Do You Police Your Brand’s Ad Content?

As a long-term Words With Friends user (both paid and unpaid), I was stunned by an ad that was presented to me recently. The headline “Want a Girlfriend?” showed me pictures of scantily-clad girls who were CLEARLY under age. The call to action was a huge arrow with the word “FREE” and the copy read “Start Chatting [SIC] Now!” I was so surprised and appalled that I actually did click, because I wanted to know who the advertiser was behind this message.

Native AdvertisingAs a long-term Words With Friends user (both paid and unpaid), I was stunned by an ad that was presented to me recently. The headline “Want a Girlfriend?” showed me pictures of scantily-clad girls who were CLEARLY under age. The call to action was a huge arrow with the word “FREE” and the copy read “Start Chating [SIC] Now!”

I was so surprised and appalled that I actually did click, because I wanted to know who the advertiser was behind this message. When I did, the next screen contained a warning that “this site may contain pictures of someone you know” and that I had to be at least 21 years old.

The advertiser appeared to be “best-daily-apps.com.”

Typically, the ads presented to me on WWF include brands like Ford or Toyota, or even other games, so I was truly stunned that Zynga had even agreed to allow this type of ad to appear — and immediately assumed that someone had fallen asleep in the sales department.

So, I went on LinkedIn, identified the Zynga CMO and sent her an InMail message questioning her on how this advertiser might reflect poorly on the Zynga brand, and inviting her to engage in a dialogue. Needless to say, she did not respond.

When I first started in the advertising business, there were rules as to what you could and couldn’t say in an ad — whether it was on TV, radio or in print. Those censors still exist today — as witnessed by the recent Lane Bryant spots that were deemed unsuitable for national networks ABC and NBC. It seems that partially-clad bodies of heavy-set women are inappropriate while next-to-nude Victoria’s Secret models are just fine.

Our agency was recently challenged by Pandora on a radio spot we created for a local client. In it, an elderly grandma-type used foul language that was intentionally bleeped, so as to suggest the more colorful word, but even those bleeps were too much for the Pandora censor.

But who is policing games (from a publicly-held company, no less) or other online applications? In a marketplace that relies so heavily on advertising revenue, is there no limit on what’s acceptable? Have brands become so desperate for sales that anything goes?

Call me old, but I can no longer look at many of the online “news” sites because the digital advertising is often so prolific that I can’t read a complete reading article without getting a headache from all the advertising distractions. Call me a prude, but I don’t think Zynga should accept ads from questionable marketers like this one.

Or have brands lost their moral compass as they desperately attempt to reach their revenue goals?

I don’t know about you, but this experience with WWF has left me with a negative impression of the Zynga brand. At the very least, I question the wisdom of the Harvard grad who sits at the top of the marketing food chain.

Millennials, Music and Marketing

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events with a complex web of social sharing opportunities.

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M, to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events, with a complex Web of social sharing opportunities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpsVax8h7gw

This relationship between big brands and celebrity musicians is symbiotic: For the brands, music can be the relevant tie that binds them to an audience that’s skeptical of traditional advertising. For celebrity musicians, brand endorsements are not only a lucrative revenue stream, but also an important platform for extending their reach.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, most boomers would have called a rock star who endorsed products a sell-out. You would never see anything like The Grateful Dead endorsing Fritos back then, but now we even have Bob Dylan on TV for IBM’s Watson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwh1INne97Q

The evolution of music into a marketing vehicle has been a long, strange trip. Music has always been a shared experience, but there’s a huge difference in the way young people share between Millennials, the current largest generation, and boomers, the previous largest generation.

From my teens through my 30s, it was cool to have a high-fidelity stereo system (tuner/amp, three-way speakers and turntable) to play vinyl records at high volume and fill a room full of friends with music. Music listening was a social thing, something to be shared live and in-person. The listening unit was an album side, usually start to finish, but occasionally someone would take the trouble to play an individual cut, carefully using the turntable lever to drop the needle in the space between the grooves of the spinning vinyl platter. These precious vinyl disks were handled very carefully to ensure that they didn’t collect oily fingerprints, or God forbid, noise-producing scratches.

Back then, creating a playlist was not a drag-and-drop task. It was a longer-than-real-time event. Using a reel-to-reel or cassette tape recorder plugged into the same amplifier as the turntable, the playlist maker would push the record button, drop the needle for each track, play it through, pause the tape, carefully change out the vinyl record, and then record the next track. The advent of the compact disc made this a bit easier, but it was still a real-time event.

For Millennials, music is still a shared experience, but it’s shared on social media rather than in-person. Rather than being an onerous task, the easily generated playlist is now a common unit of listening. People share playlists through Spotify and Pandora, and can instantly share snippets of music they’re listening to on Spotify or Apple Music using Facebook Music Stories. And music consumption is high. A study by Vevo found that Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week streaming music.

