Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Truth and Lies of Buyology

"Sex doesn't sell." In fact, people in skimpy clothing and suggestive poses not only fail to persuade us to buy products - they often turn us away.

This is the controversial finding of "Buyology: Truth and Lies About What We Buy" which has just been released by Doubleday, and is the officially published result of a three-year neuromarketing study by author Lindstrom.

The single most important element of this book is the thesis that consumers are driven by subconscious motivations and that the majority of the decisions we make every day are basically taking place in the part of the brain where we're not even aware of.

This soon-to-be-controversial book breaks a bunch of myths about marketing, and one of the most important ones is that cigarette warning labels make people want to smoke more, not less.

Part of the study involved warning labels placed on cigarette packs. Researchers asked test subjects if the warning labels that are mandatory now on most cigarette packages actually worked. The answer was a resounding "yes." A different group of researchers studying anti-smoking ads had earlier found that this line of messaging had the same counter-intuitive effect.

Another research study done earlier by Brian Wansink also looked into the subconscious aspects of buying behavior and the importance of brand.

"Buyology" digs into a couple of areas that we take for granted - product placement and brand. Research proved that product placement doesn't always work. In one example, they looked at product placements in "American Idol," they found that Coca-Cola was far more effective at captivating consumers than Ford Motor Co., even though the corporations similarly paid more than $26 million on their campaigns. And, when looking into the importance of a brand's logo, the book points out that brand image is not as important as many have held it to be. It may actually be that the importance is declining, and that things we hold true may be changing due to increased awareness and transparency. I see it around me every day when people refer to Coke as a "soft drink brand" where previous generations would have regarded it simply as a drink.

Buyology is must buy for any reader that wants to get beyond the noise of marketing today, and dig deep into the science of why the things we do work the way they do.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BBDO Shanghai pitches female staff members as D-cups

Angela Natividad just posted this video on Ad Gabber. Apparently BBDO/Shanghai say that all its female staff members are D-cups.

I like Angela's take on the post (which I could not get away with saying so I am quoting). "Finding three young D-cups in all of Asia is a feat, which alone made the video worth watching. I also like the effect the cheesy music had on this slow exploration of the Shanghai office. It made all that leering look less ... leery."

Find more videos like this on AdGabber

Asian Mad Men rise up.

Akamai about to light up Acerno tracking capabilities

Akamai has just announced the launch of Advertising Decisions Solutions, which they say will work with any of their existing clients to "apply behavioral-targeting layers to ad campaigns," reports Advertising Age.

Acerno, a predictive modeling business, which Akamai bought recently for $95 million, tracks user buying habits across a number of ecommerce sites, then apparently applies a new algorithm to predict what they might buy next — and serve ads accordingly.

Repurchase and loyalty programs are already very sophisticated. One that I worked on in the past integrated purchasing information from WebSphere, statistical information processed in Omniture and dynamically modified and delivered messages through a Responsys email system. This definitely resulted in purchase and repurchase lift, but it was very hard to attribute that lift to purely the technologies in play. Sometimes customers just come back and buy other stuff.

This solution from Akamai seems to go further in that it promises that this information can somehow be shared across multiple sites and advertisers, and I trust that Akamai is no "dummy" when it comes to all things privacy. What I found most exciting was the apparent promise that this information would be shared on a pure performance basis, in exchange for

The system that I worked on across multiple vendors was definitely not paid for with performance dollars. It was expensive to setup and maintain, and while it definitely had ROI, it was not risk-free as this promises to be.

This begs a few questions.

How does this differ from Deep Packet Inspection technologies that make this type of information available to site owners and advertisers, but has met with resistance from privacy advocates?

Doesn't this sound like the e-commerce equivalent of Facebook's beacon?

How do you feel about being tagged in your purchase flow and re-marketed to based on what you do?

