Category Archives: Advertising

Facebook Word-of-Mouth Campaign :: ASCCA Trying Something New

Facebook is an interesting social media community. For ASCCA’s interests of connecting with college students, it seems like the natural community to engage. ASCCA wants college students to work as counselors, program staff and for internships. So, we’re trying something new to reach themcamper and counselor.

ASCCA is going to run approximately 50,000 flyers a day, for three days, targeted at students from the following universities: University of Georgia, University of Florida, Troy State University, Montevallo, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of North Alabama, University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) and Auburn University (Auburn).

This will give us over 150K impressions. Now, realistically, we’d like to run more – and target many more universities. But, the Facebook flyer program does have some limitations. I’ll discuss those. And, just so you’ll know, Camp ASCCA is not paying for this. A new tactic in our strategy of reaching students, I felt it best to cover this myself as a test. We’ll see how well it goes. The cost of this program equals about 1/2 of a week long campership. So, I thought it best to test the process, first. Still, that cost would be a small fraction of what we’d usually spend to advertise in college campus newspapers. More on that in a bit.

sample ASCCA facebook flyerThe image to your left is an example of one of the flyers. That is what students at UGA will see on Sunday through Tuesday when they log in to Facebook. It appears just below their lefthand menu. A nice placement, I think. Click the image and you’ll see all of our flyers. On Facebook, when students click the image, they are sent to a purpose built page on our site that offers greater detail. See ASCCA Public Relations Internships. In the future, I’d actually like to target the top 25 universities with PR programs. Maybe we will, still.

So, what are the limitations of the Facebook flyer program, as I see them? Well, currently you cannot target students beyond simply choosing a specific school, or schools. I find this a bit strange, since Facebook does have the demographic and lifestyle (interests) information of their audience. Ideally, I’d like to use that information to specifically target the students most likely to be interested in what ASCCA has to offer.

For instance, if we wanted to seek male counselors, I should be able to target a specific school, reach only males, and reach only those that have listed interests like: recreation, education, or even special education. Facebook is still relatively young and their flyers and advertising programs are still maturing. Right now, Facebook flyers are more of a broadcast tactic than a targeted one.

You might be wondering, “How effective is the Web for accomplishing ASCCA’s marketing and hiring needs?”

Today, Matt Rickman told me that he has yet to run a single ad in college newspapers during his counselor recruiting process for Summer ’07. That’s remarkable. Even more remarkable, Matt shared that he is ahead of his annual hiring targets. He would usually start college newspaper ads in April. This year, he may not run any of them. So, why is that? What is different this year?

Although we have sketchy data upon which to base this claim, so far the difference seems to be our Web site. Yep, apparently the site is accomplishing the goal of reaching potential counselors – just as we hoped it would. We’ll poll the counselors and program staff this summer to see exactly how many actually found us online.

I’ll report back in a week or so to let you know how our experiment with Facebook went this time around. For now, let me hear from you. What do you think about this tactic? Do you have any suggestions about other processes we may undertake to reach potential interns?

Did you know that Camp ASCCA is in Facebook? If you are too, please go on over and “Friend” Camp ASCCA. This way you may keep up with what we’re doing all the time. Join the Camp ASCCA Facebook group, too.

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Super Bowl Ads :: Integrated Marketing Communications

Many of my students have enjoyed Jeremy Pepper’s post about Super Bowl ads and PR. If you haven’t read it yet, please visit Jeremy Pepper’s post about Ramping up for the Super Bowl.

For a class exercise, we’ll be following the use of YouTube, iFilm, Revver, Google Video, et.al. (social video sharing sites) in the promotion of products/programming or pretty much anything else. We are looking for specific instances where social networks, CGM and/or PR played a role.

We’ll also look at marketing communication campaigns like GM’s igotshotgun – Blog and their myspace.com “I Got Shotgun!” sites. Heavy use of video there. Emily Melton, our lovable and quirky Auburn PR alum, is working with the campaign. Cheers for Emily! Hey, it took her to the Super Bowl. Read Emily’s latest igotshotgun post. You’ll note, on the MySpace site, the personal info on the person that set up the site reads: “Female, 21 years old, NEW YORK (where she’s headquartered), Alabama (where she’s from), United States.” Well, that’s Emily. She initially set up the site, I imagine.

