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Friday, July 02, 2004

Must All Advertising Be Offensive?

Maybe it's a function of growing up and watching my cat approach adolescence, but I'm beginning to agree with Bob Garfield. A sizeable portion of today's print and TV ads don't just do a poor job of selling the product, they needlessly offend potential customers. And any other poor sap who might be caught in the crossfire.

Have you seen the latest TV ad from Pepto Bismal? Gross.

While writing a chapter on "Writing Winning Ads" for my forthcoming book Winning Results with Google AdWords, I had cause to reflect on how straightforward and scientific the process can be for creating effective advertising copy online. And by contrast, how superfluous much of the mainstream advertising biz seems to be. In the medium you're reading right now, small text ads may be shown to people doing a search. No hype, just an introductory message that acts as a sorting mechanism to identify potential prospects. The real persuasion can take place on the website itself. No pushy salepeople! Buyer nirvana, if you offer them the right experience.

That's nothing like the offline world.

Just what were the folks at the agency thinking when they wrote "Hang onto Your Lederhosen" in a newspaper ad selling the 2005 Mercedes C230 Coupe? I just saw a fiftyish woman driving a new one of those, obviously pleased to get a sporty car that would have been out of her price range back in the hazy long-forgotten days when juvenile humor seemed funny. (Hey, I love immature jokes, but only when I pay good money to see them in the theatre, a la Dodgeball.) I can't see her reading that ad and saying "right on man! hang on ta yer frickin Lederhosen, LOL!" and rushing down to the dealership and buying the car.

A second print ad referred glowingly not to the car, but to, uh, something to do with needing a change of underwear. Just the kind of prestige the ol' Mercedes badge needed at this juncture, I suppose? Fortunately, a lot of people are probably just going to do an online search for "2005 mercedes c230 coupe" and wind up on the appropriate page at the mbusa.com web site. No Lederhosen here, just specs and photos.

I don't create newspaper ad campaigns for major brands, so I don't really claim to know what goes into them, other than reading critiques from the likes of Bob Garfield. But it's interesting to see what happens in the online environment when you measure results. "Hang onto your Lederhosen"-style ads almost always tank.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

MSN Search Preview Supposedly Available

Apparently, MSN's new algorithmic search is available to the public for "feedback." Then it will go away and come back, better than before, they say.

I tried a wide variety of queries. The result - though not horrible - was unexciting and unimpressive.

On some queries, results were just weird and random. In other cases, goofy (Yahoo and Dmoz categories as results on MSN Search?) and possibly insincere. Having no apparently consistently methodology and bending over backward to be even-handed, is how I'd characterize this effort.

This might be a good way of mitigating spam, but does it lead in the direction of relevancy or special insight? Nope, but the blah-ness and inconsistency of the algorithmic results will certainly make the paid-for listings, when those are rolled out, look good by comparison. Perhaps that's the point.

To be fair, trying the same dozen-or-so searches (eg. "Montreal Canadiens logo") on Google and Yahoo yields a similarly capricious set of results. On my totally subjective assessment, though, at least on some queries, Yahoo's top couple of results feel a bit more definitive and relevant to me. Maybe part of the reason is the strength of Yahoo's proprietary, categorized directory -- much like the rover in hockey, the "forgotten man" in search.

Happy Canada Day!

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

RIP I-Search, Long Live SEM 2.0

Recently, we bade farewell to a search engine marketing institution of sorts, the I-Search Digest discussion list. I-Search was founded by Marshall Simmonds, who remains active as one of the top search engine marketing experts on the planet. Unsurprisingly, Danny Sullivan was one of Marshall's early mentors. Four years ago, Traffick wrote a profile on Marshall's interesting work with About.com.

Detlev Johnson took the moderation reins from Marshall and tirelessly moderated to rave reviews from members until September 2003.

Over the years, members produced mountains of actionable, current search engine marketing intelligence. The archives alone were always a useful resource to me. I frequently found answers in them, although (ahem) they should have been more easily searchable.

Over the years, various owners (most recently, Andy Bourland) tried to make I-Search, I-Sales, and their sister lists into a viable paid-subscription business, but that proved difficult. It also proved difficult to maintain discussion in an increasingly fragmented marketplace with a format that seemed increasingly inadequate and inconvenient, as Detlev was finding out last summer before he passed the torch to me in September. And as Andy and I (along with other I-Moderators) found this spring. Both the "business" and the "community" seemed on their last legs, so ... well, they shoot horses, don't they?

Now that I-Search is closed, it's a perfect opportunity to start a new group for intermediate to advanced search marketers that will offer the advantage of building a solid community of knowledge while leaving behind some of the mistakes and inconveniences of the old group. I've christened "I-Search II" with a new name, SEM 2.0, and membership is by invitation only.

The group does not cost anything to join, and has no business model. It's hosted on Google Groups 2 Beta. (If the archives of this one aren't easily searchable, we've got a problem!)

If you were sad to see I-Search go, or simply want to find a search engine marketing discussion community that offers a more professional, low-key approach than some of the more public forums out there, SEM 2.0 may be for you. (Signup below: membership is moderated.)












Subscribe to SEM 2.0
Email:


















Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

RSS Space is Gettin' Hot

Chance are you've heard of RSS, which is a "push" technology that is completely opt-in and that is very similar to e-mail -- but without the headaches of spam and false-positive spam filters.

Marketers are understandably scrambling to figure out how to tap into this powerful yet simple web technology because of the above reasons. I've experimented with RSS but haven't found the best way to read RSS feeds. The module offered by My Yahoo is a good first step, but even though I like it, it still feels a bit cumbersome. I'm convinced a better way exists.

Perhaps that better way is NewsGator, which offers a plug-in newsreader for Microsoft Outlook. NewsGator isn't related to Claria (nee Gator Corporation), thank god. It's been garnering lots of positive press coverage lately. It even received venture capital funding last week (gasp!), which would make only the second known RSS reader, according to PaidContent.

So, keep an eye on RSS, and if you're a bit adventurous, try it out. RSS just might be the replacement for e-mail publishing. Oh, and don't forget that you can get Traffick.com in your RSS reader, too, by saving this URL:

http://www.traffick.com/atom.xml


Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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