Return to the online basics
A marketing guy walks into his agency and says: “Hey give me some of that
viral stuff, but it has to support the company values, not put any of our customers
off, or scare the boss, and it must achieve results I can put in a Power Point for the
mid-year P&L meeting”.
No, it’s not the start of a bad agency joke, at the expense of clients, but the
frustrating point where the hype machine of online, driven by an extremely healthy
conference industry, meets the complexity of digital marketing platforms and the
difficulty of matching the right platform with the right brand.
If the agency guy knows his stuff, and has the client’s best interests at heart,
before he hands the brief onto that spanking new online strategy team he has just
assembled he should ask the question: “But what do you want to achieve?”
The technologies might have changed but the rules haven’t, and customers certainly
haven’t. The difference, as you would be hearing everywhere, is now you have to listen to them.
It might be a brave new world of technology driven by engagement but it can be broken down into some
decidedly old fashioned ideas about reaching customers.
LESSON 1: JUST TRY SOMETHING
Yes it can be as simple as that. Marketing departments, since before they were called
marketing departments, knew there was no product sales without some sort of promotion,
if no-one knows you are out there then they won’t find you.
In the digital space this, according to Kevin Huang, CEO of Hong Kong’s Pixel Media,
doesn’t necessarily need to drain the marketing budget.
“They need to try new things whether it is buying a search engine keyword or buying a
simple banner on a website, just take that first step and experiment. A lot of the time I think marketers say I want lots of research, I want lots of other stuff about what other people are doing in (the) space,” Huang says.
“What I tell our clients is every client is different, what works for Coke may not necessarily work for Pepsi.”
He says while up until now there has been reluctance to dive in and experiment, since the
old forms of media are comfortable, and therefore safe, more marketers in Hong Kong are considering this principal of trying something new.
“A lot of them are saying they are looking into it, they are ready to do it but need to figure out how to do it. They are ready to start looking at it, we are heading in the right direction,” Huang says.
If a marketer has never had much of an online presence Huang says search is one of the
best ways to get started. For a start there is no budget. If you sign up with a platform
like Google’s AdWords, to buy relevant search terms, you pay nothing unless
your ad gets clicked on. So if you have to pay for the ads at least it means people are using/seeing them.
Google might have popularised search engine marketing, but it’s not the only game in town with the likes of Yahoo!, MSN and Baidu offering opportunities.
If you find search word marketing daunting Huang says it helps to think of it as a bit like the Yellow Pages. Sure you can get listed in the Yellow Pages for free and people can find you if they look hard enough, but if you enhance your listing by paying for a better ad there is more chance they will notice you. He says it’s a similar thing with paid and organic (free) listings results from a search enquiry.
LESSON 2: UNDERSTAND THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
The tendency today is to see television, along with its friend radio, as a passive medium. Kids turn on the TV and maybe watch a few minutes while they are firing up the Xbox and waiting for Gears of War to load, or have it on in the background while sitting on messenger with their friends on a laptop and listening to the iPod.
Adults aren’t much better, possibly catching a few minutes of the business news on the
TV while scrolling through mail on a Blackberry and trying catch up with a significant other. It’s hardly the picture of engagement, but it was once. In the relatively few glorious years between when TV was invented and the internet boomed a TV was the focal point of a family home where everyone would gather to be transfixed.
Tom Bowman, global director, multinational sales, Microsoft Digital Advertising, says online advertising works precisely because it is a return to engagement. If you are in the right environment you can reach consumers in a place they have elected to come to, where they are likely to spend time. This can be specific content websites, but is more likely to be any of the relatively new social environments like the wildly popular
MySpace, MSN’s answer Windows Live Spaces, YouTube, Facebook, Xanga, Bebo or Friendster where consumers interact and build the kind of environment they want be a part of.
But coming into these environments comes with an element of responsibility
“It works best when the message shows respect for the consumer,” Bowman says.
It isn’t just about not offending users in their environment but giving them a reason to interact with you.
Ask Bowman what works in this engaged environment and he, like many others, points to the “Dove Evolution” execution [YouTube keyword: “evolution”] – part of the Ogilvy & Mather Toronto “Campaign for
Real Beauty” for Unilver’s Dove brand. The TVC shows the dramatic impact of airbrushing on a model.
The execution has not only been broadly shared on video sharing sites like YouTube but has been the subject of frenzied parodying.
