Living in a digital world

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You may have noticed a new trend occurring in offline ads that want to direct users online, until very recently the standard method of driving people online from an ad was to give people the URL of the website you wanted them to visit, increasingly advertisers are suggesting search terms instead.

On the face of it this makes sense, a huge proportion of Internet journeys start with search and anyone who has looked at analytics for one of their websites will know how often users simply type the URL into Google. Search terms can also be a lot easier to remember than the usual  of many campaign URLs.

I first noticed the trend in Japan last year, most Japanese offline ads (TV, magazine, 48 sheet etc) have a picture of a search box in the corner with the suggested search terms to find the website rather than a URL. This makes perfect sense in a country that doesn’t primarily use the Latin alphabet that urls tend to be written in.

japanese ad

Further, there is research that suggests Japanese consumers find a keyword suggestion in an ad more convenient than a URL (82.9% to 4%).

The downside to suggesting search terms rather than URLs is that there is nothing to stop competitors, spammers and other assorted Internet nasties optimising their sites and buying pay per click advertising against the keywords your spending a lot of money encouraging consumers to search for. Further, if like Orange at the start of their “I am” campaign you rely on pay per click ads to drive traffic, you are going to be paying for every visitor you drive to your site via the search term.  I’d love to know how many people Orange drove to – the top organic result for that search term.

The recent government “act on co2” campaign which also has a search term call to action seems to have been a success. Google insight shows that there was a large spike in searches when the campaign broke, the site has the majority of the organic (i.e. non paid) links against the term on Google and not too many spammers are buying adwords.

I would like to see the results of testing a search call to action against a url call to action to see if any upswing in site visitors would outweigh the negatives.

My feeling on this (before seeing any research) is that it makes sense to use a search call to action if you have a relatively short term campaign (optimising against a keyphrase takes time and a short term campaign makes it harder for a spammer to optimise against you), a defendable keyphrase and difficulty in getting the url you want. Also, it’s worth noting that some Japanese campaigns use both a url and a search term but it’s hard to know if this is confusing or helpful.

Anyone have any further thoughts on this?

September 26, 2008 Posted by | digital marketing, interactive | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The distinction between digital and real is breaking down

I’ve just read two great posts about “OFF=ON” from o’reilly radar and trendwatching.

To quote trendwatching:

“More and more, the offline world (a.k.a. the real world, meatspace or atom-arena) is adjusting to and mirroring the increasingly dominant online world, from tone of voice to product development to business processes to customer relationships.”

O’reilly have taken this insight slightly further arguing that this process will continue until there is no difference between the online and offline world – using a classic William Gibson quote to emphasise the idea:

One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real

To me, the most interesting case study from OFF=ON is TCHO, a San Francisco-based chocolate manufacturer using web 2.0 ideas in it’s offline business:

“Its founders started Wired magazine, so it’s no surprise they’re taking a high-tech approach to the production of an age-old delight. In its factory, TCHO combines recycled and refurbished legacy chocolate equipment with the latest process control, information and communications systems.

The company’s “obsessively good” dark chocolate is created in limited-run “beta editions” that are only available online and at its factory store. Continuous flavor development and customer feedback mean that varieties are constantly evolving, with new versions emerging as frequently as every 36 hours.

TCHO also aims to change the way people describe chocolate and has created a new taxonomy based on common-sense terms like “nutty”, “fruity” and “chocolatey” to help people find the types they like best.

Products are named accordingly, such as the recent Beta C Ghana 0.2x release, for example, in which the “C” stands for chocolatey. Finally, TCHO embraces a social mission that goes beyond Fair Trade to help farmers by transferring knowledge of how to grow and ferment better beans, allowing them to escape commodity production and become premium producers. “

There is obvioulsy a lesson for agencies here……

September 5, 2008 Posted by | interactive | | Leave a comment

Esquires e-paper magazine


Esquire magazine (as reported by boing boing) are going to be using e-ink (electronic paper) on the front and inside cover of their October edition making it possible to animate the cover and an ad for Ford in the magazine.

This is awesome in so many ways, but what really interests me is that it is another development of an argument (and I can’t remember where I read this) that digital shouldn’t be treated as just another channel because other channels are all becoming digital – think of the BBC iPlayer or the adshells on the tube as an example of this. Eventually all media will have the ability to be interactive.

I wonder who’ll be the first to use this in DM?

