adserving, advertising, broadcasting, targeting

Sex addicted, debt-ridden, body-obsessed, astigmatic, game-playing gadget-phile: but enough about me, what does advertising say about you?

What_ads_say_about_me some recent ads that define me.  or do they?

what does advertising say about me?  that's the question I'm increasingly asking myself as the broadcast model wanes and targeted advertising becomes the norm.  I'm imagining a future where my Glee is interrupted by messages from fat-burning miracle powders, or where my 30 mins with Modern Family is interspersed with messages for help with sex-addiction or an encouragement to buy some oil shares.

you see the ad-serving paradigm – with which anyone who has worked in online advertising will be more than familiar – will in the future spread beyond the computer screen.  to hand-held devices and then, as IPTV gains traction, to TV screens.

it's one thing to see niche targeted ads on my computer screen; it will be quite another to see them on my TV…  but as the ability to target on TV becomes widespread, niche advertisers will increasingly be able to ad-serve specific messages to targeted audiences at a fraction of the cost of even a small TV campaign today.

on one hand the future is potentially very bright…  we engage more with brands that we like and therefore, theoretically, as ads become more targeted and better tailored to our interests and passions, advertising will be more engaging and, theoretically, more engaged with.

at least that's the theory.

but there's a potential downside…  the lowering in the cost of entry will allow hundreds of advertisers who previously couldn't, to advertise on TV.  the result is inevitable, a lowering in the average quality of the ads that get produced.  this is inevitable.

to escape the race to the bottom, we're going to need choice…  the only solution to such a wave of ads will be to have choice over which ones we receive.  there's a double benefit – for advertisers there will be increased engagement (we do engage more with ads that we've chosen to watch), and for audiences there will be the algorithm…

because unlike broadcast, where we all have to endure the same ads as everyone else, an ad-served model offers the possibility of a world where only content that get engaged with (clicked on, liked etc) gets further propagated.  if Google served TV ads (beyond their current very limited scope) they'd use a quality score (based on relevance and preformance of the ads) to propagate ads that are reaching the right people and being engaged with, and suppress ones that aren't.  and that can only be a good thing?  can't it?

out of interest, what does advertising say about you?

internet, predicting, realtiming, social media-ising, targeting

Staring into the Infinity of Now: the challenge of living in RealTime

Doctor_who_untempered_schism the Untempered Schism [source] …the Doctor ran away, The Master went mad, I just keep staring at the Tweets and clicking on the links as they hurtle towards me

I have seen my future – it is TweetDeck on a SmartPhone – and it terrifies me.  I fear that my life will not be the same again.

it all started when earlier in the week I got round to downloading TweetDeck to my laptop, and lost the following two hours, and several hours since, jumping to links as they were delivered into my live feed.  it got me thinking about how much the way I consume stuff has accelerated over time…


I used to communicate pretty much exclusively asynchronously; if someone called me and I wasn't around they called back later or just didn't call at all.  but then things started speeding up, first with email and mobile phones, and then with RSS (which I never really got used to) and now Twitter.  at the end of this acceleration phase I now find myself plugged directly into stuff as it happens; I'm living in RealTime, my communications are predominantly synchronous.  I'm not alone.  in a brilliant post, Jim Stogdill describes a similar experience…

"Email was the first electronic medium to raise my clock speed, and also my first digital distraction problem. After some "ding, you have mail," I turned off the blackberry notification buzz, added rationing to my kit bag of coping strategies, and kept on concentrating. Then RSS came along and it was like memetic crystal meth. The pursuit of novelty in super-concentrated form delivered like the office coffee service … It was a RUSH to know all this stuff, and know it soonest; but it came like a flood. That un-read counter was HARD to keep to zero and there was always one more blog to add … From my vantage point today, RSS seems quaint. The good old days. I gave it up for good last year when I finally bought an iPhone and tapped Twitter straight into the vein. Yeah, I went real time."

the problem with staring into the infinity of RealTime is that your attention levels drop through the floor.  there's only so much attention to give, and as the density of the communications coming at me has increased my ability to stay focused on any one thing has declined.

