Tag Archives: Advertising

Turn Your Home Into a Billboard

Times are tough and the economy stinks. We already know this. More people are having their homes foreclosed than ever before. The homeless rate is continuing to skyrocket. Jobs are being lost and homes are sitting empty because no one can afford to buy them – even at reduced auction prices after the bank has taken them away. Everywhere you turn online, you see stories just like these and desperate pleas for someone to step up and do something. One company is aiming to help homeowners in a very big way. But is the price a little too steep?

Mobile advertising network Adzookie wants to pay your mortgage AND give your home a facelift in the form of a brand spanking new paint job. The catch – and you knew there was going to be one – is that your abode will be turned into a giant billboard for the company.

The company is looking for people who own their homes – you cannot be a renter, for obvious reasons. They will paint the entire outside of the house not including the roof, windows or awnings. It only takes a couple of days for the entire paint process to be completed, so you won’t be dealing with contractors for weeks on end. The house has to stay painted as a billboard for a minimum of three months, but that can be extended for a year. If the homeowner decides to cancel after the three months (or if Adzookie decides to cancel) they will repaint your house back to its original colors.

Can you even begin to imagine what your neighbors would say if your house looked this way? I imagine neighborhood property values would plummet and an angry mob may beat on your door with lynching ropes in hand. Seriously, though, I shudder at the mere thought of someone doing this. Yes, I completely understand that it’s nearly impossible for so many out there to pay their mortgages while maintaining the balance with other obligations. This seems like an easy way out, but is selling out in this manner really worth it?

Apparently, more than a thousand homeowners feel it’s definitely worth it. That’s how many applications the company has already received. The sheer number of citizens who are hoping for a chance to turn their home into a spectacle overwhelmed Adzookie to the point they have had to push back the project starting date in order to weed through the hopefuls.

My question to all of you is this: Would you be willing to turn your home into a giant billboard in exchange for a few mortgage payments? Are you comfortable with having to hide from your neighbors for at least three months? More importantly, how far do you feel is “too far” in the advertising world? Am I completely crazy, or is this well beyond acceptable marketing practices?

Is Bad Advertising a Good Thing?

For years, many ad execs and PR reps have held to the old adage that bad publicity is a good thing: it keeps a company (or person) in the spotlight. Even if the news making the rounds is bad, people are talking about it. Celebrities will often have well-placed “rumors” published in order to make sure the rest of us are keeping their names in our minds. These dodgy methods worked in the old days, but I’m not so sure they hold water in what I like to call the “social media times.” With seemingly everyone on the planet using sites such as Twitter and Facebook to discuss what we do and do not like, is it really a smart idea to cast yourself in a negative light to get your name on our tongues – or the tips of our fingers?

Indiana-based Hacienda restaurants recently launched a billboard campaign which took pot-shots at the 1978 Jonestown cult massacre, in which more than 900 people died after drinking poisoned kool-aid. Upon seeing the offending signage, one local patron informed the company that “the very notion that a local restaurant would trivialize such a worldwide tragedy to simply increase their sales of cocktails is outrageous to me, and it offended me to the core.”

Hacienda removed the billboards just two weeks after spending the money to erect the messages. Jeff Leslie, vice president of sales and marketing at Hacienda, acknowledged that the billboards were a mistake. “Our role is not to be controversial or even edgy. We want to be noticed — and there’s a difference,” he stated in a press release… and therein lies the problem.

During the Super Bowl this year, Groupon aired a commercial which ticked off people across the country. The masses were offended by the company’s apparent “lack of respect” in poking fun at world problems such as dwindling whale populations and deforestation. The company didn’t do so to be “mean.” They were using those as impetus for you to visit their Save the Money site. Doing so would allow you to donate money to help these causes. The trouble here is that this wasn’t made clear to many people who saw the ad and were simply outraged at the images shown.

