On Weblogs, Product Placement Worth More Than Banner Ads

Yesterday, A List Apart, Signal vs. Noise and Coudal announced a new ad network in the vein of John Grubers’ Daring Fireball sponsorhip model. Limited capacity, reasonable rates, blah, blah.

Yes, all 4 of these blogs are extremely popular, and I can’t say enough good things about Daring Fireball. John is frank, curt, and snide on Apple – and I think it’s fantastic. The point is, I don’t read them for the banner ads – I read them for the posts, the commentary, the stuff I don’t know yet.

I don’t remember the last time I clicked on a banner ad (I’m blind to them, and they don’t come through in feeds), I do remember the last time I used a new product or service because I read about it at SvN (The fantastic CampaignMonitor immediately comes to mind).

So, why are blogs selling banner ads when they should be selling product placement?
An artificial separation between editorial and advertising? Transparency solves that problem.

Watch this space throughout the day there’s more behind this that I don’t have time to write down yet.

If you’re on the Work Better RSS feed, expect this entry to flip back to ‘unread’ throughout the day. Until then, remember RSS is an ad.

UPDATE 29 Oct 2005:
Back in my college speech classes, I’d play an informal product-placement game. Just before my speech, I’d have another student pick an unrelated concept or product to work into the speech.

If non-banner-ad, paid advertising were to work in weblogs, this is how. Counting click-through – not impressions – on links using the NoFollow tag inside posts.

  • The advertiser and author agree on how frequently to link to a specific page.
  • The author retains the rights on link word selection and context.
  • The relationship is fully disclosed on the site.
  • The creative writing might even provide a little joy to the readers.

Oh, Did I Mention iTunes Kills Television Advertising

Josh at Splintered Channels ponders traditional ad spots within the new iTunes-delivered TV programs.

The TV I’ve had for the last 10 years has a 30-sec timer button on it. Hit the button, change the channel, and 30 seconds later you’ll automatically return to the previous program. Tivo time-shifted both the program and this ad-skip behavior (though VCR instilled this behavior decades ago, albeit without the sexiness of digital).

Josh is right, ad campaigns have a shorter shelf-life than the programs they interrupt. In all but the biggest of primetime television programs, the ads are also region specific (if not local). So, inserting a conventional 30-second spot in a digital iTunes download wastes at least the same amount of money as one delivered via the air waves.

As I’ve mentioned in the Economics of Podcasting and Podcasting is Closer to Voicemail than Radio, the pains of conventional broadcasting (FCC licensing, antennas, etc) don’t exist in the digital realm. Combine that with customers actually paying per episode and the advertiser/distributor relationship turns from symbiotic to parasitic.

If iTunes starts to include interruption-based ads within the TV programs they offer, 2 things will happen:

  1. An iMovie Applescript will magically appear that automatically slices out the annoyances.
  2. The programs with ads won’t sell….at any price.

Catharine Taylor at AdWeek’s AdFreak concurs.

“…not only is the video iPod a watershed, but, sorry advertisers and agencies, that commercial TV may just be f*cked, and it’s going to hurt advertisers much more than it will hurt the networks.”

I’m glad someone inside the advertising industry said that and cursed while doing so.

Once television advertising goes the way of the Wicked Witch of the West, where does that leave Nielsen Ratings?

ABC affiliates are asking that now.

“The prospect of the new device [video-enabled iPod] distracting Nielsen-measurable eyeballs from its own over-the-air programming is generating some anxiety from stations all over the country…”

Just as I can read the same email in a web-browser, in a desktop application, and through VersaMail on my Treo, all other media will shortly be liberated from it’s exclusive distribution channel.

Quick rhetorical question: What’s a television program that isn’t originally released on television?

I’m pretty sure Chuck, Steve, and Amanda have an answer.

Support Your Podcast By Encouraging Listeners to Unsubscribe

It’s Wednesday and I’ve already had 3 conversations this week on advertising in podcasts or somehow monetizing podcasts to support thousands of thousands of podcasts listeners.

If a podcast is so popular that it’s running out of bandwidth on a regular basis, there’s a really good chance the vast majority aren’t listening – even though everyone is downloading. This means that even if the podcast is supported by an underwriter/sponsor/advertiser the sponsorship message won’t be heard. Putting us back to wasting (at least) 50% of our ad dollar.

Downloading and not listening to a podcast is bad for everyone involved. It hurts the podcaster by artificially inflating their listener-base and eating up their monthly bandwidth. It hurts the listener by unnecessarily filling up their hard-drive. Throwing an advertiser into this will only hurt them – and if this statement from the media buying community is any indication – advertisers are no longer interested in throwing away ad dollars (finally):

“It’s not about reaching every consumer, it’s about reaching the right consumers.” – Carat North America CEO David Verklin

If you’re struggling to cover your podcasts bandwidth bills, I recommend 3 options before exploring advertising or switching hosting plans.