As for ads, one example this year is the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser promotion of upcoming 2007 Super Bowl ads. We saw them all last night, right? If not, there is a full catalog of them at iFilm – Super Bowl Ads 2007.

This strategy essentially turned YouTube into a serial cliff-hanger delivery medium. (Oh, how the social media purists will hate that “medium” remark. So, let’s call it a “space” for them.)

Unless you’re my age, or older, you likely don’t know about the Saturday morning movies that we attended with glee. Back then the movie was actually a long series of several cartoons and short films, called serials. The end of each serial usually had a car flying off a cliff, or some such catastrophic event. The freeze frame ending always brought us back.

They also ran trailers, or promotions, for future films/serials and those did the same thing. Trailers, I’m sure you’re familiar with, but now it is different. Movie trailers have been uploaded in several social video sharing sites before. But, have you ever seen a promo for an upcoming commercial before?

Previously, it was a bit of a scoop if someone was able to get a clip. Today, they are being given away in the hopes they’ll be written about, talked about and even posted in blogs. This is a new twist.

Budweiser’s tactic this year seems to have had the same effect. Some of you watched the Super Bowl, not only for the game, but also to see what the little Budweiser dog finally found. Why? Because you were teased at YouTube.

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First, just to establish what kinds of ads are considered great and effective, let’s start with the ad widely considered to be the best Super Bowl ad of all time. Later, we’ll see what AdAge’s Bob Garfield thought of this year’s ads. Then, you may visit the Super Bowl ad min-site at iFilm. For more on ads … Continue reading

Kayak Satirical Ads :: CGM and Ads May Sting

When I first saw the new Kayak.com TV ads, my first thought was how different they were from other launch ads. They were intended, I believe, to be funny – sort of like the “Roaming Gnome” ads from Travelocity. However, as I saw more and more of them, it became apparent that these are more edgy than anything anyone has done recenlty.

The Kayak site introduces the ads with this: “We hope you’ll agree that we are equal opportunity satirists and will enjoy the ads in the humorous tone in which they were created.” Well, it hasn’t quite gone that way – for everyone.

…risky business, launching your new site and business with satire that may inflame your potential customer base, but interesting to watch unfold…

Paul English, a co-founder of the site/company, has posted some of the more angry anti-Kayak.com emails they’ve received about the ads. (Danger, Will Robinson! Some pretty vulgar angry stuff in there.) The Alaska / Big Oil ad seems to have touched a nerve. OK, more like jumped up and down on it – with an ice pick.

Another aspect that interested me, even more, is how Kayak is incorporating consumer generated ads / media (CGM) in the mix via YouTube. David Weinberger, one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, has even joined in the fray with a Joho post about the ads and developing his own Joho Kayak ad.

You may see all of the Kayak produced ads here and all of the consumer generated Kayak ads here. As of this post, there are 132 CGM ads in there. That’s impressive. The viewing numbers are impressive, too. Many ads have more than 100 views.

My thoughts? It is a crap shoot. Be edgy, but risk hacking off a lot of people. So, contingency planning is key if this plan is going to be implemented. This is a perfect example of how a company might want to involve PR in their advertising campaign planning. Hey, if you’re going to run ads that will inevitably make people mad, then be ready with a planned response strategy and implement it real-time.

I searched Technorati for posts about the ads, but didn’t find any – other than Joho. The rest were about – gee, kayaking. There are not any posts tagged kayak.com. So, I don’t know if Kayak has such a planned response in action. The meme hasn’t developed (and may not), but better to be prepared than caught flat-footed.

Paul English’s transparent post of the email flames is a refreshing touch, in a way. He writes, “Our goal was to be funny, and controversial. We wanted to take some risks, we knew some people would be offended. The response has been huge with overall positive comments.” Well, where are the positive ones, Paul. I don’t doubt you have them – and some are available in YouTube – but how about sharing those, too. Some are posted to the CGM ads available in YouTube.