This is where we begin to take a look at whether or not bad advertising is a good thing these days. Sure, we talked about both issues ad nauseum. There was a hell of a lot of press generated for both companies. But – and this is a big one – did that PR turn into increased revenue for the companies as it may have in the olden days of advertising? I’m thinking this is a definite no.

Social media fanatics are a finicky bunch. We take the recommendations of our friends and peers seriously. We look to them to figure out whether or not we want to dine at a particular restaurant, shop at a certain store or check out the latest flick at the theater. It stands to reason, then, that we also listen up when they tell us not to visit a particular website. When a business – or person – ticks us off, we tend to shout about it fairly loudly within our Tweet stream and on our Facebook wall. Our friends reiterate the message to their friends, perhaps adding that there’s no way in hell they’d stop by anytime soon after reading this… and we’re off!

It would be interesting to see some type of statistics showing whether or not traffic through Groupon declined or grew after the ad fiasco. I’d also be interested in knowing if anyone has eaten at Hacienda since their infamous billboards showed their faces across the Hoosier State.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that marketing personnel need to be more careful these days to never cross that line into “bad press?” Is it a good idea anymore to make sure your name gets “out there” – no matter what type of talk people are doing?

Why is Your Identity So Marketable?

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During Gnomedex, we asked the audience to put ideas on a whiteboard to tell us what types of spontaneous talks they would be interested in hearing. Privacy is a hot issue, and someone asked the question: “Why is my privacy so marketable?” I knew the perfect person to talk about this was my friend Frank Catalano. Frank is a marketer by trade, having worked with Apple Computers and even in the toy industry during his career.

Why do you feel your information – and identity – are so marketable?

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How Far Will Online Advertisers Go?

After watching a video recently where I discussed online ads with a caller, Max sent the following email to me. He makes several valid points about the state of advertising on the web and why we should all maybe look at things from a different perspective than what the caller presented.

First of all, I’ll tell you my thoughts on the matter. I don’t know who you were talking to but the part where he says people don’t look at ads are just wrong. Him, you, and I all probably skip ads and ignore them completely. But just because he skips and ignores ads doesn’t mean he speaks for the general population. The obvious statement which you pointed out is that “if advertising didn’t work, they would have stopped a long time ago.”

Obviously it works, and they’re getting LOADS more than a percentage of the population. Secondly, you mentioned how you purchased insurance for one of your dogs, and then insurance ads followed you around. This is part of a flaky system of advertising collection that basically targets YOU for specific ads. NPR recently ran an interesting story about this behavior which is both interesting and scary.

The basic gist of the article is that the Internet advertisers use cookies to target users. Websites can store cookies and those wonderful Google click ads that we love, with many more involved, can access those cookies which simply store a long number string that identifies YOU personally! They then compile lists of what you like and have those special algorithms that kinda sorta work and then target you with ads that will make you buy stuff.

This is avoidable by deleting cookies, other protections, etc. but the majority of average computer users don’t even know what a cookie is (although this is changing with the new generations) and they get followed around by these ads no matter what sites they go to. Not to give you a conspiracy theory vibe, but this is orchestrated, planned, targeted advertisement. Your ad A list is sold to lots of different ad companies without you even knowing about it in the first place.

Overall I hate ads, and would happily pay to get rid of them. Look at it this way: TV and Cable evolved with ads, and then we got premium channels like HBO and Cinemax which have no ads, but cost a lot of $$. Then we got DVRs which cost an extra fee monthly so we can record and fast forward our favorite TV shows. My guess is in the future we will just get TV shows on demand by purchase and advertisement will be phased out of television content. If it isn’t, I’d pay the premium fees for no ads.

Apple is pushing to bring interactive iAds which I love because they’re not flashing and annoying. They’re starting their iAd brand with the idea that you WANT to view these ads because they’re not inherently obnoxious from the start. As we’ve heard from some rumors, Apple is keeping a tight leash on their ad content. I believe their motivations are to move advertisement from something you mute and block to something you see and want to click on.

