to fruition can address Information Asymmetry.

Idea: If it can be speculated that a company may have resistance to a service industry because they aren’t truly sure what level of customer service/attention they will recieve, perhaps unannounced in every subsequent presentation this is addressed front and center.   Remove the ability for the target audience to take guesses to the answers they truly care about. There aren’t many mind readers in business these days so the job of uncovering objections pre-introduction may seem like a daunting task for the layman.  Conversational tracking and monitoring tools have become so robust these days that industry intelligence can be a simple report pull away.  Learn all of the things people communicate in casual settings to help develop your copy.  Taking the Donald Draper out of Marketing leaves data and true understanding that can come from extensive listening.

Advertising, Analytics, Media, Social Media No Comments

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