One of the comments on the YouTube Kayak Alaska / Big Oil ad actually claims that the Kayak site and ads are part of an astroturfing campaign. (That will fit nicely into my next post.) The comment, from TheOrioleGuy, claims:

Desire: I want to promote my liberal agenda about the environment, plus vilify the Bush administration and oil companies. Problem: I need to bypass the laws and limits that restrain political action committees. Solution: set up a simplistic “travel search site” as a front business, and use the television advertising for it to accomplish my goals… thus bypassing PAC guidelines. Pathetic.

So, do we really want our new company / site to be dragged into some wild “George Soros / Al Gore (kind of) conspiracy theory” meme online? Hey, stranger things have happened. And, TheOrioleGuy has just started it for Kayak.

This will be interesting to watch. I’ve written to Paul English to ask about the campaign. Something tells me the guy is getting tons of email, so I won’t hold my breath for a reply.

PayForPlay, PayPerPost … The Bane of Online PR and Marketing – Link Fraud

Pay for play isn’t new. Think Armstrong Williams, VNR scandals, CEO vanity magazines, advertorials and more. Now, there is shock and horror about PayPerPost.com (PPP). It is a bane. It is a poison. But, it is as old as hemlock in digital years.

…as the web grows, more mature or less mature, aren’t these attempts to monetize blogs (for good or bad) inevitable?…

I’ve been waiting for some enterprising federal prosecutor to pump out a string of indictments for link fraud online. Is this the perfect opportunity? I’m not a lawyer, so maybe one will jump in here and help out with a definition.

Payola online? Hey, I imagine it has already happened too many times to count. Will Google and Yahoo! and others join with prosecutors to help keep their link rank / page rank algorithms free (or, as free as possible) of taint? Why not. They have a lot of advertising dollars at stake here. Link ads have been propping up Google from the beginning, haven’t they?

In a conspiracy charge, “a group of conspirators (have) banded together to achieve some harmful or illegal purpose” and if that purpose is fraud – well, do we have the open door to a trial? I imagine that intent plays a role here. If the company seeking the links can be proven to use blog posts knowing that the testimonial is insincere and the blogger can be shown to have made the post solely to make money, well we have a beginning. However, that’s not likely to be easy to determine from the willing participants – after the fact. So, what we can expect is a sting operation. Yes, just like the guy on NBC that has been phishing for perverts, some industrious blogger or reporter (TV or print) can at least make a pretty good expose out of all this. How long do you think it will take for that to happen?

as seen on tvPayPerPost.com has a pretty funny tagline on its header – “As seen in BusinessWeek.” That brings back some scary memories. Just check the logo to the right. Now, most people that see that logo, I believe, think of the product as schlock.

as seen on tvThe funny thing about the tagline at PayPerPost.com? Jon Fine decries it – and the ensuing online meme about it – in BusinessWeek as “a rhetorical race to the bottom.” He’s probably right.

Wonder if PPP will be asked to take that tagline down. And, what hubris does it take to use a negative article to help promote your own product? You’ll notice that there is no link to the BW column so people can see what it is about. Makes sense from a company willing to foresake transparency in their own business model.

It isn’t as if this hasn’t been happening all along, is it? My feeling is that anyone believing that these types of scams haven’t been occuring – under the table – for a long time in blogs is quite naive. And, it is a scam if the intention is stated that disclosure may not occur. That’s fraud, no matter how you spin it.

Think about it. The link loving bloggers – linking in faux adoration circles – are just one such example. How so? Think of the many feigned adoration posts by bloggers about some a-lister (just praying for a link back) and think of the lil’ chunk of their soul given up for that link. Don’t think it happens? Wanna buy a bridge?

If that doesn’t do it for you, then think of all the splogs out there. They are playing the links, too. But this one (PPP), using blogs with heretofore legitimage page ranks, is particularly sleazy. I think the hubris of admitting that disclosure won’t necessarily happen is the sleaziest part of all. No, it isn’t transparency to admit you are not practicing transparency. OK, if you mean the people behind the endeavor are being transparently sleazy. Yep, that’s transparent – in so many meanings.

