Marketing

Google Adword Trademarks: Stratton Faxon and The Coalition of Immokalee Farm Workers

The Connecticut Law Tribune has a current article about the law firm Stratton and Faxon suing Google over the rights to their name. A marketing firm working on behalf of Silver, Golub & Teitell, a Stamford based law firm, apparently bought the adwords. The article reports that Michael Stratton has said they are “going to sue Google and ... ask the Connecticut Bar Association for an ethics opinion.”

The article states, “The Stratton Faxon complaint against Google alleges tortious interference with a business relationship, violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and unjust enrichment, on grounds that Google pays nothing for selling the Stratton Faxon name.”

It is an interesting approach to an ongoing legal issue. Last year, Ars Technical had an article about Rescuecom, a computer repair firm which sued Google in 2004 “for allowing competitors to purchase advertisements that would appear when a user conducted a search for the keyword ‘rescuecom.’” That case was dismissed by a Federal Judge in 2006, been appealed and is now heading towards trial.

In that case, the Electronic Freedom Foundation filed a brief of Amicus Curiae in support of Google. In their introduction, they argue:

Submit the search term “McDonald’s” to Google’s search engine and among the “sponsored links” that appear in response you may encounter a link for “The Coalition of Immokalee Farm workers,” a community-based organization that supports the rights of low-wage workers in Florida. The Coalition was recognized recently in the national news for leading a successful boycott of the restaurant chain Taco Bell that resulted in improved wage and working conditions for tomato pickers in the Taco Bell supply chain… Recently, the Coalition turned its attention to McDonald’s practices and, as part of its public campaign for working condition and wage improvements, decided to purchase sponsored links on Google to help stimulate public debate and mobilize support.

This is an example of the important free speech activity that search engines help facilitate. It is also an example of the kind of Constitutionally-protected activity that would be disrupted were this Court to adopt the arguments urged by Appellant Rescuecom.

I strongly support the position of EFF on the Rescuecom case and believe their argument applies very well in the Stratton Faxon case. In April 2006, the advertising firm Warren Kremer Paino Advertising LLC brought a law suit against Lance Dutton of the “Maine Web Report”. Mr. Dutton had been publishing a series of articles criticizing Warren Kremer and the Maine Department of Tourism.

The Citizen Media Law Project reports that “Warren Kremer voluntarily dismissed the suit after a month, after facing extensive criticism on blogs and websites.” Part of that criticism was an adwords campaign that I purchased from Google. People searching on “Warren Kremer Paino Advertising” would find a paid advertisement for my blog which I described as “Orient Lodge: Poking fun at stupid advertising firms”. I wrote about the case in a blog post entitled The way life shouldn’t be.

While many much more notable bloggers wrote much more eloquently about the case, I would like to think that my blog post and Google Adwords campaign highlighting my blog added at least a little bit to the extensive criticism on blogs and websites that led Warren Kremer to voluntarily dismiss the suit.

Should cases like the Rescuecom case, the Stratton Faxon case prevail and several others that are emerging, I believe it will be part of further eroding of free speech online.

I am not a lawyer and certainly am in no position to file a brief in any of these cases. Instead, I am a blogger, so I’ll share my ideas here and hope that saner minds prevail in the cases being considered.

(Cross-posted at Digiday:Daily.)

A Tale of Two Conferences

Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?

In many ways, the Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference on May 12th was two different conferences. It was a conference for publishers and a conference for advertisers. It was a conference for people concerned about the decline of the economy and a conference for people that are hopeful for the prospects of digital advertising going forward. Yet perhaps the two different conferences can best be thought of as being made up of people asking why and those dreaming of something new and asking why not.

#dpac III Pregame

It is a few minutes before six as I climb on the train in New Haven, CT heading into New York City for the Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference, DPAC III. Besides writing for my own blog, Orient Lodge, I expect to post some entries on DigidayDaily.

525,600 minutes

The day starts off with a sponsored breakfast, with Lindsay O'Neill, Senior Vice President of Datran Media Display and Michael Silberman, General Manager of NYMag.com talking about “why audience measurement has become even more critical in today's publishing environment”.

It’s an important part of the business, measuring who is reading your articles and viewing your ads. Sure, I look at Google Analytics, Quantcast, Compete, and even Alexa to get a sense of what is going on with my traffic, but somehow, so much of audience measurement seems to miss the point. The lyrics of “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent go through my mind. “five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes… How do you measure a year?”

While the struggling bohemian in the East Village dies of AIDS, the ad execs measure eyeballs. At the DigiDay conference I heard people suggest we should not be focusing on eyeballs and but should be thinking about the minds they are connected to. As I think of the young bohemians I also think of the hearts they are connected to and all of this leads me to the idea of “winning hearts and minds”.

It will be interesting to see if anyone has anything interesting to say about measuring how engaged ones audience truly is.

