Last Thursday, executives interested in marketing and advertising in mobile and social media gathered at the W Hotel in New York City for a conference called DigiDay. The first half of the day focused on Mobile marketing and advertising and the second on marketing and advertising in Social Media.
The day started with a conference sponsored by ChaCha. ChaCha is a service where you can text any question and receive a response from one of 55,000 ChaCha guides. These guides, many of whom are work at home moms or college students, have an active community for finding ways to quickly answer any question that might come in. The answers are supposed to reflect information on the web, as opposed to their own personal opinions.
When you text a message to ChaCha, you receive a text message back which includes an advertisement. These advertisements can be targeted by location or topic. Currently, location targeting is done at the area code level. It has been used by over four million people and their surveys get over a twenty percent response rate. Currently, they are receiving over ten million questions a month.
It seems like a great service so I thought I would give it a try. While no registration is necessary, on their website, you can register your email address and phone number. I registered my email address and verified it successfully. However, I never received my verification code on my cellphone.
I thought this would provide an interesting question, and I sent a text message to ChaCha asking why I hadn’t gotten my verification code. The response was unhelpful, simply saying that I didn’t need to use the verification code to ask questions. I replied, acknowledging that it wasn’t required but that I wanted to anyway, and asking how to get it. The second response was as useless as the first.
On Saturday afternoon, while I explored the Hebron Maple Festival, I noticed a car with the State Representative license plates for Assembly District 55. I sent a text message to find out who the State Rep for the district was, and was informed that it is Rep. Pam Sawyer. The message included her phone number and an advertisement for H&R Block. So, currently ChaCha is batting .333 for useful answers. I’ll probably keep using it from time to time.
However, I was also disappointed to receive a text message at the same time informing me that I had used 3 of 5 questions during a 48 hour period and that I could only ask 2 more questions over the next 18 hours. Considering that one of the questions was an attempt to get an answer for the previous question that they failed to answer adequately, and even that answer was not adequate, I was disappointed. Have you used ChaCha? How well has it worked for you? If you haven’t, you can text to their short code, 242242.
After the breakfast, the first panel was “The Mobile Marketer Roundtable: The Elephant in the Room: The Economy:“ Personally, I’m a bit tired of all the gloom and doom discussions about the economy. Yes, the economy sucks. However, there are still lots of people doing lots of interesting things. Tell me something I don’t know.
Fortunately, June Bower, VP of Marketing for Cisco-WebEx did tell me something interesting I didn’t know. There is a WebX app for the iPhone. Over 70,000 copies have been downloaded already and WebX will be coming to other smartphones soon. Another interesting idea from this panel was the cellphone as sales assistant. Someone is going to come up with an easy way for a user of a mobile device to find something he is looking for in a store. That will be a cool app.
There were discussions about ‘click to consume’ and the closest people have come up with so far have been buying ringtones, wallpapers and games. None of these are all that compelling, but they have been lucrative.
The biggest hurdle that members of the panel saw to mobile devices playing a bigger role was getting marketers to understand the role of mobile as part of their 360 marketing.
A final thought from this panel was that to television people, a mobile device looks like a small TV. To computer people, it looks like a small computer. More and more, simple telephony is playing a smaller and smaller part of mobile market.
This was brought home in the next panel, The State of Mobile Media by the Numbers, when Julia Resnick, VP Mobile Media Products for The Nielsen Company spoke about their research. The iPhone is drastically changing the data usage of mobile users and Android and Blackberry Storm are also making data a much larger part of the mobile platform. The other interesting tidbit that she revealed was that the average age for children getting their first cellphone is now 9.7 years. They also revealed that the average teenage sends 2300 text messages a month. That works out to around 75 text messages every day. I guess I’m not that heavy a texter after all.