It seems that companies are used to the easy cheap Internet ads that flash and bother people while they’re trying to read an article or look at some Facebook photos. My point is, companies are going to have to sacrifice a little bit to remain in the advertising position that they are in. I disagree with your caller that only a small percentage of people actually look/click on the ads. However, I feel that if advertising companies continue on their current path for the Internet market, they will find themselves there.

What are your thoughts? Do ads really annoy you that much? What do you feel is a viable solution? Thanks, Max, for sharing your thoughts with us.

How To Use Google to Land Your Dream Job

Alec Brownstein was bored with his job. He wanted a challenging new position with a top creative firm. Googling his favorite creative heroes one day, he noticed that none of the results had sponsored ads attached to them.

Brownstein bought Google ad words for the creative directors’ names, which cost him $6. “No one else was bidding on (the names),” he said, “so I got the top spot for like 10 cents a click.” He landed his dream job at Y&R New York by playing to the egos of Gerry Graf, David Droga, Tony Granger, Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone. All of the directors whose name he purchase called him to talk about a job except for one (who is likely now kicking himself). The ads he placed were simple, yet effective:

Hey, [creative director’s name]: Goooogling [sic] yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too” with a link to Brownstein’s website, alecbrownstein.com.

“Everybody Googles themselves,” Brownstein explained. “Even if they don’t admit it. I wanted to invade that secret, egotistical moment when [the creative directors I admired] were most vulnerable.” When asked what his advice is for other people hoping to land their dream job via the Internet, Alec says “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in an interesting way. The people who you want to work for can’t hire you any less than they already are. So shoot for the moon.”

Alec didn’t only land his dream job thanks to his creative efforts. He also won two Pencils and a Clio.

Disclosure and Compliance Made Easy

On December 1, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission began requiring bloggers and social media gurus to make full disclosure statements. This was done to “protect consumers from potentially misleading information.” Many of us in the blogosphere had been doing this for quite some time, as we believe in transparency. I know that I personally have always tried to be as up-front as possible when it comes to my sponsors and products I have received as review units. The same holds true for many of the people in my “circle” – as well as those whose blogs I follow.

It was pretty shocking to read all of the headlines surrounding this mandate. For those of us who were already practicing full disclosure, it was as though we were being slapped in the face. It almost seemed as though people who follow us were suddenly wondering if each of us has been getting something for nothing, or trying to “dupe” our communities. Bloggers who have worked hard for years were suddenly being scrutinized. Social Media mavens had their every tweet examined by people looking to point fingers. It was an intense time in the communities I belong to.

Even though much of the finger-pointing and name-calling has died down, we still have the FTC standard to uphold. Even though we may have already been following the guidelines, we still catch ourselves wondering if we’re doing it right. Did I put the proper wording in that last post? Did my tweet include all of the hashtags it should have? Am I being 100% transparent and open in the eyes of the government?

*Photo art courtesy of Jeannine Schafer*

If you’re one of those people who are unsure and want to have your confidence bolstered in this area, I highly suggest you check out CMP.ly. This company in no way sponsored this post – or anything else, for that matter. I met the company CEO at SXSW in March via my friend Jenn, and he graciously agreed to a video interview. However, due to some technical difficulty with Ustream, the recording didn’t save out properly. The service is such a potential godsend for some people that I wanted to spread the word however I could.

CMP.ly helps you comply with the FTC guidelines by making it simple to disclose things. There are solutions for bloggers, brands, agencies and even affiliate marketers. The company has “created a set of easily identifiable disclosures and codes that can be used to identify any material connections in your blog posts, tweets or other communications. These disclosures give you flexible options and provide you with both short codes and full text disclosures that can be included in your posts.”

Not only does the service make it easier for you to manage your disclosure, it also works across nearly all mediums you might need. Use them on posts, in tweets or via SMS messages. One cool highlight is that your disclosures will stay intact when in RSS syndication or when spread via a re-tweet. This makes it easier to keep track of than a hashtag on Twitter – or via a keyword in your blog.