Akamai shall offer the service to publishers, ad networks and advertisers, taking a cut of revenue gleaned from purchases resulting from the ads.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Great brand experience at the expense of brand experience

By definition a brand experience is an isolated unit of experience created beyond the traditional destinations for information on a brand, but is that definition holding true in the online world? There are not infinite creative opportunities for things like BMW Films, or its self-proclaimed heir apparent, the recently gone beta Lexus' L Studio that provides a forum for a completely unique form of branded content engagement. Not every brand has the budgets required to produce a film series and drive busloads of engaged eyeballs into an online landing experience, or the stomach to resist turning it into a direct response vehicle at the expense of the standalone success of branded content.

On the other side of this equation the only real advertising opportunities that you can buy on major eyeball destinations in order to provide temporary immersive experiences are the interstitial (read "Click Skip or Next ASAP") or the dedicated landing page advertorial content that gets blended into the clickstreams and traffic reports of any of the major or minor portals/media brands that are surviving from this income.

How do you stand out in the crowd? One of the better innovations I have seen of late is an example whereby one brand, technically a sub-brand of a major brand, convinced a major online brand to give up their user experience in exchange for one key return favor - cash. Apparently this approach works. I am not going to spoiler but I am going to set you up to better understand what this might entail if you decide that this amazingly creative use of agency resources and media planning is just the thing for you.

Any potential media outlet has several things that you can consider when brainstorming well outside the box to try and drive engagement and perhaps the odd award or two for your well-paid efforts. It should be no surprise to you that you do not always have to fit in the IAB-sanctioned ad unit specifications, but it will be a surprise to many how far some portals are willing to go to be a part of something really creative or unique. I know. I have worked on many major portals and professional content brands and if the idea and the budget are there then the sky is the limit.

Let me be clear. The plan is to completely take over a portal user experience with your own brand experience (your customer's brand is fine too) and derail the user into "total" engagement.

Lets break the considerations down:

1) Site users: Look at the demographic and behaviors of a site and determine how open you think they are going to be to having their reading, browsing or viewing experience hijacked.

2) Site depth: Determine how many pages will not be impacted in a typical viewing session - this lets you ensure the media brand that all is not lost when you completely take over with your dastardly plan. If a site only has a couple of page views per visitor, they are going to be much less likely to let you completely "hack" the clickpath.

3) Site traffic: How much. How random. From which sources. Typical enter/exit paths. All of these things will let you build out a plan that will not only drive traffic to what you have in mind, but ensure that site users can back out or move on if needed. At the same time, you do want to stop them, so pay attention to how you are going to get them there in the first place.

4) Existing ad model: If a site is already doing a plethora of branded content but has relatively similar models for every brand that is present, then your idea is going to grab massive mindshare. If you are throwing your chips in a stacked deck, you will be splitting the take.

5) What you do: How are you going to get users to visit, stop, engage, click and what compelling event are you going to exhibit to ensure that the visitor stays and loves the choice they made to do so.

Now that you have found the right crowd doing the right thing in the right place that is open to new ideas for what you have in mind, you're all set. As solid as your plan is, you now have to execute with exacting detail, coordination and an eye to the quality of what you will output. And you have to do it fast, because the sales team you just talked into this is already thinking of ten other customers that they can bring to the table.

Intrigued? Think it's a good idea? It is. And below is one of the best examples of this I have ever seen.

Nintendo did, and they talked Goodby into making an experience for Wario that YouTube completely got behind. This will win awards (unless the awards shows are cancelled) and has already generated massive discussion in the industry. is what you are looking for if those links don't work.

You don't have to go that far of course. There are a myriad of ways to take over a page, a site or a clickpath and to engage the users. Offerings from EyeBlaster, VideoEgg, and others are completely targeted at major brands that want more than text, popups, banners and in-streams - and know that they have to work a lot harder than most if they want to get through to even the weakest infections of ad blindness wrought into the ad marketplace.

What are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this?

Get out there and figure out how you are going to do it.

And when you're ready, why not see if you can talk to my incredibly talented team here at Overlay.TV into helping you get it live. ;-)

FOOTNOTE: Visceral reactions abound for this campaign, ranging from pure fandom to carefully pointing out technical issues and specific error messages generated by different browser/OS combinations.

Don't do this at home (unless you have an agency in your basement) and don't do it all if you are looking for a "zero-fallout" situation.