The following panel, Keynote Panel: The Mobile Platform Implosion, spent time looking at appropriate metrics for mobile usage. Nothing particularly memorable came out of that panel except for the observation that cookies on mobile devices are a problematic stop gap measure. More interesting was a rant about metrics about how each decade has had it’s own ad science, but then about 2005, all that ad science went out the window simply for measurement without a lot of consideration of what was being measured and why.
It was an interesting observation. If you know what you are measuring and why you are measuring it, then you can determine if you are reaching your goals. Yet many people do not seem to have a clear idea of what they are measuring or why they are measuring it.
After this panel, a spokesperson for a company called Mojiva got up and made a sales pitch. It wasn’t all that compelling. What was compelling was the discussion afterwards. During the Q&A, he was asked about Twitter. He dismissed Twitter as diarrhea of people spending too much time online and having no mobile implications. The large community of participants at the channel who were having a great discussion about the conference on Twitter were merciless. They spoke about it as an epic fail, a credibility failure, a debacle, a shame, and some suggested that it is sometimes it is just better to get off the stage.
Could virtual worlds become a new platform of choice for musicians? If Darryl McDaniels (DMC) is successful, it will be. Later this month, he will be launching DMC World, a virtual world running on the Worlds.com platform. He was at Engage! Expo along with Thom Kidrin, President and CEO of Worlds.com, to talk about what their new world might be like. One person who viewed it summarized it saying, “This is Club Penguin for Hip Hop”. That’s a cute summary, but I suspect it could be much more than that if they do it right.
The Worlds.com platform is highly scalable and one goal is to be able to have concerts in DMC world. Fortunate musicians might also get the opportunity to jam with him online. Yet what is perhaps more interesting is that DMC hopes to sell not only his own music there, but the music of emerging artists that catch his interest as well.
There are already good venues for buying music online, from iTunes to Snocap. You can find new artists on sites like MySpace. DMC World could take this to a new level.
Will DMC World have what it takes to succeed? There are various issues that need to be addressed. The client is a relatively small download, compared to the size of other virtual world downloads. Yet it is still a download and not yet browser based. On top of that, currently, it only runs on Windows. A MAC version is expected in about six months. It should have many of the other features that Second Life users have come to expect such as the ability to build, as well potentially the ability to upload and download content. Worlds.com is also part of the virtual worlds interoperability committee, so progress on that front will hopefully make its way into DMC world as well.
Additional features that are in the works include a port to mobile platforms and the ability to chat from DMC world to phones. All of this presents a further challenge to the existing models of music distribution. In essence, each artist has the opportunity to become their own technologically savvy micro-label, facilitated by DMC World. Will it be successful? Time will tell.
And what about the best minds of our generation? They aren’t doing anything as romantic as Ginsburg’s friends, searching the angry gutter for a fix. No, some have been searching for ways to use technology to engage people in politics or non-profits. Others ride the subways joining blank faces beneath the pictures of smiling models. At the end of the day, they get cynical and drunk and boring someone in some sad café, or maybe these days some sad virtual world.
At their jobs, they try to find ways of separating their fellow human beings from their hard earned wages, perhaps by trying to come up with an engaging advertisement in one of these virtual worlds. It almost feels like Freeport in Neuromancer. Yet, perhaps, the joy that some people see as their hard earned wages get stripped from them in some virtual world is not unlike the joy that Sisyphus saw as the bolder rolled back down the hill.
Today, I am at Engage! Expo, a show about how advertisers and marketers can engage their audiences in virtual worlds. How engaging will the speakers be? What new insights will I come away with? Come back later and find out.
The other day, I started unfollowing people who use Magpie. I typically send them a message to let them know I’m planning to unfollow them. If they drop me a note back and have a good discussion, I don’t unfollow them.
Today, @annezieger talked a bit about Magpie, and asked some good questions, which I responded to in tweets, but thought I should go into in much more detail in a blog post.
One question she asked was if that I unfollowed people using Twittad or adjix. I responded saying that I haven’t seen or been annoyed by Twittad or adjix ads, but I have been annoyed by Magpie ads. I went on to comment that Twitter and new advertising is about conversation. Magpie isn’t.
