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Turn Your Video Ad Into CAPTCHA

NuCaptcha announced its video CAPTCHA technology for advertisers today; the image above is a replacement gif from under the standard Flash unit so the tech does work on the Flashless iOS browsers.  The press release says the format will come in three IAB sizes, "pricing is either on a video CPM basis ($10 to $25), or a cost-per-engagement basis ($0.10 to $1.00), for larger, longer videos."

Not sure how it works, but "publishers and advertisers can create “instant” NuCaptcha videos by turning existing video advertisements into NuCaptcha Engage advertisements".

I wrote before how CAPTCHA ads in general have a potential to create incentives for publishers to sacrifice user experience for extra monetization opportunities.

Wonder if connected TVs' users are eventually going to have to deal with CAPTCHAs -- entering squiggles using a remote control doesn't sound like a very comfortable experience.

If Your Market Research Works, It's Not Wrong

Faris detonated a bomb the other day with his "All Market Research Is Wrong" manifesto. My first thought was "Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules."  I understand the choice of the provocative headline and its role in attracting readers and encouraging debate but it did feel a bit like a case of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. The "All Market Research is Wrong" line was copiously retweeted at least partly to (and, I suspect, by) people who wouldn't bother reading past the fourth sentence with the "epistemologically specious" bit in it.

It's hard to disagree when Faris writes that survey results must be supplemented "with real behavioral data, from direct observation, or from the web - triangulating insights from as many sources as possible." But boiling down an entire "$11bn" industry to a few misguided practices and then dismissing it as useless --  "all the data it generates should be understood as wrong" -- doesn't quite seem right.

Faris discusses market research as "the systematic collection and evaluation of data regarding customers' preferences for actual and potential products and services" and goes on to argue that using online surveys and focus groups is not going to yield predictive results about customer preferences.  (It's appropriately ironic that "market research" in the dictionary he uses is also listed as "uncountable".) This is a rather narrow definition -- compare it with Wikipedia's entry for "market research" ("any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers") or even "marketing research":

"The systematic gathering, recording, and analysis of data about issues relating to marketing products and services. The goal of marketing research is to identify and assess how changing elements of the marketing mix impacts customer behavior."
But even a cartoonish definition of market research as "web based surveys done over the weekend" (as Faris adds in a comment under his post) is too broad to exclude such methodology as, say, discrete choice modeling where options can be presented to a panel via a "web based survey done over a weekend" and which has proven useful for estimating probabilities of demand for one alternative over others.

There are plenty of things that can go wrong with all market research, survey-based or observational: misinterpretation and selective presentation of results, over-reliance on some indicators at the expense of others, wrong instruments for the task, badly formulated questions, sampling errors, biases and so on. All these issues seem to be what IT help desk people call PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair -- a user error, not a system malfunction.

But ultimately, as one particularly pragmatic PhD student commented, "Is your market research helping you in achieving your end? If yes it's not wrong."

Also, coincidentally, picked this gem up on Twitter today - "data is not plural for anecdote."

Nielsen Corrects The Number of iPad App Users

Headline in Register

Headline in Business Insider

Nielsen has come out with a report about iPad users that contained one widely quoted (by Register, Business Insider, RWW, among many others) number - 32% of iPad users haven't downloaded a single app. This number has just been adjusted down to a much more reasonable 9%.

Mistakes happen, and this one shows how little filtering is done to the press-released info by publications that tens of thousands of us read every day and use in our work -- has a single one of those that turned the "32%" number into a headline called Nielsen to ask for a clarification? This is why we end up reading such ridiculous claims as "iPhone apps are bigger than television" that are based on stuff that doesn't make a lot of sense when you stare at it for more than a second.

Also, it's interesting how the adjustment in the number of people who have downloaded an app had no influence on the breakdown of the downloaded apps by type.

Before: 32% of iPad users haven't downloaded apps

Before: 9% of iPad users haven't downloaded apps

Gender-Specific Shampoo Usage Instructions

If you are one of those people who read instructions on shampoo bottles, and you share a bathroom with a person of the opposite gender, you might have noticed this striking stylistic difference in how directions for shampoo usage are worded for men and for women. Here, it's eight words on one bottle and forty on the other. Reminds me of how men and women shop differently.

Should instruction manuals for products that are even more complex than a bottle of shampoo be written for a particular audience and accounting for gender and perhaps age differences?  How about different levels of domain knowledge?  You know how they include multi-lingual booklets with gadgets these days. It would be kind of like that.

On a related train of thought - in his post on investing, Mark Cuban wrote this: "Wall Street has done an AMAZING job of creating conventional wisdom . 'Buy and Hold' is the 2nd most misleading marketing slogan ever, after the brilliant 'rinse and repeat' message on every shampoo bottle."