Wealth

The first keynote speech will be by Dr. Jim Taylor, Chairman of The Harrison Group. I must admit, if I hadn’t of done work with The Harrison Group in the past, I wouldn’t have been able to find their website. The Harrison Group regularly produces as a “Study of Affluence and Wealth in America”. The program says that Jim will talk about the “10% of the economy” and how “people under financial hardship are taking pride and pleasure in their ability to manage themselves and their family's real needs”.

The Harrison Group website talks about the people in their survey as having annual discretionary income of between $100,000 and $5 million. While I am sure that the recession affects these people as well, it feels like this is another big disconnect. Another recollection of the DigiDay conference comes to mind where someone commented that frugal mommy bloggers are America’s new sweetheart.

The Media

The following keynote is scheduled to be Patrick Keane, Chief Executive Officer of Associated Content. He will be talking about “What defines content quality and consumer value in the growing landscape of user-generated content? How can traditional media companies build community and user-generated content platforms?” I believe friends of mine have written for Associated Content, and I’ve heard mixed reviews. It will be interesting to hear what Mr. Keane has to say. Beyond that, as users attempt to monetize the content they generate, either through sites like Associated Content, PayPerPost or Today.com, does the line between user-generated content and professional content begin to blur?

I expect to see this explored even more deeply during a panel moderated by Henry Blodgett, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Business Insider. The panel will include Brian Quinn, Vice President and General Manager of Digital Ad Sales for The Wall Street Journal and Betsy Morgan, CEO of The Huffington Post.

Recently I was told of a meeting in Washington where Arianna Huffington spoke of the success of her venture and berated some of the newspaper executives bewailing their decline in revenue as a bunch of crybabies. I’m told that the Huffington Post model is based substantially on unpaid user generated content, and I wonder if this model will face challenges as the media ecology evolves.

While it is good to see The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post on the panel, it is striking the lack of representation of others in the newspaper industry. When I’ve spoken with various people complaining about the decline of the newspaper industry, they talk about how they just can’t make as much money online as they did for print advertisements. Perhaps, instead of complaining, members of the news industry need to get more involved in conferences like this.

Smoothie Break

After the panel, Mojiva will sponsor a smoothie break. Staying with an inside joke since the DigiDay conference, I hope no one spills a smoothie on my blackberry.

While this only covers the first half of the day, it is probably about as much as it makes sense to put into a single blog post. Conferences like this can be overwhelming, especially if you get on a train before six in the morning, so I’ll rest a little and try not to hold too many things in my mind at the same time, or get overwhelmed, at least until lunch time.

A final word to my followers on Twitter: I hope to be sending many Tweets from DPAC III. If you are sensitive to the number of tweets you get and you don’t want to be inundated by messages about digital publishing and advertising, I’d encourage you to mute my Twitter stream for the day. On the other hand, if you are interested, please keep an eye on my tweets, since I hope they will be many and interesting.

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Learning About Twitter

As I walked down Broadway, I typed ‘Heading to the Mojiva party. Hope no one spills a drink on my Blackberry’ on my old Motorola Razr and texted it off to Twitter. I have the Twitter application on Facebook, so my status there was updated as well. A few friends saw it and commented on my status.

Anyone who saw my message on Twitter or Facebook probably knew what I looked like from my picture on Facebook or my avatar on Twitter. To top things off, I was wearing my black shirt proclaiming, “I get my news on Twitter”. So, when I walked into the Mojiva party, several people came up to me and commented about my tweet.

Before I go much further, I need to explain how this was an inside joke for people interested in mobile marketing. At Digday:Mobile last September, Dave Gworzdz, CEO of Mojiva was asked about how Twitter fit into their mobile advertising strategies. He made a comment, comparing it to Facebook statuses, and noted that he had recently seen a status saying, “I just spilled water on my blackberry”. He went on to say that he didn’t think he needed to know that sort of information.

What he did not seem to know was that a large number of the participants of Digiday:Mobile were busy providing a running commentary about the conference in Twitter, and many people commented about his comments being a classic fail. He didn’t know the audience well enough, and his comment about the Blackberry that became a running joke.

That said, placed in context, his comments were not that far off the mark. Getting updates about water being spilled on a Blackberry doesn’t especially fit into a Twitter based marketing strategy, unless, perhaps, you are somehow involved in making, selling or supporting Blackberries.

Dave has gone on to start using Twitter and talked about how he used Twitter to provide a running commentary about a lacrosse game that his kids were in. As we talked at the Mojiva party, I pointed out that his commentary on a lacrosse game illustrates how Twitter really works. Personally, I’m not all that interested in lacrosse, especially the lacrosse game that the kids’ of some marketing CEO that I don’t really know were playing.

Yet the discussion about his kids’ lacrosse game, made Dave seem a little more real, a little more authentic, a little more human. One of the problems with so much advertising today, is that it lacks this authentic human feel, and adding in a little unrelated ‘noise’ can be a great help.

On the other hand, not being in the community when you start a marketing campaign can have some significant negative repercussions. The famous Motrin ad illustrates this. (For more information on this, check out my commentary and parody of the Motrin Ad.)