But rather than filling a room with music, much of music listening today is a solitary activity, using earbuds and mobile devices. High-fidelity systems are a thing of the past – people 18 to 34 are about half as likely to own a receiver/amplifier as those 55 to 64 according to MRI+ data. And while 11 percent of 55 to 64 year olds still have a turntable, only 2 to 3 percent of Millennials own one. Meanwhile, Millennials are about 50 percent more likely to own an mp3 player docking station (with tiny little speakers) and 40 percent more likely to own earbuds than their older counterparts.

The biggest change, however, has come in the area of music festivals. Last year, 14.7 million Millennials attended music festivals. Face-value for Coachella tickets was $349. The festival grossed over $84 million. And brands like Coca Cola, Red Bull and TMobile pony up about $1.4 billion annually in festival sponsorship money. Why? A study by live promoter group AEG and branding company Momentum Worldwide found that 93 percent of those surveyed stated that they liked the brands that sponsor live events. Eighty percent said that they will purchase a product following a music festival experience, as opposed to 55 percent of those who were not in attendance, and those who attended a music festival with brand sponsorship walked away with a 37 percent better perception of the company.

By contrast, Woodstock, the watershed music festival of 1969, was attended by about 500,000 people. Not all of them had the three-day festival ticket that sold for $18. Corporate sponsors? Really?

3 Fresh Approaches to Social Media

I was prepping for a webinar on marketing when one question caught my eye: “What are some new marketing trends that leverage social media platforms?” I did a little deeper research on the topic and came across some innovative ideas worth sharing.

The Email Idea Book - 5 Futuristic Email Tactics You Can Implement TodayEarlier this week, I was prepping to participate in a webinar on marketing and was handed a list of topics the moderator was planning to address. One specific question caught my eye: “What are some of the new marketing trends that have leveraged social media platforms?”

Like most of you, I’ve been involved in the traditional uses of social media — some were highly successful while others were deeply disappointing. But as the platforms evolve, so does the learning (from both the client and the platform), and both are looking for new ways to leverage the relationship between consumers and their apps.

I did a little deeper research on the topic and in speaking with the other panelists on the webinar, I came across some innovative new ideas I thought were worthy of sharing:

1. Snapchat Geo-targeting for CoverGirlSnapchat Ads
Adweek reported that P&G successfully used Snapchat to promote their CoverGirl limited-edition Star Wars collection of eye and face makeup. Since the products were only available at Ulta stores, P&G used Snapchat’s geo-targeting feature to offer a branded overlay/filter atop any post that was created within the specific proximity of an Ulta store. At first my reaction was “how could this possibly affect sales?” But the story went on to share that through segmentation and the isolation of key targeting variables, P&G could attribute sales to their Snapchat investment.

While P&G declined to share actual performance, they did compare same-store sales for a similarly themed Hunger Games collection (whose marketing included TV and Tumblr), and the Star Wars campaign was more cost-efficient and had more of an impact. My translation?

In trying to identify new ways to generate revenue, Snapchat has figured out how to leverage some of the data they’re already collecting. Since this app is tracks users by real-time location (as are most other apps), why not overlay that knowledge to specific retail locations in order to push a relevant message to the user? I can see lots of useful marketing applications for this intelligence.

2. Ezra’s Pinterest ‘How-to’sPinterest Logo
In the summer of 2014, Pinterest unveiled its new business model called Promoted Pins. If you know anything about Pinterest, you know that it’s about ideas and inspiration — and not about promoting items that are on sale. In all my research, the best article I found was from blogger Ezra. He spells out EXACTLY how he uses Pinterest to drive revenue, and what I loved most is that he did it by using tried and true direct response marketing techniques (which are often a lost art).

By using free and useful “how to” content as his lure, he then sent readers to his website where the “how to” guide continued with supporting video — and the opportunity to place the product right in your shopping cart. Ezra reports that a small $775 in advertising spend on Pinterest netted him $41,254 in sales. That’s a 5323 percent return on investment!

3. Target Marketing on PandoraPandora_logo
Pandora, the free, personalized music streaming service, reports that only 2.4 percent of their users pay for their subscription — so that means 97.6 percent are exposed to their audio (and digital) ads. One of my fellow webinar participants shared that one of their clients successfully used Pandora to drive traffic to their clients’ tourism website — and that those results were far better than any digital advertising they had ever used.

Pandora provides a host of case studies on their website but their most recent, for Woodbury University, was fascinating. By using age, gender, HHI, geo and Hispanic targeting tools, Woodbury served ads promoting their Graduate School program to a specific target in a specific DMA. As a result, they were able to increase page views to their campus tours page by an impressive 4,000 percent.

All of these uses of social media are smart, targeted, and painstakingly planned for success. I’d love to hear about more social media innovations — what can you share?