A poster in Adrants Soflow Network says it (PPP) “is going to destroy the credibility of all bloggers even the ethical ones like myself that have even forgone monetizing my traffic via advertising so as to maintain an independent perspective on the industry that I choose to cover.” Funny thing is, on his mobile blog (not his personal one) I found this ad among a plethora of ads.

FAKE Testimonials?
That’s what Your Visitors Think. Get the Seal and ProveThey’re REAL! (Ad by TrustedTestimonials.com)

You will note, I hope, that the Trusted Testimonials site and the Pay Per Post site both have the same “Secured by GeoTrust” logo on them. Wonder if that Adrants poster knows he is running an ad for what may be the same type of site he abhors?

That company – GeoTrust, like those blogger associations (honesty police), will no doubt fail in securing trust among readers of blogs. And, of course, given the relationship noted above I am curious as to whether any of them are legitimate.

Let’s face it. Blogs are a combination of facts (as they are interpreted by the author) and opinions of the blog’s author that you cannot – with any hope of universal accuracy – trust to be truthful. At least you cannot trust them until you have done a lot of your own research and fisking. And, who’s going to do that – really?

Take a lesson from journalism. Approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism – even traditional mainstream media. I trust blogs, in general, much less than I trust traditional media. The blogs I do trust are always as upfront as possible. They also only gain that trust after a great deal of time spent reading them and following links – researching what they write – to see if I agree. And then, even if I do agree, that’s just my own infopinion, too … isn’t it?

Gee, just look what social media has wrought. Anyone ready for another update to EPIC?

Steve Rubel :: “picture in picture” marketing = “promotion in column” transparency lapse?

If someone writes about a client’s (or partner’s) programs or offerings, shouldn’t they divulge the relationship?

Here is one example from Romenesko where the “Baltimore Sun drops (G. Jefferson) Price’s column after ethics dispute.” This columnist was writing about a client’s activities and the relationship was not disclosed. The Sun dropped the column.

Now, knowing that, let us consider this. The two examples have similarities with the Sun’s problem.

Steve Rubel has written two articles for AdAge magazine’s Digital section (here and here).

In both of Rubel’s articles, MySpace and Technorati are referenced in a positive manner. Is there an undisclosed relationship between the Edelman senior VP and MySpace/Technorati?.

On May 22, 2006, Richard Edelman announced that “Edelman will have an exclusive right to offer Technorati’s analytic tools in Chinese, French, German, Italian and Korean, starting with French in July and continuing into early 2007.”

Here is one press release that shows MySpace was, and I believe still is, a client of Edelman.

In the first Rubel AdAge article, the reference was this:

Consider the chatter: Technorati is tracking 40 million blogs and 1.2 billion posts a day. MySpace, a social network unheard of three years ago, is the eighth-biggest site on the Web and growing by 240,000 members a day-that means the population of Buffalo, N.Y., joins MySpace every day, for those keeping score.

In the second Rubel AdAge article, the references were:

At the same time, people are flowing in droves to sites where they can create, share, connect and consume content published by their peers. That same April comScore report found that over the past year traffic to sites such as MySpace, Citysearch, Wikipedia, Blogger and others skyrocketed by at least 200% apiece, while total U.S. Internet audience grew only 4%.

and…

Recently Paramount Pictures and blog search engine Technorati unveiled a conversational advertising campaign to promote Al Gore’s new documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

In both articles, the references to MySpace and Technorati are clearly touted as the sites to watch. They are given positive, if not glowing, endorsements, in my opinion. So, what’s missing? How about something like, “Hey, these two companies are clients.” (Update/clarification: The relationships are, for the record, Myspace as a client and Technorati as a partner/vendor.)

Well, you go read the articles. Show me where the relationship between Rubel/Edelman Worldwide and those two clients is revealed. It isn’t.

The irony is that Rubel’s second article refers to “Picture-in-picture advertising” and marketing. Well, this looks like “promotion in column” without disclosing the relationships marketing. Is this the new “picture-in-picture” marketing?

Another irony is that the articles tout participation in the dialogue and conversation by readers, yet the only opportunity to engage in conversation is this email address – editor@adage.com.

