Thursday, May 31, 2007

Women Rule OK (Well, on the internet at least)

“The Internet is no longer dominated by young male adults. Times have changed considerably…. Companies who understand this composition when providing services or content through the web or simply advertising online will maximize their chances of success in the Internet of the future.”

Nielsen/NetRatings European Internet Analyst Alex Burmaster

So if young male adults no longer rule the online population in the UK, who does? According to Nielsen / NetRatings women aged 18-34 are now the most dominant group online in the UK. They make up 18% of the online population and account for one-fifth of all UK Internet time.

Even more surprising, one in four Britons online are at least 50 years old; “moreover, there are 1.7 times more 50+ year-olds than children under 18 who are active on the Internet.” It seems actually that those under 18 only account for 4% of all UK Internet time and spend only around 16 hours a month on the net. The most prevalent group, 18-34 year olds, conversely account for 32% of the UK Internet time and spend approximately 60 hours per month online. I find this quite surprising given the rise of social sites and the amount of young people using these. However, possibly those under 18 are all too busy texting and phoning their friends instead and / or playing computer games to bother with surfing the net.

It looks then to be good news for products targeted towards women aged 18-34 online in the UK but perhaps not as good news for those trying to target younger teenagers or children online, or ‘young male adults’.

I hope then that we don’t have a deluge of ‘Sheila’s Wheels’ banner ads or any other such products thrown at us every time we go online. I doubt it though, I well imagine this time next year we’ll find that another group have become the dominant users. For those who do want to target women online though, it would make sense to make hay while the sun shines.

The dominant UK online group is dead – long live the dominant UK online group! (Nothing to do with the fact that I’m a part of that group…)

You’ll find the full set of statistics here.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

As if by magic...

After reading about Polaroid in Brazil replacing public toilet mirrors with their instant cameras, I found another company this week who have been utilising the media of public toilet mirrors (who would have thought that toilet mirrors were media space?).

The company, called Magic Display, based in China, have developed a toilet mirror which displays advertising messages until someone steps close to it. At this point the screen then turns into a reflective surface ready for you to check your make-up in. Step away and it reverts back to the advertising screen once more. Ingenius.

To view the product in action, watch the video below. I think it has the potential to be huge. Toilets wouldn’t always be the first place you might think of advertising a product unless it’s sanitary products, condoms, etc. but I tend to think that at least while the product is still novel, quite a few advertisers will give it a try. I wonder how long it will be until it will be coming to a toilet near you?

If you wish to find out more about the product, you will find Magic Display’s website here.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My opinion, brought to you by....(Insert brand name here)

Word of Mouth marketing is nothing new; marketers have been speaking about the benefits of positive word of mouth for years. However, in America and soon to be in the UK also, in a bid to find new ways to reach consumers, companies are starting to sponsor word of mouth.

Not as underhand as it first sounds, companies are not paying consumers to simply say good things about their products in a scripted fashion, rather, they are allowing consumers to try their products for free and asking them to give others their opinion. And, the opinion they give does not have to be a positive one, but they are asked to tell those they are speaking to that they are involved in a marketing campaign.

If statistics are to be believed, on average we are already bombarded with 3, 000 marketing messages a day ( I’ve never quite believed it’s as high as this however), and according to Marketing Week only 14% of regular campaigns have any effect. So, what’s a brand to do? With 80% of consumers trusting it, go back to good old Word of Mouth obviously. Only this time, try to gain at least a little control over what previously they had no control over whatsoever. As Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent and co-founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (Womma) puts it, “Advertisers have always been fascinated with word of mouth… It has just been a case of how to harness it.”

And so, harness they will (or at least try to). Those companies taking part in this type of marketing are eager to point out that it is not viral marketing, nor is it stealth or buzz marketing. Consumers must tell those they are talking to about the product that they are agents for the brand. They are not paid for their endorsements, neither do they have to say something nice about the product, but they do get to keep the product they have been sent, are asked to report back on it, and they have the thrill of being the first to try out new products. All sounds honest enough, and indeed a little risky for brands as they are allowing consumers to say whatever they like about the product, good or bad.

