What if a map was actually an advert?

We are all getting used to using Google maps, the GPS map on our phones and in our cars, to find places.  We follow that very patient lady to our destination (it’s so good that she stays calm when we miss a turn).  But imagine if the brands we ‘liked’ were allowed to sponsor these turn by turn directions, so that instead of taking us by the fastest route they took us by the route that had their billboards or better still their stores?  Given the GPS system would know where we were, it could choose to show us an advert on the screen saying that we were about to pass a certain store that was having a sale, or give us a coupon etc.  In other words the map would cease to be a map but would instead become a form of advertising.  Imagine then that the map also gave you social content, such as the Trip Advisor reviews of hotels, the Open Table reviews of restaurants and the Yelp reviews of stores.  Right now my car GPS will show me there is a gas station coming up, which can be a help.  Would it be a help to know that if I went a mile further I could buy cheaper gas?  I suspect many would say yes to that kind of feature…

How to make people pay for media

We all consume media on a daily basis.  We love the stuff but we are paying less and less for it as our parents die and we all get our content online.  And as we all know, news online is almost all FREE.  Free isn’t a business model that really works for media.  Good journalism is expensive and tough to support through online advertising.  Rupert Murdoch has responded aggressively to this by putting a charge on many sites such as WSJ.com.  This hasn’t worked too well in part because you can still get to the content through a Google search for free.  He’s threatening to change all that though for the simple reason that they are struggling to make the economics work even with an online subscription model in place.

I have a suggestion for Mr Murdoch and other media moguls.  In the same way that we pay a cable fee in this country and even a TV license in the UK, why not charge a monthly media fee that would enable you to access all the media without having multiple subscriptions.  You’d need an aggregator such as Apple’s iTunes to get in to the mix but I’m pretty convinced that in the same way as people will pay $10 a month for satellite radio, they’d pay $10 a month to access the top 100 publications in the US.  Now there’d be a challenge figuring out which magazine or newspaper got what out of that $10 each month but I’m pretty sure it could be worked out.  It would also enable one player to take over the challenge of managing the online advertising for a host of publications, instead of having a fragmented model as they do today.   It would also mean as a user that you would only need one login.  I’d almost pay $10 a month just for that as I keep forgetting what username and password I have for various online titles.

Don’t just have serious converastions

I just read a short book that interviewed advertising guru Charles Saatchi, of Saatchi & Saatchi fame.  In it he refers to a period in advertising when people actually looked forward to commercial breaks because the advertising was that entertaining.  People it seems looked forward to the latest ad from brands in the way they now get excited about the next movie staring their favorite celebrity.  I remember that era and he’s right.  I recall wanting to see the latest Levi ad before the start of a movie.  The closest we get to this now is a Budweiser ad during the Superbowl.  That’s sad.  Very sad.

My point here is that marketing should entertain as well as inform.  It should get us on the edge of our seats waiting to be sold to.  In a way Apple has adopted this approach by on the one hand helping fuel rumors about its latest products (see all the rumors around the tablet for example) and on the other making sure it says nothing publicly.  In short we are all dying to find out what Apple will do next.  This is a launch though, so building hype is to be expected.  But what can brands do to build expectation into their marketing AFTER a product is launched?  I’d argue that marketing has lost the art of entertaining and is too wrapped up in having a dialog that is focused on the ‘key points.’  Talking about the key points after the news is out gets, well, boring.  Also, as a consumer I don’t want to spend all my time in a serious conversation with a brand.  I want that brand to entertain me, surprise and even shock me.  Not in  the Tiger Woods way perhaps but you get my drift.

2009 was a year when everyone feared for their jobs and people ran a mile from risk.  In the race to avoid risk, they also avoided anything that was just plain fun.  Please let’s not repeat that in 2010.  Let’s create marketing programs that have a serious conversation but which also engage with customers in other, less serious ways.  Ways that may be harder to rationalize but which we all know just plain work.  Let’s have a Happy New Year.

$208 per listener/viewer

NPR stations have been doing their pledge drive lately.  One of their appeals for members said that roughly $45 Billion is spent each year on TV and radio adverts.  This equates to $208 per viewer/listener per year they say.  They rather neatly point out that this money comes from the viewers and listeners as they buy the products that get advertised and some of that money is then spent on that advertising.  They then go on to point out that some of your $208 is spent with radio stations you hate.  Good point.  Indeed I hate commercial radio for the most part because of the ads, which is why I listen to NPR most of the time.  This got me thinking though.  If the average listener/viewer has $208 spent on them each year for TV and radio adverts, then I’d assume they get about the same again from all the other paid advertising approaches such as print ads, online ads, billboard ads and sponsorships.  That means that each of us is spending roughly $400 a year to persuade ourselves to buy things.

