Has Facebook creeped you out yet?

I got my first taste of Facebook’s new Beacon advertising system this weekend. I’m still trying to get that taste out of my mouth.
I bought some tickets to a movie on Fandango and got a weird little popup on the bottom of the screen telling me that the details of my transaction were waiting on the lauchpad to be shot over to all my friends and (let’s face it) marginal acquaintances on Facebook. It was up to me to tell them not to share this particular detail of my life. What was the the movie? None of your business.
My next stop was Facebook, where I signed the online petition asking them, essentially, “What could you possibly be thinking, anyway, Facebook?”.
Beacon is a very cool idea in many respects. I know many people who would love for you and I to know all of the cool stuff they’re buying. I can’t wait to find out.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Social marketing as infernal device

The recent bizarre flap over the Boston PD mistaking a promotion for Aqua Teen Hunger Force for a terrorist threat is giving me a bad case of ambivalence.
First, the promoters are clearly victims of this culture of fear that we’ve managed to create for our selves. But, then, I’m thinking “Score! Cartoon Network can’t buy that kind of publicity.” And that was the point of the whole exercise, wasn’t it?
But, ultimately, I’m troubled by the expropriation of public spaces for advertising messages. This is something that should make all of us, including marketers, think twice. After all, David Ogilvy understood before just about anyone in the industry that advertising should be based on a quid pro quo. Ogilvy’s assertion that billboards (he was writing in the eighties and before) obstructed the public sphere for private profit is more true than ever and it’s advice that we ignore at our peril.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Cynical altruism?

So, American Express is planning to donate a bunch of money to preserve major landmarks in your region, and they’re asking you to vote online on which ones should get the money. And the best part is that you can vote multiple times, once per day until the deadline. What do you do? Email all your friends and get them to vote for your favorite landmark, of course.
That’s what lots of folks in the San Francisco Bay Area did last month, and I got plenty of email from friends trying to get me to support our beloved Pigeon Point Lighthouse. And they received plenty of encouragement from American Express.
But it turns out that a panel of experts was doing the real deciding and that the vote-winning landmark was merely guaranteed an undetermined share of the “$1 million in preservation grants” that was being dangled before us.
So, it wasn’t exactly a sham vote, but with everyone allowed to vote more than once and invite their friends, it was clearly as much as word of mouth marketing as it was about historic preservation.
I’m torn on this one. The cause is worthy. But the voting seems like a placebo. The money is real. But is this the best we as a society can do to support our historic sites? Is word-of-mouth marketing on a grand scale possible without manipulation? If American Express was able to keep the marketing expenses low, this is certainly a lot better for the community than a billboard campaign.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Wal-Mart's Blog Wart

The recent exposure of the Wal-Mart blogging hoax perpetrated by Edelman Public Relations has been a public humiliation for the agency, the client, and the phony bloggers. In his blog, Richard Edelman says, “This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client’s.” He continues:

Let me reiterate our support for the WOMMA guidelines on transparency, which we helped to write. Our commitment is to openness and engagement because trust is not negotiable and we are working to be sure that commitment is delivered in all our programs.

This incident brings to mind a similar incident in my community. Representatives of a developer’s PR firm were caught “astroturfing” a local mailing list. In that case the president of the PR firm took a different position, claiming, “I don’t know what the ethical standards of a chat room are.” A good rule of thumb is that the ethical standards of a “chat room” are the same as in your living room.
I’m have a report coming out on consumers’ trust in various online media. Right now, consumers’ feelings about consumer-created content are ambivalent. Blogs and public forums are not as trusted as branded media — even company sites. That’s a pretty clear signal that the potential damage to your client’s reputation by this kind of behavior is much greater than any possible gain.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Forget man bites dog — newspaper gives away ads

The San Diego Union-Tribune is now offering free print classifieds to individuals who have something to sell for less than $5,000.
OK, that’s amazing. I have never known a newspaper publisher to just give newsprint to someone else. The story, from the Union-Tribune itself, has some nice statistics about the decline of classifieds in the last few years and a discussion of the impact of Craigslist and eBay specifically. It also notes that ads from individuals provide less than five percent of the paper’s ad revenue.
The story quotes the paper’s ad director as saying “This is not a move out of desperation.” I think that’s probably true. But it’s only the beginning of the journey that the net is taking newspapers on.
Do the extra pages come out of the editorial or the advertising budget? Regardless of how it’s allocated, in the long run, it comes out of editorial.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.