Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Quasi-Integrity for Banner Ads - Too Little, Too Late
Remember those great banner ads that had the "fake progress bar" that was meant to look like something dreadful was happening with your computer's operating system? In the spirit of full disclosure, some of them now say "fake progress bar." We await the spread of today's contagious contrition to other walks of life: disclaimers on financial reports that say "fake revenues"; labels on sponsored search results that say "fake search result"; and stickers on your car's pseudo-fancy interior (or, for Viagra users...) announcing that you've got "fake wood." Or not. For a refresher course in all things fake, stop into the Traffick.com Truth Center anytime! Hey, and how about that IBM bargain basement acquisition of a big consulting group? Wonder how that will go?
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Seen & Heard: Extremely Outdated Hype: Part 1
A blurb on Hotwired:
"HotBot: The Web's #1 Search Engine"
Guess the've never heard of Google!
Monday, July 29, 2002
Overture Plays Catch-Up to Google AdWords
If you're an Oveture advertiser, you probably know by now that the Direct Traffic Center -- the advertiser interface -- is being overhauled again (didn't they just release a new version a few weeks ago?). Also, Overture is restructuring their editorial process to allow listings to be active faster. To achieve this goal, they are assigning potential listings to category editors, who will "supposedly" know something about your topic and will be able to make judgement calls about your listings in a more authoritative and expeditious fashion.
We'll see about that.
Last time I submitted a large group of keywords, it took 5 days to be reviewed. That is a farce, especially when Google's are instantaneous. Observers surely won't miss the fact that Overture is playing catch-up with Google's AdWords program and its much more advertiser-friendly editorial process.
Expect to see the changes in late August.
Monday, July 22, 2002
Yahoo No Longer Takes Online Casino Ads
Yahoo has announced that it won't be taking advertising from online casinos anymore.
Life's been getting tougher for the online gaming sector. Many banks won't let gamblers pay for their online habit with Visa or Mastercard, and PayPal has recently jumped on the anti-casino bandwagon.
What I really want to know is, does Yahoo's new direction mean I'll never, ever, have to look at an X10 peeping tom camera ad ever again? Time will tell, but aggressively pursuing the same types of advertisers who can pay for space on prime time television just makes sense, and is likely to reflect better on Yahoo.
Sunday, July 21, 2002
AOL = SOL?
Here is one of the best pieces I've read about the AOL fiasco. Of course it's published by MSNBC (read: Microsoft), but still it's balanced and insightful.
The main news of the past week is that Robert Pittman, the COO of AOL Time Warner resigned (some say ousted), but the backdrop behind the move is the sad state that AOL now finds itself in. Replacing Pittman is a true Time Warner guy, so the mood there is likely to change. The "Internet DNA" vision that AOL had during its merger has been replaced by Time Warner's serious business philosophy, as execs try to right the ship.
I think this is probably a beneficial move for AOL, but I wonder if AOL's good days are behind it. The article points out that subscriber growth has slowed considerably and speculates that AOL has simply saturated the market and will have trouble finding new customers. This is no surprise since AOL is still dial-up only, basically.
In order for AOL to really stay viable far into the future, it will have to make a much stronger entry into the high-speed access market, which will take years to do. And then it might really be too late. Time will tell, for sure.
On a side note, the article makes another point about how the various divisions of AOL Time Warner hate on another. This shouldn't be a surprise, either, since the company is really a conglomerate of countless other companies like magazines, TV stations and movie studios. IMHO, the merger should never have happened anyway, but not for anti-trust reasons.
When you have that many disparate companies trying to create "synergy" across so many different properties, it's nigh impossible to pull it off. Again, time will tell, but it's starting to seem that the merger was a very dumb idea.
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
What Do Your Advertisers Say About You?
I think I've come across a new ad that could contend for the dubious honor of being the seediest high-circulation online ad to blanket major web properties since the X10 hidden camera ads (which are, of course, still going strong). Look, I'm no prude; I stay up late, bet on football, and regularly exceed the speed limit, but there has always been something downright creepy about the way X10 pushes its product. Hey, if a stalker or a weirdo wants to buy a product, who's to stop them, right? OK, but is it just me (I didn't even major in Women's Studies, but...), or do the ads seem a tad insensitive, in the sense that they're not-so-subtly highlighting "watching" behavior that would make 99.9% of the female population uncomfortable? Most of us laugh these things off as "cheesy." It's just more spam, right? Like the spammers trying to push Viagra on us or our frequent Nigerian correspondents who want to defraud us out of our life savings by sending us spam email. Maybe it's the same deal with the X10 ads, but to me they cross a line.
And once they did, you can bet others will try to follow in their footsteps. One large web-based email provider I checked out recently is persistently running ads for a lock-picking product. "Never hire a locksmith again!" Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Harmless, right? Hah. Wait 'til next year. Someone will be trying to disguise drug paraphenalia as a handy doorstop, or will be offering to send instructions for science experiments which can make small explosions in your backyard. "Send that old birdhouse sky high! Blow your neighbor's lawn ornaments to smithereens! Void where prohibited by law!" Nudgerino, winkerooni. And all for the low low price of CPM $0.49.
If this premise is true - the X10 ads are not just annoying, but offensive to a large segment of viewers - why then are large companies like Yahoo and the remaining few major web-based email providers (eg. mail.com) allowing their landscapes to be so dominated by such dubious messages? (Don't say they need the revenues. The CPM's on these kinds of ads are extremely low. No large business can run on them indefinitely. Don't say "to encourage people to upgrade to premium services." This isn't the only means of doing so, as any software company could tell you.)
Granted, there are potentially reasons for some people to dislike almost any product available - SUV's pollute the environment, for example. But last time I checked there were actually laws against breaking and entering and spying on people. Small hidden cameras really do probably make a good home security option. But wait, why are the ads implying that you'll be using it to look down tops, and up skirts?
Mainly, though, it's the feeling of being in a low-rent district that disturbs me about some online publishers' willingness to prostitute themselves out to the lowest bidder. Even if you don't agree that the X10 and lock-picker ads are creepy, offensive, etc., you might agree that these ads seem pretty juvenile and low-rent (not low-brow, low-rent), like X-Ray Specs, fake vomit, and itching powder. Not exactly the sort of fare you might see advertised on TV, even during wrestling.
Then again, I'm probably missing the boat entirely. We live in an age of infomercials, where TV affiliates have no shame about showing ads all night long involving soft-core porn, spray-on hair, and ThighMasters.
Anyway, maybe it's time for the big online publishers to get some focus groups together. Ask 1,000 women what they think of the X10 ads. Ask some law enforcement officials or airline officials what they think about the ads for the harmless lock picking tool. And then maybe ask themselves whether it would be so hard to find different advertisers so that we don't have to look at that crap every time we go to check our web-based email.
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