It’s already been a massive hit with companies in the US. 47% of the companies in the fortune 500, according to Womma, are adopting WOM programmes this year while consumers in the US are also keen to become involved, signing up to BzzAgent at the rate of 5, 000 a week.

Now set to launch in the UK, BzzAgent and the UK advertising company GroupM are joining forces to create what is apparently the first WOM company based in the UK. Already 160 consumers have been in touch about joining.

And I think, why not. I don’t see any problem with consumers giving their opinion on products to friends; it’s what most would do anyway. However, personally, as I wouldn’t be getting paid for spreading the word, I would only tell my friends about it, I wouldn’t be going out of my way to tell strangers. Which, if Rani Schlenoff, a BzzAgent Ambassado in the US’s experience is anything to go by, is exactly what is expected of you: “My family and friends love hearing about what I'm trying. As for strangers, after the initial shock of me injecting myself into their lives, they are usually very happy to hear what I have to say."

It may not be scripted, but you really have to wonder how much influence companies actually have over what their brand agents are saying. At the moment the industry is self-regulating, as the Advertising Standards Agency has no rules of guidelines relating to WOM. It will be interesting then to see then how successful it continues to be and whether it will become corrupt somewhere along the line.

Also, should it continue to grow in popularity and agents remain impartial to a certain degree, I would think that brands will have to beware. Their products will need to be bang on the money if they want people to rave about it. Especially since a dissatisfied consumer will tell at least twice as many people as a satisfied consumer.

Still, I’m intrigued and as a consumer might even be interested in signing up myself. I may not get anything as exciting as a new piece of technology, but if I’m going to get stuff for free, why not? As other agents have also noted about themselves, I like to talk and tend to tell my friends about the products I use anyway. But perhaps I might feel a little grubby if I have to also tell them that I am now a WOM agent for the product I’m talking about. Hmmm… Should I decide to try it, I’ll keep you posted.

To read the full article on Word of Mouth Marketing on the BBC News website click here.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Clever campaigns

I thought I would share a few of my favourite creative campaigns that have been executed quite recently today.

The first was by Santa Clara for Polaroid in Brazil. The company replaced mirrors in shopping malls and business centres in Sao Paulo with their instant cameras. The intention was to reinforce their brand concept of instant images. I’m not quite sure how easy it would have been to ensure the effective running of the campaign (changing film, ensuring that none were stolen, etc.), nevertheless, I think it’s a cute idea and would definitely have captured people’s attention. Yes, in this age of the digital camera and cameraphones we can get instant pictures anyway, but there’s still something nice about having prints and I have to say that Polaroid prints still hold a special place in my heart.

The second campaign I particularly liked was by JWT for Lipton tea’s ‘Garden Variety’ in Cairo. The campaign featured topiary teacups with Lipton tea bag tags hanging out of them. Relevant to their product, check, attention grabbing, check, creative, check, and allround a campaign to put a smile on your face.

The third, which I actually only stumbled upon while looking for information on the last campaign I will mention, is for Head and Shoulders, using chalk board erasers to advertise their product. Already conveniently shaped like their bottles, the idea is quite clever, wiping the white from the board, just as it promises to do with the dandruff on your scalp. I’m not sure where this was rolled out or who came up with the concept, but leave it up to marketers to find media space on objects you would never have before considered.

Last, and probably my favourite of all was a guerrilla campaign run by the Portuguese Taxi Association (Antral). Carried out in Lisbon, yellow prisms replicating taxi tops were placed on cars parked near major nightspots in the city. On the front of the prisms was the word taxi, while at the back it urged readers that if they had been drinking, not to risk driving, providing them then with a phone number for the taxi service. Following the campaign Antral recorded a 50% increase in calls between 12 and 4am, undoubtedly a great result. The campaign is now set to spread to other cities within Portugal. Quite a simple idea really, but at the same time, inventive and thought provoking. I hope it rolls out to other countries also, yet the only downside is that the novelty of the idea perhaps gives half the impact, therefore repeating the campaign each week it may eventually lose it’s effect. This could possibly be overcome however by repeating the stunt at random intervals or seasonally. Anyway, well done DraftFCB Lisbon for a truly great campaign.

