Bantr Replaces Ads with Tweets

Bantr is a Firefox extension that replaces some 300x250 banners with tweets from your friends. The site says the tweets are matched to the context of the page whose ads it's blocking. I didn't really notice, but I am not following thousands of people, so maybe that's why.  It doesn't replace every single unit, just one, and not on all sites, although it does on AdLab.

Wouldn't it be a fun ironic twist if the tweets Bantr displayed were affiliate ad tweets?

Or you can replace banners with art.

- via

10 Advertising Inventions Of The 19th Century

The original tweet ads (!), shoe printers, an improved advertising brick and much, much more in this list of ten new media patented in the 19th century, for the fans of our retromedia series.

eBay Banner Knows What I Need

It's as if the Big Brother were wearing a gray flannel suit and had three-martini lunches.  One banner knows were I'm going, another -- what I'm looking for.  This display unit from eBay showed up on YouTube on an unrelated search page and scrolled through half a dozen active auctions for photo gear, including one for a remote cable release for a Canon I've been looking for. The images are actual auction thumbnails. If the banner freaks you out, you can click on the AdChoice link at the bottom that takes you to an explanation: "We sometimes use information we have about you to help ensure the ads you see on eBay and elsewhere are as personalized to you as possible."

I usually find myself in the camp that defends this kind of targeting, but once, an overzealous travel company banner almost ruined a surprise trip by shouting "So, you are going to Vegas?" on a computer I was sharing with the surprisee. Caution, people, caution.

Power150 Roller Coaster

With all due respect, any ranking system that suffers wild daily swings like this is probably off. Is AdLab really almost twice as good today as it was yesterday, all because of a bunch of retweets of a single post?

It's one thing when Power150 was Todd's generous but private enterprise, but now that it's the industry's sort of official (and copied) "Who Is Who", there's gotta be a better way.

Would people go for a traffic tracking code?

How To Build Brand Cults

There's a flattering amount of retweeting of the There Is This Company post and the follow-up going on (thank you!), and one of the angles people suggest is that you don't really need involvement in social media to succeed in the marketplace if your products are as good as Apple's.

Maybe there is something else going on.
A reader sent me an email today asking about the book I mentioned in the comments to one of the posts but couldn't remember at the time. It's Douglas Atkin's The Culting of Brands (aff link), where he draws parallels between different religious cults and brands that enjoy very enthusiastic following, Apple in particular.

What you see above is a screengrab from a deck I presented years ago on the Cult of Mac, and the ten "easy steps" of brand culting (click image to zoom) are from the book's now defunct but archived microsite

The point about exclusivity is dead on.

And so is the part about creating an enemy -- maybe that's what all those Mac vs PC spots really are?

Here's the book's summary I found on Book Rapper along with a bunch of interesting charts. Also see this Business Week's article from back when the book came out.

Pavement Ad Printer from 1930, and Modern Printer Robots

Remember Nike's cool Chalkbot (a descendant of StreetWriter) that printed SMS messages for Tour de France cyclists on the road surface? Here's a similar idea: a drum of water, a stencil, and an ad message. Done in 1930 in Spain to promote a wine merchant.

And a modern-day "sea-tagging" campaign to promote an aquarium in London through sea-water prints on pavement:

A few other writing and drawing machines:

Hector the Graffiti Robot (from, like, 2004).

A wall-climbing printer.

PixelRoller (we wrote about it a few years ago).

The Real Future of Augmented Reality: SixthSense Demo at TED

A new and impressive demo of Sixth Sense, a project from MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group. The real magic starts at 6'24".

There Is This Blog Post

Sometimes, when you have people listening and nodding  in agreement, they may be hearing something very different from what you think you are saying. 

Chris Anderson's tweeted about the There Is This Company post. Many people who read it see it, as Chris does, as a call to Apple to embrace some flavor of social marketing.  After all, it's 30,000-people company that doesn't have anyone I could find on LinkedIn with "social" and "media" in their title.

I don't think that's what I meant.

Apparently, Apple hasn't become the most admired company  with healthy sales growth, good margins, a nice stock rally, and lots of fans because it's social

What if Apple is what it is precisely because it isn't?

And maybe traditional advertising isn't too dead? At least as long as your banner ads actually drive people not only to your site, but also to the page that displays them?


Branded Biographies

If you had only 160 characters to introduce yourself, what words would do you pick?

Would any of these words be a brand name?

I've looked at how people associate themselves with brands in their Twitter bios using a nifty Google query ("bio * keyword" And chances are that if your tiny blurb includes a brand name, you either sell it, work for it, or really, really like it.

On Twitter, people like Apple. Lots of "apple fans",  but no "IBM fans". And yes, there are "Microsoft fans". Eight of them.

Microsoft, people work for.

Mazda, and Chrysler, and Toyota, they sell.

Once you omit duplicate results, fewer than a hundred people have Walmart in their bio. Even fewer have Versace. But that probably isn't surprising.