Rubel writes, “The future is creating ways for consumers to seek out conversations.” and “If you’re not part of the dialogue, then get out of the way.” Well, then offer that conversation aspect on your columns and/or get out of our way.

Look, I like Edelman Worldwide, AdAge, Technorati and MySpace. But, this seems like bad practice, to me.

Rubel also writes, “Buckle up. It’s time to blast off.” I have a suggestion. If you can’t manage to be transparent in your writings, please be quiet. You do more harm than good when your judgement lapses this far off course. Each incident adds to the speculation that social media offers more pitfalls than promises. If you continue to follow this lack of transparency path, after you blast off, you’re likely to land on Uranus.

Students Always Leave … We Miss Them, But Are Always Proud of Them, Too

Very happy to report good news for one of our own. Erin Caldwell is going to Washington to work with Vice President Mike Krempasky and others.

We are very proud of Erin and all of our students. Honestly, we do have a wonderful group of quite intelligent – and very hilarious, I might add – students each and every semester. That’s why I truly love my job. The students make it all worthwhile.

…our grads are all over the world practicing in large firms, and small… they are in gov’t, industry, nonprofits and more…

Read about Erin’s great news in her blog: Erin Caldwell’s PRblog » Miss Caldwell Goes to Washington. Lest we forget, we have other successful students, too.

Erin is joining a long list of Auburn grads inside the beltway. Paige Bagby is also headed to Washington. They called and recurited Paige back to her old internship stomping grounds at a lobbying firm in D.C. Others practicing PR in Washington? Maggie Landry is there with the McGinn Group – and she’s blogging. On Capitol Hill, Shea Snider is Congressman Mike Rogers’ Press Secretary.

Erin isn’t the first to join Edelman, either. Lauren Schuler works for Edelman, in Atlanta. Many others are – and have been – with the firm, too. The Atlanta office is doing quite well. Just last year, the Edelman Atlanta office received “Agency of the Year” honors from the IABC.

Amy Lee is in New York working with the Financial Times and Jessica Stephens is with Publicis in Atlanta. Publicis was recently announced as AdWeek’s US Media Agency of the Year.

Some day I should do one long post with examples of all the students we have out there, coast to coast – and overseas. They really are everywhere. I feel kinda bad just mentioning these students because there are so many out there – and here on campus – doing great things each and every day.

So, forgive my lil’ bit of self-congratulatory flag waving for our students. We love them. They make us proud every day. All of them.

Disclaimer Longer Than Blog Post … Bait for Satire, or Reality Setting In?

So funny, yet so sad. The legalese is longer than the content.

Starwood Hotels is attempting something that is sort of like, well … it is trying to be like … well, it started as faux blogging and now it is …. well, just corporate blogging. In fact, it is corporate blogging that fits many stereotypes of legal and management “interference” – some PR practitioners like to call it.

Starwood launched The Lobby.

The blog states their focus and purpose:

To help keep Starwood Preferred Guests on top of the latest travel trends, Starwood and ElectricArtists have assembled a team of travel writers to contribute to this site. Every weekday this site will be covering the latest and greatest in worldwide travel.

…there needs to be a balance between form and functionality … legal considerations are important … but, when legal concerns interfere with the message, you may fall flat…

A legitimate idea. However, the authors in the blog seem more like jingle writers than travel writers. Each post is a commercial for some Starwood hotel or amenity.

Still, that’s not too bad of an idea. It is just the way they do it that seems contrived. Too planned. Too dry. Too predictable. The posts range from 100 to 200 words, with a few exceptions – the average is about 150. (This will be important later.) All of the posts are the equivilant to sidebar contextual ads with nice photos. It is one long list of short advertisements.

Starwood is using MovableType (MT). Many sites do. That isn’t uncommon. MT makes a fine CMS, aside from just a blog. But, The Lobby’s posts have links for tagging and bookmarking the site which many/most associate with blogs more than a dynamic site.

At first Starwood’s “The Lobby” did not have comments turned on.

Some people criticized them for that. B. L. Ochman called it a “dud” for more reasons than just the absence of comments. The Inside PR podcast also felt that the absence of comments did not help the blog’s legitimacy with audiences. There was no opportunity for a conversation.

