Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pepsi and team up for a social networking experience

Pepsi is providing us with a really good example of consumer generated advertising (cga) with its new campaign from and LMFAO that allows consumers to remix different music segments and to post them online. While the general concept of participatory advertising is no longer new, we can see that the levels of engagement continue to increase as marketers find more creative ways to bring consumers “into” the brand and to place the brand “inside” consumers. In the process of creating their own mixes, consumers also join a community through collaboration and sharing; yet another twist on Web 2.0, social networking. The level of complicity on the part of consumers—in other words, their willingness to participate in marketing schemes—is unprecedented. Check it out on YouTube and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Social media: Nobody doesn’t like it

Sara Lee has made a foray into social media with a series of webisodes that utilize real moms hawking Sara Lee products. The use of “real moms” lends an air of authenticity, which we know is important for believability. Beyond that, the web series is posted on Facebook, YouTube and Metacafe. Social media are the cornerstone of the “new advertising.” Added to the appearance of the video series on social media websites are blogging and tweeting. Who would have ever thought that advertising would come to this? But these are the tactics of the moment and fit nicely into the rubric of Participatory Advertising, with engagement being the measurement of success. Perhaps it’s these difficult economic times that are driving marketers like Sara Lee toward the use of social media. The use of social media websites with their interactive qualities should provide a good lesson in marketing economics. This is especially important given new tools to measure engagement in the marketplace. While traditional advertising may work well at establishing awareness and it may serve as an important reminder, brands that want to engage deeply with their target markets much utilize social media.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Advertising: It's Everywhere, It's Everywhere

The insidiousness of commercial communication is so rampant that we no longer notice it, and we no longer think about its intrusion into our daily lives. Whether it’s supermarkets tracking our purchases as we swipe our cards, or the innocuous selling of magazine subscription data to marketers, consumers do not see the process of selling data—there is no transparency—and so they don’t know to care. What has seemed innocuous has turned uglier in my opinion. Behavioral tracking or behavioral advertising as it is sometimes called allows a website to collect information about you and then sell it to potential advertisers. A good example was offered up by a student who said, after purchasing something from American Apparel, she noticed the next day that an ad for American Apparel showed up on her Facebook page. Any organization that collects data—in all possible forms—is in the position to sell that data to others. Data mining is big business for politicians and for marketers of products and services. For the consumer, the playing field has again become uneven. Consumers don’t stand a chance, because they aren’t even aware this is going on. At the beginning of September, ten consumer advocacy groups appealed to Congress to do something about this growing problem. Today, it was reported the FTC would take up the issue in a series of public discussions that will take place in December. What may come out of those discussions are answers to questions regarding our right to privacy. Why the discussions are limited to behavioral advertising on the web and do not extend to other database marketing tactics is beyond me. To the extent that people care about their privacy, this is a huge issue. But I’m not sure people even care that much; we live in such an over-exposed society. Awareness is a good first step, as you cannot respond to an issue unless you know it’s going on. Many people don't mind this at all; they don't perceive it to be an intrusion. For those consumers would prefer to keep their purchases to themselves, some guidelines and perhaps regulations by the FTC may be in order.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" Consumer Generated Advertising Campaign

This blog is titled Participatory Advertising because it follows a trend in which consumers are, well, generating their own advertising messages and disseminating messages in new ways. Take Doritos, for example, which just announced its newest contest for consumer generated advertising (CGA). The winner will have her or his commercial shown during the February 7, 2010 Super Bowl. Moreover, the winner could earn $5 million, according to an article in today’s USA Today. The contest has its own website Crash the Super Bowl where contestants can upload their commercials and others can view the entries and vote on them. We’ve become familiar with the notion of viral marketing of which this is a great example – the expectation being that through social networking friends and friends of friends will be directed to the website where they can view and vote for what they think is the best commercial. Last year’s prize was $1 million, so the ante has been upped. It will be interesting to see if the amateurish nature of much consumer generated advertising, given this year’s prize, will give way to more professional involvement. At base, I think this is what we’re dealing with regarding consumer generated advertising: the work of amateurs vs. the work of professionals. There’s an interesting book by Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur that speaks to this issue. There is a certain sense of authenticity to amateur production that must be acknowledged, but the nature of these things is that over time they become slicker and slicker, replicating what was there prior to the advent of consumer generated advertising.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gardasil for men? Oh, I can see the ads now!