Graph Media Activities With a Wheel Chart

This hand-drawn "media wheel" shows what media people consume when and where, based on data points from a syndicated research.  Here's how me made it

Honesty in Advertising: Mobile Home Company

I wonder whether the company, with its spot hitting 800K+ views on YouTube, isn't going to make more money selling their $15 t-shirts than it does selling trailers. Watch the "making of" video, too.
- via

Vending Machine Sells Ideas

50 cents a pop. Maybe it can be hacked to sell slogans?
- BB, via

There Is This Company

Here's something I've been thinking about for some time now.

You see, there is this company.

It publishes over a hundred RSS feeds and several email newsletters, but not a single blog.

The only conversations this company entertains are the ones it starts itself or is subpoenaed into.

Conversations it doesn't like, it tries to silence.

It has sued some of its biggest fans.

It is not known for responding to online complaints about its products.

On MySpace, the profile that should have belonged to this company is occupied by a DJ.

On Flickr, it's someone from Japan.

Last month, it has opened several accounts on Twitter, which it uses to broadcast product news. Four of them follow exactly four other accounts; the fifth one follows twelve.

It has two Facebook pages and no applications.

It doesn't have a channel on YouTube to post viral videos.

Its website has a "Share" link. The link opens a pop-up window with two fields: your email address and the recipient's.

It runs an affiliate program.

Once, this company liked a student video so much it re-shot the video into an 30-second ad. A search for "crowdsourcing" among its press releases returns no matches.

You know that quip about how advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable?

This company spends nearly half a billion dollars on advertising every year. Much of this money is spent on 30-second spots, full page newspaper ads, huge billboards and station domination, online banners, and search ads.

This company thinks so different it must have fallen off a cluetrain.

People dress up as this company's ads for Halloween.

This company sits on the top of Fortune's list of most admired companies.


Serving Ads on Images Isn't Easy

I kept coming across these ad overlays on images today, and they led me back to Image Space Media, the company behind the format. AdLab first wrote about them last year when they were still known as PicAdMedia. AdBrite has also tried a similar approach in the past, and the service is still active.

While potentially interesting, it doesn't seem like an easy format to get right. Serving messages relevant to the image is key, for which you need rich metadata or some kind of image recognition algorithm, otherwise you are going to end up with an image-ad combination like the one below, on the company's own site (click image to zoom).

On the other hand, perhaps an ad for an ad blocker served as a layer over "We Love Advertising" image is a perfect match.

Redesign a Van Fleet for Dish Network

The first client project from Victors & Spoils is a nice break from the usual "create-a-cool-video" kind of the crowdsourcing assignment. Instead,  they ask you to redesign Dish Network's fleet of installation vans. Hope something as awesome as these trucks comes out.

The new agency has scored a nice-looking logo via a similar exercise.

-- via jason from 99designs.

Integrating Display Ads into Content

This site found an interesting way to integrate display ads into its content.  The Google/Doubleclick ad is the second one (flat belly) in the top row; it also appears on the site's sidebar in the same fashion.

Dead Body Spam

It's called "dead body spam" or "corpse graffiti": peddlers of virtual gold in World of Warcraft spell out their site's URL with bodies of dead players, a common practice in the game (watch video).


Esquire AR Issue Hits Newstands

The December issue of Esquire with the augmentedly realistic Robert Downey Jr. on the cover has finally arrived to our news store. Too bad I can't see anything since the AR download (?) requires a PC with a stand-alone graphics card. Maybe they should've given those away in addition to webcams.

I still have a bunch of copies of their eInk issue from last year, although the screens have long ran out of power. If you watch the intro video, you'll see that the copy behind their chief editor is dead, too.

That Entertainment Weekly with video inserts?  Still over $60 on eBay, and there are only one or two copies at a time for sale.

Update (Nov 16): So, I got home and tried the AR thing again, mostly because I hadn't seen a print ad with an AR component before, and Esquire has one for Lexus.

The ad has a cool part where it shows off how some kind of radar works, and turns your camera to "infrared" and activates face tracking.

That download file is 68Mb zipped. Would love to know the "engagement" stats one day. 

And yes, AR is the new Second Life (+part II)

Advertising Lab Turns Five

Not one.
Not two.
Not three.
Not four.

Today this blog turns five, with 2,529 posts, 19K+ RSS subscribers, 2.7M total pageviews, 1.64M total uniques. Which officially makes it my longest-running and the most public hobby.

Highlights of the past year:
- Google Wave and Advertising
- Interactive Signage in 1902
- Too Much Targeting, or That Hot Single Could be Your Wife
- Don't Kill the Microsite
- Targeting Zodiac Signs
- Advertising in PowerPoint Decks
- Augmented Reality Microsites: First Impressions
- Emerging Media in the 1930s
- Advertising on Swine Flu Masks
- Why Measure Engagement?
- TV in Contact Lenses
- If Shakespeare Had Tweeted
- 19 Tips for In-Game Advertising

And thank you for reading AdLab.