I kept thinking about the awesomeness of the "rinse and repeat", started to poke around and dug up this Fortune article back from 1999: "In Benjamin Cheever's novel The Plagiarist, a marketing executive becomes an industry legend by adding one word to shampoo bottles: REPEAT. He doubles shampoo sales overnight."

One Ad Agency In Numbers

An very nice agency self-promo poking fun at the infographics and kinetic typography genre for Dare in London.

Flame-Baiting CEOs

Going kind of off topic here, but I found  RIM co-CEO's blog response to Steve Jobs's "distortion field" pretty amusing.   Should CEO's get so easily flame-baited?

Below: Apple's distortion field in action.

CLOVR Ties In-Banner Offers To Credit Cards

The just-launched CLOVR Media gives yet another twist to the concept of bookmarkable advertising:  see an online ad promoting a deal or a discount, click on the clover sign in the corner, and the information about the offer is tied to your credit card numbers. No paper coupons to cut out, organize and scan at the store -- the discount is applied automatically when your card is swiped at the register.

EdoInteractive and Transactis are two companies working in this potentially very lucrative space.

What's Your Transmedia Strategy?

Don't have a transmedia strategy yet?  Inject some instant smart and awesome into your PowerPoints with WTFIMTS, inspired by the classic WTF Is My Social Media Strategy.

Study: Some People Watch Less TV

Say Media (formely VideoEgg and Six Apart) is releasing today a potentially interesting "Off The Grid" study (see it in my Google Docs) about people who are consuming less live and more streaming and on-demand TV. The study breaks these people down into two groups:

34 million are Opt-Outs.

22 million are On-Demanders.

I wish companies that send out announcements and nicely formatted summaries would also attach raw data, because the way these segments are defined here seems kind of arbitrary. For the Opt-Outs, how many people don't own a TV at all compared to last year? Is not having watched TV in the past week indicative of their long-term behavior? For On-Demanders, how many of those who watch less live TV are streaming?  How many of those who stream watch more live TV as a result?

There must be some people who watch more TV for the overall viewership time to have gone up, right?

Quote of the Week

"It’s not all that bad, really, to get ads for diapers when you’re having a baby, or ads for cars when you are looking to buy a car. Life will go on."

Michael Arrington on Techcrunch about the WSJ's story on Facebook "data leak".

Now You Really "Like" This Banner

Continuing the topic of bookmarkable advertising: not sure how Mountain Dew integrating Facebook "Like" buttons into their display ads is "the first time the social-networking behemoth will extend its social/sharing functionality to ads appearing on other Web sites," in Adweek's exclusive words. You can roll your own Likeable and Shareable banners with Spongecell; in-banner sharing functionality via third-party services has been offered for a fairly long time now.

Farmers Insurance Insures Farmville Farms

Saw this blimp on Farmville's spash screen today. It turns out that "The Farmers [Insurance] in-game integration will use the likeness of its Farmers Insurance Airship, a 246-foot long Zeppelin. When players place the Farmers Airship on their farm, they receive free "wither protection" for the crops on their virtual farm. In a nod to the security that Farmers Insurance offer its customers, this protection means players crops won't wither for the 10 days of the promotion."

Might be too perfect of a fit. It took me a while to register that Farmers is an actual insurance company and not a Farmville in-game reference.

Farmers's Facebook page says theirs is the "largest Zeppelin in the world", and the company raffles out rides.

This is me in my blueberry garden, waiting for the airship to arrive. I'll park it next to my McDonald's balloon.

Update: It's here!

ZOMG! iPhone Games Eat Away at TV Audience!

...says a company that puts ads in iOS games. Here's you daily dose of self-serving numbers.

"Social games on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices are competing for television viewers. In fact, these apps, tracked on the Flurry network alone, comprise of a daily audience of more than 19 million who spend over 22 minutes per day using these apps. Treated as a consumer audience, its size and reach rank somewhere between NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and only 4 million viewers shy from beating the number one prime-time show on television, FOX’s American Idol."

Which, of course, means that "compared to a top television series, which airs 22 episodes a season, advertisers can reach a larger consumer audience through applications 15 times more frequently."

Which, of course, is coming from "a leading smartphone application analytics and monetization platform."

There's lies, damn lies, and statistics, and then there's stuff that doesn't make any sense at all, like comparing a number of people who have spent 20 minutes, on average, over a course of one day playing any of a number of games with the audience sizes of individual shows that are broadcast within a time window.

Good thing this is coming from an "analytics" company.

Art Project Removes Logos From Videos, Photos

"Unlogo is a web service that eliminates logos and other corporate signage from videos." An art project by Jeff Crouse, it is, technically speaking, "an FFMPEG AVFilter that attempts to block out corporate logos using OpenCV 2.1 and an awesome 'plugin' framework for FFMPEG." Unlogo is open sourced; its code-in-progress is available here.