On September 4 The Wall Street Journal reported that the manufacturer of Gardasil, the vaccine that is suppose to prevent HPV in women has now been approved by the FDA for use by young men. I know you could not have missed the prolific advertising campaign for Gardasil, so can you imagine the onslaught of commercials you’re about to see for a male version? I can just see the ads now: young man standing with a beer in one hand and syringe in the other with the tag line “Party On.” No seriously…The subject of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising is the subject of my current research. You can see the data from my most recent study of 18-24 year olds here. Part of what concerns me is that pharmaceutical manufacturers are aiming their messages at younger and younger consumers. Gardasil is a product for use by women 9-26 years of age, and while the ads may be directed at moms, those messages are also reaching younger women. Now Gardasil will be advertised to parents of young men, but we all know that young men will see the ads too. This is what I’m calling “ad creep” where direct to consumer prescription drug ads are directed toward younger consumers. Prescription drug advertising has a generalized effect on young people’s attitudes toward prescription drugs. Young consumers don’t think they can be harmed by prescription drugs and are more than willing to share them with friends. Think about the people you know who are taking Adderall, and think how easily such a medication gets circulated among students for whom it is NOT prescribed when they have to study for an exam. Therefore, the prescription drug pump is already primed, and advertisers couldn’t find a better target audience, as Generation Y represents the largest in history. If Gardasil prevents genital warts on young men, then by all means they should be able to learn about it from their doctor. But do we have to advertise it? You can see my video on this subject here.

Desperately chasing the audience

Jay Leno’s new (old) show is about to premiere on NBC the network, his home for the past 17 years. This event dovetails with a discussion we’ve been having about audiences. In the case of NBC, the network where the Leno program will air, the number of viewers has been steadily dwindling from the era of “must see TV” when programs like Seinfeld garnered millions of viewers. The network will be happy if Leno can pull an audience of 5 million, which is more than their lack-luster late prime schedule of the past couple of years. If you understand that television is merely a vehicle to deliver an audience to an advertiser, perhaps you can understand why the defection of the network TV audience to cable stations or the Internet is cause for concern. Yes, there are some “reality” shows, like American Idol, that can still pull 30 million viewers on a good night, but even their numbers have been trending down (for myself: no Paula, no watch). But there are no more late prime-time dramas that seem to have the kind of pulling power to which the networks had become accustom. Mainstream media have been writing about Leno’s new/old show as if it were the death-knell for the network; the best hope is that this program becomes the new model for late prime-time network programming. Like reality programs, this one is cheap to produce, especially when compared to an hour-long drama. And, you know how ads are weaved into American Idol in a somewhat seamless manner? Well, Leno will be doing live commercials as a guard against the Tivo effect. At a certain price-point a low-cost variety program could be profitable to the network, and it might also satisfy advertisers looking for a moderately sized audience of 50-plus middle Americans – not exactly the group many advertisers wish to reach, because they just don’t buy the way younger consumers do. On the other hand, that older group is 96 million strong, so I wonder if we’re likely to see the program peppered with ads for erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, incontinence and the like. Is the future of network TV doomed? Or can we just take a pill to cure what ails us?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Living in an age of distraction

One of the reasons why advertisers have shifted away from traditional approaches to advertising and traditional advertising mediums is because consumers—particularly young ones—are so distracted. One source of that distraction is the simultaneous use of multiple media, what is commonly referred to as multitasking. Media research firm Nielsen confirms in a recent study that, indeed, more than half of American consumers use the Internet and tune into television at the same time. This is nothing to celebrate in my opinion, as each of these mediums “utilizes” the human brain in different ways: television relaxes the brain; and computer use stimulates the brain. While I recognize that many consumers are consuming multiple media simultaneously, I’m not sure—over the long term—how this affects brain development. A couple of years ago I did a study on this phenomenon and the findings suggest that consumers find it very difficult to “get,” that is understand, advertising messages when they are multitasking with multiple media. You can read the study here. So the fact that 57% of us are engaged in this behavior is not good news for advertisers. Living in an age of distraction does not make life any easier.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Art & Copy: An advertising documentary

There's a new documentary film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival about advertising. It isn't showing here yet, but I hope it will be soon. In the meantime, you can check out the trailer and visit the film's website. We'll be watching The Persuaders, which is a PBS Frontline documentary on the advertising business. It's getting a little old, but is still quite relevant. You can check out the documentary's website here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's your favorite brand?

A brand is part of the meaning system of a product or service. Brand refers to the value added to a basic product or service. In this sense Starbucks isn't just a cup of coffee, it is the "place" between home and work. It is the latter that refers to the added value. So perhaps it's not surprising that a recent survey identified the following as the most trusted brands:
1. Johnson & Johnson
2. Sony
3. Apple
4. Colgate
5. Microsoft tied with 6. Coca Cola
7. Toyota
8. Nike tied with 9. Bank of America
10.Target tied with 11. Dell

How does this list gel with your own list of most trusted brands?