Richard of Sydney-based Now and Next calls is Constant Partial Stupidity.  in a great post on his trend spotting site, he describes some of the symptoms of CPS…

"…how about your inability to remember multiple passwords, with the result that getting money out of an ATM at weekends has been turned into something resembling the national lottery? Or what about phone numbers? What is your home telephone number? Many people no longer have a clue and it’s not simply because they use a mobile telephone. This is the brave new world of too much information and not enough functioning memory"

my attention is increasingly focused on staring into the infinity of now, with the result that increasing amounts of my attention are being diverted to now, and away from my past and futures.

the history of my life since 19th February 2006 is contained with 5,150 gmails, all search-able in seconds.  I don't have to remember anything, so I don't.

I plan in the now too…  if I wanted a Playstation game (its XBox these days) I used to do my research in magazines and online – my attention was on the future.  now if I'm passing a shop I can check the reviews there and then, make the decision not in the past but in the now.

my world is collapsing into RealTime, and as a consequence my attention is being pulled away from my past and possible futures.  the implication for brand communications planning is obvious: the past and the future become irrelevant.  unless a brand is active in the moment, in RealTime, then they may as well not exist at all.


Because Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus: how Reader’s Digest reminds us about an often-forgotten targeting basic


so the lovely Emily Fairhead-Keen send me the above chart courtesy of Reader's Digest, outlining the top unfulfilled ambitions for forty-plus men and women.  it makes for a wry chuckle and no doubt will reinforce those perceptions that we all knowingly or otherwise hold close to our chests: that men are generally boys that have failed to grow up and still harbor ambitions to do the extraordinary, and that women are on an eternal quest for self-improvement and fulfillment.

so far so stereotypical, but it made me think about the last time – in a planning capacity – I actively and specifically even considered let alone proceeded to target genders differently.  its not uncommon to get a brief for a male or female-orientated brand or product, so you follow the well-trodden and familiar paths of newspaper sport sections or weekly celebrity mags accordingly.

but its rare to get a brief that's not gender-specific that, as a planner, you choose to split along gender lines.  perhaps because whilst its easy to develop products (and brands) for a gender its a lot harder to exclusively target one or the other; and if you decide to plan to engage with each gender differently then you need a degree of exclusivity in how you do so.

or perhaps you don't?!  perhaps the new media economy and ecology permits more easy reaching people along gender lines…  I recall the recent work done by social media agencies in Australia for a Toyota Yaris live pitch, for which the now closed / merged Population's campaign was based around the rivalries between Sydney and Melbourne, with alternative Facebook fan pages for the two cities.


there's no reason why the same tactic couldn't be applied to gender…  for the right brand with the right brief it could be just the thing to capitalise on long-ago-formed and entrenched rivalries; because whilst the ways and means by which we reach people will become ever more sophisticated, its worth remembering the basic truth that men really are from Mars and women are from Venus.

CRM-ing, data planning, IPA|ED:final - existing customers, researching, targeting

Doing and Saying: what a WOM study from HBR can tell us about understanding customer groups

HBR_WOM_formulas_v3 formulas for calculating CLV and CRV: copyright of Harvard Business Review / V. Kumar, J.Andrew Petersen, and Robert P.Leone

the joy above are two formulas, developed for an article by V. Kumar, J.Andrew Petersen, and Robert P.Leone published in the Harvard Business Review entitled How Valuable is Word of Mouth?  Mediation is a big fan of planning and incorporating WOM – in a structured way – into brand strategies, and have written a fair bit about it on this blog, so was more than a little happy when Mark H and Guy C sent me the above article.

the awesomeness of the above formulas get the authors to a place where they can compare CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) with CRV (Customer Referral Value), and something really interesting happens – there's no direct correlation.  it doesn't – I don't think – occur to planners often enough that those groups of customers who are valuable because they buy the most are not necessarily the some groups of customers who are valuable because they talk about a brand the most.

so on the basis that CLV added to CRV is not a good predictor of overall customer value, the authors develop and propose a rather useful matrix of low buying / low advocacy bottom left to high buying / high advocacy top right (with the obvious skews top left and bottom right).