Now that I’m back home and have a little more time to explore, I thought I’d offer my thoughts. I went and checked out Twittad. The way Twittad works is that it changes the background of your twitter page to include one of their advertisements. The reason I’ve never seen it is that I almost never look at people’s twitter pages. I’ve searched out a few twitter pages with Twittad and I don’t find it offensive in the least. I might even consider trying it. However, I like the branding that I have for my twitter page. Very simple. Just the Orient Lodge Red that I use on as many social networks sites as will allow changing backgrounds. Twittad pays you to put up an ad in a non-offensive location. Not bad.
Adjix has another interesting approach. They are a URL shortener, like tinyurl, is.gd and tons of others. Yet when you shorten a URL with them, you have the option of adjix adding a small header bar with their advertisement in it. Again, very unobtrusive. They offer a valuable service, easy URL shortening, with an advertising scheme built in. Very smart. I may try adjix.
Then, there is Magpie. What Magpie does is insert advertisements into the stream of tweats you create, as if the message were coming from you. Good idea, to get people to read the messages. Very dumb idea for anyone to use. Let me come up with an analogy. My twitter stream is like the stream of things that I say at a party. I try to make what I say interesting, well timed, and on topic. Magpie is like if someone said, we’ll pay you if you allow us to hook up a device that at times we think will be effective from a marketing perspective, will take over your mind and have you say what we want you to say.
I’m sorry. I just don’t think that is a good idea. Especially if you have any people that follow you from a cellphone and pay the phone company to get your tweets.
Anne also asked if when e-mail advertising first began, did I drop anyone who did ad blasts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. With Twitter, you chose who you follow. On email, you generally don’t chose who can send email to you.
Yeah, in a sense, spam filters give you that ability. You can set up spam filters to discard any email messages from a spammer, and I’ve done that. So, in a sense, I suspect many of us have dropped emailers that send spammy ad blasts.
Another interesting and more general difference between Anne and I on twitter is the question of who the ‘leading lights’ are. She wrote, “Can’t a group of the leading lights get together for a position statement on this stuff?” I responded that there are over half a million leading lights. She responded, “I know there are many, but let’s be honest, a few stand out...”
I suspect this is where we have a fundamental difference. I’m all about the long tail and stuff like that. I think each of the half a million non A list tweeters are just as important as any of the A list tweeters. Let’s take @vinu for instance. @vinu is currently followed by just over a thousand people. Twitter Grader ranks him at the 99.5 percentile, with an overall rank of 2,416. Yet for a brief period, I would suggest that he was one of the most important members of the Twitter community. Why? He was on the ground in Mumbai and providing some of the best coverage there was of the terrorism there.
This also gets back to ads as part of a conversation. If someone were to come up with a pay per post type model for twitter advertising where they would post tweets about a product or brand they liked, and then engage in a conversation, that would be much better than Magpie sending stuff the person hasn’t written.
As an example, I follow @ripple6. It is the twitter stream of a company of social media marketers. I follow them because I get useful information from them. They were taken over by Gannet, and I wrote about this in a blog post about the future of the newspaper industry. They linked back to that article. They get the aspect of twitter and other social media as a conversation.
Anne asks if I think there is room for “Hi, here I am!” type ads in a twitter stream if they are done well. I actually think there is, providing it is the person saying, “Hi, here I am, and I represent brand X”, or something like that. We can tweet them back. We can see how they follow up.
Perhaps this gets to some of why Anne and I disagree about Motrin Moms. My wife and I both found the ad offensive. We could get into a long discussion about why we felt the ad was offensive, but that misses the point. Some people will find ads offensive, others won’t. Yet returning to the virtual living room, if you offend a bunch of people, you apologize. You get into a discussion about what was offensive, how you’re trying to understand, and how you’ll try not to be offensive again.
