October, 2013

One Weird Trick To Get You To Click On This Article



"The  one most important photo of an astronaut you'll see all day"

“The one most important photo of an astronaut you’ll see all day”

You see dozens of them every day – in your email, in online searches and on blogs and other websites you visit.

They’re inane, formulaic headlines written to tease you into reading some dumb sales pitch for something you neither want nor need. But actually, there’s some method to this madness, and that method is an early 21st-century incarnation of some early 20th-century direct response techniques. Read more →

Ghost Responses May Be Haunting Your Digital Marketing Analytics



An email from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project claimed great response to his 24-hour webathon, blogger Anthony Watts posted October 26 – “over 20 million broadcast views” and “252 million Twitter and Facebook impressions.” But the numbers of live, breathing, actual viewers showed these claims were just a wee bit detached from…reality.

YouTube viewership figures showed 51 views from Europe, 73 from South America, 118 from Africa, 156 from North America, 245 from Asia and 22 unaccounted for geographically. That’s a total of 665, which is a mere 19,999,335 short of the 20 million claimed.

The ghosts in the machine

This is not to beat up on Al Gore – who, having made a gazillion bucks pushing global warming, isn’t hurting – but to illustrate a common digital marketing problem, namely, that it’s hard to tell who you’re really reaching. Read more →

New Obamacare Televsion Commercials Target An Unusual New Audience



Those wonderful folks who brought you that totally dysfunctional, $394 million website that Jon Stewart calls “the spinning beach ball of health care” are at it again – with a pair of 30-second Obamacare television commercials released October 21. Only you’re not the target audience.

Judging from their strategy, their internal logic and their divorce from objective reality, they seem to be targeted not for the American citizens, but for those of Htrae, the planet also known as Bizarro World.

You say you don’t remember Bizarro World? Well, if you’re too young to have read about it in Superman Comics as a kid, let Wikipedia lend a helping hand:

In the Bizarro world of “Htrae” (“Earth” spelled backwards), society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!” In one episode, for example, a salesman is doing a brisk trade selling Bizarro bonds: “Guaranteed to lose money for you.” Later, the mayor appoints Bizarro No. 1 to investigate a crime, “Because you are stupider than the entire Bizarro police force put together.” This is intended and taken as a great compliment.

Bizarre strategy

The commercials’ objective – to get more people to go to the website to open accounts and shop for insurance policies – is strategically bizarre on two levels. Read more →

As Publishers Tighten ‘native’ Advertising Rules, Ap Adds It To Their Coverage

wolf in sheepskin


After almost two years of dithering, and figuratively one step ahead of scheduled Federal Trade Commission hearings on the subject, the American Society of Magazine Editors “updated its guidelines for editors and publishers to further address sponsored content and ‘native’ advertising online,” Advertising Age reported October 18.

At the same time, the Associated Press announced plans to start sneaking sponsored articles – advertising messages that look and read like actual editorial content – into their news coverage.


“Sponsored content” and “native” ads, Ad Age explains, “usually are designed to mimic a site’s editorial content” so that readers who’d normally tune out ads will be suckered into reading them. The new ASME guidelines say they shouldn’t be. Specifically, they say that

  • Every reader is entitled to fair and accurate news and information.
  • The value of magazines to advertisers depends on reader trust.
  • The difference between editorial content and marketing messages must be transparent.
  • Editorial integrity must not be compromised by advertiser influence.
  • ASME believes that adherence to these principles enhances the value of print and digital publications for readers and advertisers and protects the independence of magazine media.

Meanwhile, in the real world… Read more → Design Firm Secretly Purges It From Their Own Website


The massively dysfunctional Obamacare website is nothing to brag about, but Teal Media, the “full-service digital design agency” that developed it, has gone a step further. On October 17, it “took down all reference to its work on ‘in consultation’ with the [Obama] administration,” BuzzFeed reports.

“Visit the website of Michigan-based design firm Teal Media today,” writes Evan McMorris-Santoro,

and you’d never know designers there helped create, the troubled online portal for Obamacare.

Just a few days ago, the site looked very different. Teal Media’s homepage featured its work on Obamacare prominently, placing a link to the firm’s work on one of the most well-known websites in America front and center. Now that link, as well as the page devoted to Teal’s work on, have [sic] been removed.

Who, me?