…by splitting customer segments out in this way you get a very clear and potentially dual role for a strategy and schedule…  what's the plan (if any) for getting less vocal customers who buy a lot to talk more about your brand?  versus the plan (if any) for getting the less frequent purchasers but most vocal groups of your customers to buy more of what you're selling?

data, data, data … getting it and more specifically understanding and using it to illuminate what's going on in and across brands' customer bases.  better strategies, better plans and better schedules.  what's not to love.  you can get a copy of the report at HBR Reprints.

blogging, measuring, planning, social networking, targeting, user-generating

Measuring the Groundswell: how Forrester are identifying and quantifying groups and behaviours in the social media space


so I've started reading Groundswell, a book about how social technologies are transforming business, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li.  some of its early content is a little objectionable, for example "some people were using Twitter in some pretty silly ways … giving hourly updates on what they had for lunch or what meeting they had just entered … that gets pretty insipid after a very short while".

tell that to the kids behind scanwiches – who've created an awesome space which displays cut profiles of globally inspired sandwiches accompanied by simple ingredient captions.  the point is that its not our place to judge.  the world is evolving, and what's a great more important that deciding whats insipid or not is working out how to help brands enter and thrive in a world of social medias.

fortunately then that the authors get beyond this to very usefully classify six groups according to the different activities and applications that people use in the Groundswell; the "social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other; rather that from traditional institutions like corporations".  the classifications are:

  • creators – publish blogs / content, maintain a web page, upload content
  • critics – who react to other content online, postings comments, ratings or reviews or editing wikis
  • collectors – saving URLs and tags or using RSS, collecting and aggregating the internet
  • joiners – participating thru maintaining profiles on social networking sites
  • spectators – who consume what the rest produce
  • inactives – the nonparticipants

all well and good, but  here's the cool bit.  they've created and made public their Social Technographics tool that allows you to profile a group of people based on age, country and sex against these six behaviours.  you can then index them against the general population, allowing you to plan and build social media strategies based on the kinds of behaviour people already demonstrate.  which in Mediation's book is pretty darn cool.

so the profile of 25-34 year only men in the UK looks like this:


with the most predominant behaviours being spectating and joining (66%  and 59% of 25-34 UK men doing those respectively).  but what's interesting is the likelihood of them being collectors, indexing 183 against the all adult population.  the list obsession so loved of the lads mag genre re-invented for the social media space.

does this tell you what your social media strategy should be?  no.  does it help you identify and quantify the predominant behaviours of the people you're trying to target?  yes.  and that's important.  I've sat in two many sessions where the phrase 'we'll get people to create content for us' has been thrown out.  it of course may be the right suggestion, but a little objective rigeur and analysis never hurt anyone.  even if it was about what you had for lunch.

campaigning, targeting

Consumer. I hate the word: why Mediation is adding it’s voice to the call for a banning of the word Consumer

Ban_consumer_shop_therefore_am so on Friday as I was posting about Clay Shirky's logarithmic rules for participation, the always brilliant Neil at Only Dead Fish was busy banning the word consumerWillsh at Feeding The Puppy agreed (and got to grips with some nifty HTML widgeting) and now I've officially added my voice to the chorus via a Twitter post #tagged to #StopUsingConsumer.

consumer?  consumer.  I hate the word.  as I do all words or language that undermine what we do and prevent us as an industry from moving on from basic and retrograde thinking.  the boys have already said much in the posts linked above and I won't repeat.  I'll simply say that too often using the word consumer holds us back in three ways:

1. it leads to thinking that all people do is consume stuff.  this isn't only limiting thought but massively missing the opportunity to engage with PEOPLE on terms beyond them buying stuff.  PEOPLE are talking about, creating for, arguing against, fighting for and remixing brands and branded communications all the time.  don't limit the scope of what we do to PEOPLE consuming what we're selling.

2. it leads to thinking that all PEOPLE are the same.  my post from Friday covered this but essentially my argument was that we are still, by and large, expected to think of and present 'one' target audience…  an 'averaged' person or group based on some attribute of attributes that are most relevant to the brief.  but 'average' not only fails to capture the few individuals who would be super-involved in what we have to say or ask them to do, but massively over-estimates the extent to which most people will commit attention to our branded projects. looks backwards to world where we bought therefore we were.  rather than forward to a world where brands and brand projects and communications add social as well as just economic value to our lives and communities.  for many brands the idea of giving back won't be an add-on, but rather an intrinsic and expected part of what they do.  giving back will become – as it should be – a cost of being in business.