There are seven levels of disclosure listed on the CMP.ly site. Each of the levels is clearly defined so that you can figure out where your post or message may fit in.

  • CMP.ly/0 – No Connection, Unpaid, Your Own Opinions – This level indicates that you have not received any compensation for writing a piece of content and you have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned therein.
  • CMP.ly/1 – Based Upon a Review Copy – You have a material connection because you received a review copy (book, CD, software, etc.), or an item of nominal value that you can keep for consideration in preparing to write your content.
  • CMP.ly/2 – Given a Sample – You have a material connection because you received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write your content. You were/are not expected to return this item or gift after the review period.
  • CMP.ly/3 – Paid Post – You have a material connection because you received a cash payment, gift or item of nominal value from a company affiliated with a brand, topic and/or product that is mentioned therein.
  • CMP.ly/4 – Employee/Shareholder/Business Relationship – You have a direct relationship with a brand, topic or product that is mentioned therein. Details of this material connection or relationship are outlined in the custom disclosure fields.
  • CMP.ly/5 – Affiliate Marketing Links – You have a marketing connection to a brand, topic or product. Through the use of affiliate links contained in your material, you may collect fees from purchases made.
  • CMP.ly/6 – Custom Disclosure – You have a direct relationship with a brand, topic or product that is mentioned in your writing. Details of this material connection or relationship are outlined in the custom disclosure fields.

Whether you agree with what the FTC wants us to do or not, the fact remains that you honestly don’t have much of a choice. Personally, I don’t understand why someone would not want to be transparent and honest with their audience. Then again, I’m not inside of their mind or conscience. At the end of every day (and every post I write), I know that I have done my best to CMP.ly.

Have you?

Improve Your Website

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Devir has created another excellent screencast for all of you. This time, he took a trip back in time to show you how my website looked back in 2002. It’s a TAD different these days, I know. The point is to show you how much website building has changed over the years. Devir is going to give you several tips in this screencast for tools you can use to improve your website!

The first tool is called Wufoo. Wufoo is a web application that removes the inefficiency and tediousness out of the form building process. It is a HTML form builder helps you create contact forms, online surveys, and invitations so you can collect the data, registrations and online payments you need without writing a single line of code. Wufoo is only free for the first three forms. After that, you would need to register and pay for the service.

The second tool that can help you improve your site is called MOBIFY. MOBIFY helps you to design a mobile layout for your website, as well as capture mobile traffic from both Twitter and Google. It also helps you to manage mobile analytics and advertising!

Next, we have something that I use right here on my own site – Wibiya. The Wibya toolbar is free, and works on all platforms. Use it to increase your page views, incorporate your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and communicate with your readers. There is no need to know how to code anything, and it takes literally less than two minutes to install!

Thanks, Devir, for an excellent screencast!!

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Unraveling the Mysteries Surrounding Community

After watching my What is Community presentation, Seth sent a long and very well thought-out email to me. He voiced his agreement with many of the things I had spoken about, and told me I had inspired him to start delving deeper into life online and to try and unravel what he feels are the mysteries in relation to communities. Seth produces webinars, and has been working hard on building a community of his own. He has heart – and is passionate about what he’s doing. For him, it’s truly about helping people, and not about fame or money. Seth has several questions about how to help his community grow. Instead of writing an email back to him, I decided to post his questions here – for my community to answer. This allows Seth to gain several different perspectives. It will also hopefully help others who may have some of the same concerns and questions to learn for themselves.

Following is part of what Seth wrote to me. What I’m asking of you is to read what he has written, and let him know in a comment here what your answers and perspectives are. By helping him, you are even potentially helping yourself – and who knows how many others. Let’s show Seth what an amazing community we have here!