  1. Include a “if you’re not listening, please unsubscribe” liberally throughout your website and shownotes.
  2. Pursue your niche so aggressively that some listeners will fall away and unsubscribe naturally.
  3. Offer a BitTorrent version of your podcast.

If you’re not listening, it’s time to start unsubscribing (or at least stop downloading). You’re taking up downloading slots from people that are listening. On my end, I’ve just flipped the switch in NetNewsWire from automatically downloading audio files to not. Then, I reviewed each of the 40+ podcasts I’m subscribed to and checked ‘use custom setting -> automatically download audio files’ for the handful I listen to regularly. In iTunes, you can do the same by selecting ‘do nothing’ in the ‘when new episodes are available’ pulldown menu under podcast settings.

Take a moment now and support your favorite podcaster by unsubscribing.

Ad Agencies are Paid to Make the Uninteresting Interesting

After the MIMA Online Communities Salon tonight I overheard;

“Ad agencies are paid to make the uninteresting interesting.”

Reminded me of something Hugh said;

“For marketing hand-made cheese that was matured in sixteenth century stone cellars, blogging is a no-brainer.
For marketing Velveeta, it’s trickier. Maybe impossible.”

The sleight of hand ad agencies perform is brevity. Even lame Velveeta can be cool in 30 highly-controlled seconds. Unfortunately, one-night stands are not how people get married. Blogs, podcasts, and other online communities, are permanent, direct, on-going, cumulative, relationship-building tools. The hand-made cheese matured in 16th century stone cellars is a commitment. Like a blog. Like a lifelong relationship.

This is the difference between making the lame interesting and making the banal interesting.

But you know that.

Advertising Either Credits or Discredits Both Brands

Kristina from BrainTraffic and I were discussing podcasting over lunch today, specifically – relationships between advertisers and podcasters. As always, we concluded the most logical, credible solution is the conventional, NPR-esque, announcer-mentioned sponsorship IT Conversations is exploring.

As Kristina stated, this model helps guarantee the both podcaster and advertiser are interesting and appropriate to the listener. In the best case, the result is a “peanut butter in my chocolate” combination like IT Conversations and GoTo Meeting. This combination raises the credibility of both brands. I might even be able to use GoTo Meeting to create an IT Conversation. Everyone wins, including the listener.

Worst case scenario, it’s an advertiser trying to buy street cred like:

In this case, the opposite happens, both brands are discredited.

From Laura Reis at The Origin of Brands Blog:

“Vogue did not decide to cover the latest trends off the Wal-Mart runaway. Vogue editors are not suddenly endorsing Wal-Mart over Prada. Vogue simply took Wal-Mart’s money and ran.”

Customers are Cheaper than Ad Agencies

When people are sharing more and more with each other and strangers, when audiences are splintering, when the relationship between a company and it’s customers is far more measurable, spending millions of dollars on “brand awareness” would seem hilarious – if it wasn’t sad.

In other words:

“You don’t want the kind of high-production stories that come out of ad agencies- you want the kind of stories that ordinary people can tell.”

Thanks to Hugh for sharing.

P&G Cuts Network TV Ad Spending 5 Percent

In response to unconfirmed rumors Procter & Gamble Co is cutting TV ad buys, Mark Ramsey asks, “What do you think this says about advertising from the perspective of a company that knows as much about it as anybody?”

Exactly. When a company with a 130 year history of advertising says something isn’t working, it’s time we all rethink our marketing dollar.

A while back, I offered an argument on the benefits of interruption marketing (only the good stuff is worth interrupting).

I’m a far bigger fan of product placement. Sounds like Mark is also. I think it’s far more representative of real life. For example, from where you’re sitting right now, how many items can you see with a name on it; books, cans, boxes, photos, anything?

(I stopped counting at 10, when my eyes hit the bookshelf)

All of that’s product placement. Is it obnoxious, disingenuous, and annoying? I hope not.

Podcasting is Ron Popeil for the Radio

Mark Ramsey at Radio Marketing Nexus nails the value of podcasting to business:

Podcasting is to Radio spots as infomercials are to TV spots.

I’ve used the informercial comparison before, I’m glad others see it also. The traditional model of commerical spots interrupting a regularly scheduled program falls apart in podcasting. Podcasts can shrink and expand to whatever length makes sense and economics of it mean businesses can publish them in-house faster and easier than waiting to get on a networks schedule.

A good podcast is about one idea, like a good sentence. Traditional interruption-based advertising duct-tapes on a second idea. Earlier, this would be the only way to distribute the commercial message – outside of an infomercial. With podcasting businesses go direct to customers – plus now the commerical message won’t be interupted by the regularly scheduled program.

Beside, when you get far enough down the long tail, everything is both information and advertisement.

Elsewhere 22 April 2007

“Commercial information will be opt-in, long-form, information-rich and entertaining, or people won’t watch it.” – Dave Winer