Not only did Teal flush all written reference to their Obamacare work down the memory hole, but they don’t even want to talk about the website they worked of for  more than three years and got paid tens of millions of tax dollars for. Read more →

Bittorrent’s Ad Media Choice Is Soooo 19th Century



When digital person-to-person file sharer BitTorrent decided to run a “we are not pirates” advertising campaign, they could have put videos on YouTube. They could have run online display ads. They could have posted on social media, started search or pay-per-click campaigns, created sponsored content or mobile apps.

But, as Advertising Age reported October 8, their media choice was none of the above. Instead, this high-tech, Internet-based company picked an advertising medium that goes all the way back to 1835, when one Jared Bell started making 9′ x 6′ circus posters.

‘Mysterious billboards’

Mysterious, anonymous billboards started going up a few weeks ago in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles,” writes Eric Limer at Gizmodo, “All of them simple black text on a white background, spouting downers about regulating the internet and how great the NSA is. You know, the kind of ads The Man would take out.” Read more →

New Research Shows The Messenger Outweighs The Message


It doesn’t matter how great your product is; if consumers dislike its personality, its presentation or its presenters, no way are they going to buy it. That’s what new research reported October 5 strongly suggests.

The research itself was about politics, not consumer products, but it’s obvious how the findings carry over.

The research

Nadia Y. Bashir, Penelope Lockwood, Alison L. Chasteen, Daniel Nadoiny and Indra Noyes, of Canada’s University of Toronto and University of Waterloo, conducted a series of studies and published their results in the latest issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology.

But while the research itself is Canadian, most subjects (86 percent) were American.

In it, the researchers wanted to find out how people’s behavior regarding social causes was affected by their views of a cause’s activists. The answer, in a word: negatively. Read more →

Jc Penney Bets Its Future On Returning To Its Past



Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s corporate hardball politics. But whatever the reason, JC Penney’s sweeping away all the changes wrought by fired CEO Ron Johnson and restoring many elements of their past branding and marketing, Advertising Age reported October 8.

Back to the future

To begin with, they’re scrapping the name “jcp” and the square, red-white-and-blue logo that Johnson introduced. Henceforth, the store will be known by its old name, JC Penney, with a resurrected logo to match.

“Kate Coultas, a spokeswoman for J.C. Penney, confirmed the retailer is phasing out ‘jcp’ in communications, noting that the classic logo has reappeared in TV spots the last few weeks,” Ad Age reported. Read more →

Shocking News: One Brand Actually Measures Social Media For Sales Results

It's man-bites-dog news.

It’s man-bites-dog news.

Equating social network marketing results in terms of friends, likes and shares is like evaluating direct-response advertising in terms of exposures instead of responses. But in news with man-bites-dog uniqueness, one national advertiser is actually measuring its social networking for sales results.

In an October 8 interview, A-B InBev VP for North American digital marketing  Lucas Herscovici told Advertising Age that Bud Light did something most social network advertisers can’t or won’t do – measure actual ROI on a Bud Light Facebook campaign.

Beyond Facebook data

But they had to go way beyond Facebook analytics to do it.

Specifically, they combined Facebook data with measurements from consumer information firm Datalogix. Facebook supplied consumer identifications, while Datalogix anonymously linked those IDs with consumers’ supermarket loyalty cards. That way, they could see whether consumers who’d seen their Facebook content were buying more Bud Light than before. Read more →

Consumer Response To $1 Billion Obamacare Ad Campaign Is Still Underwhelming

obama magnifying glass

When we reported October 3 that website traffic to the government’s $1 billion  Obamacare advertising campaign had been grossly exaggerated and that actual enrollments were anemic, it turns out we didn’t know the half of it. From Washington, DC, to London, UK, media are crunching the numbers and coming up with a dismal picture of overstated claims and underwhelming results.

Overstated traffic stats

Quoting giddily enthusiastic federal figures, WPRO Radio reported at 8:50 AM Eastern time, October 4, that

More than seven million Americans have gone online since Tuesday to browse the Obamacare health insurance exchanges, prompting administrators to add servers and engineers to handle the Web traffic.

Another 295,000 people used federal health insurance exchange call centers and 167,000 have requested live Web chats, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Richard Olague.

But while seven  million visitors to the one federal government website that hasn’t been shut down may sound impressive – it is, after all, about seven-eighths of New York City’s population  – in a nation of 313,900,000 that’s not so hot.

Nor, as Jim Geraghty notes on his October 4 Campaign Spot blog, is it a big deal in terms of web traffic. Read more →