You talked about building a community and mentioned that the blog is just a tool, and I get that. I have been building a community for some time (it’s a little slower than I would like it to be), and your video on community really made me think. I wonder if you could talk in a little more detail about how you would recommend I go about getting more people into my community. Do I go out on other similar blogs and start posting comments with the hope that my words will generate the interest that will lead people to want to visit my blogs?

I have profiles on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and even MySpace. I realize now that I need to focus my efforts on getting to know people who come into the common areas of my Venn diagram. My Facebook membership is mostly comprised of people who know me directly on a personal level. I am just starting to get some interest via others on Facebook who have emailed me, asking for more information on the webinars. On Twitter, I have at times gone out and just randomly started following people, which I realize will get me nowhere. However, what is a better way to go about finding people who may cross into a community area that I would share?

Do you recommend having different blogs for different interests? Right now, I have a main blog, a QuickBooks blog, and an Excel blog. I also have my own personal blog, as well as another personal one that represents a part of my personal life that I normally keep separate. Lately, though, they all seem to keep crossing paths so to speak, without my having even tried to make them do so.

For SEO reasons, I am inclined to have several of these various blogs pointing back to my “money” site. Is this the best strategy? How do I even begin to generate revenue? Is that through advertising? I am asking that because I am interested in learning more about the web business model. Being in Accounting, there aren’t a whole lot of resources online to use as a model. Most Accountants aren’t using the web to build their business. I’m hoping to be a pioneer of sorts in that regard.

Well, folks, what do you say? How do you suggest Seth go about making his community into what he envisions it to be, and then making it grow into more than he could have imagined? I’m just as interested in hearing all of your thoughts and ideas as Seth is.


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I recently attended the WTIA Fast Pitch Forum & Technology Showcase. The conference featured two dozen of the of the hottest technology companies in Washington presenting their business in a competition for “Best In Show”. WidgetBucks was one of the presenters. WidgetBucks is a vertical shopping ad network that helps publishers and bloggers optimize their earnings.

WidgetBucks features pay-per-click shopping widgets that help their customers make money fast. They instantly display the most popular products based on buying trends of 100 million shoppers. Thus they are highly engaging, which means instant dollars for the customers!

If you own a website and are tired of trying to figure out what the best advertising method is for you… look no further. The program offered by WidgetBucks is simple to use, and is going to make you money fast.

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Have You Called an Internet Advertising Phoul on Phorm?

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I don’t mind advertisers, so long as they are advertising something I would care about. I notice Marketing campaigns all the time. Overall, they don’t annoy me. I know people treat advertising differently than they treat other things in life. It’s a necessary evil. People are usually happy when they get a good deal. That’s why I have been actively posting coupons for awhile now, and have even set up a Coupon Search Engine for all of you to use.

Some people don’t like advertising at all, due to the way it’s being done. SupaFly wrote to me the other day to talk to me about Phorm. According to him, the three main ISPs in England have partnered with Phorm. Phorm is a type of advertiser that looks at what you are doing online, and will then send you targeted ads. There has been a lot of public outcry about this, surrounding privacy concerns.

I don’t know if this is necessarily invading privacy, any more than Gmail’s advertising is. It’s likely a benign form of watching patterns, and not targeting you specifically. Think of it as targeting your generic behaviors. I don’t agree that this is really the way to go. If the website you’re visiting isn’t selling or showing ads… then there shouldn’t be any embedded into it by a third party.

It’s a fine line when you’re talking about advertisements, specifically related to the Internet. If the ISP itself is doing this… I don’t think that’s quite right. All the ISP should be doing is providing you access to Websites, who could choose or not to provide ads. If people are paying to access the Internet, and ads are getting served against them and their privacy is being invaded… it’s just not cool.

I really wanted to throw this out to everyone in England who has to deal with this. Give me your thoughts… give me the skinny and the 411. How do you feel about this? Now that Phorm has been around for awhile, do you just deal with it or are you still fighting against it?


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