I wonder what the rest of this year will bring…


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Getting inside customer’s brains

A company called Lucid Systems has developed a new technique that uses neurological and physiological disciplines to test emotional reaction to marketing messages. The technique, called Prism, measures pupil dilation, eye movement, galvanic skin response, brainwaves and micro-muscle movement. Is the word of respondents no longer enough to find out what they are thinking then?

There has been a rise in agencies using neuroscience to solve marketing problems over recent years. It appears that for many, measuring non-verbal reactions towards their brand, products and services has become a lot more important.

CEO of Lucid, Steve Genco perhaps goes some way to explaining why: “People tell you what they think you want to hear, which is very prevalent in focus groups and online research.” Prism can however detect whether what they say is actually what they feel.

Gives a whole new meaning to giving your thoughts to researchers. But is it a step too far? It seems to me a little too intrusive. Moreover, as with much qualitative research, just because one person thinks something does not mean everyone will. And, to quantify findings you will have to revert back to traditional methods which would surely defeat the purpose, as you would have to rely on respondents’ word once again. It do find it an intriguing technique though, it will be interesting to see if it becomes more widely used as time goes on and, more widely available.

However, maybe even using a placebo and just making respondents think that you were measuring their reactions would lead to more honest answers?


Friday, May 11, 2007

Ad complaints

CMM News’ blog had a link today to the most complained about advertising of 2006 on BBC News. I couldn’t think of any particularly offensive adverts last year, but was interested to see what the public found to be unacceptable. So, what do you think the ads contained? - Gratuitous sex scenes? Violent crime? Racism? Well, not exactly…

The number one most complained about ad, with 553 complaints last year was from the Gay Police Association which claimed a link between homophobic attacks and religious motivation. Fair enough, I can see that this may be offensive to a wide range of people and unsurprisingly; in the main it was Christian groups who complained. The complaints were also upheld when the statistical claims were never proved to the ASA. But then you look at the most complained about advert of 2005 and indeed the rest of the top ten from 2006.

The advert which received the most complaints in 2005 – KFC’s advert in which people were talking in a call centre with their mouths full. It received three times as many complaints as the Gay Police Associations’ advert. Obviously it must be a whole lot worse to talk with your mouth full than to accuse religious people of inciting hate crimes.

And, the rest of this years list – tax-dodging self-employed people; suggestions of knife crime in a stylised fashion form; being “racist” towards America; riding a dog home to get cereal; and most shockingly – a same sex kiss! Call me crazy, but in a country where we can now have same sex partnerships, what is shocking or offensive about two people of the same sex showing their love for one another? It’s not as if they are having sex, it’s a brief kiss. Complaints detailed that it was unsuitable for children to see, why? In case they ‘turn gay’ after watching two men kiss? Ridiculous.

If you ask me, people shouldn’t waste their time complaining about advertising which is only mildly offensive to the hyper-sensitive, they should be complaining about adverts that are rubbish, which are actually an assault on our retinas and eardrums – like the Frosties adverts for example. No longer content with using good old Tony the Tiger alone, the last outing saw the most annoying young boy in history singing that “they’re gonna taste great!” This time round they may have gotten rid of the boy, but that’s only enabled us to realise it wasn’t just him that was annoying, it’s the song too. A definite contender for one of the worst adverts of recent years. Closely followed however by those horrible adverts where they are securing a loan of £25,000 over the phone without having to give any details of their current finances, only confirming that they have a house that can be repossessed, all the while chatting away to various members of their family and being overly-familiar with the person on the other side of the phone. And, then, they have to ask their partner, while they are on the phone, whether £25K is actually the amount they need – did you not discuss it before you got on the phone?!