“One of the reasons web advertising works is because people are paying a lot more attention when they are on the web. You have a very creative audience there and therefore creative must show respect for the consumer,” Bowman says.
“Therefore creative that jumps in front of a consumer and prevents them from doing what they want to do is an absolute no go.”
This means static banners are out and rich media is in. In fact banners which can tell the whole marketing message without the user having to go to a micro-site are very big right now.
But if you are buying space where non-professional content creators are the media of choice, you need to accept that you won’t always have control over what they write.
LESSON 3: TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Some companies still use one of the oldest tricks in the books, it goes like this: despite the fact the CEO of a large corporate is many times removed from everyone on the “factory floor” he is wheeled out by the marketing department to front the ad campaign.
It shows the company truly has a human face. This started at a time when the guy whose name was on the door wanted to create a grassroots sense of honesty, openness and caring between company and consumers.
Guess what? It’s back and this time it’s blogging.
Blogging is the new outreach between companies and consumers and a way for not only brands but the people behind (or controlling) them, to create a human face, build confidence and create a sense of openness.
PR firm Edelman’s global vice president and senior counsel for online communication, Phil Gomes, is credited as possibly the world’s first public relations professional to start blogging (he got going in 2001), long before many of us even knew it was a real word. He’s also considered to be something of a corporate blogging guru.
Gomes sees blogging as an opportunity for companies to get in touch with their biggest fans and for people within the company to reach out and converse with consumers, but says you need to know why you are doing it and be honest about it.
“It is very easy for marketers to be seduced by the latest web widget or latest innovation.
"I like the Black and Decker marketing mantra that says don’t buy a Black and Decker product because you need a quarter-inch drill bit, buy it because you need quarter-inch hole,” he says, adding, “There are a lot of quarter inch drill bits flying at people at the moment.”
He says he has seen some very good and very bad attempts at connecting with consumers through corporate blogs.
“The ones who do it because it’s gimmicky, that is a completely intellectually dishonest reason to do it,” Gomes says.
Gomes points to General Motors (GM) as a front foot social media embracer which has found a good reason to talk to its consumers through a series of blogs. Everyone from vice chairman Bob Lutz, who recently used the blog to deny rumours he was retiring, to the car designers and other non-executives. GM uses its blogs for everything to discuss new product launches to talk to its customers about pressing corporate matters.
GM is so smitten with blogging itself it often holds press conference style events just for bloggers particularly at auto shows.
So what’s in it for you and is there anything to fear? Blogging is like the old fashioned version of someone walking into your shop and accusing you of selling a bad product when the shop is full of customers. At least you have the right of reply to calm the other customers, which could work unless they sided with the original unhappy customer.
“There are a lot of marketers that try it and there are a certain gang of people that exists online, who basically draw attention to themselves and build their own brand by making fun of other company’s social media attempts which I think is hardly a constructive exercise,” Gomes says, but adds, “It’s a very exciting time and no-one wants to get it wrong. People are genuinely excited. It is very exciting to know I can go to a technorati
or a blogpulse (the Nielsen BuzzMetrics owned measurement platform) to find out what conversations are going on about my brand and my
competitors. It is really a unique time.
LESSON 4: FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE
Yes it’s a very old fashioned saying, but it always rings true for business and online is no different. If more consumers are moving into an online for information and entertainment then surely it pays to cast at least some of your lines in this pond.
The fact is a lot of marketers are still fishing in a shrinking pool. Ogilvy VP for digital, Asia Pacific, Ken Mandel calls this the ‘Marketing Confidence Gap’.
“In most cases, at least 15% of a marketers’ target market is online but only 3% of the budget is allocated online. There is real danger if your competitors figure this out before you do,” Mandel says.
Pixel Media’s Huang also finds it a little frustrating given that all the elements in Hong Kong are in place.
“The broadband penetration is, some are quoting 80 some are quoting 90 per cent and a good two thirds have access to the internet. The active universe is something like 3 million people, that is almost half of the population is online.
“Average ad spend online is pegged at anywhere between one and a half and two per cent and people are spending 30 per cent of their time, so there is a long way to go,” he says.
While no-one is asking marketers to move a great slice of the budget into online marketing, there is something to be said for letting some of the budget flow into the space to see what happens (see lesson 1).
LESSON 5: FORGET TECHNOLOGY, PEOPLE COME FIRST
If you think digital marketing is about whiz bang technology you couldn’t be more wrong.
