Without Advertising

"Without advertising Mad Men would just be a show about drinking in an office."

Too Awesome

A simple forum admin message on Woot that replaced a deleted post. How often do you see something -- something human? -- like this?

Another Way to Flickr

Wow. (via)

Advertising on Swine Flu Masks?

image: swine flu fashion

Who will be the first to hire street teams giving out branded face masks?  
Updtate [April 30, '09] We almost have a winner. Almost. Do these guys read AdLab or what?

Western Electric Crosses Phone and TV

1969, but a prototype was tested in 1956. A lot more details here.

Image via

New Words Created Yesterday: 14.7

The English language will hit one million words in about 41 days, during which 617 new words will be created at a speed of one word every 98 minutes, according to the Global Language Monitor (BBC story, via).  Brands and fungi species are not counted.

Also, an average newspaper contains 8000 different words, incidentally as many as the King James Bible. An average person recognizes about 50,000 words.

P.S. I bet the decimal point in the title is because of all those portmanteau words .

When Medium Becomes Part of the Message

Billboard for a drill whose image is made of tiny holes drilled using the product.

Billboard on a busy street treated with a Tide product to show its lasting whiteness.

Kind of like the used bicycle advertising a used-bicycle store.

The Annoying Things of 2008

(Fished out this rant from unpublished drafts and it still felt fresh.)

Cloud. This thing must have been born out of someone's cliparted PowerPoint slide -- you know, the one with two computers and a cloud in the middle that is supposed to mean the 'net. It's become so bad I had to update my browser filter.

Speaking of PowerPoint and annoying: in 2008, boring pretty pictures have finally displaced boring ugly bullet points.

The death of blogging. Suddenly, it became fashionable not to blog. Or at least to hold one's nose while blogging, conspicuously.

Uncalled-for portmanteau words. Another year going strong.

More single-thought books that should have remained articles in the magazines. Or, better, twitter tweets.

Panel discussions. I'm glad I didn't go.

Why Measure Engagement?

The formula for engagement: source

It's been years, and I still don't quite understand the obsession with measuring site engagement at any cost.

I'm puzzled by the stuff like "engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals." My question is why.  So, you do all the calculations and come up with a number, and what do you do next? Try to increase it?  Why?

To me, the two metrics that ultimately matter are:

1. How many people performed a desired action (aka "conversion rate", which often implies but doesn't have to be sales or email sign-ups -- it can be any targeted action.)

2. How many people remember what I want them to remember for a certain period of time (aka "branding"). Under the current and mercilessly simplified ad theory, recall is influenced by frequency and length of exposure as well as the message's emotional impact.  Designing for and measuring the emotional effect might still be more qual than quant, but frequency and length is pretty straightforward, especially online.
 One definition of engagement  this model fits is Innerscope's "engagement = attention * emotion", and I'm fine with that since here engagement is an indicator of recall and not an end in itself.

Game Developer Submits Game of Resignation

A game developer submitted his resignation from a game dev shop by creating, what else, a game. (Play with arrow buttons).
- via Facebook geek friends

Most Photographed Landmarks

"Mapping the World’s Photos" (pdf, researcher) is a paper based on an analysis of some 35 million photos of landmarks uploaded to Flickr. Researchers have identified popular tourist photo traps (the Apple store is NYC's 5th most popular), but also some other interesting behaviors: "Although [Amsterdam] is the tenth-most photographed city, relatively few photos are taken in its top ten landmarks." New Scientist has the story.

Brands as Landmarks (on HHCC.com)
Brandscapes: Longaberger Basket Building

Who Needs TV?

"Just 52% of the public in the latest poll say a television set is a necessity -- down 12 percentage points from 2006 and the smallest share to call a TV a necessity since this question was first asked more than 35 years ago."
-- Pew Social & Demographic Trends

Dissecting Snailmail

image source; Deliver Magazine

According to the ongoing USPS Household Diary Study, only 3.9% of snailmail stream consists of personal (household-to-household) mail (including the 20 postcards, apparently).   Other trivia: United States Post Office operates almost 37,000 locations throughout the country; households with $65-100K income and less than high-school education receive the most mail (3.7 pieces/week),  the next group is $100K+ with college degree (3.0 pieces/week); and, surprise, the larger the household the more mail it receives.

Also, the number of personal letters people send is on decline, but still amounted to some 1,116,000,000 letters in 2007.

Understanding Behavior Around e-Cards

An interesting, even if slightly dated (2007) data bit from an eMarketer / Marketing Sherpa study: of those people who tried e-cards as a viral strategy, there are many for whom it didn't do anything -- twice as many as those for whom it worked.

The problem, I think, is that most marketers view e-cards simply as a library of static images equipped with a send-to-friend form, kind of like this, without understanding the social protocols around card-sending.

On a related note, did you know that "the average person receives more than 20 cards per year", according to the industry org (yes, there's one for card publishers, too, and an official publication).

Quote of the Day

"Anyone who knows anything about advertising knows that experiencing a product has far more impact than experiencing an ad."
- Bob Hoffman in The Ad Contrarian eBook (pdf)

I don't agree it's always the case. Ads for Schwepps, for example, are much more fun than the carbonated water they peddle. But there are plenty of other soundbites in that ebook that you can believe in, like the one on the difference between puzzles and mysteries (read it yourself).

Or this one: "As we all know, In American business there is nothing stupider than the people who had the job before we did."

Create Your Own "Billion" Countdown

You can easily make your very own flipbook version of the Apple's billion apps countdown by taking the background image and gluing the digits onto book pages.