July 31, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mobile Internet

Pretty much everybody in our industry has been saying for years that mobile is going to be huge and the boom is just round the corner. An interesting post and set of slides on o’reilly radar demonstrates exactly why this this – There are 3.3 billion mobile phones in use worldwide:

oreilly slide

What really interested me is the next slide about iPhone usage that can give us an insight into why mobile internet use hasn’t taken off in the west as we expected it to:

oreilly slide

I think a very good argument can be made that the pre-iPhone generation of mobile phones were simply too difficult to use for mobile browsing and the stripped down version of the internet they can browse was simply too limiting.

In my opinion it is the simple and intuitaive user interface that has enabled internet use on the go to be pleasurable and useful rather than a battle that has led to the huge uplift in mobile browsing on the iPhone.

Other mobile manufactuers have learnt from the iPhone, when they have fully incorporated its lessons into their user interface, mobile internet use will explode.

There is also a lesson to be learnt by all agencies and companies that develop applications and sites on the web. Usability matters. An easy to use, simple website often has a competitive advantage over it’s rivals. As an agency and an industry we sometimes fail to recognise this. We’ll return to this point in more detail over the next few weeks.

Here is the full slideshow from the mobile presentation I took the two slides from, it’s well worth a look if you’re interested in the ins and outs of developing for the mobile web:

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

QuidCo – Making affiliates work for the consumer

quid co website grab

Affiliate marketing is a very powerful online advertising technique. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s basically a way of earing commission by referring a customer to an online retailer, you get paid an agreed amount when the customer buys something on the site you referred them to. The amount that can be made by a referral can be fairly significant, for instance some financial services companies will pay over £100 for a customer that buys car insurance or an ISA from them.

As an online marketer, affiliates are a great tool for generating sales but as a consumer it is slightly annoying that I am paying for these commissions through increased prices.

Quidco is a surprisingly altruistic site that gives all the commission back to consumers if they use the site to refer themselves to retailers. So if you sign up to Sky Digital you get a £130 kickback from the commission that is paid to Quidco for that referral.

It’s also a good way for marketers to target savvy consumers with discounts and incentives that don’t cost them any more than their existing affiliate scheme. For instance Virgin Media only give a £55 kickback as opposed to Sky’s £130 – for some consumers that might push them towards taking Sky.

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

PS3 3D Virtual Reality

A friend of mine who works in the video game industry just sent me this awesome demo of a PS3 hack that uses exposed camera film, a pair of old sunglasses and an infrared LED to show how video games and interfaces could become even more immersive in a few years time:

To me, the images look almost holographic in their depth and 3D effect….the immediate possibilities are obvious – a first person shooter that lets you look around corners, a racing game that makes it easier to see who is trying to ram you off the road…

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Joker’s Army

Here’s a great run down of the campaign Warner Brothers are running for the new Batman film Dark Knight. Those of you at the DigiTell session this week will already be familiar with the campaign and the alternate reality game (ARG) that is at the core of it, but since the presentation the story has unfolded:

The short version is that participants have been sent on a scavenger hunt around various cities in the US, culminating in fans finding mobile phones, a joker card and a set of instructions on what to do next (hidden in a cake). The participants have been recruited into “The Joker’s Army” and are now waiting for the next part of the game to kick off. Genius.

Read the full story here

December 7, 2007 Posted by | digital marketing, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

“keitai shousetsu” – mobile phone novels

Everyone in the digital industry keeps talking about how big mobile is going to be. They’ve been saying it for almost a decade. But we don’t actually always see that much work – at least not in Europe. Well, that is all about to change very very soon. And looking at other territories can show us just how big mobile is going to be. Here’s a great example from Japan:

In the last year or so there has been a boom in Japan for novels written and read on a mobile phone . The latest sales figures are staggering – half of Japans top 10 selling works of fiction were written on a mobile phone…with some selling over 1 million copies.

More at the sydney morning herald and wired

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

QR codes in The Sun

nicked from the sun

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I am a huge fan of QR codes and their ability to open up the mobile web (see the post big in japan)

I’ve always thought that QR codes will only take off here if the mobile providers kick start it by including the reader software in their handsets by default (as NTT DoCoMo did in Japan). Despite this they are starting to go mainstream with The Sun devoting several pages of yesterdays edition to them and introducing the codes throughout the paper as a way to connect with readers through their phones.

If the initiative takes off it will open up all sorts of opportunities for advertisers to use the codes to link offline and mobile campaigns.

More info at The Sun

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Worth turning your ad blocker off for…

 Apple have been running a really cheeky campaign on the CNET windows vista page.

If, like me you can’t view it at work, watch the ad on youtube link above. And turn your sound on.

November 21, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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