Just How Badly Does Murdoch Need Google's Traffic?

The top story today was Rupert Murdoch sort of saying that News Corp might start using robots.txt on Google to prevent its stuff from being indexed. Or that's how it was interpreted on the internets anyway. Nevermind that he probably meant something different -- that News Corp will erect pay walls around its online content the way it now does with the Wall Street Journal: a headline and a paragraph of text for free, and everything else is paid. (Well, it's not how it actually works, but whatever, it's complicated. In the same interview, Murdoch says his problem is not with Google, who's been easy to deal with.)

I giggle like a schoolgirl every time people say something along the lines "The guy is stuck on stupid if you ask me. I think he may be still be living in “tangible newspaper land” also known as the year 1995" (a Techcrunch verbatim). When a "stuck on stupid" guy is worth four billion bucks he has made himself, you'd figure it is not too generous to assume that he might know a thing or two about the biz.

The general consensus seems to be that blocking off Google's spiders will result in a significant traffic drop to News Corp's online properties. I've seen a lot of web traffic reports with Google leading the referrer list, so this collective opinion made sense. Then Hitwise posted some stats showing gets 25% of its traffic from Google's regular and news searches, so that seemed settled.

But I was curious enough to login into Compete Pro and fish out a few numbers. What you see are the top three referrers to some of News Corp's online properties in the US along with their share of traffic among all referrers.

Top Referrer: Google
  • (13.33%), (7.48%), (4.43%)
  • (11.43%), (8.34%), (7.59%)
  • (22.87%), (9.03%), (8.01%) 
  • (32.99%), (14.73%), (6.31%) 
  • (41.22%), (8.53%), (8.51%)
  • (26.86%), (6.30%), (5.89%)
  • (21.19%), (8.11%), (6.40%)
  • (26.51%), (16.71%), (5.71%)
  • (13.82%), (13.36%), (6.74%)

Top Referrer: Other

  • (21.43%), (13.12%), (11.24%)
  • (28.91%), (18.04%), (17.32%)
  • (28.91%), (18.04%), (6.02%)
  • (corporate site): (23.44%), (14.69%), (4.83%)
  • (16.61% -- that's a headline in itself), (11.17%), (8.78%)
  • (29%), (7.74%), (5.39%)
  • (14.92%), (12.18%), (7.36%)
  • (15.03%), (11.90%), (7.83%)
  • (27.18%), (11.45%), (10.10%)

It appears that Google is the top referrer for most of the entertainment stuff but not so much for news. And Murdoch's Dow Jones empire seems to be much less dependent on Google compared to a few other top newspapers for every one of which Google is the top referrer:
  • (Boston Globe): (12.61%)
  • 15.21%
  • 19.02%
  • 13.38%
  • 30.28%
  • 15.74%

Gutenborg Book Robot Test Drive

It's not hard to imagine the day when you go into a Crate&Barrel, walk up to a clerk, give her a Google SketchUp URL of a tea set you really like, watch her punch in some numbers, and have a machine manufacture the exact tea set in front of your eyes.

The Gutenborg book printer already does something very similar. As soon as I learned about it, I knew I had to give it a try, and on Saturday I did. See my field notes with pictures over at Hill Holliday's blog.

Background Wrap Ad on Digg

Oh, wow. So much for the subtlety of the new ad format -- just bumped into a background wrap on Digg promoting a video game.

Update: And, surprise, site users hate it (via).

Hole Punch Art

A self-portrait created with holes of 10 different sizes. There's a camera prototype that does that, too.

Advertising in Violent Game Scenes

Having blasted my way through Carmageddon all the way to the streets of San Andreas and Pripyat,  I'm no stranger to cartoony violence, but somehow slaughtering helpless civilian crowds wholesale just feels off. This leaked video is from the upcoming Modern Warfare 2 shooter that hits the stores on November 10th and has already broken Gamestop's pre-order records.

You know what would make the scene more realistic? In-game billboards, that's what.

But seriously, wouldn't it be a good spot for an armed services recruitment poster? Here you are, playing a generally good guy infiltrated into a terrorist group that is turning the airport into lasagna.  If you are not completely corrupt, you sort of feel bad about the whole thing and maybe even indignant. Aren't you in the right state of mind for a few (sponsored) suggestions of real-life retribution?

On a side note, Activision has been chasing this video off the net since it first leaked last week. Pull out your stopwatches and time how long this one will last. If by the time you reach this post the video is down, it's all over the torrent sites by now, if you are really curious.

Bonus treck: this Russian YouTube clone (called RuTube) has an interesting implentation of in-player ads -- full-size ad frames appear when you pause the playback.

Update (Nov 16):  Banned in Russia, ha! All your terrorists are belong to us.