December 28, 2011

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Why iAds Bombed The initial failure of iAds is a tale of Apple’s attitude and arrogance. The introduction of this new ad medium was heavy-handed. Three fashionably dressed hotties showed up at our offices, whipped open their MacBooks and laid out the take-it or leave-it value proposition --- pay us a minimum of a million bucks, create what we tell you to create within a very constrained technology environment and then shut up and be grateful. Does it surprise anyone that brands and their agencies didn’t rally to this? Apple’s reps asserted that iPad users were smarter, richer, more likely to share and buy than the average Joe. That brands could micro-target using rich data from the iTunes app store. They suggested that those who didn’t get in early on this amazing deal like Target, Unilever and Geico did, or you’d be left in the dust. Of course, there was no data to support or document these claims other than the hockey stick sales curve for iPads. There was also a clear suggestion that since Apple invented the platform and since Apple ran the famous “1984” ad, they knew much better than brands or agencies who to talk to, what to say and how to express it on the new tablet landscape. A year later, many brands have tried it. Revenues are way off projections. And brands are under-impressed with both the creative canvass, the targeting options and customer response. Marketers have also figured out that iAd creative is one-system only requiring additional, costly creative and technical resources where the cost/return ratio is out of whack. Couple that with emerging customer usage patterns that suggest iPads are primarily entertainment vehicles supporting TV and movie watching, games and social media. These are behaviors and attitudinal inflection points only open to a finite number of brands and campaigns and virtually force advertisers to intrude on customers and prospects.. The promised creative bonanza has not materialized and while rep visits to agencies has increased, interest in iAds hasn’t. Apple isn’t the first Internet giant to break into the market with a bull-in-a-china-shop profile. But it could be the first to eat some humble pie, re-tool, re-think and re-stage their approach to the advertising and marketing community.
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Optimizing the TV-Twitter Connection Twitter has become a companion medium to TV. People watch their favorite shows, with a computer or mobile device at hand, tweeting reactions to the characters, the plot, the action sequences and the story line. They also tweet about brands while they watch. The volume of brand tweets can now be correlated with specific TV shows to create a new double-barreled channel for brands to engage their fans and more selectively target likely customers or brand advocates. Bluefin Labs, the social analytics firm associated with MIT Media Labs, has been keeping track of tweets as they relate to TV viewing. They found links between brands and the shows their fans watch most, which they call Social TV Analytics. For example Wal-Mart fans are most likely to tweet about America’s Supernanny on Lifetime or the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on CMT or Las Vegas Jailhouse on TRUTV. In contrast, Target buyers tweet about or during CMT’s Top Secret Recipe or HGTV’s My Yard Goes Disney. It has always been assumed that there is lifestyle linkage between TV shows and the people who opt-in to watch them. Apparently this affinity dynamic is true for Twitter as well. The data can be correlated by brand and by category according to Bluefin. For example, 3 of Coke’s Top 10 tweeted shows are on ESPN. But there are no sports shows among the Top 10 tweeted shows for the Pepsi faithful. Some of the results are predictable. Beer drinkers tweet during sports shows and wine drinkers tweet during fashion and relationship programming. TV programming and commercials have always prompted talk. Now everyone is a TV and a social critic with instant digital access to an audience on Twitter and beyond. It’s a chicken-and-egg question; do people with lifestyle preferences tweet about brands because they advertise on these shows and networks? Or is there an organic subject matter trigger that drives brand tweets within specific content? The relationship between TV and Twitter provokes 4 new thoughts. 1. Should brands better align with highly tweeted shows and invest in added commercials and product placement to optimize fan engagement? 2. Should brands anticipate heavy brand tweeting during particular shows and staff social communities to respond in-context and in real-time to fan comments and posts? 3. Should networks merchandise tweets as a way to expand fan bases and better harvest brand advertising budgets? 4. Should consumers expect increasingly integrated commercial messages in programming that intertwines their TV watching and tweeting habits? Twitter is adding a new dimension to TV. It will be very interesting to see how it plays out and which brands leverage this dynamic inter-media relationship.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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