Ok, ok, I digress. I know that the ASA cannot get rid of adverts solely on the premise that they annoy the life out of people. But wouldn’t it be great if they could? The point though is that, as Fish’n’Chimps points out “maybe we are too quick to detect double-meanings and imagined insults” nowadays. Consumers might actually have something to complain about if we brought back the “sex depravity, pornography and general sleaziness” which prevailed in advertising and offended in the 1970s. There’s no doubt that advertising has moved on from then, but I think perhaps that as we have tried to be less offensive and always, always politically correct, our skins have become a little thinner.

I’m not saying we should go about insulting people, but people should put advertising in the context it was meant and stop picking up the phone, or whatever medium they choose, to complain every time something doesn’t quite fit neatly into the box of what society has deemed ‘acceptable’. People, on the whole, are not stupid, they can see the concept behind the message and its link to what is being advertised, we’re not going to go out and try to slash people’s faces with our phones or ride our dogs home from work, even if I was still a child I wouldn’t try it (well, maybe the latter of the two, but not all the way home).

Come on!

You’ll find the whole list on the BBC News website
here. Have a look and see how many you think are offensive. Methinks some people have far too much time on their hands.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thought for the day

I read this in Research today and thought it was a very interesting statistic. A case of extreme double standards, but then, I have to admit I’ve been guilty of the same:

“87% of Brits and 89% of Americans believe firms should behave in a responsible manner, but only 4% and 5% would refuse to buy a product because of poor company ethics, according to a study from Millward Brown.”

Research, May 07


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Good old Powerpoint

Powerpoint seems to get a hard time of it and some of my fellow bloggers of late have been sticking up for the medium. I thought I’d also throw in my tuppence worth.

Don’t get me wrong, I have watched many a poor Powerpoint presentation and in my earlier days produced a few bad presentations myself. Too much information per slide, text too small to read properly, complete lack of any excitement in the slides, a template that takes away from what is actually being said. I’m sure many of you have committed the same crimes.

But, as I produced more presentations and actually started to research what makes a good presentation and put some planning in beforehand, my presentations improved. Surprise, surprise. I wholeheartedly agree with my more experienced bloggers – blame the presenter, not the medium. I mean, do we blame cinema as a whole for a rubbish film? Powerpoint is only what you make of it. And while I have admitted to seeing some very poor presentations, I have also witnessed many excellent presentations.

Dan Taylor writes a great
article in defence of Powerpoint which offers 8 golden rules for your presentations. Some may seem quite simple or obvious, but it’s often the most obvious things that we ignore or forget. And for me at least, the most difficult thing is trying to be ruthless. As Stan points out though, the use of the notes section in Powerpoint can help surmount this problem.

Funnily enough, as with almost any marketing activity you conduct, by planning and considering who your audience are, you can produce something very effective. I know I’m just reiterating what others have already said, but it still amazes me how often these two important points are overlooked. Then, instead of blaming ourselves or the creator, we blame the media. Granted, Powerpoint has provided us with the tools to produce monstrosities, but it has also provided us with the tools to produce something spectacular. The finished product is down to us. Damn.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Second bite at the cherry

Remember Dansai? Coca-cola’s attempt at entering the bottled water market a few years ago was hardly the most successful. Scandal erupted when it was found that the bottles, containing purified tap water, were found to be contaminated with bromate traces. Unsurprisingly, the water was subsequently withdrawn from the market never to be heard of again.

Coca-cola obviously feel enough time has passed since this fiasco however, as they are planning to launch a new water into the European market this year. Named Chaudfontaine, the water, which comes from a local Belgian brand owned by the company, will be rolled out across the rest of Europe by the end of the year. Currently it is only sold in Belgium with some distribution in France and the Netherlands also.
So why try to get back into the market after such a big disaster first time round?

Well, globally, bottled water is the second largest soft drinks sector behind carbonates. In fact, the market was the fastest growing soft drinks sector between 2000 and 2005, a trend that Euromonitor International forecasted would continue between 2005 and 2010. And according to the Britvic Soft Drinks Category Report, take-home sales in the UK water market alone grew by 11% to £643m last year. While in the UK the bottled water category only accounts for 20% of the soft drinks volume, in other European countries the volume is over 50%. It’s no wonder Coca-cola want to get back in on the act.