Firefox Plugin Turns Crisis Into Opportunity

In my inbox today: "Leo Burnett Lisbon created a plug-in (a device for the internet) that removes the word 'crisis' from every webpage and replaces it by the word 'opportunity'. This revolutionary digital tool is extremely easy to install, and allows people to replace the most repeated word of the year for the word 'opportunity'.

Don't know about revolutionary (here's me replacing "Twitter" with "madness" with a simple Greasemonkey script), but very cute and brilliant for how it doesn't have this "designed by committee" look.

Blogroll: Tom Himpe

I don't really have a proper blogroll (just a few sidebar links to sites of personal friends), and that made me feel like I was slacking on some important part of blogging etiquette, especially since AdLab is lucky to be on so many blogrolls of others.

This new "blogroll" tag is my solution, and I wanted to start with blogrolling Tom Himpe, the author of my two favorite coffee table ad books (Advertising is Dead and Advertising Next).

On MediaBids and the Art of Selling Ads [paid review]

The review order (via ReviewMe) for MediaBids.com, an online marketplace for ad space in print media, caught me off guard -- print is not exactly making headlines (pun!) for the growth of its ad revenue:

I am not a media buyer and my experience with tools of that trade is limited to only occasional encounters, so I asked my media buyer colleagues (special thanks to Erica and Nicole) for guidance. Here are some thoughts resulting from our conversation.

- Even without print's decline, an online marketplace for newspapers and magazines must be a tough business to run. Consider something more esoteric, like podcasting. We don't buy a lot of podcast time, don't know too many reps, and a specialized marketplace like, say, Podtrac addresses a still rare but well defined need. It is hard, on the other hand, to be more established than print. Most of the large agencies are already using well-entrenched tools such as SRDS -- expensive services, contracts for which are made on the agency level.

- In the long term, other things being equal, it becomes the question of cost. One popular buying tool charges agencies a flat 4% fee on each media buy. MediaBids claims to be free for advertisers but takes an 8.5% commission from publishers.

- Media buyers and media planners are responsible for different parts of the process and use narrowly specialized tools. Planners need access to demo data. Buyers usually work on tight schedules and need to make direct contact with reps.

- Ad selling is still more art than science. I have a favorite quote from Seth Godin, and it is this:

"There are two kinds of advertising and this leads to two kinds of ad sales. The first kind is the rational kind. This is advertising that works, if 'works' is defined as, "pay $3 and make $4." [...]
The second kind of advertising is the glamorous kind, the kind that people think of when they think of the Super Bowl or Time magazine or of profitable ads that are worth selling. These ads don't sell because they work. They sell because they are sold."

The problem with most ad marketplaces is that they sell the ads of the second kind as if they were the ads "that work" of the first kind.

- Ad buying, too, is art. A quote from a buyer: "How do I 'leverage' my client's brand with an automated tool?" Meaning, if my client historically has been avoiding print but wants to give it a try, I am likely to get a better "trial" rate for them.

- Last but not least: will automated ad exchanges with low barrier to entry make media agencies obsolete?

Burger Ad Offends Mexico

First, Americans got upset over this creative that ran in Mexico. Now, it's Mexico's turn to file a protest against an ad:  "Mexico's ambassador to Spain said Monday he has written a letter to Burger King's offices in that nation objecting to the ad (video) and asking that it be removed." The ad for BK's Texican whopper features a short wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag who teams up with an American cowboy twice his height.
-- full story

Absolut Nationalism

Thinking Laterally About Targeting

"Softcore porn franchise Girls Gone Wild is claiming record sales after one of its ubiquitous basic cable ads accidentally aired during a live telecast of the Good Friday service at the Vatican.

GGW CEO Joe Francis says he received a record spike in sales.

'We may have tapped into a whole new market,' Francis said. 'It seems that many of the same people interested in the Pope’s message are also interested in ours.'"


"Lateral thinking is about reasoning that is not immediately obvious and about ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic." (wiki)

The Economics of YouTube

On Silicon Alley Insider: "Assuming YouTube delivers the 75 billion streams that Credit Suisse projects for 2009, and assuming YouTube manages to slot an ad for every stream (which is practically speaking, impossible, given the nature of much of their content), YouTube would have to achieve a $9.48 CPM for every video impression shown."

Pay-Per-View as Ad Model for YouTube
Hulu vs. YouTube

Taco Bell Sign Falls, Kills Woman


More on the question of how coverage of news -- in this case, tragic news -- only tangentially related to a brand influences public perception of that brand.

North Platte Bulletin (4/4/09): "A Chambers Nebraska woman was killed Friday afternoon in North Platte after a 75-foot Taco Bell sign fell on top of the pickup she and her husband were in."

Speaking of tangentially related, here's another angle on brands, news and fans (source):

Drama 2.0 Goes NSFW

I don't know what happened to everyone's favorite 2.0 contrarian Drama 2.0 Show, but it's pretty NSFW this morning.

Newspapers Learn to Linkbait

To chime in on that "Google is amoral" piece in the Guardian that shot up to the top of Techmeme today: if all newspapers master the art of linkbait like Mr. Porter, then maybe they won't have to "give its content free to the search engine in order to survive."

Man, it takes serious copywriting talent to produce a line like this: "Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information."

Is Mr. Porter a fan of Mr. Keen?

Who Draws Portraits for Wall Street Journal?

Always wanted to know who was behind those portraits that contribute so much to the style of the Wall Street Journal. Just stumbled across the (an?) answer: Randy Glass Studio.