I tried to bring the folks into a conversation. I sent emails to various VPs of marketing at McNeil Consumer Healthcare dealing with Motrin. I explained my background as a blogger that writes about marketing, and my coverage of shows like ad:tech and OMMA. I provided a bunch of questions about their perspective on what had happened. I explained that I wasn’t under deadline and they should feel free to take their time, but I would appreciate some feedback. I received acknowledgement receipts that they had read the emails and nothing more. Sure, I could have followed up with older media like the telephone, but that just illustrates the point. They’re broadcasting, but not interacting in new media.
(For those of you who missed it, here is my parody of the Motrin Ad. I whipped it together in around half an hour on my laptop, so the production quality is poor, but that perhaps underlines the message.)
So, those are my thoughts on this cold damp Sunday evening. Anyone want to join the conversation?
Recently, Motrin created an advertisement which started off with “Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion. In theory, it seems like a great idea.” It continues with, “Supposedly it’s a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the bod tend to cry less than others, what about me?” The voice-over goes on to say the pain is worth it because “it totally makes me look like an official mom so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.” All of this is part of Motrin’s trademarked campaign slogan, “We feel your pain”.
Mommy bloggers were in an uproar and it was the top topic on Twitter for much of the weekend. This has resulted in a predictable backlash with people asking if that many people can have PMS on the same day or we there wasn’t more outrage about a bill to combat child pornography barely passed.
I’m not an ad exec, nor a psychologist, but I have a few different thoughts to share on this. First, I should note that the doctors with one of the highest premiums for malpractice insurance is obstetricians. People will put up with a lot of pain, but if you mess with their kids, well there is an old saying that Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. Well, there is a much worse fury, that of parent whose feels that someone or something is getting in the way of them nurturing and protecting their offspring.
Another tack on this is this whole, “we feel your pain.” Have you ever tried to comfort someone who is suffering? Perhaps they are simply depressed. Perhaps they are morning the loss of a loved one. Perhaps they are suffering from some other type of grief. Telling that person that you know exactly what their feeling, or suggesting they should just take a pill and snap out of it; not only is that not particularly effective, it can be down right dangerous.
So yes, it would be great if the outrage and indignation of #motrinmoms could be redirected to outrage and indignation about our broken health care system, about poverty, and issues of child care, and many other related issues, but mocking a mother’s parenting choices hits closer to home than any of this.
Now, let’s take another step back and look at this in terms of what is going on in advertising, marketing and society. Last year, I attended a couple advertising and marketing conferences where the speakers dismissed Twitter as being inconsequential. Motrin has already started sending out apology emails. The website is down. Many hypothesize that it won’t be back up until they get through their crisis meeting this morning.
Whether or not you believe that a lot of people should or shouldn’t have gotten pissed off about the advertisement, a lot of people did get pissed off, and I’ve always thought that a number one rule of advertising and marketing was to not piss off your customers.
Beyond that, the customers are well connected thanks to sites like Twitter and various mommy blogging sites. Smart advertising checks to see how the ad will play with a focus group before releasing it into the wild. Really smart advertising understands that media is a 24/7 phenomenon and you need people standing by to address a crisis as it happens.
In the old days, you could do that by having a public relations person staying in touch with traditional media outlets. Things have changed. Now, you need community savvy people staying in touch with online communities, like Twitter. Hollywood2020 has a report about contacting the ad agency responsible for the debacle and no one at the ad agency even know about the online storm.
Stepping even further back, the choices we make about how we parent are all part of the culture wars, and at least one blog has started talking about this as another skirmish in these wars. This is another aspect worth following.
So, why am I so interested in this? This is a fascinating study in the role of social media. It is fascinating to watch how this traverses the Motrin website, twitter, blogs, YouTube and on into traditional media. It will be a case study for years to come, and you can participate right now.
I did my part. Regular readers of my blog will have seen my parody of the Motrin ad. If not, scroll down and take a look.