sold?  join in.  if you believe we should stop using 'consumer', then post a tweet that contains #StopUsingConsumer, and the reason.  For instance: #StopUsingConsumer – cos there's no average user, no average consumer, no average contributor, co-creator, or co-collaborator. live with it.

co-creating, planning, targeting, user-generating

A new lore of averages: what Clay Shirky and the Coney Island Mermaid Parade can teach us about defining target audiences

Means_comparison_mermaid_pics insight after insight from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody.  the above chart is copied from chapter five which covers collaborative production. it shows contributors to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade Flickr site ranked by the number of photos they contributed.  a couple of users contributed the most whilst the most users contributed only a little.  Shirky observes that:

“…the imbalance is the same shape across a huge number of different kinds of behaviours.  a graph of the distribution of tags on Flickr is the same shape as the graph of readers-per-weblog and contributions-per-user to Wikipedia.  the general form of a power law distribution appears in social settings when some set of items – users, pictures, tags – is ranked by frequency of occurrence”

that there’s a massive imbalance between people who contribute in collaborative projects we know.  but its something that we don’t often enough plan for in a media world where we increasingly ask (the audience formerly known as) consumers to user-generate and co-create on our behalf.  Shirky goes on to point out that:

“…the imbalance drives large social systems rather than damaging them.  fewer than two percent of Wikipedia users ever contribute, yet that us enough to create profound value for millions of users … the spontaneous division of labour driving Wikipedia wouldn’t be possible if there were concern for reducing inequality rather than limiting it … large social systems cannot be understood as a simple aggregation of the behaviour of some nonexistent ‘average’ user”

and there you have it.  he said it.  there’s no such thing as the average user.  we all know this, and yet we still struggle to capture the targets for our advertising campaigns in neat tangible soundbites.  the demographics of old have (thankfully) long gone, but whilst they’re been replaced by more contemporary means – attitudinal or usage based targeting – our one-dimensional thinking too often remains…

we are still, by and large, expected to think of and present ‘one’ target audience.  an ‘averaged’ person or group based on some attribute of attributes that are most relevant to the brief.  but look again at where the mean ‘average’ sits in the above chart… it not only fails to capture the few individuals who would be super-involved in what we have to say or ask them to do, but massively over-estimates the extent to which most people will commit attention to our branded projects.

we need a new lore of averages for our targeting-think.

when we describe target audiences we should be thinking of them as sitting along the above spectrum.  how do we plan on one hand for the very few but valuable super-attention givers from whom a lot of the effectiveness of the media investment will derive?  whilst on the other hand plan for the ‘mode’ individuals, the vast majority who will contribute the smallest amount of attention to what we have to say?

this spectrum, this logarithmic curve of attention, exists at whatever level you aggregate.  be it a population, or an age range, or any segment no matter how – whether attitudinally or behaviourally – it is defined.  there is no average user, no average consumer, no average contributor, co-creator, or co-collaborator.  let’s stop kidding ourselves and clients otherwise.

social networking, targeting

Staying focussed on the consumer: how Facebook is taking us beyond the demographic

Crowd Facebook came into Vizeum's Qube this morning to present their view on the world and how it, and we, are being changed by social networking. they described the extent to which the development of the platform is dictated by actual consumer behaviour; they observe and identify the top six consumer behaviours then replicate / develop site usage to facilitate those behaviours.

they had the same advice for advertisers using the platform.  not surprisingly, those brands that add utility and talk to Facebook users on their terms, get more engagement.  with more engagement comes more data, which is where it gets interesting.

in 2002 I wrote a presentation to my then company (Concord) about how and why we – as planners – needed to get beyond the demographic to understand with more granularity the lives, attitudes and behaviours of the people we were targeting.  the answer then was modal targeting with outdoor; out drinking, commuting etc…  what can we assume from where people are what they're doing and thinking.

how the world has changed.

Facebook stats can now tell you how not only how many people enegaged with you and what (claimed ;o) demographic they are, but also what – in real time – their hobbies and interests are…  this may not sound like a massive step but compared to what I had as a planner seven years ago its a significant step.  and I suspect we haven't really scratched the surface…

the data will only get more prolific, more granular.  with this comes the opportunities for harder-working insights and learnings about the people we want to engage with, or more crucially, the people who want to engage with us.