But will the new launch be successful? Will consumers forgive and forget Dansai? Coca-cola have been purchasing a number of water brands throughout Europe, however, I would imagine that many consumers are unaware that the brands are now owned by the soft drinks giant. If the launch of Chaudfontaine proves to be a success it will be interesting to see if some of these other brands begin to be rolled out to the rest of Europe. And, indeed, it will be very interesting to see how successful Chaudfontaine itself is.

I have to say that I’m not altogether won over by the name ‘Heat Fountain’ – I prefer my water cold thanks. But I’ll probably buy a bottle when it makes its way up to Scotland. Just to see what I think…

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dead goat anyone?

I feel I’ve been quite ranty of late in the blog, but I read something else today which really just beggars belief.

In promoting their new game “God of War II” for the PlayStation 2, Sony have sparked a huge row over animal cruelty and the ethics of the computer industry once again. Using the decapitated corpse of a freshly slaughtered goat as the centrepiece of the launch party for the game, guests were invited to eat warm offal from the goat’s stomach. OK, so I’m not a vegetarian so I can’t really get on my high horse, but eating warm offal from a dead goat’s stomach is a stunt too far. It’s gruesome and disgusting.

At the event guests competed to see who could eat the most offal. The goat was purchased from a local Greek butcher and had not been slaughtered especially for the event and the offal was obtained elsewhere, only meant to resemble goat’s intestines. However, the end result was obviously very real. Other activities the guests could take part in included throwing knives at targets, pulling live snakes from a pit with their bare hands, being fed grapes by topless girls and being handed garlands by a male model portraying the game’s hero Kratos. Hmmm, I wonder why people seem to have had a problem with this?

A number of critics have slammed the entertainment company calling the “sacrifice” grotesque and condemning their “blood lust”. It has also highlighted the concerns over the ethics of the computer industry with regards to game content and the industry’s exploitation of young gamers.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare in particular found it "outrageous" that an animal’s death had been used "to sell a few computer games". Their spokesman stated, "We are always opposed to any senseless killing of an animal and this sounds like a gruesome death. We condemn Sony’s actions. It is stupid and completely unjustified."

I think it would be fair enough if you were catching an animal to cook yourself. You would have to kill it and take out its insides. And as a meat eater I am probably being a little bit of a hypocrite. But Sony were not out in the wilds catching and cooking their own food, they used a dead animal to promote a game. That’s just sick.

The party was set to feature across two pages of the next edition of the PlayStation magazine, which should have hit the shelves today, but had already been sent to subscribers. There, the above picture was shown in its full glory (or should that be gory?) alongside text such as "How about eating still warm intestines uncoiled from the carcass of a freshly slaughtered goat? At the party to celebrate God Of War II’s European release, members of the Press were invited to do just that..." After the Mail on Sunday contacted the company however, an apology was made for the stunt and the entire print run of the magazine was recalled. What of those magazines already sent out however, will Sony ask for them back? Will they appear on e-bay for a large sum?

I’m not going to start arguing about the content of video games. As with violent films, although there is some evidence to support the detrimental effect they have on their viewers, many people still manage to play the games and watch the films without turning into murderers. However, pulling off a stunt such as Sony’s to promote these games is, in my opinion, disgusting and completely devoid of any thought by the company of its possible consequences.

Will customers boycott their other products? That remains to be seen. Sony have stated that they "are conducting an internal inquiry into aspects of the event in order to learn from the occurrence and put into place measures to ensure that this does not happen again." Like a terrible idea detector? How this idea ever got so far as a full-scale, high profile event seems incredible to me. Dead animal with some fresh warm offal inside, half-naked women, live snakes, knife throwing - anything wrong with this picture? Maybe next time they could also throw an orgy and some shark diving in for good measure.

Full marks to Sony on relevance, and as I’ve said before, if a publicity stunt is relative to what it is trying to sell, it can be extremely effective. But come on, did they ever think they would get away with it?

To view the article on the launch party and its repercussions in the Daily Mail click

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