Since the advent of Web 2.0 (if you are wondering who is to blame for every web vendor who enthusiastically says “we’re going to pimp your site 2.0 style” technical book publishers O’Reilly Media claims responsibility for coining the phrase in 2004, according to Wikipedia) online communicating has been about people not technology.
Edleman’s Gomes says unlike Web 1.0, “when much of that was locked into IT departments and very specialty stuff” now the technologies are cheap and not really that important to the process. Anyone can start a blog on Blogger, anyone can load video to YouTube, anyone can have their “space” on any number of sites.
LESSON 6: THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT
Yes this is the big one, you may want to try something brand new to get the conversation going, to start a dialogue, to engage, but if the customer hates it, and hates you for doing it, then you can’t do anything about it.
But you can, says Huang.
“If you have a lousy product or your creative is bad no-one clicks but guess what? You have learned something. It may be you may need to do better creative or I might need to look at producing a better product or a better price model,” he says.
In the realm of social media it is a similar story, if you get monstered on blogs or YouTube, and you have have been made aware of it at least you can deal with it.
Gomes asks: “Would you not want to know what is being said about you?” He says customers and non-customers alike will talk about you whether you like it or not so you might as well know.
LESSON 7: LETS GET RICH - 10 STEPS FOR ADS THAT WORK
1. Consider the user experience
Where is your target audience spending their time, how are they spending
it, and what is important to them? As you market to users today, you
have to respect that you are in their space, this is their time and effective
advertising has to enhance the user experience. Ask yourself if your target
audience can handle big downloads?
2. Set limits
Audiences prefer ads to clock in at ten seconds or less. So don’t plan an
3. Run silent
The best way to turn users off your ad is to take control out of their hands.
Bombarding them with sound when they load a page is the quickest way
to achieve this. Remember to be courteous by always starting with the
sound off and offering controls that allow people to experience your ad on
4. Don’t hog the airwaves
Rich media ads are more noticeable than conventional online advertising,
which is why they work so well. Remember, however, that noticeable can
eventually feel intrusive. So cap your frequency before you become an
irritant, or plan cross-network appearances so your ads always run, but
not in the same places.
5. Never mislead
As in the offline world, the fastest way to lose credibility and damage your
brand is to mislead your viewers. The difference is that online, the results
are immediate. So remember to deliver what you promise in your ad.
6. Consult, consult, consult
Online publishers offer very detailed specifications about ad sizes, the
types of rich media they can host and the kind of ads they will allow. Consult
closely with publishers, before you waste time on ads they won’t run.
7. Think beyond the click
Most online ads measure click-through but rich media ads can succeed
if you capture metrics like video play time to see if you are really engaging
with your target audience.
8. Play in a team
Setting up the platform to measure the performance of rich media is not
easy. Look for partners who can help with advice on how to structure
measurable executions and proven data-capture expertise.
9. Meet deadlines
Get your material in at least five days before the campaign commences to
allow publishers and other partners to get it ready with all measurement
systems in place.
10. Measure, adjust, repeat
Be prepared to act quickly on the insights you gather through measurement.
Then act quickly again the next day.
Produced for Marketing by Leslie Chu, country manager, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions Hong Kong.
Broadly defined, rich media is advertising enhanced by motion, sound, video,
or some sort of interactive element that provides richer, higher impact content.
According to a recent DoubleClick study in the U.S, various rich media ad
formats generated between double to 10-times the click rate of standard image
ads, with further research also indicating at least a 50% improvement in
DISABLE YOUR POP-UP BLOCKER
This small piece of software might have been a blessing when marketers
thought the best way to reach consumers on their favourite websites was to
interrupt them, by putting a huge ad in front of the content they are reading, but
now they could be getting between you and some good ideas.
Thankfully site owners and their clients have gotten much smarter about
pop-ups. But with active popup blockers you will never see the interesting stuff
that some people, including your competitors, are doing.
TAKE THE SEARCH FOR MEANING OFFLINE
Search and search marketing have been some of the hottest topics for business
book writers over the past 24 months. Pick up some of the excellent books
written about the rise of Google, to find out how search began and how powerful
search marketing is.
But better still are the “Dummies” or “Idiot’s Guide” style books which can
tell you why search matters, how it works and also a lot about search engine
optimisation. A good example is Building Your Business With Google For Dummies
Guide it’s not a blatant plug for the search giant but a fascinating insight
into the mechanics of search marketing.
- Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions
- Pixel Media
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