So, Starwood turned comments on for some/most of the posts. However, in this instance they only made things worse.

If one is seeking to lay blame for this, I imagine the place to point is to upper management and the legal team. I doubt it is what the creative people wanted.

…if the disclaimer is your most dominant message, what are you saying to your customers?

When Starwood did turn on comments, they couldn’t help but turn it over to the legal department, first. So, now you have one of the most ridiculous comment sections, on every post offering comments, that you will see on a blog – in blogging’s brief history. The legal disclaimer is actually longer than the posts. Seriously, the post at that link is 194 words, whereas there are 282 words in the disclaimer before you may comment. And, most of the other posts are like this, too.

Need more irony? The title of one post is: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest. Um, no Starwood. This this is more like what happens when you don’t use Head and ShouldersTM … you appear flakey (or legally anal) – people notice, and you are embarrassed.

Sigh. So, bless their hearts, at least they are trying. How they could not see that their practice will bring snickers is kind of scary, but why am I not surprised?

Admittedly, there is legitimate concern for companies and individuals regarding the comments some people may leave in your blog.

Jeremy Pepper wrote:

Is it worth pushing the boundaries in a blog to get traffic, then end up in a libel suit? Are certain blogs that we all have seen – making fun of ugly people on the Web, making fun of Star Wars fans – worth the potential for a libel lawsuit?

Corporations have traditional boundaries and standards of practice. They are loathe to change them when the fear of legal entanglement may be the result. So, what you sometimes see is this kind of silliness.
I don’t know. Starwood can defend their tactic, of course. But, isn’t it kind of funny? Their fear is worth more text than their travel related content? B. L. was right. The Lobby is a dud.

Honestly, it reminded me of contract management. The rule-of-thumb was always – CYA or CYB. Here is the complete disclaimer you must wade through before getting to the comment forms:

BY CLICKING “I AGREE” AND SUBMITTING A COMMENT YOU AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING TERMS & CONDITIONS:

You agree not to submit any comment that contains unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law.

You agree that all comments submitted by you should be relevant to the article and remain respectful of other authors and commenters.

You authorize Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., its affiliates, properties within the Starwood system and third party service providers (collectively, “Starwood”) to collect, process, use and display the information provided by you (including personally identifiable information) for any lawful, Starwood business related purpose, to store the information at and transmit the information to various locations, either directly or through its third party vendors, throughout the world, whether within your country of residence, the United States, or elsewhere; and to contact you regarding the information you provide.

You assign to Starwood the right, but not the obligation to edit, remove, modify, publish, license, print, transmit, display or otherwise use any comments you submit to Starwood and all accompanying personally identifiable information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity, without notice to you and without compensation, and you waive any moral rights you may have in having the material altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you.

You agree to indemnify and hold Starwood and its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, agents and employees harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorney’s fees, made by any third party due to or arising out of Your breach of these terms and conditions or Your violation of any law or the rights of a third party.

That is on every post where you may leave a comment. Can you believe that? I find it amazing.

Um, and you don’t click on “I AGREE” … you click on Preview or Post.

Do you really want to see and read that every time you want to post a comment?

Perhaps the better path to follow (aside from the obvious “Drop the facade.  Don’t blog.  Make it a static site.”) would be requiring all who wish to comment to simply register for your site. Then, they see the disclaimer once and are bound by the rules. As Starwood is doing it now, the blog is a chuckle on every post, at first. After a few times, it will become – simply – a pain. Are they really going to turn these posts into purchases of services at their hotels? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Here is an idea. Take the reigns off of the writers. Be bold. Take a chance. Let them write critically about your hotels and services. (I know. I’m dreaming.)

I don’t think Starwood Hotels did any reading or research into the mindset of most bloggers and blog readers. If they get laughed at online, it is their own fault. Of course, their target audience is probably not bloggers. It is business travelers. But, they are online and therefore open to these types of critiques.

What do you think? Is this a good practice by Starwood? Will they succeed? How would you suggest they blog?

Thanks to B. L. Ochman and Inside PR’s David Jones and Terry Fallis for the link.