This number may seem high or low depending on how you look at it.  To me the number looks very low when I think of how many products and services a year that I buy.  I’d guess I buy products and services from over 100 brands a year.  That means they each get roughly $4 a YEAR of my money to spend on advertising to me.  Which means the adverts would need to be pretty darned amazing don’t you think?  Put another way, it seems  almost pointless to spend money on advertising…

Boeing, Boeing Gone

Boeing recently launched the 787 a totally new type of commercial airliner. It seems to be a huge success with 677 orders already on the books. Despite this rather long waiting list they today placed a full page color ad in the Wall Street Journal on the back of the first section. This seems an odd move to me. Looking at the ad I can’t help but feel that the real reason they ran it was that in all the press coverage they got about the launch of the plane, few, if any, mentioned that it was launched on 7/8/07 (get it?). Indeed the whole purpose of the ad seems to be to point out that they launched the plane on that date, which is now 10 days ago. I guess with 677 orders they can afford to waste moeny on ads that simply point out an aspect of their marketing program that is now out of date…

More bad news for advertising

The FT has just posted this article. Hot on the heels of the ban on billboards in Beijing come these moves in the UK.

Spread the word about the benefits of advertising
By Jamie Whyte
Published: June 26 2007 18:31 Last updated: June 26 2007 18:31
Advertising is unpopular with those concerned for our welfare. They see it as a kind of  coercion, making us “want things we do not really need” and, sometimes, things that are positively bad for us. Ban the ad, they demand.
Modern regulators are happy to oblige them. On Sunday, two moves to tighten up on advertising junk food to children come into force in the UK. Ofcom, the media regulator, introduces new content rules (including banning the use of celebrities), prior to banning advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or salt during television programmes popular with under-16-year-olds next January. The Committee of Advertising Practice, an industry group, is bringing in similar content rules for press, posters and paid-for internet space.

Beijing Bans Billboards

Jason Leow of the WSJ wrote yesterday about the removal of 90+ billboards on China’s Golden Avenue in a bid by the city sanitize the city’s image. He reports that the crackdown appeared to start on the advertising of luxury homes. Now, he went on, as a part of a massive urban reorganization exercise the advertising ban has been extended across much of Beijing.

This is reminiscent of a similar move in New Delhi a few years ago where thousands of illegal billboards were removed so you could actually see the city. At the time there wasn’t actually that much to see but a lot has changed since and presumably the city planners in Beijing expect their city to continue to evolve and would prefer that billboard proliferation not be a part of the outlook.

This of course poses a huge headache for brands that relied on these billboards to get their messages across, however unsubtly. So as the city tries to prevent itself from being one giant Times Square or Piccadilly Circus it will be interesting to see where those ad dollars go that would have promoted all those luxury cars and condos. I suspect the ad agencies will have some ideas on how to spend the money but maybe some PR execs should be putting their thinking caps on too.

PR should take a leaf out of the advertising book

I read an interesting article this morning on how advertising is using technology. The piece focused on how billboards are getting smarter and gave examples such as how in the future they be able to beam coupons to your car as you drive along for stores close by. What struck me after reading the piece was that I don’t hear much about how people are embracing technology to the same degree in the PR world. Of course technologies such as Vocus and Biz360 are gradually becoming more common but forgive me for saying that these are really just tools to automate existing ways of doing things. They don’t enable you to do something you couldn’t have done before. This in turn made me question how technology could disrupt the PR world. My first thought was to look at the sales process customers follow. Right now traditional PR influences certain parts of the sales cycle through news, product reviews, case studies etc. Through Blogs PR has picked up the opportunity to talk more directly to customers if it so wishes. But what if we took a leaf out of the advertising world’s book and used the very same technology they are thinking about to get PR generated content into the hands of customers instead of advertisers? So instead of a billboard sending a car a coupon, how about as you arrive at Best Buy you get sent (to either your phone or blackberry) an abstract or a podcast of a product review comparing your client’s products with that of its competitors? How about when you register your new product instead of receiving annoying offers online, you get news or feature articles relating to the product you bought? Put another way I think there’s a real opportunity for the PR world to engage in a dialog with the advertising industry to embrace the great thinking that’s taking place on the use of technology and broaden its use to encompass PR. In fact the only problem I can see with this is that the ad industry may not want to talk for fear they will loose out on valuable marketing dollars in the future.