The artist also talks about an iPhone app that "can be used by individuals to identify logos that may occur in photographs they take with their phone and to replace them with images drawn from an online databank."

A Kickstarter campaign was organized to support the project, but it fell short of the $4,000 target.
- via

Finally, Bookmarkable Banner Ads

The big Monday press release was about the unveiling of AdKeeper, a company whose technology adds a "bookmark" (or "keep", as they call it) button to banner ads of participating advertisers. The idea is based on the fact that people do bookmark advertising if a) it's easy, and b) there is an expectation of future value. Clipping coupons, for example, is both. Until today, banners haven't really been designed for any kind of delayed gratification, being instead all about "click here now" reward mechanism. With AdKeeper, users will be able to clip online banners into a repository for later viewing, which probably means that the creative can be updated with new offers depending on the history of interactions with the ad.

An excellent idea, which I hope takes off.

Here's the demo video:

Coming Soon: Video CAPTCHA Ads

Update [Oct 25, 2010]: NuCaptcha has just launched its advertising offering (here's a promo video).

If you liked ads in CAPTCHAs brought to the world by Solve Media (formerly AdCopy), you'll love NUcaptcha, a company that has developed technology to replace the usual squiggles with animations and videos and that is apparently working on an advertising solution.

Recent (Oct 6) updates to the company's downloadable files talk about how "NuCaptcha can push ads right into a Captcha field, providing a new, highly visible ad space." The description for the WordPress plugin describes NUCaptcha as "a multi purpose product which provides industry leading security combined with brand messaging, advertising and unique user engagement."  The image above with the WestJet spec shows up when you browse to the site on an iPad as a replacement for the default Flash sequence.

I'm curious about the patent side of the story. Last March, I wrote about a company in Germany trying to patent video CAPTCHA ads. Microsoft, too, had submitted an application for a patent that describes a CAPTCHA ad system similar to Solve Media's where users type in ad slogans. One of the examples of Solve Media's ads are for Internet Explorer 8; Microsoft's application is illustrated with an ad for Xbox.

Even though CAPTCHA advertising has been a recurring topic on AdLab since 2005, I'm not sure I'm convinced it's a good idea as it may create strong incentives for publishers to opt against the optimum user experience, similar to breaking up articles into multiple pages and slideshows to ramp up page views.

On a related note, I would love to see a reCaptcha-like system used as a foreign language instruction tool, where you are given a word in one language and are asked for a translation in another.

Play Zork on Kindle

Point your Kindle's browser at portablequest.com and relive the classic text-based adventure  -- a versatile genre also playable via Twitter, with spoken commands on the phone, or on the iPods of yore.
-- via Gamepr0n via Suncho

McDonald's on Farmville - Screenshots

Do you know how many bloggers jumped on the "Old McDonald('s) Had a Farm(ville)" thing for their headlines today?

Anyway, here are some screenshots of this one-day promo. Visit the McD's farm from your neighbor bar today and get two prizes - a cup of coffee that speeds you up and a pretty hot air balloon that takes up space and does nothing I could figure out.  You can get the gifts on the market, too.  A fan blog had noticed many of these items on the server a couple of weeks earlier.

From GAP to ZIP

Instead of doing whatever it is that they are doing with their logo, I wish GAP would become ZIP for a week in a nod to the huge audience of Grand Theft Auto that has ZIP stores in the San Andreas installment. Sort of how 7-11 became Kwik-E-Mart.

One More Thing to Worry About: Foursquare Tips

A guy interviews with a company. The guy doesn't get the job.

Three years later, the guy sits down in a coffee shop. He pulls out his phone, opens the Foursquare app. Scans for nearby businesses.  Sees that the company is right nearby. The guy leaves a tip on Foursquare about how much the company sucks anyway. The comment looks like it might have been left by a customer. Or an expert reviewer.  Since the company is not a dining or entertainment establishment frequented by heavy Foursquare users, the tip lingers near the top of its venue page.

True story.

It's like drive-by yelping. There isn't much I can think of that can be done about it. Or about a bunch of dissatisfied strangers flashmobbing outside your windows -- they don't have to be inside to check in and leave tips -- and populating your venue page -- that Foursquare creates automatically for you and that probably ranks pretty high in search results -- with their grievances. There isn't a lot of context to these tips. There isn't an easy way to reply to them. Deleting them isn't easy either, and is probably not a good idea anyway.

So there, something else to add to your social media policies checklist.

Good thing there's still time before Foursquare becomes mainstream.

Vintage Dharma Ads

A set of eight "Retro DHARMA ads found in various old mags from the 60s - 80s."

- via