As Tom Friedman commented at a Personal Democracy Forum, on the Internet, either you do it, or someone else does it to you.

I was pleased to see that Dave is now getting Twitter. However, there were others there that didn’t get it and I had several other great conversations.

One objection is questioning how much information you can put into 140 characters. If you are looking at Tweets as 140 characters, standing alone, sort of like a mini-billboard online, there isn’t much you can do, and I’d just as soon people not look at tweets as mini-billboards.

However, if you look at twitter as a conversation, much like conversations at cocktail parties, then 140 characters works pretty nicely. You say your 140 characters, and you give other people a chance to respond. You pick up parts of one conversation or another and respond to them. If you are good, you manage to weave together several conversations, and everyone feels included, has a good time, perhaps learns something, and your social capital grows. If you are using Twitter the same way, it can be a wonderful conversation.

In addition, as I mentioned with my Tweet that started this blog post off, there is a lot of interesting connectivity. Using the Twitter application on Facebook, my tweets show up there. However, you can push it much further, as I illustrated in this quick mobile post about the Mojiva party.

I took the picture with my cellphone. Sure, in this illustration, it wasn’t a great picture. However, what was interesting to the folks I was speaking with is that I sent it from my cellphone, to Flickr. The Flickr account that I used is set up to automatically cross-posted my picture to my Blog. Using TwitterFeed, my blog posts automatically get highlighted on Twitter and the Twitter application on Facebook grabs the Tweet and adds it to my status. With one email from my cellphone, I got my message on four different platforms. As an aside, there can be some delay for the message to automatically make it to each platform, and in this case, TwitterFeed was running very slowly, so it only made it to Twitter and Facebook much later.

In the discussion, I asked a creative director how he would craft a message that takes advantage of all nearly instantaneous cross linked communications. He found it a fascinating question but didn’t have any ideas to share over the hors d’oeuvres. So, I leave this out for all of you: How are you using Twitter? What are you doing to integrate all of your online social presence? What interesting ideas do you have?

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#Whuffie, News and Blogs

Last week, I received a copy of Tara Hunt’s new book The Whuffie Factor. By traditional marketing standards, it is everything I detest. It has an annoyingly cute and trendy title. It is about a subject I think I already know a lot about.

Too make things worse, the first paragraph inside the fly cover starts off “The book that catches the crest of Web 2.0 and shows how any business can harness its power …” If I were browsing books at a bookstore, that would probably be enough for me to put the book right back on the shelf, assuming I would have taken it off the shelf in the first place.

However, Tara Hunt sent a message out on Twitter asking for people to review the book, and because Tara has incredible whuffie and knows how to use it, I agreed to review the book and I’m glad I did.

So, let’s start off by talking about what ‘whuffie’ is. Tara writes,

The term “whuffie” was coined by Cory Doctorow, creator of the popular blog Boing Boing, to describe social capital in his futuristic science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Tara goes into detail about how social capital really works online with great examples of companies that have used whuffie effectively, as well as examples of when companies have blown it, severely damaging the whuffie.

She does a great job of explaining all of this in a way that I imagine technological troglodytes could understand and as I read through the book, I thought of all kinds of people that I think should read the book.

One good example is many of the people in the newspaper industry. There are many reasons that the newspaper industry having difficulty. However, the lack of a proper understanding of whuffie and the news industry is a compounding factor. It used to be that the local newspaper was an integral part of the local community. Everyone knew the reporters and the newspaper boys. You could talk to them and they would listen. They had a certain amount of whuffie. Yet as large companies came in trying to maximize ROI and depersonalize everyone involved with the newspapers, newspapers lost whuffie, and with that, are hemorrhaging badly.

Meanwhile, online bloggers engage in discussions and build whuffie. This helps the journalistic bloggers, but it also helps many other bloggers as well. One site that I find very interesting is EntreCard. This is a site that allows bloggers to drop cards on one another as a means of saying, “Hi, I visited your site and I like it.” It is a great way of building whuffie.

On the other hand, the folks running EntreCard appear to do everything in their power to destroy their own whuffie. This results in fairly frequent firestorms where the bloggers with the most whuffie leave, sometimes setting up their own whuffie exchange sites.

You will note that I still have EntreCard on my site, because in spite of the anti-whuffie actions of the folks running EntreCard, it is still useful for me in expanding my own whuffie. However, I now support Adgitize and CMF Ads which is where a lot of EntreCard refugees have fled.

Now, another EntreCarder, Greg Mathews, is considering setting up his own Whuffie Exchange site. So far, he is doing things right. He’s announced what he is planning to do and sought feedback and buy-in from potential users even before he brings up his new site.

So, I hope that some of my friends who are trying to salvage newspaper companies reads Tara’s book. I hope some of the folks working on sites like EntreCard also read the book, and I’m sure that over the coming days, I’ll think of more and more people that really should read Tara’s book.

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